A rock feels no pain, and an island never lies…

Many of us experience isolation and walk alone in our cancer journeys. Regardless of the stage or type it's difficult and frightening, causing emotional strain and stressing the infrastructure of even our strongest relationships. My husband is in the third year of his depression. Although he’s trying, the lows and valleys run into and erase from memory the days and weeks with small glimmers of hope. He makes sure to remind me of the roof over my head but seems to have no recollection or reasonable understanding of how his depression continues to effect my health and the stressors of my 19 year old step son who lives in our home and does nothing but sleep and play video games with the door to his room shut.

He’s caused innumerable problems. After an hour he returned when I threw him out two weeks ago, with the encouragement of his own biological mother, and I feel trapped like a lab rat on a sinking ship. My pain is worse then ever and I am worse for the wear. I feel like there’s no way to find peace and air and light. I am stuck in a paradox worse than Xeno’s – staying in the current situation is de facto stressful and lonely; if I leave it’s de facto stressful and lonely. I’ve tired going out all day and keeping myself busy but I get so tired I find myself just sitting in my car sometimes wasting time and reasoning through unreasonable questions and behavior.

I've put years of my life into helping this boy. He’s spoiled and he’s not appreciative of how the foundation of a good life he’s rejected will bite him in his rear end when he gets older. Although he’s very much aware that he’s making my fight harder, it seems he does it quite purposely to create fights between my husband and I so I don’t have the veto to block his father from financing requests for undeserved expenses – he’s failed 11th grade three times now and he refuses to just do the little work to pass. I got him into the best charter school in our area and he's lied so I cannot show my face on campus but for the embarrassment.

As if this could get any worse I lost insurance for over a month and was switched to Medicare from Cal-Med -no paperwork from the government , just a call saying I could not go to the infusion center for my faslodex, xgeva, and zolodex and my appointments were cancelled until I had everything worked out. Ummm….yeah? Like this is a way to treat a 2+ year patient with a 10 year outlook?

I wonder if 10 years prognosis can make someone feel no better than a 2 year or less outlook or have a cold false smile from positive test results . Awful as it feels to say this I cannot help believing that emotions like happiness and joy cannot be a part of this life. What is my raison d'etre anyway? I cannot seem to make my husband believe I'm worth it to work at lifting the veil of his depression and stop blaming me for the natural course of time to take his son and let him find his way already. If he weren't depressed I know this kid wouldn't be here and my husband would not feel guilty if he were himself again.

But if wishes were dollars I would be very wealthy woman.

For whatever reason there is – biological or sociological or psychological – the stepmother reminds everyone of a failed marriage, a failed mother, a failed family. The new family units popping up everywhere are the norm now, not the exception. I think that some steps are better equipped than some biological parents to rear children, not to say a kid doesn’t need their parents somewhat like comparing that situation to an adoption. Not in my case. However, my husband happens to be adopted and has no real need to locate his biological mother or father. That said, he had an idyllic childhood and his biological mother did him a solid by giving him to people who really wanted to raise him and could afford to do so. Not that money buys love. It can't.

If I told you some of the shit sandwiches I've had to eat over the past 10 years, you'd never want to eat again. It's ingesting the worst kind of manipulation possible and allowing it to become part of our life's fabric. We cannot help the guilt and the pain that our steps go through – we do our best, many of us anyway, to help them rise above choices they didn't make. But so it goes, the bio mom has a lot to do with the kid's attitude as we enter these situations with the best of intentions. If intentions were dollar bills I'd be Bill Gates. I love both of those kids – regardless of the behavior each has bestowed upon me. My younger one now 16 apologized for his less than stellar behavior, calling me a gold digger and his dad a stupid bread winner not believing I looked sick enough to have cancer. This coincided with his pre-teen hormonal hell. He is kind, loving, and helpful to me as he was prior to puberty – quite the opposite of his brother.

My husband’s guilt won’t allow him to drop kick him out to find that in the real world there aren’t private bedroom suites with bathtubs and house cleaners and magic fridges that fill themselves, and magic cars that have gas and pick him up and drop him off anywhere for free anytime, and juice containers to put your unbrushed mouth full of germs on and drink the freshly squeezed juices I make, or lock yourself up in a bedroom with a lovely daybed cum couch (excuse the double entendre) and play guitar or xbox until all hours and sleep until 2 in the afternoon, or talk to an adult by yelling and cursing and without a modicum of respect, and I won’t go on…

So, the loneliness sets in deep.

May we all not have to get used to being alone, as there are too many of us to have to be done with people just because we have a metastatic cancer. In educating people who do not have active cancer, they’re surprised to learn that although there’s no evidence of tumors or worse, thankfully, because their immune systems recognize and erradicate them.

It seems like an eternity still, two years and three months since my diagnosis. When I hear comments from people who know little about the disease, and mostly from rather snarky people who say, “oh, you’ll be fine” or “you look too good to have cancer” or other demoralizing, ignorant statements as such, I do not mind educating any of them. It seems, however, few want to learn. In education we sometimes find a fear that we needn’t have uncovered so late in life. But is ignorance bliss and lying to ourselves better than knowing the truth?

In step parenting and in metastatic cancer, as with being a wife to someone with long term depression and his inadvertency to get the help he needs to give me some of the help I need, I wonder if the human condition doesn’t somehow rely on lying to itself in order to continue to propagate itself.  As the line said in the title of this post, and a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries. You Paul Simon, are a genius.

Here's a song to listen to as you contemplate the dense and intense feelings of both stepparents and cancer patients, as I wish for life to go o after me without the great isolation each situation causes it's victims. 

Simon and Garfunkel, I am a Rock

S’Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day, mom. You’re gone from life, but never from my mind.  I do miss you and wish we’d had our time for closure, which was robbed from both of us. Yet not a day goes by that my guilty relief of having a mother with Narcissistic Personality Disorder doesn’t leave a trail of tears. I feared Mother’s Day as a child, never quite getting the right thing if I could or doing enough to satisfy her insatiable need for worship. The golden uterus – she created me and I owed her, therefore, a lifetime of debt I couldn’t pay.

Celebrating a mother’s carriage and rearing of a child seems awfully weird to me.  Born of  her choice, and hopefully for the appropriate reasons, to carry a life, nourish it emotionally and physically until it’s time for the child to sever the umbilical cord, freeing themselves of the bounds of the NPD parent. My parent decided I was mature at 14.  So mature in fact, that I could handle supporting myself for the age of 14 and for the rest of my life. Off she went with my younger brother to settle in with my future stepfather.  I became a reminder of guilt to keep as far away from family functions as possible. And it was wrong I knew, because it was a secret I couldn’t share; no one was allowed to know I was living by myself.  A few people in my family knew, I suspect, but no one wanted the added responsibilities of a teenager should my mother continue her denial.

Perhaps I’m one of the few who grew nervous and anxious as Mother’s Day approached – even as an adult it’s not a happy day for me, and it continues it’s bitterweetness as a stepmother. Few stepmothers receive cards, gifts, flowers, appreciation, or just a quick thanks. Not for any holiday or even a birthday in my home. My home where two boys spent countless hours with me, and both of whom I loved as much as any stepparent could love someone else’s child. The children I spent the last eight years with me giving of myself to no avail. But I grieve in private rationalizing that leaving a child to founder is sinful. In fact I truly believe this to my cancer-riddled bones.

Given the tug of war that I found myself dead center of, I continue to feel rope burns in my hands and more life scars for which I never asked. To relieve ones self of the lies you swallow every day along with every meal your reminded how your wonderful sacrificing mother scraped by and had trouble affording, and then she goes to get ready for a date as you scrub dishes with ultra strong childhood soap, then bathe yourself, do something wrong after she leaves and smartly wake up before she does to meet a friend and sneak a smoke on the way to school.

As you grow out of their grip and into adults you also hope to hell she changes. Sadly she never does, and like all those friends of hers you never did see again, she dies alone and confused by her own misrepresented identity.  NPD mother’s are shown to have early onset dimentia like mine did before she died of guit or Alzheimer’s or both.

Happy fucking Mother’s Day.

Step-on-mother

Does the word stepmother connote some kind of step-on mother? Does it mean, “blame me for all the wrongs and make me the bane of your existence?” It’s easier for stepfathers, so I’ve heard.  Now gone to the great gig in the sky, my stepfather was the kind who ignored my existence to avoid guilt. In 1980 my mom packed up my brother and went to live with him and they set up family without me.  I was 14 and my brother was 11.  My father lived in Kentucky and then in Cuba for a while before he was made aware I was living alone in a house with a roommate working two jobs and finally having to leave high school to support myself before I went to college and became a success on my own. 

Now I have stupid cancer, but part and parcel of my life, I am also a stepmother of two boys 16 and 18.  They’ve lived with us on and off and 18 has lived with us full-time for the past two years.  There’s no place like home…

Recently an opportunity presented itself to ask a friend what it was like to have a long-term mother and stepfather and father and stepmother – now a 45 year situation.  He considers himself lucky to have had four parents.  He’s a really good person and his parents co-parented well.  

I sat at the counter in my kitchen listening to my  friend as he recounted some of his life.  When his mom and stepdad decided to move out of the state both his mother and father gave him a choice to stay here in California or move with his mother.  Naturally, he decided it would be best to live full-time with his stepmom and dad.  Where he was welcomed.

His stepmother didn’t have an issue with him moving in with them.  And then again when he moved in after he graduated college.  My friend wanted to take some time to decompress for a while at his father’s  and stepmother’s house. He was welcomed again.    They’ve been married 45 years now. As a side note: His stepdad was a police officer, tough, very kind, and a great role model – another of his four parents who happened to be a stepdad.  I asked if this man had beaten him or hurt him, and he said no, but he took no shit off him.  He was glad because his stepfather gave him a true sense of respect and a good model of civic responsibility.

30 years later I saw was a person who I consider one of my best friends, and a wonderfully gifted and giving human being.  Never a bad word out of his mouth towards anyone, other than towards someone  who’s hurt me and on my behalf.   He’s got a lot of respect for all four of his parents. When I asked why his parents divorced he told me they were probably too much alike, both artists, and divorced when he was very young.  He split his time between his four parents and they co-parented well.  He’s well-adjusted adult as a result.

His case is unusual I think since generally no one wants a stepmother.  We’re a reminder to all involved of a family unit that was broken because the adults who made the choice to marry and have children found themselves unhappy to the point of irreconcilable differences.  In my case, I met my husband when he’d been divorced for over two years.  The boys at the time I met him were 9 and 6 1/2.  I’ve known them for over half of their lives. One has oppositional disorder and the other is turning out to be on the cusp of borderline personality disorder. His psychiatrist won’t waste our money because he cannot treat “a teenage boy who lies.” He has no problem lying and stealing from us and doing destructive things to our house.   

Dad won’t believe that he’s’ doing all this stuff and yells at me for it.  I’ve been yelled at too many times now and am on the border between in and out.  I get that Dad is in the middle of this mess.  I am the blame dumpster.  If there’s rain it’s my fault.  If the boys do something wrong it must be because of something I did or said.  If I bring some imminent doom to his attention I’m the villain.  I found out recently he’s been yelling at me on her behalf when she texts him some crap that 18 bitched to her about. It’s always untrue or so distorted I don’t know where I begin or end.  Recently I decided to stop putting up with it at all.  If they don’t like it, my cat and I are out of here.  My husband told me he’s concerned about my safety and my cat’s safety with 18 around.  I was stunned  Why tell me now.  I know I have cancer and that the aggravation factor increased my pain by 10x this past month,  My 18 year-old knows I cannot handle too much more stress so he increased it to keep me in bed so my eyes and ears stay there too,  I am better off as those three monkeys – hear no, see no, speak no evil.

I’ve been good to them, and drop back when I should, step in when I’m needed and honestly should have treated myself better than I did throughout our time together. I’m trying to decide if this is worth the rest of my life right now because of the uncertainty of  how many good quality years I will have with stage 4 cancer.  The mother of the two boys claims I’m to “spunky” to be telling the truth about my cancer. “I know what I see,” she said about 2 years ago – it’s better now,but back then I put on a really good face.

That’s my bitch session for the weekend.  I thank you dear readers for your kind understanding of my rant.  I’m going to try very hard to go and get my nails done so my cracked fingers can get a rest from the oven I had to clean.  Why did I clean the oven?  Because my stepson of 18+ put wax paper instead of parchment paper at 425 degrees and caused a huge fire.  The fifth and final kitchen fire I will allow and now he tells his mother I starve him.  No, I’m a Jewish woman.  It’s not in my DNA to let anyone go hungry.  Not even a stepson to whom I’ve given much of the last nine years of my life to and from whom I got one gift in all of those years:  An ugly unpainted screw eyed cat with no legs and a tag that read “Lobotomy.”

This is how they see me. The sadness  I’ve so desperately fended off for several years has crept into my bones with the cancer. I should not be sitting here behind the computer.  I wat too desperately breathe in the beautiful day that awaits me but I cannot seem to move at all my pain level is at a 9 out of 10.  I am stuck and I cannot move.  Recommendation – don’t get stage 4 breast cancer with bone mets and have two stepsons.