Prognosis: unknown


My brother had surgery today to locate and remove the source of his cancer in his intestine. My sister-in-law called late this evening and started rattling off numbers of cancerous lesions found, the amount of intestine and colon removed, and the length of the surgery. I didn’t hear a thing. I was in a bit of a state of shock because a) I didn’t think the surgery was until Friday and b) I had no idea who I was talking to – it wasn’t until mid-conversation did I dare ask who was calling. I figured it was my sister-in-law’s younger sister since it didn’t sound like my sister-in-law at all. But, I guess exhaustion will do that to you. The bad news was that there was at least one tumor, possibly more, that was too dangerous to remove during surgery. Prognosis: unknown.

We chatted for a bit about how everyone had been doing. Apparently, my brother hasn’t been dealing with this too well, and it showed in his blood pressure, which in turn delayed his surgery date because he couldn’t go under the knife until he got his numbers down. My sister-in-law is in hunker down mode and is doing her best to hold it together and keep things as normal as possible for their three teenage kids. On the rare occasions that we talk, we talk easily as if this huge gulf between my brother and I didn’t exist. When I thanked her for letting me know in such a timely manner, she said “of course, you’re his sister.”

I’m considering driving down to San Diego to say “hello” while he is in the hospital. Make it short & sweet, and hopefully he’ll be heavily sedated so at least one of us will be at ease during the visit.

The other night I was laying in bed with my heart full of anticipatory grief. I fear for Alaska’s health, and also have my concerns about Sasquatch who has been very quiet lately. Then my mind turned to my brother. My only remaining immediate relative. Even though we are not in each other’s life, the idea of being sole survivor of my family before I even reach the age of 50 was very sad.

Tomorrow I’ll check in with my sister-in-law, ask my boss for the time off, talk to a friend who lives in LA for a place to stay and see if the boyfriend is willing to watch my menagerie so I can take a quick trip down south.


10 responses »

  1. Excellent choice to go down for a quick visit. My elementary school friend moved to SF in 5th grade. We always kept in touch, with a few visits and letters until about our 20s and then kept in touch via email but hadn’t seen each other in years. She ended up getting this weird cancer in her back. I never went to see her because it seemed like if I did I was saying, “hey — wanted to see you before you die.” MISTAKE. I should have gone. She did die and I’ve always regretted that mistake. But I learned and did not make the same mistake for with other people in my life in the same situation. And for you, making a personal appearance may open the door a little more for your nieces. They may really need you and reach out. That would be cool.

  2. Hang in there, LB. I find your sis-in-law’s sister’s approach odd — maybe she was nervous? But to call up and begin talking about such serious matters without identifying who you are. Man, I’d be in shock, too.

    It sounds like you may need to be the strong one, if you go down there. I always try to have a couple topics in mind to talk about, in an effort to give them something upbeat if they seem to want to go that direction. I guess this might be an occasion to roust your lazy Buddhism and give it a workout — you may need the resources you can bring to bear.

    Best wishes from me; you have my support “through the wires” here, such as it is.

  3. Cancer… seems to touch everyone’s life somehow.

    I hope he pulls through. I hope you and him are able to mend the breach, whatever it consists of. I admire your courage to care and be engaged despite the interpersonal difficulties.

  4. MaryLazyBuddhist,It’s been a long time since we have been face to face. For reasons that she has not stated, your brother’s problems are particularly sensitive to Janine and I. I love you and wish the best best for you. I wish acutely for your brother what he wishes for himself.

  5. Everything is all set for me to leave tomorrow for a quick trip to SoCal to see my brother and his family. According to my sister-in-law, the bro had a decent day today, and things are looking a bit brighter than they were last night.

    Janine – I’m sure it was a painful lessons to learn, but at least you learned it. Most of my experience with death was when I was young, angry and self-involved. I handled my father’s illness and death abysmally, and my mother died suddenly so I never had a chance to say good by. Even though a lot of my problems with brother problems arise from that period, don’t want to repeat the same mistakes.

    OmbudsBen – my sister-in-law is exhausted, and I think she just went on update auto-pilot. As I told her tonight, I don’t want to add to their stress, and I’ll be happy just to see the bro. I’ll let her take the lead on how much of me they can handle. And thank you for you well wishes.

    Amurin – You’re right, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been touched by cancer. My one relief today was my vet telling me that he didn’t think Alaska had cancer but rather inflamed bowel syndrome.

    Jules – you’re a sweet man. Thank you so much for you thoughts.

    Iver – hey, what’s 30 years between friends? I’m touched by your words. I’ll send your best to Carol with whom I’ll be staying.

  6. I’m glad you’re going. As difficult and uneasy as it will be, I think in the long run,you’ll be glad you went. He may be too, although he may not say it.

    Family is family. Whether we talk to one another or not, we are a part of each other. I have a brother I haven’t seen in many years, maybe in about 18 or so. I might see him when I go see my mom. They don’t see him much either but I’m sure they won’t mind telling me where he lives and how to get there. I would hate to put it off until it was too late, for either of us.

    Have a safe trip.

  7. Take my best wishes with you, too. You are so special and however challenging it is, you will share magic where it is needed just by being you:there. Safe journey.

  8. Corina – Thank you for the well wishes. Perhaps you might use this as an excuse to close your own gap with your brother?

    mr mellow NOT – love it! That’s it in a nutshell, isn’t it?

    Shu – I truly appreciate your kind words. Thank you. 🙂

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