This visual says it all. The truth about being a cancer survivor. Breast cancer in my case and that of too many women. Women I love. Some are still here with us – with me. Some are not. I miss them. I weep for them. I celebrate their struggle.
We fought a giant though I prefer to call him a monster. A giant is sometimes benign. A monster is not. While I was in the maw of that monster a good friend of mine told me to personify him. My friend was a cartoonist so he’d made a strip of his monster. I’m a writer so I blogged about mine.
My friend was Rick Tuel. Rick is no longer with us – with me. I miss him. I weep for him. I celebrate his struggle. I embrace his wife Mary and rejoice she’s still here to embrace. She’s a survivor of another kind. A caretaker survivor. My husband Jonathan Orr is one of those too. They are everything to us – the diagnosed ones. I salute the caretaker survivors.
We were stronger because we had to be. Annie O’Flaherty was strong of heart because she knew how to love. She knew how to love me. She sent me a picture of an angel descending. The angel did descend and took Annie away. Annie is no longer with us – with me. I miss her. I weep for her. I celebrate her struggle. I embrace her caretaker survivor Jan Phillips and salute her too.
We were happier because we’d learned what matters. Susan Sullivan always knew what mattered and pursued those things of value with determination and vigor. I marveled at her stamina and at the lovely pieces she created for my writing workshop and read with courage there. Susan is no longer with us – with me. I miss her. I weep for her. I celebrate her struggle. Her caretaker survivor was her husband Pat Sullivan. I celebrate him too.
My brother Michael stood tall with a slight dip to one shoulder where he’d carried a heavy bag of newspapers to deliver when he was young. He stood tallest of all on many stages playing many roles and singing many songs always doing both so beautifully I could barely breathe watching him. Michael is no longer with us – with me. I miss him. I weep for him. I celebrate his struggle. He has many caretaker survivors. My son Ed Vesneske jr. is one of them. I embrace him in my heart every day.
I mark my eight-year survivor anniversary by celebrating these heroes and many more. I hope to follow their examples of battling bravely and staying strong and minding what matters and standing tall. Too often I don’t manage all of that. Occasionally I don’t manage any of it. But I manage some of it just about enough of the time to be worthy of my survival.
The problem is that they were worthy of survival too. Rick and Annie and Susan and Michael and legions of others. But they are no longer with us. We miss them. We weep for them. We celebrate their struggle. We vow to be caretakers of their memory. To emulate their example of grace and fortitude and to honor their lives by defeating the monster that took those lives too soon.