Life After Cancer: Marking The Days

Hi all!

With my inaugural post in this brand spankin’ new venue, I thought I’d summarize a bit about my life and the adventures I hope to have going forward.  No holds barred. Ok, some holds barred, but it’s for your sake, really.

One year ago, on January 29, 2014 my husband, David, died after a two year battle with spinal cancer. This year has sucked. In that time we also lost David’s brother and my sweet aunt to cancer, and my dad was diagnosed with ALS. The weight of the accumulated grief can be almost crushing. Our 15 year old son, Owen, and I have managed fairly well in this last year without David; we’re still in one piece, and I count that as an accomplishment. The metaphor of being on a roller coaster gets brought up a lot with grief, but Owen theorizes that it’s more like a cloud where all the emotions linger and you float around bumping into them randomly; that there’s nothing linear about it. I can’t argue with his logic.

David was first diagnosed in January 2012. By the end of that year we had also lost my youngest brother and a close family friend. We were SO ready for 2013. We knew that with that awful year behind us, everything would be so much better! We could breathe in the fresh air and our spirits would somehow be less burdened. As the days passed, we literally marked each day off the calendar, just waiting for stinky old 2012 to fall to the wayside so we could celebrate on new years even and ring in 2013, knowing that we’d wake up the next day feeling the weight lifted off our shoulders. That was silly.  Of course nothing changed except that we got to put up a new calendar from which we could continue marking days with relief that each day was over.

So here I am, a year after he died, wondering where the last 12 months have gone and naively caught up in the idea that on Jan 30th 2015 something miraculous will happen. Maybe that one year milestone will hit and the next day the clouds will part, the birds will sing, and the sun will shine down on the yellow brick road to set me back on the path to.. the wizard? To answers? To being a grown-up? David and I got married when I was 21 and had Owen when I was 23. For me, being a grown up meant being a mom and a wife. Volunteering at school, being the PTO president, and doting on my husband; I could do those things because I had a partner who was being the grown-up by providing for our family. Being a single-mom grown-up is different than being a grown-up in a partnership. When you get married, you have to learn the roles you each play in the relationship to be a successful team of grown-ups! Go Team! When that status changes you have to learn what your new role looks like.

Of course, on Jan 30th nothing will be different. He’ll still be gone and we’ll still be plugging along, plucky as we can be, finding humor in the things that we shouldn’t laugh at, but do anyway. The alternative isn’t fun, and we like fun!

I still find myself marking off days on the calendar, but this year I traded my green marker for a pink one. Even that small change was a relief. Instead of being thankful that I can mark off that day in a “whew, glad that’s over” kind of way, I’m going to start looking forward to the days in front of me with wonder and as much eagerness as I can muster. Some days will be easier than others.

I’m tired of change, yet I crave it at the same time. I need it. I can’t be what I was before, where I spent over 16 years as a wife and two years as a full time caregiver. I don’t have those jobs anymore and with an almost-16 year-old, he doesn’t need the constant care that a young child needs, so my “mom” role looks different as well. It’s a time of transition and I’m going to stop fearing that and learn to embrace it.

So with all the other things that have changed, it’s also a new YEAR! 2015. My only resolution this year is to lean into everything I do. My parenting, hobbies, nerdiness, health, grief, love – lean in and power through to renew my sense of independence and resilience. My wide-eyed enthusiasm, and my voice and strength to wear my heart on my sleeve. To start living again and stop merely existing, for my son’s sake and for my own.

I say this all with hope because the last couple months have been especially hard with the holidays and remembering all the milestones, good and bad, that we’ve endured in recent years and feeling the weight of grief, new and old alike. Nothing is the same because everything has been in turmoil for so long; it’s time to open the door to possibilities and to realize you can grieve the past and still look forward to the future.

Tune in on Tuesdays for my (mis)adventures and musings as I try to sort through this maze.

Welcome to my plucky little world.



Marla is a plucky mother of a teenager, a nerdy gamer, a swanky crafter, and a lover of all things cute and silly.