Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cancer is a Liar

"Enjoy your daughter."

These haunting words came from one of my dearest friends. She had just told me that her leukemia had returned. She had reminded me how important it is to enjoy the blessings in my own life.

Our conversation reminded me how naive I still am about cancer.

I thought she had beaten the disease. I thought she had done enough to become a survivor. I thought that everything was going to be OK. After all, her brother participated in her bone marrow transplant. And he was a 100 percent match.

What are the odds of that?

Again, cancer fooled me into complacency. I thought she was in remission. That's what her doctors said. But cancer is a liar.

I should have known better. I should know that there is no cure, that cancer is ruthless, that cancer's insidious path knows no boundaries. That cancer is one cruel, ugly son of a bitch.

This February has been mild weather wise, but it's been especially dark and wintry to me. I teach my students that, in literature, winter is often the symbol of death. The month started with the deaths of Rachel Cheetham Moro and Susan Niebur. That would be enough to send anyone reeling. In fact, that sent all of us in the blogosphere reeling.

That same week, a friend of mine had to put her very ill dog down, and I stopped by her house to say good-bye to the dog I've known since he was a puppy15 years ago. More grief, more sadness.

And then a few days later, I find out through a beloved co-worker that her husband has melanoma that has spread into his lymph system and how they were going to "fight" and "beat" this thing called cancer. Uh huh.

And then, only a couple short weeks later, my friend tells me that her leukemia is back. So on leap day, February 29, she took her leap of faith -- with her first chemo infusion in awhile. She has to be hospitalized for at least five weeks. Luckily, her sister is also a perfect match for a bone marrow transplant.

Deja vu. That's exactly how her first treatments went, but she has a rare, aggressive form of leukemia.

I am distraught.

Did I say cancer is a liar? I won't be fooled into complacency this time.

I have been out of the blogosphere loop nearly all of February because of all these tragic happenings. I just can't seem to focus on the writing at hand. I remember losing my friend Faun to breast cancer, and thinking how I never wanted to go through something like this again.

Now the losses are like a major car pileup on an icy freeway.

With the exception of my journal, I often have writer's block. I can't express the depth of sadness, the abyss I find myself in.

It's getting more and more difficult to push through the sorrow. I know death is part of living, but why do so many people have to die young from cancer? Why is there no cure for this disease? Our society is all talk about eradicating this disease, but we don't walk the walk.

My friend who is now suffering from leukemia treatments in the hospital is such a good person. I surround myself with positive, good, kind folk -- in person and online. My friends are first-rate people, and now I feel I'm losing them one by one. It makes me feeling pretty beat up.

I promised my friend that I would enjoy my daughter, and thankfully I'm doing that. I have a renewed appreciation of the mischief in Ari's eyes and her smile and the wonder that is my child. Dear Ari: Momma loves you.

Dear blogosphere: I'm finally back.

I'm writing a book titled Calling the Shots: Coaching Your Way Through the Medical System. Please feel free to subscribe to this blog by clicking the orange subscribe button. I am a professional writer and have published numerous academic and magazine articles, as well as an essay on my breast cancer experience in the anthology Voices of Breast Cancer by LaChance Publishing. I can be contacted at and


  1. Oh, Beth, I am so sorry for so many losses & sadness for you! Survivorship can be so wearying sometimes. We know, we understand - and it just never stops. We go on and live lovely lives, but we've had to learn something that most people try very hard to ignore. Your friends are lucky to have such a caring friend in you, & I am so happy that you have your daughter to brighten your life. Please take good care.


    1. Thank you, Julie, for your kindness and caring. Yes, survivorship can surely be burdensome. But all we can do, as you say, is go on. Take care of yourself as well.

  2. Beth,
    I miss your voice and I'm glad you are back. I am so upset about what is happening with your friend. And with your co-worker's husband. Cancer just sucks from every angle. Never forget you have lots of friends, here. We can be miserable together..... we can hold each other up.... we can have giggle fits like little kids..... AND we can have a meet up in NY in June, too!

    1. AnneMarie, thank you for all of your compassion. Cancer does suck from every angle. I feel buoyed up by all the support you and others in the online community are giving me. It really helps. Thank you for your kindness, and NY is the place in June. Would love to meet you in person.

  3. Beth,
    I'm glad you're back. It has been rough hasn't it? The losses just seem to keep piling up. I understand and feel the same way. I've had trouble focusing too. Grief can make us very weary. It's no wonder you feel beat up. Pushing through the sorrow is indeed difficult. Yet push through is what we must do.

    I'm sorry your friend's leukemia has returned. That's just awful, but I'm glad she has you for a friend. I'm also so glad you have your daughter to bring you joy. Hold onto those joyful moments. And keep on journaling. That will help, too, I hope. Hugs to you.

    1. Yes, it is rough, Nancy. I feel like I've been run over by a steamroller. I have felt very weary in February, and I know this month has a lot of memories and difficulties for you, too. We just have to snatch joy whenever we can. I have been spending lots of time with my daughter. It is joyous.

  4. Hi Beth, glad to hear your voice again. And glad the love of your daughter is helping you through all this sorrow.As you say, society is all talk about eradicating cancer. We all have to live as best we can amidst the cancer industry's lies and false promises.
    For us over here, the gradual arrival of spring is helping. But only helping. In sad times our best help is each other.

    1. Thank you, Ronnie, for such a nice welcome back in the blogosphere. You are right that cancer is an industry.

      It's a beautiful day here in the Chicago area, and so much of the US is experiencing nice weather. It does help psychologically and lifts my spirits.

      Be well,


  5. Beth, it's good to read your words. Heaven knows so many of us have been knocked sideways, slammed into silence by grief, over this past month. I'm speechless with heartbreak hearing about your friends. And, yes, I think we are all tired of the lies and distortions put out there about 'surviving' cancer. Cancer is a sneakthief, no two ways about it. And this past month has certainly reminded all of us to cherish what and who we have. Because we never do know...

    Hugs and peace, my friend.

    xoxo, Kathi

    1. Thanks, Kathi, and you are right: "Cancer is a sneakthief." Very sneaky, for sure. This past month has, indeed, been rough. Life is filled with highs and lows. Cliche but true...

  6. Oh Beth!
    Please don't let all of these loses cause you to lose you love for life and all of the good in it. I know that it seems like lately there has been set back after set back and so much sorrow and sadness and death. Just know that there is good out there in this world that is way bigger than cancer could ever be. It is ok to be sorrowful and allow yourself to feel what you need to feel, cry, scream, throw a tantrum, do what ever it takes to let it out so that it does not fester inside of you. I am not saying that you should allow yourself to be lulled into thinking that you should let your guard down when it comes to cancer, just remember that it unfortunately does take some sadness to have happiness. Many, so many, unfair things happen to the best people, but I truly believe there is a purpose (no matter how f*cked up it is) for what is happening. Just try to trust the process the best that you know how.
    I for one am so glad that you are back.
    Warm, healthy blessings to you always!

  7. Oh Beth!
    I just wrote the longest reply to you but for some reason it booted it out.
    Just wanted to let you know that I am so happy that you are back.
    Many healthy blessings always!

    1. Hi Laura,

      The good thing is that your long reply made it onto my blog! YAY! Thanks for all your support, and you are so right about not allowing these tragedies to fester inside me.

      I have been feeling a bit better and your saying that it "does take some sadness to have happiness" is very wise.

      Take care my friend.

  8. Beth, welcome back to the bloggy world.

    It seems to be a season of sorrow right now, doesn't it? But what I know about seasons is that they do change, and things will look bright and hopeful once again. Such is the flow of life. What goes up must come down, and vice versa.

    Cancer sucks.
    Complacency sucks too.
    I'm with you on walking the walk.

    Stay well, welcome back!

    1. Renn,

      Thanks for the warm welcome back to the blogosphere. Yes seasons do change and cancer does suck. And there's no room in our lives for complacency, as you say.

  9. Hi Beth, we've missed you, and though I'm so sorry for the hard times I'm glad you've chosen to write about it. I think we (I) try so hard to believe everything will always be ok, that when we hear otherwise, it's a slap in the face. I'm grappling with this one. The realities of cancer make it so hard to want to embrace life, make plans...I don't know. Maybe it should make us do those things. I'm rambling my confusion here when really I wanted to say, I understand, you're not alone and yeah, enjoy your daughter, but not because cancer hangs overhead, but because she's a wonderful part of your life. Oh, and I'm so tired of all the talk, too. xoxo

    1. Thanks for your lovely note, Stacey. I'm glad I wrote about it; writing about our griefs can be so cathartic. You are right about me enjoying my daughter. She is a joy for joy's sake, not just because I had cancer and should feel grateful to have her.

  10. Beth, welcome back. Every time I read you, it's like reading my own experiences years ago. I lost 8 people and I deeply felt the heavy chains of loss draped about my shoulders, chest and back. I felt like I was moving through life dragging the chains with me, while I was ill myself.

    I don't waste any time any longer. Snag every moment with those you love.

    1. Chrysalis,

      Thanks for the warm welcome! Losing eight people is such a huge burden. I can understand why you feel such a sense of loss. I am taking your advice and treasuring every moment with those I love!

  11. Beth,

    Your blog lets me know how serious you were in class teaching us all those important lessons when it pertains to creative writing or professional writing. I am proud to say I had a small piece of my own work published in the RMU Egg(2009).

    On the another note, I am deeply saddened by your pain and discomfort of bad news in so many instances and all in the same time period. Too often we find ourselves enjoying life while others are struggling or trying to find their way. I agree we can't afford to be complacent or ignorant to the TRUTH. You really inspire me. Thank you.

    A former student,


  12. Frederick,

    It's so good to hear from you! Thank you for your compliment; I always believe it's a good thing to practice what we teach. Congratulations on having your work published in the Egg. From what I understand, it is a competitive literary journal, so getting one's work in that publication is no easy feat.

    Thank you so much for your empathy. Life has its bumps, as we all know, and February gave me a good share of them. But life also has its great rewards.

    You saying that I inspire you means the world to me. That is a high compliment. And I'm so glad I can keep in touch with you!

  13. Beth, like so many others before me, I'm so happy you are back into the blogosphere. We missed your voice so much. It's obvious from all the heartfelt comments to this post.

    Cancer is a pathological liar, in my view. The pathology of tumors may be misleading. We may be lulled from clinical-sounding characteristics into thinking everything is ok, when our world is actually crashing down. I'm now reeling from news that a friend not much older than I with four adult children and tons of grandchildren is now in hospice from his cancer. It just came out of the blue. And that's just one of many tragic examples from my life.

    Keep writing. That's what Anthony urged us to do when he spoke at Rach's memorial service. That's what she would want us to do. That's what we have to do!


    1. Jan, thank you so much for welcoming my re-entry into the blogosphere. I definitely needed a time of few words.

      Yes, cancer is a pathological liar, as you put it so well. I'm sorry about your friend. It seems you and I are going through a really rough patch at the same time.

      I will keep writing. Thank you for the encouragement.