Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lost in Space

Why are so many people afraid to say the word(s). The words are “die” and “death.”

I’m back to taking umbrage with the things people say – even though I know they mean well, even though I know others who've experienced the death of their baby don’t mind it when someone says the same thing. Today’s rambling is about the use of “lose” and “lost.”

We didn’t “lose” Brandon. We were there when he inhaled and exhaled for the last time. We heard his wife thank him for giving her the privilege of being the one to feel his last heartbeat. Although we couldn’t follow him, I feel fairly certain that we didn’t “lose” him. If anything, I have a sense that he is “found.”

At the same time, we (our/Brandon’s family) have definitely experienced a loss more vast than the blackest black hole in space and its gravity relentlessly pulls us all. If anyone is “lost,” it is each family member who misses him terribly.

Be that as it may, please DON’T EVER suggest to me that Brandon “lost his battle” with cancer. At least don’t say it in my presence, unless you want to piss me off royally.

As I wrote the day after he died – and the word is “died” for that is what happened to his body – “Brandon did not lose his battle with cancer – it was not even a tie. Yes, it claimed my beautiful boy's body but he totally beat it emotionally. Another 'spot' somewhere, he'd take a few days to regroup and then it was 'Chemo? Radiation? Uncomfortable tests or procedures?' He’d say, 'Bring 'em on. Let's get 'er done!' He quietly dealt with cancer treatment side effects that affected what and how this gourmet cook and foodie could eat and drink. It affected his tastebuds and his ability to swallow, but he adapted with occasional comment yet without complaint." Treatment caused thick, uncomfortable mucous, which in turn added to the loss of taste and difficulty swallowing. Again, he’d comment – and only if necessary because someone wanted him to eat or drink something he’d enjoyed in the past – but never with complaint. The cancer and related treatments robbed him of energy, which affected this athlete's stamina to run, kayak, ski, rock climb, camp, skydive, cycle, etc., yet he adapted and kept going. He kept working and meeting his sales quotas through the beginning of May last year. He joked about chemo brain. He joked about "playing the cancer card." He joked about qualifying for a handicap parking sticker. He joked and kept us laughing and loving.  

Brandon kept doing as much as he could until, with on/off low-grade fevers and a cough that wouldn't go away, he just couldn't. He showed cancer it could take his body, but it could NOT take his spirit. He showed this f'n disease that it could NOT have his dignity. It could NOT deprive him (and us) of his sense of humor. It could NOT rob him of his essential vitality.

And what a stupid, stupid disease. In overwhelming Brandon’s physical systems, it took its own “life,” for cancer cannot live on its own. Cancer did not win; Brandon did not “lose” some battle.

Cancer NEVER beat the authentic Brandon. 

The end of 7 weeks of radiation - holding his radiation mask
Radiation burns, a portocath for chemo below his right shoulder and that Brandon smile...
Brandon died -- he didn't "lose" and he isn't "lost." I look at my current Facebook cover and profile photos, which are of Brandon "celebrating" the end of seven weeks, 5 days per week of radiation and of the radiation burns that he kept covered as best he could because he didn't want sympathy or pity. (These photos are up now because April is Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Month, and I want everyone to know a little bit of what it means.) I look at these photos of someone silently suffering yet smiling through it all, and I cry. I can't believe he's really gone physically. It's simply not possible. I miss him. I miss him.

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