Stories From A Life

Been there. Done that. Writing about it.

Sally Swift

Sally Swift
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
June 14
VP, Repartee
Swift Retorts
sally: a journey, a venture, an expression of feeling, an outburst, a quip, a wisecrack ... me


MAY 20, 2009 4:08PM

No More! No Más! Enough! Basta! Finis! Stop! **UPDATED

Rate: 34 Flag

k, kids 

"I feel great. I feel so healthy and strong. How can I have cancer?" my niece Karen

More bad news. Unbelievable. When does it stop? I just want to know. What does anyone do to deserve this? I want to know that too. How did it happen to this boy, his mother, her mother ... and us? Why do the hits keep coming? Somebody please tell me. Somebody, please make it stop.


One family. Too much pain.

judy Judy

My sister Judy, cancer survivor, husband killed in a plane crash 3 years ago this July. She's loving, kind, outgoing, generous. A nurse, she works with Doctors Without Boarders and other international agencies bringing health care and life-saving surgeries. She takes care of everybody. Rarely lets us take care of her.


karen  Karen

Judy's daughter Karen, diagnosed with melanoma 2 years ago, lost an eye to it last year, cured, we thought. Then it metastasized to her liver and spleen this April. Now, a surgical procedure every month. Long term systemic treatment too.

Karen's first surgery was two weeks ago. Not great, but not as bad as we feared. Today she started the systemic therapy. No problems yet. Still, while she waits for symptoms, for news on Alex, she's thinking positive, taking care of business. Being her same bright, funny, sweet, delightful self.

Hold on. Did I say "news on Alex"? Yes.

alex Alex

Karen's son Alex, 13 last week, locked in determined combat with a rare cancer since age 4, old enough now to be self-aware, vigilant, alert. Called from school to report "floaters" in his eye and a new, odd "spider web" shape blurring his vision.

Hemangioblastoma. Just above the retina. Okay. Well. Shit.

He's at the eye hospital right now, with his dad and his Grammy, waiting for the surgeons to plot a course of action.

I am poised to join them, 5 minutes away. Or, to jump in the car for the hour+ drive home to Karen and 10-year-old Amy.

The icing on the cake, so to speak? Today is Karen's birthday. Well. Shit. Happy Fucking Birthday To You. That's what we sang to her on the phone this morning. A tiny island of ironic comic relief.

Not much relief. But this is not about me.

sally pillow My "abduction brace"

Okay, it sort of is, because I'm the Caretaker. And I just found out I need rotator cuff surgery on my right shoulder. It's brutal surgery. Months of pain. I'm still rehabbing my left shoulder from it last September. Plus, tonight I get an MRI to see if I also need back surgery. But hey, it's not cancer. Yet. Yet?

Let's review.

We thought Karen's cancer was in remission. No.

We thought Alex's cancer was in remission. No.

We thought Judy could take a deep, cleansing breath and let it all the way out for the first time in a long time. No.

Waaay down the list, we thought I was finally on track to full, healthy, fighting shape. No.

There is a plus side.

bets amy Betsy and Amy

At least my other sisters, Betsy and Nan (also a widow, another story) are hanging in there, both breast cancer survivors. Poo-poo-poo.

At least Amy's healthy. Poo-poo-poo. Judy, her son (Karen's brother, aka my nephew), his wife and kids, all the cousins and the husbands are healthy. Poo-poo-poo.

char Mom

At least Mom is reasonably healthy, still active and productive, though she's getting progressively more blind. Dad's even more deaf now and starting to forget stuff but he's still at her side.

Though let's face it, at 86 and 93 they've already lived long, happy lives. Karen's barely halfway through hers. Alex's is just starting.

I want to scream, No More! No Más! Enough! Basta! Finis! Stop!

I want to know why?

We'll all keep plugging and working and loving and living. Even laughing. But there are days I find it hard to take those deep, cleansing breaths. Because I'm holding my breath wondering what's coming next.

UPDATE, RELIEF: Alex's tumor has shrunk, some of the blood reabsorbed. He'll have surgery next Wednesday, 5.27. The surgeons, and therefore we, are hopeful he will not lose any more of his sight.

PERSONAL NOTE: To all who weighed in with so much kindness, good thoughts, prayers and support, including those didn't know what to say but are with us in spirit, my heart is filled with gratitude.

I apologize for ranting. For dumping my stress and angst here.

You don't need our family's pain invading your life. Everybody has trials and tribulations. Everybody has to face them and try to overcome, to cope. Each family in its own way. Each person in his/her own way.

So many of you are doing just that. Coping with pain, uncertainty, loss. You keep the bar of courage and dignity high. You amaze and inspire us all.

I apologize for letting my anger and frustration and really, my sense of overwhelming helplessness spill out, but I had to offload some of it or I feared my head would explode. Not to mention my heart.

Thank you for giving me a safe haven in which to howl at the moon. Please don't feel you need to respond, especially if you've got your own shit going on.

I'm not seeking validation, pity or the limelight ... simply some measure of relief. Because I can't get unattainable answers or change any outcomes.

I am trying to be the strongest me possible. It's my role and I'm not giving up. I refuse to quit when the stakes are this high.

Writing helps me find strength. You help me soothe my soul and gear up to soldier on. I am truly, sincerely, everlastingly grateful for every single kind word and thought.

If wishing made it so, I'm convinced we would collectively cure cancer. Who knows, maybe someday we will.

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Happy F**king Birthday, Karen.
Too much, too much for one family. I'm sorry you are going through this. What else can I say?
"Sorrows come not single spies but in battalions." I hope it stops soon.
I'm so sorry, are's so unfair.
unbelievable. very tragic for all.
Your poor, hurting heart. I'm amazed that you had the energy to write this.
What can i say, Sally? Life's not fair. I'm so sorry for your family and their struggles. Here's hoping Karen and the rest will beat the odds and have find some peace and security. Sorry about your shoulder as well.
It is absolutely and completely too much! It's ridiculous! I hug you, HB
Dear Sally - I hope I don't get too much heat for this, but I think
your family soul group has a collective thing going on. For what
ever reason. You are supporting each other through it.
Deserving has nothing to do with it. I think people immediately
go to "why do I/she/we deserve this?" because we are conditioned to believe that. There has been an angry vengeful god influencing Humankind for 10,000 years, He says, "you do wrong, I punish you. You do right, you go to heaven." I simply don't buy it. I think your family Soul group is working together and facing physical issues together. I don't know why, your Soul does.
Many blessings and I send a shimmering Green Light of
Health your way.
Oh, you all are so wonderful. Just a few kind words mean more than you'll ever know. I send each one of you a special thank you and will just answer a few specifics if that's okay.

I had the energy to write this because there was nothing else I could do. Writing is always cathartic for me, in this case it was like standing under a train tunnel and screaming as the train rattles overhead (did anybody else ever do that as a kid?)

Cindy, absolutely Nothing cold about your comment and your advice. You're right, it's why I said we'll keep laughing.

Lauren, I know you're having your own burdens lately and thank you so much for giving me the kind words of a friend. Hope life is treating you more gently.
Dakini, we crossed and I do thank you, especially because Karen will totally relate to your words, though of course I value them too and am still learning.
There's not much to say at times like these that doesn't sound fatuous. Hang in there. Take good care of each other -- and yourself.
Sometimes it's all you can do just to hold on. Hold on- I'm so dearly hoping for healing for all of you.
Tonight, I will play the blues for you. It's as close to prayer as I get.
It is too much. It's so strange how bad luck runs in one person's life or whole families - lots of illness and/or tragedy. And other people/families breeze right through. It's truly not fair, not fair at all, what we are dealt in life.
Your situation bites so bad I can scarcely contain my anger at the injustice of it all. Poo Poo Poo, indeed. I'll keep you all in my thoughts.
This is all so good. Nothing sounds fatuous.

* Take good care of each other -- and yourself.
* Sometimes it's all you can do just to hold on.
* instead of a cleansing breath, allow me to join you in a resounding, oppositional roar. ENOUGH!! enough already (I can hear you, Karin, can you hear me?)
* Poo Poo Poo, indeed.

That all sounds great to me.

Silkstone, it is strange. And I promise, it's not the mashed potatoes.

Stacey, I swear Karen will love this, she used to sing in a band: "Tonight, I will play the blues for you. It's as close to prayer as I get."

Thank you all!!
You have a very beautiful and obviously resilient family. It does seem so savagely unfair that such generous, good people should have all of this adversity to contend with. Life goes on though, and that's a good thing. You don't think that it will, but it does. Good thoughts for you and your family. Let's hope for better days to come.
Ya'll are still on my list - just few more candles to light - Blessings, Ms. Sally.
This is a huge amount for one family! I feel so bad for you!
Cancer happens--it really sucks though when you feel like your family is standing right in the cross-hairs during the Big C's target practice.

I truly am sorry, Sally. I'd be screaming "enough" too. I admire the love and closeness with which you support one another. But this is an extreme test of family love and strength.

I don't know what to say, Sally. Love, hope and prayers are what I have to offer and you can have them all in huge numbers.
Sally. [[[hugs]]] Damn it. WONDER WOMAN Damn It. Damn it damn it damn it damn it. All I can say is, if I were a believer in the Biblical g-d, I'd be wondering if you descended from Job. [[[hugs]]]
Sally, I certainly remember your posts last year about what your various family members were going through, plus your own rotator cuff surgery. I want to say that this far more than the average family ever endures and I am certainly sorry to hear the latest news. Lots of positive vibes and wishes coming from my neck of the woods for all of you to come out with excellent medical results and healing.
So much heartache here, I'm so sorry. I sort of relate, so many blows in one family...when does it end? I just know what doesn't kill us makes us stronger.

I hope you can take strength from the caring souls here. Sending hugs your way sweety.
Someone once told me that G-d only gives you as much as you can handle. I concluded some time ago that He is a pretty lousy judge of people's limits. Either that, or there is strength in us that we simply want to remain untested.

Keeping you all in my thoughts and prayers, Sally.
Oh Sally. Not much I can say other that I am thinking of you and am with you.
You and yours have had more than your fair share of illness and grief. My thoughts are with you.
Jesus Christ woman, what's next? So sorry to hear about all this. Too much cancer for one family. I feel like all I do is bitch and complain about me me me. Your post really put me in my place. My best to you and your family. I agree: enough's enough!
That's the only thing I could say to you, just keep laughing. I could go on and on about how frustrating and unfair it all is and jut be repeating things that other have said. I do have a fair amount of empathy with you. I know that this isn't worth much, but, I will be a friend if you need it.
My prayers are with you. Been putting lots of growing things in my garden lately, I will plant an especially lovely one today with your families name on it.
"If wishing made it so, I'm convinced we would collectively cure cancer. Who knows, maybe someday we will".

And to that I might add, "If wishing made it so, I'm convinced we would collectively heal the world of pain, hunger, disease and hopelessness".

Sending virtual hugs and real life best wishes.
I am so sorry you're going through this. And you should feel free to talk about any time you need to do so.
NEVER EVER apologize for ranting here. I've come to think of us as a big community of folks who care for one another, and if you are going through the mill, then let us at least be there to try to offer you solace and support.
Words are fucking inadequate. But I want you to know that people are thinking about you--I'M THINKING ABOUT YOU--and all that you and your family are going through. I'm sending you strength. And hope.
And I think it's about time the universe gives your family a fucking break.
I'm working on a post right now on the "cancer is in remission" myth. I work with doctors and in hospitals. Breast cancer survivors in particular suffer from this "scam". The breast cancer surgeon/doctor tells them they are in remission at some point. But what is happening is the cancer is spreading and metastacising and it shows up later in the lungs/spine/liver/brain. And this could have been caught if the profession performed frequent scans to look for "hotspots" of cancer. Instead, women are given false hope only to be given the terminal diagnosis a few years later. [Elizabeth Edwards and Farrah Fawcett are 2 high-profile women told they were in remission and cancer free only to discover severe metastacies within months; where is the accountability of the medical system?] I'm sorry for your troubles.
This was hard to read, but I know it is harder to live.

My friend Jessie says we are all just here to walk each other home. Sounds like you are getting good at it. That's a blessing, only it doesn't feel that way.

Your post is full of love, as well as other things.
If wishing made it so, we'd be able to cure a lot of the world's woes. But it doesn't work that way, so howl away my friend. We are always available to listen.
Dearest Sally, Yes, I agree that "we are all just here to walk each other home." I found comfort in havlin's words and I hope you do too. Also, I hope you found comfort in ranting and would add my voice to those who say Rant Away! If you can't unload here, where can you unload? Besides, you are one hell of a good writer. Perhaps looking at that as a kind of blessing/coping skill would be helpful. It certainly puts us all right there with you, feeling your pain and cheering you on as best we can.

Know how much you are loved and admired and also please know that I'm standing by, ready to jump on a bus and come lend a hand, a heart, two hands, all my heart, and anything else I can offer to make this walk a little easier.
With much love and empathy,
Your pal, Cindy Lou
Sally, I'm so sorry. I'm not sure how I missed this post. Now I completely understand your feelings about the Alex I've been writing about....