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Saturday, August 20, 2011
My grandma is one of the strongest women I've ever known. A fiery 5-foot tall woman working in politics, her small physical stature hid the energy and cunning she brought to every encounter. I never saw her back away from a fight. I also never saw her in a fight she couldn't win. Now, she's been living with stage IV cancer for the past two and a half years, beating the odds on life expectancy.

A healthy woman her whole life, she ate well, exercised, and had boundless energy. Then, one day, she was shoved while on the Metro. She fell and broke something. In the course of the x-rays, they found more than they were expecting to find: cancerous tumors in her bones. Further examination found tumors elsewhere as well. Since then, her overall health has declined as she's undergone chemotherapy, radiation, and fought resultant infections. Her bodily functions have been slowly shutting down, leaving her more and more dependent on care.

My grandma going into radiation therapy

I've written about my grandmom, my mom's mom, and Alzheimer's disease. I've watch her slowly fading. My grandma, my dad's mom, is on a different path. Her mind is as strong as can be expected, but her body is rapidly failing. The cancer's taking over, having recently moved into her brain. I've always lived about 3000 miles from most of my extended family, which has made it hard to be close to them. A few years ago, however, I realized that my grandmothers were in the end stages of their lives, both of them fighting fights they know they'll never win - they're just trying to lose slowly. I made the decision to try to be closer to them whenever I could.

So I write this on my grandma's 79th birthday, a day we happen to share as I showed up the day she turned 46. This is the first time that I know of that we've ever been able to spend this day together. It'll likely be the last birthday she has, according to her doctor, since, according to him, when she finally gives up on chemo she's unlikely to live another 6 months after that.

I'm just happy to be here with her today.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bless you for being the wonderful grandson you are to both of your grandmothers. I know I think you're awesome. Give Vera a big hug for me. Love, Aunt Chris

3:30 PM, August 20, 2011  
Blogger Sarah said...

I really don't know what to say. I could seriously use a drink! I'm so glad you got to make this visit. I'm also glad that I got to visit my grandma this spring and really connect with her and make her laugh. I've been thinking a lot this weekend about that movie Shadowlands and how his dying wife tells him that the happiness now is part of the sadness later. It's not one or the other, but both moments/feelings exist within the having and the losing. Anyway, make sure to give her lots of hugs.

8:28 PM, August 20, 2011  

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