Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cancer Really Does Suck

Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.
-Lance Armstrong

Have you received a Facebook post recently that says “Cancer Sucks”? Like a chain letter, it keeps coming around and around. It never ceases to amaze me just how many people are affected. My grandmother and aunt died of breast cancer. My mother is a lung cancer survivor. My son’s paternal grandmother died of breast cancer. At least four parents out my my son’s relatively small class are dealing with some form of  it. Our neighbors to the right, to the left across the street, two doors down and one block away are all in various stages of the battle. Those are just the ones I know personally.
My favorite aunt has beat the odds for  more than three years now. Aunt Pati has always been my favorite. Even though, logically, I know our family Christmas parties must have rotated to different houses. I only remember the gatherings at her house. Massive piles of presents under the tree. In the kitchen, a spread of baked ziti, italian sausage and (Chicago style) wet italian beef sandwiches with anti pasta salad. The basement was always fully stocked with games. They had a pond to ice skate and when we got older, there were snowmobiles to ride. I remember the camping trip they took me on. Sleeping in the back of the station wagon with my two cousins. Teaming up with my cousin Jill to torment my cousin Mark. There was strength in numbers and we enjoyed upsetting the delicate balance of nature and power. I remember summer days spent swimming in their above ground pool, skateboarding down there crazy steep drive way and dirt biking through the nearby fields. Aunt Pati’s house was a kid’s paradise. So was her home. In that, I mean her heart. She is warm and welcoming and thoughtful in a way that I aspire to be. Aunt Pati is the one who kept in touch when I went away to college. The one who made me feel totally NOT judged when I announced that I was pregnant with my son (and I wasn’t married). She probably has no idea that one of her many thoughtful gifts started a family tradition in our home. She sent me one of those kitschy Santa frames that you can only buy at the mall where you get your picture taken with Santa. She sent it for my son’s first Christmas and now I have a collection that lines our dining room, one for every year for each of my two kids. Even now, she is still showing her love and support by encouraging me to write and regularly reading my posts. 
In one of those blog posts, I asked what gives comfort and hope. I was talking about writing giving me those feelings. But so does my favorite aunt. Aunt Pati wrote, “Heaven” is her idea of comfort and hope. So I asked her to elaborate.  I have known her my whole life and I never knew until now that she lost her mom when she was a young girl. It makes me wonder how she became such a wonderful mom, aunt and grandmother. Did she have a favorite aunt? The more I learn about her, the more I think I can learn from her. Below is Aunt Pati’s take on Heaven and links for wonderful organizations working to save people like my Aunt Pati.

What influenced your vision of Heaven?
Being Catholic and living with my aunt/grandmother, my whole family was very religious on my mom’s side. My initial idea of Heaven has changed a lot as I got older. I even question the concept of Heaven and that is scary for someone in my position. I believe a liberal, just God would understand my questions, if he exists. I had an emergency operation once and woke up seeing a bright light. I could not feel or hear. Just saw a bright light and thought "Oh My Gosh, this is the bright light they talk about." It turns out I just woke up early. Now, I worry that is the white light they all see and talk about. I LOVE to worry.
What is your earliest concept of Heaven?
My memory of my mom being sick and dying. I went to Catholic school with nuns. Heaven is where we all went, unless you were really bad and that meant Hell. Being six years old and having been exposed to death, I accepted Heaven as a good place, a place to see everyone and God. I don’t recall having any fear of death back then.
How do you feel when you think about Heaven?
Hopeful and scared. Would love to see so many people and know that everyone I love would be coming to see me too.
Do you think Heaven can be on Earth?
I doubt Heaven can be on Earth. But I believe Hell can be on Earth. Certainly, can be different for all. Everyone laughs when I say I have a hard time donating organs. What if there is reincarnation? I may need those eyes!


  1. Love being the subject, I feel so important and I enjoyed seeing my comments in print...thank you for this gift. love..pd

  2. What a beautiful homage to your aunt! Thank you for allowing me to take a moment to stop and recognize those special people that have impacted my life. We should all be so lucky! la biafora


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