Saturday, February 27, 2010
Fight Club Soap
Originally uploaded by joe_sciglitano
Yesterday I received a message from one of Michael's prior coworkers. She was letting me know that a group of people in the office have decided to participate in this years Brain Tumor Walk. She was wanting to know if I was putting together a team, as I had done that past two years. She said they would be happy to join my team, or I could join theirs if I decided not to organize a group this year.
I was glad that I had been so busy at work Friday, otherwise I would have had time to pick up the call, and be forced to deal with something I have been avoiding for some time. The Brain Tumor Walk in our area is a very nice event. They hold in Golden Gate Park, and have lots of activities and food throughout the day. Both times we participated, we were able to raise a good amount of money, and it brought our family together to show Michael how supported and loved he was. There is always so much great energy with the group of people participating. I always see many of the people I have come to be familiar with from various support groups and hospital waiting rooms. There are many doctors and nurses from all cities that make up the Bay Area.
What makes this difficult, of course, is that like many others I have come to know, Michael succumbed to his brain tumor. During the past two years of our participation I have looked on at the families that make t-shirts in memory of the lost family member. They always seem to have such a wonderful and caring appeal to them. I have watched them carefully of course, as I wondered when that would be me.
I remember last years walk, and how we were able to have Michael's mother, brother, and his kids, join us. After the walk everyone came over to our house for a snack, and to rest a bit. We all talked about how much fun we had, and that we should do it again next year. At one point Michael's mother turned to her young grand-daughter, and asked if she wanted to participate again next year. And as child often speaks, without filtering anything out, she responded "sure, if Uncle Michael is still alive."
Well, of course this brought the room to a complete silence. Michael's mother quickly admonished our niece for saying what she said, and everyone else quickly changed the subject. So, here we are. I is the next year, and Michael is not here. I'm afraid of asking my mother in law if she wants to join his coworkers, as she will be put into the same situation I fear. I feel that I need to make a decision on my own, then present to her what I have decided for myself. This might make the question easier on her.
In the months since Michael died, I have thought a lot of how I was previously immersed in the 'brain tumor community,' and now completely not. In the two years that Michael battled his tumor, I have become a bit of a lay expert on brain tumors and care giving. During those two years I thought I would continue to a part of this community in some way, but in my grief I have chosen to apply some distance.
Now, I know that I should only do what I feel emotionally ready to do, but this feels like the time to make a decision. Ideally, I would like to see myself as one of those family members who continue the fight for the lives of others, but I also do not want to do it at my own expense. It is so hard to know what I am ready for. I don't always know until I am actually doing whatever it is. At the same time, I also don't want to think of myself as someone who became so defeated by this type of cancer, and who ran off away from the fight.
I'm also not very good about asking people for donations. Rather than asking everyone around me, I would usually just hit up my family members, and write my own check. It was hard enough asking people when I felt strong, and was fighting for my husband's life. I'm not so sure I can do the same as a widower who lost the fight. Yet, I am very aware that without us widows and widowers, the only people fighting this fight are the newest victims of this terrible disease. Brain tumors, at least in my experience, are a disease with a high turn over of casualties. Every time I went to a group, or a conference, sure enough, half of those in attendance were missing the next year. Michael, and I, are now counted in those previously involved in the fight against brain tumors.
Now I am a widower. Most of my free time is spent addressing my family's loss, or writing about my experience as a widower. It is my new identification, and I am becoming more comfortable wearing the label. In a way, choosing to participate in this fundraiser will push me to start refilling some of the gaps. I just need to decide if filling the gaps is what I want to do.