There Is No Glory In Illness

I’ve written this story out two times. Both times were for school assignments in my lit classes. Though the story is personal, I’ve never felt that how I’ve been delivering it is quite that. It’s public. Now I want to type it out for my blog. You might think that putting a story out on a blog is more public than turning it in for a class. I would agree to some point, but then I can’t help but think that at least here I don’t know who it’s going to. Though some of you may read this, I don’t know you personally. The only one I truly know reading this is I. That comforts me more than anything.

I should probably start out by introducing you to the main character, my grandma. My mom has never been much of a mom to me. She would always drop me off at my grandparent’s house when I was little. As I got older she was never around much to mother me either. My dad and I were and still are close, but not on a personal level. I know nothing about him and he just convinces himself that I’m emotionally stable and that nothing is wrong with me. He doesn’t need to know my personal life I guess. My grandpa and I have gotten close but that comes at the end of the story, not the beginning. Out of the small part of my family I have living near me; the remaining person would be my grandma. Not only did she listen to me, but she mothered me. She loved me more than anyone in my family ever could. I could tell her anything and she would listen. She was an inspiration to me. She worked a job she hated but every evening she would come home and smile. If I was at the house she would play with me and she would always book a vacation to a beach for me and her and my grandpa to enjoy once a year. She held things together between my dad and mom. She was the angel of our family.

It was early in 2009 when my grandma first thought something was wrong. She was more tired than usual. She brushed it off and excused it as exhaustion from extra work she was doing. We all brushed it off as that. As the year went on she grew more and more tired. I was only eleven at the time so detail wasn’t shared with me, but in early August my grandma went in to get a screening for breast cancer. My dad and I as well as my grandpa stayed optimistic about the results for as long as we could but the thought never left our minds. I was in the car with my dad one night getting a ride back from my grandparent’s house. He looked at me and said, “You know it could be cancer.” I turned and told him I knew.

The official diagnosis was given in late September. My grandma had breast cancer. She would be starting chemotherapy soon. I would go and see her every day to cheer her up. My whole family only talked about optimism and positive attitudes. My grandma was strong and we were all confident she would beat the cancer.

Thanksgiving day my grandma stayed up to cook an entire meal. Everything was going great until dinner was served. My grandma looked at all of us with tired eyes and started crying. She was too tired to stay awake for dinner. We reassured her that it was okay and silently watched as she retreated to her bedroom. It was then where it really hit me and my family. We were putting off cancer as something that wasn’t so serious, when in reality, it was just that.

The following weeks up until Christmas were a blur. I only remember visiting the hospital to see my grandma more often than visiting the house to see her.  She hated the hospital more than anything. As Christmas grew closer she wanted to leave the hospital more than ever. Finally a few weeks before the holiday, they discharged her. She would have a nurse that would come to teach my grandpa how to use the hospital equipment she was being sent home with. They would install a hospital bed into the house and my grandma would be able to stay at home with weekly checkups from a nurse.

Things went well until Christmas day. We were all sitting at my grandparents’ house opening gifts as my grandma lay in her room. I walked in to show her my gifts after we had all finished unwrapping everything. My parents started cooking dinner as I sat and spent time with my grandma. She looked rough. She had lost so much weight, most of her hair, and her ability to talk. The cancer had spread all over her body and her chances of living were little to none. After finishing my dinner we all spent time with my grandma individually. I had no idea what she was mustering up the strength to tell my parents and grandpa.

It was nearing nine o’clock. I had to go home with my mom soon. My dad was going to stay and help my grandpa for a few more hours after I was leaving. As I got up to say my goodbyes I walked into my grandma’s room. I looked at her and I was completely taken aback. She was shaking all over and nodding her head profusely. I was scared. She wasn’t having a seizure; she was just too weak to control her body. I didn’t know what to say to her. I thought I would see her again after that night. My mom walked in the room and asked if I wanted to tell my grandma anything before we left. I said no. I went over and hugged my grandma and then I ran out of the room. This would be my biggest regret.

Around thirty minutes after I had gotten home my mom said that my dad would be coming over soon. This was odd since my parents didn’t live together. When my dad arrived at my house I ran to him and hugged him. To my surprise he gave me a huge hug and we stood there for a few minutes. My mom walked down the stairs and it hit me that something was wrong. My dad looked over and said, “your grandma died.”

My world shattered in seconds. I didn’t tell her I loved her. I was too shocked to cry so I stood staring at both of them and then I retreated to my room. It wasn’t until months later that I was able to cry.

In the previous times I’ve written this I’ve always tied in a lesson as if I’ve learned from this; “Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.” But the truth is, I haven’t forgiven myself for not telling her I loved her. I haven’t really learned to not take things for granted, as I’ve said so many other times. I wanted to write this so I could be truthful for once. This event in my life has altered me forever. I’ll never look at Christmas the same way. I’ll never hear the word cancer and disregard it. This event made many things mean more to me in some ways, but it has also destroyed me.

I think most of us that have dealt with something like this try to make it into something good. We try to give it a positive meaning. We try to act like we’ve recovered. We know we haven’t though. Someone I loved was taken away. That won’t change. Luckily this has brought me much closer to my grandpa. That I something I’ll always be grateful for.

As for my grandma, the angel of our family; she is now a shining angel in Heaven. If I could tell her anything it would be that I love her. I always will.

The title of this post came from one of my favorite books, A Fault in Our Stars, By John Greene. For those of you who have not read this book, I highly suggest that you do. Not only is it an easy read but it’s an emotional journey. You’ll find yourself laughing throughout the heartbreaking novel, and by the time you close the book it will be impossible to hold back tears.

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