Grandma Marilyn passed away early Tuesday afternoon. I recall reading at some point that fast cancers are rougher on the victims, but slow cancers are rougher on the victims’ families. I can’t attest to that, but I do know how horrible Grandma’s cancer was, not only for her, but for all of us. Grandma wasn’t the first in our family to get cancer, nor the first to succumb to it. But unlike other family members we’ve lost, I was close by geographically and was involved in the day to day struggles of not just Grandma and Grandpa, but my parents and aunts and uncles as well.
Grandma was diagnosed with lymphoma about twelve years ago–and beat it back a couple times. She spent the past five years in and out of the hospital. And I think she averaged two doctor appointments a week for the last six months leading into her hospice care. Grandma started hospice back in May, during the final stages of her cancer. The doctors tell us she broke records–what should have been the last few days of the lymphoma lasted almost two months.
The most frustrating part is that Grandma took amazing care of herself all her life. She fixed home-cooked meals made with fresh vegetables from Grandpa’s garden, baked bread and cookies (friggin’ awesome cookies), and canned raspberry jam. Perhaps most importantly, she was physically active her entire life. I have memories of her coming back from swimming at the gym or golfing with the ladies or even just riding her bicycle. And she walked every day, down the old ditch-bank roads around the fields farmed by Dad and Grandpa. I don’t remember her ever being an idle person–not until the cancer made her too weak to move around on her own, anyway. Into her seventies, she was in better shape than a lot of women twenty years younger. Yet she spent that last three months bed-ridden and fragile, unable to bathe or even feed herself.
I wasn’t with Grandma when she died–and I think that’s for the best. But Mom and Dad were. Mom called us just minutes after. I called a cousin to let her end of the family know. Then I went to my room, lay down, and stared at the ceiling for a while. It was (and is) weird to think that Grandma is gone.
And the rest of us are left to try to understand the unfairness of it.