It Took Chemo To Slow Me Down

I have wanted to write. So many ideas have flittered through my head. I desperately try to hold onto the thoughts, so many I believe to be a great blog post. Unfortunately these thoughts come while driving to or from somewhere, in the middle of a project, wherever that is not near my computer to hash out immediately through the keys. So many thoughts lost to my sieve of a short term memory. My memory has never been super spectacular but since chemo brain has started my short term memory has not been great. I have this towering fear envelope me whenever I get a good idea, the fear of losing that thought. It feels like trying to catch a butterfly with a net. Sometimes I get lucky and snare the thought and sometimes it flitters off, maybe to be seen again and maybe not. 

There were no grand ideas or thoughts that brought me to write today. I just ended up here. Life seems to have resumed it’s normal self. Normal with a change – we sent our oldest off to college. Just typing it makes me teary. WHEW! 

Two week and a half weeks ago we took him to a school about an hour away from home. He has come home for a day but that was a week ago. Two days ago, it hit me. No, like it hit me and left a hole in my chest. I missed him. I equate this feeling to trying to explain to a pregnant woman what it really is like to give birth to a human. No matter what I say it or how I say it, birth is something that cannot be truly understood until you experience it. Sending my first child to college feels like that to me. I do not feel like anything anyone has said could have prepared me for this feeling.

The weird thing is, is that I know he is coming home for the summer in April. Then he will leave again and come back again and so on. Maybe not though, maybe he finds an adventure to go on next summer and then another and another. My heart would be overflowing with joy for him being out there experiencing the world and all it has to offer him. But, I also have a mothers heart. This is a heart that has two large pieces of it walking around outside of my body. Those pieces come from me but are not mine to decide what they do or where they go. Part of my heart is in Detroit. 

One of the things I am most grateful for regarding my journey with cancer was that I had to go through chemo. I am aware that sounds odd because chemo sucks terribly, but chemo made me slow the fuck down. And if you knew me it would take something as strong as chemo to make me slow down. It is something I am actually terrible at. I don’t even think just major abdominal surgery would slow me down for too long, I needed to whole package, chemo and all. 

Why is the fact that I had to slow down so high on my gratitude list? It is because of chemo that I got to spend more time with my son his last year home. 

The summer before his senior year I landed a really well paying client at my side business of house organizing, Tidy Hen Organizing. I also had other clients as well as working on the prison doula program. I was gone from the home a lot and was buzzing around juggling work, home and family. I felt very accomplished but scattered. I was getting stuff done but in a blur. 

One of the things I will miss most about my son being home is the random midday conversations when he was done with class for the day or waiting to to go work in the afternoon and the post 10pm talks when I would go to “tuck” the kids in at the end of the evening. Before cancer I was working a lot. I was not home as much to run into him in the kitchen midday and often too exhausted in the evening to sit and chat late at night. Chemo gave me the gift of one year of conversations I most likely would have missed. Don’t ask me to remember too many details from these conversations, remember chemo brain is real, but I know the conversations happened because I can still feel them. We talked about music, politics, artists, life, the news, whatever was on our minds that day. He would make me a sandwich some days when I was too worn out to get out of my blue chair. He would run errands for me. He would laugh at me when I said something that sounded like nonsense because it was. He was just around and I was just around. It was nice. 

Post cancer and chemo has been an adjustment but things are returning to normal, the new normal. One lesson I am struggling with is making sure I don’t busy myself like I did right before I got sick. Recently, I have seen myself leaning towards that tendency because of my natural disposition but also possibly to create static to avoid some bigger thoughts of my cancer coming back. I need to slow down. I have one more kid at home and then also my own life and wife to pay attention to, to have conversations with, to just be around. I am so thankful to chemo for the extra time with my son and I will be very thankful to slow down without chemo for the rest of my life. I just have to remember to do that.



  1. OMG Thank you for this. I needed to be reminded of this as I feel guilty for not being busier or more accomplished.
    Yet today I was able to feed my oldest ice cream and walk the dog with her and listen to her as she adjusts to being in middle school and to being a tween. I was also able to read some of one of my favorite books to my youngest and then snuggle her to sleep. This is the good stuff, the meat and bread for the soul. So, my resume goes unchanged yet another day but maybe tonight I can let myself feel accomplished, if only for a moment.
    Thank you and bless you for your deep work and your sharing.
    And here’s a hug for that empty feeling. I so dread it, but this parenting is a one-way trip to obsolescence – at least we get to see what amazing people they become…


  2. Love this, and share Jane’s sentiment that this was a great reminder for me, as well, to stop and smell the roses and wonderful folks in my life. I appreciate you so much for sharing your journey in this way! I remember that heartache when my kiddos left for college, too. No way to really prepare for that. Much love to your from me!


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