I come from a rather large extended family in RL and over my 50 years of life, have lost several extended family members and friends, not all to cancer.
My cousin Rogers was one that touched me in a profound way. He was an firefighter and a first responder. He contracted cancer from one of the fires he was called too. I had attended many funerals by this point in my real life, but nothing could have prepared me for this one. If you ever seen the end of the movie Backdraft, you will know what I am talking about. To this day, I cannot handle seeing a funeral attended by first responders in their dress uniform and bag pipes playing Amazing Grace.
Some 24 years ago, my father was diagnosed with colon cancer. Thankfully, it was found early and was quickly over come. But I remember the long nights he endured. I room was in the basement and I could hear him wake in the night, from the pain in his legs due to the treatment regiment, that was keeping him awake. He’d come down and we’d sit and talk for hours. My mom never got her driver’s license so I was the family taxi. Took him to his treatment, doctors’ visits, grocery runs and all the other errands they needed. That was my first experience as a caregiver.
Between this time and when I found SL, I had lost 3 close friends to cancer, two with liver and one with pancreatic cancer.
In the fall of 2010, I had just created my 2nd avatar in SL after a disastrous first go. I had found this place to call home for newbies and people needing shelter, from all the nastiness of the grid and life. There, I met this soul that shared her cancer journey openly. It was my first experience to the worse phrase ever spoken, “there is nothing more we can do.” From the time I met her to her last day, which was less than a month. She story changed me and spoke at her wake we held. That was the day, the path of my life changed.
That spring I found Relay For Life on Second Life. At Kick Off for my first RFL season in 2011, was and still is, my most defining Relay moment. By the time the key note speaker began her presentation, I was already in tears. by the end, I was mush surrounded is spent tissue. I never did hear her words thought all my sobbing, but I felt every pain she shared and her hope.
Between that first Relay Season and last year, I have been involved with every RFL season here in SL, help launch RFL in InWorldz now going into it’s 5th season and involved with RFL where I live in RL, for the Canadian Cancer Society and have virtually and literally walk 3 Relay events per year, for the last 4 years.
When I first became involved with Relay, Dwen warned me, that I will know grief. Between Kick Off of 2011 and last year, I have lost so many fellow Relayers, people I considered friends. Many were hard to handle. One in particular this haunts me to this day. It was two years ago at an RFL event in InWorldz. Clint Westwood was a staunch supporter of our Relay, sponsor from day one and played at many events. Loved the blues and a pillar of the community. His last event he played, he told of his cancer. it was not good. He told us his days were numbered and that this would probably be his last event he could do. Everyone there was devastated including me. Dwen’s words came back and finally knew what he was trying to tell me.
In the late winter of 2015 my father began his final journey from this life. It happened gradual over several months, and it gave us the time to come to terms with it. It gave us the time to say all things I needed to say, things that we would be saying every day of our life to our loved ones. May 27, 2015 I began a beautiful journey through grief, because of the time I had to come to term with his eventual end, of a long and good life and 23 more birthdays. He ruled over cancer.
A few short month later, on Sept 4, I receive a call from my sister that started with “Are you sitting down?” and was told of my other sister’s shocking and sudden death, and how her husband came home from work to find her on the floor. My sister needed me to go with her, to break the news to my mom. That was the hardest day of my life, and began the darkest period in my life. Up until this point, I thought I knew grief, but I was so very wrong.
With a lot of help from family, my darling Panza, Oldesoul and many, many other close friends, I manage to keep moving forward. I also began looking into grief and grief counseling. To my horror, I discovered there is a condition called “Prolonged Grief Disorder.”
“Prolonged grief disorder is not synonymous with grief. Complicated grief is characterised by an extended grieving period and other criteria, including mental and physical impairments. An important part of understanding complicated grief is understanding how the symptoms differ from normal grief. The Mayo Clinic states that with normal grief the feelings of loss are evident. When the reaction turns into complicated grief, however, the feelings of loss become incapacitating and continue even though time
passes. The signs and symptoms characteristic of complicated grief are listed as “extreme focus on the loss and reminders of the loved one, intense longing or pining for the deceased, problems accepting the death, numbness or detachment, bitterness about your loss, inability to enjoy life, depression or deep sadness, trouble carrying out normal routines, withdrawing from social activities, feeling that life holds no meaning or purpose, irritability or agitation, lack of trust in others. The symptoms seen in complicated grief are specific because the symptoms seem to be a combination of the symptoms found in separation as well as traumatic distress. They are also considered to be complicated because, unlike normal grief, these symptoms will continue regardless of the amount of time that has passed.”
I am borderline on this one and where I am on my Relay journey. But no worries, I am still moving forward. Every day is getting better because of the experiences I’ve had in Relay and the stories everyone shared. I am not the same person not too long ago.