A girl and her cat take on the world with nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book and enough dreams to fill the universe.

Can’t Breathe

The other day, I learned that one of my host mom’s cancer has come back from remission. She and her husband are now moving to a  much smaller house since their health has been failing for the past three years so that it will be easier to maintain. They leave for the Alps in July so that they can breathe unpolluted air because the air around Lille is notoriously dirty. And this news has awakened in me one of my greatest fears: that someone I love and care about will be hurting and I will be unable to help.


Except it’s not and that kills me.

I received the email that contained this news minutes before I had to leave to tutor. I walk to school, but the scary realization that this is probably the end pressed on my chest to the point where I felt like I couldn’t get enough air. I couldn’t breathe and I had to talk to people about their goals. I had to pull it together, reign in the tears, keep a smile on my face and march through my day. I don’t think I know a single person who has actually survived having cancer and this experience ways on my thoughts. I know that the balance in my bank account is not enough for a last minute ticket to get me to France in a worse case scenario. I wan to out of this funeral circuit. My friends all are getting married and I’m wearing black.


I hate cancer. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. First, my mother’s best friend in high school died, before she graduated. That’s where I get my name, Margaret. Then, my grandfather died of lung cancer. We didn’t know that it had metastasized to the bone until he broke his neck scooping ice cream for my little sister, who absolutely adored him. Liz didn’t remember this instance until something was casually mentioned in a car on the way to a different funeral. Next, my mother’s best friend died, leaving behind her nine year old son who’s father wouldn’t even recognize him. The boy was passed from family member to family member until one of his aunts finally had had enough and kept him. Then, my grandmother died, a death that shook me in more ways than one. Two years of “you only have six months, three months, any day now” that pulled my family apart in an attempt to take care of this woman who had touched us all. After that, my great grandmother, who’s tumor had broken the skin and had become a festering mass that finally killed her. In all of this death, there had always been that moment of hope when the cancer had gone into remission. But then it came back.


See this man’s art project for cancer: The Tutu Project

You would think that this death, especially since it’s been every few years and the pain is fresh, would become easier to deal with, yet each time I hear the news, it’s like a sucker punch to the gut. It’s like reopening a wound with no idea that’s what was going to happen. It knocks you off balance every time. It takes your breath away. It makes each step hard. It isolates you and reminds you of your own mortality. Your death is your own, but it also connects those around you. Hurt is one of the strongest bonds between people. Shared pain is a powerful step to moving on, to relearning how to live and how to think of the world around you. Temporary.



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