Anne Hamilton’s real-time memoir A FOREVER DECISION, is about her journey through the grief of losing her beloved dog Camilla, and then finding that her Uncle Steve is suffering with terminal cancer. Begun in September, 2012, she is writing this memoir as the real-life events of her uncle’s illness unfold in order to record the grief process and help to heal through engagement in self-expression and community support. As a playwright and dramaturg, Anne has written articles, and appeared on internet and radio shows to speak on the Topic of Healing Through the Arts. For the past few years, she has been writing articles on Open to Hope’s website, which helps people to find hope after the loss of a loved one. This series was originally published there. She is pleased that this memoir is now appearing on the Grief and Loss blog of YourTribute.com.
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A Forever Decision (Part 11)
By Anne Hamilton
All right. I’m officially depressed. I didn’t want to admit it. I didn’t want to name the illness. But I’m admitting it.
I am paralyzed. This is the third day that I have not been able to accomplish any task except eating, drinking, walking my dog, and talking to Walter on the phone.
I suffer from depression and anxiety year-round anyway. But now I have things to do and I can’t do them. I feel overwhelmed. There are too many changes going on at once, and the voices in my head are coupling with the fear I have of the future to paralyze me.
Cancer and death are the two words that are lurking just beneath my consciousness. And they are motivating everything I do. As my uncle reminds me all the time, everyone in our Hamilton family has died of cancer.
I have to take preventative measures. Three days ago I had a colonoscopy to make sure that I can prevent any illness from developing. At the exact same time I was under anesthesia, they were taking my uncle home. I found out that all went well after I woke up.
I took a couple of days to recover, and now I’m still tired, and I’m still lethargic. It’s not physical. It’s mental and emotional. I have things to do that I can’t do. I can’t feel the value of anything that I could do to help myself move ahead, so I don’t do anything. But I have to get myself together.
I surely can’t give up now. There are too many things to do ahead of me. But I have to make my way carefully and slowly so that I can inch forward incrementally instead of just stopping.
I have to appear in NYC in two days to read my poetry at an event. I have to find my outfit to wear to the reading. I have to write a recommendation for one of my clients for the Guggenheim Foundation. I have to update my blogs, websites, ScriptForward! newsletter, and TheatreNow! podcast. There are plenty of things to do.
Today is Monday and I need to drive six hours to visit my uncle on Thursday.
I have a dance class today. Maybe that will shake some life into me. I found a terrific Dance Fit class in my town. The ladies I exercise with are terrific. For one hour a week, we shake our bodies around and let loose. We are the Maenads of Bucks County. It’s really fun.
Today I got a postcard in the mail that made me cry. It’s a renewal form for Camilla’s dog license. I read it and burst into tears, missing her all over again. Luckily, I had spent some time this morning just hugging Isabella, my dog. I try to start the day that way. It gives me pleasure.
I come down the stairs and she is usually lying in one spot near the couch. I stop and make eye contact with her and say, “Hello, my little sweetie pie!” Her tail starts wagging and then I run over to her and give her a full body hug, squeezing her like I’ll never let her go. I stay there for as long as she’ll let me, petting her ears and kissing her face and telling her how much I love her. And then I let her go and move on to the rest of my day. It’s the only thing that keeps me going. As the song says, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with”.
I got a bill from Uncle Steve’s rehabilitation center today. I guess they’re copying me on the bills. I’ll have to make a file.
So that’s all. I’m going to try to get myself together. I have to use my time wisely and push my life forward. I can’t give in to being paralyzed. It’s just one day. I can live through the pain for today and try again tomorrow.
I don’t know what I’m afraid will happen. I know what’s going to happen. Uncle Steve is going to die. I just don’t know how it’s going to happen or when. I need to hang onto my life and find something positive to think about.
Copyright Anne Hamilton 2012
Updated: October 18, 2013