Bucket Lists and Telling Our Stories

Fear and Loathing of Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreaticcancerawareness160leftEarlier this week, a surgical aide explained some of the things I will need to do when I get home from the hospital. It's a long list, some of them being relatively big changes in daily life.

Without putting any thought to what I was saying, I responded to one item with, “I have to do THAT for the rest of my life?” It took only a moment for me to laugh at myself.

There comes a time when using the phrase “the rest of of my life” to indicate “forever” needs to come to a halt. I'm 76 for god's sake and I've got pancreatic cancer. That phrase should have reached the end of its shelf life for me a long time ago.

As the days until surgery dwindle down now and most of the chores and preparations are finished, I've had more empty moments to let the actuality and seriousness of my condition sink in.

In short, it sucks.

In further short, I am afraid. There is so much to be afraid of:

I might, even unrelated to the cancer, die in surgery and the details of my life are not in good order at all for cleanup

Maybe something will prevent removal of the malignant tumor

Potential complications following surgery are not uncommon nor minor

With or without all that, recovery is long and arduous. Am I up to it? I don't know

From what I've read, I can write off the rest of this year; complete recovery from surgery will take that long

In terms of health, I've led a charmed life. I've hardly had to think about my body – just feed it reasonably well and move around a bit to keep it in good working order. I'm deeply unprepared for the difficulty of this journey

Mostly, I just want my life each day to be normal. Ordinary. Unremarkable. But that's not going to be anymore – at least not by my definition. Can I do this with a modicum of grace? It doesn't feel like it right now.

Okay. I'm having a bad day. So many of you, in comments and private email, have remarked on my good attitude and strength. It is nice to be perceived that way and maybe it's true.

But so is what I'm writing now, in this moment as I try to see the computer screen through tears. I am afraid, maybe the most afraid I have ever been.

And I am furious: why, with so much fantastic science in the realm of technology just in our lifetimes haven't we applied that much energy, money and innovation to finding a way to cure – or at least successfully treat – all the hateful cancers that make miserable the lives and deaths of so many millions of people?

Do we really need one more fancy cell phone or shiny auto model?

How about, at the very least, cleaning up the environment. That would prevent some goodly number of cancers. We know that but we do next to nothing. And not to point fingers, but we now have an administration in Washington whose members are actively reversing the few steps we have taken in the right direction. "So sad," as one of the perpetrators is wont to tweet.

There is, I have discovered, a not-so-subtle pressure on patients of dreadful diseases to put on a face of bravery and fortitude and grit and spunk. Some of the time that's easy. I actually feel that way - no effort involved.

And then are days like now when I am so frightened I can hardly breathe and unanticipated tears spring forth. I know I'm not the only one but someone needs to say it out loud, that it happens.



Disease sucks. Being sick sucks. Not knowing sucks.
Sometimes we just need to cry.
Sending a hug - hugs -

Ronni, I have a pretty good idea of what you're going through; knowing you are not the only one doesn't make it easier at this stage. It is your eyes you're looking through and your existence that is being threatened. Personally I've always taken exception with concept of "battling" cancer, i.e. "he fought a brave fight against cancer for X number of years". It hasn't felt like a fight or battle to me, but rather a slog through uncontrollable changes in my life, over which I have little control. A sort of denial or forgetting has become my friend, allowing me times of relative normality and freedom from terror. Hopefully you will be able to reach those times in the near future. Wishing you the very best of luck -

When life doesn't go as we want, I think part of it has to be admitting the downside. To pretend this wouldn't terrify us all is ignoring reality. Sometimes we just have to be where we are even when that's (insert bad word here). Hope it all is better soon.

I'll confess -- I am the world's WORST sick person. Seriously. I nearly died when I was 23...long hospitalization, arduous recovery. Worse, most of it could have been prevented with the correct diagnosis. I learned then I am a real b!tch when I feel horrible. My long-suffering husband was my salvation back then. Now I'm a widow, so the next such gig will be even worse.

You are allowed to cry, to scream and to express your emotions; keeping it all bottled up and that "stiff upper lip"...can not be maintained ALL THE TIME. Be gentle with yourself, and realize sickness brings life-altering changes. No one has to be brave every single minute of that journey. (((((((((Hugs))))))))))

Ronnie, does your hospital have a music therapy program? They played my favorite music during surgery and daily radiation blasts. It truly helped thanks to the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine. Maybe they have the theme music from Kids Are People Too.

I have no good words for you, Ronni. But someone I know who's been there said talking about ALL your feelings is actually very good for you on your cancer journey. Just want you to know we are listening.

I, too, hate the term "battle" - it's so very lopsided.

I think bravery comes in many forms--and includes letting the fears and tears surface.

(((((Hugs))))) You are a tough one. Be well.

Ditto to what the others said. Revealing the fear and sadness is part of being brave.

Hugs, Ronnie.

I'd like to reach through this computer and hold you.

Even in this dastardly time, you find time and desire to keep informing. You are a teacher for us, and I think all of us are hurting for you. While never having had cancer, I've always turned to rage when facing an overwhelming fear due to a circumstance. I yell at the top of my lungs, cry, threaten, promise.

It's not to get rid of the problem, rather to get beyond the painful feelings.

You're in a very tough place. Love yourself and your whole body.

Have your pity party..........!you are entitled. I find screaming in the shower both before & after the "battle" really helps. We're all here for you, dear friend. Dee:)

Ronni, you have never experienced anything like this in your life.

JHC of course you are afraid and angry.


Anger can be a motivator. Anger propelled me back to university at age thirty-something after repeating grades and working a series of ass-numbing nine to five office jobs.

Try to stay in the moment, take your time to prepare for your operation. Do what you have to do and find some alone time to meditate.

I am on my way to the hospital to visit my sibling who is halfway through her cancer treatment.

I am worried.

Hold tight.

You are in good medical hands.

There is nothing that can take away, smooth over, give solace to the situation you face.

You are facing it in the only way it can be faced—as a reality of "ifs", and "maybes". Everything you have expressed regarding the unknowns and second-hand known is out there on the horizon. Wrapping the mind around them and being "ready" for what comes is impossible.

What you do have going for you is your past experiences with diversity, illness, loss. None of those are the same as what you have now, but you, at your core, are the same.

Shaken, afraid, and unsure of your abilities in this most unwelcome area of life, going through the anguish of wanting it to not be so, you have been there before, but this is a whole new set of circumstances that are beyond your control.

Remember the visual from someone on this blog: "Crying until you find yourself on the floor in a heap and look up to see the baseboard needs to be cleaned"?

But, again, this is a different circumstance, in that there is so much unknown. And the reality of being on the edge at the mercy of others skills and timing, this is fear you cannot remedy with actions of your own.

Have you thought and would you be willing to have a 0.25mg. of zantac from your Dr. to take the edge off for this last looooong few days? Most Drs. will afford a cancer patient that much if they ask for it.

You think much like I do regarding situations you face. Knowing all the facts and their possible outcomes is what I need to do. Some people are uneasy with the bald expression of feelings, but you most certainly need to do that and you need an ear (or many as you have here) to hear you.

Lots of words here. I am thinking none of them sufficient. So, all of them but mostly love coming your way, Ronni.

Thanks for the thought, SC Jones, but I've never used whatever the class of drugs Zantac is in is called. I always want to feel what I feel emotionally without the edges rubbed off. (This definitely does not apply to physical pain.)

And thank you also for that wonderful line, "Crying until you find yourself on the floor in a heap and look up to see the baseboard needs to be cleaned." I had forgotten that and it is one of the best ever. Yes!!! I understand it exactly.

First of all, I would like to applaud Lynn for her comment about the different forms bravery takes and second it loudly.
How can you not be scared? Just going into an operating room for a minor procedure is unsettling because we have to relinquish all control ... over everything.
All I know is that most of us have an incredible ability to adapt to our circumstances, even when they are wretched wretched wretched circumstances, and wade through.
Thank you for your honesty. I wish I could hug you but I know you are not big on hugs so it's just as well I can't!
Once again your words resonate with us all and empathy informs.
Holding you very close in my heart, as are all your other friends, real and virtual.

Oh, Ronni. Thank you for being vulnerable and real--it's a gift to all who read this post. You're constantly in my thoughts. 💛

Ronni, one of the worst things about serious illness today is the l-o-n-g time we all have to contemplate the various awfulnesses of it. A few years ago, I had my first acute gall bladder attack. Amazingly, upon arrival at the ER, doctors determined it was serious and it had to come out--which it did, only a few hours later. If I'd had days to contemplate the surgery and overnight hospitalization in addition to the nasty symptoms, I'd have suffered so much more.

I regard that quick resolution of one of the great blessings in the midst of what was otherwise kind of a grim period of my life. Actually, I KNOW it was grim when I recall a speedy operation as the "high point." But it was.

Few of us can count on being so "lucky" in future encounters with the medical "system," and we all dread it. Your experience--tears, fears, a to-do list, and the mixed blessing of time to think about it all--is much more common.

Please don't feel that false "bravery" is expected by your readers here. Your real experiences--all of them--are infinitely more valuable. We're grown-ups, and we hurt with you.

I've been reading your blog and wondering why you're not scared s***less. I know I would be. More power to you, Ronni. You feel what you feel.

As for why there hasn't been a cancer cure in all the time the Cancer Society has been in business, I figure it's good for the economy. The people who could cure cancer are being enriched by it.

I honestly don't know how you could be anything BUT in a heap of tears on the floor. I thank you so much for sharing this. Hoping you are in the small percentage that gets through this ok.

Allow yourself to have bad days and be scared. You do not have to be an example of fortitude or courage or anything else. When you are able to be strong and cheerful and productive, you will be just because of who you are. Ask for help. People "don't know what yo say," but if you give them a specific task, many will rise to the occasion, happy they can do something. Prayers for you!

You sure don't have to be brave for us, Ronni. Most of us have been thru some sort of fearful medical incident and know that, being brave, having a stiff upper lip (whatever that means)-toughing it out and 'ad nauseum' is something the media has told us we should do...too many Hollywood movies and Lifetime Channel stories about the plucky and brave hero who is a good sport and docent cause her doctor or nurses any problems!

I learned that being strong and silent doesn't get me anywhere. I was in a terrible nursing home a few years ago and learned that being a Bitch got me what I needed more than being nice..

So Ronni, feel free to be yourself-to cry and complain and bitch your heart out. Your life sucks right now and playing goodie two shoes about it won't make things any better.

Know that hundreds of readers are here for you-at the end of a computer or a short drive away..and remember if you need any help, I'm 20 minutes away from Lake Ego. Have car, can shop.

Take care and let go when you need.

I'm so sorry you are having a difficult day, and you certainly are entitled, and even expected by your readers, to face this in whatever way is right for you. Yes, cry, pound things, whatever gets you through. I hope you have someone to lean on, someone to be brave for you, someone to pick you up.
I am holding you in thoughts and prayers. I hope it helps a tiny bit.

You do recognize what strength it takes to admit openly to fear? Even though it doesn't fit like a strong day. Yes, one has to learn to live with the effects of illness, perhaps the hardest being lack of energy to do all one wants, and much of the limited energy consumed by the have to's associated with managing those effects. I have a an 82 year old friend living with environmental illness who must spend three hours a day preparing and taking upwards of 20 different homeopathic tinctures in order to be functional for an additional 5-6 hours each day. Has been doing so for twenty years already, and manages to be grateful for not being as constantly sick as he was in his younger years. I'm not sure I could make that adjustment, but am certain you could, should you decide you want to. What separates strong people from others isn't lack of down, frustrated, weak-feeling, I want to quit days, but rather the fact that they are recognized, acknowledged, and then managed with the determination that one's life has been managed. You are in many prayers.

Thank you for sharing your truth with us, Ronnie...keep it up. This is what you and we need to stay connected.

I recall when interning as a soon-to-be- psychotherapist, my mentor told me about "good enough," meaning, that being a good enough was good enough for us humans...take the pressure off, knowing that you are all you can be each moment. I have remember this during my most self-critical moments.

Lastly, thank you for bringing to light the blessing of ordinary, something I regret to say I don't appreciate...thank you for bringing it back into light for me.

With you in heart and spirit. Susan P


Dear Ronni ~ Is there a Cancer Care center in your area? They have a wide range of support services including counseling and all at no charge. And please reconsider taking some sort of tranquilizer to help you get through the worst fears, there's no sign of weakness there!! You need all the help you can get, strong woman though you are!! More hugs! xxJoan

Kudos for keeping it real, Ronni! It's terrifying and it sucks! I agree with previous comments, especially about the Xanax or Valium or whatever. If you don't ask, they don't offer. Ask and take it IMHO. Being brave is being smart and watching out for yourself now. And let your friends that are near home help. They need that, too.

Words are never enough at time like this. Many caring thoughts and prayers are sent your way and I am personally in awe of your candor and courage. Take things a day and even a minute at a time and try to allow some comfort to seep through these electronic messages into your soul and know that you are deeply cared for.

I'm with you, Ronni.

Dear Lady you speak so well, so understood and all I can do is send a virtual hug and send up a prayer.

Your words today touched my heart because of of your honesty and willingness to share your personal truth with all of us. Thank you Ronni for sharing....

Here is what I know for sure...there are two things that matter most in life...
those you love and those who love you!

When the tears come wrap yourself up in the love that all us are sending to you knowing that you are not alone in this journey....as my eyes are wet with your tears!

The three most important words in life from me to you....I love you!

Dear Ronni of the strong Spirit and compassionate Heart, I see that you are having "one of those days" when you wonder whether both strength and compassion have abandoned you. You're right, IT does happen and we do get through it. I don't know whether you are acquainted with the 23rd Psalm or not, but there is a line that goes something like "yea tho I walk through the valley of the shadow of death ...." I have always found the key word in that line to be not the words that follow and which for many do provide comfort ..."I will fear no evil for Thou art with me," but simply the word "through." I imagine that you won't be camping out in that valley for long, but for now, I say wallow as much as you need to. It's the only way 'through' that I know of. Sending you Fierce Love and gentle Lullabyes.

Oh Ronni, my heart breaks for you. Of course you are scared; who wouldn't be? When things go wrong for me I say "This, too shall pass." In your case I doubt that that old worn out phrase will help one damned bit.

Tears are therapeutic so let them flow. Giving vent to our fears is normal and being able to talk about it is so much better than keeping it bottled up inside. I am glad you are able to do so.

When you told me the terrifying news I said, "Why Ronni?" I am sure you said, "Why me?" It isn't fair and we all know that.

You have so many friends in your corner and we are shedding tears for you, too. Be good to yourself. You will get through this and then just do what you have to do.

After my cancer surgery yesterday, we visited Captain Poolie as she got her infusions for the day. (Picture on my blog.) She has lymphoma. You have Pancreatic Cancer. Neither of you are enjoying your new normals. I understand.

Bless your heart. We all have these same feelings; you're just voicing it to a wider audience. My Mother had Huntington's and my Father had Pancreatic Cancer. I've cried a river of tears. We all have our moments.

I understand your reluctance consider drugs that you think may make you feel other than how you normally feel in this situation, but I hope you will reconsider the suggestion about the small dose of an anti-anxiety medication, probably Xanax, which is in what 's sometimes referred to as the "pam-pam" family. Xanax is alprazolam and tiny doses such as the perhaps 0.25mg mentioned by another commenter, can take enough of the edge off that you can sleep and function more normally when you might not otherwise be able to. Not a bad thing. There is really no good reason to suffer through what you don't have to if there are options. Of course marijuana may do the same thing for you, and may be even better.

That phrase about "battling" cancer bothers me too. The doctors get to battle, the patients are surviving and relearning how to live their lives in the most difficult circumstance. I'm crying with you. I'm so sorry you've had so much time to ponder this. I'd be scared spitless. At one point with a health crisis when I was scared and angry a great nurse suggested I buy a kid's plastic baseball bat and go home and beat the crap out of my mattress. I did, until my arms almost fell off. More than once. It really helped. Just a thought for before the surgery. Hugs and love to you.

I wish I could find the words to ease your fears and sadness. The aftermath of a cancer diagnosis is overwhelming. I've had both early endometrial and early breast cancer diagnoses. The endometrial treatment was one surgery and no after treatments. I'll be 5 years done with that in December. The breast cancer resulted in 2 lumpectomies 2 days apart, 6 weeks of radiation, and having to take some meds with side effects for the next 5 years. I'm 71. I live alone with no family nearby and no close family at all. I do have wonderful friends who did everything I asked of them, but all have busy lives and families. So much for my struggles with this horrible disease. Some of my coping skills were to, whenever I could, put blinders on and concentrate on the 'next right thing' instead of looking at the whole picture. I would get up each morning and tell myself that I just had to find the strength to do whatever was required that day. I would face tomorrow and find the strength when for it when it came. I sent e-mail updates to the wonderful people who cared enough about me to send love and encouragement. Their support kept me going. I tried to love and encourage myself and know I was doing my best. A dear friend sent me a card with a picture of a kitten looking in a mirror and seeing a lion looking back. She said it reminded her of me. It's posted on my fridge. I guess that's all I can say that may help. I could handle one day and one task at a time a lot easier than the whole scary picture. You have an army of the people you have encouraged, entertained, and supported with this blog who will be sending you care and support, and I am one.

I look forward to your posts but realize the effort involved must be more than you care to put forth at this time...yet I open my computer - and there you are! Your candor and ability to put into words all you're going through is appreciated by all of us.

Just imagine if all your virtual friends could materialize at the hospital waiting area and send up a cheer as you return from your Successful surgery! What a crowd! What a noise!

I listened to an interview with Joe Biden yesterday, when he was asked what it was like to be given last rites (aneurysm surgery knowing his chances of survival were around 30%)...his reply was " I thought that's one out of three - so why the hell not me?"...So why the hell not you?!

We're with you all the way , with good wishes and an abundance of love.

I'm so sorry you -- or anyone else for that matter -- has to go through something like this, Ronni. The only thing I can add to what's already been so beautifully said is to mention Dr. Deborah Cohan who joyously danced with her surgical team just before undergoing a double mastectomy. Since you don't allow links here in the comments, you'll have to Google the video yourself unfortunately. Hopefully it will inspire you to move through your totally valid fears and worries and arrive at a place of great strength and courage -- which we already know you have in abundance.

Ronni, Dear Woman,

Cancer and cancer treatment is a roller coaster at best and I agree with what others have already posted. Just want to add my bit of energy to the mix and acknowledge with gratitude the power of your authenticity. That you are so real will hold you in good stead throughout this...this what. Ordeal? Challenge? Assault to your body? Transformation of your life? All of those and more, and even though today might not be the day when you can see it, I submit that this is also an opportunity, a mega opportunity. I am with you in spirit as so many others are. You are an amazing person, mostly because you are willing to be fully human and to speak, to share your humanity. A thousand blessings to you.

Dear Ronni...Thanks for always being real. You have, and will continue to make a difference in my life and attitude about living and aging. I'm sending all my heartfelt thoughts and prayers as you face this horrible thing in the same way you face everything...by being real. I hope you find comfort and strength knowing that there are so many of us around the world who have never met you, but love you and truly know you because of how you have shared with us your life, thoughts, musings, commitments, and grace. With more thanks than I can ever express, Carol

You have a right to be scared and mad, mad as hell. Science should have found answers to this long ago.

I LOVE that image of a kitten looking in the mirror and seeing a lion. Wow. Isn't that wonderful.

Ah, yes. The tears that also come. It is my thought that these are just as necessary and valuable as the other, stalwart, brave parts. All of these things help us face what is ahead.

When an overwhelming problem faced me a while back, I actually broke some dishes while resorting to angry tears (taking care to do this deed over the sink, so I'd have less to clean up).

But I found an even better way to sooth myself later on - my cat!

Think about joining Ollie in his sunny spot, and just hold him tight. Let the tears flow, and Ollie will help you thru.

Dear Ronni,
There is no way through such a devastating diagnosis as you have than to feel your emotions. Who wouldn't be scared and just plain feel shitty contemplating the surgery and the aftermath.

Just letting the painful feelings wash over you is the best thing you can do for now, and for as long as you need to. I understand as do most all of your fans and readers. I give you permission to be human, you don't have to be a perfect and I respect you for your honesty.

Thanks for being real. You are brave to decide to go for treatment, pain and possible life. Wuss that I am, I'd go for the scotch and the good-by pills. God I hope this all works out for you. We're all scared too. Tomorrow it'll be my turn??

I take Xanax, which is an anti anxiety pill. I take a half of the lowest dose. I could be wrong, but I think that is the pill an Earlier comment was referring to. Zantac is for stomach problems.
Considering your circumstances, you could probably do a full pill. To me, it is a wonderful drug. It just takes the edge off and helps your mind not fret so. I took it years ago when my Mother was dying of cancer and I had anxiety and again just in the last few years after my husband died. I am still on it and plan on staying on it. Ive never found a need to increase the dose, nor do I feel addicted or zombie like.
This is just my experience..whatever helps.
I'm a rooting for you!

Thank you for sharing Ronni...those of us with health problems (most of us) understand your fears and your darkest hours. I've always felt it was important to feel *all* our feelings, including the negative emotions. People who are "Pollyanna" and insist on remaining positive (and annoyingly perky) all the time are just shallow IMHO.

I try to tell myself that my life is no more or less certain than anyone else's life. It's trite, but any of us could die at any moment in an accident, or worse. Having a diagnosis brings this uncertainty to the front of our mind, and it is VERY tough to face our mortality, and all the uncertainty of health issues and managing our daily lives.

My suggestion is that you try as much as possible to stay in the present moment and do what you have to do. I recommend three books - Full Catastrophe Living (Jon Kabat-Zinn), When Things Fall Apart (Pema Chodron) and 10% Happier (Dan Harris). All of these are related to Buddhist meditation, and the basic impermanence of it all.

I also recommend the Calm app and other similar apps which offer guided meditations on your iPad or phone. Some days, the best you can do is to rest. I personally have many of those days.

Warm thoughts to you Ronni. I hope today is a better day for you.

There is no prescription to help you get through this except what you are doing here.
You may not realize this but it is true bravery. Tomorrow may be quite different.
Zantac or not we will be here tomorrow. Something you can count on.

I feel so many of us here are on this journey with you. When you hurt and become scared, we are hurt and become scared too, but we also are here to lift you up in any way we can.

I love your vulnerability to share your feelings. It's a remarkable trait among so many wonderful traits and talents you have, optimism and positivity being strong ones, which I feel will benefit you greatly through all this.

Wishing you the very best!!!

Ronni, I've subscribed for about three years now, but have never commented. You've summed up how I've thought and felt so well, and changed so much of how I see the world for the better that I never had anything intelligent to add. You're a part of my daily life. I'll be turning fifty next year, and reading your posts has taught me so much about living life with curiosity, intelligence, empathy and grace. You know by now how many people you've touched with your writing. I'm like many of them who can't physically be there to give you a hug, but hugs to you anyway. So many stand with you.

"Scared" is an understatement. Try "terrified." People called me "brave" too, and there's nothing brave about it. It's pure survival instinct. It's doing the only thing you can do if you want to survive. Look to the oncology nurses for great tips, like beating your bed with a baseball bat (hadn't heard that one before). They are the people I saw most often and who, both literally and figuratively, held my hand throughout. And try not to think too far ahead. Just getting through the next hour, or even minute, is sufficient.

Thinking of you every day, sending hope and positive thoughts your way.

Sending warm hugs your way.

You can try some homeopathic remedies to allay your anxiety and general dread.
They are safe,and rescue the system from the shock,actually called rescue remedy.they will not affect your surgery or other treatments,chk with your Dr and if he says ok,find a homeo path or get the remedy from a Healthfood store.Whatever you feel is quite normal for the situation.the other thing you could do talk it out with a close friend,or a Psychiatrist,it is quite ok and may give you some strength.You can contact me via e-mail.

I think what's needed is The Face of Honesty, Ronni, and thank you for having the courage to trust us with this...

And, in return, we offer love. Not love the emotion, but Love the energy. The energy that quantum physics talks about when they're brave enough, the energy that's foundational to Tibetan Buddhism... the energy we haven't begun to understand or define (thank god!) but we've all experienced in moments of great need and great fear throughout life. It comes on us for a second to two and changes everything in our lives. THAT love is being sent to your from all over the world. Whatever happens we'll hold you up lady... just as you've held all of us up over the years. ✨✨✨

Ronni, I really can't add to what this wonderful community has already said. I so appreciate your sharing with us your whole experience, not just your intrepid, no nonsense reports. I learned long ago that I had no time or energy to be with folks who couldn't or wouldn't deal with the depths, who made me feel horribly lonely when I was hurting. I so hate what you are going through, and I'm so grateful to you for letting us in.

A day at a time, that's doable, I guess. This army of friends will be sending good thoughts during your surgery. I've got to believe that will shore up you and your medical team.

You are so brave in sharing your honest emotions through this barbaric ordeal. I wish all this stuff upper lipping just stopped.

And the effing battle too while we're at it like it's a dragon to be slain and your foot on the neck of the dead beast in triumph. JFC.

I cry too through a recent diagnosis that impacts my mobility. In regret, in sadness, in loss. In whatevers. We need to be real with each other. Especially now.

Big hugs and big thanks.


Dear Ronni...Thank you so much for honestly baring your soul, and sharing this difficult journey! You are one amazing woman and human being, with so much awareness! So glad you've people around who can help with recovery, and just know that we're all rooting for you! Sending ((((((((((((Hugs))))))))))) and well wishes!

Please be gentle with yourself at all times no matter what you are feeling. Your heart & soul are like a soft kitten. Very vulnerable now.

I cannot thank you enough for sharing your experience with such honesty. The reality of your story hits me every day with admiration and fear. I hope your hospital stay and recovery all occur smoothly. You must know that many, many people are cheering for you.

I am also having difficulty reading my computer screen through my tears as I think about what you are dealing with. I have no words of wisdom but thank you for sharing your life with us, I have looked forward to your columns for years. You will be on my mind as you go through this very difficult process.

Ps. I agree with several others here... the .25 xanax will just take the edge off. You'll feel your feelings and think with clarity but the terror will move to the edge. I know some people have taken very high doses and become robots but that's not what we're talking about.

I've taken it occasionally and it's been a godsend. The tension that results from terror challenges the body, and you have enough of that... give yourself a gentle little break... and let it help you get a bit of rest.

Ok, going back to minding my own business now...

I am SO sorry that you have to go through this, but you're the poster girl for "keepin' it real"! Like you (up until this awful diagnosis), I've been relatively healthy. The thing that has come at you seemingly from out of nowhere has made me VERY grateful for that however long it may last--even more so now.

I wrote a decidedly UN-Pollyanna TGB post a few days ago and then deleted the whole damned thing since I seemed to be the only one that wasn't sure I'd be up for the "fight" or that I'd choose to "march into battle" if it were me. I'm 80 and I think quality of life for however long I may have might trump (OMG, that word!) most other considerations for me. Yet, there's my wonderful husband of nearly 40 years and our 3 lovely cats. The choice to fight (or not) is a very individual thing.

You have every right to feel the way you feel--which is probably like you've been shit-kicked, sucker-punched, attacked from behind or all three!

You have a LOT of people in your corner. All the best wishes.

To re-iterate what Mary noted, Zantac is a heart burn medication, and the original post must have meant Xanax (alprazolam). It is a mild tranquilizer and doesn't change what you feel at all, it just lowers the anxiety level, which can be as bad as pain in many ways. I've been told there are two kinds of patients when it comes to pills, those who will take whatever they are given or can get (like me), and those who will hardly take anything. My diagnoses include "Generalized Anxiety Disorder" for which intermittent low dose Xanax helps keep me functioning, dealing with my husband's Alzheimer's and working past 70.

I admire your spirit and courage and am glad that you are willing to take pain pills. You have been lucky to be so sane that you haven't needed psychotropics, but they really can help -- quicker and more effective than the self-help books or herbal remedies mentioned above. In any case your writing is way better than the self help books I flip through at a bookstore but never buy because they are such thin gruel. You are staring mortality in the face, for which poetry and literature is a better bet. If you have the strength, Thomas Mann's "Buddenbrooks" is eloquent on death over many generations and easier to read than his masterpiece on illness, life and death "The Magic Mountain".

To re-iterate what Mary noted, Zantac is a heart burn medication, and the original post must have meant Xanax (alprazolam). It is a mild tranquilizer and doesn't change what you feel at all, it just lowers the anxiety level, which can be as bad as pain in many ways. I've been told there are two kinds of patients when it comes to pills, those who will take whatever they are given or can get (like me), and those who will hardly take anything. My diagnoses include "Generalized Anxiety Disorder" for which intermittent low dose Xanax helps keep me functioning, dealing with my husband's Alzheimer's and working past 70.

I admire your spirit and courage and am glad that you are willing to take pain pills. You have been lucky to be so sane that you haven't needed psychotropics, but they really can help -- quicker and more effective than the self-help books or herbal remedies mentioned above. In any case your writing is way better than the self help books I flip through at a bookstore but never buy because they are such thin gruel. You are staring mortality in the face, for which poetry and literature is a better bet. If you have the strength, Thomas Mann's "Buddenbrooks" is eloquent on death over many generations and easier to read than his masterpiece on illness, life and death "The Magic Mountain".

Of course you're scared. This is totally shitty stuff. Cry all you need to, whenever, wherever.
If I ever develop cancer [pooh,pooh, pooh] I'll think of it as a dance, and not a battle. Some days cancer will get to lead, and sometimes I will. Either way it ends, I'm going home alone.
Take our love and strength with you every step of the way, Ronni.

Wow. I thought I got here early but the number of comments ahead of me say that I am not the only one hanging on your every word. I have June 20 in my calendar as a day to stay focused on your journey. Although none of us knows the future, I am imagining one where all the outcomes are the best possible in these circumstances. Thank you for allowing me to join in.

Ronnie, most of us would be terrified. I know I would. I can only say what I think know I would do. I would allow myself to feel the fear, and then I would do something that brings me comfort and allows me to forget for While. Although, not overly religious, I pray when I feel the need. God bless. I know many of us are praying for you.

When someone faces a serious health issue, they go through all the same stages as going through the death of a loved. Denial, anger, fear, etc. etc., until acceptance of your new circumstances sinks in and you can start fighting back. Seems to me you are moving through the stages right on schedule . Take some more time with your pity party (aka the reactions to the fear) then put on your metaphorical boxing glove because you know what's coming next. Thank you for sharing your feelings and fears.

What everyone here has already said.

Love you, Ronnie.


Did you ever know so many people loved you? Well, judging by the wonderful and heartfelt comments here, you know now!

We will all be thinking of you and please know that you will not be facing this operation and recovery alone; we are all there with you in spirit and prayers.

I love you and hope for the best for you.


Sending you my prayers. Start now, organizing a group of helpers, paid and unpaid who can offer you support AFTER you come home from the hospital. Let everyone know if you have a special diet and what foods you like so they can make you meals. I wish all the people on this list lived near you, I wish I lived near you, I would come over and clean your bathroom
and kitchen, make sure your animals were fed and looked after- find someone to stay with you all night. Do you have a senior center nearby? They can be helpful and there are other people who have gone through what you are experiencing. In my state, Oregon, there is a way you can qualify for Medicaid without loosing all your home and assets. Look into this in your state and get someone to handle all the legal issues that come up. Draw on all the love here and get focused and organized so that you can come home and thrive after your surgery. Again prayers for your radiant health.

Love to you, Ronni. This will happen to all of us, in some form. THANK YOU for showing us how we will soon enough feel, and for allowing us in.

My impression is (from watching others, not yet from experience) that once you are physically wounded by surgery, the world shrinks and the challenges become so immediate and in-your-face that you don't think about the bigger picture, and that is something of a paradoxical boon. Getting through the day becomes enough, and that is protective, until you are better. That you have the fortitude to get through those days there is no doubt. We can do what we have to.

This is the moment of the maximum unknown. You don't know what kind of news you will awaken to. (That you will awaken I have little doubt.) The lady or the tiger. No wonder it's a bad moment. You are loved. Do you have family or very close friend(s)coming with you to the hospital? I hope so.

After having read your feelings of dreaded anticipation of your upcoming surgery, I thought I would pass along to you a bit of information which helped me when I had to have surgery, as well. In preparation for your surgery, you will most likely be arranged in a holding room where they will probably introduce you to the anesthesiologist, among other chores. I DO suggest that you request to be put to sleep in that room before being taken into the operating theater. Seeing an operating theater , at least to me, is very scary. Better to be asleep---anything to help to alleviate some of the anxiety of the moment.

I empathize with you and wish you the very best outcome. I am one of your many devoted fans.

As has been said, what I meant was Xanax--I have never taken it myself, but a friend told me she had taken at low dose when her husband was recovering from heart surgery. The thing I know about it, is that she did not appear to have taken anything, but she was not in panic mode as had been the case in the beginning of her husband's situation.

We would all be so scared. It comes in great crashing waves like the Oregon coast during a sea storm. Sending you hope, hugs, healing. I hope the journey will have days of ease among storms. Love to you today and the whole time.

Dearest Ronni,

Bravery isn't going to make any difference. You are a human being who has been dealt a horrible blow. After my cancer diagnosis, I started taking a tranquilizer. The doctors will prescribe, and if they won't a psychiatrist will.

I'd be screaming, cussing and in panic mode in your circumstances. The pill softens things.
Give yourself the gift of becoming a puddle of vulnerability.

I think of you each day. I am so terribly sorry for this situation. Allow as much help as you can get. Be a baby again.


Thanks for the image of changing the idea of a battle into a dance.

"you can't stop the storm.. but you can surf the wave".
Hi Ronnie, I'm reading your post and all these loving comments. You created this caring community. everyone wants to give back to you because of how you've taken care of us through these years with your incredible posts, filled with everything we all need to know and do, and pay attention to, and then some.
I've been doing an on line mindfulness program and this was one of the sayings, along with "what's in the way..is the way".
I'm glad you let loose with how scary this is. That's the storm.
I agree with what others have offered in terms of small dose anti-anxiety medication. Whatever helps.
Sending you my love and ((((((hugs)))))))).

Everyone here has said everything I would say, except for one thing. Oregon is a state that has legal marijuana. I have a Medical Marijuana card here in MA, and I use it for insomnia and to relax. I make my own edibles, but the dispensaries also sell them. Xanax never worked for me, but this does. There's loads of info online about the benefits of marijuana for cancer patients, and more and more dispensaries have doctors that will sit down with you and figure out what might work for you. There is also CBD oil (which is cannabis without the psychoactive component), and I recently met a woman who uses it for arthritis. Personally, since I no longer can even enjoy a glass of wine to relax because of reflux, LOVE my MJ. E-mail me if you want for more info.

Ronni, your blog is "what it's really like to get old". Your current situation is part of this, as difficult as it is, but between your posts and the comments, it comes into clear perspective.
Yes, it does 'suck", but it is in the script for all of us, just a matter of degree. The "arrow of time" is relentless. We all hope for your chronical to continue for many years. We are all full of hope. We do need you.

Ronni, we're all here with you. Isn't it funny when you meet someone you've only known virtually or on the phone and they turn out to look nothing like you imagined? We have you at a disadvantage here, because of your wonderful banner showing what you looked like across the years. So many of us are faceless to you, but we are all out here, thinking of you constantly and summoning the universe to hold you gently throughout this ordeal.

No matter how prepared you are, there may very well be things that surprise you: the first time I had surgery 20 years ago, I was surprised at how chilly they keep the operating room! And how briskly everyone is moving! Don't let any small surprises throw you. And, by all means, tell your doctors and nurses that you're scared. (It will serve as a gentle reminder to them to behave more humanely -- less clinically. It's okay if they see you cry, too! Lord knows I couldn't stop the tears when I had to have general anaesthesia for the third time in eight weeks last summer.) If you think it will help you, ask for one of the nurses to hold your hand as they knock you out.

And of course you're scared. You'd have to be deranged not to be. But you will be in the hands of extremely capable medical personnel -- that alone is fabulous! Put your trust in them on Tuesday. They will see you safely through surgery. After that, it will be one day at a time.

Which it is, for all of us, anyway. All any of us really have is this moment, right now. So the buddhists among us would have us believe, anyway. There's a wonderful poem along those lines. Google the poem's title and the poet's name: "Relax" by Ellen Bass.

{{{{{Giant hugs, Ronni.}}}}}

Ronnie, sending prayers, hugs and love. I know I'd be scared for sure. I will be thinking of you all next week. May all be well.

A mantra I say for myself and others...All hands that touch me/Ronni are healing hands.TYG! Much love and hugs to you.

I am not in a state where it is legal, but I can second what Elaine said.

Thinking of you on your emotional roller coaster ride -- sending positive vibes and hugs your way.

Visualize the White House without DT. That day is coming. The reason Republicans have become such a-holes is because they know their kind is dying out. Each new generation is more liberal than the last.

And hey, cry a lot. It really does help.

I think it's called vulnerability. I've had a recent dose of it myself with a second encounter with breast cancer after twenty five years. 25 years! I thought I had my turn, but the universe called me back.

Anyway, I empathize with the fears you are feeling. Cancer sucks, that is just the truth of it. It seems that all of your TGB supporters are here to listen and offer what we can from a distance to provide a bit of comfort .

I say just let go and send out a cyber scream! We are here for you, Ronni.


I've had a number of surgeries over the last 30 years. I've learned: 1) the anticipation was my least favorite part, 2) they have made important improvements in anesthesia and pain management, and 3) I needed to convince myself to give up five to six weeks to get used to the new normal. Life improved.

Wishing you the best!

Ronni dear


Do not fear anything

Your soul is strong

I love you


You have more articulate and caring friends here than most of us could hope for; I agree with each message. I am in Seattle and wish that I could travel to Portland, and envelop your whole being with comfort. You remain next to my heart. That operating room will be crowded, with all of us keeping watch, be assured. Adding my love to the heap accumulated here.

I have known paralyzing fear, terror, rage, panic, despair. Only sudden tears from seemingly bottomless places have broken these spells. I sense from your writings that you are cycling through all these and more. Your letting go and sharing exquisitely private parts of yourself (maybe even to yourself) in the most public of places — cyberspace, I humbly honor, respect, praise. (Lowercase) god, Ronni, you are so loved, so embraced, so listened to. With my fellow TGB-ers reaching out around the globe, I send much love and gratitude for you.

Dear Ronni,
You are surrounded by loving friends you have only met heart-to-heart. We are with you in spirit, and will be, as long as you need us.

But for now we're here, still learning from you. Daniel Berrigan summed up the "Time Goes By" blog and its followers very well. “All we have is one another to sustain us. Community is not magical. It means people are willing to be human beings together. And it means they are willing to pay the price for being human.”

In my thoughts at this difficult and trying time,
With love from Canada,

Ronnie. I love you so much.

I meant that without the "e" on the end. Your name, not "love."

Beautiful Ronni, you have articulated so clearly the emotions in being faced with the ultimate mystery. Here, a few quotes from John Donohue................

The soul is never damaged.

May you know that though the storm might rage,
Not a hair of your head will be harmed.

May you be able to receive the fruits of suffering.

And from me....... You can rely on the universe and yourself.

With love and prayer, Salinda

Ronnie, thx so much for sharing! Writing and feeling your feelings is therapeutic. An earlier post recommended the Calm app. This is a good app. If there's a support group you can join, join it. Continue writing! We're here for you. Prayers, Natasha

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