I watched her die year by year by year from afar. It was slow and progressive and painful to see. I don't even want to think about how painful it was to watch up close. Cancer devours people like they're drugs, you if it so chooses, and not a damned thing you can do about it.
Five years it took to devour her.
I missed the first three, heard about it over the phone, heard her voice slowly crack and grow frail. My Mother told me about the kemo BS and the fact that she couldn't eat without throwing up. I didn't want to hear it. I wanted to avoid it. I wanted it to go away so I believed it would, and if I believed it would then it would. Every now and then someone would say there was some new drug or treatment or other such nonsense that never worked, and you'd hear the brief hope through the phone, hope that says you're the one that can beat the odds, but separated by many zip codes, on the other end of the line you stay detached, protected from the up close smell of the vomit, from watching the hair fall out, grow back, fall out again, the sensual reality of it, and you know there's no hope whether you ant to believe it tonight.
Like it or not, cancer is slowly consuming someone you've had there your whole life whether you're around or not. When you were weak and open to attack she watched and reared you. She was there to watch your back your whole life.
I could hear the weight loss over the phone line once a week, it was that progressive and palpable and obvious, it spread from her gut to her bones throughout her body like a corporation through a new territory. The fourth year I got to see pictures. I didn't recognize her. Again I looked at them objectively. I guess I knew she was dead already. She was just hanging in there waiting for the final bell.
Year 5 I went home for the end. I sat with her. Watched her fade away and get scared and be fine and fade away again. It was painful for everybody, but mostly for her. I was looking for help when I found the Arroyo books. I was reading some of his work when they started the morphine drip that signaled the end of it all. There was no comfort. There never is no matter how prepared for it you think you are. But the books helped me to see that there was a future. The lesson is always the same, even after death of a loved one life moves on. You have to find a way to get up and go to work and take care of your family the next day no matter what. You have to plan ahead because there's going to be a tomorrow, whether you're a part of it or not.
Eventually the pain stops and the bills come in and you still have little ones that need to eat. You have to find something to help you make it through.