Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Cancer and closure

Although this article says that Lung Cancer Affects Sexes Differently, the disease killed both my mother (in 1981) and my aunt Susan (her sister), this past December. My mother was diagnosed about 15 months before she died -- it had already spread from the lungs into other parts of her body. My aunt was diagnosed when it was still confined to the lungs, and she had surgery to take the cancer out. That was in the early 1990s. A couple of years ago the cancer reappeared, in an inoperable form, and finally killed her on December 16, 2003. Even though she beat the odds (the article says, "Among cases diagnosed from 1992 to 1999, only 12 percent of patients over all survived five years, 10 percent of the men and 14 percent of the women"), the cancer finally did get her.

Both my mother and my aunt were smokers until the moment they were diagnosed with lung cancer. They had started in their teens. My father, who was also a smoker, managed to quit smoking in the early 1970s (I don't remember exactly when) and his lungs appear to be healthy now.

Today was the last day of Passover (I had my first hametz meal tonight). The service on the last day of Passover includes Yizkor - the memorial service. I thought of my mother, my aunt, and also my grandmother (who died in June of last year, at the age of 98). Even though my mother died over 20 years ago, I am still not reconciled to her death. I still miss her. I would guess that my aunt's death has stirred up feelings also for me this year.

In America, we believe in "closure." There is no such thing as "closure." The pain of death is not so acute, so many years afterward, but it never goes away.

yitgadal ve-yitkaddesh sh'mei rabbah....

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