The Bucket List

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. – Steve Jobs”

I liked the above quote but no matter how prepared you think you are for the death of a loved one, it still comes as a shock, it still hurts very deeply and that feeling comes to you, no matter how old you are.

As I am writing this I am multitasking. Writing my blogpost, thinking about life and death and watching one of my favourite movies; The Bucket List. Both Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson performed an excellent job. This movie always makes me think… Life goes by pretty fast, like smoke through a keyhole. Since the first time I saw this film I kept wondering what I want to do before I kick the bucket. Therefore, I created a few years ago my bucket list.

Things on my list vary from witnessing the Northern light, learning new languages, backpacking on every continent, getting a tattoo together with my mom and so on. Every year new things get on it while others get crossed off. I hope to cross off many this year.

For my study I have to go on exchange for six months, something I have been looking forward too for a quite some time now. I remembered the great moments I had in Spain, five months of pure joy. However, I had a bigger wish; going to Peru and spending time with my family. Finally this might come true this year and it will be crossed off my bucket list! For my exchange I had to rank and needed to make a top five of partner institutes and as you might have guessed by now, Peru is on number one!

It was not an easy decision for my boyfriend and me. Considering the situation with his mom and that we would be apart from each other for quite some time. We talked, talked and talked all over again for weeks. Again with a lot of ‘What if – questions’… but my love supported me and told me to follow my dreams. As he supported me to chase my dreams, I supported him by choosing all other universities in Europe.

My top 5:
1. Lima, Peru
2. Brighton, UK
3. Edinburgh, UK
4. Vienna, Austria
5. Berlin, Germany

I am already highlighting in my Lonely Planet book from Peru. Though, I am not sure yet, if I get it. I will receive the answer somewhere next week. I am so excited but wherever I may go it will be a new adventure.
Crossing wishes off my bucket list brings me joy in life. It reminds me of wonderful things I have done or achieved. It fulfils me and makes me less afraid of death.

“People fear death even more than pain. It’s strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death. At the point of death, the pain is over. Yeah, I guess it is a friend. – Jim Morrison”

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One big misunderstanding…

In my last message I told you about the excitement of the trip we arranged for this weekend. The whole week we were looking forward to it.

Thursday night we had a Skype conversation with my mom- in- law; telling us that it was better to cancel all the reservations such as the Hotel in Scheveningen and the restaurant reservation in Delft.

She told us that she has breathing problems combined with fit of coughing. This is caused by the stand in her oesophagus, which probably means that the tumour is shrinking.

This was not yet the case but if so, she needs to go to the Radboud University Medical Centre to get operated to get the stand out. This is one of my countrys’ leading academic centres for patient care, education and research.

She is extremely tired (even going to the toilet is a big accomplishment), her skin is turning grubby and since Thursday she is losing her hair.

We were happy that she notified us on time about her current feelings. Maybe we were a bit too pushy or too excited? Now we realized that our planning might not have been realistic at all…

  1. Picking her up at her home and then over a two hour drive to Delft.
  2. Going by stairs to the second floor of our apartment building (no elevator).
  3. A 3- course dinner in a fancy restaurant in a monumental premises (again, no elevator).
  4. During that dinner we will be surrounded by other guests who might have a cold… she is extra susceptible and can’t get her second 3-day chemo treatment.
  5. Then we have to walk back to the car since the restaurant is in the old city centre.
  6. Driving to Scheveningen to our Hotel – maybe needed to walk again stairs.
  7. There are normal beds – no hospital beds and she needs to sleep in a sitting position.
  8. She wanted to walk on the beach, with the horrible weather we expect this weekend.
  9. Then a drive back to her home… again over two hours…To sum up… This is all way more than a toilet visit which takes already a whole bunch of her energy.
    We discussed to come over together with my parents and we will have dinner somewhere there.

On Tuesday she will get her second three-day chemo therapy. We hope that her body will respond well to it.

In my last message to you, I told you about our concerns regarding all the “things” we need to arrange after her death. I received some good advice in the comment of Caroline L Whittle; “Do you want to talk about the ‘what ifs’?” If they say no then I’d tell them I was there when they were ready”
I took her advise and asked her if she wants to talk about the ‘what ifs’ next time we will be there.

Well, my boyfriend and I didn’t expect the reaction she gave to us. I hit something particularly sensitive I guess… She was furious on me! Telling me that I had buried her already in my mind! She totally misunderstood me… Maybe it is a cultural thing… I don’t know…

After the Skype call my boyfriend received a text message that I am no longer welcome in her house and that he needs to come alone. This made me very sad and angry at the same time. I am doing the best I can to help where needed. I know this is a very sensitive maybe even prohibited subject but it is also very important to be discussed.

The day after we haven’t heard anything from her. Except for one answer on one of our text messages saying: I am not death yet … still alive. I think this misunderstanding takes a lot of energy of all of us and that we could better invest this energy in other things.

We still had a fun weekend because my parents came to Delft. We went to IKEA and bought a new office chair and closet for him (his remaining Christmas presents). Afterwards we went to KEK our favourite coffee lounge cafe and finally to our favourite restaurant De Waag. All in all a great day but unfortunately without his mom.

Next week he will go alone to his mom. I hope she won’t get very sick of her second treatment and that she sees that this all was a misunderstanding. I love her!

I will take advantage of my free weekend and will go together with my mom to the gym to have my regular Zumba class, sauna, tanning etc. – to recharge my own battery.

Hey Little Fighter

I lost my faith in God when I lost my father to cancer. I begged, I cried, I offered my life for his. Day by day I saw the pain getting to that strong man. I watched that beautiful, lovely angel slipping off. Shortly after, the same happened to my sister. The cancer won. It didn’t just win; it basically beat the shit out of her.
I was just a little girl when this happend… traumatized by this disease…

This all affected me on the highest emotional level… and now I am reliving it.

My mother in law was taken into the hospital in the beginning of this year. First it was inflammations of the lungs but after some doubt of the doctor they made a scan. From that point on things got worse. They found a tumour pushing against her oesophagus which made it hard for her to breath. The doctor told us that it also could be good cancer… but deep inside I know things were wrong…

After two weeks of travelling between my internship and mother-in-law, visiting several hospitals and living out of a suitcase… we finally got a call of the doctor who told us about her current health status. We had hope… but hope was not on our side. I was on my internship when I received the skype call from the doctor. She told us that my mom- in-law was not going to get better. The cancer is already spread over her whole body. She gave us a few months, maybe three or four, maybe six if we are lucky. The hardest part is knowing and realizing that she will be leaving us in the near future. Tears were falling on the laminate, I couldn’t stop crying. I was lying as a foetus on the ground; as vulnerable as a new born. Old memories came up, as I felt frightened for what will come.
Kris also lost his dad suddenly less then a year ago… and now his mom will go…

Two weeks ago they started with palliative care; this treatment will slow down the cancer and will prevent or reduce complaints, but more importantly it will give us a little bit more time.
In her case they started with three day chemotherapy. It makes you feel much worse than the cancer itself; it is really a horrible thing.
It is hard to say: “Everything will be fine – stay positive.” If you know things won’t get better. However, keep loving is the best weapon off all. Being there and going through this process together is important.

Time is ticking and shortening as I write but every day that she challenges that cancer and survives another day is a victory for her, her son, me and all of her loved ones.

Sometimes I have the feeling she isn’t accepting the fact that she is dying. For Kris and me it is very hard to start a conversation about things such as how she wants to die or how she sees her funeral. We are only 21 and 22 years old…How do you handle these things? All questions are hard to ask and confronting for each and every one…Cancer victims who don’t accept their fate, who don’t learn to live with it, will only destroy that little time they have left.

Therefore I want her to keep dreaming of a future, a future where she could proceed her normal life and enjoy the small things without having pain, being tired or being confronted that she is ill. I want her to fight and live longer! Prove doctors that they were wrong. I want her to be there when her son gets graduated, or when we get married or hold her future grandchildren…

I want so much but God will take away another loved one and there is nothing I can do about it. Asking myself why I have to go through this over and over again. Why is he taking almost all my loved ones…? What did I do wrong? How much pain can one person bear?

One positive thing I have learned from cancer is to stop saving things for a special occasion. Every day is special that needs to be lived. You will appreciate the small things in life: As I walked this morning with my dog in the woods, I enjoyed myself by seeing frost on the grass and the sunlight shining between the trees. You don’t have to get cancer to start living life the fullest but when it comes close to you, it will intensify.

We will be there for her… The next challenge is to have dinner with the whole family in Delft. A whole task since she is living on the other side of the country but we can do it!

“We don’t know how STRONG we are until being strong is the ONLY CHOICE we have…”