24 October 2008

My Cancer Was A Gift

My Cancer Was A Gift

Indeed it was.

Alone In the Ice and Snow

Hubby and I are at an impasse today. Last night, I lost patience with him when I told him I was having therapy today and he seemed to be exasperated with the endless nature of my medical/psychological needs.

I told him that I resent the fact that he contributes so little to our relationship. He doesn't work, he doesn't do anything around the house except wash the dishes and clean (the inside of) the bathtub. (I have made him responsible for walking and feeding the dogs. He does a middling job of both.) I told him that I'm so resentful, in fat, that it's affecting our intimate relationship. I told him I feel burdened by his lethargy...or whatever. I said that I feel more like his mother than his wife.

I demanded that he tell me what he does with the 8 hours a day I'm at work. I mean, really. Couldn't he just sweep the floor? Dust? Something? He admitted that he wastes a lot of time, but then implied that's just the way he is. I'd love to waste time. I don't have time to waste time.

Well, needless to say, he was very hurt and probably very angry. He disappeared upstairs, came back down a couple of times to deal with the dogs and went directly back up. I didn't like that reaction. It made me angry.

Great timing. Now I will probably have to spend the weekend in silence. Hubby tends to use the Freeze Out (passive-aggressive) response to conflict. Tomorrow is the anniversary of my dad's suicide. Excellent timing on my part.

Today I'm tired and sad. I'm not good at recognizing it, but if I had to bet, I'd say I'm probably really anxious. I feel so alone. The Superhighway says that our respective husbands use guilt to control us. My mom says that, too. I'm sure Therapist will agree.

They're all correct, of course. That doesn't make me less unhappy. Worse yet, I feel shamed by my neediness. Of course, I might not feel so needy if tomorrow were a different day, not an anniversary.

I'm certain that I'll try to ease the tension between us. I wish I wouldn't. I wish he would try to see things from my point of view. I wish, I wish, I wish.... Things are what they are, though.

Boy, do I need therapy.



From Survivors of Suicide

Helping A Survivor Heal

Historian Arnold Toynbee once wrote, "There are always two parties to a death; the person who dies and the survivors who are bereaved." Unfortunately, many survivors of suicide suffer alone and in silence. The silence that surrounds them often complicates the healing that comes from being encouraged to mourn.

Because of the social stigma surrounding suicide, survivors feel the pain of the loss, yet may not know how, or where, or if, they should express it. Yet, the only way to heal is to mourn. Just like other bereaved persons grieving the loss of someone loved, suicide survivors need to talk, to cry, sometimes to scream, in order to heal.

As a result of fear and misunderstanding, survivors of suicide deaths are often left with a feeling of abandonment at a time when they desperately need unconditional support and understanding. Without a doubt, suicide survivors suffer in a variety of ways: one, because they need to mourn the loss of someone who has died; two, because they have experienced a sudden, typically unexpected traumatic death; and three, because they are often shunned by a society unwilling to enter into the pain of their grief.

How Can You Help?
A friend or family member has experienced the death of someone loved from suicide. You want to help, but you are not sure how to go about it. This page will guide you in ways to turn your cares and concerns into positive action.

Accept The Intensity Of The Grief
Grief following a suicide is always complex. Survivors don't "get over it." Instead, with support and understanding they can come to reconcile themselves to its reality. Don't be surprised by the intensity of their feelings. Sometimes, when they least suspect it, they may be overwhelmed by feelings of grief. Accept that survivors may be struggling with explosive emotions, guilt, fear and shame, well beyond the limits experienced in other types of deaths. Be patient, compassionate and understanding.

Listen With Your Heart
Assisting suicide survivors means you must break down the terribly costly silence. Helping begins with your ability to be an active listener. Your physical presence and desire to listen without judgment are critical helping tools. Willingness to listen is the best way to offer help to someone who needs to talk.

Thoughts and feelings inside the survivor may be frightening and difficult to acknowledge. Don't worry so much about what you will say. Just concentrate on the words that are being shared with you.

Your friend may relate the same story about the death over and over again. Listen attentively each time. Realize this repetition is part of your friend's healing process. Simply listen and understand. And, remember, you don't have to have the answer.

Avoid Simplistic Explanations and Clichés
Words, particularly clichés, can be extremely painful for a suicide survivor. Clichés are trite comments often intended to diminish the loss by providing simple solutions to difficult realities. Comments like, "You are holding up so well," "Time will heal all wounds," "Think of what you still have to be thankful for" or "You have to be strong for others" are not constructive. Instead, they hurt and make a friend's journey through grief more difficult.

Be certain to avoid passing judgment or providing simplistic explanations of the suicide. Don't make the mistake of saying the person who suicided was "out of his or her mind." Informing a survivor that someone they loved was "crazy or insane" typically only complicates the situation. Suicide survivors need help in coming to their own search for understanding of what has happened. In the end, their personal search for meaning and understanding of the death is what is really important.

Be Compassionate
Give your friend permission to express his or her feelings without fear of criticism. Learn from your friend. Don't instruct or set explanations about how he or she should respond. Never say "I know just how you feel." You don't. Think about your helping role as someone who "walks with," not "behind" or "in front of" the one who is bereaved.

Familiarize yourself with the wide spectrum of emotions that many survivors of suicide experience. Allow your friend to experience all the hurt, sorrow and pain that he or she is feeling at the time. And recognize tears are a natural and appropriate expression of the pain associated with the loss.

Respect The Need To Grieve
Often ignored in their grief are the parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, spouses and children of persons who have suicided. Why? Because of the nature of the death, it is sometimes kept a secret. If the death cannot be talked about openly, the wounds of grief will go unhealed.

As a caring friend, you may be the only one willing to be with the survivors. Your physical presence and permissive listening create a foundation for the healing process. Allow the survivors to talk, but don't push them. Sometimes you may get a cue to back off and wait. If you get a signal that this is what is needed, let them know you are ready to listen if, and when, they want to share their thoughts and feelings.

Understand The Uniqueness Of Suicide Grief
Keep in mind that the grief of suicide survivors is unique. No one will respond to the death of someone loved in exactly the same way. While it may be possible to talk about similar phases shared by survivors, everyone is different and shaped by experiences in his or her life.

Because the grief experience is unique, be patient. The process of grief takes a long time, so allow your friend to process the grief at his or her own pace. Don't criticize what is inappropriate behavior. Remember the death of someone to suicide is a shattering experience. As a result of this death, your friend's life is under reconstruction.

Be Aware Of Holidays And Anniversaries
Survivors of suicide may have a difficult time during special occasions like holidays and anniversaries. These events emphasize the absence of the person who has died. Respect the pain as a natural expression of the grief process. Learn from it. And, most importantly, never try to take the hurt away.

Use the name of the person who has died when talking to survivors. Hearing the name can be comforting and it confirms that you have not forgotten this important person who was so much a part of their lives.

Be Aware Of Support Groups
Support groups are one of the best ways to help survivors of suicide. In a group, survivors can connect with other people who share the commonality of the experience. They are allowed and encouraged to tell their stories as much, and as often, as they like. You may be able to help survivors locate such a group. This practical effort on your part will be appreciated. (See Directory of SOS Support Groups on main page)

Respect Faith And Spirituality
If you allow them, a survivor will "teach you" about their feelings regarding faith and spirituality. If faith is part of their lives, let them express it in ways that seem appropriate. If they are mad at God, encourage them to talk about it. Remember, having anger at God speaks of having a relationship with God. Don't be a judge, be a loving friend.

Survivors may also need to explore how religion may have complicated their grief. They may have been taught that persons who take their own lives are doomed to hell. Your task is not to explain theology, but to listen and learn. Whatever the situation, your presence and desire to listen without judging are critical helping tools.

Work Together As Helpers
Friends and family who experience the death of someone to suicide must no longer suffer alone and in silence. As helpers, you need to join with other caring persons to provide support and acceptance for survivors who need to grieve in healthy ways.

To experience grief is the result of having loved. Suicide survivors must be guaranteed this necessity. While the above guidelines on this page will be helpful, it is important to recognize that helping a suicide survivor heal will not be an easy task. You may have to give more concern, time and love than you ever knew you had. But this effort will be more than worth it.

Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt is a noted author, educator and practicing thanatologist. He serves as Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colorado and is on the faculty at the University of Colorado Medical School in the Department of Family Medicine.
As a leading authority in the field of thanatology, Dr. Wolfelt is known internationally for his outstanding work in the areas of adult and childhood grief. Among his publications are the books, Death and Grief; A Guide For Clergy, Helping Children Cope With Grief and Interpersonal Skills Training: A Handbook for Funeral Home Staffs. In addition, he is the editor of the "Children and Grief" department of Bereavement magazine and is a regular contributor to the journal Thanatos.

21 October 2008

Breast Cancer Information Resources

A (not complete) list of Internet resources on breast cancer. Inclusion in this list does not necessarily imply a recommendation.

Detailed Breast Cancer Risk
GE Health Care
Discovery Health
Revolution Health
National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship
Planet Cancer
ICON Magazine
National Cancer Iinstitute
Susan G. Komen Foundation
National Breast Cancer Foundation
Medline Plus: A Service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes
of Health

Mayo Clinic
M.D. Anderson
National Cancer Institute
American Cancer Society
Oncolink: Abramson Cancer Center of the University Pennsylvania
Doctors' Guide to Breast Cancer Information and Resources
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

I am sorely tempted to (compulsively) alphabetize these, but I've been interrupted by my computer challenged co-worker and now it's time to leave. More tomorrow, perhaps a brief intro to these.

Understanding Suicide: Common Elements

From Survivors of Suicide

(Note from Ggirl: Please pay special attention to element #10.)

Understanding Suicide - Common Elements

No single explanation can account for all self-destructive behavior. Edwin Shneidman, a clinical psychologist who is a leading authority on suicide, described ten characteristics that are commonly associated with completed suicide. Schneidman's list includes features that occur most frequently and may help us understand many cases of suicide.

1. The common purpose of suicide is to seek a solution.
Suicide is not a pointless or random act. To people who think about ending their own lives, suicide represents an answer to an otherwise insoluble problem or a way out of some unbearable dilemma. It is a choice that is somehow preferable to another set of dreaded circumstances, emotional distress, or disability, which the person fears more than death.
Attraction to suicide as a potential solution may be increased by a family history of similar behavior. If someone else whom the person admired or cared for has committed suicide, then the person is more likely to do so.

2. The common goal of suicide is cessation of consciousness.
People who commit suicide seek the end of the conscious experience, which to them has become an endless stream of distressing thoughts with which they are preoccupied. Suicide offers oblivion.

3. The common stimulus (or information input) in suicide is intolerable psychological pain.
Excruciating negative emotions - including shame, guilt, anger, fear, and sadness - frequently serve as the foundation for self-destructive behavior. These emotions may arise from any number of sources.

4. The common stressor in suicide is frustrated psychological needs.
People with high standards and expectations are especially vulnerable to ideas of suicide when progress toward these goals is suddenly frustrated. People who attribute failure or disappointment to their own shortcomings may come to view themselves as worthless, incompetent or unlovable. Family turmoil is an especially important source of frustration to adolescents. Occupational and interpersonal difficulties frequently precipitate suicide among adults. For example, rates of suicide increase during periods of high unemployment (Yang et al.,1992).

5. The common emotion in suicide is hopelessness-helplessness.
A pervasive sense of hopelessness, defined in terms of pessimistic expectations about the future, is even more important than other forms of negative emotion, such as anger and depression, in predicting suicidal behavior (Weishaar & Beck, 1992). The suicidal person is convinced that absolutely nothing can be done to improve his or her situation; no one else can help.

6. The common internal attitude in suicide is ambivalence.
Most people who contemplate suicide, including those who eventually kill themselves, have ambivalent feelings about this decision. They are sincere in their desire to die, but they simultaneously wish that they could find another way out of their dilemma.

7. The common cognitive state in suicide is constriction.
Suicidal thoughts and plans are frequently associated with a rigid and narrow pattern of cognitive activity that is comparable to tunnel vision. The suicidal person is temporarily unable or unwilling to engage in effective problem-solving behaviors and may see his or her options in extreme, all or nothing terms. As Shneidman points out, slogans such as "death before dishonor" may have a certain emotional appeal, but they do not provide a sensible basis for making decisions about how to lead your life.

8. The common action in suicide is escape.
Suicide provides a definitive way to escape from intolerable circumstances, which include painful self-awareness (Baumeister, 1990).

9. The common interpersonal act in suicide is communication of intention.
One of the most harmful myths about suicide is the notion that people who really want to kill themselves don't talk about it. Most people who commit suicide have told other people about their plans. Many have made previous suicidal gestures. Schneidman estimates that in at least 80 percent of completed suicides, the people provide verbal or behavioral clues that indicate clearly their lethal intentions.

10. The common consistency in suicide is with life-long coping patterns. During crisis that precipitate suicidal thoughts, people generally employ the same response patterns that they have used throughout their lives. For example, people who have refused to ask for help in the past are likely to persist in that pattern, increasing their sense of isolation.

SOURCE: Thomas F. Oltmanns, Robert E. Emery
University of Virginia

Loathsome, A Unique Brand of Distraction

This is the second day in a row that I've devoted almost entirely to Loathsome's computer. IT Boy is on his two-week honeymoon, which leaves us without any computer support.

Surprise. I am not IT Ggirl. Error message said not enough virtual memory. I created more virtual memory. I cleaned up the disk and eliminated hundreds of files. Then error message said Microsoft Outlook should be reinstalled because a .dll file is missing. I'm not reinstalling anything, Loathsome. It seems to me that there are systemic problems.

As I tried to understand and work through the many problems, Loathsome required a blow-by-blow explanation of what I was doing and why. Kill me, please. I might as well be speaking Swahili. Loathsome is relentless, as if by telling him, he might be prepared to deal with future problems himself. He's either deluded or he's trying to impress me with his commitment to grasping the workings of Microsoft Windows. Not impressed, as you might imagine.

Up side? Not much time to think about suicide. The baffling thing is that this year is so unbearably sad for me. I've spent at least the last five years being enraged at my father. Even aside from the suicide, I have plenty to be angry about. Most people have trouble understanding how I could have any emotional connection with him at all after he made my life a slow motion, eternal train wreck.

Again, the universe has offered up Loathsome as a distraction. I'm moderately happy to take it.

four days

20 October 2008

Comcast Pink ribbon

Watch a wide array of informative, entertaining and inspiration programs from Lifetime Television, Parents TV, Discovery Health, Showtime and Exercise TV with medical direction sand original content provided by Breastcancer.org.

To help raise awareness and provide important information about breast cancer, Comcast partnered with Breastcancer.org and several cable networks to launch The Pink Ribbon Campaign, an original video-on-demand and online initiative bringing together educational and inspirational content for all women and their loved ones.

The Pink Ribbon Campaign presents dozens of programs about prevention, detection, treatment and living with breast cancer as well as discussion forums, health and fitness advice and relevant news clips.

Throughout the entire month of October, Comcast customers with On Demand service will have free access to programs that will encourage and inspire women who are fighting or have survived breast cancer, including episodes of HBO's Sex and the City, Showtime's The L Word, celebrity bios from Bio Channel and Lifetime original movies, such as Living Proof, starring Harry Connick, Jr.

In addition, there are dozens of programs in categories including:

Pink Originals
Original, exclusive programming created specifically for the Pink Ribbon campaign by Lifetime and Parents TV. Topics including how to talk to children about cancer, and what to expect from diagnosis, treatment and recovery are also covered.

Meet the Doctors

New and original content produced by Comcast, in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania Abramson Cancer Center, provides an overview of risk factors, importance of knowing family history and tips on how to detect and defeat cancer.

Programs from Discovery Health and Exercise TV provide in-depth information about prevention, including how to perform a breast self-exam.

TV and Movies
Special segments from TLC, Style Network and Lifetime provide advice for patients and survivors from demonstrations on how to wear a scarf to tips on boosting confidence and self-esteem.

Pink Ribbon Online

Fancast.com will feature most of the programs available On Demand, including episodes of The L Word, Whose Wedding Is It Anyway, One Tree Hill and profiles of celebrities who have battled breast cancer from Bio Channel. Additional content including videos in The Fan, links to relevant news articles and discussion forums is available at http://comcast.net/pinkribbon.

Suicide: National Statistics

From the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

(Note from ggirl: From my extensive reading about suicide, I've learned that people who wish to kill themselves badly enough will find a way. It's impossible to watch someone 24 hours a day, guarding them from their own demons. Furthermore, hospitalization is by no means a sure thing. My own father was hospitalized several weeks before he shot himself. Some statistics cite a precipitous upswing in suicides immediately following hospitalization.

We must do whatever we can to prevent the suicide of the people we love (or those we don't), but my point is that it is never our fault that someone else succeeds in checking out. There's always plenty of guilt over the survivors' sense of responsibility for not stopping it. If you've lost someone to self homicide, please check into groups like Survivors of Suicide where you can get support from those who walk in your shoes.)

Facts and Figures

National Statistics


  • Over 32,000 people in the United States die by suicide every year.
  • In 2005 (latest available data), there were 32,637 reported suicide deaths.
  • Suicide is fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 18 and 65 years in the U.S., with approximately 26,500 suicides.
  • Currently, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States.
  • A person dies by suicide about every 16 minutes in the United States. An attempt is estimated to be made once every minute.
  • Ninety percent of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death.
  • There are four male suicides for every female suicide, but twice as many females as males attempt suicide.
  • Every day, approximately 80 Americans take their own life, and 1,500 more attempt to do so.


  • Suicide is the fifth leading cause of death among those 5-14 years old.
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among those 15-24 years old.
  • Between the mid-1950s and the late 1970s, the suicide rate among U.S. males aged 15-24 more than tripled (from 6.3 per 100,000 in 1955 to 21.3 in 1977). Among females aged 15-24, the rate more than doubled during this period (from 2.0 to 5.2). The youth suicide rate generally leveled off during the 1980s and early 1990s, and since the mid-1990s has been steadily decreasing.
  • Among young people aged 10-14 years, the rate has doubled in the last two decades.
  • Between 1980-1996, the suicide rate for African-American males aged 15-19 has also doubled.
  • Risk factors for suicide among the young include suicidal thoughts, psychiatric disorders (such as depression, impulsive aggressive behavior, bipolar disorder, certain anxiety disorders), drug and/or alcohol abuse and previous suicide attempts, with the risk increased if there is situational stress and access to firearms.

Older People

  • The suicide rates for men rise with age, most significantly after age 65.
  • The rate of suicide in men 65+ is seven times that of females who are 65+.
  • The suicide rates for women peak between the ages of 45-54 years old, and again after age 75.
  • About 60 percent of elderly patients who take their own lives see their primary care physician within a few months of their death.
  • Six to 9 percent of older Americans who are in a primary care setting suffer from major depression.
  • More than 30 percent of patients suffering from major depression report suicidal ideation.
  • Risk factors for suicide among the elderly include: a previous attempt, the presence of a mental illness, the presence of a physical illness, social isolation (some studies have shown this is especially so in older males who are recently widowed) and access to means, such as the availability of firearms in the home.


  • Over 60 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression. If one includes alcoholics who are depressed, this figure rises to over 75 percent.
  • Depression affects nearly 10 percent of Americans ages 18 and over in a given year, or more than 19 million people.
  • More Americans suffer from depression than coronary heart disease (12 million), cancer (10 million) and HIV/AIDS (1 million).
  • About 15 percent of the population will suffer from clinical depression at some time during their lifetime. Thirty percent of all clinically depressed patients attempt suicide; half of them ultimately die by suicide.
  • Depression is among the most treatable of psychiatric illnesses. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of people with depression respond positively to treatment, and almost all patients gain some relief from their symptoms. But first, depression has to be recognized.

Alcohol and Suicide

  • Ninety-six percent of alcoholics who die by suicide continue their substance abuse up to the end of their lives.
  • Alcoholism is a factor in about 30 percent of all completed suicides.
  • Approximately 7 percent of those with alcohol dependence will die by suicide.

Firearms and Suicide

  • Although most gun owners reportedly keep a firearm in their home for "protection" or "self defense," 83 percent of gun-related deaths in these homes are the result of a suicide, often by someone other than the gun owner.
  • Firearms are used in more suicides than homicides.
  • Death by firearms is the fastest growing method of suicide.
  • Firearms account for 52 percent of all suicides.

Medical Illness and Suicide

  • Patients who desire an early death during a serious or terminal illness are usually suffering from a treatable depressive condition.
  • People with AIDS have a suicide risk up to 20 times that of the general population.

Studies indicate that the best way to prevent suicide is through the early recognition and treatment of depression and other psychiatric illnesses.

Figures from the National Center for Health Statistics for the year 2005.

Remembering the Dragon

Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are but princes that are waiting to see us act just once with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest essence, something helpless that needs our love.
-Rainer Maria Rilke

5 days