A History that Won't Stay in the Past

These past few weeks have been CA-RAZY, but I can’t even begin to explain everything that’s happened over that time. I’ve experienced more joys and defeats over the past few weeks than I have over the past few years. I promise to spill all of the juicy details and get around to completing the last part of the “If this isn’t love” series (I can hear you groaning...yes...there's more to that story). But, I had to take this time to share with you one very sensitive subject that has been and will forever be ingrained in the fibers of my being...a subject that many people hear about, but are blessed to not experience first hand…I call it “the boil on my butt that’s lanced to drain the puss, but then comes back twice the size with a twin brother”…you may know it by it’s government name…cancer.

I have a long history with cancer. I mean, I haven’t physically embodied it, but we have history. I met cancer about eight years ago when the matriarch of my family was diagnosed with breast cancer. My grandmother, Ms. Jean Carter Young, was the last of a dying breed. She was such a lady, but always remained true to what she knew .and always made a point to tell it like it was. She was straight shooter...no chaser necessary. Born in November of 1940, she was the eldest child of an imperfect mother; was ultimately raised by her grandparents and then filled in the role of ‘mother’ for her five younger siblings. Fortunately, by the grace of God, she managed to go to school, graduate and speed off to college to begin her journey of becoming an educator. Things looked great for her; until life decided to pump her brakes when she found out she was pregnant with her first child. There was no fairy tale wedding. There was no perfect family portrait. The father had his own family to tend to and she was left to do it all on her own -- but not for long. Her “Mr. Right” came soon after (less than a year later); along with a ring and 4 more crumb-snatchers, all born less than a year apart. But, by no means was it perfect as it, sadly, ended in divorce. College sat on the back burner for a long while, as it took my grandmother 10 years to get her degree. But once in hand, she used it to catapult herself into the world of elementary education, becoming one of the greatest teachers the south had ever seen.
Grandma Jean was, undoubtedly, a diamond of many facets. Not only was she an amazing school teacher: feeding, clothing, and even housing some of her less fortunate students; she was also a caring foster mother of, at one time, up to six children; a well respected councilor to those that needed one; a compassionate friend to the many who knew her; the pillar that carried the weight of our entire family; and the best cook on this side of the Mason Dixon. She did it all. She was it all…all that plus sum mo! She had strength couldn't be matched by that of ten men. She was the woman that I, and many others, aspired to be.
For three depressingly long years, I watched this amazing woman battle with that asshole of a disease. I watched her slowly become a shell of herself as she suffered through more chemo and experimental treatments than one person should ever have to endure. I winced as I watched her struggle through the pain to raise her arm while trying to cook our family Sunday dinner. I listened as her joyously booming voice turned into no more than a meek whisper. I watched as cancer took my grandmother away from me. She passed away in August of 2006, not even five minutes before I made it to her bedside. You can't even imagine the pain that I felt, having my mother call and tell me that I could slow down...that I didn't have to rush getting there any more...she was already gone. And painful as it was, I was more relieved that her suffering was done; that my broken and turbulent relationship with cancer had come to an end…unfortunately, I wasn’t so lucky.
Only eleven months after our loss and heaven’s gain of my Grandma Jean, my family lost the man that had given us all life. Remember “Mr. Right”? Well that was my dear old granddaddy, Preston Carter. This man was the manliest of men: pickup trucks, cowboy boots, pool halls and cigars. He was the like an old, black version of Robin Hood to those that knew him. Without robbing the rich, he gave and gave and gave to anyone in need, and his caring and jovial spirit resonated far beyond his being. Sadly, we lost Granddaddy to a year long battle against prostate cancer. We all hated to see him go, but I was glad to kiss my relationship with cancer goodbye.
...or so I thought. Little did I know that this excursion was only the tip of the iceberg.