Sunday Post 5: The Pinnacle of Despair

Posted by Danny

Does anyone like February?  As I struggle to get through this month, I’m thankful Lisa didn’t die in April.  February already stinks – why not maximize the suffering?  It seems that much of the progress I’d made with my grief has flown out the door as we approach the one year anniversary of Lisa’s death.  I can write about Tupperware, but my mind is on her.  I’ve turned off the car radio this month – too many memories.  There are memories in the den, memories in the bathroom, there are even memories in the refrigerator – her favorite stir fry sauce right there on the door next to the Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls.  Magazine articles take me there; the newspaper takes me there.

I was reading the News and Observer yesterday and was drawn to an article entitled Talk, don’t just treat, docs say.  As I read, I was reminded of our visit to UNC Hospital last February for a second opinion.  I picked up my journal and opened to my entry on February 12, 2010, less than two weeks before Lisa died. 


Went to see Dr. Goldberg at UNC yesterday for a second opinion.  I think what he told us was:

1) Your cancer is very, very serious, aggressive and unique

2) There is not a lot of hope for long-term

3) You have few options

4) Prepare for the worst

Lots of tears yesterday.  Held hands with Lisa in bed, cried and talked about the future – sadness and fears.  I’m so scared; I’m so very sad.  I think I’ve been in shock since September.  Lisa is still on significant pain meds.  In some ways maybe that is easier for all of us – perhaps keeps the intensity of emotions down.  She says she has the easy part – sleep, some sedation – if she dies she’s done with it all.  She says I have the hard part – putting the pieces back together and carrying on.  I’m not sure if she’s right.  I guess it really doesn’t matter.  It’s just hard all around.  In writing, it seems that hard is not a strong enough word.  It is so much more.  The prep work for an emotional colonoscopy – I emotionally ache – to the depths, deep, deep depths of my soul.  I don’t know how much more is in me – is it like boogers?  You just make more?  Or a glass of water that eventually is empty?

I’ve had many hard days over the last 18 months.  The hardest was this visit to UNC.  It was the day that we, together, had to face her impending death.  We’d both had thoughts about her dying.  When one of us wanted to talk about it, the other would dodge the issue.  This time there was no dodging.  We both heard the same thing at the same time. 

Our doctor at Duke was so emotionally attached to Lisa and me that she could not bring herself to give up hope.  Dr. Goldberg was an outsider to our situation.  He felt a responsibility to be honest –

Lisa sat in a chair, black stretchy pants and a white zip up sports jacket.  Her fanny pack of pain meds and her husband by her side.  She had her pad with questions she wanted answered.  I had mine, the proven scribe.  He said, “You’re young.  You have kids.  You need to prepare.  Your last hope is chemo. With your platelets this low, it is very dangerous.” 

Lisa asked, “What if the chemo doesn’t work?” 

He responded, “Your time is limited.” 

“What does that mean?”

“Months, maybe weeks.”

I remember the look on her face.  She sort of laughed with tears in her eyes.  “Well, I think it’s good that your being candid.”  And she changed the subject.  I looked out of the window.  A cold but sunny day.  And yet the fog in my mind allowed zero visibility. 

As direct as he was, I still don’t think it truly hit me that Lisa would die.  I still have a hard time believing it today.  Looking back on it, I don’t believe there is much that could have been said to prepare us for what was to come.  However, I think that day may have been a turning point for Lisa – she may have fully come to grips that this was the end. 

Not me.  I wrote what I heard that day, but still had full faith that she would be spared. 

My grief counselor recently asked me why I thought God would answer my plea for her survival and not all of the other requests that he gets on a daily basis.  My response?  “Because I’m Danny Tanner.”  She told me that grief is the great equalizer.  I liked it better when I thought I was special –


Listen Up, Dummies

Posted by Uncle Jesse

I’ll admit it’s probably because I’m a Raleigh native and loyal to my hometown roots, but I’m a fan of the News and Observer. Do I see 25 straight days of disparaging school board headlines while having to hunt for a mention of the re-drawing of the state congressional districts and think, “I believe they may have an agenda”? Yes, yes I do.

But I like the N&O. I like the writers, I like the columnists, I like the sports, I like the easy crossword puzzle, I like the paper.

Yesterday I saw two relevant stories I thought I’d pass on, especially since they had a common theme: they were aimed at people like me. Dummies. Well, actually it was about two books in the _____ for Dummies series.

whoever thought up the "____ for Dummies" series is a rich man

The first was a blurb in the Business section and on their .biz blog. It was about Salix Pharmaceuticals offering a free downloadable copy of the book Colonscopy For Dummies. For those unaware, this one hits close to home as colon cancer was what took my sister Lisa from us. Did you know it’s the second leading cause of death among cancers behind lung cancer? I never would have guessed that.

I distinctly remember sitting in a hospital room with Lisa, maybe a month before she died.  She was already trying to figure out what her “cause” was going to be when she got better.

“I haven’t decided yet…am I going to be a “colon cancer research” person? Or should I make cancer screening my big cause? I’m not sure.”

I am sure that the anti-cancer/pro-screening movement lost a pretty good ally when Lisa passed. She’d have raised some freaking awareness. They’ve got buildings at St. Timothy’s and First Presbyterian to prove it.

We should probably do more as a family along these lines, but we have been pushing the screenings on the grassroots level. After I got done dragging my feet, our family is 100% screened. My uber-smart doctor sister Sallie is even busy screening our genes. I think. I don’t understand all the medical terms she throws at me.

But bottom line: get screened people. If you need a little humor to get you through someone checking out your backside, just swing by the Tanner house–it’s how we get through everything. In fact, our whole family had a really good email chain of potty jokes going leading up to Lisa getting her screening…and then we took a break from laughing for a few months after we got the results. But I do still believe humor is the best way to get through anything, and there was plenty of laughing from and around Lisa right up until the time she left us. So to repeat: GET SCREENED. You can also head to to get straight to the download, but why not visit the N&O blog post about it and give them a little traffic? Newspapers are hurting, people!

The other article was in the Life section from food writer Andrea Weigl, and it was

I only need 5 days of meals planned. Char-grill's got me covered the other two.

about a _____ for Dummies book about planning healthy meals. If you’ve read this blog for long, you know that post-Lisa we have struggled with our grocery list making and that we’ve been living in a bit of a fantasy land when it comes to making dinner because we’ve had so much outside help. So this book would be perfect for a family like us. In fact, Andrea’s giving away a free copy of the book to the person who best proves they’re in need! You can just email or send her a letter why you need the book and she’s going to pick the best one. Warning though: your email will have to be better than mine.

Here’s a link to the website of the author of the book.

Snow Day!

Posted by Uncle Jesse

Not only did we get a snow ice day from school yesterday, it came in the best way (for kids): going to sleep thinking school was still on but with a delay, and waking up to discover there’s NO SCHOOL!

For parents? Not exactly a day off, especially if you e-commute and were planning on getting ahead on some writing that’s due Wednesday when you know you’re going to have the girls all by yourself. But what are you going to do? Website editors are more understanding than bored kids, and, secretly (ok, OPENLY) I love the Michael Jackson Wii game. After today I plan on practicing my moves when the kids are at school and dogging them next time we play. What can I say? I play to win. After all, “no one wants to be defeated”

Here’s how the Tanner family spent the Ice Day:

Everybody piled into Dad’s bed

Beds: not just for sleeping


  • Tanner Tweets

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 11,920 other subscribers
  • Past Posts

  • Contact Us