Saturday, September 12, 2009

My Genealogy Now Has New Importance

In case you haven't heard on Facebook, my mom most likely has colon cancer. She is in the hospital right now and I won't know for sure until they do surgery on Monday or Tuesday. However, the doctor said that with this particular kind of cancer, it is considered cancer until proven not cancer.

So why am I writing on this blog right now? Honestly it is because I can't sleep, I feel nauseous and I don't know what else to do until tomorrow morning. I am new to all of this and never imagined myself in this sort of situation - especially while I am so young.

I have a million thoughts running through my head right now - most of which I am trying to block out. But one of the thoughts that feels "safe" for me to think about is how my genealogy has taken an all new importance.

While before today I was primarily doing genealogy for my own curiosity, everything has changed. I now keep thinking about how I should have asked my mom more questions and listened more carefully to her stories. I know that I am overreacting right now because she isn't dead and I am trying not to think like this - but a part of me just can't help it.

All of a sudden, I feel like my genealogy needs to be shared with as many people as possible. Suddenly, it is all about keeping the happy memories alive and in the front of everyone's minds because I could really use them.

I also wonder if any of my ancestors ever had to go through something similar to my situation. As an only child, I am shouldered with a lot of the responsibility of keeping family members up to date and organizing medical information. Since I've never dealt with anything like this before, I can't help but wonder what my ancestors did to deal with such huge news like this.

I guess I am a little strange to be thinking about genealogy at a time like this, but genealogy has always been a form of therapy for me. I think over the next few days I am going to be needing a lot of this sort of therapy.

P.S: I have never dealt with anything like this before, so if anyone has any advice on this, I would love to hear it. If you are not comfortable with sharing it in the comments section, please email me. I could use all the advice that I can get.


Thomas MacEntee said...


My thoughts and prayers are with you, your mom and your family right now. While it is easy to say "Don't worry until the results are in" I can tell you personally there is nothing to stop your mind from wondering and wandering.

The most important thing is to take care of yourself. Caretakers often burn themselves out - so in the midst of all this just try to make sure you eat, sleep and do what you need to do so you can do what needs to be done for Mom and everyone else.

Leslie Lawson said...

Elyse, You have my sympathy and my empathy. I walked this road already. Your reactions are normal! Regardless of the outcome (that we want to be positive), think about how you want to archive 'her story' now, while she's still with you! How about a visit with her (regardless of the positive outcome that we expect) and you record the conversation? Sort of like the Storycorp does. You make up a list of questions, and then talk to her. Or if you have some favorite stories, as her to tell you about those stories again. You'll preserve her voice for yourself and others. Take my word for it, you'll be glad you did it!

Hang in there.

Greta Koehl said...

I will be praying for you, your mother, and your family, Elyse. I would reiterate what Thomas has said - take care of yourself so that you can help take care of your mother. I would just try to spend time with your mother, enjoy her company, and when she feels like it, ask all the questions you can think of, which, of course, is probably the way we should treat our family members every day.

Kim said...

Elyse, I also have you in my thoughts and prayers. Best of luck to your mom when she has surgery early this week.

My father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma about 7 years ago. He was told he had 3-5 years to live. In his typical way, he told the doctor that at his age 3-5 years sounded pretty good. He lived for 4 years and during that time I took the opportunity to ask him lots of questions and to write down favorite stories. I think it was therapeutic for both of us, and I'll always treasure that time that we spent together.

Shasta said...

I'm so sorry Elyse. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family as you go through this trying time. Absolutely, I think about things like genealogy too - we know we are supposed to interview our older relatives and get as much information out of them as we can before they are gone, we just don't think that time will come anytime soon.

Dennis said...

Sorry to hear about your mother, I have a couple of friends I know had colon cancer & surgery was able to take care of it. My mother had multiple myeloma, and I took care of her the last 4 years of her life. During that time she really shared some great family stories.

hummer said...

I add my prayers to the others that have posted and the huge number that have read about your plight. I just had to say goodbye to my sweetheart last Christmas, so I know that there is agony in your mind and heart. I will tell you, no matter the outcome of the tests, faith, prayer, and firm belief will see you through all. If you ever want to talk just drop a note at my blog. I will tell you that during the time my husband was ill, I created a blog for and about him because it was easier to keep the children abreast of what was happening, and I wanted to journal our journey. It helps to look back at it sometimes.

Anonymous said...


My prayers are with you and your family! Remember through all of this to stay strong and be positive.

Thomas has given you some great advice, take care of yourself as you help take care of Mom.

Also, Leslie had some great tips about talking with Mom now and recording her voice. It will become a great treasure.

hneleh said...

Elyse: My heart hurts for you. I (and 3 sisters) took care of our mom who was only 53 when she got cancer. In my opinion,more important than asking questions and hearing her stories, tell her often how much you love her and why and hug as much as possible. You and your family are in my prayers.

Abba-Dad said...

Very sorry to hear these awful news. Stay strong!

Sean Sexton said...


Not at all strange to be thinking about genealogy at a time like this. It's both very therapeutic and timely. Also, it just feels like the most respectful thing that you can do--by sharing stories and focusing on family history, you celebrate the life of a family member in a very special way. And that's true whether we will soon lose a loved one or we get to have them part of our lives for many years to come. I lost my Dad to Cancer in 2005 and my experiences leading up to his death and then--later--wanting to celebrate his life led to my renewed interest in family history. I found that focusing on family history helped me see things from a higher perspective. We are all part of a story that started playing out before we born and will continue long after we've gone. And it was somehow comforting to focus on celebrating my Dad's life and to try preserving some of his stories for future generations.

Evelyn Yvonne Theriault said...

Your blog is an expression of your love of family and now it's a place to lie your head.
You are not alone.
Bonne chance,
Evelyn in Montreal

Margaret Harris said...

Your genealogy will take on new significance, Elyse, as you go through life's bittersweet moments and big events. I say "bittersweet" because this game we play, this genealogy, is after all, family history--births, marriages, deaths and all that is in between. We track the lives of our ancestors, but we usually get our love of family from our mothers, fathers, and other close (living) relatives. Others' lives are seen with new vision as we are touched by the both good and bad times of our own lives and the lives of those who hold our heart in their hands.

Karen Packard Rhodes said...

I will hold good thoughts for your mother and for you. You have already received the best advice: Take care of yourself and remain positive.

You are probably doing the best thing you could be doing to cope at a time like this: falling back on genealogy, on your family history. Keep those ties strong.