cancer · family · grief · parents

Notes on Moving Someone with Brain Cancer (for the second time in three months)

 Moving someone with brain cancer requires packing most things at the last minute so the Cancer Patient doesn’t get too disorientated. No matter how long you try to delay the packing, be aware that the Cancer Patient will continue looking for their belongings once they’ve been boxed up, no matter how many times they are told such items have already been packed. Upon learning this, the Cancer Patient might respond dejectedly with comments like, “I guess I didn’t really need that. I could always buy another one,” confusing the item’s disappearance from its regular location as an actual disappearance, or in some cases, a theft. You will need to remind them, multiple times: the item is not lost, only packed. “Packed for what?” the Cancer Patient might ask. “For your move,” you could gently nudge. If this isn’t enough to jog their memory, you may elaborate, “For your move to _______.”

During the packing phase, the Cancer Patient may get upset when their belongings are put in boxes for transfer instead of being immediately teleported to their final destination at the new home. You might need to explain, multiple times, that boxes and bins and lifting and carrying and transporting things are all part of the magic of the moving process. Actual magic is not.

The Cancer Patient will likely not be able to assist with any packing, because the Cancer Patient likely has the attention span of a gnat. The Cancer Patient might be able to work up the focus to move one item into one box, once a day. Examples include moving an empty container of lotion from one box, to another box. Moving a cup of coffee everywhere, except their own mouth. Moving a love seat to a position so it is blocking the front door.

The Cancer Patient may insist they need random items immediately after said items have been packed and set aside for movers. These items will generally be things the Cancer Patient has not touched in two-six months and may include articles like a laptop, a printer, checkbooks, a specific Good House Keeping magazine, nail clippers, a scale, a bottle of wine, some notes from the doctor, a silver necklace with a J on it, a pair of favorite flip flops they don’t necessarily want to wear but just want to make sure are packed properly, apple cider, a microwave, a keurig machine, an ipod (as well as the doc that goes with it), a toothbrush, a bag of makeup, a cup of pens, some scissors, a coaster, hand soap, and a holiday-themed table runner. Just as examples.

If someone else is assisting you with moving the Cancer Patient, make sure to openly disagree with them from time to time, even if you don’t really have any issue with anything they’re saying or doing. This helps ensure the Cancer Patient doesn’t start thinking you healthy-brained folks are banding together to gang-up on them with weapons like logic and common sense.
Once at the new place, the Cancer Patient will probably want you to unpack the wine, the television, the bed, the clothing, the hand soap, and the coffee immediately. Not in that order. Just immediately. All at once. The wine and television, in particular, should be moved separately from everything else and made available promptly upon arrival.

If the Cancer Patient is a hoarder, try placing things like their four bathroom trashcans, 18 Christmas coffee mugs, and two microwaves next to each other so the Patient can a) pick out their favorite of the bunch and b) potentially see for themselves that they can get rid of excess items. This extra effort may prove to be useless, but even if it works one in a dozen times, it will have been worth it.

The Cancer Patient might ask you, on hour fourteen and a half of moving day, to locate something insignificant while you’re mid-way through acquiring the wine, the television, the bed, the clothing, the hand soap, and the coffee. Say, a magnet, for instance. What ever happens, don’t sigh or tense up. The Cancer Patient will read this nuance in your body language immediately, even if when you’re out in public they can’t see two inches in front of their own face. If they do interpret any tension, it is nearly certain they will take personal offense, negating all the work you’ve done up until that point. They will likely say something like, “Don’t get mad at me! I can’t help it if I’m annoying! I have cancer! ” which will surely make you feel as small and insignificant as the magnet you should have just searched through the remaining 97 boxes for in the first place.

If, by chance, you do let your exhaustion get the better of you and react with frustration in a moment of your own weakness, find a way to immediately call an end to the unpacking and get the Cancer Patient to sleep asap. Otherwise, you might be inviting the Cancer Patient to relieve their own moving day stress by providing you with an itemized list of 30 years of your own personal shortcomings as a daughter (or brother or friend or whatever your personal relationship with the Cancer Patient is). If the Cancer Patient does get agitated and isn’t taken directly to bed, they may begin poking at old, gaping, unresolved wounds. If this happens, remember them to be a Cancer Patient and do not, under any circumstances, try to reason with them. Walk away. Go to bed. Leave. Remember that there will be a moment, though it seems both all too soon and all too far away, that you will grieve and miss the Cancer Patient, in spite of the fact all you feel like you see anymore is the cancer.

If the Cancer Patient informs you they think you seem to live a miserable existence and they believe it’s because you haven’t allowed Jesus into your life as your personal lord and savior, don’t scream out the words “YEAH WELL YOU SEEM PRETTY FUCKING MISERABLE, TOO!” Don’t yell at all. Instead, try hugging the Cancer Patient. Tell them you love them, and you’re sorry it doesn’t always seem that way because you have such hatred for the cancer itself. Tell them you wish with every ounce of your being that you could come to a place of understanding and forgiveness with them before they die. Tell them you want to fix your relationship and hope to fix your relationship and will do everything to fix your relationship in the time there is left, as long as they try, too. Leave them with a joke. Know that other people can help with the rest of the unpacking and it will actually be better for the Cancer Patient that you don’t take care of everything. Don’t judge yourself for all the emotions the move brings up in you. Let yourself feel the anger. The Sadness. Resentment. Exhaustion. Just feel it. Cry. Scream. Meditate. Breathe. Write it out. Don’t go home and drink, you shouldn’t be drinking anyway. Don’t go home and eat. It’s been a long day and you’re not even hungry. Just try to be a better daughter, or brother or friend, tomorrow. Try to get some rest tonight. Do the best you can in any given moment. Evaluate. Expel. Evolve. Repeat.


9 thoughts on “Notes on Moving Someone with Brain Cancer (for the second time in three months)

  1. I do love your writing, although these blog posts always make me cry. I also admire you for the care you are giving your mom at this awful time.


  2. Your mom was a shining light at the end of the Hall when I worked with her at Bret Harte School. I battle Lung Cancer Stage Four with my Mom for five months, unforchanatley it won.
    Your mom has been blessed with two amazing Daughters, keep up the good fight, never loose sight of the fact that she has unconditional love for you.


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