Saturday, April 1, 2017

All stories begin and end with you


As you have probably noticed, I have had a hard time posting here for awhile. I guess I have been kind of wrapped up in my immediate problems dealing with breast cancer. But I find it has become more and more difficult, Michaela, to write about you. I am working on a couple of books, one nonfiction and one fiction. You are actually central to both of them, but I have found when I sit down to work on them that it has just become so hard. There are a million words to say, and I have said them all a million times. Each one of them carries the weight of the world. Does anyone need to be told? With all the words I have said, has not everyone heard the story? Like all I should have to do is say, "Michaela," and they will say, "Ah." And all the sorrow and grief, the unknown terror, will be there, because they know. How could they not know?

And yet they don't.

So one of the things I must do is gather the strength to simply keep you alive by telling your story over and over again, and million trillion times if need be. And the other thing I need to do is keep telling your story so that you can hear it, in case you have forgotten it as well.

I won't give up, Michaela. I promise. I will never give up.

Love you forever, baby girl.
mom

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Lots of feels

I am deleting one of my other blogs, and copying some of it into my current blogs. I apologize for the format. Blogger is difficult this way, and the only way I know how to fix it is to retype it, which I don't want to have to do. This entry was from July 6, 2015.


Lots of feels

It is 6:30 in the morning on my day off work, and I am here, awake. I have a lot of feelings inside me and I am sitting here with tears in my throat and in my eyes, longing just to be able to write my feelings down and push them off into the world. Like the words from the Anna Nalick song, "2 a.m. and I'm still awake, writing a song. If I get it all down on paper it's no longer inside of me, threatening the life it belongs to." But maybe I just really don't have the courage. One day I swear I am going to write my novel so I can say all the things I cannot say, turn loose all the feelings inside of me.

Half of the feelings I feel are vapors in the wind anyway. As I sat here at my desk, I watched a cloud outside my window. For a moment it was the stunningly clear face of a pitbull terrier. But in seconds it morphed, first into a kitty, and then on to several indistinct stages on its way to becoming the blank cloudbank that it is at this moment. And that happens so often with problems. You have a dagger in the heart, but then it dissolves and is gone, unless you happened to put it into writing or other communication where it becomes immortalized, or kind of. For me, writing and getting things out is cathartic, but the problem is that when you get things outside yourself sometimes they take up residence in others, and become things totally other, and totally beyond your control at all. Things that are minor can come to define you.

The other thing about writing is that often it helps me to figure out just exactly what it is that is hurting. Like right now. The immediate cause of my distress is that my daughter, who is 18 weeks pregnant, was experiencing anxiety this morning at 4-something. I woke up. Presumably she has gone to sleep and I am still awake. This anxiety, this problem, will probably dissolve when the winds shift. But in me it stirs something far deeper. Whether large or small, my child is suffering, and I am powerless to alleviate the suffering. I can, and do, talk my head off in an attempt to fix things, but honestly sometimes I know that just makes it worse. That's the other dangerous thing about words. For some reason the same words can mean completely different things to other people. She is anxious, so in an attempt to alleviate the anxiety, I employ the analytical mode, trying to explain why the problem is not quite as bad as it feels, and/or how to avoid problems in the future. This works well for me, but my daughter is in emotional mode, and she absorbs those words completely differently, internalizes them as criticism, which they are not intended to be.

Emotions. Sometimes you just have to get control of them. I remember in the second year after Michaela was kidnapped, I just felt angry, and it finally dawned on me that my anger was nothing more than sorrow that I had turned inside out and thrown outside myself because that was easier than feeling the sorrow. That was a big thing. But the same thing happens with the little things. We feel pierced by that dagger, which would probably dissolve in a minute, an hour, a day, unless we let that sorrow become anger and let it out into the world where it will inevitably cause more hurt. I personally have counted the cost and decided it is not worth it. That means I end up with a lot of feelings that get bottled up inside. Perhaps I need to find another means to transform and express them, through something more positive than getting angry. There are a lot of things that never ever get resolved, because I don't speak of them. In the end I guess I don't trust that they would get resolved if I did.

This child, the one whose anxiety woke me in the early hours today, was born five years after Michaela was kidnapped. One of my strong memories is from when she was a little baby, and she was crying. I picked her up and held her and said, "It's okay. Mommy is here. Mommy will take care of you." I was reassuring her from my heart with every intention of making everything right, of keeping her safe and protected and not letting anything hurt her. But in that moment I was flooded with the knowledge of the truth, that this was a lie. It was a promise I could not make. I had said the same sort of thing to Michaela, but in the end I had not been able to protect her. She suffered the most brutal fear, grief and pain, and there was not a single goddamned frickin thing I was able to do to prevent that, or to save her from it once she was in its clutches. I completely and totally failed her.

And I have completely and totally failed all my children. It hasn't been as dramatic as it has been with Michaela. The daggers that have pierced them have been the kind that mostly dissolve in time. But they have all suffered grief and sorrow, and there is not anything I can do about it. I have made midnight trips to the grocery store for chocolate, taken them for manicures, sat and listened, hugged and cried. But the only way I could actually have prevented my children from being hurt was if I had taught them not to love. Jobs, money, those things all can cause stress, but only love can pierce the heart, and it can pierce deep and hard and leave shards that don't ever completely go away. I know, because I have them myself.

My daughter and her husband, they are happy and excited about the baby they are having. But they have feelings inside them that perhaps they don't even understand. Do they understand the huge vulnerability they are being drawn into? They are both smart kids, and they are both very self-aware, smart, imaginative and creative, so maybe they do. Or maybe it is just a vague sense of unease. I know that as they have thought about their child, they have been drawn to look back on their own childhoods. In doing so, they have encountered the things that hurt them. They think, they hope, that these things will be different for their child, that their son won't encounter the cruelty of other kids, for example. But somewhere deep inside, as they consider their own hurts, they may be coming to realize that those things are going to hurt even more if they happen to their child than they did when they happened to them. I looked it up this morning, that quote that I just kind of know. I discovered it has a source, author Elizabeth Stone. It is, "Making the decision to have a child -- it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."

Well, I guess I am kind of placing my own thing into other people's minds here. I think it is valid to a point. But really it's my own point. For me, it is magnified, because it triggers that deep sorrow of not being able to save Michaela from suffering. But the fact is, I can't save any of my children. I can't make any of them happy. I can't protect any of them from hurt. I can just hope that they have the emotional wisdom to live well.

To you, Michaela, I just want to say that am so sorry that I was not able to protect you from harm, that I was not able to save you. Wherever you have been, whatever you have been through, I just hope that you have been able to feel always that love that is beyond life and death, there in your heart, forever.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Sometimes it's hard to see the road

Well, to follow up on my last blog, as you can see we have saved this domain name. Actually, my beautiful and talented daughter, Libby, saved it. Not to say she doesn't have IT smarts, but she also displayed a real intuitive gift in coming up with the unknown administrative account name. So presumably the Dear Michaela domain will be safe forevermore. 

I apologize that I have not been here to write for awhile. I am overwhelmed by life. I believe that I have posted here that I have been diagnosed with breast cancer. My mother had breast cancer and she made it look like a walk in the park -- lumpectomy, a few weeks radiation, all gone. So I didn't take this seriously at first, at all.The first time I saw my surgeon she guessed me at Stage I, and thought we could go the same route my mother did. But I have lobular carcinoma, which is a kind of a stealth cancer. It grows in rows, which grow into sheets, rather than lumps, so it is harder to detect either by touch, or mammogram, or ultrasound. So I had an MRI, which discovered that the cancer had spread within my breast quite a bit more than they thought, and I was upgraded to Stage II and scheduled for a mastectomy.

Things took a turn for the nasty after the mammogram. They removed eleven lymph nodes, some of which looked suspicious and some of which the surgeon thought would be okay. All eleven of them turned out to have cancer in them. So the cancer was upgraded to Stage IIIC. This is the worst stage you can get and still have it considered curable.

I then had to have a PET scan to see if the cancer had spread elsewhere in my body. If they found any other cancer, it would be Stage IV, which they say is incurable. Why that is I don't know. I mean, if they can kill the cancer in the breast, why can't they kill it if it shows up somewhere else? I am sure there are things I don't understand here, and thankfully I was spared having to figure them out, as the PET scan turned out to be clear.

I am right now waiting to start chemotherapy. It has been delayed and delayed for various reasons, mostly the lengthy recovery from the mastectomy. But I think I will get the all clear on my next visit and will probably be starting it within the next week. It is a 20 week course, eight weeks of two chemo drugs, followed by 12 weeks of another. I will lose my hair, that I have been told. After being afraid to get a pixie haircut all my life, I finally did, and I actually really love it. The bald look, as practiced with scarves and hats, doesn't really suit me. But I just hope that is the worst I experience in chemo. I have to be honest, I am a little afraid. I am honestly most afraid of the suppression of the immune system. I live in a busy household, which includes two busy and social 20-somethings, a toddler, and four small dogs. My house is a germ festival. While I was waiting to start chemo, a late season cold that was making the rounds hit our house. I fought it off for a long time, ten days, but ended up getting it. The version I got was far lighter than what hit my daughter and her family. Under normal circumstances, my immune system is pretty good! I hope I can carry at least a bit of that into chemo with me, although the whole purpose of chemo is to kill kill kill, and that includes the good with the bad. Antioxidants during chemo are a no no. Why? Because their purpose is to help shield the cells from damage, and when you are on chemo, the whole purpose is to damage the cancer cells.

Meanwhile, I am a germophobe at the best of times. Chemo has really triggered that fear. Even pre-chemo, trying to stay healthy enough to start the darn thing, I find myself uncertain about going out. I have to wonder why in church they have to have that part where everybody goes around shaking hands and hugging each other.

Prognosis? I haven't asked. I am assuming I will beat the cancer, in this round at least. Then I will somehow have to pick up the pieces of my life and put them back together again. I'm worried about being able to earn enough money to help support my family. I have spent most of my life caring for my family rather than earning money to help support them, stay at home mom. I remember when Michaela and I watched the movie Baby Boom, in which Diana Keaton is a high powered executive who inherits a baby and ends up quitting her job and moving to the country to be a full-time mom, Michaela cried and said, "When I grow up, I want to be just like you mom." (Oh, Michaela. There are so many places for my heart to go here.) I keep thinking if I had my life to live over again, maybe I'd do it differently. But I probably wouldn't. Even in my current life, over and over again it is family, it is the people, the children and the love and care and nurturing, that wins in my heart.

In the early days after my diagnosis a lot of people flocked to give me advice. At that point they all seem to have been diagnosed at Stage I breast cancer. I have since moved where they can't advise me. Recently I have come into contact with a few people with Stage IV, metastatic breast cancer. They have moved beyond me, and sometimes I can feel the fear.

I think sometimes about dying. I don't think I am afraid of it. In fact, I kind of feel as though it will be an adventure. Of course, I'm not facing it. I might feel differently if I was. But again, it is leaving my family that bothers me, rather than where I'm going. Who will be there for my children when they are hurting or lonely?  And there are other things, of course. I have already experienced what it is like to be a burden on my family, just in the things I could not do myself after the mastectomy and the long, drawn-out recovery, and in the restrictions placed on their lives by my chemo, because they need to avoid getting sick also. I cannot imagine the burden of an actual terminal illness.

I am afraid of other things as well. I know, I have known for a very, very long time, probably since before Michaela was kidnapped but certainly since then, of the fragility of life. You cannot take anything for granted. Nothing. Nothing. Everything can change in a day. You can be going on, living your life, and not even know that there are evil things creeping up threatening your well-being. You can be washing the dishes, singing while you do it, while a few blocks away someone is kidnapping your little girl. You can be walking around thinking you are fine, but there is a cancer living inside you.

This has entered into my dreams lately, just the idea that there is a threat, someone or something who is stalking me, meaning me harm. I am hiding, layer upon layer, from this threat. I dream all the time about journeys. Perhaps the most telling dream I have had was of needing to travel home, and the road was submerged under several feet of water. I looked out at a vast plain I had to cross, with hills on the other side. I had a boat (or a car that would float), that wasn't the problem. The problem was that without being able to see the road, I did not know where to go. How could I end up in the right place in those hills, where I could pick up the road again? I could feel myself in the middle of that vast body of water, lost. But I never actually set out across the water. The dream shifted, changed. Probably I was saved by a trip to the bathroom.

As for Michaela's case, I guess you know that has shifted and changed as well. Our detective who was like part of our family has retired. I understand the new detective is one of the best detectives we could ask for. But he is not part of the family. He doesn't call and say, let's meet for lunch and talk, which is okay, really. He doesn't tell me anything. I kind of suspect that is because there is nothing to tell. I have heard talk about HPD establishing a cold case unit in order to solve Michaela's case, but I have heard a lot of talk over the years. Always there is "going to be" time, money, resources to solve this case that is 15, 20, 25, 28 years old.

I am convinced that this case is only going to be solved if someone with direct knowledge comes to us with that information. And if there is someone out there who knows where Michaela is right now, please tell me as well as the police. I don't mean if you saw someone you think looks like Michaela. I mean if you know this person is Michaela Garecht, who was kidnapped at the age of nine. If you know Michaela is not alive, and know where she is buried, please tell us. There was someone who called HPD years ago and gave some information, but the investigators needed it to be narrowed down a bit, and if you are that person, please call back. 1-800-222-3999, and the detective is Robert Purnell.

Michaela, I just want you to know that I plan on being here for awhile yet, but if you are out there and alive it would be a good time to let me know. I had a dream once that I was dying, and I was saying goodbye to my husband and my kids. I told them I'd seem them in 30 years, but that I was going to see Michaela now. In the dream I started to get sucked up into the corner of the room, and that was dying. I knew I would come down on the other side of the wall. But suddenly I thought, what if Michaela is not there? And I woke up.

Confused, I'm juse confused. I have my head stuck deeply in the sand. I know I need to pull it out. Life is not over, and I need to keep moving, doing something, traveling down the road even if I have to swim sometimes. Your prayers are appreciated.

And Michaela, I love you, baby girl. Sometimes I don't write. Sometimes I just don't have anything to say that I think anybody wants to hear. But you are always in my heart. I always love you.

mom

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Google is threatening my blog (again)

I just wanted to ask everyone who reads this blog to please follow Michaela's page on Facebook, at https://www.facebook.com/MichaelaJoyGarecht/. I originally purchased the domain name for DearMichaela.com directly through blogger, which is owned by google. This was a long time ago, and google has changed the way they do things since then. I get a notice pretty much annually saying that they are going to cancel my domain name if I don't take various actions, and over the years I have found it impossible to take those actions, because the foundation of my account is different from what they use now.

I will admit, I am no tech genius, but still. The really frustrating thing is that there seems to be no way to contact any people from google. This isn't the only problem I have had with them that I have needed help with, and help just is not available. My newer blog is through wordpress, which seems a bit more user friendly, and if I could I would probably export this entire blog over there, but that would take someone much smarter than I. And the last time I tried to terminate my use of a domain name on one a yahoo site and purchase it for use elsewhere, even though I had placed an auction on godaddy before the expiration, someone else purchased it and put it up for sale for an exorbitant amount of money.

The point is that if anything happens to the domain name of this blog, I will post it on Michaela's facebook so you will be able to find it. The original name of this blog was, I believe, www.thewonderingheart.blogspot.com, and it would probably work to reach this site as well.

Thanks to those of you who continue to visit my blog, and to love Michaela. It means a lot to me, and to Michaela, wherever she is.

God bless.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Happy Birthday, Michaela

Tomorrow you will be 38 years old, and we will be celebrating your birthday for the 29th time since you were taken away from me. I'm writing today, though, because I am restless today but may be tired tomorrow, since I am currently recovering from surgery.

Last night I fell asleep for an hour or two, then woke up, reached over and picked up my phone, and ordered two of your favorite movies from Amazon prime video. Sleep shopping, not recommended, but they just came to me. An American Tail and The Boy Who Could Fly. Perhaps tomorrow I will watch them. Or perhaps I will not have the courage. An American Tail became almost a symbol for you after you were kidnapped, with the song, "Somewhere Out There." The Boy Who Could Fly is more foggy in my memory, except for the fact that you loved it, and that we met the boy who could fly, Jay Underwood, when he was shopping at a local grocery store when he came home to spend Easter with his family. I looked him up on the internet by the way. He is now nearing 50 years of age, still nice looking, but a bald, middle-aged man nonetheless!

Michaela, I have some news, which I have mentioned it here, and then I think I took it off again. I have another blog where I have been talking about it, but the fact is that I have breast cancer. Nana had breast cancer, years after you were kidnapped. I think I never really took the whole thing seriously myself. First of all, I figured I would be immune having breastfed so many babies for so long, and second, Nana misled me I guess. She made breast cancer look like a walk through the park. A lumpectomy and a few weeks of radiation therapy and it was gone. Because of all those things, it was something I took into consideration, and I had my mammograms, but perhaps not quite as often as I should have.

So now it turns out I have Stage III breast cancer. Let's put it this way, they found the cancer, and then every time they did a test they found more. They did an MRI and found it was much larger than what they had been able to see in the mammogram and ultrasound, and that moved it to Stage II. I had a mastectomy, and they found it in the sentinal lymph node during surgery, so they removed eleven more lymph nodes, and they found cancer in every single one. Next I see a medical oncologist, who will probably do a PET scan, and I have to admit, I am a little afraid. It's begun to feel like cancer is playing hide and seek with me, that whenever I catch up with it, it runs farther ahead and hides around another corner.

The type of cancer is invasive lobular carcinoma. This means that it originates in the lobules, which is where the breast milk is actually manufactured. It is the thing in me that nourished and nurtured my children that is trying to kill me. What is it I want to say here? It has a familiar feel. My love for my children has tried to kill me before, hasn't it? When I lost you, all that was so good and precious and treasured rose up and became something from which I could die.

But I didn't. And I don't plan to now, either. I remember when Nana was diagnosed with breast cancer, she thought it meant she would die, and what she told that her first thought was, "At least I will get to find out what happened to Michaela," although I know it was really more like, "At least I will get to see Michaela again," because really she thought it most likely that you were no longer alive. Me, I believe nothing, none of the above, except that there are things in this world yet for me to do. There is love to tend to, and love yet to welcome into the world. I am ready to fight for those things.

*****

Well, it is your birthday now. This blog has been hard to write. I stopped and walked away and it took more than 24 hours to walk back to it. This morning I did watch The Boy Who Could Fly. How you loved that movie. It is a poignant little fantasy. I remember the tears and hope this movie brought you. In was a story of loss, and of the gifts loss can bring you. At the moment Eric's parents are killed in an airplane crash, he spreads his arms and pretends to fly ... only it's not pretend, When Milly loses her father, she moves in next door to Eric and he takes her hand and shows her how to fly. In the end, Eric is lost as well, the loss of an extraordinary person who leaves in his wake the gifts of courage and hopeto people whose hearts had been limping along before he touched them. And yet he is not dead, not as far as we know. He is simply gone, missing . As a mom who hangs onto the real world I wonder where he could be, how he could have survived on his own, but in the promise he left with Milly is the hope yet that he will return.

It is so much you, Michaela. I am so glad I watched it today. An American Tail I will wait to watch with your little nephew, Theo, once we are able to hang out again. I'm not able to pick him up while I am recovering from this surgery, which is really difficult because he lives with me so the temptation is constantly there.

There have been so many birthdays that have come and gone since I lost you. I think every word that could be said has been said, dozens of times. Do the words I love you or I miss you mean any less because they have been repeated so often? More than that, Michaela, I ache and grieve for the suffering you have experienced, and my helplessness to save you. The thing I have wanted from the moment you disappeared to this moment is just to hold you in my arms and whisper in your ear, "It's okay. You are safe." That I have not been able to do that has been like a death to a part of my heart and soul.

If it means anything to you, you have left a legacy of courage. When I face the hard things in life, I think about you. I think, if Michaela can face fear and pain, I can face fear and pain.

I love you, my child, forever and ever. I love you to a depth I cannot begin to reach. I will see you again one day, I know. Until then, I will just say it one more time.

I love you forever,
I'll like you for always (no matter what!)
as long as I'm living
my baby you'll be

mom

p.s. If you want to keep up on the news regarding my breast cancer, you can find it at www.sharonnemethmurch.com. I started keeping another blog because I decided I wanted to keep this one dedicated solely to you. I sometimes post about my opinions or other things that some people may like and others may not, and I just don't want those things clouding anybody's image of you in any way. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Sometimes I surprise myself

I was talking to a new friend yesterday over coffee, when I heard some words come out of my mouth that still have me kind of reeling. We were talking about bad things that happen to people, how sometimes they blame God, or people who love them blame God. Friends or family may say, how can you believe in a God who would do this to you? My friend is a cancer survivor, and I am a new cancer patient, so we were talking about that, and how good things can actually come out of bad, that nothing is without a purpose or an opportunity.

However, I heard myself referring to Michaela. What happened to her, I said, was a terrible thing, and within the confines of this life I am not sure that there is enough good in the universe that can really make up for that in my heart. As a mother, I cannot ever justify my daughter's suffering. That doesn't change the fact of things, however, and the fact of things is what we are left with.

Yet it is a small thing in eternity, I heard myself say. I believe I will see Michaela again, that we will spend eons dancing on the water. And in that great eternity, what happened to her, however awful, will be a small thing. "Oh, that? We got through it. It's over." But some of the rewards and gifts that may have come into the world because of it will be eternal. And rather than grieve over the difficult times we endured, we will rejoice and celebrate if even one person was helped toward healing through what we went through.

I sometimes get emails and comments from people who say just this, that they have been helped through what I have experienced and what I have to say bout it. That is the greatest gift I can receive, those words, because it means there was some good that came out of Michaela's suffering.

Life: not for the faint of heart. But we can do it. You, too, Michaela, if you are out there. I love you.

Merry Christmas everybody.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Michaela, I will always be thankful for you


Michaela, wherever you are, in heaven or on earth, on this Thanksgiving I am thankful for you. You are my first child and you taught me the real meaning of love, which is based in the being of another person, and not how they behave or what they do for you (even though you behaved beautifully and were the epitome of kindness and love). In your birth, and again in your loss, you taught me this. If I could go back and do it all over again, to choose to have those years with you or not, I would always choose you.

Whatever our fates in this life, our greatest fate was to love each other. That will never die, not here on this earth, no matter what powers may try to destroy it, and not in heaven.

My heart is forever yours.

I love you, Michaela.
mom