Nightmares of one kind or another

December 10th, 2012 § 37 comments

I wake up in the middle of the night with a start:
Heart racing, breathing fast.
It was a dream, I soon realize. What I fear is not true.
The despair, the nightmare, the horror.

All of it was a creation of my mind.
In the dream I was searching for him.

He was gone.
He just disappeared.
My child jogged off into the woods, his identifiable gait
Seen from behind,
Tennis whites lit up the woods–
But where was his racquet?
I realize now in the dream he didn’t have it.
He ran off never to be seen again.
Did not get to his destination.
I searched. I could not find him.

I failed him.

I quickly erase the fiction from my mind,
It’s not true I tell myself:
It’s a dream.
Focus on something else.
It’s 12:56 AM.
My heart settles back to its rhythm
I hear the rain,
My children are safe in their beds.
I can relax now.

But ease does not come.

My fear is misplaced.
The nightmare still persists.
The reality is a different image.
There is a nightmare.
A waking one.
One that’s real and true, one I cannot shake off with time, or more sleep, or distraction.

My nightmare is loss, it is my children out of my grasp, it is separation.

I still fear all of those things.
But it is I who will wander off into the unknown
Leaving others behind
Waking in the middle of the night with only an image of me,
As they search for me in vain.

I will be there, with them, but only in memories.

It will have to be enough.
But I know it won’t be.
After all,
This is what cancer nightmares are made of.
This is what grief does.
I cannot do more, be more, than I am right now.
But I can want more.

It is a parent’s prerogative.

I am greedy.

I make no apologies for wanting to see the things I want to see,
Wanting to share the things I want to share,

Wanting to live the life I want to live.

This is what I want.
This is what I hope.
This is what I dream.

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§ 37 Responses to Nightmares of one kind or another"

  • Shari says:

    Oh Lisa, this one is heartwrenching. This is my fear and I don’t have an illness. I have no words. Only my love for you.

  • s.a.meade says:

    I just wish I could give you a hug. It takes a lot to make me cry. This has.
    As always, sending love and good vibes your way.

  • sarahbutten says:

    Those slip out of your grasp feelings in the middle of the night are the stuff of parenthood we don’t talk about very often. This is beautiful and this of course is why everyone who is with you (in the ways readers/friends/cheerleaders can be) on this journey is wishing/sad/wanting/hoping… Thank you for bringing words to this.

  • Mary Liz Cawley says:

    Oh Lisa – there are no words to say. You are loved, cherished, appreciated and prayed for … And always will be. Xo Mary Liz

  • juliemangano says:

    Thinking of you and your restless nights. I hope soon sleep is more restful for you.

  • Lisa says:

    This is so beautiful and so heartbreaking. Thinking of you.

  • Anonymous says:

    Lisa, every mother can relate to this in some way. I have had these kinds of dreams too. For me, they fade into the vapor when I wake. For you they must persist on some level all day. I cannot imagine. I know that you have already made an indelible mark on your husband, your kids and countless others. But I of course you want more. I hope that you get more… a lot more.

  • Rebecca says:

    Oh, Lisa. I wish I could hug you from here, but all I can do is say that you’ve written a hard truth here, beautifully, and I admire your bravery and your honesty.

  • even those of us without cancer have nightmares like this. I wish I could reach out to you and give you a hug.

  • Joan Carol says:

    Oh, Lisa. You always touch my heart, but this one made me cry bitter tears for you. I am so angry for you. If good wishes could help you, you would be healed.

  • uvmer says:

    Love to you. I am on the other side of your nightmare. After 3+ years, I still sit on my porch and wait for my best friend to come walking out of the woods. I wait and wait until its just too dark to see….she doesn’t come, but I keep looking and waiting……Cancer nightmares and realities persist. Greed? Never! Hang on to hope….the world sees miracles on a daily basis. Draw strength from those things you want…never lose sight. Holding you close in my heart…..thank you for sharing yourself….wonderful gift.

  • Becky says:

    Just wanting you to know, I’m here and reading.

  • Anita says:

    Your nightmares are also your realities and its very sad and I can’t imagine that overwhelming feeling of impending loss. You express your emotions so well, and I’m sorry that cancer brought me to know you. Hugs

  • marshaeps says:

    This hits me right in the heart.

  • I wish I could do or say something. Because I can’t imagine having to be the owner of these thoughts and feelings. All I can offer you is my ear, my hope, my deep sincere wishes for you to know, how much so many of us here think of as relentless, relentless in the most admirable sense of the word.

  • This is a truly wrenching post, my friend. Thinking of you always.

  • Yes, even those without illness can relate to the deep fear of this. So sorry that your body and mind are being assaulted by such horror.

  • Run of the mill nightmares are a horror, I can’t imagine what yours must be like. You’re so strong, Lisa. I would be on Xanax around the clock.

  • Renn says:

    Cancer is a thief of dreams, and it’s cruelty cannot be under- or overstated.

    Despite its horror, I found this poem beautiful, because it captures what so many feel and deal with every day. You have an amazing ability to craft delicate and relatable meaning out of harsh, blinding grief. That is a gift. You are a gift. Thank you.

  • PR says:

    Lisa, your insight provokes, your honesty and courage inspires.

    • Roxy says:

      Goodness, I do miss that stack.The gas fire we have does the trick, but leave the room flat. I tend to light an incense stick just to get some scent movement in the spsCe.cheera!

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    • Even my colleagues here in Indonesia know about this episode. Interestingly enough, they don't see the humour behind it. One of my male colleagues told me that if this happened in Indonesia, the fella who took the photo would probably have his phone smashed (and that is only if the soldier is in a good mood)

  • annette baesel says:

    That sense of failure slipping into our dreams, unbidden, unwelcome comes to all of us I think. Waking with a start, telling myself it is OK, he is OK, he will be OK…and yet it isn’t until morning that the fear completely subsides. Your hell is that a new fear replaces it, one equally unbidden and unwelcome, one that most of us do not share (although we fear it), one that will not subside. My heart aches for you. It aches for you and yet I know that I only can feel just a tiny bit of the sadness you must feel. My son comes home from college for the holidays in a week. He is going to wonder why my hello hug will be so intense and just a little longer than he’d probably like.

  • gesine says:

    Beautiful and painful.

  • Susan says:

    Lisa I so understand the fear in your dreams as this MBC diagnosis permeates your thoughts in sleep and while you are awake. I appreciate the beauty and honesty of your words and hope that your living days can be filled with joy as you try to navigate this new normal which has nothing normal about it. Thank you for sharing. Hugs and prayers to you and your family.

  • Elissa says:

    My heart is with you.

  • Philip E. Newman says:

    Incredible. Eye-opening writing.

  • Anonymous says:


    Your words speak to ME. Thank you for expressing yourself and using your thoughtful words to help me get through my days with metastatic breast cancer.

    Be Well

  • Evvie says:

    Poignant and Beautiful.

  • Barbara, Mom of read,write,cook says:

    totally amazing..found it difficult to swallow and let tears flow

  • I’m a friend of Mark’s, Lisa. He shared your blog post with me. My heart hurts for you and your family, while my thoughts for you are that whatever lies ahead, may grace transform suffering, fear and loss into some level of understanding and healing.

  • […] And she’s blogged about how terrifying this is – to be a cancer patient who has children who are so young. Here’s a section from one of her poems about the nightmares cancer brings (I encourage you to read the entire poem, which you can find here: […]

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