My father was murdered in a bootlegging turf war with the mafia. Although it wasn't cancer that killed him, my family felt the same secrecy, disgrace, and guilt. Like cancer, it was the death that had no name. Like cancer, my mother never acknowledged my father's death. Not once. Not in her entire life. He was our cancer.
To be with Donna could be heartbreaking, and sometimes impossible, if we allowed ourselves to think about her death. We learned to detach from the reality of her dying in her presence. I think, if we were different parents, it could have easily gone the other way -- detaching from Donna. That was unacceptable.