I think when bad news is coming, sometimes your body knows it before you actually hear about it. All day today I’ve been on edge. All day I’ve had this sinking feeling, like the floor would fall out from under me any moment. I’ve lived with anxiety for years and I tried to push it aside but something kept nagging at me. Bad news is coming, it said. You just wait, it said.
The feeling was right.
I had every reason based on my mom’s appointment yesterday with her heme doctor to believe her appointment today would be good news. He had basically reassured her that he didn’t think the cancer was back.
Then today, when I check in with my parents, I get a phone call in the mail room on the third floor at work that instantly brings me to tears.
“She has a blood clot in her leg that swelled really bad and she’s been dizzy. She had an episode. The doctor had her transferred to Duke by ambulance because it wasn’t safe for me to transport her in case the clot dislodged,” my dad tells me.
He reassures me that he will let me know if there is more news. He tells me not to worry and he makes it seem like it isn’t as bad as it is.
This is what my family does. We sugar coat things. We don’t worry when we should. We avoid doctors, treatments, thinking we know better. We hide behind smiles. We act like it’s okay when it isn’t.
I hate this. I hate that we can’t just be honest. I hate that it takes so much just to cry together.
I stay at work a while longer, trying to keep the worry and tears at bay. When I finally decide to leave, after my dad tells me there is no more news but she is getting admitted, I come home. I need to do something, anything, and I have a small window of time before I have to get Jude.
So I run.
I hate running, but sometimes I get these tremendous urges to push my feet against the ground and run away from everything. It calms me to be able to physically move when mentally I feel so stuck in one place.
It is sticky and humid. I give up after a mile of running mixed with squats, push ups and sit ups. I shower, washing away the sadness as best I can, and I go pick up Jude.
He is surprised to see me. He asks where my parents are. I try to avoid the question for now.
We sit in the big chair together and cuddle. My dad calls finally and tells me that the clot is very bad and the different options for making it go away. He tells me my mom will be in the hospital a few days.
I finally ask the question that I don’t really want to ask: “Do they know what is causing the clot?”
“The cancer is back,” he says.
It’s like someone reaches inside me and pulls out my stomach. The tears are automatic, like someone just pressed a button inside me and there is nothing I can do about it. I try to make my voice sound even but once or twice it breaks.
There is talk about chemo but my mom is adamant that she will NOT do chemo again. I do not blame her. It made her feel so bad and that is no way to live. But it also scares me because what other options are there? Honestly, a couple… but they are in Mexico and Germany because the US doesn’t let the MDs here practice those therapies. These are costly because of that but I just have to find a way to make something happen for her. She deserves it. She deserves so many more healthy years on this planet. I can’t make it without her.
I hang up with my dad and Jude turns to me. “Mommy, are you sad?”
“Don’t be sad, Mommy.” He gives me a hug and kisses me. There is so much worry in his eyes.
We order pizza and when it arrives we eat together and put Taylor Swift’s song “Best Day” on repeat and I think about how wonderful of a childhood that I had because my mom made it so. I vow to make sure I cherish every moment with Jude and make his just as wonderful.
When I’m tucking Jude into bed, he looks up at me and says he wants to give my parents a hug and a kiss. I tell him that my mom is at the doctor and she will be there a few days because she doesn’t feel good.
“I’m sad about Mom-Mom,” he tells me. He starts crying, tucking his head in and refusing to look at me.
“It will be okay, sweetheart. Mom-Mom is with doctors who will make her feel better.”
“I don’t want Mom-Mom to be sick,” he says, letting me hold him. “I want her to come home.”
“I know, baby. So do I.”
It breaks my heart into a million tiny pieces when he cries. It amazes me how much a three year old can understand. It’s hard going through something like this when you have a child because you have to remember that they see how you react and they mimic it. You can’t break down because you have someone else to worry about. You have to be even stronger.
I’ll admit, last year was so tough and I don’t think I would have made it if it weren’t for having Jason. It makes me nervous about what is in store this year. My mom is such a strong woman. Sometimes I wonder how she handles everything with such grace, when I so easily can fall apart. I want to be like her, but I’ve always needed help. Now, I really have to put my big girl pants on and be strong myself. I don’t have a boyfriend as a crutch anymore. I wanted to be a strong, independent woman… and now I actually have to be.
If you’re reading this, say a little prayer for my mom. She can use all the positive thoughts and mojo she can get. She’s a wonderful woman with more courage than she even knows. I’ll be a lucky woman if I end up having even a tenth of her strength and grace. I have never understood how someone like me could have the same genes as someone like her. She is a gift. She is a warrior.
She is my hero.