Guest Post: Mom, on Cancer

This post is really special for me to be able to share since it (hopefully) is the last in my unintended series on my mother having cancer (see the beginning and her diagnosis). It seemed fitting that my mother have the opportunity to shut that door so I was really happy when she agreed to write this for me. I only added a few notes  of my own, which you’ll see in italics.

Family Portrait

Kate asked me to write a few words for her blog and even though she is much more eloquent than me I’ll try.  Kate has been amazing all through this illness and recovery, always showing up when I needed her and keeping me laughing when I needed to laugh more than anything. And bringing me endless cups of sweet tea to quell the nausea (I had a lot of help with those sweet tea runs! I think every one of my friends was under strict instructions that if they came to my house they should come with sweet tea in hand). 

We’ve had our moments through this mess.  She was with me when the surgical resident flounced into my room and announced “this is not a metastasis”.   He really did flounce –  it was all we could do to keep from laughing out loud (It was a total “I’m a surgeon and I’m here to save the world!” kind of flounce). 

 Kate and a couple of other really good friends were there when I was in a narcotic induced stupor after a procedure and they nearly laughed themselves onto the floor at our conversation.  It was Kate that I sent to beg, borrow, or steal girl scout cookies that seemed to also deal with the nausea.  Yes, I corrupted a former girl scout . Or maybe a girl scout in remission (cancer joke!).

I wish you could have seen her face when I asked her and her retired military dad if they would help me get weed if I needed it for the nausea. Appalled doesn’t quite sum it up.  My son on the other hand let me know he’d get it if I needed it.  I never did, but it was fun watching their faces.

DadsFace

Kate has been wonderful and if anything this has brought us closer together but honestly, next time we want to feel closer let’s take a cruise, vacation or anything other than cancer (agreed!).

If you are asking yourself “how does anyone get through this?” it’s a valid question and I can only tell you what works for me. 

First your brain protects you. There is only a certain amount you can process cognitively and then it shuts down and says “no more”. 

Then you decide there is only one way to survive: one day at a time.  It takes all your energy to make it through each day and you have none left to sit around worrying about what if, what if the chemo doesn’t work, what if we run out of options, etc.

Finally, when those thoughts creep in you have to remind yourself that you gave this big ugly nasty problem up to a higher power and you trust and believe with all your being that God will take care of it.  And He did!

Mom and Dad

I’m so thankful to have been able to share this post with you, and glad my mother was willing to write it. She was told she was completely cancer free just two weeks ago. Her hair is growing back in really quickly and she’s already had her first hair appointment.  

(all photos in this post are courtesy of Erika. I now feel guilty about calling her a soup nazi)

If you have any questions for my mother please feel free to leave them here and either she’ll answer them herself or I will ask her for the answer and send it your way. It can be cancer-related or just general mom questions (I’m not biased, but I think she’s a pretty stellar mom so..). Or feel free to just leave her some love, she likes that too!

Free.

I remember last winter as a series of stark moments. Thanksgiving came and went and we finally badgered my mother into seeing a doctor for the hacking cough that was making us all uncomfortable. Pneumonia made perfect sense until it just didn’t anymore.

Before we really knew what was going on it was easy to imagine the worst. My mind went to the darkest of places and I let myself think questions I’d never dare say out loud: What if I lose my mother? How can she leave this earth without seeing me married first? Can I really have babies without her to tell me everything I need to know? What about my father? And how will I help my brother through this?

After being in agony for a few days while we waited for test results I held my mother’s hand as they told us it was Lymphoma. We cried together and I told her, “You’ve got this. You beat cancer once, you’ll beat it again.” She started radiation therapy immediately, and after Christmas she started her chemo.

There were too many feelings to process and so many things I wanted to say but never found the strength: You are not your hair. You are not this disease. I will always look at you and see my mother, not some cancer. 

Instead I put on my strong face as the love poured in all around us – from the amazing women I work with, the amazing women my mom works with (I’m not leaving the guys out it’s just that we both work* in all female nursing departments), our extended family members across the country, and of course our friends everywhere. I’ve never been so in awe of the people in our lives. You always know the people you surround yourself with are incredible but when you see them in action sometimes there are just no words – I still can’t even think of the right thing to say. Thank you seems inadequate.

And as time passed and Mom finished chemo she was pronounced “cancer free” – only for the Doctor to turn around and say he’d seen something new on a scan that he wanted to take a look at because it really looked like a different kind of cancer.

If you’ve been counting, you’d realize that would be cancer #3. Which was when I lost my cool. I couldn’t be cheery and crack jokes, or smile politely. I did everything short of throwing myself on the ground and kicking and screaming. I really did say, to my mother, “but that’s not fair.”

Of course I held back but my mind was off to those dark thoughts again. I couldn’t believe we’d come through all of that just to wind up back at the beginning. It really wasn’t fair.

But we all know about cancer and “fair.”

So there was more waiting, and more scans, and each time the results were not conclusive. Which meant the doctor had to go in and get that thing that was making him “see cancer.”

Two weeks ago my mother had surgery. My father and I waited for ages in the waiting room, watching as everyone else spoke with their surgeons and went to see their loved ones. Dad and I waited, and waited, and waited.

Finally the doctor came out to see us – he was grim because it hadn’t gone exactly as planned. He got the mass out but Mom had lost some blood and wasn’t really hitting those benchmarks of things they want to see when someone is waking up after surgery but after a few more hours she was fine. And then only pathology could tell us for sure what the story was with the mass they removed.

And that is what happened yesterday when they pronounced my mother decisively cancer free. The mass was completely benign.

She still has to recover from surgery on top of regaining her energy after the chemo but we’re all in much better spirits these days. It seems like we’ve finally turned a corner and can put it all behind us.

What are you thankful for right now?

*if you’re concerned you can see my disclaimer about that whole work thing. And no, I’m not a nurse. But my mother is!

Yes. Even more Stuff from All Over.

I have too many things to blog and never make time to blog them. It’s a cycle.

– A few days ago I went to dinner with my parents. I went to use the restroom and found that one toilet seat was covered in pee. Full on, double rainbow, arc of pee splatter across the seat. As someone who HATES public restrooms, this really just further cemented my belief that such things should be outlawed.  Look, I get it. You don’t want to sit on the dirty public toilet seat. Fine. BUT BE AN ADULT AND CLEAN UP YOUR MESS.  I mean really, who does that? I’m still just shocked. You want to avoid touching the dirty seat? Then lift it up.  Better yet – don’t use a public toilet. You are the problem here.

– I may have been the only person in the world who didn’t buy that $20 amazon gift card yesterday. This is because I have one for $100 that I have no idea what to use for. It’s making me crazy – I want to spend that money, but I can’t bring myself to do it. Nevermind that there are 100s of books and movies I want. I just…can’t.

– Today I found this blog written by two friends who are not only pregnant at the same time but their babies are due on the same day. The idea I love, love, love – except that whole thing where I don’t actually want to be pregnant at the same time as any of my best friends. By which I mean matching trimester for trimester – we could stagger them, but I don’t want to have both of us being enormous and hormonal at once.  It’s too much. Our husbands would probably abandon us, while the rest of our friends planned a trip far far away. Granted, the idea of it, however, is decidedly romantic. I picture photo shoots in fall leaves with adorable matching baby bumps and children that grow up to be besties just like us. But the reality is just a no. I think this because my mother told me, and when it comes to babies I believe just about everything she says*. It’s one of the only aspects of life where I can still surrender that “Mom knows best” trust. The rest of life…not as much. I’m still scarred by her insistence that Lady Shutterbug and I would not be able to take a cross-country road trip after we graduated from college because we’d be too busy planning our weddings.  Granted, we still couldn’t take a cross-country road trip after we graduated because…well, I don’t think couldn’t is the right word. We just didn’t. So Mom was kind of right. Darn it.

– Speaking of Mom, she’s doing really well. She’s been working, and she turned in her comprehensive exam for her PhD program yesterday. She has also taken to double-timing me with the grandbaby guilt which does not help this girl in the slightest. We all know if I could be pregnant right now I would be. But I’m kind of hung up on that whole getting married first thing. Which Mom is also giving me guilt about. Is there such a thing as Lutheran guilt? Cause Mom is really good at it.

– Last night on a whim my roommate and I brought my CDs on our errands. If you ever wondered, yes, I do still know all the words to Backstreet’s Back (alright!) and many other songs released in the 90s. It makes me thankful I can never run out of space to store things in my mind because those lyrics take up a lot of space I can never get back.

– I broke down and had a soda on Tuesday. And I had another one yesterday.  And now I want another one. I made it 16 days without any soda! I’ll be right back to skipping soda soon , but since I’m sick right now I’m taking in all the fluids I can get my hands on. I think of it as a little treat that I can give myself without ruining all of my other hard work.

– I am about to go on a list-writing spree and I cannot wait. There will be color codes and everything.

– I’m finding myself drawn to the Sims 3 more and more these days because I keep creating these awesome story lines. Seriously, I think some people are just born to be writers. I love that about myself. It goes hand in hand with my ability to get completely wrapped up in books, tv shows, and movies.

I could go on. But I’m forcing myself to stop before I have to count the number of bullets I used here. Oops, I thought about it, now I have to go count. 8. Perfect. I’m done.

 *If you don’t know, my mother delivered babies for about three centuries and now she teaches other people how to do it. I’m confident she knows exactly what she’s talking about.

Countdown

It’s strange how quickly our lives can be disrupted but how it takes such a long time for us to recover.

Mom is home! When I saw her on Saturday she seemed like she was completely back to normal. It was really amazing. She is really happy to be home where she can sleep in her own bed and have real shampoo and other such comforts. I know she’s really looking forward to Christmas, especially since she won’t have started the chemo yet so it will seem like a “normal” year.  She has two more weeks of radiation therapy (they don’t do treatments on the weekend) before she will start chemo.

It seems like Mom has bounced back faster than the rest of us – at least me, anyway. I am totally worn out. It will probably take me another week to recover. Of course, staying out until almost 4am doesn’t really help matters much- My friends and I had our annual Christmas Dinner party on Saturday night – but we’ll talk about that later.

Am I the only one who can’t believe Christmas is only 6 days away??