I’m sitting on a light blue couch, as comfortable as one would hope. The sliding front doors constantly opening, letting the Georgia heat rush in. There are sick people all around me, praying for good news. Every time I look up from my computer my eyes focus on a massive sign that reads “Radiation Oncology, Cancer Center of America.” My heart has been breaking for the past 6 months.
Back in January, my mom called me to tell me some news. She had abnormal blood work and was going to be tested for cancer. I thought she was joking. There was no way my happy, healthy momma could be sick. Not a chance in hell. But on January 30th she called while I was at work. I knew it was bad. I collapsed when she said, “I have breast cancer.”
Didn’t the Universe/God/Whatever you believe in know that this couldn’t happen!? She didn’t have time to be sick. I didn’t have time to worry. But cancer doesn’t care.
Around that time I was also dealing with a verbally abusive ex-boyfriend, a less than competent work trainee and a friend back home dealing with her fiancé’s cheating…in addition to my own, false and fraudulent, cancer diagnosis and chemo injections.
I’d like to think I handle stress well, but not this time. I cried 2-3 times a day, every day. My OCD went into overdrive and caused its own set of problems. And then in March, my hair started falling out. I try and tell myself I was having sympathy hair loss because of my mom. Chemo made her lose her hair, must have done the same to me. But in reality, it was stress and not knowing how to handle things. I kept having to remind myself that my sadness and stress would never compare to hers. Not only was she dealing with having cancer, but she was also constantly in and out of the hospital because of how horribly the chemo affected her.
I felt so guilty I couldn’t be there. My mom didn’t want a lot of people to know, so she created a small Facebook group so her people would stay up to date. Every post was a knife to the stomach. But it also showed me the support system that she has. Her friends would drive her 2 1/2 hours from Prattville, AL to Newnan, GA for her chemo treatments.
I tried leaning on a couple of friends, but it turns out it is possible to be too sad. I didn't realize it at the time but I really clung on to people. And in the same breath, I also distanced myself from them. Don't know what that means?.... Yeah, me either. I guess I was too sad and leaned on others too much. At one point my best friend asked if I was suicidal via text. I was shocked by her question. And after I said no, her response was "I'm here if you need me." I was unofficially uninvited to her bachelorette party and wedding a few weeks later.
Writing has been my emotional outlet for the past 2 years. But no one wants to read sad blogs week after week. And what else could I say? My friends were gone, I wasn’t dating and my trainees at work were making my life hell. So I didn’t write anything at all. I was alone with my sadness and learning to deal with that was painful and so necessary.
Every thought that consumed my mind, outside of work, was
"how are we going to get through this? I can't live without her." But my sweet, vivacious, caring and sassy momma is a fighter.
I’m now sitting in a room they call the "consultation area." I’ve watched enough crime/hospital dramas to know that this room is where news is delivered and it’s not always good. I’m shaking my leg and scratching my nose repeatedly, a telltale sign of my nervousness. The room smells like a hospital but is decorated in an attempt to be inviting.
Dr. Johnson walks in quickly. She is a powerful woman with a firm voice and a strong handshake. She says the partial mastectomy was a success, and there was no cancer in her lymph nodes. Then with a smile, she says “your mom will be ready to go home in about an hour.” The best news I’ve ever heard.
I won't apologize for clinging too tight. I won't apologize for being sad. Who stuck around is who is meant to be around. Don't hesitate to reach out to people you care about. Hang on tight to those you care for...the future is never guaranteed.
Mom starts radiation in 3 weeks and continues with the “good chemo” until 2020. She’s worried about her hair growing back white or gray. My only thought is “wow, she’s going to be okay.”