I heard the trembling and tears in her voice as she told me..
"It's cancer, Mom."
I felt like I had been punched in the gut. I couldn't catch my breath. It had been almost 14 years since I heard the word cancer from dad. My mind was racing as Jen went on to tell me the details, and I could feel my shoulders and neck tighten, throbbing with pain.
I knew that our journey as a family had just taken a different path. When someone you love is diagnosed with cancer, it settles into your brain, invading your waking thoughts every little while, and keeping sleep at bay. It is like an unwanted guest you can't get to leave.
Jen went on to tell me what the plan of action was. For me, a nurse, that is always my focus. What can we do? What must we do? This invader, this evil, had to be removed from my child. My perfect child. I wanted it GONE. So I listened, and remained calm, and supportive. Behaved like a nurse, and tried to push down my emotions, the mother in me.
I have had a hard time writing about this. That phone call was a couple weeks ago, the surgery a couple weeks before that. Time passes, we plan another surgery for next month, and deal with things that crop up. Such as Jen's voice being permanently changed due to scarring on the vocal chord. And the fact that after each surgery she must be mostly mute for ten days, something that isn't easy with 8 year old twins.
Along the way we have had some laughter. Such as Duncan telling his mom he didn't want her to leave them (die) because then he wouldn't have a home, and would have to live in a cardboard box on the street. And Michael telling Jen that with her new, deep voice she could become a famous country singer.
I have to laugh, to keep tears at bay. To keep the fear at arm's length. I laugh to keep my mind from racing and going in directions I don't want it to go. And realizing once again, that sometimes being a nurse is a curse. Knowledge you can't unlearn can cause more anxiety when someone you love is sick. As it did when my dad told me almost 14 years ago that he had cancer. I don't want to know. I just want to focus on a cure, and helping my child to be well.
And I think about 2 things that have happened recently. The first was a stop at Starbucks the day after that phone call from Jen, when I had told Steve to get his stuff, we were going to spend the night. (I had forgotten most of my things, so I had dirty hair and no makeup on when we started back home that morning.) I was lost in my own thoughts, still in shock and feeling like a zombie. Then it happened.
A random act of kindness.
The person in front of us paid for our Starbucks. I have done that many times, but have never been the recipient of "paying it backward". I was in shock when the barrista told us our tea and coffee was paid for. I hollered "WHAT?" and he repeated it. I leaned around Steve and told him "I've done that before but no one has ever done that for me! I'm shocked!" The barrista just smiled and said "well now you have." As we drove off, I felt overwhelmed.
That person, unknown to him or her, helped me on a day when I was about as low as I have ever been, and had no idea what an impact it made on me, how it raised my spirit. I thought to myself, we never know what an effect our actions have on others, and how something as small as buying a cup of tea for a stranger, can change a day, and make a smile. As it did for me that day.
A few days later, dad paid me a visit. As I walked to my car, I looked down. Right between my feet, was a message from dad. I've had several over the years, and he always sends it when I need it the most.
A golf ball. I knew at that moment that I wasn't alone, and dad still had hold of me...my heart.
Thanks Dad, I needed that.
It will all be all right.
...life is truly good.
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