I’ve always been the neglectful of the two daughters in my family when it comes to remembering important dates. My sister, Emily, is the one who reminds me of my parents’ anniversary, birthdays and other important dates throughout the year.
There is one birthday I will never again forget. November 8 was my mother’s 58th birthday.
It was also the day she found out she had cancer.
Since her diagnosis, I’ve been through five stages of emotion. I’ve been told by those around me that nothing I’m feeling is out of the ordinary or surprising. Still, it feels like the first time this has ever happened to anyone, ever.
So, she has cancer. A lot of people have cancer. They get surgery, do chemo, radiation, whatever. They get better. My mom will get better. It is only a matter of a little surgery, maybe some radiation, and she will be good to go.
She has a stomach tumor. It is inoperable. The cancer has also spread to her liver.
This wasn’t supposed to happen to my mom. She is a good person. She doesn’t deserve this. My dad doesn’t deserve this. Of course I’m not naive enough to believe life is fair. But this is wrong. It’s just wrong.
Who can I blame for this? Who can I direct my hatred toward? Who can I punch in the fucking face?
I have a faceless enemy. My rage has no outlet.
So I hide. I hide behind sarcasm and inappropriate remarks.
“Get better soon so I can make fun of you,” I tell her.
For the most part my tears have now been replaced with compulsive cleaning, organizing and eating. (I really need to add compulsive exercising to the list.)
Despite feeling like my family is the first to ever experience this, it also feels like this is supposed to happen to other people. The people whose pictures you see on the donation buckets at fast food drive throughs. The women whose bald heads have come to symbolize cancer walks. This is not supposed to happen to my mom.
My mom is enrolled in a clinical trial at Siteman Cancer Center, the best place she could possibly be for treatment. She has started chemo. Our goal through the treatment is to buy as much time with her as possible.
My dad shared some wisdom with me the other day. He said something along the lines of, “Time is one thing God got right. It is the only thing that can heal us and get us through the worst experiences.” In a recent email to my sister and me, he explained, “It is when we fight together as a family that we prove our worth. With that as our barometer, we are going to beat this thing.”
No matter how much advice people have shared with me since this journey began, none of it rings as true as what my dad says.
Time and family: two things I used to take for granted. Never again.