Some weeks ago, my mother had a bad fall down some stairs. In the aftermath of that, it was discovered that she has breast cancer. There are masses in her breast as well as in her lymph nodes. She's still being tested to find out any other places it might be. Next week she gets an infusion port installed and thereafter will begin both chemo and radiation therapies to shrink the masses. In a few months, it's likely that she will have surgery to remove what is left.
As this unfolds, I can really only say what I'm experiencing, and for that, the title of this post is apt. I live 2200 miles away from my mom. My dad is still able to care for her, plus 2 sisters live very nearby, and three other siblings within hours. Right now, a sister-in-law is living with her until my brother's military orders get sorted out, and she has taken on the running of the household. I'm not particularly needed at this moment, nor has my life changed in any practical ways.
As I catalog what I've thought about and felt in the week or so since I found out, it's still pretty abstract and general. Mostly I was and am sad that my mom has to go through this. She's had so many health problems. At this point, I just want Mom to be comfortable, feel listened to, empowered, and respected. I wish she could have some peace from doctors and medicines and IV's and infusions. But of course, I'm grateful for all the knowledge and treatments that have extended her life and preserved her abilities.
My recent foray into meditation and mindfulness has been incredibly helpful in these last few days. I really have been able to better be in the moment. I haven't thought much about things that haven't happened yet, nor have I let my thoughts turn toward fears of things I can neither predict nor control. I do understand that it's early days, though, and hope I can continue, for her sake, to remain present.
My mom is not prone to drama. She's been fighting disease for 40 years (rheumatoid arthritis), and has been using chemo-caliber drugs such as Methotrexate for nearly that long, so frankly this all has, in her words, a sense of the routine. In this moment, she is fine. She is well-cared for and surrounded by people who love her. She has a treatment plan. Her sense of humor is intact and her own personal plan is to collect funny, uplifting t-shirts to wear to appointments. She already has a Spamalot "I'm Not Dead Yet" shirt that she wears with relish. If she loses her hair, she is seriously considering borrowing the bright pink pageboy wig from my brother's photobooth props. She also mentioned an old-school Hollywood-style turban. I can totally picture that. This is a 71-year old woman with Bon Jovi's "It's My Life" as her ringtone. She will rock that pink wig and everything else. She is determined not to give in to despair. She already knows what it's like to have drugs and disease render her too tired to function and too grumpy to care. As we talked last night, we talked about other things besides the cancer. She's enjoying having 3 of her young grandkids living with her. She's concerned about the poisonous frogs in the backyard that come out during monsoon time (yay, Arizona!) that the dog won't leave alone.
In the end, for me, the hardest part is being away so that I can't always see her face or her body language or that of my other family members. I don't like not being able to try and alleviate stress and help bear burdens for her or those who are driving, waiting, and collecting then disseminating information. I'm not sure how long I'll be able to stand that part before I need to get inside the circle and be there. Now isn't the time, plus I have things in my own family to help with in the coming weeks, but I'll probably go out at some point.
Right now, we wait and choose hope and make the days good. That's what we should always do, but there is nothing like that capital C to provide some focus.