Photo cred: Matt Ramos 🙂
As many of you knew or maybe didn’t know my mom was getting her PET scan results from her last scan on Wednesday, 3.14. These appointments are always the most nerve-racking for both of us. She is flat out freaking out inside – which as her only daughter I can tell immediately – and then I go into distraction mode. Like what can I say to either make her laugh or not think about the conversation we will be having with her oncologist in the coming hours. Wednesday was no different. I picked her up and she wasn’t feeling good – probably because her nerves were shot – and we talked about the kids, my business, our upcoming vacation, and really just anything to keep her mind off of this stupid, horrible disease that has consumed her life for the last 5 years. We get to the appointment room and her oncologist comes in and tells us that she has 4 lymph nodes in her groin and stomach that are progressing – which means they are showing up on the PET scan as hot/active – and I can see all of the color drain out of her face. My heart instantly drops. He talks a little more about what that means and in the grand scheme of everything she has been through these little lymph nodes are tiny compared to where we were 5 years ago. The lymph nodes that are showing up active are only measured in centimeters which is very tiny, but all she sees and hears is that the scan is not clear. I ask a bunch of questions that I know she can’t even form in that moment. 1) Can we radiate them? 2) Can we do surgery to remove them? 3) Will she be getting her treatment today? 4) What are our next steps? She was leaving for a cruise to South America the next day – only she would schedule a treatment the day before she leaves for a huge trip! This is also the woman who went to Antartica 2 days after being released from the hospital in 2013. How do your tell a 65 year old mom that you don’t think she should go to Antartica because she is too sick? Well, you don’t! I VERY, VERY hesitantly let her go.
Let me rewind to the questions that I asked her oncologist – 1) Radiation is an option. 2) Surgery is an option. 3) Yes, she can have her treatment today. 4) The next steps are too wait – not the answer she wanted to here. Since the lymph nodes are very small – maybe too small for a surgeon to remove or radiation to work – we either need them to grow a little more or hopefully not grow if the treatment she is on continues to work. Since there has been no activity in her lungs or the original tumor we know that the treatment is working. He went through all of her options, but the underlying message was – we have to wait.
We walked out of the room and she said, “I knew something wasn’t right.” It is so very hard to be positive and happy with her when she gets not great news because I am her only daughter. I am sad. I am mad. I want her on this earth as long as physically possible. She is my mama, but when you are the caretaker for a family member you have to put your feelings aside and be there for them, whatever they need. No matter what that means. She needs me to be strong and funny. It is not easy, but something happens and you just go into survival mode and you do whatever you have to do to keep them sane, happy, smiling, anything. While we sat in the waiting room for her treatment, I tried to remind her where we were 5 years ago compared to where we are now. The diagnosis 5 years ago was grim – stage 4 anal cancer. Since she wouldn’t let her oncologist give her an details we/I didn’t know much except that the cancer had spread to her lungs. I can vividly remember bringing her to St. Peter’s after she hadn’t eaten or drank anything for days. She was getting settled in the bed and I had to answer the nurses questions because she had such terrible mouth sores that she couldn’t speak. The computer monitor had her name and then “stage 4 anal cancer”. I had not seen those words since she started treatment. My heart stopped, I was like in another world. I remember just looking at her and thinking how the f**k did we get here. I still ask that question on the daily, but even with my craziness she is the one who has had the strength to get where she is today. She never said, I’m done I can’t do this anymore, even though she had every right to do that more times than I can count. She always wants, “every last drip of her medicine”, when we go to get her treatments. She truly inspires me everyday to be the best me and pushes me do things that scare the crap out of me. I would not be me without her.
Well, long story short it was not the news we wanted to get. We have a road ahead – but we will get through that road together and become stronger for it. I would like to end with a little note to my mama – I love you more than you will ever know. I will never be able to say that enough to you. You are my hero and the strongest woman I know. I am who I am because of you. We got this and I got you! <3