We are not the same people we were a year ago today. In some ways better and broken in others. Living in fear and living with a deep appreciation. This is going to be a long one. This is the story of June 24, 2016.
It was a Friday and I was in the cell culture room and I looked down at my phone to see a text from my mom saying her gastroenterologist was sending her to the ER for a CT scan. She had been experiencing abdominal pain for some time. She assumed it was Celiac Disease or IBS related. On Father’s Day she came to the decision to make an appointment with her gastro because the pain was so intense and she wanted to make sure nothing serious was going on.
My dad came home early that day which was rare and a gift. He decided to take her to her appointment and then was there to drive her to the ER. Her gastro believed she was either impacted or had fibroids and may require surgery. I’m not going to lie I felt smug. As I read the text I thought see I told you to go to the doctor weeks ago and you wouldn’t need surgery. Never have I been more wrong.
My sister was watching Julian and I came home early that day so she could see my mom before she headed to volleyball that night. I would head there after my husband got home from work. She visited mom and told her she would be back to visit after her game. Mom told her not to be silly and that she didn’t need to come back. She had yet to receive her CT scan results but assumed it wasn’t something incredibly serious.
My husband told me I could drop off Julian at his work and head to the hospital to see mom. My response was that I could wait because it probably wasn’t serious. And then it happened, as I was sitting on Julian’s bed recording him “sing/play” Hey Jude on his piano…a text came in from my dad “what time are you coming to the hospital?” Panic ensued as I texted him back. I called my brother instantly. He also received a text “mom wants you to come visit”. My stomach dropped. Less than 30 minutes ago she had just told my sister it was silly for her to visit and now they want us there. I called my husband and packed a book bag for Julian and picked up my brother on the way.
After we dropped off Julian I told my brother I had a feeling that this was one of those moments that would change our lives forever. We got into the hospital and hunted down the wing she was in. It’s like we were moving in slow motion. They had admitted her as a surgical patient but as we were walking I kept seeing signs with the word cancer. The buildings were just connected but seeing the word as we walked made my stomach drop. And every time we passed another sign that said cancer I felt more ill.
We got in the elevator and got to her room. She was the second patient so when we walked in I could only see my dad pacing near the window. I can’t even imagine as a parent what it must have been like for them waiting for us to get there. When we reached mom she asked us to sit down. She uttered the words “It’s ovarian” and I burst into tears and remember saying “no mommy no” repeatedly. I don’t recall a time ever calling her mommy but I guess in that moment I went from 29 to a terrified child.
At this point it was just the four of us there. We were missing one last piece to the puzzle. If I could’ve spared Lex the pain we were enduring I would have. If I could have texted her and said stop don’t come in here and just enjoy being happy for another second…I would have but I couldn’t. So we just talked in a fog and waited for her to arrive.
After sitting there for a bit they had to check mom’s vitals or something. Lex and I took this opportunity to go outside to call our husbands. We unknowingly took the service elevator and were trapped because we didn’t work there. Luckily an employee got on and swiped their badge so we could get off the elevator. I was kind of glad this happened because it gave us a funny story to tell when we got back to mom.
We each called our husbands, we each called a childhood friend that have been like sisters to us for over 20 years and I texted my group of close girlfriends. When we tried to get back in they wouldn’t let us because we didn’t have our IDs and it was after hours. Our IDs were in mom’s room. Eventually they let us through. Another funny story we could tell mom. We were 2 for 2.
After being there for a bit mom was starting to get tired so we left. At this point all we knew was that she had what they suspected was ovarian cancer and it was NOT good. I got home and I held my breath when I walked into the house. I could barely speak. I knew if I did I would start crying and I didn’t know if I could stop and I didn’t want to scare Julian. I went into the bathroom and turned on the shower and sat on the floor and balled my eyes out.
So that’s where we were at and it is much different than where we are at today. Mom has endured a biopsy and chemo and genetic testing and surgery and more chemo and WBC shots and blood transfusions. We have enjoyed an entire year of holidays that a year ago we didn’t think would come. I personally have undergone my own personal growth. I have started yoga and therapy and anti-anxiety medication. I have begun to approach life in a completely different way with a deeper appreciation for every day.
I don’t know what the next year will bring but I know I am strong and I know my family is strong.