So I wrote a short explanation in the ‘about’ section but I guess I need to start off by telling the story. It starts ten years ago. Not quite ten…but almost. Ten years ago I turned thirty years old and I was on top of the world. My life was far from perfect. I remember stupid things like crying over gaining 5 pounds and wanting a boyfriend here and there, but overall – my life was good. That year I started working on my PhD, at a school in England. These are basically two life dream/goals in one. I spent about a month living there at the beginning of the year and had one of the best times of my life – then I came home and turned 30. I remember telling a friend that in the following year I was going to make a decision to either leave everything/everyone and move to England to finish my degree in person OR I might decide instead to pursue foster care in order to adopt a child. Big plans…but I felt ready for anything. I was what I always wanted to be – a strong, independent woman. I loved that about me. In May I went to England for my second round of classes – after this I would on course to begin writing my dissertation. We were planning the wedding of two of my best friends at the time. There were so many happy things happening.
On my way home I had a crappy trip. Just one of those times when nothing goes as planned. My flight was delayed and I missed my connecting flight – meaning I had to spend the night alone in New Jersey and come home a day late. I got in the morning after I was supposed to and my parents picked me up but they were coming, I knew, straight from the doctors because my Mom had an appointment she could not change at the last minute. When we got home I had not even taken my shoes off when my Dad pulled me aside and told me – Mom has cancer.
I fell onto the bed. Not that word. Not my mom. Cancer was a bad word in our family. Cancer had killed my 10 year old cousin. Cancer had taken my aunt. I hated cancer. I thought it was the nastiest word I knew. Not my mom. I just looked at my dad as if he was somehow wrong. When Mom came into the room I noticed that she seemed out of it still. I realized she had just had a colonoscopy – that morning. And been told she had cancer. I had jet lag and was exhausted. We didn’t rest though. We immediately got in the car and went and picked up my brother. I told him about the cancer. Then we drove all the way to Birmingham AL where my sister lived then and my brother and I together told her. Then finally after we got home from that – then we slept. I don’t remember sleeping but I am sure we did.
The next ten years are like a blur. Everything about life changed. I knew I could not be going out of the country for months at a time, much less considering moving out of the country so I quit that program. I had just ended a lease with my roommates so I moved back in with my parents so I could help take care of my mom after what ended up being the first of many, many surgeries she would have. I have lived in many places since then. Sometimes with them, sometimes not. The cancer, you see, has played with us for ten years. It has come and the doctors have gone in and gotten rid of it – and we have done our best to get back to our normal lives – and then it has just come back. It is never new cancer. It is rarely in the same place. It just shows up again though. It is not done with us apparently. It always wants more.
There are many things I could tell you about the meantime. Meantime my own health has gone way down the tube – partially this was something that had already begun to happen before Mom had cancer and that would have happened anyway, but it was largely exacerbated by the stress of the cancer. I never did get my PhD but instead I did go back to school for my MLIS degree which I am extremely proud of and glad for. I love being a librarian. I have gained 50+ pounds in those ten years. Stress eating is a sport for me. I have given up on the idea of dating. I bought a house but am not sure now if I want to keep it or not. Instead of feeling on top of the world I often feel trampled on and forgotten.
And I am not the one with the cancer. That is the most amazing thing of all. I cannot even fathom what my Mother feels like or deals with in her head/heart. I have never claimed to be a particularly strong person but I am not a complete flake either. How someone else’s illness can destroy me so completely is insane to me. It is what makes me want to talk about it – makes me want to look at it closer. Makes me need to not keep it inside anymore.
So I write, not for my Mom. God knows I don’t even want her to know how much I hurt for her. But because I love her so much. Because I hurt so deeply for her and for the cause of losing her to this horrific thing. I write to try to make sense of it for myself because my sense will be all I will have left.