Travel Often

“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” — Rosalia de Castro

Love Deeply, but Laugh Along the Way

"Happiness is only real when shared." - Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

View Marriage as an Adventure

"Love is a flower which turns into fruit at marriage." ~Finnish Proverb

Fuel your body with GOOD (It's the only one you get)

He who has health has hope; and he who has hope has everything. - Arabian Proverb

Open your Soul to Motherhood

A Grand Adventure is About to Begin - Winnie the Pooh

A New Kind of Love is Born

Mothers hold their children's hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

When Your Mom Gets Diagnosed with Cancer

Waiting for results on your mom’s 2 cm tumor in her left breast ranks right up there with child birth.

But let’s start from the beginning. Mornings in our house. Whoa. I’m usually late to work even with getting up at 5 a.m.  Nathan always seems to poop on our way out the door and Jackson gets so darn mad at his coat when it doesn’t click and zip. It’s a full on shuffle-hustle to get out of the house.

Last Thursday, I made it to work without spilling coffee or getting any stains on my shirt. Success! I threw my bags on the floor next to my desk. My work phone blinked letting me know I had a message. 

I logged in to my computer, brought up Google, checked email, sipped coffee, started writing out my to-do list and texted Karl things that kept popping up in my head. In one text I might have accused him of slipping sugar in my coffee. It tasted sweeter. Was he trying some kind of experiment on me? I clicked to listen to my voice message. Oh, wait, it was Karl! But why was he leaving me a message at work? As I waited for his voice, I kept busy catching up on emails. Maybe he thought of something to get Jackson for Christmas. “Hey babe. It’s me. I know I just saw you but I want you to know I love you.” I froze. “I also want you to know how much you mean to me and the boys. I don’t think you realize how strong you really are…” He went on.

A lump grew in my throat. I swallowed. Tears pooled in my eyes. His words were the hug I so desperately needed right then and there. 

As I listened to the message for the tenth time, a text from my dad flashed on my cell. “Mom just went in.”

I played it off cool. “K! Thank you.” But I was not feeling cool at all. 

Everything was going to be fine. I pushed doubt away. She’s my mom. She is strong. She will always be here. This is what I FORCED myself to think the past several days leading up to her appointment when any bad thought tried to leak in. I literally had to stop myself from thinking any bad thought multiple times in an hour, sometimes a minute. It took work. A lot of work and prayer. I realized I've been programmed to think the worst. But the second I went down that scary, dark path, I knew I was in trouble. Big trouble.

Shoot. I never asked how long this could take. Most people ask that question. Why didn’t I? She’s my mom for goodness sake. Part of me was thankful I was at work and not with the boys because I would’ve taken my nerves out on them. I know me. I know how I am under pressure. I needed serious laser focus. I busied myself learning the difference between a valve, slider and gripper. I never loved pneumatic components more.

An hour passed. Nothing. I continued to bite my nails.

My mom is chatty, I thought. Knowing her she probably was asking the surgeon a ton of questions and started to ask the nurse about her kids and distracted them. Maybe they hadn’t even started. She did say the surgeon busted up laughing at her during her consultation.

Another 15 minutes. I started to get jumpy. Seriously what was taking so long? I sent my dad a text. “How long did they say it would take?”

Nothing. The nail beds on my left hand started to bleed. I really need to stop biting.

Great. What if they called my dad in and there’s cancer all over her body? What if my dad had a heart attack right on the floor and they are wheeling him to the nearest operating room? What if my mom is throwing up all over the floor? She never seems to handle drugs very well. What if it is cancer? What happens then? My chest tightened. Panic settled in. I was at work. I had to remain calm. What could I do??

“Hello, God? Do you hear me? This can’t be cancer. It can’t. I know I need to trust you but why is this happening? Help me understand. This is not it.”

I've been listening to a book on audible called "The Circle Maker" on my way to and from work.  I'm so grateful that I have been making time for Personal Development in my life. This book couldn't have come at a better time. The author of the book suggests praying circles around your biggest dreams and fears. The author mentions God's grammar and says, "Never put a comma where God puts a period. And never put a period where God puts a comma." Sometimes we feel a period in our prayers. We think it's the end and all we hear is God's silence. But really there's just a comma - there's a break or pause and we must continue to pray through the "conjunction". So even when God feels a million miles away and things don't quite make sense, you put a comma right there in your prayer and keep on praying. "Hard times are the best teachers of hard prayer." 

I checked my phone a million times. What was going on? I should be there. Instead I’m 5 hours away. Is this how it’s supposed to be? What if the whole reason I moved up here is so…so…I can handle the outcome of this better? If I never moved away, things would be different. Oh, God. What if I’m living up here because…. No. STOP. I can’t think this way. I needed to be strong. For my mom. I knew she was trying her best to remain positive but her texts the night before scared me. I can imagine she was in bed thinking the worst.

My phone lit up. My heart jumped to my throat. A TEXT FROM MY MOM!!! “I’m out of surgery! Already got the results so call me when you have a chance. Not that bad.” 

So typical of my mom to send an upbeat text after surgery. I physically felt the relief in her words. The fact that SHE texted ME  already made me feel better. I sprinted to my old “pumping” station down the hall and shut the door. I didn’t even turn on the lights.

“Mom! You already have the results?” I’m not even sure what else I said. I do remember feeling like I was tripping over my words because I was thinking faster than I could talk.

“They got everything! They did it right then and there which is amazing! He sterilized the room and put the tent up around me and gave me the stuff they give you when you get a root canal. He cut under my breast and got the tumor out and had a guy waiting outside the door and sent it right to pathology.” She paused. It was like her voice dropped ten levels. And I knew what was coming next. “I do have breast cancer though. Shoot.”

“Sh*t. Sh*t. Sh*t.” I know you’re not supposed to swear around your mom but it’s what came out naturally, which is weird because we never swear around my mom. All of a sudden I felt like I was in a worm hole and I was 10 again waiting in line for the Batman roller coaster at Six Flags Great America - my mom next to me just as excited as us kids to try the ride out. This specific roller coaster charges over all the heads waiting in line, whipping hair with its rush of wind and leaving behind a noise that travels through your entire body like a cannon, right to your core. 

My phone kept cutting in and out as she talked. I felt like I was removed from the conversation. What does this mean? I only have a little more time with her?  She’s going to lose her hair? She’ll be sick in bed? I tried to gather bits and pieces and raced to my work phone to call my mom back. “I’m back. Repeat everything.”

“Wow. You sound so much clearer. You always sound so muffled on your cell phone. Like you’re in a tin can.”

My shoulders relaxed. She really is OK.

“The doctor is hopeful. Pathology says it’s Stage 1. Because of my age and I’m post-menopausal, my chances are good. If it were you or Amy, it’d be a different story. They are sending my labs up to Mayo to figure out the grade and next step. Even if it’s a fast growing tumor, the surgeon feels like he got everything. And he said it was in a great spot. I will know more on Thursday.”

I don’t know why but a wave of calm rushed over me. Was it because the doctors prepared us earlier that week for what it could be and slowly but surely we all started to go down that dark path and were expecting worse, and this news seemed to be a little better? She had several doctors look at her scans and saw the “shadow” and mentioned it “looks like cancer”. I really think it’s because I heard the relief and hope in my mom’s voice. She seemed OK, so I was going to be too.  

I feel like in today’s world, it’s more common to get called back after a mammogram if something doesn’t look right. My mother-in-law just had to go back for a second look. Her mom had the same thing. My good friend had a biopsy. Everything turned out great. "Stop worrying. It's going to be fine," they said. But there was just something different with my mom's. I think my mom felt it too. Maybe because my grandma, two months earlier, also heard that she has breast cancer. With absolutely no history at all in our family, this throws all my theories out the window. The doctor said stress seems to be playing a key role when it comes to cancer diagnoses. Could it be that?

But with everything in life, there aren’t answers to everything. It's probably better this way as hard as it is to accept. What I do know is my mom is healthy. She eats a lot of organic foods and rarely eats sugar. She has never been a big drinker and she works out regularly. Her faith is strong. And there are a lot of people praying.

My mom also hadn’t gone in for a mammogram in three years. She was just following the 2-3 years rule until her next one and then time slipped by between traveling to see grandkids, taking care of your own mom several states away and losing both in-laws in 7 months. 

My mom was the one who caught it. She experienced pain in her breast and felt the lump. She even noticed an indent. It started to bother her so much, she finally went in. Thank GOD she went in.

So what’s next? Prayer. Lots of prayer and patience and waiting to find out those next steps. Please pray with us. Thursday seems so close, and so far away at the same time. 

In the meantime, I picked up the phone and made an appointment. I go in January 29. For now I will get to know my breasts. So I have to ask you...when is your next breast exam?