It was hard to hear my dad report back everything the doctors had told them about my mom's colon cancer as I sat in their home. Hard for many reasons, but partially, it's hard because apparently, I had expectations. My mind kept rethinking, "This is that moment where my mom tells me she has cancer." I didn't realize I had an idea of what a moment like that would entail, but I did.
The most encouraging phrase she and my dad offered was that the oncologist had told them, "It will be a rough year." There were no final sentences or timeframes, just "a rough year."
For the most part, my mom's month of chemo and radiation treatment has been very calm. Her body handled it pretty well until the last week. With burns on her hands and feet and feeling too weak to walk, my mom heroically pushed through the last few rounds of treatments.
The side effects of chemo are subsiding, and now, she will have her tumor removed surgically in the next little while. We think things will be fine, but we appreciate prayers sent our way nonetheless. She has shown a new courage and fortitude since this all began. She surprises me every day with her ability to take it all.
I wonder if people realize they have such strong ideas about cancer before it taps them on the shoulder. We interact with it so frequently in forms of billboards and fundraisers, but those don't mean as much until you realize you've somehow joined the cancer club.
Pardon my lightness. It's just comforting to think sometimes that cancer isn't something you can entirely avoid. EVERYONE should be screened, of course: colonoscopies, mammograms, whatever it takes to be on the defensive, do it.
But outside of those things, and maybe smoking, cancer isn't exactly something you get because you were too unhealthy. Modern medicine may reveal otherwise eventually, but for now, it's simply: my mom has colon cancer and we fight it. There aren't any what-ifs.
So far, the fight is going well. When she completed her radiation treatment, the doctors gave her a certificate of completion and a bottle of sparkling cider to celebrate.
She says that aside from her own birth and giving birth to my brother and me, it's the only certificate she's ever earned. I, for one, though, am very proud of her involvement in each one.