Finally I will introduce you to the most important member of my entourage, my mother. To paint a picture for you she has short brown hair which could be gorgeous if she styled it but she prefers to turn her head upside down in the morning and blow dry it straight. No flat iron, no curlers, once it’s dry it’s done. Beneath that brown hair is an adorable round face with soft features and blue eyes that always listen and always understand and are always sympathetic. My mother is also tiny. She tops out at five feet even. I have to bend down to hug her. How she managed to have a 5 foot 9 daughter with blonde hair, brown eyes, and extremely angular features no one knows (until they meet my dad of course who is 6 foot 4 and looks just like me). Of all the people who have helped me along the way my mother has been the most crucial. She is my Samwise the Brave. Never questioning a decision I have made regarding my care and supporting me through everything.
Don’t get me wrong when I was first diagnosed all of my friends were unbelievably supportive. They wrote cards, sent flowers and care packages, called me on the phone while I was in the hospital, and numerous other selfless acts for which I will always be grateful. But when I found out that my tumor had recurred four weeks after my first surgery and then recurred again six weeks after the subsequent surgery the sudden gush of support from my friends dried up to a slow trickle from people I now call my short term memory friends. Ones that would ask me “hey what are you up to this weekend, let’s go out and get schmammered” I would remind them that schmammered is a ridiculous word and that I couldn’t drink because of all my meds and I tire too easily these days to be a night owl. The response would be “oh yeah that tumor thingy, how’s that going?” and you just respond by saying “fine” because you can tell they don’t really care.
My mother’s support never waned. She took family medical leave from a job that she loves and told her boss to “figure it out” when she was informed that since I was over the age of 18 she did not qualify under FMLA. I was her daughter and I was sick, it did not matter how old I was, I was her daughter and I needed her. Madre out.
For months she sat patiently reading or doing crossword puzzles in waiting rooms for hours on end and never complained. In appointment after appointment she sat next to me with a notepad taking dictation of what my doctors were saying. She organized flights, hotel rooms, rental cars, and countless other logistical matters before I even had time to get online to compare prices. When I would come home to recover from surgery she would banish my dad to the upstairs guest room and sleep next to me in their king size bed waking with me in the middle of the night to change bloody bandages and give me more pain medication. Since I was on narcotics and couldn’t operate heavy machinery she would drive me around town to help me run errands. Most importantly, in the fall of 2012 when I found out about my third tumor, my personal relationship with Matt slowly deteriorated, and I became more and more socially isolated. My mother was the only person who understood what I needed. She sat calmly across from me in my apartment as I swung from anger at my failing health to despair at the unraveling relationship that one year before I had thought would lead to an engagement. She let me scream at my frustration in watching my bank account slowly deplete itself and the nest egg that I had saved up for a down payment on a house transform into a big fat goose egg as I paid for MRI’s, CT’s, surgeries, and doctor’s copays. I guess that comes from truly knowing someone. She knew I did not need anyone to give me answers or show me the bright side in all of this. I simply needed to make all my frustrations known. So she stood there, all five feet of her, a tiny sapling in the midst of a tornado (filled with hot air) and absorbed every negative thought that came bursting out of my mouth. She was the only one who could stand me when I was at my worst.
So many people would tell me to look on the bright side, at least it wasn’t cancer. My surly response to that comment was usually met with dropped jaws and horrified stares. I would tell these people that I almost wished that I had cancer. (almost, I realize that this is the ultimate fight. I am grateful and realize that my situation is a walk in the park compared to what others have been through. This statement is not meant to trivialize that struggle in any way.) But at the very least those patients received a definitive diagnosis and then a course of action. Surgery, chemo, fight like hell to survive. I was in no man’s land. The tumor I had could still kill me but no one knew what was causing it or why it kept coming back. There was no plan. I had no control. Remember I’m a Type A personality, control is kind of what we are all about.
It was the element of uncertainty that was driving me insane. Even worse, it was the element of uncertainty that was causing a deep tremor of fear to run through my soul. I’m no coward, if you hand me the dice I’ll roll them every time but it doesn’t mean that not knowing where they are going to land didn’t rattle my nerves and make my hands shake. It was my fear that made me angry. My mother in her infinite wisdom knew this. She knew me. Which is why the love I felt from her never faded, the support never waned, and the entire time she stood across from me in that apartment during all of my storms of rage she never said a word.
She’s the strong silent type.
I love you mom.