Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Friday, September 6, 2013

A new normal

With the news that Mom's lung cancer has also spread to her adrenal glands and is surrounding her pancreas comes a new-found devastation and obliteration of what little hope I have been clinging to for the last few weeks. Since the diagnosis, people have told me about their friend or relative who beat cancer. But not lung cancer. And not lung cancer that has already metastasized.
Mom has decorated her box of medications that she takes to her appointments.
When Wednesday's appointment was over and we hugged to part ways, Mom gave me a smile and thumbs up saying "Good news, right?" in reference to the fact that they will be starting her on a lower form of chemo at first, rather than one that would make her sicker than a dog right from the start. As you can probably already tell, she's a glass half-full kinda gal. And she's right: that part is good news, so why rob her of that? I smiled in agreement and as she left to have lunch with my Dad and brother, I told her we would pick her up in a few hours for dinner at Brittany's.

As soon as we parted ways, silent tears began to fall. On my way to the parking structure, I found myself alone in the elevator with grey-haired woman in her 70's. I realized that Mom may not make it to her age. I had the strange desire to cling to her and tell her what I had just found out. I pictured this stranger comforting me; telling me it would be okay, like everyone says. Another tear fell as the elevator door opened, and she walked out; unaware of the overly-dramatic imaginary scene that had just played out in my head.

When I got home Nathan found me looking at the statistics I had found online. I know...I'm so very sorry he said, instead of "She will be fine." Right then, it started to sink in. He held me, and I cried. A few hours went by.

I did not want to get out of bed, much less make myself presentable. I told Nathan that I wanted to ask Mom questions, but didn't know what the questions I would want to ask were. I felt a strong desire to document, and was telling him when we have a child, and they reach certain milestones I would want to ask her advice, or ask about me but now realize I wouldn't be able to. I reached out to my former professor's wife Lorraine for some questions. She worked in hospice for years, and helped my friend Stephanie and I start running grief groups from a Narrative perspective. She wrote:
Remember that her voice will always, always be there with you -- no matter what. If you don't get every last question in now, and there comes a time when she cannot or does not want to talk, you will still be able to access the answers. And you have many others who will help channel her voice for you, for your children and for the rest of your life.....So ask what you can now, maybe record it with audio or video so you don't have to worry about recalling everything, and then trust she will never leave you. Even when she is not here physically.
We went to Brittany's and of course she had everything prepared in such a lovely way. She was warm and welcoming and for the first time in awhile, I thought again of our wedding because she showed my Mom and I some sample paper for our program that she's working on. And then, after dinner, she presented us with the most thoughtful gift I have ever received: a Treasured Passages mother-daughter story book, which coincidentally seems to be from a Narrative perspective.. Of course it made me cry, but I held back somewhat for Mom's sake. It was exactly the thing I had been wishing for, but didn't realize I needed. It will be the perfect tool to use to do the work that Lorraine described and help spark the conversations to help me learn new details about her; new details to one day share with my children.

My emotions are so in-flux right now. I go from being sad, to angry, to thankful all within the span of an hour. Mostly, I just want to cry and be sad. But not Mom. She is the most positive, strong person that you will ever meet. Although I was crying inside, being at Brittany's and seeing Nathan play with her baby; watching Mom watch them interact and smile almost allowed us to have a normal evening. It's a new normal, but one that we need to enjoy nonetheless. Mom usually hates being videotaped, but she didn't say anything this time. I feel fortunate to have THIS video of the night, and plan to have more to save and enjoy for years to come.

When I dropped her off, she told me as we were standing alone, outside in the darkness by the mailboxes that she is comforted knowing that I am so well taken care of by Nathan. She brought up the fact that some children get cancer and they never have a fair shot at life; it's over before they know it. She still had a smile on her face. I hugged her and told her I would see her in the morning. And for now, I have that. I have today, and tomorrow and the next day. And as hard as everything is, it is something to be thankful for.

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