WHEN CANCER CALLS – BREATHE IN. BREATHE OUT.
I wake up to a gray, dreary morning the day after Valentine’s Day. My 7 year old son rolling around in bed next me announcing what time it is and insisting I get up. I don’t want to. There’s an underlying force in me that just wants to stay put in the warm cocoon of my bedroom; the safe reassuring weight of my heavy down comforter. Five more minutes buddy.
It’s been 3 days since my mom’s biopsy. Beneath that underlying force that keeps me curled under the covers is the looming thought, “Is today the day? Is today the day I find out my mom has breast cancer?” My mind drifts to the blog post I wrote a little over a month ago. The blog post I wrote about being ashamed for wishing my mom had cancer. That’s some shame that’s been hard to shake.
It’s time to get up. I tell Miles I need the power of a hug to help me get out of bed. Hugging always works. He climbs on top of me with a silly smile and wraps his arms around me. I’m up. The usual routine ensues. Routine is good, but this morning I find it to be tedious and overwhelming. I remember reading in Glennon Doyle Melton’s book, Love Warrior, about how she didn’t know what to do as a sober person so she would just think to herself, what would a sober woman do in the morning? What does a daughter do as she waits for the phone call? Make the bed. Take a shower. Brush your teeth. Eat breakfast. I do these things and it helps. It is forward motion. I get Miles on the bus. I pack up my yoga mat, extra change of clothes, water, and snacks. I am dressed and ready to go to the studio. I want to take class at 9:30 am before I have to teach the noon class.
I never take class at 9:30 am. It’s 8:50 am and my cell phone is ringing. And it begins all over again. One minute I’m just me and then the next minute I become that person again. That person, that daughter, receiving bad news who has to turn around and deliver the bad news to her parents. Another defining moment; a tick mark on the timeline of life. The NP pleasantly asks if I have a few minutes. And I know. She doesn’t even have to tell me. I just know. Today is the day I find out my mom has breast cancer.
The familiar feelings of being that person come right back. Those feelings that were there when my brother had his accident; those feelings that were there when he died; and now this. It’s like riding a bike, except for the small, simple fact that I am not enjoying it at all. Sitting on my bedroom floor I take in the results of my mom’s biopsy. I jot phrases down as she feeds me the spoonfuls of information that I want to push back out of my mouth, much like a baby being force fed strained peas. Phrases like “majority of the sample is DCIS. Tiny 1 mm area micro invasive. Grade 2”. Then she asks if my parents have discussed with me what they might want to do if the results were abnormal. Ha! Yeah right. My 76 year old mother with dementia and my 84 year old father who refers to his bottle of Tanqueray as medication? No we have not discussed it.
I am trembling. I am literally frozen to the bone. I get off the phone and crumble, my head in my hands as Ty wraps his arms around me. Our 5 year old son who is due at preschool, like now, is curiously and quietly hanging near by. He has seen Mommy cry before. Usually because Mommy is “missing Uncle Willy.” He creeps over to me and plants a kiss on my cheek and asks who is taking him to school.
I sit on the floor, breathing in, breathing out. Trying to not think too much. I call my bestie who I know most likely won’t be able to answer. I think about how she is probably in the OR fixing someone’s face or in the middle of rounds. I text her the info. I reply to a text I received from a good friend the night before. How did it go with your mom? I reply, “They just called with the results…it’s cancer. F me.” I text my 2 college roommates, one of whom actually had breast cancer the year after we graduated. She calls. I don’t say much except for what the fuck and I don’t want to deal with this. I text two other close friends . One replies, “Shit” and then she immediately calls me. My best friend calls back. She’s in clinic and calls between seeing patients. She is my person. When I become that person, that receiver & giver of bad news, she is my person. When I am me, she is my person. She is always my person. Thirty years of friendship; she offers the comforting words and equal silence I need in that moment.
I have to go teach class soon. All I can think about is how I’m going to stand and teach for 90 minutes knowing I have to go deliver this news to my parents after I’m done. What the fuck? I try to sort through the sadness and anger in my head. I have an hour to kill before class. I think to myself, What am I supposed to do for the next hour? I open my laptop. Steady my hands and I begin typing. I write.
It’s all I know what to do.
I breathe in.
I breathe out.