"Your cancer is back, and it has metastasized", the doctor tells my mom. "We can no longer cure it, but we can treat it and try to slow its growth."
Is there a time frame?
"Up to six months without chemo, 12 to 18 months with chemo."
I take her for a pedicure and massage.
She tries chemo. And she's on oxygen 24/7.
Her stomach bloats and hurts, her neck and face swell, she can't taste food anymore. She doesn't want to eat. She doesn't want to leave her chair. She's too tired. She doesn't feel well. she doesn't feel right.
I take her to the hospital.
They treat her the best they can for a couple of days, then send her home. The oncologist says that she won't make it if she gets that sick again.
She decides that she doesn't want to live her life like this and, after one chemo treatment, decides to stop. We all support this decision. Quality over quantity.
And so we wait.
Her tumor markers go up, despite the one treatment. Her hair falls out, despite only one treatment.
We go shopping for hats.
"You should be tested for genetic cancer since there's a history of it in your family. Let's get you in to see a counselor," her oncologist suggests. We visit the counselor. We fill in charts of family history and she gives the doctors her saliva, her blood, to be tested.
The results are taking so long to get here.
Her arms and hands and legs swell. She gets cellulitis. They find blood clots in her arm. She is coughing a lot more and sometimes struggles to breathe. She hates wearing the oxygen tubes and carting it everywhere, so she stops using it.
And through all of this, I am able to push back emotion. Every time. There will be a time to cry, I tell myself. But it's not now.
After breakfast this morning I was clearing the table and before I knew what was happening I was juggling cereal bowls, trying not to drop them. I didn't even see it coming. There was some leftover milk in my son's bowl which splattered all over the carpet. Not just in one nice, puddled spot, but in a huge arc of white as I fumbled with the bowl, trying to keep it all inside.
Look at this mess, I thought. And then the tears came.
And I thought it somewhat odd that I found myself weeping over the one thing that we're told not to cry over.