PART ONE: KERRIE
"They think Mom might have colon cancer."
Shit! Why did I decide to call my sister back on the drive home? If ever there was a swerving off to the side of the road moment, this was it. Amazingly (for me, I guess), I kept my cool. Maybe I was too tired from the busy day, I don't know. "Well, wait. What do you mean, might?"
"I mean, they aren't sure, because they haven't done any testing yet. But they think that might be why she's been complaining about stomach pains for a year now. At least, that's what the doctor said today."
Oh. Well, there's a whole boatload of difference between "might" and "has." Corb's family helped me to figure this one out. Her cousin Shelley went through treatment for breast cancer (for a second time) this past year and has kept a good attitude all the way through. His grandmother was on death's door for years and pulled through more times than I can count. His mom's boyfriend Jim was diagnosed with Hodgkin's, and that one is fairly serious. What I've learned through all that is:
"Then we just have to wait and see," I replied. "We can't freak out yet. We need to find out what exactly she has and how bad it is. And stay positive. She needs us to stay positive more than anything!"
"Teddy, I need to hear that," she said. "Laurie is kind of freaking out about this. She gets a little dramatic about these things. I think you need to call mom and dad and say exactly that."
Funny. Thinking that I'm NOT the dramatic one.
Well, I did call my parents, but what I said was essentially the same attitude my dad had about things, which is what I figured. "We have to wait and see," he said. "They drew blood...again...and took a sample. She has a colonoscopy scheduled for the end of the month. We will know more after they look at that."
A few days later, Kerrie sent me a text: "Mom's blood work looks good. That's the first relieving news. Not out of the woods yet, but still good!"
I thanked the gods above.Good news, indeed.
PART TWO: FAMILY
Saturday was the party at my house, with everyone but Tommy. There's a photo of mom and dad and the three of us, shown above. (You can even see our lovely Elvis painting in the corner, if you look hard enough.)
It was a great day. Mom looked good and we had a ball, playing board games and eating pizza.
We didn't say a word about what she was going through. We didn't have a single conversation about anything serious, even though I am sure it was on all of our minds. But not a word, even though Laurie and I had gone over and over how important it was to talk things through a few days before that, mouthing platitudes and overstating all the right words.
Typical us, I suppose. But maybe it wasn't the right place to do so. Besides, the kids were there.
Instead, we focused on having a good time. And I have to admit, Laurie was lovely. It was almost a side of her I haven't seen in years. She was laughing and making dirty jokes (just as dirty as the ones I like), and at one point, she made a joke with Kerrie that made her laugh so hard she was crying. I found myself having trouble laughing along and that's when it dawned on me: You're the one who has to loosen the hell up, Teddy.
At one point, Mom started talking about ghosts in the family house. We were talking about the Amityvile Horror and mom started talking about one time that a door slammed shut in our garage without warning. I couldn't help it, I had to tape a little bit of her conversation.
Kerrie, who was sitting next to me, turned and looked at me, as I was taping. I shrugged, sheepishly. "I know."
PART THREE: MOM
Tuesday afternoon, Laurie sent me a text message. I didn't get it until six that night. My phone had died at work.
Before I could respond, Kerrie called me. "She does have has cancer, Teddy."
What? What about the blood work? What about..
I immediately called dad. "What's going on?"
Dad sounded strong and upbeat. Despite the news. Typical. "The sample they took shows she has cancer, Ted. The good news is, since her blood work was positive, it means it hasn't entered her blood stream, and so they think it's probably Stage 1 or 2. They'll know more once they do the colonoscopy this month. But if it is what they think, she won't need surgery, and their recommended treatment course is radiation and chemo.
"It's going to be a really sucky three months," Dad continued. "But she is going to get through it and I am going to be here to take care of her through the whole thing. The hospital she will be going to is only ten minutes away and they are affiiated with Dana Farber. And, our doctor is one of the best."
"That's good news," I said. Well, ish.
"And what I am telling all of you kids is we DO NOT want you to stop what you're doing and we WANT you to live your lives. The only thing we ask is if we need you, please be there. That's all."
"Dad, you know we will. We love you guys."
"We love you, too. And Mom is going to get through this."
Honestly? I think so too. I feel it in my gut. Even though we've gone from "might" to "has" in under a week, I know Mom has the might and the strength to get through this. And she'll have her whole family by her side. These next four months may be horrible, but at least we know what she's facing now, which is a relief.
Don't think it hasn't crossed my mind that there's ben so much talk of cancer in the news these days, what with David Bowie and Alan Rickman. And Jim. Not to mention, Corb's mom had a smaller cancer scare while all this has been taking place. What's going on?
Never mind that. Now is the time to take care of this. Now is the time to get past this...together. I'm going to think positive and be there for my mom every step of the way.