I’m on the phone. Maya is here. It’s my sister. She says a simple phrase and with it everything changes. All at once. “We have to go to Arizona”. I know what this means and before I’ve hung up the phone I have a ticket to board a plane. In two hours.
I’m in the airport. Maya dropped me off and I rushed through the airport. I arrive before boarding has begun.
I’m sitting on the plane. The man next to me buys me my drink because I’m rummaging for my wallet for too long. His name is Sy. He read over my shoulder the words that my mother was sick. Cancer. He doesn’t burry his face in his book. He doesn’t pretend to sleep. He talks to me. He makes my flight and what’s coming bearable. I’m more grateful than he knows. He talks to me and makes me laugh and shares about himself as I share about what’s going on with me.
I’m standing at the gate. Waiting for my sister to step off of her flight. She came an hour behind me. We see each other. She introduces me to the man who was sitting next to her. He talked to her and made her flight bearable. God has been orchestrating everything and making sure that we’re taken care of as we move forward in this new direction.
We’re at the hospital. She’s in pain. She’s terrified. Her eyes are crazed and filled with tears. She can’t believe how quickly we came. Knowing we were on our way kept her from completely breaking down. We stay up most of the night. She can’t sleep. Between the pain and the fear of what was happening none of us can. I tell stories of my children, Diana tells stories of hers. My mother tells us things she had been bottling up her whole life. Stories of her childhood. Stories that no child should have to live through. But that is a testament to her will and her strength. She is a force to be reckoned with.
We’re sitting in the lobby of the hospital. We’re waiting for the results of her MRI. She was on that table for over 4 hours before she had to take a break. This will give us some answers. Answers I’m not sure we want to hear.
We’re back in her room. We’re talking to the doctor. It’s a bit better than he thought. The cancer hasn’t yet reached the spinal cord but it has destroyed and eaten away a section of her spine. It is up and down her spine in small pockets. It is in her lymph nodes. It is inoperable. The will start radiation immediately in hopes of killing the cells surrounding the spinal cord to prevent paralysis. They will do a biopsy to see what type of cancer it is.
We’re in the basement of the hospital. The room where they’ll give her radiation treatments. She’s had the points of the beams marking the location of the radiation tattooed to her body. The table is raised. The machine is turned on. I leave the room with the doctors while the treatment is happening. I come back in the room and shout to her that I’m there. She can’t move so she can’t see me but she can hear me.
I’m sitting at a table in the cafeteria garden with Diana. We look at each other. We are in disbelief yet at the same time not. There have been too many years of being sick. Too many years of discomfort. But it doesn’t make the moment any easier. We talk about what we have to do. Who we need to call. We’ve been here before and it’s oddly familiar and uncomfortable. The memories of my father’s death come flooding back. The reality of what we’re about to face is not pretty.
I’m kissing her goodbye. Telling her I’ll be back soon. It’s so hard to leave but I have to go home to my family. I’ll be coming back to take care of her. To move her to California. She can’t stay in Arizona alone. There are many decisions to be made. Baby steps I keep saying. There are still questions that we need answered.
It’s Thanksgiving. I’m home. I’m with my boys. Tanya and Garrett are kind and have us to dinner. I want to be in two places at once. It’s hard to not be there. Holding her hand. Spending time by her side so she isn’t so afraid. I’m tired. I still haven’t had time to be with Matt. To talk about what is coming. About the decisions we need to make. I haven’t cried. Really cried. Yet.
The prayers from friends and family have been unbelievable. There is so much love around me, around us. I thank God for each and every person in our lives. For the care and the help and the prayers that they’ve offered. We came home yesterday to a grocery bag filled with Thanksgiving dinner from Maya and Shaun. They have no idea how much that meant.
I am filled with love and hope. I hope that even though the road ahead looks bumpy and ugly, what lies at the end is something beautiful. She knows that God is waiting for her. My father has taken this journey and paved the way. It can’t all be for nothing. This life, everything we go through. I saw a glimmer of interest in her eyes when she was talking about death and what may come next. Past her fear she has interest to see what is on the other side of consciousness.
Tomorrow is another day. The day we know what type of cancer this is. I wish I could be there to hold her hand when they read the results of the biopsy. Is it the breast cancer she had 21 years ago that has returned? Is this a new beast that we can or can’t fight. I will be with her on the phone. Diana will be there to hold her hand. That gives me comfort.