Its been a year.
On June 25th of 2010, my mom went to urgent care after work for a second visit complaining of back pain. Because she had not improved after a course of antibiotics for a questionable UTI, a CT scan was ordered to rule out kidney stones.
She didn’t have kidney stones.
I didn’t know she was going back in to be seen, and I missed her when she made the call to tell me that she has cancer. I was at a birthday party for a friend, who is ironically also a blood cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor.
Despite feeling subtly ill at ease all week, the party was fun. We sat under twinkling Christmas lights on my friend’s patio, drank beer and listened to music. I attributed feeling “not quite right” to a long week at work.
I listened to my mom’s voicemail, entreating me to call her, when I got home. I thought she sounded tired, and I remember admonishing her in my mind- she really should take better care of herself!
She called me again, shortly before 8AM the next morning. It was a hot, sunny morning, typical for June in Arizona. I was out running and paused in an olive grove to take her call. The sunlight was glimmering through the trees. A hot but gentle breeze rustled bright green leaves. A beautiful place.
Conveniently, a bench was located under a tree near the path. When I heard the tone in her voice, which was wavering, I sat down.
I really hate to be making this call. I don’t have kidney stones. I have cancer, she said.
Not renal cell! was the first thought that flashed through my mind.
They say its lymphoma or leukemia, she said.
I tried to discount it. How can they tell you that based off of a scan? They don’t know!
At this moment, when everyone wants so much to engage in denial, believe that its not true, my mother was taking care of me first. She was calm and matter-of-fact, being a parent when every cell of her being must have wanted to agree with me. No, she said. I have huge lymph nodes, up to 10 cm. They can tell.
Above all things, this woman is an amazing mom.
* * *
And here we are, one year later. Yesterday, my mom had a renal stent placed, and she is moving towards transplant. I had a horrible stomachache on and off all day. Maybe its my body memory, reliving kinesthetically the pain from one year ago. Or maybe I just had indigestion.
Its a long journey, and we’re not through yet. But I am grateful we made it this far. A whole host of medical professionals, advances in technology, family support, corporate funds, hugs from friends, strokes of luck and infinite blessings have brought us here. And there is so much to show for it: my mom is alive, and doing well.
Later this weekend, I’m going back to that olive grove, and will sit on the bench and send out my prayers for many more years to share with the best mom a girl could ever ask for, wrapped with gratitude for the year that has brought us to June 25th, 2011.