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Friday, October 20, 2006

What a difference a week makes.


Skeletons in the shower.

I started last Friday with my mom in the hospital. She had safely undergone a colon resection on Wednesday, but was in a great deal of pain. She and the rest of our family were struggling with not so great news from the surgeon. While performing the surgery, the doctor removed some lymph nodes that had shown up on a scan as "suspicious." After surgery, the doctor, who came highly recommended and had 20 years experience with cancer patients, gave us an initial prognosis that these lymph nodes appeared to be lymphoma. We were left once again waiting for pathology reports and test results. What must it be like to work in a lab all day examining tissues and biopsies and knowing people's lives and hopes and dreams were hanging on your report? Lymphoma would either mean intensive chemo or a lifetime of management and monitoring depending on the type of cancer it turned out to be.

Then Friday the word came back. There was no cancer! Ones and zeros. Plusses and minuses. Positives and negatives. Live or die. In this case a negative result was the ultimate positive. We needed that. We don't know what they were exactly, but the lymph nodes weren't cancer. There you go. I didn't know whether to strangle the surgeon or embrace him.

The weekend to come was hard for my mom. Sleepless nights due to pain. A difficulty getting medicine regulated. I spent significant time both Saturday and Sunday sitting at her bedside relieving my dad so he could go home and get rest. This meant stepping into a role where I found myself doing the most basic things for the woman who brought me into the world and raised me. She was by no means helpless, but she was dependent. I know this is most likely a foreshadowing of days to come. She's only 65, which seems younger with each passing year. But with each turn of the calendar page I get further from being a child. Okay. That's obvious.

Life's progression was moving toward a new stage. We're born. We're cared for. We struggle for independence. We join with another. We have kids that are totally dependent on us. You find yourself responsible for another person's life and safety. But then it's different when your parents start to become the dependent ones. And I guess life is even more changed when they move on and our kids move off and we find ourselves at the top of the list waiting to graduate on to the hereafter. We don't do rites of passage in this country, at least not formal ones. So it seems you wake up one morning and your role has changed. Your the grown-up, whether or not you feel like it.

It's a week later. My mom is home trying to get back to full strength and back to her routines. We don't have the big bad c-word to deal with right now, but I probably have quite a few colonoscopies to look forward to in the future now that there's a genetic predisposition. Winter is coming and my son once again has an ear infection. (Don't believe all the hype about ear tubes.) My daughter is convinced there are skeletons or aliens waiting behind the bathroom shower curtains. (Curse you Buster Bunny! Why did you have to visit Roswell, New Mexico?) I remember being afraid to be in rooms by myself when I was around her age. For me it was aliens or vampires. Didn't worry about skeletons. Despite these memories, I find myself impatient with her neediness. My wife seems depressed and moody quite often lately. From my perspective, she went through something similar when our daughter was about this age and she started the weaning process. Work is demanding and calls for more of my time. Our dogs bark to be walked. There is always something to be done around the house. The car breaks down.

I wish I had something profound to say. I don't. This close call with cancer in the family is minor compared to what so many face daily. I have incredible blessings in my life to be thankful for. My difficulties or hardships are relatively minor, but they are mine. I cut the grass and change the oil and unlcog the drain and kill the roaches and wipe the noses and check on the insurance. And if there ever does turn out to be a boogy man in the shower, I guess he's mine to deal with too.