As of late I've started to memorize her face. Her eyes, baring no lashes after a rigorous chemo regimen, truly sparkle upon seeing her grandchildren. I don't let my eyes travel to her neck if I can help it because there on her collarbone, resides a lump that gets bigger each week. This particular growing thing and all of the growing things in her body send me into a shear panic when I see or think of them. These bastards of uninvited cells that have decided my mother's body was the perfect place to procreate have caused me more pain than I thought was humanly possible.
For weeks I was the only person on this planet that knew she had lung cancer. After what seemed like her hundredth bout of what the doctors were assuming was bronchitis, sometimes pneumonia, a rookie doc felt it was necessary she have an x-ray. She brought the results of that x-ray to my house a couple of days later, unbeknownst to me. As my children played, the willow tree outside the windows swayed, and the toddler station on Pandora quietly played in the background, she handed them to me. She said, when you get a chance, will you look up what spiculated means? I immediately whipped out the almighty smartphone and summoned Dr. Google. While typing in that word, spiculated, it never occurred to me that this single word would change my trajectory in life.
With Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes playing as my children were trying to distinguish their shoulders from their toes, I quickly scanned the first site that popped up on Google search results. Then, the second. Then, the third and so on. The consensus was, my mother had an abnormal mass growing in the very organs that give us the ability to breathe.
What happened next was what I can only describe as an out of body experience with that God awful toddler radio station as the soundtrack. My thoughts ranged from keep a straight face, Cake to Jesus!, why can't they tell the difference between their shoulders and toes?!? What came out of my mouth was oh, it's not a big deal, mom. You'll be fine.
Whatever part of me hovered over that scene and watched with such sadness that day has infiltrated my memory. I often leave the keys in the refrigerator or the butter in the pantry but by God, I can tell you to the second what happened the day I realized my parent wasn't eternal and I was going to have to cruelly watch them deteriorate.
What has transpired since that day has been nothing short of a story you only see on the movie screen; an unfolding of events that even the strongest might have trouble surviving.
But, here I am to tell it and the lessons I have learned are life-changing.