I remember the day I truly acknowledged and accepted the reality of Mom's condition, the day my anticipatory grief probably began.
Yes, I heard what the doctor first told us after the original surgery in May. Oh yes, I clearly remember that day too. Mom had been in surgery for hours. She had been the last scheduled surgery of the day. We watched as all the other surgeons came out and greeted the families one by one and spoke briefly with them to tell them things seemed ok. Then one by one, we watched the families gather their belongings, to be taken to see their loved one down the hall, looking a little more relieved. But not us....we were different. We were the last family left anxiously sitting or pacing in the waiting room that day. It seemed like forever. And when our name was called, we were not greeted by the surgeon, but an assistant who asked us to follow him down "another" hall, a different one. We were taken behind a closed door, to a small, intimate room, where our doctor would meet us shortly. I remember the door closing, as I noticed all the Kleenex boxes gently and purposely placed around the room. BOOM!......a punch to my gut. I instantly felt sick to my stomach. "This is NOT good," I said. "We are in the bad news room." "No one else was brought back here!" "You are right," said my sister, "you are right." The room fell silent. You could have heard a pin drop. The surgeon shortly arrived where he sat down to give us the news, and it was NOT good. They had not been able to get it all. It was bigger than they originally thought. It had spread through her lymph nodes. It was stage four and it did not look good. They would do an aggressive chemo, and keep it "at bay" as long as possible, but the outcome would still be the same. The prognosis was that fifty percent of patients in this case would live an average of 5 years. Some maybe 10, at best, and some maybe 2 years or less. BOOM! Another punch. Where is Mom? Can we see her now? Does SHE know? Who is going to tell her this? And how?
So, yes, I heard him that day, but still far, far in the back of my mind, gut, and heart, I kept a glimpse of hope in some miracle. I was still not ready to FULLY accept it. Not until 3 months later, when we recieved another punch in the gut. They just kept coming. They were so relentless with no remorse.
It was late Monday afternoon, August 4th. They had run some more tests on Mom due to some dizziness and high blood pressure and we had been awaiting the results. Some years ago, back in 1998, she experienced a kind of heat stroke while at a Buc's game. She had blacked out and was actully taken to the ER via ambulance. She recovered and all was well. But as the years passed, she kept telling us "something" happened that day, that "something" was just not the same. She was more tired than normal and found it harder to process information and/or make decisions. So, as the doctors ran these new tests and MRI's on her brain, we were all beleiving that they were going to confirm she had had a mini-stroke years ago. So, it was very much to my surprise when Dad called and told me they had found new tumors (plural) and that the cancer had returned and with a vengence. I was home alone with the 3 kids, and remember going to the laundry room to take the call, to find some privacy, to have a moment of peace and quiet.......to hide. Again, the phone call was short. I sank, my heart AND my body. My knees buckled as I dropped to the floor. I cried uncontrollably, sobbing, almost hyper-venilating. I managed to call Patrick at work, but then could not speak. He heard me crying having no idea what was going on. "Come..........home." I stuttered between short breaths. "Come..........home." That was all I could get out. I was still on the laundry room floor when he arrived home and found me there, just a few short minutes later. He had called my dad on the way to see if he knew what was wrong, and that is where he got the news. He came in and carried me to the bedroom and laid me on the bed, where I remained for a few hours just sobbing. I was in complete shock! Afterall, she had just had 3 months of clear reports that the cancer was in remission. The chemo had worked. It was gone. Her CA number had been nominal. It seemed things had changed and taken a turn for the better. This was NOT what I was expecting. Brain tumors???? Was he serious??? Were they sure it was cancer??? How did it go from her colon to her brain??? And when???
It was THEN that I knew the battle was going to be short. It was THEN that I fully accepted what was to come. It was THEN that my anticipatory grief began.