We pulled our silver Explorer into the dirt driveway around 9pm. It had been a slow start, and the search for GF food items added what seemed like ten hours to our trip. Honestly, we should have packed the cooler. But we were here.
While on the road, I had managed to connect with my brother, but we kept the conversation limited to “how far are you know?” and the like, and I was anxious to hear about mom.
We exchanged hugs with my aunt and uncle, and my brother and his wife. We plumped down on the sofa, exhausted from the longer than usual drive. Jesse and I quickly popped our allergy pills while we awaited the new kitten to pounce on us. Why do they always go after the allergic ones? We had the usual, “how was the trip” chitchat, and then it was quiet. Ryan casually mentioned that I should give dad a call, and probably in the bedroom. Yup. There went my stomach. And my throat. And any hope of good news about mom or the upcoming celebration.
I excused myself, pulled my body up off of the comfy couch and walked into the guest bedroom, closing the door behind Jesse and I. My heart was racing as I pulled out my phone, and dialed dad.
“Stephanie, I don’t have good news.”
“Ok. What’s going on?” I asked.
Dad went on to explain that the all the scans and all the tests showed that mom had some very large tumors blocking the entrance to her liver. There was the possibility of a surgery to remove the tumors and add a stent in to hold the entrance open. But it would be temporary. In time, not much time, the tumors would grow and block the stent. She was turning more yellow by the minute… his voice trailed off and sounds went a little blurry in my head. Somehow, I quietly said:
“More chemo? More treatment? Is there not a way to fight it?” I asked, swallowing back tears. Keep it together.
“No,” dad said. “We’ve reached the end of the available treatments for mom. They are looking at this surgery as an option to buy her some time, but they don’t know how much time.”
Dad told me how very jaundiced and very sick she was from the toxins that couldn’t escape her body. The doctors were doing everything they could to get those levels down and get a surgery scheduled.
“Unfortunately, mom is too sick to travel, so we won’t be able to come to the shower tomorrow,” dad said, with his voice trailing off.
I just stared into space. I was silent for a little while trying to process everything and also come up with the best thing to say. Jesse was sitting on the bed next to me. Even though he wasn’t listening directly on the line, he knew what was going down. Mom wasn’t coming, mom was sick, and there was no treatment to help. My gosh was I glad he was there.
Somewhere in the silence, I found my voice. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something about being sad, getting through it, and oh why don’t we skype you in tomorrow for the shower. Because, nothing is more normal than skyping in your mom from the hospital during your bridal shower. I wasn’t thinking about what ifs, or worse case scenario, I was just thinking about how to get mom to be a part of everything the next day. The current moment. I was probably not making full sentences or thoughts, either.
I hated the idea of dad sitting in mom’s hospital room, staring at his beautiful bride, sicker than she’s ever been before, and facing the Big C for one last battle. That thought made me sick. And pissed. And overwhelmingly sad. We had to find a way to video chat her in, to give her something happy to look forward to, even if the circumstances weren’t ideal.
I honestly can’t really remember what I said next, or what he said, but I remember being very somber. I sat in the room after the call. Just letting it all soak in. What the fuck was happening? Hey God, not cool. Couldn’t you have waited a few more months to reunite mom and Big J? Just a little consideration here.
Current moment thoughts turned to long-term thoughts. Ever since mom’s first surgery and diagnosis with REALLY BAD CANCER, I was afraid she wouldn’t get the chance to see me get married. She had been doing so well over the past nine years, that slowly, over time, those thoughts had dissipated. She’d wear a pretty dress, and she and dad would walk me down the aisle in my pretty dress. Tonight, all those thoughts that I had in the beginning came rushing back in. It was now a very real reality that she wouldn’t be there to walk me down the aisle with dad.
Fuck you, cancer. I said out loud after I hung up with dad. And God, you’re not really high on my list of people I like right now, either. I sat there in the silence, embraced my fiance, full of fury, anger, sadness and anxiety. It took me a bit, but I gathered myself and opened the bedroom door. I put on my brave face and joined my family in the living room.
You know, the face you make when someone makes you dinner and it’s actually very terrible, but you manage a smile while you gulp it down.