It was the day of my mom’s surgery. I sipped on a vanilla chi tea latte a friend told me the night before I must try. It’s not bad, but has a zing aftertaste all over my taste buds. A taste I can only describe now as the taste of that day. I will probably never order it again. My regular coffee is much better. Mom drinks coffee every morning, too, except that morning because she couldn’t. She had plans to stop at Starbucks right after her surgery, but we both knew she wouldn’t feel up to it…yet, we were optimistic that maybe this surgery would be no big thing. My mom has always been so strong. When she told me of her breast cancer, she comforted me instead of herself. I guess that’s how moms are, though.
I showed up to the hospital very early in the morning to see her before her surgery. She had a nervous smile on her face and I kept smiling back at her, to comfort her. She had already been hooked up to machines, needles poked into her arms, and beeps echoing the room that I will never forget. A lumpectomy and total removal of the nipple, and putting in a port were the daily plans for her. I knew it would be tough, but wanted to get her through what must be done. My mom made the surgery sound so simple, so normal, and so easy, but that didn’t stop me from worrying. She made it seem like an ordinary day, but it was far from that.
The moment my mom told me her shocking news my insides crashed like a million cars going sixty at a red four-way stop. She was following me up stairs to my loft bedroom to see baby clothes I’d bought for my sister (my mom’s soon-to-be first grand baby). I wasn’t aware of the ocean’s wave tide behind me filled with worried tears and confusion. I picked up what will be the third generation’s little clothes and turned around to face that red stop light. Crash. Tears flooded and choked both of us when she told me she thinks she has breast cancer.
When the doctors said it’s time to say goodbyes I gave her another smile and slowly walked back to the waiting room, attempting my best to hide my worried eyes. I told my grandma and grandpa that we’d be back before she’s out of surgery in two hours. So Henry (my boyfriend of almost six years) and I went for coffee since it was so early in the morning. I was optimistic with the early sunny morning, yet worried, a weird combination…maybe it was positive confusion? Maybe I had daughter instinct and knew something wasn’t right. I just knew something wasn’t right. At this point all we knew was that there was a cancerous bump that they were removing.
I sipped that chi tea, anxious to get back to the hospital to see her in recovery. When we got back to the waiting room, we waited a few minutes then the doctor came in and told us she was out of surgery, but before we could see her, the doctor wanted to talk with us. We crowded our way into this smaller seating room filled with brochures. She told us that when she did the surgery and removed lymph she found a lot more cancer, spread so much it’s deep around veins and lit up all over her arm… “stage III at least” she said unable to promise anything. She also wasn’t able to put in a port, which is required for her chemo. Tears streamed my face and I found myself mad at the doctor. Henry comforted me and I wiped my tears dry so I could go see my mom with a smile on my face.
I walked back to see her flat on the hospital bed with a pink bloody band around her now uneven chest. I stood up by her head but she was still sleepy. Five minutes later, still sleepy. She should be waking up soon and be alert…but she’s not. We waited and waited. I spoke to her “hi mom” and when she saw me she smiled and said “did you get your coffee?” I held her hand and watched as she still wasn’t able to keep her eyes open. I should have just ordered coffee, not chi tea. Something isn’t right.
More and more doctors crept their way in the room staring at the blood pressure monitor. Lower and lower it crept. They’d ask her how she was feeling and she was still sleepy and hot. Each of us took turns talking to her and watching that monitor go lower as time went on. By now she should have been awake and able to leave the hospital. Eventually another doctor came in and called for tests on her heart and found liquid around her heart, and when asking her more questions realized she had already been diagnosed pre-diabetic. Why didn’t they know this BEFORE the surgery? I was so mad but when they saw this, the new doctor wasted no time calling med flight to our bigger city…where I wanted her to go in the first place.
I can’t remember how many tests they did and how many times they said “say goodbye.” Because honestly it was enough to make every hello a gift. My mom was med-flighted that day and spent days in the hospital. After that more and more doctor appointments, surgery to put the port in, and then chemotherapy. Last week I saw my mom with no hair and she is beautiful. It’s a gift that she is still here. Four days before mother’s day, my mom will have her last “red devil” chemotherapy until she moves on to the radiation every day. She is weak after chemotherapy and noxious. Her eye sight is affected from all the pills she takes and she has no energy and is losing weight. The crazy thing about all of this is how fast it happened.
This mother’s day, I’m going to plant flowers for my mom’s “outdoor escape” as she calls it. Her place to escape everything around her. Where hummingbirds fly around her sitting on the swing and where she can drink her favorite coffee on her rare good days.