Monday, March 18, 2013

I want to live in a world where my mom is okay.

I don't remember when she told me her doctor had found a lump - maybe a couple weeks before I left for Thailand? - but I remember not being too concerned. (Which is unlike me; I'm known to be quite an alarmist, but I think I might be calming down as I get older. I don't get nearly as worked up about things as I used to.) She was calm, so why shouldn't I be? And she said the doctor said it was probably nothing, but she was going to have a mammogram anyway. Because that's what you do when you're in your 50s (early 50s! Don't worry, Mom, I got your back!) and you find a lump in your breast.

So she had the mammogram. And then she had an ultrasound. And I started to get a little more concerned. Because she's my mom, you know?

And then she had to have a biopsy. And for some reason, I still wasn't that worried, although I did end up crying in the van on the way to work one morning, my earphones in, tears silently streaming down my cheeks as I thought of living in a world where my mom wasn't okay. And that's when I first had the thought: I want to live in a world where my mom is okay for as long as possible.

And the waiting game began. I knew there was a 50/50 chance that the lump was cancerous. But I guess I never really thought that the results would be that 50. (I hope this speaks to my optimism. Or maybe just my love for my mother. And wanting her to be okay.) She said she should have the results in about 5 days. Which meant that I'd be in Thailand. Probably Chiang Mai, which is where I was supposed to kiss an elephant. And she asked me, did I want her to tell me while I was on vacation? And I told her, of course I did! So we decided she would send me a Facebook message as soon as she got the results because she wouldn't be able to call me. (I know, finding out whether or not your mom has cancer through Facebook is not ideal, but Skype doesn't work on my iPod and she doesn't FaceTime so, whatever, it's what worked for us, don't judge.)

But did I really want her to tell me while I was in Thailand? (I realize this sounds selfish, and it is, I guess, but honestly, I think it still boils down to I want to live in a world where my mom is okay for as long as possible.) See, the thing is, there's never a good time to find out whether or not your mom has cancer. Unless, of course, you're finding out she doesn't have cancer, in which case any time is the perfect time. But I didn't want to be sad while on vacation (no one wants to be sad, ever!) and I didn't want my sadness to ruin my friend's vacation because it was just going to be the two of us traveling together and I just want to live in a world where my mom is okay for as long as possible. I talked about it with a couple of my friends and it was agreed: If she didn't tell me, I'd wonder, and I'd assume it was cancer because if it wasn't, she would tell me because then I'd be happy. And even though I wanted my mom to be okay, I needed to know as soon as possible because she's my mom.

So I made a plan:

If I got a Facebook message from my mom before I got to kiss an elephant, I wouldn't read it until after. That day with the elephants would be my last hurrah! before finding out my mom has cancer. Or, that day with the elephants would be the great day on which I kissed an elephant AND found out my mom didn't have cancer.

And I made a plan for what I would do when I found out either way:

If it turned out she didn't have cancer, I would be happy and drink a bucket of alcohol (I'd be in Thailand, remember) to celebrate! If it turned out she did have cancer, I would cry and drink a bucket of alcohol to... well, to be sad. I admit, maybe it wasn't the best or healthiest plan, but it was a plan.

So I got on a plane to Thailand and compulsively checked my Facebook messages every time I had WiFi. And nothing. No messages from my mom. So I messaged her on the day she was supposed to get the results, the day I kissed an elephant: Have you heard anything? Nope, not yet. Have fun!

So I flew to Bangkok. And then I had a thought: Mom, you really haven't heard anything or you just don't want to tell me? Her response: No, really. I wouldn't lie to you.

And my alarm went off at 3:45am on February 13th in a dark hotel room on Khao San Road because we had an early flight to Krabi. And of course, I checked my Facebook messages while I was still lying in bed. And I saw there was one from my mom and I felt calm as I opened it, even though I knew there was a 50/50 chance my mom had cancer, maybe because I still didn't think the results would be that 50 because our parents are invincible, aren't they?

I'm sorry honey but I just found out today and I have cancer but it's early so only need a lumpectomy. I'm ok! 

And I breathed. And I breathed again. And again. And then I sat up and threw back the covers and Alanna said, what? And I said, it's cancer. And Alanna said, what? And I said, it's cancer! My mom has cancer. And then I went into the bathroom and tried to FaceTime Melissa because I knew she'd know what to say but she didn't answer and I just said, Fuck. And that's what I kept saying, out loud and in my head. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. 

And I brushed my teeth and got dressed and said no to Alanna when she tried to hug me, even though I appreciated the gesture, especially because I know she's not a huggy person, but I just didn't want to be touched right then, at least not by someone that wasn't one of "my people" and my people were halfway around the world. Fuck.

And as I finished packing and got in a taxi and drove to the airport, the stream of random, ridiculous, nonsensical thoughts started:

I want her to be okay. I want her to cut her boob off! I just want it out of her! I want her to be okay. My mom has breast cancer. It's okay; a lot of people have had breast cancer and they're fine. Think. Sheryl Crow. That news anchor -- what's her name? Christina Applegate. Sharon Osbourne -- wait. Did she have breast cancer or another kind of cancer? It doesn't matter; she had cancer and she's okay now. I know there have been other people with breast cancer and they're okay. [Blank]'s mom. There must be more... Okay, think of people who have had any kind of cancer and are okay now. (And here's where I could only think of people who had not been okay.) My mom has cancer. Fuck. Oh, the taxi driver's buying two of those flower things for his mirror; they must be some kind of spiritual thing. I'm going to take that as a sign that my mom's going to be okay. I should do one of those breast cancer walks or runs. Yah, I'll run a half marathon for my mom and then she'll be okay. Should I get one of those bracelets? Yah, I should get one of those bracelets and wear it every day and then she'll be okay. My mom has cancer. I found out my mom has cancer on February 13th, 2013 and I'll always remember that. Or did I find out on February 12th because that's what day it is back home? Fuck. This does not work well with my need to remember dates. Why am I in a different timezone?! My mom has cancer. She has breast cancer. This is my fault for watching Parenthood, just like when I read Karen's Grandad and then Grampy had a heart attack. Fuck. I want to live in a world where my mom is okay again.

And then we were at the airport and we checked in and went through security and while we were waiting to board I thought, I need to call my mom. But WiFi wasn't working so I went to a payphone that said it was for international calls but it was out of service and did you know there are no working payphones anywhere anymore?

So I got on the plane and was thankful I had a window seat and I listened to "We Are Okay" by Joshua Radin while staring at this:

"We are grown but cannot see
Lost our world of make believe
Simple times now seem so far
Used to be in my backyard
Yeah, the world was still in my backyard

But, we are okay, we are alright
We sing very loud,
Yeah, we're singing
We are okay, we are alright
Close our eyes, close our mouth
Yeah, we shut our eyes though we're in doubt"

And it was then that I realized: My mom has cancer. My mom has breast cancer. How is she doing? What is she thinking? What is she feeling?

And I was embarrassed at first that it took me about 3 hours to realize that my mom - a person, not just my mom - has breast cancer. But then I thought, maybe that's normal because she's my mom, because moms take care of their kids, and because she's supposed to be invincible, right?

I just want to live in a world where my mom is okay again.


  1. Amanda, I cried reading this! Your mum is strong and will be okay! I just went through this last year with one of my closest fact, hers would be considered more aggressive than your mums and she is doing great a year later! Saint John has one of the best breast cancer doctors in Canada and they will fine tune her treatment. She will need love and support, and she has that having a wonderful daughter like you!

  2. Wow, Amanda. Not only are you a beautiful writer, but you are a beautiful person. You put into words how I think most people would feel in your situation. But most people could not illustrate it so perfectly. I am sitting here crying, with hope and love in my heart for you and your Mom. And, my god, did you ever make me want to call my Mom. xoxo

  3. Anyone who knows you through your blog knows you have very strong relationships with your family. It must be especially difficult to hear news like this when you are on the other side of the world from your mom. So I can understand how crushing the news must be and your wish that your mom is okay. Not much longer, you will be home pampering your mom, whether she needs it or not.

  4. sending you love and courage!!

  5. Wendy - Thank you! Every time I hear about someone else who has had breast cancer and is okay, I breathe a sigh of relief. Hope is the best, isn't it?

    Erin - Your comment means so much, because I know what a beautiful writer and person YOU are. I hope you did call your Mom; well, as long as it was a good time with the time difference :)

    John - I smiled at the thought of pampering my mom; thank you :) I will indeed pamper her and I can't wait to hug her on June 23rd!

    Anon - Thank you!

  6. Amanda, wishing your family the best! Anyone would want to live in a world where their mom is ok. :)

  7. my prayers are with you and your family

  8. Josette and Shannon - Thank you both so much!

  9. Wow. This was so well written. It brought back a lot of old feelings and wounds. But everything you said, especially the dialogue of the goings on in your head, was spot on. This is a difficult time, and I am so proud of the way in which you are dealing and coping.

    Beautiful post by a beautiful friend <3


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...