the scars of cancer.
I was listening to a bit of “All Sides” with Ann Fisher this morning as she talked to the deputy director of the new James Cancer hospital about how amazing this new facility is and what it has to offer patients.
It brought a flood of emotions. The scars that I can never get rid of. This is a dump of some of them.
It brought me back to countless hours spent in the old James, in the room where my mom was receiving some sort of experimental stem cell treatment. It was a very isolated ward, we had to be especially careful to wash our hands before entering and I remember the nurses telling me the smell of canned corn was normal.
It brought me back to the day in our living room, I was very small, that my mom first realized she couldn’t move her arm. The memory is fuzzy but I think that was the first symptom of her bout with cancer, this one of the bone.
It took me back to the days of staying with grandparents, aunts, etc. while my mom was in the hospital. I remember having a pizza party in the lobby on her floor and someone giving me a book of jokes to practice.
It brought me back to the day we got family photos taken my senior year of high school. We had just found out about her brain tumor and she wanted them taken before she began treatments again.
It took me back to the day the phone rang during dinner. The news from the doctor that she had a brain tumor. She sat back down and kept eating. What else is there to do?
It brought me back to the month(s?) during my last year of high school that my mom spent unresponsive in the James after surgery to remove that brain tumor. Every day after school I would pick my dad up from work and we would drive the hour to Columbus to sit in her room. Her room overlooked Ohio stadium but unfortunately it was spring. We survived on dinners from Wendy’s quietly eaten.
It took me back to the times she said all she wanted was to see me graduate. She died 5 months after I walked across that stage.
I remember caring for my mom once she began to wake up and was eventually transferred back to Zanesville. I administered her medicine through a PICC line. I washed her hair, she always wanted me to scrub so hard. I helped her up out of her chair. I went on a senior trip with my friends during which she had a seizure and my dad had to call an ambulance.
I went to college and she got sicker.
One time I came home to visit she was back in the hospital. I remember the doctor pulling my dad and I in the hall and telling us it was time to transfer her to hospice. Part of my life was enjoying the first few months of college, the other part was a dying mother.
I remember a week or so later, the end of another weekend home. My godmother and another very good friend of my mom’s took me to the pizza place across the street from hospice. They told me I shouldn’t go back yet. Her health was too bad. She died a few days later, the night before her birthday.
I had taken to sleeping on the couch. The phone rang after we had gone to bed, maybe I was still up watching TV. Of course I knew what it was. My dad answered. Came in to tell me. We spent the night talking about her.
So many of these memories are fuzzy and confusing. My mom had so many different cancers at so many different times of my life I can’t really keep the facts straight.
Sometimes I think, “Did that really happen? Was that really my life?”.
These scars have healed for the most part but they will always be visible, always there. I’ve tried to hide them, forget about them. Pretend I had another life in which my mom didn’t have cancer for most of it and didn’t die.
But that’s not my reality. I have to let my scars be there. I have to let the reality spur me on to something good.