Waiting for remission

This afternoon, my mom will find out if her cancer is in remission.

Right now, I have no doubt that she is in bed dreaming of a faraway, happy place. In fact, I assume that when I pick her up at 1:30pm she will have just woken up. She’s incredibly skilled at hiding when she doesn’t want to admit what’s really happening.

Maybe that’s a family gene. Ten minutes ago I rearranged the furniture in my office.

What’s troubling me is a feeling that she isn’t in remission yet. I realize the fact that ‘yet’ is even in that sentence is a blessing. The doctors have been talking about its eventuality since she was diagnosed in September. It’s a great goal post to have.

That doesn’t help today’s appointment though, or what it means in the short term. If cancer is still present, she’ll have her seventh round of chemo, and probably an eighth for good measure three weeks later.

And more chemo means more waiting. Another PET scan in a month to determine if it was successful. Another long sit in a doctor’s office to find out the news.

It feels like this waiting will never end.

There’s a reason for that — I’ve been waiting much longer than the eight months since a swollen lymph node first appeared on the bone behind her ear. A round, dense marble underneath her skin that she shrugged off at first until four more appeared on her neck over the course of a couple weeks. Some growing to nearly an inch in diameter. By the time she begrudgingly agreed to have a biopsy, she had lost count.

My mom doesn’t take care of herself very well. Eating poorly, smoking, avoiding the doctor…bad habits that tend to bite you in the butt at some point.

For what may be my entire adult life, I have been waiting for something to happen to her.

It’s terrible to say that, I realize. She is a good person. She raised me with lots of love; called me cutesy nicknames like Tinkerbell; practiced my spelling homework with me while making breakfast before she left for work; drove me to slumber parties, and sometimes picked me back up in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep. To this day, she has never let me leave the house without a twenty dollar bill in my pocket.

Strange how I forget those things while waiting.

I also forget that this is a gift.

It wasn’t until I wrote about my brain tumor diagnosis eight years after it happened, that I realized the gift that I had been given back then. How I had an MRI in December 2004 after an ear infection wouldn’t go away, and when the doctor called me, days before Christmas, he said nothing about the results except that we could discuss them in person in January. I assumed everything was fine.

I have no idea what I did that holiday, but I can tell you what I wasn’t doing: waiting. I was blissfully unaware of what was about to happen, and I’ll be forever thankful to the doctor for granting me that stretch of time.

My experience back then isn’t all that different from where my mom and I find ourselves today.

If it’s true, which it is, that something will eventually happen to all of us and the people we love, the minutes, days, and years of waiting between now and then are a big deal. They’re our whole lives.

I feel sad that my mom is sick. Writing this makes me more sad, actually, because I’m reminded how much I love her. How immensely sad it will be when she’s no longer here for me to worry about.

Today likely isn’t that day, though, no matter what her doctor tells us.

It kind of opens it up then, doesn’t it? No matter what happens, we have this afternoon together. We are buying groceries, driving to the appointment, and then having dinner.

That’s a pretty good day. One I will treasure in the future when I think back about all the time we had to wait, together.

Which means I might as well start treasuring it now.

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