Thursday, May 20, 2010

#166: Don't Tell Mama

What should we tell Mum? How much truth is too much? I made a quick decision. "We'll tell her the facts we know. We will not mention the word 'Cancer' until we know for sure."

Two qualities define my family more than any other. We are Worriers and we are Fixers. Problems at work or at church used to eat at my Dad, and he was always looking for ways to help make them better. Mum is the same way with her kids and my sisters and I inherited the Don Quixote gene from both of them. None of us seem to be able to leave bad enough alone.

So I knew that if we told Mum that I might have Cancer, two things would happen. First she would stop sleeping. Then she would haul her septuagenarian self out to the car and drive alone for the nine hours that it takes to get from her neck of the Pennsyltucky woods to mine. I didn't want her doing either of those things if all I had was a benign bulge.

We followed that strategy right up until my surgery. My first groggy question in the recovery room was, "Is it Cancer?" Up until then, every time we spoke I would tell Mum what the Doc had found and what they intended to do next. I could hear the fear in her voice, and I'm sure she could hear it in mine. We learned later that she thought we had known all along, but kept the truth from her. She called me in the ICU the morning after my surgery and I told her what they found. She was in Kentucky the next afternoon. I'm not sure how Mrs P and I could have made it through the days since then without her.

Mum has been with us for every doctor appointment since then. She was in the exam room for that horrible meeting when, Dr. K told us about what my radiation would be like. She was in the waiting room when I went in to the treatment room expecting to lose a loose tooth and came out with an appointment to have them all extracted. She was even sitting next to me the morning the hospital called to tell me that our insurance company had decided that my Cancer was a pre-existing condition and that they would not pay for my radiation and chemo.

She is stronger than I will ever be, and I spent three weeks "protecting" her from the truth. Maybe I wanted to be in control of at least a small part of my situation. Or maybe I was protecting both of us from having to face the possibility. "It isn't real if you don't say it out loud." What actually happened was that I gave her all that time to worry. Helplessly. I realize now how cruel my kindness had been. I gave her no opportunity to help, so all she could do was fear and pray. The people who love us deserve better than that.

So now Mum is in the Bluegrass for the duration. She can't cure Cancer, but she can puree a mean bowl of chicken chowder. Mrs P comes home to a clean house every day. I have company when I want it and a silent companion when I need one. And when the sun is shining, you can find us out on the porch reading, laughing, and playing with Jake the seventy-pound-puppy.

Don't tell Mama, but I'd be lost without her. On second thought, go on and tell her. Mum always knows anyway.

1 comment:

  1. Excellently put, Bob- I always enjoy reading your "stuff". I also think of you and Martha often, and hope and pray the best for you. I am no expert in the field of positive thinking, and can think of "advice" more easily than I can manifest it for myself, but for what it's worth... I hope that you will find as much time as possible to enjoy every moment that you possibly can. This thing is taking time and energy away from you, but don't relinquish anything willingly. Do not give it more than it demands. Enjoy every moment that you can- empower you sense of humor and laugh or smile when you can, otherwise that is more lost time. I hope you have many years of laughs, smiles, ups and downs ahead.
    As I said, I am a mopey person much of the time- but I hope this comes across as the positive thought that I hope for you.
    Love and peace,


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