Today’s blog takes us back to where the whole ordeal began. The phone call.
Yesterday my husband and I hosted a reception for our son and his new bride to celebrate their April 27 wedding in Mexico. It was held in a little coffee shop that is owned by a local church but it has neat a history. In the early 70’s when I was in college it was a pizza parlor called “The Hideaway”. Back then it was the place to go. It still is but it’s in a new location down the street. It also happens to be where my husband and I went on our second or third date. It is where he first said “just trust me”. He was referring to the barbecue pizza however, in the years since he has rarely, if ever steered me wrong with those words! What a fitting location to celebrate another new beginning! The days of pizza are long gone but the memories of the times spent there will linger in our hearts and minds forever.
Several friends and family members came and went during the afternoon. The best part of the day, for me anyway, was when my son and I danced; it still brings a smile to my face when I think about it. He nearly caused me to fall off my shoes and break my neck as he was twirling me faster and faster and we were both laughing harder and harder. As I was about to fall he caught me in his arms, gave me a big hug and said “thanks mom” and as per usual, right on cue, I got teary eyed and smiled. Friends and family shared the joyful moment with us. It was a wonderful afternoon.
As I was basking in the pleasant memories of the previous day the phone rang. It was my sister. She asked about the party and I shared with her then, the unexpected happened. She said “I called to tell you that I have the ‘big C’ and I only have a few months to live.” Numbness overcame me as quickly as it took those words to come out of her mouth. “Excuse me; did you just say you have cancer? What kind? Why only a few months to live?” As she explained to me that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer three and a half years earlier and chose not to tell anyone I began to feel sick. I was left speechless and began to cry. Her next words to me were “maybe you need a little time to process all of this.” What I wanted to say was “how could you do this to me? Why didn’t you let me know sooner? Are you serious? This is a cruel joke.” What came out of my mouth was “what?” She repeated what I had already heard. I was silent for a few seconds (they seemed like an eternity) then finally said “so, what’s next? Where do we go from here? What kind of treatments are you getting? How is it going?” She told me that she chose not to have treatments.I was dumbfounded and weakly asked her why. Her response was along the lines of she hated hospitals and doctors, she had just begun recovery from the stroke and broken arm, she didn’t want to go through what other people had gone through, etc. I’m not sure I totally heard the answer as my thoughts were spinning wildly out of control. Then I asked the million dollar question, “Does Mom know yet?” Her next words were “no, when do you want to tell her?” Excuse me . . . me tell mom, I don’t think so. “I’m not telling her, that is your job.” She told me she was worried about her being alone when she was told, she is 86 years old after all. “Well, that’s true, but I’m not telling her.”
In the meantime, my husband who was now standing next to me and heard my end of the conversation, suggested that maybe we should go see mom and then Carol could call while we were there. We all agreed that was a good plan. We would go the next weekend. Then I began to cry.My sister said “I’ll let you go now and process all of this. Call me later.” I hung up the phone and began sobbing hysterically. I cried and cried and cried until there were no more tears. I would catch my breath, calm down and then it would all start over again. It felt as if something inside of me was dying. My chest felt heavy. My only sister, my only sibling, was dying and there was nothing I could do to stop it or make it better. My sister, the one that had always been there to offer a word of encouragement or act as a buffer or to share something new with me was dying; how could I live without her? I felt so helpless, so scared, so nauseated. The next hours were spent sobbing, stopping, sobbing, stopping over and over again. I would fall asleep for thirty minutes and then wake up and it would start all over again. My mind would race and stop over and over again.
Mostly, I kept thinking this is not happening. It isn’t real.