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Cirque du Familie: Bridge Camp and Cancer

So after the initial shock of my mom's cancer wore off, life tried to go on as normal. Well, as normal as it ever gets around here, anyway. Only it didn't work too well. Aside from the fact that I've been sick for a year with some Crohn's-like disease and am fairly often home-bound (with my parents), now mom's sick too. And as hard as it is for me to deal with her being sick, she really can't deal with me being sick. Which is understandable. She's freaked out. Who wouldn't be?

A few days after her diagnosis, she flew off to bridge camp. Yes, she and her friends go to an old country house every September and do nothing but play bridge for five days. Yowza.

Still, it seemed restorative. She got to see her friends and she wasn't stuck at home worrying.

Then she came home and got some bad news. The cancer seemed to have spread. She was facing a full mastectomy, radiation, and chemo.

My attempts to escape familial interaction (yes, I'm 35 and this is how I deal with things) didn't go over so well. It's not like I don't know that I'm going to be taking over cooking, cleaning, arguing with my father, etc. etc. There's really no need to remind me. I'm ready to do it. I'm happy to do it. She has cancer. It's time to step up.

A few days after her arrival home, she and my father jet off to visit a friend's summer home in the cheddar state. I'm a little confused by the fact that she's gotten this diagnosis and it seems like it should be tended to, yet she's jet-setting around the country, but at least I have the house to myself for a week. I calm my own nerves by throwing a cookout which produces so many leftovers I begin to doubt I'll ever have to go to the store again. My steadfast boyfriend stays with me, when he's not toiling away cooking food for drunken Irish people. I worry, but it does me little good.

My mother and I have had, to say the least, a contentious relationship since I was about seven years old. I've worked pretty hard to overcome it over the past few years, and I think she has too. The thought that she has something in her body that could kill her terrifies me. She's my mom. I'm just starting to be able to have a normal conversation with her. I can't lose her now.

They return from their trip refreshed, but she's tired and unusually quiet. My dad is drinking heavily. I would be too, but I'm broke, and the only beer in the house is Moosehead, which tastes more like moose piss.

Then, a break.

They do a scan and it shows that the cancer has not spread, after all. In fact, she can have a simple lumpectomy and go home the same day. Although there's some chance they'll find something unexpected, requiring more treatment, the weight that's been dragging us all down has been lifted. She's scheduled for surgery on Tuesday.

This week has been a whirlwind of doctor's appointments, as well as manicures, pedicures, haircuts, shopping, etc. This is the mother I know. She may have cancer and they may be planning to mutilate her breast, but she's going to get it done in style. The sense of relief is palpable, not only in our house, but across the neighborhood.

My mom's on prayer lists across the country. As a devout atheist, I don't believe that any entity from above intervenes in our lives and makes things better or worse, according to a whim. I do believe, though, that positive energy has a way of somehow helping people who are suffering feel better. And no matter how she sees it or I see it, it has made a difference for her. It's buoyed her. And the good will emanating from so many people has buoyed me.

I started writing this because my family's initial reaction to my mom's diagnosis was so bizarre that I had to share it. Over the past few weeks, I've realized that sometimes you just have to push through the shock at first. Oh, it hits you. Slowly, gradually, painfully. The fear she has felt has been overwhelming at times, but she's been very brave.

One last doctor's appointment on Monday, and surgery on Tuesday. And then we'll see what's next. Maybe it will all be over. Maybe she'll walk out of there and never be troubled by this again. Maybe.

But it is an aggressive cancer, and we've all known people who have died of this, or have gone through tortuous treatment, or have had one relapse after another. So at this point, I'm just trying to be cautiously optimistic.

For the first time since I was a small child, I find myself terrified at the thought of life without my mother. Through all the years of fighting, arguing, complaints, recriminations, it never once occurred to me that some day, she'll be gone.

I just hope like hell it's not anytime soon.


Claudia Hunter is the Beachwood's pseudononymous family affairs correspondent. She welcomes your comments. She welcomes your comments.


* Cirque du Familie: Psst, Your Mother Has Cancer

* Home for the Holidays: The Preamble
* Home for the Holidays: Day 1
* Home for the Holidays: Day 2
* Home for the Holidays: Day 3
* Home for the Holidays: Day 4 (Christmas Eve)
* Home for the Holidays: Day 5 (Christmas)
* Home for the Holidays: Day 6
* Home for the Holidays: Day 7
* Home for the Holidays: Postscript
* Home for the Holidays: The Sequel


Posted on September 27, 2010

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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