The day my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, she wasn’t officially diagnosed. The official diagnoses wouldn’t come until after they did a biopsy of what they thought was the tumor. But we knew right away that it was cancer; the doctors, my mother, me.
After receiving the news from her doctor, my mother called me at school. She waited until school had let out, and then she told me to come home. She didn’t tell me why, and she didn’t have to.
I cleaned my desk and packed my school work into my bag in a matter of seconds.
I drove the free way in silence and record time; the whole time my gut knew what my head and my heart wasn’t ready to hear.
When I walked in the front door of my mother’s house, she was sitting in her bathrobe on the couch.
“They think I have pancreatic cancer…”
“But you can’t. I haven’t even had babies yet.”
“I know, that was my first thought.”
I disappeared into the pillows on the couch and my mom’s arms, and we cried. We cried for a long time, and then the rest gets blurry.
Phone calls were made.
My mom called our manager at St. Lukes,
She called friends,
I called my husband.
Do you remember how I explained my freak out over the possibility of hepatitis? I made Ken come home from work then. But the day my mom was diagnosed, I didn’t ask him to come home.
I needed to be with my mom,
I needed to be alone.
I sat on her back porch with her for hours.
We didn’t eat a thing that day.
At one point we came in from the porch renewed. Working at a hospital had its advantages and they had pulled strings to get my mother in that Friday to perform a procedure on her bile duct (the reason her urine was so dark). Once that was up and running, they could begin treatment. They had set her up with a surgeon to see if the tumor could be removed, and they got her in with the best oncologist they could find.
I remember her quoting her friend Claire: Be ready for the fight of your life Caren.
And we were.
But we were beat before we even had a chance.
And, I knew it.
I knew it deep down in my gut the minute I got the phone call to come home that day.
I left at nine that night, which to be honest is something that haunts me still. My mom slept alone in her bed that night, and I should have stayed with her.
She should have had someone to reach a hand out to and hold that night.
But I had to get home. I had to break down alone in my own room. I had to look up statistics and patron saints and stories of survival (which were few and far between). I had to cry until I couldn’t breath, and I had to do it where she couldn’t see me.
And then that night, when I couldn’t sleep, I had to call her, and I had to hear her voice pick up on the other line. I had to tell her I loved her and hear her tell me she loved me, the whole time knowing deep down, that there would come a night when I couldn’t pick up the phone at 11 o’clock at night, just to hear her voice.
I hoped with all of my heart that my mom would beat cancer. I prayed non stop. I asked friends to pray. I tried to think positively. I looked up the patron Saint of miracles (Saint Anthony), I brought my rosary, something I hadn’t used in years, to the hospital.
But in the end, none of that really mattered.
My mother’s diagnoses is the first time in my life when I have been faced with something I had no control over; my life marked.