It has been quite the roller coaster the last few weeks. James and I turned 40 within 6 days of each other, we celebrated our middle child’s 9th birthday, we have a high school friend of James’s living with us for a few months, we’re working on some conflict resolution with some of our Fringe members, and, oh yes, my mom has terminal brain cancer. It’s the black cloud over all the rest.
As I posted on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, the best birthday present this girl could possible receive was the enormous effort my parents (but really my Dad) went through to drive to Denver from Dallas to be here for our birthday party. If you haven’t personally been through care-taking for a loved one, it might be hard to fully understand the magnitude of their efforts. Mom’s strength is so minimal now. Just a few weeks earlier, she could really help as she moved from the car to the wheelchair. But she couldn’t help much at all in April. Imagine every single time they stopped to eat, Dad would essentially lift her from the car to the wheelchair. Every time she needed to use the restroom, he’d take her to a public restroom – not caring whether he was in the women’s restroom or he took her to the men’s. He stopped caring about bathroom labels many weeks ago. He settled her in and out of two hotel rooms on the way here and another on the way back with none of the conveniences of home. The sacrifice was significant. And every single thing we do has an unspoken “Could this be the last time….” behind it. Is this the last time we’ll be able to play Pinochle? Is this the last time she’ll be in my house? Is this my last birthday with my mom on this earth? I don’t know. But I know this. It was a sweet two days to have them here.
Shortly after they returned home, they had an appointment with her oncologist. Shortly afterwards, I sent my usual text update to all of their friends and ours, and my sister posted this Facebook update:
My sister, Amy, has been gracious in making the posts about our mom who has brain cancer, but I thought I would try to express my thoughts in this moment of the process. Mom’s most recent MRI showed continued growth in the tumors. While her surgeon seemed positive because it hadn’t grown as much as expected, her oncologist had an opinion that was more difficult to hear. He advised that a 5th round of chemo was an option since she handles it so well, but that hospice should be brought in shortly thereafter. We are now at that point. She completed the 5th round and hospice will begin soon. I cannot express how much we appreciate all of the prayers and kind words throughout this process. God has kept us in his hand and miraculously, Mom has not been in pain at any point. Please continue to lift our family up and pray specifically that Mom is healed quickly, whether on this Earth or in heaven.
There’s nothing in that post or in the news that caused it that was shocking to us. But that also doesn’t make it any less hard to hear words like “stopping treatment” and “hospice”. Goodness knows, my dad needs the help that hospice can provide – even if he’s not ready to admit it and even if she’s not in her last weeks just yet. And we also know full well that God is absolutely capable of healing her on this earth. We continue to ask. The tension in holding faith for the earthly healing and dealing in the reality of what we see before us continues to be one of the more challenging aspect of this road for me.
Several sweet people have asked me since my sister’s post how I’m doing. The night that we sent the text updates and got the news, I was numb. I just wasn’t ready to process, so I didn’t. Then the next day just felt sad. I didn’t break down and have a good cry – not this time. But I was just sad. Side note: My good friend who happens to also be my boss on an org chart picked up on it with just a simple “I’m ok.” from me that day. She reminded me that if I ever needed to just stop working in the middle of the day and go take care of me that she was fully supportive. Everyone who goes through things like this needs a “fross” like that.
I’m learning that I’m much better at writing my feelings down than I am verbalizing them in the moment. I test out at just on the introvert side of the introvert/extrovert line, and sometimes being that vulnerable right in the moment and expressing it the way I intend is hard for me. But it came to me last night – a way to describe how I feel. I feel like this.
I feel like my heart is in my hands, and I’m holding it up to God. My heart is not mine to hold. I’m trusting him with it. I love my mom. I will never be ready to say goodbye on this earth. But I also, deep deep down, believe God is good. I trust him and his plan. I trust him with my heart. And I trust him with my mom. And my dad. And my husband. And my kids. And all the other gifts he has so lovingly entrusted me with. Sometimes I’m sad, sometimes I have a good cry, sometimes I have a joyful day, and sometimes I’m numb. I’m still feeling the gravity of all this – don’t doubt that. But in the end, I simply cannot help but believe my God is so very good, every minute of every hour of every day. So, he will carry me if asks me to say goodbye, and he will get the credit if he chooses to save her.