It’s been 9 years since my mother was sent home to tell her children goodbye. Nine years since ovarian cancer became part of our lives forever. What that Doctor failed to realize that day was that God wasn’t done with my mommy.
Terminal is a word that has become part of our daily vocabulary. Yesterday, someone asked me how she was doing, “great” I responded without missing a beat. But you see “great” is a powerful word. Great at our house means catching everything, including shingles. It means days spent in endless pain that could be treated with a morphine pump, but she refuses. Great is fear everytime there’s a scan. Great is when we are afraid she’s having a sign of trouble, but we are still waiting to see if that’s chemo or cancer coming out her pores. Great is asking God daily for those nine years to please not take my mommy.
Part of you wants to tell her to live it up, go drink a pinacaloda on the beach, but that would kill her already cancer-eaten liver. In the beginning of the period of time we consider “when she got sick again” people would ask about a liver transplant, it was all I could do not to bark in their faces, they don’t give perfectly good livers to people who’s bodies are covered with cancer. Come on people!
A dozen doctors later we’ve realized that 6 years of what we thought was remission, was really just a gift from God. There was no remission, cancer was still everywhere, we just had peace. When that peace was over, we knew before the doctors. We knew something was wrong and it had to be the cancer. Cancer is part of who each of us are now. It’s a word I refuse to be afraid of.
My mother shows us strength daily as she gets up when she can’t. But some days that strength is taken from her in days only we see. Hidden are days where you watch your mommy struggle to open the refrigerator, or days where it hurts to sit in the recliner, but she can’t seem to get up. As those days come and go so do all the memory moments. The big things like weddings, graduations, and when my sister made the thousand point club and the little things like eating chicken after church or doing basically anything because you know what it feels like to think your going to loose your mommy. You don’t just feel that once and you overcome it, you are reminded of that feeling with each scare or when she suddenly need a brain scan to see if it has moved to her brain.
Nine years ago, I barely knew what teal was, and I’m fairly certain I owned nothing teal. When making tshirts I would have to buy teal paint because a teal tshirt was a myth (or at least it felt like it). All our friends and family had heard about ovarian cancer was death. But now, teal is everywhere. I see it on other’s shirts, even when not related to cancer. I see it mixed with the pink ribbon to stand for woman’s cancers, I see it gain popularity as “it’s pretty now”. Mostly though, teal is hope, teal is an instant smile when I see it on your shirt.
You can’t change the cards your dealt, but you can change how you react to them. So yes, my mom is great today. She’s great because we still have her. Now where’s my new teal tshirt ?