SEASONS OF LIFE
JOY PAIN SICKNESS HEALTH YOUNG OLD
It’s a special feeling when the world shifts and your child is grown up and teaches you a life lesson. The papers below are that shift for me. My world shifting for the better, thanks to a few papers my daughter, Julia, wrote in college last year. They changed my world.
I am a quiet, private, shy person by nature. When we learned my husband had cancer, I couldn’t talk about it. It was hard to say the word CANCER. I didn’t want to talk about it with friends at work. I tried not to think about it, but I was scared to death. I was just coming to terms with empty nesting. Getting used to a quiet house, smaller meals, no homework, two less goodnight hugs and kisses, two less before bed prayers and tuck-ins. These things I loved.
Then, as you can see in my previous post, I learned we need to talk, share, and sit with our fears. I’m taking baby steps at this and Julia writes these papers and posts them on her blog!!! I really admired her and wanted to be like her. I still have work to do because I’ve been wanting to post this for months. But, it’s still hard. We are all works in progress.
My husband is fine. After many trips to The Huntsman Cancer Institute in Utah and THE GRACE OF GOD, he is cured. When I shared Julia’s papers with the surgeon’s nurse at The Huntsman and they requested a copy!
My friend just had surgery at The Huntsman Hospital last week for her cancer. The Huntsman is an amazing place. The hospital is full of LOVE. You can feel the love there. Husbands and wives walking arm and arm pushing a chemotherapy pole. So different from the feel of the emergency room I work in. It often has a feel of anger, physical pain, crisis, and overdoses. People trying to die while those at The Huntsman are fighting to LIVE.
20 February 2018
My mother sat in front of me, heart heavy, gazing out at the summer rain. The air smelled richly of coffee grinds. The whir of the grinder should have been back ground noise but was prominently taking center stage of our “conversation.” I didn’t know what to say. I focused on the weather. We could feel it that morning, the weight in the air, the breeze starting to pick up and then boom!
“I don’t know what to think,” my mother whispered, “I don’t know how this happened.”
“I know,” I replied.
“I’m angry, like really really pissed. I would do anything to change it, to make it so that it wasn’t him.”
“I think we all would, I know I would trade places with him instantly. He’s been through enough.”
My mother returned her glistening gaze to the table that sat stretching far between us. I felt like people were staring at us. My teary eyes glanced up to survey the Café. No, nobody was. After all, nothing was wrong in the world, everything was wrong in ours.
My tiny fingers gripped tightly to my father’s shirt collar. I was flying through the trees, so high up on my father’s shoulders. Bare branches whipped by my head, my giggles lost in the breeze. I was not afraid – I should have been. Up so high in the air, upon my father’s shoulders I felt like nothing could touch me, I was invincible. I was invincible because he was invincible. We slowed to a walk next to my mom and brother. My chubby cheeks bright red from the breeze, hurting from the smile that would not leave my face. I felt a stutter in my father’s long, steady stride. It didn’t concern me at the time. He continued on, carrying me through the clouds. My father had to get surgery a little while later.
“Why mommy?” I asked, as I impatiently waited to see my father again.
“Your dad hurt his knee,” she replied calmly.
My father tore his ACL carrying me through the woods that day. He did not falter.
I sped along the freeway, music blaring, drowning out any thoughts that kept trying to appear, like a snake popping its head out of the pond we used to swim in, showing us just for a moment that maybe it wasn’t safe beneath the surface. I tapped the steering wheel nervously, ate everything in my passenger seat even though my stomach was in knots, counted the mile signs, anything to keep my thoughts from wandering to what waited when I got to my destination. I pounded the steering wheel, feeling the pain shoot up my palm and wrist. I tried making my eyelids barriers to the crashing sea, they were not effective and the flood pushed its way through.
I dialed my best friend, waiting and waiting as it rang and rang and rang. I hung up. I reminded myself it was pointless anyways, he didn’t want us to tell anyone. My brother called me right after.
“How’s the trip going?”
“Oh, you know,” I replied. Glancing to my left, I saw his black truck towering next to my little car. He waved goofily at me as he passed me again. His little game for the trip. He was probably trying to occupy his mind too, I thought.
“It’s the last meal shirt!” I exclaimed, ripping open the bright red wrapping paper. My boyfriend looked at me like I was crazy and glanced around at my family to find out that he was the only one that didn’t understand the cruel inside joke. It was just a plain T-shirt, bright baby blue, V-neck, with the Blue Iguana logo stamped on the back.
“I don’t get it,” he said, looking around for an explanation.
“It’s from our trip to Salt Lake,” I replied, hesitantly looking at my father.
“Oh, gotcha. Was it a good last meal at least?”
“There guacamole tasted like boiled eggs” my brother recalled, grabbing another present from under the tree. We all laughed at the humorless memory.
Besides the trademark stale, sterile smell that fill my nostrils instantly as I expected, I first noticed the windows. They made up the entire entrance, from top to bottom, spread side to side, just a full wall of windows. Maybe this was designed to be cheerful, open, warm from the natural light that flooded in. It felt cold. Every sign had the word “cancer” on it, an unwelcome reminder we were all nervously and uncomfortably skating around, yet there it was unashamed, “cancer,” everywhere we looked. It was unavoidable now, we couldn’t turn the corner or run back the way we came without seeing it – “Cancer.” It was unescapable, even though the endless wall of windows made it seem like we could easily break out, run, never look back. It wasn’t that easy, we found out. The windows were very deceiving.
I stared at the double door, waiting. My mother sat beside me, a book lay open in her lap, but I could tell she wasn’t actually reading it. My brother stood beside us, constantly moving with impatience. We talked, but I can’t remember what we were saying, it was all a way to keep ourselves sane. The door swung open making my heart jumped into my throat, but it wasn’t our doctor. My mother’s face visibly fell, making my heart hurt even more. Finally, he came out and approached us.
“Will you come with me into the private room?” He asked, his voice giving away nothing.
We all followed. Everything felt numb as I walked. Thoughts were swirling around in my head faster and faster, a hurricane of fears destroying everything in its path. Why were we going into a private room?
Once in the private room the Doctor explained the surgery to us. My father was alive. He made it through the surgery and was doing well. He launched into details about the surgery and the tumor that was removed. I wasn’t listening. I felt my eyes fill with tears and watched my brother finally cry, no longer needing to hold in his emotions to be strong for me and my mother. I stared at him in awe as tears leaked out of his bright green eyes and streamed down his tan face.
“When can we see him?” I blurted out, interrupting the doctor.
We all rushed to the ICU of the Cancer Center, more excited than ever to see him after the endless eight hour wait. Finally, we reached the dark room where my giant father lay sleeping in the tiny hospital bed, a nurse hovering over him. My mom and brother ran to him. I stood frozen in the doorway. After all the waiting I finally got to see the man that I wasn’t sure I would see ever again. Nothing could stop my torrential tears now. My father stirred, slowly glancing around when my mom gently embraced him.
“Where’s Juji?” He asked, concerned. Slowly, I walked over, trying to conceal my fear on the small journey to his bedside. His dark green, tired eyes looked at me lovingly. His face immediately filled with concern and struggled to find my hand. I took it and squeezed it hard, hanging on for dear life.
“Everything’s okay,” he whispered to us, “I’m right here.”
Journal- On Losing Oneself
Eight hours. Eight hours drags on when you’re at your nine to five, staring at the clocks watching it slowly tick on to the next eternity of a minute. It felt long on my trip to Salt Lake City, driving with the music as loud as it could go to drown out all of the thoughts flying through my head, but music can’t silence tears. Eight hours of sitting on a plane that is bouncing up and down from turbulence, waiting to hit the safe, sturdy ground can feel like the longest time of your life, but I never felt an eight hours longer than waiting for my dad to come out of surgery from the cancer we just discover he had.
Holding hands. Holding hands is a romantic gesture. That moment when you were in the seventh grade and you first feel your crush brush your hand with his a few times before he interlaces his sweaty fingers with your own. Holding hands that day was like holding on to dear life. We squeezed so hard, not wanting to let go, not physically allowing ourselves to as the nurse comes back in telling us to say our goodbyes. And then back to the sweaty hand holding, as my mom grasped mine after we couldn’t see him anymore and every scenario raced through our minds, trying to see if hope would beat fear this time. It never did.
Writing notes. Writing notes that you would pass back and forth to your best friend when the teacher turned her back, giggling at the content and mischief that it held. He wrote a note, that he hid from my mom in his sock drawer and revealed right before his surgery. “Just in case,” he said, with tears in his eyes as I watched the strongest, bravest man I had ever known try not to show his fear. He wrote three, one for my mom, one for my brother, and one for me.
Missing someone. Missing your loved one when they go on a weeklong vacation, trying not to think of them every night as you coax yourself to sleep. Missing your friends after they go off to a different college than you and you skype them and talk on and on about the boy you met in one of your classes or at a party that you’ll forget about in a week. I never thought I could miss someone I hadn’t seen in just a mere eight hours, but God was I wrong. He wanted to talk to me but I couldn’t speak. The fears had won the race against hope and they continued washing over me after those eight hours of waiting, holding hands, learning of notes written in fearful moments of not knowing if you will survive, and missing my dad.
Hugging someone. Hugging someone can be an intimate moment, it can be a boyfriend comforting the girl that just found out her father had cancer that most people don’t survive. Hugging someone can be a wife squeezing her son so tightly during your eight hour wait because he reminds her of her husband in the way he talks and looks. Hugging someone was a father gently wrapping one arm around his daughter as he wakes up, trying to comfort her through her speechlessness.
These are the 480 minutes in which I lost myself. Eight hours went by, not even a full day and I had changed. I was not my blunt, hardcore, strong, stubborn, somewhat heartless self anymore and to this day I’m still not that person. I lost that part of myself during those eight hours, just as my dad lost part of himself, a tumor ridden part of himself. In those moments of waiting, holding hands, learning of notes, missing someone, and hugging family I lost myself.