December was a whirlwind of family visits, outdoor play, and heart-to-heart chats. Days filled with family and festivities. Pure joy! The months before were filled with fear, dread, and sadness. Our realities thrown off kilter, barely able to hold it together. But January is the strangest of all. It is calm. The shift in reality about my mom has become the norm and now visits to the hospital and my new obsession with applying her dressings are simply daily occurrences. Although her cancer continues to grow locally and she has daily radiation the doctors dreaded prognosis of "weeks to short months" seems like a lifetime ago. Her scans have shown no signs of the cancer spreading.
It has been more than two months since he gave us the prognosis yet life just goes on. My mom travels by subway each day to the hospital, visits the mall, goes to relaxation classes, and sips wine in the evenings. She is simply herself – calm and accepting. She knows that this is outside of her control so she focuses on the positive and, to be honest, it seems to be working. No sign of spread. No pain. Whatever this time is, it is a gift. Two months ago when I looked ahead I saw something unthinkable yet here I am as if the words had never been spoken. So what do I now? I live each day as my mom does, calm and accepting. At least I try.
It's strange, though. I suddenly saw our situation through someone else's eyes yesterday. I have gotten so used to the small changes that this is now just the way things are. This is now just the way she is. But not everyone has been able to ease into it like I have. My two aunts and my uncle were here yesterday to drive my mom back home for the weekend and stay with my parents for a visit. She had just arrived back from her radiation where, as I mentioned, she travels daily on the subway. Much of her hair has come out and she is thinner. But, when you spend time with her you can see that these are simply superficial things, she is still completely herself. Yet people treat her differently. They are overly happy and cheerful, making jokes and trying hard. They are extra thoughtful and helpful offering an arm to lean on and a hand to hold. She politely refuses reminding them that she walks these steps every day on her way to the subway.
I know they mean well and I know they love her and, just like the rest of us, are afraid. But still, I can't help it, it makes me mad. I feel like yelling "Stop that! She's fine! Can't you see that she's exactly the same? Can't you see she's the same person you've known for the last 40+ years?". But I don't because I know they are just trying to help and really, it does help. She accepts all of this far better than I do. Despite the calm of now I sit and cry after they've left wishing that everything could just go back to the way it was.