My best friend is a fighter. And by best friend I am not talking about my college roommate (who, by the way, is pretty awesome), not my fiancé (although he comes a very close second), but the friend I am talking about is my mom. The women who not only gave me life, but also helped me create mine. The person who stood by me through everything and has always been my personal cheerleader, my angel, my rock and lets face it, at times, my savior.
But on November 13th our entire lives changed forever. I will never forget that cold day in that second floor hospital waiting room, the two-hour surgery during which I was a ball of anxious energy unable to focus on anything. The surgeon coming out and leading me into that cold small room and there, like all of those who had sat in those chairs before me, I listened to him say the words that will forever be etched in my mind. ”Massive disease, cancer had spread, we needed to remove much more then we thought, we will need to begin chemotherapy,” his words swirled around me like a tornado building momentum, terror shooting through me at even the mere thought of my mother’s mortality. The tremendous weight of what is happening, what is about to happen, falling down on me and crushing my ability to breath as if a serpent had slithered around my neck and was choking me as each breath became more laborious. I vividly remember breaking down in that hospital bathroom, crouching low as I wept, pleading with G-D to help my mother.
The days and weeks ahead were the longest of my life. My mom’s hospital stay turned into weeks instead of the previously thought seven days. The complications that followed, the ensuing battles over insurance coverage, medication, rehab, the trips in an ambulance to another hospital in the middle of a snowstorm, the follow up care and on and on.
Nothing will ever make you feel more like a grown up then when you take care of a sick parent; not college graduation, your first real job, renting your first apartment, not even having your first child. The moment you care for a seriously sick parent, even an unbelievably strong one, it will sober you to life in an unimaginable way. Some days I collapsed on my bed sobbing harder then I thought possible as I prayed and begged G-D for her to be ok.
Prior to this diagnosis, my fiancé and I were excitedly planning on moving in together, my mom and I were busy talking each day about how we would decorate, about how my son had just begun Kindergarten and we talked about his teachers, about his upcoming Superman themed birthday party and all the other things going on in our every day lives. Before November 13th we chatted away on all of our plans as we had always done for so many years, but daily camaraderie on such simple things was now abruptly halted by cancer, by a prolonged hospital stay and her ongoing recovery.
During those initial weeks after the diagnosis we were with her through each step and I spoke to her nurses and doctors so much they had my cell phone number memorized, but I so deeply missed our old life; our conversations, our nightly phone calls, our talks, our daily checkins.
And each November night as I retreated to bed the tremendous loneliness would wash over me like a tidal wave. Of course this was not really about missing my desire to talk with her about our day; it was the deeper yearning for all the days before November 13th, the days when cancer had not invaded our lives, the days when she did not have to experience all of this pain. It was a desire to go back to November 12th, the day when life was still ok, the day before it all exploded.
Even though my mom was showing an extraordinary amount of courage, strength and steady improvement from her treatment, we all know the terror of cancer and we knew that each day we would keep fighting this. I would always be her rock, her advocate, her whatever she needs and be there wherever this journey took us. My mom always believed in the power of the human spirit, she always saw beauty, even in all of life’s challenges, and now this was a message I needed to hold onto and carry with me every day.
Sometimes when the pain and worry is to great, I close my eyes and picture the sunny summer days that one-day will come again. The days where we will sit outside at her house, eat brunch at her restaurant, watch my son run around and play in her backyard, talk about things like planning a wedding and having another child and we will once again, despite this very painful year, marvel at all the beautiful possibilities that life can bring.
Until that glorious day, I miss November 12th.