Receiving a call at work from my mom is always a rarity. Since age 18, I have worked 40 hours a week. At 20, I began working at a preschool and going to school myself, which put me well over 40 hours. My mom knew how busy I was so she actually avoided calling because she “didn’t want to bother me.” As the years went by, the relationship I had with my mother was always one of her knowing I’d get a hold of her when I was available. While we grew to become friends, I feel guilty that it was always on MY time.
In 2012 I moved back to Indianapolis to live with my mom while I decided where in the area I wanted to be. My mom knew my schedule – just as when I was 18, she knew where I was and at what times. So when I got a call during work one day, I was surprised. I text her asking if she could text back. She replied “this is something I need to say to you”.
I knew that my mom hadn’t been feeling well. I knew that she had been to multiple doctors and specialists. I knew that she had lumps in her throat… I knew what that call meant. I called her back immediately to hear what I already knew, but didn’t want to admit to myself. My mom had cancer. We talked, and cried, and cried. But her prognosis was good. Thyroid cancer. The best kind of cancer you could have according to her doctors. 95% survival rate, with less than a 5% chance of the cancer spreading. My mother, and all of us were optimistic that a surgery, a few weeks of medications, and radiation would do the trick. The weeks passed, the treatments were had. In three days time we expected to hear “no more cancer”. What we learned in three days was that cancer had other plans for my mom. It decided to spread. All of the glands and lymph nodes in her neck had been infected with this disease. A mass in her lung had also shown up. More surgeries, more tests, more scans, and more treatments over the next 11 months all came back with the same results: cancer.
This “easy” cancer had no desire to let up or get out of my mother’s body. This “easy” cancer had left her drained and wondering why she simply couldn’t get better. She was feeling as if her own body – that she organically fed with foods from her own garden and walked around the neighborhood for miles each day – was betraying her. How do you become so sick when you do everything right?
My mom endured a move from Indiana to Florida while fighting this cancer, having to start over with doctors and hospitals – nothing that any cancer patient wants to do. She slept for hours each day. She called to cry every other day, and I, her oldest daughter, could only listen. I felt helpless. I couldn’t help the person who had helped me countless times throughout my life. I couldn’t make her sickness go away and I couldn’t cover any boo boos with a band-aid.
What I learned in the end though that she was getting exactly what she needed from me when she called: A listening ear from her daughter. I also learned to not let myself become “too busy” for my Mom. As I made time for her during this cancer fight, I found us growing closer even though we lived a thousand miles apart. And the more time I made for her, the less the conversations revolved around this evil inside of her body and instead moved toward things that she enjoyed and that made her happy. She found reasons to laugh again, to feel excited again, to just feel again. When she decided to turn this negative into something better, healing truly began. She could feel the cancer no longer winning. Ans as I continued to make time for her, I could hear the change in her tone improve.
April came and it was time for a scan to see where she stood. My mom called during the middle of the day again, just as she had when I got that first phone call. I knew it meant results were in. With the same anxiousness that I had with every midday phone call, I answered. Except this time was different and I could feel her smile through the phone as she said what we had waited for over a year to hear. No more cancer.