jp’s mom has stage IV breast cancer.
that’s how it felt to receive this news. seemingly out of the blue. but that’s how bad news arrives, isn’t it? it doesn’t gracefully edge it’s way into your peripheral and then tiptoe into your line of vision, waiting for you to acknowledge its shy wave from a little ways away, much like a guest in a receiving line at a wedding. no. it’s more like someone in a monkey suit jumping out from behind a couch when you walk into a dimly lit basement. it sucks.
first a lump. then a confirmation of a lump. then a biopsy. then cancerous results. then in more lymph nodes than projected. then in lung fluid.
bam. bam. bam.
i spent the better part of an afternoon in bed racked with grief, unable to move or catch my breath. having been dealt little to no tragedy in my life, this has been one of the heavier things i’ve had to “deal” with.
thank God for a close-knit family bc “deal with” it we are. i’m not sure what the proper response or plan-of-action is for a family that receives as troubling of news that, right now, we’ve got to get really serious about supporting our matriarch in fighting a battle she was not expecting to face. but i’m certain that the way i’ve seen my husband’s family band together –the way i’ve seen my father-in-law take the reins and be my mother-in-law’s greatest advocate and loyal sidekick– is not far from what i imagine to be ideal.
the two of them, my in-laws, they are doing this together. in addition to going to every appointment hand-in-hand, they’re researching and interviewing and keeping themselves open to alternative methods of treatment to supplement traditional treatments. there’s a hormone pill she’s taking (and eventually chemo and surgery) but there are also vitamins and a diet heavy in greens and superfoods and whole grains and exercise every day. and they are being honest and open and communicating to their community about what is going on: the good, the bad, the ugly, the encouraging, the tough news. and people are responding to this transparency with an outpouring of love and support and good vibes. i’ve watched the way my mother-in-law has, yes actually, embraced what life has thrown at her. she seemed to understand from the beginning (though i’m sure she’ll tell you it wasn’t as easy as i’m making it sound) that though she couldn’t change her diagnosis she could change the way she was going to live with this more intimate knowledge of the precariousness of life. it’s been truly beautiful.
and i’ve seen the five of us kids (jp, his three siblings, and me) change our outlook from one of complete devastation to one of camaraderie and joy at being able to look at this woman with new eyes, even more proud and more thankful to have her as such a huge part of our life than we already were; certainly working to take less in life and family for granted.
we don’t know all that is ahead for our family, for mary. it’s still strange to be placed overnight in the “there’s a cancer patient in the family” camp; i’m still digesting that this is, yes in fact, something that can happen to me (don’t we subconsciously live life assuming the bad things we hear about won’t happen to us?). we do know that, in just one month of hormone treatment, her cancer shrunk 15% and there was little to no sign of it in her pleural lung fluid. this is amazing. and we do know that survival rates for those diagnosed with cancer are higher for those who have a strong support system and, well, this has been built into our family from the beginning.
i’ll keep you posted.
photo by the most amazing, megan newton.