Friday, May 6, 2011

Holding Tightly

I committed to writing this post thinking that it would be pretty straight forward. I knew that I would have to dig deep in order for the guts of the post to be meaningful. I've experienced grief in a variety of forms, so, while I knew tears would be a part of this post, it didn't seem like writing it would cause me that much frustration. I was so wrong. This is re-write number 6 or 7. The first two tries didn't even make it past the first paragraph. I guess it isn't quite as straight-forward as I thought.

Grief has tapped on my door many times. Loss of loved ones. Infertility. Job loss. Interstate moves. National tragedies. All of those things brought me through various stages of grief. Some of those things still deliver grief to my doorstep occasionally, but they all pale in comparison to watching my mom suffer from cancer.

Prior to this season of my life, I would have told you that secondary infertility was the hardest thing I had ever experienced in my life. Watching others have child after child is so hard for those of us who suffer from this. We mourn the absence of the children we dream of, the children we believe God still has for us, month after month, year after year. We watch as others "accidentally" conceive, and we absolutely do not understand when they heartlessly try to explain their feelings about their unexpected (and sometimes unwanted) surprise to us knowing how desperately we want another baby. It's crushing. I am thrilled when someone shares their pregnancy news with me. Don't get me wrong. I truly am thrilled. Holding my niece and nephews when they were babies are some of the happiest memories for me, and I love holding anyone's little one when given the opportunity. Even so, that desperate longing for my own babies has brought grief to my door for years.

Still, when it comes down to it, nothing compares to the grief I have experienced in the past four months. My mom was diagnosed with uterine cancer at the end of December. I refused to google it. I refused to ask too many questions. I chose to ignore "it."  I didn't say cancer.  I didn't confront cancer. I pretended that cancer was something that only effected someone else. I assumed the best prognosis would belong to my mother. I tried not to think about cancer at all. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. I hated the word. Still do. My reaction to this news was so polar opposite to how I normally handle the tough issues in life that I can't even explain to you why I reacted this way. I would never have imagined that I would behave like this.

Two days before Mom's surgery to remove her cancer, I decided I should know something about this form of cancer and that I should probably try to act like a grown-up. I googled uterine cancer and found that the prognosis is usually pretty good, that, if it is found early, it is almost always curable these days. Mom's cancer was found early. We had hope. The doctors expected to find stage 1 cancer and planned a hysterectomy so we headed to the hospital to get the job done.

When the doctor came to speak to Dad and me as we waited in the enormous waiting area at The Ohio State University's James Cancer Center, one of the top cancer centers in the nation, we were stunned to silence. We knew Mom had an amazing doctor. We knew that whatever he had to say would be accurate and real. He showed up in the waiting area too early. We knew it wasn't good. Even now as I remember it, my heart is pounding in my chest and tears are threatening to flow down my cheeks.

As I listened to the doctor, I tried to choke out questions rather than the sobs I was fighting. Stage 4. 2-3 months if she didn't have chemo. 2-3 years if she did. It'll mostly likely come back. Aggressive. Cancer.

Cancer.

Cancer.

After living through the next several days which I can barely remember, anger showed up. I mean, seriously? 2-3 years with my mom? Not good enough. Watching my mom possibly die in her 50s? Not part of my personal plan. Seeing her in pain? Watching her become exhausted and lose her hair because of strong doses of chemotherapy? Seeing the grief on her face and hearing it in her voice and knowing that her life is an emotional roller coaster right now? Watching Dad's heart break with the news? None of this is supposed to happen. I want 2-3 decades with Mom. She's 53. Isn't that reasonable?

Cancer...makes my heart break. It makes my chest tight. It makes me want to scream or be silent...or both.

My mama has cancer. I want to fix it. I can't.

So grief? Yeah. I've experienced it. Right now, I'm experiencing it like never before, and I hate it. I am not always moving forward the way I would like. I am not always making the choices I expected myself to make. I am not always understanding my emotions or why the silliest things make me cry. Last week, I bought the same body wash that mom buys just to have something like hers in the house. Ridiculous! When I use it, I cry! Why do I do these things to myself?

If nothing else is good in this situation, I am glad that I have a God who is seeing me through it. What I can't imagine is how someone does this without Jesus. When I think about that, my heart breaks all over again in a completely different way.  I couldn't do this without Him.  I couldn't watch Mom's hair thin and hear her talk about exhaustion and nausea without knowing that He was going to carry her through this and that He will carry me through it too.

I don't know His plan. I don't know how long I have with my mom. Any of us could die tomorrow if we really get down to it. The only certainty I have is that HE knows the plans He has for me, and those plans are good and perfect. Whatever He has for me, I'll take it because it doesn't compare to what He went through on the cross. That's what gets me out of bed.

I'm such a selfish girl. The thought of possibly losing my mom and having to wait to see her in heaven doesn't bring me comfort right now. It will some day. I know it will. But now? I want her here for always. I want to always be able to call her for recipes, to chat about my kids, to talk about everything and nothing at all, to have lunch dates and shopping sprees...

Sigh.

I love my mama. I'm so grateful for this time I have with her. I'll cherish every moment. If nothing else, I have already learned that these moments we have are fleeting. Grab hold of them and don't let go until you have to. I'm holding tighter than ever before.

3 comments:

Lynne D. said...

Kendra, I was faced with my mom finally going to the hospital 15 years ago yesterday. She too had a quickly growing uterine cancer that had already spread to several other areas. Even though I knew something was wrong in Nov. or Dec., she would not give in & go to the hospital for several months. By the time she went, it was too late to do anything. She spent a week in the hospital. When I 1st heard the nasty word "CANCER," I thought they could operate & her health would improve. The freight train turned around & ran back over me again. I did not expect to hear she had a few days to a few weeks to live. I felt rather tortured by all of the commercials & fliers for Mother's Day. I was very angry & felt like saying, "Shut up, I do not know if I will have my mother on Mother's Day or not." She passed on the Friday after Mother's Day, & I assisted my dad in making her funeral arrangements 10 years to the day I graduated from high school. Sure losing my mom was difficult, but I was happy she could be in heaven & not suffering.

A week after my mom died (She was 49.), my mom's mom had a stroke & never communicated again. Grandma died in Sept. To add to more adjustment in '96, there is the pain for me of seeing my father re-marry less than 8 months after my mom died.

All of this pain was minimal to loosing my daughter after carrying her full term. I could only imagine years of infertility, since I know what it was like when I had a brief glimpse of it after having a miscarriage & not knowing if we would ever have children. I have not held another baby after I held Elizabeth nearly 6 1/2 months ago. My only living child has helped with my healing process that is ongoing & feels like the pain of a year after my mom's passed compressed into every week. Even after 15 years, there are still times when I wish I could talk to Mom & miss her. Hugs to you, Kendra, as you enjoy your remining time with your mom!!!

Kendra said...

Thank you, Lynne. I am so grateful for this time I have with my mom, and I am cherishing every moment. I know many others have been in situations similar to yours and haven't had this much time. I'm trying to make every moment the best that I can!

Heather said...

Oh Kendra. <3 <3 Hugs <3 <3