One day you’re living your life. The next day, you get a phone call and BOOM! everything changes. You start driving to Boston to go to doctors and hospitals. And then suddenly, this way of life is your life.
This is my “what tore me away from my blog” excuse for a month while the world was filled with Bill Cosby rape allegations, Ferguson, MO Grand Jury non-indictments, Staten Island Grand Jury non-indictments, and executive orders on immigration reform. Racism and sexism continue unfettered regardless of how life interrupts.
My stepmother was diagnosed with a non Hodgkin mantle cell lymphoma. We were immediately sent to a Dana Farber affiliate at St. Elizabeth’s hospital in Brighton. The doctor knew what type of cancer it was just by looking at the cells. I’m pretty impressed by her knowledge. Now she is doing chemotherapy 2 back-to-back days a week a month. And then we revisit plans A, B, and maybe C.
It’s also odd how something so scary, like cancer, can become so normalized in your life. Just this Sunday morning, there was a fascinating story on Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong who believes cancer can become what we would call a “chronic disease” and is experimenting with different ways to treat it.
In the course of this month of cancer in the family, I’ve had some illuminating conversations with two of my favorite nurses (my best friend and my little sister) about cancer. My sister has studied cancer as part of her work as an oncology nurse, but also in her studies for her NP. She, herself a cancer survivor, believes that cancer is just a mutated gene and that the environmental (or hippie ideology, as she called it) is not quite on point. Dr. Soon-Shiong believes it is cells that are unable to die as they should. While I am in no way any kind of medical anything, I feel like it is a mixture of all of these things. And I say this partially because we do know that cancer is more common in certain geographic areas of the world.
My step-mother, for example, has a family history of cancer that would make you faint. All these people grew up in small town in northern New Jersey. There is definitely something genetic or geographic about this family’s connection to cancer.
It’s been years since I’ve spent 8+ hours at a time with my family, probably since high school. That, in itself ,is a unique experience. And one, that is in many ways, a gift. My parents keep saying they have forgotten how funny I can be, as we are stuck staring at each other for hours in a hospital room. And they seem impressed at the kind of questions I ask her doctors.
I guess, as parents, your child is always your child, even as an adult, so they are pleasantly surprised when I do “adult” things, like ask smart questions. We’ve certainly been having some good laughs as we crawl, literally, in and out of Boston. And we’re trying to live each day in the moment, in the present. This has become sort of an inside joke but is still always a good lesson. For anyone.
Even if life gets interrupted by something: cancer, death, sickness, unemployment, we still have to live every day. And that is what my family is being taught by this recent event. Life was interrupted for a moment. But we will continue to live it. I will get back to blogging. One moment at a time.