The big “C”

My mother has cancer. My mother has cancer. I still don’t quite get it. …and when it does feel like it’s sunk in, I still imagine a TV show – she’ll fight the good fight and lose her hair and people will rally and she’ll walk a marathon and then we live 20 more years together, or it’s a mistake and we laugh about the doc that mistook speedy metabolism and a thyroid condition. -No. My mother has pancreatic cancer. The one where I can’t find survival stats online because most people don’t survive it. The “good” news is that she may not be sick in bed and lose her hair. They might not do anything. She may be diagnosed as terminal and inoperable. We don’t know yet. We don’t even really know what to pray for yet.

So I’ve been living in limbo for 5 days since the diagnosis. Some moments I immerse myself in something: Internet shopping, cooking, TV, work for my company, work for my husband. These things distract me from the fact that there is nothing I can do, really, I can pray and hope and send good vibes and positive energy, but I can’t DO anything. Her oncologist will tell us our options later this week, and if we’re lucky, she’ll get to see a surgeon as well – happy thanksgiving! I hope that’s a sign that we will get good news, but maybe it is just a sign that we should be very thankful: afterall, I have spent more time with my mother in the last two months than in the last 8 years since I moved to Japan, and we got to enjoy that time without this cloud over our heads and occupying our thoughts, actions, and emotions. I am very grateful for that.

My newborn has been crying more than usual, but when I am crying she just looks at me – Does she know? She looks at me wantingly and then flashes a little smirk that says, “I love you” or “I love being yours”. It’s the most uplifting thing she could do, but then I think about all the years she could miss out on a grandma. Not just any grandma, but my mother: the most maternal person I could imagine.  She is pure hospitality, she bubbles with love and caring.  She’s so sweet and compassionate that bitter people can be annoyed (until the really understand that she is sincere and they melt). My mother takes her time for everything, almost to a fault. She is the personification of “stop and smell the roses …and tulips, and daffodils” (I think that is actually written on her bathroom wall!). She has “Glad” book journals and encouraged me to do the same when I was being negative.

The stages of grief don’t seem to happen in stages. I am feeling a mixture of all of them at once: denial (forgetting?), anger (frustration?), bargaining, depression (especially for others like unborn grandchildren), and acceptance (include gratefulness). I don’t know if I’m ready for what comes next, but I know that my mother has cancer.