Cancer Changes Everything


My mother has always been the definition of strength. Born in a time when women stayed at home and raised their children. My mother fought against established norms. She played sports. She took up causes. She marched against evil and pulled herself up and out of a troubled upbringing. I always looked up to her to guide my path of what is right and wrong. Today I look up at her IV and the poison hanging there….and I watch it drip….drip….drip.

This place is filled with fear and hope, death and life. Did you know it takes about four hours to get a chemo treatment? First, they have to fill your body with fluids – to help re-hydrate. Then there is the pre-treatment; a concoction of a variety of things – mostly to help stand you up before they knock you down. And then they suit up in masks and gowns and bring in the tough stuff. “Can I get a chemo check?” They softly speak in hushed tones and confirm the right drugs, the right dose…and then it is hung above your head and slowly begins to drip….drip….drip.

My mother comes in with a smile because that is what she does. It’s her tough side, the “I’m going to kick cancer’s ass-side.” She jokes with the nurses, dances with me in the waiting room….and glides in on her hot red buggy with the “Buckeye Diva” plate on the front. And then as the treatment begins – I watch as they poke her repeatedly trying to find a vein strong enough for the poison. She winces in pain. I watch the strength slowly drain from her face….drip…drip…drip.

Cancer doesn’t care if you’re old or young. Cancer doesn’t care if you’re white or black, woman or man, strong or weak. Cancer doesn’t care if you are wealthy or poor. In fact, I think it is just this indiscriminate brush that fills its canvas in broad strokes. She sleeps now, its time for the prep. I offer her ginger ale and crackers. We’ve been here an hour, and the time it just drips…..drips….drips…..

I read to her about all the sports from the day before. We reminisce about our teams in the past. We talk about the possibilities for the future. I show her videos of fantastic dunks, describe the positive trades before the deadlines, we count the days before pitchers and catchers report. She tells me she can’t wait until football season. Her machine begins to beep. The nurse comes over and asks my mother if she’s cold. It’s 70 degrees outside, but for my mother, it seems like it is always 45. We cover her with more warm blankets…..before they add the drip….drip….drip….

I look at my mother and just hope that she can hang on. She is my best friend, and I can’t imagine a day without her. At the same time, I watch how the disease takes the sparkle from her eyes, the color from her cheeks, the sprint from her step, and the memories from her beautiful mind. I’ll do anything I can to make each day as good as I can before the drip….drip….drip….

Cancer changes everything. I hug my children more and longer – sometimes until they are a little uncomfortable. I am happy to have the health that I have, the strength that I have, the children that I have. The flowers look more beautiful in the spring, the sky bluer, the grass greener. No matter how hard I try to hold onto life, I can’t do anything to stop the drip….drip….drip….

We are done, and I’m putting my mother’s coat around her. She says she wishes that they didn’t have so many curtains. She wants to talk to the other patients and enjoy the company of the others that share the drip….drip…drip. She smiles and says goodbye to the nurses and tells them thank you. Can you believe that? “Thank you!” for the drip…drip…drip…

I’m scared. I’m scared that one-day cancer will come knocking again and someone else I love, someone so dear to me will find out that they too have this nasty disease. What can I do to strengthen my children against this blind killer – it comes in the night, not through the front door or the Internet. It travels an invisible highway inside us. There is no calling card, no sign. My mother is home again, and I’m getting her ready for dinner. I’ll try to get just a little bit of food in her before the crash that takes days for her to recover. I’ll fill her water bottle and beg her to drink it. I’ll wash all her dishes, and put her clothes back in her drawers. I’ll clean her bathroom and take out her trash. She would do the same for me if I got the drip….drip…drip…

Monday – it’s lab’s day, see if the drip is working. Check-in with the doc to see if anything has changed. Tuesday – it’s drip day. Wednesday too. Then the rest of the week is this weakness, sickness, barely making it through-ness. I wonder if it is all worth it. And then I remember. My mother is the woman who fought against segregation, the woman who stood up for woman’s rights, the woman who raised three children on her own through the most difficult of times… her it is just another fight to be won. It’s been almost ten years now; I don’t know how she has the strength to keep fighting the drip….drip…drip…

I love my mother. And cancer changes everything.
I cry and my tears drip….drip….drip…