This. This right here is the most powerful thing I know: this bizarre freight train of love for a boy who asked for a fly swatter (see bottom right of photo) and car keys (without a car) for Christmas. This is my beating heart. I leave hours and hours open every day to be someone’s mom and someone’s wife. It is one of the only things that I know with an intensity and a language that people usually reserve for describing “a call” or at least a socially disruptive hobby.
But what I realized in these last two months since my glorious scan news is that if I want to do anything other than being a mom and a wife, it gets ugly. Cancer, as it turns out, is always trying to take everything. It wants your health, mostly, but settles for happiness, strength, peace, and all your time. Oh my word, the amount of time is lethal. If cancer doesn’t kill me, mountains of e-mail and paperwork will.
This is how it happened. It was 15 days after my last scan and I was still basking in the afterglow of GOOD NEWS. Having recently dropped chemotherapy, my continued health meant that the immunotherapy drugs were actually working on their own. And—even better—I was feeling great. No more thin hair, paper nails, and hobbling around on tender feet. I was almost myself again.
I was standing in the book exhibit at the American Academy of Religion visiting books like dear friends when I got an e-mail that said that I was now cleared as a candidate for a liver resection and that I would be meeting with the surgeon in 48 hours. At one level, it was good news. These are precisely the kind of next steps that were not offered to me when I was hanging by a thread. But in every other way, I knew it was the beginning of a difficult experiment. I have an extremely rare form of cancer. How many people like me are out there? And what are they doing when faced with a painful decision?