I was sitting in the passenger terminal at KCI, waiting for my flight to Shanghai. I was anxious to get on the flight and begin my long journey to see my husband, who had not been home for a month. It had been a long year of infrequent home visits since he had been assigned to a long stint in China. Just as I was gathering my things to get ready to board the flight, I received a terrifying call from my daughter, Liz.
“Mom, I just got back my test results. I have melanoma!”
Words of horror to a mother’s ears. Nothing like this is ever supposed to happen to your child – even your ADULT child! The folks at United Airlines were more than gracious. They held the flight while they located my luggage in the hold of the plane and brought it out.
This was only the beginning of a long journey down the Cancer path. We heard these pronouncements not once, but four times! The harsh memories of panic followed by lots of tears almost became part of the family mantra. Who can forget the rushed return to the hospital when her Calcium counts were so low they feared for her life? Or the forlorn look we tossed among ourselves, trying to decide if it was better to return to the operating room to open the incision once again rather than wait to see if things cleared up. And then there was the time we agonized over how much of her nose would have to be removed from her absolutely gorgeous face.
Do you remember years ago when the word “cancer” was not mentioned in public? The “C” word was whispered behind closed doors, and only among close family relations. We have gotten so inured to seeing hordes of young women marching through the streets declaring their will to overcome this disease. Nice for the marchers, but still words of horror for a parent!
Even my years of experience following my own diagnosis of breast cancer have not been of any use. Just searching for a decent deodorant to use while going through radiation was an overwhelming task. I found one that was just barely useful, but better than nothing. Thinking I might need to use it again, I even saved it in the back of my toiletry cabinet. After 27 years, I offered Liz that SAME deodorant when Liz had to start her radiation. Thankfully, treatments have come a long way. And so have the products to help alleviate the symptoms. Not surprisingly Liz declined the 27-year old stick of deodorant and spent over $100 experimenting with various organic and aluminum free versions until she found the best one. Even 27 years later, it was still a rambling process to locate one that BOTH smelled good and prevented sweat stains!
I’m certainly grateful that we’ve come as far as we have in the Cancer Wars. It’s a far cry from the time my mother’s childhood friend got a complete mastectomy over 50 years ago at the mere whisper of the diagnosis. However, it’s still a mother’s nightmare.