My brother, Cameron, and I, have had several conversations over the past few months about our moms cancer diagnosis. We've come to the conclusion that, to be quite frank, it just fucking pisses us off. We seem to be stuck in the "anger" stage of this diagnosis, and I guess that is sort of a mixed blessing. Yes, it makes us lash out at innocent people, but it also keeps us from walking around in tears all day. Now we are only in tears half of the day.
We don't know how much time we will get to have with mom. Will it be 8 months, 2 years, 5 years? We just don't know. But the truth of it is, even if it were 60 more years, it wouldn't be enough. We are selfish. We want our mom to be there for our phone calls every day for the rest of our lives. And she won't be. And that is a sad reality of not just this diagnosis, but with aging in general.
And then there is the anger over words from those just trying to be supportive. I've been on the other end of this situation, when someone I care about has a loved one diagnosed. I know that you just don't know what to say. And that is where it becomes very important to choose your words very carefully. I've gotten everything from "My dad had that same exact diagnosis. Dead in 6 months. Get ready now" to "I know exactly what you are going through".
I'm not even going to touch the first one. She doesn't deserve anymore room in this blog than she has already taken. The second one, that is a touchy one. Because, to be honest, you don't. Ok, your mom was diagnosed with cancer. I get that, and I am SO sorry that you had to experience that. But...YOUR mom wasn't MY mom! YOUR relationship with YOUR mom wasn't anything like MY relationship with MY mom. Yes, you hurt. I hurt. Many people have been hurt by a cancer diagnosis. But you really don't understand. Just like I won't ever understand just what it was that you went through. Please, just don't say this to us anymore, because, while we know you mean well, it just makes us more sad, more angry, and it makes us feel more alone in all of this. Please just simply say that you are sorry, if you are.
A few months back, towards the beginning of the year, I began to have a feeling that there was something seriously wrong, medically, with my mom. At that point, I don't know that she had even been to a doctor yet. I was having a bad day, and just wanted to call my mom. I knew she wasn't home, but one of the first symptoms I noticed with my mom was that she lost her voice. And I was beginning to forget what my moms voice actually sounded like. I just wanted to hear her voice on the answering machine. My moms answering machine has had the same message on it for as long as I can remember. Probably 15 years, at least. My mom, in her chipper voice, saying "Hi, this is Jackie. Greg and I aren't home right now. If you want to leave a message....do it now". And I can always remember thinking to myself, "I really need to have them change that, so she isn't telling people she isn't home."
And the machine picked up, and it wasn't my mom. It was my step-dad, in a newly recorded message.
And I cried. I'd give anything to have that greeting back. To hear my mom telling me, dangerously, that she isn't home, and the whole world is now welcome to come rob them blind. And she will probably never have her voice back the way it was, and I will probably never get that chance to hear that message again. And even something little like that, pisses me off.