Today is Monday. The surgery is Wednesday. Both breasts and potentially all the surrounding lymph nodes-gone. It is a big deal. We all know it. Things could go wrong. Things could go smoothly. There is no knowing. There is only waiting and more waiting. Trust and faith. With the lymph nodes gone that means a lifetime of lymphedema. That means my mom’s arms will swell and she will have to drain the fluid from them manually. She will have to wear compression on her arms for the rest of her life. Imagine in the summer with the humidity and heat wearing long sleeve compression. It is worth it. That is what all the doctors say. We have gotten opinions from Stanford, Barns, St. Luke’s, and more. They all say you need to take it all. Why? Because my moms cancer is aggressive and has metastasized. That means you can’t take any chances. If you want your best chance for survival then you want the lymph nodes gone. The breasts are another story. There isn’t even a question about whether to take them or not. My mom has three tumors in each. There is no way to save them. After removing the cancer there wouldn’t be any breast left. But unlike the lymph nodes, the breasts can be rebuilt. My mom’s chest has the potential to appear normal again. Never the same, but normal.
That is all just the logistical shit that has to be discussed and worried about for the surgery. Beneath is lies the heavy stuff. The how to deal with it all the logistic stuff. How about the tension between my parents. The way my dad won’t let my mom out of his sight. The way he treats her like a sick old women. The fact that my aunts, my grandpa and step grandma, and several cousins are coming to the hospital on Wednesday. How they are all acting as though we should buy my moms coffin now, that this is somehow a death sentence. How my mom has a special recovery room at the house. A space that I decorated. A space that I am praying will remain her own. She has enough people badgering her. She needs somewhere where the cancer doesn’t have to exist. How my mom is going to have tubes in her chest for two weeks. Tubes. You heard me right. Tubes stitch into her chest cavity draining blood and puss and fluid. How this is all so terrifying and slowly becoming more and more real. The dream like state that I have been in the past two weeks is slowly lifting as I start to see the truth behind this all. The truth being the magnitude of my mom’s situation. This is not just a scratch. This is a battle. A battle for survival. One in which none of us have any control over.
I just have to sit back and watch my mom suffer. Watch her as she shakes at the dinner table. Watch her as she panics when the doctor calls. Watch her tear up when she thinks about the surgery. Watch her eyes strain from the fear she is keeping bottled up inside. She is petrified. I can see it. I can sense it. I know because I am too and so is my dad and so is my brother and our friends and our family. We don’t know what the outcome of this all is going to be. No doctor can look us in the eyes and say that our mom, wife, sister, friend is going to make it. It is all a game of faith. Luckily that is something we all have plenty of. God can do miraculous things. At Celebrate Recovery on Saturday I shared about my mom’s cancer and was met by a story of supernatural healing. The woman leading the group told me that her mom was diagnosed with cancer stage four cancer and given 2-3 months to live. That was 20 years ago. God can do what he wants. I believe that. He has my mom. He has us all. It is simply a matter of trusting Him to handle everything.
This doesn’t, however, make the process easy. Faith simply makes it bearable. Nothing about your mom being sick is going to be easy. Nothing about it makes my recovery any easier. Not to make this about me, but realizing I am a component in this equation. An equation where nothing is making my urges any less. In fact, everything is turbulent right now. I am barely keeping my head up as the stormy waters are crashing all around me. My eating disorder tells me to punish myself. To make myself sick. To use behaviors as if somehow that is going to make this process lighter. That is merely a distraction, one that takes me away from truly being able to be there for my mom and yet one I am occasionally feeling forced to use. It is a slippery road to start down. It is a dark one, full of traps and obstacles. There is no outlet, only a cliff at the end marking a full-blown relapse. I recognize that. Isn’t that the first step? I just have to fight so damn hard right now to make any “right” decision. Because nothing feels “right” around me. I am surviving in turbulent waters, barely keeping myself afloat, and watching my family and friends struggle all around me to catch a breath of air, as well. What about that is acceptable? What about that feels safe? The answer is nothing. Yes, nothing feels okay right now.