“It’s cancer.”

There sat my mom, on her hospital bed, digging through that overstuffed purse of hers. After two weeks of having a hard time breathing, she was admitted to the hospital. That morning, she had a bronchoscopy, which revealed a tumor in the airway leading to her left lung. I had just walked into the room to see her, and out it comes, very first thing. “It’s bad. It’s cancer.” Like she was saying something as simple as, “It’s Monday” or “It’s so nice out.” Matter of fact. No tears, no real discernable fear, just those three words. Even though I had been steeling myself for this all morning (and really, for the past few days), it made me dizzy. In typical Patti fashion, we were being no-frills about this. “I’m just going to fight this as hard as I can, and that’s it.” Back to digging through her bag. I looked at my dad, who was looking at me, presumably trying to gauge my reaction. Nodded my head. I went into the bathroom and cried, grateful for the loud fan that was muffling the noise. It struck me as almost laughable that after quitting smoking nearly five weeks ago, this is happening now. What horrible luck. Now can’t be the time to ruminate on such things, though. My parents need as much of their stress absorbed as possible, I have three younger sibling that, while adults, I feel the need to support and guide through all this, and everything is about to get busy. And difficult. Maybe it’s the nurse in me kicking in, to help me refocus my energy from fear, to action.

I went back out, and I asked my parents if I could tell Kate when I met her in the lobby, and they agreed, so I went down to wait for her. The anxiety that surrounds having to tell someone such a horrible thing is unbearable, but I was glad to shoulder that burden for my mom, maybe it would make it a bit easier for her. I can imagine that when you’re scared and still processing information yourself, sharing it with others is probably nearly impossible.

Katie came, and I asked her to sit down. I explained the events of the past few days, and told her that our mother had lung cancer. She stared for a minute, and then began to cry into her hands, her tears sneaking through her fingers and dripping onto her pant legs. In that moment, my heart hurt, because I saw her as she was at nine or ten, not as she is now. We went together back to my mother’s room, and I think being able to see her, and see what great spirits she was in made her feel better. The four of us had a good afternoon together. My dad stayed the night at my house, and all night I slept fitfully, constantly listening for his horrible snoring, to know that he was actually asleep, and not up worrying.

My mom is back home now, and despite the addition of oxygen, is getting back to her regular routine. She will find out next week where she’s at in terms of staging, and her treatment options. It’s difficult to wait, but there’s also an odd comfort in at least knowing why she hasn’t felt well. I’m not sure what the road ahead will look like, but I do know that this illness has one hell of a fight to come up against, in my mother and the medical team she has in her corner.

And if you could offer up a kind thought, good energy, a prayer, whatever it is in your heart, it would be greatly appreciated.