Saturday, May 14, 2011

I don't know why all the trees change in the fall...

I know you're not scared of anything at all
Don't know if Snow White's house is near or far away
But I know I had the best day with you today
-Taylor Swift, "The Best Day"

Sometimes when I blog, it's because I have something interesting to say or a funny story to tell. Other times, I've heard a song that captures a moment perfectly, listened to lyrics that describe a season in my life and I can't help but write it out. And then there are times like last week, when I don't have the right words and I don't have a song. So I don't blog because it feels too forced. That's why I'll never be a real writer - people who get paid to write have to put words together whether inspiration is flowing or not. I've just not been feelin' it lately.

Then I heard this song, and inspiration is flowing again. I'm not normally a huge fan of Taylor Swift, but I'm sitting here with tears running down my cheeks as I listen to it. It's about the little moments of joy she has with her mom: going to the pumpkin patch when she's five, going shopping when she's 13 and her friends have broken her heart. Looking up to a mom who seems to understand the way the world works. Finally - a song that captures the essence of my relationship with my mom: those little everyday moments, those simple days together that shape who you are.

Most of you know that my mom has cancer - advanced, stage 4 breast cancer. She's been running this marathon for nearly five years with more rounds of chemo and radiation than I'd like to count. And while she'd been jogging along pretty well recently, she's just hit another uphill stretch. Last week during routine scans, they found that she has a new tumor in her brain and found that the tumors in her hip and liver have grown significantly. Damn.

Life with cancer is such a freakin' roller coaster. (Mom, I cleaned up my language just for you - that was as nice as I could say it.) It's good news followed by crappy news followed by nausea. There's a reason that theme park roller coasters are only a couple of minutes long. Unfortunately, with cancer, you can't get off when your head is spinning. The rest of the world goes on and occasionally asks, "How's your mom doing?" But the tumors are still hanging on and she's still fighting the fatigue that makes you feel like your bones have melted. I'm still fighting the desire to bury my head under the covers and wish it away. It's always, always there.

So what's next in this high-stakes game of Cancer Whack-A-Mole? It's a little up in the air, but it's going to start soon, whatever the "it" treatment will be. She'll have another "CyberKnife" surgery, which is intensive, focused radiation on the brain tumor when traditional surgery isn't an option. Whack - brain tumor. She'll start another round of the hair-losing, nausea-inducing chemo around Memorial Day. Whack - liver tumor. And she may have more radiation on her hip if it hasn't already begun glowing green. Whack - bone tumor. After all that, she'll switch to a different maintenance drug, and we'll pray that it holds back the tumors a little better than the others have.

And of course, all this news gets mixed up with the pressure and expectations of Mother's Day. Somehow, you're supposed to make your mom feel like the most important person in the world by giving her flowers and a Hallmark card with *just* the right sentiment. And I tend to suck royally at performing in those pressure-filled moments. It feels cheesy and forced and I hate it. I'm far better off showing my mom how much she means to me by stopping by on a random Thursday morning to help her wash her wig. We talk work, we talk William & Kate's wedding, we talk grandkids, we talk about my very real fears of her leaving me, we talk about how to pencil in eyebrows that chemo has taken. From the serious to the mundane to the silly and back again. Those days, when conversations about how much she means to me just flow naturally, are far more special than the cards with someone else's words.

So for the weekend we went to the beach with my extended family, and it was a good, low-key time. I lounged on the beach with my aunt. I sat on the porch with my mom. We ate banana pudding. I rode back with my brother who is a much more interesting person than I usually give him credit for. My dad changed a poopy diaper. (Now THAT'S a Mother's Day gift this gal can appreciate.) I read trashy magazines and lounged in the hammock. Life is good, and the weekend was filled with moments reminding me of just how good it is when you have a family that you genuinely like to be around. I had The Best Day (seriously - just go listen to the song).

If there's anything I've learned watching my mom fight cancer and my son fight congenital heart disease it is this: There is only this moment. Don't wait for the day when you have time - it will never come. Don't ignore little moments of joy. Yes, it sounds cheesy and no, I don't give a crap. Those moments are what it's all about.

No day but today.
(Grumble Grumble - Blogger was down for a day and had to erase all posts including this one. They've restored everyone else's but mine still seems to be MIA. Reposting for posterity's sake.)


Joye said...

Thank you for posting this. You are so right and, regardless of the cheesy-ness, it's a reminder we all need.

Praying for you, and that sweet Mama of yours.

Much love!

Mindy said...

Told Rod you had a new post about your mom and he told me to grab the box of kleenex before I started reading. Well written and a great reminder. Makes me even happier about the changes I'm in the process of making. I love you and miss you.

Niki said...

Hey Jen! I've been following your blog, and felt compelled to comment on this post. It is so touching and so true. Just wanted you to know that we are praying for you and your family. Hope to see you and the boys at HB this summer!

Anonymous said...

Reading your post that expresses exactly how I feel - it's one of those special moments in my life. LYTB - AJ

Emily Erin said...

Thank you for a beautiful and moving post. As always, well thought out and endearing. You and your mother are both very strong women, and I celebrate both of you. Hugs from here for running the hard race, waking up each day and making it the best day you can. Hang in there.

Joye said...

I'm still in the "unrestored" group, too. At least it was just a couple of pictures! Glad you were able to re-post this.