Now it looks as though they're here to stay
Oh I believe in yesterday
Suddenly, I'm not half the man I used to be
There's a shadow hanging over me
Oh yesterday came suddenly
-The Beatles, "Yesterday"
Many of you have already heard about the shadow that's hanging over me.
My mom, Laura McLean - or LaLa to her grandbabes, was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago. To say that the past few years have been crazy doesn't begin to do justice to the emotional roller coaster we've been riding. Really, having 2 kids is plenty life-changing. I've watched 2 kids arrive, held hands through Jay's 2 heart surgeries, and watched my mom endure countless rounds of chemo, a couple of hits of radiation, 2 brain tumor surgeries and some crazy nanoparticle liver treatment. Yeah. Call me stressed. Or call me really, really, really bad luck to people who love me. Y'all might want to keep your distance.
Anyway, mom got some more bad news on Friday that even my weak attempts at corny humor can't gloss over. She's got a lot of additional tumors in her brain, and there really aren't many options left. She can do whole brain radiation, but that comes with some miserable cognitive side effects like trouble making decisions or following the steps of a process. Or she can stop treatment and risk seizures and difficulty with balance and movement.
Where is option F - None of the Above? No one should have to make these choices. No one should have to make them over and over for 5 years straight. Life is hard, but this is impossibly hard. And while I know that death is a part of life that we all deal with, I still have no idea how to wrap my mind around what is happening - around the idea that we're going to lose her before we're ready.
The thing is, we've gotten bad news before - over the past 5 years, we've heard rotten reports so many times.
It's cancer? "Wow. I really don't know what to say."
It's spread to your bones? "Oh, that's awful. I wish I had the right words."
It's spread to your liver? And your brain?! "Oh my God. I'm speechless. I have no words."
And now, it's spread to your brain and there's nothing good they can do about it?
You'd think that I'd be getting better at this by now, that I'd have a clue about how to react or what to say. You'd think I could pull out some words that had comforted in the past. That all of us would be ready for our reactions. But practice absolutely does NOT make perfect. I'm as clueless and dumbfounded and angry and sad and confused and all of the above as I ever was. I'm just as lost as I was each of the times before.
I have a fabulous husband who is a partner in every sense of the word.
I have two beautiful children. They are healthy today, thanks to an incredible miracle I was privileged to witness.
I have girlfriends who are like sisters. And they will wipe my tears. They bring milkshakes and hot chocolate and warm blankets of hugs. They assure me that my crazy thoughts don't mean I'm crazy.
I have a huge extended family of amazing people that make me laugh. We will hold each other up when the going gets tough. We eat together and we laugh together, and that's how we get through both good and bad.
I have a church family that is supportive and loving and has showed me how the love of God really works - in the way they love others.
I have a great job that is fulfilling and meaningful and makes a difference to others. It surrounds me daily with colleagues who are like family, and they help sustain me.
I have a warm house and a car to drive and plenty to eat and clothes to wear and everything I really need. Everything.
Most of all, I have had an incredibly close relationship with my mom, and I've been blessed with learning from her. I have seen an incredible example of how to face scary things, how to love people around you, how to smile in spite of the toughest of circumstances.
I have so much to be thankful for.
So mom - look at me! I am taking your sunshiney attitude and stealing a few rays. (You've still got plenty.) I wish I knew what to say. I love you. I hate that you're having to make these impossible choices. I hate that you're going to feel pain. I hate the mere idea of living without you and your never ceasing positive attitude. I will hate the reality of it far worse. But I am trying to focus on the present - that I have you today. I love you. And I am incredibly grateful for all that you've taught me.
LaLa and Luke, March 2010