Some background before we begin- My Mother has had cancer 3 times. Starting with Leukemia when I was 8, Melanoma when I was 15 and Mucal Epidermoid Carcinoma, stage 2, when I was 20. My Father also had Lung Cancer (Non-small cell carcinoma, stage 1) when I was 22.
These are my stories.
It was spring. I was 8 years old. Mom found a couple lumps on her neck but we’d been digging in the yard the day before at the new house so she dismissed them as some sort of bug bites….
My parent’s didn’t want to uproot me this close to the end of the school year and so I would get driven to school every morning and then I would walk back to Grandma’s house with my cousin Josh and hang out there until Mom or Dad could pick me up after work.
One day Dad came to get me, I can’t even remember if it was early or late now but I remember it was out of the normal time he usually came. We had to go to the hospital. Momma had “collapsed” at work.
What I found out later was that what actually happened was that my Mom had been walking down the hall way at work (she is an RN) talking to some coworkers and had passed out. She’d shrugged it off as hypoglycemia getting the better of her. But then a few hours later while bending over a patient it happened again. This time they insisted on taking her down to the ER for tests.
We sat for 3 hours waiting on a single blood test. Turns out they tested it on 3 different machines and the results were so off they decided the machines must be broken so they called in a specialist to count it by hand.
I don’t remember what the exact white cell count was. But I remember it was SO massively off what it should have been. Lots of extra zeros. I knew that was bad but at 8 years old I didn’t know much else.
The next day, my Aunt Lois came to stay with us. I really liked Lois, even if I wasn’t so fond of her cooking at the time (she’s my organic aunt). Mom and Dad were just going to go get one test done and see a doctor and then they’d be home.
Momma never came home to that house. In fact she didn’t come home again for nearly a year….
It was me, my little sister, Beth and my cousin Kaydee sitting in the living room floor watching Bambi of all the horribly perverse things when the call came. I remember Lois looking pale and repeating like she couldn’t believe it: “She’s got cancer??”
All I knew about cancer at that time was the week before I’d watched one of those stupid hallmark specials designed to make you bawl your frigging eyes out; the lady had died of cancer because she’d refused treatment so she could deliver a healthy baby.
I turned back to look at the TV in time to catch Bambi wandering alone in the snow asking “Mother? Mother?”
I swear to God I am NOT making that up. I jumped up and shut that TV off as fast as I was capable of. I couldn’t watch Bambi with out FREAKING OUT for 10 years afterward…. I still don’t like that stupid film….
Lois explained that Mommy wasn’t coming home that night. They were admitting her to the hospital straight away to start treatment. My Mother had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). They even initially misdiagnosed her with another form of Leukemia, maybe it was wishful thinking b/c ALL in adults is bad. Like, usually they have enough time to diagnose you, admit you and then you die, levels of bad. Its more commonly found in children where it takes a much less aggressive course than it does in adults.
In a lot of ways, I look back now and realize my childhood ended in that living room that day. I have a lot more to share. And I will but I can’t right now. Maybe tomorrow….
I am the child of a cancer survivor and this is my story.