I wrote a long blog entry that I was planning to post for New Year’s. It was a fairly comprehensive look back on 2011. In it, evaluated my goals from last January, reviewed my submission stats, and took a look forward to next year.
Then, on the evening of Wednesday the 29th, my mom called. She had suffered a seizure and was in the hospital. Preliminary tests had found a lesion on her brain, and the doctors suspected it was metastasized breast cancer.
By Thursday afternoon they had confirmed the lesion was a tumor. They found cancerous growths in her lungs, too.
Thursday night, I caught a redeye flight from Seattle to Raleigh.
Friday my brother flew down from New York, and my uncle drove down from Virginia. In her hospital room, Mom had a long stream of well-wishers from her work, her church, and her neighborhood.
Saturday she had brain surgery, and the tumor was successfully removed.
I write this on Sunday, New Year’s Day, with a pen and a pad of paper, sitting in the ICU. A few feet away, the strongest person I know has been laid low by a few tiny clots of cancer cells and the prospect of another excruciating round of chemotherapy. And that long blog entry I wrote about 2012 seems rather trivial. What comes will come; hug someone you love, because in the end, that’s what matters. Of all the problems and obstacles you can run into on the road of life, rejection letters don’t even count as pebbles.
But I may still post that blog entry at some point. Because in cancer, there’s another reminder: strive for your goals now. Don’t put things off. If you have your health, take advantage of it. And just don’t say you’ll do things “one day.” Because that “one day” may instead be the day that you wake up with a healthy, normal life, and end the day in the hospital with a brain tumor. Cancer doesn’t give warning. It just happens.
It looks like Mom will get past this. But that’s what we thought back in 2009 when she first beat breast cancer. There’s no way of knowing for sure. All we can do is trust in modern medicine… and god, if that’s your thing. Although, for the record, if there is an all-powerful God out there who’s in charge of the world, then cancer is a really, really, really shitty thing to let happen. I don’t think you can appreciate how truly, awfully shitty it is until you see it up close in all its painful reality, until you see someone you love get struck down with it multiple times, or watch someone, like my grandmother, die a slow and agonizing death as it eats away at her. Seriously, fuck cancer.
Admittedly, it could be worse. The tumor was small and discrete, and easily removed, and there have been no side effects from the surgery. Mom has a wonderful network of friends and family who are supporting her, and will help her get through this. The family’s been brought closer. But looking for a bright side in this is a bit like the old joke: Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?
I hope you and yours have a happy 2012 and beyond. We may too, yet. But from where I’m sitting, I mainly just want to get past the next few days. Then we’ll see about the rest of 2012.