Cancer · Family · Grief · Life · Motherhood · Parenting

Still the mama


So, today’s cancer news was less than fun. There’s more, so I’m having a minor follow up procedure to get the last get-able bits. Then there’s the oncologist recommendation to hear. There’s some other stuff, too, that I’m not ready to talk about. Things that are ridiculously embarrassing and frustrating and overwhelming to me at the moment.  I’ll get there. For now I will share what wise and wonderful Daughter has had to say about all of this. 

When we first got news of my cancer, she was afraid and with good reason. Watching my bother decline so rapidly in the past year has been nothing short of terrifying for her and she cannot remove my mother’s dementia from her cancer. Since she saw the onset as simultaneous she sees the effects as one disease. We’ve explained a lot and read a lot. She did some research on her own at school and eventually, as she does, she understood it and felt comfortable,  or at least as comfortable as she could. She had no idea how frozen with fear her father and I were. That was for the best. Surgery same and went and, while she hated seeing me in pain, she was really ok. It was amazing. 

Then we got the word of the needed mastectomies and she completely fell apart.

Here’s the thing about Daughter: when something really upsets her, it usually takes a while to set in. She typically carries on as if all is normal after a flat “oh. Ok.” and then falls apart later. I’ve seen this happen with deaths, seeing people we love for the last time in what we knew would be years, and losing objects of great love. This was nothing like those situations for her. She instantly began crying, panic twisting her small l, perfect face. “No,” she said. “This isn’t ok. It isn’t fair. You’re the mama. The mama isn’t supposed to change. You will look different and the mama isn’t supposed to ever be different.” I couldn’t believe it. It was heartbreaking and true and real and articulate. I assured her that I would always be the mama. Always and forever. After a few days, after seeing some things and lots of talk, she was ok again. She didn’t like it, but she was ok. 

Then today happened. More news. More change. More surgery that will make me look different. She said the same things. She yelled at me. She cried. I held her. I explained how it will all make me love longer. I will be able to do things with her that I can’t do now. I will be able to play. She didn’t like it, but she was ok. 

At least that’s what she said. 

When I came upstairs later I saw where she had been, burrowed under a blanket on the couch, probably snuggling a dog, and clearly having held her flat blanket giraffe, the one we bought before I was even pregnant. The one I hadn’t seen since… since I don’t know when. It was a good reminder to me that I can tell her as often as I like that I will always be the mama. There’s nothing that can take that away. And when she is a hundred years old and looking around at her children’s children’s children, she will not let any of them forget that I was and am always her mama. 

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