Sunday, November 13, 2011

Stage III

I'm visiting my parents this weekend. I felt like I needed to see how my mom was doing, get some additional information about what she's dealing with, and hopefully bring her some cheer. (I say that last part with some chagrin as I am really not someone who brings cheer... Pollyanna I'm not. I guess what I mean is that I wanted to show her that I care and I'm in this with her.)

I was able to review the tumor pathology report, which in a nutshell indicates that she has Stage III colon cancer. That means she will need to have chemotherapy. I've read numerous reputable sources indicating that the latest chemo drugs for colon cancer are highly effective, and the side effects are relatively tolerable. There's no reason to not be optimistic.

She is incredibly energetic for someone who had major surgery less than two weeks ago and is facing such a tough diagnosis. It's impressive. She's walking around a lot, chatting with friends, getting her own food (she won't let us do much), taking her medications on schedule, and basically being her usual self. I do not see any self-pity or even much worry on her part. She's handling it all about as well as anyone possibly could.

I wish I could say that I am following suit with my own attitude and feelings, but inside I am wrecked. I went for what was supposed to be an hour-long run, and halfway through I stopped right in the middle of the road and started to cry. I'm trying to hide it, but... this is hard. And it seems really unfair and selfish of me to see this as so difficult and to get so upset when my mom is being so positive. It's not that I don't believe she'll get better - I do. The odds are well in her favor.

The thing is that you never know how you're going to react to this sort of situation. All this time I figured that if something were to happen, I'd be able to hold it together. I'm not. Not really. I mean, I think that on the outside, in my interactions with her, I am doing and saying the "right" things. But inside I'm torn up. There's an added complication to what is going on here, which is that our family isn't particularly close and we have a lot of unresolved issues. I have distanced myself from them in recent years. Many of their friends and my friends don't get it; they think I'm selfish. I have my reasons. Now this is happening, and while my feelings about my dysfunctional family haven't changed, I also have this built-in need to be there for my parents. It's confusing and disorienting, and I feel totally narcissistic for having all of these self-focused feelings when it's not about me.

I should be fine. I should be strong. I should be encouraging. I will be those things, as much as I can. But I don't always feel like I have it in me. If this is a marathon, I am not the person at the front, bravely maintaining race pace and thinking positive thoughts. I am the person jogging well behind schedule, the one puking in the bushes and begging to quit, the one who doesn't quit but who whines all the way to the finish line.

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