It was cold.
I woke up and shivered, yanking my white comforter tighter around me. I hadn’t forgotten what had happened the day before. It sank in with clarity and vengeance, hitting me afresh even before my eyelids fluttered open. Tears coursed down my cheeks, soaking into my pillow.
I sighed; a long, deep, soul rattling sigh.
The day earlier began as normal. It even seemed good. That morning, as I drank my coffee and snuggled beneath my covers, I quietly asked Jesus to give me something to write about. What he gave me was not what I had imagined.
My mom and I were going to run some errands together that day, (we have a slight obsession with Target) and the first errand was a quick doctor’s appointment for her. She had gotten some tests taken, and the results were back.
The appointment was at 11:40 on the morning of January 10th. There weren’t very many people in the waiting room, only an older gentleman who silently flipped through a magazine. We waited in the waiting room until 12:06, and then she was called in. I didn’t go in with her.
I tried to read my book, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and Lamott talked about noticing the details, becoming an observer. I noticed the nurses huddled in the corner behind the glass wall that separates the patients from the staff, and I could hear them talking about how one of them was taking her daughter to see Les Miserables on stage that night in Toronto.
And then I thought of my mom.
I suddenly got a cold flush – the cold, sticky, sweaty flush you get when you have a fever. A sickly feeling deepened inside of my belly. I wondered how those nurses could talk about our favourite musical while I was sure that my beautiful mom was receiving some sort of horrible news a few walls away.
At 12:31 my mom emerged, the doctor close behind. I couldn’t read my mom’s facial expression.
“Let’s go,” she said to me. I gathered our things and she walked towards the door, and I looked behind me and saw the doctor. I gave her a sad wave, because I knew what was coming, and we locked eyes and I knew then and there, and she nodded her head at me and I turned to the door and followed my mom out into the snowy driveway.
My mom took three steps and then looked at me and cried, “Liza, I have cancer.” Her voice broke and she shrugged her arms, her palms to the sky, hands spread wide, and I said, “Oh Mama”, and we fell together in a heap of tears and tangled arms and we cried and held one another tight. We held each other for a long time.
And then we took more steps down the driveway but we stopped and I said, “We have to pray”, and we gathered each other close and begged Jesus to please hold us. Please, please hold us.
Because all at once our world was crashing down around us and it felt like there was nothing concrete, nothing certain that we could hold onto – and as we got into the car, tears were streaming down her face and she said she had to tell my dad.
My mom is so strong. She is so, so strong.
When she got off the phone with my dad, she handed me 2 pieces of paper – one for a blood test, and one for a chest x-ray. She needed to get them both done as soon as possible. On the bottom of the chest x-ray paper, the doctor had scrawled: early diagnosis breast cancer. I stared at those horrible words and I wanted to rip the cancer out of her body with my own bare hands. And if that didn’t work, I wanted it to be me in place of her.
I had thought I’d prepared myself for the diagnosis of cancer. I had thought about it a lot beforehand, ever since she’d told me about the lumps, and though I thought it might happen, I never really thought it might happen.
I watched her get her blood taken, and then together we walked down the hall to the x-ray office. We waited for a few minutes and then she was called in to get her x-ray taken. I saw a lady crying and wondered if she had cancer, too. I saw other people smiling and wondered why on earth they had the right to smile when my world was crumbling.
I went to the bathroom to wash my face and when I looked into the mirror I saw bright green, puffy eyes and a red, swollen, speckled face. I sighed.
When we got home, my dad wrapped his arms around my mom for a very long time.
“This sucks.” I said later as we sat in our family room together, quietly contemplating this new reality.
My mom nodded. “You’re right. This does suck.”
“We have to rely on God.” My dad said. “He’s all we have to rely on.”
In my heart I prayed that the cancer was contained, that it hadn’t spread, that this nightmare would be over. I told Jesus I wasn’t happy with Him, and I asked Him why, why, why.
But we would rely on Him. Because He’s all we have to rely on.
The morning of January 10th, I asked Jesus to give me something to write about. This was not exactly what I had in mind.
81 days later, and I’m finally writing about it. It took a while to allow the rawness of the situation to heal a little. My mom’s currently doing chemotherapy. We’ve seen Jesus through this cancer journey in incredible, tangible ways. We’ve learned a lot. And this is only the beginning.
We continue to trust in the comforting arms of Christ, and lean on the hope of Jesus. It’s the best possible place to be.