“Cancer? That’s hiLARious!” Part One

“So wait — let me make sure I understand this.  The cancer’s in her lung, her lymph node, her adrenal gland, skeleton, her left breast — and her skin?”

I’m not sure that’s exactly what I asked but it was definitely something like that –a string of words naming bits and pieces of human anatomy spoken in clear, moderated tones, enunciated crisply to make sure I got it all down correctly and I that had, indeed, understood precisely what they said  (and, probably, with some underlying desire to impress the two oncologists mom and I had met, probably ten minutes before, with what, exactly, I’m not sure – except maybe my unexceptional ability to type notes on necrosis and rigid bronchoscopies at great speed on an iPhone).

But it is surreal, and grim, and almost indescribably horrible, to hear those words, no matter what Jerri Blank says (I’ll explain later), especially when they’re unexpected (and they’re probably almost always unexpected, right?).

And when they’re spoken to your mom, about your mom, in front of you. (who, by the way, is the undisputed winner of the “Best Goddamn Mom” award 41 consecutive years in a row).

And when your kind, well-meaning physicians realize your mom is hearing the news for the first time, even though she should have been given the diagnosis by other physicians a week earlier, but hadn’t – so they get to witness the shock and emotional breakdown of the poor woman, now wheelchair-bound and barely able to express her grief with more than a few tears because she’s literally breathless thanks to her collapsed lung.

And then to have kind, well-meaning, physicians stare at you and say, “do you have any questions?” when, of course, your mind has just gone all fuzzy, like bad TV reception in the 70’s, or like when you’re lying in a fetal position on the bathroom floor an hour after you’ve pounded four large margaritas (with extra shots), because the cold white tile against your cheek is waaaay more soothing than your queen size bed and the only question you can seem to muster is…

Nuthin. Nada. Zip. ‘cause all that’s going through your mind is “ohpleaseGodmakeit stopspinningohpleaseGodpleaseIswearIwon’tdoitagain.Just this once.  Please God. Please,” as you do everything in your power to keep your face pressed to that cold tile floor ‘til tomorrow morning.

Or that the words the doctor just reiterated to you so you could diligently record them down in your iPhone notepad couldn’t possibly be true.


6 thoughts on ““Cancer? That’s hiLARious!” Part One

  1. Stephanie says:

    Oh, jeez…I wish I didn’t have some inkling of what you’re going through. I’m so so sorry.

  2. Even though you’re describing what happened in such detail, I can’t imagine what you and Pam must have experienced at that moment. You can’t know, until it’s happened to you — and even then, it varies for different people. It’s hard to even know how to react, because we’re never told how to process information like that.

    I remember when a doctor told me I would never walk again, and I didn’t feel sad, angry, shocked, or really anything at that moment. I just felt sort of…nothing. The real emotions didn’t come until later, and only in bits and pieces. A case could be made that I never really fully processed that bit of info entirely (who knows…that might be the reason I AM walking some today).

    Just don’t be surprised if the emotions hit you in waves too, and when you least expect it. But also don’t worry if they DON’T come when you think they should. Our minds and bodies work in mysterious ways, and doesn’t always process upsetting information or situations the way that’s “expected.”

    I think it’s great that you’ll be able to express yourself through this blog, at least. You’ll be able to focus your feelings in a way you might not be able to by yourself, or to your mom, or to Joe, or anyone else…

  3. kevin says:

    phil…..i am terribly saddened that you and your mom are experiencing all of this. my heart and thoughts go out to you both. HUGE HUGE hugs.
    xoxo kevin

  4. sending your mom and you many many many prayers of love and much light. xoxo

  5. Phil Fogel says:

    Phil your posts have been breaking my heart. I lost my mom to cancer back in 1992 I was 24 at the time. I was devastated. I remember very well hearing the doctor’s prognosis (in that same dream state you describe), and asking over and over how they were going to treat her only to hear “we will make her comfortable as possible”, I didn’t understand, my sister had to take me aside to explain, I refused to believe it. Although I’ve never met your mom, mine was also very much like yours. She also won the best mom award every year a real “Supermom”. Her name was Betty, she raised her kids on her own and didn’t have it easy, while money was not plenty we always had the best meal (what an amazing cook she was), and nice clean clothes. To this day people still talk to me about her and remember her. She was the life at every party and loved to dance, she loved life, she made me who I am today.

    When she passed people would be afraid to mention her name to me, not wanting to upset me but I told told them to stop that. I love talking about her and hearing other do the same, because I want to keep her memory alive, I love that you are talking about Pam! Don’t stop let people know how wonderful she is, celebrate her.

    I know a bit about what you are going through, if you ever need to talk let me know,
    Sending positive vibes your way,

    All the best,



  6. Amy says:

    Phil-I’m so sorry to hear about your mom. Cancer sucks. It’s so hard to watch someone go through all that is happening with her right now. But it’s amazing that you are with her facing it head on and your able to be together. As a parent I know I would want my child by my side. Youre an amazing person and she sounds like an amazing woman. Your family is in my thoughts and prayers.

    Amy (derek’s wife, lol!)

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