“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.
END PART ONE.