Got your back…

Jan 4 is my Mom’s birthday.

Me, my sister Cindy and Mom all celebrated by spending the day with each other shopping in Port Huron.  It was a great day.  Lunch and dinner out and a few deals were found.   We intentionally set out to have a great day.  I owed it to my Mom because her birthday last year was he worst ever.  It was my fault.  It had to be one of the worst days ever in my life and the fact that it all happened on my Mom’s birthday made it even worse.

I remember that day one year ago just like it was yesterday.  We all know that I had cancer at this point, as this was discovered after the emergency bowel surgery on Dec 14 that saved my life.  However Jan 4 was my first appointment to go to the London Cancer Clinic.  I wasn’t even scared or really worried, maybe I was numb, who knows?

I guess I just didn’t know what to expect I guess.  Actually what I was thinking was… cancer… yep I have, I can deal with it… heal from surgery, chemo, etc… win the fight and move on, end of story.  I can get better, lots of people do.  I am 39 years old, healthy until now, so I can beat this.  Let’s just say I was crushed.  Rick went with me because I didn’t want to put Mom through the whole diagnosis crap and wanted to spare her some negative emotions since it was her birthday afterall.  She wanted to go with me, but I said no way.

First we met with a general doctor.  I only met her this one time and I don’t remember her name, I always remember people’s names.  It seemed like forever until she walked into the exam room to meet Rick & I.  When she entered, she looked kind of surprised and said… are you Karrie?  I said yes, she replied…”you look absolutely terrific”.  I obviously looked at her with one eyebrow raised because frankly I was quite confused.  Granted I was having a good hair day, and the only thing that would give my illness away was that I couldn’t quite sit up straight yet at this point because I was still very sore and bandaged up from the huge vertical incision that started at my rib cage down to just above my private area.  My thought was that my “paper record” or “chart #” didn’t reflect who was sitting in front of her and maybe she had the wrong patient or wrong room.  She then proceeded to explain the pathology of the tumour mass that was removed from my abdomen.  We were then told it was stage 4, terminal.  Terminal?  What the heck?  No way.  I can’t possible be terminal!!! 

We asked… since I feel so good right now, if we choose not to do chemotherapy, how long can I expect my prognosis to be?  I know it’s not an exact science, but they deal with this every day and obviously they have average numbers.  She non-chalantly says… “oh, you can expect to live a very long time”….. wait here it comes the big blow….. “you can expect to live about 9 months or so”.   WHAT THE HELL?  NINE MONTHS IS NOT, I REPEAT, NOT A LONG TIME.  (this was running through my mind with neon lights, the words did not reach my mouth)  I couldn’t even look at Rick and I did not shed a tear.  I was frozen inside.  So our next question was…. and if we do chemo… what are we looking at?   This was when I met Dr Mackenzie, my oncologist.  She examined me first and then she said with a face with really no expression except that compassionate look…. “you can expect a prognosis of approx. 2 years”.

She left the room to go  get some paperwork, but I think she did this so that we could have a moment to ourselves.   I was sitting on the exam table with a paper gown (first of many) and I glanced down at my wrist.  At this point I started to get watery eyes because I was looking at a colourful beaded bracelet that my 4 yr old niece made for me.  It said “I love you”.  I kept it together to get through the rest of the appointment and Rick said let’s go right home, I know you wanted to go out for a nice dinner in London, but let’s go home.  I said no f–kin’ way.  We are going shopping for the counter top stools that I was wanting and we are going out for dinner as planned.  We can deal with this cancer crap later.  It’s our turn.   So we found the stools and went to Moxie’s Grill for dinner.  I love this place.  Perfectly decorated to my taste and they make awesome steak & double stuffed potatoes.  I ordered a glass of wine, and we started to talk about the events of the day and the elephant in the room.   The whole time we were shopping I was numb, but as soon as we sat and relaxed and talked about things, the flood-gates opened.  I couldn’t stop.  I am sure it embarassed Rick as people in the restaurant probably thought that we were fighting or breaking up or something.  We made it through the meal and on the drive home I planned my funeral.  It hadn’t even occured to me that I didn’t have to give up.  I was doomed.  My Mom insisted that we call her as soon as we talked to the oncologist because of course she was worried and wanted to know the details.  She would not rest until we told her.   I didn’t want to ruin her birthday.  I wanted to run away and just disappear.  Rick and I talked and we decided that I should hold a family meeting and tell everyone at the same time so that we could all be together and so that I would only have to “say it” one time.  My sister, my brother and Mom and step Dad and me and Rick all met and the prognosis was shared.  Mom’s birthday ruined.   I made Rick tell my Dad the next day because I was too afraid to hurt another person.  So he did.

My mom’s only sibling, her brother, my Uncle John passed away 3 months earlier from cancer and Mom was still grieving.  How could I possibly hurt her more?  At my uncle’s funeral service I could sense that although she was surrounded by family, she seemed alone.  Both her parents have passed and now her only sibling.  I couldn’t imagine how she felt, and I hugged her and said, don’t worry Mom…I got your back.

Sooooo….. this birthday was a much better one for Mom.  We shared it together and reflected on all things positive.  Especially finding a new pair of pants that were on sale for $6.90 at Macy’s of all places.   There I go back to shopping…. can you tell that retail therapy works well for my family and me especially? 

Anyway, this post is for you Mom.  Happy Birthday!  I got your back! 

I am so glad I could make it up to you.

We are all doing great and we are heading in the right direction.  I will never give up. 

I love you… more!