Mum is cancer free. I’m still spinning out at the fact that mum is entirely cancer free. It’s what I was praying for; a miracle outcome where the doctor would say there is no more cancer in her body. What an amazing answer to prayer from my mighty God. Some may not view this as a miracle but let me explain why I believe it is. When we went in to see the doctor yesterday, he started to explain that mum had a really aggressive form of cancer that wasn’t affected by hormones, so it was a stand alone cancer that just rapidly grew on its own. Not what we wanted to hear. He then proceeded to tell us that in majority of cases, the cancer would have spread throughout most of the body by now at a rapid rate, however… This is where I held my breath because so far the news wasn’t too great. However, he continued, the cancer hasn’t spread and in fact, is totally gone and you are cancer free. Spin out. Mum is quietly praying and thanking Jesus under her breath while the doctor is still talking and I’m just processing what he said. She’s cancer free. It hasn’t spread and it hasn’t taken over her body. It’s gone. I’m still trying to process that a 2.5 cm cancer considered as very aggressive, has not moved an inch since June 27th, which was when they did the biopsy. It just sat there, frozen in its place.This for me is a miracle because even the doctor couldn’t explain why it hadn’t moved. She’s cancer free. Praise God. Now I’m not taking away from what the doctors have done, and what they will do for her in the future. I’m eternally grateful for these amazing people that can step in and do these medical things, but keeping a cancer from spreading prior to chemo is something that people can not control.
After celebrating that victory, the doctor started talking about treatment options going forward and mentioned that mum would need radiotherapy treatment on her breast to entirely treat that area. We expected that and were prepared to hear that so things were still pretty calm. He then said that because the cancer was so aggressive, as a preventative measure that want mum to go through chemotherapy. Mum lost it. In my mind I’m just thinking ‘what? No. She can’t. No.’ Mum is in tears next to me as the doctor is trying to explain to her why she needs chemo and what it will involve and mum just looks at me in tears and says “I can’t do chemo. I can’t do it.”. You want to know what heartbreak is? It’s looking at your mum, who has always been the strongest person in your life, and watching her fall apart and cry like a child. That’s heartbreak. And what’s worse was that all I wanted to do was burst into tears with her but I couldn’t because I needed to be strong for her and ask the necessary questions. I also couldn’t because although my dad was in the room, he is not someone you want around in a crisis and this was no different. He tried to tell mum to stop crying and hear the doctor out, which wasn’t working and making her more upset, so I just snapped at him and told him to hug his wife and let her deal with her shock (not a candidate for daughter of the year I know). Everyone deals with things differently and I’m thankful that I’m pretty calm and level headed. Dad, not so much. And while snapping at my dad wasn’t ideal, his way of doing things wasn’t working so I needed to intervene. Thankfully, aside from looking at me like he wanted to throw me out the window, he moved closer to mum and hugged her.
So we continued to talk to the doctor and then he just stopped and looked at mum and said “I know you’re in shock, but this is really good news. Chemo is not as bad as it used to be and there is different types of chemo. What I really want from you is to go home and have a really big cry about it. You will feel better”. I have to hand it to the man, he was able to calm her down and had a wonderful manner about him. He sent us on our way telling us that his secretary will arrange all the oncology appointments and call us with the details, so we didn’t need to do anything except wait for the call. What a blessing because I don’t think mum would have coped listening to me trying to make appointments etc or doing it herself. So we left and mum, dad and I just stood in the car park staring at each other. I asked mum if she wanted to go and eat something (we’re Arabs, so food is usually a form of therapy for us), but all she wanted was to go home. She asked me to call my brother and let him know as he was waiting for the update. So her and dad left and I called my brother to update him, which turned into an interesting conversation.
When I called him and he asked what happened, my first response was she needs chemo. I am, for the most part a glass-half-full sorta girl but this time, my head was spinning with the fact that mum needed chemo. I’ve heard so many horror stories about it and I was terrified for her. I didn’t realise how focused on it I was until my brother said “yea, okay, but what did they find? Is there more cancer?”. When I explained there wasn’t, he replied with “so mum is totally cancer free?”. He sounded a little confused as to my reaction, and that was the point for me that I realised that I should shift from negative to positive and focus on the fact that she didn’t have cancer anymore, chemo was just a preventative. We continued to talk and I explained mums reaction and it started to upset me, however we just kept on talking. While my brother was talking, I started to get choked up and my brother, in all his wisdom, asks me “why are you crying?”. Really? Like, really? This was when I snapped for the second time that morning, only this time I wasn’t as calm as with my dad…”why am I crying? WHY? Because I just had to sit through the appointment and watch our mother fall apart in front of me and not show how I felt! I had to keep my face on so that she wouldn’t freak out even more. So can I have just 5 mins to myself to cry and feel what I’m feeling before I have to go back home and put my face on and Miss Positivity for mum!” I think my voice got a little louder on that last sentence unfortunately. My brother exercised some wisdom and just stayed silent. Good move bro, good move. I calmed myself down and we started discussing the situation again and then started to plan. One thing I’ll say about my brother is that we have been on the phone very regularly the last 24 hours just talking out ideas and plans on what we need to do. It’s been wonderful not having to worry about all of that on my own. To a degree it feels like my brother and I have stepped up to be parents to mum and dad. Not to take away from my dad, he is a good father, but some things he just doesn’t think about, so my brother and I have been making some plans and adjustments. But back to the call.
I was about to end the call with my brother and get in the car when he said “you’ve done really well through all this. If I come across as clinical, it’s intentional because I just can’t deal with mum going through this. I need to be clinical to get through it otherwise…” He didn’t finish but he didn’t need to because I heard loud and clear what he was saying. I knew it would be difficult for him but having him explain why he was so clinical made a lot of things more understandable. I understood now his reaction to certain situations over the last few weeks came from a place of struggling to deal, not a place of just assuming I would take over. We are all dealing with this differently and this is his way. I know he opens up to his girlfriend about it and I’m thankful he has her to be there for him. I can see how she is helping him and standing with him. But it was good to hear him say it because we haven’t actually spoken in detail about how we are feeling.
I went home after that and spent some time talking to mum and dad about how good the outcome was etc. dad was getting ready to leave for work so I asked him for some money to take mum out to lunch and he said “just let her rest today. She just wants to sleep”. Umm, no. I’m not going to let her just cower under the blankets and cry about this all day. Let’s not treat the chemotherapy like a death sentence (I’m talking to myself here as well). It’s not a death sentence so let’s look at it for what it is: a preventative measure to give mum a better chance of not getting cancer again. The chemo is not to remove the cancer from her body but to prevent it from coming back. There will be plenty of days ahead when she will stay in bed and cry, but not today. We need to focus on the positive and give thanks for the miracle. When I asked mum if she wanted to go for lunch, her response was “are we going to the noodle place in Cabramatta?”. That’s my girl! I properly smiled for the first time at that and so we went and had noodles and talked and drank green tea and laughed at dumb stuff. It was great. Mum actually looked at me and said “I’m not going to hid under my blanket and cry all day. Thank you Jesus for a great outcome and I know He has me in His hand”. I’m glad my instinct was right about not letting her stay home because she was in better spirits for the rest of the day. And going out was good for me as well because it helped me to focus and by the end of the day, I was joyful beyond measure.
Another thing that made me smile was the response I got from people. I was reminded why I have certain people in my life and why I hold onto them: they help me to stay focused on what’s important when I lose sight of it. The responses from people that I contacted was wonderful and the response on Facebook was amazing and full of encouragement. There is a line in Bible which says “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy” (Philippians 1:3-4)..that scripture holds true for me and I thank God often for the people in my life. Leading up to the appointment I have had so many messages of encouragement, support and prayer and it is greatly appreciated. To my friends, to those that encouraged me via Facebook or email, to those that called or sent an SMS, and to those that would hug me at church, I thank God for you often!
More than anything, I am thankful for the grace and mercy of the God I serve. I couldn’t get through this with Him. The next few months are going to be challenging and I’m already rearranging certain things I had planned to be able to accommodate mum, but I know that my God will get me through it, His grace is sufficient for me. This is just another valley we are going to have to walk through on the way to the mountain top. It will no doubt come with some difficulties and there will be times when I’m sure we’re all going to want to just give up but we won’t because we’ll keep our eyes looking up. Over the next few months I’m going to be more intentional than ever about who I keep close because I know that I’m going to need my people to help stand up at times. I’m going to need positivity and faithfulness and support. I know I’ll be leaning on my faith but also on my friends. I’m going to be more intentional at avoiding unnecessary drama and keeping myself focused on things that are important and really need my attention. My responsibilities don’t stop, nor do I stop being there for people that need me, but I’m staying away from unnecessary distractions. I read a poster that said ‘keep your drama for your llama’ I’m running with it. It makes no sense what so ever but I don’t care, I’m running with it from here on in! And I’m going to take each day at a time and just breath and remind myself that this too, shall pass.
Be blessed people and remember…keep your drama for your llama!