The first time I heard H’s heartbeat, my mom was there. J, who attended all my appointments for whatever reason could not be at that appointment and my mom had offered to go along, so she met me there. With an eager smile and teary eyes she heard the quick pitter patter of the heartbeat for the first time right along side me.

I was reminded of this today as I accompanied my mom to her chemotherapy appointment. This was the first time I have ever taken her and there are a million and one reasons for that, but none seem good enough to share.

We entered the building and walked down the hall and the people there greeted her as if they knew her. Because they do. She joked with the receptionist about being on the phone, went back to the treatment room and waved at the nurses and desk staff working. Each and every person she saw asked her how she was and she answered. Honestly.

“I’m tired today.” She sighed.

And each and every person that asked would listen and ask why or what’s going on or tell her tomorrow is Friday and she’s almost made it through the chemo week.

They cared.

I am genuinely thankful for these people in that moment. They ask because they care. How many times do you ask ‘how are you’ and not really listen to the answer? For me, it’s too many times.

She climbed into her chair and the memory hit me. Once your past a certain age how many appointments does your mother attend with you? Not many. I couldn’t remember the last time we sat in a clinic or doctors office together until I remembered the heartbeat. I instantly wished to go back to that day.

Diane, my mom’s nurse came in and quickly went to work administering drugs to prevent nauseau and then the actual chemo drugs. My mom drifted in and out of sleep and in and out of conversation. I looked at a catalog, then a magazine, and then just looked around the place I was in. There were young and old people there. People who’d lost their hair and people who hadn’t.

I wanted to know their stories. Why are they here? What is going on?

Will they beat this?

The hum of the area was low. There were quiet conversations taking place, some had their curtains drawn and the tv on. Others slept soundly.

I was thankful not to have any children with me. Especially H. It would have been insane chasing him around and keeping him quiet. Though I wonder if he would bring a smile to someone who is lost in despair. I’m glad the juggling I had to do for the day worked out and that I could take my mom alone.

My mom and I chatted about miscellaneous things. The catalog I was looking at. Her favorite nurse. My grandma.

The conversation moved to the upcoming decisions to be made about my mom’s health. She has one more round of this chemo after this week and then it’s the unknown again. Maybe radiation. Maybe new studies.

“Ok.” I say.

My mom tells me they are going to talk to a funeral home and I nod and look back at my catalog. It is an elephant in the room, this looming. I wish I was strong enough to want to talk about it.

Why is life so unfair? I want to ask.

She closes her eyes, and I sit and look around the room.

This cancer is uncomfortable and difficult, but no one said it would be easy.

Sometimes I long for the easy.

And sometimes I am so terrified of the truth that I long for denial.


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