I don’t think ever, in the entire history of time, a phone conversation that begins with the words “Don’t freak out” has kept anyone from doing just that. I should know. It recently happened to me.
It’s New Years Eve and I am sitting on my couch, ½ napping and ½ watching TV. I’ve just made a yummy cup of hot chocolate, but it’s still a little too warm to drink. Suddenly, the midi sounds of Billy Joel’s “Big Shot” begin pulsing from my phone. It’s my mom, and I’m always excited to hear from her. And then she says it. “Don’t freak out, but…”
I know what I’m expecting to hear—that my step-dad has had another heart attack. Will this be the phone call where she tells me he didn’t make it? Since the first one, I’ve been expecting it to happen. What she says, however, has nothing to do with my step dad and his heart…
“…I have a lump in my breast that they need to remove.”
I sit for a second and take a deep breath. “Is it cancer?” I ask.
“Looks like it.”
My mom’s voice comes from the tunnel that is my cell phone. “Emmy, are you okay?”
My mind spins like crazy….What a question! Am I okay? No! You’re my mother and you just told me you have breast cancer. Am I okay? No! You’re my best friend and breast cancer scares the hell out of me! Am I okay, NO! Wait, you’re the one that’s sick…are You okay?
I voice the question quietly, not wanting to know the answer, yet desperate for her reassurance. It’s a small lump, they found it early. She’s going into surgery on Tuesday. There will be four to six weeks of radiation, but no chemo that we know of. She won’t lose her hair. She’ll be fine.
We speak for a while longer, assure each other and profess our love, and the conversation ends.
My mother, who has already had thyroid cancer, is sick. She has breast cancer. It’s hard to wrap my mind around it, but I feel my stomach being pulled into a knot and my heart beat race.
Today my mom had surgery. They removed the lump and some lymph nodes, to see if it has spread. The doctors are optimistic. She may even get to go home tonight. She’s going to be fine, I know that, but it doesn’t silence the fear I feel and stop the tears that fall.
I send up a prayer every time I think about her. Protect her. Heal her. Love her. I can’t do it without her. She’s my mom. She’s the funniest woman I’ve ever met. She’s my best friend. She’s everything I want to be. She’s simply amazing. She’s going to come through this stronger than ever.
My mom is a breast cancer survivor, and she was just diagnosed a week ago.