The View from the Waiting Room

phcc_waiting_roomOkay, once again I disappeared from cyberspace! Perhaps you wondered what happened. Last week I headed to the Houston area to be present for my mom’s surgery. (If you’re wondering why she needed surgery, click here. I avoided taking photos for the sake of privacy.)

Last Tuesday, bright and early, my dad, my older brother, and I headed with Mom to Memorial Hermann Hospital for the procedure, which took place in a surgical center on that medical campus. Yes that’s right. A surgical center. (Have you noticed that lately more and more procedures are done outpatient than in? I certainly have.)

Mom squeezed my hand as the nurse called her name, as if I were the one in need of reassurance. (She was right.) As she followed the nurse to get ready for the procedure, she seemed calm—totally ready to get the thing over with.

After Mom was prepped, her surgeon came out to the waiting area to talk to us about the procedure. I liked her immediately. Her warm, compassionate nature makes liking her easy. After looking her up on Google, I learned the inspiration for that compassion. When she was 13, her mom died of breast cancer. That gave her the impetus to pursue not just medicine, but breast cancer as a specialty. In fact, she’s one of the first surgeons in Houston to make breast cancer a specialty.

While we waited, we knocked back cup after cup of hot apple cider (my older brother drank that, since he gave up coffee) and coffee (Dad and I) thanks to the Keurig in the waiting room. Since I seemed to know what I was doing with the Keurig, I had to help others who were a little mystified by cup sizes.

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While my dad dealt with paperwork, my brother and I slipped easily into a conversation with a man who waited for his mom’s surgery. That’s what happens in waiting rooms. You meet other people who would rather talk than sit there anxiously twiddling their thumbs.

Two hours later, out came the surgeon again with good news: the procedure went well. The tumor was a bit larger than she’d anticipated, which meant Mom had to have a drainage tube for a few days to prevent swelling. It came with a clear plastic grenade-shaped container that would have to be monitored and emptied every few hours.

When we took Mom home, monitoring and emptying that container were my tasks. But it was a privilege to do even that for the woman who did much more than that while raising me.

Having surgery was not the kind of birthday celebration I could have wished for Mom. But the procedure at least ensured that she would have more birthdays. After she heals up, she’ll undergo radiation to make those birthdays even more possible.

Watching Mom deal with cancer reminded me of the fragility of life. And soon after I returned home and the news broke about the terrorist attacks in Paris, I was reminded of that even more.

Cancer and acts of terror can cause us to push the panic button. But instead of giving in to helplessness and hopelessness, we can do what we need to do. Pray and take care of the people around us.

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Waiting room from onlythegoodieyoung.wordpress.com. Cup of coffee from clker.com. Pray for Paris image from lovethispic.com.

First, You Cry

Isn’t it interesting how a piece of news can set your life on a course like a river rushing around a bend? I received two pieces of news recently. An agent asked for a full on my middle grade manuscript. (Please comment below if you aren’t sure what that means.) So awesome. I was totally over the moon. But then on the day after I turned in that manuscript, I received the other piece of news—one that immediately colored everything.

Mom had called to tell me the results of her recent MRI after two biopsies. “It’s cancer,” she said.

Everything within me shuddered to a halt. Cancer has a way of doing that, doesn’t it? It takes on gigantic proportions like darkness covering the sky.

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I totally lost it on the phone. Now, imagine telling someone you have cancer, and as a result, that person bursts into a flood of tears so hard, you’re the one who has to comfort him or her. That’s what Mom had to do. But that’s what parents do. Though they’re the ones with the problem, the parent genes kick in and they do what’s necessary to comfort their children.

I couldn’t help being reminded of a book I read many years ago—First, You Cry by Betty Rollin. In it, she discusses how she dealt with having cancer. Well, here’s my process. As the title says, first, you cry. Then you get angry. Then you cry some more. Then you pray. Then you get angry. Rinse. Repeat.

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After Mom’s consultation with the oncologist, I learned that Mom has a rare form of cancer—sweat gland cancer. Which means surgery again (yep—been there done that) and possibly radiation or chemotherapy. By the way, this is Mom’s third bout of cancer. I’ll let that sink in. Amazing isn’t it?

When someone you love has cancer, you can’t help seeing that some things in life aren’t really worth dwelling on. Arguments over who said what. Popularity contests. Power plays. They’re just so much noise. So much wasted energy and time.

I’ve wasted so much time worrying over stuff that doesn’t matter in the long run. What matters is what I have now. I have a mom who is a fighter. She’ll do what it takes to win the battle over cancer. The dark cloud might be here. But in the distance, light glimmers.

God has come.

Book cover from Goodreads. Cloud images from wallconvert.com and gatheredprayers.wordpress.com.