Day 321/365 Her Lens

I have told the story before about how, after my father’s death, I became more keenly aware of a lack of photos of my mother. The reason being, she is an avid and talented photographer, thus is always behind the lens.

When I mentioned this to my mother, she said, “When I die, I will leave behind photos of all of the people, places and things that I loved…as they were through my eyes. Isn’t that better than a bunch of selfies?”

I was so struck by that, as was my daughter, Beau, who heard my mother say it. She still brings it up now and then…remember when Nana said…

My mother’s photography is how she expresses her love of the world…of her world…to all of us.

It is her. 

Nine months after her husband’s death, she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. I cannot speak for her, because it begs a question I have been afraid to ask, but…

If my partner…the man I had loved for fifty-five years had just left this Earth, I think I may have wanted to die, too. If the doctors told me that if I did nothing, I would soon be with him…I may have curled up and quietly said, “As it should be; take me too.”

My mother didn’t do that.

She chose to fight for her life…and I know in my heart that she did it just as much for us as she did for herself…perhaps for us even a bit more.  

I was there with her every step, but I can never truly know how awful it was for her – still freshly grieving while enduring a heavy course of chemotherapy, followed by major surgery.

I marveled constantly at her strength, and I was frequently overwhelmed by gratitude for all she was willing to endure.

She fought. She struggled.

She did not pick up her camera for eight months. She did not share her view of the world. I think it was just too dark a place.

In late April she was given a clean bill of health. She was (is) considered cancer free.

Florida bound for our annual family trip, she brought her camera.

Once again, she was ready to show us the world through her lens.

Day 238/365 The Elephant Revealed

“…and so I start chemo next week,” she said, exhaling.

My heart started racing the moment she told me I should sit down. Then it all became a blur of words like “tumors” and “biopsies”.  I struggled to bring this information into focus – to process what she was saying.

She has cancer.

She’d known for a month. She’d gone to all the tests and consultations before telling any of us. She didn’t want to ruin the summer, she said. “You had so many fun things planned. Why would I want you to spend the month worrying and waiting for test results? Besides, it would have ruined my summer too…all the sad, worried faces.”

“Mom, I can’t believe you’ve been going through all of this alone.”

“I wasn’t alone,” she said, “Your father was with me.”

I crumbled.

Initially I was angry at her for not telling us right away, although I soon realized I probably would have done the same exact thing. We’ve all been through so much. She wanted to spare us all until she had all of the facts – a plan of action, answers to the questions.

I wasn’t angry at her. I was just really f’ing angry. Period.

When is enough, enough? Can’t we cry “UNCLE”?

It had only been eight months since dad died from a heart attack.img_3696 My parents met when they were fifteen. Twenty years ago he had a heart attack, and she had breast cancer. Obviously they both survived that time around, but now…it was all lining up too eerily. I couldn’t help but think that maybe they are simply a matched set, meant to be together. It is a thought that is both romantic, and terrifying.

Not her, too.

However…

The thing about my mother is, she is one of the strongest women I know. If she sets her mind to doing something, she will find a way, from moving an enormous piece of furniture she has NO business moving on her own (because she couldn’t wait for my father to get home! Lord, no!), to starting her own business, to standing up to a bully neighbor.

When it comes to cancer, she is already a survivor. 

If she doesn’t believe she is ready to leave this Earth, I have to believe she isn’t going anywhere. Not without a hell of a fight.

So, we have our weekly “date” at the infusion center, she and I. Every single week she tells me to just drop her off and go home…or to the mall, or something (the chemo infusion takes 3-4 hours).

The thing about stubborn, strong women is that they tend to birth other stubborn, strong women. So of course I insist on sitting there with her, whether she likes it or not.

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Mom, I can’t do this for you (not that you’d let me), but I can do it with you.

We’ve got this.