Day 317/365 I Like My Humor Dark, Like My Coffee (or Google is an Asshole, Part 2)

{Click here and read that one first.}

By the time my mother told us she had breast cancer, her doctors already had a plan in place – chemo, then surgery.

On the last day of chemo, suddenly the plan was changed to chemo, surgery, then radiation. This was disappointing, especially to my mother, who had plans to enjoy her spring, cancer and treatment free.

Two days after that, the plan was…

Well…shit, who the hell knows what the plan is…you might have lung cancer.

What we did know was that if she had lung cancer, she would not be having the surgery that had been planned to deal with her breast cancer…beyond that, we had no idea, but it seemed pretty grim.

Suddenly, we found ourselves hoping that she was going to be having major surgery. After all, the alternative was apparently too dark to discuss.

No one wanted to go there.

It’s a funny thing that happens – a Jedi Mind Trick of sorts.

Something as scary as a five-hour surgery suddenly seems like a trip to Disney when things go down something like this…

You might have terminal lung cancer, in which case you won’t be having surgery. 

Just kidding, you don’t have lung cancer! 

You get to have SURGERY!


For a couple of days we basked in the glow of finally having gotten some good news…even though we had been put through the ringer to get it. I guess in a way that’s what made it all the more sweet. The surgery seemed totally manageable in comparison to the alternative (or lack thereof) with which we had been presented.

For me, the euphoria last until yesterday – one day pre-op. I started to feel restless and jittery. I slept fitfully last night. This morning we awoke in the dark and had a mostly silent pre-dawn ride to the hospital.

The intake room was chaos as they readied all of the 8am surgical patients at once. Mom winced as a nurse grazed her IVs trying to get the blood pressure cuff on. I felt a surge of protectiveness. No matter how strong you know a person to be, when they are laying on an ambulatory bed, wearing a surgical cap and johnny….they look helpless, and scared (and rightfully so).

The nurse was frustrated because the number on my mother’s ID didn’t match her file. There was a computer glitch. “Sorry for the delay,” she said. “We want to get that fixed before she goes into surgery.”

“Uh…yeah,” I replied,  “I don’t want to come back and find out you’ve amputated her leg.”

Mom and I cracked up. We needed that.

The nurse was not amused. Perhaps dark humor is not her thing. Maybe it’s an acquired taste. Although it seems like the professionals in certain fields would need to appreciate it to survive.


Come to think of it, the funeral director didn’t appreciate my dark humor either. A year ago when we asked if our dog could be buried with my dad, the director had said, “The dog has been cremated, I assume?”

I said, “Oh, the dog isn’t dead. It’s just that dad was the only one who liked her.”

Sometimes laughter is the only thing that keeps you sane, and I know a person is a part of my tribe when they go to dark places with it.

As I sit here writing this, mom is in the recovery room. They are letting the anesthesia wear off before I can see her. Everything went well, they said.

I am so relieved…

They said her leg should heal up just fine.



Day 316/365 Google is an Asshole

“I am concerned about two areas on the lung x-ray that look as though they could be related to the cancer,” he said.

What I heard was, “Your mother now has lung cancer.”

Wait…but….she just finished chemo. How can she have NEW cancer already? 

I used to be an eternal optimist.

Even now I can pull out an “Everything is going to be fine!” but lately…

Maybe it’s my recent life experience, or just getting older…but I have begun to brace myself for the worst. Often I can dial it back and force myself to be present with what is known – to not get too crazy over what is not (yet) – but the fact is…

I am not the Pollyanna I once was.

As I sat there across from this unknown doctor, my mother laying between us on the bed in the ER, I was sure I was “hearing” what he wasn’t saying…what he was trying to tell me with his eyes…which was, THIS. IS. BAD. 

We weren’t even supposed to be there. More than two weeks out from her very last chemo…we were on a break! A month off before phase two – the big surgery.

Her body had different plans.

She spiked a fever, and protocol had her going straight to the ER. They ran all kinds of tests to make sure she didn’t have an infection, the flu…pneumonia. She had none of these things.

In fact, they saw no reason to keep her there.

So it was – Go home, get some rest, drink lots of fluids…oh, and…you might be dying….better get that checked out as soon as possible. Have a nice day. 

I thought about those stories you hear – the people who find out they have a brain tumor only because they hit their head and needed an x-ray. You have to believe that it was divine intervention – at least, I do. A higher power wanted it to be known. So applying that logic, I thought – she surely has lung cancer. That’s why she ended up coming to the ER for seemingly no reason, and had gotten a chest x-ray.

A higher power wanted us to know what was there.

And so it began…

Waiting to get in for a test.

Waiting for results.

She might be dying. Have a nice day. 

Waiting to get in for a different test.

Waiting for results.

She might be dying. Have a nice day. 

And so it continued – for an entire month.

The month of “reprieve” between chemo and surgery turned out to be no reprieve at all.  She did feel better physically, but the testing and the waiting…oh, the waiting. Trying to act normal when your mind keeps creeping over to the darkest places. Trying to stay with what is known and to not go crazy thinking about what is not.

My mother and I joked that if we got bad news, we might be looking back on these awful days of waiting as the good ole’ days.

In the words of Dylan, “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.”

They did let us know that if her cancer had metastasized to the lungs, she would not be having the trifecta of “ectomies” that were planned. We did not ask what the new plan would be, though I had read (before we’d even left the ER that day) that breast cancer metastasized to the lung is, in fact, terminal.

Sometimes Google is such an asshole.

However, in an act of optimism, they never cancelled her surgery. Then, three days prior to the surgical date, we finally had an answer.

Her lungs are fine.

I sobbed with relief and joy.

Once I composed myself I couldn’t wait to tell the small group of friends and family who had been waiting with us in the hell of the unknown…

Aaaaand I wanted to go down to the hospital and punch that ER doctor in the face. 

(Just keeping it real, you guys.)

Deep breath.

Longing for the days when we could concentrate on important things like hair accessories.