Sunday, July 6, 2008

Look Ma, I Have Cancer!

Wendy and I went to Chester for the 4th. We drove up Thursday night and met my parents at the campground at Lake Almanor. Everything was already set up and Mom was getting ready to cook dinner.

On the drive up Wendy and I talked about how I would tell my parents I had cancer. I wanted to use jokes to lighten the mood. Wendy - rightfully - thought that would be in poor taste.

Thursday was a beautiful evening. Not too cool and the smoke from the Cub Complex fire had cleared a little so that you could see the stars. My brother Todd and his wife Ellen, my brother Ryan and my parents were seated at a picnic table cocooned in the glow of a Coleman lantern. I serendipitously ended up being right in the middle with Wendy.

I asked if anyone had any announcements, since after I made mine, no one else would want to.

None of my family know that we were pregnant yet, but everyone keeps asking and harping on it. I know they think we're about to say "We're pregnant!" We don't.

How do you tell your parents you have cancer?

"I have cancer," I say. "It's called Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia."

All the faces around me are stuck half way between incredulity and disbelief. It's very quiet. I go on to explain what it means, how I found out and how it's being treated. No one really asks any questions. I think everyone is having a hard time processing the information. Everyone's eyes are red from tears. I make lots of bad jokes since it helps to ease the tension for me. Wendy made cookies with orange frosting and snide comments like "Fuck CML" written on them before we came up. She passes them out and everyone has a couple.

It feels good to be able to soften the bad news by telling them that the Gleevec is working.

We spend the next couple hours talking about what Wendy and I have been through the past few weeks. My mom hugs me a lot. Finally, around midnight, my parents pack up and head home. It feels like they're saying good bye as if I'm not coming back. My Mom doesn't let go of me for at least a minute.

It's nice to feel loved.

That night is a very nauseating night. I don't sleep well. The next day I don't feel well either. I'm very weak and the sun bother's me. I spend the weekend talking with my brothers, making jokes, sitting around the campfire and basically pretending that things are normal. People don't bring up the bad news at all really. I think it's hard to know what to say.

After the parade on the 4th, we walk around town. I see a few friends from high school and it's very awkward talking to them. My life has changed so much but I still answer "Doing great!" to the inevitable question that everyone always asks: "How you doing?"

Leaving today was especially hard. I think I went through everyone twice for hugs goodbye. Everyone cried. I feel very numb again. I feel like I need to reassure everyone that it will be alright, even though I don't know that myself.

I hate that I had to tell my mother I have cancer.

1 comment:

Tommy said...

I'm with you. I'm not married, so telling my parents was the absolute worst. Actually, I didn't tell them. I asked my brother to. I couldn't bare to see how the news affected them.