Last night we called James and told him we needed to talk to him. If they could meet us at Wendy's, we'd buy them dinner. I told him to bring Mandy with him. They met us and came in. Kelly went up and bought their dinner. We tried to let them have their meal without ruining it for them. As he wound down, James looked up and asked "So this is about grandma isn't it. She's gotten a lot worse."
Kelly looked at him. My eyes were already filling with tears. I so did not want to tell James.
James was only 16 or so when he had come home from the denomination teen camp. He'd told me he missed me. I smiled, it's good to hear your teenage son misses me. He also missed his cat. I didn't ask which he missed more. But he then told me, "I've told God that I think that is one thing that would destroy me and might make me turn my back on him...if He took you or dad from me. :( I don't want to be the cause of him turning away from God. Everyone has to die, but I don't want to do so anytime soon. How will he handle this news. He's older now. I FEEL so much pressure to survive.
Kelly told him, "No son. This is about your mom. She had a mammogram last week and she has breast cancer." I felt James slump against the back of the bench, as if he needed its support. "This is for certain?" I nodded. Wow, my voice seems to stay hoarse these days. I cleared my throat and answered. "I have had the biopsy and it's positive for cancer."
He frowned and asked. "Did you find a lump?" I shook my head and told him it was supposed to be a routine yearly mammogram. Kelly couldn't stand it. "It appears that we caught it early. But mom is going to have to have chemo. And she has already decided to have a double mastectomy."
Both James and Mandy turned to look at me. "I am. I'm not going to risk being told I have cancer a second time. It might be different if there was NO family history, but since we are full of cancer risks...this is one I'm getting rid of." I explained.
I glance at my son and I can see the tears that are silently dropping off his nose. He's barely holding it together. Seeing his pain is ripping out my heart. We explain that I have some exams to have done and I'm working on finding a surgeon. But right now, there's just not a lot of information. I explain that while his Aunt Trish knows, I am not telling Becky or Mom until I have more information. Grandma is going to take this hard, so I want to give them as much information as I can.
James agrees. Grandma is going to be very upset. I told him his grandpa is probably chewing on God’s ear right now. With a shaking voice, I recount one of the conversations dad had with me during his last year. He’d told his story again about how he prayed, “Why me God? And God answered, “Why not? Why are you any more special than any other person? Why would I let my son suffer for the Kingdom but deliver you from yours?” He was quiet a moment and added. “You know, it doesn’t really amount to anything, but I made a pact with God.”
"Really?" I answered. "Look at you, and you’re still standing." He chuckled and got serious. “I told God, I’d see this cancer thing right to the end, but I wanted my girls to be spared from cancer. I don’t want you girls to go through this. There’s just to much cancer in this family.” I smiled at him and told him I really understood. But he had been fighting, had been so brave and strong. We were learning so much from him despite his cancer. He blinked his watery eyes and asked, “So what’s a man gotta do to get some supper in this joint?” The moment was over.
James nodded and answered, "Yeah, I guess grandpa might have a harder time than even grandma." I told him it was going to be hard for momma because she has this cancer. She knows what I am facing. And she is going to hate that. But dad? I was a daddy’s girl.
Mandy tells me it’s a nice story. But she was really sad this was happening this way. I tell them I will need all their support in the coming months. I have yet to find out how much cancer I have. Our best scenario is that this is only breast cancer. Inwardly I fear that inside me are more bombs yet to land. K keeps interrupting me, stating there's no reason to think this is anything but breast cancer. He's right. No reason.
Cancers killed my father, my aunts, and in a long reaching finger – is now killing my mother. But I can’t tell them this. K gets so agitated when I mention how scared I am that there's more cancer. I look at my son and his silent tears are killing me. He's looking away, and I recognize the stance and face I know so well. He's trying not to break down. He's trying not to cry, he's trying to be brave. He's not the only one.
I stand up rather abruptly and tell KJ we need to go. The truth is "I" needed to go, to run away from their pain. The raw anguish on the faces of my kids were razors to my emotions. I couldn’t hold it together very much longer.
We hugged tightly, and I climbed into our little Mazda pickup. I loved that little truck. It was comfortingly familiar in all this new landscape. I leaned my head back and whispered to K. That was hard, I told him. He agreed. We pulled away.
Months later Mandy would tell me that when we drove away, James grabbed her in a fiercely tight hug and they cried together on that ever darkening concrete parking lot outside the of Wendys.
to cope with the emotions of everyone else.