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today i am excited about everything.

Cancer, Part II

Mama

We walk side-by-side across the hot pavement, and the doors in front of us slide open. Cool, stale air comes rushing across our faces, our bare skin prickles from the temperature change. I look into my Mama’s face, and I see:

She is tired.
She is strong.

These things lie inside her, intertwined, as we meet and greet. She knows what to do now, half way through radiation. It’s old hat to find her room, to shed clothes and wrap into a robe, to make her way to the room where they will lift her body up, up, and away. Where some mystery of science will push heat into her, and that heat will (God willing) (God, please) burn away the evil parts of this world. Disease.

Her head is heavy, but I see in her shoulders the bracing- the readiness- to face just one more day of this. Well, 16. 16 more days.

It is a strength that comes from our Great Unfathomable Mystery. It is a strength beyond what we can muster. It is a picture of My Help Comes From The Lord, The Maker Of Heaven And Earth.

I smile and nod as everyone tells me with bright eyes “Your Mom! She’s the bright spot in our day! What fun! What joy!” because of course, of course she is. Of course they love her, of course they respond to the energy she seeps into the world just being her.

They tell us we’re the lucky ones, and I nod again, stiffly. My brain tells me they’re right, that we had early detection, that we had surgery surgeries available, that we had radiation only. That we had a scare, but we didn’t risk it all. That in the big, grand scheme-of-it-all, we really were…. lucky.

But from the 90s inspired dark green & floral walls of a waiting room, it doesn’t feel very lucky.

I guess maybe those that call this lucky can’t see the fresh gash on our family tree, where sap bleeds out, the mark that shows “Cancer”. There is a before, and there is an after, and we won’t be the same.

And that’s okay, because not being the same, finding a different way, is okay. Is… life. I know she can do it, will do it. Her shoulders, held strong in the grip of her great faith show me that.

But lucky? No. No. Not lucky. Not this time.

(As of today? 13 days and counting. You can do it, Mama!).

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Cancer, Part I

Dear Young Target Employee,

Thank you.

I wish I would have said it out loud to you, that day. The day that I stood in the back of an-impossibly-long-line (read: probably 3 people), shuffling my feet, taking deep breaths, staring at the clock on my phone. I know, I know: I looked like a jerk. And you, with sweet kindness, tapped me on the shoulder, sending me on to a newly opened lane, smiling with a graciousness I certainly didn’t deserve. I know I looked like what would- on any normal day- be filed somewhere on the internet under “First World Problems”. But that day? That day was different.

Because sometimes it’s the day that you find out your Mom has cancer.

And life- in its cruelness- goes on anyway. And you have to buy something stupid, like paper towels or stamps or nail polish remover, and it forces you to go to the store. And while on any other day, the shifting feet would be about keeping to an impossible schedule full of things that barely matter, on THIS day, it’s taking everything you have to stand in that unending line. Fibers of your being vibrate inside you, and you feel your insides begin to melt away.

On this day, you are fighting to keep it together, every breath a labor. All moments marching towards The Moment You Will Lose It.

But you, sweet Target girl- you rescued me with your kindness. You gave me the time to get to my car. To exhale the breath I’d been accidentally holding. To dissolve on my own terms.

And maybe more: you gave me a win on a day when I just, just really needed a win.

It was nothing to you, I would guess. But to me? It was pretty big.

So, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Heart,
Ann

(Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. Unknown.)

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