F@%k Cancer, Part 3

She can’t cook.

She can’t read.

She can’t drive.

I know she needs some type of neurological rehabilitation routine but the doctors haven’t addressed this portion of her care. Because of the politics of the hospital, the culture of no worries in the Island and the hurricanes, we feel she would be better off with us stateside. The neurosurgeon asked us to give him three months before doing so. Blood clots are the reason he gives us; the altitude and pressure differentials of the flight could cause issues. I offer up we can leave by boat, take a cruise. Everyone is surprised by my suggestion. Circumventing the process is the name of my game at this stage. We don’t have time. Actually, she doesn’t have time to waste. The rest of us do, unless the universe decides otherwise.

I’m skeptical. The streak of bad luck years has made turned me into a pessimistic realist. Although the surgery was a success and my mom talks and walks with very few indications of her new limitations, I’m waiting for it to all go to hell in a handbasket quickly. Sure enough the phone rang 12 days after the surgery with news that she was on her way to the emergency room. Sporting a rash and having another bout of disorientation and confusion, her caretakers decided they weren’t going to take any chances with her health. I watched the phone for hours hoping that this was just an overreaction on their part. There are unexpected cognitive deficiency episodes in brain surgery patients. This may very well be one of the many to come.

My sister mentions to me, in passing, that she feels mom isn’t mom anymore. I completely agree. The once decisive and concise woman who used to cut me off when I took too long to get to the point has been replaced by a chatty teenager. She’ll spend 1.5 hours on the phone discussing beauty contests and fun facts she picked up from watching too much TV. Not only does she not venture out into the world to walk around the clock but she is content being a couch potato. Whatever is not important or relevant to her will be forgotten, and whatever is will be repeated to us at least twice during the conversation. I can’t blame anyone in my family for disliking her bossy demeanor and exigent nature. She is the captain of a boat that floats listlessly through the water waiting impatiently for a port of call.

As we brace for the impact of the biopsy results and her prognosis, I concentrate on devising a plan to make the best of the time we may have left together. Her birthday is on December 11th, almost three months from now, and there’s always the possibility she won’t make it that far. My only solace is that as the matriarch of the family she has ensured our collective success beyond her departure from this ephimerous existence we call living. The logistics officer planned for this eventuality so far in advance all I need to do is execute her orders. What a fine second in command I have been.

With a heavy heart I take the reins and prepare to take on the royal responsibilities bestowed upon the oldest heir once the throne is relinquished. This was not the figurative coronation I was expecting. Almost feels like the cancer is forcing her to abdicate her throne instead of bestowing it. My mother is no longer in command; my sister and I are. We must live up to the promises made and the steps delineated in her last wishes list. The journey ahead is uncertain but we remain hopeful. The love shared and given propelling us into this great unknown new normal where grit and resilience will be key to keeping the faith throughout the storm. Nevertheless, she persists. If anyone can get the best out of the situation it is you, mom.

The story is not over yet…we plan to go down swinging…

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