Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tipping the Balance

I am a coper. I am the person you want in a crisis, because I can calmly deal with things. I go into efficiency mode, and deal with what needs to be dealt with. Now granted, I usually fall apart about 2 weeks later, but in the moment, I'm the person you want by your side. I have sung at the funerals of 2 of my aunts, some of my friends' parents and managed to get through things professionally. I am a coper.

Sometimes, though, it's the little things that can throw you. Mornings in my house can be a challenge. ADHD/OCD and Anxiety in a 6 year old fashionista do not make for calm and easy mornings. If I had a dollar for every "just a second" in my day, I could pay off our mortgage. Getting her up, dressed, fed and out the door to school on time takes more military precision than D-Day, plus alot of cajoling, reminding and the occasional threat. I have walked out of the room, gone upstairs, closed the bathroom door and let loose a primal scream on more than one occasion. It's better to scream at the shower curtain than my daughter, especially about something she can't help, but I am a trained soprano, so the scream is kinda loud, ya know?

My mom has had several recurrences of squamous cell carcinoma-aka skin cancer. It's ugly, it's invasive and it's fast growing. And if nothing else convinces you of the need for sun block, watching one of these things get cut out of your mom's head will do it. Watching 4 of them being cut out, and telling her to catch the blood drip after will do it for sure. After the last stint of surgery, the surgeon recommended radiation to fry the remaining cancer cells and convince them to go away. Since last week, every weekday mom and I trek to the cancer centre near our home so she can get zapped. It takes us longer to walk from the parking lot than it takes for her to have the actual treatment, but for 6 weeks, we'll make the daily round trip.

My mom is 85, and I know my time with her is finite. I've known it since we buried my dad 22 years ago. There's something about seeing the name of the other parent on the tombstone, with a blank space for the date that makes that clear. She's had a rough few months with health. While we've talked about her funeral and her wishes, I try not to think about that eventuality. Sometimes, though, I hit a tipping point.

Last week was school picture day. My kid is a blue eyed brunette who looks fabulous against a blue background, so I chose the blue background for her picture. The problem is, my child is currently fixated on all things black. She only wants to wear black clothing, she wants to paint her room black, I made her a winter hat that was black with sequins because the likelihood is much better that she will actually wear the thing. The flip side to this current favorite colour, of course, is that the previous favorite colour is so last season...and that happened to be blue. When she found out that I had chosen blue, she pitched a fit that may have triggered the earthquake in Turkey (no disrespect or mockery intended, may God protect them). According to her, "none of her clothes will look good against blue" (although she was planning on wearing a red and black top) and she didn't like blue and she wasn't going to smile and that was it, and then I couldn't understand what she said because she was caterwauling and screaming at the top of her lungs.

And I burst into tears. It suddenly occurred to me that this might be the last school picture my mom gets to see, and I wanted it to look nice. I don't know that my mom won't be here next year. But when you hang out in the cancer centre daily, reality stares you in the face. Some of these people won't make it through. My mother in law didn't. My friend Andrea didn't. My cousin-by-marriage Joe didn't. My aunt Betty didn't. My friend Ellen didn't. My friend's mom Edelgarde didn't. Cancer sucks.

And so, while I've been coping and managing, a meltdown over a blue background sent me over the edge. Because sometimes, it's the little things that tip the balance. I cried the tears I had been pretending didn't need to be cried and I let the scared kid come out for a minute before the competent adult took over again. And it was okay.


wizardofwords said...

You are so right, Lisa. Cancer sure does suck.

I've walked the journey you are now walking, having also lost many close relatives to cancer over the past decade. I lost my own mother to cancer back in 1970, but as I was only 13 at the time, it didn't resonate with me the same way as it does with an adult and knowing just how much you are losing.

I am sending you love and hope over the airwaves, and strength to get thru whatever may be coming your way - whether it's on a blue background or a black one.

Hugs from Doreen.

Atlantic Writer said...

It's okay. It sucks but it's okay not to cope all the time.
Your little fashionista will know you are human and the world will keep turning. Unfortunately that world includes cancer centres and school picture meltdowns but the only way we can get through that is to let loose one in a while. Let your sopprano loose in racking sobs or gut wrenching screams. It's all normal and all okay... and it still sucks.
I'm at the other end of an email if you need to vent.