I can’t believe this is happening – cancer. I have cancer in my body! My mind is numb, I feel numb. But I have to keep on functioning, I have to keep on living . . . wake up, sit in my favorite chair, drink my coffee, have my quiet time, eat breakfast. What do I do next? Oh, yes, before I leave for Salt Lake City we need to plan Carrie’s 21st birthday. Poor Carrie, a milestone event in her life and there is an elephant in the room, my cancer. We will do it, we will celebrate her, even if we are all on automatic pilot . . .
April 26, 2008, celebrating Carrie’s birthday at the Tamarack. Good, we have the upstairs room all to ourselves. That stupid elephant is here, too.
Noise. Voices. Laughter. Conversations. Distractions. Distracting. Distracted.
I don’t hear anything any more. I am observing and the conversations all around me are muted.
I am dying inside . . . this isn’t normal! This shouldn’t be! I HAVE CANCER! Look at my family, they are talking and laughing and noisy. Mom and Dad. Scott and Kim. Will. John and Laura. Brian. Dale, my husband, Dale. And my baby girl, Carrie. The child who is the most insecure, the one who always feels left out . . . and dammit, my cancer shadows her 21st birthday! HER 21st BIRTHDAY!! How can this be? How did this happen?
Observing in mute: did you do this? Did you do this when you found out you had cancer? Life goes on, for all the other people in the world, life goes on. But for me? But for you?
I did it, I watched the latest episode of Parenthood when Kristina tells her family she has cancer. But even before that, Kristina and her husband, Adam, have to tell their daughter who is away at college that her mom has breast cancer.
Oh, that scene was done well . . . Adam and Kristian use skype to tell their daughter, Hadie, the frightening news. Hadie detects something in her parents’ faces, “What’s up?” She listens carefully, she listens earnestly, she raises her eyebrow and then her expression falls and fear and worry are written all over her face. Hadie turns away from the camera so Mom and Dad can’t see her. Her parents assure Hadie that everything is going to be okay, they tell her to stay at school and to focus on her studies.
(We did that, we had to call our children who lived in other states, away at school. We said the same thing to Christy, “It’s gonna be alright. Stay at school and focus on your finals; do your best on your finals.” click here to read the article, “How do I tell my family I have cancer . . . “)
And then, a scene when a worried and alone Hadie calls her dad to find out how mom is. This time they can’t see each other’s faces and only rely on the inflection in their voices. Hadie, “I really can’t stop thinking about mom.” She is standing in front of her dorm room window overlooking the college campus, all alone. “Stay positive and stay strong . . . everything’s gonna be alright, focus on your books.” “Hello? Can’t you treat me like an adult?”
But the scene that caught my breath and my chest heaved and Kristina and I became one was when the Braverman family went out for pizza after a baseball game. That scene was my scene. As I watched it all of my yesterday four and a half years ago memory came spiraling forward and I remembered – yesterday at Carrie’s 21st birthday party, yesterday when I was observing in mute.
Kristian, observing in mute