Friday, October 27, 2006

Inhale, exhale... and once more...

A lot of thoughts can run through your head while you sit in the hospital's waiting room. Why can't they have more recliners? Did anyone ever think of space issues? Can't they do something about the volume on that television?

Those questions are so much easier to angst over then the bigger ones. You know the ones I'm talking about, the ones that demand answers we as humans will never have. It makes no sense to us that a woman who spent her life working and giving would end up on the operating table at 61 while doctors probed and tried to determine whether or not the tumor began as ovarian cancer and moved to the colon or if it just began in the colon. It's beyond us, really, the unfairness of it all. But who are we to question? We can only rage, cry, and accept. Sometimes in that order. Sometimes out of order.

What do you do when you're in that holding area, surrounded by others whose own loved ones are being saved, or lost, at the same time? What do you talk about? And is there an etiquette for hospital waiting room conversations with strangers?

Burying oneself in the mundane is my saving grace on days like that. Took my grade book in and began filling in the lines. Writing out four classes with over 150 names total and filling in five days of attendance can distract anyone. Conversations, when we had them, avoided the obvious. It's far easier to talk about the merits of Verizon versus Cingular then to talk about whether or not we ought to see about a hospital bed in the living room while she recuperates to save her from climbing the steps.

I took my diary with me, but writing in it would have meant talking about my mother-in-law and thinking about how she is so much like a mother to me. I've been calling her "Mum" for eons, long before the big guy and I were even engaged. Writing in that little blank book would have reminded me of too much. I wasn't quite up to remembering at the moment; it seemed to premature, as if talking about the past meant that the future no longer existed. Then again, planning wasn't on my plate, either. Thoughts about home care and chemo were even less welcome.

We've spent so much time in limbo, waiting for this result or that, believing one thing or another that this day left us unable to feel much. Fear and relief had been exchanging places then switching back again for too many weeks to allow any of us to sit there and wallow in any single emotion.

All morning, we watched surgeon after surgeon walk in to tell other waiting folk that their loved ones were well. We, however, were called to the room's reception desk and given directions to a consult room so that the doctor could talk to us privately.

A few posts ago, I mentioned holding one's breath, not breathing, starting to breathe again... I felt as if breathing were a luxury as the four of us sat with the doctor, whom Mum nicknamed "Doogie," and he gave us the news: it's just colon cancer. Even if it's in her lymph nodes, it will only be "stage three." As for the mass in her ovary, it appears non-cancerous, though he's holding out for the final pathology results before he uses more decisive, more permanent, words .

Who would have thought that hearing "just colon cancer" would have brought smiles of relief to our faces?

We're breathing again. All of us.

Mum's getting her own room today if all goes well, and she should be home within 10 days or so. We'll take Gavie to visit her next week once she's settled in and the rest of the tubes are removed. And, we're going to have one hell of a good time reminding her about what she was saying while under the influence of morphine.

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