QuestionThirty – Q30

When Someone You Love Gets Sick

Dr. Ross, save my career next. I'll be a classier beard than Stacy Kiebler.

My mom might be sick. Why am I calm?

My mom called yesterday afternoon in the midst of long, lazy polar vortex snow day spent with Poofy Face, Stinkatron, and Paul, to tell me she’d had her follow-up with a breast cancer specialist. Although the gyno and radiologist said she could wait six months to see if the new mass grows, the oncologist scheduled her for a biopsy. Why aren’t I freaking?

Dr. Ross, save my career next. I'll be a classier beard than Stacy Kiebler.

Dr. Ross, save my mom. She’d take you over McDreamy or McSteamy any day.

We’re both acting calm, the same way we did when I was initially diagnosed with Hodgkin’s. I didn’t even know what lymphoma was, besides, the doctors said it was super curable–ha!–and I had nothing to worry about–ha! ha! But I was always glad that I was the sick one. Seriously, I hate watching other people puke. I don’t know how to handle myself when someone else gets sick, especially not the most important person in my life.

We’re planners, so when we hung up, I allowed myself five minutes of considering the options. If this turned out to be something and not nothing, as mom insisted it would, I’d defer grad school and move home. I’d stay with Paul, Poofy Face, and Stinkatron during weekends, or maybe they’d even move to mom’s house with me.

Recently, I applied to five MFA programs in creative writing and while my usual instinct is to assume I don’t get in so I won’t be disappointed later, I imagined the conversation with the dean of students at the ivy grad school. I’d walk in with my cane, exaggerating the disability by turning my right foot in, the same way I do at airports to convince the ticket handlers to upgrade our seats and rush the wheelchair. The dean would say, “We’ll make an exception,” and I’d start school in 2015 as soon as mom was well again.

I texted my bestie who lost her father, Dr. Bestie, to swift moving lung cancer, last year. The Besties are like a second family to me. I camped out at their house to eat pasta, compare thigh fat with my bestie Bestie, and watch big-screen boobies on Skinamax. (We didn’t even have basic cable at home, child abusers.) I never got a chance to mourn Dr. Bestie along with my bestie because I was so depressed and sick from my own chemo when he died.

Bestie said that sometimes she feels nothing and other times “too much.” I assured her grief crashes in waves like a tsunami pity party, not that I’ve ever suffered a loss like hers.

My mom is taking her own bff to the biopsy. I’m deciding whether to stay the night. I pushed myself on the elliptical at physical therapy this morning, slept all afternoon, and didn’t even hear my alarm to wake up in time for tutoring. I’ve been obsessing over my sleep sweats and every itch, wondering if I’m the one whose lapsed back into cancer. I missed a gal pal’s going away party. I tweezed my shins to shreds unable to resist my stressed induced OCD Trichotillomania. Look it up. Needless to say, I’m nervous.

Mom and I are going to Sassy Pant’s funeral this weekend, which will surely stir up some unresolved shit storm. Sassy Pant’s daughter lost her inspiration, her safe haven, her mom. I always expected to die from radiation-induced cancer with my mom at my bedside–morbid, I know, but the radiologist seemed pretty sure that if I didn’t relapse in the next two yeas that I’d get a new cancer within ten.

Now, I can’t help but wonder: what if my mom is next? I cannot lose her or any other friend to this fucking illness.

So maybe I’m not freaking because I’ve had so much practice waiting for results or because I can’t let myself imagine such a gargantuan loss. I love my mother more than myself.

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Lauren Sczudlo

am a 30-year-old nap enthusiast, former high school English teacher, world traveling vineyard laborer, and picture book librarian, pursuing her life-long dream of being a ‘real’ writer.

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