As Mom and I walked into the Northwest Georgia Oncology and Blood Disorder Center last Thursday, my palms were soaking wet. I was trying to act cool, carrying in my nearly-read copy of Watchmen, avoiding the magazine rack full of cancer-related reading material, and trying not to make eye contact with those who had arrived for chemotherapy treatments. I felt that if I looked at anything having to do with cancer I would jinx my mother. So, I focused on my book, my heartbeat, and little else.
When we were called back, I quickly glanced at the people sitting in the treatment room, and there he was. A man no older, but most definitely younger, than me. He calmly sat in a large chair with an IV in his arm and a bag of the foulest stuff imaginable connected directly to his vein. And I quickly looked down at the scuffed, well-worn floor because I just couldn't do it. I couldn't look him in the eyes knowing that just a quirk of blood or DNA or cell-growth or something, separated us. I realized that I'm a coward while he? Was amazingly brave.
As the doctor walked in, she looked at me with confusion in her eyes, and I explained who I was and that this was my appointment. And that I wanted, needed, to know Does my mother have leukemia? You need to test her for cancer, because I don't believe your diagnosis of anemia. Because I may not be a doctor, but I am her daughter and I absolutely, positively, have to know.
And right there, in the span of ten minutes, the doctor explained that my mother's white blood cell count is normal and nowhere near the high levels leukemia patients have, that Mom's anemia hasn't worsened but that the doctor has been adjusting Mom's iron infusions to find her best fit, that there are other chronic anemics who come in monthly for iron infusions and that is how you deal with it, how I need not worry.
To say I breathed a deep sigh of relief is an understatement. It was then I realized that I was not ready for the worst-case scenario I had been imagining for nearly a week. I may never be ready when the health of any of my loved ones begins to fail.
But last week? This chronic pessimist became a little more optimistic when I discovered my Mom is none the worse for wear.
I also realized that I have a deep-seeded fear of dying, specifically dying from cancer, that I need to deal with. It's going to be a long row to hoe.