Cancer’s a Bitch
There we were, chillin’ in Oregon when we received news that during mom’s routine colonoscopy, they had located a large mass and needed to perform emergency surgery the next day.
While my heart told me to race to the nearest airport, my mind told me to stop spinning and breathe. After all, I have an amazing stepdad and 4 younger brothers and sisters, all of whom are there to support my mom.
They operated the next morning and located the mass. After 6+ hours, she was out of surgery, after which Dr. Hassan reported the mass removed, and the colon resected. As is the case with many cancers, though, we learned the cancer had metastasized to a couple of sections on the liver. And there we had it: a diagnosis of stage 4 colon cancer.
Amarillo by Morning?
With 35 hours of driving time in front of us, we began the trek to Texas, knowing full well that we would likely need to stay for a long period. The trip was exhausting and emotional, but we knew we were doing the right thing. Family first, always!
As we moved closer to the Texas state line, the mood shifted more and more. The mountains were now in the background, and only flat topography stared us in the face. Cattle trucks heading to market, tall grain silos, oil refineries, wind farms, cars racing to their next destination, and an excessive amount of police.
But, after 5 days, we made it North Houston where my family lives. And honestly, while I was super grateful to hug my family, the arrival was bittersweet.
Smells Like Teen Angst
I first came to Houston in 1995 when we were transferred by my father’s work. At the time, I was a junior in high school who just moved from eastern Oregon–at the peak of the Nirvana grunge days. I will never forget arriving at school on my first day in a little black shirt/dress and Doc Martens boots with a flannel shirt and zero makeup–all of this in the land of perfect makeup, big hair, Friday night lights, Dooney & Bourke bags, and drill team.
I was none of those things, so I quickly entered social hell. For months, I begged my parents to move us back to Oregon. Back to my other life, my first love, and my chill mountain friends.
Mom to the Rescue
We had grown up moving so many times for my father’s work, and who better to help me work through all of these emotions than my mother? In addition to me, she was having similar conversations with my younger siblings. She was our rock at home while my dad was supporting our large family.
With the help of my mom and a few cool girls, I made it out of my social hell alive and intact. Even though I had lost myself to makeup, hair, and the lack of self-love. Drugs and partying followed, making very poor choices and putting myself in shitty situations.
Along the way, my mom waited for me on the front porch. Not just for me, though; also for my siblings, our friends, and anyone else who needed a rock.
Despite everything she knew, my mom never judged and always stood by me while I was trying to find myself in Texas. Through many rough patches of mom/daughter fights, some lasting years, she continues to be my rock.
I look back now and I’m amazed by the fact that she was only 37 at the time! Babies raising babies.
The Glass is Half Full
Now here we are, back in Texas. And if I’m being completely honest, it’s one of my least favorite places.
Granted, I am not better than Houston (or any other place), nor the people who live here. It’s simply not my place, though, and it never was. I’m not myself here.
However, I’m trying to “sit with it”–which probably won’t make sense to some people, and that’s okay.
In other words, I’m learning to find peace here while supporting my mom, my siblings, and my stepfather, and I’m also loving the quality family time. And even though we’ve encountered multiple detours along the way, I’m grateful for our RV lifestyle that allows us to be here.
What the Immediate Future Holds
After the emergency surgery in August, mom was back to a somewhat normal lifestyle, regular work — and her “machine” of a self — within a couple of weeks.
Between Dr. Hassan at Houston Methodist and her team at MD Anderson Woodlands, she’s found an amazing group of medical professionals. She begins her first chemo treatment on October 4th, which is repeated every other week through mid-November.
Then, once she’s ready, they will perform the next operation on her liver and resume chemo treatments after the new year.
As with all cancer patients, mom has an uphill battle ahead of her. She’s already been forced to make some tough decisions, have tough conversations, and learn the ins and outs of cancer treatments and the trail ahead.
I liken her to a surfer waiting for the best swell. There will inevitably be lots of chop, but she will ride the wave of information being thrown at her and maintain her trademark poise and beautiful positivity throughout.
Sure, she will have good days and really shitty days, but above all, she is ready to fight! Mom never allows others to pity her, or to drown in her sorrows. If you’re opting to reach out, she is happy to receive words of encouragement. Positive vibes only.
Along with our stepdad, she has five children and countless others who are all rallying behind her during this epic battle. Sometimes, our rock will crumble and that’s okay.
We will be here to pick her back up, just like she did for us so many times growing up. We love you, mom. FUCK YOU, CANCER!