At about 4 o’clock yesterday I received a call on my mobile as I walked between offices. It was my Mum. She had been having tests at Cabrini, and now she had the results. She had Cancer, she told me.
I stopped in the street. It was an automatic response as much as anything else, but this conversation was better served out of the office. I said something, no doubt. I asked questions. I was surprised, though shocked might be a better description. It seemed so unexpected, though it shouldn’t have been. I knew this could be the case after all. For some reason, I had presumed it would not be, though. Somehow I expected the news to be normal, the growths were benign, etc. Later I considered my blindness in this and thought it an example of how I compartmentalise things. That was later, though.
I asked her to explain to me. She had a colonoscopy. I knew that. She had seen a specialist on Tuesday, and he had scheduled it. They had found two growths, she said. They were cancerous. She had bowel cancer. I continued to question her on the street. No, they couldn’t tell how far advanced it was. The doctor said it was severe, though – my Mum confirmed this with my Aunt while I listened. They were driving back from the hospital. She told me how they had both burst into tears when they got the news. She had to have a CAT scan today, surgery sometime soon, and possibly even some chemotherapy before the operation. That was undecided.
Well, that was that. We rang off. I felt strange. The temptation is to claim I felt numb, but that indicates feeling nothing. I felt all sorts of things, but I felt somehow removed from them. More than anything else, there was this sense of the unexpected. And I wasn’t sure what I should feel: she was nearly 70 after all, isn’t this sort of normal? Then, of course, the wondering at what it might mean. I returned to the office feeling very subdued.
I was due to go out last night, but rather than driving, I caught a cab. All I thought about was the situation, and I didn’t feel like I could properly concentrate on driving through peak hour. It seems embarrassing to admit to that. I felt too diverted by what had happened. And then I thought I might have a drink or two or more, and I was better off leaving the car home in any case.
I managed to be social. I didn’t feel my normal self but covered for it. Whenever I wasn’t busy, though, I found my mind returning to the news. What were the possibilities? So many. It was pointless to conjecture but impossible not to. Earlier I had googled bowel cancer and read up on it. I found it was the second most common cause of death in cancer. I read about the diagnosis and treatment. More than most, I have become familiar with cancer and knew what to ask. There were stages of the disease that pretty well determined the prognosis. How far had it spread? How aggressive was it? This will be revealed in the scan today.
After I got home, I spoke to a friend in Sydney. This is the fifth incidence of cancer in my family in the last seven years, though only three have been family by blood. It’s a lot, though, an unreasonable amount, it seems. My aunt and my uncle on my father’s side died of it. Now my mother. As my sister said, and as my friend repeated, perhaps it was prudent that we should get checked out. It runs in the family, after all, and the odds seem a little grim right now.
So, we wait now. We won’t know any results until she sees the surgeon on Tuesday. The news might be good. It might be a new development. The surgery might remove it all, and Mum can go on living relatively normally. Or it might be more advanced. Somehow I don’t feel positive, but I have no idea.
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