It happened nearly 5 years ago. It’s strange how the memory still feels so fresh, how the thought can still bring me to tears.

It was in the spring. I’d taken off work to drive my mother to the doctor. She feared her cancer had returned, and I chose to believe it was nothing. We talked as usual, about my brother’s Josh and Jon. We discussed my father. Just random everyday things as we drove to the hospital.

I remember sitting in the waiting room and my mother told me about the different people there. She’d been coming for her cancer treatments for awhile, and had gotten to know many of the people here. She told about the nurses, and how nice they were. She told me so many things.

And all the while, my heart is racing a million miles because my mother’s cancer might be back. Even though I disagreed, refused to believe, there was a voice in the back of my head that wouldn’t let it go.

They called us back and I sat in the room with my mother. She seemed positive that the cancer had come back, sure that she was going to die. And I remained steadfast that she wasn’t going to die. I still needed my mother. She had to watch my daughter grow up, she had to see her graduate high school. I wasn’t ready at all to let my mother go.

When the doctor came in, he was kind and polite, and hesitated a bit. And he confirmed that the cancer had come back, and it had spread to the lungs and liver. He told us about his aggressive treatment plan, and I believed him. I believed we could beat it – but my mother had to know, wanted to know – “What stage is the cancer?”

And there again, that hesitation, that uncomfortable look when you don’t know how to say something but you have to say it anyway. “Stage 4.”

My heart stopped.

From stage 1 to stage 4? What happened to 2 and 3?

I lied about having to use the restroom and I broke down in tears. I cried and prayed and cried some more. My eyes were red from the tears and I wasn’t sure how long I stayed in the bathroom. I remember washing my face with a paper towel, trying erase any signs that I had been crying.

I walked out of the restroom and back into the doctor’s office. I sat down next to my mother, and her words to me were, “I doubt I live much longer.”

I shook my head. “Nope,” I said, “We’ll follow the plan of care the doctor has come up with. We’re going to treat it aggressively and you’ll be fine.”

My mother looked at me but she didn’t say anything else. I couldn’t believe anything else.

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