Nearly three weeks in Muskoka had zipped by. Mom was to have her second chemo treatment. She was optimistic that morning. Her steadfast faith, her stubbornness, and the necessity of staying in control drove her. She refused to let me go with her. She phoned for a Cancer Society volunteer driver.
I toddled off to work to try and keep my mind off of things. Work certainly did that. School was becoming increasingly difficult. My students were demanding, needy, Grade 7 and 8 boys who had had little success in their lives. They kept me on my toes. I knew that with enough time, support, patience, counselling, discipline, and remedial work, I could have helped them achieve some academic success and produce some good effort. Unfortunately, I had little of any of these things. They were vulgar, selfish, hormonal boys, with little respect for women, growing into men’s bodies. I had no means by which to maintain control, despite my stabs at behaviour modification programs; it was a difficult battle. I loved my work, I knew I was good at what I did, but every day I had a knot in my stomach as I began to anticipate failure. The only time I felt peace was when on the highway driving between home and school. With the sun roof open, the heater on, and the wind in my hair, I could stay in the present.
This month my favourite music was Josh Groban’s beautiful tunes from his CD Awake. I didn’t understand the Italian songs, but hummed my way across Central Ontario with them. I sang “You Are Loved (Don’t Give Up)” with him over and over, trying to will myself to be positive. I tried to e-mail Mr. Groban's 'people' to get permission to print the song in my book - but no one replied.
Mom began her day in Orillia with a CAT scan. It told the health care staff that she had an embolism, a blood clot, in her leg. Part of this is due to her lymphedema. Instead of having a treatment, Mom was admitted to hospital. She was furious and frustrated. Without her overnight bag, no phone book, no forewarning (Mom could plan her way through a World War), she phoned and gave all of us sundry orders! Beside herself with stress, Mom called several neighbours to make arrangements. She said they “whisked me off the street and admitted me,” and she was beyond any comprehension of the seriousness of her health issues. Had she not been warned of this potential side effect? Was there no explanation of the risks of removing the lymph node? She was not in control--she could handle anything if she had time to plan and take charge of it.
I navigated my way home from work, oblivious to the furor at home. Along the highway, I passed sparkling lakes and shadowy forests; I turned the heat on in the car and opened up the sunroof. It was good to feel the sun.
Then I arrived home and checked in on Dad. It was stressful to say the least. It was a shock to find out the latest news about Mom. One of Mom’s friends, given the task of finding Dad a ride to his dental appointment the next day, was swamped with things she had to do. Dad and I had a great moment when Mom phoned from Soldier’s Memorial Hospital to give orders. Dad felt he was too stressed with worrying about Mom to go to the dentist the next day. He grinned as he held the phone away from his ear--I could hear her giving the Orders of the Day. Dad rolled his eyes as she gave him heck for not wanting to go to the dentist.
Mom never told Dad how ill she was. They never spoke of it. It angered him, he told me later, as she did not give him a say in their treatment plans. He harboured his stress internally. Mom could not let go and let me handle these arrangements. I think I was still perceived as a little girl. My mother was no longer looking after me, but neither was she giving me any credit or responsibility, and I had to look after myself. Dad wasn’t hungry, so I went into town to do errands and to have a well-earned yet solitary dinner.