Cancer, She Said

By: Lauren Thaler  |  Date: September 20th, 2011  |  Category: (New)clear family, Cancer Chaos  |  Comments: 4 comments »

Like breaking up with a boyfriend, there is no easy way to tell your daughter you have cancer. At first, my mom hid the news from me because we were apart. She hadn’t been feeling well for several weeks, so I wasn’t surprised when she finally went to the doctor and called me to say that yes, something in fact was going on. “It’s gallstones,” she said.

“Can you come home?” she continued. That surprised me.

My mom rarely asked me to do things for her. Sure, she asked me to help with this or that around the apartment or maybe drop off dry cleaning, stop for gas or run an errand while I was out. But typically her requests were never much of a burden. She was the type of mother who was simply more comfortable going out of her way to make me comfortable.

So, when she asked me to take the first train from Philadelphia to DC the following morning and skip all fun business school social events that upcoming weekend, I had a hunch that something more than gallstones was up. At first, I decided that she was just nervous about the gallstones surgery. She probably wanted me there for support, that’s all. And that’s what I told myself for the rest of the day and the following morning when I boarded the train at 6am.

However, when I arrived in DC and got off the metro a couple blocks away from my mom’s apartment, something in my stomach flipped upside down. It was as if Mom had a homing device, sending a cancer signal reaching a ¼ mile radius. Or maybe it was just daughter intuition. But whatever it was, a wave of doom swept over me.

I called my friend, Rachel, and burst into tears. I circled a square slab of sidewalk cement with my cell phone pressed tightly against my ear as I told Rachel that I could feel something, worse than gallstones, happening. She calmed me down and stayed on the phone as I walked the ¼ mile to the apartment building, took the elevator up to the ninth floor, walked to the end of the hall and knocked on #934.

Rachel and I said goodbye. And when my mom answered, we didn’t say hello.

“What is going on?” I demanded, tears streaming down my face. My mom didn’t seem surprised that I knew gallstones was a cover, and she immediately reached out and drew me close to her.

“Do you have cancer or something?” I blurted out.

“Yes, it’s cancer,” she said. As if telling me was worse than the diagnosis itself.

“What kind?”

“Pancreatic. It’s in my pancreas,” her eyes filled with tears.

“That’s not the good kind, right?” I managed to get out between sobs. I started sinking to the floor, but she caught me and held me closer.

“No, honey, it’s not the good kind.”

And then she led me into the living room where we sat on the couch, side by side, holding each other’s hands, knuckles white. After a couple minutes, I remembered to ask how she was doing. I’m not surprised that I don’t remember the answer—I was still in complete shock.

And soon after that, I called Debbie, one of my mom’s closest friends. It was too much to absorb the gravity of my mom’s diagnosis in a household of only two people. I needed Debbie there. I needed a third person, someone important to me, who would help diffuse the magnitude of pancreatic cancer.

And from that moment on, with an army of friends and family, we fought my mom’s disease with courage, love and even laughter. There is no easy way to tell your daughter you have cancer, but I hope, that for my mom, opening our twosome to strengthen our unit with friends and family was not only easy but was one of her last most rewarding experiences.




Leave Your Comments: 4 comments »  |  Post Tags: , cancer, parentless

4 Reader Comments

  1. Alex

    You write and we are there. A route took me around your mom’s area yesterday and she was so much on my mind. I almost called Jane to say I still can’t believe it. And now today, this. I am so grateful to be brought into the moments that were so significant. Her loving ways were so evident. Thank you so much for sharing this. You were so there for her as she was for you.

  2. Bea Fuller

    I am hugging you from here. Your mom is still in my thoughts and heart, as are you.

  3. Lauren Thaler

    Thank you for your note and for reading, Bea! Hope all is well with you and the boys. xoxo

  4. MemeGRL

    Oh, I’m so sorry. I had to do the opposite: tell my mother I had “brain lesions” (which we weren’t sure were or were not cancer at the time) and it was pretty horrible too. The price of great love can be steep. Thinking of you and of her.

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