Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Stage four ovarian cancer. It looks like my mom is going to die first.

Since 2003, it has felt a little like my parents have been in some sort of demented race towards the finish line of life. The only problem is that they are both still relatively young and definately not done living.

After a close call with late stage breast cancer in the early 80's, my mom continued living as though she were not a cancer survivor, but simply someone without cancer. Then, in 2003, the grapefruit sized tumor in her abdomen placed her right back in the the clique of cancer patients. Stage 3B. Stage left. Everyone take their places. I was the only one who didn't know their part since I was only 7 the last time she had cancer. All I knew to do was to be pissed. I could have won a Tony.

April, 2004, she finishes her chemo. The doctor is positive and we are all feeling victorious. My trips literally across the country to be with them had shown me a man who used to be my father, deteriorating into a frail old man, very closely resmebling my grandfather. My daddy and I had this conversation in the hospital cafeteria one day:

"Daddy, why don't you swing your arms when you walk anymore?"

Daddy stands, strides across the cafeteria with both arms swinging in the same direction at the same time.

"You know that's not what I mean."

He says, "I know. I haven't noticed that, but have you noticed that I'm stooped and shuffle like an old man?"

That was September. It wasn't until April, the very same day that my mother finished chemotherapy, that we received the diagnosis of Parkinson's for my father.

Since April, 2004, my mother has continued to get stronger and again, be not a survivor, but simply a woman without cancer, and my father has taken a nosedive. He has explored most symptoms of Parkinson's including but not limited to, tremors, inability to change facial expression, freezing, and dementia.

This past March, in 2006, I spent almost a week with my parents. My mother and I shared a bottle of Sophia, my favorite bubbly, and talked about how strange it was for my father to go first. She has never ever pictured life without him, and she couldn't imagine what it would be like.

Now, I guess she won't have to.