You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
I wrote this in December 2009. It never ceases to amaze me how relevant the sentiment remains.
“Where can I find your books on cancer?” Perhaps there was something in the tone of my voice that caused a frantic reaction in the woman behind the customer service desk at the bookstore. I watched her rush through the computer searching for this section as I stood there. She turned on her heel and I lost her behind the shelves somewhere near ‘Hobbies’ but I soon found her crouched down near the bottom of a shelf in the Diet and Wellness section.
“What are you looking for? There is a book here, let’s see… “How to Prevent Cancer.” This has different meals and preventative tips.” She paused obviously expecting a response but what was I going to say? It was entirely too late to be preventative.
She kept moving and we plowed through the medical section and ironically found ourselves at the end of the store in the children’s section. There were exactly four books in the store about cancer and none of them were about children and none of them were going to help me.
I was vocally disgusted as I breezed past the selection of books on addictions to alcohol and drugs. Are we the only people dealing with this? We’re stuck on some stupid island we can’t get off of and nobody seems to know anything about ANYTHING!
Two months ago I was an overworked wife and mother of two. I was just like every other mother who wanted the best for her children. I didn’t take care of myself; I was stretched too thin, and with guilty desire longed for a richer life in which I did not have to work. I did well in my category and managed to fit the profile every, single time.
“Oh, now here is a new book that Suzanne Somers has done. She survived Breast Cancer and she interviews doctors who are having breakthroughs in cancer treatments”. I accepted the offer and nodded with a fake smile.
“Thank you so much for your help.”
“You’re welcome. I hope this is able to help you,” she stood there, her head titled to the right, searching for more from me. Perhaps she wanted to know if I had cancer. I didn’t figure it made a difference if I did or not. The silence lingered long enough and she eventually moved on to help someone searching for another book. I flipped through a few pages of the book and put it back in its place on the shelf.
I stood in the bookstore searching for answers to my questions but there wasn’t a single typed word that applied to my situation. I could always use tips on a fast and easy weight loss plan, the new way to wear my hair or how to do my make-up for the upcoming season; how to start my business, get my finances under control, organize the house, raise a well-rounded child, please my man, and be every woman. The purpose is not to apply the information immediately, rather to hoard this knowledge in an effort to create elaborate plans and visions of what my life will be like when everything finally falls into place.
Tonight, absolutely nothing applied to me. Not one single book, magazine-no printed word. I could not envision a utopian paradise and frankly, nothing anyone was saying mattered at all. My family has cancer-my 3 year old has brain cancer and despite optimism it doesn’t change this reality. I stood there looking for answers, a how-to-breath-again guide. Something to read that actually mattered. I don’t fit in. Anywhere.
The blaring lights shake me back to the brightly lit surgical floor in the children’s hospital. You can never know what this life is like. What it means when a father puts his head in his hands while waiting for his son to return from surgery; a sea of blue and green running around him having a perfectly ordinary day as he tries to remember how to stand up from the chair. Clutching a plastic bag packed with clothes, rubbing his wife’s back with the other he will pretend everything is fine.
There are parents on the other side of us rejoicing over the successful completion of a tonsil removal. I hate them; we hate them. Our children will be returned to us after a surgery-god has carved a pathway searching for answers and we will only be just beginning. You can never know what it’s like to prepare yourself as a mother for what your child might look like after they have cut him open for the first time.
“Once we give him the anesthesia, he will be sedated and won’t remember anything that happened.” I stood over my little boy and the only thing I could think of was how we had betrayed his trust. We lulled him to sleep with the magic potion and told him everything was okay. But he was going to wake up and know that it wasn’t. I felt no urge to cry. I can distinctly remember my knees giving way and the room spinning but I managed to find balance by clinging to the nurse’s instructions on how she was going to relieve his pain. We will never know another way of living.
Life on the other side of the wall is a woefully beautiful valley steeped with endless borders. You can feel the warmth of the sun on your face and the cold wind run straight through you. It’s a lonely and tiring trek no matter who you take because the devastation cuts each and every one of you in half and you’ll spend the entire time trying to find ways to balance the difference.
There is nothing to talk about accept the regurgitation of medical information and discussions about plans. There is no sound because there are no words in any spoken language to explain the situation or answer your questions. There are really only two questions. Why us and are we going to survive this? There is never any truth in the answer so you turn the volume down and read the bent eyebrows, painted smiles, or the deliberately professional posturing of a doctor. We are linked one broken heart to another. Each frayed edge caught one on the other as we pass by.
Mommy Tonsils walked past our recovery section, leans her head to the side with empathy at the site of my poor little baby and utters “how precious”, but she really means “thank God.” I absolutely hate her. She doesn’t belong here. She is not like us.
I put the parenting magazine back on the shelf, wrapped my sweater around me, and walked back out into the cool night where the shopping center corridor was lined with holiday lights and stars; insignificantly beautiful. The walk to the car seems longer and my legs are heavy; gravity is stronger in the valley. I think of how we might spend Christmas in the hospital with the other families and wonder if it will be like Christmas at all. Much like everything else these days, it doesn’t really matter.