If time travel were possible, I know to what time I’d return. At least one point in time. There are circumstances I would not like to visit again. Who wants to go through their teenage years, or the death of loved ones again? Well, that second one…
Let me tell you about Mom. Rose Marie was a beautiful soul. I didn’t realize how beautiful until I was diagnosed with AML (acute myeloid leukemia). In 1986, less than a year after college graduation, I went to visit my primary care physician who sent me for blood work. That Saturday, Mom traveled to New Haven to take part in As Schools Match Wits (or something like that, I can’t remember) with her high school students. My father took me to the doctor.
I knew something was bad. What doctor tells you to come in on a Saturday? My father and I sat in the office, side by side. He and I had not been close. As a matter of fact, I hadn’t been the greatest daughter.
Doctor Gil asked if I had medical insurance. Another reason for me to be scared.
“I think you have leukemia.”
I let that sink in.
I thought about my Mom and how much I wished she had been sitting next to me instead of my father.
I don’t remember much else from the conversation. Only that I needed to be admitted to the hospital as soon as possible.
On the drive home, I began to cry. My father said something about not wanting to cry because I hadn’t been. We called Mom. I told her not to rush home, finish what she was doing. I was being admitted Sunday morning.
Sunday night, I was at St. Francis. I had to go to the bathroom, but it was very late, and I didn’t want to bother anyone. I got up and dragged the IV pole along with me.
I remember feeling faint and trying to sit. The next thing I know, I am back in bed with medical staff surrounding me. I had a bedpan beneath me and was warned never to get up without help again.
The following morning, I called Mom. I knew she’d be coming to see me.
“It’s not as bad as it looks,” I explained. When I had fallen, my face hit the leg of the IV pole, and I had a black eye. Luckily my eye itself was not injured. I hit my knee on the floor and the bruise would remain there for months to come.
My diagnosis was confirmed on Monday, St. Patrick’s Day. Since then every St. Patrick’s Day is a celebration of my recovery.
Mom visited me every day. Sometimes in the morning, sometimes after school, sometimes both. But definitely every single day from March 16th to June 19th, when I insisted they let me go home for my birthday.
During my stay I had many caring nurses, interns, caregivers, etc. My mother became a fixture on the floor. She stopped asking the staff for things and got them for me herself. If I needed something to eat or drink, if I needed to be washed up, anything I needed, she got for me.
I know she prayed for me.
At one point, after being stuck, poked, and prodded, I looked up at my mother and said, “I can’t fight anymore.”
She didn’t break down in tears the way some would have. She held my hand tight and told me I had to fight. She was the reason I survived.
Even after my three months stay, I wasn’t done with treatment. I was in remission yet in order for the doctors to be sure the AML wouldn’t come back I had two choices. Bone marrow transplant or continued chemo.
I opted for the later.
Six more months of barfing, battling infections, losing my hair, and going through all the other side effects, took its toll on me.
I remember Mom washing my hair in the kitchen sink and clumps would come out in her hands. That was harder on her then it was on me.
Yet she never, not once that I can remember, cried in front of me. Perhaps she did once she got home and was alone.
I know my father did. My mother actually sent him out of the room when he cried. I could hear her in the hall telling him he was not allowed to cry in front of me.