As bad as situations can be, people are startlingly, beautifully kind.
"I feel under control," Mom offered when we were alone in the car together, "but then someone offers sympathy or comfort and I just lose it."
I nodded in agreement, for the rare moments when I've been moved to tears have been triggered by people in my life, not theirs. When Adam called and told me to disconnect from work and he'd cover for me until I was ready to return. When I read your comments, feeling a desperate need to beg Friend for help, but emotionally incapable of accepting it. As I read and deleted emails from colleagues, feeling utterly grateful for the prayers and well-wishes but hoping hard that I can just forget all this ever happened.
It is increasingly difficult to pretend this could be fine as we watch a parade of doctors offer their sympathies when we'd rather have test results. Dealing with cancer is both as horrible and normal as I anticipated it would be, sitting as I did on the periphery of the environment during my academic research.
I keep writing blog posts in my head, but have hesitated to think long enough to put words online. Instead I do work. I sleep. I fetch water and soda and run random errands. Play games and watch cartoons and pick up the Ones from school. I filed my parents' taxes. I call doctors and visit their offices. And we're slowly making progress toward a plan.
Dad's biopsy was like Mom's - depressingly positive. Our GI specialist indicated he disagreed with the radiology report and believes it's stomach - not pancreatic - cancer. The CT did indicate abnormalities on the pancreas and liver.
Our family doctor listened to all 3 of us and wrote the requested prescriptions (by me) for Vicodin and Valium. "You will take them if you need them," I told Dad and Mom, respectively. "There's no reason for pain or extreme stress right now when we can fix it."
Then our family doctor - who I find mostly useless - prayed for us. That we'd find comfort in our love for each other, in our friends and family and community's support. That there would be hope and joy and good communication as we understood our challenges and options. And we three said amen and walked out of the office to face what's next.
Mom and I go for an MRI tomorrow morning. Unlike CT scans, I can read an MRI so if I can convince someone to let me see it, I'll know more about her soon. "You have to be OK," I told her. "I just can't..."
Dad sees his GI guy on Thursday and our PCP is arranging for an oncologist. He stares into space and worries. He's not sleeping well. And he visits the bathroom with worrying regularity. But once we understand options, we'll pick one. And go from there.
I called my neighbor to check on poor Mr. Sprout, who was once again left alone. Brother oscillates between gentle love and selfish rage and I soothe and support as necessary.
"You have to show up when you say you're planning to be here," I told him tonight. "Dad watches for you - moves his chair so he's just gazing up the street. It makes me sad. So don't make promises you won't keep."
And I wish - guiltily - for home. For the quiet and the order and the pleasure of looking after only me. I planned to leave tonight. Then tomorrow. Just for a couple days - to fetch Sprout. Clean clothes. To pick up and prepare to be gone rather than fleeing in a panic after a weepy call from my mother. But it's not to be.
So instead of curling on my loveseat to watch television, I sit at the table with Dad and we put pills in his dispensers for the week. I curl up next to Mom and watch stars dance (on television, not the sky). And I sleep fitfully in a bed that's too small without enough pillows because it's across the hall from my parents. And they need me for now.
(Again, though - thank you for your comments and emails and lovely prayers and thoughts. I really don't know how to express my gratitude for moments spent thinking of us.)