I was speaking to an important collaborator yesterday when I pressed ignore in response to Mom's call. As the next 2 minutes passed, I cursed myself for doing so - she might have needed me. And I'll admit to panicking when she didn't respond to my next 8 calls, made in rapid succession.
Everything was fine - she'd been pleased about Dad's results and how his liver was softening in response to chemotherapy and wanted to have a celebratory conversation. Her phone had been on silent so she'd not heard my multiple return calls until Dad and Brother returned home and had her call me.
"I got in trouble," she reported and I laughed even as I promised myself I'd always take her calls in the future.
So, in the middle of a formal review with Adam, I asked him to wait and answered the phone when Mom called. I listened and asked a couple questions and hung up.
I stared at the desk before glancing up into Adam's concerned eyes.
"There's a spot on her bone," I managed before my voice broke and I had to lower my eyes. He reached to grip my forearm and I offered brokenly "pre-op chest x-ray," and "scheduling PET scan" and he squeezed harder. Then I shook my head helplessly, bowed my head and closed my eyes in a moment of pure grief-stricken defeat.
"Go home," he ordered gently, picking up my notebook and pencil and ushered me toward my office, placing items in my bag while I sat down in my chair and watched him.
"Are you OK?" Sibling asked, coming around the corner with an expression of concern. I began to cry again, tears slipping down my cheeks faster than I could catch them with my fingertips and shook my head. Adam gave her a look of dismay, told her to help me and escaped while she coaxed me into my jacket, tucked her arm through mine and guided me to my car.
After asking if I was sure I could drive and urging me to do so safely, she gently closed my door and watched with worried eyes as I buckled in and started the Jeep. And I wept - gut-wrenching sobs that I couldn't control, keening moans of pain. I managed my way home, shaking, and moved into my house, bent at the waist to control the misery.
I tried to breathe, to think, and busied myself with canceling things. Lunch plans. Friend's trip to visit for the weekend. Once calmer, I called my parents again to try to gather more information - to push past my reaction and plan.
"I'm losing it," I confessed when he handed me back to Mom, laughing through tears. "I don't know what to do - I can't stop shaking and crying and I'm shocked it's hitting me so hard."
"I can't do any more either, Katie," she replied. "It's just too much. But we'll be OK - whatever happens, it's OK. I'm good with God so if He's taking me, I'll go."
"I know," I replied, even as Dad scolded her for being negative in the background. Then they chided me for canceling with Friend. So I called Post-Doctoral City again and discussed it without sobbing and we decided she would come. I made the drive to fetch her successfully - listening to NPR and retreating into denial that the biopsy results were mild, MRI didn't note any spread and x-rays aren't all that specific to metastatic spread.
But my eyes were stinging with every blink of my eyes. Head ached with overwhelming pressure. And my heart - more poor heart - tried to knit its broken pieces back into some semblance of working order.
"We're fine," they soothed when I called from the cell phone lot of the airport. "We had dinner and are watching some television and going to bed early. We'll call when we have the appointment for the PET scan but surgery should go as planned."
I removed the phone from my ear, glancing at the screen before wishing my parents good night and letting Friend know I'd pull around to meet her. And we've continued on from there.