Post Whipple, post chemo follow up

I haven’t written anything in awhile, but it’s hard to sort out in my mind what I want to actually see when I tap on the keyboard forming word after word until it unfolds like a sentence that makes everything so definitive.

When you have anxiety and panic attacks, well, your mind churns out scenarios by the millisecond and none of it is pleasant. For a moment, after my mother’s eighth chemo treatment (4 post Whipple), I was riding high, I was untouchable, everything seemed to fall right back into place as if a clock started ticking counterclockwise. My subconscious, on the other hand, is determined to not let me forget, would conjure all my worries and fears. I don’t sleep. I mean, I have always had a problem with insomnia, but I find myself sinking into my pillow, as though I’m on a cloud, but on a cloud in the middle of a thunderstorm. My mind usually drifts towards my mother, sensing that she’s awake too; worrying just like me, alone with our thoughts, five minutes between us, laying among the darkness that lingers in the room. Her voice echoes in my mind, she’s always saying, “I get tired of talking about this, it’s all I do” I tell her that it’d be difficult to think about anything else, and that it’s okay that she does. But I feel like she still thinks she’s a burden. I remind her that cancer is a burden, she is not the burden.

We usually talk on the phone at the same time every day, for an hour 2pm-3pm. It makes everything seem normal, like nothing has shifted, it makes me forget our “new normal”.

We like to go to the casino and gamble a bit, not too much-$20.00 or sometimes we slip an extra $1 or 2 hopeful that we’ll leave there with a little more than what we started with; hopeful that we will have beat the machine.

My mom had her first follow up appointment since her last chemo treatment yesterday, the doctor told her that her cancer marker (CA-19-9) looked good-it was 11. My mom didn’t think so, and my anxious mind didn’t hesitate to want to fire questions until the fuel had run out.

“Oh no, it went up” I could hear the strain in her voice. My ears were burning. My entire body was getting hot and my face was turning red. Six weeks post Whipple, her cancer marker was 5, then 7 and now 11. The doctor assured us that it was fine. She said, “You could come in here tomorrow and get blood work and it may be lower” and “A man had cancer that metastasized, and post chemo his numbers went up but nothing was found on the CT scan.”  But of course I had to google it. And of course, I must have intercepted the dark web because that’s all I found was what I deemed as darkness. I did get in my car after that, and cried what felt like water drowning me. The new normal has yet again emerged. Follow up appointments, CT scans, bloodwork, wondering, worrying, praying and praying, feeling at times, God, my dad, my grandma, grandpa, and best friend were with me trying to ease my anxious thoughts and asking for me to have faith. It is so scary though.

I want to go away on a little trip with my mother, just me and her. I’ve never taken a trip where it was just me and her before. She loves beaches, so we’re trying to decide Florida or Cape Cod. I’ve never been to Cape Cod, so that may be the place. Today, during our phone call, we talked about all the places we’ve ever dreamed we could go. Greece, Australia, Italy, Hawaii, Ireland were the top choices, but she said that now, and the older she gets, the places that she once dreamt about going seem so distant and left in the past. Now, she said, “I just want to go to a beach”.

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