Two weeks ago I was driving to salsa night when mom called. Although it’s illegal, I picked it up – it’s so rare for mom to call that I had to. We shared hellos as I pulled over. I told her I was on my way out dancing, but of course had time to talk – what a pleasure to hear from her!
We talked for a while, then she shared that she’d had a CAT scan, and there were spots on her brain. They might be what was causing the weakness that made her drag her right foot since about October, and now is causing her right hand to shake. She’s been avoiding walking when company’s over so they don’t notice; she feels like Quasi Moto! We laugh at that, and the time it took her 3 hours to drag herself up the stairs when both her legs gave out one night. Mom has an amazing ability to laugh, and an amazingly brave attitude. That night, she was so tired after the ordeal she just went to sleep. If she was still paralysed in the morning, she’d deal with it then.
I cry silently as we talk in the car; as a two-time cancer survivor, I’m afraid mom has cancer again. I want her to feel free to talk, but I don’t want to get ahead of her. We discuss the possibility that it’s a stroke; that seems consistent with her symptoms.
She admits being scared that it’s worse. I do too; yes, it could be cancer. Somehow, we end up laughing through our fear. I forget how we managed that, but it’s not unusual. Mom & I have a similar sense of humour. We often crack each other up, even if it’s black humour.
“I’m so glad you took the call. You really cheered me up.”
“Me too, mom. Thanks for phoning. Call me tomorrow if you want to talk.”
I stay parked for a few minutes, releasing the sobs, and my fears that mom’s facing cancer again — and that this time, I am facing her death. The last two times I had no fear at all; I just knew everything would be OK. This time I don’t, and I trust my instinct.
It got cold, and I got cried out. There’s only so much emotion you can feel pulled over on a busy Toronto street. I started the engine, and continued to salsa.
My friend and favourite partner asked me for the first dance. “How are you?,” he asked, launching me into a spin.
“Just awful,” I said, returning to centre. “My mom has spots on her brain. I’m afraid it’s cancer.” I don’t verbalise the rest of the thought, the one that has me truly terrified – that at 45, 6 months after losing my dad, I might lose my mom. I feel so lonely.
“Forget that tonight. Just dance.”
And I did.