It’s been months since I’ve sat down to write. Months since we got news that we never wanted to hear and that I responded to with a carefully choreographed dance of denial and humor. When they put my son’s MRI on the screen and started explaining what was there, I stopped the doctor to tell her that she had the wrong images. Those didn’t belong to my son. It wasn’t possible.
But willing it away was not a realistic approach, and so I sat there, stunned, as she discussed treatment options in the same way one would offer up candies or cake. I listened and nodded and ignored the roaring in my ears, the urge to run. I just sat there and watched as my life and my son’s life changed completely and utterly once again.
We switched into research mode. I was back at the beginning, reading everything I could find, talking to anyone who had some insight, some connection to some random specialist who could direct us. I was a navigator, chartering through waters I never wanted to enter and pulling my son along for the ride, attaching him to me in a figurative flotation device, dragging him behind me as I launched through treacherous waves and uncharted territories. And even though I was so entrenched in it, I still did not believe it. I caught myself saying, “Okay, but this isn’t, like, REAL,” as I read off possible side effects and complications from treatments we were weighing.
Much like that day when I sat dumbstruck by scans that could not be my son’s. By news that could not possibly be for me.
It was a paradox that almost destroyed me. I had to move forward and focus but at the same time I was so desperate to take back that day when I saw those images that I just tried to ignore the situation and pretend it never actually happened. I went back and forth between absolute calm to abject panic to crushing depression and then back to the warm blanket of denial.
My friends told me to write. It would be helpful. Maybe it would help me sort everything out. But there were no words to put on the page. Certainly nothing I wanted to see in print. Nothing I wanted to share with anyone. Because as I wrote out this story, I would stop myself and say, “No. This isn’t real. This isn’t true,” like a child closing her eyes and covering her ears believing it would make everything go away.
Crises explode with seeming chaos, but pain has a precise trajectory when it’s gunning for your child. It is a targeted attack on the soul, reverberating onto your heart and refocusing every ounce of your being into survival mode. The responses of denial, of outrage, and even of humor, are just different band-aids for the same wound. A wound that can only be fixed with hope, with love, with faith, with friends, and agonizingly, with time.
Months later, I’m swimming more smoothly out on that menacing sea. There are still so many unknowns and so many days that I wish I can find that castle of denial again and take residence inside it. But now, I don’t have that luxury. I can look at this situation, recognize it for what it is and focus on moving through it. And we will move through it. We already are.
I haven’t written since that day I sat in front of the screen looking at new MRI images. It was too huge. Too all consuming. It dwarfed my stupid ideas and silly blogs. But here it is, here I am: raw, unedited, as I see it and feel it. I never expected to be here. I never expected to write about this again. I never expected to be blindsided like that. I never expected to be floundering on that sinister ocean, trying to keep myself and my family afloat.
I never expected any of this.
But now, I no longer have any expectations.
For now, it’s about getting back into the ring, one foot in front of the other. For now, it’s just about moving forward.