Friday, October 22, 2010

birthdays and chemo.

My mother-in-law turns 59 next week.

She will also, if all goes according to plan, be start treatment for the lung cancer that was discovered in July. We won’t go into the back story on why it has taken this long to get treatment started; all I’m going to say is welcome to Canadian healthcare.

I want to bake her cake, and make her favourite meal. Shower her with lovely gifts and have a big to-do for her. That’s what I want. But that’s not what she wants. She doesn’t want us to make a big deal for her birthday. From the way she talks about it, I think she would prefer if we just ignored it and pretended it was just like any other day.

I get it. How is she supposed to celebrate knowing this could be her last birthday? How do you smile and eat cake and ice cream and oo and ah over gifts when you are facing your own mortality? I don’t know the answer to that. All I know how to do is to keep living. One day at a time, keep on keepin’ on. And today, my mother-in-law is alive, and I want to celebrate that. I want her to know how much we all love her, and how important she is to us.

It’s a constant balancing act. Respecting her wishes, while working to help her stay positive. It feels like she is trying to pull away and shut us out. How do I keep my arms wrapped around her and my foot jammed in the door at the same time, without making her resent me? She doesn’t get to push us all away. She doesn’t get to shut us out. I’ll respect her wishes ‘til the cows come home, but she’s stuck with us, we’re her family.  Maybe I should just make her a cake and decorate the top with "fuck cancer".  It's probably a more honest sentiment than "happy birthday nana".

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