Monica and her mom in the fall of 2017.

If those walls had ears … oh, the stories they have heard and could tell … I’m going to duct tape their mouth shut!
During the 10 months my mom faced lung cancer, I drove her to every appointment with the oncologist and radiologist and three rounds of chemo and 10 shots of radiation. My aunt accompanied us to physician visits. I can’t remember a single trip where we didn’t have to wait on somebody or something. It was simply, yet uncomfortably, our new fact of life. 

We didn’t talk much in the main waiting room. (This was pre-COVID.) When Mom’s name was called, we’d begin the routine of stopping at the scale, hoping she hadn’t lost more weight. We’d enter a pleasantly decorated room with so-so cushioned chairs, take blood pressure, temp and face the same questions every time with slightly different answers. Then we were left alone to wait. 

And talk.

Mom would get cold. We’d drape her sweatshirt over her shoulders.

“It’s nerves, I think,” she said at the first appointment in October 2017. She looked at the vents. “They blow hot air day and cold air the next.”

There’s the pain of waiting … what seems like a lifetime … a term with a whole new meaning after a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. 

“Nothing’s as good as it used to be,” she said when we talked about the decline of product quality. “I wonder if radiation will keep me warm all the time …. C’mon doctor, c’mon.”

She peered into a bag that contained her essentials for excursions: bottle of water, six crackers, notepad and pen, two thin washcloths. 

“I need to keep doing puzzles to keep my brain active. Sudoku.” She recalled asking people how to pronounce it. “I tried to do one in the newspaper but I couldn’t. Somebody left a book one day in the library, and I tried and tried. Finally, it fell into place. I tried to teach others.” 

After explaining my inability to do those puzzles, I said, “The need to keep teaching never dies.”

“This is the strangest floor covering. It should be on a wall ….”

And the visit with chair-a-rama drama …

“This is not a very comfortable chair,” Mom said. “Whoever picks these things ….”

The nurse offered to get another chair but Mom refused. She was settled and didn’t want to change. “When you get to my stage, you kind of tell the truth about these things.”

Smart ass me said, “That hasn’t stopped you before.”

“I just want to see the doctor and get out of here.”

I asked, “Do you want me to change chairs with you?”

“No, I’m not moving ….”

And then there was the office visit when we waited again, her wrapped up in a hooded sweatshirt.

“I don’t look like the Unabomber, do I?” Hmm, pretty close with the sunglasses.

She started a shopping list … blueberries, whole milk, grapes (“only if they taste good”) and strawberries. We talked about the price of tea … not in China but at the local grocery. 

Then we discussed how she and I each gained 50 pounds when pregnant with our one and only. One time she locked her keys in the car when she was expecting me. I locked mine in my car a couple weeks before the due date. 

“I should have brought my gloves ….”

Another time waiting an hour …

“If I had known this, I would have cancelled.”

It ended up being the last doctor’s appointment as she discontinued treatment in mid-March 2018. 

Oh yes, if these walls could only talk …. And I would have removed the duct tape long enough to allow it to whisper in my ear what had transpired.

Since they don’t, I was always prepared with paper and pen. I didn’t want to forget the lessons of these moments … because I was too busy surviving the moment.

Hey, drop me a line at [email protected] or leave a comment. I’d love to speak to your group, organization or company about working our way through the pain and challenges of everyday life. You want straight talk? You got me!