I'm back on the 7th floor of Massachusetts General Hospital, the Cancer Center. I haven't been here in a while; it's a six-month post treatment check-up.
I don't want to be here, I think. I wish cancer was one of those things you could just check off your list and be done with forever. I'm pushing, pushing the reality of my situation away.
A 93 year old woman I met while receiving chemo is rolled into the reception area in her wheelchair. She wears her usual beaming smile. She has been coming here so long she knows all the staff by name: receptionists, phlebotomists, interns, doctors. They all beam back at her, loving her spirit - as I do - to fight breast cancer for the fourth time at 93 years old. I pull her energy towards me, into me. Pull, pull, pull.
The check-up goes well. My voice is getting scratchier, which causes my oncologist's eyebrows to briefly furrow (scary - push, push away) but a quick scope of my throat reveals nothing unusual. We set the date for my first set of CT scans, and I take a deep breath and vow not to allow myself to think about it until I get there.
He smiles at me, compliments me on my humor and strength. I tell him I'm a good actress. He tells me he doesn't believe me. I beam inside. Pull, pull.
I haven't seen my kids much in the past two weeks, what with the trip to NYC and then Kentucky. Monday they had play dates all day so I could clear my decks. Yesterday was mostly used up with doctor's appointments, so as I drove home I couldn't wait to see them, to have an afternoon just for us. Pull, pull.
Within twenty minutes of my arrival home, they were whiny, hot, tired, and didn't want to do anything. The sitter said they were "perfectly behaved" and I grumbled inside about how they save the icky stuff for me. Push, push.
Finally, I suggested mini-golf (LAST on my list of fun things to do) and their eyes lit up, they jumped up and down and hugged me. Pull, pull.
Twenty minutes into mini-golf they were arguing and calling each other names I didn't know they knew. Finn whacked his ball into the parking lot and it went down the sewer drain. Greta had a headache. I just wanted to do something fun together and it's already unraveling, I thought. I daydreamed about being alone in a hotel room with a book, and then felt a twinge of mother guilt. Push, push.
We ended up at the local ice cream shop, the kids full of creamy smiles and giggles. Pull.
Several times this summer I found myself saying, kind of tongue-in-cheek, with another mother, "Is summer done yet?" as we did an exaggerated eye roll and laughed about how we're fantasizing about the big yellow school bus. Push.
But then the next day I'm talking with a friend about how much I'm looking forward to the final few weeks of summer, where I don't have any trips, the kids don't have any camps or activities, just us and some wide-open days. Pull.
Yesterday I was hit with an idea for a post and I settled into my chair to write. Within seconds they were at my side (when for the past half hour they had been playing quietly, and nicely, together) saying they are bored. Is it the sound of my keyboard? Do they have some sixth sense that knows when my Muse (such as she is) shows up? PUSH.
I raised my fingers from the keyboard, reluctantly, turned and asked them what they wanted to do. They blinked at me ... blink, blink... and said "We dunno". I ignored (mostly) the flash of irritation and suggested a walk. They jumped up and down and said "HOORAY" and I felt like mother of the year. PULL.
Last night, I snuggled in with them and read books, gave back scratches. Thoughts of the hotel room, alone with a book, were far, far away. They nestled into me, smelling of summer; a sour/sweet kid scent. My mind flashed to the 7th floor cancer center, of the 93 year old woman with a big smile on her face, of the man wrapped in bandages and speaking through a hole in his throat, of the small, bald child holding her mother's hand, and I gave thanks, from the deepest part of me, that I'm here. Now.
**This post was inspired by my friend Heather's post today, called (hopefully). It's awesome. Go read it.