It was a phone call that tore, ripped and altered. The conversation sucked all joy with a few short words. In fact it was one word that punched.
C A N C E R
What The Fuck!!!!
It was our 23 year old daughter and she was telling me the results had come back on a routine check it was not a good result and not happy news.
I was reeling. I was hearing her speak. I could see her in my minds eye. I could hear her fear and shock, as she told me the sequence of events. She had gone to see her doctor with a large lump in her throat to make sure it was OK. It had grown from small to large over preceding weeks. We had spoken about it, it was probably routine, it was nothing. She had just come out of a bad flu and we thought it was a swollen gland that hadn’t gone down.
Except now it was getting bigger.
My little sister encouraged her to go and get the lump checked and was with her when the doctor called to deliver the news. I am so grateful our precious girl wasn’t on her own.
I was not expecting this call even though as a full time live aboard sailor, on the other side of the world, I knew we might one day get a “bad news call.” But still I wasn’t expecting this. I mean seriously, our daughter is 23 cancer and 23 don’t belong together. As I listened tears rolled down my face. My special talent of crying silently was paying off yet again. Then Em finished speaking and it was my time to talk.
What are the right words in a time like this?
In different circumstances like 1000’s of kms different, I wouldn’t speak I would embrace, I would hold and communicate with a hug. I would hold her tight as if by my holding I could contain and control the moment. I would make my Emma hug me back and I know she would.
I was too far away. I was way too far away.
So what did I say
My words were not special, they were stock standard, not marvelous and not noteworthy. They were the words of any mother. Don’t cry. Please don’t cry it will be OK. Don’t worry it will be ok. We will get through this together and you will be magnificent. We will do whatever is needed to deal with this “thing” as it takes it course. Saying the word cancer I just couldn’t. Saying cancer and my daughter’s name in the same conversation was too wrong. too out of place, too scary. I knew the word could wait for the next conversation with her father who was at the helm oblivious to the fact that his day was about to go from perfect to shit.
Then I asked questions. It was in the questions and answers that the new normality stepped in. Calm came with understanding and like facing a storm you can only do each step as required and see how it goes.
The offending cells are in her thyroid and I have since been told if you’re going to get the big C this is the best place to get it. Thyroid cancer mostly stays contained so chances of recovery are high. Yes unusual in a 23 year old girl, but hey who says life is fair?
I Couldn’t Believe My Phone Rang
On that morning it felt miraculous that we even had that important phone connection. We were in the middle of the sea sailing from the Greek island Kea to Salamina, usually we only have connection when close to the coast. On the day it mattered we had connection and for this I was truly grateful. After the call ended I wore the words like sunburn, hot smarting and painful. I am still warm from the burn and I know it will be with me until this is all over. The surgery to remove our daughters thyroid is on the 2nd of September. Then we will know what we are in for with the results. Truth is our hopes are high and we are expecting the best.
For now we are staying where we are, on the other side of the world as far away as we can be from the most important person in our lives. This is our burden to bear and once again you always have to pay the piper.
So Why Am I Telling You This?
1. I asked first if I could.
2. I wanted to. I promised to tell our story for better or for worse and this is the worst. I offered to go home immediately and Emma says she doesn’t want me to, she thinks there is no need. She’d prefer a ticket to come to us. Smart.
3. It is in writing it down that I deal with it. Words allow me to cope and move through this unexpected journey.
PS At this point I could tell you just how special our daughter is. How beautiful, talented and wonderful. How my proudest moments in life have been watching her grow and shine as an incredible young woman. How she is loved by so many for her generous warm heart. But I won’t. For now there is no need to share those details as the future is bright.