They rounded the corner and entered their mother’s classroom. Book bags were flung on the desks and hugs were exchanged. Typical topics were discussed as they held the debriefing of the day’s highlights, successes, trials and tribulations. Then with the most loving look, the youngest softly asked, “Mommy, what did the eye doctor say?”
Not prepared to have this discussion in the classroom, she sidestepped the question, as mothers do best, and had everyone gather their belongings. Mommy prayed that she would find the words to share with her girls. Sometimes, there simply are no perfect words.
The last seat belt clicked and the car was placed in drive. The child asked again, “Mommy, are you going to tell us what the doctor said? Are you okay?”
Deep breath. Please give me strength.
“Well girls, you know that I went to the Oncologist last week to have my blood checked to see if there were any cancer cells that lived through the chemotherapy. When I told them that I had some vision problems they sent me to the eye doctor.”
“Is that the doctor you saw today?”
“Yes. The eye doctor tested my eyes and says that I have perfect vision. We even thought that the medicine I take every day could have caused cataracts, but I don’t have those either. He decided that I needed further testing by a doctor called a Neuro- ophthalmologist – that’s a fancy word for a special eye doctor that can also look at my brain.”
Knowing that the conversation was far from over, the mother gripped the steering wheel firmly with one hand and reached for her daughter with the other. Once the word ‘brain’ was spoken the little one squeezed her mother’s hand, crying as she questioned, “So now you have brain cancer?”
Thinking back to the events earlier in the day the mother reflected on the fact that she, too, had cried while driving from the doctor back to school. In her moment of self-pity she called her father to share with him the news. With his gentle voice he reminded her of how she had made it through breast cancer without worrying, and reminded her that there was no point in wasted worry.
With every ounce of strength the mother could muster, she smiled at her children as she did her very best to explain the situation.
“Girls, it’s okay to cry. Mommy had a moment today – I cried too. The doctors are not telling me that I have cancer cells in my brain. The doctors just want to check everything and make sure I am okay – but if there were cancer cells left behind we’d need to know so we could go after them right away.”
As the tears poured, their mother continued talking to them in the same way she had when her cancer adventure first began.
“Do you remember who wants us to worry?”
Between tears they responded, “The devil.”
“That’s right. He’s the one that wants us to be scared and worried. Mommy won’t have any answers for a few more weeks. Could you imagine crying for two whole weeks? We’d look seriously funny with puffy eyes and runny noses – we’d probably have major headaches too! We don’t want to let the devil feel happy by keeping us upset and scared. Besides, if the doctor says I simply need more sleep then we would have wasted two weeks crying over nothing.”
Slowly the children’s tears began to fade away and a glimmer of grins appeared. During the remainder of the ride home they talked and laughed about how they had always found every possible way to laugh and smile through the tough times. They agreed that no matter what happens in life, their family will continue to sing, “Don’t Worry – Be Happy!”
Cheryl Copeland is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about life’s lessons and her personal adventure with breast cancer.