I studied the painting on the wall of the cold exam room. A jazz musician playing a shiny saxophone. I’d seen it before, but never gave it much attention. Today, though, I needed my thoughts to be focused on something other than my reason for being there.
My mind flashed back to a day nine years ago. I sat in the same room, paying no attention to the artwork. Probably planning the rest of my afternoon. Not knowing what would come next.
That day, when the doctor entered the room with a serious face, I didn’t notice. When she sat across from me, I thought nothing of it. Not until she spoke the word “cancer” did I have the faintest idea there was anything wrong.
“But this is the good kind of cancer,” she said in response to my shocked expression. I had no concept of good or bad at that moment. All I heard was “cancer.”
She said a few things I don’t remember. The words “surgeon” and “pathology” were the only ones that stuck. Her assistant would call me with more details. I figured I would ask questions then.
I just wanted to leave.
In the stillness of my car I cried. “Good cancer,” she said. I’ll focus on that. She didn’t have a sense of urgency getting me to the surgeon. That was another good sign. I’ve heard stories of people being sent straight to the hospital. I was going to wait for a phone call. I tried to convince myself that it really was “good.”
I don’t remember how long I sat there. My husband was out of town, so I picked up the phone and called one of my nurse friends. She repeated what the doctor said, that it was the good kind of cancer, and that I was going to be OK. But isn’t that what anyone would say to a sobbing friend?
My mind raced through so many different scenarios. What would happen to my four-year old son if I died before he grew up? He didn’t yet know what cancer was, so he wouldn’t understand what was happening. But at ten and thirteen, my other boys would. I would have to hold myself together, even though what I wanted to do was to curl up in a ball and cry.
“Please, God, let this be a mistake,” was the first stage of processing the news. But my conscience intervened. “Lisha, people get cancer diagnoses every day. Why should you be spared?”
“Then please, God, don’t let it be bad. No chemo, no disfiguring scars on my face.” My conscience again piped in. “Lisha, people have to go through chemo every day. Why should you be different? As for scars, vanity has no place here. This is about your life.”
I hung my head a little lower.
“Then God, just please don’t let me die. I want to grow old. I want to grow old with my husband, watching our sons grow up, playing with the grandchildren I dream about.”
I decided at that moment that I would not ask God for terms. I would pray to grow old. An old woman with scars to tell her tale.
My mind returned to the present as I heard footsteps approaching. I had time for one quick prayer before the doctor entered the room to deliver the results of yet another biopsy.
No terms this time. No conditions. Just please, God, let me grow old.
I’m Lisha, a middle-aged mother of three boys, and wife to wonderful husband. I love to cook, water my garden and write. In my spare time, I work part-time, tend to the needs of my husband’s parents, manage of our rental properties, and volunteer at my kids’ schools.
Our version of “Happily Ever After” takes place in the suburbs of New Orleans, where we try to find joy in the midst of chaos in a home with three kids. We try to infuse knowledge into our everyday activities, set a good example for others, and live by the values of our Catholic faith. We have been blessed abundantly, and share that abundance when we can.
The Trailblazer (also known as The Firstborn, College Boy): This one has garnered “favorite son” status because he is now old enough to buy wine. The others will have their turn someday, but for now he holds the distinction. He’s a student at LSU, figuring out how to spread those wings mom and dad have been giving him. Our secret wish for him is the same wish all parents have for their kids: to have one child EXACTLY like him — who knows everything about everything.
Slick (also known as The Middle Child): Obviously a strategic thinker, he has decided to attend college out of state and near the beach. Blessed with cool hair and a quick wit, I’m sure he’ll make the most of the experience. He was once described by a teacher as “the funniest kid he’d ever met.” I’m sure that will serve him well someday. Or get him kicked out of school.
The Caboose (also known as The Little Guy): A 13-year old American Idol hopeful with dyslexia. (That makes homework a boatload of fun!) The Caboose is often on the receiving end of things from his brothers: advice, abuse, and hand-me-downs. He tolerates them well, and when he’s the only kid left at home and we have all our money to spend on him, he’ll have the last laugh.
Mr. Wonderful: My college sweetheart and husband of 27 years. An Italian boy with some hang-ups about his mother (think Everybody Loves Raymond…) who served in the military for 25 years, including a one-year vacation in Baghdad. A builder of awesome treehouses and my personal IT guy, he is the Yin to my Yang.
Perro: The four-legged family member we rescued a few years ago. I love him because he’s the only male in this house who makes eye contact with me when I speak.
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To contact The Lucky Mom, send me an email to happinessengineer (at) yahoo (dot) com.