I remember a day sitting in clinic with Hunter. We were late that morning because I was trying to do it all. I was determined to see Chase on the bus and then get to the hospital looking somewhat presentable. I still often wonder to this day if everyone at the hospital questioned if I ever showered or if Hunter had matching clothes. This was a hot mess kind of morning. And we were of course, late. I found probably the worst parking spot, hustled Hunter in to his stroller, grabbed my coffee and then literally ran in to clinic trying to think of the excuse I’d use today. Maybe I could say our power briefly went out and my phone died. Or maybe, that it took longer than usual to get Hunter his meds (which it almost always did) Or something else clever. Nah, I’d probably just use my trusty traffic excuse because that WASN’T a lie, the traffic was always horrible.
I stepped up to the front desk to give Hunters name and birthday and I started apologizing and over explaining and the man looked at me then glanced to my Starbucks cup, and he said “Laura, it’s fine, you made it, just relax.” In cancer clinic you NEVER get judged, praise God! But I think he secretly thought “…. But you had time to stop at Starbucks?” Whoops!!!!
This was pretty much every morning. But I struggled with morning or afternoon appointments because traffic was even worse in the later afternoon. And honestly, I never really had a choice. They’d hand us our appointment schedule for the month and everything was already set and worked around the doctors, who had very busy schedules. This was why I missed so much of Chases life, because I didn’t have the choice to rearrange things.
I remember this one especially “hot mess” morning though. I stopped at the snack area in clinic and got everything Hunter loved and then we sat down in the waiting room. Ironic, we were late but often waited a long while anyway to be called back. A cancer mom started chatting with me. She was really opening up, and I was totally not in the mood because of the morning we’d had. Sometimes when I met new cancer moms only weeks in to what they were going through, I felt bad. We were the outcome no one wanted, I didn’t want to scare her. So, I let her talk most of the time. She ended our conversation with “I just keep telling myself it won’t be like this forever.” I smiled and agreed. Then Hunter was called back.
As I walked away, I felt the tears stream from my face. The nurse walking us to our room gently started to rub my back. I just cried and let her comfort me because I really needed it, and this was something I learned along our journey. To let people hold you up so you can keep walking back to that exam room. The things some people will never know that a cancer parent experiences among the walls of a hospital. They are horrible, terrible, just heartbreaking times only you and the medical professionals see.
We sat down, and she asked, “anything you want to talk about.” I said, “I know it won’t be like this forever…… It’ll get worse.” She could understand better than most. Hunter’s chart chart read something like “relapsed brain tumor” and if you’re a part of the cancer world in any way, well you just know that isn’t good. She grabbed my hand, tightened her grip so I knew she meant business, as I sat there with my head lowered. And she said, “It might get worse, and then….. it won’t be like that forever either.”
You can literally be in a storm, the middle of a tornado raging around you, knowing it WILL get worse. You can be hopeless and full of sorrow. Through storms that is totally normal. And there may be no light at the end of the tunnel, but you’re still expected to keep moving forward. It might even feel like the worst, except you know its not, more is coming. It’s one of the most excruciating feelings to keep having to walk in the dark.
And for us, it did get worse. Our biggest fear and greatest pains was the loss of Hunter here on this earth. It got as bad as it could get. The moment he stopped breathing, we also held our breath praying for his chest to rise just one more time, sure that the moment would last forever. But then we breathed out, not willingly, but we breathed. And even though we’ll carry the pain of his loss for the rest of our lives, we also know it won’t be like that moment, forever.
Grief is so complex and ever changing. You can’t predict how it plays in to your everyday life. It hits really hard someday's and other days it installs a drive to be better. Sometimes it’s gentle and allows you to see things from a positive angel. And someday's you only see the catastrophic event that it was and all the damage it left. It changes all the time.
This allows me to sit in my grief when I need to with the knowledge that what I am feeling is completely justified. But also knowing, that maybe later this evening, or tomorrow, or the next day, I will find joy. That immense grief from post-traumatic stress or missing Hunter immensely will sit in me for that time, but I WILL stand back up at some point and experience joy. That it won’t be like this forever.