Monday, January 11th at 5:28 pm our world changed.
Matt and I were both in the kitchen. We were working together to get supper on the table. I had picked Alli and her carpool of friends up from school musical practice and texted Matt the new Pinterest recipe we were going to try that night. Mason was in his usual spot, the recliner. Ever since his surgery mid-December to remove the tumor we were told was highly likely not malignant, the recliner is his spot. He was telling us how hungry he was and we were assuring him it would only be a few more minutes and supper would be ready. I was feeling pretty proud of us. My husband took the hint that, “This is what we’re having for supper.” meant he could go ahead and get it started. Even though it had been a full Monday, we were going to be sitting down at the table by 5:40. Success! As Matt put the chicken dish in the oven, I sat down to go through the mail before we ate. The first of the surgery bills had come and I was calculating the totals to see where we stood. It’s a crazy thought I know – Matt at the oven and me with the bills.
My phone rang in the middle of my calculations. I was annoyed because it said No Caller ID on the screen. I knew it must be someone trying to sell me something. It was Dr. Rosenthal. I’d had my phone as near to me as possible for the past 27 days waiting on the results of Mason’s biopsy. But, no way did I think I’d get this call in the evening. I was off-guard and quickly motioned for Matt to run with me downstairs. We knew if we got this call when the kids were around we didn’t want them to have to hear it. We also knew that the chances of this call going poorly were about 1%.
I remember the doctor saying something like, “I really can’t believe that I am telling you this, but there is a malignancy. This is so rare. I just can’t believe it. Only like 25-50 people in the United States have this type of osteosarcoma…” The entire time he was talking, I had fixated on a picture of Alli holding Mason when he was 2 years old. It was on a coaster that was sitting on the desk in front of me. His bright, blue eyes and big smile were protecting me from the words I was hearing. I can only describe that entire 28 minute phone conversation as an out of body experience. I heard the word malignancy and I faded out of the conversation and into the background. Matt managed to answer a couple of questions when I had no words or was sobbing. I remember him ending the call telling us that he really didn’t even know yet what our best course of treatment was, but that as soon as he had had time to decide, his nurse would call us and we would need to meet with him to devise a plan. Heartbreak. Devastation. Shock. So many questions swirled in my head and I just cried.
Matt: “How are we going to tell the kids?”
Me: “How do I even get up those stairs?”
Matt: “Supper is ready. I should probably get it out before it burns.”
Me: Audible crying
Matt: “Are you ready to eat?”
Me: “Can we at least pray together first?”
We have learned a lot about each other in the last few days. We’ve been together for almost 16 years and we still don’t quite get each other. Matt’s way of coping in a bad situation is to continue through the steps of his day like a checklist. As long as he stays busy, he doesn’t have to feel emotions. Emotions for me are not a choice. And, when I see that he appears to not show emotions, it hurts me. I don’t want the world to continue. I need everything to pause until this devastation is over. I actually got angry at work the other day when I overheard people laughing. Oh my. Forgive my selfishness, Lord.
I managed to make my way up the stairs. Our wonderful supper made it to the table. I pulled myself together momentarily. I couldn’t maintain it. We prayed over our meal and then I started talking. “That was Dr. Rosenthal. The tumor was not what they thought. It really is cancer…” So many tears filled our home. Mason bent over as far as he could without falling out of his chair and yelled and cried and hit things. Alli couldn’t possibly cry any louder. We all huddled together around Mason’s chair and cried. This went on for maybe 7 minutes. Then, Mason sat up. The words he spoke next were wise beyond his years. He said, “We might as well stop crying and just be positive. We just have to trust God.” A few minutes later, Alli was still crying uncontrollably. Mason stood up, left his crutches, and hopped from his end of the table to hers. He leaned over and wrapped his arms around her and told her to stop crying because it was going to be okay. He put some salad on her plate and asked her to eat. We each ate a handful of bites and then got up and put almost the entire meal in the refrigerator.
If only it had been a telemarketer like I thought. “No thank you. We’re not interested.”
No thank you, Doc. You must have the wrong number.