Today I’m on campus. And by on campus I realize I mean two different things that are now forever intertwined. First I am on my old campus – my alma mater – a place that holds four years of memories that certainly cannot be 27 years ago. THAT would be crazy talk.
Secondly, I am on my son’s future campus. He has chosen to attend Dalhousie University in September, following in both mine and Craig’s footsteps – even though I’m 99% confident ‘footsteps’ were not a factor in any of his decision making.
So here we are. On campus. And all that it means. (There is an entire other blog post buried in those sentences, but that is not todays story).
Today we are on a mission to get this young man some Birthday SWAG. Now that he has made his decision, his Birthday Gift will be a Dal Hoodie – which of course Mom couldn’t possibly choose herself – so we are venturing down to the bookstore to browse and buy and walk away feeling equal emotions of ecstatic and surreal.
We chose today to come into the city and shop because we have another errand to run that is literally right around the corner from Dal. A couple of months ago we had a standard pediatrician appointment that led to x that led to y that led to z, and eventually the need for an MRI at the IWK.
As a Momcologist, I have always held this theory about big tests. Or any doctor appointments for that matter. Its too long to go into here, but suffice to say in my gut – deep down – I wasn’t incredibly worried about this evenings appointment. (My theory has different parts to it, but you should know that it revolves around ‘a mother’s gut feeling not being a simple black or white issue’).
So after our SWAG shopping we meander away from this campus that was a second home to me for four years, to another place around the corner, that has been like a second home to my son for 14 years.
Life is just sometimes so weird.
We walk through the door of the hospital and it is a ghost town. We’ve been here during COVID before, so it’s not terribly surprising, but this is an evening appointment so it truly is a little eerie how few people are here.
An evening appointment for an MRI. I know. That’s where my brain starts to go a little wonky – but I chalk it up to catching up on a COVID backlog and onward we go.
We sit in the waiting room all alone. Just the two of us. I couldn’t count how many waiting rooms my son and I have sat in together. I really couldn’t. Still to this day it is not uncommon. Nor is it uncommon to have a big test or procedure in our lives. It happens roughly once every year or two I would say. Something shows up/comes up/reveals itself in bloodwork or a routine follow up and because of his history the Oncology Team pay close attention and off we go to get it checked out. Neuro, biopsy, echos, etc. It’s part of our lives.
So I’m still not worried. Really.
But usually it stops at an Xray or a DI. As I’m sitting here with little else to distract me I can’t help but think – hmmmm – MRI – it’s been a very long time since anyone felt he needed one of those.
And then the healthcare worker comes and grabs us and the thought gets put back into the very-well-used compartment of my brain and heart – a place where all too many of those things have lived over the years.
She brings out two clipboards and hands one to him and then asks me “Will you be coming in too?” I look over at him with raised eyebrows, holding my breath, and wait his response. He replies, in typical teenage nonchalant fashion, “Doesn’t matter”. This is my cue to say yes – for many reasons – but if for no other than soon he will be 18 and we may no longer be asked the question.
So in we go together. Been here done this. Old hat. But only once before right? Only once before have we needed an MRI. When was it? A very long time ago. He was still on therapy I know that. But my mind can’t place exactly when. But I remember the process, so I’m not surprised by the steps we take.
He gets changed into his Johnny Shirts and when he emerges from the dressing room a wave comes over me. He is so tall. The last time we did this he sat on my lap in his hospital gown as we waited. That I do remember. I look at him and he looks like a giant. And he has leg hair. (I swear there will be people who ‘get’ this sentence and others who won’t. And that’s ok. But for those who do … I’m just sayin’!)
And I’m sitting and he is standing and he is so old and I FEEL so old and I have to say to myself – I’m not worried.
We wait a long time.
I’m not worried.
And then like before the healthcare worker comes and I stuff the feeling into the compartment.
She starts going through all the prep – the prep before the procedure – and we keep busy doing the small things that need to be done. We are familiar with the routine and wearing that familiarity like a coat of … what? … honour … gratitude … knowledge? I can’t place the word but damn can I ever place the feeling. It comes with every appointment we have here.
Our final part before going into the room is a spin on the metal detector, and then we are off.
Into the room we go. Again, he has been in the machine before, he knows what to expect. So do I. I’m not worried.
Mom sit in the rocking chair. Kid, get in the massive machine. Lay still. Here’s your sheet. Knees bent over the knee bendy thing. Put your head in here. Squeeze the ball thingy if you need anything. All good. I’m not worried. I remember it all.
And now the earplugs and the goggles.
The what? Huh?
I forgot about those.
They are the last things she does for him and as I look at him before he gets slid away into the machine my heart starts to beat a little faster. I don’t like not remembering things. You see if I remember things, and they turned out ok, and then we have to do those things again – even if they are big things, and even if they are a decade later – well then in my head they will be ok this time too.
I know. We Oncology Moms don’t think normally.
But I didn’t remember this. Those two little things. I didn’t remember.
I sit there watching him move in and out of the large machine that actually makes him look small. And I spend the next hour wavering back and forth in my thoughts. An hour! I don’t remember it being an hour either. My gut says not to worry about this. But look at this machine and what it does – they wouldn’t send him down here ‘just because’. But they are just being cautious because of his risk. He has been off treatment forever. He is so ok. Damn that machine is so loud. I forgot how loud it is too. Just when my heart settles the stupid thing sounds like there is an emergency. And was that screen always there counting down each “take”? I don’t remember that count down clock. I think it’s a good thing at first – we will know when it is over. But they keep resetting it over and over and over again. And most importantly how is he? How is he really? Is he doing ok? I hope he asks for help if he needs it. Teenagers. He is a teenager. Almost a man. Where are his thoughts right now?
Back and forth, back and forth go my thoughts and my heart.
And then from somewhere … from nowhere … everything settles down inside me.
And suddenly all I feel is familiarity. It all feels familiar again. Because in that room, it’s only him and I. Just him and I. Us. Together. And we have done this before. So many times. And if we need to, we will do it again. And again and again and again. It’s who we are. It’s what we do.
But can I just say … can I just put out into this big wide amazing universe … I sure do hope he gets the privilege of being ‘around the corner’ in September … wearing that sweatshirt we just bought him two hours ago.
If he does, well I guess a side of MRI with the SWAG today was an ok price to pay.
** Note – I would never write this publicly without sharing that literally the day following the MRI we received a call from our long term follow up care coordinator saying that the results of the MRI were not related to the presence of cancer.**
**So around the corner he gets to go.**It’s a good day**