When Theresa went to the ER on Monday 3/21, we knew they were planning on admitting her to the hospital for an unknown number of days. I decided to not tell Ryan until I got home that night and had Nana tell him Mom was at the doctor for tests.
I went to see Theresa around 4PM and found her hooked up to another IV; another set of pain medicines. All of this was starting to wear on her and she told me how difficult it was to see her Aunt/Uncle leave and that she broke down while talking to her Uncle. She said we did everything we were supposed to do and yet here we are. She said that she didn’t want to do this anymore. I didn’t push her; I just let her vent her feelings. As it was getting close to 7PM, I left to get home to talk to Ryan.
Before I got home, I sent a text message to Fr. Rankin letting him know that Theresa was back in the hospital and relaying her comment about not wanting to do this anymore. As soon as I walked in the door, Ryan asked where his Mom was. I told him she was going to be in the hospital for a few days and he dropped his head. I asked him to come in and talk with me for a bit.
All day long I knew that I was going to have a conversation with him about Theresa and had it all ready in my head. I asked him how he thought Mom was doing and he gave me the so-so hand sign. I asked for more details and he said she’s been sleeping alot and her back has been hurting. I asked him if he remembered a few weeks ago when we told him the cancer was back and he said yes. I told him that it had spread to a few other areas, the spine and liver. Before I could get the next word out, he looked at me and asked, “Is Mom going to die?” That was not something I was expecting so early in the conversation and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about sidestepping that question or using some generic line that we are all going to die some day. I took a few seconds to gather myself and told him, yes there is a chance that Mom might die from this. The look on his face and the tears that came out cut to the bone.
I let him curl up on my lap and cry for several minutes. I told him that this was something that was not going to happen today, tomorrow, next week or next month. I explained that the doctors are doing everything they can and that many people who have the same disease as Mom have been fighting and living for years. Some people for 20+, some for 10+, some for 5+ and yet others who don’t get that far. He asked me what was the percentage chance that Mom will die and I had to explain that we don’t know and there was no way to make that guess. He asked if he could go and visit his Mom the next day. He said, I’m not going to take any books or electronics, I just want to lay down next to her and talk. We made plans to have him come to my office after school and He and I would go visit. We talked about how we can not change the past, we can not predict the future, but we can live each day to the fullest. I told him it was fine to be sad, mad, confused…any number of emotions. I also told him that it was fine to be happy and laugh when things happen during the day that make him happy. He smiled and said he would.
As he was falling asleep, he reminded me that for all the adult questions he asked, he is still a 10 year old boy. He analogized that Mom’s fight was like a wrestling match, Mom vs. Cancer. And we are the spectators watching the wrestling match take place. I said yep, and just like any wrestling match our favorite wrestler will have some good rounds and some bad rounds, but we will always cheer for them. He smiled and said, yes and she won’t give up on us.
On my way to work on Tuesday, I called Theresa to let her know about my conversation with Ryan so that she would be ready for the questions he was sure to ask her. I found out that Fr. Rankin had visited her Monday night and had a blunt conversation with her. Father said that there might come a time in the future when she has to make a hard decision to stop or continue treatment, but now is not that time. There are still many treatment options to pursue and that she needed to fight the fight. She told me that she needed to hear that. Thank you for good and holy priests.
Ryan and I got to her room while she was away for treatment and when she returned to her room, he did as he said and climbed up in bed and talked to her. And just like we expected, he told her that I said there was a chance she might die. In the moments that came after that question I saw the incredible strength that my wife has. She gave her answer with a strong and confident voice and it had to be very comforting for Ryan to hear the confidence in her voice. We stayed for a bit before we made our way home. Before we left, Ryan wanted a few pictures to be taken. As he was saying goodnight, he told Theresa that cancer patients in the hospital who have someone pray for them are more likely to get out of the hospital than those who don’t have someone to pray for them. He said it’s probably because God knows that a person who is being prayed for is loved and makes them better. While his theology may not be textbook, his spirit is strong! When we got home and he was getting into bed, he said his night prayers and without prompting, added a beautiful petition for the health of his Mom that would make St. John Chrysostom proud! I know it made his Dad proud. I posted these pictures to my Facebook account and one of the comments came from my brother John. He posted the picture below that he put on my Mom’s facebook page when she started her treatment for ovarian cancer in 2014. He said that number 1 on that list was evidenced by Ryan and his Mama tonight! Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!