There was far less pomp and circumstance on my last day of chemo and last day in the hospital than I thought. I envisioned balloons and cake and ice cream for everyone! But alas, as I crawled to the finish line by my finger nails, neither I nor DH or any of our family members had the energy to celebrate. We were relieved for it to be over but apprehensive about what the next step would be. Radiation or no radiation? We also faced a trip to the Cancer Epicenter of the South and Oz in one week to meet with doctors. There was still so much to be decided.
And so came the last day came. We were on our own that day, DH and I. It was a day in between Sister2’s week long visit and Mother2’s visit. DH had to coordinate my discharge while dealing with Little Man’s needs. The nurses quietly prepared a little ceremony, one they do for everyone on their last day of chemo, while I was getting ready. DH and Little Man waited for me at the nurse’s station and my nurse pushed me in a wheelchair to meet them. I was so tired that day. My whole body felt heavy and bloated with chemicals and IV fluids. I arrived at the nurses station to find two smiling boys waiting for me. Little Man leapt into my lap, ready to be pushed around the hospital in my wheel chair. Faster, faster, slower, faster, wohooooooo! I’m pretty sure he thinks that what we do at hospitals — ride around in wheelchairs.
All the available nurses quickly gathered around and one of them read a poem about the last day of chemo. They meant really well, they did. But, reading an emotional poem about healing and fighting cancer and all of that to someone who just finished the last of six rounds of chemo, which were administered three weeks apart for 96 hours, is just something no one should do. Hadn’t I cried enough? So, I sat there and cried while hugging Little Man, who was wondering why everyone was standing there looking at us. As the poem was read, I remembered Little Man visiting me each morning I was there. Waiting for me in the waiting room and shouting Mommy! as I hobbled into the room with IV pool in tow. I always saved a treat for him from my meal tray to sweeten our visit. Everyone likes to focus on food! Sometimes it was just some graham crackers or cereal and other times it was a muffin or cookie. He devoured each treat as though it was the most special of surprises. More, More! There were so many days in the hospital when I felt so bad that I didn’t think I could see him. But I forced myself to get up and out of the bed because I knew that I desperately needed those 30 minutes with him. I needed to look him in the eyes, to smell his hair and skin. I needed him to snap me back to reality and to remind me that I had a job to do, I was his mommy. He needed me. His love was so gentle and kind. Mommy has a boo boo. Wanna kiss it! That’s Mommy’s medicine. She feels better. He showed me the man he is destined to be. As though his hugs and kisses weren’t enough, he helped push my IV pole, holding it in his little hand in just the right place so my IV tubing didn’t crimp, and pushing it gently across the floor. He would look up at me and tell me with his eyes, see Mommy, this can be fun. And when I had enough and had to go back to bed, he hugged and kissed me and never cried, Mommy’s going to the doctor. Mommy’s going to the hospital, he would say.
My mind wandered around all of these memories while we sat there listening to the poem. When they were done, they all looked at me as though I should give a speech, so I said, Thank you, it’s been great. It’s been great? It was great? What’s been great about this? The food sucked, I had chemo shot up my grown for 96 hours, I was sick, I was tired, I was nauseas, I was kept awake at all hours of the day and night, and I had to deal with incompetent and sometimes unkind nurses, It’s really not that big of a deal, one said to me when I complained about the rate my chemo was dripping and his failure to keep it on schedule. Thank god I had enough in me to quickly respond, Really? It’s not a big deal? Have you had cancer? Have you had to fight for your life? No, he said, well, let’s talk about what a big deal it is when you do. This nurse and I ultimately came to an understanding, he did what he had to do to take care of me and keep me happy and kept his mouth shut. But he only let me push him so far, You can’t have both Ativan and laxatives tonight. You can choose one because I don’t feel like cleaning up your crap in the middle of the night because you were too zonked to go to the bathroom. Fair enough, I can deal with constipation on another day.
I pushed these bad memories away and remembered how great it was to spend those mornings with Little Man in this strange place. It was great to step back as a mom and observe him as the little person he is and who he has the potential to be. It was great to just breathe him and his innocence in fully. I carried his scent with me all day and recharged the next morning when he visited. And, that’s how I got through it all. So yeah, it was great.