Holli calls Elliott her baby a lot and I confess that I tease her sometimes about it. In truth, I understand why she does this because the memories of Elliott as a small, helpless infant are so burned into my mind and I am still sometimes shocked to see him run, jump, talk and play as the four year-old that he is. At some point since my mom was diagnosed with cancer I realized that this frozen image of baby Elliott is not something that just impacts parents.
Last month, Holli, Elliott, and I were down visiting and my parents gave me a digital picture loaded with a variety of childhood pictures that my dad had recently digitized. Despite the fact that I had not seen many of the pictures in decades, the images still seemed very fresh to me. It was easy for me to remember what my parents looked like when I was a young child and, even as I followed the old pictures through decades and both I and they aged, they still seemed very much the same to me. They are my parents and they will forever look like my parents, just like Elliott will always look to me like the small infant we brought home from the hospital.
That is why it was such an emotional shock when my mom was diagnosed with cancer. The impact was compounded by the medical issues my dad suffered around the same time. Frozen in my head was the image of them as middle-aged parents rather than the retired grandparents they have become. I know that this shock was not one only felt by me and I'm very grateful for the support, especially from Holli, during those difficult early months. I know intellectually that cancer can impact people of all ages and that medical issues come inevitably to everyone over time. Still, there are times when changes comes so fast and so unexpectedly that it is difficult to catch up or to change with them. It wasn't really on my emotional radar that either of my parents was getting older, much less that something like cancer could impact our family.
Thankfully, the fear and uncertainty of those early months is past us and this is a success story. Tomorrow my mom starts her last chemotherapy treatment. Friday she will have the portable pump for her last chemo drugs removed and she will officially be done with chemotherapy. All signs indicate that she is cancer free. Borrowing a phrase from John Parker in "Once a Runner" I think that she has gone through both a "trial of miles" and "miles of trials." While I am grateful not to be able to speak from first-hand experience I suspect the latter is at least as challenging as the former. In Parker's fictional novel about distance runners, the "trial of miles" refers to enduring through the miles of the current training run. On the other hand the "miles of trials" refers to the necessity of getting up each day to do it again and again and again.
My mom's miles of trials are finished this week. She went through chemotherapy again and again and again. Soon she will be done. In honor of this, I'd like to encourage you to make a donation to the American Cancer Society by clicking on the link to the right and then clicking on "Donate to Our Team." If you are planning on joining us at Relay for Life on April 8th, please click on the link to the right and then click on "Join Our Team." It should be fun and I figure I'm good to run/walk at least 60 or so miles over the 12 hour event.