By: H.A. Spinelli
In August of last year, my mother and stepfather were staging their home for potential buyers, when suddenly, in the middle of moving a sofa, my mother felt a sharp pain in her side. She thought nothing of it, until the pain persisted through the early hours of the next morning, and for the first time since she gave birth to me 34 years prior, she dashed to an emergency room. It was there, after the doctors ran some initial blood work, that she learned she was battling cancer for the second time after 15 years in remission from her first diagnosis. She kept this news quiet until she visited her oncologist. She told me over the telephone on a sunny afternoon while I was cooking dinner in the late-August heat. I kept my cool and tried to focus the conversation on the positive outcomes and next steps. After I hung up the phone, I finished cooking dinner, left it on the counter to cool, and ran upstairs to grab a quick shower. When the cold water hit my body, I completely broke down. I sobbed so hard that I gave myself a headache. My chest felt like it was ready to collapse. I literally called out to a God I hadn’t spoken to in years, “Why are you doing this to her? She doesn’t deserve this. I’m not ready to lose her. I still need her.” Selfish? Sure. Truthful? Absolutely. I calmed down and waited for my husband to get home from work. I told him the news before we sat down to eat. He got up from the couch and hugged me tight. He said, “I love you. We’re gonna get through this.” He left his plate untouched, and started Googling “lymphoma”. He worked a double shift that day. He was exhausted and starving. He put all that on hold to comfort me, and to get some answers to ease my spiraling mind. I always knew I married a phenomenal partner, and this was just another moment where my appreciation for him resonated beyond words.
I struggled to fall asleep that night. I slipped out of bed and tiptoed downstairs. I found my notebook and started to rifle through some old writings. It’s when I stumbled upon “The Little Things,” a quirky little essay that I’d written as a contribution for an online writing collective. It received little notice, but it’s since been a source of serenity for me in the middle of all the chaos my family would experience for the next few months. I hadn’t thought much of it since I wrote it, but that night, my feelings towards it transformed. I read it several times. I thought long and hard about the words on the page, and I vowed to heed the message that, until that night, I didn’t know my soul was communicating to my conscious self. I started taking my lunch break at work. I no longer jumped to answer emails or texts with immediacy. I sauntered into meetings (on-time, of course) instead of racing to them. I pulled the car over during my morning commute to appreciate the sunshine. I sat outside on the porch to listen to the rain. I sipped tea instead of gulped it. Time slowed down. It’s odd how life-changing events will do that to us. Fortunately, I’m happy to report that just this week, my mother received word that she’s officially in the earliest stages of remission. I thank her for her enduring strength. I thank my husband for being there to support me in my times of need. I thank her doctors for taking her case seriously and having the medical knowledge to help her make it safely to the other side of this once insurmountable mountain. I even thanked God for checking-in and in a scary way, reminding me of what’s most important in my life; we’re still not on the greatest terms, but we’re getting there, little-by-little.