When Grief, Cancer and Life Collide

I knew today was going to be tough – returning to GaGa’s house for the first time. Little did I know today would put me to the ultimate grief and trauma test.

Mom, Marjorie and I drove to GaGa’s home. I felt good, but nervous. I entered her home through her back door and immediately noticed the silence. The TV was not blaring Price Is Right and the wood floors didn’t click as GaGa walked to greet me. There was darkness and silence.

I stumbled to GaGa’s chair and sat in the dark. The silence was broken by my sobs, as I clutched her blanket. I traced my fingers along her side table and all the little knick knacks she used every day: her letter opener, opened breath mints, note pads and pens. It was as if she was still there.

But she wasn’t. And my heart broke.

Suddenly, I heard the click click of the floors and there was my Marjorie. Coming to cuddle her broken hearted momma. We rocked in GaGa’s chair and sang our favorite songs.

Marjorie hasn’t been herself since we arrived in Baton Rouge. She was up all Monday night with stomach pain and has remained very lethargic since. I assumed constipation, but as a former cancer mom, that c-word began to lurk in the back of my head.

GaGa’s house visit did not end without a few laughs – who can resist Sally Jesse Raphael glasses? Mom and I dug through drawers filled with memories. Cards and letters spilled out, along with our array of emotions.

In the very back of a bottom drawer, I found a box with pens, nail files and a pink post it note. The note said one word:


My heart stopped. I remember trying to explain to GaGa Marjorie’s cancer. She kept asking me to say the name, “neuroblastoma”.

I felt content as we left GaGa’s house. Marjorie was extremely tired, but I thought a nap and another night sleep she would be back to her energetic self. She went right down when we got home and I was looking forward to get some work done whileshe rested.

Twenty minutes later, a loud cry echoed down the staircase. I sprinted up the stairs at the speed only a mother can run. Marjorie looked at me with tears streaming down her face, “My tummy!” She yelled. I am pretty sure all the color drained from my face as I scooped her up.

All of the worst case scenarios came flooding into my brain as I rocked my girl on the couch. Marjorie settled down and began watching TV while I started texting my pediatric lifelines – our oncology nurse ‘Two Knock’ and Dr. Liz Seiter, a dear friend and extraordinary pediatrician here in Baton Rouge.

Both agreed with me that the lethargy was concerning. I jumped at the first time slot Dr. Liz offered. I ran upstairs to change clothes and grab my purse. I just wanted to change out of my sweaty work clothes and into shorts. But then my mind started turning…

I shouldn’t wear shorts. We will probably have to be admitted tonight and hospitals are cold. I should be in something comfortable. Should I go ahead and pack a bag? Jordan will have to wait and fly tomorrow. Maybe I should go ahead an buy his ticket? Well, maybe not because we will want to go back to Wolfson’s for our treatment. 

I remained completely calm as I changed in and out of outfits. Finally, I realized what I was doing, threw on a maxi dress and headed down the stairs. I told Marjorie we were going to the doctor and then went to hide in the dining room where I sobbed. This can’t be happening again. Not again. My spirit was already hurting from acclimating to being home with GaGa and now this?

I know what you’re thinking, “Don’t you think you’re jumping to conclusion? It is just a tummy ache.” I know. In a normal brain tummy ache would be no big deal. But to me, a tummy ache and lethargy is what catapulted us into the cancer world.

I quietly drove Marjorie to the Baton Rouge Clinic, praying the entire way. When Dr. Liz entered our patient room, she already knew how I was feeling. She knew I was in a state of panic survival. “Just give it to me straight, doc”

Dr. Liz pushed on her belly and with a smile that only Dr. Liz has, boldly says, “Nope, it’s just poop!” I laughed with tears in my eyes. How lucky am I to have such amazing people in my life?

But she went ahead and had us go for an X-Ray just to be double sure given her history. I gladly agreed and told Marjorie we were going to take ‘a picture’. Thankfully, Marjorie’s picture confirmed a simple diagnosis of constipation with ‘no abnormal mass’.

I was literally crying tears of joy over constipation – pretty sure that’s never happened before. As I drove home, I felt weak, tired and grateful. Reminded once again at how precious life truly is.

My day started in grief and in death – a new beginning and it ended with gratitude.Leave it to my two Marjorie’s to remind me that miracles do happen and that every day is such a wonderful gift.

I go to bed exhausted and full of wine and Jesus and gratitude for the extraordinary people in my life.


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