On March 11, after the oncologist had given us the results of the after-Chemo CT Scan and blood tests, he exclaimed to JJ “You are going to INDEEEAAPOLIS!” to have surgery to remove the cancerous lymph node in his back. The oncologist sounded so much like a game show announcer describing the dream vacation a contestant had won that I laughed, even though the surgery is very serious. Now, as I make numerous plans to prepare for the trip to Indianapolis, I hear it all narrated in my head in a game show announcer voice:
“You have won a trip to INDEEAAPOLIS! Your dream trip includes an eight-day stay for your parents in a luxurious one-bedroom suite–with kitchen and laundry facilities–in a hotel conveniently located near the hospital.”
“You will travel to your dream destination in a luxurious rented mid-sized SUV…”
“Your dream vacation to INDEEAAPOLIS will include life-saving treatment by a world-famous cancer surgeon….”
It always makes me laugh.
I have a lot of things on my To Do list that need to get done before our trip. One item on my list is: “Faint during the consultation with the surgeon on the day before JJ’s surgery.” It’s not that I WANT to faint, but I think it’s probable that I will. Even as a child, I had so much empathy for those who were suffering that I would faint–or come close to it–whenever I visited hospitals or doctors or heard about wounds or diseases. In my mid-20s I finally went to a behavioral specialist to learn how not to faint. After that, I never fainted even though I have had surgeries and medical procedures and even blood transfusions. But I have reverted a bit since JJ got sick with cancer because I empathize so strongly with my son. I almost fainted the first time we met with the oncologist and he started to describe JJ’s cancer. In fact, the oncologist told JJ, the CANCER PATIENT, to get off the exam table so I could lie down. JJ thought that was hilarious and said he’d never let me forget it. I really expect a similar thing to happen when the surgeon describes what he is going to do to JJ. So I have mentally written “faint” on my To Do list.
Today “celebrate JJ’s 19th Birthday” was on my To Do list. This birthday seems very special–more special than normal. It is very poignant and very life-affirming to celebrate another birthday, another year, after he has been battling cancer. He made it to another birthday. He will survive! All day my heart has been joyfully exclaiming “L’Chaim! To Life!”
I began JJ’s birthday by putting on my Mama Bear hat and blowing my shofar to wake him up. Shofars are blown on Biblical Feasts, on Shabbat, and on other occasions so it seemed appropriate to blow it for this very special occasion. Before I put the shofar to my lips, I not-so-solemnly announced to my drowsy son, “Now I will sing you the song of our people.” It just seemed like something a bear would say on an important occasion. I haven’t blown the shofar for a while so I forgot how to do it, and at first all I could get was a “fffffftttttt” sound. Apparently the “song of our people” is pretty pathetic. EJ said, “Let me try it!” I put the bear hat on him and gave him the shofar and announced, “Now your DAD will sing you the song of our people” but he didn’t do any better. I reached for my camera because I think EJ looks both distinguished and cute in the bear hat. He cried in horror, “Oh, no, she’s grabbing her camera!” and he quickly snatched the bear hat off his head before I could take a picture. Sigh. What is WRONG with these anti-camera people??? I took back the bear hat, put it on my head, and again tried to blow the shofar. After a few more “fffftttttt” sounds, I finally got a sound out of the shofar. JJ pretend groaned and then laughed. He later thanked me and said that he loved it.
After the shofar, JJ announced that he was hungry and he wanted a piece of cake. I told him that I had forgotten to buy him a “9” birthday candle the other day (I already have the “1”) and was planning to get it when we went to get the pizza. He said he didn’t want to wait. He was hungry and wanted birthday cake for breakfast. I said, “You do know that people don’t eat birthday cakes because they are hungry, right?” He said he didn’t care. So I found a bag of regular candles and started to put 19 of them on his cake. However, JJ and EJ exclaimed in horror that by the time we got 19 candles lit there would be wax all over the cake. “I don’t need 19 candles. Just light the four you already have on the cake,” JJ said. So I did. On my next birthday, I want DECADES of candles on my cake. It would make such a cheery blaze.
The cake was delicious. During Chemo, eating sugary things didn’t appeal to JJ. He said that after so long without sugar, the cake was really almost too much. I’m glad I bought him such a little cake. It was just right.
After we had our cake, a dear friend in Iowa called and asked me to put my phone on “speaker” and then hand it to JJ. She and her kids sang “Happy Birthday” to JJ. It was sweet and JJ had a big smile on his face as he listened. They sang “Happy Birthday” much better than we did.
After we had cake, we all got dressed and went to pick up pizza for JJ’s birthday meal. The birthday person always gets to choose his birthday meal and JJ had chosen to get a pizza. But first we stopped at the bank to transfer money into JJ’s account for his birthday. Money is the perfect gift for him because most of his purchases are done over the Internet. Using his debit card, he will be able to buy games to play while he is recovering from surgery. Every place we go in our small village, people always ask about JJ. Our friends at the bank hadn’t seen JJ for a long time, and they were very excited to see him. One of them gave him a huge hug. JJ mentioned having no eyebrows (or eyelashes) so I told everyone that I have offered to draw eyebrows on him with a marker–maybe a blue marker to match his hat and shirt. JJ laughed that he isn’t going to let me near any markers, colored pencils, chalk, or paint. The women lightheartedly discussed perhaps setting up a “pool” to guess what color and texture JJ’s hair will be when it grows back. We’ve heard it could grow back as a completely different color and/or texture.
Then it was on to the pizza place. On the way to Little Caesar’s Hot & Ready, JJ’s grandmother (EJ’s mom) called to wish him a happy birthday. She has been in the hospital and is now in a medical center to recover. JJ was very touched by her call. When we arrived at Little Caesars, EJ and I went in to order the two pizzas while JJ stayed in the car. He is still trying to be careful about not getting sick so he can be healthy for his surgery and recovery. If he goes into a public place with us, I say, “Do not touch door handles or shopping carts. Touch NOTHING. Maybe I should wrap you in bubble wrap to protect you?”
JJ said he would let us choose the pizza toppings. I said, “I’m going to tell them to put on sardines and snails.” He wasn’t worried and replied “That’s fine.” I guess he’s gotten used to me after 19 years. The pizzas–with ground beef, green and black olives, green peppers, mushrooms, and minus sardines and snails–were very hot and smelled delicious. As soon as we got home, we devoured one.
After EJ left for work, I took Danny for a walk. I am enjoying observing the lessening snow and growing areas of grass as the days get a bit warmer. After the walk, I dropped Danny off at home and walked to the post office and library. Our district library has many branches throughout the county and we can “order” books from other branches if our little library doesn’t have the book on its shelves. Most of the books I “ordered” had arrived. I am trying to get several books so I have something to read while sitting with JJ in the hospital.
Here are pictures from JJ’s birthday: