The Strength of a Hero

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Tears. Fear. Disbelief. Uncertainty. If you would have asked me how I felt, these are some of the words I would have used. I remember crying. I remember what seemed like endless hours of waiting. Waiting for news, never knowing if it was going to give us hope or add to the continuous fear that played constantly with my emotions. I saw countless people walking in and out, worry shadowing most of their unsure faces. I didn’t know who they were. Some of them were arriving in excitement to see a new baby entering the world for the first time. Others were coming to see someone they wish they could save, but realize there is nothing left to be done. I wished they could know that I felt their pain. I knew what it was like to strive to be the healer. To do anything possible to see your hero return to health again.
***
I saw the familiar nurse come up on the left side of my mom’s bed. She gave me a sorrowful smile, checked her medicine, and moved on to the next patient. I breathed in the ever present smell of the rubber gloves which seemed to overwhelm the whole hospital. My mom held her arms out wide toward me, and I knew that it was time for me to go. She seemed to be losing more weight with each day, and it worried me. But as I leaned in to her embrace, I imagined her telling me, “Stay strong for me. If I can do this, so can you.” So that’s what I tried to do. I gave her a kiss on the cheek, and let my grandma lead me away. I sulked out of the quiet room and saw two doctors take her into the operating room. With tear stained cheeks, I started the painful walk down the long corridor. I found a seat on the overused red cushion in the waiting room, and whispered a prayer, knowing that God had a plan for this. I shouldn’t be afraid of the unknown.
My body felt numb, and all I wanted to do was crawl into my soft warm bed. I wanted to find refuge under the weight of my feather comforter. I wanted to let the tears roll down my cheeks, and stop trying to hide my weakness. Everyone in the family hugged me and told me everything would be okay, God would protect her. I was starting to lose faith. I couldn’t fully understand what was happening. Just being a ten year old kid, I thought they could just give mom some medicine and everything would be okay.

I looked around the lobby, and tried relentlessly to find something to occupy my mind, but all I could focus on was my dad’s face. It seemed like it had become permanently wrinkled from stress. I remembered the first time he told me what was wrong. He looked at me with the same expression and said with a deep sigh, “Well girls, moms MRI came back… It looks like she has the beginning stage of ovarian cancer. They found a tumor the size of a bowling ball and are going to be doing immediate surgery to remove it.”
***

I was thinking back over all the reasons my mom couldn’t die. Who would I have long talks with? Who would make sure I went to bed on time? Who would tuck me in and make sure I was safe? I prayed and prayed that a miracle would happen and she could be alright. I needed her to be. I felt a longing to throw my arms around her neck, and tell her I’m sorry for all of the times I wronged her. I wanted her to know that she was my hero and I envied her strength.
***

The hours seemed to pass meaninglessly. I talked with my grandma to ease the tension, but I could see that her mind was elsewhere. Every doctor that passed the lobby gave me false hope that they were coming to give us news about mom. I saw my grandma eying her watch, like a nervous tick, until finally she decided we should go home and catch up on our rest. All of us knew we wouldn’t sleep, but it was a nice thought.

We slowly pulled up to my grandma’s house and dragged our feet to the door where we were greeted by Maggie, the playful Labrador. I was in no mood to be energetic though. I was emotionally drained, and couldn’t let my mind rest. Grandma told us she would let us know first thing when the doctors called, but that wasn’t soon enough for me. But to please her, I curled up under her floral comforter, cried my last tears, and drifted off into a relieving sleep.
***

In the morning I awoke to my favorite breakfast, chocolate chip pancakes. We were all sitting at the table making light conversation, but the subject of mom hung like a foul stench in the air. Each of us looked aimlessly at the other, trying to come up with the right thing to say, but it was useless. I sighed and rubbed my puffy eyes, when the shrill ring of the phone made my heart stop. My grandma anxiously snatched the phone and put the receiver to her ear. I watched her face intently, waiting for any sign of the news. Her expression seemed blank, and I wanted to yell at her to say something. I wanted to stop the endless waiting and be free from the anxiety that had strangled me for weeks. When she finally hung up, her face was enlightened by a grin I hadn’t seen in an eternity. “They finished. The surgery was a success. She is now cancer free.”





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