It took over six months to plan my 6000 mile road trip with my three kids in the mini-van and we were on the road for five weeks. I get a lot of people ask dumbfounded, “Why?” Why would I leave my nice house and wonderful husband and take off driving around the country.
Well, like many things, I can blame my parents, specifically my mom! Last fall my mom had a routine mamogram (at our constant urging) and they found something unusual. We weren’t too worried because all of us have had lumps and bumps removed from our breasts and it’s always been benign. We were certain this would be the case again so we were completely shocked when they said it was cancer and that she was going to need a mastectomy, radiation and chemo. We were devastated. My healthy mom is only 73 years old and she’s been very healthy. We’ve gone back and forth over the years having weight loss challenges, doing Weight Watchers together (from 1000 miles apart) and always having a weekly good laugh together over the phone. One of my sisters came to visit me while my mom was getting ready for the surgery to visit her son and it was great to have her close by so we could sort this bad news out.
One afternoon my mother called us from Florida and informed us that they’d gotten back the findings of a routine catscan and they found state 3 Ovarian Cancer! This time my legs gave out and I found myself slunked to the ground hiding from my children unable to move.
As my mother would have wanted, I got myself up and tried to figure out how many weekends I could get away leaving my husband with our three children so I could spend time with my mom.
Thank goodness for Frequent Flyer miles! I was able to make it down several weekends and give my dad and other siblings a break by helping her out. After the surgeries and into the chemo she was pretty bad off, I cannot say I wasn’t scared. She suddenly looked old to me for the first time.
On a whim I asked her one morning what she wanted to do when this was all over. “Where do want to go when you’re all better?” She looked at me a little crazy because none of us had really thought any further than, has she taken her medicine, which doctor does she need to see today, what tests need to be done… So she thought about it and said she hadn’t seen Las Vegas since the 60’s and it looked like a lot had changed, that might be fun. And she said she’d like to go back to the Grand Canyon and not have to say constantly, “Stay back, slow down, not so close…” We laughed about our memories of when my parents had taken the five of us there as small children.
I told her she was going to see these two things next summer. She balked a little about chemo and radiation and how she wouldn’t be able to get away.
Over the next couple of months though, I gently nudged them to really think about making it happen. I helped my dad book the tickets and then I started to plan a trip for my family to get out there and see these things with her.
They flew into Flagstaff and we spent a day in Sedona and went on a fabulous Jeep tour. The good karma followed us to Slide Rock and the best Mexican restaurant in Flagstaff. We knew it was going to be a great vacation when the restaurant played only Jimmy Buffett and Tom Petty, our two favorite sons of Florida. We next went to Lake Powell and took my parents for a gorgeous boat ride. The next day was Zion National Park and then we spent two days in the Grand Canyon. She was such a trooper. We even went horse back riding to a cowboy sunset cook-out.
The last weekend was spent at the Luxor in Las Vegas. My husband joined us as well and we had a blast. My parents wanted to go to the Irish Pub in New York, New York and we drank and laughed the night away. My mom admitted to me that she never really thought the whole trip was ever going to happen. But she said it gave her home throughout that just maybe it would. Just the thought of traveling out west again helped her through her biggest struggle yet.
One year later, she’s in remission. In fact, right now, she is in the car, somewhere on 95 heading up to visit me and two of her grandsons play college football this weekend, in Annapolis and NYC. Oh, and she is bringing me a trunk full of things from my childhood home that I know she thinks I will enjoy!