So, I have to go to my oncologist next month – our oncologist. I have to call and make the appointment. Of course, I am filled with dread.

You see, it was something we did together – this cancer thing. We were diagnosed a year apart and every single viist we made to the oncologist was together. As if there is safety in numbers.

We had our little routine. She would pick me up, wearing pink or red (they made her feel “healthier”).  She would be sipping on a water (which she despised) because it made it easier for them to find a vein for her bloodwork. We would chat. About work, the kids, minor annoyances and things we were looking forward to. During the fifteen to twenty minute car ride, she told me no less than two or three times that “she hated” this shit and that the only time she felt like she had cancer was when she had to to go the doctor.

In any case, aside from surgeries and scans, we were on a schedule of once a month for her. I would also be seen twice a year (every January and July), as I probably will be for the rest of my life.

Like me, Mom had a tendency to talk a lot when she was nervous. Sometimes her face with involunarily tick, under her right eye. It was hard to see her like that but, I wouldn’t be anywhere else. We were so blessed that for ten years, things were always generally good for her.  Every positive thing that the doctor pointed out I was sure to repeat over and over. If the doctor said something like “The spot is small and has not changed since last year”, I would say “See, Mommy? That’s great. Small and unchanged! Remember, cancer is only dangerous if it is growing! That’s awesome!”.

So, most of the time, we left happy and relieved. We would go through Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts and get some coffee. Then would stop at the Northgate Shopping Center. First, we would go to the stationary there. We would get Yankee candles, something for the boys, a gift we might need. After that, we would venture into the deli (two roast beefs on rye, please! Mayo, lettuce, salt and pepper!). Then, Mom would stop at the fresh fruit store and get something to bring back to the office.

The chatting was much more relaxed on the way back home (or the the office, really). As she drove, I called Dad, Al, Chrissy and Lori and gave them the low down. I could hear relief in their voices.

That was that until the following month. My mother was easy but, she was a stickler for not talking about the cancer in between the visits. She would take her pill every day and I would take mine and that was that. We didn’t “live cancer”, we just lived.

And, now I am living without her. And so, it is time for another first. Yeah, we did the first Labor Day BBQ, the first day of school, pumpkin picking, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas. We did ok. This is different, though. This is something that was just ours. No one elses.

I’m afraid to go without her. I will sit in the waiting room, where we sat together for ten years, all by myself. We shared such heightened emotions in that room – unless you’ve experienced that kind of fear and anticipation, there is no way to put it into words that work. I will miss those looks that used to upset me. The looks from the other patients that said “look at that mother and daughter – how terrible that they are both seeing the doctor”. I will miss holding her bag when she went in to get her finger pricked for the CBC.  “Here, Cole. Just hold this for a minute.” It will be sad when they call just my name and not “Nicole and Elizabeth”. I’m sure that when the doctor sees me for the first time since she passed, he will hug me and I will lose it. And, the same thing with the nurses. They all loved her, of course, like everyone else I know.

We would eventually be walking the opposite way – out of the waiting room into the hallway – and freedom from that hell for another month. And, invariably, we would be on a bit of a high. Our doctor gave my mother (and, by default me and the rest of my family), the greatest gift these past ten years. He honored her wishes over being worried about covering his ass. You see, my mother, although she had Stage IV, was in remission most of the ten years she lived with it. When it did rear it’s ugly head, however, she did not want to know where the spots were, how many there were, or any other details. All she wanted to know was what she had to do to fight it. And, that’s all he told her. He would switch her meds, make her come in between the monthly visits, schedule a scan but, he never, ever scared her. He made her feel safe and well taken care of – and she was. He didn’t even scare her at the end, when he knew it was progressing. He explained that it was, and that he would have to change her meds and be more aggressive but, he never made her feel helpless or hopeless.

That was the best gift her could ever have given us. My mother was spiritual and she was good. It wasn’t that she was terrified of dying. She was afraid of suffering, of dying from cancer. We are so very blessed that she was blissfully unaware of what was going on inside of her, even when she passed. I truly believe that it was divine intervention, because of how good she was and how many people she helped and inspired, that she passed that way.

So, as I’ve said at least a hundred times on this blog alone, I am my mother’s daughter. I will call the doctor Monday, I will go to the doctor next month, I will ask for prayers and I will hope for the best. I will get through this first, too. I will then, in honor of my mother, go home and try not to think about cancer until my next appointment, six months from now.

And maybe, just maybe, I will stop for a roast beef on rye on the way home.