Today is Monday and my g-calendar says, “Vancouver.” That’s where I am supposed to be for the better part, of the longest day, of the year. My latitude however, remains at 47 degrees. And I trust, like so many others, this day isn’t turning out as planned.
Reasons for the change of location include: the realities surrounding my being a mom, tonight’s swim lesson, a long leg cast, colon cancer, the necessity for using logic, and a dog who sneezed. And because of all of this, if written, the epitaph of this particular day will likely be something like: Latitude for the summer solstice, the day Wendy Sue found her calculated position and knew that leaving was the wrong thing to do.
Being practical when you’re a parent is so alarmingly necessary. One of the quintessential truths no one tells you at the baby shower. It feels good to do the right thing, it’s just wholly inconvenient when you’re desperately trying to make space for some sociability and connection to your friends. It’s back to the grown-up stuff I write about, that being caught in a generational sandwich thing. Having the good fortune with so many to love and so many to care for, it can get in the way of a good road trip. At least today. The gist is this: when we have kids, we’re real grown-ups and have to make decisions in the best interest of our children and our health. So that hopefully, we’ll be around a long time.
Staying in Seattle was the right decision but right doesn’t soothe the sting. My good friend Shelly and I were scheduled to drive up to Vancouver for the day to meet with a mutual friend & college roommate. She’s on her honeymoon…
(Insert expected advice about not crashing someone’s honeymoon)
We were invited to join them for the afternoon, as she’s on the kind of honeymoon you take 11 months after you’re married and when you’re 6 months pregnant. Our friend lives in Chicago and we rarely get to see her. So Shelly and I were going to spend the day with them, enjoy her round belly, and the conversation you can only have on someone else’s honeymoon. Yup, we were both giddy about the plan. A scheduled day of playing hooky to reconnect with a dear friend and steal some time from our busied lives. A little like the planned “senior skip day” my high school graduating class had in May, circa 1990. I’d been so looking forward to a day in the car with Shelly.
So when we decided not to go, the decision left me feeling fragile. Realizing I’m not really in charge and don’t always have a say, even when it’s my decision. Something about letting go of the opportunity while embracing the responsibility of others. The luck of having people who count on me. So if you must know,
The 10 things that got in the way of our road trip:
- Shelly has stage 4 colon cancer. This is mind blowing. Alarming. But, of course, no reason not to take a road trip. After you get over the stun and inequity of her icky diagnosis at the wrong stage in life, you realize that draining her of energy is not in her best interest. Or in the interest of her two kids. She asserts that simplifying life right now is really what is important. Together, we realized late last night that the road trip wasn’t doing that. Previously it had felt like it was.
- I was sick yesterday. It turns out being a mom and a pediatrician are catching up with me, in a viral way.
- O was up 4 times during the night last night for unapparent reasons. And although this wasn’t used in our calculation for staying home, it is one reason I didn’t change my mind and pick up the phone at 5am begging Shelly to reconsider.
- I had work to do today.
- F has swimming lessons at 5:45pm tonight. I needed to be back in time to corral the 19 month old (O) in a long leg cast so the husband could attend to the swimmer. Going to swimming lessons with a 3 year old and a 19 month old in a cast (who prefers to be swimming) doesn’t work. And while Driving 3+ hours north, crossing an International border, having lunch, and driving back, re-crossing the border seemed a great idea a few weeks ago, it was not going to allow F to go to swimming. And that didn’t seem fair.
- Shelly has a PET scan tomorrow. Then chemo again on Thursday. It is a busy week. Newsflash to this doctor (I don’t order PET scans), when you prepare for a PET scan you need to not only modify your diet for a day (nothing with sugar: no bread, fruit, juice, or milk, etc), but also your activity level. We needed to let her chill.
- I’m emotional (more than my healthy-elevated-baseline level) this week. Yesterday on the phone I was talking with a friend I’ve known since I was in preschool. We were talking about her father’s illness and struggle with cancer. The sentence, “Your dad is dying,” came out. Her response, “Wendy Sue, we’re all dying.” Well yes, true, and a potent reality. Leaving me feeling like a wide-open canker sore.
- Shelly literally has mouth sores. And a crummy cold.
- My dog, Luna sneezed so hard on Saturday evening that she started bleeding on the carpet. Translation: I’m feeling vulnerable. And scared about loss, even when it comes to my dog. Leaving home in a fast moving car didn’t feel right.
- Another friend staying at our home for the weekend is about to have a baby. He got me thinking about the beginnings. And that got me wanting to stay home with the boys. Just to hold on tight.
Reading those, it may seem obvious why we didn’t go. It was certainly very clear to our husbands last night. But I think we were both hanging onto the idea that today was going to carry a certain lightness. That we’d be two carefree senior-skip-day type girls driving up I-5, heading north, with loud music in my ears, off to crash a honeymoon. And then we realized, really, we’re two moms with a lot on our plate and a lot in our hearts. So sticking around 47 degrees, we got to talking about all of our luck: the gift of these children, this job, this perspective, and the opportunity to work for good health. And why 47 degrees can feel so good, under your feet or even on your skin, when you’re making the right decision.
And as Shelly said when I met her today for lunch, I’m feeling “hopeful, grateful, scared and fragile” all at the same time.
I’m sorry you didn’t get to spend the day with good friends. That would have been energizing for your spirit.
But I applaud you for your choices.
Some days it’s not so great to be a grown-up.
Rachel Simpson says
I understand completely! 8 month old & did not join Dad on a business trip to Australia because of many practical reasons. Being the grown up is hard. Hope you are less fragile today.
shelly Butler says
This is the famous “Shelly” from Wendy’s posting. Just wanted to let you all know my PET scan is done, and I’m waiting for the results. And I’m eating carbs, baby. Like nobody’s business. Cheez-Its. Chocolate chip cookies. Licorice. Bagels. Bring it on.
Mama Doc, I’m glad we didn’t go to Vancouver. But we WILL reschedule. Promise?
Thanks for this. It was lovely, and exactly what I needed as I contemplate what in the world I’m going to do with my life, which includes my husband and two little girls. We were just talking about these big (and small) questions late last night…
Shelly—here’s a complete stranger pulling for you and sending love in your direction.
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD says
Thanks, Megan. I’m glad you liked it and I am so thankful to know others grapple with these issues late at night, too.
We all will figure this out some day. Let me know when you do. And thanks for pulling for Shels. She is surrounded by an incredible community of people, near and far, but adding strangers to the mix is the best thing I’ve heard all day.
shelly Butler says
Not to hijack this blog or anything, but I’m back with a PET scan update for all who are interested. GUYS! I AM IN COMPLETE REMISSION! I went from stage 4 colon cancer in January to complete remission in June! Wendy, forget Vancouver, let’s head to Vegas! And we’re bringing Megan with us!
@Shelly- Congrats on your remission!! That is AWESOME! I’m 7 yrs past my cancer experience, know the joys of a Pet/Ct combos and the prep (that was sarcasm, if you didn’t catch it), but wish you nothing but ongoing good health and some amazing luck in Vegas. 😉
@Rachel Simpson – Sometimes you should just go ahead and take that leap….depending on the country. Australia is an amazingly EASY place to travel with small children and infants! I personally made that long trip 5 times with 2 kids (age 3 and 1 the first time!) and I’ve never regretted it. There are some places it is worth the hard work to take your kids along to, especially if you consider that once they become school aged and involved in extracurriculars it can be near impossible to do anything that spontaneous again. Really. So next time Daddy-o has a biz trip like that, I hope you’ll grab the kiddo and go! Unless, of course, you are prepping for a Pet/CT scan. 😉