I arrived in Montreal to discover my mother at the kitchen table, making her funeral arrangements. “I’d like Theresa to sing,”she said, dutifully taking note on the handwritten page sitting before her. “After that, people can speak. They don’t need to go to the front. They can just stand up and talk where they are.” Then, consulting and reading aloud from her notes: “But please speak loudly. Sometimes the people can’t hear and it’s ugly.”
Days earlier, I’d received a call from my sister informing me that a routine endoscopy had identified a mass near my mother’s lower esophagus that the doctors had diagnosed as a malignant tumor. The recommended treatment was an aggressive surgery to remove half the stomach.
“What was mom’s reaction?”I asked my sister over the phone.
“She said ‘Great! I can lose weight!'”
Lose weight? Mom was being one part positive, two parts dismissive. Basically, old school Italian.
I flew in Sunday afternoon so that I could join my sister in accompanying mom for her follow-up, a second endoscopy, this one at another hospital.
“The doctors think it’s cancer but I don’t believe it,”my mother confided. It reminded me of the time I told her a genetic analysis revealed her side of the family had roots in Eastern Europe. “Oh, I don’t believe in that kind of thing,”she’d said.
Don’t believe? In science?
But I was not about to argue with her.
The next morning we woke up early and went to the hospital where, after numerous delays, mom was finally admitted. My sister and I waited. And waited. And waited some more. And, finally, mom came out – groggy, but otherwise in good spirits. As we headed down the corridor, a passing nurse commented: “Well, that was good news.”
Later confirmed by the doctor who let us know that they removed the mass during the endoscopy. It had been sent out to be tested and to ensure they’d removed it all. Why they couldn’t have just done that during the first endoscopy remains a mystery.
We returned home much relieved, though mom actually seemed worse off given the fact that the minor surgery prevented her from joining us for chocolate-dipped soft serve.
A week later, my sister called to let me know the tests revealed they’d removed the entire mass which, it turned out, was benign after all.
So, in the end, my mother was right about the first set of doctors being wrong.
And I’ve suddenly begun to doubt the results of that DNA test.