The results were supposed to be back sometime between eleven a.m. and three p.m. By five p.m. I was verging on a nervous wreck. I didn't want to call; what if something had gone horribly wrong and they were trying to get things handled before calling me?
So I called my grandmother—who, it turned out, hadn't heard anything either, and was wondering what I was wondering.
What were Dad's biopsy results?How to explain to someone else that some results need to come in on time? That the waiting is the hardest part, and that the sheer frustration of not knowing is enough to drive daughters and other assorted family members to cluster around the nearest bottles of antacids?
Mom did eventually call. Caller ID told me she was calling from home, a positive sign; had things gone terribly wrong she would not have left the hospital. I answered on the cordless and greeted her as I walked back to the computer room. Best to have a text editor open so that I could take notes as she talked.
"We got a plus today, Ames."
(The fact that almost no one, my mother included, calls me 'Amy' amuses me greatly. I am 'Ames' or 'Amycat' to almost everyone who has ever met me, with perhaps the exception of Andy.)
"Dad's liver biopsy came back clear."
At that point, the flashbulbs of hurried thoughts started popping. What had been seen on the PET scan, which indicated cancer on Dad's liver? Did they do biopsies on anything else? I thought they were doing all the biopsies at once? How is Dad? Did this lift his spirits? What about yours, Mom?
The end result: I sat there quietly and just breathed in and out, slowly, deeply. Every organ clear meant another chance, another chance that Dad's going to need. "That's….that's wonderful, Mom." I know the relief must have sounded in my voice like it did in hers. "So what about the other biopsies?"
"Well, the oncologist wants to do the biopsies in order of invasiveness. On Tuesday he'll have a bone marrow biopsy. If that comes back good, we'll do a lung biopsy on Thursday.
"Oh, and it's supposed to snow. The oncologist does her rounds before seven a.m., so I'm going to get up a little after four and drive to the hospital. I'm taking clothes with me. If it even looks like the roads might get bad, I'm going to sleep on the little recliner in Dad's hospital room."
I laughed. Oh, how many times Mom and I have done things like this. "Helps being little, doesn't it?"
I could hear the chuckle in her voice. "Hang in there, kid. One day at a time. Today we got a plus."
We talked plans and dinner and spouses and doctors. She mentioned that Sis had invited her over for dinner tonight so that she wouldn't have to cook. I told her to go on and get some food, and that I'd probably talk with her tomorrow.
I hung up the phone and felt for the first time that maybe, just maybe, there was at least a path to follow. Not necessarily a path out, but a path that would get us somewhere. Tonight was the first time since hearing the pronouncement of cancer that I'd felt some kind of hope that wasn't feigned.
Tomorrow's another day, another test. Tonight, though, I think I'll manage to sleep a bit more soundly than I did last night. At least we're starting to get an idea of the ground on which we stand.