The Circle of Three

Today is Friday.  I know because I checked the day of the week on my underwear.  I also know it’s Friday because it’s pizza day for my husband.  Funny how he warns me halfway through the week, as if after 36 years together during which probably 16 of them Friday was pizza night, I might stand in the doorway like Gandolf and say…


It could of course be that he knows pizza is on my chemo PTSD food list from when I was supporting our daughter Adrienne through treatment and he needs me to start thinking about what I want to eat that far ahead because I’m a little indecisive about food some weeks.  And I have been very indecisive this week in particular, to the point that I had to set an alarm to remind myself to eat.  It’s been building for a while and I know exactly when it started.  August 4th. 

August 4th was Adrienne’s first post-treatment MRI. And besides my underwear and pizza day I know today is Friday because yesterday was the Thursday that ended the waiting game.

The radiologist lifted the lid on the Schrodinger’s Cancer box and looked inside.  No evidence of disease.  It’s still dead.  

The anxiety leading up to the appointment yesterday was smothering.  I could feel the black hole voice of fear sucking me into the darkness while the hope sitting on my other shoulder that usually offers reassurance lost her voice trying to shout loud enough to drown out her counterpart.  Fear had me looking at plane tickets, mentally packing my suitcases, and trying to figure out the logistics of quarantine.  Fear had me looking at signs all week wondering if they were a message from the universe telling me to be prepared.

Prepared for her to sit in the same office, the same chair, with the same doctor who first uttered those words, that it was a little bit of cancer, and hear that it’s not good news.  I wasn’t there then, and I wasn’t there now other than being on the phone, and I was waiting for history to repeat itself.

I was not alone. Adrienne has been in the tank since August 4th as well.  She finally called me yesterday morning because the fear was overwhelming her and she realized that she needed to talk to her Mom.  I think that when days like yesterday are happening the Circle of Two we created to offer each other strength during treatment has to close again to offer both of us a safe place to say what we need to say, feel what we need to feel, to not have anyone tell us we need to “think more positively”.  We both had a chance to explore our emotions and because of that, things calmed down just enough for breathing to feel less difficult.  

We also got to laugh at me together.  Where was my head yesterday morning?  I put on my walking shorts inside out AND backwards and only realized it when I went to put my car keys into my pocket at the start of my walk.  And then when I took my clothes out of the washing machine a couple of hours later I realized that I had tossed the clothes ON TOP of the bottle of fabric softener I store in the machine and it had been banging around in there the entire cycle.  I didn’t take on any other household tasks for the rest of the day.

At least I was prepared for how I would feel when we got the news.  There was a moment of joy, a moment of relief, a moment of intense gratitude, and then nothing. It’s like I have a checklist that’s as long as Gandolf’s staff and I just checked the first box, and after living in the moment I went back to my life in “The After”, knowing how many more boxes we’ll have to carry while we wait for someone to look inside.

What I also know is that hope cleared her throat today and blasted out a warrior yell that for that moment in time drowned out the fear. The sound lifted me up, put its hand over mine and Adrienne’s to give us strength.  For a moment in time we were a Circle of Three.  It was like hope was rubbing our backs gently, offering up understanding and solace and all the things that allowed us to think that maybe we can start thinking that things are going to be okay.

So today I’ll hold hope’s hand, feel her presence lightening my day, desperately wanting to know that with each box checked on the list it will be easier not to let go.  

I would very much like her to stay in our Circle of Three.  

Mother…Grandmother…Librarian…Military Spouse…Caregiver…Family Life Educator…take your pick! Debbie Legault was born in British Columbia, Canada to a former RCAF airman father and a Scottish War Bride mother and has lived in other Canadian provinces, Germany and California.  She has been married for 36 years to a Canadian Air Force Veteran and credits him with filling her life with adventure.  When Debbie Legault’s children look at family photos they often comment on how many different hairstyles she has had and that pretty much is her story, that her life has taken as many turns and led her down as many paths as her hair has changed!  Her latest role is as the author of Mom…It’s Cancer, the story of supporting her 27-year-old daughter as they experienced breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. 

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