I’m washing bottles as the last step in packing to go to Sudbury. I decided a few days ago that while I’m waiting for my Big Scary Appointment at the oncologist, I needed to get away from the house, so we’re going to Kevin’s brother’s house, a five hour drive away.
After their morning bottles, the babies have been entertaining themselves on their playmat. Every time I go in there, Phoenix has twisted herself around to kick Calliope in the head. Lately, Phoenix has started being quiet to her sister’s loudness, sucking her thumb and lying quietly in bed, smiling at everything in the most delightful way.
But apparently she’s our little mischievous scamp because Calliope is crying and Phoenix’s feet are planted directly on her face. Five months old and it’s already starting.
After extricating them from one another, I go back to washing bottles again, but they both start crying. They’re getting tired—that was the plan, put them in the car at naptime to keep them calm for the first part of the drive. I’m used to listening to babies cry, unfortunately. When you have three kids and one parent at home with the other working, someone’s always crying.
But it all seems to weigh on my soul more right now.
Maybe someday soon, I won’t be here to pick them up and comfort them. Their cries sound desperate, and their clinginess to me lately feels heart-breaking. When they smile just because I’m there, changing their diapers or tickling their tummy, I wonder what they’ll do if…
Last night, I went to a moms of multiples night. I wasn’t sure if I was going to go. I felt like I was going to end up being a Debbie Downer for everyone. I mean, my story is horrifying. I have cancer; it came on suddenly with no indication; no one is fucking safe; run run run.
But I did go, and it was nice to get out of the house and feel like maybe I’m still a human being instead of… whatever I have turned into.
Still, the conversation made my stomach churn.
“I need to know if you’re going to be able to host in July and August,” said one of the leaders to another one of the mothers. “I think I’m going to assign you the bonfire.”
July and August.
Will I be alive in July and August?
I’m so used to planning, thinking of what’s happening down the road. I go there in my head all the time—it’s a comfort thing. I plan because I like to plan. But now, I can’t plan anything, so it’s a double whammy. I’m comfortable planning, but I don’t even have that to fall back on.
The moms started talking about baby sign language. Kevin and I are going to teach it to the twins. Before they were born, I got a book, plus I figured I would google a couple Youtube videos when the time came.
The gears in my brain settle with a nearly audible clunk.
“What age did you start that?” I asked.
“About six months is a good age.”
That’s right now.
I feel like I’ve been neglecting my babies. Poor Calliope has a skin rash on her arms and legs. The doctor said it’s eczema. She also has a diaper rash that isn’t going away. We got some anti-fungal cream because the doctor thinks it’s a yeast infection. She’s also not napping well, and I do not have the energy to figure out what to do.
I feel so drained. Like I have nothing left to give them. I’m on Ativan and Tylenol-3, which make me sleepy (but not tired enough to sleep most nights). I’m also hovering around depression, which is staved off by the Ativan, but I think I’ll need to go on something more permanent soon unless the oncologist dances into the room saying they’re going to kill it off and I have a 99.99% chance of survival.
Life is going on, whether or not I’m prepared for it. The babies need stuff. Morrigan needs stuff.
Like always, the mothers all talked about their problems living with multiples. Their toddlers are into everything. Their potty training is a disaster. They’re struggling with breastfeeding their newest singleton.
All these things are the things I used to think were such big problems. It’s why I named this blog what I did. “You think you’ve got problems… and then you get cancer.” Or, “You think you’ve got problems? I’ve got you beat.”
Not that it’s a contest, or if it is, it’s the shittiest contest I never want to win at.
And life is continuing. The babies need fed, and they’re needy because they’re babies, and they want cuddles or they cry because they need to poop or because they did poop or because their tummy hurts. They want to play in the Jolly Jumper or they want out of the Jolly Jumper. They need need need need need, and it’s exhausting on a good day. I lost my temper with Calliope’s refusal to nap on a good day before I knew my diagnosis.
Where am I supposed to find the mental energy to deal with having twin babies and having cancer? Who the fuck thought this was a good idea, God?
Every time I watch something on TV, I have this strange wonderment come over me. “Those people are all going about their lives, and none of them have metastatic cancer.” I look at these old actors, in their sixties and seventies, and think, “How can they still be alive?” I see healthy, hale bodies and feel perplexed that I am the only one who is ill.
We are a culture obsessed with death, I can tell you that much. It’s all over on TV and the movies. It’s an easy way to raise stakes—don’t I know it as a writer—but for someone facing death, it’s ugly and jarring and hurts to have it constantly thrust in my face.
The other night, we decided we were going to watch some stand-up comedians. Patton Oswald! I love that guy!
Except he goes into this darkly depressing discussion of how his wife died and left him a widower.
For fuck’s sake. Whose sick sense of humor out in the universe was it to foist that shit on me?
And then Norm MacDonald—who isn’t even all that funny, so why the hell were we watching him?—started in on autoerotic asphyxiation and a teenager finding his dad dead in the closet.
We watched Ghostbusters the other night. Not the best movie, but a good distraction. But I’m sitting there going, “I could be one of those ugly, angry, vengeful spirits in a year.”
Yes, morbid thoughts. Morbid, real, ugly, frightening thoughts.
It’s all around us, and we just live with it and ignore it and become inured to it.
But it’s everywhere.
Kevin packs most everything in the Enclave, but I keep remembering things that didn’t make it into the suitcase. I have winter coast to throw in the back, and Morrigan’s Pull-ups, and the Ergo carrier just in case I need it for one of the babies. The motor is running in order to warm the car up before we head out.
I pull open the trunk. The tailpipe is spewing into the space where I need to step. I cough and wave it away. Better be careful not to inhale too much. You might give yourself—
The rage comes over me again so fast and hard that I can’t help myself. I hurl the Ergo in, stab the button, and slam the door behind me so hard the house shakes.