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We drive into Sudbury on Thursday, and we drive out on Tuesday. It takes about five hours on the road, with an hour stop to feed everyone. The babies are wonderful, and Morrigan is also great most of the way. She gets tired of sitting in her car seat–of course, who wouldn’t after five hours?–but mostly she happily plays her LeapPad. She usually has a one hour limit per half day, so it’s a major treat.
When we stop at Subway to have lunch and feed the babies, we get the same thing we always do from strangers: “Wow, you guys have your hands full!”
It’s a phrase from B.C., and it’s jarring. People don’t know. They can’t see it. All they see is a family of five, with three kids three and under, feeding babies and cleaning up spit-up and cajoling the oldest to “eat, eat, eat, Morrigan, so we can get going again!”
I barely manage to eke out a strained smile, and then my eyes drop to my little Calliope sucking away at her bottle and gazing up at me with wide eyes and chubby cheeks.
Once we’re in Sudbury, the days blur together. We turn poor Rob and Laura’s house upside down with baby stuff strewn about everywhere except their master bedroom. As time goes on, my anxiety lifts. On Sunday, I wake up without having a panic attack. I take fewer Ativan. Kevin’s sister Wendy, who fought and won against early stage breast cancer, arrives as a surprise from four hours north of there. We hug and cry, and she tells me her stories.
On Saturday, I decide I want to wear fun, colorful leggings. I don’t exactly know why leggings. Maybe it’s because What Not to Wear forbid them, and I’ve always followed the rules. I know my ass is round and lumpy–I haven’t lost the twenty pounds of baby weight I put on, plus I wasn’t skinny to begin with–and leggings won’t make a nice shape. But I don’t care about that right now. I want something that makes me happy. And leggings make me happy.
I buy six on Amazon.com and spend several hours browsing Du North and Lularoe FaceBook groups. I’ve been feeling the urge to buy all the stuff since my diagnosis. Maybe it’s also a rule-following thing. I’ve always been frugal and counted my pennies. But now? Fuck it. I want to live a little.
On Sunday, the pain in my jaw spikes, especially where my tooth was extracted, and the T3/ibuprofen combination isn’t enough to take the edge off. Kevin suggests I have something stuck in the socket, so I rinse with salt water several times throughout the day. Wednesday, I tell myself, especially when I can’t do anything except lie in bed and play Covet fashion or read stupid FaceBook clickbait articles. I don’t feel guilty for shirking my duties because there are three additional adults to cuddle and help with the babies, but I hate not being functional.
On Monday night, Laura, Wendy, and I go out for dinner and have drinks, even though half my medications say not to. It’s the last time I will for a long time, I imagine, and I pace myself. Even so, at the end of the night, I’ve had two sangrias and I feel tipsy.
On the way home Tuesday, I feel listless. We’re returning to reality. The anxiety churns. I stare out the window, watching the road go by, thinking about everything. I finally force myself to do something to get my mind off things. I find an episode of the Jimmy Kimmel show where Jennifer Lawrence guest hosts Kim Kardashian. I love her–Jennifer, not Kim, God, never Kim–so I watch it. Twenty minutes pass, and I come out the other side less anxious.
When I was first diagnosed, I felt like I needed to treasure every moment. I needed to do something important if the minutes are numbered. But what does that even mean? I can’t sustain that. Staring into my babies’ eyes or holding hands with Kevin. Yes, of course, do that more. If I don’t learn to appreciate what’s right in front of me, what’s the point of all this?
But it’s okay to do what I need to in order to get through this. Watch obnoxious Netflix shows that make me laugh. Waste time on Youtube. Survive this–this beginning, this start of the journey, this anxiety-rich time where nothing is certain and everything is frightening.
And so that’s what I will do.