As much as we don’t want to hear it, it is one of the few pieces of advice that we place our hope in when times are tough. Just minutes after being laid off, I couldn’t help but think, “Uh oh. Why is this happening right NOW?” The timing couldn’t be worse. It was just weeks before the holidays and only two months before my 35th birthday. Great way to ring in the new year, right?
And now, only one week after being laid off, my mother and I were back in the oncologist’s office at Mass General. Flo had been fighting cancer for about six years now. It started with DCIS, the precursor to breast cancer, and then a mastectomy. Five years later, in November 2012, as we were getting ready to celebrate her being a survivor, she went in for a normal checkup and was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer. She went through a major surgery, several hospital stays, major transfusions, and five intense rounds of chemotherapy. When I wasn’t working, volunteering, or attending board and committee meetings, I did everything I could to make sure she was well taken care of. In a matter of weeks I became nothing short of a home health aide/nurse, managing meals and medications, giving injections, cleaning wounds, and monitoring her overall condition.
When I got the offer for the “better opportunity”, her health was on the upswing. I really thought things were coming full circle for all we had been through. As Flo and I walked back out of the oncologist’s office just one year later, I looked back over my shoulder to see the doctor say, “I’m sorry.” I told her it would be okay, because that’s what I always say. Standard response, I guess. But it really wasn’t okay; we were just informed that my mother’s cancer was back exactly one week after I’d been put out of work. Who throws a party for that?
Truth be told, I felt like my glass was starting to look half empty. If everything happens for a reason, I dared not to think about why I would need this unexpected time off. Deep down, I had already given way to a personal gut feeling. And quite randomly, all that came to my mind was the lines of a Robert Frost poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.