“It’s probably cancer, but we can’t see you”

Thirty minutes ago, B came into my home office where I had just wrapped up a video call, and he closed the door.

He had just had a (phone) consultation with an oncologist, and he needed to update me.

“There’s a 70% – 75% chance it’s cancer,” he said. “But it hasn’t really grown since the first scan.”


B was diagnosed with colitis a few years ago, and a few times a year, it flares up so bad that he undergoes CT scans and other tests to make sure there’s nothing internally wrong. He had a scan in early fall, and another a month ago. Neither showed anything related to the colitis. But the second one caused his doc to refer B to an oncologist for further evaluation.

There was a spot on his kidney that was very suspicious.

The oncologist consultation was scheduled then rescheduled. Today, because of restrictions on hospitals and the cancer center, that consultation took place by phone. The doc was running two hours late for the call, but B was assured it would still happen.

The news: very much most likely cancer, but super slow growing (as if that would be reassuring). The spot WAS on the first CT scan, but no one was looking at the kidneys so they didn’t see it. If it’s grown between scans, the grown wad super minimal, but still the spot needs to be removed.

The oncologist told B this type of cancer doesn’t usually need chemo or radiation. And it can be removed while keeping the kidney intact and functioning. One night in the hospital, and then it’s about a six week recovery (basically, no heavy lifting or hits to the kidney). Bing. Bang. Boom.

But surgery can’t be scheduled until mid- to late-May — at the earliest. The oncologist has canceled surgeries like this, given the situation with COVID-19. (The oncologist originally told B it would be June or July, but B pushed back because of a major work project in July and our scheduled family vacation.)

So I guess we have to wait.

As a cancer survivor and a widow, I’m a mess. B is acting all “whatever” about it, but I want to cry. I want to scream. I want to hold him and cuddle him. I want to break down. I want to ask the doctor a million questions. I want to get B in for surgery RIGHT NOW.

But I can’t. B doesn’t want to say anything to anyone. He doesn’t want family worried. Or kids to worry.

I’m hoping he’s told me everything, but I imagine he doesn’t want me to worry. Hell, I’d hold back info to me right now, too.

I’m scared. Really, really scared.


Got out today!

Today followed the same pattern of a super long day, but also a super slow one. It seems like days ago since I went out to the grocery and dropped off provisions at my mom’s. But that was at noon, just six hours ago.

So I did get out of the house today. We needed some fresh fruits and veggies and a few other things. My mom needed bread and eggs. She also asked her elderly neighbors if they needed anything – they didn’t, but they’ll call me if that changes. I got to talk to my mom for about 30 minutes. She stood on the front porch and I stood in the driveway. It was great to see her and sad because I couldn’t hug or kiss her.

I figure there will probably be at least a trip to the store once a week, other than milk runs (that’s every few days, even though we’ve DRASTICALLY cut down on milk consumption, much to the dismay of the teenager). Stores are strange. There’s no selection. Mom needed bread, and there were literally six loaves of each of three kinds. Such limited choices. Absolutely no chicken – fresh or frozen – to be found. Eggs at only one store (Walgreens). Milk down to skim and whole. No potatoes. Lots of oranges and apples, but almost no other kind of fruit. Paper aisle down to four packages of TP and two or three rolls of paper towels. Liquor section still stocked (thanks, Wisco!) and everything in that section at full price.

For the last few years, I’ve been really good about menu planning, and I’m not letting that go. While I’d like to stick to what we know during this time of getting adjusted to a new routine,  B sent a ridiculous recipe involving chicken wrapped in a puff pastry. Yeah, sounds great, but dude, I ain’t got time for that shit right now. Spaghetti it is.

Kids are getting a little better. Of course this was the first day with just E and L. We’re going to try to keep the visitation schedule as much as possible – basically, until we go into full shutdown. You can imagine how B’s ex feels about that. She’s bitching up a storm. Because it’s going to be so HARD to manage with the girls at home. Because her job is so critical right now (um, it’s a nonprofit that deals with a very specific profession, so no it’s not). Because SHE’S A SINGLE MOM WITH NO HELP.

Let me pause there. She needs to shut the f- up about being a single mom. That argument doesn’t play with me. She’s going to struggle because she’s designated her home as the fun-time play-zone. There are no rules, no schedule, no respect for her authority. She’s their playmate and now she might have to actually (gasp!) parent.

Also I have no tolerance for whining about being a single mom when she has a VERY involved baby-daddy with B. You know who was a single parent with no help? Me. You know who managed? Me. You know who has no sympathy for that shit? Me.

Anywhosit, E still doesn’t have work. And L’s school is in denial of “all schools closed indefinitely.” Today an email from the teacher included the line, “If this continues much longer, I’ll probably have to figure out how to get math lessons to your kids!” and “While you’re waiting this out, here’s a link to our spring concerts songs. Be sure to practice at home!”

So, no we’re not practicing for the spring concert, which was scheduled for early May. And yes, you really need to “figure out” math for the kids. The four weeks of lessons she sent home NEEDED to include math and didn’t. I’m pretty much at the point of throwing all the bullshit, half-assed, put-together-in-a-hurry-without-a-thought bullshit sent home and start over. This is ridiculous.

Trying to get my classes together to go online for the rest of the semester continues to slowly inch forward. Today I tested two different content delivery systems. I’m overwhelmed at the options Tomorrow my TA and I will decide how to move her discussion sessions online. I also want to finalize my class syllabi and start recording lectures. I’m sort of terrified of getting sick and not being able to get information to my students. I figure if I can record 5 minutes on each topic, at least they’ll have some of my insight.

Today’s bright spot to all this: not being afraid because of last year’s student stalker! It’s always been at the back of my mind, him coming to campus and coming to one of my classes. With campus closed, no concerns!

Corona-cation: it’s a lot

Wednesday. Hump day. On what should have been my spring break.

Homeschooling is… well, it’s sort of school-esque and it’s at home, and that’s about it. The assignments are ridiculous. No offense to teachers, but four kids in three districts is interesting. E’s work won’t be available until mid-next week at the earliest. L’s work is fine, but VERY light on math and SUPER heavy on religion. I’ve supplemented some math because it’s her favorite and told her to ignore the religion. B’s girls have had technical difficulties.

But here’s my problem. There’s no plan for GRADING the work. And I literally have no time to do my job AND grade elementary school work. And if I magically find the time, I  expect to be reimbursed for it. Seriously. The teachers are getting paid right now, so… figure out how this shit will get graded, please. Especially the stuff on which the next lesson builds. C’mon – my kid isn’t just going to do busywork! And if that’s the plan (no grading), then fuck the assignments and I’ll find my own direction. There’s more than enough resources out there right now. I can cobble something better together (with online grading, of course).

I’m finding it super challenging to balance work and redoing an entire semester (now classes online through end semester) PLUS acting as teacher PLUS acting as recess supervisor and referee for the kids PLUS managing the house (break for lunch! break for snack! break to find scissors! break to figure out dinner! break to make a grocery run list! break to do 17 million things! PLUS trying to make sure mom is ok (she is) PLUS handling freelance responsibilities PLUS PLUS PLUS. It’s so much. I’m hoping a rhythm gets established soon. But I’ve never been a patient person. I keep telling myself this just started, it’ll take time.

Here’s what’s weird: The day both flies by and is super slow. Like there’s so much going on that I can’t believe what happened this morning was part of THIS DAY. There aren’t enough hours in the day, yet I need a break. I’ve done so much, yet I’ve done nothing.

SIDE NOTE: Interestingly, my grandfather JUST realized the severity of COVID-19 – when he went to the coffee shop today for his daily toast and java and it was closed. Until then, he and his lady friend have completely ignored all warnings and loved ones telling him to stay home. It was just today when Fingerhut’s was closed that he and Rosie went to get groceries and decided to “hunker down” for a while.

SIDE NOTE 2: Today’s interesting and sort of amusing thought: when this is over, everyone is going to be so ridiculously shaggy. No haircuts. No color. No waxing. Nothing. Just sitting at home, growing hair. Good lord, I’m glad I’m not coloring my hair anymore, but these curls are going to be WILD in a few weeks.

Schools Out – Day 1

We don’t have lessons for the kids yet, so today was just a “do whatever” kind of day. E baked his first dessert – supposed to be blondies, but turned out more cookie-like. L played outside – a lot.

Found out B’s wife is more stupid than originally thought. Not only did she have the girls around people from all over this weekend, she also has traveled through airports very recently AND her parents (at whose house she was at this weekend) just returned from a trip to Mexico. But she doesn’t see anything wrong with exposure. She’s a fucking nitwit. (NOTE TO SELF: super important to not take out my feelings about their mother’s stupidity on the girls.)

I sketched out my three classes for the rest of the semester – I really don’t think we’re going back in mid-April, as originally thought. Feel okay about the plan – not ideal, but students will get what they need to keep moving through our program. A lot of content is going to have to be cut. I’m really only focusing on content relevant to assignments. I’m thinking about posting my full lecture slides so at least they can see what we’re not covering. But, realistically, I doubt many (if any) students will seek content that isn’t “necessary.” I spent a good part of the day wondering if an email I sent to undergrad students in my department actually went out – I haven’t heard a peep from anyone (which is kind of weird and kind of not).

We set up B’s home office. His work announced a shut down today. We’re fortunate to have a home office space (usually mine) and a “gift wrapping room” (which will be B’s space). Kids will be spread between a couple of places – dining room table, kitchen table, and probably a card table set up in the front room. If E works in the dining room (where he usually does his work), I can put one girl in there with him. More than that, and I fear no one will get anything done.

I mocked  up a tentative daily schedule for the girls. I modeled it after the multi-color one going around the interwebs now, but changed it a bit for our family. Kids will have a lot of creative and play time, as well as time for physical activity. I’m actually looking forward to “finding the time” to do an online fitness class or walk the treadmill. I’m about to find out there IS time…

Also spent the day dropping off princess and girly books that my kids have outgrown to a friend with three little girls. And ran by my mom’s house to get brown sugar (she left it on the porch because she’s not feeling well – but not COVID symptoms. I did blow her a kiss through the front window).

Oh, and had a conference call with the executive board of my alma mater alumni association. We’re postponing our spring event, which sucks and is sad, but totally the right thing to do.