Waalah! A great idea! I’ll fly to Salt Lake City, Utah, with Ma and my then infant son, Theo. Ma’s never been on an airplane. The idea is terrifying, but for me — and with me — she’ll do it. I promise it’ll all be OK, and quote some safety statistics about automobile vs. airplane travel that she ignores. I tell her no worries — they serve alcohol on the flight once we’re up in the air.
I start looking into flights. Then, my diagnosis. Breast cancer. My world turned upside-down. Hospitals, tests, surgeries, treatments. Stat. No time, no room for travel plans. The trip is abandoned.
Fast-forward almost five years, to New Year’s Day, 2011. Mom’s 75th birthday is approaching on Feb. 6. I am wracking my brain, trying to think of something to get her. Something special. I’m usually pretty competent in this category, but this time, I’m at a loss.
Then it hits me. She still hasn’t seen her sister Pat, since those first trip plans back in 2006 had to be wiped from the slate.
So, I start looking into flights. I call my neighbor, Mark, who works for Delta. He’s offered “buddy passes” to us many a time, but we’ve never used one. We could really use one now.
“Sure,” he says. And he starts looking into it.
Then, a few days later, I find the lump.
I tell Mom. She tells Aunt Pat. They both say, “Nevermind. Cancel the flight. We’ll do it some other time.”
“Oh, no,” I say. “Cancer caught me off-guard last time and spoiled it for us. Not this time. Nothin’ doin’.
“You, Aunt Pat, are still getting on that airplane on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011. Yes, that’s two days after my first chemo. So what?”
Cancer doesn’t get the last word. I do.
As I write these words, Aunt Pat is on a non-stop flight to Detroit from Salt Lake City, via Mark’s buddy pass. She should be over, oh, who can say? Chicago by now? Her plane will be touching down in 36 minutes. She will be at Mom’s 75th birthday party Sunday — a small family gathering at our house.
Yes, I did have to change the menu. I’m not up to making my homemade lasagna as I’d originally planned. We’ll order pizza. Big pizzas. And we’ll go sledding down hills christened with this newly-fallen snow.
We will be together — all of us. Mom, all of her kids, spouses, grandchildren, and her best friend in the world — her sister, Pat — on Mom’s 75th birthday.
Nope. Cancer, you aren’t going to spoil it for us this time. I’m on it.
You might have fooled me once. But you’re not going to fool me twice.
— Amy Rauch Neilson