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Angela's story: Dealing with distance

Angela's story: Dealing with distance

238 miles. 

Four hours by car. 

The distance between Utica, NY and New York City.

The distance between mom and me.

It never felt far - until cancer arrived. 

"What time is your appointment?" I asked from the subway platform. One hand pressing the phone to my face. The other covering my free ear. The bag on my shoulder swung as busy commuters pushed by.

"10 a.m.," mom answered. "You're not calling during the appointment."

"Yes I am," I said.

The platform shook. 

"Please call me when you get into the doctor's office," I shouted over the train's horn. "I want you to put me on speaker. I'll make sure I'm not in a meeting. OK, gotta go."

I stepped onto the train.

The doors closed.

I looked at my reflection in the dirty window.

I clutched my phone.

I wish I could be with mom.

It was her fifth chemo treatment.

I was there for the first. I was there for the fourth, when her medicine changed. And of course I'd be there for the last.

But it's not enough.

The doors opened. I rushed off with the crowd.

I glanced at my phone.

I wish I could be with mom.

"Hi, Aunt Lisa. Is the gift ready for today?" I pressed the phone to my ear as I weaved through a line of people waiting at a coffee stand in Midtown Manhattan.

"Yes, it's all set," she answered.

"Great," I said. "Remember, please don't give it to her until she sits in that awful brown, leather chair. She hates that part. That's when I want her to get her surprise."

Mom jokingly calls it 'The 8 gifts of chemo.'

I call it being a good daughter.

I prepared several gifts and left them with my family.

We had an amazing support system. Mom's sisters went with her to nearly every treatment. Someone was always bringing her there, stopping in for a visit during chemo or taking care of her after. 

I always knew she was always in good hands.

The person who brought mom to chemo would take on the duty of delivering my gift.

Each one went along with mom's journey.

Each included a card with a special note from me. 

For the first treatment, I gave mom a gold bracelet with my birthstone - Amethyst. I bought the same with her birthstone - Ruby.  We put each other's on before the first round of chemo, and promised not to take them off until the cancer was gone.

For the second, mom received a Netflix subscription and some snacks. 

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For the third, I gave mom a gift certificate for a manicure and pedicure. I got her makeup too. This was when her hair was starting to fall out. I wanted her to feel beautiful.

This time, mom was getting a gift certificate for personal training sessions. A gift to help build up her strength when chemo is done.

My phone vibrated on my desk.


I went into my boss' private office and closed the door. 

"Hi everyone," I sang into the phone.

"Hi Angela," Mom's doctor said first. 

"Hi Angie," my aunt called out.

"Don't you have work to do?" mom said.

We laughed.

"Did you get your gift?" I asked. My voice echoed through the phone's speaker in the doctor's office.

"I just opened it. Thank you. Great idea," mom answered.

"How's everything looking?" I asked the doctor.

"Everything is good, Angela," she replied with a chuckle. "Your mom is doing great."

I heard the nurse, Annie, walk in.

"Is that Angela?" she shouted in her cherry voice.

"Of course, who else would it be?" mom said.

We laughed.

"I'll let you get to it," I said. "Mom, please call me when you get home so I know you're OK."

"Of course," she replied.

We laughed.

I looked out the window at the skyscrapers surrounding me. 

I glanced down at the traffic and crowds seven floors below.

My eyes stung.

I clutched my phone.

I wish I could be with mom.




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