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Tick Tock

As my mother’s cherished clock collection dutifully marks time’s passage, time itself has taken on a much deeper meaning since cancer entered the picture.

 

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Every hour, on the hour, a cacoph­ony of chimes swells throughout our three-level home. A grand- father clock in the living room chimes Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” The golden face of a Rhythm clock gracefully opens up as it fills the dining room with the melody of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

After their solos, these two prima donnas are joined by the clocks in the upstairs and downstairs family rooms as they ring in the hour. Then, as an encore, the adorable little cuckoo in the basement pops out of its clock to announce the time.

These are just the clocks that make their presence known every hour. We also have clocks that are not so boister­ous: the steady, dependable wall clock in my office; the adorable cat clock whose tail serves as its pendulum; the tall swinging clock held in the hands of an ornate antique female statue; the kitchen clock ap­propriately created entirely of forks and spoons; and the small clock face set in the stunning red rock of Zion National Park. Then, of course, there are the less stately digital timekeepers found on the microwave, the oven, and the bedside alarm clocks.

Our home hasn’t always been filled to the brim with clocks. For most of the ten years we’ve lived here, there was even a shortage of time devices. Our only clock hung shamefaced in the hallway perpetually displaying the wrong time, having been inoperative for years.

While we painted her bedroom Social Butterfly yellow, she was busy figuring out which of our walls would be graced by one of her precious clocks.

About Coping

Paige Kraus

It wasn’t until two months ago, when my clock-obsessed mother moved in, that our home became flooded with clocks. While we laid new carpet in her base­ment living area and painted her bedroom Social Butterfly yellow, she was busy figuring out which of our walls would be graced by one of her precious clocks. My loving husband dutifully hung each one per Mom’s specifications. And after each clock was hung, she would stand back and smile gratefully. All was right with her world as long as her clocks were there to herald the passage of time.

Time itself has taken on a much deeper relevance for my mom and all who love her. She was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer in March 2013. Time seemed to stand still as the doctors delivered the prognosis that devastated us all: there was no cure for this in­sidious cancer that had already spread throughout her liver and abdominal wall by the time it was discovered. No radia­tion, no surgery, no hope of wrenching this horrific disease from my mother’s body. Our only hope was that chemo­therapy could contain the tumors and keep them from spreading their destruc­tiveness any further.

The two weeks I spent with my mother in the hospital after that initial diagnosis were a blur. The passage of time was marked by the flow of nurses in and out of her hospital room, day and night. The arrival of a plastic meal tray announced meal times. When a white-coated doctor appeared, we knew it was morning rounds. The only clock in the room was a silent, black-rimmed circle whose hands moved with aching slowness toward each number in their progression around and around and around the stark-white clock face.

Two years have now passed since that awful day. Is Mom healed? No. However, she has learned to live well with cancer.

Now, time passes in weeks that are labeled “a good week” or “a chemo week.” In the good weeks, she shops for new clothes, bakes for the family, and tends to her flower gar­den. During her chemo weeks, she goes to blood draws and sits for hours in the infusion center receiving the chemo­therapy treatments that are containing the tumors and keeping her alive.

Months now are measured by CT scans. Every two to three months, the tumors lurking within her organs are made visible to the radiologists who compare and measure, and then pro­nounce the words we love to hear, “No new growth.”

How long will the cancerous tumors be controlled? Only time will tell.

The one thing we do know is that with each tick tock of Mom’s clocks, we have been given the gift of time. And we will cherish that gift for as long as time allows.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Paige Kraus is a cancer caregiver living in Colorado Springs, CO.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, September/October 2015.