2020 is not our year.

The world is in turmoil. COVID-19 has upended lives, devastated economies, and somehow drawn even sharper political lines in an already deeply divided country. George Floyd died on camera, at the hands of a policeman. Protests are occurring around the globe. The world feels so overwhelming that I haven’t been able to write. There are so many things that need to be said, but the words jam up in my brain, and I can say nothing.

Meanwhile, we continue to grapple with Hazel’s cancer diagnosis. It has now been over six months since the leukemia was discovered. Yesterday, I listened to the voicemail that I cannot bring myself to delete. It’s from Hazel’s pediatrician and dated December 1, 2019.

Hi Catherine, this is <pediatrician’s name>. Um… Just calling with a little bit of additional information concerning Hazel’s labs. Just wanted to talk to you about that. If you could give me a call, that would be great. This is my cell. I may text you also just on the off-chance that you’re not answering numbers that you don’t understandably recognize. Thanks a lot. Bye.

I listen because that’s the line by which I can, yet again, divide my life into before and after. Before that phone call, my life was vastly different.

It’s also June. June is the month in which we started to know that things were not right in James’s pregnancy. June 20, the day the blood test said “trisomy 18.” June 23, the day the amniocentesis confirmed it without a shadow of a doubt. June 24, I turned 37.

I’m walking around in a semi-daze all the time. It feels like I’m watching my life from above it all. It seems like the stress is just too much to comprehend, so I’m not dealing with it much. It’s why I wake up crying, I think. PTSD. Denial. Shock. Pick your flavor.

I started a new job as a palliative care and in-home euthanasia veterinarian. Due to COVID, we are requiring that appointments be done outside with masks. I go by myself and will be working 1.5 days per week. I feel much safer doing this than working in close quarters with my technicians and colleagues in a building. I absolutely hate that I’m not doing GP anymore, but I also think I can strongly serve owners in the area of palliative and euthanasia care. My loss of James has given me a unique perspective and empathy for those struggling with end-of-life care.

Hazel herself is doing very well overall. She’s been off chemotherapy for about three weeks now, and I can tell that it is slowly leaving her system. She is much perkier and more active. It’s sad to see her “more herself,” because I know that shortly, we will fill her body with cancer-killing poisons again.

The days pass, one by one.

Published by Catherine Ashe

I am a mother to four children, one gone before me. I write to release the pain.

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