Riley had approached us as soon as she began college about attending a summer internship in Europe. This would be the last summer she would be able to do this. She searched and found a study abroad internship in Barcelona. I told her this was going to be an expensive year for us with the wedding and this might not be a good time. She applied anyway, submitted her audition tapes and written application. She was not only accepted, but received scholarship money from both the program and Western University. How could we say no?
As I said earlier, after the initial shock of finding out I had cancer, my next thoughts were of my children. How could I possibly tell them and put them through this again? And then, Nick's wedding and Riley's internship abroad! Could the timing have been any worse?!?
Riley became quiet whenever I tried to discuss her upcoming trip. My surgery was set for two weeks prior to her leaving. She finally said to me, I don't want to discuss it until after your surgery.
My surgery was done and I was recouping at home and she still wasn't very enthused. I decided to have a session with Natalie. I wanted to make sure she was alright with leaving me and going to another country for 6 weeks. Going abroad for the first time is scary enough let alone adding a mother going through breast cancer.
Okay, this is where I kinda suck as a mom. I didn't tell her where we were going until we were walking out the door. Her response was - I don't want to cry. Why are we going? I told her it was more for me than her as I wanted to make sure we were both okay with this. I didn't want her to feel pressure from anyone (especially me) on making her decision.
In our meeting, Riley was able to voice her fears. Fears about me dying, fears about how I will look when she returns, anger because she doesn't feel it's fair that I have this again. Fears about being so far away from me when I'm going through chemo. Yes, there was tears from both of us but also some laughter and relief in a way. I wanted her to get those feelings out. I wanted her to release those fears. She understands that in the age of technology - I will be a phone call away. She will be able to see me. I will be able to commmunicate about my progress.
Natalie reminds her of the growth she has experienced through all her life's challenges. She's the person today because of them. She will be just fine. I tell her that I'll just be sitting at home resting. Knowing that she's going to be living her dream and exploring Europe will give me great energy. I will be living vicariously through her. We both leave more at peace. She has decided to go to Barcelona. I'm ecstatic. I don't want cancer to stop her from her dream. I want life to go on. Cancer will be a part of our lives but I don't want it to be front and center in our lives.
Sunday arrives and we're taking her to the airport at 11:00 a.m. I get up early and go lay with her on her bed. I hold her with the dog in between us, of course. Where else would Winston be? She silently starts to cry. She's doesn't know but I do too. I know this is hard for her. And it's hard for me to see her this way.
Anyone would be naturally apprehensive doing an internship in a different country but adding this extra stress is hard. I'm thankful she is going with one of her best friends. They will be living together in an apartment. Though, she and her friend have been placed in different internships so she'll be navigating on her own. Big steps - a huge milestone for Riley. I know she's thinking about leaving me, when she wants to stay and help take care of me. I'm sure she's conflicted.
I know one of her biggest fears is the changes she'll see when she comes back. I talk honestly about it. I will not have hair when she comes home. I tell her I'll probably shave it before it falls out. She asks me why? Why not just cut it really short. My reponse - I want to be in control. I don't want to pull my hair out in clumps. She understands. She tells me to get several wigs and switch it up. I may just do that. I'll ask Bob if he's ever wanted to be with a Blond or a Red head - lol!
I tell her there will be times when she calls that I'll be exhausted. I tell her not to panic over it, this is just my body responding to the chemo. I will get my energy back. All this is temporary. A necessary temporary situation. Remember the mantra - Life changing, not life taking. I remind her that that in life, the most challenging circumstances always bring out the most growth.
I tell her that she's realizing one of her dreams today. Reminding her that she has wanted this for a long time, how she made it happen through her hard work. Yes it will be scary to navigate the first few weeks. She will get homesick but she has to remember to embrace the adventure. I tell her she's a little like me right now. Facing the unknown. I tell her I could let fear win and crawl into myself or I can embrace the unknown and all the gifts it will give me. She can decide what type of journey she'll have. We talk a bit longer and hold each other, giving each other comfort. Of course, with Winston right there getting some love. We close the suitcase and go the airport.
Once there, we meet up with one of her BFF's Kirsten. I'm so happy that Riley will be on this journey with her. She will be the ying to Riley's yang. A great combination. We meet her lovely parents and it's interesting to see that both Dad's have the same worries. Bob ends with "And no latin lovers girls!"
It's time to say goodbye. Riley and I hug and tears start to flow. Happy and sad at the same time. We're both embarking on journeys into the unknown. She to explore the world and expand her horizons. Me to embrace the next phase of my journey. I look into her eyes and say "You're going to be just fine Riley" and she responds "And so are you Mom".
"Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure".