The lymph node is malignant. This doesn’t come as a surprise, and it is good to have answered the question. Julia, a community care person from St Gemma’s Hospice, was able to pull the results and also gave me the name of the oncologist to whom mum’s case has been referred. I called the doctor’s secretary and left a message. It was late Friday afternoon, so no response until Monday I expect.

We haven’t told mum yet. I have mixed feelings about holding it back, but that’s literally all I know - there is evidence of malignancy. Everything else is conjecture based on previous conversations and assumptions I’m making. And I’m acutely aware reading back over this account that I’ve misinterpreted evidence previously. I’d hate to misrepresent anything, even if it’s likely that mum wouldn’t remember what I’d told her. So I’ll wait for the conversation with the oncologist.

It’s a strangely blank feeling, knowing this. Like a door that I didn’t think of as being open has closed.

Liz and I talked a bit about how remote we’ve been feeling through all of this. There are moments of clarity, slaps in the face, during which we connect with it and feel guilt for our remoteness the rest of the time, but they pass. This isn’t an unusual response to difficult emotions for me. At other times in my life it has been problematic, but this time I’ve been OK with it, because too quickly there will come a time when it isn’t possible to background what’s going on. Until that time comes, I am OK letting my analytical side manage the medical issues and letting the rest of it slide.

The hardest times are visiting mum’s flat to feed the cats. Not having been around day to day to see her, and seeing her life laid out around the place… imagining her there dealing with feeling like she was “not all there” (her words, a few times over the last few months), maybe over-medicating because she forgot that she took her meds already, spending most of her nights in her living room chair… That’s when my remoteness fails me. That’s why I don’t go around there as much as I should, why I haven’t been able to box up all her files and bring them over. It isn’t the cat smell, although that’s pretty bad.

Until a couple of nights ago, I had convinced myself that the mental block I had preventing me from starting to gut her place and start working on fixing it up was the cats. Once we’d found a place for them I thought, we could start work. Then Tim mentioned in passing that even if we didn’t start work on the flat with the cats gone, at least we could just close the place up and not deal with it at all for a while. And I felt a weight lift from me.

Today I cancelled my return flight reservation to Toronto (I can re-book for $90 + tax any time up until January next year) and booked a new week-long return trip to Toronto for next weekend. I’ll be back home for Lauren’s 14th birthday.