Dateline: Colonia Roma Sur, CDMX

A LOT has happened since I last wrote. And virtually all of it has upended my life. As you may recall, my stepfather died just before Christmas and I found myself having committed to stay with my mother through mid-February to help her grieve and to help figure out her next move in life. For a while, I was trying to persuade her to come to Mexico with me, and the fact that she was even willing to consider it came as a pleasant shock. Without my stepfather’s income, her financial situation has become less secure, but with her own resources she could live large in Mexico City.

On another front, Luis, my Mexican BF had accompanied me to California for Christmas and found himself still in Redding. The original plan had been to spend only three days there with mom and stepfather, then go to San Francisco, see the other half of my family, do some touring about, see friends, and then try to drive back to Boston in mid-January without ending up buried in a snowdrift. Unfortunately the trip, the situation with my mother, and some long-simmering older issues took their toll. Luis and I broke up in mid-January. Shortly thereafter he went to Phoenix, where he had worked in the past, and had friends, in hopes of finding a job there, or at least some kind of direction. So we sadly parted ways in the third week of January. I wish him well, but the breakup has been one more blow. When I met him, I really thought he might be “the one.”

But worse was to come. Right after my stepfather died, my mother succumbed to the stress and fatigue and came down with bronchitis. I said we should go to see her doctor. Turns out she didn’t have one, her previous doctor having retired a few years earlier. So I got her to an urgent care clinic, which gave her some antibiotics, and the bronchitis cleared up.

Meanwhile, I found her a regular doctor and set up an initial appointment. As part of the initial visit, mom was scheduled for a mammogram, something which she hadn’t had in years. The results weren’t pretty. A large lump was found, and various tests, scans, pokes and prods later, we learned that she had a large tumor, and a diagnosis of stage 3 metastatic inflammatory breast cancer. Ugh. My poor mother was now suffering her second big blow.

The process of getting the diagnosis took place in mid-March to mid-April, a time during which it became entirely clear that there was no way I’d be able to go back to my regular life; mom definitely needed me. She was already struggling to maintain the house, and now with cancer it was an entirely new challenge. During the time it took to get a full diagnosis and treatment plan, we worried endlessly about her cancer. The tumor is tennis-ball-sized and was described as “busy” by the surgeon. Chemo, even in the younger, is no picnic, and mom is officially old and getting a little frail. So we (or at least I) worried about whether she’d be able to survive chemo, never mind  the cancer. And even if she survived the chemo, the cancer itself was still going to be tricky. Since it had already spread to a lymph node and lacked any distinct boundary, it was currently inoperable. That’s to say that the surgeon could find no clear line between healthy and cancerous tissue. So you can’t just cut out the tumor because you risk leaving cancerous and now-agitated cells behind. Worse, there appears to be skin involvement. That means that you have nothing to cover the wound with after a surgery. In short, it’s an ugly diagnosis.

For now, the plan is to do chemo for sixteen weeks, shrink the tumor, then surgery and then radiation. That is if everything works to plan. As of now, mom’s about halfway through chemo and taking it like a champ. Yeah, she’s lost her beautiful, long, red hair. But there’s been no nausea, no vomiting, no lethargy, no change in appetite, no nothing except hair loss. And the tumor is shrinking and softening. In short, the chemo is going as well as possible.

As for me, I’m taking care of her, having put my life on hold. But a lot of questions remain about my own future. At this very minute, I’m sitting in my apartment in Roma Sur, CDMX and in the process of moving out. I debated this internally for months. I really don’t want to give up the place. But it’s increasingly clear that I’m not going to be able to be here for a long time to come.

Since we’ve now got a rhythm with oncologist appointments and chemo (Mondays and Tuesdays) I was able to book a flight to Mexico City right after my mother’s last chemo. I arrived Wednesday night and plan to stay through Monday. That gives me some much-needed time away, the opportunity to see friends, and the chance to celebrate Gay Pride in Mexico City, something I’d hate to miss.

And I’ve really needed a break. Though I love my mother dearly, it’s been exhausting taking care of her. I’ve been doing all the cooking, cleaning, scheduling, and generally dealing with any problem that requires some stamina or concentration. Since mom’s become a smidgen forgetful, I’ve also attended all her doctors’ appointments, in the process filling a spiral notebook with comments, measurements and the like. And while my friends have been incredibly supportive, the nearest are a four hours drive away in San Francisco. It’s tough not having friends nearby.

But it’s been great to be back in CDMX, though bittersweet. The minute I dropped my stuff at the apartment, I went out for dinner in the Zona Rosa. Wow! All the people, traffic, and overall hubbub were totally energizing. In Redding, approximately six people a day walk past the house. Here, there are people wherever you look, and it’s a fantastic change. I’m a big-city boy at heart and it’s been tough living in a sterile suburban environment. Back in Mexico City I feel like I’m once again in my element.

I’ve also been very fortunate to be able to spend time with friends here. Yesterday I had breakfast with my upstairs neighbor and friend, Carole, a former Chicagoan who has lived here for twenty years and is now a Mexican citizen. She’s an adventurous soul having lived in many parts of Mexico, an inveterate traveler, and a delight to be with. I also got the chance to have lunch with Bill of Travels of a Retired Teacher. He and I used to hang out here quite regularly last Spring, but then we didn’t see each other for nearly a year. It was great to connect once again. And last night I got to have dinner with a friend who I met right after I moved here last year. His mother had just died two weeks ago, and we had a very empathetic conversation that lasted long into the night. Thank you, Alberto. I think it was healing for both of us.

Tomorrow I go to the Pride Celebration. Then I have to get serious about moving out of this place. It makes me very sad to leave it behind, but it makes no sense to keep paying rent when I have no idea when I could ever return. One suitcase is already packed. Sunday I’ll probably pack the second one. And then I’ll give away all the half-drunk bottles of tequila, scotch, and gin, along with the various and sundry other things that simply can’t be moved.

After that? I’ll bid a teary good by to my beloved Mexico City. For now at least.

Te quiero mucho aunque esté lejos.

P.S. I had avoided writing about this topic until it was OK with my mother.