Monday, May 11, 2009

Square 2: Mom's chemo cap

Story blanket square 002

When Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, she initially resisted taking any treatment. She had led a clean, healthy life and never spent a night in hospital since I was born in 1964. Chemotherapy and radiation would make her sick, and she did not want to be sick.

It was a hard stance to take and I think most of the family did not understand, but when she told me about it I said, "It's your life and your choice to make." Of course I wanted her to stay alive as long as possible, but I meant what I said. She was grateful that I was prepared to accept her decision, and willing to listen.

Eventually she changed her mind and accepted the oncologist's recommendation of a course of chemo. It made her sick for a year. It burned her mouth and she lost the ability to taste most foods.

Her hair fell out. I knitted a beanie for her with one of my favourite yarns, Noro Silk Garden. I don't know whether she wore it much. It was probably too colourful for her taste, but I know she cherished the gift. Our relationship had had some trouble, but during her battle with cancer we became close again.

After the treatment she had another healthy year. Then in 2005 we learned the cancer had reappeared in a lymph node. The road got harder from then on.

In the summer of 2007, when we knew that the disease was terminal, I asked her how she felt about the prospect of death. Once again she seemed grateful that I was willing to talk about it. She said she felt lucky to have learned the value of a day. Some people go through their entire lives and nothing makes them stop to think about it, so she was grateful to have learned to savour every one.

I said: "I understand. I have learned the same thing from battling with depression."

That surprised her, and I couldn't explain it, but it was true. I was happy for the glimpse of insight we shared into one another's lives.

Mom died peacefully, at home, on February 20, 2008. The blue and purple Silk Garden in this square, a remnant from Mom's beanie, reminds me to make the most of each day, because even the hard ones are worthwhile. To live that way is the best way I can think to honour my mother.

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