In Preparation

The day prior to surgery, I entered the hospital for that lovely ocean water that would clean out my digestive system.  And we all know how that went.  The surgeon stopped in after lunch to see how I was doing.  I showed him the pictures of Isabella;  pointing to the frame that sat on the side table next to my bed.  “Save me for her.”

My husband came after work and stayed until I was done with the cocktail.  Then the nurse said he had to leave.  It was passed midnight.

I had finished my will that day, as I lay in the bed in my semi-private room, and put it in my purse for safekeeping.  No one knew I had written it.  Certainly, it would be found if something happened to me.

I was oblivious to the baby-blue-coloured walls in the room, and the neighbor that went about her business in the bed next to me.  Though only a dull-beige curtain separated us, I felt I was alone in the room.

The stress and distraction of the last few weeks had exhausted me, and I don’t remember whether I slept well that night.  I didn’t feel like a long night, once my intestines and colon were cleaned out;  but, considering the circumstances, I doubt it was a restful sleep.

In retrospect, there wasn’t any fear at that point, since I had made the unconscious decision to put my life in God’s hands – and the surgeon’s.  I don’t think worrying would have changed anything.  I was just following the flow of things.  I felt safe and calm.  I had no idea what was coming following the change of my anatomy, but I was ready to find out.


Pass on the words I share – they are the truth, the moments, and the wisdom I hope to encourage everyone with to love life and each other.


Rotten Apples

We went apple picking the weekend before my operation.  I remember just wanting to relax that day, so I brought a blanket and lay in the grass by the trees, close to where my family was filling the plastic bags with Macintosh and Cortland apples.  I didn’t want to be far from them, but I needed some time to think about what was happening.  It didn’t seem real.  There was so much running around in the last few weeks for a diagnosis and to prepare for the operation, I never took any time to feel what was going on.  I also wanted to appreciate the last normal moments before I embarked on my difficult journey.

My energy level had already begun deteriorating.  Was it the cancer or were my concerns affecting me already?  Could this be the end for me?  Will I ever see these apple trees again?  Will there ever be an opportunity to lie on the grass and stare at the world around me?  Will I take away from those family gatherings we all loved, if I didn’t make it?  What do I do next?  I need a will.

The next day I went to work and asked Howard,  “How can I get my will done quickly?”  Although it’s more complicated to fulfill, it turns out that a handwritten will is as good as one prepared by a notary.  Much would be frozen until the will could be notarized and approved by the court.  That would mean a much higher cost to legalize my wishes.  At this point, a handwritten will was all I could or would take time for.  I had no concerns about money in what seemed like my final weeks.

It came time to separate myself from my paralegal and administrative work that I loved, so I cleaned up my desk.  I don’t remember big goodbyes at the office, since I thought I’d be returning in a couple of months.

My surgeon told me that following the operation, one could return to work after two months or so.  What he didn’t say was that I would definitely be receiving chemo and radiation, and would be too ill to even think about working.  He’d left that lovely task to the oncologists.


Although it was much needed (and my veggie garden loved the shower), last night’s rain storm left quite a chill.  I told my daughter to think of the sounds as soothing… and they are, until they cause damage around the city. 

I hoped, as I lay in bed awaiting the calm, that the sirens that accompanied the thunder and lightning weren’t anything serious.  As I drove through town today, some trees and numerous tree branches were scattered on lawns and on the roads.  Hope the city plans a clean-up.

Never Two Without Three, Four, Five…?!

I am convinced that all my health issues over the years have been to prepare me for cancer.  I’ve worn eye glasses since the second grade (I can remember the school nurse holding out a letter, “Take this to your parents.”)  I was in the fifth grade when the opthamologist showed me how to wear contact lenses – one of the youngest to wear them at the time.  A major car accident at the age of twenty-three, left me with my head protruding an eggplant, broken ribs and arm, and severe back pain.  Only a few years following the crash, I was hospitalized for pneumonia, and later diagnosed with asthma.  A skating fall in January of 2001, required surgery to reattach my posterior knee ligament in my left leg;  and, according to my tumour pathology, the tumours were already growing.

The skating accident happened only three months after I was married.  That was the first time I had been put under general anesthesia.  Prior to the knee surgery, I was somewhat fearful about anesthesia.  I heard that it may cause death;  although the occurrence is rare, there is a possibility that you won’t wake from it (where have I heard that before?)  So when cancer required major surgery, I had no fear of being put to sleep.

September 28 was fast approaching, and that past summer was eventful to say the least.  My Dad had turned eighty only days before I was told I had tumours in my stomach.  We celebrated by renting a house up North that accommodated all fifteen of us.  My Dad’s wish for his birthday couldn’t have been more fulfilled.  He loves just being with his family.  He’s at the age where fancy parties don’t interest him anymore.

That weekend the weather was beautiful.  Each couple had their own bedroom, and Mary’s children slept on the large sofabed in the living room.  There weren’t many double beds, mostly single and bunk beds.  The mattresses were of very poor quality and the brightly-coloured linens not so much like home.  Mariano, Isabella, and I were in a room with bunk beds that I would never dream of sleeping on.  My daughter and I shared the bottom bunk to distribute the weight.  The master bedroom was on the second floor and my parents were welcomed to it.  The kitchen was average size, but too small for all the chefs in the family.  A wooden dining table accommodated most of us.  We had a fireplace that wasn’t needed in August, but added to a comforting ambiance.

We didn’t spend much time outdoors, except on the balcony, where my Dad and brothers-in-law enjoyed the view as others cooked, set the table, or simply entertained.  We filmed the weekend, so we could show the young children later how they sang the Italian songs my parents loved.

We brought lasagna for dinner and all the breakfast items on the menu.  The crowded kitchen created a feast for the meals we shared there.  It’s always about the food.  Pictures from my photo albums reminded me of the one dinner we shared at a local family restaurant.  We all sang the Birthday song as my Dad blew the candle on a little dessert we got for him.

When we watched that video after my bout with cancer, I noticed that my skin tone was different at that time, but had never noticed.  I was dark by nature, moreso than my sisters.  That olive tone had turned dull and made me look ill.  None of us had perceived my skin colour as a negative, even though I was in the process of testing for that bleeding incident.  We were just all used to my colour being different.  My oldest brother-in-law used to joke about me being adopted.


Peace and love to all!  Your continued support is heartfelt.


Are You My Doctor?!

When my surgeon came to see me the day I checked into the hospital, I showed him my daughter’s pictures in the frame.  I pleaded, “Make me better for her.”

My surgeon worked miracles inside of me.  He saved my life and I am forever grateful, to say the least.  No words can describe how much he gave me, when there was little hope of survival.  As well as an amazing surgeon, he had a great bedside manner.  From all my encounters with him, I learned that he is strong, yet emotional, as all human beings should be.  These traits seem to translate into his important work.  You have to have the intellect, comprehension, and personality to be great.

I don’t believe doctors’ cold behaviour should be tolerated.  The doctor that told me to basically say my “goodbyes” is an example of what doctors shouldn’t be so abrupt about; especially, with patients having to deal with critical illness.  There is no excuse for them showing anger, and I don’t expect them to be inhumane or heartless.  Doctors are human, like the rest of us, and doing their job.  They should realize they are dealing with human beings, even though they are trying to keep their own sanity, when delivering such devastation.  I would never blame a doctor for not being able to save me, if I knew he cared enough to do his best.  Imagine what he has to live with, knowing he can’t save us all.