Cleaning My Soul

After breakfast I would tell my mom, “I’m going up to take a shower.”

“Why don’t you leave that today?”

“No…  I sweat during the night.  I can’t stay without a shower every day.”  A day doesn’t go by that my shower gets missed, even when I could barely stand.  Especially during my treatments, the hot water on my skin was cleansing – cleansing of the chemicals that were being forced into my body, and helping me forget for a moment the chills and the sadness that enveloped me.

“So then wait for me, and I will come and help you.  I could wash your back and feet.”

But I continued on upstairs, huddled in my cozy robe for warmth,  struggling to get up the fourteen risers, as my architect had put it – but I had to raise my weak legs fifteen times to get to the second floor.  I tried to avoid going up and down the stairs during the day, except for my shower and to turn in for the night.  My mother always insisted on getting whatever I needed upstairs during the day, because she hated to see me suffer.

I unrobed myself, trying to avoid the view of my naked, skinny body.  The washroom has large mirrors, so it’s almost impossible.  The process of covering my feeding tube was a nuisance, but it was the only way to get myself under the soothing hot water.  It wasn’t perfect, but the plastic bag I would tape to my skin did the job.  Even when it got wet a little, the nurse would be coming in the next day or so to change the gauze.

The water created a mess of blood under the gauze, so I would use the hair drier to remove some of the dampness.  The nurse often labored to detach the bloodied cotton gauze from my skin, apologizing for causing pain and discomfort.

I hung the towel over the shower door, and I wouldn’t step in until the hot water created steam.  “Ahh!”  The heat on my skin was too much.  Making it less hot was necessary to avoid my sunburned torso from scathing.  I was told not to wash off the markers penned in for radiation, but that they would undoubtedly fade.  Since the stubborn ink never completely disappeared, the radiologist could easily darken the lines, without having to measure again.


Moments during our lifetime that seem large and that we feel define us, become smaller as years pass, leaving us with the wisdom to make us stronger – use it wisely.


Shop And Drop

On the weekends, one of my sisters or niece would take my mother grocery shopping.  Mariano never did the shopping in our house, except when he needed his ice cream or items for his lunch at the office.  But if my mother needed some thing during the week, my sister would drop it off on her way to work.

I never understood why my husband couldn’t get into that element.  Learning to buy groceries is not difficult, especially with a list.  Over the years, he’s picked up on some basics, but I’m not the woman to leave her grocery shopping to her husband.  And with reason… the first time I sent him for asparagus, they weren’t fresh.  Lesson learned.

There was a lot of activity in my house for those long months.  My mother-in-law would take the bus from her house almost each weekday to help my mom with the children.  She always reminds me of the warmer days when they would take Marco and Isabella for a walk by the river that is steps away.

I dreaded going outdoors.  Montreal is so cold in the winter, the lowest temperatures that year went to minus thirty degrees Celsius, with wind chill rendering them to minus fifty-two at one point.  With winter clothing that fit too loose because of my drastic weight loss, the freezing air tortured me.  More rain and melting snow caused rising water levels in the province.  But thankfully, 2005 experienced record sunshine.


Find comfort in the sunshine, in the snow, in the rain… they each offer some thing beautiful.

Good For Her

Mornings and evenings were busier at the house.  My sister, Mary, would drop off her two-year-old son, Marco, for his day with Isabella and grandmother.  Sabrina, her older daughter, was already in elementary school.  My mother took care of Marco, while Mary managed two bank branches.  “How are you feeling today?”  Some images come to mind of her squatting by the couch where I sat all day.

Some days I could barely answer;  others, I was still in bed when she arrived.

My mother would hand my sister three or four buttered toasts in a napkin, and she would be off to work until late afternoon.  I barely remember seeing her come around, although she or her husband was there every weekday to drop off and pick up my nephew.

Marco always loved my daughter.  They are nine months apart, and he is always looking out for her.  Even when we’re shopping today, he’ll say, “Aunt Patricia, this would be really nice for Isabella.”

Knowing my possible fate, my long-awaited annual Christmas card letters to each niece and nephew usually include a caption, especially for Marco,  “I know you’ll always be there for Isabella as you grow up together.”

They are still very close.  Hopefully, their teenage years will not distance their relationship.  It hasn’t so far, but I do see a small awkwardness as they develop, but that could be only in my own mind.


As the days warm up after our usual long winters, may your days be bright, your mind right, and your health well.


Day To Day

I did my best to avoid her seeing me ill all of the time, but it was difficult.  She spent most weekdays with her cousin, Marco, thankfully, so her attention was on playing with him or watching television.

Isabella couldn’t remember any differently.  I was home with her the first year after she was born, and had returned to work only less than a year later.  She had become accustomed to spending her days with her grandmother.  I was glad for that.  I was never worried about Isabella’s care.  My mother did every thing for my baby.  She was very well fed, always bathed, and always around loved ones.  The best part of it was that I got to spend each day with her, even though there was little interaction between her and I.


My husband would get ready for work and drive my dad back to my parents’ house.  Some evenings, he would pick him up on his way home from work, so my dad could have supper with us.  If my mom gave him leftovers from the previous dinner, he would just stay home.

If it was a chemo day, Mariano would need to leave work early afternoon, so I could make it for my appointment at the hospital.  With the traffic, it took him about forty-five minutes to get home and then another half-hour to get to the hospital, not including his search for parking in the busy area.  It would be costly to park in the hospital lot every day, and I knew he never minded the walk, even in the cold.  He would bring his car up to the door, and I would wait for him in the cold lobby until he returned, sitting in a wheelchair, my head resting on my hand – my elbow hoping it wouldn’t slide from the narrow arm of the chair.