Ant Farm

Mariano walked me through the long corridor of the hospital to get to the elevator that led directly to the fourth floor oncology.  When I eventually had to go on my own for follow-ups, I couldn’t remember the way.

I hated being in that area.  We would sit in one of the waiting rooms for what seemed like an excessive amount of time, but the chemo and radiation treatments were usually on time.  When I had to see my oncology doctors, the waiting was much longer.

The department was always bustling with activity, swarmed by patients, caregivers, doctors, and nurses.  There was still a calmness around, a respect for those being treated.  The occasional smile on the faces that walked by proved life continued for the well.  It would have been nice if some one would liven up the place.  I realize it wasn’t the maternity ward, but the sporadic donor posters and how-to-deal-with-cancer-brochures were much of the decor.

As I looked around the waiting areas, I could tell who the patients were – usually the quiet ones.  Sure, there were patients who didn’t appear sick, but the majority were either silently sad or lacked energy, and in line to receive their poison.  A few shared their frustration if they waited too long.  Who wants to be in that place more than they have to?

Not every one there was doing chemo.  In one waiting room, they were either visiting an oncologist for the first time or following up after treatments were completed.  The visit with the doctor lasted no more than five to seven minutes, with a quick exchange of information about bloodwork and symptoms.

Heading quickly to the elevators, I was anxious to return home to get comfortable on the couch.


My next post will be July 11.  Sorry, for those who look forward to the weekly read, but it’s a great time for those of you I see catching up and for new readers to join in.  I hope you’re enjoying your summer (it’s finally here, I think!) and I’m looking forward to my next excerpt.  Take care and please “share” my link!


Quails, Music, Block Parties

My husband and I visited with the French gentleman once he was in palliative care.  I brought him roasted quails in aluminum foil, without the wine, like I had done when he was home and well.  The aroma of the spices from the burning electric BBQ grill had drifted his way one evening and, since he was alone, I thought it would be nice to give him a little dinner.  Following his death, his daughter had told me how much he had enjoyed the dinner.  It had been a long time he hadn’t had quail, so it was a real treat to have one of his favourite foods again.  I wasn’t sure it was appropriate to bring them to the hospital, but I did it for my dying neighbour.  Since he had already eaten that evening of our visit, I put them in the refrigerator at the hospital, so he could have them the next day.  He was very appreciative.

When my husband left the room for a few minutes, I asked my neighbor if there was any thing I could do or get for him.

“Thank you, you’re very kind…  You, of all people, know what’s going on in my head, because you’ve been there.”  He spoke French to me.

I think that people with cancer feel connected to each other, and the unspoken words express the fear of death, the pain, and the sadness.  He didn’t have to say what he said, but I often hear those words from other patients.

I just nodded, thinking he knew what was coming.  We went to his funeral a couple of weeks later.  A violin sat atop a stand next to his casket.  When I asked about it, his children told me he had been a professional violinist.  Now it made sense.  During the summers, I would hear music coming from his old, rusted rooftop shed that held a Flintstone pinwheel raised at the front end.  I always thought he was listening to classical music on old records.  But it was him, and he played beautifully.  It turned out he used to work with an orchestra here in the city.

I kept indoors during my treatments since they took place during Fall and Winter, and I was some distance away from the rest of the neighbours on my short street.  So there was no interaction between the other neighbours and myself.  There were no young children, so the grown ups didn’t really hang out outdoors there.  I didn’t know who else lived there until years later.

Bringing The World Closer

The neighbor directly across the road from me, also Italian from a home town in Italy close to where my parents grew up, were always very generous.  She often brought me food treats she had made for her family, and little gifts for Isabella each holiday.  Her frequent check-ins turned into friendship exchanges rather than health stats.

An older French gentleman lived in a tiny house on our left side.  His house reminds me of a cabin in the woods, but it is covered in beige siding.  My husband said the house was actually quite large from the inside.  A family of six, they had all lived there, even when there were no other houses around.  The gentleman was a cancer patient even before we moved to the neighbourhood.

In fact, there were too many cancer cases within close vicinity.  A forty-eight year-old neighbor, who had moved to the area behind us just before we did, died of cancer a few years after my recovery.  Another woman at the opposite corner of my street, whom I had never met, also died of cancer.  Until just recently, I was the only survivor.  Hopefully, for a newer neighbor who was diagnosed with cancer, and now in remission following some surgeries, he has joined me in increasing the odds here.

Can these numerous coincidences in a confined area be attributed to an environmental phenomenon, or has cancer become so commonplace?  I have questioned this – and so have others – but I had cancer before moving to the area.  Cancer doesn’t grow overnight;  therefore, it must be pure coincidence.  This is such a small area to have so many cancer cases, that one could question the validity of that argument.  Maybe only mine was a coincidence.

My husband and I chose this area because it feels like we live in the country, with the amenities of the city only a three-minute drive away.  We had purchased the land at a steal.  The previous owner had combined three lots into one, so it’s the widest on my street.  It’s so peaceful here, with old, beautiful trees twice the height of the homes, and little traffic due to the road ending into a curve.  There are still unbuilt areas around us, so summer is filled with greenery, and the winter forest offers snow-covered branches pretty enough to paint, which my daughter would like to do.


I pray that peace fills our hearts and strength carries us forward. 


Befriend Thy Neighbour

I didn’t have time to get to know any of my new neighbours, since we had just moved in, and the attention went straight to my prevailing health issues.  Certainly, I wasn’t in the mood to meet any one, and soon, didn’t feel I looked presentable anyway.  With over a decade having passed, I still feel like a stranger here, yet much serenity within this environment.  The neighbours are nice and we are each respectful of one another’s property and privacy.

We live in the first house on the street.  We share a fence with the corner house of the road perpendicular to ours.  That neighbour’s house faces the river that envelopes the city of Montreal.  We had a view of the river from the kitchen window and backyard for ten years, until the lot next to them was sold, and a house was put up soon after.

My neighbor was an older Italian couple who had built their house at the same time as we did.  We got to know them and learned that the husband was a landscaper.  He and his son shared work, and we asked them to take care of our house.  They lay down our stone walk and driveway, as well as all the grass around the house.  They also made a cement base to hold an eventual shed, a garden area, and a stone pavement for a gazebo.

When he knew of my illness, he and his wife came to visit with us and my parents.  They were always sweet to me.  She would bring me plants that she had rooted herself.  If her garden plants would grow through our shared fence, she insisted I keep the string beans that hung on my side.  Only a few years later, he died of cancer, and the wife moved out of the big house into an apartment not too far away.


I am pleased to report that following my annual scan last week, I am still clean twelve years later!  I have to believe in miracles, because there are no other explanations for this gift of life.

Have a wonderful day!


Grin And Bear It!

My mother often prepared soups for lunch.  One of Isabella’s favourite is still cut macaroni and broccoli.  Marco had begun staying away from fruits and vegetables altogether.  It was always a struggle to make him eat that family favourite, so my mother would try to leave out the broccoli.  Over a decade later, we’re still trying to get him to eat fruits and vegetables, but he seems healthy and is very strong.  God bless him.

There is a joke among us that when we would go to restaurants we could order one dish for Isabella and Marco to share.  Isabella would have the salad and vegetables and Marco the steak and potatoes.


Some of my relatives and friends came over to visit with me on occasion.  I would head back to the couch in the family room when I felt tired or ill.  The guests would stay in the dining room with my mother.  I could hear the conversations between them as I fell in and out of sleep.

No one kissed me during that period of treatments, I think.  We had learned that when my immune system is down, I could not fight germs.  Every one understood and respected the process.

It was always great to see people.  My mother also needed some time to change her routine, so the visitors were great for her too.

Instead of entertaining family and friends in my new home, they were here visiting me for my desperate attempt to fight cancer.  Though this time should have been the beginning of many shared moments in the home my husband and I built together, and where our daughter would grow up, it may well have been the last time I would see those that were so important to me.