by cindy

Once again, I sit here in January, duly writing on my computer and wondering how I failed to acknowledge an entire year. An entire effin’ year! And what a year it was, that 2018. One for the ages, I suppose. Or, at least, one for the blog. I’ll catch up on all of it bit by bit. Really. I have to because much of what is going on now began last fall when I was diagnosed with yet another rare, inexplicable cancer.

I am now in the very beginning stage of chemotherapy. I have been assured by some that my particular medication is considered a “friendly” form of therapy. My daughter shared a friend’s advice, words that brought immeasurable comfort: “This is not your (my) mother’s chemo.”

My mother was afflicted with two cancers: first breast, then oral. She succumbed to the second. I distinctly remember how much she suffered with it and its chemotherapy, so much so that she was far too weak to complete the regimen. As brutal as it was, there are still stories I hope to share about that time, if not for you, then for me, lest I forget the glimmers of brilliant sun that peeked through those times of great darkness.

During her first cancer, which had been diagnosed some two decades earlier, she did undergo successful surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. At the time, busy as I was with my household of teenagers, I failed to visit her as often as I would have liked. I do remember a visit not long after her mastectomy. Mom, sitting on the side porch and enjoying the warmth of the summer afternoon, was frustrated because wearing a bra without two breasts was a bit unwieldy. One side stayed put, obviously, while the other side kept riding up. She looked to me for a solution. Unsurprisingly, mine was as impractical as it was humorous:

Fishing weights, Mom! They come in all weights and sizes!!

And off I went to the local hardware store. She gamely let me pin them on the cotton bra. My idea helped a little, though the belly-dancer-like fringe of weights clinked as she walked. Whether she used them once I returned to Pennsylvania or not, is anyone’s guess. Eventually, she got a prothesis and the Case of the Lopsided Bra was solved for good.

I visited again (Hey! I visited more than twice but these are the two stories I want to share! Jeez.) while she was in the hospital undergoing her chemo treatment. This time, I arrived with gifts. (See? I am a good daughter!) Somehow, in those pre-internet days, I had located a boutique which sold head coverings specifically for women who lost their hair through chemotherapy. I had purchased all sorts of scarves in all sorts of colors and patterns. All very lady-like and pretty. Just the sort of scarves my mother could use with her wardrobe of colorful blouses and skirts and such.

I remember being in the hospital room—just me, Mom, and my sister Becky. I don’t remember where we sent Dad, who was staunchly by her side throughout their life, in, yes, sickness and in health. There we were, though, the three of us creating our own “fashion show” as we placed one scarf after another on Mom, holding up a mirror so she should see just how stunning she looked. I remember us ooh-ing and aww-ing and laughing…and crying. Just a bit. It was the sort of evening that still warms my heart. We were making the best of a miserable situation. Together.

It appears that in addition to certain memories and memorabilia, I have become the Keeper of Family Stuff. Included in that ‘stuff’ are those very same headscarves. I figured eventually one of us would need them, though the thought that I might be the one wasn’t quite on my radar. And it isn’t clear if I will lose my hair as my drug is “friendly” and balancing the therapy regimen has greatly improved.

I have, however, been advised that my hair may thin “a little”. Given my hair is already thin and short, I really don’t relish losing what I’ve got so I struck a deal with my hairdresser: as soon as I begin to resemble a duck with mange, we’re going to buzz the rest of the hair off. Or, as the child’s rhyme goes,

Fuzzy-wuzzy was a bear. Fuzzy-wuzzy had no hair. Fuzzy-wuzzy wasn’t very fuzzy, was he?

If all of that comes to pass, the question might be asked, “Will I use the same headscarves I once gave my mother?” I loved my mom. To the core of my core, I loved my mom. But she and I were two very different beings. Those scarves were right, for her. Me? I’m the Pirate Grandmother.

I have the eye patch. I have the fake eye. I have the scars from my last sword fights, which may or may not double as surgical scars for tin knees and such. I have the sword. I have the savvy. And, best part of all— I have each of the grandchildren convinced. So, these…

…these bandannas are what Pirates wear. And I have plenty, as badass Pirates always do.

Arrrgh! Indeed.