Hope Springs Eternal

My mother’s back in Ottawa and began her radiation and chemotherapy yesterday. She has decided to live. It’s pretty amazing to see the woman who had complained so bitterly in the past few years about her body and health, turn around and decide to live in the face of this life-ending illness. She sees a corridor of exit points and has decided to take none of them.

What’s really amazing is that she’s able to eat whatever she wants right now. For the past three years she’s been unable to eat anything with any remote sort of allergen, and nothing with seeds or little bits that could get caught up in her system. Her diet for years has been extremely limited and bland. She also fought it every step of the way, and there was nothing anyone else could do to make her feel better, to shift her perspective, to help her come to a small amount of acceptance with her condition.

Food is SO important, and if you hate what you eat every damn day for years, it can really make you miserable.

In the weeks before my mother’s diagnosis, her personality shifted alarmingly. We had a conversation on Christmas Day that left me in tears. I called my sister in alarm, and she had noticed a change too.

Three weeks later, my mother had brain surgery. Crazy, right???

There’s something about the cocktail of medications that she’s on right now that has somehow fixed her digestive issues. Maybe it’s the steroids, or maybe the tumour was somehow causing the digestive issues. No one knows! For the first time in years she’s able to “eat like a normal person!” She talks about how wonderful Tim Horton’s soup tastes, she gloried in a Red Lobster dinner, she has no dietary limitations right now to complicate her stay in residence near the hospital. She’s enjoying the little things like crazy!

I decided to go and visit a week after her treatment has ended, to give her a chance to rest up, which will put me in Pembroke for the week of my 35th birthday. I’ll purchase a one-way ticket, and leave my options open about whether I stay one week or longer. I’ll be seeing family I haven’t seen in fifteen years, and I’ll be meeting brand new family members, as a few of my cousins have gotten married and had children.

Both of my mother’s parents passed away in the last two years, and my cousin and his wife (and by the time I get there, their brand new baby) will be living in the house that I’ve always known as my grandparent’s place. It’s so nice that this central home that was the gathering point for family over the decades is still available for reunions.

My mother is changing rapidly, and I may have to learn all over again who she is. She’s let go of aspects of her personality with this startling decisiveness. She shocked the hell out of me when she said she wanted to throw a “coming out” party for me when I visited.

“What?” I asked, thinking I must have had a stroke.

“A coming-out party, you know, to celebrate that you’re gay! To tell the whole family.”

“Uh, I think the family knows I’m gay. I’ve been living out here with Kat for six years now. For heaven’s sake if they don’t know TELL THEM!”

“Well it would be nice to have a party and tell everyone at once.”

“Uh, I think I would feel weird. I had a coming-out party in my twenties to tell all my friends at once.” (For the record, no one was surprised.)

“Yes, but while grandma and grandpa were alive, I just didn’t want to rock the boat. I didn’t know if they’d be upset or what, but now we can tell everyone! It will be fun!”

“Uh, I really appreciate it Mom, that’s really nice, but I’d just feel really weird about it.”

“Oh, okay. Well, we’ll just have a psychic party then!”

“Oh my god, mom!”

“It will be fun!”

So you’ve got to understand the conflicting things going on in my head – do I let my possibly-not-long-for-this-world mother throw me the party she wants to have to express how much she loves and accepts me, and just suffer through the awkwardness?

“Mom, I really appreciate it, but I’d just feel too weird.”

“Oh, okay. How about a birthday party?”

“Yes! Yes a birthday party is just fine! That would be awesome!”

I got off the phone with my Mom that day and cried angry tears. I still have difficulty in describing how hard that conversation was for me, and the certainty that it NEVER would have taken place if my mother wasn’t facing down brain cancer.

Maybe that’s not true, and she would’ve wanted to throw me a party when I next visited anyway. But that’s not how I felt at the time. Now, I think it’s not helpful or productive to think like that, and it’s better to just look forward to my visit and my 35th birthday party.

Which brings me to yesterday.

I had budgeted $100 to update my and Sweetie’s driver’s licenses, as we needed to have the address changed to provide legal proof of residence. Anytime I’ve ever had to walk into the ICBC office I’ve had to pay at least $50, be it to replace a lost license or move it from Ontario to BC, to just to buy or sell a car! But it cost us *nothing!* There we were, Sweetie and I, our errand accomplished in seconds instead of hours and an unspent $100 in our budget.

We decided to walk into the store next door and browse around. We’ve been binge-watching “What not to wear” and while “Project Kate” has been scaled back substantially as plane tickets are a higher priority than anything else, I am happy to report that I no longer own anything that has holes in the crotch, that is the wrong size or that is so worn out I look like a bag lady. I’ve been keeping a weather eye out for something dressier for this upcoming family party; I own just two pairs of jeans, two long johns, a few wool tops, a few cotton tops, one set of pijamas and a modest collection of socks and underwear. Oh yeah, and a “beach skirt”. (Think hippie-rainbow-gypsy-tatters.) I haven’t been able to dress up for anything formal in over a decade because I simply never owned anything fancy. Because I’ve always kept my wardrobe to the bare minimum, I’ve worn the hell out of almost everything by the time I finally replace it. I have shown up at fancy parties in jeans that are frayed at the cuff, and in a bra belonging to my partner.

So there we were at Covet, and inspired by Clinton and Stacy I started to try on things I never would’ve taken to the change room. Eventually, the sales assistant pulled out a dress with a pleated top, a high waist and a flared skirt that fell playfully to the knee… and it FIT LIKE A DREAM! I was SHOCKED! Then, in-keeping with Stacy and Clinton’s “what not to wear” rules, I found a thin little belt of mustard yellow leather with a clasp of a whimsical brass feather. I wrapped it around the empire waist and Ba-BAM! I looked FABULOUS!

The sales assistant cheerfully chimed in, “And I can give you 50% off the dress and the belt.”

Sold. $96. The prettiest outfit I’ve owned possibly ever in my life!

Last night I could barely take it off, and I ended up trying it on twice more before I finally went to bed. I finally understand how some women can be so enthusiastic about clothes. I feel like I got some help from the angels, finding this piece. As I said that out loud, I noticed that the print on the dress is actually tiny little feathers, perfectly coordinated with the belt.

Who would’ve thought I could be such a good-lookin’ gal? It just goes to show, whether facing brain cancer, family baggage or an extra 20 pounds, hope really does spring eternally.

5 thoughts on “Hope Springs Eternal

  1. You’re awesome Kate– and your Mom wants to share her love & gratitude by giving you a celebration! Thanks so much for sharing and spreading stories of love … 🙂


  2. Picturing you in that dress made my eyes well up with happy tears! My wardrobe is in similar state to yours, and I recently splurged on an amazing dress for my wedding next week…wow. Clothes really CAN shift your mindset. I resisted that notion for so long! And about your mom…incredible. I had a feeling when she was diagnosed that this wasn’t going to be a typical loss-type journey for you!


  3. That is a neat story, and thank you for sharing. Although it was probably frustrating in the moment, most important is the appreciation of your mom’s enthusiasm for wanting to do something, anything for you. And for appreciation of the simple things and and experiences – for what one has, or gets the ability to have or experience.

    So… where is the picture of you in this pretty new outfit? :0)


    • Ha! *IF* my father takes a good photo of me in the dress, I’ll post it for all to see. If not, I have plans for Sweetie & I to do a “couples” photo shoot this spring / summer for our 8th anniversary, and I plan to wear the dress for that. We have a ton of photos of us together in our 20s but not a lot since we moved out here.


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