Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


For the last few months, I’ve noticed a new person/dog pair walking on my street. The dog is one of several all or mostly black medium-sized pooches. The person at first looked very old to me, but I soon realized she just looked like my mom: fuzzy head, pale skin, glasses.

I saw her on my way to the bus last week, and we exchanged pleasantries about the weather. She takes small, quick steps. I saw as we passed one another on foot that she really does have the hair of someone who has been through aggressive chemotherapy more than once. From time to time, I had thought about saying something to her about how I know or understand what cancer can do to a person, but no one wants to hear from me. My cancer patient died.

Yesterday, I saw her approaching a neighbor’s home when I took out the mail. A few minutes later, she was knocking on my door. She was in pursuit of a lemon for the juice she makes for herself. A lime would be fine, too, she said. I let her in and went spelunking in the refrigerator. We chatted about what large, furry cats I have, and I found one small lime, slightly dry, with the imperfect rind that provides evidence that it was grown organically.

She thanked me profusely and told me that she has bladder cancer, that this juice she makes helps with it. Her name is Nancy, and she usually buys organic produce when she can, so she understands and expects the imperfections on the lime. She promised that she would do her grocery shopping later in the day, and she promised to replace the lime. No worries, I told her. We would be fine without.

Sure enough, I sat knitting on the couch when she knocked again around 7:30. She had her dog with her, a gorgeous black mixed breed with thick, thick fur. This was a dog she had rescued, she told me, and the dog is part chow, part Akita, as close as anyone can figure. The lime she brought us was bigger and juicier than the one we had given her. She apologized for not being able to find anything organic. We chatted produce and our neighborhood for a few more minutes, then her dog lead her away on their walk.

My brain’s filter was secured tightly, so I failed to embarrass myself or to offend her; for this, I am grateful.


At 4:05 PM, Blogger Brooke said...

I've been reading your blog for sometime & have recently found some deeper personal comfort from it, in that I've found out that my mother has bladder cancer. I was predominately struck by your encounter with this other bladder cancer patient. Not that it's good to know that this cancer is out there, but there is a sense of solidarity to know that my mother isn't the ONLY one. One of the most frequent comments I've received when sharing this with others has been, "wow, that must be really rare or something as I've NEVER heard of it. Must be because it's not all that fatal." Which tends to, in some way, belittle the seriousness that is relavent to ALL cancers. Anyway, just wanted to drop in & say thanks for all of the beautiful, deeply meaningful writing you've done through such a difficult, painful time.

At 4:17 PM, Blogger Emilin said...

"Must be because it's not all that fatal."

Wow. How appalling. People say some really horrifyingly ridiculous things, but at least breast cancer is widely understood and accepted. I knew a young man (20-something) with bladder cancer years ago, but my neighbor is only my second encounter with the disease.

On many levels, cancer is cancer, but each specific form has its own issues and treatments. Social acceptance and understanding definitely vary between the forms.

Thanks for reading.

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