It’s amazing how often the C-word comes up during the day. Billboards, radio, newspapers, T-Shirts, and bumper stickers. Or, from the lady who’s trying to steal the last green bowl from Dollarama.
It was Friday afternoon and I was flying through the store, trying to buy some bowls. It was a favorite friend’s birthday, and we were heading up north, to her surprise pig roast/pot luck for 150 people. I was making pesto pasta salad and was looking for bowls that would show off dish and make it look pretty. Secretly, I wanted mine to be the best looking dish on the table.
In the bowl aisle was a stocky woman who was reaching unsuccessfully for the top shelf. ‘Can I help you?’ I asked. Waving one chubby hand in the air, she told me that she couldn’t reach the shelf. Then she told me that the reason she couldn’t reach it was because she’d had cancer. I would argue, that she couldn’t reach because she was short. But she elaborated, and at times, her Eastern European accent was so thick that I could barely make out what she was saying.
Turns out she’d had a couple of surgeries, and was no longer nimble. I told her I understood. Then she said, somewhat apologetically, that the cancer was also to blame for her hair being so thin. Her hair was indeed a bit sparse, and because I could look down on her I could see a lot of scalp – but bless her heart – she’d given herself a perm and dyed it red, the same colour as her lipstick.
‘I went through chemo too.’ I told her. Her eyes bulged. ‘You did?! But your-a hair is so thick!’ I tried not to gloat. Inside though, my heart was swelling with pride. I haven’t had a ‘thick hair’ comment since last summer, and it was long overdue.
Then I saw the bowl that I wanted. It was apple green on the outside, and white on the inside (A bargain at $1.25!) and would certainly compliment my pasta. It was perfect. I grabbed it, and then grabbed a second one.
'That’s a nice bowl,’ said the lady. ‘Its-a what I want for my salad. It’s-a pasta’. Uh-oh! ‘Are there more?’ she asked. I told her no. ‘I’m going to a barbeque,’ she told me. I nodded. ‘Tomorrow night,’ she said, ‘For my son’s-a birthday.’
Barbeque. Potluck. Birthday. Chemo. Saturday night. There were definite similarities. But I didn’t want to share my bowls. There was a whole wall of bowls but I had the only two green ones in my hot little hand, and I intended to use them.
Then she lifted up her shirt. ‘Look-a at my scar.’ Across her round belly was a pink line about 14 inches long. ‘They-a said it spread like Octopus. But it’s shrinking. It keeps a-shrinking. I’m-a going on-a Thursday for my test results. I’m-a very nervous and my husband won’t-a talk to me about it. He just watches TV.’
Okay! I couldn’t stand it anymore. She’d won. Her scar was worse, her prognosis was worse, and her crappy husband was the final straw. I handed her my green bowls. She smile up at me and asked if I thought her tomato fusilli salad would look good in them, or, if she should get the fake cut crystal bowls (a bargain at $1.50). Well, I honestly thought that her pasta salad would look better in fake cut crystal, and I reached up and handed them to her. She thanked me, and asked if she should get one or two. Two, I told her. Then she told me that she couldn’t concentrate because all she thought about were her tests. ‘Pray for me,’ she said. I gave her a hug, and told her that I would. Then I took my green bowls in left. I haven't thought much about her until today.
But it's a-Thursday, and I’m-a praying.