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Story Telling

Janet Kuypers, 09/09/06 #3

Your see, my mom, eleven years ago
had breast cancer
and the three girls
flew to visit her at her home
across the country
and mom felt bad
that she couldn’t make our trip better
because she just found out
she had cervical cancer too

but we couldn’t have come
at a better time
and she had procedures
she had surgeries
and she had a radical hysterectomy
and then the cancer was gone
she was in the clear

so for a decade
she went to the doctor
and they found no cancer in her
and all seemed well
she had beaten
a killer


when I was almost killed
in a car accident
and I had head trauma
no fractured bones,
except my skull
they never told me
just my family
but not me, the patient
that I’m expected
to have a seizure
within six months of my accident

I had a grand mal seizure
seven months after
I was almost killed

no one explained to me
what was happening
and I had to figure it out
as I went along


well, a decade after
her bouts with cancer
she went back to the doctor,
had a fever, felt tired
and they said,
well, it’s funny,
you’ve got all the symptoms
and most women who have had
as much cancer in their history
as you’ve had
well, you’re likely to have


well, she did


and when she found out
at her home in south west Florida
she traveled to
University of Chicago Hospital
(they’re a good hospital, you know)
and she got prepped for chemo
was in the hospital shorter than me
(damnit, I shouldn’t be
so self-centered that way)
and had chemo
lost her hair
(with her new crew cut,
as her hair grew back
she looked just like her brother,
Uncle Pete, from this army photos)
and the doctors said she was in remission

now, this leukemia is a tricky thing
cancer of the blood
versus cancer of an organ
it was easier when you could
just remove an organ
and leave it at that
but this was cancer in her blood
and the cancer crept into her bone marrow
and they had to periodically
drill into her hip bone
for a bone marrow biopsy
to see if there was any cancer
in her bone marrow

fun job,
drilling into her hip bone

you wonder why there are so many
hip replacement surgeries now
well, look at how doctors test now

a little bone pulled here,
a little bone pulled there

well anyway, the doctors said
she was in remission
(happy happy, joy joy)
but because this cancer-of-the-blood thing
was tricky
they’re going to give her
another round of chemo
just to be on the safe side
because you know, if people
don’t go through this extra round
of chemo
the leukemia is more likely to come back

so mom took the chemo
and she recovered
at my sister’s house
until she was well enough
to go back home
and recoup in her own home

I visited her in her recoup time
just shy of my parent’s fifty sixth
wedding anniversary

bought the cologne dad would give mom
for their anniversary
while I was visiting

she hoped that when her hair grew back
after the chemo
it would grow back curly
and it was
she was so used to having a hairdresser
style her hair into a bee hive
and she’d have to sleep on her nose
to keep her hair style in place
until her next hairdresser appointment

so her hair was curling now
she bought curling hair gel
she wore a little white hat
(we always could pull off
looking good in hats)
and curled the ends of her new short hair
around her little cap

she looked so cute

mom would work in the mornings
run errands, get groceries
and by lunchtime she would be tired
so she’d watch her soap operas

but who can blame her,
she’s still recovering
from all the chemo Hell
she went through

all of her neighbors said,
it’s amazing how well she’s doing
after all she’s gone through

and they were right


a month after I left from visiting
mom started to feel tired,
so dad took her to the doctor
and they said,
Silly us,
she wasn’t in remission

they wanted to put her in hospice care immediately
and she looked at dad,
and they both instantly agreed
they’re not giving up that easily
so back to the University of Chicago hospitals

more chemo for mom
a different chemical this time
so she won’t lose her hair
but after she went through the chemo again
they found no change in her condition

and then they said,
“you’ve got two choices:
because you’re immune to chemo now
you can go for experimental treatments,
or you can decide to stop treatment”

she said,
“I don’t want hospitals anymore”
so she made her choice

and the doctors said
she had two to six months to live
maybe as long as a year
and I said to her
as she was getting platelets
at the Hospital,
“When your father had cancer,
doctors gave him six months to live.
How long did he live?”
and she said
six years
so this was something
she could beat
we Bakutis come from a strong stock
we can do anything

I know we can


well, I don’t think she wanted to fight
I think the pain in her bones
was too strong
and I think she was tired
of fighting a battle
she couldn’t win
so she let it take over

they said two to six months
and she lived just shy of three

she struggled through it all
not telling us about her pain

just taking her medicine,
so to speak
and hoping everythin g would just kill her
and get it over with


and I think emotionally
she made the choice
despite us


and now I sit and write this story
and my father is sleeping
in front of the tv
in his lounge chair next to me
he says it’s more comfortable there
to fall asleep
and I’m listening to his breathing
while he sleeps
and I hear him panting
every thirty seconds
while he sleeps
like he’s having nightmares
about it all still

and as I tell this story
there’s still a panic in the air
even while we sleep

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