Only a few weeks ago, really, did our neighbour,Tessa, tell us that she had been diagnosed with cancer. The whole thing came as quite a shock because Tessa had been feeling very well and had had no indicators that something was wrong. A bolt from the blue, it truly was. At first they told her that they thought, but needed to test to see, that it might be ovarian cancer. Tessa, listened, took in the information, then when asked if she had any questions nodded her head gravely. The doctor leaned in supportively. 'As this cancer involves the reproductive system, I need to ask if there is any concerns with masturbation.' The doctor leaned back and with a quick shake of the head in the negative, was gone.
That quip, really defines who Tessa is and how she approaches life. She has a impish sense of humour and a love of life that's quite infectious. We met Tessa because the superintendents of the building placed us in an apartment next to another disabled person. We are our own ghetto. Tessa, the scooter user; Dave, the power chair user; and Joe, the hapless walkie have become a regular sight in our neighbourhood. Throughout Tessa's battle with the big C, right from starting chemo, her determination was simply to incorporate the battle into a quality life, not let the battle diminish a quality life.
Once the hair started to go Tessa went shopping and picked up wigs. WIGS. These babies would make a drag queen tremble! There's the bright, almost neon, pink wig. The red wig. The blue wig. The blond wig. She, as a woman with taste, always matches her wig to her outfit and makes them seem as natural as regular coloured hair. Some people know that under the wig, of whatever colour, is a woman of determination fighting the battle of her life and for her life. But most just smile at seeing a woman in control of her life.
A couple days ago, Tessa got very bad news. The second try at chemo wasn't working and the doctors have revised down her expected time here on earth. Tessa took it on the chin then shook her red curls and headed home to the apartment she loves, with the cat she loves and with the neighbours she prowls the street with. There are huge moments of sadness, obviously, but Tessa believes that she controls the quality of her life. That every day that she chooses to rise and shine, is a day lived in light.
We have always known Tessa as a strong woman, true. But she is more than that. She is a woman with a vision of the life she has and a knowledge of what she controls and what she does not. This gives her the power to control every day she has to live on this earth. From what we know of her life, Tessa learned long ago not to give away control to others or to circumstances.
So, today, after work, we are going out for tea. It will be my first outing in the scooter, oh boy. It doesn't matter what colour hair she will be wearing, what matters is that she will have chosen it ... like she has chosen how to live, how to wear, every day of her life.