Thursday, February 25, 2010

In The Pink

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.


Andrea S. said...

I used to watch this Spanish telenovela, called "Carita de Angel" (translated as "Little Angelface"). It's about this little mischievous girl with a big, golden heart and, of course, a little angelic face as per the title. The girl, Dulce Maria (sweet mary) had this aunt who also had a large collection of wigs in many different colors, most of them not natural hair colors ... blue, pink, and so on. And all her clothing exactly, exactly matched the colors of all her wigs. So if she wore a pink wig then you could expect to see her wearing pink pretty much literally from head to toe, no other colors, just all the exact same shade of pink. I suspect the TV producers probably dyed all the wigs to match the outfits!

There is someone on line (Lady Bracknell) who, due to a back problem, needs to use a cane. She also wears glasses. She buys canes and frames for glasses in a wide spectrum of colors and loves to match them both to each other and to whatever outfit she is wearing. Once she went to meet the Queen of England (really, you can read about it in her blog) and she made a point of wearing an all purple outfit -- including the cane and glasses and she even dyed her hat to match.

Me, I'm terrible at matching colors. Even if I started to need a cane every day (instead of once in a while) I would probably just stick to my relatively boring black cane because, at least with black, I can be reasonably certain it will match with nearly anything else! But if I actually had a sense of style (I sort of have one, I just don't trust it, LOL!), and the budget to match, I can imagine I might have fun with it too. Or, at least I know I admire people who do. Maybe just because I haven't enough color sense to try emulating them safely!

Belinda said...

Tea with friends who share the journey; inevitable laughter; maybe tears; more laughter; this is the stuff of battle and victory, no matter what the outcome looks like.

FridaWrites said...

Tessa, I'm very sorry about this news. I've really enjoyed knowing you through the blog and getting to talk to another scooter user. I hope that your pain is minimized and that you have as many days with your friends as possible. With love. I admire your strength with this bad news and your daringness with your question to your doctor (I am always hesitant). I love the idea of color-coordinating wigs to your outfits--I like to wear some blue or purple in my hair sometimes. I hope your tea is wonderful and am glad that you have Dave and Joe with you and as neighbors.

liz said...

Please give Tessa all my best wishes and let her know that I'm thinking of her.

I feel like she's someone I know personally, you've made her live for us through your writing.

Kristin said...

Tessa sounds like a remarkable woman. I wish her outlook was better and I hope she gets a miracle. Until then, I hope her life is filled with love, laughter, and friendship.

Tessa said...

Thank you all so very much for your well wishes and kind thoughts!

I am saving up all these good feelings, it is part of the stuff of victory, as Belinda said.

For now, I am not going anywhere, I have no sickness and I am living every day as I always have, with absolute delight. Part of that is reading Dave's blog every day. I am hoping to write another guest blog or two, also!

By the way, we had much fun at tea! We always do.

Thank you all again, I hope to be hear with you, reading this amazing blog, for a long time to come.


Maria said...

Ofcourse I wish her the best and I pray that the victory is soon , but if it is not soon, then enjoy the days of light and living. Remember my dear friend Tessa that life , regardless if long or short needs to be lived to the fullest and ofcourse you can say that much better then I. Grins, as a woman with pink hair is indeed doing just that .

Love you Tess

Moose said...

Tessa reminds me of the woman who was my mom's best friend. She had been a quiet mouse until she was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. It was, for her, a light switch of awesome. She told her unemployed husband that he needed to be doing something, whether finding a new job or starting his own business, she would support him. (He started a business that then thrived.) She *made* herself a new job, going from something dull to teaching art to schoolkids in some of the worst neighborhoods of NYC. Her taste in clothing suddenly was loud, bright and outlandish without being bizarre, and when it came time for wigs, well, she didn't go with colors but she did get some funky styles. The cancer eventually took her but she really lived her life as fully as she could to the end. My heart goes out to Tessa, I hope her life is as full as my mom's friends was.

On the bright(?) side, BRAVA to her and BRAVO to you for pointing out that even in this day and age doctors are terrified about talking about (*gasp*) SEX! Sheesh!