Friday, May 13, 2011 | Categories: Episodes |
There's no place like home.It's something I've been thinking a lot about lately, because recently I made a sudden decision to return to my hometown, Vancouver, the place I couldn't wait to escape from when I was a teenager. I've been living in Toronto for the past fifteen years. I have two sisters living in the west coast. Deb's the oldest, and Deanna's the youngest.
Last month I received distressing news. Deanna discovered a
lump in her breast. She had it checked out; though she was sure it was just a
cyst. I mean how could it be cancer? She's young,
and there's no history of breast cancer in my family. I was in
Winnipeg the day before hitting the stage at the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, which
made it all more surreal, when I received an email from Deanna, "sis call me
tomorrow xoxox d." She had been diagnosed with ductal carcinoma breast cancer.
I decided right then and there that I was going home to support Deanna's recovery. I arrived late and settled in to my friend's rented basement. It was strange falling asleep in my new home, not quite knowing where I was.
The next morning I was woken up by the piercing ring of my cell phone. It was my sisters saying they were on their way over. Deb stormed in with Deanna wandering behind. Without missing a beat, Deb took charge - after all, she is the Big Sister. Looking around my sparsely furnished apartment she said, "Okay so, what do you need?" I wasn't sure, but within seconds we were in her SUV on our way to Ikea and the Superstore.
You should have seen the Lee sisters in action. Debbie marching ahead like she was leading the charge of the light brigade, Deanna walking around like a zombie, and me confused by a vast selection. "How about some Quaker oats?" "No," Deb shot back, "they're bleached and processed." "I need a frying pan." "Not that one. It's covered in Teflon, it's poisonous." "A broom, a broom and dustpan that's what I need!" "The one you're holding is a stupid design, and you don't need a broom, didn't you notice, there's carpet on your floor?!" Here's the thing about returning home - as much as you want to believe you're a grown up, when you're back with your siblings, you resort to those familiar family dynamics. I took a deep breath, and tried hard not to be bugged by Deb's behavior. She may be bossy, but the she's always right!
I hung back with Deanna who was pushing the cart. She
is being brave as can be. Her body's taking well to the
chemotherapy and her tumor is shrinking but she's also experiencing
some challenging reactions to the drugs. Chemo kills cancer, but it also kills a
lot of other stuff too. After her last session, she said she was fine, but Deb
noticed her lips and fingers were turning blue and her teeth chattering so
she threw her into a hot shower.
Well, after our shopping bonanza, we took a break for
lunch, and stopped to catch our breath. Deanna took off her cap. She's shaved
her head, a pre-emptive response to losing her hair. With her beautiful round
head exposed like that she looks like a Buddha Girl. Deanna wiped her head, and
was upset to find how easily a mass of short hairs came out in her hand. She
took a deep breath and lay her head down on the
There was a moment of still silence. I put my hand on her shoulder.
When Deanna looked up, her eyes were full of tears. She assured me they were not sad tears, but happy ones. It's so good to be together again.
My family has its share of problems and we're certainly not picture perfect, but when cancer was thrown into the works my sisters dropped everything to be together. Though it's a difficult road ahead, I'm glad to be be back to the place I once ran away from. Home is where I want to be.