CANCER patients have learnt to live their lives with great uncertainty but some of them do it so well they convince the rest of us that they do have all the time in the world and we, wanting to believe this, do the same.My grandmother was one such remarkable person. In her very late 70s, my grandmother was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer and subsequently underwent surgery to remove the tumour. She refused to undergo chemotherapy – which because of her age and diabetes- she did not want to remember her last years being sick. My gramaa (as I call her) was a strong and independent woman, who always enjoyed life on her terms; living with diabetes for over thirty years didn’t impede her lifestyle.
Gramaa would eat whatever she wanted to and if anyone objected she would respond by saying, “I only got a few years left, let me enjoy it!” This would be followed by the insertion of her daily dose of insulin, a shot she was accustomed to giving herself over two decades; I still cringe at the memory of seeing her do it but gramaa was a boss- nothing scared her.
I don’t recommend anyone follow her lead but it worked for her. After surgery grandma bounced back to her almost normal self- she wanted to cook everything everyday but the surgery left her right arm a bit weak and lifting heavy pots had to be abandoned. I have been lucky to have age on my side to aid with my post recovery- I regained most, if not all of my arm functions, but gramaa’s muscles/cells didn’t heal in the same way.
Gramaa wasn’t interested in having her cancer treated via pharmaceuticals – she would try to eat fruits that were rich in anti-cancer properties, e.g. soursop, but she insisted that she wanted to just live her life how she wanted to and make the most of the time she had left, enjoying things and also by ‘things’ she mostly meant food – she was a big foodie and a magnificent cook…her black cake is legendary; I remember her sending me to pour rum onto the cakes every day for almost a month, we had to ‘soak’ it according to her. One year I recall just passing the room with the cakes soaking and getting drunk from the smell alone.
My grandmother, even as the cancer began spreading to her bones, making it painful for her to move around and do things – she still did them. She continued to push herself until she couldn’t do anymore.
On August 22, 2016 she went to sleep in this world and woke up in another with my grandfather, who had been waiting on her for eight years. My gramaa lived longer than expected (without treatment); I think because she wanted to, she willed herself to and she did it. She was realistic about her situation and chose to live the rest of her life as comfortably as she could and to enjoy the small things in life – for her this was some ice cream & pizza here and there, also visits and conversations with family & friends; these things made her happy. My grandmother never existed in a place, she lived, she flourished, she owned it; she had presence.
May you rest in peace gramaa, your fighting spirit is inspirational.