Last Tuesday was World Cancer Day. On that day, five hundred Canadians were diagnosed with cancer. That’s the daily average for Canada. Cancer always seemed like some distant far away place, or like the cliché goes, cancer was something that happened to other people. And that’s true, until the day that it’s not. For my mom, that day came last summer. After a swim in my parent’s backyard pool, my little pipsqueek and I took a nice hot shower to warm up. “Did you notice the new shower head?” my mother asked.
“Well you know how strong the water pressure was with the old one? The new one is adjustable.”
“I like the strong water pressure.”
“Oh, me too,” my mom assured me. “It’s just that the water pressure was so strong that it pushed my nipple inwards.”
“Um, no mom. That’s a symptom of breast cancer.”
She went to the doctor’s the very next day and the doctor seemed pretty sure it was cancer. I was upset. I went for a bike ride up the mountain and cried all the way up and all the way down. Later I was annoyed with the doctor. You can’t tell someone you’re pretty sure they have cancer, with just a visual exam, can you? An inverted nipple can be a symptom of other things too, not just cancer. Some people are born with inverted nipples….The doctor was right though. Breast cancer it was. My mother was embarrassed. She felt stupid. “How could I not know it was a symptom?” she lamented. A lot of people don’t know that it’s a symptom. The only reason I knew it was a symptom, was because I was trying to help someone who had been diagnosed a few months earlier. I was searching the web for ideas on how to be helpful, and I came across a page of symptoms. I don’t really know why I stopped and read it. I thought I knew the symptoms. Turns out I didn’t.
My kids are very close to my parents. I was worried about how this journey would affect them. My mom had a mastectomy in late August. My daughter dealt with that very well. To her it was something interesting and not something disturbing. What she was having trouble with, was the fact that my mother was going to lose her hair. That made her cry. A lot. To help her through the process I suggested she make a hat for her “mamie” as a school project. You can click on the link to see what she did in french (Un chapeau)or read the english version below.
To make the beanie, Anaïs used McCall’s pattern 4116 (model E). Personally I don’t like the braid on the original model and was thinking of ways to spruce up the hat. I finally decided to add pintucks a little off-center, to give some texture to the hat and also to make it smaller, as it was too big for my mom. I wanted to make a top to coordinate with the hat and chose McCall’s 6752. I chose that particular pattern for different reasons:
- I already owned it!
- I liked the draping in front. The volume it creates at the bust can camouflage the mastectomy if you’re not wearing undergarments.
- I wanted short roomy sleeves so that her PICC line for chemotherapy would be easily accessible.