Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Coconut Bra

Just weeks before my mom, Blind Betsy, was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2002, a work friend, Tim, went to Hawaii on vacation and brought me back the best vacation present. Of. All. Time.

He brought me a coconut bra.

This had nothing to do with any kind of fixation he had on my breasts (which I assume there was none) and, instead, was namely because, when he asked me what I wanted from Hawaii I said, "You know, I'd really like a coconut bra."

I was tickled pink when he handed it over - but not in a Susan G. Komen Foundation sort of way...then.

Soon after, the call came. Cancer. Breast cancer. Lumpectomy. Radiation. Blessedly, no mastectomy and no chemo. Still...breast cancer. Ouch. Terror.

Even though it was the worst possible time of year for me to take time off from my job, my boss - herself a breast cancer survivor - said, "Go."

And I did. For a week. About 3 weeks into the 10-week course of radiation.

Prior to my stay with my mom, I talked to her on the phone one night and asked her, "How are you doing?"

The one thing I remember her saying was, "You know, I'm doing OK but I feel really really protective of myself...of my breasts. I don't want anyone to touch me and all anyone wants to do is give me a hug. I wish I had a set of armor so no one could touch me."

I had no armor. I couldn't afford any armor. But I did have something that might suffice as armor for a woman I'd give anything to help...

A coconut bra.

So...armed with a sense of humor, a coconut bra, and fear of my mother's mortality, I arrived at her doorstep and presented her with the "authentic" Hawaiian vacation gift. Hell, it's not like it would have fit me anyway.

She laughed.

Long and loud.

It was the best medicine I could have presented her.

In my defense, in her defense, this is the same woman who, when nearly killed when she was side-swiped by a dump truck in 1985, thought it hysterical when a dear friend had flowers delivered to her...flowers arranged in a Tonka Toy dump truck.

We are sick, sick people, y'all.


The gift of a useless coconut bra and an invaluable laugh were enough to make her feel good - if only for a moment. It helped her to laugh when she didn't know what she needed. It helped me to hear her laugh when I didn't know how to help. It was only for a moment but it was something in a sea of nothing good.

I tell you this because...

A dear friend of ours - my mom's and mine - is in the hospital currently. She has been there for more than a week. It's cancer. It's scary.

I talked to my mom about it tonight. She's beside herself in wanting to help and not knowing just how she can. When she said she didn't know what to do, I didn't know what to tell her.

After we hung up, I remembered the coconut bra.

And so I say...

Mommy? Keep an eye out for your opportunity. It may not be a coconut bra. It may not be a laugh. But you won't have to physically see the opportunity to know it when it presents itself. You only have to keep yourself open to however the opportunity manifests itself. Remember. You're open to possibility (isn't that what you said to me just tonight?). She (they) aren't going to know to ask for it but they will be grateful when you trip over it and then offer it - no matter what it is - in all its glory.

The littlest things mean a lot. Remember.

Much love, peace, health and happiness to you all.

But for the grace of...go I.


Anonymous said...

You really are a wonderful and wise woman, Jane. You're right--in being there and being truly open and available, your mom will provide her friend with what she needs.

And from here, in my little space far away, I'll offer prayers for the ones who need them. For health, healing, strength, and peace.

Just Jane said...

Bless you, Beth. For so many many things.

cdnkaro said...

Laughter can be a wonderful tonic, but having people by your side during a difficult time, even if they are just there to be in the same room and do nothing else but make you feel less alone and more normal, is truly amazing.

I agree with Beth about your wisdom, and it seems that your Mom shares this trait. Anyone who can laugh at the Tonka Truck flowers is on the right track.

Will definitely be keeping your friends in our prayers and sending all of the feel-good vibes I can from up here.

Nothing strikes fear into my heart like the big C.

Bon said...

You're such a good person, Jane. You say "we're sick people" - to which I say, "but only in the most magical of ways!"

You guys will be on my mind and in my heart.


Unknown said...

Loved this post! Recognizing those moments when we can offer something, anything, to the one who is hurting... priceless.
Beautifully written, Jane.

alienbody said...

My friend Karen was given a scarf that someone had made to bring comfort to anyone in need. In Karen's case it was breast cancer treatment. The scarf is meant to travel, passed along from friend-to family-to stranger...whomever was in need - it brought some beauty and comfort. I can see your coconut bra working its magic with humor. My thoughts and well wishes are with your friend. I send hugs from CA!

TangledLou said...

This is just so wonderful and beautiful and wise. My prayers are with your mom's friend. And with your mom, that she may find that thing that helps.

Laine Griffin said...

What a nice story, Jane. Bittersweet, I think.
Your mother raised a wonderful daughter, so I'm sure she will embrace your wisdom and find what she is looking for to help her friend.

Masked Mom said...

Timing is so funny. I just read a passage in a Tom Robbins book last night about "gallows humor." He said Freud said it was indicative of "a greatness of soul." And he went on to say: "The man who jokes in the executioner's face can be destroyed but never defeated." So revel in your "sick, sick" minds.

Love your advice to your mom--it's good advice for us all.

Masked Mom said...

PS--I wasn't going to share this for fear of it being misunderstood, but I can't seem to help myself. When it became clear that my mother was going to lose her right breast to cancer, my father said (RIGHT IN THE SURGEON'S OFFICE), "That's okay, I always liked the left one better anyway." My mom loved it! So I guess I'm just sayin' I come from some pretty "sick" people as well ;)

Julie DeMille said...

I think humor makes us feel normal. And alive.
After my mom's bout with breast cancer, we found out that my dad has names for her breasts. Info that at another time would've been sort of gross. Now, it's a joke that Lana is smaller than Marilyn.
(Masked Mom- I love that bit about your dad!)