Tuesday, September 21, 2010


by Michael

September 7, 2010. The first day of grade one for Naomi. First day of grade five for Owen. The day Kate and I visited the cancer clinic at Mount Sinai.

The appointment was for 1:15 p.m., so we dropped the kids at school in the morning. Owen was cool. He didn't want the adults hanging around. Unusual for him. He wanted his space, wanted to hang with his peeps. Naomi greeted everyone with a hug and a laugh. Her backpack was three sizes too big for her, nearly dragging on the ground behind her, but she was ready for homework and whatever a full day of school would throw at her.

The schoolyard emptied and Kate and I wandered down to Queen Street for breakfast.

"Want to go to a greasy spoon?" she said.

Bacon, eggs, coffee, toast, orange juice followed.

"How are you today?" the waitress asked.

We said, "Okay." Neutral. Unsure. How were we? We didn't know.

What do you think when you might have cancer? What do you feel when your spouse says, "The doctor said to get an appointment at the clinic urgently"?


But you try to be calm.You don't know anything yet. You don't know anything for sure.

Cancer. Isn't that just another word for death?

Life is what happens to you, John Lennon sang, when you're busy making other plans.

Ah, we continued to wander. Down to Lake Ontario. To a bench beside the beach. We'd brought books, but I wasn't able to read. I looked up and saw butterflies.

One butterfly, then another, then another. All Monarchs. Following one after the other.

Dozens of them.

What was it if not beautiful? I'd never seen anything like it.

They flew west across the beach on their way to Mexico.

Later that day, Kate had a mamogram, an ultrasound, and a biopsy, and the doctors all but confirmed that she had cancer.

But life was still good. It was still grand.

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