Angela's story: Chemo parties
You're Invited to a Chemo Party
When: Every other Saturday - two days after mom's latest treatment.
Where: Mom's house
Why: Because we need you
But there's a catch. A big one. Mom isn't cooking this time.
"Where's the can opener for the tomatoes?" I called from the kitchen.
Mom laid on a chaise lounge in the living room. Her head peeked out from under a blanket. Pillows piled up around her. A pink turban covered her head. She was halfway through eight rounds of chemo. Mom was battling stage II breast cancer.
But not alone.
I made sure of it.
"The drawer to the left of the stove," she called, looking at me through a big window that opened from the kitchen to the living room of her one-bedroom townhouse.
I glanced at the clock. Our guests would arrive in about an hour.
I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
I got this.
You must understand, mom spent her life in the kitchen of her family's restaurant. And when she's not cooking there, she's hosting dinners at home.
This is mom's turf.
"Put some olive oil in the pan and add the chopped garlic," mom directed from her chair.
"How much oil?" I called back.
"Cover the bottom of the pan. You'll just know."
No, I don't just know. But sure.
"I have fresh basil in the freezer, " mom directed. "It's on the right side. Behind the containers of lentil soup. You see it?"
I pushed around containers of sauce, stews and vegetables.
Damn, she's good.
The roasting garlic filled the kitchen with a familiar smell.
The oil popped in the pan.
"Put the tomatoes in before the garlic burns," mom warned.
How did she know that?
I set the table for four guests.
Mom's sister, my best friend, mom's best friend and mom's niece.
I set a plate at the head of the table.
She couldn't eat pasta with sauce, fried meatballs, buttery garlic bread and salad like the rest of us.
She'd have pasta with butter.
And go back to her chair.
"Where's your big serving bowl for the pasta?" I asked, straining the pasta over the sink.
The doorbell rang.
Mom propped herself up and adjusted her turban.
"We're back," my best friend sang out. She never missed our chemo parties.
Mom's face lit up.
"No kisses. No germs," mom waved and smiled. "But I love you for coming."
One guest brought wine.
One brought a new lotion for mom to try on her dry skin.
Everyone brought a smile - the only gift required.
Once again, mom's table was full.
And laughed. And laughed.
The best medicine.