22 July 2015, evening time
I should warn you esp if you haven’t seen me in months that I have lost quite a lot of weight and look rather alarming even to my own eyes – also I’ve given up on the scarf and look like an emaciated Friar Tuck hairwise.
It was a shock to see her. People would visit the hospital and struggle to save their tears till after they had left her room. This was the last email from my cousin, Usha.
A week or so later, in between a series of emails about going out for drinks at Supermarket and a discussion with Shima about her day is an email from Usha’s brother, my cousin Mahi, letting me know about his sister’s health:
Usha will be moving to the Princess Margaret Hospital palliative care hospice today at around 1:30. This was her idea, and we don’t know how long she will be staying there. She can return to her apartment whenever she wants.
Two months prior Usha had written to say she had stopped chemo. I knew what that meant and yet this message felt like it came so quickly.
She can return to her apartment whenever she wants. Could she? I’m sure my cousin knew the answer there. His words reflect a defensiveness with how we are forced to talk about cancer. A person loses their fight with cancer. In this battle what is palliative care but a decision to give up?
But there is nothing to give up. There is no fight, no battle. You have cancer and it will destroy your body or it won’t, but that has nothing to do with what you do whatsoever.
I hate the Run for the Cure. I hate pink ribbons. I hate breast cancer.
One day later:
Usha is extremely weak and not completely lucid, so I was planning on sending an email out asking people not to come by because she needs to save her energy.
But she woke up a little while ago and said that she didn’t know how she would be feeling tomorrow, so it would be great “if people popped their heads in today just to say a brief hello”. She insisted that I make the request.
I would visit each day, watching her body fall apart. People had a week to say hello. When it’s not killing you slowly cancer will cut you down so quickly.
Next year I will be older than my oldest cousin. That’d be 11 years from the day she died, but who talks about the 11th anniversary of anything?
Ten years can pass so fast it’ll break your heart.
Usha was the smartest person I knew. Or, at the very least, she had good PR in this department. There was no aunt or uncle, distant or close, who wouldn’t speak highly of her. She was well read & well traveled. Was there a more cultured brown girl in all of Scarborough? She worked tirelessly to get my brothers and I to do anything other than play video games and watch TV. And she never got to see her success.
Usha is my oldest cousin. The very best us all. Now and forever.