Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Stomach cancer with Papa Greek (some moments from the last few weeks)

The tumours in Papa Greek's stomach have caused a huge amount of fluid retention.  At first, before it was getting drained out regularly, he looked like a malnourished child, or Victoria Beckham.

“He look pregnant,” Mama Greek agreed, then went into a detailed description of her own pregnancy with Tony, 41 and a half years ago, which she’s related to me at least fifty times before. 

“The doctor tell me what day he come,” she concluded, “but he come 10 days early.”  

Which, if you know Tony, is not surprising at all.


We called the CLSC so they would send a nurse to Mama and Papa Greek’s house to do an assessment.  They called back while he was asleep, and Mama Greek couldn’t take a message, because her English isn’t good enough.  That's when Tony and I realized: we needed to get them an answering machine. 

I called Bell, who said they could install voicemail at my in-laws place, as long as they got verbal permission from Mama or Papa Greek.  Tony explained this to Mama Greek, who flew off the handle.
“We’re tired,” she said.  “Leave us alone.  Your father’s sick.  Don’t you know that?”

They don't agree on much, but Papa Greek said later that he, too, was against the idea.

“I like it when people call,” he said, “but I don’t want to have to call them back.  And what about the people from Greece?  They’re not going to understand.” 


I am really squeamish around anything to do with barf, but I like my mother-in-law’s term for it.

“Throw out,” she says, as in, “This morning, Papa Greek threw out.” 

I find it easier to take.  As if he's just getting rid of stuff he doesn’t need. 


The CLSC nurse came to do the assessment: 2 hours of questions and instructions.  After she left, I reminded Papa Greek of something the doctor had said: that he wasn’t supposed to mix liquids and solids, because it was more difficult to digest, and might make him sick.

“Like soup,” I said.  “Just have the broth, then have the vegetables and the noodles later.”

“Really?” Papa Greek asked.

“Yes,” I said.  “Like the doctor told you.”

“I don’t remember that,” he said, then translated to Mama Greek, who nodded.

“I give him this,” she told me, and pulled a bowl out of the fridge, which contained soup - with noodles in it.

“No,” I said.  “He can’t have the noodles.  Just the soup.  Otherwise, he will throw out.”

“But he likes it,” she said, looking hurt.

“I know,” I said, “but the doctor said 'no.'” I indicated with my hands so she understands.  “No water mixed with food.”

“But he never get sick from this,” Mama Greek pointed out.

“Okay,” I said, “but he might.”

“But he eat this,” she informed me, puts it back in the fridge, and walks away, the matter clearly settled.


  1. They sound like quite the remarkable couple. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  2. sounds really like a hard time...intersting cultural insight though...wish you all strength

  3. Thanks for sharing. Amazing how you manage to dig out the fun angles, despite dealing with such difficult matters. You guys Are amazing!! Wishing you all the best.