Saturday, April 14, 2007

She had pretty pink toes

I walked into the room and looked closely at her perfectly shaven leg. I glanced down at her foot and noticed how she painted her toenails the nicest shade of pink. It was a soft, pastel pink with a bit of shimmer. I thought about how nice the color was and how good it would look on my own nails.

I met her the day before.

A trail of blood led the way from the basement elevator to the morgue. I hadn't noticed it until my newest friend was put in the cooler. I had nothing to clean the mess and called housekeeping to take care of it. I went back upstairs and enjoyed my roast beef sandwhich. The day went on and i tried to put her out of my mind.

After our weekly staff meeting the next day, I walked into another room and we met again. Sitting on the table was a monstrous leg. An entire leg. It looked so different not wrapped up. Since dealing with people's body parts I have become somewhat desensitized, but this one hit me hard. She was diagnosed with chondrosarcoma. It was quick and it was aggressive. Just weeks earlier we received a biopsy and cancer was confirmed. It has spread so quickly that her leg had to be amputated from the hip down.

I noticed the blood pooling on the underside of her leg. Shen, our pathologist assistant, began his examination. He took random sections of skin, fat, and muscle from the leg. He took out the saw and began cutting away at her bone. It was almost too much to take. I walked out of the room, sat at my microtome, and began to finish my work. It was hard to concentrate with the sawing going on next door, but soon it was over.

I imagined the 60 year old woman and how she must have felt the night before. She so carefully and painstakingly shaved her leg. It was perfect. I bet she even put nice lotion on too. She painted her toenails and said goodbye to her leg for the last, and probably the first, time ever.

When you lose a limb or your sense of mobility early on you can adapt much easier. Of course, even that is difficult too. Can anyone tell me how a person who had two legs for over sixty years adjust to life with one leg. How will such a huge wound heal? She will not even be able to wear a prosthesis. How will she cope? How will she handle it?

I really thought about this woman a lot last night, and it made me reflect on my own life. The truth is that sometimes, many times, we are dealt some type of hardship. People are living a series of tests and trials. We handle it because we have no other choice. The only choice we have is to remain positive in times of adversity and not let it get us down.

I never got to see her face, but she did impact my life. I'm going to start doing more things to make the best of what I have before it's gone, and I know just where to start: paint my nails and shave my legs and hope I never have to say goodbye.


Blogger Organic-Muslimah said...

Yikes. I have been thinking of this story ever since you told me on the phone.

Love the way you ended the post.

5:51 AM  
Blogger sara said...


I wonder what would I do.. This is beyond imagination..

Thanks for sharing this story.. I'm sure it won't get off my head for a while now..

Love you & your son fillah sis :)

7:48 PM  

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