Sunday, 14 January 2018

The Cancer Diaries: The Secret Lives of Levetts







On Friday, Scott finished up moving Jennette from her perch at the Hunt Club Manor.

That move took us roughly 10 hours, and was a lot easier than the last two times we moved her.

The first move was the most challenging. You see, she might have been all of 4 foot 9, but she lived like four people: her mother, who was a keen collector of jewelry and Royal Doulton; her father who was a spirited collector of paper and coins; Roger who was a curator of all things Blue and Jay; and Jennette herself who liked to keep bills, photos and newspapers until they literally disintegrated.

The first move came in 2014, after Roger died. Don't get me wrong, the place was well organized, with small paths that took the couple to the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. Everything was covered by a inch of ash, including the birdcage which had sat in the middle of the living room over the two years since the Cockatiel Digger died.

The aftermath of Digger's death by second hand smoke at the age of 30 was horrific, and landed Jennette in the hospital. She had dropped something, maybe the cage, on her left foot and broke five bones on the top of her foot. She said she had swooned in the bathroom, but that explanation wouldn't have gotten her past the evidence -- a swollen top of her foot, all black and blue. However it happened, the surgeon said it was the worst break he had ever had to repair.

That same surgeon put Humpty Dumpty back together again three times, first when Jennette fell and broke her hip, then her femur, after an heroic rescue by Roger, who had been passed out in the bedroom for six hours. Instead of calling the ambulance, or the super, Roger called Telehealth who sent the ambulance. The hip break was on Jennette, but the femur was broken by Roger who tried to awkwardly pick Jennette up and lay her on the couch, then dropped her.

Roger died in bed, and the place was so bad the cops wouldn't even go in. It was left to the funeral directors to bag him, and squeeze him along the tiny path, out into the fresh air.

There was no question that Jennette needed help, and so I hooked her up with Moving Forward Matters, a company that specializes in hoarding solutions. It took three strong women with kind hearts to pry loose many of  the momentos of Jennette's life. Finally, and successfully, we managed to also pry her out of that dump and into a clean and bright apartment on Kilborn Avenue where she began a clutter free existence. She wasn't bad in this apartment, that was until her Dad died, and then the whole mess started over again.

She literally replicated her father's house in her little place. Seriously, I'm sure anyone who knew her Dad would have thought they had walked into an Amberwood Village time warp.



When J got sick, and we convinced her to move to a retirement home, it was up to me to clean out her place, and I took on the assignment with verve. The place didn't seem nearly as bad as her first abode -- that was until you entered the bedroom where she kept boxes of memorabilia from dear old Mum, and even some of Rogers clothes and baseball crap. There were at least five unopened bags of clothing and two suitcases filled to the brim.

In the closet, I found 20 odd pots of expensive skin cream, 12 unopened palates of eye shadow, all in the same shade and bags and bags of pee pads. There were flashlights everywhere.

The kitchen held a treasure trove of appliances from the 70s, all in avocado and that orange beige that dominated during the M*A*S*H* years as well as new appliances, and enough -- get this -- cleaning products to scour the entire apartment building. Down below, in the locker, were Roger's golf bags, his old magazine clippings from the very few years he was actually committing journalism, and three pairs of women's golf shoes, size 5. (To my knowledge, Jennette hadn't picked up a golf club in 30 years.)

Midway through this horror show, I knew I needed to bring in reinforcements, and Geraldine at the Hunt Club Manor offered to help pay part of the move. She offered up Darling Solutions, who sent out a crew of kindly ladies to gingerly and lovingly pack up J's place and restore Dad's home like a museum in a one bedroom suite -- minus all the crap.



Jennette had been extremely agitated waiting for her stuff to arrive, but her anxiety quickly disappeared when Dad's living room came to life, complete with his cherished oils and water colours.

The final move,after her death, was by no means a picnic. She still had a boatload of useless stuff. You see, every few days the Manor takes the seniors shopping, and Jennette started to expand her inventory of cleaning products, flashlights, Kleenex, and tweezers. She even bought a new iPad even though she had a perfectly good one in working order.

I must admit, I was an accomplice at times, because what can you get the senior who has everything...cancer, osteoporosis, thrush, a body full of metal and the inability to eat solid food?

You get her anything she wants, is what.

Now that the move is complete, my own house looks like a mini version of dear old dad, and mom.

Yesterday, I took mom's jewelry to the pawn shop, traded it in, and bought myself one nice ring to remember Jennette by.

One nice ring.




For the past three years, I have supported my friend, Jennette, who recently died from Stage 4 oral cancer. I agreed to help her on her journey. In exchanged, she agreed to let me document it, warts and all.


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