“Are you sure she needs this surgery?” my brother asked my surgeon minutes before the doctor entered the operating room. My brother was suspicious of Western medicine’s harsh approaches to treating cancer.
“If she doesn’t have this surgery, she’ll be dead in three months,” the surgeon said sternly, put out that my brother would even question his authority.
I would learn of this conversation several days after my operation to remove an angiosarcoma on my right breast. The angiosarcoma had resulted from radiation treatment I’d had to eliminate another breast cancer four years before.
Two bouts of cancer in less than five years. And besides having a physical disease, I also had a mental illness. I was bipolar. I was a victim of the universe’s double whammy. I was a mess.
My husband told me about my brother’s question and the surgeon’s answer after my anesthesia was beginning to wear off, again, about a week later. Their discussion sent shivers down my spine.
I had no idea I’d been so close to death.
This kind of situation demanded immediate action. I needed something to take my mind off of my mortality, to titillate me, to feed my immediate desires.
I needed to go shopping.
Unable to drive, I had my mother take me to the nearest mall. I found myself in Dillard’s housewares section. I was looking for something that would obliterate my near-death situation from my troubled mind.
I studied the cookware, the kitchen rugs, silverware. Nothing seemed right. I considered bathroom items — wastebaskets, towels, soap holders. Then, back to the kitchenware. And then, I saw it. There was the perfect item for my current physical and mental state. It was a Kate Spade potholder set. The little square, bright pink potholder read “EAT CAKE FOR BREAKFAST.” This was just what I needed to get back into the swing of living. Attached to the square were an oven mitt and a thick dishtowel with pastries on it.
But the set was $38.00. That seemed a bit pricey for potholders. I left the store empty handed. That night I chided myself for being so cheap.
The next day, I realized that I needed, truly needed the potholder with the plucky message “EAT CAKE FOR BREAKFAST.” I had my mom drive me back to the mall where I charged the beautiful set with my Dillard’s charge card.
That was the only Kate Spade item I’d ever purchased. The set was just what I desired to show the world that I was still alive and well. It was colorful; it was beautiful, and it was a bit irreverent.
The pot holder set was also useful in many ways. It kept my hands from getting burned, but it also said to world, “Cancer didn’t get the best of me.”
Kate Spade had been there for me when I was not feeling my best.
Just days ago, Kate Spade took her own life. We are all disturbed by Kate’s sudden departure from this world. We wonder, how could someone so beautiful, so successful, so seemingly happy have committed suicide?
If I could have been there for her in her time of need, this is what I would have said: “You are not alone. You are important. You must find the will to go on. The world needs you. This too will pass.”
Kate was 55 and, according to her sister, bipolar when she died.
I too am 55. And I too am bipolar.
It’s a tragedy.
Even though I never met Kate, she touched my life at a time when I needed it most. Her message was simple — have fun, enjoy life, live colorfully.
The next time I feel that I don’t have the will to go on, I’ll think of Kate.
My potholder set is showing some wear. I think I’ll buy another one. You can’t have too many potholders with this life-affirming message.
It’s times like this that we feel the tiny, tenuous connection we have to everyone on this planet. We are truly not alone.
We should remember this today and every day.
And we should all eat cake for breakfast.
Rest in peace, Kate.