We arrived at Jessie’s home, where she lives with Mom. As we entered the front gates into the spartan living room, I noticed that the altar took pride of place facing the main gates and there were only a few stools that lined the wall of the living room. There was a small dining table, on which was a bunch of bananas, a few jugs of water and some biscuits.
Jessie, a single 38 year-old, is suffering from Endometrial Cancer, a result of abnormal growth of cells in the lining of the uterus. The first sign is most often vaginal bleeding not associated with a menstrual period. Cognitively, Jessie was considered to be a “simple-minded” person. In addition, she suffers from Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), a type of vascular disease, which has caused her left foot to become gangrenous. Severe PAD can lead to foot or leg amputation.
Mom led us to Jessie’s room. A single and a double bed were placed side-by-side in the room. The mattresses on the bed were wrapped in vinyl casing with no bedsheets. Strewn on the beds were paraphernalia of things. There were recipe books, magazines, bags of medicines, clothes, stationery, snacks and sanitary napkins. Jessie was sitting at the edge of her double bed, on just about the only available space left on her bed. Her abdomen was distended, making her look like she was in her third trimester. Bandaged at the ankle, one could see that her left foot and toes were all blackened.
Our nurse asked Jessie several questions. Jessie’s answers were always single worded or in short sentences. When we asked to examine her, she leaned back and flopped on her bed on top of all the items strewn on her bed.
“Did you pass motion?” “Yes.” “What colour was your motion?” “Black.” “Can we do an anal examination for you?” “How?” and crooked her finger, as if our nurse would probe with her finger. Jessie had confided to our nurse that she would like to have babies, not understanding why she could not. Our nurse had tried explaining and Jessie only nodded. She was also previously asked if she wanted to amputate her left foot. She had thought about it long and hard and finally informed our nurse that she would not. She would rather hop to toilet, as she could no longer use her left foot. We discussed the issue again. Although Jessie and Mom knew the prognosis, Mom’s argument was “She’s so young, long road ahead of her. Without her foot, how is she going to walk?” I felt sad and rather conflicted that she did not consider that Jessie already could not walk with both feet. Jessie’s argument was “I want to be whole. Without my left foot, I would not look pretty!” Another tinge of sadness hit me.
After hearing both Jessie and Mom, I realised that they both have low average intelligence and yet they were at peace with themselves. Mother and daughter teased each other, giggling to themselves every now and then. They seemed happy and satisfied. They did not think too far ahead nor too deeply. They lived for each other. Life is not complicated for them.
Jessie is now trying to learn how to crotchet a blue shawl for Mom, blue being Jessie’s favourite colour. Their love for each other is overflowing. I know that Mom will miss Jessie a lot.