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  • Writer's pictureSandra Lefever

The Funny, the Bad, and the Good


My husband went to Ollie’s recently. (For the unaware, Ollie’s is a bargain basement discount chain type of place. They buy big lots of discontinued and excess merch. The pickings can be SO random, and that’s half the fun of going!) He returns while I’m cooking dinner. He’s ALL excited, pulling this black garment out of a shopping bag, holding it up for me to see before hanging it on a curtain rod. “LOOK! They were selling judges’ robes!”

Do you have questions yet? In hindsight, I sure should have at this point, but I was a little distracted. I ask if it was something leftover from Halloween. I mean, this was in the middle of January, but I did say Ollie’s was random. He had no idea why they had it.

After dinner, he examines it a little more, and questions why it doesn’t have an opening all the way down the front, as you would expect with a robe. It attaches by buttons halfway up. That’s not very robe-like on inspection, so he starts considering alterations. He tries it on and it’s HUGE. It reminds me of pictures of shopkeeping men wearing thobes in Arabic open air markets. He’s all proud of himself, marching around the house doing squats and high kicks, yelling “I totally feel like I’m wearing a dashiki, this is great!”

THEN he’s like, “I don’t know why it came with a belt, do you want it?”

So… the belt was what I needed to stop and really investigate this. I check the tag. He bought a size 26W plus size women’s shirt dress. In better light, I could see that it had bust darts, a pleated waist, and inseam pockets. If it were proportional to the person wearing it, the sleeves should have been elbow or ¾ length. They were wrist length on him. It was just too large. He’s not a big man. He wears small sizes for most things.

I told him he bought a woman’s dress. He completely went into denial: “Who would buy a dress this ugly?”

He kind of answers his own question there. He did. He bought the dress.

I laugh so hard, I sit down for a few minutes.

Then I start asking the questions. “Why would you think this was a judge’s robe, of all things?”

“I don’t know. I even said something to the cashier about it.”

“What did you say?”

“I said, ‘I don’t know why you have this, and I don’t know why I’m buying it.’”

“And what did they say?”

“She said, ‘Are you talking to me?’’’


The holiday season is really difficult for me, ever since I lost my parents but especially my mom, because we were really close. No one makes you feel as special as your mom does, if you had the kind of relationship I did with mine. You would think ten or fifteen years after that loss, these feelings would ease up a lot more than they have. I was preparing for the holidays to be the regular trial I have to get through every year but with the additional isolation of not being at my close family gatherings during this pandemic. This year, I got another whammy; In mid-December, I started the difficult personal journey of medical appointments and testing to find out if I had thyroid cancer.

Let me tell you how having a biopsy is absolutely not on my list of favorite things to do again. Ever. It’s been a month and I still have bruises on my throat from it.

We don’t know much of anything about my mom’s side of the family. We don’t know if they’re even still alive. She was born in the north of Korea before the demarcation and was separated from them all in one way or another. My older brother had thyroid cancer last year, and it seems rational to think the predisposition is from her side of the family. He was just at the end of recovering from his surgery when my doctor told me my thyroid was “lumpy” and sent me for an ultrasound, which happened a couple of days after Christmas. I had it. I waited for the results. Around New Years, I was told they found a nodule large enough to require a biopsy. I scheduled it. I had it a little before what would have been my mom’s birthday and what is my wedding anniversary. And then... I waited some more.

Not knowing really does a number on your mental state. As my brother said, “Of all the cancers, that’s the one you want. It’s manageable.” And although that’s true, it’s still scary to hear “cancer.” It dredged up a lot of memories and terrors and feelings I had from years ago, watching my parents suffer from different cancers. It’s a pretty dark place to go.

I have been fairly private about this since it started, only telling a handful of friends and family. I’m really grateful for these people. They checked in on me, kept me company, and were just as anxious to find out as I was. The amount of concern they showed me was really comforting, and I’m really thankful to have them in my life. They made what could have been a really awful few months a lot better. It wasn’t quite the comfort of having my mom around, but it definitely helped and kept the feelings of isolation and terror from spiraling out of control.


I just found out this week.

I don’t have cancer.


I can handle a goiter. I like scarves.

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