Friday, 28 March 2008
I turned 52 years old today.
I am going to move further out of the dark place and let the candles on my cake light up the room.
I am going to make the choice to have a good day today, all day long.
I am going to remember who I am.
I am going to try to be a little of what I use to be.
I am not going to complain about anything.
I am going to be thankful that I can still physically hear, talk, and touch the people I love.
I am going to thank God that I am still here.
I am going to go out to Pine Ridge Hollow for lunch with Angelique, Nadalene and Josephine.
I am going to have a nice supper with Wahid and Nathan, Angelique and Don, Nadalene and Charlton.
I am going to make a wish with Josephine before we blow out the candles on my cake that is lighting up the room.
I am going to let the memories of the light from the blown-out candles on my cake keep me from the dark place.
I am going to see light in the darkness.
I am going to love to get old.
Today, on my birthday, I am going to have a little adventure.
Wednesday, 26 March 2008
Me and my posse (Shelly’s word), my cancer posse that is, all dread our C.T. scans. We have them every four months and they tell our doctor what is happening inside our body. Specifically we all get the liver, lungs, and other organs checked to see if the cancer has progressed in any way.
The test itself isn’t the demon that we are afraid of, but the results are. The results are the monster under the bed personified. So this is always a very stressful few weeks between the test and the doctor’s appointment.
The results of the C.T. scan will let the doctor know if the treatment we are on is working or if our treatment needs to be changed.
My friend Helen, whom I love and whom is no longer adding her wonderful presence to this earth because her doctor refused repeatedly, even after she begged him to give her a C.T. scan. Don’t get me wrong, I know the scan would not have saved Helen’s life. We have cancer, we are going to die. What it would have done is given the doctor a head’s up as to what was going on in her body and may have bought her more time. His answer to her was “Why go looking for trouble?” Well, Dr. Ostrich (not his real name), like everyone else’s doctors say, the test will let them see what is going on and change treatment so that we can try to keep a step ahead of the cancer. Apparently it is not a good idea to be an ostrich in the medical profession. By the time Helen got her C.T. scan it was done through her family doctor at St. Boniface Hospital and by then it was too late. The cancer had collapsed her lung and was throughout her liver. Jill, Angie, Helen and I hated that bastard.
I had my C.T. scan yesterday. The usual suspects were all there. I couldn’t eat for four hours ahead of the test. I had to sit with my arm in hot water and then they (three nurses all had to try) poked me four times before they got the needle in. This time they got it in somewhere by my elbow. The needle is put in because during the test they will inject a dye that will help them see the images of my body better. I drank two cups of some water mixture with what I think was iron. Then I sat for a few hours.
Computed tomography (C.T.) is an x-ray procedure that produces detailed, cross-sectional images of your body. Instead of taking one picture, like a conventional x-ray, a CT scanner takes many pictures as it rotates around you. A computer then combines these pictures into an image of a slice of your body. This test can help tell if your cancer has spread. After the first set of pictures is taken, you receive an IV injection of a radiocontrast dye that helps better outline structures in your body. A second set of pictures is then taken. You need to lie still on a table, and the part of your body being examined is placed within the scanner, a doughnut-shaped machine that completely surrounds the table. It looks like a big wheel. The IV injection of contrast dye will make you feel flushed and also makes you feel like you have peed your pants.
The technician told me that each C.T. I have had equals to 1,000 chest x-rays. So, at this point, I have had 8,000 chest x-rays in a two year period. Apparently they could cause cancer. Oh, really.
When I was getting the C.T. scan and keeping my eyes closed because it is like a big wheel that spins around you and when I looked up I felt dizzy, I thought of the Eagles song Take It Easy. These were the phrases spinning on my wheels:
Well, I'm running down the road tryin' to loosen my load.
Take It easy, take it easy. Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.
Lighten up while you still can don't even try to understand. Just find a place to make your stand and take it easy.
We may lose and we may win though we will never be here again.
Well I'm running down the road trying to loosen my load, got a world of trouble on my mind.
Take it easy, take it easy don't let the sound of your own wheels make you crazy.
Oh we got it easy. We oughta take it easy.
I told Nadalene that I am driving myself crazy with this and she said just one more thing that helped me. “Mom, the test is not going to give you anything. What you have and what is going on with the cancer is already there. The test is not your enemy it is your friend. It will let your doctor know what her game plan needs to be. You have to let this go, give it to God because there is nothing that you can do about it right now. Whatever it is we can deal with it, you have already dealt with this.”
I need to give my spinning wheels a rest before the sound of them do drive me crazy.
Tuesday, 25 March 2008
Wahid = ‘’. Angelique = italics. Nadalene = bold. Nathan = “”.
When I got up yesterday I took my pills and was going to crawl back into bed. My stomach was sore, my brain was sore, and my spirit was broken.
Nathan was going to school (he is student teaching a Grade 5 class). “What’s wrong Mom?” I’m worried about myself and I keep looking at those spots. “Mom, you will drive yourself crazy if you keep doing that. You can do this Mom. You have done this before. Anyway, you don’t even know if that is cancer, it looks like other freckle spots you have. Bye Mom, I love you.” Bye, have a good day at school.
I knew where I was headed if I went back to bed. I have been giving the monster piggy-backs for a little while now and I know that if I listened to his whisperings of going back to bed that he would screw me the minute I laid down.
I don’t want that to happen because who knows how long the screwfest will go on.
Stay awake, stay awake. I know! I will do Nadalene’s taxes. That should be much more pleasurable than being screwed by you-know-who.
Nadalene phones. Hi Mom, what are you doing? I’m doing your taxes. Oh great. Am I getting anything back? I don’t know, I just started. I am feeling sick to my stomach and am trying to take my mind off of myself. Mom, you will be okay, no matter what. This is nothing new. You can do this.
Angelique comes over with Josephine. Mom, are you okay? No, not really. I know I am feeling sorry for myself, but I just hate this. Well, no kidding. This is like living with a gun constantly being wagged in your face. You keep brushing the gun away and it comes right back in your face. Either shoot me or move the gun. Exactly Angelique, that is what it feels like. It feels like the gun, but add Russian Roulette into the mix. Because you know that if you missed the bullet this time, it will come back to you. Let’s get out of the house Mom. Okay.
In the car, I say that I am so sorry that my children have to live like this. I feel guilty that I have cancer. They can’t have a good day without me saying something. I wish Angelique could just be happy with Josephine and be oblivious to all of this. I am happy with Josephine Mom. This is reality though, you have cancer and we have to deal with it. It doesn’t take anything away from my enjoyment of Josephine. I have to live for today though, I can’t anticipate a day without you here. I have to stay in today.
I wish I didn’t have to say stuff to you guys though. I now understand how people with cancer live under a gag order even if the gag order is self-imposed, because you don’t want to keep hurting your family. Mom, that would be crazy. We need to know this. We can share this, why would we ever want you to carry this alone. This is our life now.
Nadalene phones. Where did you and Angelique go? I tell her. Was it fun? It was okay. We talk back and forth. Are you feeling any better? A little. Mom, seriously you need to start drinking. I laugh. No, Mom you need a glass of wine in the evening. Something to take the edge off. You should start drinking. Yeah, I would, if I liked the stuff. I don’t know how you deal with this everyday so intently. Ha ha ha.
‘Dearest, how are you feeling now?’ I’m okay. ‘Where is the heavenly father?’ He’s on a smoke break.
With his arms holding on to my neck, a little looser than they were in the morning, I adjust the monster on my back and carry him up to bed.
Monday, 24 March 2008
I feel sick to my stomach. I have shivers that are going through to my fingertips and to the bottom of my stomach.
I spotted it when I was out for Easter dinner. It looks like cancer to me. It looks like cancer on my skin, but different from the cancer that was on my skin before. It is on my left side and I only spotted one spot. It is a fair size though.
I was telling Nadalene that I get the C.T. scan on Tuesday and she asked when I see the doctor because she noticed the spot on my chest. The shivers went right through to the bottom of my stomach all over again. As I type, my stomach is in knots. If she noticed it, it can’t be my imagination. It has to be real. I feel sick.
I am so tired of it all. I can never just have a good day, cancer is always there. It has its tentacles wrapped around me so tight. It has to constantly remind me who is boss. It crowds me in. It is circling me, circling me. No wonder I don’t know how to breath.
I don’t know what to do. I will have my C.T. I will see the doctor. But what does this mean? Is it cancer (I’m sure it is). Does that mean the Femara isn’t working for me? Why not? So many people can be on it for years and years. I want this to work for me. Am I going to go there and she tells me it is worse or on more organs.
I hate this.
Does this mean more chemo right away. Is it cancer? Again, I’m sure it is. Nadalene said it looked the same as the one I had before on my back. Of course I’m touching it and I see that there is more than one. There are about five.
I am just going to go lie down.
Life doesn’t feel worth this constant heartache. I am a mess.
It is five hours later. I am still in knots.
When I went to bed Nathan came up and lied in bed with me for about an hour. We talked and he asked what was wrong. I told him how I felt. He really did make me feel better, but then I just dragged myself right back down when he left. I couldn’t sleep, I tried so hard to be unconscious. Maybe I just tried too hard.
I wasn’t able to eat supper, I think I have given myself diarrhea. This is not a game I play often, so I don’t play it very well.
Cancer is such a nightmare.
It is now Monday morning. I wrote the above yesterday and my emotional condition is unchanged. I feel like I did when I was first diagnosed. I feel a sense of hopelessness.
Sunday, 23 March 2008
Love the people your with.
Reach out a hand.
Eat an egg, whether it be chocolate or boiled.
Believe in the promise that those dear ones you have lost, you will see again in the days beyond days.
Have a Happy Easter.
Friday, 21 March 2008
As long as I can remember being aware of Good Friday and the reason for it, it has always been the religious celebration that I like the best. I feel completely broken down on Good Friday and completely built up.
I always liked that we couldn’t eat meat. I always liked the Mass. I was beside myself when Angelique and Nadalene were altar girls and served at the Good Friday Mass. I like that my kids were raised on a diet of the soundtrack from Jesus Christ Superstar. Wahid hated when they would whip Jesus 40 times. One, Two, Three, Four . . . . . . I always like that Wahid could not stand the part where the crowd yells ‘Crucify Him, Crucify Him.’ I would be singing along ‘Crucify Him, Crucify Him’ and Wahid would always say ‘And you call yourself a Catholic.’ I’m laughing now because he seriously just hated that (he went to Presbyterian school and I think he thinks it is mocking God).
I see the defeat, but mostly I see the miracle.
I see the great love with the words “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” I see the defeat in “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” But mostly I see the miracle in the faith of Jesus when he says “Father into thine hands, I commend my spirit.”
My friend Flo was suffering from cancer a few years ago, and is still suffering from the fear of cancer coming back. It was a justified suffering and it still is a justified suffering. At the time I was visiting her and as we were talking Flo said that she gets through all of this by ‘Giving it to God.’ This was said not in a Halleluiah kinda way, which would have left me cold. It was said in an I am at deaths’ door kinda way. I remember thinking that is exactly where you do have to leave it.
I can’t even tell you how many times I say ‘Into thine hands, I commend my spirit.’ Now that I am looking at death instead of pretending it doesn’t exist, what I really like about this phrase the most is that Jesus isn’t saying ‘Into thine hands, I commend my body.’
The body dies, the spirit lives on.
Jesus seven last statements from the cross come from different books of the bible. I don’t know the exact order, nor does anyone. I love them. I love them even more for me and the promise they give me that I will see my family once again.
"Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."
"Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
"Woman, behold your son." “Behold your mother.”
“My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
"It is finished."
"Father into thine hands, I commend my spirit."
Wednesday, 19 March 2008
I am in a very ugly mood. Very ugly.
I was going to write about peace and I thought fuck it. Why should I write about something I know nothing about right now. I was going to give you all the finger and tell you that with the exception of my immediate family, I hate all of you. I seriously do, I hate all of you.
How dare you not have cancer? How dare you be able to live a full life? How dare you have 30 years on me? How dare you? How dare you? How dare you? And the triple-dipple how dare you. How dare you continue to be a mother and a grandmother? How dare your children get to have you and mine won’t get to have me?
I remember before Josephine was born and Jacquie and Colette would say “‘I am so happy for you.’ ‘This is so wonderful.’ ‘You will love being a grandma so much.’” What I remember most about that is how I wanted to slap them in the face.
I remember holding out for a blood transfusion so that I could have it before Josephine was born, so that I would be able to have more energy for Angelique and the baby. Thank God for Nadalene and Don’s Mom because I wasn’t able to help at all.
I remember feeling like such an imposter with that wig sitting on my head. I couldn’t do anything right. I took off her hat to see her head and was told to put it back on right away because she would get cold. I started to talk to her and tell her how beautiful she was and was told not to stimulate her too much. Here Wahid, you hold her.
I also know that if I didn’t have cancer and I didn’t have a wig on my head, and if I didn’t feel like such an imposter that I would have been the first one to say keep her warm, you can’t stimulate her too much because she is a tiny baby, only 5 lbs 6 oz. I would have been secure in my grandma-hood.
Journal Entry – July 14, 2007
Josephine’s birth was a really bittersweet time for me. So happy to have her; so sad that I won’t be here for long to see her grow. I’m angry, bitter, and envious to almost everyone without exception because I won’t get to see Josephine (whom is so precious to me) grow up.
She will never know who I am. For her, I believe I will always be someone else’s recollection. As in – your grandma, etc. etc. Basically I guess I will be an etc.
I’m feeling very sorry for myself. Josephine has brought home to me, my future or lack thereof. I won’t see Nadalene or Nathan or Angelique’s families. Wahid will be a grandpa with no grandma.
Reading this seems like Josephine has brought this on, which is ridiculous. It is that my strong love and desire to be with her has made me realize I don’t have all the time.
Because I have not had a love like this in a long time it kinda breaks my heart. I will enjoy Josephine every second of every minute and every minute of every hour.
---end of journal entry---
Maybe I am just so angry because it is Easter, a special holiday. Maybe I am just tired because I have been carrying the monster-under-the-bed around all week. I want to be around for so long. For pete’s sake, I am the person who always said I wanted to be cloned so I could live forever.
It just came to me that in my faith (Catholic) we are taught that Christ died for us so that we could live forever. So that we could live in the Kingdom of Heaven with God our Father and be with our families forever.
Wahid, Angelique, Nadalene, Nathan, and sweet Josephine – I love you all every second of every minute and every minute of every hour. And, I always will…. In this life and the next and the next and the next.
Tuesday, 18 March 2008
The third and final group I joined is a Metstatic Breast Cancer Group. This group meets every Tuesday from 1:30 to 3:00. There are usually ten people involved in the group at any given time, along with two therapists named Jill and Irene.
They say this is the group that you don’t want to belong to, as you have to be Stage 4. I know I certainly don’t want to belong. However, I couldn’t wait to get on the band wagon as I read in Greg Anderson’s ‘Cancer – 50 Essential Things To Do’ that people who join a support group live twice as long as people who don’t.
During group therapy, we begin to see that we are not alone and that there is hope and help. We also see that it doesn't matter what we do, we are going to die sooner than everyone else. I know that it is horrible to say this, but it is comforting to know that other people have similar difficulties and have been in the same place you are. Some may have already worked through a problem that deeply disturbs another group member. You can share the strategies that worked for you.
At the start of every group we use to do a bit of relaxation/imagery for about ten minutes. That has seemed to fall to the wayside right now. Then either Jill or Irene ask one of us how our week was. I guess the person to be asked first, looks either the most pathetic, worried, had some tests, or for that matter, has the droopiest eyes.
We discuss our week, our worries, cry, laugh, and cry again. When someone talks about their children it is really heartbreaking. When we know someone is getting worse it is heartbreaking. When we hear the words “They won’t give me any more treatment.” “It is now in my liver.” “It is now in my brain.” It is terrifying. It is just the beginning of the end all over again.
Don’t forget that this is a room full of strangers. A room full of strangers who become very intimate friends very fast. You love these people, you care about these people, and you care about these people’s families. These people matter. These people die.
My pain at losing you is overshadowed by my joy of knowing you. Rest in peace sweet friends:
Live in peace sweet friends:
I hate that you have cancer. I hate even more that I have cancer. You are all too lovely to have cancer. I am too lovely to have cancer.
God bless us all, this room full of strangers.
Monday, 17 March 2008
The hounds of hell have nothing on my sister Jacquie for sniffing out prey, sinking her teeth into them, not letting them go, and becoming their friend. My eye needed to be done and as far as Jacquie was concerned it was going to get done.
The poor nurse at the ophthalmologist’s office was about to discover Jacquie’s perfectly nice manner of water torture, which included my mother’s treatment of killing people with kindness. I knew the lady would not have a chance and that Jacquie would wear her down, phone call by phone call by phone call. drop drop drop. (Just an aside: When I went to the office, the nurse and receptionist told me how amazing my sister is. She is incredible. Yeah, yeah, she is.)
End result: in record time I was scheduled for emergency eye cataract surgery.
This is how it played out.
I have been called by the optometrist and been told that the ophthalmologist would be able to see me sometime in May. I tell her I will call the ophthalmologists office myself and see if I could get in sooner. I relay this information to Jacquie.
A few days later Jacquie flies into the house and tells me I am scheduled for emergency surgery on Saturday of the following week. I have to get a pre-op done first (which she has already scheduled) and have it into the ophthalmologist’s office by Monday. I will have an appointment on Friday and they will do the surgery on Saturday. ‘Isn’t this great?’ “Well NO not really.”
At this point I was “For shit sake Jacquie.” This attitude continued for the next week.
Blood tests, E.K.G., chest x-rays done on Friday and pre-op (along with pap and rectal exam for good measure) done on a Sunday afternoon.
Monday morning Jacquie calls to tell me the ophthalmologist office needs to see me at 3:15 that day. “For shit sake Jacquie.”
Go to appointment and doctor tells me that he will be doing my left eye on Friday. “I am sorry good Sir, but it is my right eye.” No, actually it is both of your eyes, you can’t see clearly out of either. Scheduled for laser surgery on Friday as I have a membrane growing over my lens and Cataract surgery on Saturday. “For shit sake Jacquie.”
Now this is where my story switches from “For shit sake Jacquie.” To “For Christ’s sake.”
Friday morning I go into a very crowded office. “For Christ’s sake.”
To my surprise, I am swept right in and get drops put in my eye. Sweet – this shouldn’t take long. Now I am put into a waiting room for over an hour. “For Christ’s sake.”
The room is full of my peers (the elderly). They are all dressed up to the nines. I am in sweats, no bra, and a sleeveless top. I look like a street person and they look like they are in church. “For Christ’s sake.”
One lady smells like powder and starts talking to me, I feel kinda dizzy. I need water, please excuse me. I get water and sit back down. “For Christ’s sake.”
Two ladies across from me are falling asleep (who could sleep in a room like this?). One man will not stop talking. “For Christ’s sake.”
Renee? Renee? I wake up from my sleep and almost fall from my chair.
Laser surgery takes about three minutes and consists of me placing my chin in a little groove, having a person hold my head pressed forward into a strap, and having a bright light shine into my eye. Lickety split. Yahoo.
Need a key to go to the washroom which is located out of the office, past the elevators and down the hall. Can now barely see, as good eye (which was also bad eye) is out of focus. Stumble to the bathroom, place key in hole, and stumble over at least a five inch step. “For Christ’s sake.”
Go to the car and Jacquie is no where to be seen. Stand there for a few minutes and see her strolling out of a coffee shop. I am back to “For shit’s sake Jacquie.”
Cataract surgery is the removal of the lens of the eye that has developed an opacification, which is referred to as a cataract. Following surgical removal of the natural lens, an artificial intraocular lens implant is inserted. The cloudy lens is removed piece by piece through a very small opening in the cornea by sucking the pieces through a thick needle like instrument. A plastic lens is put into the eye to replace the removed lens.
Wahid drops me off at the surgery centre on Vaughn Street. For us old-timers, just beside the old Vaughn Street Detention Centre for bad boys. I pay $300 for a foldable lens (by the way cancer and other ailments will take you to the poor house).
I am brought to a back room where I change and am told to lie down on a gurney. The nurse puts drops in my eyes continuously and asks me questions. Such as, which eye? What kind of bread do I want for my toast, white or brown? Peanut butter or jam? Tea, coffee or juice? (Who knew, we get a light breakfast after the surgery.) I answer her with no problem, as she is used to speaking in a louder volume to this segment of the population. Now she asks me “How much do you weigh?” What? “How much do you weigh?” Oh, okay, I hear her now. HOW MUCH DO I WEIGH? I tell her between 214 and 220, I couldn’t believe she felt she needed to whisper that to me. Like I give a shit about anyone knowing how much I weigh. The anesthetist comes to talk to me and is going to give me a mild sedative through intravenous. I say, no I am fine. I don’t need anything.
He says that I seem quite relaxed and that it is no problem. He wheels me in. As they are prepping me for the surgery, the surgeon yells “She has something in her hand.” Scared the shit out of me. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see that I had a row of bombs wrapped around my waist. “She has a Kleenex. Did she touch her eye?” I guess he couldn’t ask me because I was right beside him with my head practically on his lap. The nurse asks me if I touched my eye and I tell her that NO, I just wiped the other eye (my left one). Okay, don’t touch it, it has to stay sterile.
I get the surgery which takes about 30 minutes. Not bad throughout except at one point I did feel like I was going to faint because I couldn’t breath under the tarp and at another point I wondered if the bright light that people say they see at the end of their days was just a flashback of cataract surgery.
Eye hurt after. Not painful, more like discomfort. Nurse brings me my tea and toast along with two Tylenol. After 10 minutes the nurse asks me if it is still ouchy? I reply in my two-year-old manner that yes, it is still ouchy.
Anyway, that is all now behind me. Jacquie, I owe you. When you are an old lady and need cataract surgery, I hope that I will be here like the hounds of hell to make things happen for you.
Thursday, 13 March 2008
Wander with me if you will....
Flashbacks From the Month of March
March 1, 1998
*Sitting at the table with Angelique, she is doing her thesis for the Honor's program. I am going to type it when she is finished. Charlton is in the living room studying. Nadalene is in the basement studying. Nathan is on the computer playing games and Wahid is making supper. Darlene called me and will pick me up at 7 a.m. for work, we start tomorrow.
March 13, 1998
*Gwen died today, I couldn't believe it, she died of cancer and her funeral is Wednesday. Mom called and she was so upset, I went over right away.
March 18, 1998
*Mom, Jacquie, Ginny and I went to Perkins. Can you believe that we are all over 40 and we had to scrape our pennies together to have enough to pay the bill of $5.88. I had $3.26.
March 17, 2001
*I accept the things I can't change about myself, and am satisfied with those things because I believe that they are beautiful. But for heaven's sake, do or don't do something about the things you want to change, be kind to yourself, but mostly don't harp on it.
March 23, 2003
*Had some really sad news -- Darlene Barnett who I have car-pooled with for the last six years has breast cancer. I pray that everything will work out well for her.
March 21, 2004
*Had a fabulous time with Angelique and Nadalene in Banff. Although I remember feeling like crying a few times when they were both acting as if I didn't know how to act appropriately (i.e., cab, dinner -- basically tipping.)
*Starting to sell social tickets for Angelique and Don's social.
*To me happiness is when your soul smiles. I believe I sometimes -- most of the time -- am living my version of happiness.
*Things I thought would bring me happiness but haven't. People -- almost everyone. You need to open yourself to others and take risks but I never do, so no one can ever reach that 'soul' of me, therefore, leaving a sense of dissatisfaction in family, friend relationships. Possessions -- don't mean anything to me. Events -- marriage, parenting. These both have brought me 'soul smiles' and they have both brought me moments of 'what am I doing this for?' I always had (and sometimes still have) the naive impression that these wouldn't be hard and that I wouldn't need to work on them. I just thought they would fall in place and be wonderful as in "Happy Ever After" and that they would never leave me less than satisfied. Achievements -- Wahid and I have created a wonderful home and family.
*What I know. I believe the false promise of happiness for me is that nothing will bring you happiness; you are the one who brings the happiness with you. You don't get it -- you bring it.
March 5, 2005
*If my fairy godmother granted me one wish regarding love, it would be to have these last 30 years I've had with Wahid all over again. I would want to be young with him all over again, but knowing what I know now. Not caring what (I thought) anyone was thinking and to be conscious of every moment. To achieve this wish is to live the next 30 years with him knowing what I know now -- which is how prescious he is and how prescious we both are together.
How about it fairy godmother -- do you want to make a deal? I'm sure we could work something out.
Tuesday, 11 March 2008
This is a little ditty about Harry and Daisy (also known as my Dad and Mom) and how they made Jacquie and I laugh our fucking heads off yesterday.
I am going to assign each member of this conversation a font: Mom italics, Dad bold, and Jacquie "quotations."
Drop off a prescription, decide to go see Mom and Dad, buzz their apartment to be let in.
Hi Mom, how are you? That fucking buzzer just gave me a shock. I usually put a kleenex on it but I didn't this time. Shit. Mom sits on the couch, turns the volume down on the tv and asks us what is up? We talk about this and that and that and this.
How is Dad feeling Mom? Your poor father, his eye is killing him and it almost looks like he has an infection. He went to the doctor today, did some grocery shopping, and picked us up some fish. He is sleeping now and is sleeping all the time. He is not feeling well at all.
Jacquie goes in the bedroom to see if Dad is awake. I hear them talking. Jacquie comes out and Mom proceeds to tell us a story.
Five minutes later Dad comes stumbling out of the bedroom from a sound sleep. Mom pops off of the couch like a jack-in-the-box and Dad flops on his back with his feet on Mom's pillow. He pulls his eyelids open and Mom starts shaking an
eyedrop bottle of polysporin.
While Mom is shaking the bottle she is still talking. Dad who hasn't
spoken yet, as he is still in a half-sleep makes a hand
motion of come on already get this show on the road.
Christ Harry, what is your problem? Would you just but the goddam eyedrops in? Jacquie is laughing hysterically in a chair. I start laughing and cover up my face with my coat so that they can't see I'm laughing too. I want only Jacquie to get caught.
Daisy, just put the goddam drops in. What is your problem? Do you want to put your own drops in? My thumb has arthritis and I can barely squeeze the bottle. For Christ's sake. "ha ha ha ha." ha ha ha ha.
They finish, Dad sits up. Mom keeps yapping and Dad holds up the kleenex he has in his hand to wipe away the tears from the drops and pretends it is a white flag and says I surrender.
I should bloody-well hope so.
ha ha ha. ha ha ha. "ha ha ha." ha ha ha. ha ha ha.
Monday, 10 March 2008
I discovered the second philosophy of my life when I was 14 years old in a small book shop somewhere in the United States. I get ahead of myself, I first need to share with you my philosophy of life which I learned at my parents knees.
When I was growing up these were the common things I would hear and see put into action:
. You are no better than anyone else.
. No one is better than you.
. Treat others how you want to be treated.
. Judge no one.
As an adult I still hold these to be truths.
My discovery at 14 of Max Ehrmann's Desiderata only reinforced what I already held to be true.
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.
The first philosophy of my life is engraved on my soul. The second
philosophy of my life is on a painting that Angelique bought
me, which hangs in my computer room so I am able to look
at it every day. It too is engraved on my soul.
Thursday, 6 March 2008
As much as I like to bury my head in the sand. I need to see the monster under my bed.
When I was a little girl and I slept in a bed full of other little girls I would sometimes have nightmares. Not very often, however, I did have them. They were ususally filled with the usual suspects: giant spiders, cracks in the sidewalk that would be full of bugs, and the worse one of all was stepping on a crack and breaking my mother's back. No mommy for you bad girl, bad girl. No mommy for you because you broke her back. Looking back, I can now attribute that particular dream to a little girl's game being played on the way to school.
Now my nightmares have taken on a different cast and as well, most of them happen while I am awake. Where once my nightmares were based in fiction, they are now based in reality.
When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I remember thinking 'Okay, I can do this, lots of people have it and there is a good success rate.' I went on the computer right away and saw that inflamatory breast cancer had a 100% mortality rate.
This is where I first met the monster that lives under my bed. I left the computer and went straight to bed. Within seconds the monster had crawled out from under my bed and was lying on top of me. Just as he was getting ready to tear my head off I was saved. Nadalene came into my bed and put her arm around me. As she did so, I felt the monster slinking back under the bed where he belongs.
From that day on I knew I needed to keep my eye on him. So I look at that ugly monster whenever I see it making a move to crawl back into my bed. I look him straight in the eye and we have a conversation. He tells me what I don't want to hear. He even has a mirror that he makes me look into. This conversation usually goes on for a few weeks.
The conversation always happens in the same way and is always proceeded by a very dark sky.
And the most terrifying threat of all is the beast that can't be seen—the hideous Thing lurking hungrily in the quiet shadows beneath my bed. I need to catch his eye, I need to get him to come out and talk to me. He is mad though because I always banish him to that small corner at the foot of my bed. I also never try to feed him.
So I call him, I tell him to come out. Come out, come out wherever you are. I flirt with him and tell him that I want him as a companion. I even tell him that he can come under the covers with me again. I promise him that we will embrace and not let go.
He's fallen for it. I who can't hear anything, can hear the dustbunnies dropping to the floor. I hear the dust mites that he terrorizes every night scurrying away. They are happy he is leaving.
He is here now, I don't need to keep up the farce of liking him. But I find that I do like him. We talk about me and he relates to my pain. We keep talking and he tries to make me feel worse. He is succeeding. This goes on for a few weeks. Finally he says the words I need to hear so that I can banish him back under the bed.
"Its big its scary and it is coming whether you like it or not. You are going to die and no one will remember you. You are going to leave your children."
Well, I'm not leaving them today.
Now you miserable little prick, get back under that bed until I call you. And don't think you can pounce on me out of nowhere. I know where you reside and I'm keeping my eye on you.
Tuesday, 4 March 2008
The four of us first met at the 'Relaxation and Stress Reduction' group held at Cancer Care on McDermott. There was Helen, Angie, Jill and me. There were a few other ladies in the room as well, but really the only other one that mattered to me was Peggy.
The stress group was held once a week and I think it was on a Wednesday. The social worker was Tom and I was attracted to his compassion right away. Sometimes it is so feigned. His really was genuine.
Each session would start with us taking a deep breath in and a deep breath out. We would then all sit solidly in our chairs with our feet on the floor. Close our eyes and breath in and out. Watch your breathing. Next we would listen to Tom telling us to imagine walking through a forest, on a beach, looking at nature, basically anything that would take us out of our reality and place us somewhere that was more comforting and less threatening than what we were all facing.
We would then talk about different situations that stressed us out and what techniques we could use in those situations that would calm us down. But mostly we would talk to each other about how we felt. We all cried alot and we all comforted each other. That is, it seemed that Helen, Angie, Jill, Peggy and I did.
My first impressions of these four ladies:
Helen was a petite lady and she was quiet and strong looking.
Angie was young, was sure of herself and asked lots of questions.
Jill was around my age and her joyfulness just poured out of her.
Peggy was older and looked like a beautiful version of Barbie.
Helen and Peggy have breast cancer. I have inflammatory breast cancer. Angie had colon cancer. Jill had lung cancer (all people with lung cancer DO NOT SMOKE).
I lost my impressions of these ladies after I fell in love with them. All I could see then was them. I loved everything about them and I still do. With the exception of Peggy, they are all dead now and I yearn to see them all once again.
In one of our sessions Tom had another therapist come in. We were crying and all talking about leaving our children behind which broke all our hearts. The therapist piped in 'I understand what it must be like.' Okay, we give her the floor. She proceeds to tell us that 'It is hard when she brings her daughter to daycare and has to leave her there.' Like is she serious. Everytime I saw her after that, I was like what an idiot.
Overall the group was great for me because Helen, Angie, Jill, Peggy and I started meeting at Jill's house every Wednesday. We would meet from 1 pm to 3 pm and we would call it Jill's house. We met for almost two years.
Now I need to take a deep breath in.
Monday, 3 March 2008
I had my pictures taken today. Before you begin to tell me how good I look, these are not my pictures. This bag of bones belongs to someone else.
The reason I have bone scans is to see if there is any progression of my cancer on my bones. I do already have a spot at nodule 9 (ladies, just where our bra strap would lie) on my spine.
The day started with me calling my nurse Lori and telling her my bones kind of ache. My shoulders, my arms, and my knees. Is there a test I can get done besides the bone scan because I would like to see my chiropractor or physiotherapist or for that matter get a massage.
Up to the 3rd floor at St. Boniface to Nuclear Medicine. It is a long aisle past maternity that has skulls and crossbones on every door. Actually it has more politically correct pictures than that, it has warning signs with radiation marked under it. I feel a lot safer now.
I wait 45 minutes for the PICC nurse to come and inject me with radiation. This radiation will light up my bones and in two hours I will be ripe and ready to get my pictures taken. The crystal in the camera picks up the radiation that has attached itself to the bones.
This procedure helps show if a cancer has spread to other bones, and it can find metastases earlier than regular x-rays. Bone scans also can show the extent of damage that the primary cancer has caused in the bone. I believe the radioactive material I received is called technetium diphosphonate. The radioactive substance is attracted to diseased bone cells throughout the entire skeleton. Areas of diseased bone will be seen on the bone scan image as dense, gray to black areas, called "hot spots."
After my injection my bones pick me up and walk me to the main floor where I enter another lovely area of the hospital called Cancer Care Manitoba. Here I am getting a treatment for my bones called pamidronite. It is like a heavy dose of calcium to help keep the bones strong. I get this treatment once a month and it takes about an hour and a half.
My bones come in very handy after pamidronite by walking me back to nuclear medicine. Even my index finger bone on my right hand came in useful by pushing the elevator buttons. I go and surprise, I don't even have to wait, they are ready for me.
I go in the room and lay this bag of bones on a very small table and feel my self rise. My feet are then placed up with an elastic band to hold them together. I then feel myself moving feet first under the machine.
I am now in position and will just have to lie very still for
30 minutes. My face is about three inches from the inside
of the machine. I feel a bit dizzy, but realize that it is
because my eyes are open and they are moving me even closer
to the top of the machine.
I close my eyes, which always helps. This is what I am thinking:
. The Lord is my shepherd.
. I should say the rosary.
. For fuck sake.
. I can't believe Angie isn't here anymore for me to grumble with.
. I'm hungry.
. I can't believe I'm lying here and Colette is probably golfing.
. I can't barely bend, never mind swing a stick of any kind.
. Must be nice.
. Save it, you are being pathetic.
. Why not be pathetic, I'm a loser anyways.
. I count the specks on the ceiling. Stop after 60 when I have only
covered an inch on the first tile.
. How much longer.
. I will get 4 cheeseburgers and a large fry. One burger each for
Angelique and Jacquie.
. This sucks.
. Stop whining.
Your done. Oh right on, thank you. She says good luck. I say 'you too.' I forgot she doesn't need the luck. I do.
I go wait for Angelique and I'm wondering where the fuck she is.
I've been waiting for almost a minute. Angelique picks me up
and I say lets get McDonalds. She doesn't want anything
but orders for me and Jacquie. She orders two cheeseburgers,
one large fry, and one Angus burger. The bill is $12. I almost
have a canniption. $12 for what. How much is that Angus Burger?
She reacts the best way when I am like this. She ignores me.
I am very sour and angry. I see my little Josephine, she is so
excited to see me. I am suddenly happy. Angelique shows me
how she kisses now if you ask for a kiss. I am over the moon.
Jacquie drops me home and I can't get here fast enough.
I am in a pissed off mood.
This bag of shit needs her bag of bones to be okay.