Saturday, May 28, 2011

in translation

The cancer centre has implemented something new. When patients check in for treatment, we're asked to fill out a questionnaire related to our well-being (it has some acronym but I can't remember it). We're given the option of filling it in on a central computer but I'm really squeamish about germy public terminals. I always ask to fill the thing in manually (furthering my feeling that I am more of a Luddite than some of my seniors).

Filling out the form involves reading statements such as "I am in pain" and then circling a number between 1 (no pain) and 7 (excruciating pain - or something like that). Most of my numbers were very low except for the ones about my emotional well being and sleep habits. My answers resulted in the following conversation with the well-meaning nurse who checked me in for treatment:

"You're depressed. Why?"

"I'm just a little blue. Five years of doing this is a long time." (Translation: "I'm pissed off and fed up and I have survivors' guilt.") 

"I'm seeing someone at the psychosocial oncology centre." (Translation: "I don't want to talk about it with you, in front of the all the strangers in the room"). 

"The crisis is over and now it's all hitting me." (Translation: "I think I have PTSD. Did I mention that I'm pissed off and fed up?")

Next time, I'm stuffing the damn form into the bottom of my purse.

Friday, May 27, 2011

kitchen conversation (he's so, so right)

My spouse (after listening to lengthy rant #342 yesterday): "Not to excuse that person's bad behaviour, but a lot of things piss you off these days."

Me: "True."

Spouse: "Oh! We forgot to put the compost out!"

Me: (String of expletives, unprintable in a blog my children might read).

Spouse (Meaningful silence)

Then we both burst out laughing.

I need to get some perspective.

But at least I can still laugh at myself.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

generation gap

On Tuesday, as I waited at the Heart Institute for my regular echocardiogram, I had the following brief conversation with the older gentleman sitting beside me.

Me: Is that a Playbook?

Him: I don't play! This is an ipad!

Me: Oh. I was just curious about the Blackberry version of the tablet.

Him  (scornfully): Do you have a Blackberry?

Me: I do.

I didn't bother explaining that I don't find touch screens to be intuitive and that I prefer an actual keyboard for sending emails and texting. Instead, I pulled out my knitting, thus eradicating all doubt that I was the Luddite in our conversation.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

has anybody seen my boob?

As anyone who has ever been to my house can attest, the place tends to be a total disaster pretty cluttered. We lose stuff all the time, only to find it months or even years later, after it's already been replaced.

But I have to admit that never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I'd find myself typing this sentence: 

I can't find my prosthetic breast.

We've actually been making some inroads in terms of beating back the clutter. But some rooms are getting worse before they get better. And our bedroom is complete tip.

Now admittedly, I don't wear my prosthesis all that often. But there are days when I want to fly below the radar. There are clothes that just look better when they're symmetrical. And I haven't seen my fake breast for weeks.

Could I have absent-mindedly stuck it in a drawer that I haven't checked?

Could it have become mixed up in the bags of clothing destined for donation?

Could it be under the mounds of clothes yet to be sorted?

Could I have left it somewhere?

It's a mystery.

If you find it, please let me know. 

Or just leave it in my mail box.

Update May 26: We found it! It was in a suitcase. In our bedroom. From a trip on which neither I nor the boob were in attendance. I think I took it off one night and too lazy tired to put it away, popped my bra with the boob still in it, in the open suitcase. Then, the suitcase was closed and left. Three weeks later, when my love finally unpacked - he found my prosthesis. Mystery solved.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"none of us knows when we are going to die"

On April 25th, Alaina Giordano lost custody of her children. A North Carolina judge ruled that her two kids need to move to Chicago to live with Giordano's ex-husband. She based this decision, in large part, on the fact that Giordano has Stage 4 breast cancer.

I can't be articulate about this story, except to say that I work very hard to make sure that my kids will be all right- no matter what happens. I wish I could protect them and all those who love me from the realities of cancer. But do I think that cancer makes me a less fit parent?

Not on your life.

Want to read more?

I first read about this on BlogHer, where Jenna argued very articulately that anyone who has ever been ill or ever might be should care about this story and the frightening precedent it has set.

My friend Judy (from Mothers With Cancer) wrote a beautiful response called "We Are All Terminal." 

You can read Alaina's own words on her blog, Beauty in Truth.

I couldn't find a single post or comment by anyone who agreed with the judge's ruling.

For that, I'm grateful.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

selfish (dear loved one)

I'm sorry that my fear becomes yours.

I regret that you get pulled into my panic.

I feel ill when my every cough, ache or bump twists your insides the way it does mine.

I would prefer to protect you.

I want to watch you smile, hear your laugh, feel your heart thump with joy when you pull me to your chest.

I don't want to make you scared, or sad or worried.

But I can't wish you weren't ever scared or sad or worried.

Because I need to share.

Because I need not to feel alone.

Because I need you.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

beautiful eyes

That's what struck me when I met Sarah in person: she had the most beautiful deep brown eyes I had ever seen, with a lovely smile to match.

It was February 2010 and we were both in attendance at the Annual Conference for Young Women Affected by Breast Cancer. We had met online through our online community, Mothers With Cancer.

A short time after we met, Sarah found out that her breast cancer had become metastatic and she began treatment anew. A few weeks ago, she learned that the cancer had spread to her brain and she started radiation treatment. A couple of days ago, she was admitted to hospital with breathing issues. Last night, she passed away.

I won't claim to have known beautiful Sarah better than I did. But I did consider her my friend. And I will miss her.

Here are some things I knew about this remarkable woman:

She loved her three daughters very much and she was incredibly proud of them.

She was happily married.

She was a talented photographer.

She loved animals, especially dogs and horses.

She had an appreciation for good coffee.

She left this world way too soon.

Sarah, you will truly be missed. My heart goes out to your family and to all who loved you.

You can read more about Sarah at her blog, Spruce Hill. Tributes have also been posted by Jenny (cross-posted to Mothers With Cancer), Susan, Nicole, Ree and Mary Beth.

Note: Blogger was down for about 20 hours and when it came back up, this post was gone (as were the comments from my previous post). If you are seeing this twice in a row on the blog, it will be because Blogger has returned it to me.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

taller than i

My beautiful first born turned 13 yesterday. The cliche is true - it happens in the blink of an eye. He's a good person - smart, creative, caring and funny. We are so proud of the man he is becoming.

Monday, May 09, 2011

fiction: tabloid inspired

A couple of weeks ago, the homework for my writing class was to take a headline from a tabloid and use it as a jumping off point for a more serious short story or poem. I was uninspired by the headlines in my grocery star tabloids ("Brad Gives Angie Ultimatum!" "Jennifer Lopez Fights Eating Disorder!" "Larry King Marries Again!") and decided to go to that old standby - the now sadly defunct Weekly World News. I stole a legendary headline from them. The monologue that follows is all my own.

"Bat Boy Found in West Virginia Cave!" by Bill Creighton, Weekly World News, June 23, 1992

I blame the doctor.

I wanted a baby so badly. The other doctors I'd seen wouldn't help me, so I sought this one out. The office was in a bad part of town and it was dark and smelled a bit funny but he didn't ask me many questions. He said he would help me get pregnant.

And he did. I don't know what the shots were for or what was in the medicine he gave me to drink but I didn't care. I would soon have my baby.

It wasn't a difficult pregnancy. I didn't get too sick. The last few months were hard when I had trouble sleeping but that was it, really. It would have been more fun if there had been someone – anyone - in my life to share in my excitement, throw me a baby shower or help me set up the nursery. But I didn't mind so much. Soon I would have a baby to love. I wouldn't need anyone else.

He was born right on his due date and, from the first, I could tell something was wrong. The first time I held him in my arms I felt not love but revulsion. This was not the child I was meant to have. He was not my baby.

In those first few months he cried a lot. I made sure that he was fed and his diapers were dry but for the most part, I left him in his crib. He was safe there and I did not have to look at him.

As he got older, I continued to cringe at his touch. When he tried to crawl in my lap, I would push him away. When he cried, I left him to it. No one could say that I did not take good care of him. He had food and clothes, I even bought him books and toys. But nothing could make me love him.

I don't feel too guilty about that because it soon became clear that he was a bad kid. The first time he got into trouble in school, I went in to meet with the his teacher. After that, I didn't bother answering her notes or phone calls. If he couldn't get along with the other kids there was really nothing I could do.

The first time he ran away, I called around to the neighbours. The second time, I left the door unlocked so he could come in when he decided to come home. The third time, I locked it.

The first time he was arrested, I went down to the police station right away. The second time, I let him spend the night in jail. The third time – I decided he was the state's problem not mine.

A short time after that, he stole a car from the school parking lot. I haven't heard from him since. This morning I got a call. He was found hiding in a cave in West Virginia. They want me to come to him. But what would be the point?

That child, that particular child, was a mistake. He should never have been born.

I am sad, though. I do feel a loss – not for that child but for the baby I might have had. The mother I might have been.

Maybe I should try again.

This time, I'll go to a different doctor.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

alone on mothers' day

When my spouse first mentioned that he was thinking of taking the boys to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival in Toronto, I protested, "But that's Mothers' Day week end!"

Then I stopped to think.

"Would you be taking both boys?"

"I think I'd have to."

After a moment's thought (empty house! to myself! quiet writing and reading time!), I bravely said, "I think you should go. I don't want to deprive the boys of this chance."

My spouse (clueing in) "Do you want your Mother's Day present to be a week end by yourself?"

Me shaking my head and stammering and not quite keeping a straight face, "I'll miss you."

So they went. And I have missed them. I've also slept more than 8 hours each night, done a considerable amount of cleaning, read a book, watched stuff on Netflix, had dinner with a friend and taken the dog for a run. I still have time to catch up on some writing, make soup, take the dog out again and do most of the laundry. I'll be starting the week of with far less stress than I often do.

My boys had a lot of fun this week end doing things I wouldn't have particularly cared to do (even Grandma went to see Thor last night). I felt a pang of guilt when they left but I quickly let that go. It sounds like they've had a great time. And soon enough they will be home and I will once again embrace the chaos of my family.

Happy Mothers' Day!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

not really the end

Did you know that the world is going to end on May 21st, 2011? I saw a guy on a street corner today with a sign that said just that. And then I saw a big-ass caravan with the same message.

Contemplation of our impending collective doom helps to put yesterday's election into perspective. It doesn't matter if the Conservatives were gifted with a whopping majority if none of us is going to live long enough to deal with the consequences. There must be more of these end of the world types than I previously suspected. That would help me understand how it is that so many of us thought endorsing the Conservatives would be a good idea.

Or something. You'll have to forgive me, it's been a hell of a day. I stayed up way too late watching the election results and then stumbled around like a zombie all day. I'm delirious.

I even went across town to an appointment, only to discover that it's on Thursday.

It was a very odd feeling last night to watch the NDP take over 100 seats (the previous high having been 43) and not feel elated. Proud, yes but not elated. I just kept watching the Conservative and NDP numbers rise at the same time and feeling like my head was going to explode.

Those of us who oppose pettiness, meanness and bigotry and who support human rights and democracy (not to put too fine a point on things) have four years to get our act together. 

And I think we need to really start screeching about proportional representation.

Meanwhile, I really am thrilled that my party is going to be the Official Opposition. There is hope for the good guys (thanks, good guys, for working so hard to get yourselves and like-minded folk elected). I'm thankful to all the volunteers, staff and veteran politicians and candidates who worked so hard to make this happen.

And, even if I am slightly hysterical, I'm choosing to repeat the words of one of the surprised, young, brand new MPs from Quebec, "It's going to be all right."