5 April 2012

Nurse on Wheels

As I was walking down my street toward home,  a silver Jaguar purred up alongside me. Since I only know one person who drives a Jag, I wasn’t too surprised when I bent down and saw my Russian nurse.

‘Hello Mizz MigLoud!’ he smiled. I smiled back. ‘You look great,’ he said. I realized that he’d probably never seen me in full stride before. But that day I was walking purposefully, and being decked out in knee high leather boots and grey peaked cap, I practically looked Russian. He, on the other hand was wearing a soft gray turtleneck sweater that looked like the underside of a rabbit. ‘You look well too, ’ I told him. He bowed his head slightly, in a bad attempt to be humble.

Russian Nurse Training
I was going to tell Alexi about my last little surgery, but it didn’t seem important. I was also tempted to tell him about radiation, but it’s not something he endorses. Nor is he very enthusiastic about chemotherapy, or any of the aggressive western treatment on which I have been reliant. No matter what we talked about, I rarely had his approval. And I realized approval is something I want in the health care people who have surrounded me during canceritis. Even though it shouldn’t matter, it did. But as I was feeling less vulnerable, I was trying to break the habit of wanting to please.

 Then he told me that his wife and daughter were headed to Brazil to see John of God. I’d first heard about this mystical healer from Alexi who had met him a year earlier. Apparently everyone in the world seems to know about him, thanks to Oprah. For many who do make the pilgrimage, it is as a last resort for a serious illness. In the case of Alexi’s family though, I think it was mostly curiosity.

‘I hope I never have to see John of God,’ I said, ‘I feel good’. Alexi nodded solemnly, ‘I am buhleezed to know that,' he said. Then he rapped his knuckles on the polished burled elm dashboard of his Jag. I told him that it didn’t count unless it was real wood. He looked horrified, as though he’d just witnessed Evengi Plushenko crashing down in the middle of a triple axel. ‘Of course is real wood,’ he said, ‘This is very expensive car!’

I remembered a remark I’d made about his ‘nice car’ last fall. He’d been defensive, saying, ‘Iz just car’. Finally! He admitted that it isn’t just a car. It’s a fancy car, befitting an international man of mystery, nurse, fashion plate, and holistic healer. And since he makes a living doing healing house calls, it's also a calling card.

Unable to think of anything to say, I said good-bye. He drove north, and I went south. And just in case he was watching in his rear view mirror, I marched briskly, just to prove how healthy I actually am. And that was me, seeking approval, hopefully for last time.

3 April 2012

Mini Meltdown Monday

Here's what they don't tell you about radiation. In order to get the beams right, they have to mark a series of dots on the intended area. I sort of knew this, but only cus I'd heard it from a friend. And I knew that I'd need a CT scan a week prior to the process, which was today.

I'd gone to a radiation Q & A, so I knew all the fancy terminology, and I'd seen the power point presentation about how radiation works. I read tons of literature, both pros and cons. And as usual, the list of side effects was about fifty miles long. But since I'd made it through chemo without too much trauma, I'd decided that radiation would be the same.  I would make it through unscathed. I'd been advised about all the best creams, saline solutions, and powders, and I intend to use them all.

So I was laying on my back,  ready for my scan. The radiologist, Simon, was doing something to the right side of me that was completely painless. Apart from being chilly (I was, after all, topless) I was relaxed. Then he said that he was going to give me four little black 'tattoos'. These are essentially the size of a pin head.  'Fine,' I said, and let him get to work. 'So when do these things come off?' I asked. 'Never,' he said,  'They're permanent'. I almost sat upright. Never?! I remembered hearing that before, but I guess it hadn't really sunk in. Permanent markings. A permanent souvenir on my chest, of radiation. Not just for me to see, but for anyone who happens to look just off centre from my cleavage, on a day where I might happen to be wearing a V-neck shirt. And as am I am a gal who like to hide things, this was a bit to much for me. I would always have them. Four tattoos. For ever.

So since I hadn't had one for a while, I decided to have a mini-meltdown. It was long overdue.

2 April 2012

My New Favorite Spa

Last week I upgraded from my regular spa, known as Mount Sinai Hotel, to a far superior spa, known as St Anne’s. Everything there is better. White hooded fluffy robes instead of thin blue cotton coverings. Pedicures instead of X-rays.  Pillow top beds rather than a narrow examination table. And an afternoon bobbing in the outdoor hot tub, rather than a waiting room.

Our Room with a View at Mt Sinai St Anne's
I ended up there courtesy of a favorite friend who decided we both needed a break from the city.  As we were driving away from Toronto she asked what I was going to do about my hair. I honestly hadn’t thought about it.  This would be my first post-canceritis watery playground, and I was so excited about the getaway that I hadn’t developed my wig strategy. I pondered for a moment and decided that I’d just play it by ear.

Upon arriving at the spa we slipped right into our bathing suits to go into the pools. I took off my hair and hung it in my locker. But going from a swing brown bob to short gray brush cut made me feel like grandpa in drag – so I grabbed a towel and made myself a giant turban. Much better! (There’s something about a head covering that balances my body and makes me feel secure. Without it I just feel like an exclamation mark).

The turban worked beautifully in the waters, and was absolutely appropriate as we wandered about the facility. Taking it off would have been fine too. Almost all the guests are floating around the facility in an Aveda haze wearing only their robes, and if they’d paid any attention to me at all would just have assumed I was a lesbian.

For dinner, we put on some clothes, and I put on my fake hair. Let me point out that everyone in the dining room looks beautiful. Most people are make-up free with dewey skin, and looking twenty years younger when they rolled off the 401. Also, most people had a bit of an alcohol glow. This spa, unlike Mount Sinai, encourages one to bring your own wine and most people were a bit drunk. The lady beside us, Janet,  was a lot drunk. We’d bonded in an earlier yoga class because we shared the same first name. We also apparently shared a love for red wine. We were casually discussing our similarities when she said, ‘But you have much nicer hair then me.’ 

I wanted to laugh. Which I did. I wanted to tell her that it was a wig, which I didn’t. Even though I thought she deserved to know that she was actually the real winner of the ‘Which Janet has Nicer Hair’ competition, I decided to keep quiet.

So I wore the turban the next day too. I could have taken it off, and probably should have. But there were two reasons why I didn’t.  Firstly, I’m shallow, and really enjoyed the compliment.  Even though it’s not my ‘real’ hair, I did have it cut to my liking and had invested a bit of time with my blow dryer.  And secondly I didn’t want to bring up anything to do with chemo, and the other, less enjoyable spa on University Ave.

I don’t mean to knock Mount Sinai. After all, it does save lives. But it doesn’t have a hot tub, and they don’t give you lemon water and biscotti in the lounge. And I may have been there about forty times, but it only took one trip to St Anne’s to know that I like it a whole lot better.