20 April 2012

Hey Jude! Shut Up.

I don’t know why anybody bothers to get involved in a debate about whether the Stones are better than the Beatles.  Clearly the Rolling Stones are the better band. And it’s not even a close race. The Stones are a real rock n’ roll band, why the Beatles sing little ditties about wanting to hold your hand.

Don't Wanna Hold Your Hand
In fact, the Beatles are on my list of things that are annoying. Also on the list, in no particular order are CD’s that skip, waiting, radiation, medleys, and static. So I knew my day was off to a bad start when I got to the Princess Margaret Airport Lounge and discovered that my treatment room was not operating ‘On Time’. Slightly irked, I sat down in a first class chair and flipped through a cancer magazine, reading about beets and broccoli.

After 45 minutes I was called into the inner sanctum, where a youngster handed me my gown. I put it on, took off my necklace, and lay down. Oh-Oh.  Rather than the easy listening hits of yesterday came the sounds of ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, one of my least favorite songs by the Beatles. I was tempted to ask the young technicians to turn it off, but didn’t want to appear bitchy.

So I lay down with my arm over my head and closed my eyes, willing myself to relax. Not so easy to do when someone is holding a ruler to your breast, and Paul McCartney is humming from the CD player. The techies took their measurements, and fled from the room where they could be safe from radiation. With me as a captive audience, Paul started singing ‘Got to Get you into My Life’. I thought that the disc had skipped, but realized with horror, that it was the beginning of a medley.

As two thousand pounds of machinery hovered over my chest, and the green beam pierced my skin, I concentrated on staying immobile. But as the medley continued into an equally offensive song (Love Love me do) the disc did indeed started to skip. Jesus. Not only was it skipping, but also it was giving me short staccato sound bites of all the songs on the CD. 

I hated that Beatles at the moment. (except John, who is the most non-Beatle-y of the group).  I hated their stupid music and their Liverpudlian accents. This was worse than Chinese Water torture, because water doesn’t have floppy hair.  Then I heard a voice over the intercom. It was the Rad Techs, speaking from the safety of their control booth,‘ Is everything okay?’

Apparently I’d moved my head to look at the offending CD player. ‘The disc is skipping,’ I said, neglecting to comment on their shitty taste in music. ‘Oh…’ she said bewildered, as though that did not constitute an emergency. Moments later she was at my side. Dammit, if the beam had pierced my lung I had only the Beatles to blame . ‘Did I disrupt anything?’ I asked. But she said I was fine. ‘Can you please turn off the CD player?’ I asked. She did, then ran back into her booth for safety.

I relaxed somewhat, thinking that Mick would have never let me down like this.  Some bands can do no wrong.  Keef makes everything better. I know it’s only rock ‘n roll, but I like it.

18 April 2012

No Wig. No Cavities.

My dentist looks like a movie star. Tall, slender, with long jet-black hair and a pseudo-warm smile that comes from being exceedingly rich and successful. She's sometimes known as Dr. Janet, and sometimes known as the Dentist-to-the Stars. When I’m not in her chair I can often catch her on CityLine, or on the JumboTron with the Toronto Blue Jays, for whom she is the official dentist.

She could also be known as Dr Dorian Gray, because she hasn’t changed since I’ve met her twenty five years ago.  She’s expanded her office to include a fleet of hygienists, but her physical appearance has stayed exactly the same. It’s a point of pride that Dr. Janet tells me I haven’t changed much either. Perhaps she’s lying, but I never get tired of the compliment. The conversation, as you can imagine, goes something like this. ‘Hi Janet, you look great.’  ‘Thanks Janet. You look great too.’

When I go for my yearly visit, I always make sure to do a little extra primping. And even though it is removed immediately, I always wear some lipstick. She does too. A raging red that contrasts widely with her gleaming white teeth.

I put on a clean blouse in an attempt to get ready for my appointment. Then I picked up my $1,600 wig and held it in my hands. It isn’t looking very fresh these days, and is starting to become itchy. I tossed it around  for a few minutes, until I heard the voice of Samantha Jones. ‘Oh, to hell with it!’ she said. She was right. I was getting bored of adjusting my brown bob every few minutes. So with surprising conviction, I tossed my heap of hair back on the dresser. I'd just have to make myself look good without someone else's hair. So I slapped on a bit of concealer, threw on a jaunty cap, and headed uptown.

Before seeing Dr. Janet/Dorian Gray, I spent a little quality time with the hygienist, who had to battle my tartar and update my medical history. And since not a day can go by without talking about canceritis – I told her everything. When she was done, she left me alone for a few minutes, where I adjusted myself to look straighter, relaxed, and hopefully more youthful. And then I saw Dr J coming down the hall.

But before she came in she greeted another patient who was on her way out. She was about 90, and walked with a cane. ‘Are you on your way?’ Dr Janet asked her. ‘Yes,’ said the lady ‘ I have to run, I have a lunch date’. Dr Janet smiled, ‘My, you’re busy.’ The lady grinned, ‘Yes. I can’t waste a minute of my life!’

Well, didn’t I feel shallow after that. There I was, bemoaning the fact that the hygienist had wiped of my lip-gloss.  I was even holding in my stomach and trying to elongate my neck, just so I could look .035% better. All that, just so my dentist wouldn’t take one look at my short grey stubbles (and hat) and think that I looked old.

Dr Janet came in the room oozing confidence and glamour. Obviously she’d read my chart and knew what I’d been through.  She smiled, for real this time, ‘I’m really glad to see you looking so healthy,’ she said. I wanted to ask her if by ‘healthy’ she meant ‘fat’ but decided just to accept the compliment. ‘Healthy’ is still music to my ears. And because health is what I want the most, it was almost compliment enough. Almost. But not quite. So I waited. And Dr. Janet sat down, and gave me the once over. 

‘You look great Janet,’ she said. ‘Thanks Janet. So do you.’ 

17 April 2012

I'm a Full Time Job

Tomorrow I start a part time job. But today, as all other days, my full time job is me.

Back in the fall, when I was preparing myself for chemo, a favourite friend said, ‘You have to take care of yourself. That is your job.’ I listened, and took note. But I never thought that I would be so high maintenance. Turns out that I am a full time job. Here's why

Eating Right: (2 Hours)
Jugo sde Naranja
Mom was right. Breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day. These days it’s hot oatmeal, freshly ground flax, sliced fruit, and fresh squeezed orange juice. I use an old fashioned juicer I bought in Mexico. It weighs about a thousand pounds and is a pain in the ass to clean.

Lunch or dinner often involve kale, or something equally and green and leafy. Kale is excellent for it’s health benefits, but takes ages to prepare. Washing, cutting, waiting for it to wilt. Or getting impatient and eating it half cooked, but then it takes too long to chew.

Medical Stuff (3 Hours)
Since the diagnosis, I’ve been to a 63 medical appointments. And since doctors generally keep me waiting, this ads up to a part time job all by itself. Not to mention the time spent on the phone dealing with idiots. During radiation, I’m at the hospital every day. Not a hardship really – but I’d rather be doing something less radioactive.

Exercise (3 Hours)
Man's Best Friend
Walking a basset hound isn’t really ‘exercise’. Carpenter ants pass us on the street. Regardless, I am outdoors on the end of the leash, or in the dog park, trying to be invisible.
And yoga. Classes are 90 minutes, plus travel, and who has time for that? No wonder people are racing across town with their yoga mats looking like they’re on the verge of a heart attack. It’s not healthy.

Domestic Drudgery (2 Hours)
My favourite household task is shaving my pilling sweaters. I have a hand-held machine that is not only highly efficient, but also extremely rewarding. Plus, I can shave while I watch Dancing with the Stars

Man's Other Best Friend
Grooming: (4 Minutes)
Optional. But I always wear lipstick.

Total Time    10 hours and 4 minutes.

Clearly I’m going to have to have to make changes to accommodate my new schedule. Since I go to bed at 9, something has to go. And since Jed, food and canceritis treatment are a priority, something must be struck off the list. So,  So Long Domestic Drudgery! The lady is going back to work.

15 April 2012

The Sizzler vs Mother Nature

The Radiation Technicians run from the room once the machine is turned on, leaving me on the table. Radiation comes at me in the form of a giant C-shaped arm that moves around me with a low hum. Unfondly, I think of it as the Sizzler. I lie on the table with my arm over my head cradled in u shaped wrist rest, and a piece of triangular foam under my knees. It isn't uncomfortable. What is uncomfortable is the idea of is what this giant machine actually does. So I don't think about it. The fact the the technicians dash out of the room once it's turned on? That's worrisome.

The benefit of radiation is that is kills the pesky disorganized cells that cause canceritits. But the side effects, naturally, are numerous. Most commonly they include fatigue, rashes, itchiness, burning ....things like that. To alleviate the effects of radiation there are a wide variety of potions, lotions and creams. But as an antidote to the two-ton cutting edge hunk technology, I have my secret weapon.  Aloe.

Aloe gel is the cure for everything. My grandma used to have a plant in her kitchen, and she'd snip off a leaf whenever she needed to tend to a scrape or burn. My mother does the same thing. So does my sister. And now I am counting on it to keep me from looking like a drunken British holidayer who went to Cancun for the first time, covered up appropriately, then fell asleep in the sun after too many margaritas, with one breast fully exposed.
Aloe, aloe

Although many creams have been recommended, I am reassured by something pure. Though I likely still have chemo drugs in my system, as well a daily doses of tamoxifen, and massive doses of radiation, I don't want to put anything on my skin that wasn't created by mother nature. Ultimately, I have faith in both her, and my lovely Lithuanian grandma. I think that they both knew that all that heals us comes from the earth..

'Awesome,' was the way aloe gel was described when I went to the health food store. The sweet boy behind the counter told me that he used Aloe for everything. He swore by aloe for cuts, bruises, rashes, and pimples. According to him, it even cured his varicose vein.

So thrice daily I slather myself with gel, then walk around topless while it is absorbed by the skin (this will be difficult once I start working).  I also use a saline solution, because salt also comes from the earth. (Perhaps I should consider using cucumber since the combination would be delicious!) At home I have a tub of aloe gel. And I carry some around in my bag. Today I am going to pick up a plant, so that I can commune completely with nature.

Tomorrow I will head back to Princess Margaret for the 5th of 25 treatments. Once the green light turns on - the technicians will flee to safety. But my bag, with my aloe gel will  stay in the corner of the room. Mother Nature doesn't leave one's side.