31 August 2013

Greatest Show on Earth

The Plane
The airplane that took us from Halifax to Charlottetown sat 18 people. And we were two of those people on the plane last weekend, as we flew to Prince Edward Island.

From the back row we could watch the open cockpit, clearly seeing the pilots hands as he manned the controls and adjusted his sunglasses. The day was gray and drizzly, and the size of the windshield wiper made us laugh. They looked like something you might buy ‘As Seen on TV’ for 12 dollars after a night of drinking. I crossed my fingers that they’d hold up during the half hour flight.

Within moments we were up in the air. As the little plane shook, sixteen passengers whipped out Ipads and Sodukos.  As we climbed higher the plane burst into blinding white sunlight, and levelled off over the puffy white clouds. It was glorious!

Bible Sky
I looked at the guy in front of me, who was lost in a game of solitaire. One the other side of the aisle, his wife was doing the crossword. Another man closed his eyes. A few ladies dug into their handbags, pulled out their paperbacks, and cracked them open.

‘What the f*ck is wrong with you?’ I wanted to scream. ‘This is the best show on earth!’ Truly, it was. Mere inches below us was a sea of white puffballs rolled by lit by giant beams of sunlight. If there was a way of actually feeling closer to heaven, I don’t know what is. I felt like I could actually wave at my father. (Not The Father - my actual dad)

Still nobody looked, but I was riveted. I’ve flown many times before but never felt this close to the universe, and never able to see out the front window. I waited for the moment we’d head through the clouds and see the gentle island below us. But for now, the sun and the sky were performing miracles for a small select audience of four; the pilot, co pilot, my co-pilot (Jim), and I.

Feeling the jolt of cement beneath the wheels, the readers put the bookmark back into their novels, and stood up to leave. As we hustled out into the sunlight and on the tarmac, a few people pulled out their smart phones and took picture of the plane.

Their electronics devices captured the aluminum flying machine, but they’d missed the best show on then planet.

28 August 2013

Weiners in a Glove

Lymphedema Compression GLove
Kissing it Better
The day after camping, (goodbye air mattress, hello bed!) I went straight to the Lymphedema Clinic at Princess Margaret Hospital.  I was anxious to find out what caused my hand to flare up like a 5-pack of wieners, and my arm like a pork sausage.

The nurse measured me, took notes, then said that I needed a higher degree compression of flesh sleeve and gauntlet. I told her I was flying in a few days, and that I was very concerned about the health of my arm, as I was starting to look like a butcher shop.

She assured me I needn’t worry. For now, I was to keep wearing the garments that I have. Also, I should do my exercises, avoid sun and heat and salt, and keep my arm elevated whenever possible. No problem!

Compression Glove
Fleshy Compression Glove
At home that night I started reading. There’s all sorts of information on the internet, as well as a bunch of chat forums. One lady wrote in to say that the gauntlet can actually hurt your hand because there's nothing to push the fluid out of your fingers, so it stays and swells. She highly recommended using a ‘glove’. By compressing fingers, the fluid would be squeezed up up up up up through my arm and back into my body where it belongs.

At the crack of 9 I was at the door of my favorite medical-garment boutique. They’d  sold me my original garments, and  were a pack of extremely knowledgeable ladies. Once again I’d turned away from the medical professionals and landed in the hands (not puffy) of people who actually know what they’re talking about.

‘Why would she recommend a gauntlet?’ said the saleslady. ‘Did the nurse SEE your hand?’ I said that she did. The saleslady tut-tutted and put my hand in hers,‘You need a glove, I will get you one.’ 

And she did, but not without a bit of effort. As there were none available in my size, she disappeared into the back room for twenty minutes where she tore through boxes. Finding none, she’d plucked one from an outgoing order, deciding I needed it more than the person on the other end.

Poorer by $140, I stepped out into the sunshine with my fleshy glove. And once again I was grateful for the wise and sympathetic ladies who work in the trenches; those hands-on gals who always manage make things better for gals like me.

27 August 2013

Wiener Hand

Camping is something I wouldn’t normally do, were it not for a promise to my 12-year-old nephew.

So on a perfect Canadian summer’s day, I found myself driving up to lake Huron.  Because I was having slight swelling in my hand, I put on the flesh coloured compression sleeve to help control my lymphedema. There’s always the possibility that excessive heat or activity may cause my arm to swell into a puffy sausage, and get eaten by a bear.

My Hand.
(Not really)
I also wore a ‘gauntlet’,  that slips over my hand & thumb,  leaving my fingers exposed. For extra security, I steered the car with my left hand, and kept my right arm raised, resting it on the rear view mirror. The whole point is to keep the lymphatic fluid going in the other direction, instead of pooling in my hand. All this – because my system needed extra help after losing so man lymph nodes.

We pulled into the campground, and I ‘helped’ my sister set up. Mostly I just stood there and gave suggestions on tent placement, and how to decorate our site.  I was full of helpful ideas. ‘Carry the picnic table over here Sue!’ or ‘ Hang the tarp higher! You can climb a tree, can’t you Sue?’

My nephew – bless his tweeny heart – was equally unhelpful (‘Did we bring marshmallows?’). 

I sat down beside him and rested my hand up against a tree. He looked up at it. ‘What’s wrong with your fingers?’ I looked at my hand. The fingers were swollen and my knuckle flesh bulged out like little tiny shower caps. I whipped off the gauntlet and we examined the swelling.

‘It looks like a cartoon hand,’ he said.

Our lunch.
For real.
The next two days passed peacefully. There was a beautiful lake I couldn’t swim in, and radiant sunshine that I couldn’t go near. I stayed in the shade with my book, and enjoyed the brilliant hospitality of Mother Nature and my sister. Occasionally, in an attempt to get the fluid moving, I’d pump my fist.  Due to the open concept living of camping, many people passed by on the way to the beach. On more than one occasion they thought that I was waving. More often than not, they waved back.

In the evening, Sue, along with her friends and I, would have fabulous dinners. The kids would roast hotdogs over the fire. I’d look at the shiny pork wieners dangling over the flame, and then down at my own porky hand. No difference really, except that the hot dogs were longer by about two inches.

The next morning I was packed and ready to go, headed for the city, and an appointment at the Lymphedema Clinic at Princess Margaret Hospital. (Sad goodbyes to the family, but ‘see ya!’to the air mattresses and communal bathroom).  As I peeled out of the campground I gave a last wave – though by that time – campers were ignoring the lady holding a pack of wieners up in the air.