14 November 2015

Swimming With Seniors

I am swimming in a sea of seniors.

Or more accurately, I am on a lifeguard stand, watching a sea of seniors, ready to jump in and save them at a moments notice.

The thing is – my seniors don’t need saving. The sea I am watching contains my mother, my dog, my cat, Earl, my elder relatives, Jim’s elder relatives, and Mick Jagger. (To be fair, Mick Jagger has never met me – but he’s often sung to me in the car). From my lifeguard stand I watch to see if anyone is in distress, or if anything that needs doing.

My seniors are swimming happily, merrily, faces up to the sunshine, splashing to their hearts content. Some have shed their middle-aged responsibility and have reverted to the light heartedness of teenage year. Orderly days have become more reckless, and words like ‘we should’ have been replaced by ‘what the heck’. Some have taken up new hobbies, and found new friends. Some have trouble walking, but keep walking anyway, because the only way you can move is ahead.

Jed & Ed & a sunbeam
The seniors don’t seemed worried, so I do their worrying for them. I call my mother and worry if she doesn’t answer the phone. At night, at home, I lie in bed and listen to the breathing.  The 20 lb cat snores softly on the pillow next to my head. The basset hound, in his bed, snores somewhat more enthusiastically, and if he doesn’t I slip out of bed and rest my ear against his tummy. I don’t think he enjoys this – but I need to be reassured. I need to know he is breathing.

There was a time, a few years ago, where I didn’t know if I was going to stick around forever. I gave a lot of thought to not taking things for granted, and the eventuality of saying goodbye. These days though, I am invincible. But now that the world doesn’t revolve around me, I know that those dearest to me are getting a little long in the tooth. 

 I try to remember to live in the moment, and enjoy each and every day. I know that worrying is a waste of time, and I know that it steals from the present and robs the potential of joy. I know it in my head – but my heart is a different story. Several times a day, my heart aches of hoping that nobody I love will go away.  

Oblivious to my worry – the seniors keep on swimming. My mother Violet continues to out perform me in aqua fit. Earl & Kathleen, with their happy late nights, put Jim and I to shame, Jim’s mom parties like a (classy) teenager, and Jed outruns me on the beach. It’s clear that all my lovely golden oldies are soaking up all that their lives have to offer. They're not looking for help.

It’s not the seniors that need saving. It is me.

6 September 2015

Bourbon and Pink Pee

How come nobody told me that eating beets makes pee turn pink?

I was having a perfectly loving evening in a motel on the shores of Lake Huron, when I got up to go to the washroom. We’d spent the evening in the bar, sun-kissed and slightly drunk, listening to a performer who was making us very happy.

Scene of the Crime
Afterwards we went out to look at the stars, marveling at what nature has to offer.  The water, sunset, food and the music had all been better than we’d imagined. There’s got to be a better word than ‘fulfilled’ to describe it – but I don’t know what it is. I might have to start looking in another language.

At 3 am I got up to pee. At 3:01 I glanced in the toilet. And at 3:01 I almost fell to my knees.

Here’s what went through my head. Oh no – I’ve got cancer again. The bad kind.
How am I going to tell my mother?
I have blood in my pee.
My perfect night was the goodbye gift.
I shouldn’t have had the second bourbon. I shouldn’t have had any drinks at all. Ever.
Is it really pink, or is the shitty motel lighting? It’s really pink. What else could have cause pink pee? What else what else what else. WHAT ELSE!
Should I google it and scare myself to death, or should I put of the terror until tomorrow.
How much time will I have left?
I promise not to eat anything bad ever again, if I can get through my treatment. I’ll go back to school, write a novel, and help build houses in Africa.
I don’t want to die. Please, someone, please don’t let me die.

Then I went back to bed. I cold have looked up ‘pink pee’ but decided to procrastinate a little longer. As long as I didn't know, I was still ok. I went back over my day to think what other clues there might have been to my new cancer. I felt great all day (albeit a little tired), I’d exercised and eaten well – we’d wisely chosen the seared trout followed by a beet salad….

Another Sunrise. Lucky me!
There it was! The tiny crack that allowed a shard of light to shine in to the doom of my self-diagnosis. But it was something. I grabbed my phone and goggled ‘Beets & Pink Pee’.  Three second seemed like hours hours, but then my little phone came to life. And it announced the yes indeed, beets could be the culprit.

How I love my little phone! And the stars! And the sunrise. And the fact that I would be alive tomorrow to see the sunrise, with  the promise of even more sunrises up ahead.  

And I felt that once again, and for the time being, I was once again carefree.

7 August 2015

The Hostess With the Mostest

The TV in the waiting room was turned to the food network, and the chef was cooking up risotto balls. 

That would have been fine had it been something other than a surgical waiting room, and if the patient awaiting surgery hadn’t been fasting for the last eleven hours. ‘I’m turning that fu*king thing off’, I said to the patient, who is also my sister. ‘That’s okay, ‘ she said staring longingly at the screen, ‘I like risotto balls.’

‘Seriously?’ I asked. Not that I was questioning her taste in food, but I was amazed that someone could watch glistening tomato sauce, gooey cheese and porcini mushroom on an empty stomach. So I sat back down and looked around the room. Was there something else I could do to make her more comfortable? After all, I knew the hospital very well, as I’d been there about 50 times as a patient. And since I was there, for the first time as a non-patient, I felt less as a wingman, and more of a hostess.

Can I adjust the volume, get you a pillow, or perhaps a warm blanket? ( no, no ,yes). But the only thing my sister really wanted was to know that I would be there once she was wheeled into recovery.  Would I? Absolutely.

When the time came that my sister had completed the surgery the surgeon came up to us and said that the operation had been a smashing success. In fact, he seemed enormously pleased with both himself, and my sister. I asked if I could go see her but he shook his head no. He said she was ‘dozing’ and the recovery room was crowded and there were a lot of germs. He said I needed to wait till she was moved to her room.

When he left I went to the nurse in the waiting room. I told her I’d like to see my sister and she said, that if the ‘patient’ asked for me, somebody would come up and get me. Otherwise, I had to wait. ‘Come up from where?’ I asked. The paused, then said, ‘the 2nd floor’.

The old me would have sat back down and pouted. But the new me isn’t timid. After all, I’d been there so much that I feel like I practically owned the place. I could walk through like a friggin’ tour guide, pointing out the best bathrooms, lounges, coffee shops, and places to go and cry. And I’d been told ‘no’ so many times by heads behind desks that it had ceased to be effective.

The second floor was practically deserted, as I strode along purposefully, looking for Recovery. I nodded confidently to two men with clipboards as I followed the signs. Eventually I came to a door that said ‘no admittance’. A maintenance man was there and I asked him if I could. He said there was no admittance, so I told him that I’d just left to go to the washroom and been locked out. So he let me in. I turned another corner and found the room called ‘Recovery’. It was practically empty.  I asked the nurse at the desk where I could find my sister. Nurse crabby-pants looked up at me as though she’d just found something gross on the bottom of her shoe. ‘Where did you come from?’ she said. I told her that I’d promised Sue I’d be there, and that the Surgeon said it was okay.

She scowled at me, and we both knew I was lying. We also both knew Doc was currently teeing off somewhere, and wasn’t be reachable for verification. So she called out to her colleagues, ‘Is there a Susan here?’ The nurses all ignored her, so I looked around the dimly lit room, full of beds with flat bodies. ‘Is there a Susan here?’ the nurse called out again, as though she was a bad hostess at a cheap steakhouse.

The nurses didn’t respond, but from the corner bed, one tired hand was waving weakly in the air.  I rushed over to Sue’s side and took her hand and told her that everything was AOK. The crabby nurse/hostess may have sensed my air of ‘I own this place’ and sidled up to me to make it clear who was in control.

‘When is she moving to her room?’ I asked conversationally.

‘Shortly’, she sniffed. ‘You can meet us there.’

‘Thanks’, I said. ‘But I’m going with you’.

And I did. Grabbing an extra blanket along way. 

12 July 2015


Tiny Tabby
Our little cat died.

In people years she was somewhere between 85 to 300, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but still it did. It was sudden and shocking and it left us feeling as though someone had poked holes in our hearts and then stitched them up with yarn, and stitched them up quite badly indeed.

When Jim and I adopted our three pets they were already a family, and they moved from someone else’s home into ours.  We had wanted a small dog, so I went looking online for an older pug, or a dachshund, or something compact and furry.

Then I came across a picture of a basset hound with freckles on his nose. The ad said his name was Jed and described him as a small dog (he’s not) who came with two cats (Quigley and Ed)  with whom he was closely bonded (he wasn’t). They ad said that they all liked to curled up on the bed together  (no) and couldn’t stand to be apart (not quite accurate). They also said that Jed rarely barked, when in fact, he barks fairly often.

Big Ed
Once ensconced in our house we discovered the cats couldn’t stand to be around each other. While Jed and Ed romped around their new home, Quigley kept entirely to herself. It took a year for Quigley to allow us to pat her. And another year for her to come and sit on the sofa while we were there. The following year I got cancer, and after that she would come and sleep by my shoulder.
When everything was quiet, she would silently make her way over to me and place her tiny brown paws on my arm, and when that felt safe, she would allow herself to nestle close to my neck, and rest her small head on my shoulder.

Jed the Basset
After that, she was often beside me. She’d wait to see me sit, and she’d come softly over. Or in the middle of the night, on the way to her water glass, I’d feel her tiny weight on my chest, her whiskers brushing my cheek. When I typed on my keyboard, she’d rest her small body on my wrists. At times she’d pick Jim over me, watching as he’d cross his ankles on the coffee table, then find her way into a safe place on his lap. Sometimes Ed would jump up to join them, and she’d deftly leap up and dart away.

And then she stopped leaping. And then we knew that something was wrong and we brought a vet to our home who said that Quigley had cancer and there was nothing they could do. Not only were we sad, but also I knew that I’d let her down.

When it came to sitting on me, our tiny cat always knew the best place to be. She knew where I needed healing, and she knew where I hurt the least. She would come to me at the moments when I needed my tiny companion, and she knew those moments so much better than me. 

Which is why, I wish I could have returned the favour. It was our job to take care of her and we didn’t even know she was ill.

So now there are the four of us. I expected to say that Ed and Jed had their period of grieving, but that would be right up there with saying the Jed doesn’t shed (he does). They sniffed her bed for a day or so, and then they got on with the business of being animals. My theory is that all along, they’ve known that she’d be leaving.  They have the knowledge, just as she once did.

I’m so glad to have known her. Thank you, my tiny friend.

10 July 2015


Highway 105, on Cape Breton Island, was the last place I expected to get stuck in traffic. We were just cresting a hill near English Bay, when the cars in front of us almost stopped moving. It had been a magnificent visit to the Island, which is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Besides the stunning scenery there is also the best chowder, the most carbs, and the highest probability of affectionately being called ‘dear’.  

After a few days in this land, I get lulled into believing that the world is a gentle place and nothing could go wrong, except on TV. Which is why I was surprised to find myself, travelling to the airport on a one-lane highway, on a road that was barely moving.

Rush Hour, in the land of Marge
I veered out a little bit to see what was causing the commotion. Slightly ahead, there was a small car with a little white sign on the roof. ‘Mmph. Friggin’ taxi,’ I muttered to my mom, sister, and nephew, all of whom were in the car with me. 

‘No,’ said sister Sue, ‘Looks like a driving instructor. A bad one.’ We moved ahead another few feet. ‘You should run him off the road,’ suggested Sue cheerfully, clearly getting back into her big city mentality, ‘It’ll be good for him.’ From the back seat my mom chuckled quietly and my nephew loudly rolled his eyes.

Luckily the highway split in two, cars started moving, and I was able to near the offending vehicle. It was an old unmarked four-door burgundy Chrysler sedan, and there was indeed a sign on the roof, which said simply, ‘MARGE’S’.

‘Marge’s what’ said Sue, ‘Who is Marge?’

Assuming it was a taxi, I was prepared to be irked. After all, taxi drivers know not to doddle on main thoroughfares, especially if they have a passenger. I looked at the driver, and saw a small head with a cloud of white hair, and two little hands gripping the wheel. Marge?

‘Oh for sure she’s a driving instructor  - for seniors,’ said Sue, with a stunning show of confidence. Susan apparently, had little tolerance for driving instructors and was not prepared to cut her any slack, in the same way that I had no slack to offer, for taxis.

‘Who cares what kind of car it is?’ said my nephew. Well, I do. I care very much what kind of service Marge is offering. It's the only way I’ll know how mad I’m supposed to be. But Marge wasn’t giving away too much information. For all I know her sign might just be something she puts on her car for no reason at all. Or perhaps she’s delivering scones.  

But without knowing what kind of service vehicle it was, I lost the ability to be judgemental, and with that  – the desire to be upset.  After all, how can you start thinking, ‘Marge should know better’, when you don’t even know what Marge is supposed to do.

So we passed MARGE’s, each of us swivelling our heads, looking for some sort of clue. But the little burgundy car revealed nothing. Just a small sedan going well below the speed limit. Offering nothing, except maybe a lesson, in the kind of big city mentality you ought not to use.

10 May 2015

The T Word

Up until about three years ago, ‘lump’ was just something I associated with cheap futons that I associate with my poor university days. But then two things happened, or more accurately, six.

I got two lumps, both malignant. And around the same time, Jed the basset got four lumps, which were magnificently benign. We were de-lumped about the same time. Mine were dealt with a great deal of permanence, which involved a pair of fabulous new breasts, and Jed’s lumps came back in the way that hounddog lumps do.  

Jed’s lumps, still benign, are an ongoing concern. Especially since he ran enthusiastically into a pile of sticks this weekend, stabbing one of his lumps, which erupted into a gross mountain off goo on the side of his left hip. Wingman and I took one look at his sorrowful eyes on Sunday night, and bundled him into the car and rushed him of to the emergency vet clinic.

By the time the doctor saw him, he'd developed a slight fever. Worse, he looked tired confused, and we couldn’t’ explain to him that he was going to be okay. We got him up on the table and the vet confirmed that there was a painful infection. He told us that it would eventually have to be surgically removed. Jim and I nodded like sad bobble head dolls. ‘It’s important to remove the tumour,' the vet said.

Cone Head
My bobble head sprung to attention. What the f*ck did he say? He repeated himself and said that we had to remove the tumour. I looked at him, and then at the glass canister of dog treats behind him, and wanted to pick it up and smash it over his head.

Technically, a tumour is just an abnormal mass of tissue’, but to an ex-cancer patient a tumour is something that involves pain, worry, and an uncertain outcome.  Same goes for ‘lump’, ‘terminal’ and  ‘caller unknown’. And it’s particularly unpleasant to hear it in the early hours of the morning when all you want is the best for your pet. (And a coffee).

‘Why are you using the word tumour?’ I said. The vet looked up at me, also tired, but also kind of caring. He took off his glasses and wiped them tiredly on his shirt, ‘Well tumour doesn’t necessarily mean anything bad, it’s just a mass…’

‘I know what it means,’ I snapped. ‘So let’s just call it a mass.’ He put his glasses back on and I looked at his scrawny neck and figure that if I wrapped my hands around it, and shook hard enough, I could shake his glasses back off again. My anger was sudden and intense, and though it wasn’t logical, it made total sense to me.

The vet suggested we leave Jed overnight, and they could operate in the morning. We suggested, to each other, that we bundle up our precious parcel and take him to our own dog doctor in the morning. Which we did.

Our vet, Dr Steve, recommended antibiotics & anti-inflammatories in order to soothe Jed’s painful wound. Then we’ll reassess to see if it has to be removed. In the meantime Jed has to wear a cone, and though he hates is, there has been  significant shrinkage. 

So, Jed's wound has gone from the T-word, to a mass, to a boo-boo. It’s technical name is ‘sebaceous cyst that got poked with a stick and may have to be removed for $1,500’, but I like boo-boo sounds much better to me.

9 April 2015

I Need a Compliment, Melvin.

I am used to getting complements. And the reason I get complimented so often is not because I look good, or do anything particularly noteworthy, but because I ask.

'Tell me I look nice,’ I’ll say to Jim, before I head out for the night. He’ll glance up from the pasta sauce he might be stirring, look me up and down, and then come up with something kind. He might for example, say ‘nice earrings’, or ‘blue’s a good colour on you’, or ‘those boots are quite slimming’. Sometimes that’s satisfactory, and I will feel content to leave the house. Other times I’ll dig a little deeper, ‘Jim, tell me I look hot.’

The reason I started to ask for compliments was because of Helen Hunt. Years ago (1997) she made a movie with Jack Nicholson called ‘As As it Gets’. In it, she plays a waitress who struggles in everyday life, and has a chance to go away for the weekend with Jack’s character. They go out for dinner, and she makes a really big effort to look nice. This, of course, goes unnoticed, so she says, ‘Pay me a compliment Melvin, I need one quick.'

Up until then it never occurred to me, EVER, to ask for a compliment. I thought a compliment was something you waited around for, and then pretended you didn’t want. (Like the last oyster on a tray, or free samples at Costco). Also, this also coincided with a stage in my life where I was learning to set boundaries and ask for what I needed. I thought I was doing pretty well with it – considering it was uncharted territory, but Helen-the-waitress took it to new heights!

In training
Wearing a red dress was not part of her repertoire, but she did her very best to rise to the occasion. For another woman, a red dress dress and lipstick is easy as pie. But for her – not so easy. So how does someone know when someone else has tried with all his or her might, and their actions need to be rewarded? The truth is, they don’t. But I do.  

I know when I’ve put all my energy into trying to look presentable. And I know when I really need a compliment (often), just in the same way when I really know when I need a hug (occasionally) or a second glass of wine (always).  And there are the days when I’m an inch away from a nervous breakdown, but those might be the days when it took every cell to smear on some lipstick, and I really near to hear something nice.

And those days, my friends, are days I wouldn’t receive many kind words, unless I was smart enough to give orders to ‘Pay me a compliment Melvin, and please make it quick.’

1 April 2015

My Second Very First Bra

My very first bra was from a department store. I’ve filed that experience away in the same place as the other awkward firsts; first pap smear, first oyster, first time drinking too much gin.

Having two grown ladies (my mother, and the sales clerk) fussing over my brand new breasts so insulted my sense of modesty, that I said yes to the first crappy brassiere that I tried on. ‘It’s fine,’ I said impatiently, ‘I’m not trying on anything else.’

Many functional undergarments followed after that. I was an average build, and once I knew my size, bought them without even trying them on. None of them were very memorable but they did the trick. Or at least I thought they did, until I went for an actual grown-up bra fitting.

Once again, I wasn’t so keen on the  ‘fitter’ coming in the room with me, and I was less impressed that she was helping herself to my small breasts. She told me to lean over and fall into the bra, and to make sure all the fabric was smooth and even, while liberally touching me in places no woman had ever touched me before. The result, however, was brilliant.  A beautiful bra (French, of course) that was so lovely and comfortable that I didn’t blink at the three-digit price tag. In fact, I bought two.

For a few glorious years I had wonderfully dressed breasts, and then came the diagnosis. Because I was sliced and diced and altered, I switched back to soft (saggy) cotton bras that would accommodate bandages and incisions. My requirements were simple.  It merely needed to hold me together, and wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. I didn’t want to invest in a garment that I could potentially ruin. So I was stuck with icky garments until the final stages of my reconstruction.

Once my stomach fat was moved up to create a brand new set of breasts I made myself a promise. When I was fully healed, and anatomically correct (with nipples), I would once again go for a bra fitting and get my Second Very First Brassiere.

That day has finally arrived! Last week, courtesy of a gift card from a favorite friend, I went to a lovely shop selling nothing but beautiful lingerie. Bubbling with excitement I’d practically grabbed a salesgirl by the hair and dragged her into the fitting room with me. Modest no more! Halfway through her introduction, I’d already ripped off my sweater and started the debriefing. I explained about my scars, new nipples, and the 22” slash across my tummy that made me look like a Fat Twist ‘n Turn Barbie.

My French Bra. And the cat.
The salesgirl, who was young and dewey, tossed her hair and looked me in the eye. ‘Don’t worry,’ she said, ‘I’ve seen everything.’ Ha.  I may or may not have snorted. People who say they’ve seen ‘everything’ usually haven’t seen anything at all. Just as those who claim to be the ‘life of the party’ or usually as dull as a bag of hair.

So I whipped off my bra. The ‘fitters’ reaction wasn’t really my problem, and I was eager to get on with the proceedings. She blinked a few times and then moved in for a better look. I let her measure me, and then I told her in meticulous detail what I wanted and how I expected it to fit. To her credit, she seemed to listen, and returned moment later with lovely with three lovely undergarments dangling off her fingers. I disqualified two of them immediately on the grounds that the straps were too skinny and there wasn’t any padding. (These days I need light padding because fake nipples, cute as they are, are permanently erect in the manner Jennifer Anniston in a tank top)

But the third one was a charmer. Black, smooth, with just the right amount of engineering and the perfect width of strap. According to my sources (trashy magazines), three quarters of woman wear bras that don’t fit properly. If only they knew the joy of a well fitting bra. Even though my boobs are relatively numb, I can still tell when something feels like it’s made for me.  And when you get a second chance at boobs, you don’t settle for second best.

When it comes to buying a first bra, second time round is so much better than the first.

23 March 2015

The Other Side of the Glass

When Jim and I took our first trip to Florida, we got a kick out of hanging out at his parent’s trailer park with the seniors. It was fun for a couple of reasons. Firstly – they could drink us under the table and still be able to kill us at euchre. Secondly - they were like exotic wrinkly creatures, all wrapped in hats and glasses, and in comparison we felt strong and reckless.

We also loved the hot sun, though we seemed to be the only ones. Even though the snowbirds came for the weather- they made a point to stay inside. Wandering through the compound we could here them laughing and watching TV, but they were safely behind a screen. Even the restaurant were glassed in – not a patio in sight.

We were particularly disappointed one night – as we snuck off on our own to go to a fish restaurant. Expecting to eat outdoors, we were a confronted by shiny panes of glass. Behind it were sea of little white heads sipping on cocktails, and with the blue walls and fake plants, it felt like we were staring into a giant aquarium. Jim and I looked at each other, in our smug youth, and wondered what the f*ck was the point of being in Florida if you’re going to sit inside. The fun was on our side of the glass!

Me and Jim. (No, not really)
Fast forward 'till last week,  and I’m in Miami taking a tour of the Art Deco district. ‘Is it just me,’ I wondered aloud, ‘or is anyone else burning up inside?’  My companions, all fresh faced and breezy, looked at me blankly and shook their heads. Apparently it was just me. As our little group strolled through the streets, I dashed from one piece of shade to the next – disappearing into doorways and hiding under trees. Our guide, who was about 180 years old, looked cool as a cucumber in his short-sleeved shirt. But I was melting, and when we passed a garish souvenir shop, I bolted inside and bought the first hat I saw, along with a few bottles of water.

Rejoining the group, I felt a little bit better. And by ‘better’ I meant that I no longer feared passing out on the sidewalk in front of Gianni Versace’s mansion in a pool of my own vomit. Still it was  pretty darned unpleasant.  I couldn’t tell if it was just one long hot flash or if in the process of being rewired I’d lost any tolerance for heat.  I was dragging myself around feeling like a furnace wearing a fedora.

Once our tour was over, my friends and I went off in search of tacos and margaritas, and at Katie’s suggestion, a nice patio.
Are you serious?!’ I squeaked, ‘It’s kind of hot, don’t you think?’ Another round of blank looks. I pointed feebly to a restaurant across the street. No patio in sight but it did have a neon cocktail dancing in the window.  Taking pity on me and my red blotchy face, we went in, got settled in a booth, and ordered a round of fish tacos and margaritas.

Outside, hoards of people in pastel colours sashayed down the sidewalk.  And watching them was an event in itself – even if we were on the other side of the glass.

4 March 2015

Dessert Before Dinner

When my sister Sue and I were little we used to explore the particulars of dieting. (Primarily, how many weeks of cigarettes and Tang would help us fit into our  dress pants). We concluded that losing weight was hard because it took way too long to see the difference. We need our rewards more quickly. 

‘What if…’ Sue said to me, ‘you could take a pill to lose weight instantly. BUT in order to keep the weight off you’d have to sign a contract to diet for two months. Yes! Of course it would be easy to keep the weight off if you’re skinny! It’s like dessert before dinner.  Easy peasy!   

Well, I stand corrected.  Not easy at all. As someone who has had their stomach surgically un-enhanced, I take it all back. Not only is it not easy, it’s not realistic.  Especially when a gal is menopausal, taking tamoxifen, and  trying desperately to survive the coldest friggin' February since 1936.  

 My flat stomach was supposed to be my silver lining. Apart from a clean bill of health and a low risk of recurrence, it is the ONLY upside from my bout with breast cancer, and it is the one thing about DIEP reconstructive surgery that is supposed to be fun. Replace the breast tissue with tummy fat and voila! A lifetime of fitting into dress pants.

But here’s the kicker. My fat is coming back, and it’s not going where it’s supposed to. Since my front has be rearranged, and since I was sliced in half like a like a 'Twist 'n Turn' Barbie Doll, my weight doesn’t hang out where it once did. Rather than sit in front of me like a regular beer belly, it collects above my scar like a loaf of pumpernickel bread.

‘What’s that?’ Jim said, gently patting my pumpernickel other day. I sucked in my tummy and feigned innocence, ‘What’s what?’
‘Oh, nothing….’ He said, knowing better than to probe too deeply.
I must admit I feel a little bit gypped. I really liked having a flat stomach, and I want it back. It was a big investment and I was counting on it to maintain itself for a while. And asking for my money back is out of the question since I paid for it in trade, not currency. 

So it's time to get up off my yoga mat and kick some ass.  I'm going to dust off my trainers and go to Zumba (whatever the f*ck that is). And in leiu of dress pants, I'm going to squeeze into linen pants, in in Florida, in a couple of weeks. 

And if none of that works, I'll just go back to Tang (or a smoothie) and cigarettes (carrot sticks). I worked hard for my dinner, and I don't want just bread, I want my dessert.

5 February 2015

Mary Mary Quite Contrary

Aunt Mary. My Version
My parents used to compare me to my dads Scottish Auntie. Whenever I’d do something I considered adorable, they’d look at each other knowingly and say ‘She’s just like Aunt Mary’.  I was flattered! In my mind Mary had bouncy auburn hair, and a jaunty kilt which would swing merrily around her as she danced on moors spreading sunshine and merriment. In my imagination she was radiant. In reality, I found out years later, she was a shrew. 

So in an effort not to be a scowling old battleaxe, I often force myself to smile.  I figure that if I make my mouth move up, the mood will follow. But the thing is, my heart is not always in compliance. There are some days when I feel like I’m just holding at Mary at bay. But hopefully, I’m the only one to notice. 

Such was not the case as I went skidding down the street this morning with my hound dog, Jed. We’d just been walloped by a winter storm and we were doing our short-legged best (yes, me too) to navigate our way down the street. My feet were cold,  zipper had busted and I had a real hate on for old man winter.

Aunt Mary. For Real.
At that moment I bumped into a neighbour who was shovelling snow off his car. ‘Hey’, he said jovially, ‘my car is absolutely buried!’ I was baffled by his positivity. I also didn’t understand why he needed to point out the obvious. I stared at him blankly then blurted out the first thing that came to mind, ‘Well that’s a crummy way to start the day,’ I replied; my tone attempting to match his level of cheer.

My neighbour cocked his head and leaned on his shovel. I guess I’d failed in the cheery department. I heard the tone of my voice and  recognized  more Mary than merry. Now I understood what Linda Blair felt like in the exorcist. Like me, she was channelling a much stronger force and wasn’t always in control of what came out of her mouth (Pea soup, in her case. Hostility in mine).

‘Well,’ my neighbour said earnestly, ‘It’s just a way to start the day.’ Ah. I stood corrected. And I thought for a second about what he said and realized that he was right. He reminded me of two things. Firstly, I shouldn’t always feel the need to have a comeback. Sometimes a statement is just a statement and doesn’t need and additions (I should have just stuck with my fake smile). Secondly, not everything has to be positive or negative. Sometimes something just a way. Not a bad way.

I felt that his small correction had given me another tool to use against becoming possessed by the black soul of Aunt Mary. A simple trick of language to eliminate negativity. Still, I kind of wanted to punch him in the face. The excessive earnestness was a bit much, and if he hadn’t wanted feedback he shouldn’t have announced that he was cleaning of the car.

There it was – my inner crabby. The worst part of my DNA. However , as I’d learned a positive lesson that day,  it cancelled out my inner shrew. One point for me. One point for Aunt Mary. I plastered on my fake smile, and walked a way.

17 January 2015

The Intern & The Snail

At  10:00 am on the dot, I showed up for my first annual appointment with my Breast Surgeon, and was greeted by the receptionist. ‘Oh Dear,’ she gave me a pitying glance, ‘He isn’t here.’ (My yearly check-up with Dr Escargot; the surgeon who forgot to show up on the day of my surgery, leaving his fellow surgeons scrambling to find an immediate replacement. But I’m almost over that now. Time to move ahead).  

Dr. Escargot
I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes. ‘Is it me?’ I asked. We both laughed a fake laugh, and she explained there’d been an emergency, and he wouldn’t be back till 2. Would I like to see an intern? No. Screw off.  I would not.

I returned at 2 and was ushered into a room. The nurse said that Escargot would be crawling in shortly, but in the meantime, would I mind if the intern came in to ask a few question. This time I said okay, but it was mostly ‘cus I was bored. Also, Mount Sinai is a teaching hospital, so everybody is much happier if the fellows, interns, and students are allowed to touch some naked flesh. (My boobs are extra fun, because they were created from my stomach and have recently been adorned with fabulous new nipples).

I was sitting on the table when the intern walked in, clutching a clipboard to her chest. She asked if she could examine me. I asked if her hands were warm. Three years ago I never would have asked such a thing, but I had become a bit cocky. Now that my breasts are numb it doesn’t really matter – so it was mostly about who had the power (me). I lay down, and Dr Intern began her examination.

The Intern
After a few squeezes she asked about my follow up treatment, and whether I’d lined up a mammogram. I told her I would not be having a mammogram, as I did not have any breast tissue. She squeezed a bit more. ‘So you have implants?’ I shook my head. No – no implants. She looked confused. ‘Small ones?’ she asked. I told her no. She frowned and looked at her notes. ‘You had a double mastectomy. Right? But no implants?’ I told her she was correct.

I didn’t tell her that I’d had DIEP reconstruction because it didn’t occur to me that she wouldn’t know. Wasn’t my whole history on the clipboard? Weren’t the interns debriefed before they but on white coats and pretended they’re doctors? Was she about to cry?

Dr Escargot came in the room and took my hand in his. He explained the DIEP surgery to the intern and told her that it was a very long operation because of all the tricky medical stuff.
‘Twelve hours?' he asked me – in a manner you’d ask a pal with a shared experience.
I paused for a second. Did he really not remember?
‘Nine,’ I said.
We locked eyes for a second and I waited for recognition to creep in. Nine hours was considered remarkably short for bilateral DIEP, and only because I got two extra surgeons on board during the initial scramble to cover Escargots absent arse after it became apparent that he was not in the hospital, and and had just flown off to Germany! But …nothing. His little snail eyes were unburdened.

Clearly, the same could not be said for me. I still carried the resentment. Escargot may move like a snail but his shell was light – I was the one with the baggage. So along with my gown, I ditched it, and let the baby doctor have one more admiring glance before I hopped off the table and moved ahead for real.