Western education 2013

Thursday, October 8, 2009

...... cancer unit

...... most things don't really bother me and if they do I rarely notice the symptoms but today my head ached with the changing atmospheric pressure and a sense that my wait time is coming to a close quickly with the Oncology appointment later this afternoon.....

Yoga class was wonderful today and Valerie had selected the final class in this 8 week period to be one of reflection - being good to the temple that holds your soul and to relax the day's stress and worries from it. The timing couldn't be better as I swung my legs up to rest against the wall helping to take out the pain of a knot that had been forming for days.... this would be where the stress of the world sits and becomes painful as the muscles spasm in response. I breathe in and out and try to reduce the headache that is now hammering away at my sinuses and I realize that I have forgotten to take something for it.... oh right - I was up at 3 o'clock administering my third dose of an extra strength sinus tablet to at least quell the sharpness of it so I could go back to bed. That and dealing with yet another heavy and painful period - you know, when it rains.....

Class is over so soon and I wait for Barb to finish her conversation before we head out for a coffee we made plans for the week before. I want to head out to the McDonalds near the hospital so I can squeeze in a quick lunch and purchase some art supplies from the dollar store while I am there. We are following each other when she motions me to turn and then tells me she can't come... she is late for an appointment. No worries, we will catch up another time. In a way I am relieved that I am once again alone - it allows me the freedom to do the little extras before my appointment without having to rush anyone. I keep looking up at the clock as I sit eating my lunch which is tasteless due mostly to a dry mouth - great indicator of stress. I need something to fill my belly considering my head is swimming and I am feeling light-headed. I picked up a few items from the dollar store for the art project I am working on in art therapy - although they provide the supplies... there is a color theme to mine and I have found what I am looking for to complete the project on Tuesday. My first class was on Tuesday at the Wellspring Center. There are four of us sitting at the table with Wanda, our therapist hovering over us and helping us with our projects. One of the ladies has been fighting cancer for 9 years and is on the last ditch effort with chemo - there is no more after this..... sad really. She is quiet and says little after that - its one thing to know you are terminal, it's another to say it out loud. I can see the emotion etched on her face and change the subject to compliment her on her lovely art project. She smiles sideways at me and thanks me. The very pretty woman across from me has had 9 surgeries with the latest being reconstruction and looks about my age. She is talkative but in a quiet mature way while she pays special attention to the details of her project. She has spent a great deal of time making sure the painting is just perfect - the same attention reflected in her dress and well coiffed hair. She has been on her journey for years. The lady who has arrived late is young and by my estimation she hasn't seen her mid thirties yet. She has had a mastectomy and is still shocked by her situation - the one person she could have turned to is dying and she has not had the heart to tell her mother of her own peril. It takes a few minutes to absorb all this and then I let them know that my journey is still somewhere in the middle......

It is now 12:45 and I head over to the hospital. I realize that my pace has slowed considerably in the parking lot and part of me wants to just walk past and keep going. I hang outside texting Eileen - she has offered to come hang out with me if I want but I know she has better things to do and waiting for hours is never a lot of fun. No, its Ok I tell her, I have my book I am reading and really, I will be fine - no really, I am fine. I go through the automatic doors and make my way over to the large reception desk and the wall of plexi glass between us. She is talking really really loudly and repeats my name over and again to make sure she has it right.... I pass her my health card and tell her my name is on it and it would be better than yelling back and forth through the round opening filled with a perforated filter. I look at the waiting room and note a fair number of older patients sitting with a friend or family member. I grab a seat and pull out my BlackBerry to read a book I downloaded the day before in preparation for today's wait. I can feel the man a few chairs down stare at me and then change the course of his eye to a woman wheeling a walker wearing a long head scarf. I go back to my book after looking around at the diminishing numbers. I have filled out the paperwork they gave me with questions about my mental and physical health..... are you depressed? Sitting in this poorly lit waiting room with a monochromatic dull color scheme is depressing enough but seeing the varying age groups that walk by with bald heads is mind boggling. My name is called and I smile at the intake clerk. She thanks me for filling out the paperwork in full and proceeds to check that her information is correct and then walks me to the next section beyond the small waiting room. She is pointing out all the important doorways I need to know like the washrooms and that there is a Tim Horton's downstairs and........... OMG!!!!! Where did all these people come from? There are small seating areas everywhere jammed with people and people standing - If you did not know that this was a cancer clinic, you would swear that people were milling around waiting for a show to start. The nursing desks are encased in box office like structures. The clerk still at my elbow gets me to sit in a chair to wait while she gets me a pager. I have been assigned to Clinic 3 which I am facing but at a distance and looking up is a skylight showing the fall clouds that have begun to darken. The clerk returns a minute later and explains that I must log into the kiosk set up in the two waiting areas and to follow her to the one in the first waiting room as there are fewer people there. The auxillary lady in the yellow coat is helping another new patient in front of me. A very attractive woman with dark hair escorting a tall and very bald young man with the palour of a sickly yellow now stand behind me. They quickly recognize that I am new there and within a minute they have welcomed me and she has explained that her son is 18 and battling his own cancer - we talk about hair and she laughs as she tells me about the day her son's hair starting coming out in patches. His smile is engaging and his eyes twinkle. He is a very handsome young man and you can tell that his mother and him are close. She reaches out to touch my hair and is suprised how soft it is as she tells me that it will become course with Chemo. Are you going to cut your hair before you get chemo? I had thought about it and yes, I will shave it all off when the time comes... just not sure when that will be I say. I wave goodbye as I head back to my seat to wait my turn. My buzzer goes off a few minutes later and the nurse comes to meet me and take me away to be weighed and measured. We walk past the room with the young man and his mother - his face brightens when he sees me and wishes me the best of luck. What a wonderful soul.. best of luck to you too I say. The nurse lets me know that I am a little overweight - bwahahahah - my new Wii fit system tells me I am a wii bit more than just a little overweight. I smile to myself as she paces me around a labyrinth of hallways and rooms to a little exam room with a window facing out to Wellington Rd. The weight has been going on steadily over the past three months which is what finally prompted me to purchase the Wii fit in the first place.

There is a knock on the door and a nurse enters. She is lovely and goes over my information and lets me know that the doctor will be with me soon and that she will be back when he has had a chance to meet with me. The doctor enters a few minutes later and eases himself into a chair... it seems we are both having a long day. He explains my cancer and the course of action that should take place as soon as possible - the only thing we can do for the invasive ductile breast cancer that I have is Chemo. He explains the medications, the proceedures and the chances of reoccurance with the kind of cancer I have. I am scribbling madly in the notebook i had just purchased at the dollar store and hand it to him when he starts describing the schedule that they will be booking for the first visit and the consecutive ones. He draws out the course of events and the special prescription that I will need. I am praying that the insurance company covers most if not all of it. I will look into this tomorrow is a fleeting thought as I intently listen to everything he has to say remembering what my Yoga class told me about taking notes. I had a few questions - yes I will go into menopause which will solve the bad periods I have had since I turned 40 and no I will never be allowed to take anything that has a smackeral of female hormones such as tofu, soya and flaxseed. I will need to bolster myself eating berries, fresh fruit and vegetables - as many as I can and reduce the carb intake...... OK, all doable and duly noted.... I never liked soya anyway!! Yes, I will have a bone scan to determine if the cancer has started its course from the bones... they do not know point of origon and would like to investigate further. He waits to see if I have any more questions... not right now. He will have the nurse return and she will take me to the lab for blood work and have some prescriptions ready for me to submit in advance to see if they are covered. I thank him and off he goes to the next patient. My nurse is back with a ton of paperwork and carefully goes over emergency phone numbers - fever means anything 100 or higher requires an immediate trip to the emerg department, after all, low white cell count can be dangerous and needs to be managed immediately. I will receive my appointments soon via phone call but not to worry they will call soon. Nurse Laura has been assigned to me and has a phone number where I can reach her to ask questions or to get help should something not go so well. Yes, she says I should get my flu shot before my first appointment and will also let me know when the bone scan is booked. She is impressed with my calm and organized manner - frankly, so am I - but to be fair, I have had weeks to mentally prepare and accept my passage and whatever that brings. I collect up my things and she walks me out to show me where I will be having my chemo treatments. The chemo nursing station is one of a number of identical box office type structures that is only differentiated by the smiling faces behind the glass partitions, the little knick knacks adorning the desks and of course the placard above signifying its distinction from the rest. The doorway to the right of the desk is open and I can see a number of lazy boys and beds that are in organized aisles. I will be given a drip every 21 days for a period of two hours each time, Laura lets me know that I should bring a comfortable sweater and some reading material. Our next stop is next door to a pharmacy which I will use to fill the special prescription that I have been issued on one of the scripts that the nurse handed to me before the tour. I smirked when I gazed at the second script for a wig..... not my cup of tea but I will keep my options open. I am then escorted past the chip and drink machines at the far end of the large open waiting room and introduced to the lab technician who will draw blood for a series of tests used as a base for the ones that will be taken when I come in for chemo - this way they can keep track of where I am at in my therapy. The lab technician remarks about the sleeve and mentions seeing a few others similar to mine. There is a carved wooden mouse sitting on top of the computor screen a few feet away and it catches my eye. The detail is intricate and in keeping with a real mouse. Oh, the technician smiles and tells me that one of the patients that comes for treatments carved that and a similar one adorning another computer screen across the room. Amazing what talents we have when we are not rushing through our day to get to our jobs..... I thank her and swing my purse now loaded with pamplets and an assortment of must haves as I move through the doorway. It is quiet now in the cancer clinic with just a few people milling about and a woman smiles at me as I make my way through the exit doors and into the autumn air. So now comes the next chapter of my journey..... still somewhere in the middle.

As I am putting my blog to rest, I have an email from Sue H. She is letting me know that she has signed up for a class at Wellspring..... I am so glad you went to sign up and I hope to see you soon for another cup of coffee. Thank you to all the well wishers today and to the strangers who stopped and smiled at me today - really meant a lot to know that there are those with the capacity to make others happy. Remember to slow down, find an art project of your own, smile at a stranger and hug your loved ones.....xoxoxoxox

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