The ‘Me’ in the Mirror

Over the past six months, or so, with the treatments, my weight has dropped considerably. The first chemo had its impact with occasional bouts of nausea. The second chemo has not caused any nausea, but I’m still losing weight. Probably so far, I’ve lost about 18 pounds. I’m the lightest I’ve ever been; so light, I will float away any moment and dissipate in the breeze. Gone.

I’m writing this because yesterday I visited my brother’s gym. He is a personal trainer along with also being a Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncturist here in Ottawa. Very kindly, he will be helping me train. We need to build my body back up. We need to get the muscle regenerating (or whatever the word is). We need to fix the woman who looks like she’s missing 20 pounds.

It was weird looking in the mirror of that gym yesterday. All around me were people training themselves. They were sweating and pounding the bags – they had strong arms and strong strikes. They didn’t seem to worry about shattering a bone when hitting something. I’m scared to even lift a grocery bag, for fear of crushing a vertebrae. And in the mirror I watched myself amongst them, so noticeably different.

Beauty – is it in the eye of the beholder? Even more so, is health in the eye of the beholder? Does it count that I feel well for someone in my situation? Is this frail projection reflecting back at me a reality that my sensibilities won’t accept?

I’m at battle with the me in the mirror, because I’m a bit afraid she’s the me who is dying very slowly.

I guess that is really the truth of it. It scares me a little, you know? To wither away, it’s not cool. So I need to remember: the me in the mirror is doing her best. She is at the gym despite feeling totally awkward about it. She is eating the meat and fat, despite having no real desire for either. And she is trying her best. There is a ‘me’ in there who is healthy, beautiful, and striving to survive.

I just need to remember this. And keep trying. One pound at a time and one treatment at a time, I want to get my body back.

My First 11 Jobs

Last night I was cruising around on Twitter and came across the hashtag #myfirstsevenjobs. It was really interesting to see how people’s careers progressed (or not) over each job transition.

tramway

Working the Tramway with Amy

Anyhoo, I thought it might be fun to consider in my depth than a tweet my first MANY jobs. Seven won’t cut it for me, and I’m in the mood to paint a path from beginning to present day me.

1. BABY SITTER

Since it seems more a right-of-passage than job, I’m not sure whether to count this. But babysitting IS work – particularly when you are babysitting three brothers who love to get into fights, go on the roof, and do the opposite of what their parents put down as rules … not to forget force you to play non-stop driveway hockey. Ah, but I enjoyed it. Five bucks an hour back then, and I felt I was asking too much.

I’ve actually known people who have paid the bills with babysitting. Man that is smart. I’d never considered it back when Z and I were flat broke.

2. SUBWAY SANDWICH ARTIST

Ah, my first ‘real job’ on the books with tax deductions.  I walked into the restaurant and answered this question correctly: The lunch rush just finished. The tables are messy, the tomatoes need to be cut and a customer just walked in the door. What do you do first?

Serve the customer? Then fix the floor? Then cut tomatoes? CORRECT!

I got the job. It paid for my week-long grad trip to Mexico. A summer well spent during a time when I really was in a bubble about the value of a buck.

2. OLD NAVY

Never-ending-folding-opportunity!! I walked into a group interview for this simply because some friends of mine and I were wandering around the mall and there was a sign. I was wearing this ridiculous pink tank top and my hair was sloppily piled on top off my head in a bun. Apparently this made me hip enough to land the job. They played non-stop 80s pop music and the floor was concrete … i.e., it was literally painful to work there.

4. CONCESSION STAND

Truly my worst job. In writing this, I realize I am lucky this was the worst job I ever worked. Really it was just gross – limp lettuce, drug deals in the walk-in-freezer, concession stand food, and a bunch of flirting-with-each-other fifteen year old kids working their first jobs. Did one season to save money and then ditched it.

5. TRAMWAY

Oh man, the job wasn’t great but the summer was AMAZING. Since I was a kid I had wanted to work a summer in Jasper National Park. So during my first summer of university, I got myself a job at the Jasper Tramway working in their retail shop on top of the mountain. We’d do 12 hour shifts, but we ALSO all lived together in a big house, and rode bikes up mountains, and ate ice cream in the park and went dancing all night long. It was incredible. Everyone should work a shitty job in a beautiful national park at least once.

6. BOOK SELLER AT CHAPTERS

I have very mixed feelings about this time in my life, but my most vivid memories from then do come from this store. Here I met a boyfriend, and also my best friend Catherine – she worked in the kids department and it took about 6 months before we ever really spoke to one another, because we were shy. Twelve odd years later and she’s still a rock in my life. This job also helped pay for the back and forth trips to Hungary during my time courting Zsolt.

I just have a bit of a pinch with it, however. When I finally left for good, after three years of working there and showing up keen for each shift, the management were a bunch of assholes minus one fellow. Not a card wishing me luck (I was moving to England to be with Zsolt), barely a thanks, and the head manager (who so clearly hated his job) didn’t even want to let me use my discount one last time on buying books. I know that sounds petty, but in retail that’s like saying ‘go frack yourself’.

However, it did connect me to good people, and was a place about which I cared.

7. PRICEWATERHOUSECOOPER INTERNAL DEBT COLLECTOR

How the HECK I ended up doing this, I don’t know. In England you go to a job agency, and they place you in a position. Somehow I ended up here and accepted it because, you know, money. It was my first financial office experience. It was my last financial office experience. I worked about 9 months here, observed the bitterness of both management and long-term employees, saved cash for my MA in Creative Writing, and then took off on a trip to Iceland, never to return there again. I also met some great people, all recent university grads like myself.

8. ASSISTANCE SERVICES UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON

This was a FUN job. I got to go to other students’ lectures and take notes for them. Sometimes I’d go hang out with them on job placements. Other times I would just take them around campus so they were familiar with the space. It was all about helping these young people feel capable in their studies.

10. LIBRARY ASSISTANT & DIGITIZATION

Again with the University, but at a tiny library in the Humanities campus that looked out onto a courtyard. *happy sigh*

If we had stayed in England, I most certainly would have remained here for ages. Not only was it a lovely place in general, but the people – oh my goodness, such good people. This was the first job where I really felt valued as an employee, and in turn it made me value the job so much more. I wasn’t some expendable part-time employee . . . I mattered to them. It’s also where I was diagnosed with breast cancer and my manager truly helped me navigate that nightmare.

10 – ish. MORE LIBRARY

I truly love libraries, and this was no exception, but WOW… working for the city is a ridiculous jungle of protocol, ridged rules, and hierarchy. However, I did work at a very special branch in our city.

11. FREELANCE WRITER & SOCIAL MEDIA’ER’

Ohhh yeah. I don’t know how this happened, except that I had a MA in creative writing, moved back to Canada, did some blogging for local sites, and then one day went to a networking meeting where I randomly told people I was a writer. From here Camille Boivin came into my life. She hired me as a blogger, and it was a great relationship. I had two main clients in my work, and they helped Zsolt and I float along just enough to get out of my parent’s house and into the apartment in Vanier. It was lean times, but times where I was really building what I wanted to do with myself.

12. AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

A series of fortunate events, and projects, and job board emails, led me here. I am happy and grateful. So grateful. My project for the organization is the book club. It basically wraps much of what I have loved into a big ball, and then lets me play with it. I am inspired daily by the people with whom I work and am in awe they have welcomed me into their circle.

AND THAT IS IT.

?: What were your first seven, or eleven jobs? Share in the comments or write your own post and link back here🙂

My takeaways from all this:

1) You gotta carve your own path, and it probably won’t be a straight or expected one. If it were not for my taking on independent projects like blogging for Apartment 613, writing my novel, or creating Write Along Radio with my co-host, or randomly telling strangers I’m a writer, I would never have had the better doors opening for me. Also, I did an MA in creative writing . . . which people may tell you leads nowhere – except for me, it lead everywhere I pushed it to go.

2) Being valued is important. Once I stopped accepting shitty management, or devaluation on my services, or being treated as expendable, I found positions where my work was honoured. I want to work with people who care, and so that is where I end up. Put it out there and, if you can, don’t accept less.

3) A monkey wrench does not need to stop you. During all these years I felt, at different times, totally aimless in life, totally broke and worried about payments (plotting out our groceries dollar by dollar then feeling sick when we went over our small budget), totally sick with chemo, and totally worried about dying any second. But I’m still doing what I love to do, because I am far more than my fears AND (point 2) work with incredible people who help me keep going.

Okay, I can’t believe I have written so much in this post. Blame it on the lack of children in my life. If I had had a kid, then I would just bore THEM with all this recollection and take-away insight . . . heck, if I had had a dog I’d aim it their way too. But it’s just me and you, honey, blogging around together.

And so I will now stop writing.

The end.

Buffalo Cheese and CT Scan Results

Yesterday I was craving fresh (in water) buffalo mozzarella balls. So, I get Zsolt to drive me to the grocery store – where they have big buffalo mozzarella balls in water. I also picked up some chips. We get to the cash and neither Zsolt or I have our wallets! Not a penny on us! BAH!

I threw a little hissy fit of frustration, and then we hop back into the car and go back to the house – pick up the wallets – and head to a closer grocery shop (Sobeys).

So we go to Sobeys, except they don’t have buffalo mozzarella balls. They have cow milk, but that is not what I was craving. I love that sweet flavour with the buffalo. However, the chips here were on sale, so I pick them up and saved us a few bucks.

THEN we decide to go to Farmboy. Into the car we hop and cruise down the strip to the shop. In the shop I go. OH, one last package of fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese balls. We grab ‘em and check out.

I get home, ready to dive in, when I see the seal isn’t sealed. The damn package was already opened! Not cool. (And I’m really starting to lose it – getting really pissed off.)

Back into the car, and back out – this time to a different Farmboy, since the last one only had one product left, which I bought and now wanted to exchange. So we go to the different Farmboy, and I grab their last package of buffalo mozzarella balls (checking the seal), and exchange the cheese.

FINALLY we get home, I take out some balls, and collapse in front of my computer to watch a show. Sweet, cheesy, salty bliss.

“What can I learn from this?” I asked myself

If at first you don’t succeed, try-try again.

I think the same can be applied to cancer. No matter how frustrating, it is worth pushing for what you want. In my case, to try, try again.

And I can say this so easily, because today I received good news. Today I have NOT been crushed at the doctor’s office. The CT shows good results, considering I’ve only received 2 doses of a new chemo treatment. Good results considering the last treatment didn’t have great impact.

I’m very happy, with a tinge of bittersweet – I can go back to work, but will still get this chemo every three weeks. Upside is that it is easier to recover from compared to the previous approach, even if it is tiring (so I can live my life a bit more as I also destroy cancer).

The MEGA upside is that it may be having a GOOD effect on KILLING the cancer. That blows any bittersweet feelings out of the water. Die cancer, die! MUHAHAAHAHA!

I said to Dr. Canada, “I didn’t expected good results. I was feeling defensively pessimistic.”

He nodded his head. “I think that’s a reasonable approach. But I’m going to be optimistic for you.”

So I said “Okay, you stay optimistic for me.” And I very much appreciate it, indeed.

Today has brought a couple pieces of happy news – from a surprise with my novel, to a surprise with my results. Steady onward, and we’ll see what happens next.

Considering I thought this would be a most horrible week, it has turned out pretty well.

The end.

P.S. I love this picture made by my friend James. Check it out🙂

Who doesn't want to be compared to Katherine Janeway?!

Who doesn’t want to be compared to Kathryn Janeway?!