MALL walking!

It’s eleven PM and I’m starting this blog post. Too late for spelling or grammar concerns. Too later, really, to be blogging. But what the heck? Let’s go for it.

Lately I’ve taken up an interesting sport. It is called “mall walking” and it’s quite the event. You see in Canada winter is cold. In Ottawa, where I live, it’s also snowy and icy and creates chaos for a person who lives downtown, doesn’t own a car, and needs to walk on the icy, uneven, potholed sidewalks of the city.

But the weather is beautiful on a crisp winter day, and the mall isn’t too far from my downtown location. So while downtown and not at my parents place, it’s a bit tempting to risk the short outdoor walk (even though my oncologist scared the heck outta me around breakages in bones, etc.) and go to the mall for a little bit of movement.

Yeah, I’m basically behaving like an elderly citizen. But I get it more, you know? Things like chemo and the change in body really make you get it. Mall walking – it just makes sense.

So the other day my brother took me walking in the mall.

First, it was absolutely adorable. He and I walked the precarious sidewalk towards the Rideau Center Mall arm in arm. I mean, come on – when do you walk arm in arm with your brother? NEVER, in my experience. But we did! I was quite excited about the whole trolling the mall thing, and he was happy to humour me.

So we take a walk outside. But by the time we actually reach the mall I’m wheezing like a … well… a person who cannot catch their breath. Unfortunately, my lungs have been giving me trouble. But that’s why it’s good to get outside and push them a little. Push, as my bro says, so that the body knows where to aim and grow towards.

Right, I’m wheezing on the street corner, catching my breath. But we made it – because the entrance is JUST RIGHT THERE. Screw the wheeze! Let’s keep going! I proclaim to him and a few random people passing by.

We continue up an incline. Screw the wheeze, screw the wheeze, screw the wheeze I say as we chug along. Because goodness knows I can’t just shut up and conserve my breath. No, I cope through chatter.

And finally we reach the entrance to the mall food court. Basically, we’re hitting up the most exciting part of the tour first, because there is plenty to see and do in a food court.

Including getting a massage!

We go in, take a seat on some comfy stools and my traditional-Chinese-medicine trained brother gives me an awesome chest and shoulder massage.

So we go from holding arms, to massaging.

Not weird at all.

Ha!

But screw it, I was in 7-heaven. Every walk should pause mid-way for a massage. Plus, it really helped to reinvigorate me for the remainder of the mall walk.

Then we take off (but not before deciding that as a reward for this very productive walking excursion, we’d buy some BUCHIPOP, sold in the food court and made by my brother’s girlfriend – it’s her drink company – on the way out!)

And off we walked into the mall.

I guess the key to a good mall walk is not to actually go into many shops. It’s more walk-by browsing. Otherwise things become rather stagnant. However, of course, if something catches the eye than by all means stop. Of course, I’m doing it wrong, technically. WAYYYYY back when I was 20 and worked for Old Navy,  I’d see proper mall walkers in the morning before anyone actually began shopping in the mall. They were a serious bunch. They didn’t stop to shop because the stores were not even open yet! They would just charge around the mall over and over – really proper and serious mall walkers.

I’m more like… a contemplative walker. I enjoy the sights and sounds. I enjoy the conversation.

JP, my brother, carried my coat. Very gentlemen like. So first there was arm-in-arm strolls, a massage, and then gentlemanly behaviour. WEIRD! But to tell you the truth, his carrying my coat is a great relief, and I can use that energy for explore and gab for a longer period of time.

Eventually the walking felt complete. I bought my rewards BUCHIPOP and we headed back to the apartment.

While I do spend most of my time at my parents, it has been very nice to be downtown too. If for no other reason than the chance to spend more time with my brothers – they both live downtown – and of course, for the occasional visit to the mall.

Arm in arm we walked home together. And it was it such a good time. I’ve decided that I will take the memory of that mall wall with me into my radiation appointment this week.

Targeted radiation – cyber knife. For all the spots in my brain. I have three days worth of sessions. First day 1 hour with the face mask on,locking me to the table. Second two sessions – 1.5 hours and 1 hour back-to-back with the face mask on, locked down. Third session, on the Monday – 1.5 hours and 1 hour back to back with the face mask on, locked down. (VERY good, but psychologically challenging)

The only way I figure I’ll cope with this, is to take in all the stories and moments I’ve been enjoying – from you – to think about as my brain receives laser radioactive surgery.

I will think about the mall walk with my brother. Think about going to the tea house with my oldest friend and the hot chocolate we used to order. Think about Pink Floyd and Christmas lights. Think about dancing with my husband. Think about PWC and eating a gooey pizza with my also-wants-to-be-a-writer-and-we-also-love-to-gossip co-worker. Think about shelving books at Chapters and escaping to the back room. Think about going out west with my Dad. Think about Pride and Prejudice with my mom. Think about car rides with my cousins. Think about kicking some ass in the gym class self-defense module and earning a reputation for being crazy. Think about BOLO. Think about riding bikes in Balaton. Think about brunch with friends. Think about my writing, how you react to it, and what I want to do with it going forward.

Think think think.

Thank you so much for all of your messages. I was nervous to put that post out. SO nervous. But it was good, and I’m glad to have done it.

I’ll take all of you in with me to those radiation sessions. And we’ll get these spots under control.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

PS NO SPELL CHECK TONIGHT> Maybe tomorrow. Maybe. I’m always embarrassed by the errors. But better out then never published. And things can be reviewed later.  Gooood night!

A week of things

This week was a good week. It’s nice to have them occasionally. I honestly didn’t expect it would be all that wonderful. But it was pretty chill, and productive, and somehow visiting with my radiation doctor made me feel less dismal and more . . . just . . . steady.

Boo!

Boo!

Here is what happened. It’s almost so unremarkable that you really needn’t read another word in this post. But I feel like writing it out, so there you go.

This week I saw Margaret Atwood for the second time in my life. I’m editing/recording a mini podcast feature for the Ottawa International Writers Festival and Foment Literary Magazine. It’s a nice thing that gets me out of the house on the rare evening, and lets me talk about events with other literary loving minds. Margaret Atwood wore skeleton gloves for the event, which she picked up at a gas station. Throughout the evening I know everyone in the audience was wondering why she wore those gloves. And I know this because during the Q&A at the end, someone ask her why and everyone clapped. Then when she explained it was a spooky season and she bought them at a gas station, everyone clapped again. Two rounds of applause for the skeleton gloves. And Margaret Atwood. And her new book Hag-Seed, which sounds really entertaining.

Also this week, we have had a bunch of pumpkins populating our home. Tomorrow I’m hosting a small gathering of family and a few friends, and we are carving these pumpkins up. This is really an overly elaborate plan to make other people carve pumpkins so I can enjoy the benefits of roasting pumpkin seeds later. Mmmm, I adore salted roasted pumpkin seeds.

Furthermore, I made a rather excellent cheesecake.

As well! It’s always a satisfying week when I’m able to make progress at work. It seems to me there is always another big project that needs attention. In general, it feels like having this massive piece of ice I’m meant to turn into some lovely sculpture. But the only way to accomplish this gleaming sculpture is to slowly scrape and scrape at the ice till it finally takes forms. The  scraping is emails, phone calls, writing texts, experimenting with ideas, sending newsletters and such. And in the in, you get something wonderful. This week, I could move that sculpture along. But next week, of course, there will always be more to do. This is okay. It helps me. By the by, the Amnesty International Book Club is having a Readers Choice vote – go vote! It closes on the 31st.

Counter that above point: this week I worked mostly from home. I just could not handle it otherwise. Firstly, it’s a post-chemo week. Secondly, I received shitty news about my treatment last week, which got me down down down – and so incubating myself, in a way, helped me cope with all the ice chips I needed to scrape off not only my work sculpture, but my life-in-general sculpture too. And I could cry whenever I wanted. Plus stop to take naps. And watch the end of Star Trek Voyager.

Next: My art class was attended by only two people this past Wednesday. While that sucks for our lovely instructor, it wasn’t at all bad for me. It was useful to have  a little extra input into my impossible-flower-painting-that-is-driving-me-crazy. Oil paint is an interesting medium, but my goodness does it require patience. Patience is not my strongest point. And so, I am reminded to slow down in life.

We cleaned. This is why you invite people over, in additional to harvesting their pumpkin seeds. It forces one to finally clean one’s apartment.

We had sushi. That was fun – it’s this roll-it-yourself sushi that Zsolt and I really enjoy. After finally finding sushi rice at Bulk Barn, we ate our hand-rolled sandwich style sushi. It made us both quite happy.

So you can see, it was an unremarkable week that was nevertheless good.

Last week was terrible. Apparently while other areas in my body are stable’ish’ in regards to the cancer, my liver spots just keep on growing. Fuck buckets. This terrible disease is terrible. However, there are areas in my body that seem mostly stable, and that is good. Dr Canada is working to see what alternative treatments he can find me. I hate cancer. And this is a shitty way to end this happy blog post.

Therefore I will add this! I booked a ticket to go on a trip. I’m excited. Extra excited because I’ll be traveling with my Dad, and we haven’t done anything like this together ever. Not that I can remember, anyhow. It’s gonna be one long plane ride of him saying crazy things, and me taking the bait every time. FUN!

Last thing, it snowed!! Holy moly.

Happy Halloween 🙂

Catherine

 

It just wasn’t right

It’s so strange what can trigger a person. For me, it’s tattoos. Not beautiful tattoos of self-expression, but rather tiny black mole-like tattoos a person gets when they go in for radiation treatment.

As life with metastatic cancer continues, thankfully, so does the need for treatment. While my bones are mostly stable, there is a trouble spot that is creating some dull pain in my hip. Dr Canada thinks we should get on top of it with a single shot of radiation. That means I’ll go in next week, get it radiated, and then be done, minus the after-effects which are not promised to be fun.

Somehow I can handle this idea of radiation, but the tattoos that come with it . . . the visible, always there, never fading tattoos . . . I hate them so much.  I hate how much my body is being marked by cancer, and these tiny black spots represent the permanence of so many things.

So, that’s already a loaded emotional trigger. Then add onto that my experience getting the markings.

Today I went in to get my tattoos and have the CT scan of my hips. It was just fucking horrible. The admin assistant shows me to the change room and tells me I need to remove my trousers, though I can keep everything else on. So I do – and then I realize, there are no hospital gown trouser available. So I leave the change room instead draped in gowns back and front like a dress, and walk around trying to find trousers. But there are no damn hospital trousers! The lady is busy with other patients, and I’m just stuck without any pants.

Then a technician come out. He’s tall and later middle aged. ‘Catherine Brunelle’ he calls. So I go and see him. He’s the guy who will be doing my markings.

Fuck. It’s a man. Fine.

I begin to tell him I was looking for trousers but can’t find any. I fail to say: I require hospital-gown pants before going another step . . . instead I listen as he rattles on about next time I can just keep my own pants on, and follow him into the CT room.

We take a seat in the room. I feel pissed off. I know I’m radiating annoyance. I cannot help it. I also feel helpless.

“I’ll give you the tattoos here, here and here.” (he points with each here: hip, belly, hip)

“Where? On my front, or on my back.” I had assumed this tattoo was going to be placed on my back, as it’s my backside that is sore.

“Here, here and here,” he points.

“On my belly?”

“On your front.”

Catherine is not happy about this. She is really not happy.

But, the spot needs to be radiated, and I climb onto the CT scan table – sans trouser.

“Okay, I’ll lift up your gown,” he says.

“No,” I respond. Because the idea of baring my legs and belly with nothing but my knickers on is just too much. Instead I remove the front covering gown and slid it down to cover my thighs and hips. This leaves me mostly covered. Good.

Except then he gently folds down the gown to access my pelvis.

I just swallow the emotions. Get it done, Catherine.

“If you can pull your underwear down a little.”

I pull them down just a little. Still thinking he is going to tattoo my fucking belly. But oh no, it’s not my stomach that is getting the tattoo.

“Okay, a bit more here.”

And he reaches over me and very gently pulls down the underwear so my pubic hairs are all there to see, and the back of the underwear is down off my butt.

And I’m just lying there looking upwards, exposed, and thinking ‘just get through this’.

FYI, he isn’t being grabby, or rude, or anything inappropriate. He is professional. But he is doing things I wasn’t warned to expect by doctors, admin assistants, or the technician himself. And so, no matter how professionally he behaves, I essentially hate him.

He puts tiny metal BBs on me, covers me up, and runs the CT scan. Then he comes back out, uncovers me again, takes off the BBs and gives me the tattoos – one on each hip, and one on the upper crest of my – I don’t know what to call it… above the pubic bone. Pubic hair. Pubic all over the place.

The he steps away, and lets me know I can pull my underwear back up. And I looked down and just saw too much. Started crying right there. Still kind of crying now, for some reason. I was lowered on the table, and shown out of the room – but didn’t take more than two steps before swooping into the open bathroom in the hall, shutting the door, and crying my eyes out.

I’ve had my chest tattooed and I’ve had a rubber mesh pulled over my face to create a mask that would pin me to the radiation table. And that was all upsetting. But this felt violating. I wasn’t ready – and if I had known, I would have asked for a female technician. I should have asked for one when I saw him, but I just didn’t – I didn’t know what was about to happen.

And that fucking sucks.

I have gratitude for what people do, and for their expertise. I have gratitude for the support given without asking anything in return. And I know I complain a lot here, it’s true. But on this blog I can say the feelings that I often fail to express in those critical moments.

I just wish I had known. I could have gotten ready. I could have asked for a women.

But that is done now.

He did nothing wrong, but whatever happened to me emotionally really wasn’t right.

P.S. While writing this post, I realized  how uncomfortable I had been. So this morning I called the radiation department and requested a woman work with me when I go in for the actual scan. They were super nice about it – and it’s no problem at all. Thank goodness. Now, if only I could have made that request in the first place…

*this conversation is an approximate of the wording. I didn’t record everything, but it’s the gist.