Monday, October 6, 2014

A year and one week.

I guess this post has been a while coming, but quite honestly, I've been having a bloody shit-show (ahaha, see what I did there?) of a week or two.

I don't have cancer.  Hooray!

I got the colonoscopy results a week ago and I was grateful but oddly underwhelmed.  There's a couple of reasons behind this:  One, because I never did radiation or chemo or anything, I still don't really feel like a real Cancer Survivor™.  There's still this weird unreality about the whole ordeal. 

I had cancer.  I had surgery.  I didn't have cancer anymore.


Meanwhile, I found it hard to get too excited because of the uncertainty in knowing that there is always a chance of it coming back.  So I got the news and it was like "You don't have cancer," and I thought inwardly "... well, for now."

I guess I'm being overly pragmatic about the whole thing?  I feel like I *should* be super-excited and jumping for joy when in reality I'm more like "Oh.. okay.  Cool.  Want to get a pizza?"

Does that make me ungrateful?  Maybe. 

Today I drove down to Mount Sinai to meet with my surgeon about my progress. Traffic and other complications, including almost hitting a pedestrian outside the hospital, resulted in being about 25 minutes late. Thankfully, the people at the hospital know I'm coming a rather stupid distance and are understanding.

The Well-Travelled One and I waited in the world's tiniest exam room until a nervous resident came to go over my medical history.  I've gotten to the point where I can pretty much recite my entire medical history on command.  Often to strangers in grocery stores.

I was subjected to an examination of both my abdomen (not terribly invasive) and rectum (much more invasive), rolling over while trying not to fall off the exam table.

I laughed long and loud after the mildly uncomfortable rectal exam, as the resident explained that each of the hospital's residents have to take turns with each area of specialty and that he'd come to the conclusion that he was not cut out for colorectal work due to being cursed with huge fingers.

This was probably the funniest thing I heard all day.  I'm glad he didn't tell me before the exam, though.

We met with my surgeon afterwards, who was pleased with my condition.  I'm to go back in six months for a scope and possibly a CT scan.  I originally thought that I would not have to go back for a year, but truth be told, I'd rather have a six month check-up, so if anything new develops, there's a good chance of catching it early again.

I felt a little more relief at this news, but I still am not all super-duper excited. 

I'm glad. I'm grateful. But I'm not excited. 

Do you ever get to let your guard down after something like this?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Excerpts from my notebook - The ER

Came into the emergency department around 11am.  It's now going on 3:30. I have been poked full of holes by nurses trying fruitlessly to secure an IV. I need fluids.

One attempt, on my right wrist, felt as thought [sic] a red hot wire was inserted into a nerve.  My hand felt tingly and numb for several minutes after.  I screamed out in pain.  I may have said Fuck.  I'm sure I said Christ.

There is zero cellphone reception here.  I stood outside for 10 minutes trying to update {The Well-Travelled One} on what has so far taken place.

My stomach is growling.  A cinnamon bun sits on the table beside me.  I bought it in the lobby minutes before I was told not to eat or drink anything.

My mouth is dry.  I need fluids. I finished my book and now I am bored as hell.

{The Well-Travelled One} got me this notebook for my birthday.  I have been saving it, not wanting to mess it up with grocery lists and price comparisons for ceramic tile like I had done with my cheap Dollar Store red book.

A nurse just came in and hooked me up to an ECG, so now to go with my lovely set of holes and bruises from multiple IV attempts, I also get to wear the badges of medical grade adhesive.

So, I'm basically just writing to pass time until my blood work comes back and they decide what else to do with me.

I'm here because I've had a headache for the last four days, a strange feverish feeling, and the ass-bleeding has ramped up in frequency and volume over the last week.  My doctor's office takes at least three weeks to get an appointment and in three weeks, I could be dead.

I hate this body that keeps failing me at every turn.  Colitis at 18. Colon cancer at 33.  Legs that want to clot up and pool blood at every turn.

Any time conversation turns to "What kind of superpower would you want?" my answer is invariably,
Every time.

I really have terrible handwriting.  It's gotten worse as I get older and I type more and the most writing I do is signing my name on my kids' agenda.  This is barely legible, especially since the hospital bed doesn't give a great surface to write on.  I seem to think faster than I write so there are numerous mistakes.

Going to try to sleep for a bit.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Some small justice, or, Depressingly, comment sections fail to surprise me. (TW Sexual Assault)

I read a blog post this evening.  It was a post from Dennis Canning, the father of Rehteah Parsons.  You may remember her.  She killed herself two years after some guys she was drinking with raped her, took pictures and circulated them around her school and community.  One of the guys involved recently plead guilty to producing child pornography, as the who took the pictures of Rehtaeh and the catalyst to the images being disseminated

If you click on that link, just don't read the comments.

I read the comments.  I have the rage.  All of the rage, and the anger, and the bilious, spitting, horrible "fuck this world and the people in it" disgust.

Most of the comments were sympathetic.  But who in the bloody-minded hell goes onto the blog of a grieving parent, who sought justice for his daughter and was so utterly failed by the authorities involved as they basically shrugged off a gross violation, who now will share with Rehteah's mother the everlasting grief of losing a child, especially one who could have been saved if only someone, anyone, gave a flying shit... 

What vile creature tells this grieving father that he MUST forgive the boys whose callousness and cruelty cost his daughter her life?

Who tells this family that by seeking justice for these wrongs, they will be ruining a kids life? The kids involved were old enough to know what they did was wrong.  The fallout is theirs to deal with.

What kind of person quibbles over the semantics of saying that Rehtaeh's death was a result of her rape and subsequent humiliation, by pointing out that sometimes people who DON'T have something so horrendous happen to them may also commit suicide? 

If Rehtaeh had mental health issues, I'm sure they were not helped by two years of reoccurring humiliation and a lack of compassion from institutions - the police, her school - that were supposed to help, not turn a blind eye.

And who, I ask, thinks it appropriate to pull out the "Where were this girls PARENTS??" card, when I am sure that Glen Canning and Leah Parsons wonder on a daily basis what THEY could have done different.

I know I would. 

I would bet Vegas odds that the jackass anon who made THAT comment probably lied to their parents at some point in their life.  Probably drank before they were legal age as well.

There but for the grace of something, go you, anon.

I'm a parent of two girls on the cusp of adolescence.  If this was one of my children it would take everything in me not to want to track down these kids and tear them apart with my bare hands.

I cannot fathom what a bitter victory this guilty plea must seem.  Small consolation for a family that will never have their daughter back. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Age, Relatively Speaking

Age, like time, moves in a dimension of which we are only subtly aware. A shiver down your spine.

My grandmothers, at 62, were so much older than my mother is at 62.  62, to a child, seems a ridiculously high number of years to live.

They've lived 20 years and more since then.

My mother at 34, was so much older at 34 than I am now.  34 was impossibly grown up.  At 34, my parents, for all appearances to my childhood self, really had their shit together. At 34, I am still not sure I qualify as an adult.

My daughter, at 13, is younger than I was at 13.

Or so it would seem. It may be a generation of coddled youth, or it may be my parental desire to keep her a baby forever.

I only have vague recollections of my great-grandmothers (the two who lived to see my birth), as they died while I was still basically a baby.  My grandmothers have already lived to see at least one great grand-child to adulthood may still live long enough to see the others grow up, too.

To my children, their great-grandmothers will never be a faint, fuzzy outline in a memory formed by a toddler's mind.

(My grandfather's never lived to see their great-grandchildren.  Neither did their mothers.)

Time's passage reminds me of my age. That's about the only thing that does.

My kids think I am old.  I almost have them fooled into thinking I'm a grown up.

It amuses me how gradually the alternative rock stations become oldies stations.

They just kept playing the same songs, twenty years later.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Parenting is hard work.

Parenting is hard work.

It does not get easier, it just gets different.  As the years pass, the physical becomes the emotional.

Raising infants is profoundly physical.  The carrying, the lifting, the walking, wearing grooves in the floor countless nights pacing back and forth, bouncing and rocking.  Always moving.  Pushing strollers, carrying car seats and playpens and diaper bags.

Dropping into bed at night with aching muscles.  Sleeping, but only half-sleeping.  Laying rigid so as not to not roll onto the baby during the night.  Waking up sore from the effort.

Raising toddlers holds many of the same physical challenges, but here the mental agility becomes more of a necessity.  Chasing little bodies with seemingly boundless energy, until that energy runs out.  Then carrying dead weight as they crash and sleep hard as only children can.  Upstairs, out of cars, desperate not to wake them too soon.

Parenting toddlers means being able to read every facial expression and grimace in anticipation of bathroom runs. It means mental calculus - How much sleep during the day will keep a toddler up half the night? How much liquid before bed will mean laundry in the morning?

Raising toddlers means anticipating every move. Being constantly ready to leap across a room to remove errant objects from hands and mouths, or to scoop up sturdy little bodies when they come too close to stairs or roads or fireplaces.

Raising toddlers means having the mental agility to foresee hazards before they present themselves and the physical agility to remove the hazards unforeseen.

Raising school-age children gives the body a break. Finally.  School-age children sleep through the night.

The mind gets a break.  Kind of.  Maybe.


That's a lie.  Raising school-age children means remembering schedules, helping with homework.  Be here at this time.  Calculating costs.

School means time to honing your analytical skills.  Analyzing the nuance behind the word 'fine', or the word 'nothing' in response to 'How was your day?' or 'What are you doing up there?'

Analyzing teachers, friends, other parents.  Questioning your own influence on your child, be it from a quantitative ("How much influence do I even have, when TV and film and popular music exists?") or  qualitative ("Is this the example I want to set?") standpoint.

Adolescence ups critical thinking and analytical skills even further.  It's a gold-medal worthy performance of mental gymnastics, walking the thin line between offering a guiding hand and dragging headlong into your own idea of what they should be shaping up to be.  The realization that their hopes, their dreams, their values may differ wildly from your own.

Being okay with being imperfect.  That's a big one.

Shoring up your foundations for those days when you are the worst human being alive, when you know nothing.  The days when you are the only thing standing between this human being whom you have loved with the very depths of your soul, whom you may have even made from your very flesh - the days when you are the only thing standing between this being and their happiness, and for this you are cursed, you are spat upon.

Gathering strength for the days when you question every decision, every indulgence, every harsh word, every "Yes," every "No" you've made as a parent.

Parenting is the exhaustion of constantly feeling like your heart will burst at any moment with immense love, and break with the knowledge that for all your desire to protect them and save them, that one day you'll let them go and have to hope that you've taught them what they need to survive.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Things that bother me that I should probably get over, already. Part 1.

Back in 1993, I was in grade 8.  As part of our music curriculum we were to form groups and perform a lip sync to the song of our choice (pending approval by the music teacher whose name escapes me).

My friends and I approached this nameless entity, who may have vaguely resembled Rhys Darby if memory serves, with great excitement and proposed our intention to lip sync to "(I'm Gonna Be) 500 Miles" by the Proclaimers, which to this day is probably the most innocuous song ever performed by twins with unintelligible Scottish accents.

We were denied permission to perform this tune, because the teacher in question felt the lyrics "When I  get drunk, I'm gonna be the one who gets drunk next to you" was wholly inappropriate for a group of thirteen year olds to perform.

We were utterly devastated.  Okay, maybe not devastated, but we were most certainly indignant.  Even  more so when we watched the other performances, which included a rendition of Nirvana's "Lithium"

Oh, yeah.  References to getting drunk are too inappropriate, but 13-year-olds singing the line "I'm so horny" is hunky-fucking-dory.

This, my friends, is why every so often, I am reminded of this incident and how it resulted in the grave injustice of having to lip-synch "Boot Scootin' Boogie" in front of my grade 8 class.  Which, I may add, also includes references to alcohol, thus making me question exactly what that nameless grade 8 music teacher had against a couple of homely Scots who apparently lacked a decent mode of transportation.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Food banks, nutrition, Kraft Dinner and the social safety net

I've been seeing a few posts going around about an Ottawa area food bank, the Parkdale Food Centre, and their recent policy change wherein they are refusing certain items of food they deem unhealthy... Namely that Canadian lunch staple, Kraft Dinner.

I have a few thoughts on this:

- KD is, yes, pretty much chemical glop.  Delicious, delicious chemical glop. Mmmm.

- KD has the capability of being mixed with meats and veggies to create a more filling and nutritious meal.  It is also easy to cook and easy to store, which is important for people who lack cooking facilities or safe places to store food.

- With the exception of around Christmas and Thanksgiving, food banks in Ontario are generally understocked and screaming for donations.

- Some people who donate food are assholes and will use food drives as an opportunity to unload their expired and or plain nasty stuff.

- Food banks do need to be able to offer more healthy options such as fresh fruits and vegetables, milk.  Money donations help them do this by offering grocery vouchers that can be redeemed at local grocery stores, or by allowing the food bank to stock these items daily.

I think a big point is being missed in a lot of the debate about this policy.  From my perspective, it is reasonable to encourage the donation of healthier options, but it is kind of arrogant and patronizing to refuse items (barring items that are expired or opened).  Healthy food is needed, but so is comfort food.  So is the occasional treat.  

But the thing nobody commenting on this story seems to be touching on is that food banks are supposed to be an emergency measure, a stop-gap.  If we have people relying on food banks to the point where it is becoming nutritionally detrimental, then that is a BIG problem and in most cases not the fault of the people having to rely on the food banks.   It's a symptom of a system that is not doing what it can to look out for its more vulnerable members.. the elderly, the disabled, families having to work at minimum wage, both single-parent and two-parent. 

If these people who rely on ODSP or CPP or a fair minimum wage do not have enough to even feed themselves on a regular basis, then that's a sign of a much bigger problem than a few boxes of Kraft Dinner.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Body acceptance and 'unacceptable' bodies.

Before I start, I just want to point out that societal standards and the idea that there are acceptable bodies and unacceptable bodies are bullshit.  Complete, grass-fed bullshit.

That being said, these ideas and standards exist, and it is naive to say societal standards are bullshit so you should just ignore them and feel good about yourself.  Context matters and there is only so far you can go in 'ignoring standards'.

I include this caveat mostly to make clear that when I speak of acceptable and unacceptable bodies, I mean by societal standards and definitely not my own.  Had I my druthers, we wouldn't be having this conversation at all, because there'd be no concept of a body that was unacceptable.

The other day I read a post on my Facebook feed, lauding Australian 'plus-sized' model Robyn Lawley for posting a number of un-retouched, un-airbrushed bikini pictures in the name of body acceptance.

I'm not even going to get into discussing how ludicrous the modelling industry's idea of plus-sized is.  Most of the average-sized women I know are considered too large for plus-sized modelling.

Yup.  Plus-sized.  Okay, then.
First off, I want to say, on a personal level, hats off to you, Robyn Lawley.  Body insecurity can be an issue for anyone of any size and shape and putting yourself out there like that can be a great act of bravery.  I applaud you for calling out the practice of PhotoShopping and airbrushing that gives women even more unrealistic standards to try and live up to.  You, along with so many other women, live within the context of a capitalistic system where industries make money off of tearing down the self-esteem of women, in a never-ending quest to sell us more make-up, more diets, more surgeries and more ways to hate our bodies for being less than utter perfection.

So, yes.  On a personal level, a big thumbs up for you, Robin Lawley.

All that being said, I just wish that the body acceptance movement would focus more on 'unacceptable' bodies.  Practising body acceptance, while a generally good thing, is a lot easier when you live in a body that falls near the "most acceptable" end of the spectrum.  Having a slender, white, youthful women preach body acceptance leaves me feeling pretty underwhelmed.

A woman like Robyn Lawley can post online a picture of herself, flaws and all, and will most likely receive accolades and support and comments to the effect of how beautiful she already is.  Granted, you always get a few assholes that will pick apart her appearance.

I have to wonder.. what if someone like myself, at 200+ lbs, stretch-marked, scarred, flabby, posted the same picture in my own bikini (which I have, because fuck societal standards)?  Mockery, cries of "No one wants to see that!", fake concern for my health and possibly threats of violence because the internet is like that.

Body acceptance should be applicable to all bodies, not just acceptable bodies.  Black bodies, brown bodies, short bodies, fat bodies, disabled bodies, old bodies, scarred bodies, tattooed bodies, trans bodies.  All ethnicities, all genders.

We need to celebrate ALL bodies.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

I don't know cars but I can read an invoice, or, Why I Won't go to Pro Oil Change again

I'm really starting to wonder how I keep running into service companies that don't seem to understand that if you give someone a price on something, that should actually be what they pay.  Hell, just being relatively accurate would be great.   In the general ballpark, even. Whatever.

So, in preparation for an upcoming big-ass road trip, and in the name of general automotive maintenance, I decided to get my car's oil changed on my lunch break.  I've had friends offer to do my oil changes and sometimes I take them up on that but mostly I get lazy and impatient and end up going to a 10-min oil change place.  Usually Midas, but they are admittedly a bit pricey, especially when you start treating your motor-baby to synthetic oils.  Generally in the $90 range for a full-synthetic package.

So I decided to try a different place this time.  Pro Oil Change opened a franchaise near downtown about a year ago and lo and behold, they also had a ten-dollar-off coupon on their website and a claim to a 12-minute drive-through service, which seemed handy considering I get a half an hour for lunch.


Lunch time rolled around and I drove down to see what the pricing was like.  I asked the senior mechanic guy about pricing and if they did synthetic and he told me a full-synthetic oil change was 60 bucks plus tax.  I asked if the coupon was valid with that package and he said sure so I gave him my keys and hunkered down with one of the limited magazine offerings.

On a side note:  How much sense does it really make to have hot rod and other automotive magazines in a 10-minute oil change place?  Anyone interested enough in cars to want to read about them in magazines are probably doing their own oil changes.

But I digress.

Gripe Number One:  I waited a lot longer than twelve minutes.  I guess they were short-staffed, but I still feel the need to include that to give the fullest picture of my overall shitty experience dealing with this particular company.

Gripe Number Two:  My air filter needs changing, apparently.  I was offered a new one for 29.99 installed.  Now, I could be mistaken, but I have bought one of these before and I don't remember it being near thirty bucks.  And I don't know if you've ever seen where the air filter on a PT Cruiser sits, but a monkey could probably change it.  Hell, I'm fairly confident I could change it, and I'm sure there are monkeys with better automotive knowledge than I have.

Now, these first two gripes, I would let slide.  People get swamped, and understaffed.  Shit happens.  People are in the business to make money so they are going to try and upsell.  And honestly, my air filter DOES need changing.


Gripe Number Three:  When I got the invoice, I saw that I had been charged 38.99 plus tax for service and 37.00 for the oil filter and about 5 liters of synthetic oil. 5W-30.

All told it comes to about $85 bucks after the tax.  After I had been told $60+

(for those unfamiliar with HST, the Ontario rate is 13% so after my coupon was applied, I should have been looking at about $58 bucks total)

I pointed out the discrepancy and was told that ".. that's how the computer rings it up.. you see, it's this much for the service and then this much for your oil."

To which I replied "I see that, but you told me it would be sixty dollars, not over seventy-five."  To which he again said that it was the way it comes up in the computer.

Once again, I reiterated that I was told $60 and that the price card I was shown when I came in also said $60 for the package.  If it comes up as over $75 on the computer, then that is what it should say on the price card.  That is what I *should* have been told when I asked about pricing.

I was also told that I needed to account for the tax.  Which pissed me off, because - as I pointed out on the computer screen - the price BEFORE tax was still fifteen bucks more than the price I was told.

The guy apologizes and says that he's run into this problem before and has told his boss about it a couple of times now.  I told him I'm not surprised he's had problems with customers over it because it's a shitty, dishonest way to do business.

I also told him that as a first-time customer this was a crappy first impression and that I felt I had been ripped off.  I agreed to let them do the oil change under false pretences, believing that I would be paying one price, and then being charged more after the fact.

He then apologized and offered to knock 15 bucks off the price, without the coupon.  He gave me the coupon back and said I could use it again the next time I was in.  I scoffed and told him to keep the coupon as I would not be returning.  I also suggested that he pass that message along to the company owner, once again expressing my opinion that theirs was a shitty, crooked way of doing business.

So yeah.  Will not be going back there.  I had full intention of going in this morning and speaking to the manager face to face, but... life.

For now, this will need to serve as my strongly worded letter and my warning to others who may be tempted as I was.. don't bother.  

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Whatcha got in that bag, Lady?

My co-workers crack me up sometimes.

This conversation happened this afternoon.

My co-worker who we will call CA (because no one will figure it out) is cleaning her keyboard with one of those compressed-air cans.

Me: I need to do that too.  My keyboard is gross.

(My keyboard is gross.  I'm not lying.)

CA: Just fart on it.  Fart through a straw.

(We're classy)

Me: I'm pretty sure that would result in a much bigger, much more unpleasant mess in my keyboard.

CA: You can't do that, can you? That's right, you can't!

Me: I can't what? Fart?

CA: Yeah, because you got the [ostomy] bag.  Right?  I thought you couldn't fart anymore.

Me: I never got the bag.  Didn't I tell you that?  About a week before my surgery the doctor decided they could save my rectum so they just attached it to the small intestine.  I swore I told you that.

CA: I didn't know.  I thought you had the bag.

Other members of the Grey Carpet Area (hereby known as the GCA): Yeah, we knew.

Me: Yeah, no ostomy. Everything works about 90% the same as before.

CA: Oh jeez! I thought you had the other thing done, 'cause you always had that little red bag with you.
This red bag. From my awesome friend Sammi. Because Sammi is awesome.
CA: You're always taking it into the bathroom with you and everywhere you go.

Me:... that's my purse.  That's why it's with me all the time. Sometimes I'm on my period and need a pad and sometimes I just want to put on some lipstick.

CA: Holy shit! You're kidding me!

Me: (grabs purse and opens it) See?  No shit in here.  Well, okay, there's a lot of shit in here.  But no feces.

Me: That being said, if it ever does come down to an ostomy bag, I'd totally be into a Wonder Woman design.

(Fun Fact:  These exist.  Thanks for the link, SB!)

GCA: *hysterical laughter and smart ass comments.. including something along the lines of "Go for the Wonder Woman bag, because you don't wanna shit in a Gucci."*

CA:  Oh my god.  OH MY GOD.  The other day, when you dropped the plant..!1  I was all worried because you left your bag on the floor next to all the dirt.. and you were nowhere near it.  I was panicking thinking something horrible happened to you, because you weren't with your bag!  That's why I picked it up and brushed it off and was all worried about getting it back to you!

(I had gone to get a broom. See footnote.)

Me:  I thought you were just being nice!

At this point, I have tears running down my cheeks, I am laughing so hard.  People are coming in from other departments to see what is going on and why we are laughing about pooh-bags and shitting in Gucci.

This must have been especially confusing to anyone who has joined our department since last January. I can kind of understand the confusion, because in all fairness, back when I was first diagnosed with colitis at the tender age of 18 and had the dreaded words "colostomy bag" uttered to me, I thought it would look kind of like a fanny pack.  At this purse, with its shoulder strap, does kind of sit over my hip, where an ostomy bag might go.

It's been a while since I've laughed that hard.  Cancer is bullshit, but poop jokes never get old.

1The other day, coming into work, I attempted to carry two large spider plants, my tote bag, my purse and a coffee into the building in one trip and succeeded in dumping one of the plants upside down on the floor.  Considering I was carrying my travel mug in my cleavage, things could have gone much worse.

Like what you see?