Tonight I’m off to get an MRI and MRA to check on the status of my brain aneurysm – whoop! One year ago a surgeon filled my brain with platinum, (the procedure is called “coiling”), in order to keep my aneurysm from bursting – eek! I was actually very lucky because when I was in the hospital for cancer treatment my doctors accidentally stumbled upon my aneurysm while scanning my body. Who said cancer doesn’t have a silver lining?!
I always come prepared to these scans with a pocketful of pills. Lying in an enclosed, small space for 45 minutes while the MRI machine pounds you with loud noises – which sound like punk rock combined with power tools – is not ideal for anxious types like myself. Six months ago at my last brain scan, several poor souls in the waiting room started to freak out with nervousness. The nurse told them that they should have asked their doctors for a sedative before coming to their appointment – nice! I was tempted to share my stash with them, but since I’m not completely insane I didn’t. Personally I think the waiting room should come equipped with a Chill Pill dispenser. The pills, or “dolls” as I like to call them (watch “Valley of The Dolls” if you haven’t already), could be kept in this fabulous canister by Jonathan Adler:
To shop his whole selection:
One of the many annoying things about having cancer is that you are expected to “make the most of every day!” & “live each day to the fullest!” Frankly that is too much pressure. And yes, I know I am lucky to be alive. Many of the people in my private FB Mesothelioma group are doing far worse than I am, or they have already died. But I reject this pressure to live the perfect cancer life. I refuse to drink green smoothies, post positive affirmations on social media and joyfully check off items on my bucket list.
Just like everyone else on this planet I have enough to worry about without this added “be the sparkling cancer inspiration girl” bullshit. I worry about my aging parents who seem to have no long-term plan in place. I grapple with how best to deal with my sibling who has a personality disorder. I have relationship problems. I am trying to figure out a new career path/going back to school, even though some days I am so exhausted and nauseous that I can’t even get off the couch. I am navigating depression & anxiety. I am experiencing that weird mid-life crisis, wondering “what does it all mean?” I am feeling unsettled, missing the U.S. where I spent most of my adult life, but knowing that I will now never be able to move back there. I am dealing with longing and sadness over the fact that many of my close friends and family live far away. I am navigating life with our recently adopted senior dog who seems to be in great pain and so now the endless Vet visits begin. The list goes on and on. And of course I am indeed one of the very lucky ones because I don’t have to worry about keeping a roof over my head, or having enough money to put food on the table, or fearing for my children’s safety. So although my worries are nothing compared to those of most people out there, they are enough.
This whole pressure – intensified a gazillion times by social media – to be endlessly grateful, joyful, spinning in positivity while you have cancer is f*cked up and I am not buying into it anymore. And for the record, I don’t have a bucket list. But what I do have is a two item list of things I get to do when I get very sick, which my partner has agreed to: 1) I get to feed the squirrels peanuts – I know it’s not a good idea but it’s my list & 2) my Pit Bull Dexter The Elderbull gets to snuggle on the bed with me. 💖
In the late summer of 2014 I started having panic attacks. It was as if my psyche knew that something was very wrong before I actually found out that I had cancer. My anxiety was making it hard for me to eat and I was starting to lose weight (of course the cancer was also causing me to lose weight but I didn’t know that at the time). Fast forward to the Fall when I was diagnosed with Malignant Peritoneal Mesothelioma, my anxiety levels went off the charts. So one of my dear friends, whom I have known since our University of Toronto days, made me Pot Chocolate Chip cookies to calm my nerves. Like many things in life, it seemed like a good idea at the time…
One night, after not being able to eat more than a few forkfuls of dinner, I took a small bite of one of her cookies. It tasted horrific and I worried that perhaps I was going to be accidentally poisoned. I didn’t feel anything right away and like a complete idiot I took another bite. Big Mistake. Next thing I remember I was organizing the bathroom. I became enthralled with the toothbrush holder and spent a long time placing it “just so” on the counter. Then I became obsessed with my face, staring at myself in the mirror, admiring my small pores. But then there was a shift and all of a sudden I was on a BAD trip!
I ended up at the local hospital, where they already knew me well from my various panic attack freak-outs. At the front desk the nurse asked me why I was there. I said “because I have cancer and I ate a pot cookie and now I am having a very bad and scary trip.” She motioned me to the waiting room where my dad sat with me – bless his heart – until my partner arrived. I sat low in my seat, trying to hide from the others whom I deemed all highly suspicious. Once my partner arrived I was interviewed by another nurse. I told my story and then I threw up in a small bowl that magically appeared before me. I was very scared. I was like the lamest drug taker in the history of drug taking. The nurse put me on a gurney in the waiting room so that I could “come down” while my partner stood next to me listening to my gibberish (he’s a saint). Unfortunately it was a busy night at the hospital and I live in a big city – Toronto. So very quickly the hospital waiting room filled up with characters right out of a Law & Order episode. Next thing I knew I was lying in my gurney next to two crazy broads who were each shackled to their gurneys. There was also a gaggle of police officers. Why oh why did I eat that second bite of the cookie?! I was also in a panic because I couldn’t remember if I had properly disposed of the rancid cookie. I was paranoid that my dog Leroy would eat it – though looking back now I realize that the cookie smelled so disgusting that Leroy would have – unlike me – just said no.
Moral of the story: take one bite and wait, wait a long time. Or, better yet, ask your doctor for some medicinal pot.