Thursday, February 25, 2016

Embarrassing moments along the cancer journey... *revised - added Crazy Driver Problems*

...a.k.a. BLOOPERS from the cancer ward.  

Before I begin, please know I am not making fun of anyone (other than myself), and I am relaying stories based upon only my own experiences.   

Dealing with cancer in ANY aspect is serious. Deadly serious.  But... sometimes you have to remain grounded or simply get through a day hour minute moment by maintaining even the most fragile sliver of a sense of humour.  Please feel free to laugh at me:  I do! 

The CT scan waiting room and beyond ~ my first CT scan ever was in Collingwood in April 2014, and I have had eight CT scans and one MRI at Sunnybrook, Toronto, to date since then.  Over the course of that time I have learned several handy tricks from the sweet Sunnybrook CT nurses, such as what to wear in order to avoid having to change into the dreaded hospital g o w n.  GOWN my ass.  Oh wait - yes that's what shows in that gown!!  

On the first one at Sunnybrook however, in July 2014, I was freshly recovered from eight weeks strict bed rest to recover from my invasive groin/hip/leg surgery and I was determined to drive myself to and from the hospital, with an overnight visit to my dear friend in TO. I dutifully spent my hour and a half drinking the chemical water, had the mildly unnerving CT scans, quickly got changed back into my clothes from the scant gown, and followed careful directions to my friends' beautiful home to soak in a luxurious dinner and long-awaited visit with she and her spouse.  We had some wine and yummies, and I was wearing out, so before getting ready for bed I called my family at home to say good night.  

I stood casually at my friend's patio door overlooking deck/patio and a distant CN Tower in the view, chatting casually with my kiddos.  Trying to maintain my composure after a tiring day and sweet conversation with my family who missed me, I was fidgeting with my hand not on the phone, trying to find a comfortable way to stand even when so exhausted.  I was happy to be talking to them and very happy to be at my friends' house, but I was anxious, as any CT scan day tends to do to a cancer patient, and knew I would likely not sleep well despite my gracious hosts' efforts.  

I kept fiddling with my left hand, trying to put it casually in the pocket of my yoga pants (which I have since learned that I CAN wear in a CT scan because they have no metal zipper).  Try and try again I couldn't find the damn pocket of my pants?? What the..??!  Oh dear.... my pants were on inside out!! I looked down, and the seams were all exposed... pockets on the outside and my lovely hosts had not mentioned it (thankful!).  I had walked out of SUNNYBROOK, driven to the other side of Toronto, walked from parking place to my friends' house, eaten and imbibed, and until that moment in my exhausted state talking on my cell phone LMAO - I had no idea my pants were on inside out all that time!!   After I laughed about it I did all I could do:  not take myself too seriously.  

I was still freshly self-conscious of my new scars from two surgeries and dozens of stitches, and the memory of the drainage bottles I had had to wear for over a month after my melanoma surgery have scarred me for life.  
Looking back on it I (almost) wish I had taken some photos of the "bottle babies" as we called them, to commemorate the hideous and disgusting and painful things that humans can actually recover from.  Poor Paige especially, but all of the kids were a bit scared of or grossed out by the drainage lines running to the little pumps I had to empty and record the contents of twice daily.  
I was incredibly embarrassed by these things, they hung from my incisions and were impossible to keep untangled from whatever strange clothing I could manage to put on in my incapacitated state. wish I was brave like this -->
(my drains looked like these except they were attached lower on my "gown" - uncomfortable and gross... had one in my neck from thyroid surgery 7 mos. later too)

I abhorred surprise - though well-meaning and appreciated - company stopping by, and I shrank behind the wall or under a massive quilt if anyone did pop by.  One time though I was caught unawares when a friend stopped in, and I was in the washroom.  
Without getting too graphic I'll just tell you a bathroom trip at that time was a big deal - I was only allowed to leave the couch or bed for a pit stop, and that included drainage bottle emptying and any other ablutions I was able to fit in before hobbling back to and collapsing in a heap on the couch. It was an awful time. Awful.  

Well this day that a friend came by I was standing in my nightgown barely draped around my drainage cords and not a quilt or an invisibility cloak in sight!  I was mortified.  I could not get back to my bed without passing through the kitchen which contained Scott and our visiting friend!  I was tiring quickly and needed to get outta there, but couldn't.  

I was also a bit under the influence of reasonably hallucinogenic painkillers I might add, so please bear with me.  

I was hideous, in pain, likely stinky, and in no mood to show anyone my disgusting scars and bottle babies.  AGH!  I started to cry.  I stood in the bathroom bawling my head off, feeling abandoned and alone, wishing I could sink into the floor of my newly renovated bathroom...add red puffy eyes to the previous description and I was even more mortified.  Of course Scott and friend assured me they didn't care and I could come out and walk by (which I eventually did), but it was the LAST thing I wanted to do.  I forced them to turn away and I sniffled and shuffled my way back to bed and avoided eye contact with them for the rest of the day.  
Wasn't perhaps too funny at the time, but looking back on it I realize my over-reaction must have appeared quite comical.  Ugh. 

Randomly crying is one of my on-going bloopers.  I have always been a cry-er.  Its terrible, especially in a professional setting!  Stupid tears spring out whenever I am frustrated, angry or tongue-tied.  Add cancer to that and poof!  Constant dehydration by crocodile tears.  Everywhere. All the time. Random and embarrassing.

Also embarrassing was a night I took the girls to the movies.  Poor kids are stuck with me everywhere they go... I thought it was a big accomplishment, taking them out for an evening after all those weeks I was unable to drive, walk, be in public, shop, be friendly, stay awake.  And here we were, walking smoothly into the cinema.  
I was focusing intently on getting to the ticket counter, dazzled by the noise and light, disoriented and trying to hide it. I thought I was so cool walking them in and SLIP! I skidded and stumbled with a NON-ballerina-style spin and almost falling flat on my face wiping out on the wet floor sign with my uneven footing and overwhelmed disposition.  
I quickly recovered, slunk to the ticket counter, hugged the girls quick and sank into the dark theatre with a bag of popcorn to soothe my shattered nerves.  No wonder the girls and I usually go to separate movies anymore!  They love and support me but they prefer I keep my random crying and clumsy tripping to the privacy of our own home.  *sigh*

Other highlights from my personal blooper reel include quietly observing the funny things other people sometimes say.  I have had grey/silver hair for several years, it is natural, early grey runs in my family on my Mom's side.  
One time a student doctor assisting my oncologist was giving me the habitual quiz but she must not have read my file very well as she seemed mixed up about my treatment meds and exclaimed "Oh wow did the PD-1 Blockers turn your hair white!?"  Um no. I did not have PD-1 Blockers.  And thank you for pointing it out so loudly yes I am prematurely grey.  *doublesigh*  
I am used to getting questions and comments about my hair, and thank you, usually I don't mind but this one went in the record books as embarrassing. 

Traffic Violations ~ I add this to my list of embarrassments with tongue in cheek, hoping no authorities take it the wrong way and confiscate my drivers license.  Yikes.  Some days I wonder if I should be allowed behind the wheel of a motor vehicle?? Silly little mistakes haunt me, I am easily flustered, and I have exited situations in one piece wondering just how many guardian angels I actually have protecting me from myself!?   
Just this morning in fact, I promptly got my car stuck in the snowdrift in my driveway (don't ask - I have a personal high score for escaping my driveway with minimal shoveling, making the kids squeal with delight when I Daisy Duke through the drifts, blowing snow all over the hood and windshield).  
I was truly puzzled, as I didn't think it was quite enough snow for getting stuck?  I dug out the tires a bit, told the dog to stand back, and tried rocking the car back and forth, to no avail.  Stupid thing! I tried digging out some more, tried revving some more, Claire offered to push, I had the car door open the whole time, the beeping was getting annoying.. O. M. G.  The emergency brake was on.  Seriously. The car was not stuck at all.  
It had stalled when I had tried to move it forward into the snow drift.  I restarted it and couldn't move forward or back.  The BRAKE WAS ON THE WHOLE TIME.  AAARRRGHHHH!!!!!  I calmly stopped the incessant beeping by releasing the brake, turns out it wasn't beeping due to the open door. It was the BRAKE.  

That my friends, is CHEMO BRAIN.  It is one of the reasons I have not yet returned to work.  Little mistakes, crappy memory, easily flustered - no major harm done but it all adds up. :-(  I couldn't Front End Manage my way out of a wet paper bag at this point.  

Last but not least: photo shoots.  Oh dear.  I despise having my picture taken, as I have previously alluded to.  But it is a necessary evil should I wish to pursue my writing/blogging hobby and melanoma awareness campaign interest.  Cameras are everywhere these days - did you see my "billboard" from SYSF?  I am still giggling over that one.. LOL  The photo on that was taken by Claire, on the day we were trying to shoot my little video for the I'm Living Proof map.  
Only Claire and Cass and I know what went into taking that photo and video, and it remains a source of blackmail material for the kids should they ever need help in coercing me into anything.  Yikes!  
I have fishy-faces on file and giggle fits caught on camera.  Not to mention the footage you will see of an upcoming project launch for which I was filmed in December.  Cameras and I have a love-hate relationship, I shall have to remain quietly embarrassed by my photos and leave it at that.

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