Monday, February 07, 2011

Silence is Deadly

“He [sic] who conceals his disease cannot expect to be cured”  ~ Ethiopian Proverb

For the last almost three months, although I've been as busy as always and moving ahead on projects and ideas, I've also not entirely been myself.  I've been notably exhausted, unmotivated in some veins, somewhat disengaged at times and pretty cranky.

For each symptom, there seemed to be a rational correlation; there's been stress at work with a lot of change going on and I've been pretty unhappy with how most of that change has been managed. Still at work there's been a couple of new, very high profile projects that I was given an unexpected and high profile role on causing me to work longer days and highlight some long standing frustrations that anyone deals with working for a huge organization like I do. The longer days meant a creeping into my nightly home routine, causing that to suffer some negative impacts and necessary disengagement; I'd been pretty unhappy with how things were going for the last while and it was really starting to show.

There was another element at play here though.  As some of you may recall, I wrote about a health issue I had in 2009 and some of the symptoms of that pink bowl condition had resurfaced; or so I thought.  My surgeon had told me that the banding procedure that I had gone through would likely need to be repeated down the road, so I was assuming that the same condition had returned, and I failed to act right away. I was bleeding again with each and every visit to the washroom and it wasn't going away and this time it was going on for months. I thought, "I'll just give my body some time and let's see how it responds; maybe it'll fix itself somewhat?"

Yah.  Not so much.

I did finally start to move and took the right steps.  I went back to my family doctor and got a referral back to the surgeon/specialist that treated my original condition. Two weeks later, I saw her and we scheduled a new scope and that was the go forward plan.  My body, on the other hand, had its own plan.

On the weekend of the 29th of January, my husband and I went out on the Saturday night to celebrate my brother-in-law's 50th birthday.  It's always a great time when the family gets together and since my mother-in-law makes a great drink called a "Busey Special" consisting of a lot of vodka, I decided to indulge and had her make me a triple...and then another.  I was by no means wasted when my husband drove us home that night, but I certainly wasn't sober either.

The next day, we took our twin boys to visit extended family in London and while we had planned to spend the day on the slopes of Boler Mountain, I was decidedly not up for the task and we all agreed to just make it a more low key visit rather than push ourselves.  I wasn't feeling particularly hung over, but I was feeling decidedly unwell.  A glass of wine was no hair of the dog and it wasn't sitting well with me at all. I felt lethargic and just... unwell.

That night, my body started to yell at me.  My frequent trips to the toilet tripled over night.  Monday, counting the day in a 24 hour stint, it was 24 trips. Tuesday, 18 times. We called the specialist's office and let them know what was happening.  My condition was becoming particularly painful and untenable.  Wednesday, 15 times. The doctor's office called back and told me to head to the Emergency department on Friday morning at 10 am. Thursday, 19 times.

I was fully bed bound right from the get-go.  Not only could I not be far away from the washroom, but each episode was utterly physically and emotionally exhausting. The process was painful, the relief seemingly brief and then I would crawl my way back to bed in a slumping heap.

I had to call sick into work right from Monday.  I realized that I couldn't focus in on anything long enough to do anything productive, not even read a book, so work, even from bed wasn't doable. My attention span was good enough for the odd video, Facebook and a lot of retweeting on Twitter and that was about it. I can't remember the last time I took a sick day from work.  Even when I'm unwell, I can usually sit in bed and still manage to work remotely through phone calls and meetings, but not this last week. My body was shutting me down.

By the time Friday morning rolled around, I didn't trust myself to drive myself to the hospital, so I asked my daughter to accompany me.  We arrived, went through triage and waited about 1/2 hour to be called.

The decision was made to take me straight up to the day surgery floor for my scope, a week early, which was just fine by me. We headed upstairs, I kissed her good-bye and told her to be close to her phone for when she would have to pick me up again.  Although there were at least ten people ahead of me, I was escorted straight through to the pre-op bays.  Vitals were taken, enemas were administered and I was wheeled right into the operating room.

My surgeon's not known especially for her bedside manner.  She's hardly gruff, but she is an absolute no nonsense straight shooter that doesn't mince words or sentiment, and anyone that knows me knows that I have absolutely no problem with that approach at all.  I had mentioned to my nurse that although I was originally scheduled for a flexi-sigmoidoscopy, I had called the surgeon's office requesting a full colonoscopy and was hoping for that procedure that day, but my surgeon let me know in no uncertain terms that that wasn't possible without proper prep, and that we'd be moving ahead that day with the flexi-scope.

As we were about to start I was a little taken aback when she sweetly looked at me and said, "Don't worry honey, we're going to get you all fixed up." It was a small show of tenderness that immediately endeared me to her.

The scope began and within moments, I heard "urgent ulcerative colitis" and my heart began to sink.  The night before, my husband and I were trolling the 'net looking for some information on my symptoms and we were directed to intestinal diseases such as Crohns, Ileitis and Colitis.  I was smart enough this time around to not jump ahead and begin self diagnosis, but I was preparing for not great news.  Steroids, ostomies, surgeries. I joked with my husband, "ohmygawd, if I'm on steroids, am I going to get fat?!" He laughed at me and noted that it could have benefits in the working out department.  Eerily enough, I have said to my husband on numerous occasions that I didn't know how people with Ileitis or Colitis managed to conduct themselves day to day, because any touch of bowel discomfort and I was just like a little mewling kitten.  Now I was going to get a close up look at what these diseases were really going to be all about.

Biopsies were taken and I rested on my side and told my surgeon what I needed. I told her that I can deal with just about anything, as long as I know what I'm facing. So, I asked her, "worse case scenario is an ostomy, correct?" "Correct and London can build you a whole new rectum if need be, but we are wholly remiss even discussing this right now." Okay, I thought, so here we go...nonetheless, I  was feeling a little overwhelmed and a touch weepy.

I texted my husband and my daughter to let him know what was happening and they started to work on getting back to see me at the hospital. No one was expecting me to not be going home that night.  I was being admitted immediately to hospital. Back to my pre-op bay and I was given an IV line for fluids (I had been considerably dehydrated for weeks) and a CAT scan was ordered.  Within less than an hour, I was wheeled to Imagery and the scan performed. I started my procedure at 11:30 am. By this time, it was 1:30pm and my scan was flagged as priority. Usually it takes up to a week to get a reading of one's CAT scan completed, so I was surprised to hear from the technician that my results would be ready by 4:00pm for my surgeon's review.

While I was really happy that things were happening bang, bang, bang, that I was getting the immediate attention I obviously needed, I was equally disconcerted that things were happening bang, bang, bang...because that meant that I was sick; really sick.

For all the complaining that Canadians do about wait times, and I am not belittling the validity of those complaints, seeing how the staff and the supporting resources and processes flew into action to manage my newly diagnosed disease, I was in awe at the responsiveness of the system.

By 3:00pm I was in my ward room, my daughter had brought me my ever important MacBook and plugs and BlackBerry charger. The rest could wait until my husband could gather my essentials. All I needed was to feel connected to my family, my friends and sources of knowledge.  Can't tell you how many times I blessed the WiFi gods. No smashing CPE for me.

For the next three days, I barely left my bed.  I was hooked up to an IV for fluids, antibiotics and nightly steroids. I laid in bed watching first-run movies on a streaming website hour after hour.  My only activity was getting gingerly out of bed to head to the washroom and when I was really adventurous, taking a prescribed stroll around the floor three times a day.

Pulling around an IV pump, there is just no way to be quiet or gracious. It's a clunky contraption that reminds you with every step just how sick you are. And then there's the "white hat". White hats are measurement cups with large wings that lay across a toilet bowl and capture your output. There is nothing more humanizing than sharing a washroom in a ward room and seeing your outputs being measured along with everyone else's and there's nothing that makes you respect and appreciate nurses more than when you have to put on the rubber gloves yourself and move the hats around to ensure that you're capturing your outputs in your own hat. What our nurses do for us is immeasurable in many, many ways.

My energy levels had been down for months already and now, I had not eaten anything since Thursday night and the last I had to drink was a clear tea on Friday morning. I slept horribly for little more than four hours each night and for the first two days, I was not allowed any water or any food whatsoever, so my cranky level was pretty high when my husband brought the kids to visit.  I was only good for a short visit as the ice chips weren't really cutting it for me.  By the time they allowed the reintroduction of Ensure for my first "meal", I was as sated as if I had just had a full steak dinner. Next, it was soup; cream of "something", some juice, some tea, some pudding. Morning was oatmeal and more Ensure and tea and my body was responding well.

Today, on my fourth day I was discharged from the hospital. As my surgeon noted, I'm ambulatory, my food intake has begun to increase, I can hydrate myself and it's safer for me to be out of the hospital where the opportunity to catch C.Diff or MSRA increases daily. I'll be monitored closely in the short-term and if my symptoms start to increase again, then I'm to return to the hospital immediately. My at home medications for the next three months are costing in excess of $1000. Thank gawd for benefits and employee group insurance plans.

So, while I'm far from being even close to well again, I am certainly better than I have been for the last few months.  The one thing that feels most surreal to me now is knowing that I have an active disease. I'm only just wrapping my head around the fact that this is something that will now never leave me and I will have to actively manage for the rest of my life, whether it's through medicine (which will hopefully be short term), but through also managing stress levels and my diet and exercise.

There is no known cause for ulcerative colitis and therefore, there is no known cure. It is merely something that is to be managed from here on in.

So, as before, the reason I'm doing such an accounting of where I've been health wise for the last few months is to do my part in breaking down the cones of silence that most people live in when they're managing a health issue. I know that I feel this sense of "delicately" dancing around the issue, using medical vernacular and the least offensive terms possible.  There seems to be this sense of shame or fear of sharing because we're talking about the most banal parts of being a human being; our ability to process our nutrients and produce waste. I do know and have been clearly reminded again that unequivocally, without one's health, we have nothing. Therefore, I'm willing to share and support the dialogue.

I have been immensely touched by the openness of friends, new and old, in sharing with me their struggles with similar diseases since I've posted that I was in hospital on Facebook. I'm amazed at how prevalent these diseases are and just how many people are affected by them. I've always believed that knowledge is power and the more I learn about autoimmune diseases and the more I share, the more I can hopefully help someone else who's facing some uncertainty with their own health.

So, while I'm a lot stubborn and a bit thick at times, I am learning that being ill requires patience and listening to those who know.  I cannot immediately return to my old pace, so I won't.  I must rest. I must manage my stresses. I must start to pay more attention to my diet and how my body feels. I must ask for help.

So, to all my friends, IRL and online, who wrote me words of encouragement, dropped by to visit, loaned the family their driveway and shared their own health stories with me, I am once again profoundly touched by your love and support.

To the incredible nurses at Stratford General Hospital, thank you kindly for your help and support and for having the wisdom to unplug me long enough to have a revitalizing shower when I needed it most. To my surgeon, gawd love you woman...

And of course, to my family, for coming to visit me with kisses and cuddles, sharing movies in the lounge and showing me just how much they love me.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Chosen Kin

"If it comes between choosing your family or your husband, you choose your husband."
~as told to me by my mother, Sara

I didn't really understand this statement when my mother said it to me when I was a teenager. I mean, I understood it in the sense that she had survived a horribly abusive childhood and that marrying my father was certainly a means for her to remove herself from the pain and dependence of her family, but as a 17 year old with my immediate family being the only thing I knew at that age, it took me until I was well into my twenties before I really understood just how important this statement is, and as I continue to age, that message becomes reinforced for me time and time again.

My whole life, I've struggled with my relationship with my family, both immediate and extended. I've never felt accepted, understood or much liked for that matter or really that anyone in my family really wanted to take the time to really know who I was. They still think they know me, however in reality, they haven't a clue...

In my twenties, I was terribly affected by those strained relationships and I tried to "fix" them through writing letters to my parents and later to my extended family in the hopes of rebuilding that sense of kinship and loyalty. I always wanted that huge family that would gather at holidays and actually enjoy each other's company and while it may have been a projection from my Norman Rockwell inspired diary when I was a girl, it still spoke to something deep within me that I had craved and which had never been satisfied.

Of course my letters never made any difference . If anything, they mostly became fodder for derisive interactions that usually plagued our family get-togethers. Each time I was with my family, I felt alone, mocked, disappointed and ultimately, very sad. Finally, in my mid-twenties, I learned that there was nothing that I was going to be able to do to independently change my family's dynamic, so for my own sake, I started down a different path and made different choices. I tweaked my mother's advice to read from then on...

If you have to choose between your family and yourself, you choose yourself...

I started university with my toddler daughter in tow and I began on a journey of creating that thing to which I wanted to be a part of. I began to live another quote which my mother had shared with me when I was just twelve. I began to live being ultimately true to myself. I became more introspective, more genuine, more vulnerable and decided then that I would only surround myself with people that were of the same mindset. Not to say that throughout the rest of my twenties I didn't get sidelined, make bad decisions, trust the wrong people and continue to lie to myself periodically, but for the most part, I worked to stay that course. I loved well the people that were in my life and brought a sense of positive progress to it as well, and those that drained me of my life blood, I worked to eliminate from my every day and that included my family for a long, long time.

I remember my best Christmas dinner ever. I was surrounded with my daughter and ten other people in my dining room, not one of them I was related to, but each one of them I referred to as my chosen kin. They were friends that loved me, supported me, engaged me and equally chose me to be a part of their lives. It was joy. They brought me joy. They brought me love and acceptance and I strove to do the same for them. Not all those people are still in my life, but most of them are and I still consider them dear, dear friends.

At different times throughout my twenties I met three people that were to completely define that notion of chosen kin for me. I know them each from entirely disparate circumstances. They are my three closest friends and in each one of them, I find tremendous love, absolute acceptance and unwavering support (even when I'm wrong, they're still on my side, just like family's supposed to be). We've had our ups and downs, as does any relationship, but these three souls know that without fail, I love them and will do anything that I can to support them as they would equally do for me. I am unbelievably grateful for them and they are part of my family.

It was the foundation of these three relationships that enabled me to once again choose wisely and choose to marry my best friend, my husband. My choice. My chosen kin. With him, we have created a life, surrounded with and based on a tremendous love. A love that we chose and a life that we continue to choose in spite of the valleys, because we seek those peaks together. And through him, I have also found that huge family that gathers, loves and enjoys one another's company. He and our children are my chosen kin. Along with my closest friends, they are the ones that I choose to live with, the ones that I choose to turn to and the ones that I find my greatest joy from.

So now, at almost forty years old, I still find myself having to make choices about my happiness. I believe that
It is through making choices that people find their greatest happiness and the lives that fulfil. Those disappointing and strained relationships still sadden me greatly, however, that pain is mitigated by the buoyancy I feel from those that I have chosen and who have chosen me. So, I will continue to choose the people and the paths that bring that happiness to me and forgo those that simply don't.

And now
as one of these closest friends and his spouse are in the midst of adopting a six year old boy, choosing their kin and expanding their family, my joy abounds. There aren't two more deserving people than they, and I am ecstatic for them and selfishly for the fact that my chosen kin, my family is growing and that I am going to be an Auntie again.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Dating 2.0

I’m so mad. I swear, he’s cheated. Doesn’t he know that being hungover is NOT the right time to make decisions? He was all sweet and totally “in love” and then 20 hours later he’s already single again on Facebook?! Oh, and then he’s all like “say when, say when” about talking…finally!! Whatever!

I was told! My neighbour Jane told me, "don't fall in love with the boyfriend; you'll only get hurt!"....gawd, she's so right...

It’s happened. I’ve been taken to the dark side. Today, I fully experienced Dating 2.0. Oh, it’s not me by the way. By virtue of Facebook, I am completely vicariously living through my 17 year old daughter’s boyfriend drama first hand and now I know that I'm not ready for her to be dating or rather, I’m just not ready for minding her relationship in real-time, or Dating 2.0 that is.

At one point, I encouraged her dating and by that I mean old school dating; going out a few times or hanging out casually until you figured out if you liked someone enough to actually be “going out”; not “hooking up” first and then determining if they’re worthy enough.

I fully supported her in being open and receptive to different types of guys; guys who had reputations for being "players" or "bad news" and giving them a chance to reveal who they really are (without getting too close mind you!). Quiet guys; encouraging her to encourage them to open up. Guys who are seemingly the super nice guys; being hopeful that they really are the super nice guys. That of course was all when I would pop into her room and ask her who she was IMing and talking to her openly and freely and loving the fact that she trusted me enough to talk openly to me about her fears and hopes regarding guys and the whole dating scene and being able to walk away.

It took a while for her to find the "right" guy. By being patient and mindful, by believing that she was treasured and a treasure to behold, she waited until she was wooed and she let herself be wooed; I was excited with her and for her, but now I realize that I'm really not ready for this. Here’s why…

This is clearly the age of Facebook. Not only have I been online since 1994, but I am that kind of parent that still has my daughter’s hotmail and Facebook passwords. In our house, it’s part of the deal man; if you want to be online, I get access. A blessing from my perspective (and a pisser from my daughter’s perspective) has been when her friends have sought me out and friended me on Facebook. It’s never been a calculated move, but I am ever grateful that I can see enough of what’s going on in the life of her and her friends to keep a healthy watch on things. But my blessing is turning into a curse since her boyfriend also friended me on Facebook and now, I’m privy to the breakup drama unfolding in my News Feed. Without even asking for it, I’m getting a play by play account.

Even worse yet, I find myself getting totally sucked in, reality TV style. Curse you The Hills!

I’ve found myself checking his Facebook status, reading his updates since he’s been on vacation, looking for evidence, telltale signs, anything that will help me help her understand what’s happened. Anything that will help me help her through this experience.

What I’ve quickly realized though is that there is a time when a parent can be too close or too aware and right now is that time for me for a couple of very good reasons.

It has nothing to do with her's me. I'm not ready. I'm not ready for her disappointments and her tears. My instinct is to suss out his lying or cheating because I want to protect her. I want to respond angrily to his innocuous postings or thoughtful responses to my posted items; I want to post nasty messages to him for hurting her and then I realize that I'm actually (almost) engaging in a teenage relationship and then I further realize that I am also reliving some of my own bad experiences as well.

Yah, well, good for me that I’ve quickly realized that it’s not all about me. And truthfully, they weren’t all bad experiences either, even the really rotten, hurtful ones because they are the experiences that forged who I am ultimately. From high school to adulthood, they are the means by which I was to learn the lessons that I did (or took too long to learn) and which led me to where I am today. Happy (mostly) and in a loving, supportive, engaging marriage…finally.

I have to say that I am exceptionally proud of how well my girl is handling this experience in her life; with such mature aplomb and grace. She really is a better woman at 17 than most grown ups I’ve known and certainly kicks my 17 year old arse to the curb. Now, if Mum could just find that same maturity and remove the boyfriend from her Facebook…well, maybe tomorrow…

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

In Honour of Mother's Day

I read a great article today in the Globe & Mail and it made me think of my mum. Not that I don't think of her every single day actually, but it seemed especially poignant today. Soon we'll be celebrating Mother's Day and a month after that, my family will be honouring my mum on the 6th anniversary of her death. Mother's Day is always bittersweet for me now, so in honour of my mum, and Mother's Day, I am posting the eulogy I wrote for her because it shares so much of how much I love her and what an incredible force she still is in my life...and it is the one piece of writing that I am most proud of.


June 2003

“To Thine Ownself Be True”. It’s a Shakespearean quote that my mum inscribed in a diary she gave me for my birthday one year when I was a young girl, probably close to Rae’s age. It is but one of thousands of great lessons that my mum taught me while growing up that has stuck with me right up until today.

My mother, first and foremost, was always true to herself. The hardest part of that was that it was very difficult for the rest of us to live with her truths and her honesty all the time.

My mum was a very private person and she didn’t like anybody knowing her business. Because of that, I’ve struggled with exactly what I want to share with you all about my mum. So, I’m going to go with what she told me, which is To Thine Ownself Be True. Here’s my truth Mum…

There is no possible way that I can sum up my mum in a few words, especially in just the few days since she has passed. In 33 years, I was not able to figure out my mother entirely, and I don’t think anybody ever did, not even my dad whom loved her and lived with her for almost 40 years. Although I can certainly say that he knew her best.

Simply put, she was an exceptionally complicated person in every facet of her life.

One truth about my mum is that she was a very sad woman. She survived a terrible childhood, a word that’s hard to attribute to her early years, because it certainly left its scars on her. It was a pain and a sadness that she was never entirely able to leave behind and it did cloud her ability to see and recognize the love and happiness that she had herself created and which surrounded her.

Another truth about my mother is that she was never a victim and abhorred people that made excuses for their lives or their actions. She would never allow the misery that she lived through to define herself in the least.

Although many women work to define themselves through their selves as opposed to their relationships to others, not surprisingly, my mother was different. She was proudly a mother, a grandmother and a wife. From the age of 12, she worked so hard, yet, no matter the work or the job that she had, it was not the work that defined her. It was merely a means to an end, a way to take care of her family. Her whole reason for living was her family. We were all that really, ever mattered to her.

When I was 21 years old and I called my mother from
Vancouver to tell her I was pregnant, one of the first things out of her mouth was, “you’re not getting married are you?”…she was so terrified of me marrying he wrong man, but being an unwed mother didn’t phase her one bit. It was one of the proudest days of her life that day when she realized she was going to be a grandmother and I’ll never forget the look on hers and my father’s face, both with their hands on my belly watching their grandchild move about, eager to be born. Once my sister and I were grown, it was what she was living for. It was no coincidence that both my sister and I brought our daughters home so that we could be around our mother in the early uncertain days of raising a newborn. She gave me so much confidence in handling and raising my little girl and she was there to allay my fears, support me and encourage me with raising Rae every step of the way. I am so grateful for her influence at that point in my life.

My mother had such a huge capacity of loving. I often said that she would have been happy had she had a dozen children. Yet, it was loving that much that terrified her. My mother spent so much of her life waiting for the worse to happen, that in her final years, she was in a constant state of preparing herself for disappointment and anguish. Well, prophets are held by their prophecies and yes, often the demise of her happiness was often brought about by her own doing. This is perhaps the saddest part of my mother’s story.

Still, there is so much more to my mother than her sadness and her pain.

She was an amazingly loyal person. Fiercely loyal to those she loved and equally loyal to her convictions. The saying, “you don’t want to mess with the Schulman women” was truly instigated and perpetuated by my mother. I always said that it was the women that married into the Schulman family that defined the name. I am so proud to carry this name, the name that she gave me.

My mother was also one of the most courageous women I’ve ever known. She was courageous enough to leave behind a life in
England and Wales, which was all she knew, to start a new life with a man on an entirely different continent, whom she had met when she was only 16. She was courageous enough to keep trying to have a second baby, me, when all the doctors told her that either she would die or the baby would die if she tried carrying it to term. She knew better. She often did. These are just a tiny sampling of the ways in which my mother was a courageous woman.

My mother was very wise too…I remember when I was a young girl and getting bullied at school. To take care of the situation, my mum told me to go to the biggest blabbermouth in school and tell her that I was taking karate lessons, but ssshhh…it was a big secret! Without a doubt, it worked…the bullies backed off and my school life improved. It was one in a multitude of ways that demonstrates how creative and crafty she really was. She was always looking at ways to protect my sister and me from pain. When she couldn’t, she felt as if she had failed us in some way, although of course, she hadn’t.

My mother was also one to be direct and straightforward. An example of this was a time when my new best friend in grade 7 was visiting me at my home and was wearing makeup. My mother looked right at her and said, Tracy, you look like a tart!” and proceeded to march her into the bathroom and scrub her face. I was of course mortified, but it was many years later that Tracy shared with me that she loved and respected my mother for doing that for her and that she would always be grateful for my mother’s caring and directness with her.

I can liken my mother’s capacity for greatness and kindness and love to that of what a woman goes through when she’s pregnant. When I was pregnant, carrying Rae took a terrible toll on my teeth. All the extra calcium in my body was given to Rae so that my body didn’t have enough left to do for itself. This analogy is much the same way that I look at my mother. The very best in my mother, all her love was given to my sister and me, and then to our daughters, and I feel that near the end, she didn’t have enough love left to do for herself when she needed it most.

There is so much I wanted for my mum. I wanted to have the magic hug that would make everything better. I wanted to have her at my home and be a diva, sitting on the back porch, enjoying our garden that she won’t see again. I wanted her to know that it was okay to be frail and need help. I wanted her to know how much her family loved and needed her for more years than she was able to give us. I wanted her to know that we were willing to help her with her pain. I wanted her to know that although she was difficult to like, we all loved her deeply nonetheless. I wanted her to know that we were never laughing at her, but with her.

My closest friend said to me that for all of my mother’s foibles, the best in her is reflected in my sister Debra, my niece Madeleine, my daughter Rae and myself. I need to thank Tanya for that reminder. For here we are, both of her daughters with two beautiful girls of our own. We are happy, healthy, productive, spiritual women and are both enjoying a good life. All that I am, all that we are we owe to our mum. She taught us to have strength in our convictions and to believe in ourselves. That is all that I know about this life and I owe it all to her.

It was painful and frustrating for me to watch my mother steadily decline over the last number of years. I remember saying in frustration to my husband Victor, “I wish my mother would pass on and stop the pain and be at peace.” It was my husband that reminded me that in fact, my greatest wish for my mother was for her to heal herself. And of course, that really was my greatest wish. Not this. Not yet. Not now.

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda are some familiar phrases running through my head these last days. Those and of course, regrets, regrets, regrets. So many of my own. Yet, I’m sure that for every one of my own regrets, my mother had 10 of her own.

I am grateful to have known my mother in this lifetime. I’ve learned so much from her, both in what not to do as well as in how to live my life to its most honest degree.

My wish for my mother has changed now. My mother loved to dance. Mostly she loved to dance with my father, which brings me to a passage from Kahlil Gibran’s writings on Death.

“For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And what is it to cease breathing but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”
I cry now for never being able to see my mum healthy again. I cry for her not being able to find her serenity here. I cry selfishly because I wish she were still here. I cry for the loss that we have now and will carry with us for always. I also cry for the relief that she must now have as a release from her pain.

I love you Mummy. I miss you. I know that you are proud of your family and I promise you that I will always work to continue to make you proud. I hope that you have finally found your peace and Rae and I say that if we ever get a chance to talk to you again through John Edwards, please give someone else a chance to talk too, it’s only a one hour show.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Yessir, that's me speedin'...

Dare to be true: nothing can need a lie: A fault, which needs it most, grows two thereby.
~George Herbert

It was 11 o'clock at night and I was driving home last week after a long day in Toronto. Passing through a quiet Kitchener-Waterloo I was a happy, coasting 119 speeder on a 90 km/h highway about 1/2 hour from home when I saw the lights behind me. Crap.

I pulled over, immediately pulled out my licence and registration and ownership and had it ready for when the officer came to m
y window. "Good evening" he started, "how are you tonight?" "Speeding apparently!" I said with a smile and handed him my documentation. The rest of the conversation went exactly like this...

Officer: "Yes you were. You were going at a pretty happy clip while I was behind you. Any particular reason for the speeding tonight?"

Me: "No, just a long day in Toronto and heading home to Stratford."

Officer: "Okay, do you know the speed limit on this highway?"

Me: "Yes. 90."

Officer: "Yes it is. And you were doing about a buck 20!"

Me: "119!"
with a smile.

Officer, handing back my documents: "Okay, well fines would be about $220 and 3 points, so be careful on the way home now, okay?"

Me: "...and a lot slower too, apparently! Thank you very much!"

...and away I went. I literally drove home the rest of the way at 109 km/h with a smile on my face and tweeted about it immediately.

I learned a long, long time ago to never lie to authorities. It just doesn't work. Being truthful and owning up to one's actions is the best approach. It was watching my Dad one day in court that taught me that.

My sister was about 12 years old
and had gone to our local store at the strip mall with her friend. She was taking longer than usual and then our phone rang and you could tell that she was really upset. She told my parents that she was holed up in the phone booth at the corner of the store's parking lot because there were a couple of teenage boys there harassing her and her friend. They were taunting the girls and had apparently told my sister and her friend to "suck my dick". That was all my Dad needed to hear. He rushed over to the store which was about a five minute walk in probably two minutes. By the time he had arrived, there was a police cruiser there with a couple of officers, as my sister's friend's father happened to be a police officer. My father briskly walked up to the crowd, asked my sister quickly which boy had harassed her and promptly walked through the officers, straight up to this one boy and smacked him, hard, right across the face. The police basically shrugged their shoulders and allowed my Dad to walk my sister and her friend home.

Of course, the story doesn't end there. This boy continued to harass my sister whenever he saw her in the neighbourhood and then he and his father proceeded to take my father to court for assault.

So there we are, my whole family in court. My sister, young and scared on the witness stand and the judge asks her what the boy had said to her. She made her statement, but was so shy that she was asked to repeat it "so the court could hear". "SUCK MY DICK" she was immediately burning red with embarrassment.

Then it was my Dad's turn. A former army grunt he stood in front of the judge in military stance with his legs firmly spread and with his arms clasped behind him, excepting I'll never forget that he also had hair down to shoulders, sunglasses on top of his head with a blue Adidas t-shirt, flare jeans and sandals on. It was many years later that I realized that he was Serpico incarnate and how that must've looked to the judge.

The judge says, "So, can you tell me Mr. S____ why it was this particular boy that you hit?" and my father responded with "To tell you the truth your honour, he was the only one I could get to."

Moments later, the judge dismissed the case.

Lesson learned. Thanks Dad...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

If you don't have your health...

The I in illness is isolation, and the crucial letters in wellness are we.

~Author unknown, as quoted in Mimi Guarneri, The Heart Speaks: A Cardiologist Reveals the Secret Language of Healing **squeamish alert (not really, but it's not always pretty...)**

Seems like this quote is just the right one for me...remember, sharing to survive?...well, dare I say I'm living proof as of late...

I've been quiet for the last few weeks and have intentionally not been blogging namely because there was really only one subject on my mind and well, I thought it irresponsible to start putting stuff out there until I had a clearer picture of what I was dealing with.

For the last couple of months, I've been actively managing a "health scare". I find it ridiculous how we use these soft phrases when we're trying to be all genteel, attempting to not be alarmist or upsetting to ourselves or our others.

I remember reading something fairly recently that talked about how to talk to children about death. We often hide the significance of death and dying from children by saying things like "passed away", "left us", "gone on" or some other trite phrase. When we hide the reality of things in soft language, we take away its significance or its impact and well, that's just not my style. I have always preferred to use the right words to describe things, like vagina and penis instead of "minnie" and "john thomas", so when it comes to naming things out, let me say this instead...

For the last two months I was scared shitless that something was really, really wrong with me (pun'll get it in a minute)...

To be genteel, it was my colon. To be blunt, I was bleeding each and every time I went to the washroom...lots...and it was bright red. Why am I blogging about it? I was shocked at how many other women have had managed this kind of trauma and I do believe that we have a responsibility to not hide this kind of dialogue.

Have you ever noticed when an animal or a person is hurt, their initial reaction is to run and hide? That kind of reaction has killed plenty of living souls, two and four legged alike. I'm choosing a different way to react., I can't tell you how much I've thought of Terms of Endearment over the last few weeks when Debra Winger's character Emma says to her best friend Patsy, "it's okay, you can talk about the CANCER"...

...for the record, I don't have cancer, but up until this Monday, I was really scared that I did.

At first I didn't make a big deal about it (hiding) and thought it could be related to hemorrhoids. It was my darling husband who said to me so eloquently one night, "Welcome to your 40s babe!". Okay, that I could deal with. I've given birth in my early 20s and in my mid-30s and I know that the body totally changes and just doesn't bounce back so readily anymore. Still, I lamented. Was this what I had to look forward to? Creaky, crappy knees and a pink bowl at every sitting?? Crikey!!

When it was still going on about three weeks later and I finally thought aloud "Ya, this isn't going away or getting any better; in fact it's getting worse" I did what only the wife of an oncology certified nurse can do and I called my husband over to look. When you hear noted oncology nurse say, "Ya, that's not good" the gateway to letting in the panic opens.

He took the totally appropriate nurse stance and echoed my oft favourite mantra of late being "you can't do nuthin' about nuthin' 'till it's sumthin'"...but it wasn't working for matter what he was saying, I was already well ahead in my mind and it wasn't looking good as far as I was concerned.

I ventured online to some reputable health sites ( and ) and the more I read (polyps, diverticulitis etc.) the more I also read about cancer, over and over and over again. The panic was positively palpable at this point. [Mistake: do not self diagnose. Educate yourself, but nothing is for sure until the testing begins.]

So, first I went into practical mode, controlling the only thing I knew I could which was my contingency plan. It comes from my single mom days. Whenever a temp assignment or a contract ended earlier than I had expected I went into full on work in our bellies, roof over our heads, clothes on our backs...what did I need to do to ensure that we were taken care of...

My contingency plan started simply with insurance (check), first joint to die insurance (check) critical care insurance (check), STD and LTD (short and long term disability; check, check)...that made me feel better, for about a day...

Then it was to the doctor's. Funny how quickly you get an appointment when you tell them you're bleeding from your ass (note to reader: put pride aside when you need action on your health...don't be a dumbass and don't hide things from the receptionist)!! Quick referral to the surgeon and about a week later and off to the scope we go...

So, in between doctors' appointments and my scope I did what I do best...I talked. I reached out and I talked about what was happening to me. With some people I was purposely ambiguous providing a head's up without any detail (i.e. with work...too much information and all that). With others I tried to be ambiguous, but they wouldn't let me and I love my women for that. Then there were others that were my first line of support and I reached out to and told them "I'm scared" and they listened to me cry and be scared. For having a support system like that I am ever so ever grateful...

From someone who has had one broken bone in my whole life and who has never had an type of health issue, I can't tell you how unbelievably exhausting it is to spend hours each day thinking constantly of the "what if"s. No matter what I was busy with or busying myself with, in the back of my head the only word that I could hear screaming at me was cancer, canCER, CANCER!!!! Little issues were still little issues, but they were coloured with CANCER. It coloured everything I did. It coloured every conversation I had and every decision I was making or choosing to not make. I wallowed. Not for long, but I wallowed in the fear and in the fear of the unknown.

Since I had already taken care of the list of contingencies, I then started looking at what other elements I could control. First, there was my fear and my thoughts. I started making a more concerted effort to meditate, workout and be more attuned to my body. How it felt, how it reacted to certain foods, how it smelt; you get pretty banal when you're dealing with one of the most fundamental human experiences lemme tell ya.

Then I worked on my frame of mind. I do absolutely believe in the power of positive thinking and while I wasn't being very successful at being positive most of the time, I was finding my innate dark humour and that helped.

Yup, it was just my luck that I wouldn't get the sexy cancer, not the booby cancer. No.!! pink bras and cute T's for me. No, I was getting cancer of the ass!! Fuckers!! I was gonna show them though!! I had a pink thong campaign all worked up in my head already. I'd take those titties on!!

Next, I went back to the basics as I often do when I'm challenged with something and I started looking into more cause and effect. Diet is one of the leading causes of colon and colorectal cancers and North Americans have one of the worst diets which totally supports just these types of cancers; barbeque, meats, high fats...ugh! My family eats pretty healthy, but there's always more you can do.

Then I started reading more about vegetarianism and eating vegan. My best friend is also a vegan chef and a while ago she gave me the book Skinny Bitch to read. My gawd that book makes me laugh out loud, but it also makes me cringe. It's really nothing new for me to read, it's just timely.

For the last while I've also been more interested in the slow food movement and eating locally. I'm lucky enough to live in Perth County in Ontario, one of the richest agricultural areas in the province and I'm happy to support local farms and providers. My challenge is also that I'm a Celt
girl and that means that a meal's not a meal unless there's meat on the table, but I am getting closer and closer to changing that part of my lifestyle.

So, the good news is that in the last week my symptoms had started to subside. Then I had my scope on Monday and I was able to watch the live video feed and both my surgeon and I concur that my colon is pink and healthy. What's wrong, we're not entirely sure but as my surgeon said, "nothing sinister just goes away" so I'm taking it all as a great sign.

Lessons a very short time, I have grown to have even more regard for the work that my husband does. I've always known that his work is taxing and emotionally exhausting. Now, I have a a more empathetic understanding as to what his patients go through emotionally when they're dealing with the unknown or the known.

You are what you eat. 'Nuff said. I'm converting slowly but surely...

..and most importantly, the best reminder is that the time to act earnestly is now. Life is too short to be petty and insincere and to surround yourself with any kind of misery. Positive change is essential to living well, and living well is the best revenge...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

As I was saying...

There cannot be greater rudeness than to interrupt another in the current of his [sic] discourse.
~ John Locke

Okay, when I started writing this this morning, I was pissed. Off. Now, I'm a bit pissed. Up. Somehow, my perspective is a bit better rounded, I think anyway...

So, as of this morning, I had a problem (stop laughing, I know I have many, but let's just focus in on one in particular for today thankuverymuch...)

On the home front, I am in the midst of a good 'ol rarin' to go scrap with my dear husband and from my point of view it's based on one pretty simple notion of respect and regard which is...he constantly interrupts me...and I do mean constantly...

Now, I know I'm putting a killer statement out there by using the word always in this argument, yet it's true...I cannot remember a time where I was able to complete a full sentence or rather a full thought that was not interrupted by him either interjecting directly with his own commentary, interrupting to "seek clarification" or interrupting the flow of my discourse by opening his mouth when I take a breath or insert a natural comma into my commentary. It's as though he's just waiting for his moment to pounce at my pause...

I've no doubt that those who know me, even socially may be saying "...but KSD, you speak so quickly that the only way to get a word in edgewise is to jump at those pauses"...or perhaps the argument in your mind is that dialogue and conversation is based on two parties sharing, interrupting, interjecting and fighting for their voices to be heard.

I agree, but disagree and if you'd be so gracious to read along while I finish my thoughts dear reader, you'll understand why I think the way I do...

Firstly, let's define dialogue...

One definition is "
a dialogue is a reciprocal conversation between two or more entities." ...and another definition is ..."an exchange of ideas and opinions."

On the most banal level when someone is readying to speak whilst another is still in the midst of sharing a thought, it's a clear indicator that the other party is not listening to what the first party has to say; they are merely waiting for a chance for they themselves to be heard. Have I been periodically guilty of this type of behaviour myself? You bet.

So, why is it when my husband does this with me does it affect me so negatively and why do I get so angry? My reaction to these situations can generally go from bad to worse, depending on the time of month or how much I've felt disregarded and how compounded it's been up to that point in the day or week. Yesterday was worse. I slept in the attic.

As someone who fancies herself a writer, someone who absolutely needs to express herself as much as needing oxygen to survive, this is a full and complete assault on my sensibilities; a stifling of my soul, a stiffling of my voice and such a palpable slap in the face that he may as well haul off and knock me out with a punch to face; I feel that deflated and assaulted and I've shared this with him many times in the years of our marriage.

I recognize that my husband's behaviour triggers something within me that's so innate that he's often the uncomely recipient of the backlash that erupts in me for the years of being seemingly ignored (as I've written about previously). This goes back to the exact same reason why I feel like I need to constantly speak at 100 km/h because it's been my experience that I'm not going to listened to or given the opportunity, even in my own haven, my own home to actually finish my thought and fully speak my mind.

So, is it my ego? Am I self-aggrandizing, believing that I deserve to be heard more than my husband does? It does deteriorate and then become a battle of wills, a battle of tongues and whomever has the loudest voice wins...I'm pretty loud...

Then I also start to look at why do I write? What is it that has always drawn me so clearly to this medium and I've figured it out dear's because this is the only true medium where I actually feel "heard"...

...and my original post goes down a totally different tangent below, but i need to also contextualize my hypocrisy by sharing my experience tonight, a mere 12 hours later...

Tonight, I was with a collective of women, a grouping of souls that I have been waiting my whole life for...and barely throughout my whole night tonight did one of us get to finish a complete thought or a complete story without having to divert to one particular soul that would focus and hear the conclusion of that wish for all of us at the end of us tonight was that in our next meeting of our four souls each one of us would be able to complete a telling uninterrupted, which erupted us all into bellows of reckoning and laughter...

So, how is it I can spend an evening with my women, interrupting, speaking over, doubling the audio with and at the same time completely and utterly resent the same from my husband?...fair enough question, I gather...yet, I don't have a fair enough answer that benefits him...

This all reminds me of another great quote..."A too active mind is not mind at all." ~ Theodore Roethke

When one is not able to share, communicate and be heard, the our minds are simply in a constant state of being a thought interrupted, girl interrupted or constantly transmitting the KFKD (K-F&C*#D) radio broadcast...

What I rail against with my husband is that I have the insights into my reactions, I have the answers that he's seeking, however he doesn't stop interrupting me enough so that I can actually share what those insights are. Then I'm hurt and I shut down and I'm dejected and I run away and lick my wounds. Last night, I slept in the attic.

I think what differentiates that experience from the one I have with my women is that I'm not around them as often as I am with my husband and I expect him to want to hear me's not "equal" and it's not "fair" or "balanced" when viewed comparatively, but in my humble opinion, the dynamic and the relationship between my soul sistahs and my partner are very different in themselves and can't be measured on the same plane...