surrender Dorothy

November 9, 2010

yesterday afternoon i started to get an earache and a sore throat. i persevered, went on with my plans. had a great time but my ears, my sinuses, my bones were sore. i hate giving in but i have to. cancelled all my plans for the next few days. and they were beautiful plans with dear, dear friends. i can’t power thru illness alas, even if it’s just a cold. i have to stop and rest. not to mention i don’t want to give whatever this is to anyone else. so i’m home now with my bowl of chicken noodle soup, my sinus meds, my nasal spray and my magic bag, a bed and oodles of wonderful books. 

* the title is a reference to a Lynn Miles song, that she played on Saturday at the Mayfair. i had a wonderful weekend and last week celebrating November. this week i will take it slow and easy. it is a bit blue making though. but i’ll rest and feel better, reschedule the plans when i’m strong again.

Yellow road, pair of new shoes…i keep clicking my heels, I wanna go home…these shoes are too tight, the dog has fleas…



November 1, 2010

photo by Charles Earl

and so it begins. this year i’m aiming to celebrate being alive. i won’t let the ghosts of November, 2009 haunt me but instead will rejoice and be thankful for Charles and my wonderful, caring friends who had to go thru that wretched time last year, not knowing if i would live. so friends, this month especially i intend to pamper you, shower you with attention and love. be ready.


October 19, 2010

this whole Williams case is upsetting me. all the photos in the news and the details of his cold and calculating plans. murdering and rape of course, but also his involvement with children, stealing the underwear of little girls and masturbating with it or wearing it.  [i don’t give a rat’s ass about anyone’s kink. all’s fair and fun in consensual relationships…the fact that the man liked to wear women’s underwear doesn’t bother me, it’s the predatory aspect.]

as a child, i had to fend off an adult who was trusted and loved. i never felt safe. but because my sister warned me and explained to me starting from the time i was about 8 years old, i was able to understand what was going on and i said no and found ways to make sure this didn’t happen. i may have had to remain guarded at all times, but i survived. i’ve mostly made my peace, but this sort of thing makes me feel panicky and scared…

i don’t know how this man could walk around town, enter people’s homes and steal underwear. i don’t know how he could succeed in getting women to let him close to him at all. oh wait…yes  i do. people are prejudiced in favour of those in positions of authority.  people are naïve and trusting about those in uniform or those in professions and situations that are supposedly trustworthy: doctors, soldiers, priests, fathers, uncles, cousins. if i have anything to say to parents at all, it’s that you need to prepare your child and yourself for a world in which these kinds of monsters exist. it’s deplorable that you have to do so, but think of the alternative.

for any others who are finding this coverage about Williams hard to take, finding it brings back scary childhood memories or memories of other abuse, i’m sorry. i’m with you. this is too much. grab the people that you love and hold them close. take care of each other. and talk to your kids…that’s all we can do…

savouring the birthday cherries

October 15, 2010

this birthday is one i was unlikely to see. i feel so grateful to be here and humble that i am. in some ways i feel like i have a second birthday on November 12 because on that day last year i survived even though the medical staff didn’t think i was going to. so i’ll likely celebrate again on November 12, as Charles says, my first birthday. nice to be able to start over again.

i feel pretty emotional today and have for the past week or so. i came very close to not being here. it’s an overwhelming feeling. i feel lucky, damn lucky.

last November was scary and bizarre. then after that it was a long haul. there were small victories and the occasional set back. back then i didn’t realize how fast time would pass, that i would get stronger and get back to my old self. i was different after my near death experience, mostly disoriented for months after. now i’m starting to get my groove back, back to being feisty and perhaps even more so because life feels too short to put up with bullshit and meanness. i guess i have an inflamed sense of justice.

at the same time, i take joy in the smallest things. today i will go out into the rain and have a private celebration with myself at lunch at one of my favourite restaurants. i will dunk the freshly made bread into my soup, savour the taste and the moment.

this evening i am going to do one of the things i love best, attend a poetry reading. Charles and i will be at the Carleton Tavern for the pre-small press fair reading and then tomorrow will have a table for Bywords at the fair. hope to see you at one or both of these events if you’re in town. i am in a rejoicing mood.

i feel very blessed with love from Charles and from my dear friends.  love and friendship enrich my life and i give them the highest priority. thank you friends and loved ones for your support, wishes and concern during what has been a crazy time of crisis. now let’s celebrate.

il est bien court le temps des cerises…

Don’t let us get sick

September 28, 2010

Last week I came down with a cold. The same time last year I came down with a cold. It felt awful, felt like I was repeating last year’s events. November isn’t far away. This is a spooky time of year for Charles and me and not because of Halloween.

On the third day of the cold, I had a slight fever: 37 Celsius, which for us imperialists is 99 Fahrenheit, so not a big deal, but nerve-wracking. If I get a fever, I’m supposed to go to the hospital, but we had to use common sense. The fever didn’t last and didn’t escalate. So far in 2010, I’ve had only this cold and the one I had in January. Not bad at all.

But I have to say, I hate being sick, hate it!  I was stuck not being able to go out when the weather looked gorgeous. Autumn has always been my favourite season. Perhaps not so much if I keep getting sick in the autumn. Looking back, I’ve realized that it is very common for me to catch a cold at this time of year. Even when I was getting married to Charles in 2002, I was just recovering from a cold.

This week, once my cold or flu or whatever it was started to go away, Charles immediately caught it. By yesterday he had a fever and I was running around doing everything I could, making lots of jello and tea. There wasn’t really much I could do but let him sleep and take his temperature. I thought of how awful it would be if he got as sick as I got last November. And I know when I got my cold last week he was remembering how bad things had gotten last November too.

It’s not easy this recovery from near death. It means we are still going to get skittish and jittery for colds and flu. Hard to remember that these things are annual events that occur as reliably as Christmas. We got through it. And we will again. But damn, I hate getting sick.

Don’t let us get sick
Don’t let us get old
Don’t let us get stupid, all right?
Just make us be brave
And make us play nice
And let us be together tonight

No surgery til new year

September 20, 2010

Turns out my surgeon is in a full leg cast for the next eight weeks. yikes. they aren’t even beginning to think about rescheduling surgeries until early next year. so now i know where i stand (forgive the pun).  i don’t have to be in a holding pattern for the rest of this year and can plan accordingly.

as Charles said, at least this didn’t happen last year when i had my crisis.  i might not have been here to celebrate Charles birthday, which is today and our 8th wedding anniversary on Thursday. and i am so very glad to be here to celebrate.


September 1, 2010

my surgery, which had been scheduled for next tuesday (sept 7), has been postponed. my surgeon, while vacationing in Florida, damaged his knee. this means that it will be a few weeks before he does any surgeries, so mine has been cancelled and will be rescheduled once he’s back on his feet and can withstand the long hours in the operating room.

i am not surprised or disappointed that the surgery has been postponed. it would have been nice to get it over with, but i don’t mind going with the flow. surgeries get bumped for all kinds of reasons and i understand that. mine isn’t a life and death operation, nor am i in pain. having the ileostomy reversal will improve my quality of life, but in the meantime i am not suffering and i am growing stronger so that once i do have the surgery, i will be even more equipped to handle it.

since my near death in November, i am not inclined to get rattled by much and i bow to the capriciousness of life. i don’t push as hard to make things go my way, to make people do what  i want them to do.

at the same time i treasure those close to me even more and am enjoying living life. the surgery will slip in at some point and i’ll have it and then resume my good life. when it happens doesn’t matter. it will some time. i am at peace with that.

how to impress an anaesthesiologist

August 19, 2010

here are the two most interesting things about yesterday’s preadmissions appointment

while the lab technician was taking my blood, i asked her if all blood was the same colour. she said that she has found that most people are the same with the exception of people from Nunavut who seem to have bright red as opposed to wine red blood. maybe this is due to the oxygen or their diets.

also, i impressed the anaesthesiologist. whenever i have to meet with a health professional, they always ask for info about what happened to me. when i say things like “almost died,” they kind of nod and humour me until they read my file. in this case, Tanya, the anaesthesiologist said, “do you know you were an A S 4 E?” and showed me the monitor. apparently this means unlikely to survive. yep, knew it…but survived anyway. she was pretty damn impressed. she told me it’s hard to impress an anaesthesiologist because they see everything; they’ve seen the end. she said she was honoured to meet an A S 4 E. it’s fun to freak out the medical staff…

the appointment was informative and a wee bit scary. the nurse asked me a bunch of questions about any pre-existing conditions or habits: do you smoke, do you drink alcohol, do you take recreational drugs, do you have any loose teeth or caps? etc.

i was able to answer no to all.

she also asked me what my surgery was for. i think they ask this to fill in any blanks that the patient might have. feels a bit like a pop quiz.

i was given a few guides about my surgery preparation and what will occur the day of the surgery and the nurse went over it. some of the info is out of date. they no longer swab for Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureas and Vancomycin Resistant Enterococcus. phew. because they sound like something only a Martian would have…

the day before my surgery  i can have a light breakfast but then i have to switch to clear fluids.  finally a chance to drink white Gatorade. i can have up to 2 cups every 6 hours until 2 hours before the surgery.  i may or may not need to take a laxative (this is doubtful due to my ileostomy, but i have to check with my surgeon’s office to make sure).

i should be walking 30-45 minutes daily, doing deep breathing exercises and coughing. “Getting ready for surgery is like training for a marathon.” eek!

they will call the night before the surgery to let me know when to come to the hospital. it could be anywhere from 6 am to later in the morning.

on the eve of my surgery, i have to shower with antimicrobial soap and then again the next morning.

i can bring a few items such as robe, slippers and toiletries, but no coffee maker or butane. i guess my plans to do some spot welding while i am in hospital are off.

i go directly to the Surgical Day Care Unit Reception Desk. there may be a 2-4 hour waiting time til my surgery. i believe that Charles can be with me at this point. i hope so. i can never really read at the hospital and i doubt i’ll be able to do so then. i might have to count ceiling tiles or write an absurdist play while i’m waiting.

i’m going to spend about an hour being prepared by the nurse (but no information on what the prep is was provided, and i didn’t think to ask…)  i will then be taken to the operating room on a stretcher. and i may have to chill out in the hallway for a bit. i’ve done that before when i was a kid waiting for my appendix surgery. felt like hours, but was probably only  a few minutes. this time i have more word games and mind games to play on myself to get myself to relax.

they’re going to put me under intravenously. no mask. i hate those, they make me claustrophobic, so that’s a relief. all people who are anaesthetized are intubated (didn’t know that.), but i’ll be under so i won’t feel discomfort.

the anaesthesiologist reassured me that i won’t have delusions like i did when i was under heavy narcotics and had lost oxygen to my brain (A S 4 E!). phew.

if they can do the surgery laparoscopically they won’t need to give me pain meds, but if not, they’ll give me either an epidural afterward or a button to press so i can self-medicate.

afterward i go into the Post-Anaesthetic Care Unit (aka the recovery room) and will be monitored. i’m supposed to do deep breathing and coughing exercises and also leg exercises while i’m in the recovery room and then for the rest of the hospital stay.

those annoying surgical socks are going to be back on me and also the catheter. my two favourite hospital accessories.

all being well i shall be in hospital for a few days only.

i’ll be able to have visitors too, but damn i’ll be disappointed not to be able to do any spot welding or set off flares.

knowing exactly what will happen is both reassuring and scary as hell. strange to have both of these feelings at the same time. i have faith though. everything will be ok. repeat after me…

22 days to surgery

August 16, 2010

and the preadmissions appointment is this wednesday, so the surgery is feeling very real, like it will actually happen. no longer is it something tentative or possible. and that’s a good thing, but also a bit nervous-making.

what i’m supposed to do between now and the surgery? what should my state of mind be? should i be trying to get a bunch of stuff completed? should i be writing good letters to dear friends and reminding you all how much i care for you (just in case)? should i be figuring out what to pack for the hospital, what music and youtube videos to store in my digital suitcases?

best case scenario i’m in hospital for a few days and then have to take it easy for a bit. in which case, no need to get too much done ahead of time.

worst case scenario…well, i don’t want to dwell on that.

with my volunteer duties for Bywords, small press activities for AngelHousePress and my own work, i have a short list of 10 essential things to do in the month of september. i realize that some of these things will have to slide if i’m in hospital longer than a few days or if there are any complications.

in November, after a month in  hospital, i didn’t really care that things were a bit late. it wasn’t a problem. i was alive. also i was just too damn weak to do all but the bare minimum for weeks after. almost dying has a way of making you understand what the important priorities are.

i am a planner extraordinaire though and normally i like to contingency plan for the worst case scenario. what happens if readers don’t show up at readings or musicians? i make sure i let participants know about timing etc. i add additional participants if i think there may be an issue. i save for taxes. even when i was a kid, i formulated escape plans for if things got really bad. i’m used to preparing for the worst.

in this case, though, i don’t want to do that. i can’t even consider or let myself consider the possibility. my brain is telling me to do things like make a will, hold those i love even closer. when i saw you last, i should have embraced you, i think to myself…

instead i need to focus on the positive and see this experience as just a wee interruption of activity that will contribute to improvement in my quality of life and make me stronger. a small excursion out of the ordinary.

and when i am out of the hospital and strong enough, i will put the needle back on the turntable and the music will continue…

pre jello prep

August 4, 2010

on August 18, i have my pre-admissions appointment in preparation for my surgery on September 7. at the appointment, i will meet with the anaesthesiologist to make sure my air passageways are clear. i may have x-rays and blood work done as well.

after my last appointment with my surgeon, his secretary mailed me the Patient Information Pamphlet. included in the information is also a note about their library, which allows patients and families access to health information. this is pretty cool. the Ottawa General is brilliant with guides. they have given us many since this whole experience began. i’m impressed with how much support they provide in times of crisis.

one of the things i have to do is to sign for my room before being admitted on Sept 7. apparently if you have supplemental insurance you can have a semi-private room with 2 beds, but the default for those, like me, with just OHIP, is a ward room of 4 beds.

of course when i was in last November i was in a semi-private room, even though i have no supplemental insurance.  since OHIP covered my surgery, ICU stay, my room, meals, daily care, physiotherapy and consultation with a dietician, not to mention home care for a month when i got out of the hospital, i don’t really mind if i might have to stay in a room with 3 other people this time around. the only thing we paid for last time was $45 for the ambulance ride. i can live with that 😉 and this time around we can take the bus.

i can feel myself getting a wee bit nervous. no longer just something that might happen a ways down the road, the surgery is imminent. so yeah, i can’t help feeling a tad anxious. but in the end i  feel i am making the right decision for me.

i explained to a friend recently that by making the decision to have surgery  i feel as if i am regaining control over my body. last November everything that happened was out of my control: the pneumonia, the ventilator, the toxic colon that had to be removed, all the drugs they had to give me to keep me alive and those wretched delusions i had. then having to stay in the hospital for almost a month and not even being aware where i was for the first two weeks. almost dying…for a control freak that was  pretty destabalizing…so now i get to decide and make plans.

at the same time, i have faith that i can handle what happens. if my body needs to fight again, i know it can do it. i’ve been building my strength, doing my exercises, keeping to the low residue diet and taking good care of myself in preparation for the surgery and the healing period afterward.

i am a fighter and to survive i will do whatever is necessary. but most likely i’ll just have a few days or a week back in the hospital with the kind nurses and orderlies and spend a bit too much time watching youtube videos and eating jello.