Listen to this song as you read my blog today … My Heart Will Go On
I had wanted to post a positive upbeat blog entry chronicling my 10-day journey through Emerg and being admitted to the Oncology Ward in Lakeridge Health Oshawa, but the words were too … clinical. And that shouldn’t be happening because the ridiculous highs and lows of this trip have continued to earn me “Most Memorable Patient” awards. Although my favourite nurse Rebecca* called me cray cray, she also agreed that I am the best patient. And the photos … we have hundreds! Good Lord … the photos …
Note to Terri: I have a winner for the eulogy … but I can’t post it
I did a few quickie updates on Facebook but didn’t have the energy or concentration (of a gnat) to string more than two sentences together. I did record a Live video feed to show my appreciation for pets being included in the “family only” visitors policy for isolation. Each of my dogs – Carly the chocolate lab x and Annie the northern Husky x – got to visit. Riley of Red Shadow Kennels also came by to lend a paw of support. Riley is a cancer survivor himself. Sherri, his Grandmom, had seen him dive into a critical state in mere hours during his treatment, so she refused to allow me to play the wait-and-see game with my cellulitis. My life has gone to the dogs. And that’s a good thing!
The words that spilled out onto my pages lacked the usual intensity, so I sat back in my hospital bed and waited for the message to find its way to me. What voice needed to be heard?
Well … waited isn’t quite correct … since I was isolated in a private room, on an arm’s length list of drugs, pushed through a battery of tests, narc’d up, sedated down and poked with everything in between every few hours. I have a sub-q iv line beside my PICC line and my tummy looks like a pin cushion.
And fed hospital food. If it wasn’t for the hospital food, I might actually give Lakeridge Health Spa 4 stars! The staff were highly skilled and efficient, friendly and put up with my craziness and tears (they medicated those). I had 5 doctors attending to me, so they weren’t fooling around. After showing up and leaving Emerg for four days, I think the Emerg doctor got handed his ass by my Oncologist because they both called me repeatedly in the car on Monday to tell me to turn around and come right back. I was going to be admitted since my neutrophil count was zero. My immune system didn’t exist. Add fever, vomiting and diarrhea to that and I won the Isolation Award.
The very first night an incident occurred which is forever stamped on my heart.
I was sitting here, newly admitted and settled into my private suite, when a Code Blue occurred in the ward. First, I heard the alarms going off in a room nearby. Then I heard the confusion in the hallway, followed by “Code Blue! Code Blue!” over the intercom. I knew it was serious because I could hear the anxiety in the nurses’ voices, a cart crash over and staff running as they scrambled to attend to the patient.
This was too close to home. Doors down the hall. One of my ward neighbours was dying. I was frozen. Eyes wide with fear. Breath held. In hope. Helpless. Wondering … would this someday be my fate? I couldn’t move. My heart skipped a beat. Seconds seemed like minutes.
The Code finally cleared. I could hear a doctor being paged stat to the Oncology Ward. More alarms, but the sense of relief pervading the hall was tangible. I didn’t need a nurse to tell me the patient was still alive. I knew.
I burst into tears. Those big, ugly sobs of pain, grief, fear, anger, helplessness and hopelessness. Big, fat tears rolling down my cheeks as I shook with sobs, my head down. For them. For me. For all who have fought and continue to fight. My heart opened up and bled. Were they alone? Was someone by their side? Would anyone be called to come to the hospital? Do they have next of kin?
I needed to release all the pent-up emotion that had been building all week, and this was the proverbial piece of straw. My friend Sherri hugged me tightly.
I have been acutely aware of visitors and visiting hours this entire week.
Who could and would visit?
When could they come?
Who was allowed in (to my life)?
I’m grateful for everyone who came or reached out. Paulina, Kevin, Cathy, Renee and Tom, Paul, Fran, Shelley … too many to list.
And I realized that my life has visiting hours. Between the hours of 8am and 8pm I have a charmed and flamboyant life – even with breast cancer. I have truckloads of friends and acquaintances, a socialite lifestyle in the 6ix and the 5ive. And wigs in four lengths and four colours of hair … to start with. I can still smile and dance and twirl my much longer hair to flirt. But I also have the same shit to deal with that everyone else has … failed relationships, bills to pay and jobs to do.
When visiting hours are over … I am alone. It’s quiet. I don’t have that one person by my side who will never leave. The one who will gather me up in his arms, rock me to sleep and tell me how much he loves me. The man who battles for me because I am worth the fight. The girl in the next cancer blog over met her husband the night she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She called to cancel the date and explained why … and he said “Don’t. Come out anyway.” And she did … and they were married while she was going through treatment.
Why haven’t I met that man? Or have I? I was dumped, but did I push him away? After years of meeting Mr. Wrong, I’ve built a heavy wall around my heart. There are very few places left to squeeze in. Add a fortified shield of wing-women … and I am untouchable.
I’ve met the one who gladly took money from me. The one who gave me six sentences in 60 seconds before he walked out. It wasn’t me, there wasn’t anyone else. But his profile was up on POF a few days later … with my jewelry twinkling on his shoulder like a lighthouse. There was one who cheated when he said he’d never do that. Lies. And guys who were more like monkeys because they can’t let go of one branch before they’ve grabbed another. I’ve dated narcissists and Neanderthals … and cast a few SQUIRRELS! back into the forest. Men who can’t handle my spirit and those who want to try. And there are those who aren’t interested. Male attention? I have my fair share, which I appreciate much of the time – but not always – though most don’t get close. Don’t underestimate me. Don’t confuse sexuality with promiscuity. I only want one man, but I need it all … heart, mind, body and soul to meet, stars to align, fireworks to light up and for him to meet me half way. Maybe my gut needs to get into the act … or stay out, who knows? In or out.
And I am the common denominator. What’s my role in this partnership gone awry? I can be my own fiercely proud and independent brand of asshole.
I’ve gone to professional counselling (several times), read blogs and websites, studied books and listened to the advice of those whom I admire to make myself a better human being, better mother, better friend, better lover, better wife. But I still don’t have a partner by my side. My heart bleeds for love … and I wonder if it has finally bled out.
While I preached vulnerability and the capacity to keep your heart open, I’ve pulled my own line up out of the water and stopped being vulnerable. I just can’t do it anymore.
Especially when I have a young man at home who is learning life through my actions.
Especially not now while I fight the most epic battle of my lifetime.
You could have knocked me over with a feather when someone held my hand and suggested I continue to date through this process … or at least be open to it. For real? Who wants cancer girl?
Yesterday while I was wheeled down on a stretcher to Diagnostic Imaging for my PICC line arm ultrasound, the orderly and I passed a couple by a large window just outside the Oncology Ward. Chairs were pushed away so her bed could face outside. It was a cold, blustery day out there. I could only see her capped head … but I heard her sobs. Her man was holding her. They were locked in an embrace while she cried out her tears of fear, pain and frustration. I sensed the finality and hopelessness in her sobs. Tears again rolled down my own cheeks as I cried for them … and me. Passing the reception for Diagnostic Imaging on a stretcher was surreal. I’ve walked these halls and sat in that Waiting Room at least six times in the last two weeks. Today I am too weak to make it on my own.
God heard me. While shooting photos and video of my ultrasound, Celine Dion’s My Heart will Go On played in the background. My u/s technician commented on how much that song meant to her and her Mom … also a breast cancer survivor.
Near, far, wherever you are
I believe that the heart does go on
Once more you open the door
And you’re here in my heart and my heart will go on and on …
Of course, I have a list of friends I can call if I am in trouble, and I’m grateful and deeply indebted to each and every one. I came back to my room and the visitors poured in. Visiting hours were open. My room was filled with sunshine and laughter. I don’t want to appear ungrateful. I am on my knees with my most heartfelt thanks for those who have stepped up to carry me forward. I appreciate every gesture, every kind word from everyone who has reached out to ask what I need. I appreciate every message. I love my little family and friends deeply, but they know can’t fill all the voids. I can’t reach over to the other side of the bed at 3am and tap that hunk beside me to let him know I need him.
Sherri reminded me that we can also feel alone while together. You know those twenty minutes before you fall asleep where all your sins and failings come to call? Our thoughts keep us prisoner in our own hell. We can feel alone right there with someone beside us. I guess that is true.
Perhaps I need to adjust my sails and search for a new destination. Give up on love for awhile.
But cancer is a really tough journey to travel alone.