Rhymes, Rants & Accolades from North Central BC

Archive for July, 2011

Bee’s Recovery From Depression

In  the spring of 1985 my daughter Bee recovered from her horrific struggle with symptoms of  major depression. The final verses of her song  “The Hall of Mirrors” describe the  experience of attaining joy and spiritual renewal.  Since that time she has managed all symptoms without the use of medication.

Is anybody out there? Can anyone see me?

Is anybody waiting for me to start to see

what’s going on outside of me?

(— Arms are opening, reaching —)

(— Hands are opening, touching —)

(— Eyes are opening, seeing —)

(— Hearts are opening, melting. —)

Walking outside of the Hall of Mirrors,

brand-new sights to catch my eye.

Living outside of the Hall of Mirrors,

the whole wide Universe can be my guide.

Working outside of the Hall of Mirrors,

helping other prisoners to be free.

Life outside of the Hall of Mirrors

is everything that life can be!

Is anybody out there?

Can everyone see me?

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Brain Chemical Disorders- Major Depression

BRAIN CHEMICAL DISORDERS by Doris Ray
Major Depression
Major depression is the most common of all brain chemical disorders. According to statistics one man in ten and one woman in five will suffer a serious depression at some time in their lives. Many of us become depressed when we anticipate or experience unpleasant situations. It’s that “blah” feeling that envelopes us when our least favourite aunt arrives for an extended visit and the anguish that tears us apart (after the murderous rage has subsided!) when we discover a parking lot dent in our brand new car. And in my case, the ultimate down-in-the-dumps despair I once felt when I stepped on the bathroom scales. (I remedied that a few years ago when the offensive measurement of poundage went out with the garbage!) Those dark feelings usually dissipate within a reasonable length of time and are a part of everyday living. But when those feelings don’t go away, the sufferer may become trapped inside a demoralised and hopeless state of existence.
Symptoms of major depression are: tearfulness, brooding, irritability, obsessive rumination, anxiety, phobias and excessive worry over physical health. My oldest daughter experienced a severe depression in 1985. She later wrote a song about what it was like living in a “hall of mirrors.

THE HALL OF MIRRORS by Bee Wolf Ray
Is anybody out there? Myself is all I see.
Is anybody waiting, or is mine the only reality?
Walking in the Hall of Mirrors,
reflections glimmering catch my eye.
Living in the Hall of Mirrors,
images of me are my only guide

Working in the Hall of Mirrors,
taking the mirrors down, putting them aside.
Lived too long in a Hall of Mirrors,
I want to see what’s on the other side.
Is anybody out there? Can anyone see me?
Is anybody waiting or is mine the only reality?

Gets damn lonely in a Hall of Mirrors,
My body cries for warm live flesh.
I tried to touch my own reflection,
but I cut myself on the broken glass.
I’m too big for a Hall of Mirrors,
my heart cries out for open skies.
My spirit calls for other choices,
other melodies, other voices.

The Hall of Mirrors is a prison cell,
yes, I know it all too well….

In the last two verses of her song Bee describes how she finally reached out for help to escape from her “Hall of Mirrors.” There are many medications that have been developed to relieve the debilitating symptoms of major depression (also referred to as “unipolar disorder)

Panic Attacks

BRAIN CHEMICAL DISORDERS by Doris Ray
Panic Attacks
I had my first panic attack when I was about 13 and in the eighth grade. The teacher in our small rural school had asked me to read a poem to the class from our English textbook. I had been reading aloud to this same bunch of kids since Grade 2 so this should not have been a big deal. But that day an idle thought drifted through my mind that was to cause me consternation for more than four decades of my life. For some reason I thought, “What if I can’t do this? What if the words get stuck in my throat?” And that’s exactly what happened! My throat closed up tightly and I could barely breathe, let alone talk.
After that excruciating experience I avoided reading aloud to my classmates, or to anyone else. As a young mother I usually joined whatever organisation happened to be sponsoring my children’s’ particular endeavours. I enjoyed the interaction with other people although it seemed I was forever being nominated for the position of secretary. I would always decline. My heart would beat fast and I ‘d be trembling as I fumbled for an excuse. I knew I would have no problem with the business of keeping track of the minutes; it was the thought of reading them aloud at the next meeting that terrified me.
Panic attacks can occur at any time. You might be shopping, sleeping or in the middle of a meeting. An episode usually begins abruptly, peaks within 10 minutes, and lasts about half an hour. Signs and symptoms can include a rapid heartbeat, sweating, trembling and shortness of breath, as well as other body alarm signals. The symptoms of panic are so intensely physical that it often doesn’t occur to people that the attack they are having is due to a chemical imbalance in the brain. They may even think they are having a heart attack. The plight of victims suffering from a psychiatric illness known as obsessive compulsive disorder was the theme of a Jack Nickolson movie entitled “As Good As It Gets.” Jack did not experience hallucinations or delusions but he was overly concerned about things that made no sense to his friends. Common fears are: fear of contamination, concern with order and neatness, doubts of having injured someone, left something on (or unlocked) and inability to throw anything away. The person will be driven to perform specific ritualised behaviours calculated to temporarily reduce their discomfort such as: repeated hand washing and cleaning, excessive ordering and arranging, checking and rechecking, and collecting useless objects. A diagnosis of OCD is made when obsessions and compulsions become so marked they interfere with social and occupational activities, or cause intense subjective distress. Thankfully, there are now effective treatments available for those who suffer from persistent panic attacks or OCD.

My Cancer Diary

MY CANCER DIARY by
Doris Ray

On September 21st 2007 Premier Campbell announced that the North would finally
come of age—medically speaking. By 2012 we should have acquired all the health
benefits and convenience of having a cancer clinic in the region. I recalled my
own encounter with the big “C”  which I had chronicled in a journal.

*  *  *

In April 1999 I was basking in the glow of accomplishment after having
completed a massive editing of a book manuscript I’d been working on for five
years. A phone call informing me the book was now accepted for autumn
publication had me happily convinced that my time and effort had been
worthwhile. Another piece of good news, relevant to everyone in our small
community of Fraser Lake, was that the area would soon have the services of
two—perhaps even three—permanent physicians. Our Medical Clinic had been staffed
by a valiant complement of nurses and an ever-changing supply of locum doctors
since the previous August, when our two long-time physicians had left the
community. For the past seven months my concern had been for the health of my
elderly clients. I was quite healthy. Or so I thought.

April 28: Had my check-up this morning. The doctor (one of our temporary
locums) agreed that the breast lump is most likely a cyst. I told her my
husband insisted that I get it checked. She replied, “He’s a good man!”
Appointment at Prince George Regional Hospital (PGRH) is on May 13th.

May 13th : To Prince George today to have my breast poked, pried and squeezed.
First off, its contours were scanned and then scrutinized while being displayed
on an ultrasound screen. That was followed by a series of mammograms on the
machine that had to have been invented by a disgruntled husband.  I have
plenty of cysts, some quite small and the large one that they are not quite
sure about. I’ll make an appointment with a doctor (another locum) and he or
she will let me know the results.

May 13th   To Prince George today to have my breast poked, pried and
squeezed. Its contours were scanned and then scrutinized while being viewed on
an ultrasound screen. After that  it  was a series of
mammograms on the torture machine that must have been invented by a disgruntled
husband. Apparently I have lots of cysts, some quite small and the large one
that they are not quite sure about. I’ll make an appointment with a doctor
(another locum) and he or she will let me know the results.

May 17th  My cousin F  also has breast concerns.  She will be
having breast reduction surgery sometime in July.  Tonight I recalled
where and when I rammed my boob–it was at a client’s home about 2 months
ago.  I was in a hurry because I only had an hour to prepare a meal.
Both the refrigerator and the freezer were in the basement. There was a small
sling of lumber hanging from the ceiling down there and I’d smacked right into
it.  Hurt like the devil at the time but I didn’t notice any bruises or
contusions later.

May 19th  Grandson Tyler drove me to Prince George for a consultation with
Dr. W.,  who impressed me as being a kind and knowledgeable physician.
Guess I’ll have to undergo the 15 minute surgical procedure to remove the lump
because he doesn’t want to take any chances. Says it is a 90% chance it’s not
cancer – probably a “fatty necrosis” (something like that) caused by
the injury.  I will receive the call next week or at the very latest 2
weeks, to go into the hospital.  I’ll need to take some time off work… a
week or 10 days?

June 3rd   This morning I  phoned Dr. W’s office because it’s
been more than 2 weeks since I  saw him. Now he is the one who is
ill!  Off work on a prolonged medical leave. So I’m back to square
one.  Saw Dr. Haq (my new doctor in Fraser Lake) and he’s checking out
another Prince George surgeon –a  Dr. A.  I called cousin Ginny in
Vancouver who has worked as a nurse.  She phoned back with the names of
two “highly recommended” surgeons.

June 8th   Guess I will be going to Dr. A. in Prince George, after
all. ( My friend J. tells me he’s very good at removing gallbladders!)
Dr. Haq contacted the two Vancouver surgeons but they either don’t do that or
are too busy.

June 11th   Leon [my husband] and I drove to Prince George today for
my appointment with Dr. A.  Turns out he’s a nice guy too, although older
than Dr. W.   The two doctors share an office space and reception
area upstairs in the building. Everyone there is shocked and concerned by Dr.
W’s sudden illness.

June 19th. Finally had the lump removed yesterday and I think he removed two
for the price of one! There had been two cancellations.  I  expected
to get  in on the later one but, instead, was rushed through on the
earlier,  major, cancellation. Dr. A. examined the boob and mentioned
there were now two lumps (the other, I believe, was one of the resident cysts
which had grown?) He said he’d like to remove both, and enquired politely,
“May I?”  (I think I said yes.) The anaesthesiologist was upset
with the O.R. nurses who stated he’d given them a look “like a wet
weekend” because they’d not set up an I.V. They argued with him while he
put the needle in my hand. He growled back but I noticed a friendly glimmer in
the back of his really nice brown eyes as he bantered with them. Leon picked me
up at 3:30 instead of  the 5 p.m. they’d originally thought it would be.
It hurt last night, but after I put on a bra and took some Advil it quit and I
slept quite well.

June 25   Tomorrow is my 61st  birthday. My boob itches and
appears healed. On Monday I’ll get Marna [nurse at clinic] to clip out the blue
sutures.

June 29  Last evening at 5p.m. Dr. A phoned and gave me the shock of my
life. The tumour he’d removed was malignant and I’ll need more surgery. I’m to
see him tomorrow at noon.  Last night I was in a state of shock with tiny
jabs of fear poking at me off and on. Today I’m okay.  I worked and had a
good hug or two with Mrs C  (my 94 year old client who had cancer surgery
a few years ago.)

She told me not to be afraid, so I won’t be….  Dr. Haq phoned saying Dr.
A is the head of a good team, so I was relieved to hear that. I phoned and
e-mailed most of  the kids and grandkids.

June 30  Tyler drove me to Prince George today to see Dr. A. The
doctor  wanted to inspect my incision and make sure all that was okay. It
seemed ironic to me because–as I told him–he was just going to open things up
again, anyway.  (Dr. A didn’t laugh.  He knew it wasn’t  funny.).
He said Dr. W  had strongly suspected  the lump was malignant when he
examined me.  I have two choices:  a partial mastectomy with lymph
gland removal followed by radiation treatments; or else a total mastectomy with
lymph gland removal.  I think I’ll go for the complete masectomy.  I
hate the thought of radiation therapy, unless it’s absolutely necessary. And
I’d have to go to Vancouver for that. My friend J. has two elderly aunts who’ve
had masectomys years ago. Another friend C. has relatives who lived to be over
80 after having the radical surgery. I have quite a lot of  reading
material on the subject which I will browse through. Read some of it in the
car. My breast seems to hurt more now  that I know the truth.  Leon
says he would gladly change places with me–in a moment.  That makes me
want to cry!

July 2nd  Last night I had a chat with a friend who vowed her attitude
toward me will not change.  She said people had avoided her dad while he
was going through his terrible cancer ordeal. That was a while ago, though, she
admitted  and people are now more open about the disease. I assured her
that I was okay with my particular situation. I was having the mastectomy
simply as a precautionary measure. The cancer as such–I stated emphatically–
has already been removed.

July 3  Reality has set in.  I am  realizing that just because
the lump is gone doesn’t mean there’s no more cancer.  Last night in bed I
apologized to my breast. I allowed myself to love and honour it for it’s role
in perhaps saving the rest of my body. I did the same thing tonight and it does
help. The effect is similar to that of a prayer.

July 4  I’m on official holidays from work now and on Saturday will fly to
Vancouver for a short holiday. Be home on Wednesday the 14th. Dr. A said the
surgery wouldn’t be until after the middle of the month, so that gives me
plenty of time.

July 5  This morning I talked to Dr. A on the phone. He agreed that the
total “M” was the best way to go.  The tumour was 3 centimetres
in size, so there’s a chance there could be more.  The only problem is the
surgery might be scheduled before when I come home on the 14th…. If that
should happen,  Dr. A  strongly urged that I change my holiday plans.
The hospital will phone me in a couple of days.

July 6  The hospital phoned and my surgery is on the 15th. But I will need
to be at Pre-admissions at PGRH by 2 p.m on the previous day.  My flight
up from Vancouver is at 7p.m. so will  have to secure a seat on an earlier
flight.

July 7  Saw Mrs M on the street.  It’s hard to feel sorry for myself
around her, what with the health problems in her family. Her philosophy
is:  “We’ve good days and we have bad days.”  A
friend had the same surgery years ago, she recalled.  The woman developed
lymphedema and her arm is still hugely swollen. Also talked to B. who knows
someone who recently had the surgery, but now has to have chemo because they
found more cancer in the lymph glands. That’s the route it takes apparently,
when it spreads elsewhere in the body.

July 8  I’m having some dandy hot flashes since I threw away my hormone
replacement pills. Worse than the original menopause! Both Dr. A and Dr. Haq
believe they are not a factor when it comes to the cancer but I’m taking no
chances.  I took the estrogen to protect myself from the heart attacks
that are so prevalent in my mother’s family. But if  the alternative is
breast cancer  I’d rather take my chances with clogged
arteries!   Today I finished the housecleaning on schedule and got my
hair done.

July 9  I can hardly wait to see my little grandchildren at the Coast. But
now I’m worried about being exposed to their cold germs before surgery.

Our daughter Fern tells me Robyn’s recovered, but  Julia is still
coughing.  I phoned cousin A about visiting her on Salt Spring Island for
a day or two, until Julia is less contagious.  We haven’t seen each other
for 12 years. A. sounded quite excited by the idea.  It will be great fun
getting together again!

July 14  This morning Fern and Julia took me to the Vancouver Airport
where we said our goodbys over Starbucks coffee and breakfast. Cousin F had
presented me with a lovely ceramic angel that she’d received as a birthday
gift.  (I  vowed I would return it as soon as I am well.)  Fern
insistedon paying for my breakfast because, as she put it, she had no
“angel” for me.  I assured her  I wasn’t worried
about  the surgery  but her dad was probably worried enough for both
of us.  “Tell him heshould take it easy tomorrow– read a bad book or
watch T.V.,”  she suggested, knowing full well that it wouldn’t
happen.  My  plane landed with plenty of time left for Leon and me to
enjoy a leisurely lunch before the pre-admissions’ session at the
hospital.  Right now we are at Easter Seal House awaiting the landlady to
show me the laundry facilities. The kitchen is upstairs. There’s a TV room and
a phone alcove close to our downstairs bedroom.

Later:  Had a shower and shaved the axillia area [armpit] as advised per
instructions from pre-admissions.  As I applied the razor, a slightly
revised version of  Deana Carter’s song, “Did I Shave My Legs For
This?” came to mind.  We had a huge supper tonight including a
milkshake for me.  I have until midnight to fill up. After that only sips
of water and a  bit of apple juice up until  9a.m.  I phoned
middle daughter Cathy in Fraser Lake. She will stop by after work
tomorrow–probably around 5p.m.  Leon says he is determined to be there
with me when  I come out of surgery. (Thank God for that.  He’s been
a rock.)  I lied to Fern when I told her I wasn’t worried. Yesterday I
felt panicky once or twice but today I am better.

July 15  I’m in Room 262 at PGRH.  Leon just brought up some reading
material.  After he left  I  began experiencing the familiar
sharp twinges of  fear. I  picked up the tiny  “Cup of
Chicken Soup” book that cousin A  had  given me and selected a
story at random. Strangely, the tale had to do with courage and breast cancer.
One of those synchroncity things but it helped.  I  am beginning to
feel gaseous from lack of food. But when I lie perfectly still I’m okay, so
will quit writing.

July 17  (Saturday)  I’m home sweet home again and it’s two days
after surgery. The one hour operation was supposed to begin at 1:15 in the
afternoon. But it wasn’t until 3:15 before I was even moved out of
Pre-op..  Once out in the hallway I was inexplicably left there alone in
my bed for what seemed like hours.  The Pre-op Room nurse was leaving for
home but she promised to leave a message for Leon at Easter Seal House. As it
turned out, he was in the hospital all afternoon,  pacing backwards and
forwards to and from  my room. (Room 262)  No one he talked to could
tell him where I was. But he was there with me in the Recovery Room at 7p.m.
when  I regained consciousness. Later back in my room, the nurses giggled
when I  told them my husband  must really love me. He had seen me
with only one boob but, scarier still,  he finally got to see me with no
teeth. ( My upper denture is what holds my face together so that must have been
an awful sight!)  I am feeling quite fatigued now, so will continue this
later.

July 18  I get fatigued easily but right now have very little pain. Today
I managed to catch up on some phone calls. Still have to thank people for
flowers, gifts and food…. Especially W. who brought over the wonderful lasagna
that we had for supper tonight!  Cousin F was okay last night after her
surgery– told her it was ironic that we both hurt in the same places! ( More
so for her, since both were operated on.)  This afternoon I had a nice
chat with  Lynne [stepdaughter] who called from Saskatchewan. Lynne said
she was grateful that I had been there for her (on the phone) when her mother
was dying of  a particularly virulent form of  liver cancer. I asked
her if she’d ever learned  more about the cause of  her mother’s cancer.
“The doctor thought it probably metasticized from an undetected breast
tumour,” she answered softly.

July 19  My home support worker arrived this morning.  I had a
shallow bath and she washed my hair. I asked her to please scrub the right
armpit which I couldn’t do–before we were both asphyxiated!  Later I
spitbathed the half of my left armpit that was unwounded. ( There is just a
faint red line visible from where the lymph nodes were taken.) I am a bit
shakey today but Gravol works wonders for that. This afternoon I took vitamins
B, C  and E.  Felt a bit nauseous,  so took more Gravol. In the
hospital, I couldn’t take the morphine shots  because they  made me
sick to my stomach.  I  really didn’t want the next line of defence
for pain either because I’d heard about the intestinal side effects of
taking

combination of  2 Advil,
plus 2 Tylonal extra strength, which worked very well.  I was able to
sleep nights–in short segments.

July 20  Well, tomorrow we go to P.G. for Doctor A to give me the verdict
about my lymph nodes.  If there has been no spreading of the cancer cells,
we’ll celebrate with a nice dinner.

July 21  Dr. A seemed ready to leap into his vacation which starts Friday.
He was already wearing  his shorts and was extremely cheerful. But he did
not have the stats on my lymph nodes. He removed the drain which had been
protruding lumpily from under my blouse and held in place with a safety pin. (
I had finally learned to empty it and clean it without feeling faint.) Dr. A
warned there would probably be some pain as he pulled at the tubing but I
didn’t feel a thing. He appeared to admire my  stoicism, then gazed
at  his handiwork which stretched halfway across my chest like a heavy
duty zipper. The staples could come out  on Friday, he stated happily. By
then he should also have the

information about my lymph
nodes.  I  asked Dr. A. if  I could have the staples removed at
the Fraser Lake clinic instead and he agreed to that. Cathy met us as we were
about to leave the office. We had nothing tangible to celebrate but we had a
delicious meal anyway.

July 22  Yesterday and today the pain levels seem to have increased.
Perhaps because as the incision heals, it  pulls together?  I am
crankier than I was but it is frustrating not being able to do the things
I want to do.  My entire upper body seems to have been affected by the
surgery. Even minor muscle use is a challenge. Tonight I  had to ask Leon
to pry  the wad of  packing out from my new  bottle of
extra strength Tylenol.  I’ve been  joshing  him about how he
likely saved my life by  nagging  me into having the lump inspected
in the first place.  According to an old Chinese proverb he is now forever
obliged to look after me!

July 23   I just phoned my way across Canada leaving messages
(mostly) after learning the state of  the lymph glands that Dr. A
removed.  The clinic did not have the information this morning when we
arrived for my appointment. And Dr. A’s answering machine proclaimed that he
had already left on his holidays.  I  was a bit teary eyed and
despondent during my consult with Dr. Haq. Later  Marilyn [receptionist at
our medical clinic] made some more calls to Prince George and eventually
contacted someone with access to the information. Dr. Haq phoned me at home
with the news: all nine lymph nodes were negative!  Leon and I  did a
little jump for joy  (carefully– I hurt.)

July 24  Tonight Cathy brought down a stretchy lace bra which  I
found  quite comfortable to wear. But what I really need is something to
flatten what  I still have…. I  wouldn’t mind appearing flat
chested.  I just hate appearing unbalanced.

July 27  Got my staples removed today so hopefully I’ll sleep better than
I did last night. Fern, her husband Kelly and the children are here.
Three-year-old  Julia didn’t sleep well last night either.  We
discussed  how we are both cranky when that happens.  Lora Lee
[nurse] had no problem taking the staples out and I didn’t feel a thing.
She was also able to erase the ugly tape marks from where my bandages had
been.  I explained to her that the skin on that side of  my chest is
absolutely numb–feels like cardboard.  It  freaks me out to touch
it,  let alone scrub it.  And there is a piece of folded skin at the
end of my incision that throbs whenever I move. That really freaks me out!

July 29  Two weeks since my surgery and lately it seems to hurt more than
ever.  I went to bed early last night, placing a hot water bottle under my
back which seemed to help.  Dr. Haq  suggested using either hot or
cold treatments.  The problem, I understand, is that fluid is building up
under the skin where the boob used to be.

July 30  Yikes, it feels as if the left portion of my chest is made of
cardboard over top of a burning searing layer of hot lava!  I simply must
remember to take it easy.  Earlier today  I  attempted to remove
some laundry from the washing machine. I soon realized that  pulling with
my right hand  places a strain on my left side as well.

August 1  I’ve decided not to drive anymore. I did yesterday– remembering
to use my right arm as the main strength on the steering wheel.  For
almost thirty years my left hand steered while my right was reserved for a
cigarette. After I quit smoking the habit continued. But all that jostling over
bumps and around corners must have shaken things up because, pain-wise, I am
back to square one.

August 2   The house is quiet except for the whirl of fans and the
air conditioner.  Our two families of  company are camping  at
Hallett Lake.  Before leaving  Julia gave me a kiss and hug and
admonished me with, “Now you take good care of that arm,
Grandma!”  (Her mother had told her it was my arm that was incapacitating
me.)  It is another sweltering hot day.  I donned shorts and summer
top this morning and am wondering how I can de-emphasize my right boob?

August 4   Felt much better today. I cleaned the bathroom thoroughly
and Leon vaccumed the carpets. (As a client once told me, the noise of
the vacuum cleaner was like music to the ears!

August 6   My chest is painful all over again.  Had to take
painkillers twice during the night. Yesterday I convinced Leon that I was up to
visiting the kids at Hallett Lake. It was a long and bumpy ride and our
windshield was dinged twice by passing trucks, but to me it was worth it! Leon
drove very slowly over the rough sections while I clutched a small soft cushion
against my chest. The weather was beautiful and it was so good to get out into
the bush.  Julia came home with us after gathering a supply of  pine
cones, sticks etc. to do crafts. We managed to convince her it was best to
leave the “magic dust” (dirt) behind.

August 12  Four weeks since my surgery.  Today I drove to town and
purchased some homemade jam from one of the ladies selling goods outside the
tourist information booth. This evening,  I walked up the hill to
Cathy’s.  Told her  I’m getting pretty good at picking things up from
the floor with my bare toes. But I will never become as proficient as Fern, who
learned to do that as a Jolly-Jumper baby. Today she can not only pick up
objects with her toes but throw them quite accurately and with amazing speed!

August 13   Felt extremely well this morning. Made muffins, did
laundry and mopped the floor. Leon remarked that I must be getting better as
I’m back to driving him crazy again. ( I kept springing up from my chair to
tackle new projects.)  By afternoon the “hot lava” pains were
back and I was forced to rest. Felt much better later, after doing my
post-masectomy exercise routines. According to instructions from the physio at
PGRH,  the routines help prevent symptoms of lymphedema. And I don’t need
a swollen arm like Popeye!  (I already resemble Olive Oyl his flatchested
girlfriend–on the left side anyway.)

August 18  This morning K., representing the Canadian Cancer Society,
arrived with her boobs in a briefcase. She had more intensive treatment than
I  will probably need. After her surgery,  it was determined that the
cancer  had spread into the lymph nodes. She’d had  radiation
treatments and chemotherapy which made her feel very ill from January until
August.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that I won’t need  chemo.
If  the breast  tissues are found to be estrogen-positive, Dr. Haq
says  I will probably be placed on an estrogen fighting hormone called
Tamoxifen. But if  it turns out that they are estrogen-negative, Dr. A.
will likely prescribe chemotherapy.

August 24  The masectomy bra I ordered from the catalogue arrived today.
It has pockets for a prothesis sewn into both cups. Think I’ll delay removing
the one on the right–just in case.  When K was here she showed me a bra
and prosthesis that she had purchased from a medical supply store for about 300
dollars. My Sears model is a bargain at only thirty-six. (Plus the price
of  the plastic foam falsie.)

August 31  It was a lovely day yesterday when Leon and I drove to Prince
George.  Dr. A. was  pleased with the way my incision is
healing.  In fact,  he was pleased all around with my progress.
“When I saw the size of that lump I didn’t think everything would turn out
this well,” he admitted. The examination of  breast tissue had
indicated my cancer was estrogen positive, he said, which in a way was a good
thing. Up until five years ago, Dr. A. continued,  women in my situation
would automatically be placed on Tamoxifen for a period of  5 years and that
would be the end of it.  But now some (not all) medical experts were
advocating chemo treatments as well. I expressed my dismay at the suggestion
of  chemotherapy. I  needed to be as well  and as energetic as
possible, I  told him, because of  my upcoming book  tour.
He asked me how old I was. When I told him 61 he reckoned that I was past the
age of  menopause and assured me there should be no problem with just
taking  the Tamoxifen.

September 2   Finally got up the nerve to shave under my left arm,
using one of those new safety razors with the disposable cartridges. The cancer
book advised using an electric razor to avoid  nicks and scratches that
can lead to lymphedema. But as I explained to Cathy while we shopped for one in
Prince George, I  simply can’t put out that kind of money ( the cheapest
one was 79 dollars) for just one armpit. We were hovering over one display
counter when she pointed out a package that was much cheaper than  the
others. “Why don’t you just let it grow long and use one of those?”
she queried deadpan. The box contained a set of electric clippers used in
barbering.

September 6  Attended the Labour Day  tea at the Fort Fraser Fall
Fair. Chatted with C’s sister who had cancer surgery in March. (Partial
masectomy and radiation treatments.) Her tumour had been estrogen negative, she
stated cheerfully. The lymph nodes weren’t clear so she had to have
chemotherapy. Very upbeat lady. She wore a flowered hat but had no qualms about
removing it and exposing her crew-cutted scalp to one and all.  She’d
tolerated chemo treatments very well, she told me. Couldn’t eat bananas
successfully–but then who can?

September 12  Beautiful day while we were fishing at Angly Lake. I can’t
lift so Leon had to load  the boat back into the truck by himself.
While he was doing that I climbed to the top of  the hill and waited for
him to proceed at his leisure.  I  meandered  through a grove
of  young pine trees, caressing  their warm needles; then found
myself cuddling up to their branches. The pine cones were nice to look at too,
but sharp to the touch. It was so nice to be out there in the bush with the
trees!

September 25   I  made an appointment for a bone scan at the
hospital.  Have to be there in the morning when a dye will be injected
into my bloodstream.  The dye will be the tracing material  for the
actual scanning process which will occur later in the day.

October 15   On Wednesday evening my back spazzed out  to the
extent that Leon had to help me into bed. Can’t recall anything I’ve done that
may have created a strain?   Had an x-ray and a blood test yesterday.
Dr. Haq  phoned later  to assure me that everything was normal.
I’ve ordered a weighted prothesis for my bra.  K. had suggested purchasing
the weighted one.  She said it would  provide equilibrium between the
side  that  was minus a breast, and the side still  encumbered
with the weight of  the remaining one.  Otherwise–she had warned–my
spine could go out of whack.

October 23  My long awaited book launch at the Fraser Lake Library turned
out to be one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.  Writer friend
E. assured me I looked appropriately authorish in my fitted style top and long
printed skirt, with earrings to match. The hardest part of getting dressed up I
am finding is getting the boobs lined up.  No matter how I tighten my bra
straps the real one has a tendency to sag, while the false one sits up perkily.
This morning I  had to safety pin it down to where it belonged.

November 7    Had my bone scan on Thursday, but had to return
home half a day early from the book signing stints scheduled for Friday and
Saturday.  That first afternoon in Prince George as I  lay clamped
upon a  revolving bed while my body was  being thoroughly scanned,
turned out to be the most comfortable time of  the entire three-day
experience.  After that,  the sniffly cold I had picked up in
Vancouver mutated  into one of the worst cases of flu I’ve had in years.

November 15   Feeling better but still have this residual flu thing
that cuts in every now and then. And my left shoulder has been aching. On
Saturday I’m off  to the Coast.  It’s been confirmed that I’m to be
in Nanaimo on the 25th.

November 30  Back to normal. Even my shoulder feels better now that I’m
home. It really ached   those nights I spent in hotel rooms in
Nanaimo and later in Gibsons, on what is called the Sunshine Coast.

December 3  Lately I’ve been doing my post-masectomy exercises on a
regular basis.. What with all the excitement associated with the book tour, as
well as an innate inclination toward laziness, I’ve been neglecting them. I did
not fully equate this incessant ache in my shoulder with not doing my routines.
Now I am having trouble lifting that arm up in order to clasp my hands behind
my neck. The pain is excrutiating and sometimes I can’t even get it past my
chin. But the ache seems to be subsiding.

December 6. Went to Prince George today for a checkup with Dr. A.  He was
in a big hurry as usual, but I managed to pin him down about the ache in my
arm. He said it was most likely caused by the muscle damage that had occurred
during surgery.  My bone scan was negative, he assured me, and  he
was very pleased at the way my incision had healed.

December 23  Just listened to the tail end of a play on CBC Radio which
was about breast cancer and having a biopsy.  Felt a bit down as I
undressed for bed. I peered at the wrinkled, lumpy landscape where my left
breast used to be and attempted to comfort my  inner child by quietly
crooning , “Poor, poor Doris… Poor, poor Doris….”  The chant
seemed to quell my depressed spirits.  The skin below my incision has been
dry with a bit of a rash lately–it helps to put moisture cream on it. That
particular patch was formerly underneath the breast and is used to being in the
shadow of the mountain for all those years. No wonder it is drying out!

December 31  We are on the brink of a brand new year and a brand new
century but I can’t stay awake long enough to see the old year out. I did make
one New Years resolution :  I  have decided not to worry about what
the future has in store for me. Tomorrow I will get the scissors out and snip
off the superfluous pocket  that’s still attached to the right hand side
of my bra.

The Law of Opposites?

Why do we assume that  everything in the world of nature and in the human world  are in opposition to one another? Possibly it originates from the scientific theory  “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction?”

But that theory only refers to a force that’s expending energy- something in motion. It has nothing to do with abstract terms such as “dark” versus “light” or “war” versus “peace.”

When you remove the need to polarize everything, it becomes obvious that war is simply the absence of peace; hate is the absence of love; sickness is the absence of health and darkness is the absence of light.

I believe the “law of opposites” should be  abolished. The only thing that’s constant in this world – and possibly the next? – is “the law of changes”

Rap Song about Fraser Lake- anybody want it?

IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOUNTAIN
In nineteen hundred and sixty-five
The town of Fraser Lake was like a bee-hive
People moving in from far away
In the shadow of the mountain
They had come to stay

Brand new houses and a shopping mall
Streets, a water system, recreation hall
One year later Fraser Lake would be
The newest village in the province of BC

Chorus: Forty-five years since incorporation
Now is the time for a big celebration
Let the bells ring out, let our voices soar
The mouse in the mountain will surely roar

The sleepy little hamlet beside the lake
Became a busy village that was wide awake
The population grew in a very short time
When it became the townsite for Endako Mine

Fraser Lake families were mostly young
Newlyweds with children whose lives had just begun
Many of those children are here today
In the shadow of the mountain
They are here to stay

chorus Forty-five years since incorporation
Now is the time for a big celebration
Let the bells ring out, let our voices soar
The mouse in the mountain will surely roar

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