Jill Of Some Trades

And Master Of At Least One


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What Having An MRI is Like

Photo: http://www.nmmc.org/ This was the closest photo that I could find that illustrated how I went into the MRI. My tech wasn’t smiling for the camera though.

I have had exactly one MRI (almost a year ago), but because I am part of the Ontario Breast Screening Program, I will be having them once a year for pretty much the rest of my life. It is not optional. I qualified for the program because I am at a high risk of getting breast cancer. Right now, my odds are 1 in 3, but after menopause they will increase. I don’t really worry about it, I also, as of right now, have a 2 in 3 chance of not getting the disease. Either way, being part of the program will help. I have annual mammograms and they are relatively easy, but the MRI has replaced ultrasounds for me. Click here if you want to know what they are like.

An MRI is not as easy as a mammogram or ultrasound if I am keeping it real. The first time that I attempted my breast MRI I panicked. It is not to say that you will, my situation was a little different. First of all, I had ankle surgery and had a 3 hour wait at a different hospital that very day for my final orthopedic appointment. I went to work in the afternoon, then worked out with my trainer and had dinner with a friend arriving at the next hospital, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre at 8:30pm. It was already a long day. It was also at the hospital that I used to take my mother to and that ended up causing part of the issue.

Being back at that hospital was overwhelming for me. I was sitting in the waiting room where I had taken my mother for one scan or another. I walked through the hallways that I once walked with her. It brought back a flood of memories, both good and bad. I sat in the waiting room, trying to hold back tears, not very effectively, while I waited for them to call my name. I went through a lot there, a lot of running around, fixing things, advocating for my mother, and it all came back to me in the moments that I sat in the waiting room.

When I was finally called after 10pm for my appointment, I was ok again. I figured it was maybe 45 minutes of my life. The nurse sat me down and asked me if I was afraid of needles (nope) or had any issues with claustrophobia (nope). So far, so good, right? Wrong. He then proceeded to tell me 7 times in a row (no exaggeration) that I shouldn’t move and that the contrast dye that he was setting up the IV for may make me nauseous – they administer it in the last few minutes of the MRI. I was told not to throw up in the MRI – to push through and wait to be sick until I got out. After having experienced the most extreme nausea of my life, just a couple of months before after having anesthesia, I was shaken. Yes, nausea is temporary, but knowing that most anti-nausea medication doesn’t seem to work on me, made me very nervous.

Once they put the IV in, I had another short wait until I was called. I walked into the room and saw the MRI. I still was pretty much fine. I was asked to open my gown at the front and lay face down on the table. When you lie down, there is a thin strip of metal that lies, pressing against your sternum between your girls which hang through the two spaces left for them. Your face goes into a lightly padded well (similar to what you would rest on for a massage) and you face a bucket. Once you are properly positioned, you are slowly pushed in. This is where I started having problems – I felt like I could’t breathe. It is extremely tight in the MRI and having something pushing against your chest is very uncomfortable. I told the nurse that I couldn’t do it. She asked me if I was sure, and I said yes.

I called my sister crying. I was disappointed in myself. I watched my sister and mother have to suffer through far more than me, and yet, when it was my turn, I just couldn’t go through with it. She was the one who made me realize that the upset came from being at the hospital that I had spent so many hours at, versus me being a total wimp. When the hospital called me the next day to reschedule, they explained that an MRI was more effective than an ultrasound. I rescheduled and got a prescription for Ativan (an anti-anxiety medication) which is commonly prescribed for MRIs so that I could get through it. I also was worried about having to be perfectly still for 45 minutes. On a good day, I have a really hard time staying still for 5 minutes, never mind 3/4 of an hour.

My sister reminded me to just stay calm and get through it as my second appointment neared and my dread grew. I told myself, no matter what, just get it over with. Again, I went to the hospital and sat in the waiting room that I had been in some many times in the past. I took the Ativan and reminded myself to be grateful that my doctor referred me to this program. When it was my turn, I asked the nurse (a different one this time) about the nausea issue with the IV. She reassured me that it wasn’t common and that I had nothing to worry about. She was very calm, and it made me feel a lot better (plus the drugs kicked in). I popped myself on the table and was in the MRI really quickly. It was uncomfortable having a thin metal bar pressing against my sternum, but I just kept telling myself it would be over soon. When you are face down. you can register the lights around you, but you can’t see them. It was extremely loud, with loud banging and clanging noises. I just get saying to myself that every second that went by meant that I was closer to getting out of this tube.

I heard their voices reminding me that the table was about to shake and vibrate and that was normal. It would last about 5 minutes. That meant, when it stopped, I was close to getting the IV. The IV fluid was the final step in the MRI. I felt the liquid go into my vein (it is slightly cool), and then, after another 5 minutes, I was told that they were moving me out of the MRI and that it went well, meaning that I wouldn’t have to do a repeat.

You have never seen anyone jump up more quickly to get up in your life. I was so happy that it was over and also happy that I wouldn’t have to do it again for another year. Well, that year is up on December 3. I’ll have to do this all over again in about a week. It will be at a different hospital this time, with a 6:30pm appointment. That is kind of a cushy time slot in the world of MRIs. It’s after work and not in the middle of the night. I know that I’ll get through this one too, and so will you if, and when it is your turn. Don’t be ashamed to speak with your doctor about taking something to calm you down if you need it. The important thing is getting through the test.


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2015 -The Ugly, The Bad and The Good

2015  – another year coming to an end, and it’s a time for everyone to reflect on the events that shaped their lives this year and think about what they would like to change in the coming year.  Some of you get to do that in your inside voice, I’m going to share, in general terms of course, what I’ve been pondering.  I’m reversing The Good, The Bad and The Ugly so that I can end the year on a positive note.

The Ugly

  • Receiving bad news about loved ones’ health this year was a doozy.  The way they handled everything became part of the good.
  • My father dying was very difficult on many levels for me.  If you’ve ever been estranged from a parent and they pass, you know what I mean.   The saddest day, was when I realized that my life hasn’t really changed all that much.  My heart goes out to people in this position.
  • There are times in your life when you meet what I’ll call “The White Elephant” – that person that you’ve heard about for years, but never met, that caused havoc.  I met someone that I’ll just call bad people, it also turned into “the good” for me when I got to tell her what I thought of her.  Nobody likes confrontation, but it can, at times, be good for your soul.

The Bad

  • It’s so sad when you reach a certain age and see your friends and family going through some of the same things that you are going through.  Death, sickness and job loss is always tough – it’s hard going through it and it’s hard watching other people go through it.
  • I like my job, I even like most of the people that I work with, but I let work get the better of me again this year after promising myself that I needed to lessen my load.  Being at work until 9 every night made me realize that I have to put my needs, and health first.
  • Not blogging as much as I should thanks to the late work nights.
  • World events – Paris, the Middle East, even the homeless situation right here in Toronto.  Rising crime rates, mass shootings every other week, and a miserable winter – I wish that there was a good news channel.

The Good

  • I am proud that I got through such a difficult year with more perspective and yes, my sanity.  I still have a sense of humour and now I also have the knowledge that I can get through just about anything.
  • Focusing on conquering my fears and setting new goals for myself resulted in me getting my driver’s license (finally), getting first aid certified and trying a host of things like axe throwing, archery and rib boating that I never would have done in the past.
  • Seeing the way people in my life have handled bad news gave me a new respect for them.
  • Traveling with the Frousins – always a good thing.
  • Decluttering really does make you feeler freer and the process, even though it’s a lengthy one, is very satisfying.
  • Learning to cook – it’s very relaxing for me – I never thought that I would say that!
  • Life in general – if you have one, it’s always a good thing!

I usually think of New Year’s as a time to start fresh and make resolutions that I sometimes will keep.  This year, I have a different outlook.  2016 is a brand new year, but each day, we can change our lives.  We don’t need a new calendar to do it.  I wish you all health and happiness and all the best for the New Year.

Until 2016, I remain, gratefully yours,

Jill

 


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My Fearless Challenge AKA The Niagara Falls Nightmare

butterfly-02

Image courtesy of niagaraparks.com

Dr. Oz recently did an episode of his show on conquering fears, which, if you were paying attention, I wrote about a few weeks ago.  This year has been all about conquering fears for me. I’ve gotten my driver’s licence, signed up for driving lessons (starting next month), I’ve confronted the past and made my own type of peace with it, and I’ve decided to take the Canadian Cancer Society’s Fearless Challenge.  I’d like to say that my inspiration for doing this is to help prevent cancer for our future generations, but I’ve had to face another fear this year – my mother’s breast cancer, that had been in remission, had spread to her bones.  The very definition of fearless, my mother delivered the news to me casually over the phone several weeks after she found out.  As I started to cry, she reminded me that she had no intentions of going anywhere.  Then she told me that she had an appointment with an oncologist.  The only fear that she showed was when I decided to tag along with because she knew that it was then that I would find out that she slept through her appointment time the week before.   She thought it was hilarious – me – not so much.

My mother’s sense of humour through all of this has been amazing.  She reminds me daily that she doesn’t just have cancer – she has a life too.  She makes the best of her situation which means having friends over more and going out less.  Cancer is a bit of a roller coaster to say the least, and there have been good days, and bad.  Lately it has been Cancer Schmancer.   It’s there, but it’s not the be all and end all that it would like to be.

Watching the bravest person alive (yes Mummy that’s you) go through this battle inspired me to face my own fears.  Doing the Canadian Cancer Society’s (CCS) Fearless Challenge is my most important project.  When my mother was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, I stayed up nights pouring over websites and getting so much scary information that I didn’t know how to process it all.  I decided to streamline my research to only a couple of sites that I knew to be reputable.  One was the CCS’s cancer.ca.  It had great information and gave me a complete picture of the resources available.  When I went to oncology appointments, I’d pick up CCS booklets.  The more I read, the less scary the disease became and I was finally able to calm myself down enough to sleep at night and to stop pouring over websites.

I did the same thing back in March when I found out that my mother’s cancer had spread.  I read all of the research and resources, but used cancer.ca as my go to.  I picked up more booklets at the hospital and once again, they brought me some semblance of comfort along with my very supportive friends and family.  I’m so grateful to the CCS for having this information available.  They also became a client and that’s when I found out about the Fearless Challenge.  I want to give back by helping raise money for this very worthy charity so here is what I’m committing to.  I’m going to do all of the things that I’ve ever chickened out on in Niagara Falls.  I’m going to (in order of least afraid to most afraid):

  • Go on the Whirlpool Aero Car – I chickened out on this years ago, even though this doesn’t scare me at all now
  • Take a ride on the SkyWheel helping me face my fear of throwing up and getting dizzy.  I have terrible motion sickness – everyone else is afraid of heights, I’m just afraid of barfing at 175 feet above the ground in a closed car
  • Meander through the Butterfly Conservatory – this is the absolute worst thing ever for me!!!!  I hate insects and you can tell me that a Butterfly is beautiful – but it’s just a bug with huge wings that flits everywhere willy nilly.  I’m going to see if Hazmat suit is available for the day.  At the very least, I’m covering myself in black clothing from head to toe and wearing leather gloves even if I have to go on the hottest day of the year.

This is where I do my schlocky sales pitch – please check out and support my Fearless Challenge or sign up for one of your own.  Check out my page and the site for inspiration http://convio.cancer.ca/site/TR?fr_id=19672&px=6422179&pg=personal&fb_ref=Default  Help me make cancer a little less scary for others.

Thank you!!!!


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Why I’ll Never Be an Axe Murderer…

Axe Murderer

Hitting the board for the first time…

I’ll never be an Axe Murderer.  Lizzie Borden, I’m just not.  I’m a lover, not a fighter for one thing and for another, my aim just plain isn’t good enough (and blood and guts are a little bit of a gross out for me).  As part of my 2015 plan to try things that I’ve never tried before (very much Oz approved), I agreed to go with a bunch of women to Axe Throwing.  Well, it was a great evening BUT, I certainly wasn’t a natural.  As you can see from the position of my axe (I feel so macho saying that) – it did hit the board, but I only got a hole in one, bullseye or whatever you want to call the middle part of the board two times that night.  Some people were just naturals at this slightly aggressive activity – I’m not saying that makes them psychotic, but there first step is admitting that you have a problem…right?

The day of the throwing of the axes made me have to face a very mild fear – or maybe just slight discomfort…fear works better because one of my last blogs was about an episode of Dr. Oz about dealing with life’s little scary moments…Everyone that I knew bailed on the evening, except for the organizer.  There were going to be another 14 or 15 people that I had never met before.  Even scarier, it was pouring torrential sheets of rain (I hate damp clothes).  For a very fleeting moment, I considered cancelling, however, good manners and the fact that I like a challenge spurred me on.  Of course I got to the restaurant before the organizer/one friend that I knew, so I plunked myself down, and chatted, remembering that I spend half of my working day meeting or talking to people that I’ve never met before.  It was a great group of very welcoming people – once again, our Zombie Room Escape planning hostess had nailed another evening.  It was so nice to not have to tell people about what was going on in my life and so nice to not have anyone complaining about this or that.  Just a lot of fun, a lot of axes thrown and some even hit their target.

Trying new things or meeting new people can be stressful at the best of times, but being able to say that I did something that I’ve never tried before, and didn’t let the fear of unknown people or activity stop me from just showing up was the best part.  If you ever have a chance to go throw some axes around – do it!  If I can come home with every limb attached, so can you!