Jill Of Some Trades

And Master Of At Least One


2 Comments

Castaway: The Recovery – Bed Rest and Beyond

I decided to heal at my mother’s place – it was large, had some of the equipment that I needed and was close to the hospital.  There was also some degree of comfort being there.  When I got back from my surgery and I was tired, and sore and a little disoriented, no place in the world felt safer to me than her room.  I plunked myself down on the bed and settled there for just about 2 weeks.   The day prior, I made arrangements with my mother’s former caregivers, and women that I consider almost like family, to come in for a few hours most days to help me shower and take care of me.  I also made arrangements for some things that I thought would be helpful – more about that later.

After surgery, you are in a white soft-ish plaster cast for two weeks that you cannot get wet and the surgeon told me that I was not allowed to bear weight on my leg at all.  He stressed, that it was important to stay quiet and not do anything jarring, so bed rest it was!  I had many people doubt that I could handle it. People said – oh, it’s going to be tough for you.   I knew that in order to have the recovery that I wanted though, that I had to do everything that I was told to do and that was my priority.   The first two days after I had the surgery were pretty hard.  I was feeling weak, unsure of what I could actually do for myself and I discovered that I was allergic to prescription pain killers.  They all gave me hives – so no codeine and no Percocets.  I had to make due with plain Tylenol or Advil.  Most people will not have that problem.  


The things that I insisted on – showers (cleanliness is next to godliness and after three days of little more than sponge baths, I was eager to be squeaky clean) and brushing and flossing.  It sounds dumb, but it gave me something normal to do. I did have to do something to make sure that my brain didn’t turn to mush so I decided even before the surgery to work from home.   It was something that I could do to help pass the time.  I was also lucky enough to have plenty of people visit.  I think it was over 50 people in the 6 weeks that I was non-weight-bearing.

The first Saturday after my surgery, my sister was sick from her chemo and I had to lie there and couldn’t do anything to help her.  I started to cry, because at that point, I not only felt helpless, I felt useless. Once I cried myself out, I thought about my mother and how she had to cope with being in bed for 16 months.  She was so strong, so happy to see people when they came by and so positive.  It was at that very moment, that I decided that I was going to get through the next 6 weeks, and make something good come out of a rather crappy situation. There was a lot that I missed out on – like concerts that I really wanted to go to.  I missed out on a couple of parties and the last little bit of my favourite season – summer.   First world problems but still…

Anyway, after two weeks of staring out the window, working and entertaining guests, I went for my first post op check up.  It was also the first time that I was going to see my leg and incision.  The leg looked pink, but that was from the iodine that they used.  The incision looked like a stapled, puckered clam.  It was a little gross.  They took the staples out, which took less than a minute and it didn’t hurt, it just felt like little stings.  They showed me quickly how to put on the air cast (walking boot) which was a tease since I couldn’t walk for another four weeks, but it was so much lighter and I could remove it to shower – YIPPPEEEEE!  At first, I was afraid, I was petrified, just thinking I could never live….oh sorry, that’s disco going off in my head.  I was a little nervous about hitting my leg,  in the tub but I never did.  The next four weeks went by relatively quickly – again, lots of work, lots of company and I rented a wheelchair and even had a few outings. Each week I felt stronger and stronger which was great.  I was on my way to being ready to walk….but first, just a few helpful hints if you ever find yourself with a broken ankle, limb or anything where you can’t walk around:

-Do what the doctor says – they aren’t kidding when they say not to put weight on it or jar it.  You may have a little oopsie moments – I slipped off my knee scooter and banged my leg – it hurt, but remember, your ankle has screws and a plate – it’s solid even if you are not

-Make your life easy – unless you are in your 20’s, crutches suck.  I rented a knee scooter which was not only fun, it also made getting from the bedroom to anywhere in the apartment so much easier and faster.  I named mine Herbie

-Get yourself a commode – you will thank me.  If you can’t afford a shower chair, it serves a dual purpose – stick it in the tub or shower and scrub away

-Get a shower chair that swivels – it will make your life easier, even once you can  bear weight.  I thought of everything that I would need before I had surgery and ordered it so that I would have it as close to the time that I came home as possible

-I ended up renting a wheelchair with a leg extender for some outings – it really helped and was around $65

-Ask for a wheelchair accessible cab – they wheel you in and your are buckled in so that you can avoid getting in and out of the car – again, make your life easy and save your energy for the things that you really want to do

-Lose your modesty – it’s over-rated.  I needed help showering and wasn’t going to sacrifice being clean so that people wouldn’t see the girls. Use a handheld shower if you have one  and cover your plaster cast with cheap plastic wrap and a garbage bag so that it doesn’t get wet

-You will have intense nerve pain at some point and it feels like someone is lighting a fire under your foot.  It’s horrible.  I survived on Advil but had to take it regularly (every 6 -8 hours whether I was feeling pain or not, to make sure it didn’t get out of control).  Speak to your doctor if you are having really bad pain and they will help you out – don’t just do your own thing

-Keep yourself busy – go out if you are feeling up to it.  Work from home if you can.  If people want to visit, let them.  There is nothing worse than looking at a clock

-On the flip side, you do need rest.  I had a guardian angel who had ankle surgery and kept reminding me that it was normal for me to not feel my best and that I would be more tired than usual.  I had another friend who fractured her arm who told me that the first three weeks after a fracture, your body burns off a ton of energy helping you heal so don’t be afraid to eat but….

-Watch your salt in-take.  You aren’t moving around and you will get swollen and swelling is painful.  Eat healthy foods – it’s not a time to binge on chips and bon bons.  You need protein and calcium and vitamins and minerals to heal

-You will be pretty sedentary the first two of weeks, and you will need some cushion for your tushion (AKA your bum).  It will hurt.  Turn as often as you can, and if you are lying on your side, place a pillow in between your legs so that you don’t get any bed or friction sores.  Once you can do the one-legged stand, try to be as active as you can

It is hard, but remember, you will survive.  

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Cast-Away: Surgery

Castaway.jpg

Hello Toes – I’ll be seeing a lot of you….

Having surgery if you have never been through it, can be a scary thing.  My only other surgery was when I was a year and a half and I do not have any memory of it.  I had almost a two day wait for ankle surgery.  The challenging part was I never knew when the surgery would happen.  When I had my oopsie moment, and was told that I would need to go under the knife, I was really hoping it would be immediate.  No such luck.  I went home, high on life (actually ketamine, which quickly wore off).  I was told to fast from midnight onward and they would be in touch.  I received a call at 8:30am telling me that the surgery would not be during the day, so I could eat up until 10:30am and to fast again until I got the call.  At 5:30pm, I received another call saying that the surgery would not be that night, that I was to fast again from midnight onward.  They told me that if I did not get in for surgery the next day, not to worry, I would be on the priority list for the day after that.  Lucky me!

When I finally heard from the surgeon later that night telling me that they had me booked for 8:30 the next morning, I was relieved.  As much as I feared having an operation, the alternative was to be in the non-healing limbo that I was currently stuck in.  It felt like progress at that moment.  Once again, I began to fast – it’s funny how I immediately got thirsty the second that I knew that I could no longer have any water!

I had to be at the hospital two hours prior to surgery, so my dutiful sister made the sacrifice and left the house with me at 6:00am.  Admitting is weird – everyone there will look better going into the hospital than they will leaving.  It was actually just me and other woman, who was clearly terrified.  I felt bad for her because in my own head I was on the road to recovery and nerves simply had not hit me yet.  Once I got through admitting, I was wheeled (in a chair) upstairs to the surgical waiting room and was taken immediately to Pre-Op.  I’m guessing that since I was a fall risk, the wanted me safely tucked away in a nice little stretcher.  You have to change into a gown, are given a robe, little foot covers and a surgical hat which makes you look quite silly.  If you have any modesty, which I did, at least at that point, you can also ask for disposable undies.

After some time went by, the anesthesiologist came to speak with me to ask me my weight (really, who do they think they are – that’s private), height and if I had any allergies. He mentioned that I would have a breathing tube inserted and he warned me that it may chip my teeth.  Horrified, I told him that better not happen and he assured me it was rare.  At this point, I got a little nervous and told him, and he just said not to worry, everything would be fine.  After another 20 minutes, the orthopedic surgeon came to speak with me.  If truth be told, he picked exactly the right profession – he was a real bone head.  Seriously, he gave me 30 seconds of his time and made it clear that he had zero interest in answering any questions.  I only had enough time to ask him how long the surgery would be (2 hours which seemed like a long time to me) and what the next steps would be (no pun intended).  He quickly told me that I would be in a plaster cast for two weeks and that I should stay as quiet as possible for that time.  I was basically only allowed to go to the bathroom.  I thought two weeks was a small price to pay for mobility.  He wasn’t Mr. Personality or Mr. Bed Side Manner and I reminded myself of one thing that my mother always said….as long as they can do their job, you do not need to be their best friend.

This was the point where I started getting really terrified because I knew that I was going to be wheeled into the Operating Room shortly.  My legs were literally shaking.  I tried to put on a brave face for my sister, but I could see that she was nervous for me.  They started wheeling me away, and wouldn’t even let me say good-bye to my sister.  The hall way was incredibly long.  As they wheeled me into the OR, I remember thinking how narrow the door was.  The room itself was so much smaller than what you see on TV.  It seemed not much bigger than a small-ish office.  It was painted a pink-ish purple that was kind of pretty.  I was struck by the number of people in the room already, and the surgeon hadn’t even made his appearance.  They made me slide off the stretcher and onto the OR table.  They told me to wrap remove the top of my gown and to tuck it under my arms like a tube top.  They hooked me up to a blood pressure/ECG (electrocardiography) unit and monitored my oxygen.  They barely spoke to me, talking about me, but not to me.  I lay there, freezing cold (it was like an icebox in there) with some vague promise of a blanket.

The anesthesiologist then told me that he was going to start an IV, and that he would place a mask over my face and that I should breathe into it.  Within 60 seconds, I would be asleep.  I completely thought he was full of it.  A short period of time went by and I was thinking, what if I don’t fall asleep?  I then got really light headed and the last thing that I remember saying was “I don’t feel very well….”  I woke up knowing that time had past, but with no memory of the surgery.  It was a dark sleep, no dreams.  I was overcome with horrible nausea, so they administered something to help….and it didn’t. They tried something else and it didn’t work either.  They tried something else, and still, I was so nauseated and dizzy, it was unbearable.  A little while later they let my sister in and she told me that two of my closest friends were there, but I was still so sick, I couldn’t think.  The nurse asked her to leave.  I was on anti-nauseant #7 when she told me that she only had half a dose left to give me.  She said to try to sleep it off, and I was so groggy that is exactly what I did.  I was supposed to be out of the hospital by 12:30 but at 2:30, I finally woke up.  I felt a little better.  After another half hour, I was allowed to move into a chair, and then I was finally allowed to see my sister.

We sat there for awhile and I was beyond thirsty and was allowed a small drink.  You are not allowed to leave until you can drink and eat something small.  Crackers it was!   After another hour and a half, I was finally allowed to leave.  My friend kindly drove us home and helped me get settled into bed (after mocking my crutch abilities).  I stared down at my fluffy white cast and thought, I just have to get through two weeks of this….

Which will lead into Castaway – The Recovery – Stage 1 – tune in next week to find out if I went stir crazy – how I passed the time, and what home medical aids everyone with mobility issues needs!

 


Leave a comment

Cast-Away: Emergency

“Oh, I’ve never broken a bone or had an operation, ” I bragged, while walking back from lunch with a good friend of mine that I work with.  Little did I know, that 5 minutes later, that would all change for me.  Too cheap to spend $3 on a bottle of water, I walked over to the cooler to get a fill up.  I’ve done this about 100 times over the last 6.5 months at our office.  This time though, as I passed the fridge, I felt my foot slide through something, tried to catch myself, and went down really hard on my ankle.  The floor was concrete, so I knew this was not going to be good.  When I looked down, I saw a bit of water and some shredded carrots.  Yep – carrots caused this.  Anyway, a few people that I work with came over to try to help, but if you are ever in my shoes, err, cast, give yourself a minute.  It’s a shock and you are in pain, so breathe and try to move at your leisure.

I could not put any weight on my ankle, but I was still hoping for a sprain, I’ve had enough of them to know about RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) and that in a few weeks, I would be back to normal.  Unfortunately, it was not meant to be.  Now, my dear readers, I am going to pass along all of my wisdom to you so that you know what to do in case this ever happens to you.  You will get a first hand account of everything from the incident, to the Emergency Room, to the surgery and finally to the path to wellness.  And yes, I take questions.  I had to depend on some of my own knowledge of hospitals to being a planner and finally, to the kindness of strangers and of course, my family and friends.

The first thing that you should do if you are going to break anything that requires an ambulance is to work in a completely accessible building.  Of course, I do not.   This was not ideal, but I was in an office chair and everything worked out.  Really, the most important thing that you can do is to remain calm.  Yes, I know it hurts, but freaking out is not going to make you more comfortable – trust me.  The nice paramedics put me in a cardboard splint and they advised that if I can make it from the stretcher to a wheelchair, I may get seen faster.  Unfortunately, if you do take an ambulance to the hospital, they will not be turning the siren on.  Think of it as a good thing – your injury is not life threatening.

The most important thing that you do need is someone there with you.  I initially thought, NONO, I do not want to be a bother, but I have since rethought that bit of stupidity.  That person can help you, remember to ask things that you may not think of and advocate for you.  I have done this so often for family members that I thought I would be a pro at it.  It is different when it is you.  Also, remember when you go through emergency, you have to be patient.  You are just one of many people there who have problems, and as difficult as it is to wait, your turn will come.  I listened to the paramedics and transferred into a wheelchair as quickly as I could.  It took me three hours to get through triage and another hour after that before I was seen.

Your next step, once you get a bed is a quick look by the doctor and then you will be taken to have X-Rays.  I was very hopeful that I would just have a sprain, or at worst a break that would just need a boot.  No such luck.  I broke my ankle in a place that would require surgery.  I would need plates and pins.  They needed to reset the bone (also called a fracture reduction) where the doctor manipulates the broken ends of the bone into their original position and fixes them in place with a plaster cast, in my case.  I was given the option of morphine where I would feel the pain, but it would be over quickly. The other option was to do it under a twilight sleep where I would be given a combination of ketamine and propofol (the Michael Jackson drug) and would not remember the pain, although I would be semi-awake.  I initially was going to go with the quick and easy morphine, but my friend convinced me that the pain would not be worth it.  I did what any normal person would do, and I checked with my other friend who confirmed that I was stupid for wanting to remember the pain.

I was a little nervous about being put to sleep, if I’m being honest, and the guy in the next stretcher was screaming and moaning.  They started an IV, told me to think pleasant thoughts because I would be having vivid dreams, and warned me that I may feel a burning.  I remember the burning and initially, I didn’t feel well, but then they an oxygen mask over my face and told me that I would smell plastic but to breathe in.  I did what I was told and all I remember was seeing the prettiest most vivid colours…ever.  I saw sparkles, pick up sticks and even incomplete flags.  My friend told me that one of the nurses was wearing a t-shirt with a flag – I guess that’s where it came from.  It was the most magical 20 minutes of my life.  I remember coming to and looking down and seeing the cast they put on my leg and declaring it pretty and fluffy like a cloud.  I then said, in my outside voice, “That was fun, can we do it again????”  I was loving life, laughing and joyful, and wanted to call my sister and let her know that I was OK.  In my dreamy state, I just called whoever had the letters i and l in their name – and could feel my friend roll her eyes at me.  I was loving life.

Apparently, I was allergic to ketamine and needed Benadryl but I did not care.  I was nauseated and was still just happy to be there.  I went for more X-Rays, was given the clearance to leave the hospital with a pair of crutches, and told not to eat after midnight in case I got my call for surgery….which will take us to:

Castaway – PART 2 – The Unkindest Cut (AKA Surgery)

 


1 Comment

An Evening at Look Good Feel Better

LGFB12

Photo courtesy of GK! Thanks to PY for the special background.

In October, my sister Michele was diagnosed with breast cancer.  This was particularly difficult for my family, as my mother was fighting her own battle with the disease.  In the first few months, while my sister was adjusting to her busy appointment schedule, her chemo side effects and just the need to be available to be with our mother on days that she was feeling up to it, I didn’t want to broach going to a workshop with her.  She was handling everything like a champ, but if you knew how many appointments that she had you would be overwhelmed.

After some time passed, and we were clear on what side effects she would have from her treatment, I brought it up.  I thought it would be nice for us to go together and for my sister to have something to look forward to.  Just to be candid, Michele LOVES makeup.  She’s been wearing it since her teens and has a good idea of what looks good on her and she certainly isn’t afraid of colour.  Weirdly, no matter what she thinks, I’m always shocked at how good she looks, even without makeup.  This was surprising to me – I wasn’t sure what to expect.  She has been unbelievably accepting of losing her hair, and has a GREAT wig.  She still has some of her eyebrows too.  Anyway – she agreed to go to the workshop, so being Type A, I signed her up online and made sure that I could attend.  Each person attending can bring one guest – they won’t receive the goodies, but they are able to be there for moral support.

We went to Princess Margaret Lodge on February 27.  It’s set up in a conference room, and each attendee going through chemo or other cancer related treatment walks out with a bag full of cosmetics and skin care.  It’s laid out for the women since they use the products during the workshop. It was a pretty full class, and the volunteers take you through a presentation about Look Good Feel Better, and some of the challenges that patients have in dealing with the appearance based side effects of the disease.  Some of the patients were happy to be there and get tips on how to “Look Good”.  One person actually wasn’t emotionally ready for the workshop and left.

LGFB4

After they did the initial presentation, they wanted someone from the group to volunteer to be the makeup model.  No one volunteered so I said, in my loudest voice, “Michele?”  My sister was pretty excited to model, so she happily took her place at the front of the class, and even though I couldn’t be the centre of attention, I got to live vicariously through her.  She was already wearing makeup, so after taking a chisel, oops makeup wipe, she was ready to be made pretty all over again, while the rest of the class followed the step by step instructions from the makeup artist.  To finish things off, my sister tried on a whole bunch of wigs – some of them looked really cute on her, one made her look a little like Morticia Addams, but hey, you don’t get to pick everything.  The women got to shout out which ones they wanted her to try.

I would highly recommend Look Good Feel Better to any woman who is going through cancer treatment.  You may think that you already know a lot about how to apply make up and skincare, but things change when you are going through treatment.  You have to learn tips for complexions that may be drier and more sallow, how to pencil in eyebrows and how to fake the look of having lashes.  It’s a really nice evening or daytime workshop and gives you the chance to think about yourself.  I think my sister was more excited by the free stuff, but then again, she’s always loved a freebie – trust me it’s part of her charm.  Seriously though, cancer takes so much from patients, a little pick me up and a way to feel better about yourself is well worth the time.  The volunteers are knowledgeable, kind and compassionate and the cosmetic companies should be commended for the donations to the program.

One recommendation that I would make to any woman going through a treatment where you will lose your hair – make getting a wig a priority.  Do this before your treatment, that way you are prepared when the time comes and you are feeling well enough to try them on.  You have to make an appointment with a wig shop – you can’t just walk in and try them on.  If you have benefits, many companies cover off between $300-$500 as long as you have a doctor’s note.  We also found out that you shouldn’t shave your head – it can lead to nicks that can get infected – a big nono for someone whose immune system is going to be compromised.  Michele bought her wig in advance, and our cousin Gail went with her.  She sent me a photo and it was perfect!  They both played a joke on me telling me that Michele wasn’t going to buy the wig that day. Hardy-har har.  They were just teasing to see what kind of reaction they would get out of me.  Sigh.  I think that my sister was glad to get the wig, and it is one less thing to worry about when there is so much going on already.

For more information or to register for a workshop go to https://lgfb.ca/en/ 

If you’ve attended the workshop, and have feedback, I’d love to hear about it!


Leave a comment

The First Birthday Without You

mom2

“Was Zaydie as good of a person as you remember him to be?” I asked my mother about my grandfather one day.  Everyone just thought he was a wonderful, kind gentleman, and my mother was the original Daddy’s Girl, but I was still curious.  “Oh no, Jill, he wasn’t.  He was better.”  Even though it’s only been 6 weeks, I can already tell you the same thing about my mother, she was better than I remember.   We had our first holiday without her two weeks ago.  Now, it’s her birthday and we are trying to figure out what to do.  I did a little self-torture, looking at birthday cards that I wouldn’t be able to give her.  That was the day that I got a little sign from her.  Last night, I read cards and poems online that people wrote to their dead mothers just to make sure that I could cry, although, there hasn’t been a shortness of tears on my part.  She really was special.

IMG-7040.JPG

Nobody loved a birthday more than my mother, especially the cake.  Every year, we had buy her the same cake – the repulsive store bought chocolate cake with the GIGANTIC pink roses.  She loved it, and every year for my birthday, when I was growing up, I got that very cake even though I hated it.  She’d always say “Tough luck.  I love it, and that’s what your getting.”  That was my mother – every inch a brat.  But before you write her off, that was only one part of my mother, she was so much more than that.  I could gush about how brave she was, but here is a quote from my cousin, a very religious and learned Rabbi, when I ask him for a quote for a treasured book in our family:

Judith Schneiderman returned her heroic,courageous and dearly beloved soul to her Maker on March 3, 2018. May She find comfort forever in the everlasting world. Rest peacefully. Never to be forgotten.

You see, my mother was heroic, not because she had cancer, but because of who she was.  You don’t become a hero because of a disease or because you die, you become one because of how you live you life and my mother lived her life with honour.  She was honest and giving and made decisions that were right, even when they weren’t right for her.

IMG-7037.JPG

I was told by many people how special my mother was to them.  One of her pottery teachers wrote this to me “I often told her that when I “grow up” I want to be just like her. “  Me too.  My mother loved life.  Even when she was at her sickest, she still lived it.  She managed her pain from cancer with nothing more than Tylenol until 6 days before her death when she couldn’t handle it anymore.  Even though she was bed-ridden the last year of her life, we still laughed, and she still loved having visitors.  She was still herself.  She was curious about everything and she never felt sorry for herself, not even once.  I wish that I could be as brave as she was.

To be a Motherless Daughter is a very sad thing.  My sister wrote these beautiful words:

“The end is the beginning

Bright lights…I cover my eyes

A slap, a cry, the journey of life begins

Daughter to wife, wife to mother

Motherless daughter, child no more

Full circle, light in my eyes and I cry.”

When my mother died, my sisters and I lost our last parent (and really, our only one).  My aunt lost her sister and became the last of the first generation of N’s (we all refer to ourselves as N’s, D’s or M’s in our family meaning the Zelikovitz brother that we belonged to, Nathan, David or Max) – a very difficult place to be.  My cousins lost their aunt and beloved cousin.  Her friends lost the joy of having my mother around.  It’s so hard on everyone.  Her friends and family called me today, thinking about her, and crying too.

“You can never count your mother out – she’s hard to predict because she’s so tough.”

“If you had told me a year ago, I’d still be standing here talking to you about your mother, I would have told you that we were both crazy.”

“Your mother was an absolutely lovely woman…She had a wonderful outlook/attitude that I admired deeply.”

Those are all direct quotes from her doctors.  Even they recognized the type of person that she was.  The week before she died, her palliative doctor told me that though she wasn’t conscious, she could still hear.  She said that it was important to keep talking to her.  With at least a dozen people in and out all day, every day, we never had to worry about her not having something to listen to.  Even then, everyone wanted to be around her.  My sisters and I talked to her all day, every day, no matter how hard it was on us, we told her that if she needed to go, that it was ok.  The doctor gave me one last piece of advice, because my mother was so strong, she had to know that she wasn’t dying because she wasn’t fighting hard enough, it was just that she was too sick from all of her illnesses to go on.  Everyday, I told her that she fought so hard, but she could stop fighting and rest.  And eventually, she did, in her own time, in her own way.

IMG-7038.jpg

I’m often told by people what a wonderful relationship that I had with my mother, and some even said that they wished that they could have had the same kind of bond with theirs.  My favourite photo is the black and white picture above you – even though it’s not perfect, it perfectly illustrates us.  No one ever has made me laugh harder than she did, and no one ever had a better mother.  I spent a lot of time with her the last year, and many times, before I’d leave she’d say thank you to me for something that I did for her.  I’d always tell her that you never have to thank me, I wish I could do more.  I should have said, “No Mummy, thank you.  Just thank you.”  Wherever she is, I hope that she knows that on her birthday, and every single day, how much she is loved and missed.

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Don’t Be a Boob, Get a Mammogram…and an Ultra Sound…

Mammogram

Image courtesy of http://www.torontosun.com & the Ontario Health Ministry

Some years ago, just about three to be somewhat exact, I had and wrote about my very first mammogram https://jillschnei.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/dont-be-a-boob-get-a-mammogram-if-your-doctor-tells-you/ I was a newbie back then to the process and didn’t really go back for my annual imaging like I was supposed to.  After a recent physical and scolding from my family doctor, I’m not only doing annual mammograms, I’m also getting an ultrasound to go along with it.  She is extra cautious, not a bad thing at all, but this isn’t necessary for everyone.   Just a reminder, in case you don’t want to re-read my older post, I have a very strong history of breast cancer in my family, including a primary relative.  I’m also at a high risk because I’m an Ashkenazi Jewess – just a fancy way of saying that I’m Jewish and of Eastern European descent.  Lucky me!

Just in case there are any people avoiding mammograms due to the unknown, I’m going to give you the D.L. (that down-low to all of you people who aren’t as cool as me).  After I changed into my elegant (she says with a sneer) smock, I had to sit braless in a waiting room filled with men.  Yup, my lucky day.  When they called my name, I tried not to jump up – I didn’t want to get two black eyes and was paranoid that my robe would pop open.  I forgot and put my Secret on in the morning.  My friends thanked me, but the technician didn’t.  I had to clean my armpits with cold water and icky hand soap and to make matters worse, I had to dry off with those industrial paper towel which crumbled into little pieces.  Note to self, don’t use deodorant on mammogram day.

I heaved one side of my bosoms onto a small ledge and looked at the “tray” that presses down on girl #1.  I swear, it really does look like an in-tray, except they don’t put any papers in it.  Remember, when they do the imaging, they do two per boob, breast, bosom or whatever you feel comfortable calling the girls.  She helped me position myself (AKA I totally got felt up, but I already complained about not even getting dinner first in my previous post, so I won’t use that joke again).  She was actually really great about everything and made me feel as comfortable as I could standing there topless in front of a complete stranger.  The press down didn’t hurt one little bit, not even any discomfort.  An ad came out in Canada using a panini press to remind women that even if they are pressed for time, there is always room to schedule a mammogram.  A lot of people found it tasteless, but it sort of does represent that downward press that I was talking about.  I made the mistake of looking down during the press and it really looked like one of those white Chinese buns that you can get with Dim Sum.  Just being observational.

The side squish was definitely the more uncomfortable of the two, but it also doesn’t really hurt.  If you are a guy reading this, skip over this part….don’t peak….Ladies, if you are going for a mammogram, schedule it after PMS time (if you aren’t menopausal) I guarantee you will thank me for this bit of advice.  The whole process took under 5 minutes and that included washing my deodorant off.

Next up – I was called by a very unfriendly former Eastern Bloch honey to get my ultrasounds.  She wasn’t a people person.  All she said to me was move closer to the edge and put your arm up over your head.  She kept making me move to the edge of the table.  I had to stop myself from reminding her that it wasn’t a king size bed.  It was actually more uncomfortable holding that position on each side than getting the mammogram – seriously.  They do warm up the gel, so it’s not freezing, which was my biggest worry.  It takes about 5 minutes per side.  I had to bite my tongue and not ask her “is it a boy or girl?” when I saw the image come up on the screen.  I could tell she would not have been amused.  I just took myself to my happy place – Nordstrom’s – and it was all over in ten minutes.  It’s quite a sticky mess after (no comments please) and I kind of wished that I could shower, but it was a small price to pay for piece of mind.

Breast cancer isn’t a joke, but if I can make this less scary for even one of you by communicating my experience, that’s all I really want to do.  Remember, a doctor doesn’t want you to have unnecessary tests, but early detection with breast cancer is key, so like the title says, don’t be a boob and put it off.

 

 


Leave a comment

Shake it ‘Til You Make It

belly-dance

Our Troupe

A long time ago, in a hair colour far, far away, I began what is likely one of my life’s great passions – belly dance.  I started this hobby, like everything in my life…by accident.  My friend and I wanted to take Latin Dance and I called around, and ended up on the phone with my beloved dance teacher Samia.  She explained that all Latin dances come from Belly Dance and I should come and check out a beginner class.  My friend agreed and off we went.

I didn’t love it right away.  I had an instructor that was a little bit of a snooze for me, but we got to watch the advanced classes.  These ladies were amazing and turned me into a little wannabe.  One day, we were told that we were going to be in a recital, and I thought FAT CHANCE, NO WAY JOSE, NOT HAPPENING, so yup, you guessed, it, I got suckered into buying my first skirt and belt and practiced my little heart out.  As we practiced, Samia came into the room, with her French/Lebanese accent, and her watchful eye, she made me soooo nervous.  She always had a couple of corrections, then did a quick sweep around the room, and then left as quickly as she came in.  I was hooked, and hoped that one day, I’d learn from this master and literally, right after the recital, I joined her Wednesday class.

Samia was an amazing teacher.  When she taught us new choreography, she would dance a section for us, and when you watched her, it was magic.  Something swept over her  – it was like she was performing on a stage in some distant land, not in our little dance studio.    She was tough, don’t get me wrong, but once you got to know her, she became your dance mother.  She wanted to know about your life, and she learned so much about you.  There were no secrets with her, she just knew us so well, that it was impossible to not spill your guts.

Once you started performing, she would select a dance name for you.  I wondered what exotic name awaited me, as my fellow students walked away with  monikers like Najwa (meaning secret conversation), Aisha (alive) or some other names that implied strength.  I walked in and Samia smiled at me, and told me that my name would be Shams.  Ugh, I thought in my inside voice, it’s doesn’t end in a cute sounding vowel.  When I asked her what it meant, she told me, it means “The Sun”.  She then humiliated me, unintentionally, by telling me that it was because my cheeks are so cute when I smile, it charmed her so much that it reminded her of the sun.  Yup, tough girl, that’s me.  Eventually, it grew on me.

One day, Samia asked me to join her troupe as a performer.  The goal was to create shows, not recitals and that we would all pitch in with the hope of earning money just for doing what we all loved to do.  It was fun, but a lot of hard work practicing 3 days a week.  There was nothing better though, than performing with the troupe and seeing what choreography Samia would dream up.  Everything was amazing, until one day, our beloved teacher told us all some devastating news – she had to retire because of issues with her feet.  It’s hard to explain what it was like to hear that news.  She was a safety net for all of us, and we all fell apart that day.  I tried to stick with the school that she had built, but after less than a year, I gave up.  It just wasn’t the same.  I tried other places, but some people are irreplaceable, so after ten years, I put my costumes away and moved on.  Then, life happened and I got completely distracted by other things.

Late in August, over dinner, someone who knew that I used to dance asked very briefly why I didn’t do it anymore and my answer was lame.  I don’t even remember what it was, but I started thinking and thinking and thinking some more about it.  Within a few days, I was Googling belly dance schools all over Toronto trying to figure out which could be “the one”.  I had my first class tonight, deciding on a beginner course since it’s been so long.  It was GREAT.  The second song the instructor played was one of my old solos, so I knew that this was the right place.  It wasn’t easy at first, but once I started moving again, it just felt right.  It may not be the same as it was, but that’s OK, it doesn’t need to be.