Time for contemplation


Jeanette Winterson, in her fantastic memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, writes:

“The one good thing about being shut in a coal hole is that it prompts reflection.”

She goes on to meditate on life, happiness and normalcy; results of the reflection that occurred during the many hours she was locked in the coal hole by her mother.

Now I don’t mean to suggest that a hospital waiting room is like a coal hole, but there is a similarity of ‘in-betweenness’ in the situations. In both cases, the job we have is to wait for the next phase, whether it be freedom from the coal hole or the opportunity to go in to an appointment. How we use that time is up to us, of course.

The waiting room does have more distractions than the coal hole, which is why, perhaps, Jeanette’s in-between time was more productive and profound than mine generally is. I have returned to my old ways of reading, writing and checking email in the time before I am called in. I have lost some of my capacity to just sit and ‘be’ during this time.

I would like to reactivate that part of me that knows how to wait. That will be my goal for tomorrow’s visit. Who knows what deep thoughts might appear. I’ll keep you posted.


ARS Medica




I recently stumbled again upon ARS Medica: A Journal of Medicine, The Arts, and Humanities. If you think about it, it’s a pretty cool idea for a journal and right up my alley.

For you medical professionals, they have opened up the .  Here’s the basic info:

Open to all health profession students, researchers, residents, fellows, health care practitioners and faculty working or studying in Canada.

1. Deadline: Monday March 18, 2013.

2. Parameters: All works must be previously unpublished and relate to medical humanities in the broadest sense. Poetry, limited to two submissions per person. Prose works, limited to 1 per person, can be any style (e.g., creative nonfiction, fiction, essay etc.)

If you live in the Toronto area, ARS Medica also has movie viewings and writing workshops. Pass this on to all of the medical professionals in your life. They can probably use it.


Belly Laugh Friday, January 4, 2013

As usual I’m late – let’s just pretend it’s Friday.

As most of you know, my strange illness has given me a belly that makes me look about seven months pregnant. After so many years I have been able to find the humour both in the queries and the responses I give to the queries.  Sometimes I actually look forward to bizarre responses because they make such good stories. Belly-laugh Fridays is my chance to share these humorous tidbits with all of you. Enjoy.



I try to come up with humorous responses to put people at ease when I tell them about my belly. One of my favourites is the following:


 “When are you due?”

“Well, actually, I’m not pregnant, this is all liver from a bone marrow disease. Have you ever seen a liver as impressive as this before?

“Well, uh…no.”

“It is a wonder. Doctors gather when I am about in order to marvel over this miraculous organ.”


And while it is said tongue in cheek, there is much truth in that statement. New doctors practically salivate in their eagerness to palpate my liver. Sometimes colleagues and medical students will be retrieved to view my notable organ. “You’ll never see one like this again.”

At a recent ultra sound appointment I was delayed by the technician because the doctor herself wanted to come in and see me. I worried that perhaps she had seen something concerning. In fact, she was simply keen to meet me in person and examine my liver.

I feel like I could use my own carny  “All right, step right up, ladies and gentleman. See first hand the world’s largest liver. You will never see a liver like this again. Come right this way. World’s largest liver. And for only a small extra fee you, too, can palpate this world class organ.”

I actually do keep pressing my doctor to find out if it is the biggest liver she has actually seen, but she won’t commit.


Wednesday at the chemo unit, January 2, 2013




Happy New Year to all!

2013. It’s an awesome number to be writing. I was diagnosed in 2000, 13 years ago.

In the Jewish tradition, a boy or girl reaching the age of 13 enters into their adulthood (as celebrated with the Bar or Bat Mitzvah.) So this would mean that my illness is entering its mature years.

An adolescent who turns 13 is not really an adult yet. He or she still lives at home, is financially dependent and can’t fully participate in civil society. They usually do gain some autonomy, however, and start to act more like an adult.

Likewise, my disease is still living at home and is dependent on me for life. At the same time, it’s gained some autonomy. It can go out without me. It does not completely absorb me. It is my disease, it is not me.

Ideally, this gradual separation will one day result in the disease leaving home. But we all know that the trend these days is for kids to  return home to live with their parents when they can’t get a job. Maybe mine will go to medical school and look after me in my old age.