Tuesdays at the chemo unit, Feb. 19, 2013

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If you ever spend time at a Starbucks you will hear of an infinite variety of drinks ordered to the exact specifications of each customer.

“May I have decaf grande soy sugar free iced caramel macchiato?”

“A tall nonfat unsweetened green tea latte please.”

“I would like to order a venti mocha frappuccino with soy mocha drizzle, matcha powder, protein powder, caramel brûlée topping, strawberries, two bananas, caramel drizzle frappuccino chips and vanilla bean.”


I feel a bit like a Starbucks customer when I get my injection each week. The subcutaneous injection can be quite painful and leave a big bruise if the nurse does not administer it quite right. And what constitutes “quite right” varies from person to person. I imagine each person giving their own specific directions to the nurses.

“The secret is to leave a little air pocket in the needle.”

“Keep the skin  flat and inject quickly.”

“Pinch the leg hard and inject really, really slowly.”

“Can you put the heating pad on the site first to warm it up and then inject the needle at an exact 90 degree angle and whistle Stairway to Heaven to distract me?”

In an earlier era when the medical professionals were more god-like, would we have  dictated our own treatment in the same way that we order coffee or is this behaviour a sign of the times? On  the one hand, the patients feel more empowered now to ask for what they need (and truly, when the nurses do it the ‘right’ way, I experience significantly less pain). On the other hand, do we sometimes just need to let the professionals get on with their job and not pester them with onerous demands to meet our every need (maybe the whistling is a bit out of line)?

I’ve been very proud of my increased ability to advocate for myself since getting sick. At the same time, I’m just one of thousands of patients who want individualized care in a financially stressed system. I realize I must balance my needs against those around … ” Hey, slow down with that needle!”


Tuesdays at the chemo unit, February 12, 2013


Well life at the chemo unit is uneventful today. I’m in for the long iron infusion today, but it’s going quickly and I have a cozy little cubicle to myself.

Yesterday I had an appointment at another hospital with one of my many specialists. In the bathroom, as I sat down on the toilet, I noticed an interesting sign:

“Attention: Please put paper towel in the waste basket and not on the floor.”

This sign plagued me and I considered its significance. I came to two possible conclusions. Maybe there was a great trend of people putting their paper towel on the floor. They just weren’t sure what to do and now that there is a sign, they have seen the light and always put their paper in the basket. The other option is that there is someone working at the clinic who really likes and believes in the use of signs.

The second conclusion was fortified when I stood up and saw another sign behind the toilet. “Attention: Please flush the toilet with your hand and not your foot in this place.” Hmmm. Most of the patients I saw out in that waiting room could barely lift their feet up stairs much less do the contortions that would be necessary to flush with their feet. How would one even know if toilets were being flushed with feet?

If people really are throwing their paper towels on the floor will the sign change their behaviour? Why do they throw it in the floor? Perhaps instead of writing that sign, the sign writer should spend more time in the bathroom figuring out why people throw paper towel on the floor.

Of course we need signs. I want to know not to enter a one-way street the wrong way or to know if I’ve arrived at Yonge st., but I think signs often reflect the personality of the sign writer more than they reflect an  actual need.

I looked around for more signs. I thought there might be others like, “Attention: please turn on the taps with your hands and not your nose in this place.” or “Attention: Please pee into the toilet and not the garbage can.” You never know.


Cancer Poetry Project – approaching completion



Hi all,

You may remember me talking about the Cancer Poetry Project, an amazing anthology of poems by cancer patients, family members and caregivers. Now the Cancer Poetry Project 2 is approaching completion. I am honoured to have a poem that has been picked for this volume and we expect an April publication.

Karin Miller, the founder and editor has launched a to defer the initial costs of publication. Consider supporting this worthwhile project. The first volume of poems is gorgeous and is a wonderful way for patients to connect with the experiences of others who have gone before them.

All the best



Ultra Sounds Monday, February 11, 2013

Hi all,

I am delighted to have received a new poem from Nigel Paul.  Nigel is a “writer and artist with a strong interest in the relationships between media, culture, society and politics.” You may remember Nigel from a poem published here last April, (She’s) Dancing With The Idiots (Tonight).

Even though I have moved the focus away from submissions, if you have something you are hankering to share please do still send it my way. I will be pleased to consider it for posting.

All the best


The Park Bench

I held her hand tightly,

As she started to tell me,

Is this what park benches are for?



She said it’s the sinking heart feeling,

That hurts her the most,

And the voice of her mother’s ghost,

Saying ‘You should’ve done better,

You should’ve done more,’

And it’s the memory of that voice,

That breaks our silence,

Creates the ripples,

Causes the creases of laughter,

‘You were the only daughter,’

I sit and tell her,

Is this what park benches are for?



And we sat and we drifted,

Through memories and smiles,

For many a-passer-by,

And we didn’t even cry,

When it started to rain,

And she didn’t even cry,

When he spoke of the pain,

I just held her hand tightly,

And I listened with care,

Is this what park benches are for?

Because I know I’ll be beck here,

To hold this memory so dear,

As I hold on to her tightly,

Because today is just today.



Belly Laugh Friday – Feb 1, 2013

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.


Two weeks ago I was at the blood lab having my blood work drawn by a young man I had never seen before. We chatted and, of course, he asked me the question, “When are you due?” I apprised him of my situation and he seemed not at all put off by his mistake.

He giggled and said, “Oh, I was going to congratulate you.”

I laughed as well and said, “Well, you can go ahead and congratulate me on my big liver.”

We were firm friends after that.