Western education 2013

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

...... but it's only WEDNESDAY!!!!

Today I have marked on my calendar a trip to Fayez Spa.  I have asked a friend Mauricia to come with me because she so desperately needed to get away for a few hours of relaxation after an incredibly stressful month.  Having cancer or healing from it is already stressful enough but it was truly time to start our spring with a rejuvination time.  Mauricia brought lunch and we caught up while eating.  Max joined us from his office beneath the dining room and scooted back down after finishing his spicy squash soup.  I graciously declined the soup and stuck with the sandwiches.  Then it was off to the Spa!!! 

We arrived a few minutes later and it was fun to see the look on Mauricia's face.... It has taken her the better part of 70 years to book a luxurious spa and I turn to see her face break out into a smile.  She will be having an exfoliation with steam and a massage and I am having an exfoliation with a mud wrap and massage.  Victoria leads me down a narrow candle lit hallway while Marta C. takes Mauricia down an opposite route.

The room is small and lit in the corner with another flameless candle and small lamp.  The table has been set up with a foil sheet on top of the well padded bed.  Victoria smiles warmly from her youthful face and quietly explains that I need to strip down and put on the paper underwear she hands me.  She promises to return.  I undress and I can see my reflection in the horozontal framed mirror hanging from the wall opposite.  I am always slightly surprised by the aging in a body I keep thinking is still 30.  My hair has begun the post chemo curl and I silently promise to not cut it for as long as I will just become bone straight again.  I note that the 'artic blonde' is changing to a dirty blonde with 'highlights' offered up by the new virgin growth.  The depression in my breast from the surgeries is now a dark shadow.  Even the low lighting accentuates every physical flaw.  Victoria had offered a few courtesy hand towels to cover up my 'sensitive' areas.  I decide to just not use them and be accepting of this body that continues to give me life and of the children whose lives would not exist without it.  I have earned each and every scar (many of them) and the tattoos that adorn the arms I use for hugging and holding.  Satisfied with my decision, I pull on the paper undies which look like a black rectangle folded in half with a string running through the ends creating what I laughingly think of as sumo undies.... they do not fit and decidedly sag.  I would laugh if I didn't look so pathetic in them... but realize that not even a supermodel could make these look good!!  I sit down and the foil crinkles beneath me as I shift into position with all my bits for the world to see.... the door opens and before I know it, I am explaining away the scars.  Victoria looks at my face and says with a lovely smile "you look just fine, now enjoy!" 

Being exfoliated with a fresh salt based concoction feels like being rubbed with sand until she finds a wee knick in my finger and I spend the next 15 minutes pretending that the stinging just doesn't annoy me... I now understand why you do not shave the day of treatment.  I reroute my mind to think of lovely ocean side thoughts as I drift along with the asian music that is now filling my ears.  I can almost hear the ocean I am smelling.  Victoria paints on the Hungarian mud on my now exposed back as I sit up to begin the second part of the treatment before she wraps me up. I lay back down and I note that the mud cools on my skin and I feel a slight chill as she is careful to paint it on my exposed belly, upper chest, legs and arms.  She pulls up the excess foil from both sides and completely covers me from the tops of my feet to my neck and then uncoils a heated blanket from under my feet and gently tucks me in.  She lets me know she will be back in 10 minutes.  I can hear the foil crinkle with each breath I take.  Its a quiet reminder that I am stil breathing.  I close my eyes and drift into a half sleep ignoring the burning feeling in the nicks in my thumbs.  I am grateful I can feel.

Victoria arrives and gives me instructions to wash off in the adjoining shower after she lifts the foil off.  It is now rather cold as I step through the opaque blue glass door and find myself in a gorgeous large shower with a rain head a foot above my head.  There are pebbles cemented into the middle of the floor and my eyes follow the river flowing into a drain cleverly hidden out of view under the wall.  I feel the warm water cascading down my back as I wash the mud and salt from my neck to my toes.  It is sheer luxury to find a fresh towel place on the head of the bed which has now been converted to a massage table.  I dry off and then place the towels and sumo panties neatly in a folded pile on the  floor out of the way.  I hear a soft knock as i cozy in to the pillow under my chest.  My face is down into a terry cloth covered frame.  The 45 minute massage begins and it is just sheer heaven.  All my aches are rubbed away with an aromatic moisturizing lotion.  I am drifting off into la la land.  She is speaking quietly letting me know that I can get dressed now.  She wants to know if I would like something to drink while I wait for Mauricia..... yes, I would love a camomile tea.  I get up, dress and then follow her down the hall to a little vestibule off the main hall and find myself in a very cozy waiting room. 

I find myself chatting with a very expectant mother and noting the excitement on her face as she announces her due date is mere days away.  I remember those days and wonder how the years went by so fast???  The woman and her mother leave just as Mauricia appears.  We sit chatting with her masseuse while we ready ourselves to go.  Thanks Mauricia for coming out today!!

Today starts out OK and by the end of the day..... it is just tears.  I begin teaching at 8 am and by noon, we are done.  Sara and I grab lunch and head back to the office.  She is always a great gal to talk about anything with and we know each other well enough that we can just express our feelings or opinions.  I tell her that I am nervous about the CT scan today.... and note that I am not crazy about being poked again in the poor vein that is hosting many scars making it quite tough.  I get to the hospital and manage to find my way to the CT suite.... whatever happened to the colored stripes on the floor????  All the signs are the same colour and same print making it difficult to find what you are looking for.  I manage, after asking a number of employees, to find the full waiting room.  The receptionist is in training by an obviously pregnant employee.  It takes 12 minutes and many phone interruptions later to finally get booked in.  Oh dear, I have to drink a contrast.... So the appointment, which was supposed to be at 2:00 pm has now stretched into 3:15 pm.  The contrast is supposed to be ingested over a period of 1 hour but I didn't receive it until 2:45 and then sipping it until 3:30.  The technologist comes to get me and asks me to get changed.  The pants supplied are sitting on the bench in the change room with a sign above stating that there is only one size.  I pull the pants on and understand why they threw the note up.... one size does not fit all!!!  The front gapes open but I don't worry as I pull on the gown which will cover it.  I rarely can tie these darn things up and as I bend over to put my things in the locker... the waiting room gets a view from behind of my now naked breasts.  Oh well...  

A lovely young lady comes over to greet me and bring me to the lab chair to insert the I.V.  She realizes right away that the main vein in my elbow is very scarred and she is hesitant about inserting a needle so she finds one in the upper arm.  She manages to put a smaller needle into the vein and tries to slowly inject saline to guide it.  Oh dear, I blew your vein.  She now has to remove the needle and find another spot.  A vein just under the ink on my forearm is the next site chosen and this time, she eases the needle in expertly and we are good to go.  She apologizes profusely and I let her know that we are just fine.  OK, off we head to the CT scan.  There will be a few scans done.  The upper chest, neck and  throat will be done while puffing out my cheeks - this, I was told in the last one I did, is done so that a picture behind the tongue can be taken.  The other series is taken to check the liver and other organs. It only takes a few minutes and I get the thumbs up that I am done.  We chat about dogs while my I.V is removed and she walks me out.  I give her a hug and thank her.... she lost her Mum when she was a young girl to colon cancer..... this is one of many stories I will note today.  Earlier I wished the man beside me best of luck and the woman whose journey, much like mine has been ongoing for years and whose hope to have a clear CT scan echos mine as well.  

I will head up to the Oncology in-patient ward C7 to visit my friend Melina.  I find her room and step in and past the patient bed nearest the door.  Melina's bed is past the curtain separating the two beds.  I peek around the corner of the curtain and see my lovely wonderful friend sitting upright gently pulling at a tuna sandwhich in a plastic container and pushing the morsels into her open mouth.  She looks up and says a quiet hello and the faintest glimmer of a smile crosses her lips.  Her eyes are dull and her colour is off.  She has no makeup now to cover the obvious loss of facial hair.  She is speaking slowly and choosing her words.  I look into her eyes and I tell her I have just stopped in to say Hi but the words catch in my throat as the tears catch me off guard.  "no tears, oh, no tears Marita".  I turn to look away because I do not want to upset her, so I lay my head on her leg and touch her gently.  I am fighting the tears and the deep sadness I am feeling.  She is my friend..... I try to be light when I bring my head up to catch her looking at me.  I ask her if there is anything i can do for her.  She has done everything she assures me and there is nothing left to do.  She lets me know how grateful she is and that she hopes she has made an impact.  My tears escape and roll down my cheeks... "you have made such an incredible impact on my life with your laughter and your wonderful spirit".  She admits that she has two wonderful children and she is grateful for them.  Damir and Ella walk in..... her husband of over 20 years and her daughter.  They are amazed at how many people have come to visit and of the generosity of those who have donated to the fundraiser to bring her father back to say good bye to her.  It is not a surprise to me that there are so many people who want to help her and her family and to let her know how much they love and will miss her.  A doctor pops his head around and asks if she is comfortable.  She is.  Is she needing anything.  No.  He lets her know that he is in for the weekend.  I know she is tired and I will leave just minutes after arriving.  I do not want to take any more precious time she needs with her daughter.  They are working on a project together.  I look at her again and tell her I love her.  I gently cradle her head in my hands and kiss her cheeks and then crazy kiss her forehead.  She sighs out a smile and tells me she loves me.  I touch her one last time and linger until the threatened tears spill over.  She can't see my face as I say bye to her family.  A sob catches in my throat in the hallway as I pace to the elevators.  I get on and ask a nurse beside me what floor I should get off on to leave.... she suggests floor 2 even though she noticed I had originally gotten on the elevator on the 1st floor to come up.  I thank her and punch the number 2 button.  I want to flee and never come back... I catch myself almost running as I slip past a woman with a double stroller and step into the warm spring air.

All around me are signs of spring.  Sunshine, birds singing and the buds breaking on the trees adorning the parking lot.  The tears are coursing down my cheeks making it hard to navigate and the sobs begin to rack my shoulders.  I want to scream!!!  The parking lot which was overfull when I pulled in at 1:20 pm have emptied considerably in the 3 hours since I arrived.  I easily spot my car parked in front of a still sizeable snow bank.  'Happy' by Pharrell Williams is playing on the radio and I feel anything but.  My friend will not see the spring.  I open my driver's side window and the roof window.... and then I blare the music trying to drown my thoughts.  The world around me is full of life and happy that the weather has finally begun to change.  As a child, I would look forward to putting on my runners and feeling the crunch of sand beneath the soles and skip along the sidewalk breathing in the fresh new air.  I don't care to pass anyone and am OK with just following the car in front.... I can hear a horn blare in the late afternoon traffic and wonder if they know how unimportant that minute they saved ruining someone else's day by being pushy.... is worth everything to those waiting to take their last breath.  The tears start to roll down the cheeks again.  Melina wanted to know that her life counted for something, that she made a difference. Don't worry... you had an impact on all those who have had the pleasure of meeting you.  I make it home in time to wander around the backyard distracting myself with the early spring crocuses.  Lydia comes out to see how I am doing after holding her and sobbing when I first arrived home.  She heads back to the house to make me a decaf coffee.  

I sip the coffee while checking my e-mail and a few FB posts when I get a message from a friend.  I note the location is Toronto.  He has just received his second diagnosis and asks me for advice on breaking the news to his new bride.  Tell her straight up and the two of you will figure out what to do next.... I am here for you both, whatever you need.  xoxoxo  Love you.

After dinner as I am laying in bed texting my sister, I note a lovely picture from a friend half-way across the world.   I comment and ask who the gentleman is behind her?  It is her father and she is making arrangements to fly out to see him before cancer takes his life.  I am so sorry.   Hugs and best wishes you get to see him and talk to him.  Safe Journey.

...... for those who are starting a journey or nearing the end of your journey, healing and moving forward or for anything in-between..... take time today to take in a healing breath, feed your body, soul and mind and be eternally grateful for the life you have been gifted with - it's not perfect, maybe not what you expected or wanted.... but it is yours and make it the best it can be.

To my loving friend Melina.... thank you for being my friend and for being someone whom I deeply admire.  I love you and yes, I will miss you dearly.  Enjoy your moments with your Dad, who wil be arriving tomorrow. xoxoxoxoxox

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