Once More with Feeling

Today I am headed down to the Juravinski Cancer Clinic in Hamilton for the LAST of my 35 radiation treatments.

In recognition of this momentous event, I present to you dear Reader a poem I have been working on for ahile now. I feel it only right to recognize the person responsible for my experience of the last 7 weeks.

Of course this will not be my last trip to Juravinski. I’ll be back for a check up in 4-5 weeks, and then a CT scan 4-5 weeks after that. But, as they say, the worst is over. Now I can start to heal.

Until next time, enjoy the poem… or not.


On Madame Marie Curie (by Dennis Gray)

Madame Marie Curie
It’s all her fault you know,
The pain I’m feeling now.
The constant scratching in my throat,
The taste buds that no longer work,
Spit glands producing at under 10%,
Energy levels of a man twice my age,
Leathery skin that flakes so easily.
It’s all part of her legacy.

She started it you know, she and her radium, polonium.
It didn’t take long for the crackpots to follow;
Radium water, The Cosmos Bag, Radithur
Fiesta Ware, eat your meals from uranium dishes
That will cure your ills.
All because of her and those Nobel prizes.
Cures worse than the disease.

But “time marches on” as the newsreels say
And soon the quackery falls by the wayside,
And Marie’s science remains still.
Isotopes collide, neoplasms fall,
30, 40, 60 Gy (gray) and counting,
The tumours can only take so much.
The Cancer succumbs to the onslaught.
Pain is temporary, moisture will return,
The colours in the CT scan will realign,
The “South” will rise again,
And there is new hope for tomorrow.

Yes, it’s her fault alright!
Marie Curie and her little glowing saucers.

Merci Madame. Merci.

Addendum: For those of you who may not know; Marie Curie and her husband were the first to experiment with radium and other radioactive materials (a term she coined).  Among those experiments was the use of radio isotopes to destroy neoplasms, that is, cancers.  She won Nobel prizes in both physics and chemistry for her ground breaking work.

Image courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

Marie Curie - wkipedia commons

Marie Skłodowska–Curie

Where’s the rest of my Armour?

Went in for my first clinic visit since the surgery today. Doc says he’s pleased with my progress, gave me a physio-therapy requisition to process and then outfitted me with an Imperial Stormtrooper boot.

At least that’s what I think it looks like. Definitely has a Star Wars/Robocop hi-tech geeky vibe to it; which I find much more acceptable than the fiberglass splint and elastic bandage assembly I hobbled out with on the day of my surgery. A front line Stormtrooper rig is white, and Darth Vader’s armour is black, so I figure this gray model must fit in between in the command structure somewhere, perhaps admiral. Rugged construction, foam lining, inflatable air bladders for a form fit, and a stylish shade of gray (most apropos); coolness factor has increased substantially.

However; as with most things, there is a price to pay. Conservatively, I estimate this puppy weighs about three times what the original ‘half-cast’ did. It’s also somewhat warmer and harder to maneuver in. Definitely not looking forward to sleeping in this thing but, I will adapt.

Back on the plus side, it does come off for showers and changing clothes etc. so it isn’t all bad. One thing that does get me is the price – $170 CDN. Not that I don’t think it’s worth it, but I’ve always been mystified about the lack of recycling in the health care field.

Some things are obvious, don’t want people re-using needles etc. That’s a complete no-brainer. But why do I have to take full possession of this boot. Now I realize the foam lining will absorb a fair amount of sweat, so by all means ditch it. But could we not return the boot when done with it, replace the lining, subject the boot to some form of sterilization and give it to the next person in need?

Then instead of charging me the full $170, charge me for liner, add $25 to rent the boot proper for the duration of my therapy, and then return and process it for the next patient. We reduce the number of boots sitting in closets somewhere, with the rental fee create an additional income stream for the hospital for as long as the boot is serviceable, and when multiplied by the number of people who likely need these things province wide, substantially assist our burgeoning health care costs.

As I stated earlier, there are some things in a hospital that should never be reused under any circumstances. But it seems to me that there are a number of areas where proper reuse management could substantially improve the cash flow in our health care system. Frankly, I don’t care if my crutches have been used by twenty other people before me, as long as they are still structurally stable and clean. Why does it appear that these options aren’t being considered?

Or at the very least give me a chance to buy the rest of the armour.

Till next time…


Little Pieces of Toast

Okay, so this is it. This morning at 11 am (EST) I sign in to ‘day surgery’ at Guelph General Hospital, then at 1pm they wheel me in and start cutting. If all goes well I’ll be home in time for supper.

I had the pre-op appointment yesterday and it was full of assurances that everything was going to work out just fine, my doctor is extremely good at what he does, and I’m healthy enough there should be no difficulties. And, oh yes… due to budget cuts I can’t have a piece of toast anymore when I wake up – layoffs to follow.

That’s right! There was much apologizing for the fact that there would be no toast. Apparently, since a surgery patient can’t eat for 12 hours beforehand, it was their custom to feed them some juice and toast when they woke up to settle the grumbling stomach. When budget cuts came along the toast was the first to go. Now I just get the juice and a biscuit.

I guess everyone has ‘stuff’ with which they struggle; seemingly small stuff to you and I maybe, but it holds meaning for the people involved because it’s indicative of changes they’d rather not see. There are certainly a lot bigger problems in our health care system than supplying toast for day surgery patients, but those who work there see it as ‘just one more thing‘ that takes the joy out of their existence because it reminds them of what might follow – layoffs or whatever other darkness looms on the horizon.

We all have little pieces of toast in our lives. Things that on the surface seem small and insignificant, but we are tempted to fall on our swords to protect them because of what they represent. We cry out against the powers that be, “Come on already! I know it’s tough and we need to make changes, but can’t we at least keep the toast?

If we can keep the toast, if we can manage one small victory as the darkness encroaches, then maybe we will survive this after all. Maybe it will serve as one small glimmer of light to give us some comfort.

So as I head into the hospital today, as much as I completely dread the experience (I haven’t been under the knife since I was 17), I find myself thinking about the nurse in pre-op who felt the need to apologize for the lack of toast. I know she’s feeling a pain of her own and needs prayer and support as much as I do.

So please, gentle reader, if you are inclined to pray for me this day as I endure my ordeal, for which I am truly grateful, then please remember the toast, and also pray for those at the hospital who face an uncertain future. And when you speak to the Father, offer a word for anyone you know who is struggling to hang on to one small comfort in life, that it might help them see their way through the temporary darkness and into a brighter tomorrow.

Until I return from surgery… Shalom