Thursday, 29 March 2012


I complete the self-assessment quiz for Palliative care. It’s a zero to ten set of questions on mood, symptoms, cognitive ability, memory etc. My take is that Zero means Pretty Good Chief and Ten means, Just Shoot me now. Mine is a line of zeros, broken by a two for muscle weakness and a three for fatigue. Dr. J. remarks to the nurse that I’m in better shape than he is.

We talk about what my options will be when I need the unit. How quickly I can be admitted – or what kind of care is available should there be no beds immediately open. It’s dotting “i’s” and crossing “t’s.” Business. Like making a Will and Power of Attorney. Like doing taxes. They seem a good team, these palliative staff, and the conversation is punctuated with laughter here and there.

Later, I ask Wendy if I’m coming across like a lunatic. Do I sound like someone who doesn’t actually know what’s going on? Figure I’m a mite peppy, as cancer patients go, judging from the expressions on the faces of medical staff. Wendy says, “no,” she thinks I just sound like someone who made a decision about how to live with the facts. Later on, the oncology nurse tells me, “We talk about you here. Just in case your ears are burning.”

Today, after radiation, exhaustion hammers me. Heather has to wake me to go to my appointment with my GP and to shop for groceries. I forget to take my meds.The vertigo is escalating by then, there’s a familiar bee-buzz of confusion in my head. My knees feel weak.

While putting the food away, I go through a couple maneuvers to find a vase – move a big cookie jar, pull the vase out, put the jar back – and suddenly, I am doing my version of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”. Literally, I screamed. I cannot believe I can put away all that stuff, I'm ready to fall down, utterly overwhelmed and almost unable to stop myself from hurling something viciously across the room, just to hear it break. The frustration and rage pass in 30 seconds and I stand there hanging onto the counter in horror.

Wendy rounds the corner in shock and takes over, sending me to take my pill and sit down. I feel as embarrassed, shocked and ashamed as if I’d projective vomited across the room.

There were long stretches during chemo that I felt like that, but for weeks and weeks now, nothing remotely close. Just peppy little me, the fool on the hill, truly calm and cheerful and enjoying pretty much everything. Wendy and Heather take it in stride immediately. I am shaken to the core and can’t stop apologizing.

These past weeks have been some of the happiest of my life. I know. It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? But just try being surrounded by so many loving people and trying to feel down or sorry for yourself. But today was a little wake-up. Just a small reminder that things can change. There may be days when being unable to move quickly or keep good focus make me just a little less Zero on the happy chart and a real bitch to be around.

I know my friends would understand but - Oh please, let no one have to witness those moments.


Stacey said...

I suspect there are many moments where your friends want to scream, too. Blame it on existential ventriloquism.

Sending hugs.

Cynthia Newcomer Daniel said...

The horror is real, too - but I'm glad that the joy keeps it at bay most of the time.

Kandra said...

I am humbled by your writing. Sending you much love and light.

Sandy said...


Howpublic said...

Very astute, Stace. I'm sure that's right, poor babies.