Birthdays and Bears

For those of you who monitor such things, last week was my birthday… and a nice day it was, too. I didn’t do my usual its-my-birthday-and-therefore-a-day-off, but went to work. It was a bit quiet with almost everyone on the team in meetings most of the day… and no one knew it was my birthday. There was an invitation to lunch with the engagement partner and a visitor from the USA, but it came after the original invite had been sent out with an ‘oops, we missed you’ attached. Another member of the team was pretty insistent that it was a mistake. It just didn’t feel right, and with my problems with eating, I opted not to go.

We had dinner at Cafe de Ville, with Jenn, Amber, Kim and Duane. Pairs of shorts and a Moores‘ gift card were gratefully received!

The waiter remembered us from previous outings… he was great. I ordered the bouillabaisse and a lovely looking grilled salmon with tapenade. And then I couldn’t eat the salmon… took the entire thing home in a doggie bag. For some reason the fish soup upset my stomach and completely killed my appetite. Embarrassing to be asking the waiter to wrap up an untouched entree… and then ‘cheating’ and eating a creme caramel (for the calories!).

On the Sunday, I spent the Moores‘ gift card as part of the purchase of a suit that fits, another pair of shorts, and two sport jackets that fit. Maybe the natty clothes will help me with my vanity issues…

Gail and I spent the Saturday at the Cross Cancer Institute at a retreat for Head and Neck Cancer Patients sponsored by the Art in Medicine team. And we carved soap stone bears. Yes, really. We made bears that actually look like bears! Kinda neat; I insisted on teddy bears during the surgical option, and then we were given the opportunity to carve soap stone bears. Coincidence? Gee, I guess bears might be my totem…

The day was quite interesting… we met others who have been through what I have. Margaret Plain’s daughter-in-law, Janet, dropped in for a little while and made a concerted effort to sift through the attendees to find me and introduce herself. Wow. I want to be just like her in a year! There are others who attended who are at the year mark, and beyond, that I expect to do better than. There was a definite undercurrent of depression in the room… some frustration from the caregiver/companions… some disbelief. On one hand, I am so glad I didn’t meet most of those there while I was still in treatment… they would have completely destroyed that carefully constructed mythology I had built for myself.

One lovely, courageous oriental woman who attended has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer; she and her husband were being very proactive about gathering information. Her biggest challenge will be the isolation. She will have a radioactive iodine isotope implanted, and she will have to go into quarantine, away from her family while its still in her body. We didn’t dwell too much on it as she was searching for other information from me… I felt it best to be as forthcoming as possible, even though I’m really curious about her treatment program.

There was a nice, youngish couple… she, the caregiver, is an EMT. They seemed to be joyful. I wouldn’t have minded meeting them earlier in the process.

There was an older, lesbian couple, three years beyond for them, and working really hard at staying positive and focused on the future… although I could see a few cracks in the veneer… but I would have enjoyed the caregiver during the treatment process.

Gail was, as usual, brilliant with everyone. If it wasn’t for her, my shyness would get the better of me, and I wouldn’t initiate conversation with anyone. We had to all write the ‘story’ of our bears; Gail took the bull by the horns and read hers out first, then goaded me into reading mine next. Ice broken, the rest of the attendees seemed so much more relaxed… she is so good at that sort of thing!

It was a good day… a very good day.

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