As predicted, a couple of days before my Mom arrived, before the start of my chemo, I started to clean my one bedroom apartment. I washed floors, laundered bed linen, replaced stained dish towels, sanitized my bathroom all for the sake of my mother’s one week stay. Beth offered to pick up my mother at the train station with me, but I told her I did not think the interior of her car was tidy enough for my mother to not pass judgement while sitting in the backseat. I think Beth took my brutal honesty as a challenge because she was very insistent on coming with me and much to my surprise she had cleared out all remnants of the shanty town lifestyle emanating from inside her Chevrolet Aveo when she picked me up. She even polished the dashboard! “We’ll just keep your mom’s overnight bag on the backseat beside her.” No worries, I was perfectly happy not to go anywhere near the trunk of her car.
I had asked Beth if we could go to the grocery store to pick up some breakfast stuff for my Mom. While wandering up and down the aisle of my local grocer, Beth got a better sense of how close I was with my mother when I asked her what she thought my Mom would eat for breakfast. We decided it was safe to go with danishes and some fruit. It was a good start and, anyhow, I knew my mother would be grocery shopping with Soonying in the morning while I went to chemo daycare at PMH.
Beth parked and waited out front of Union Station as I went in the station to meet my mother. The train from Montreal was on time and Mom met me without a hitch. We greeted, as usual, without pleasantries or fanfare while I grabbed her rolling carry-on bag and led her outside back to Beth’s car. Mom thanked Beth right off for picking her up as I knew she would. I think Mom half expected I would hail a cab or lead her to the TTC.
The beginning of my week with, my Mom, was filled with appointments. Monday morning she came with me to WCH where I met with Dr. B for perhaps my final expansion. We entered the Breast Centre at WCH where the reception desk was filled with staff and nurses whom I had become familiar with during this process. In the presence of my mother they all seemed to give me an extra welcoming glance with an overt use of my name when speaking to me. It was like they knew to show their best in front of family or maybe they were just happy to finally see family with me during this ordeal. Their actions were much appreciated and made me smile inside.
Mom stayed in the waiting room, as I knew the saline injections would only last a matter of minutes, but I also wanted to talk to Dr. B privately with my concerns on radiation. Nurse Angela who first took out my drain and administered my first injection would do so again this morning. She told me I looked fabulous which made me feel a little better since I felt my new haircut made me look like I played for the other team. I told her I was bummed about Dr. L’s radiation recommendation. She said she had heard he was a good oncologist and I should listen to what he has to say. I will think about it, was all I said and then told her I had Dr. A as my medical oncologist. Angela acknowledged a lot of patients have seen Dr. A also. She heard he was quite knowledgeable and up to date about recent findings and facts which he had proven to be true. This was a good confirmation, as I intended to bombard Dr. A with questions about recurrence without the use of radiation on my next visit. Angela went to verify with Dr. B about how many cc’s of saline was injected in my expander from my last visit.
Dr. B came back into the examination room with Angela, giving me a brief opportunity to discuss with him how radiation would affect my reconstruction. He seemed as disappointed with the news, but asked when I thought radiation would start, I did not tell him I had reservations of doing any radiation at all. Chemotherapy started tomorrow I announced and would end in December. He explained this would give us a very small window of opportunity to switch from the expander to an implant, as it is usually within 3 weeks after chemo they would want to start radiation treatment. I asked if I could radiate with the expander to avoid contracture with the implant. He said we would then have to deal with a contracted mound shape with the expander which would not necessarily conform with the implant shape. It was best to have the implant in, even though the end result of the implant might be compromised by radiation treatments. I told Dr. B, radiation was not definite because Dr. L would be talking to the pathologist again before we met in six weeks time. Hopefully, long enough for Dr. L to change his mind about my treatment.
Dr. B examined my present breast state and asked if I wore a bra today. Hmm, no. Quite frankly, as stated by most women who have had reconstruction, there is no need to wear any sort of bra ever again as the implants are firm. Truthfully, the only perk of having my boob removed and replaced with a tissue expander for the whole summer was the fact I could go without padded underwire bras during heat waves which reached 48 degrees celsius. Seriously, it was so hot this summer there were times when I would think to myself, maybe I should have reconstructed both boobs, I would never have to wear another bra again. So, as I was saying, no, I did not wear a bra for my expansion appointment where it would have helped Dr. B determine how much more saline to inject to match my real boob.
Dr. B decided another 50ml would probably do the trick and he would see me in another 2 weeks for a follow-up. He left Angela to proceed with the injection. I laid down, Angela used the “stud finder” to locate the opening, she inserted the needle. She commented on how calm I was compared to the first time she started my expansion. I told her the first time, she removed my drain, which hurt like a motherf-cker (I did not say ‘motherf-cker’ but I said something to this effect) I also came to realize this needle was not as bad as all the rest because I could not feel it like I feel the other ones.
Nurse Angela asked how long my Mom was staying for. I told her for the week while I recovered from chemo. She was happy to hear my mom would be taking care of me. Before she left the room Angela wished me luck with my chemotherapy the following day. I got dressed and met Mom back in the waiting room.
Next stop, we had to go meet Shirley at her work, as she had a something for me. Mom asked if we could walk there from the hospital. I factored in her walking pace told her it would take about half an hour to 45 minutes to walk. We had 2 hours to kill so I suggested we walk to Carlton station at least. By the time we made it to Carlton, the Eaton Centre was not that long of a distance and we decided to walk there too. And by the time we got to the Eaton Centre we were only a couple of blocks from Shirley’s work at one of the bank towers. Everyone knows I walk everywhere and anywhere if I could but I wasn’t really sure what my mother’s stamina for urban hikes would be like. This is the woman who gets driven to and from her work TWO SHORT BLOCKS, from her house to the restaurant, my dad used to own, in the suburbs I grew up in. But she was into it and I was all like, okay, I guess she can handle walking.
Shirley met us at her office building where she handed me a Lululemon bag she said was from her, Yul, Cory and Stephanie. When Shirley first mentioned she had a present for me I was looking forward to receiving what I thought would be something knitting related. What better present to get me than a few skeins of wool, a pattern book of baby sweaters or blankets, for me to get started on a project for my upcoming nephew, while I waited for toxic chemicals to pump into my veins. To my surprise I saw a white box with the picture of what I termed as “the geriatric’s iPhone”. They gave me an iPad 2! A whole new world of knitting apps was at my disposal. I loved it. Love it.
I was touched by their gesture. Shirley told me to enjoy it while I went to chemotherapy, it would keep me preoccupied while having to deal with all my upcoming sessions. I could not thank her enough and told her it was too generous a gift, albeit a VERY appreciative gift.
We needed to be on our way home soon after, as I needed to meet my next scheduled appointment with Ontario Works, to apply for social assistance during these next few months of treatment. We took the TTC back, with Mom making mental notes of what stations and streetcars to take, to my apartment where I gathered all necessary documents for the application. Mom would stay behind while I went to this appointment on my own. In the meantime, out of all the apps available to me, I was informed, by a couple of friends who had iPads, to get the Angry Birds app. I showed my mother the app and how to play it. Little did I know this recent senior citizen, would be addicted, with her finger on glass, whipping animated birds towards buildings on the iPad screen.