Tag Archive | cancer positive attitude

Eavesdropping On The Ward…..Again!


For those of you who have read 100 perks of Having Cancer Plus 100 Health Tips for Surviving it, you may recall the amusement that I got from eavesdropping on the hospital ward while undergoing cancer treatments in 2012.   Well, as luck would have it, I just had the opportunity to spend 3 more days on a hospital ward, and once again, one of the perks of my hospital stay was eavesdropping on the conversations taking place around me. (More about my hospital stay for breast reconstruction in an upcoming post.)

First of all, to appreciate my story, you have to be able to picture what the ward looks like: a large, sterile room with four hospital beds in close proximity, each enclosed by a thin curtain, falling one foot short of the floor. Just imagine if you will, a jail cell without the security. And like inmates, us patients chat away without ever seeing each other, and swear about the crappy food, and the slow response time of the guards….ummmm, I mean nurses.

The real entertainment begins around 11:00 a.m, visiting hours, when kind hearted family and friends arrive with bags of treats and out-dated magazines, all clamouring for the one chair that is shared by the entire ward. (Eventually, visitors just end up wrestling for space alongside the patient on the narrow hospital bed.) And then, the conversations begin. Here is a verbatim script of a conversation that I overheard from the curtained bed next to me, as I lay staring at the ceiling:

Visitor: How are you feeling today, my dear?

Patient: Not good at all. I have the absolute worst case of stomach cramps.

Visitor: Oh my. That’s terrible. What did you have to eat today?

Patient: Well, you know I can’t tolerate the food at this hospital, so Fred brought me in bacon, eggs and coffee for breakfast, and fried chicken with mashed potatoes for lunch.

Visitor: I know the food is disgusting here, that’s why I brought you in this Big Mac meal, but I guess you won’t be wanting that now.

Patient: Are you kidding me? Hand it over, I am still starving! I would murder for a glass of wine right now. Do you think you could sneak me in a sippy cup full of wine when you come back for evening visiting hours?

Visitor: Sure, that’s what friends are for. I will bring in a red to compliment the philly cheese steak that I am making for your dinner.

Patient: You are going to make me dinner?

Visitor: Of course. I can’t have you eating the garbage they serve in here.

All in all, not an unusual conversation to overhear on a hospital ward, I thought as I lay still staring at the ceiling. But as soon as the visitor left, in came the doctor to talk to the very same patient, and this is when the conversation became really interesting. (I am not making this up!)

Doctor: How are you feeling today?

Patient: Not good. Not good at all, doctor. I have had very bad stomach cramps all day long. I can’t bear the pain!

Doctor: Although we haven’t gotten a positive diagnosis yet, we are pretty sure that we are dealing with bowel disease here. Are you sticking to the diet that we gave you?

Patient: Yes doctor, I eat really healthy foods every day. I haven’t had any kind of meat in months and I’ve really cut back on the fried foods! (I shook my head and thought, “What a blatant lie.”)

Doctor: Do you drink alcohol?

Patient: OH MY GOD! NOOOOOOOOOOOO!! I would NEVER drink alcohol!!! (She seriously could have gotten an Oscar nomination for her dramatics in answering that question. I rolled my eyes.)

Doctor: We need to know if there are any bowel obstructions. Have you passed any gas today?

Patient: No, doctor, just a few burps.

Well that is when I really had to restrain myself from jumping to my feet, pulling back the curtain and yelling “Liar, liar, pants on fire.” Because if I had had a match, I seriously could have set fire to the sulphuric gas that was coming from the arse of her pants that afternoon.

Just another day on 4 North B.


Perk # 97: Living A Kick-Ass Life

Shortly after being diagnosed, I went to visit my cousin and life-long friend, Lil.  As she cracked open a bottle of Merlot, I proceeded to bawl my eyes out about my dismal future with cancer.   Lil, being the no-nonsense person that she is, would have none of it.   “Stop your whining,” she said.  “You will still be hot, even with one boob.  You are going to beat this thing, and then you’ll go on to live a kick-ass life.”

As I slowly transition from my cancer fighting warrior mode, into survivor mode, I find myself fulfilling Lil’s prophecy.  I am living, what I consider to be a kick-ass life!  If you are having visions of me zip-lining, bungee jumping, or parachuting, let me stop you right there.  I prefer to take my adrenaline rush in smaller doses.  Take yesterday, for example.  I put my SUV in the garage for repairs and was delighted to discover that my loaner for the day was a white sports car, complete with a full tank of gas, the new car smell, and a rockin’ stereo!   The old Flo would have been cautious about using this flashy vehicle, but kick-ass Flo said, “I’m taking this baby for a ride!”

I ignored my chores and spent my afternoon cruising along the coast, visiting garden centers and nurseries along the way (yes folks, I am really living life on the edge now).  I blatantly ignored the speed limits, and even burned some rubber taking off from a stop sign.  Bear in mind that an entire funeral procession once passed me on the highway, and I have been pulled over by the police for driving too slow.  With my favorite tunes blasting on the stereo, I sang to the top of my lungs while playing imaginary drums on the steering wheel.  “Life is a highway, I wanna ride it all night long….”   Drinking in the beauty of the scenic coast line on that perfect sunny day, I was simply buzzed on life!

Tip:  Go and live a kick-ass life, whatever that may mean to you.

Perk # 67: Cancer Made A Blogger Out Of Me

I can hardly believe that nearly a year has passed since I was diagnosed with breast cancer; a year which I can only describe as an emotional roller coaster.  Like most people when diagnosed with a life threatening illness, I underwent the typical stages of grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.   I can almost pinpoint the exact moment that I transitioned from depression to acceptance.  It was a beautiful day in October, six months after my initial diagnosis, and my body was under assault from a difficult round of chemotherapy.   I was lying in bed, looking through the window as my mother collected the last of the summer tomatoes from my greenhouse.  It saddened me that I was not out there with her, enjoying the sunshine and harvesting the fruits of my labour.  While wallowing in self pity, I came to an important realization.  It suddenly dawned on me that feeling sorry for myself was not going to help me to get well.   As a Psychologist, I knew that positive emotions such as happiness and love, help to boost the immune system and enhance healing.  Negative emotions, such as anger and depression on the other hand, have been proven to suppress the immune system.  Since I needed a healthy immune system to fight cancer, a positive attitude was vital to my recovery!

I convinced myself that cancer wasn’t THAT bad, hey it even had its perks.  For example, since getting cancer, not once did I have to help with the dishes at big family dinners.  The thought of that made me smile, and instantly I felt a little better.   I then issued myself a challenge:  I would find 100 perks of having cancer, and so a blogger was born.

Flo the Blogger

Had I not gotten cancer, I would probably never have discovered the blogosphere and all of its hidden treasures.   Since I have always enjoyed writing, blogging became a creative outlet for me.  It also gave me a sense of purpose.  After spending nearly twenty years in the helping profession, a big part of my life was missing when I came off work.   Through my blog and the response from my readers, I know that I am still helping people, if only by making them smile.  Blogging has also connected me to so many kindred spirits.  Seeing new posts from Susan, AnneMarie, Jen, Marie, Shanna, Rachel, Nancy,  and others is like getting an email from an old friend.  I love to grab a cuppa and find out what my cyber friends are up to: how did Rachel’s scan turn out?   What is Shanna’s latest juicing concoction?  Is Jen’s hair coming in?  These people have become part of my support network as we share our highs and lows (okay, I only share my highs, but I do have my lows).   And so, today I give thanks to my blogging friends, and honour the art of blogging as one of my perks of having cancer.

Tip:  It is good to have a creative outlet when you are dealing with cancer.  Try blogging, journaling, painting, gardening, or whatever it is that lets your creative juices flow.


Perk # 28: Having Cancer Has Revealed To Me A Whole New Side Of My Autistic Son

My six year old son, Ben, has Autism.  While he is bright, his verbal skills are very limited.  Generally, he talks only enough to express his basic needs.  At this point, meaningful conversation with Ben is not possible.

While he says very little, Ben recently learned to use the computer to express himself.  Several times  since I have been diagnosed with cancer, he has surprised me by bringing me type written notes (done without prompting) with messages like:  “Dear Mom, you are nice” and “Dear Mom, I love you.”  Sometimes I will find his notes lying around the house, with messages such as, “Mom is sick”, or “Mom is hurt.”

On a rare occasion, Ben will catch me off guard by speaking a full, meaningful sentence.  Never was I more surprised than one night while putting him to bed, when he said to me, “Good night. Guardian angels watch over you and protect you.”   Some might say he was just echoing something he had heard me say a hundred times before.  True.  But the miraculous part is that it is the one and only time I heard him speak those words, and it happened to be on the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Ben may look like he is “in a world of his own”, but these gestures prove to me that he is a sensitive boy who is very much aware of what is happening in my world.

Tip:  Not everyone is great with words.  Just because someone cannot tell you how they feel when you are sick does not mean they don’t care.

Perk # 26: Cancer Gave Me My 15 Minutes Of Fame

Me with my biggest fan, my mom.

I have heard it said that during a lifetime, everyone will get their 15 minutes of fame.  I guess you can say that  cancer has given me MY 15 minutes of fame.  The number of visitors to my blog is far beyond my expectations, and I have even been recognized in public.  I am very grateful to those who read my blog, for the positive comments, and especially the shares.  While yesterday was a very rough chemo day for me, I was completely buzzed on the positive comments, and counting the hits on my blog.   (For my Newfie friends, it felt almost as exciting as watching the Julie and Clyde election numbers.)

Tip:  Just because you have a potentially life threatening illness does not mean you have to lie down and die.  New doors can open for you at any time in your life!