Live piano music floats around the foyer at the Southern Interior Cancer Clinic in Kelowna every day at noon. A second volunteer steers a free coffee/tea cart past me for the third time.."sure I can't whip you up a cuppa?" the silver-haired gentleman coaxes. I finally concede and I'm glad as my nervous fingers wrap around the steaming waxed container. My foot swings in the air in beat with the music. Classy, I muse, checking out the clean design of the building and the way every thing seems to run so smoothly. It has to. The numbers through these doors every day are astounding. I'll bet it's more than come through the Orchard park mall on Boxing Day!
The date is January 19th and the time has arrived for me to meet the radiology oncologist. Dr. R will decide my future of remaining in Kelowna anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks. She will also either sentence my arm to be radiated, possibly heading me toward a lifetime fear of lymphadema (swelling that can become permanent) or saying we need only to nuke the breast tissue. I have lost all faith in my "luck" up to now and have steeled myself for anything. "They'll probably want to zap my good breast as well which will take another month," I quip, worrying now that I've said this, I've gone and jinxed myself.
We have made it to the Okanagan and its not quite the warm weather I was expecting. Still a crispy -10C and it snowed this morning. At least the roads were fairly good on the trip down.
My Uncle and his lovely wife are away on holidays and have graciously lent us their home- a fifteen minute jog away from the hospital/cancer clinic. I made a run there and back today checking out where to park and what route we should drive. It's my first jog since my lungs got wheezy a month ago and it feels good to be back at it.
Dave, the nurse, goes over my information with me, noting where all 4 of our kids live and asks about their health as well as Barry's. He laughs at how the questionnaire got filled out, when asked "why are you here?" I put "I'm lonely" and for Sex? Often. Yes, I filled out the important parts properly. Menses started at age 13. List of operations :5 to date and climbing.
Dr. R comes in and after a brief exam delivers a very tightened explanation of what will happen, could happen and hopefully never happens. A talk you can tell she has delivered hundreds of times. For once I have to store the questions in my head because there is no gap to jump in. She gets out what she needs to tell me and then I am welcomed to ask away. Her thoroughness has systematically checked off every question I had thought of other than getting her approval for the extra vitamins the naturopath recommended. Vitamin D, multi B and the multivitamin are fine, she says. Just not in any extreme doses.
Then came the magic words. Sixteen treatments. No arm radiation- just the breast and unpreventably a small bit of lung that will inevitably get in the way (the way I understood it).
I am now to take my gleeful self to the "fish bowl" waiting area for the CT scan that will map out where my heart and lungs are. This info gets put into a computer which will tell them what angles to radiate me at when I return in 9 days.
I get drawn on with ink and two mini blue dots are tattooed onto my skin. This ensures I will never be radiated in this same place ever again and are there to help line up the same co-ordinates each time I arrive for treatment. The techs are very sweet and the entire procedure takes only another thirty minutes from my life. I accuse them of being vampires the way they eye up and comment on my long neck. They smirk but still stick me with the sharp pin for the tatt. See! Just like vampires only they didn't use fangs.
We buy a parking pass good for the entire month for the low sum of $3, versus the $1.50 per hour for parking anywhere else. It's great as you only need to come for a max of thirty minutes each visit after this. Ten minutes to line you up and ten minutes to zap you and you're good to go for the rest of the day!
I'm starting to realize that this is going to be the easiest part of the entire ordeal!
On a last note for the day, we leave the clinic and head to a pub for lunch. The waitress asks if I have come from the cancer clinic and I say I have. We get 10% off our meals as clinic patients are VIP's here. Now I feel like a princess. I order a light beer to make up for the pinch of the tattoo and vow to return to the Quail and Pheasant. The bar is hosting a Super Bowl party Feb. 6th and this bald head is going to be there. There will be lots of door prizes which would have meant nothing to me last week. But now, it appears my luck has returned. Only three weeks of radiation! We will be home by February 20th!
Maybe with a Super Bowl prize tucked under my am?