bogey & ruby

bogey & ruby

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Off Leash

I came across this old post from three years ago and decided to save it here. I remember that walk vividly. We don't get nearly enough walks these days and I feel really guilty about it.

Decided to be mindful during my Sami walk just now and avoid the usual direct line between points A and B. We started off by leaps and bounds, zig zags and wig wags, all the way to the park, with the wind hurrying us along and Sami turning around periodically to make sure I was keeping up. We scaled the snowbank blocking the entrance to the path, lost and regained our footing, slid to the bottom, fell into snow craters left by big feet, and jumped into others on purpose. We surged ahead on the smooth parts, paused to sniff the air for friends and left our mark so they'd know we had waited.  Noses down, we investigated EVERYTHING, unearthing relics from last summer, eating leftover leaves and twigs from fall and washing it all down with crunchy January snow.  We chased scaredy squirrels and barked at anyone who would listen, "Hey, are you there? We're over here!". We raced up the hill, caught our breath at the top and coasted down the other side, hesitating ever so slightly at the fork in the path at the bottom before turning right. The snowbank loomed ahead but this time we got stuck on its icy steepness and had to be carried over. The wind from the South met us on the other side making us balk at the thought of going home. That is until we remembered cookies waiting. Flipping a rude finger at points A and B, we sprinted as fast as we could, arriving happy and spent and ready for whatever was next. And that was our Sami walk today.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Dr. Phibes Rises Again

The waiting room was moderately filled with enough empty seats to allow for winter coats and purses placed strategically so that no one else would sit too close.

I made the tactical error of sitting next to an innocuous-looking woman who was soon joined by her husband. He plonked himself down on the other side of her with a combination of breathy wheeze and whistling fart. I wish I could say that was the end of it but it wasn't. The throat-clearing/sucking noises he was making from somewhere deep in his airways made me suspect he had a tracheostomy but I resisted swinging my head around to check. Knowing there was a medical reason for the sounds would have made me feel empathy for him and I needed a better distraction than that under the circumstances. Instead, I imagined Vincent Price as The Abominable Dr. Phibes, who ate from a hole in one side of his neck and communicated via a phonograph connected to a hole on the other side. Dr. Phibes was well-nourished enough to summon the ten plagues of Egypt to kill a bunch of medical personnel that he blamed for his wife's death.

Thankfully, the rest of the room was less scary and divided in two sections: irate colonoscopy clients on the left, and on the right, nervous colposcopy ladies trying to gauge the timing of their last bathroom break before their names were called.

After about an hour, I was given shelter from the wind and ushered into another holding area where the timing of the bathroom break became even more crucial. I found it odd when the nurse gave me a Johnny gown but told me to keep my boots on. I opted instead for argyl socks, blue booties, and black tee shirt to accessorize the gown. Fashion over function, or the other way around? 

There were three other women ahead of me. The first one to emerge was very young and looked a little shell-shocked. I'd heard the doctor ask her many times in a loud, booming voice if she was okay. I reasoned that she was probably too young to have experienced labour, the mother of all pain scales. The next woman to exit was almost cheerful as she announced, "Suivant, next!". I took a deep breath and caught her eye as she was putting on her coat. We exchanged a knowing smile. Bet she'd delivered a baby or two.

Suffice to say, and without the gory details, when my turn came, it was a lot worse than I had anticipated. God awful, in fact. The doctor had no bedside manner and asked me all sorts of questions I couldn't answer. I wanted to shout, "I don't know, my doctor died two weeks ago!", but instead I bit my lip and held my breath and tried not to cry. 

Some medical people try to make a connection, explain things, reassure. This one didn't do any of that. In fact, he might as well have talked to me with a phonograph sticking out of his neck. Yup, Dr. Phibes Rises Again. I missed my doctor so much right then, his calm and his kindness, his humanity. 

The nurse knew I wasn't okay. She saw the tears in my eyes. I wanted to cry on her shoulder but I didn't want to make a scene in front of the other ladies in the waiting room. "I miss Dr. Bray.", I whispered. She nodded sympathetically.

Did I mention how much I love nurses? Dr Phibes, not so much.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

February Muse

Random February: an old post written 2015-2-24

George Harrison is my favourite Beatle and tomorrow would have been his 72nd birthday. A few days before he died, I was in a jewelry shop in India, playing Here Comes the Sun on an old acoustic guitar I found lying around, while my dad haggled over some ruby earrings for my mother. To my delight, a young shop clerk recognized it and shouted out, "George Harrison!". Miss you, George. All things must pass.

Recently, I overheard two attractive seniors in their early 70s, in the lobby of an apartment building I was visiting, making plans for a coffee date later that day. Both were beaming as they parted ways and so was I. Love is that contagious.

A few days before I turned 52, two different store clerks, on two separate occasions, called me "miss", which prompted me to postpone getting my roots done for at least another week.

I have eaten three out of the four corners of my birthday cake so far. Woke up feeling blobby and vowed to start my diet today, but instead I am eating the fourth and final corner.

There were a lot of bad smells at work today. Some of them were mysterious such as the lingering B.O. in the stairwell way too early in the day, and the insidious onset of what smelled like vinegar (though definitely not the balsamic kind), or Elmer's glue, or maybe something dying (like our health care system), in the office. Is it possible for three people to share the same olfactory hallucination? Then there were the obvious smells like the bad one coming from the bathroom stall. Not that there is anything wrong with it. We all make those smells. But I always thought the rule was multiple flushes and wait until everyone leaves before exiting your stall. If, God forbid, someone does come in before you've had time to skulk out, deny it was you by pulling a face and pointing a finger at someone else. The last thing you want to do is flaunt all the bathroom rules by starting a conversation with a colleague who is clearly trying to breathe through her mouth.

I know it's time to take a break from everything when I start writing posts about bad smells. It's also time to take a breather when I have to fight the urge to bring my crying towel along with me to visits with clients instead of hope. Three more days until Spring break. Funny name for it this year, under present weather conditions.

Ah well, Here Comes the Sun, peeps.

Peace and love.


Saturday, January 2, 2016


My gynecologist died unexpectedly on December 30th. It's always a shock to suddenly lose someone you know, someone who was integral part of your life even if you had to make an appointment to see him, someone who took care of you for thirty odd years and was supposed to live forever.

The last time I saw him was December 17th. I'd drop by the office to pick up a referral slip and waved to him as he sat behind his cluttered desk.

The last time I spoke to him was a week earlier when he called my house at 7:45 am and in a cheerful voice, asked me to call him back as soon as I got the message.

"That was fast.", he said, when I finally got through. It wasn't likely to be good news. I'd had a Pap smear in July, choosing to have it processed through the public system. He'd warned me it would take about five months. I wrote everything down: suspicion of precancerous cells, biopsy, colposcopy booked for January 14th, follow-up three months later. "You can even go back to work afterwards." As if.

During my medical this past July, he'd asked about my son. I told him he was the best son I could ever ask for, and how grateful I was for him. When I was thirty-nine, he'd referred me to Dr. Biljan, a fertility expert. After complications following the first attempt at pregnancy, I'd decided to try one last time. My miracle boy, Sean, was born on February 9th, 2004 by emergency Caesarian. I can't tell you how relieved I was that Dr. Bray was the attending surgeon that night.

In August 2007, Dr. Biljan died of ALS at the age of 49. Another shock. Calculating back, I realized he must have already been diagnosed when I consulted him a year or so after Sean's birth, with the hope of having a second child.

These two doctors brought so much new life into the world, it's hard to imagine they've left it.

I've thought about Dr. Bray a lot over the past couple of days, ever since I heard the news. There has been a public outpouring of grief from his patients; there are so many of us. He was that rare kind of doctor, a specialist who knew the little details of your life and remembered to ask about them. He took the time to explain, to follow-up, to call you personally at 7:45 am to give you results you probably didn't want to hear, but if you had to hear them, better it come from his calm and reassuring voice.

I am so very sad for his family at this time, and for Julie, his longtime secretary. I'm also sad for what we have lost as a community: he was a fierce advocate for women's health and more recently, campaigned for our boys to have free access to the HPV vaccine.

Dr. Bray took care of me for much of my adult life. He brought my son safely into the world. And now he's gone. With that loss, a little more of my faith in the medical system erodes. It is my medical system too, one that I work in and from time to time rely on. I have seen it fail from the inside out on too many occasions to trust that all the dots will be connected after my colposcopy.

As my friend LC put it, "A woman's relationship with her gynecologist is a long term and intimate relationship." As far as I'm concerned, Dr. Bray is irreplaceable. And that's the heaviness of death, isn't it? The inconsolable part that stays with us forever.


       Sean and Gerry, post C-section.