I said I needed the mental health break, that my mental health has to be as important as my physical health otherwise there is really no point to any of this treatment. And I asked the nurse, “Will it make that much of a difference to my physical health if I have that appointment a week later - if it means I get to have this mental health week at the cottage in the meantime?”
Sunday morning. We are all here at Camp Comfort together. Me and husband on the main floor. Our friend T and his girlfriend in the loft room upstairs. My husband is leaving today, he has a lot of work in the city. T and his girlfriend will be going back to their house in the little town up the road today. I’m moving up into the loft bedroom and staying here for the rest of the week until Friday.
I could have gone home with my husband, Dr B’s office offered me a chance to have an appointment on Wednesday, probably the pathology would be in by then. I said no. I said I had a chance to stay in a cottage by the lake for a week. I said I needed the mental health break, that my mental health has to be as important as my physical health, otherwise there is really no point to any of this treatment. And I asked his nurse, “will it make that much of a difference to my physical health if I have that appointment a week later, if it means I don’t have to give up this week at the cottage?”
She was surprised that I asked for that extension. I could feel it all the way through the phone line. She is the first person on the medical team that I met on my cancer journey. She is the one who stopped what she was doing at the end of a work day, looked up from her computer, looked at my little form, and booked me an appointment with Dr B for the very next day. She is an earnest young woman, permanently sombre from empathy for her patients, permanently stymied by trying to put all the vagaries of cancer into some sort ‘order’ that she can put into a schedule, a timetable. Organize. I sympathize with her plight. Her job is essentially hopeless. It can’t be done. She is strong anyway. She is one of the kindest women I ever met. I admire her.
She said yes.
So, I have a firm appointment for the Wednesday after I get back to the city. The pathology will come in sometime this week. It will be in by then for sure. That appointment won’t change. The results will be whatever the results will be. There is nothing that we can do to change them now. The results won’t be any different next Wednesday from this Wednesday. I may as well enjoy my life as much as I can. Yes of course I can choose to spend this week in the country taking care of my mental health. The doctor recommends it in fact. As does his nurse. It’s just that nobody ever asks. Good for you.
We had a great day yesterday, my husband and I spent some time out paddling out on the lake. We have no dog this trip and we missed him. Moose always loved going to the cottage and getting in the water, but it was nice for us to get in the water ourselves. We sat in the sun on the deck and simply listened to the water lapping against the shore. Then hot tub in the trees. Can’t beat that. A campfire to sit around. My husband and I would have stayed out longer, half the night if we could, but T’s girlfriend wanted to be inside, eating our appetizers sitting down at the table. We compromised with appetizers inside on the coffee table while sitting on the couches. This was the first time we met T’s new girlfriend, so it was a bit of an adjustment.
The two of us had some time to talk alone. T’s girlfriend is a psychologist who told me that her mother and brother had both died of cancer. And then she asked me some more professional than friendly-I-just-met-you questions about my experience of cancer. At the time I thought she was just rude and intrusive. But I realize now as I write this, that she was actually fishing for business. Putting herself into that power position of being able to address my deepest fears and concerns - for a fee. Death. The conversation was death. I turned the tables and asked her how she felt about watching her mother and brother die of cancer. How did she handle that grief. She blinked. And she spoke very carefully (professionally?) about how she was okay with it because she knew that with all the advances of modern medicine they didn’t have to suffer. It was peaceful. And they were in a better place. Phoney - that was my opinion of this woman.
I leaned a lot about psychologists during my career making documentaries. I learned that there are some really bad ones out there. Actively bad ones, not just incompetent. You have to really pay attention, they manipulate you, they don’t help you, and they get paid to do it. They manipulate you so that you are dependent on them, so that you never get better, you get worse, and they get paid, for as long as possible. They are not all like that, I also met some of the kindest, wisest people in that profession. You just have to be on your toes. If you need help you have to keep trying different ones until you find one of the good ones. That was always our recommendation whenever anyone asked. Never settle. Always hold out for a good one, someone you can trust. In my opinion this new girlfriend is not one of the good ones. And I feel like I dodged a bullet by not confiding in her when she was inappropriately solicitous about my cancer experience.
Luckily she’s going back to her house tonight and I won’t be seeing that much of her while I’m here for this week.
Luckily I have a whole week here at the cottage!
Dispatched: June 9