Monday, September 27, 2010

Burnt, burned, still breathing

With jittery fingers, through a haze of strong pharmaceuticals, today I look out at my 33rd year.

Friday came with flames. I don’t know where it started, but the smoke was everywhere. It was near enough to block the sun with fumes. From my downtown office run, back up and across to the west, on this day, my city burned.

Fitting then, that I should spend the next few days choking on its used body.

I worked and schooled through a sore throat on Thursday, and it was worse the next day. I ran around tending to small bureaucracies – a student loan here, a health card there – and all the while, gritty grey steam threw itself into the air between me and the sky. If I had been thinking about it, I might have compared it to breathing asphalt, but I just popped cold pills and hauled on my inhaler, oblivious.

At home I did the things you do when you’re sick; open the windows for fresh air – then close them again to drown out the sounds of sirens and the smell of burning plastic, wrap up in warm layers, draw a hot bath, take more cold pills, doubled my cortical steroids. Huny and roommate and good friend all celebrated joyously, one at a time. Toast with roomie – thanks for the bottle lady! Alone time with huny, and just keep your prying eyes out of our bedroom, living room, kitchen and shower. A few more puffs and pills and it’s off to dinner with good friend. Curry makes everything better.

Pills and tissues all day on Saturday, and not in the way that makes for a good, badly written evening drama. It hasn’t been this bad in a while, I think, why now? Sleep.

Sunday is the day of reckoning. Nothing has been accomplished, I’m pretty much at square one and I can’t even get started. My chest is heavy and pulls downwards, the kitchen table, my desk, the bed. Did that cement I breathed in coagulate? Can vapour do that?

Technically Monday, at 1:24 am, we haul off the emergency room because I just can’t breathe. No-one is around and the burning smell has evaporated. I get more of the same, always the same. Someone told me once there’s a cure for this disease but no-one will fund a proof clinic, or whatever it’s called, for the doctor who discovered it. Oxygen from a tube, light from a cylinder, steroids from a canister. Food and sleep waiting at home.

X-rays, then nothing from 5:30 to 8:30 am. We leave to go and sleep. I sign something that makes it sound like a doctor is right in front of me trying to help and I’m stubbornly leaving in a huff. No-one has seen us or spoken to us in three hours.

I cab back after a phone call saying now there are results ready. Pills; oh my old friend and insomniac Prednisone. Huny rehearses downstairs. He’s slept two hours.

Tiny flames remind me not to be consumed in minutia. A deep, proud tenor sax bellows my weary embers.

This year, everything burns.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Eat your way to a cure: Update

Your purchase of a bucket of sodium made to resemble chicken won't actually result in a donation. It turns out, every time KFC buys a pink bucket from their supplier, 50c are donate to the foundation. Your money doesn't actually go towards cancer research. It's very nice of KFC to have guaranteed a minimum of one million dollars, but I don't know that I want to be sold a promise to look into curing breast cancer wrapped in a bucket (non-recyclable) of fried meat.

more at: Consumerist

Just for fun, here's a quote from the Washington Post about what types of cancer are caused by fried foods, "But bear in mind that the "F" in KFC stands for "fried." Here's a line from the National Cancer Institute's Web site:

". . .studies have shown that an increased risk of developing colorectal, pancreatic, and breast cancer is associated with high intakes of well-done, fried, or barbequed meats."

For the record, I don't think we can buy and eat our way to curing any of this stuff. Think of it like a koan: eat less, consume less, and you're less likely to get eaten. Or at least, take the 30 bucks a bucket of chicken costs and donate all of it to cure research.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Eat your way to a cure

This is one for the record books. KFC wants to help the fight against breast cancer. They’re doing it by taking their extremely gross, unhealthy, body-image ruining, animal cruelty enhanced, carbon-guzzling, sodium-laden, deep-fried sludge and wrapping it in a big bucket of pink. That’s right, now you can eat your way to a cure.

Here's where someone with a stronger stomach than me actually wrote about this: The Canary Report

Monday, March 22, 2010

Congratulations America

We've been gloating about healthcare since 1966, possibly more loudly since '84 when the Healthcare Act was passed. But those days are behind us. You've finally found a way to cover all (okay most, we don't cover everyone either) Americans and get between individuals and the coverage they need.

It won't actually cut back on insurance administrative nonsense or dirty practices, but ours doesn't really either; there are other factors at work in our system that keep them relatively hands off. But that's the point isn't it? Your culture is different. Since the states unionized (some under duress) you've been insecure about government ownership over everyone. We get that. Sweeping legislation can be as dangerous as it is progressive.

Don't worry America, this is one of the good ones. It's a step in the right direction and as soon as another two decades pass, you'll see how right we were about parental leave, drug coverage - hey, if you can't afford the drugs your free doctor prescribed, why bother? - and universal daycare (two provinces out of 10, we're working on it).

Good morning America and good for you. If you ever need any administrative advice, for setting it up and getting it running, we're just a phone call away.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Open letter to medical specialists

Dear medical specialists, particularly those in non-emergency offices,

I need to see you sometimes because in consultation with my other doctors, more specific expertise is needed to treat whatever might be ailing me. It’s usually long-term, and relatively pricey, and because most of you are so busy, it means I have to suffer the condition for many months while I wait for an appointment.

That means that when I stare straight ahead in your office and slowly embed splinters under my fingernails by scratching deliberately on the arm rest, it’s not because I don’t value your opinion or the overhead cost in getting new office chairs. I just understand that flying into a screaming rage when you make me wait for hours is in a social ‘grey area’, so I choose instead to ruin something small and non-essential of yours.

Also, when your receptionist treats me like a lazy third-grader asking for more time to do their homework, I get annoyed, particularly because you’ve had three whole months (sometimes more) to get ready for my arrival here in your office, so there’s no reason for condescension. Asking how much longer after my original appointment time will I actually see you is a valid question, particularly when others go ahead of me while people at work/school/home/life outside my illness wait patiently for me for far longer than I told them.

When I get into your office to discuss my condition, don’t interrupt me. This is particularly relevant when you ask me a question and I attempt to answer it. Don’t guess, don’t talk over me. I know your expertise in the science of medicine is germane to my recovery. My expertise lies in living with my illness for long periods of time. I promise, I have relevant and useful information to exchange with you.

If you try to push prescription drugs on me and I say no, believe it or not, that means no. You see, there are other experts out there and though it may sound ridiculous, I consult with them and give their opinions the same weight as yours. I’m very pleased you want to introduce new drugs into my life, but when I tell you I already know about/have tried/have made a decision about a new medication that you just love to bits, you’ll have to learn not to take it personally when I stick with what I know already works.

I hope these small bits of advice assist you in remembering that you, like your patients, are a person and subject to social norms that all of us agree on. So is your receptionist. So is your technician while I’m at it. Let her/him know that if
I ask a question, it’s not because I’m being ‘argumentative’, it’s because I have a vested interest in what is happening with my body in your office.

Good luck reconnecting with your human side and may every single one of you who administrates medicine remain healthy for the rest of your days so as never to have to experience the stress and humiliation intrinsic to consuming basic medical care.