Sunday, 6 August 2017


I haven't been writing because I've been feeling overwhelmed.  We are still, always, short staffed at work.  That never seems to end.  I'm not one to give my patients less just because there is less time which makes me both mentally and physically exhausted.  Which leads to a melt down and crying.  Which leads to calling in sick, which makes work even more short staffed.  Which leads to guilt, which leads to crying.  You can see where this is going.  Even though I can see it, it's difficult to change direction once I'm going down that road.  I am working on it though.

My son is in jail.  The same son who told me to fuck off and that he never wanted to see me again.  Yes, him.  He called about a month ago to let me know that he was in jail.  He and his girlfriend had been drinking and fighting.  The police were called and he was charged with assault and given a no contact order.  Twice.  So now he is in jail with two assault charges and four breech of no contact orders.  He doesn't get it.  He doesn't seem to have any remorse.  Doesn't seem to have any deep understanding of his own part in this fucked up play he calls his life.  He is a pathological liar but the worst lies he tells are the ones he tells himself.  I love him but I don't trust him which is difficult.

And my dog Lucy has been sick which sounds like a country song but it is horrible watching an animal in pain.  She is a rescue dog and before she came to us she was used as a hunting dog.  I imagine she was run hard and pretty much ignored.  Half her teeth are missing.  She was skin and bones when we got her.  And now she has something called spondylosis which is not fatal, just painful.  She also has an enlarged heart.  The hardest part though is the space she takes up in our own hearts.  She is a sweet, good natured, funny dog that has taken up residence in my heart.  To watch her suffer was painful.  She is on medication now though for the pain and is feeling much better.  She lays curled in a patch of sunshine by my feet as I write this.

My son called again last night.  He calls a lot now because well, he's in jail and has nothing better to do.  He called last night, only caring about himself and his own life, oblivious to the needs of those around him.  After I hung up the phone I felt raw, like my skin had been scraped away, leaving me open to the world.  I took the dog for a walk and wanted to cry.  I realized that crying won't change anything.  Me talking to him won't change anything.  This is not my circus.  It is his path and I let it go.  And then something wonderful happened.  Lucy and I went for a long walk and I didn't even think about my son.  I relaxed.  I enjoyed the trees, the evening, the birds.  It was peaceful and I remembered that the world is inside my head and I can decide how I want to feel about it.  That it's up to me, not others. 


Thursday, 29 June 2017


I assisted on a liver biopsy this morning.  An elderly man whose liver was full of tumors, his belly hard and bloated, fluid starting to accumulate around his organs.  When we were done he asked when we were going to start fixing him.  He broke my heart a little.

There is no fix for him.  I'm a nurse and I can't tell him but I hope and pray that the next doctor who sees him tells him how bad his cancer is, how little time he has left.  He's a lovely old man who I imagine has worked hard his whole life for his family.  He was a miner which can't be an easy job.  He came to Canada forty-seven years ago, he had to learn a whole new language at thirty-eight.  It can't have been easy for him.  He had no complaints, other than feeling tired all the time.  He doesn't like feeling tired.

New patients arrive daily.  Old patients disappear, never to be seen again, only faintly remembered.  Some patients come for many years before they succumb to this horrid disease, others only last weeks.  Some are very young, a two and a half year old girl this past month and an eighty-five year old gentleman today.  Some have nobody with them, others have their whole family with them.  Some are convinced they will beat this disease, others look worn out and tired of treatments that make them feel worse rather than better.

Today I only had maybe ten patients because I worked in ultrasound, assisting with biopsies.  It was easier in some ways because there was less grief to deal with.  All of my patients carry grief with them and I think it leaks into me at times.  There are days when I can manage to witness and honor their grief and there are days when I am too rushed and tired to deal with more grief.

I carry my own grief as well, we all do.  Regrets, loved ones we've lost, mistakes we've made.  It adds up over a lifetime.  Katie's diagnosis was the hardest thing I've ever had to deal with.  The grief was overwhelming.  It almost killed me but I survived.  Perhaps it is the grief in my building that is getting to me.  I can feel it around me and I can't turn away from it.  It's too important but I need to find a way to witness my patient's grief without carrying it around with me.

Saturday, 17 June 2017





The lesson which life repeats and constantly enforces is
“Look under foot.”
You are always nearer to the divine
and the true sources of your power than you think.
The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive.
The great opportunity is where you are.
Do not despise your own place and hour.
Every place is under the stars,
every place is the center of the world.

John Burroughs



Sunday, 11 June 2017



Things I'm thankful for today.

My cold has passed and I have my energy back.
Time to cook .
My garden is blooming.
My daughter called me this morning and we had a lovely chat.
Dishes that are done and drying.
Time to sew.



A walk this evening with the dog.
The laundry is done.
I have a week off.
The greenhouse this morning.  More plants for my shade garden.  I do love my garden.

What are you thankful for today?


Saturday, 3 June 2017




I've worked in cancer care for the past six years, been a nurse for thirty-one years.  Friday we had a young woman, thirty-four I think, come to us for an MRI scan.  Query spinal cord compression.  She had back pain, incontinence and a seizure on the way upstairs from radiation.  Last month she had total brain irradiation for leptomeningeal disease.  Her husband was wonderful.  They were both wonderful young people.  And that's the problem they were young and she's dying.

This past week has had one patient after another about my age with cancer, with advanced cancer.  More than once when explaining procedures to patients, both the patient and their spouse have burst into tears.  A man two years older than me with stage four bowel cancer with less than a year to live.  A twenty-seven year old with stomach cancer and less than a year to live.  And it breaks my heart every single fucking time.  I'm tired of people dying.

I'm tired of seeing patients come back year after year, or month after month, looking just a little worse each time until they just don't come back anymore.  It used to be that I could ignore the fact that I don't see certain people anymore.  But then I look back six years and realize all the people that just don't come anymore for scans and it becomes overwhelming, the grief and the pain.

I've become friends with some of my patients.  One woman and her husband came to our wedding.  I run into people out walking or at the mall.  I joke with my patients.  I know what some of them do for a living, how many kids they have, that they foster children, that they hate making pickles, that they love chocolate cake.  I have a connection with so many of them and that connection keeps getting broken.

I'm feeling overwhelmed lately with their grief and my own grief.  My boss thinks it's a job but it's not just a job, at least not for me, and that's what's making it so hard.  I'm burnt out.

All of this death is getting to me.  I keep thinking about my own mortality and wondering what it is I am meant to do with this one short, precious life of mine and I wonder how I will feel when I am told that my days here are numbered.  Will I be satisfied with what I've done, how I've loved?  I'm feeling rather old and mortal lately which I suppose scares me a little, a lot. 

I have left behind the age of endless tomorrows and I'm struggling to feel at ease with my own mortality. 




Monday, 15 May 2017


My son and I aren't really speaking.  Last fall he sent me a series of texts in which he told me to fuck off and told me that the best gift I could ever give him would be to never see him again.  That didn't stop him from repeatedly asking me for money.  A few months ago he texted me to tell me that he had been diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. 

My son lives with a woman who has three children, none of them are his.  When he told me that he was diagnosed he also asked for money for his rent.  I told him no but that I would pay for his medication.  I don't know if my son has bipolar disorder or not, the medications he's on are antipsychotics and antidepressants.  He was diagnosed by a doctor at a walk in clinic, not a psychiatrist.  My son is also a habitual liar.

I have a very good friend who has bipolar disorder.  It's a horrible disease.  My friend was trending up into mania last week when we were talking about my son and she told me she was surprised that I didn't have more involvement with him because I'm so supportive of her struggle.  I told her that I had to protect myself from him and that I don't have to protect myself from her.  She is my friend, there is space between us.  There is very little space between a mother and her child. 

I want to help my son but he is angry with me.  Angry that I remarried.  Angry that I don't give him money.  Angry that I don't do what he wants, when he wants.  I don't know how to support him without getting sucked into his lies, so I don't.  I keep him at arm's length to protect my own heart. 

I just finished reading a very good book about bipolar disorder, "My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward" by Mark Lukach.  It gave me more insight into what it's like living with someone with bipolar disorder and the effects it has on a family.  But it also made me feel resentful, I already have one dependent adult child, I don't want to care for another one which makes me sound like an awful mother but it's true.  I'm tired of taking care of others.  I know it's not my son's fault but I can't deal with this right now.  It hurts to much.  Every time we are in contact he hurts me again so I do feel the need to protect myself.

I need to find a way to support him that doesn't drain me.