I Beg To Differ

This has been a week full of epiphanies, some good and some downright disturbing. For the last several months I’ve been suffering—and it’s no exaggeration to say ‘terribly’—from some kind of shoulder affliction. It got worse during lockdown, what with being at the computer all day long with little reprieve, to the point where I was having trouble sleeping, writing, and couldn’t even work in the garden without suffering the consequences. I’d seen my doctor, Dr. Monteith (not his real name), he of the dickish bedside manner, at the beginning of the year; with minimal examination, he pronounced it tendonitis and recommended physiotherapy. Then everything closed—physiotherapy isn’t much help virtually, which I’ve written about before, and I’ve never been good at following through on things like “stretch with this weird rubber band 5 times a day”. Next, I got a prescription for an anti-inflammatory that made me woozy and didn’t help the pain. Then the world started to open up again, and I could see my massage therapist, but that didn’t help a lot either, even though under normal circumstances she’s magical and wonderful. Finally, I called the doctor’s office at the end of my wits—in a fateful turn of events, my regular doctor was on holiday, and his replacement immediately ordered an X-ray and ultrasound. ‘Immediate’ turned into a month though—apparently there were a LOT of people waiting for appointments and I had to wait until July 31 to get it done. Three days before, I made the dreadful mistake of googling “shoulder pain and cancer” just to see if there was anything to be concerned about, and I ended up crying hysterically when I read about something called a Pancoast tumour:

Me (sobbing): That’s it. I have all the symptoms. I’m going to die.
Ken: You don’t have all the symptoms. It says here the key one is weight loss.
Me: (stops crying): Your POINT?
Ken: It’s been months—you haven’t lost any weight. Weren’t you saying just the other day that you couldn’t fit into your shorts from last sum–
Me:
Ken: Well, one of us is going to die now.

It DID make me feel a little better that I hadn’t wasted away to a shadow thanks to some rare tumour, but that still left the mystery of the incredible pain I was experiencing. I got to the clinic on the 31st and, despite the crowds, I was seen almost right away by the ultrasound technologist who was very dour:

Me: By the way, I have a latex allergy.
UT: Uh, OK.
Me: It says on the sign at reception that I’m supposed to notify you.
UT (rolls eyes): OK.

Despite her attitude, it was a real treat to have an ultrasound that I didn’t have to drink gallons of water for and then have to hold it in while someone pressed down on my bladder. When she was done, it was off to X-ray, where the technician was slightly more pleasant. Then the waiting began. It was the Friday before the long weekend, so I wouldn’t get any results until at least last Tuesday. And that meant several days of worrying. Finally, on Wednesday morning, the doctor’s office called. My regular physician was back, apparently, and had seen the results:

Nurse: Dr. Monteith says you have calcific tendonitis.
Me: OK, what does that mean?
Nurse: He says you should get shock treatments.
Me: Get what? Won’t that be painful and somewhat brain damaging?
Nurse: Hang on. Sorry, shock wave treatments. You can get it done at a physiotherapy office.

So, epiphany number 1: Calcific tendonitis, which means that I have calcium deposits grinding around in my tendons and muscles, which accounts for the pain. Shock wave therapy is supposed to break them up and help your body reabsorb them.

The second epiphany came on Thursday when Ken picked up the radiologist’s report from Dr. Monteith’s office so that I could take it to my shock wave treatment next week. It says, and I quote: “Calcific tendinopathy involving the subscapularis and supraspinatus tendons, calcification protruding through the humeral head, otherwise unremarkable.”

 

“UNREMARKABLE”?! Excuse me?! It was signed M. Rooney, and all I can think is it’s Mickey Rooney and this is some kind of joke. Does M. Rooney not know about my outstanding colon AND the lifetime achievement award I received for my last mammogram? I was PERSONALLY CONGRATULATED by the Chief Health Officer for both of those! Well, M. Rooney, you’ve poked the bear in the worst way possible. From this moment on, I VOW to be nothing less than completely f*cking remarkable in everything I do. And if my dentist is reading this—you better get ready for the whitest, most cavity-free remarkable teeth you’ve ever seen in your whole goddamn life.

And speaking of remarkable, my good friend Paul, he of the Notes From The Avalon blog, has just started a new blog called The Desert Curmudgeon. One of the things he likes to write about are weird Canadian TV shows, and even though he’s American, I’ve awarded him honorary Canadian citizenship. His new focus for commentary is on the short-lived 1970s Canadian sci-fi series The Starlost, and he asked me to write an intro to his first hilarious installment, which you can read here. I highly recommend him, and hope you pop over and maybe give him a follow.

T And A+

You may recall that, a few week ago, I got a congratulatory letter in the mail regarding a certain colon test that I’d had. This week, I got ANOTHER letter, again giving me kudos for taking good care of my health. “Thank you,” it said, in fact, “for taking good care of your health. Your results are amazing.” OK, it didn’t actually say ‘amazing’ but it should have, because that’s how I felt when I read that my results were normal. And what test was this? This was the test that makes every woman cross her arms over her chest and sigh in painful anticipation. Yes, I had a mammogram. Now, there’s nothing to be alarmed about—this was just a routine check, unlike several years ago when I had to have one because my doctor thought I had an ‘anomaly’. THAT was scary, but I came away with a clean bill of health. I hadn’t had a mammogram since, but Linda Rabenek, the Chief Cancer Care Prevention Officer in Ontario seemed so pleased with me last month, and I didn’t want to let her down by ignoring the numerous notices that I’d been receiving in the mail. So I booked the test, along with a dental X-ray and a massage. No, they weren’t all at the same clinic, although that would have been convenient, but I had carefully mapped out the day so that I had enough travel time between each event. So I scheduled the x-ray for 2, the mammogram for 3 and the massage for 4, realizing that I was going to NEED a massage after having my B cup assets in a clamp. I won’t bore you with the X-ray, which took approximately 2 minutes and gave me plenty of time to go shopping.

Then I headed over to the medical centre and again, lucky me, they took me right away. “Just put this gown on,” said the nurse, “and come on back.” I never know if those things are supposed to tie in the front or back, so I slung the gown on and just kind of clutched it around me as I made my way to the mammogram machine (by the way, I just googled “what do you call a mammogram machine” and the answer was ‘mammogram machine’ or ‘special x-ray machine’. Also, the plastic plate you have to lay your boob on is called a ‘plate’ and the paddle that comes down and turns you into a human pancake is called the ‘paddle’ and I thought it would all be fancier than that BUT IT’S JUST NOT).

Anyway, she made me drop the gown and stand in front of the machine, then came a series of manipulations that were highly personal and I won’t discuss them at all except to say that I wished I was a little taller and maybe a man because then she was like, “OK, hold still” and the paddle came down. For the first fraction of a millisecond, it wasn’t so bad but then the paddle KEPT COMING DOWN. And I kind of screamed, and she said, “Oh, does it hurt a bit?” but I couldn’t answer because the breath had literally been sucked out of me, so I just whimpered quietly.

After a few more seconds—or was it an eternity?—of torture, the paddle released. “Good job you didn’t pass out,” she said, and she kind of laughed when she said it, and I’ve never wanted to throat punch someone so irrationally and so badly in my life. And for the men reading this who can’t fathom how a mammogram must feel, I’d like you to imagine that you’re sitting on the floor of your living room with your legs spread apart, and your pet elephant walks over and stands on your testicles, compressing them between his foot and the floor. Then your elephant laughs at you and tells you not to pass out. That’s what a mammogram is like.

(Slight tangent: the above analogy engenders more questions than it does answers, I realize that. For example, why are your legs spread apart? Why do you own an elephant? Why is an elephant’s foot simply called a foot and not something fancier, like a verhoofen or a gargantupaw? Do elephants really talk, and what’s more, do they mock people who are screaming in pain? They always seem so friendly on Facebook.)

And as if that wasn’t enough, then she did the other side, which, unbelievably, hurt even more, and I was additionally terrified, thanks to her bringing it up, that I MIGHT pass out, but if I did, I wouldn’t be able to fall to the floor because my boob was in a f*cking vice, and I would just dangle there like some kind of bizarre, Trent Reznor-esque performance art piece. Finally, and to my blessed relief, the whole ordeal was over, and I don’t have to go through that again for at least 2 more years and by then, I will have forgotten how much it hurt.

But it was all worth it in the end, because now I can advertise myself as being high quality, and I have the papers to back it up. Like say I apply for a new job or something, and they ask for special skills and qualifications, I can proudly put “Certified healthy from top to bottom by the Province of Ontario”. Or if something happens to Ken, and I start online dating, I can include “A-Plus T&A” on my Tinder profile.

Seriously though, get a mammogram when you’re supposed to. Don’t let it be the elephant in the room—that job belongs to the mammogram machine.

Also, I just found out that my flash fiction piece “Magpie” was nominated for Publication of the Year (Non-Poetic) by Spillwords Press. If you want to vote for me, you can go to this link. If you’d like to read the story, find it here !