She’s so vain, she probably thinks this post is about her.

Basset hound, head only, holding tennis ball in her mouth, eyes half closedThat last post was quite a downer. I’d considered just skipping that upsetting disaster, but did not feel right about doing so. I try to be honest here. Thanks to all for your kindness and support.

I thought we all deserved levity today–Friday is fun, remember?–so a dog post it is. I trust you love to hear about Jelly’s antics as much as I like to tell them. If you don’t, skip this post. For those still reading, I’m telling you this story to cheer myself up. Thanks for indulging me.

I’ve recently determined that Jelly, our four-legged furry daughter, is narcissistic. Narcissists have an exaggerated sense of their own value and importance and a need for others’ constant admiration. They can become angry or hurt if they do not garner sufficient adulation from others.

Jelly’s narcissism is most evident on our walks. Because she is a lover, not a fighter, Jelly gets very excited if anyone is approaching her on the sidewalk. The person may be a mile off but as soon as Jelly spies movement, she readies for a greeting, i.e., she wags and pulls.

Because Jelly is narcissistic, she never considers that the person approaching might not be interested in meeting her. Each time I must explain this sad reality to her, knowing she will be wounded and feel dejected. She is especially distressed when we reach the dog-averse person, who moves off the sidewalk or looks away as he passes us, rather than stopping to pet Jelly and tell her how beautiful she is.

I worry Jelly’s narcissism may be worsening of late. When a car slows to park beside us while we are walking, Jelly believes the driver is stopping to see her and goes into full greeting mode. She is terribly disappointed if the person who gets out does not acknowledge her.

On our walk the other day, Jelly took her grandiosity to new heights. As we were walking, a car slowed as it approached a stop sign. As the car decelerated, Jelly started pulling and wagging. Of course the driver was stopping to greet her! She was especially dismayed when the car drove off.

I understand why she is hurt in these situations: she always is when she is not garnering anyone’s full attention. Any narcissist’s outward confidence masks a fragile sense of self worth. Thus, a perceived slight becomes hugely distressing. (I know this because I am a psychologist, not because I am a narcissist, in case you were wondering.) How could Jelly possibly doubt how loveable she is?

It’s clearly time for intervention. There are no drugs that I know of to make a narcissist less self-important. Rather, intensive psychotherapy is the treatment of choice, assuming the person (or dog in this case) acknowledges the problem and is ready to work on it. The goal of intervention is to help the client come to a more accurate self-appraisal, and to help her cope better when she feels slighted.

Good thing I’m a trained professional. We’ll get started on this during tomorrow’s walk. I could use someone to drive the decoy car, though. Any takers?


Annie and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Do you ever have one of those days, those awful ones that you’d rather forget? That was my Monday. In this post, I’m breaking my promise to never again ask for a do-over.

The day started uneventfully: a lovely dog walk, breakfast, and a short drive to yoga. The gym is about a mile away, a route that I could drive with my eyes closed, but I wouldn’t. But this time, disaster struck. On a left turn, I hit an older pedestrian. He lost balance when he placed his hand on my car and fell on the pavement. Thankfully, I was driving very slowly and was able to stop immediately.

Before we go any further, I want to assure you that, although the fellow was likely bruised from the fall, he was not seriously hurt. He was able to walk, and was checked out by paramedics, but thankfully he was fine. That was all I cared about.

I am 100% responsible for what happened. A man was walking through an intersection on a walk sign and I did not yield to him. When car hits person, car is to blame, unless the individual is jaywalking.

I was very upset by this turn of events, as I’m sure you understand. I was unsure whether I had been reckless or inattentive, although I could clearly remember checking the intersection from all directions before proceeding slowly. I turned into blinding sun, which is not an excuse but a reality; I could not see the man crossing.

Emergency services arrived within minutes and police reviewed the incident with me. I was very upset and acknowledged fault. After completing my written statement, I asked the officer what witnesses had seen. Witnesses had confirmed my version of events, but the officer still issued me a very large ticket. As he handed it to me apologetically, he encouraged me to attend court to challenge the charge. Clearly he was implying he trusted I was driving with care.

Your first impulse may be to call my doctor and have my license is revoked; that was my first impulse too. That is, until witnesses confirmed my perception of events. This had nothing to do with my leukemia or my fatigue or undue care. You know from previous rants I was not on my phone. You are not unsafe with me on the road.

Over the past few days, I’ve forced myself to get behind the wheel. If I don’t, I’ll become afraid of driving. Sure, I want to avoid things that are scary for me, but avoidance will only make me more fearful over time. Get back on the horse, or behind the wheel, as the case may be. Sure, I’ve been driving more cautiously, especially when the sun obstructs my vision, but that makes sense, doesn’t it? You’d probably do the same.

This incident has also reminded me that sometimes drivers are inattentive or distracted or, like me that day, unable to see momentarily. There’s wisdom in the old adage: “Look both ways before you cross the street.” Yes, mom, you were right.

The cost of hospital parking is a small price to pay

Hospital parking sign: Save on hospital parking, 50% off

On more than one occasion in my blog, I have bemoaned the cost of hospital parking. I have significant medical challenges; must I pay so much for parking each time I take my lemon of a body for a tune up? Despite my whining and complaining, the cost of parking has not gone down. In fact, it has gone up to $14.25 maximum per day.

Long before I started whining, an editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal sparked this debate. Parking costs were labelled user fees that impeded patients’ and families’ access to medical care. I can attest that being sick costs enough without adding the high cost of parking.

Ontario’s recent freezing of its hospital parking fees reignited this debate across the country. Calgary’s local newspaper has printed many letters to the editor on this topic. I didn’t appreciate the writer who told sick people to stop griping because hospital parking doesn’t cost that much. Let’s see how you feel if your health ever declines and you too have to add an unexpected line to your illness budget.

Another letter asserted the funds were needed to cover costs of maintaining the parking facilities. This is a fair statement but it didn’t sway me one way or the other. Sure, someone has to pay for maintenance costs, but need it be me, or, more often, J., who is more dextrous with her credit card?

But one physician wrote a letter that stopped my griping in its tracks. He views parking as a small price to pay for free world-class medical care. He’s right. For $14.25 maximum per visit, Dr. Blood, a highly trained specialist and a Canadian expert in the CML field, oversees my care. Thanks to her, I’ve been living with leukemia for 3-1/2 years now. Then there’s Dr. Foie Gras, who, despite our infrequent $14.25 meetings, remembers my extensive medical history in detail and has kept my liver happy for the past 8 months. Add in all the expensive tests I’ve undergone to ensure my health and well being, and the intermittent hospital stays, which are certainly far from cheap. Finally, there are my cancer-killing drugs, four little white pills, which would bankrupt me if the Province of Alberta did not pay every cent.

Thanks to that doctor’s insightful letter, I’ve changed my parking tune. I’ll now gladly pay for parking if it leaves more money for funding the hospitals and medical staff who monitor my care. My parking costs are my tiny donation toward all the health care dollars I consume. In this context, parking fees are a small price to pay, don’t you agree?

Anyhow, there are so many better ways to direct my negative energy these days. I could, for example, bemoan the impending series finale of Downton Abbey. Yes, I soon may learn whether Edith will ever be happy, whether Lady Mary’s newfound love will finally kill her mean streak, and whether Mr. Carson will ever get off his high horse.

Tomorrow, when I go to the Cancer Centre, I’ll pay for parking with a smile, knowing I am in good hands. Or maybe I’ll let J. pay. All the more reason to smile.


Another celebration means another piece of cake

Multi-layer chocolate cake with large piece missing

I guess I’ll have to eat the whole cake myself.

Dear Readers:

We just finished celebrating my third blogaversary, so I can’t expect you to be game for another party, especially since I can’t offer everyone cake from here. Does anyone celebrate without cake?

You’re probably wondering what the occasion is. There are so many things to celebrate I don’t know where to start. This morning, for example, I took a lovely walk around the neighbourhood with my well-behaved dog in almost springlike weather. Sure, I should have put on sunscreen, but whatever. Life is too short to worry about skin cancer.

Then I remembered to drop off J.’s dry cleaning, since I figured the sooner I drop it off, the sooner I can retrieve it, clean and freshly pressed. Often it takes days before I notice a dry-cleaning drop off sitting by the front door. Today’s efficiency is indeed cause for celebration. I did, however, try to walk back out with not just my claim stub but the two pairs of pants I’d left on the counter. The store keeper stopped me, thank goodness.

Even my gout has vanished of late. If you’ve ever suffered from gout (“suffered” being the operative verb), with repeated and prolonged episodes like mine, you may appreciate how miraculous this is. Why have I been pain free for so long? I have no idea, but I don’t care, so long as it lasts.

It’s been a full 8 months since I’ve had a sleepover at the hospital. That’s worthy of celebration, isn’t it? I can’t even remember the smell of hospital food, although I trust it would come back to me with one whiff. As much as I’ve been well cared for during my admissions, I still prefer sleeping in my own bed and eating my own food.

We could celebrate the plane tickets and lodging J. recently booked us for a two-week trip abroad in April. Yes, we’ll be flying to the land of afternoon tea, wine gums, and fish and chips with mushy peas. (I’ve left out the scotch eggs because they’re one big fried sodium bomb.) To the land of free emergency room visits and hospital stays that won’t bankrupt us if we find we are in need. But let’s not celebrate until our plane takes off, okay?

All of these things are indeed momentous, but do not merit cake. How about this? You are now reading my 300th post (cue the fireworks and the marching band). I’m still waiting for that writer’s block. No sign of it yet. Too bad for you.

A frank discussion of the fraudulent person I present in my blog is long overdue. Sadly, I am much more appealing in writing than I am in person. I’m better spoken and wittier and much more fun to be around here. In real life, I’m boring and tired and distractible. My neurons fire much more slowly out there than in writing.

I guess, to be fair, we all try to present ourselves to others in a positive light. I try to share a balanced view of my strengths and weaknesses, but only to a degree. What if you don’t like me? If you ever want to interact with the living, breathing me, i.e., the boring, spacey, tired me, call me maybe. I’ll pick up maybe, if I’m not napping.

Thanks for reading along,


Yet another pill post

Long line of pills from top to bottom of page

Pills R Us

My dear friend is now getting better at home, which is fantastic news for everyone but Jelly. Our poor single child is back to sharing her home with two boring humans. Thank goodness for the meet up with her park friends this morning.

On to less important matters. J. tried to dissuade me from writing yet another post about my pills. You’ve been there, done that, she said. Oh well, it’s my blog and I can repeat myself if I want.

My pill regimen has remained largely unchanged for the last 6 months now, except for a reduction in one pill to alternate days. I still have my granny pill case, which works well if I remember to take the pills in it.

Once every two weeks, I sort my pills into two morning and two later-day cases. First, I put my stash of pill bottles and cases on the counter. And then I count and sort and toss until my little cases are overflowing and I need a nap.

In my efforts to keep my pills organized, I’ve become obsessive. I need 7 pills in my morning case, and 4 or 5 spread across three later-day doses, depending on the day. But there’s one problem: pill designers are grossly lacking in creativity. I have 7 white pills daily, two of which are almost identical sizes, as well as two pale yellow, and one pale green. I can barely tell the pastels apart some days. My two capsules are more vibrant colours but they are a variation on a rusty theme and I confuse them too. Forget about sorting my cornucopia by colour.

Rather, I sort my pills in order of importance. Since my sorting is for naught if I die from cancer, I start with my chemo, three little round white pills in the morning and one after dinner. I consider these pills my highest priority. I want to live.

Then I move to my diuretics, one potassium-sparing and one potassium depleting. If I don’t keep my potassium in check, I could have a heart attack, assuming my pill arranging doesn’t kill me first. I need these two pills to pee. It’s pure coincidence that they are both yellow.

Then I throw in my thyroid pill. Thankfully I’m at the light green dose of late instead of light yellow or light grey. If I don’t take this pill, J. will start to wonder whether I’ve turned into Dr. Jekyll and check off the TSH box on my lab requisition when I’m not looking. She will also tell the doctor I’ve been “difficult” of late. She’s probably right.

Finally, I throw in a Lactaid pill because someone who is obviously not lactose intolerant determined that lactose would be a great filler for medication. Thanks for that, buddy. The negligible amount of lactose isn’t so negligible when it’s added to several pills.

That’s just the morning. I’ll spare you the later-day sorting or you’ll need a nap.

I fear you’re thinking that I should graduate to those daily dosing bubbles the pharmacies make up for old, forgetful folks. I’m still trying to overcome the trauma of my granny pill case, so let’s not go there. You don’t want to see my difficult side, do you?

ICU Déjà Vu

Labradoodle and basset playing tug of war with toyFollowing our exquisite dinner out Friday night, we were unsure how the weekend would unfold. (As an aside, the restaurant location was a surprise until we headed out, whereupon J. determined she could drive us there faster if she knew where it was.) It is a long weekend for us, the Alberta Government’s attempt to break up our unrelenting winter by naming today’s holiday Family Day. We don’t really deserve the extra day this year given our uncharacteristically warm and sunny weather of late, but don’t tell the government that.

Thank badness, something came our way to pass the time. We were thrown into an improvisational play, but for the first time, J. and I have had supporting rather than central roles.

So now, my apologies if your heart skipped a beat with that post title; I was not the one in the hospital, our dear friend was and still is. Emergency surgery led to a brief ICU admission, including intubation and sedation. Since his wife was busy caring for him at the hospital, J. and I jumped into action.

These friends have been there many a time when we’ve needed them in similar circumstances, once even rushing back from their cottage four hours away to take in Peanut Butter, who is no longer with us, and Jelly while J. remained by my bedside. We knew our dogs were being well cared for. In fact, we often heard that they were racing up and over the living room couches. (Should we have paid for the new couches they coincidentally purchased just a few years later?)  In addition to the dog care, J. often arrived home to thoughtful gifts to distract her from her worry.

We have some experience at receiving support and knowing what would be helpful given our wide-ranging experience with hospital crises. Over the past few days, we have kept their dog, Jelly’s bestie, well walked and provided a few purchased meals–wife must keep healthy and strong while husband recuperates–but beyond that, we have hopefully provided limited support via video of the dogs playing happily and off leashing in the house, as they are wont to do when they get together.

But we have not visited our friend in hospital, since you know how I feel about hospital visitors. I can’t assume our friend would feel the same way, but I’d spend too much time fretting about whether I was exhausting him to be good company anyhow. People in hospital need to focus on healing so they can get home, and hospitals are unfortunately not ideal places to do those things. Also, in case you didn’t know, they are full of SICK people and I can’t risk getting sick, nor can J. because she could then infect me. I know, somehow I’ve made it all about me again.

We wish our friend well and hope he will be discharged from hospital very soon, yet he’s provided a perfect opportunity for us to celebrate our adopted local family. J. and I are both far from home, so we have developed our family of friends for times like these. And it feels good to be in the supportive role this time. Hopefully we’ve done a half-decent job, although I doubt we’ll be up for any Oscars.



Who in the world is Princess Charming?

Snow White embraced by princess, quote "My prince charming is a princess."

Did you know Snow White was gay?

Valentine’s Day, that holiday created by conniving greeting-card companies, florists, and chocolatiers, the ultimate heterosexist celebration, is almost here. It’s the day when single people are sad they’re alone, even if they are surrounded by people who love them.

Following many years of lonely Valentine’s Days, I appreciate being married to such a catch. Sadly for her, I will be treating our 15th Valentine’s Day like any other day of the year. No last-minute flowers or chocolates, although I have booked a table tonight–yes, I realize it’s the 12th–at a highly touted new restaurant. I’d tell you more but I’ve managed to keep the location a secret for a record four weeks now.

Perhaps it’s time I clear up who’s the Princess Charming in our relationship. You must think it’s J., who is pretty fantastic. She has ridden in on her white horse to rescue me from many a crisis over the years. We met just after my polycythemia diagnosis, following my blood-clot hospitalization, and she nursed me back to health. She has been there through thick and thin (I am referring to my weight, and yes, this is an especially thick period), and has proven her loyalty, love, and persistence in the face of adversity. Of course she deserves the title.

That’s why you should be seated when I tell you I’m the real princess in this relationship. I’m not a bad catch either, thickness aside. I am funny, engaging when I’m not sleep walking, even charming sometimes, a descriptor commonly reserved for psychopaths. (No, I’m not a psychopath. Did you really have to ask?) For a few hours every day, I’m even up for an adventure as exciting as going to a new fancy grocery store. And not everyone arrives home to her own personal psychologist, ready to listen attentively and provide support, or to pour her a beer in her favourite tall glass, whichever she needs most. Who could ask for more?

Thanks to me, J. has been exposed to the world of hospitals and sickness, and has amassed a wealth of medical knowledge by joining me at appointments, to the point where she could now become employed as a patient advocate. What’s that, you ask? It’s a person with extensive knowledge of the medical system who helps patients smoothly navigate that system. Additionally, any medical school would grant her early acceptance with credit for past experience. Look at all the professional opportunities I’ve created for her!

And finally, it’s obvious that, although I am the housewife, J. is the Cinderella in this relationship. She notices the dust bunnies much sooner than I, for example, and as the self-proclaimed superior dishwasher, I gladly defer to her. J. would surely be doing the bulk of the housework were it not for our lovely house cleaner.

Oh no! If I am indeed Princess Charming, will I someday revert to froghood? Or is that some other fairy (read: gay) tale? Your guess is as good as mine.

If you’re single this Valentine’s Day, don’t fret. Love is a many splendored thing, whatever the heck that means.

This psychologist’s secret to a happy marriage

First, a few updates from last post:

1) The cauliflower pizza crust was meh, perhaps because the toppings were too moist or because I lost my cooking groove after The Incident. We renamed dinner a “vegetable plate” and enjoyed it nonetheless.

2) Yes, you too can burn off plastic that has hardened on a stove element without further disaster, because anything I can do, you can do better.

3) J. has left for work, somehow trusting I will not burn down the house. With this in mind, I turned the stove on only to complete #2, above.

4) J. has not, as yet, hired a sickiesitter (only old people have “caregivers”) to supervise me during the day.

In honour of Valentine’s Day, I thought I might share my insights on a successful marriage, gleaned from years of therapy with couples. Sadly, couples often seek therapy when at least one spouse has reached the point of no return. There ain’t no fixing that. Sometimes my job is supporting a decision to separate. That’s me, the home wrecker.

I know I’m in trouble when a couple comes in and one member blames the other for all relationship problems rather than considering his or her contribution. Herein lies Lesson #1: Both people play a role in the breakdown of a relationship. Couples are better to stop trying to change one another and learn to accept their partner as he or she is.

This leads us to Principle #2: Celebrate your differences. Dear friends bestowed this wisdom upon us years ago, and thank God they did. J. regularly proclaims she’s celebrating our differences as she slams shut the various kitchen cupboards I have left ajar, for example.

Despite our knowledge of this principle, we did not weather The Incident as well as we might have. J. and I have long celebrated our cooking differences by agreeing that one person cooks while the other vacates the kitchen, and refrains from back seat cooking. This is not as simple as it sounds.

To J., my cooking style is a combination of whirling dervish and Pig Pen. Yes, my kitchen chaos makes her anxious. Although I contributed nothing to J.’s stress yesterday (this is not a good way for a couple-wise person to speak, ever, so yes, I am educating through irony here), I did make one critical error: I cooked while J. was home. I well know that J. prefers not to experience my kitchen chaos first hand. Thus, I save my binge cooking for when she is out, leaving no evidence of my inevitable kitchen disaster in my wake, except, perhaps, the scrumptious fruits–or vegetables–of my labour, and an overflowing rack of washed dishes.

If Principles 1 and 2 fail, there is always Principle #3: Blame the dog. Jelly would do anything to keep her parents happy; she’s told me as much. She doesn’t want to live in a single-parent home.

Come to think of it, Jelly never puts her toys away after she’s finished playing with them. Ever stepped on one of those plastic dog bones? Stray Lego doesn’t compare.

Basset hound lying in bed with several dog toys


Buffoonery for beginners

I know you count on my blog posts as a source of important information and wisdom. You expect me to say something intelligent or enlightening or, failing that, funny. Well, today will be no different. Good thing you’ve checked in.

Cheese wall at grocery storeHere is today’s lesson: Do not leave your plastic cutting board covered in finely chopped onions on the stove. This way, when you turn on the wrong stove element, your cutting board will not melt, thereby emitting a foul and most certainly toxic smell throughout the house.

Furthermore, do not make this mistake when your beloved is enjoying a relaxing day at home. If you have witnesses, you will not have the opportunity to hide the evidence of your disaster.

A final piece of wisdom: according to the internet there are various ways of removing the melted plastic from your element. One involves turning the element on again to melt the plastic and wiping it off quickly with a damp rag. Don’t tarry with the rag on the element, or you will be dealing with not only a foul odour in your house but a house fire. The second involves a utility knife and alcohol, but I’m not sure I’m safe with a knife. Maybe you want to do what I’ll probably end up doing, which is to buy a new element. Forgive me, Earth, for I have sinned.

Bakery counter with cookies at grocery storeHad I not stumbled several times during our few earlier outings today, and walked right into a deep puddle because I was too busy greeting a dog to watch where I was going, J. might not be worried about my potential danger to myself of late. She is probably wondering how I get through the day intact when she is not here. Frankly, I wonder the same myself.

Need she be worried about my recent spacey spell? Need I? I guess I could but I’m not sure how that would help the situation. Maybe I need to ensure I not take on so much in a day, not that I have much at all to show for today.

Cake counter at grocery storeBut we did have an awfully exciting day yesterday; maybe I am still recovering. Yesterday, J. and I drove across town to Calgary’s first high-end supermarket. Yes, we drove a good half hour to see a grocery store, but trust me, this place is a food lover’s dream. A gorgeous bakery and deli, a cheese wall with wares from around the world, incredible fish and meat counters–rack of lamb anyone?–and a variety of freshly prepared foods to eat in or take home. We even met the new owner! The young woman at the cake counter was such a good ambassador for the store that we had no choice but to buy a piece of cake for dessert. It would have been rude to pass her by when she was so warm and welcoming.

No wonder I’m exhausted today. I should never have attempted tonight’s widely touted cauliflower pizza crust. I’m sure it will be a disaster given my track record today. I think I’ll dial it back tomorrow. J. will be relieved, I’m sure.


Another year, another blogaversary

I somehow missed World Cancer Day yesterday. I too could have been shaving my head or riding my bike or showing the world how to live well with cancer. Instead, I was busy scripting today’s post. We all have our priorities.

Happy Second Blogaversary to me! Yes, some of you have been reading my random thoughts for two full years now. I haven’t died yet, nor have I run out of topics to write about. Some people have verbal diarrhea; I have the writing runs. In fact, I am stockpiling random posts for J. to publish after I die. Yes, that was my dry sense of humour. Worry not, dear reader. When I’m six feet under, you will not hear a peep from me, I promise.

Golden retriever at computer with coffee by side.

I’m sure opposable thumbs would help.

Over these two years, I have challenged my perfectionist nature, posting despite many a grammatical and spelling error. When a proofreader “liked” one of last week’s posts, I wasn’t sure whether to be honoured or hurt, but first I scoured that post for errors. Couldn’t find any. Ha! But I’m sure you all caught the mistake in the very first sentence of the last post. Don’t bother checking; I’ve fixed it now. Consider me your model of imperfection.

Over my two years of blogging, I have somehow garnered 11,000 views. I have 211 followers. 161 are fellow bloggers; the rest I have bullied into following me. Thanks to all of you for being my community of support (except for those of you who want my money). My followers who are themselves bloggers deserve my gratitude, for I take, take, take, but I do not give back. I may not “like” your posts or follow you, but I do check in sometimes, and I admire what you do because I know how hard it is. I do wish you well, but I can only manage the drama that is my own life.

I especially revere my health-challenged readers, who visit without knowing exactly how this story is going to end. Well, we all do know how this story is going to end: at some point I will die. Hopefully it won’t be for a long time, but it will happen. Although I have helped many anxious people in my work, I don’t cope well with others’ stories of ill health. I hope you understand my maintaining my distance.

You are all brave to risk reading, and I will understand if you jump ship at some point. You don’t have to yet, though, since I’m feeling pretty darn healthy of late. So I will keep writing, and I hope you’ll keep reading. I’ll try to make it worth your while.

Thanks to my friend C.’s insight, I want to believe that a blog that is all about me helps me stay connected to you. Maybe upon reading what I’ve written, you have reached out to me somehow, maybe you’ve shared the post with a friend, or you’ve opened up with someone in your own life. I hope you’ve sought support for something you would otherwise have suffered through alone. We all need support during the tough times.

May we maintain our relationship for years to come, in sickness and in health. I’ll do my part.

Let’s raise a teetotaller’s glass in celebration: Here’s to another year of my random musings. I hope you enjoy the ride. L’Chaim!