It takes an introvert to know an introvert, or does it?

Guy lying on floor says: "I have an Introvert Hangover. I'm totally exhausted from too much human interaction.

During our PALS visits at the university last week, Jelly became quite tired early on, as she often does. Despite the chaos all around her–other dogs, exam-fearing students–she lay down and fell asleep. I apologized to the student petting her at the time, telling her that Jelly often finds the visits exhausting. The student responded, “Maybe she’s an introvert.” Kids these days. They’re so smart.

I’d never really thought of Jelly as an introvert before, which is odd because I am one myself. Introverts like their alone time. They may also enjoy being with others, but they can find social interaction draining. Extraverts, on the other hand, are energized by spending time with others. They leave the party wound up rather than needing a nap. Most of us are ambiverts, falling somewhere in the middle.

Sometimes I compare myself to my extraverted friend, Ms. Bubbly (it’s Dr. Bubbly to you, but Ms. has a nicer ring to it), who is at the other end of the spectrum from me. She’s constantly running from one social event to another. I don’t know how she does it.

Ms. B always invites me to the frequent large social gatherings she holds at her home. She understands when I politely decline each and every time. She knows I’ve always found such get togethers overwhelming.

Later this month, Ms. B will be hosting her annual Hanukah party, which I have already declined. I need to save my limited social energy for two engagements we’d previously scheduled for the nights following. This means I will not get to eat any of the 12 dozen latkes she has ordered for the occasion. (You read that right: 12 dozen. She has a lot of friends.) The authentic latkes alone spur my motivation to go, but my introversion still won out. That and the potential for bruising from having to battle the crowds to get to the latkes.

Ms. B and I often go for coffee after Sunday yoga, a sign that introverts do not avoid all social interaction. They may prefer more intimate gatherings, and they enjoy solo time to regroup occasionally. When we go out, Ms. B and I have lovely visits during which we catch up on each other’s lives. I relish this one-on-one time.

I can manage small groups, so long as I don’t overdo it. Two major social engagements last weekend necessitated a day on the couch. My introversion long predated my leukemia, so I can’t blame my health. If I hang out with you, whether alone or with others, and my eyes start glossing over after a time, please trust it’s not you, it’s me.

Now that I think about it, I realize that Jelly hasn’t fallen far from this introverted tree. She prefers small groups of dogs, cowering in the bushes when larger packs approach. She, like me, assesses any situation fully before jumping in with four paws. And just as I enjoy my alone time, she is fine to amble the off-leash park on her own, stopping to greet only the most fragrant of dogs. When she is overwhelmed by a group, she does exactly what I do: she avoids the situation altogether, or she lies down and takes a nap. Like mother, like daughter.

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A story without a fairy tale ending

Cover of Hunger by Roxane Gay

As the year nears its end, I become excited about the publication of the Top 100 book lists. One book on every list I’ve seen is Hunger: A memoir of my body by Roxane Gay. When I am a grown-up writer, I want to be Roxane Gay. (Sorry Gabrielle Zevin, you’ve been usurped for now. I still love The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, though.) If you’re interested in reading Hunger, know that it’s not an easy book to get through. The author bares all in her writing.

I hadn’t known of her previously, but Roxane Gay is a respected author of both fiction and nonfiction. She is also morbidly obese in what she justly calls a fat-phobic society. She was gang raped at age 12, after which she gained weight to keep herself physically and sexually safe from others. Dr. Gay views herself as a victim rather than a survivor of her rape, and acknowledges she has not healed from the trauma. She suggests people stop judging the obese without knowing their story, and realize that fat [her word] people have other attributes too.

Dr. Gay, who has a Ph.D. in technical writing and is currently a professor at Purdue University, acknowledges years of self-loathing, challenged relationships, and discomfort in her own body. Her frankness about her life is both uncomfortable and enlightening. She described the profound effects of an emotionally abusive relationship in a way that still haunts me.

She speaks of the all-too-frequent judgement and the difficult situations that she experiences. Strangers censure what she places in her grocery cart and deride her as she walks down the street. Well-meaning friends patronize her by sharing their insights about food, nutrition, and weight loss. Professional colleagues cannot hide their surprise when, after corresponding on line, they first encounter her in her physical glory. Imagine realizing you’ve been provided a chair for a reading that will not comfortably support your body, and worrying the whole time that that chair could break.

This book helped me to imagine what being obese would feel like in a society where thinness equals beauty. Is anyone truly above judging people based on their outward appearances? I know I’m not.

Near the end of the book, Dr. Gay described an ankle break that resulted in a hospital stay, and her community of support’s unexpected rallying around her. Despite all her self-loathing, she realized how many people love her and would miss her if something were to happen to her. I was reminded of how moved I was by my own troops’ tremendous support of both me and J. when I was deathly ill in the ICU. I also recall how much I appreciated the teary hugs I received when I was finally sent home. I too felt that I would have been missed had I not survived.

I can’t say reading this book will be fun, but you too could scratch an insightful read off your Top 100 list. Like me, you may find that Dr. Gay’s insights stay with you. When I’m next on an airplane and the fattest person walking down the aisle takes the seat next to me, I’ll think about this book, and I’ll make as much room as I can. Do unto others and all….

 

How to survive a jump off the cliff

Whoops! I guess I’ve been misspeaking by calling my CML drug chemotherapy. The daily medication I’m on is not technically a chemotherapy. My tyrosine-kinase inhibitors (TKIs) are actually called targeted therapies. They stop my CML-causing genetic mutation from producing leukemia cells, and they really work. At last count, there were very few of these deadly cells hanging out inside me.

The only problem with TKIs is that they have side effects that can render them intolerable for some patients. I’ve had few difficulties with the medication–I barely notice I’m on it–with occasional exceptions. While it effectively inhibits my cancer cells, my TKI reduces the production of my white cells and platelets as well. That’s why my white blood count is much lower than it used to be, which is not a bad thing. It’s the TKIs’ platelet-lowering effect that is proving to be problematic of late.

When my liver was misbehaving a few weeks back, Dr. Blood Lite was concerned about my lack of platelets. There just weren’t enough of those sticky cells swimming around. This makes me vulnerable to bruising and bleeding. I had noticed small changes that I had attributed to the perils of travel. I always come home bruised from vacation, mostly due to my clumsy suitcase handling. This time I was covered in black and blue, although I hadn’t had any major incidents like falling or walking into walls. I must have been going through a sensitive period.

My bruises started healing upon my return, and indeed my platelet counts had risen when last assessed. Over the past few days, I may be having a little backslide, however. One bruise I can attribute to yesterday’s gruelling dolphin pose in yoga class. God did not intend for my body to mimic the dolphin. Dolphin pose puts a lot of pressure on my elbows, so the bruising is almost expected.

Only this morning’s repeat blood test will confirm whether my platelets have tanked again. If they are low, Dr. Blood Lite may insist I suspend my TKIs for a few weeks to allow my bone marrow a reprieve. As he said, my drug has been working so well that a few weeks off should not be a problem.

A drug holiday is not a problem for him, I’m sure, but how about me? If you were on a medication that was keeping you alive, would you want to tamper with it? To me, this feels like bungee jumping with a faulty cord. Oh, and a deadly fear of heights. I know rationally that a break from my TKIs will not make my leukemia cells proliferate wildly, but I’m not always rational at times like this.

If the doctor suspends my TKIs, I will take that leap of faith since I trust him with my life. I will close my eyes and jump. I may know that I’ll be fine with a short reprieve, yet I’ll feel better once I can resume treatment again. To me, it will feel like being back on solid ground.

In the meantime, no more dolphin poses for me. Better safe than bruised.

woman bungee jumping in midair

The princess and the pee

Red basset hound licking woman's face

We’ve been home from our international adventure for two weeks now, and my post-vacation fever is long gone, but my mellow yellow phase seems to be hanging on. I don’t quite feel like myself, although I feel like I should by now. I’ve been dabbling in yoga and walking the dog, and Jelly and I have been PALSing around, yet when I’m at home, I am crashing.

I don’t want to admit that I’m still unwell. I tell myself my symptoms are all in my head. Maybe jet lag is hanging on. Maybe I’m depressed because our trip is over. Maybe I’m overexerting myself during the day. My blood test results were almost back to normal, so I don’t have reason to feel so crummy. But I do feel crummy. I can’t seem to make it through the day, and sometimes not even through the morning, without a nap.

Yesterday, for example, I took the dog to the dog park so she could eat sticks (why else do dogs go to the park?), I came home briefly, whereupon J. and I headed to the grocery store. We were home by 11 a.m. and I felt like I’d been up for hours. As I sat down to script my Monday post, I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Before I knew it, I was talking to the couch.

Annie: Hi Couch.

Couch: Hi Annie. Short time no see.

Annie: Ha ha. Hey Couch, I was wondering, would you mind if I lay down for a bit?

Couch: I was actually hoping for a little alone time today. You’re seeming a little needy lately. How about talking to Bed instead?

Annie: Are you crazy, Couch? If I go to Bed, I’ll have to admit that I’m still sick. Bed is where sick people nap. I’m not sick. 

Couch: All right, but could you take the other end today? My right side is stiff from all this laying about.

Annie lays down on the other end of the couch. Within minutes, she is out cold, completely missing who said yes to what dress. About an hour later, she is awoken by the pitter patter of poorly trimmed dog nails.

Jelly: [Licking Annie’s face, which is at perfect Basset height] Hey mom, whassup?

Annie: [Firmly] Back to your bed, Jelly.

Jelly: [Whining] But mom….

Annie: TO YOUR BED!

Jelly sighs and then briefly returns her bed, whereupon Annie promptly falls back to sleep. Within minutes, Jelly is back up and pacing.

Jelly: [Urgently] Mom, pretty pretty please, could you take me out? I really have to go. I’m gonna have an accident. Please mom!

Annie: Jelly, sometimes it’s not all about you.

And so Annie dragged herself off the couch, put on her coat, and took the dog out to piddle. So much for the nap. And Couch was relieved to finally have some alone time.

As you have probably gleaned from this story, I’m not quite myself yet, even though I expected to be back to my normal by now. When exhaustion is my sole symptom, I struggle to accept that I am sick. Would I be more kind to myself if I had a cold? Maybe not. My denial runs deep.

 

 

A true Israeli breakfast of champions

Israeli breakfast buffet, eggs, olives, etc.

Lest I leave you with the impression that if you go to Israel, you’ll come back with a high bilirubin count, let’s talk about the food. It’s incredible, every single morsel.

Because Israel is surrounded by countries that are, at best, ambivalent about her existence, Israeli food is largely produced within its borders. In our travels we passed olive trees, date trees, banana trees, grape vines, and pomegranate trees dripping with fruit. The bananas were so tasty, J. refuses to eat another Chiquita.

(By the way, I don’t recommend eating an olive straight from the tree–it’s not a pleasant experience. Squeeze it and watch the oil ooze out, but cure your olives before you take a bite. I learned this lesson the hard way.)

Then there are the milk products, the yogurt and labneh and white cheese, which is a loose facsimile for our cream cheese but smoother and much tastier. Because so many restaurants and hotels in Israel have kosher kitchens to accommodate the religious Israeli residents and the tourists, many kitchens exclude meat from their menus. There isn’t enough space in this small country to produce a lot of meat. Rather, there is a very large sea known as the Mediterranean that is bursting with fish, and since fish can go either way–it can be eaten with milk products or with meat–the fish is aplenty.

Now imagine that all of this food finds its way into the buffets of the typical Israeli breakfast at hotels. This meal is often included in the cost of the hotel. We call it “Israeli breakfast” while Israelis call it “breakfast”. Whatever you call it, it is a perpetual exercise in self-restraint.

Imagine a variety of yogurt and cheeses, granola, dried fruits, and preserves. There’s smoked fish and tuna salad alongside a variety of breads and rolls. Add in eggs in various preparations, perhaps in spicy tomato sauce, or as an omelette to order. Of course there are sliced tomatoes, olives, and a mishmash of salads, including Israeli salad (which Israelis call “salad”). It’s finely chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions. Then there’s the stuffed pastry with savoury fillings like mushrooms or cheese.

Finally, there’s dessert breakfast, usually consisting of babka, i.e., chocolate- or cinnamon-swirled heaven, and halvah. Halvah is tahini and sugar, with added flavourings like cocoa powder or pistachios or whatever you can imagine, pressed it into a block. For immediate sugar shock, shave some halvah onto your babka.

If Israelis ate breakfast like this every day, they’d all be morbidly obese. The full Israeli breakfast is purely a tourist phenomenon, not that I’m complaining.

You won’t be surprised to learn I gained 10 lbs over the course of 14 days. But you may be surprised when I tell you that J. gained 0 lbs eating as much or more than me. Then we came home, and within one week on my strict low-sodium diet, I was back to my fighting weight.

I’ll admit it feels crummy to gain 10 lbs in 14 days, but losing 10 lbs in a week more than makes up for it. Best diet ever. You’ll come back with your bilirubin level intact, but if you gain weight, it’s all on you.

 

If I’m yellow, must I be mellow too?

Picture of Alberta premier and delegates breaking ground on new cancer centre

Did I mention they’ve broken ground on the new Calgary Cancer Centre? If I can stay alive for 6 more years, I’ll be in the front row at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. I’m looking forward to more space, more windows, a more upbeat, patient-friendly environment, and better sound proofing.

The clinic rooms at the old centre have padded doors, either to protect patients who want to fling themselves around when they hear bad news, or to provide soundproofing between the patients and clinic staff. The soundproofing doesn’t work, though, as I was reminded yesterday when I overheard the nurse unexpectedly scheduling me for an urgent abdominal ultrasound. Turns out that little fever I’d spiked the previous week had wreaked havoc on my body.

Dr. Blood Lite was so alarmed by my blood test results, including a spike in my liver enzymes, and a dramatic dip in my platelets, that he initiated further assessment. And just like that, our day went up in smoke.

I knew my liver was unhappy. I’d lost my appetite, I’d felt so crummy I’d skipped yoga, and I noticed a few other changes that involve the colour yellow. But I was slowly starting to feel better, i.e., less yellow, so I didn’t think much of it.

Off I traipsed to the lab to repeat my blood work, followed by the ultrasound clinic for a wee peek inside. Unfortunately, I was assigned the almost-graduate ultrasonographer, when I needed the 20-year expert.

I am not easy to scan. My internal organs are displaced by my ginormous spleen, rendering some hard to see altogether–where art thou, oh pancreas?–so it took Ms. Trainee some time to sort out my innards. She spent a very long time examining one spot over and over.

Eventually Ms. Trainee brought in her supervisor, who said, “I know you’ve been here a while. Do you mind if I take a look?” It was a rhetorical question. How would you have answered her? There are many ways I could have responded. I could have said, “I’m really exhausted and sore from all this poking and prodding after a very long day. Can I go home instead?” Or, “Ms. Trainee, if you were having trouble sorting me out, could you not have dragged your supervisor in 45 minutes sooner?” Or, perhaps, “No!”

Ever the compliant patient, I failed this assertiveness test and said, “Fine.” If I hadn’t let her continue, would she have had adequate results for the doctor, or would I have had to endure more poking and prodding another day? We’d been at the Cancer Centre for hours already, and I wanted to go home, but even more I didn’t want to have to return. I was ready to put this little yellow blip behind me. Thus I endured another half hour–longest abdominal ultrasound ever–while J. worried I’d died during the examination. Eventually, I stumbled back out to the waiting room.

I hope I’d handle a situation like this more effectively were it to arise again. I’d ask more questions and express my needs, both of which I failed to do yesterday. Maybe then the experts could move their magic wand a little faster. I can only hope.

There is no vacation from yoga

Child sitting in lotus position with eyes closed

I have a confession to make: I’ve been home since Monday and I haven’t written. You know that already. Here’s a better confession: I skipped yoga yesterday, I who NEVER skips yoga. However exhausted or busy or sick I might feel, I always drag myself to yoga. Yesterday I wasn’t up to it, so I slept in.

We arrived back home from our whirlwind trip after a looong travel day. I thought I was jet lagged the following morning when I woke up feeling weird, when in fact I brought home something with me. My body went to Israel and all I got was this lousy fever. (I didn’t even get a t-shirt because, despite our relentless searching, the t-shirts were indeed lousy.) I spent two days sleeping on the couch, and by day 3, yoga day, I had a decision to make. I chose sleep.

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I did not do any yoga for the past three weeks, however. I didn’t take my mat with me, but I used many of my yoga skills to my benefit while on vacation.

Grover sitting beside pan of shakshukaThanks to my mindfulness training, I was in the moment every single moment. I was taking everything in, sights, sounds, smells, and, of course, tastes. I was so absorbed in the experience, I slept soundly every night so I could absorb all the newness again the next day.

When we were walking, I was aware of the importance of maintaining my posture and my balance. I need to maintain awareness of my body in space if I am on uneven pavement in unfamiliar territory. I am pleased to report that I did not fall even once, although I came close a few times. (Let’s say falling in the Dead Sea when I tried to stand from floating doesn’t count.) Sure, I walked into a few people and a few walls, but that is a normal occurrence for me. Surely my intent focus on other experiences distracted me at these times.

These are all useful skills, but what’s most useful when I travel is my ability to squat. Toilets vary in foreign countries, and I understand they won’t be as pristine as ours at home. Many lack toilet seats altogether, others are scary looking, and all require a careful hovering in position. Without this skill, I’d be at risk of falling in the toilet or missing my target when I pee. (Of course I have penis envy, and it’s heightened when I travel.)

I am pleased to report that, not only did I manage to vary my squat to differing toilet heights, I did not once wet myself. Thus, my current ill health has much more to do with the sickly person beside me on the flight home than with my fraternising with any germy toilet seats. (I’m kidding. Toilet seats don’t make you sick; they make you wet.) After two weeks of daily squats, I can’t wait to tell my yoga teacher that I am all muscle.

My fever has now passed, thank goodness, and I’ve left the couch to venture outside. I’ll be at yoga this Sunday, for certain, showing off my newly firm quads.

Sometimes I forget that yoga isn’t a competitive sport.

Taking my life in my hands, or my feet

Mini Grover in bush overlooking Bahai gardensCuriously, over the past week, I decided to focus on my vacation rather than writing my blog. Sorry to leave you hanging, but I’ve been busy showing Grover the sights in this glorious country.

Several friends expressed concern when I mentioned I was going to Israel. “Is it safe there?” they asked. “Aren’t you worried about terrorists?” “Not at all,” I said. I lived here previously during a time of high conflict, so I know how safe Israel actually is. The highly skilled armed forces ensure that citizens are protected from harm. Security is ever present.

Unlike in Canada, Israeli men and women are conscripted at age 18, barring circumstances such as a physical or psychological impairment, a criminal record, or religious observance. There is a significant military presence all over the country, and a much higher level of vigilance than in Canada. There needs to be.

Mini Grover resting by the Sea of GalileeIsraelis may be safe because of the measures in place to protect them, but tourists are another matter. I quickly learned that I am taking my life in my hands by crossing the street here. The drivers here are insane. That whole notion of passing on the left is foreign in this foreign country. Those using the smallest vehicles are the worst. Imagine a motorised scooter (I’m talking about the two-wheeled, push-off-with-one-foot variety that children take to school) or a motorised skateboard overtaking a bus from either side at high speed. And why wear a helmet when you could risk your life? I am grateful to not have seen any of these daredevils thrown from their vehicles. The result would be ugly.

I have learned to cross the street with caution, and so far have not been hit by any moving objects. There have been several close calls, however. I feel like I am in considerably more danger crossing the street in Israel than I was in the UK, where I never quite mastered the direction of oncoming traffic.

The sidewalks are just as or even more dangerous than the streets. Forget the distracted walkers glued to their telephones; those imbeciles are wreaking havoc on sidewalks world wide. Not only are two-wheeled vehicles taking over the roads here, they expect me to share my sidewalk space with them. Israeli sidewalks are flooded with any fast-moving vehicle that needs to circumvent a traffic jam (I use the word “need” loosely here). Patience may not be a virtue of our people after all. Considering how much walking J. and I have done over our first week here, I can’t believe that I am still intact. I’ve long insisted leukemia would not be the death of me, haven’t I?

We have five days left here, assuming we survive. We have seen so much of the country already and have so much more to explore. I am so glad we came to this marvellous place. I promise you will have an experience like no other if you vacation here. Make sure you bring sunscreen, good walking shoes, a bathing suit for the Dead Sea, and your helmet. Even if the two-wheeled-vehicle risk-takers don’t wear them, you still could don one as you’re walking. The Israelis will keep you safe from terrorists; it’s up to you to keep yourself safe from their vehicular shenanigans.

Grover at Beit She'an overlooking the ruins

 

 

My irritability knows no bounds

crying baby in bed

Much appreciation for the three kind and loyal fellow bloggers who liked my last post, which could have benefitted from considerably more editing. Thanks for seeing beyond its many shortcomings, you generous souls. I’ll aspire to do better today.

Because I volunteer in a nursing home, where influenza can spread like wildfire, I scored an early flu vaccine. Shots start today for the general public, in case you weren’t aware, but some people get to jump the queue, including those who who work in facilities housing people vulnerable to infection.

Did I happen to mention they’re predicting a bad influenza season here based on Australia’s rates of illness? I thought you’d want to know.

Last week, following our PALS shift at the retirement home, I lined up with Jelly so I could get my shot. Except there was no line. The immunization clinic was set up for nursing, administrative, and other support staff, and volunteers, but no one was attending. Had no one noticed the mini chocolate bars for the newly immunized?

I sat down beside the immunizing nurse, who seemed overly excited to have a subject, while Jelly gladly endured the other bored nurse petting her. Everyone was content.

[Warning: Keep reading only if you plan to continue to the end of the post.]

The shot hurt from the moment the needle entered my arm. As she put a bandaid over the insertion spot, the nurse mentioned that many people were complaining of pain this year. Thankfully she didn’t disclose this before she inserted the needle since I am highly suggestible.

In the past, I have a sore arm for a few days following the shot, like a heavyweight fighter has punched me, but this time I thought I’d skip that part. I was unscathed until day 3, when I woke up in discomfort, trying to remember what the heavyweight champion looked like. The arm felt better after a few days, as it always does.

J. also scored an early flu shot as a volunteer at the children’s hospital. She received her injection the day my arm was the sorest. After the shot, she denied any pain on injection. She’s such a show off. To add insult to injury, nobody even punched her arm the next day. She felt nothing.

After last year’s shot, I was irritable. Irritability is a potential side effect of the shot, and I’m suggestible, remember? When J. suffered no ill effects, I immediately got cranky, but it had nothing to do with my flu shot; I was cranky because of J.’s suggestion that I am a baby. I may be a baby, but J. still shouldn’t have called me one. A loving partner knows when to fudge the truth.

You will likely react to your flu shot like J. did, i.e., you won’t feel a thing. If you’re irritable, blame it on me for telling you about my adverse reaction. You too can consider my reaction as a function of my sensitive temperament.

Maybe I’m irritable because we’re leaving for Israel tonight and I can’t decide which hoody to take. My life has no end of stresses. It’s a wonder that I can function at all.

 

Introducing the emotional hangover

Have I ever defined the post-Bar Mitzvah (Bat Mitzvah, in my case) blues? When someone gears up for something for so long, and it’s fantastic, but then it’s over? That’s what today feels like for me.

After months of anticipating yesterday’s Light the Night Walk in downtown Calgary on a beautiful fall evening, it’s over. My special support team walked the full five kilometres with me–a kilometre for every year–to celebrate my enduring good health. The evening was perfect.

I’ve described the walk before but allow me a medically inaccurate and absurd analogy. Imagine each walker as a blood cell. There are the white blood cells, the largest in size but fewest in number. Those are the leukemia (and other bloody disordered) survivors holding our little white lanterns. Then there are the red blood cells, which are smaller but more plentiful than the white cells. The red-lanterners are those walking in support of the white lanterners.

Platelets are small fragments of blood cells. They are represented by the gold lantern holders, who are survivors in their own way, walking in memory of someone who has died. They may feel they’ve lost a part of themselves.

Finally, let’s not forget the plasma, which carries nutrients, hormones, and proteins through the body. Consider the plasma all the amazing volunteers who registered all the walkers, distributed t-shirts and lanterns and coffee and hotdogs, and lined the pathway cheering us on.

We of many lanterns walked along a narrow pathway, clustered together but hopefully not clotting. We white lanterns were surrounded by our devoted red-lanterned supporters. One group followed after another, each its own community of red-lanterened support for one little white lantern. The gold-lanterned folks formed their own groups or were sprinkled amongst the whites and reds (we had two golds on our team) because blood disorders touch too many people. Along this narrow pathway–an artery? a vein?–walked all these blood cells, supporting one another, guided by our plasma support staff.

At moments during the walk, I looked around me and saw my little group, distinguished by their absurd team attire–perhaps next year you too could look sharp in a multicoloured Dr. Seuss hat–and I realized how not alone I am. While I searched for my own team, I saw so many similar groups ahead of and behind me, reminding me that we’re all in this together.

I’m blessed by the people who walked with me and the people who sent their regrets and wished me well. To the team members who hunted down my ridiculous 5-year pin, which I finally received from a kind volunteer, a 5-year survivor himself. To the two very handsome firefighters, the retired one who appeared on site unexpectedly with his beloved partner, the other one in uniform who handed me my survivor’s rose at the end.

Today I am spent, drained, hungover, but in a good way. You must know this feeling. I look forward to next year’s event. If you too aspire to be a red blood cell in colourful clown attire, know there’s always next year.

Crowd picture at Light the Night Calgary 2017

A microscope may help you see our team.