Written on the Body #23 August 10, 2020: The Incredible Shrinking….

A few weeks ago, I might have said this phrase applies to me: “The incredible shrinking woman.” Despite eating well, I was losing a few pounds that I didn’t want to lose, and, as I noted, was dealing with some side-effects of chemotherapy and not sure if the new medication would be effective. Then I had a CT scan on July 27 — regularly scheduled scans are part of the protocol — which showed that the cancerous lesions in my liver are significantly reduced in size – The Incredible Shrinking Lesions! And there is no metastasis to other organs.

When I saw my oncologist on Aug. 4, he said he wanted me to actually see the results, rather than read about them in the report — so he took me into the inner office, for doctors and staff, and showed me the computer images of the lesions, comparing May to July. It was like looking at a map where a very large island has suddenly shrunk to one-quarter of its size. (we’re talking about centimetres here, say 4,2 x 3.3 cm reduced to 1.9 x 1.5.) This is very good news… though my optimism is still tinged with caution. I feel as though my “borrowed” time is now extended… and hope to enjoy it with grace and love.

So now for some random thoughts:

We have had a couple of friends come visit, one at a time, and sit on our balcony. Thanks to Shawn and Vernon for the mint plant, and Catherine for the gelato. (Even my doctor is advising me to eat ice-cream!)

And the Raptors are back, with a shortened but intense season. It’s great to see our favourite players again. And especially good to see how the Raptors, and all the NBA, are speaking out for Black Lives Matter, with players wearing meaningful slogans on their shirts (though the League wouldn’t let Norm Powell wear “Am I Next?”) and with excellent interviews and commentaries on the racial situation and the need for change. I hope these messages reach out beyond the already-aware to a larger audience.

By the way, I gained some notoriety in chemo last week, when a man in a nearby chair was trying to remember the name of one of the Raptors players, and I called out “Anunoby!” How do you know so much about basketball? the other patients and a nurse asked, looking at this small, grey-haired woman, holding a book. We’re fans, I said.

I also marvel at the chemo nurses’ skill in doing what they do, handling powerful drugs and delicate equipment with professional correctness and also taking the time to be caring. This past week, my bra was pressing too tightly and I was trying to wriggle it off — not easy when you’re sitting in a chair with IV tubes going into the port (small device) on my chest. A nurse nearby (not the one specifically treating me that day) saw my struggles and came over to help, drawing the curtain for privacy. Between us, we accomplished the task, and I felt more comfortable — and grateful to the nurse for her kindness.

As Roger and I watch TV in the evenings, we’ve noticed that many new shows on Netflix and Amazon, as well as some movies, feature two things: 1) protagonists who are young girls, ready and able to fight and to lead their people; and 2) the struggle for racial/cultural equality and respect, even in fantasy worlds (e.g. the Fey, in both “Carnival Row” — a different world that somewhat resembles Victorian England — and “Cursed,” a version of the King Arthur legend. I think these two things are not unrelated; women are taking stronger roles, and we are seeing that all people (even so-called “not-human” ones like the Fey) have equal rights and should not be disrespected and attacked. Another show portraying a strong young woman fighting against the system is “Hannah,” set not in a fantasy world but in a slightly futuristic earth where young people (both girls and boys) are being genetically engineered and trained to be weapons; Hannah fights for their humanity. These shows are, I hope, harbingers of change.

And weapons leads to my final thought for today: we have just passed the 75th anniversary of the first (and second) use of the atom bomb, which the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima on August 6 1945, and then on Nagasaki on August 9. This is something that should never happen again. I want to thank Bryce Kanbara of the You Me Gallery (330 James St. North, Hamilton) for his many years of organizing the Shadow Project, in which people draw each other’s outlines in chalk on the sidewalk, the evening before Aug. 6, to show how the blast burned images onto walls and streets, and to help us remember this horrific event and to urge us to work for peace. I participated in this project several times, and wrote a poem about it: I am honoured that the poem is being used as narration for a short film about the Shadow Project and the bombing itself. When the video is available for viewing, I will let you know. There were many victims in World War II, as in all wars, and we can honour their memories by finding new solutions.

So we continue in this brave, and strange, new world. As Jack Layton said, in his last words to Canadians (August 2011), My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful, and optimistic. And we’ll change the world. Thank you, Jack.

About Ellen

I am a member of The Writers Union of Canada, the League of Canadian Poets, and CANSCAIP. I have received grants from the Ontario Arts Council for both writing and teaching. I currently work with Learning Through the Arts and Living through the Arts, programmes run by the Royal Conservatory of Music that enable artists to work in schools and community organizations. I have also taught in many other school and community programs, and have been a judge for various writing contests for both young people and adults.
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1 Response to Written on the Body #23 August 10, 2020: The Incredible Shrinking….

  1. Lauren Burke says:

    Ellen: I’m so happy for your success. Thanks for that Jack Layton quote … we all could use that in today’s world. Bravo to you dear Lady.


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