Saying an MRI machine is a little loud to a person with ADHD is akin to suggesting to a toddler that a Bhut Jolokia pepper is a little hot.
Asking me if i am claustrophobic right before stuffing me into a giant ceramic bic pen is mean.
Wrapping a tube around my arm until both my eyes and veins pop out is just trying too hard.
Standing with your arms crossed staring at a girl who is darn near unconscious with fear is simply rude.
Having to lie face down arms extended like a flying super idiot - boobs dangling with all your weight on your breast plate five days after a nasty biopsy is an episode of Survivor 31: The Health Care System. You put a 127 pounds on 6 popsicle sticks and see what happens. Ya pass out.
However, For the most part most people find an MRI ok. For me it was a nightmare. In fact i still have nightmares. Like the ones i have from watching the last episode of MASH. Bloody Chickens…
In my mind i had the MRI all figured out. I asked people. Oh relax, they give you music to listen to. It's easy. It's just a little loud.
Loud like an air raid siren. Loud like the radio I was listening to. Which turned out to be a live CBC report on the conflict in Gaza. Even with the earplugs I could hear gun fire and people screaming. I could also hear the very nice but frustrated tech team telling me to stay still. I think I lasted about a minute before my arms started to go numb. Then shake uncontrollably. By the ten minute marker I was unable to breathe from the weight on my chest. As I had crawled into the thing they added a super comfy thin rubber pillow - like one you might find in discount casket - under my knees to get an extra dangle angle for Ethyl. The only thing full of air was my head. I could hear more and more voices.. There was a committee meeting of panic happening. My heart started keeping sync with the beeps.
"Just keep swimming" said one voice.... "42 walla bye bye zzzzzzzzzzz.
Then just one voice was talking to me. A very familiar one. A very clear one.
"Kelly Dear ( said with 3 l's) - you keep still or you will have to do it all over again. YOU BE STILL NOW. Do not screw this up. You can do this. "
and so I did. Like I said. There is no arguing with Liza. And there can be no can't in cancer.
There may be some swelling she said. Oh and some bruising. And it will hurt more the second day. Truer words were never said. Thank goodness Liza had arranged baby sitters. Surprise babysistah's.
I stirred from under my pillow fortress to find Liza dressed for work and hovering at the end of the bed holding a tube in her hand - Looking very serious...
"Wake up .You have to get up. Cdubs and Muffin are on their way. Hurry they will be in here in 30 minutes. And you have to shower your hair is on sideways. And yes you are allowed to shower and you can swim today too. but first this" I was half asleep and so very very confused.
"Yes to cover the steri strips now sit up and hurry up!"
Do we have a cat?
"Yes. in an urn in the closet. Why?"
Because there is fur on my tongue.
"Kelly Dear sit up now and take off your shirt before i saran your head."
But I - eeeeyowww!!
Arguing with Liza is pointless. She reaches into your brain and you end up arguing with yourself. Kinda like how a certain champagne sipping auctioneer i know gets me to bid against myself. Awesome another 300 dollar gift basket to never re-gift. Not doing as Liza says is also pointless. It is hard on both your ears and your self-esteem. Kinda like listening to the clerk at Bikini Village tell you 'But it is an extra large top' as your nipples surf out over it. Awesome another day swimming in six bathing suits and a T-shirt.
"OMG" says Liza as i finally sit up and peel off my sweat soaked t-shirt."Ethyl is black. You look like an Oreo and a Floatie had a baby." She peeled off another foot of saran wrap and embalmed Ethyl. "No time for a shower - just get your b-suits on and go downstairs-the girls are here."
"Yay gay people!!"
And indeed they were. Dressed in different but identical short and t-shirt combos, sensible shoes, short cropped hair do's perfectly styled, all shiney nosed from sunblock
and staring at me like i was a car accident.
Now to put the following exchange in context - we have been friends on and off for well over 20 years. Sometimes really off and now thankfully - more on than ever.
"You look like shit. "I feel like shit."
"Why are you so pale?" "I probably have cancer"
"Why are you so pale?" " I already had skin cancer"
"Oh that sucks." - pause - " i think this might suck more"
Now please picture an episode of Ellen that has something to do with dead puppies, lost kittens, and the guest is Celine Dion. Keep imagining. Bette Midler makes a guest appearance and sings wind beneath my wings.
"Girls. Enough. ( said with 3 E's) Stop crying. Open the Veuve and get in the pool."
"Finally Kelly, someone who gets you."
"Yes" i said meekly. "Kinda like you guys do."
So i have had the biopsy - lunch on the best patio - with the best people - and on the way home Liza tells me " Yes really, all the sisters are coming over later - All three of them.- And yes i will get more tylenol."
I have a biological sister. But i use that term lightly. I think she may be part machine. There may be absolutely zero things on the planet that she has not seen, tried or done. All of which she does extremely well. I'm bored i think i'll get a math degree. Oh then a Masters. Egypt? sure lets go - learn to paint - ok can i teach it now? Sports? Sure - umm why are you putting a band aid on your tennis ball? Oh your leg is bleeding too? No problem i worked in Emerg for centuries. Pass me that trombone - but don't step on my shooting trophies - or else. Cancer? That sucks. Call me when you need me. Love you.
Actually, in loving retrospect, i think i do know one thing my beloved sissy - who is also my oldest living relative - can't do - and that is -
Sneak up on a Lear Jet. Mind you i can't either…and my family nick name is mouse.
Sisters have an energy about them. Liza's have an energy about them that if harnessed could stop the need for freaking fracking. Liza alone is a bizarre combination of Oprah, DonaldTrump - with way way better hair and Chelsea Handler. Oh and a little Dr. Suess.
So in preparation for the sister invasion Liza has me wadded up in towels and ice, seated in the recliner, juice box ready. Now remember, Ethyl has just been attacked by a box cutter, a knitting needle, and a back hoe. Swelling they said? Myrtle, who was always the big sister looked like sloppy floppy tiny piece of pale pepperoni pizza and Ethyl - well an over-inflated volleyball with the bladder and the pin hanging out. Hot.
Enter the 3 sisters. scene: a blonde - with now a ginger - a brunette and a black curly haired rake. All incredibly smart, athletic- two at a world class level, artistic, super humans - three of which are away from their kids and the husbands. I hid my juice box.
For the next 3 hours - they lasted 6 more - i was overwhelmed with the power and the gentleness of sister love - and yes it got creepy when one said i was like the 5th sister - 5th wheel in the corner yes - and sistah for sure - but - but what i was missing was that they were trying to make me feel like family. To include me - scary thing is - i liked it.
For hours they talked at me, with me, to me, about me, and shared stories and emotions with each other that i cannot even imagine having. I am not straight. i am not married. I have never lost a pregnancy. I never shared a room - nor been arrested - but
i too have been depressed scared sick angry lost hurt lonely worried pained and alone. In fact i am kinda feeling all those things right now as i type this. Tears in my herpes. ow
So after my Juice box, and a tylenol from each them i had the courage to answer the question "What can we do for you?"
I want to be "Auntie Kelly."
It is always Auntie Liza and Kelly. I act like - live like and love like i am Auntie Kelly - so i wanna be. That is what i want. I need. To really feel that my relationship is real. That all our relationships are real without having to be married.
It was a little hard to say. It was a little hard to hear. Different values. Different Ideas. Different pain tolerances. So i faded away to sleep not really knowing… weeks passed..
But then it happened. - While in Vegas - We bought little safari outfits for the kids. Hats vests - classic Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom style - and took them over to one of the sisters. As the bags emptied onto the deck and hats popped onto heads - i heard in squealing delight -
"Thank you Auntie Kelly!!" - now that is what cures cancer - and puts a grin on a face that not even cupcake hugs on a brand new Lacoste can erase.
It was all so fast.
Get in the jeep.
Tears and hugs in Toronto.
Something about a presidential suite at the Bellagio.
A fruit basket from Tara the casino host. No pun intended.
A hug from Whitney Phoenix.
And Ann and Llily.
VIP tickets to see Oliva Newton John.
Please buy k bell socks.
If cancer can be cured by love - laugher - love- kindness- big grins- spontaneity- surprises- street tacos and hugs.
Well I just might take up hugs.
After the ultrasound - which was physically painless but emotionally challenging- as the machine gently dings every time they capture an image. My imagist was making her own 11 minute mega Kenny G style elevator remix of Ethyl. Which is why Liza's face was wadding up .
The music was nasty and she could see just how big ole scary Mary was. And with the biopsy next she new it was soon to be big ole scary Bloody Mary.
Enter the Dr. Really.?. A baggy golf shirt and shuffly feet? Hmmm. The doctor who does these is a woman. This is a dude. This is a resident. This has suck potential. Back up -check- activate sarcasm-check-activate leaving my own body and joining Liza in corner - check.
"Hello I am Dr. Blah blah and I will be doing your blah blah biopsy blah blah"
Zero bedside manner.
"What is you date of birth and do you have any allergies"
"Yes I look great for my age and I am allergic to bad outfits."
"Wel I don't know what you came in wearing - so I can't comment."
Ok. You will do. I got back into my body.
Dr. Dry explained the process. Cold. Numb. Burning sensation from the local freezing. . Then he would make an incision and insert the needle which would take about a cm of tissue. I would hear a noise as it snapped the samples. Likely 3.
"Ok. My pool is colder. I have been numb for days. And yes that burns. "
"Ok. Tell me if you feel something sharp."
Enter the scalpel. Into my flesh. Which I can feel. Liza is still in the corner. She looks like she is at the coroner already. Can living people really be that colour?
OMG, I say to myself. Tell me if you can feel my feet wrapping around your neck and strangling you.
But I cannot say anything. I am just squeezing the sheets and watching my stomach convulse. Like the time I had a manwhich and threw up in my friends hair.
Liza appears at my side and holds my arm down so I do not punch him in the teet.
"I can feel that" I whisper. " I think he is talking the biopsy from the back forty."
I can hear mumbling. Then I felt more burning. Them I heard the noise. Then I felt a long pulling feeling. Like my eye was going to be on the end of that needle.
Dr. Dry is well aware this is not going well. He is shaking too. The technician is holding his elbows to steady him. This is like doing surgery on top of dryer full of towels.
"One more. " He says meekly. All sense of in your face bravado long gone.
"Ok." I grip onto Liza. Her face is different now. Softer. And yet very very serious. I find out later that my face was essentially blue. With a few plaid bits. So gay.
I can feel something warm slowly moving down my side. It is not tears. It is Mary.
" Not enough Saran Wrap." I whisper to Liza.
Chunk number two comes out. Oh Mary is so angry and she is telling me all about it by spewing herself everywhere.
"Good job Kelly." Says the super nice woman who is holding my side and blotting up Mary by applying the kind of pressure you might use to roll out pie dough.
Dr. Dry asks me one more time what date of birth is. This time i just answer and he leaves - my insides in a can under his arm.
"Now be sure to take some Tylenol and ice yourself. There will be some swelling. The steri strips will come off in about a week. You can shower as normal tomorrow and swim if you like. If you have a fever or any bleeding go to emergeny."
Ok. Swelling. Bruising. Reasonable. Not having any of that other stuff.
I eased myself back into my giant sports bra. Thanked her profusely and wandered out.
I am so in shock I do not really feel or hear anything around me. I am ok I tell Liza.
"Good" she says with a manical smile.
" Because my sisters are coming over. All four of them. "
This time I knew time had passed. It was sunny when we left - then it poured. Then it got sunny again and the streets were all steamy. Like NYC but without the stench and the car horns. And I had my Liza not cabaret Liza. Mine is way more entertaining.
Upon our return we were escorted down a hall to an empty waiting room. Creepy. So we sat on all the chairs goldilocks style and then realized how diseased our butts could be.
Do not wipe hand sanitizer on your pants. It makes you smell like a bottle of Alberta vodka and a pair of wet mittens had a baby.
Finally a very calm and put together woman brought us into a - well a very dimly lit room with lots of Grey's Anatomy type props. Except they were real. And smelled worse than we did.
So I posed Titanic style on the bed while my bosoms were sketched by a computer. An ultra sound feels like a bingo dobber inching over your body. Do not ask how I know that.
Top Girls. Ptbo. Large underwear. In a former funeral home. The Only. Sorry.
Liza was in the corner watching. Not as creepy as you think. I did not have my glasses and when she stood close all I could see was a very beautiful smudge with blue eyes.
I could see her face very clearly. She could very clearly see the images on the screen. Her face was changing expressions like Joan Rivers. Wait her face is close pinned tight behind her head.
Changing expressions like Stephen Harper. Damn wrong again -he is a robot. Changing expressions like - like
Like s omeone who is realizing that the person they love is not ok.
"Umm, could you try to pick a face and stick with it. This is not Dexter you are watching"
Famous last words.
After taking deep breaths it is very important to exhale. Otherwise you faint. Fainting while ones' Myrtle is face down getting her round two up close glamour shots in essentially a glass fish tank is slightly painful. Kinda like closing the sun roof on just one hair and trying to jump out of the car. One should never hang from ones Myrtle even if it is just for a quick blurr of the room.
Thankfully, The girls were back in the kind but chilly hands of the same fabulous technician who had taken my first round images and she got me back to blinking. She also got me back on my feet to face what was coming next... but having her help me this day was not by chance...
Small towns have many disadvantages, but small towns with pubs solve most of those.
After what we are calling round one, Liza and I went to our local living room to make what I call bad choices.
"Big girl or little girl?" code for how much wine I am planning on drinking. I chose little girl but by the time I had told my tale I had emptied one for each of girls in Facts of Life - with two for Blair because that is the only way handle that beeotch - and I had an ally. A super nice ally. A super nice connected ally who would help us prep for round two. -and line up the same gal to do them. After all, we'd been to second base together and like most players on my team I am a serial monogamist. That and I really did not want scrape off my shoes again.
Guitar picks and sea monkeys require excessive scientific experiments. Excessive scientific experiments like enhanced images, ultra sounds and biopsies take time to arrange. Thank god I have adhd. I do not understand time. I just know that stuff happens and the weather changes.
19 days - we waited.
Lotsa stuff happened but the weather didn't change. It was still crappy.
So on their round two call back Ethyl and Myrtle were greeted by name at the desk. I was handed a paperbag with a whole big girl in it called Lucky Stones, a lovely card, and Twins named Stella. Crying at 9am in public takes getting used to. So does hugging. And letting people care for you. But I am trying.
So this time I rocked the waiting room, sporting super gay wonder woman converse, a big grin and properly fitting gown. What I didn't rock was the close ups.
Peter, Paul and Scary Mary were huge. It was 1977 big screen Star Wars. There was the Millennium Falcon front and center surrounded by space cancer. My breath went into hyper drive. I was heaving and my little heart was having a Tiesto dance party. I was not running red lights but I was seeing them.
My super Tech peeled me off the plates. Who knew boobs could sweat so much? She was telling me a great story about her kid and how cool they were... which helped put me back together.
Super Tech helped me into the gown, " Here, you put it on like a coat" and walked me out to the waiting room. I was sheet white, sore and scared. She patted me on the back - and told Liza to take me for a drink.
"Do you mind if I change first." I asked. " I may have peed my pants."
Super Tech laughed. Liza rolled her eyes.
"Seriously, go for a glass of wine and bring her back in a hour- but just a little girl"
"Does that hurt?" Asks my new breast friend -" That was maximum compression." If there had been any air in my lungs I would have had answered with one of these.
Yes. Just like chewing tin foil with old school fillings. What a little sparky pain?
A little bit -
Like when you slide down a ladder and catch your nose iAnd bang your shin on a rusty rung.
I enjoy stuffing my buniony feet into four inch heels three sizes too small and running across a wet field on my tip toes. Backwards. Juggling a wet cat.
But all I could do was weakly nod and mouth I'm ok.
Being brave makes things go faster. That and I was in a tad bit of shock from what I could see on the screen.
I didn't rememeber eating a guitar pick. I do remember drinking sea monkey's. That was a gross salty accident. But how did all that end up in Ethyl? So many questions.
I tried to make small talk to distract myself but what really does one say to woman you have just met - come out to - who is rolling your nipple off to one side - without even having taken you to dinner first . At least I knew her name which s a step up from some of my lesbionic friends....
"SSSSooooo" I wheezed out in between smushungs "This must be a very difficult job. I know what I am looking at - you know what you are looking at and yet no one really knows do they..?" I think you are very brave to do this.
She stopped for a second and looked at me. Such kindness. I got all awkward again and started babbling.
"I am a teacher. I lost my Mom - well I mean I didn't misplace her - she died - of breast cancer. So I get - i have an understanding of how I feel. I am not afraid of what I see. Just curious. " I smiled weakly.
"Yes. It is very difficult. People are sometimes very scared. It is hard to keep them still. (taking the hint) It is hard to know you are causing people pain. But it is good to know that I can help. You got this. "
And then she yanked me forward and slammed the glass on poor Myrtle without missing a beat.
"Take a deep breath."
I found that hilarious. But there is no laughing becase that means moving and moving means a re-do.
And so does having a guitar pick and two sea monkeys in your images.
Take a deep breath indeed.
I got called into the inner chamber of boob doom next. It was dimly lit and housed what I can vaguely describe as a humongous 1954 white and glass wringer washer, two chairs and a crooked bulletin board.
Then we both laughed our guts out and spent the next 20 minutes making pancakes, panini's and smores out of my breasts.
What does one wear to a mammogram? Well not lotion, perfume, deodorant or anything else that might stop the waiting room from smelling like the inside of teenagers sneaker.
So to feel human and look as gay as possible - I choose basic black slacks accented with a jaunty white belt - matching black and white old school converse tournaments, and topped it all off with a popped collar black polo - the one with the giant white horse and a red number four.
The imaging department is really like Walmart. Cancer for everyone. I was early and got called in right away. Lucky me. Liza came with me for moral support and of course to hold my sunglasses and phone. We went into a smaller waiting room which had three other freaked out women, nasty magazines, a nastier couch, and a tv. Coverage of 'the Gaza conflict' was on - which for me was a nice reminder that it can always be worse.
Then Liza changed the channel to a talk show with 5 bald flat chested cancer patients all crying. It can always get worse.
It was my turn to go into the bathroom, strip from the waist up and put on a gown. I stood there - my lovely shirt and sports bra stuffed into a plastic bag and stared at the shelf. My choice was sea foam pale blue washed within an inch of its life or a lovely gentle mint green. I picked the mint which turns out is xxxl. Ethyl and Myrtle might be but i am not. Jabba the Hut is not this big. I could have stolen a piano. That is if i had succeeded in getting it on.
I thought gowns had sequins and straps not three gaping holes. I had no idea. So i tried putting it on like curtains - my arms as the rods. Nope wide open. I tried wrapping it around me like a scarf. Nope covered exactly nothing. Then I tried it like a 1972 poncho with my head in one hole and my arms out the side. Memories of my near death in the pool surfaced. I wrestled it off and stuffed it in the 'soiled gowns bin'. ew.
Blue it is. As reached to the top shelf i finally i saw the giant poster. Step by step instructions. So simple. You put it on like a coat and wrap the third hole over your other arm. Who knew? I exited the bathroom with as much dignity as one can wearing something at least 500 others have sported and the girls and i sat down beside Liza to wait.
Poor Ethyl and Myrtle had no idea what was happening - they just huddled in my armpits completely confused as to why they free falling in public - and when the woman who had gone in ahead of me came out clutching her chest and crying i just whispered quietly -
"Hey Myrtle - wanna play a game called put the marshmallow in the parking meter?"