Once upon a time i said " Las Vegas? No way no thanks. I do not gamble, i hate people, and although i can hold my own and everyone else's at a party - i would end up dead, in jail, or married to a donkey in an Elvis Costume. - Famous Last Words.
I love it. I love it the way dogs love fire hydrants, the way Oprah loves Gale, the way the desert loves the rain - the way i loved the snap of my Mother's cards as she played solitaire each and every morning i knew her. I love it because - because the first time i met Liza she had this look about her. One i have never seen. Her eyes always ocean wide and sky blue had a depth - a pull to them - Her hair perfect as always had just a rumple at the back - it invited questions - and the vibration of her Tiffany studded hand as it shot out of her slick porte a pret Micheal Korr's leather jacket made me step back - and step up my game. What on earth - how on earth does a person present like this?
Her little sister was introducing us at a school play - her other sister was the brilliant musical director and i had helped cast it. Liza had come just to support her family.Cool.
"Vegas, i just got back from Vegas - been up for a day - i am little jet lagged…" My spastic boney bear paw ended up behind my back and i just stood over her staring - I babbled like a star struck idiot - " Vegas eh…" I made crappy jokes that made me look like a game show host on cable 14 TV - I tried teasing her - she destroyed me - something about a film i had been in - I switched back to Vegas - to no avail - the lights flickered then went out. But for me they went on. I wanted to look like that. Feel like that. So as i walked back to my seat -guided by the sheer glow of diamonds in my eyes I decided that no matter how - no matter how long - no matter when - i was someday going to understand just how Vegas makes you look that fabulous when you are that Jet Lagged.
"Let's Begin." says the surgeon.
So this is Ethyl's guest blog - on the last night of her life here on my rib cage - she pointedly asked - ok it was cold - if she could have a moment to have a voice of her own. I have been speaking on her behalf and now that there will be only half - Myrtle is beside herself - quite literally and the therapy she is going need is - a blog all by herself. Sing that line. It helps.
Poor Ethyl- . She always thought she might get nipped or tucked -but she never thought her destiny was a Petrie dish.
Sorry I am the one being a tit. So not listening. Go ahead Ethyl. We are here for you. ( yes I just said TA TA for now in my head)
Tit for tat. It is her turn.
I was named in 1985 by the girls in OMEGA KAPPA new on Water St. Trent.
Picture 8 strangers. More beer than brains. Bonding by naming body parts. I chose ethyl after my fav broadway gal. That gal had pipes. I always wanted to be on stage. Now my destiny is just to be staged. Like a home. A haunted one. Sigh
Back to me. And my show.
I first appeared in stairs of my middle school when my host body ran down a flight with me flailing free sans bra. She was in training. I needed to be. .
My second appearance was at S&R. Where a strange woman stuffed me into a variety of beige comforters. I lived here for many years.
I was not seen again until a strange RKY Canoe trip that occurred entirety in the rain. Who knew I could wrinkle so. Who knew the sun was so hot. Ow.
My debut as a real boob - comforter free occurred at some giant musical festival in the woods. We had to shower outside. With others. 100's of others.
That's when I knew I was big deal. Myrtle was bigger. But I had a better profile.
I had one more moment in the sun - floating with my sister in a lake. This one has been captured by shore line onlookers.
My last moment was with a professional - a photo shoot that let Kelly -really feel my sadness. And my determination not to let her die.
We had some great times she and I - and one or two with a loved one.
But to know that I am now host - to peter Paul and scary Mary as she calls them - is not ok.
So I have to go. I have to go so the show can go on. After all I am just a body part. I do not make Kelly a woman. Or make her sexy. Her mind and soul does that.
Oh and her shoes. Serious. If could wear shoes !
So thanks for the mamories - sing that it helps.
Ok so we have met with the nurse navigator, Liza has read the books and put a cancer safe search on every device I have so I do not freak myself out looking at pictures and self diagnose myself with every cancer possible.
The nurse navigator - Big C harmony dot calm.
It really only takes on person to get invasive ductal carnoma but it takes about 500 people to make sense of it. If making sense of cancer is even possible. And if it is - the nurse navigators at the breast assessment program - BAP - are the gals to do it.
So we got a nice phone call and an invitation to meet with the team who would be trying to help us understand the options. And the choices. And the big words. And the little ones. And the images. So many pictures of my insides.
Which by the way look like upside down rabbit ears. I now have unhealthy fear of bunnies.
I also have a fear of holly hobby active wear, all pastel furniture, rugs with frilly edges and big white clumpy shoes.
The BAP office looks like a cottage fire sale from 1927 meets the Golden Girls. Clean as heck but that much pink on pink on rose on floral makes Crabtree and Evelyn look butch.
I will refrain from commenting on the wallpaper as I will need my therapy sessions for bigger matters. However at one point I think it ate a doily.
I may also need therapy as a result of filling out all the forms they give you. It was about 8 pages of questions all designed to get to know the patient in a very e- harmony kind of way.
I of course got overwhelmed - and Liza began micro managing me. Had she not we would still be there as I hummed and hawed over the placement of my 32nd freckle and whether or not I hallmony blah blah hyper thermal blah blah.
If you would like to get to know your partner - and find out just how little you know about yourself. Get cancer. Or get a copy of this questionaire.
So here is what I learned about myself. I am most afraid of being a burden to the ones I love and needles. Knitting and otherwise.
I am not scared of dying. I am not scared to die. I am scared that what is about to happen to me will break her the way watching my mother rot broke me.
I have never been pregnant. Breast feeding is open for debate. The kid was starved but tried anyway. Yes. Beyond creepy. So add babies to my Iist of fears. Near the top.
I also learned that Liza is a Kelly whisperer. But a loud one. She read. We laughed. I made up answers. She correcred them. I knew she was a rock but that day I learned she was a mountain.
However the most important thing we learned is that I - that we - are not alone. That it can be beaten. Our nurse navigator did it. It was war. But she won it with bright red wigs and oddly and thankfully enough red wine.
So cheers. Find your rock. Be someone's mountain. Sit in a big pink chair and ask yourself the toughest questions you can think of. Share the answers. Ask others the toughest questions you can thnk of.
But share only the love. Lotsa lotsa love.
Says the Dr. The very nervous Dr. The pale DR. dressed all in black that is going to tell us what the MRI has decided. The kind eyed shaky handed Dr. that we have never met before. The DR. who is standing in the doorway looking back and forth to each of us.. totally confused - who gently ask us - with the voice of an angel -
"Which one of you is Kelly?"
Well that blew that prank.
Liza and I got the call to come to the Doctor's office just 48 hours after the fabulous MRI surfing experience. Panic. Quick news is bad news. My chest plate had joined Ethyl in mutual bruising and I was still a one side only Pam Anderson special. It had been a long 30 days since the fateful pool incident. Naturally we were and still are - a bit wound up. Keliza style. Which means to cope with terror - we turn into a gay version of Patsy and Eddie - in our world Penelope and Gretchen.
So we - P and G are sitting in the Dr.s office laughing and joking and posing for pics. I am Penelope. I have a trashy Euro accent. Gretchen is slightly Parisian and totally creepy.
"Ohhhhhmm Penelope - let me look in your ear - on my i can see right thru - no Kansaire in there. "
"Gretchen dahrlink - please put those dirty dirty little things down - and hop up on the table - ohh look gloves - small medium and no chance of a pap smear with those ! Egads - they are huuumungeous!! " SNAP
"Ohhhhhhhmmm Penelope - you are sick - " " i know Gretch Gretchy that 's why we are here."
" Muahhahahhahahah!! laughter as G and P plot to role play Kelly as Liza and Liza as kelly. Why we thought this would be funny was beyond comprehension. But i guess it was Liza's way of saying please let it be me and not you. And my way of having a condo over looking denial.
"Here darling sit up there and look sickly - worse worse yes yes can you tear up a bit? - maybe chew your hand?" OH Yes good idea Penelope - i will sit here looking all concerned and conventional. Pass me those glasses. Oh dear she is blind and has cancer how sad."
Enter the Dr. Exit P and G. Enter reality.
" I am. This is my partner Liza. " I am ashamed of myself as i make an effort to explain what we were plotting and apologize profusely to the Dr. for being essentially an - intensive dork.
We go over the pages and pages of results. It is bad. It is official. I have cancer. Three kinds - three spots - grade three - three options. I continue to try and sooth the Dr. who is still shaken - I ask her how she is - " This must be hard to tell someone you have just met this news." I got a very strange look and a raised eyebrow.
" Why Kelly, are you being so nice to me? What is it you do you do? You are being so brave.."
"Well Dr. You are telling me something i already know. I have had lots of time to prepare. You have not .That and i work with kids, and sometimes no matter is happening in my head or world, it has to be 100% about trying to help them - right now this is like that - it not about me - this is about us. All of us ( with a wink) Even Gretchen and Penelope."
The Dr. just shook her head, smiled and asked if i was going to be ok? "
My answer was, is and always the this - i looked up at Liza -
"I have to be."
Telling people you have cancer can be maniacally fun - ludicrously lucrative - utterly horrifying and totally awkward. I sympathise with the poor Doctor. It is hard because you really have do idea what the reaction is going be. Everyone has their own story and experience, so it can go well with a warm hug and well wishes, or it can go super south and you can get barf on your shoes.
Here are some of my favorite reactions.
" Oh well, you always wanted to get them hemmed anyway." Which came across with all the humour of a baby down a well.
"You look tired - you teachers, you must be really enjoying your summer off." Actually my full time-time job right now is battling cancer. Oddly enough that is kind of tiring - like talking to you. excuse me.
Excuse me - excuse me ( to a group of men standing at a bar) OK BOYS! move it over cancer coming through. ( free drinks)
"Oh my god why are you crying over her - it is just boob cancer" ( he is now single)
" Wow you look great!" Are you working out or on a diet or something?" Yes I am on the cancer diet. It is not what I am eating but what is eating me.
"Oh my god Kelly. I am soo sorry. (tears) May I hug you?" Yes. " Oh my god it must be really bad"
And my absolute favorite - the first person I called after I got the official diagnosis said.
"Are you calling me because I have no emotions? Yup. "You want Taco Bell?" Yup. "Cool"
It seems there are no rules. For anyone. Cancer has a voice its own.
Sometimes I just blurt it out. Sometimes I do not say anything. Sometimes Liza blurts it out. Like in Las Vegas. At the Bellagio Chairman's Club check in. Hello sweet suite. The amazing woman - Lily - took the time not only to really talk with me and cheer me up but also to arrange a week in the Penthouse suite - not just one night. This made one man very angry. He kept walking up to the counter - with his cured ginger and pino - demanding to be served. He was clueless that his interruptions were just prolonging the moment.
" I pay a lot of money to stay here - why are you making me wait?! ( picture angry Euro pastels - orange tan, and lips with so much botox I could have licked them and stuck him to the wall) He stormed off to his toddler gf who had boobs that envied mine. Except hers were frozen in time to her chest like the expression on his face. Nothing was moving except the giant lips. Lily was doing her very best. She called for back up.
Sir pas of tells was now coming unglued. I got another glass of wine. What a great show. I love Vegas. The gf tried to calm him down by saying his turn was coming. I thanked her for her patience. The sarcasm bounced off her rubber maid double ee's and hit him square in the face. Opps. He started stomping his little feet and went right over the line. He was now yelling at Lily.
"My turn is not coming, - CHRISTMAS IS COMING!! " My tumour went right to my mouth. I channeled my inner Liza.
"Actually, the only thing coming is my eminent demise from cancer - so if you could settle down and sit down - NOW - this will go a lot faster. " And it did.
Lily offered to walk us over to the private elevators. She was shaken as was I . As we exited she asked me very quietly, "Kelly, did you really say - Next time, get some botox for your heart and try to make it sizes two sizes to big."
" Yes Lily I did" She took my arm and smiled at me. " I knew you were special the moment you walked in. " I started crying. Liza took my other arm.
" Oh Lily," said Liza, with a huge grin, " You have no idea."
Waiting. I suspect neurotypical people wait. A lot. I suspect they do if for years on end. If I googled it - I am gonna guess about 3 to 4 years depending on where you live and whether or not you drive on the Don Valley Parking lot. Or take the TTC. Otherwise known as tedious and time consuming - or Take the Car -which could put you on Lake snore Boulevard. Driving is crazy making. Driving in Toronto is just crazy.
My ADHD brain just not get the concept of simply waiting. Although once about 24 years ago I came really close. Really close to getting myself tossed out a window onto the street. Really close to getting my socks stuffed into my mouth by my classmates. And really, really, really close to giving my acting class professor an aneurism. ( not that you can give them out but if I could I do have a short list)
The lesson - which I have since stolen and adapted was to learn about being in the moment. To be present and accepting - not just stand there and wait for your turn to say a line. This of course was super obvious to my brain - I have always said to myself and others -
"Where are you? HERE. What time is it? NOW. Does anything else matter? NO."
So as my brilliant teacher ( not sarcasm) was explaining the concept of the moment I had a rather smug look on my face. Apparently too smug. So I was selected to go sit on a painfully solid wood chair placed in the middle of the room. No reason no words just gestures to get to me to go sit. Silence. More silence. Fascinating. Soooooo interesting. I could not stop smiling. The entire class was just sitting there. Staring at me. Bliss. The committee had a big meeting in my head. So much to think about and all the space in the universe to imagine, play, plot, plan, dream, which I do both asleep and awake.
Then the Prof said - and I have no idea of how much time had passed - as I do not get time - in a hushed tone - " Ok - let me know when you know what you are doing."
I brought my attention as best I could to focus on the faces of my classmates. Woa. Nasty. Now mind you this was Trent in the 90's. Purple might have been the official colour of things feminist and lesboinc but I was not expecting so many faces to be bubbling purple. There was one gal who looked positively Elizabtheanly Talyorish.
Two hours. Two hours had passed. Two hours had passed since he asked the weird question. This I noted by the clock tower. Which I think many people in the room were about to go. I was so taken aback. How had I missed all this frustration and anger?
" What?" I asked - shattering the silence like flatulence at a funeral.
" Well Kelly - do you know what you are doing?" "Nope." - pretty sure I had no chance of explaining myself. Pretty sure I had just sucked two hours of peoples life away. Pretty sure I should just drop the class and run. I scanned for my shoes then said - very quietly through burning salty tears of shame -
"I am just sitting here. Being myself." My Prof walked up to my hanging head and lifted my chin. He looked me right in the eye - right thru to the back of my swirling head.
"Exactly." He said still in that hushed tone. "You were the only one not waiting."
- So please, don't wait. Don't wait to live, Don't wait to die. Don't wait for an absolution that will never come. (Titanic) find your moment and be in it.
Oh look a chicken.