Patients’ blog

Peggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete.  She is now recovering from thoracic surgery.
 

Just four letters, one syllable.

“When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking, and says its own name”. Grade One phonics - remember?

Used casually, we say, “Feeling no pain,” and, “No pain, no gain.” Or, “He’s a pain in the neck.”

It’s a simple word; we use it a lot.

I thought I knew about pain. I’ve given birth; I’ve rehabilitated a broken leg. I’d read the booklet, , put out by The Ottawa Hospital. I was ready, wasn’t I?

The first day after my surgery, barely conscious and experiencing major confusion, around me nurses were hovering, and asking, “On a scale of 1 – 10, how is your pain?”
Really?? Just minutes out of anaesthetic, focusing on breathing and being alive, I was expected to think and make decisions too? Luckily, I could answer, “Zero”.
“Good,” they said, “Your epidural is working.”
It was true: I couldn’t feel a thing. I was blissfully ignorant and didn’t care. My epidural was working.

On Day Two things changed, and pain was embroidered around the fringes of my consciousness. Nurses came to do the ‘Ice Check’ ...continue reading

is a third year resident in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto

 

Last week was the first snowfall of the season in Toronto. Usually, the first sight of fluffy white flakes collecting on city streets would have me dreaming of strapping on my cross-country skis. This, year, however, the first snow left me huddled inside, frightened of slipping on ice.

Towards the end of September I badly damaged my ankle when attending a charity event. In a few moments I went from an active 30-something to someone unable to stand independently. After the paramedics got me to the nearest hospital, the first thing that popped out of my mouth was not “pain medication STAT” (that was the second thing), but instead “I’m a doctor. I hate being a patient.”

I later told myself that this was because I wanted to speed up communication and avoid unnecessary explanations. ...continue reading

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Peggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete.  She is now recovering from surgery.

 

My Surgery was November 12. I came home from hospital on November 18. Today it's more than a week later and I have a lot to fill you in on!

I am home, physically safe, but perhaps not mentally sound, and in recovery mode. The hospital experience was indeed an adventure! I can only tell you my story from my layman’s point of view. Remember that I am not a medical person, or even a scientific one. So if you, dear reader, are a medical practitioner, please excuse my non-medical explanations!

I predicted that I would have a moment of peace and faith just before entering the OR. Not so. With bed-side visits from a nurse, an anaesthetist and a surgeon, tons of reality avalanched on to me, bringing a flow of tears, even as each one assured me that everything would be fine. I was wheeled in to the Operating Room where a scrubbed and masked medical army introduced themselves and told me their role. Trying to absorb their voices, the gleaming chrome, the tubes, screens and wires, the needle going into my back, I drifted off to never-never land. My opportunity to claim that moment of faith passed.

The procedure, as I learned afterwards, was incredible! Briefly, in non-medical vocabulary, and probably with some inaccuracies, this is it: ...continue reading

Peggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete.  She will be going for surgery this week.

 

The date: August 6, 2014. The place: Montreal...
Grasping for air and my heart beating out of my chest, I grip the pool gutter for a minute before I can drag my depleted body out of the pool after completing the 200m Individual Medley* at the Swimming competition. Then I swim down in the warm-up pool, to flush the lactic acid build-up in my body. (That’s a lot of ups and downs in swimmers’ jargon!)

After two days' rest, I will reset my goals and decide what I’m training for next. My "next" events might be another swim meet, dragon boat races, cross country ski loppet, a bike trip, a triathlon or open water swimming season. Thankfully, there’s always the next great event to anticipate!

Flash forward to today....
...and my next event is Lung Surgery, scheduled for Nov. 12, so I reset my goals accordingly.

Since August 6, I have been ‘in training for surgery’. I have been determined to be as strong, healthy and fit as I can be, before going into the operating room. I think there are many commonalities, and stages, between training for a 200m IM swimming race and training for lung surgery. ...continue reading

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Peggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete, currently in training for major surgery

 

The quiet “little deaths”
of everyday existence
are mourned as much as those
of resounding magnitude,
for grief makes no comparisons nor judgements
and has no understanding
of degree.

These words are the foreword to a small book called , by poet and family counselor, Rusty Berkus. The paperback cover, mystical pictures and vivid colours would lead you, perhaps, to think it is a child’s picture book, but it is not. It is a book to help adults along the road to emotional healing.

I don’t remember when I first got this book, but I remember well that I have used it many times. I have cried at each page as I grieved over my parents’ gentle deaths, both age appropriate in their nineties, and over the untimely deaths of cherished friends in their fifties.

In my life, I find that grief is not restricted to the death of loved ones. ...continue reading

Domhnall MacAuley is a CMAJ Associate Editor and a professor of primary care in Northern Ireland, UK

 

“Unbreakable” is the life story of Mark Pollock, an athlete, adventurer and patient. This is no American schmaltzy reconstructed movie. Don’t expect a Hollywood ending. A university contemporary of Mark's, a filmmaker, had been making a documentary of his life. Neither of them could have anticipated what lay ahead.

Mark was born very short sighted and had a severe retinal detachment as a child.  A second unrepairable detachment as a university student left him blind. This is where the documentary begins.

...continue reading

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Peggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete, currently in training for major surgery
 

“Hi. How are ya?”

“I’m great, thanks! How ’bout you?”

This typical Canadian greeting is repeated millions of times daily across our country, part of our polite character, and our culture. There may be acceptable variations on the reply, depending on how well the two people know each other.

“I feel a cold coming on, but I’m fine.”

“I didn’t sleep well last night, so I’m tired.”

It would be totally unacceptable to say, “I have a touch of lung cancer, but, other wise, I’m fine!” Simply. Not. Polite.

It is interesting that we ask each other this question so frequently, but we do not actually expect to listen to an honest answer. It is just the culturally accepted standard greeting. For me, when my honest answer was, “I’ve just been diagnosed with lung cancer, thanks,” I could not break cultural expectations and say that!

When I initially learned of my diagnosis, and people asked, ‘How are ya?’ I felt like a deer-in-the-headlights; ...continue reading

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Photo credit: Heather Pollock

is a Juno Award winning singer-songwriter from St. John's, Newfoundland. Amelia has toured extensively throughout North America, the UK, Europe and Australia.

I used to think suicide was cowardly. I was angry with my friends who committed such an act. I avoided those who had tried to end their lives but lived. Then in 2004, with the death of my friend and roommate RM, I obediently cut her obituary out of the paper to put with the rest and discovered some were missing and that I had lost count of my dead friends.

I had lost count. I was twenty-six at the time and I had lost count. I was living through a plague that was taking people from me and I had not bothered to notice. ...continue reading

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Peggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete, currently in training for major surgery
 

I’m Pissed Off!
I’m really, really Pissed Off! It isn’t Fair!
Shall I tell you how I really feel???
I’M PISSED OFF!!! IT ISN’T FAIR!

There, I’ve said it out loud, and in black and white!

Here’s the story of how these two urchins finally penetrated my stability barricade.

Recently, I had my ‘Pre-op’ appointment at the General Hospital. This was a day where ten soon-to-be lung surgery patients were being prepared. First, we had an excellent two hour presentation by a nurse, called ‘Lung Surgery Education’, giving all the details of preparation for the surgery, what to expect during the surgery day, and recovery both in the hospital and at home. Then, individually, we met with a pharmacist, a nurse and an anaesthetist. The purpose was to exchange clinical information and also possibly provide an opportunity for the staff to assess our level of craziness! Would each of us be a compliant patient, or a difficult one?

At my final meeting with the anaesthetist, she did a thorough clinical question-and-answer session, again asking for my previous experience under anaesthetic, and telling me what to expect.

She ended with, “Do you have any questions?”

My burning concern about all of my upcoming treatment has been, “What will my lung capacity and lung function be after 25% is removed?” ...continue reading

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Peggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete, currently in training for major surgery

 

I am not a political animal, by any means, but I always admired . He was down-to-earth, authentic, passionate, energetic, devoted to his wife, and a cyclist. Days before he died, he wrote a ‘’, and ended by saying,

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair.”

He also spoke directly to other Canadians on their own cancer journey, and recognized that,

My own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope.”

I try to apply these words to my life, but I could never have written them so clearly. Even before having cancer, but especially since the first time, I have tried to keep focused on Hope, in all walks of my life. In this current cancer situation, I find that friends have asked me how I could be positive and how did I keep a hopeful attitude. Initially, I didn't know the answer, and I shrugged off the question. But after thinking about, I knew my answer, and replied with my own question: What are my choices? ...continue reading