About Me

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Los Angeles, California
I am 47 and thriving in Southern California. One day at a time.
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Thursday, April 28, 2011

playing doctor

i want a divorce.

a separation from the negativity that perpetually besieges western medicine.

granted, there are the honeymooners; the physicians endeavoring through that virginal year. equipped with a bumbling bedside manner, and executing an uncultivated medical maturity.
"are you taking your phos-naks?"

"of course".

[uh, d-uh.]

"a lot of people don't take them because they taste bad."

"really? god. nothing is worse than prednisone."

[no, really. nothing. it's like coating your tongue with a chalky, bitter pate made out of white glue.]

"make sure you eat food with your prednisone. i took it once and it really did a number on my stomach."

[uh-huh. how long were you on it for? a minute? i have a feeling my 30 year-old relationship with steroids gives me the edge on this one.]

so, i nod and unabashedly smirk behind my mask. it's a dance we play, only they don't realize i am leading.
but, i get it. physicians deal with frenzied cattle; patients blindly following their "leader" into the pen. they can be swiftly herded, despite the odd, plaintive moo of protest or bulging-eyed, panicked stare. but they must also deal with the bulls...

[and guess who's got big balls?]

bring on the mature, sexy mds. perhaps it's my father figure fetish gone awry, but they are potent in their confidence. unlike the arrogance of youth, their breadth of knowledge has expanded in tandem with a finessed bedside manner. they strike a sophisticated balance between cerebral cockiness and visceral virility; understanding it's a symbiotic dance of equal measure.

[in this dance, i do not lead. i'm happy to match them step by step.]
but to find this rhythm, requires discipline and surrender on both sides. eons before the days of google, this wee 13 year-old girl would ambitiously traverse the stacks of downtown toronto's research library. as i delved deep for information on kidney failure, my friends she-bopped away to cyndi lauper.

[oh, who am i kidding? i was doing that, too...]

obliviously, i was also building the tools necessary for future relationships, of any kind..."see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil", only fosters evil...armchair politics is deeply dangerous. zealous research and insistent communication earned me peer-like respect, and gifted me with the fruits of rewarding, professional dynamics.

i have ravaged the treasures of both eastern and western medicine, and attempted to marry the two. one sided arguments isolate; while respecting both sides unite. perhaps, my 23 year-old offspring, who now lies quietly dormant, is the truest proof of this theory-come-success story.


indeed, it is the red meat-chomping, butter-slathering, sugar-inhaling fanatics who frighten me more than any medical instrument or pill. their dismissive attitude towards all things western, not only smacks of ignorance, but naivety as well. the organic juice-swilling, chain-smoking, caffeine-addicted hypocrites seem to have time to wag their judgmental digits between yoga breaths. but, ultimately, they are poignantly lost with their misinformation, and have usually never been chronically ill...

look, when you have your kidney transplant, go right ahead and swap out your immunosuppressives for chinese herbs. i'm not going to be the guinea pig who gnaws away at success.

[we've all played doctor. but this is one game i need to win.]
have you ever been late to a friends' party; someone who busted their ass to put something together? and what did that take? a day? now think about the years and years and years (that, frankly, never end) that a physician has invested in your appointment. every one's time is valuable, but for god's sake, bring a book, a magazine, an ipod...and doesn't everyone have a smart phone?

[well, actually, i don't.]

and if you haven't been to the doctor for years, shouldn't you be joyous, not bitter? it's challenging to listen to the belittling of a system in which i have thrived. you have a role to play. i have a role to play. and i play it to the rafters...

ah, but perhaps, i am a little biased. my father, brother, aunt are/(were) all doctors; my mother was premed. and for 30 years, the medical system served as my divining rod in search of hope. but the bottom line is, without western medicine, i wouldn't be here.


i peer daily into jagged glass. anticipating that facial ballooning reminiscent of my unrecognizable, steriod-infused visage of yesteryear. back in the 80's, this superficial burden doused a young 19 year-old's already drenched self-esteem; flooding her with additional insecurities and leaving her treading water for years...

but i learned how to lifeguard that watery abyss; buoyed in both the deep and shallow ends with my life preserver of information. lapping it all up.
so bring it...how excited am i to dive back into the pool?

i will aggressively stroke back into exercise, healthy food and clean living.

reflectively float through the challenges of immunosuppression. the 3 week-old colds, the multiple month infections, the inevitable hospitalizations; all the while deep diving into medications and their side effects.

then watch me cannonball back to life with massage, chiropractors and acupuncture.

(in 6 months), i'll splash away the multiple, tedious appointments, and behold, enraptured, as the ripples undulate farther and farther away. closer to stillness. calm.


for like a good marriage, our relationship with our health cannot be passive. complete submission to one side nourishes disintegration; disease. growth entails rolling up of the sleeves, ears wide open and compromise. agendas reign over both sides of the medical divide. some are generous of spirit and some twisted in intent....tentative harmony...

the power of medicine lies in the embrace of its artistry, couched in evolving science; as does the historical resonance and dominion of eastern remedies. separately, they are "interesting" movements, and if you look closely, you can clearly see their flaws. but, united they are raised to masterpiece.

[imperfect perfect.]

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

canine containment

instructions for the immunosuppressed on how to share your bed with your canine companion:

step 1: lay down sanitized tarp upon bed (alternatively, throw down a clean bedsheet).

step 2: encase hound in haz-mat suit (alternatively, enwrap in old towel).

step 3: strap 40's-style maxi pad to hound's anus (alternatively, attach a plastic bag).

step 4: soak paws in industrial strength, disinfecting cleanser (alternatively, use baby wipes).

step 5: attach bodily fluid, protective visor to face (alternatively, layman's goggles will suffice).

step 6: firmly cover hound's nose with protective mask. (this is a non-negotiable).

step 7: feel heart burst with happiness.

[i love you, ms. maggie may mcintyre]

Sunday, April 24, 2011

in this house, it's all about the poop


despite this author's propensity to proudly display half-naked photos of said author's scars, injuries and various medical constraints; the following will contain graphic references to poop and said author's relationship to it. this may be offensive to some.

reader discretion is advised.

december 17th, 2010. a day that will live in infamy.

it was the last time i did the toilet "twirl and peek" and saw anything vaguely familiar.

for 4 months thereafter, it was a never ending cramp, sprint and release program. as my kidney failed, my bowels kicked into overdrive by default; adding to the spreadsheet of unwelcomed side effects. never quite hitting double digits, but frequenting that ceramic bowl more often than octomom pops out babies.

[reboot! reboot!]
[gorgeous godson]

for over 16 years, my fantasy project has been the development of a local access tv show, with an ol' canadian bud, (eh?) : "poop talk with marcia and hen". in the tradition of another canuck, mike myers' "wayne's world", we believe a basement coven of intestinal confessions could be the biggest thing since designer cupcakes.

we are emphatic in this theory. poop is the greatest of all fetishes. it resonates deeper than the latex, whip- wielding dominatrixes. it reaches further than the louboutin-sniffing metros and kicks harder than deranged, smut film addicts.

everyone poops.

[and c'mon. when is poop NOT funny?]

when does an indiscreet, taboo toot not instigate a stiffled giggle?

and when do those myriad, rainbowed gifts that grace our ceramic thrones not occasionally release a gasp of amusement?

and publicly, when does that worried brow, stiffly executed trot, and inward rear tuck not illicit hysteria as we desperately scan for that most welcomed of signs..."restroom"?

[and then there's the corn]

but, in my household, this has been a pilgrimage. kevin never fully subscribed to the idea that women only glow, are inherently hairless, they toot/never fart and certainly never poop. (and if they do, it doesn't stink); but he does lean upon that fence. and the dung debate and discussion has never even made it past the bathroom door...but that's just fine with this post-modern feminist. at heart, i am a hairy, unibrowed, bohemian european, who embraces it in equal measure with the glamor of lustrous hair, luminous makeup and tailored clothing that infuse me with the "power of b"...

[another marcia-ism. "the power of "b". think about it]

the beauty, strength and leverage of the va-jay-jay.

so saturday morning, after my "twirl and peek", my sharp intake of breath rivaled the ferocious panting of mel gibson's meltdown. there she lay. normalcy resurrected.

[all things divine are naturally feminine]
[you must have 4 kidneys to be a member]

hey, i'm all for pleasing my man, but this fully-formed, cylindrical beauty triggered an overwhelming urge to climb the peaks of tibet and yell with tingling limbs out stretched...


[sparing you the actual visual, instead, i demonstrate with excellent miming skills]

post-surgery syndrome has it's challenges. and one of them is this:

empty yourself of poop.
can't poop.
a wee poop.
very strange poops.
and finally, the normal poop.

we still seesaw up and down on a daily basis, by turns nauseatingly sweet and painfully bumpy. eyes locked, clasping the figurative handles, we negotiate this daily ride.

k: "how are you feeling?"
h: "ok. how are you feeling?"
k: "crappy. did you poop?"
h: "kind of. did you poop?"
k: "nope...i don't feel good."
h: "i'm sorry. i don't feel so good, either."
k: "i'm sorry. i love you."
h: "i love you more."

but, new ground has been broken this month. poop talk is now this abode's most comfortable conversation. and as buds of new life sluggishly poke their way up through the thaw, guess what's been fertilizing it all....
[yeah, i'll take an easter poop over a chocolate bunny]

and like fat bastard (myers) so eloquently declared, "everyone likes the smell of their own brand"...

Friday, April 22, 2011

afterglow dimmed

ah. the honeymoon period.

flushed cheeks, effusive excitement and (the hilarity of) physicians' proverbial cartwheels as my creatinine plummeted faster than the los angeles housing crash of '08.

but as our angel of mercy glides homeward tonight, high above the north american landscape, a queer melancholy hovers over this homestead.

as we are reluctantly weaned off pain meds, slowly settling into the life of the mundane, an arrow frenetically spins. uncontrollably. as we search for our new north.
for so long, a rigid spear was jammed stubbornly downwards; cemented.

renal failure, dialysis, transplantation...

[sell, sell, sell...]

and now we peer through a mesh veil of uncertainty, squinting away from the known; ever so tentatively towards the unknown. the scariest prospect yet.

my 3rd post-transplant clinic fluttered deep; more like panicked moths than the vibrancy of a monarch butterfly.
my creatinine inched upwards from 0.9 to 1.1.
my BUN moved from a low of 8 to 15.
[still well within normal range...]

but for hennybird; the bossy boots, competitive, ferocious type "A",  there was a most unfamiliar flicker of desire. to flatline for a while.

this is my kid.

what happens to her is my future investment.
a slight protective increase in medication, chased by white blood cells and blood in my urine.

heart-piercing reminders that the initial spotlight of opening night must eventually burn out. but the ultra- chic, cutting edge dimmer switch remains.

occasionally it will blind us. and today, it's turned down low.

way low.

[but, mood lighting still works for this kid...]

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

the scenic route

when we zoomed into la-la land back in '96, we braked with a fantastic crash. and then stillness.

uncomfortable, utterly foreign stillness.

but my friend, m, analogized to perfection the anticlimactic funk we had sunk into.

"you've been going 90 miles an hour for a year. you've just downshifted to 30."

it's almost a north american mandate: faster is better. slow is weak.

gps: find me the quickest route! upgrade to the speediest internet connection! express lanes! self-checkouts! audible sighs of irritation when the blue haired crowd pulls out a checkbook or that pilly, threadbare change purse. fast-food. on-demand movies. stamp machines. drive-up atms. drive-up pharmacies...and god forbid we should ever walk to the gym.

[where have all the flowers gone?]

the last three years have been more like a roller coaster. the spiral of addiction, the terrifying plunge into rejection. the mercurial, angled twists and turns of medications and their side effects. and the nauseating realization that you just can't get off the ride.

but, now that ride is decelerating...the safety bar is still securely in place. our hair mussed and wild (well, mine is...). and our eyes are wide with nervous anticipation. but we are coasting in. and with adrenaline pumping through our veins, we search now for a kinder, gentler bumper car...

[for a little while...]
[everyone needs a canadian lackey.]
[roadside picnic.]
[engine light off. laughter light on.]
[4 kidney zone.]
[flash flood warning next 50 miles.]
[better than any electric key finder!]
[i call shotgun!]
[jet fueled pit stop.]
[the scenic route.]
[bridge over (un)troubled water.]
[gas gauge full.]
[tourist attention.]
[brake for friendship.]
[clogs next 40 miles.]
[roadside picnic: the sequel.]
[yield for comrades in arms.]
[rooftop down....arms up...]

and then there are the speed bumps...

04/18/11 08:55 am. Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre. 2nd post-transplant clinic:

-check-in @ rm. "adult care 3".
-blood drawn and urinalysis completed.
-vitals (bp, temp., weight) recorded.
-meet with tx. co-ordinator, resident nephrologist and attending physician.
-head to pharmacy for 2 scripts.
-kim returns to tx. clinic due to one mistakenly written script.
-kevin does intake at dr. fuchs office.
-kim chases several doctors throughout the halls of cedars for corrected script.
-lunch at ray charles cafeteria. (figurative hug from fave nurse, jake).
-check in at dialysis ward for permcath cleaning. (come back in an hour).
-kevin has appointment with his surgeon/urologist dr. fuchs. (yes, you know what we like to call him).
-head back to dialysis ward for cleaning of permcath.
-kevin heads to one pharmacy for new script.
-kim and i head to another pharmacy for my corrected script.

[are we there yet?]
and then the muffler dropped.


and with a clink, clank, clunk an amplified roar tunneled through my ears.

dr. k's cautious reminder that "this is all still very new", reminded us of the potential road blocks and detours ahead.

i have a urine infection.

i am now on antibiotics.

i have a stent in my ureter for 2 more weeks.

my permcath remains for emergency dialysis in case of a rejection episode.

i am still on 17 medications.

we are sore. we are tired. we are in pain.

but, the windows are wide open as we navigate the potholes and uneven avenues ahead. despite the seat belt strapped precisely (and somewhat hilariously) down my permcath and across my incision, there's a breeze on our faces we haven't felt in years.

and the side streets never looked so damn good...
[and all's well that ends well with a coffee bean on melrose...]

Saturday, April 16, 2011

what did you do this weekend?

04/08/11 05:15 hrs. Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre. Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
[shock the monkey.]
[may i have this dance?]
[sibling revelry.]
[kmac goes pre-op.]
[surrealism meets sunrise.]
[sporting the latest in blood clot preventing leg wear; sleek styling meets full coverage. get 'em while they're hot!]
[kimmers and her new bff, ras-mu-ssen...]
[i have 5 tubes, 4 kidneys, 3 friends waiting, 2(000) medical bills and one bursting heart...]
[i donated my kidney, and all i got was this lousy pillow...]
[looking glass renewed.]
[hi. could you take any longer?]
 [kim nightingale.]
[tak, min skat.]
[ow. smile. ow. smile.]
[d-day! the good kind...]
[TEAM KIDNEY disembarks...]
[now here's a marlboro man, you wannabees...]
[trader joe's = nirvana.]
[why does my wife make me do these things?]
[first post-transplant clinic...check!]
[why am i raising my arms? i have 2 tubes in my chest and an incision as long as the 405.]
[tar-jzeh and the aerobed. the closest kim will get to disney.]
[replenishing my fluids. what? they said clear liquids...]
[my guardian angel.]

highest creatinine 5.1
yesterday's creatinine 0.9
(normal range 0.5-1.4)

and with the heart-soaring words of dr. dafoe, "you have one robust kidney"...

what a difference a week makes.