Thursday, 29 June 2017


I assisted on a liver biopsy this morning.  An elderly man whose liver was full of tumors, his belly hard and bloated, fluid starting to accumulate around his organs.  When we were done he asked when we were going to start fixing him.  He broke my heart a little.

There is no fix for him.  I'm a nurse and I can't tell him but I hope and pray that the next doctor who sees him tells him how bad his cancer is, how little time he has left.  He's a lovely old man who I imagine has worked hard his whole life for his family.  He was a miner which can't be an easy job.  He came to Canada forty-seven years ago, he had to learn a whole new language at thirty-eight.  It can't have been easy for him.  He had no complaints, other than feeling tired all the time.  He doesn't like feeling tired.

New patients arrive daily.  Old patients disappear, never to be seen again, only faintly remembered.  Some patients come for many years before they succumb to this horrid disease, others only last weeks.  Some are very young, a two and a half year old girl this past month and an eighty-five year old gentleman today.  Some have nobody with them, others have their whole family with them.  Some are convinced they will beat this disease, others look worn out and tired of treatments that make them feel worse rather than better.

Today I only had maybe ten patients because I worked in ultrasound, assisting with biopsies.  It was easier in some ways because there was less grief to deal with.  All of my patients carry grief with them and I think it leaks into me at times.  There are days when I can manage to witness and honor their grief and there are days when I am too rushed and tired to deal with more grief.

I carry my own grief as well, we all do.  Regrets, loved ones we've lost, mistakes we've made.  It adds up over a lifetime.  Katie's diagnosis was the hardest thing I've ever had to deal with.  The grief was overwhelming.  It almost killed me but I survived.  Perhaps it is the grief in my building that is getting to me.  I can feel it around me and I can't turn away from it.  It's too important but I need to find a way to witness my patient's grief without carrying it around with me.

Saturday, 17 June 2017





The lesson which life repeats and constantly enforces is
“Look under foot.”
You are always nearer to the divine
and the true sources of your power than you think.
The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive.
The great opportunity is where you are.
Do not despise your own place and hour.
Every place is under the stars,
every place is the center of the world.

John Burroughs



Sunday, 11 June 2017



Things I'm thankful for today.

My cold has passed and I have my energy back.
Time to cook .
My garden is blooming.
My daughter called me this morning and we had a lovely chat.
Dishes that are done and drying.
Time to sew.



A walk this evening with the dog.
The laundry is done.
I have a week off.
The greenhouse this morning.  More plants for my shade garden.  I do love my garden.

What are you thankful for today?


Saturday, 3 June 2017




I've worked in cancer care for the past six years, been a nurse for thirty-one years.  Friday we had a young woman, thirty-four I think, come to us for an MRI scan.  Query spinal cord compression.  She had back pain, incontinence and a seizure on the way upstairs from radiation.  Last month she had total brain irradiation for leptomeningeal disease.  Her husband was wonderful.  They were both wonderful young people.  And that's the problem they were young and she's dying.

This past week has had one patient after another about my age with cancer, with advanced cancer.  More than once when explaining procedures to patients, both the patient and their spouse have burst into tears.  A man two years older than me with stage four bowel cancer with less than a year to live.  A twenty-seven year old with stomach cancer and less than a year to live.  And it breaks my heart every single fucking time.  I'm tired of people dying.

I'm tired of seeing patients come back year after year, or month after month, looking just a little worse each time until they just don't come back anymore.  It used to be that I could ignore the fact that I don't see certain people anymore.  But then I look back six years and realize all the people that just don't come anymore for scans and it becomes overwhelming, the grief and the pain.

I've become friends with some of my patients.  One woman and her husband came to our wedding.  I run into people out walking or at the mall.  I joke with my patients.  I know what some of them do for a living, how many kids they have, that they foster children, that they hate making pickles, that they love chocolate cake.  I have a connection with so many of them and that connection keeps getting broken.

I'm feeling overwhelmed lately with their grief and my own grief.  My boss thinks it's a job but it's not just a job, at least not for me, and that's what's making it so hard.  I'm burnt out.

All of this death is getting to me.  I keep thinking about my own mortality and wondering what it is I am meant to do with this one short, precious life of mine and I wonder how I will feel when I am told that my days here are numbered.  Will I be satisfied with what I've done, how I've loved?  I'm feeling rather old and mortal lately which I suppose scares me a little, a lot. 

I have left behind the age of endless tomorrows and I'm struggling to feel at ease with my own mortality.