Friday, May 27, 2011

The Radiation Routine | Halifax, NS

I'm used to the routine now.  I remove my green housecoat and hop up onto the table.  I remove the right sleeve of my gown and lay down.  As I scooch down on the table, I glance up to the monitor which contains my information.  The technicians always call me by name and ask me my date of birth, but I always check to make sure the numbers on the monitor are all mine.

I lay my head in the uncomfortable bowl-shaped headrest; this will be moved in a moment or two by a technician and my head will rest directly on the table.  I raise my legs while the technician places a padded bumper under them.  Under me is a hospital sheet, which will come in handy when setting me up.

The table moves slowly, first it glides along the floor a couple of feet, then it raises higher off of the floor.   The lights are dimmed and a beam of green light streams across my chest.   My right arm is placed above my head and out of the way.  

I no longer move on my own - I am to remain still and let the technicians move me as needed.  There is a technician to my right, leaning over me, looking at the tattoos I have marking my chest.  A light from the machine directly above streams numbers down the front of my chest.  The technician reads numbers out to her teammate whose voice I can hear but who I can no longer see.  She gently presses on my side and reads more numbers.  A gentle tug of the sheet beneath me moves me ever so slightly.  Occasionally, the teammate is called over to "roll" me from the other side with a gentle tug of the sheet from the left. 

The side of my body, near my lymph node incision is gently poked.  Then my arm, near my armpit, is smooshed, the technician trying to move it higher, out of the way of radiation.  And again, more smooshing.  Then the tape is brought out.  They must tape the under portion of my arm to the machine.  I joke that they have to tape my arm fat.  In reality, they tape me down to keep that part of my arm out of the stream of radiation, but the tape also makes it easier to hold my arm above my head and I am thankful for it.  On my skinny-arm days when they don't use it, my arm strains to stay in position and I fear I will move it unknowingly.

I do not move my head for fear of moving my body out of allignment.  The machine above me is slightly reflective and I watch to see what movements are to come.  Soon they come with a ruler and measure from my chest to my chin - this always ends with a slight nudge to remind me to keep my head up. 

At this point, something inevitably itches:  my nose, my arm, my thigh.  It doesn't matter, I cannot move, it will have to wait.  Soon the technicians are done and they cover my breast with my gown.  "Okay, Karen, we're all set to go."   They leave the room as the lights come up.  And treatment begins...

email:  karenk{at}

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Things I Love: Spinach & Nutty Maple Salad, Stayner's Wharf | Halifax, NS

We've spent quite a bit of time downtown since I've started my cancer journey.   Our trips to the hospital usually end up with a meal somewhere - Smitty's, Westcliff, Swiss Chalet.  How better to sort out the massive amounts of information we're usually given than to fill ourselves up and talk it out.

After one of my radiation treatments, Jason and I decided to ignore the rainy weather - we grabbed our umbrellas and headed to the waterfront for a little stroll and lunch at Stayner's Wharf.  With hungry bellies we decided to order an appetizer, but I left the final decision up to Jason, "You pick, order whatever you want."  He picked the Spinach & Nutty Maple Salad.

Now, if you know anything about me, you likely know that I don't have a terribly adventurous palette.  I mean, come on, I spent three weeks touring Asia and ordered French Fries at every possible opportunity.  

The Spinach & Nutty Maple Salad description reads:  Fresh baby spinach drizzled with a light maple dressing and topped with red onion, goat cheese, pickled beets and maple glazed walnuts.

It was fantastic.  I can't even describe the magical flavours of the maple dressing, pickled beets and maple glazed walnuts.  While it didn't sound terribly appealing to me moments before, I now couldn't eat it fast enough.  Jason slowed down and savoured every bit - since we were sharing, I think I got the better part of the deal.  You snooze, you lose!

Do yourself a favour and try it - then let me know how you liked it.

email:  karenk{at}

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Scotiabank Blue Nose Marathon - Youth Run | Halifax, NS

I ventured downtown yesterday with Shelley to keep her company while her niece and nephew ran in the Youth Run of the Scotiabank Blue Nose Marathon.  The Youth Run is 4.2 kilometres through downtown, starting and finishing near the Halifax Metro Centre.  The kids had a great run; although official times are not kept for the Youth Run, both kids finished in decent times.  

I, on the other hand, didn't appreciate the walk from where we parked the car on Lower Water Street to the starting line on Brunswick - all uphill.  I'm going to blame my slow pace climbing the lovely hilly streets in downtown Halifax on my treatments.

Apparently, there were 3000 or so participants, lots of them sporting blue noses...

Why the blue noses?  People from Nova Scotia are known as Bluenosers - the nickname has been around for a couple hundred years.  One version of the history of the name states we are called bluenosers because of the blue potatoes grown in the province, another tells a story of Nova Scotia fishermen with blue mittens and runny noses.

Wherever the name came from, there were a lot of awesome young Bluenosers running around the city yesterday.

 There are lots more photos on my facebook page if you're interested.
email:  karenk{at}