27 February 2010

Auntie Mame [Everyone Should Have One]

My love of old Hollywood movies stems from a childhood tradition of watching them on TV with my mom on lazy weekend afternoons. She was particularly enamored of those that were made in the 1940's and 50's. Auntie Mame was a certain favorite in our house. She was bigger than life, independent, confident, eccentric, and wise. I've always wanted my own Auntie Mame.

She came to me, at last, in the person of Barb S., the director of the Women's Health Center at the hospital. With her deep and smoky voice on the phone, she pretty much gave me no choice but to meet with her prior to my first chemo session. It was imperative, according to her. No if's, but's, or maybe's. "Because," she insisted in that cordial Auntie Mame sort of way "all that you will need to know about chemo, I will tell you. You need to know what to expect so that you are prepared. That's my job." So, I eeked in an hour to see her prior to my first chemo session on March 11, 2009.

I was nervous and sort of out of body on my first chemo day. I did not know what to expect, except all that I read from the literature my oncologist gave me, plus the hours upon hours of research I did on the internet. My head was stuffed with too much information I couldn't process anymore. All I could remember was that I was at once not looking forward to the chemo and being impatient for it to commence. Altogether, it was going to be an awful experience. Period. So, in that state, I walked into Barb's well-appointed office -- so warm and inviting, peppered with health books, mementos and dog pictures -- everywhere!

It was uncanny how Barb oozed Auntie Mame (save the cigarette holder of course). She greeted me not with a handshake but with a big bear hug. Being in her presence was like being immersed in warm bath water with bath salts. She was soothing and assuring -- and bubbly. Barb has some heavy-duty creds to back up that genial hug. She's a licensed nurse practitioner specializing in women's health issues and has been in the business of aiding women with cancer for the past 20 years! So, the information she had for me was both practical and academic.

My one-hour meeting with her was the most informative meeting I'd had to date, considering I'd been meeting with doctors, nurses, and all other kinds of health care professionals for weeks. She was chock full of practical information, all of which (in retrospect) was spot on -- from which day I was going to feel bad after chemo, to how many weeks after chemo I will feel normal again, or to when my hair was going to start falling off (how? etc.), and when I was going to lose my eyebrows, and more!

But that's not all. More importantly, she addressed an issue that I was too crazed to even think about: how chemo was going to affect my appearance in the next few months. Yup! What do you do when your hair starts falling out? Or, how about when your eyebrows disappear? Wig? Or scarves? What about your skin? Will you break out? To the naked eye, it may just be about vanity. But, as Barb put it, when you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you get better. Simple. Yes. But very much taken for granted. She said that I may not have at that point thought it was of import. But it will be. So, she enrolled me in a make-over class and set up me up with a wig consultant, complete with free wig of my choosing. Bless her.

Barb stood out because of her unique was her approach and attitude. Although all of it was serious stuff, she had a certain lightness about it all -- much like Auntie Mame. "This is not the end, honey. This is but a detour. Give it all your energy so that you can go on with your life in a little bit" she said with a smile that could light up a whole room. In what then was sometimes a gray and cold existence, Auntie [Barb] Mame came and gave it light and color.

"Life is a banquet--and some poor suckers are starving to death."


Karen said...

Your "Auntie Mame" sounds like a wonderful angel. I didn't have someone like her, to help me prepare myself for the rough road ahead, and after reading your post, I wish I had.

What a terrific resource for you! And I'll bet that she, too, felt good after meeting with you!

ce_squared said...

Yes. I was fortunate to have met her. I wish you had one too. :-)

Post a Comment