Sunday, April 19, 2015

Doctor Doctor

Tomorrow I go back to the hospital to see my surgeon. It will be the first time I've seen him since I was lying on a stretcher outside the operating room.

What's up, doc?

Of course I'm thinking about the first time Kate and I saw her surgeon after her mastectomy. That was April 2012. Dr. McCready said he'd cut all of the cancer out "with good margins" and "no evidence of cancer" remained.

"I hope I never see you again," he said. We all laughed.

I asked him if that meant the cancer was gone, and he said he couldn't say that. Only that if it was still there it was too small for the available medical tools to see. (Five months later it was big enough to be felt with fingers through the abdominal wall.)

It's almost five months now since my surgery, and it seems a very short period of time. When I think about that, and the very short period of time between Kate's surgery and the discovery of the metastases, I'm crushed. We'd hoped the worst was over, but it was only starting.

We worked so hard to re-establish normal, and it wasn't to be. It was bigger than us. It overwhelmed us. It took our life from us. It forced us to live "as well as we can," knowing that space would diminish and diminish until it was gone.

I wanted to say something about how Kate felt terrible pressure to act as if she was "back to normal." She especially felt this when school started up in September 2012. Someone in the school yard made a comment to her, like "So you're back now?" This punctured her.

What she had gone through changed her. Changed us. We rolled with it as best we could. The challenge of the expectations of others is something we never really resolved. In such times, you become insular, which wasn't the sort of person Kate ever wanted to be.

I feel some of the same pressures, but less so. I mean, someone at work said to me, "Why do you need to go to rehab? You look great." This is ignorance. My rehab program is six months long. My heart just endured major surgery. I had the surgery because of major problems in my heart (three blocked arteries).

The truth is, I do look great. The surgery, the drugs, the weight loss, the resting and better sleeping, is all for the good. But I'm still recovering from a major life event. And my heart is ... well, I don't know right now. Is it okay? That's what my meeting with the surgeon is about. What's next?

Doctor, doctor, give me the news.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Bathroom Soap

The other day Naomi put her fingers under my nose.

"Smells nice," I said.

"I used the soap in the bottle in your bathroom," she said.

I told her that had been a gift to Mummy by one of her friends.

"Did Mummy like it?" she asked.

I said, "Yes." Honestly, who knows? But what's not to like?

It's one of my favorite things, having a conversation that uses the word "Mummy."

I know who gave it to her, because I was there when the gift was given. It was in Kate's final month.

What do you give a person who's dying? Bathroom soap? Why not?

It's still giving pleasure.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Kicking at the Darkness

'Till it bleeds daylight
- Bruce Cockburn

The photograph of the shoe comes from across the street yesterday. I took it on the way to the school play, which was based on Cinderella.


It's now Friday night, and I'm home alone with the cat. Put on some Bob Dylan.

I've been thinking of writing a post called "Kicking Against the Darkness." So here goes.

What does it mean for me to be kicking against the darkness?

It has to do with confronting why am I here. Still here. Alone. Without Kate. Living. What's the point of living? Our life, our marriage, our constructed family was the point. Making magic. Making beauty. I can't do that, not the same way, without her.

I never wanted to be single again. Never expected to be single again. Don't want to feel single, again. But I do. I move about the house with memories of how I moved about my house before I met Kate. Things are different, but they're familiar. I'm alone with myself (and the cat) most of the time.

I think about my time with Kate a lot. I think about Kate a lot. I talk to her a lot. But I also put my time with her into the context of my life as a whole. I need to make sense of my time with her, and what it means to live without her. Is it like living BEFORE her? A little, yes, but also not. The kids come and stay over. That didn't happen before I met her.

The kids. Wow. Magic. We have our relationship. We have our memories. We have something we didn't have when she was alive. We have US. It's a minority time thing, but it's still a thing. And I look forward to it going on and on and on. But us is not me, as many people have reminded me. A common thing parents need to remember. The needs of the children cannot be ALL.

After Kate died, I put the kids' needs before my own for a long time. Even though they were only with me two days a week. It drove me crazy, not being with them as much as before. But also, not being able to even begin to figure out what my needs were, being newly alone.

I remember telling one psychologist in the months before Kate died that I was hyper-aware that everything in my life led up to this moment, and everything after Kate's death would lead away from it. Kate's death was the end of all of the expectations of my life. We made a beautiful family, and it didn't save her from cancer and death. I don't know how to believe in those kinds of promises any more. For a long time, I didn't know how to get out of bed, but I did it anyway.

How do you carry on after that? Kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight. I am slowly putting together a strategy about what that means. It is small. It is tentative. It is fragile. But it is real.

On Monday, I go back to Sunnybrook to see my surgeon, Dr. Moussa. I want to ask him about my heart. He got a close look at it. He fixed it up, but I need to know more about how to keep it healthy for a long, long time. I've got things to do. Love to live.

I want to know if I can get a tattoo over my left arm scar. I want to know if I can fly to England. I want to know if the pain I get in my left shoulder is anything to worry about. Ditto for my cold toes. I want to know if the prescriptions they gave me when I left the hospital in December are still the right ones.

I am walking 40 minutes a day, following my rehab exercise prescription, trying to get my pulse up to 120 beats a minute, roughly. This isn't a difficult activity by any means. Doing it five days a week is a bit hard though. It's boring. But I promise to keep at it. I'd like to go harder, faster.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Where's the Wife?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Hello Mr Turkey, How are you?

Thanksgiving 2009. We made a trash can turkey. Kate wrote a blog post about it, but she didn't hit "Publish," so it has sat all of this time in the "draft" folder. Here it is, now live.

We did publish a video of the turkey on this blog - here.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Hi folks, long time no blog.

We have just had a wonderful Thanksgiving replete with family, friends, turkey, and a complete suspension of disbelief.

Auntie Beryl joined us from Barrie and she was such a delight to have. Charlie, Donald, Henry joined us from Danforth and Jones, via a long circuitous walk along Queen St. Thanks for "Attitude Pie" from aka Altitude Bakery along the way. Sorry, it was worth it for us!!!

Yum, pumpkin beer, sausage rolls, braised cabbage, and pumpkin pie, and turkey in a trash can. more on TCT later.

We went around the table - what are you thankful for? my husband surviving cancer, my little Mimi, friends and family, Teletoon, my husband, me, mummy, Trash can turkey, it went on in delightful narrative of all we are thankful for. apparently, there is a lot.

But - we all partook of a new thing, soon to become a tradition for those who

a) love a cooking challenge, cos this one is easy
b) love to leave family in a state of nervous suspense...cos its fun - will it work, it can't possibly!!?
c) love juicy well prepared tasty turkey sans 6 hours of heating the entire house for the day in a too hot oven


here is a link to the photos

fun stuff.

you too can prep a 16lb turkey for delish feast in your back yard if you don't mind losing the grass, cos it's hot, in ...... 1 hr 40 mins

love it. i am thankful of my peeps who indulge me in my food quests.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Sunday, April 12, 2015


I got myself a new online game and I had to name my "base." I named it KTOR. Naomi asked, "What is K-tor?" I said, "Not K-tor. KT-OR. Katy O'Rourke."

I first saw Kate use that at my old house, when we were getting it ready to sell. We did some concrete work and she put her initials into the wet concrete when done.

Her father saw it later and said that when she was a child, Kate had an imaginary radio station with the call letters: KTOR.


Last month I wrote three stories about ongoing KTOR involvement in the real world. Use of her name, anyway. Since then, more. Bon Appetit magazine sent Kate a notice, asking if she'd like to renew her subscription. I got one for her immediately after we were married as a gift. I let it expire after she died. They kept sending me notices saying things like "Don't let Kate O'Rourke down! Renew your gift subscription now!" Haha. Now they just try to send to her directly. I filled out the reply card, saying she'd died, and asked them to take her off their mailing list.

Kate also had a subscription to the Anthropologie catalogue. I got two of those recently, each identical to the other. After I got the first one, I thought I should probably get in touch with the company and cancel. Then the second one arrived. So I thought, Okay, I won't cancel. It's full of pictures of beautiful women and pretty clothes. What's wrong with that?

A catalogue comes a couple of times a year from Land's End as well. In early 2012, Kate ordered clothes online for me and the kids. I wore them to Mexico that February. The kids have since grown out of their items, but I'm still deeply attached to mine. They're fading from use and multiple laundry cycles, but they are items that trigger distinct memories. The arrival of the catalogue renews these memories every time. I can't bring myself to cancel this one either.

We did quite a lot of our grocery shopping through Grocery Gateway, especially after cancer arrived. So much easier to have the groceries arrive at the front door and have someone else carry them up the steps. The GG account was in Kate's name. I kept it like that for a long time, until I saw the website had for some reason flipped it to Mr. K O'Rourke. This is delicious and Kate would have loved it. Goes right back to what she wrote here in 2007. Not that I mind being called Mr. O'Rourke, but I changed the registration to my name going forward.


Camping. Been thinking about camping. Looking forward to the summer. It seemed to me that we had gone camping a lot, but upon considering it I realized that we had only gone twice. To Sandbanks in 2008 and to Awenda in 2009. In 2010, we just didn't get to it, and in 2011 we rented a cottage. And that was it. We had only four summers of our marriage. This summer coming up will be the fourth without her.

Kate took the kids camping by herself in 2006 and 2007, and I heard those stories enough that I felt I was there, though I wasn't. I've gone camping with the kids twice since Kate died: Sept 2013, July 2014. It was one of those important rituals that we had to, had to, had to carry on. And we will again. Still, only twice with KTOR? Unbelievable.


Kate's Song by Brooke Sturzenegger, my cousin.

Saturday, April 11, 2015


April is the cruelest month. April showers bring May flowers. Our common thoughts of April emphasize the challenge and the promise of this fourth month of the year.

Today the sun is shining and bird songs fill the air. Some plants poke through the earth, but the garden generally remains grey, flat, the trauma of winter exposed upon its surface.

Last week I walked up Bay Street past the building I was working in back in April 2007. It's where I was working when we got engaged. I remembered meeting up with Kate and the kids in a coffee shop on the corner there, and in the parkette behind 777 Bay sitting with Kate by the pool and planning our wedding. Circus-like, that's what we wanted. A carnival. Believe it or not.

How many other Aprils do I remember? Not so many. April 2010, Easter, because Kate and her brother reconciled. April 2012, because it was the last one. The others blend together. Spring, the season was all about the garden. Preparing. Planning. Planting. Seedlings in pots and pans. New diagrams of how to rearrange things. Of 2013 and  2014, I remember little, except I ran Easter egg hunts for the kids. Didn't this year, though.

This is the third April without Kate and each of them have had some of the common elements. I have tried to be good to the garden. I have tried to keep up routines. Tried to have veggies -- as Kate insisted we would -- except we didn't in 2012. I let it lapse. For 2013 and 2014, the weather overwhelmed my meager efforts. Then after last year, I decided I wasn't going to even try any more. It's too hard to pretend to be stepping in old footsteps, but this year I am stepping in old footsteps. Not pretending. Just doing. Even though I ripped up the garden and made some big changes in the backyard, it feels like ... old times.


April 2012 was one of the hardest months of my life. So much pressure. Acting on the one hand as if all was normal. Fearing on the other hand that all was falling apart. It was neither, of course. Things fell apart in May. Nothing at that time, or probably ever, is normal. It was just a period of intense pressure and stress, and what I remember most about it is that Kate was here and we were together. There was immense pressure and stress and pain, but we had each other. I would have lived like that forever, happily, but we never get that choice. We knew what we had was the best it would be (it had been better, but the future would only get worse). Each moment was the best, and it is not weird to be nostalgic for that. Right?

Naomi insisted on planting a package of flower seeds last weekend, and now they are sprouting. Seeing these micro plants makes me incredibly happy. That Naomi insisted we plant them against my advice makes me incredibly happy, too. Last week I blogged that I wasn't exactly hopeful for these seeds, but life has proven me wrong. It is surging.

Photo: From today. I put the cushions on the seats on the front porch. I haven't been able to sit out there since Kate died. Not like we used to. Maybe this summer. I'm hoping to be more Zen.