I am late, so very very late
So sorry to be so late

Truth be told, the therapy sessions are as interesting as ever but have evolved into very personal disclosures.  The group has also dwindled to three people, the two ladies who read this blog and me. The tone of the conversation has changed quite a bit. Much calmer, and, as I said, much more personal. We have engaged Our moderator a lot more in the conversations, finding out about his past and how he got involved in Art Therapy. A bit about his childhood, and his current life. But nothing too deep or involved – yet.

I have not take notes, not that the current participants would have minded. The intimacy of the conversations would have made the notes useless anyways.

The paintings have been more of a free for all as opposed to anything specific.

Session 5:



All our negative feelings and emotions cram themselves into our bodies and minds creating a feeling of claustrophobia.  This is hopefully broken up by the better feelings that creep in gradually into our system. The negatives are far more powerful. The better feelings being of a meeker nature tend to hang around the periphery doing their job in a much more sedate way.The red and dark blue on top are the bad feelings, anxiety, despair, anger, depression, loneliness, exhaustion, self-pity, and any others you can think of. You cannot read them on the picture just because they are hard to read on the painting itself.

The painting did not come out as I had hoped. I may try my hand at a second version sometime.

Session 6:

Blood Cell Factory

Blood Cell Factory

This drawing was prompted by two events. The first is the effects of my low white blood cell count. The second was my doodling one night while talking with Leslie.  She thinks doodling is fun and should be done more often. So This is basically a giant doodle.

The sometimes heart shaped drops represent the dwindling white blood cell count. The factory is balanced precariously and is having difficulty creating enough white blood cells. There is little significance to the various shapes and objects. I was doodling after all. The participants thought the balancing act was interesting, as is the fact that all objects are tied to one another in some way. The double hoops created a bit of conversation. I put them there because I got bored of all the straight lines. They proved difficult to work with though. Where do you go from there? The image is slanted to the right, a sign of looking to the future?

One og the participants drew a circle – again! Much as I keep playing with words, she keeps playing with circles. A target perhaps? Life going in circles? She is a very positive person and is dealing with her life admirably well. At least from the perspective of a person who gets to spend two hours a week with her. She also drew a second piece. A fairy. A fairy princess maybe? The fairy was resting, dainty wings tucked to one side. Her face was very calm. The image was very resting, strangely positive. I hope to ba able to take a picture of it at some point. She may not be at the last session this week. She might go traveling somewhere. Just to have abreak.

The last painting dealt with the confusion in our lives, the swirls that we go through hoping to break though the wall that surrounds and contains the maze in a more straightforward path looking to the future. Cannot say much more about it than that.

I am perpetually amazed by the articulate nature of what people draw or paint.

We talked about a lot of stuff. How cold it will feel once my head is shaved. I have not done it yet. I have SO much hair, that few can tell I am losing any of it. I got a gift of a beautiful silk scarf from one of the ladies. I am so touched. We talked about chemo, and its effect on the brain and the body. The amazing doctors and nurses we deal with. How strong we have to be. What a strain it is on those around us. How life is worth living. How we grew up. What affected us. And so much more. The conversation was easy. All that was missing was tea and crumpets.

This week is out last session. We intend to have some sort of pot luck. I will take in some Iranian nuts and stuff. Pistachios, mulberries, and mixes. Should be fun.

Thank you for being there.

The good people at Wellspring allowed me to join the Art Therapy session that takes place on Wednesdays between the hours of 10 and 12.

Devin and I drove Janet to work in the morning. We got to Wellspring about 30 minutes too early. We had a coffee and read the paper.

Art Therapy. I had no idea what to expect and decided to try really hard to keep an open mind. It was not difficult. Last time I had anything to do with painting or drawing was in boarding school in England. I had the dubious distinction of almost failing that class. I mean really, who “fails” at art class? There were too many other things going on in my life at the time, like surviving in an all-white school as the only coloured person. Minor issue.

The room was small with a large square boardroom table. The instructor was still setting things up after the 10AM start time. It really matters little. What else do we have to do? Places to be? The table was covered with a couple of pieces of rubber mats. The type that some people put on their dining room tables to protect the surface. I gather that it was the first time for everyone based on the reaction to the mat and the discussion regarding its fabric. This did not bode well. The mats were covered with dry paint from previous such classes. By the time the dust had settled, there were six women in the room and moi, the sole male. Perfect ratio.

About 35 years ago, in Montreal, I went out to dinner with a bunch of friends and my sister Fetneh. There were 8 of us, if I recall. The waiter kept giving me the hairy eyeball. I was starting to wonder if I knew the guy and had offended him somewhere. It suddenly occurred to me, as I looked around the table, that his look was more quizzical than hairy. He was wondering what a douche bag like me was doing with seven women. The harem, such as it was, consisted of my sister, my oldest friend Nahed Rushdy and a bunch of other platonically related people. Nahed and I grew up in Ethiopia. She pointed out to me the other day, that we have known each other since grade whatever in the 60′s. Just to say, I have been in this situation many times.

The assortment of people was varied. You have to understand that all the goings on at these sessions is strictly confidential. So you can’t just go and blab it out to everyone. You stand on notice. The lady sitting beside me also has colon cancer. Her surgery is done and she is mending. She was very sweet and gentle in her manners. She does not need chemo therapy, lucky her. We will talk more next week. I have to digress again.

I used to be a computer trainer.  I noticed at a particular point that people tend to sit in the same seats when they come back for more training. Does not matter if the training is at their location or ours. The person would come back for their second training day, be it a day, week, or month later, and make a bee-line for the seat they had occupied the last time they were there. They were also quite put out and almost disoriented if someone had beaten them to their seat. It is a very peculiar behaviour. Not sure what it means, or how you would go about studying it.

I am sure that we will all sit in the same seats next week. I might even go in a bit late to test this. The instructor set up the room. Lots of paper, bowls of paint of all the primary colours and a couple more, pails of crayons and chalk, markers of all colours. Once settled, we were given our instructions.

We are going to paint, and discuss our paintings with everyone else. No judgments, All positive. No matter that you cannot paint. Let the child within you rear its tempestuous head and take over. Relax. Cry. Put your hands in the paint if you want the tactile feel. Everything is confidential. No recriminations. We are all in the same boat. Cool.

Our first assignment: paint your name. Not necessarily literally, though that is what we all did, but what you feel your name represents. Are you happy with your name? Do you love or hate it? Does it evoke joy? Whatever. The lady next to me folded her sheet in half. These are large sheet measuring 24 by 18 inches. She was being practical since there was little room. I followed suit. I was also being practical. How could I possibly fill up that amount of space?

Some of us sat there looking pensive, trying to not look concerned over the fact that we really did not understand how you could paint your name. Most went ahead and wrote their names down in BIG letters and started to colour them in, adding more and more detail. I decided to draw my name in Persian, just to be a bit different. I can neither read nor write the Farsi language, but I can write my name. It is a complicated language, beautiful, lyrical, but complicated. I painted some grass at the bottom of the page, a tree on the right, and a giant sun above and to the left. My name was front and centre. The sun is shining on me. So many interpretations!


People revealed a bit of themselves in the paintings, which made for a very interesting session. One person drew a heart in which she drew the faces of her family. She cried when she told us what that was about, specially when she said she wants to live. Very poignant. Others added some elements of what they like to do around their names. Statements of fashion design, traveling (planes), and water. Lots of water all around. Seems water has a very calming effect on people.

One person had splotches of purple, and brown and various other colours all over the paper. It was all covered and looked a bit peculiar. Turns out it was her garden of lilac trees. Made perfect sense. You could see the garden come to life in all the splotches and stains covering the wrinkling paper.

Another drew a house with a path leading up to it. Her name was written inside in all its blazing glory.  She craved the safety of the roof over her head. She said she had no idea why she drew what she did, just came to her.

There was a fair bit of chatter, but nothing of any consequence. Strangely no one asked for an explanation of my choice of language. Devin thinks I should take up calligraphy. So I went out and bout some pens, paper and a book to see where it takes me.

The next assignment was to paint our safe place. This smacked a of of the meadow exercise in the relaxations and visualization session. Devin said I should have painted a swarm of mosquitoes. Not very safe. This one took a while. I have never really thought of a safe place. My bed? That is where I go when I am tired, or need to get away from everyone. But I would hardly call it a safe place. Specially when one of the cats decides that any time is good to lie on my stomach. What or where is a safe place? This one took a while. I watched as the others threw themselves into the project with great gusto. The person to my left, of the roof over her head fame, was also deep in thought. Another participant had closed her eyes and deep in thought. It turns out she was doing a deep breathing exercise and centering herself. Interesting concept.

So I sat there. The person to my left requested pencils to draw with. And so we sat, contemplating the safe place conundrum. My colon cancer partner had found a safe place of sorts. She watching the birds swooping in to their nests in the building across the driveway. They felt safe. She felt she had found something. I finally found mine.


Ramone Alones

The text which you can barely read says:
Nothing like a great Cuban cigar on a warm evening surrounded by friends and family enjoying the times, dinner, conversation.

My painting generated far more conversation than I expected. They wanted to know about cigars, do you inhale? What makes a cigar good? How much does a cigar cost? Do women smoke? The caption under the title: Ramon Alones reads: The ultimate Cuban cigar. 45 minutes of bliss. 45 minutes? Are you kidding me. Hence the safe place. Sit, smoke, enjoy the company and the moment.

One person drew a church, and her house, her garden, and family. Another her time at a cottage that she found peaceful under the radiant sun surrounded by water. Another drew reference to her cottage that always brings solace and peace. My colon cancer partner gave up on drawing the building across the way. Her drawing was the most moving for me. Her thinking evolved into drawing a bunch of rectangular boxes in a bit of a pelle mele from the top of the page to the bottom. Somewhere in the middle of the page, two of the boxes leaned against one another. She drew herself in the triangle that was created by the joining of the boxes. There was great emphasis on the person. She surrounded herself with more protection, dark lines that enclosed her in the space. She equated her safe place with somewhere to feel comfortable and warm, a place to make peace with yourself. I will have to spend a bit more time with her. She is proving vulnerable and terribly interesting.

This is a long post. There is more.

These paintings generated a lot of conversation. Not sure how much of it was intended or not. The instructor was content to let people speak their mind and comment. He was quiet through most of the banter. There was a great deal of respect amongst the participants. No recriminations or judgments. All talked and participated. I took a lot of notes.

How do you define a safe place? Is it internal or external? Mention was made of the people who get caught in disasters losing their homes and belongings. How distraught they are. Have they lost their safe place? Should they consider the material belongings as safe? Is it not better to internalize the safe place? That way you have with you always, taking it with you through good times and bad. Radiating from the inside out.

How do you deal with the well meaning people who surround you with the best of intentions? You keep having to explain yourself and what you are going through. People just don’t get it. They ask the same questions, over and over again. We are dealing with the pain, both physical and emotional, why don’t people understand? We are trying to remain optimistic as we travel this long journey, trying to forge a new identity, a new reason for being. Why don’t people understand? Relatives and friends, all well meaning who criticize you for having a messy house instead of pitching in to help. Why don’t they understand? Should we expect them to understand?

What expectations should we have of others? How do we get support mechanisms in place that would ease the pain? What role does religion play? Is it a panacea? Or a placebo? Giving you false hope and expectations? How does God talk to us?

We talked about making a connection with life, with the earth, digging your hands in the garden and feeling the soil.

Water was in three or four of the drawings and paintings bringing peace and tranquility to people’s souls. Water, vast, in constant motion, calming, at peace with itself.

A couple of people cried, albeit briefly, stifling back the tears and immediately apologising for it. Everyone was quick to offer them tissues. Why apologise? Of all places, this is the one where no apology is required. Don’t they know that we all cry? All the time? We apologise for all sorts of things.

I had a surprisingly good time at this session. It lasted over 2 hours. The instructor had a difficult time bringing it to an end. The group was not willing to let things go. I am looking forward to next Wednesday. Look forward to your comments.

The jury is out on the sleep resolution taken last night. Having said that, I slept quite well, if sporadically. But in the new spirit of any sleep is a good sleep, I accepted the vagaries of the night and woke up at some point in the morning in fine spirits.

This boded well for the chemo day. Strong physical being and emotional state are essential to a successful and painless experience. Since sleep and emotional state are directly related to one another, an accepted sleeping experience stood by me in the cancer ward.

Times have changed. I do not recall the level of consultation taking place when my mother was dying of cancer some 30 years ago. The level of consultation and trust that the nurses place in the patient are impressive. The nurse, a lovely lady named Sammy, from southern India, was ready to connect the Avastin drug. I had to stop her and have her consult with Dr. Hedley.

It turns out that Dr. Kennedy had not informed Dr. Hedley of her decision to delay the application of Avastin until the innards are in better shape. I figure we will wait for the CT Scan to reveal whatever it does before making a decision on Avastin.

Devin and I went to the hospital yesterday to do the blood work thingy. The Porta-Cath means that I do not have to have my veins tapped every couple of weeks. We discovered that when we did the blood work thingy two weeks ago. also turns out that it takes a couple of hours to process the vials of preciousness they extract from my poor and sorry body. Doing the blood work the previous day is highly recommended. The Porta-Cath meant that we could use the alternate blood extracting lab, located peculiarly in the Ambulance Waiting Area.

Devin and I made our way to this area which is tucked away down a nondescript corridor that could use a touch of paint amongst other things. There were no signs indicating where we should go. There is a movie in there somewhere. A door is all that gives away the possibility of the lab.

It is a very civilised affair. They smile and let you know that you are indeed in the right place. The waiting period was very short. The connection to the Porta-Cath with the all-too-familiar giant thumb tack was painless and quick. Blood extracted and you are free to go. The best gesture was leaving the thumb tack embedded for use the next day. One prick and you are done for two operations. How civilised.

Once convinced to way lay the Avastin, the other drugs were connected and all went very smoothly. Done in two and a half hours. What a difference from the previous session.

I told you last time about the clubish atmosphere. We met a couple of people who were done last time. Almost had a cup of coffee with everyone. Some of the nurses even recognise you. Not sure if that is a good thing or not.

Devin is practicing the piano as I am writing this. Brings joy to my heart, though I cannot wait for him to become a better player!

And now for the check list:

No nausea

No diarrhea

No blood on urine or stool

No allergic reactions

No temperature

Hair intact.

© 2010 I Have Cancer Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha