Shopping While Housebound: A Joe Fresh Security Concern

I’ve been housebound for four years now. The pain I feel daily – every minute of every day to be exact – makes it difficult for me to go out to do the many things I once took for granted. I remember going for leisurely walks on cool fall days as the leaves on branches overhead cycled through a palette of beautiful autumn colours before gently floating to rest on the ground. I remember walking to my local ice cream store to sate my summer craving for a large cone filled with my favourite flavour(s) then slowly strolling along the sidewalk toward home as I savoured each moment before they melted away.

Shopping was never something I loved to do. However, in recent years, even before my illness, online shopping became my go-to method for buying the things I wanted; and since becoming ill, I rely heavily on this method of shopping to buy everything I need from groceries to cleaning supplies to clothes. For the most part, I’ve been able to rely on one online store to buy casual clothing I need for my now housebound lifestyle and gifts I need to buy for friends and family members or their children. Their clothing hits a price-point that doesn’t hurt my wallet too much, my size is usually available, and my orders usually arrive within a few days.

Sadly, they have fallen from my favour. A few weeks ago, I ordered some items from their summer sale because they were greatly discounted and because I needed to buy some presents. I made my purchases in two separate orders because they had back-to-back promotions offering extra discounts. When the first package arrived the contents smelled. All the clothing smelled as if the company stored them in a space that contained chemicals of some sort and rotting food. I tried to ignore the smell and laid the clothes out hoping that airing them out would eliminate the odor – it did not. When the next package arrived it smelled even fouler than the first. This meant I would have to wash or dry clean these clothes before gifting or wearing them.

As a courtesy – and out of curiosity – I contacted the company to report the issue and to find out if something had changed in their logistics process. Did they change their manufacturer? Were they storing their product in a new storage space before shipping them out to customers? Had any other customer(s) contacted them with the same concerns? The representative who took my call told me the foul smell was a known issue the company was working to resolve. He put me on a brief hold while he looked for a memo that outlined the company’s policy for addressing this issue if/when customers called. He told me the memo instructed that customers were to be refunded the total dollar value of the order placed online; and none of the items in the order had to be returned. That surprised me; and I asked him multiple times to confirm that I would not have to return anything to receive the full refund, which he did.

Well, over the last few days, that policy took an abrupt reversal. On the weekend, the company’s representative left a message telling me that the first order had been fully refunded. Then he stated that the second order, that was a higher dollar value, could not be refunded, “for security reasons”, unless I returned the entire order. Then I would receive a voucher card for a 30% discount on a future order. Huh?! There was no mention of replacing what I had purchased. I called the company back on Sunday to speak with a supervisor who told me she needed to review the memo on the issue and she would get back to me with clarification. She called me back on Monday with more backpedaling about issuing the refund.

 

She reiterated that I had to return the order to get my promised refund. What about the fact that I chose each item for a specific purpose or person and most were already washed, gifted, and/or no longer in stock from their online store? She said they would do their best to replace them. She asked how many pieces of what I ordered were still in my possession. I couldn’t see why that mattered. She then added a new reason I had to return the order: They wanted to test the clothing to figure out the cause of the foul smell. What?! If it was a known issue couldn’t the company do those tests without the clothes from my order? I asked if they had required other customers who reported the smell to return their orders. She wasn’t sure but assumed they probably had, which made no sense because they refunded my first order without any items returned. I asked again, why I was told that the memo related to the issue stated customers didn’t have to return anything to receive the refund. She wasn’t sure. I asked why the previous representative told me the dollar value of my order posed a security concern. She apologized for his poor choice of words and said that was not a valid reason.

After 25 minutes of this back and forth, we reached an impasse. The promise of a full refund from the first representative I spoke with was not going to be honoured for this order, without returning the items I purchased; and I could not continue to be a customer of a company that breaks its own policies and promises. The e-commerce universe is vast and Joe Fresh is not the only company that offers what I need. I chose them because they are a Canadian company and shopping with them was convenient. They are willing to discard me as a customer because they have so many that my business is insignificant. Joe Fresh labelled me a security risk after offering me a refund I didn’t seek out. Yet, the value of the order never raised any cause for concerns when I placed it.

 

Advertisements

Conflicted Canadian On Canada Day

Today marks 150 years in the millennia that the land we call Canada has existed. It is the 150th year; I am told is most significant, because this is the anniversary of when this land became a sovereign nation under the rule of a government formed to manage, then control, the land and all the people and resources that inhabited it since time immemorial. It is the anniversary of the sliver of time marked first by exploration and curiosity of what lay beyond horizons; then scarred by the efforts of all that has been done to erase the pre-historic presence that welcomed the adventurous spirit of strangers to share in all that could be seen before them.

Today is the day that marks the efforts of erasure, which continue even in the choosing of an arbitrary number representing a blink of an eye in the vast time that this land and its people have stood strong. I have benefitted from all the efforts of erasure to live in a country where I have freedoms, privileges, and opportunities not always available to the people indigenous to this land. People whose history cannot be contained by the 150 years of celebrated oppression, violence, and ignorance of what existed before and continues to thrive even under endless attempts to snuff it out. I benefit from the stereotypes that paint the Indigenous Peoples of this land as undeserving and incapable children requiring constant surveillance and micromanagement as the boundless wisdom they hold is ignored and this land faces the same plight to which we have sentenced them.

While I and others are free to live life, wherever and however we choose within this young nation, the Indigenous Peoples of this land to whom the number 150 marks only a brief moment in their history, remain relegated to pockets of land reserved for their kind. Where their status as non-relevant bodies in the vast time and geography of this land is perpetuated by restrictive rule of laws. When that status was deemed insufficient to contain the internal savages of nations within this celebrated nation, it was paired with re-education to break the spirits we now know are strong and eternally bonded to the land.

How can I celebrate today? How can I celebrate only this selected 150 years of the history of this land? How can I celebrate a country that describes itself as multicultural and calls itself a mosaic, when its Indigenous Peoples and many of the peoples that came after them are not treated as equal or worthy as those who have arbitrarily plucked this number from the timeline?

 

Canadian Native Flag designed by Kwakwaka’wakw artist Curtis Wilson

Panic Without A Disco

I had a panic attack this morning. It’s the second one I’ve ever had. Both have been visited upon me since becoming ill almost four years ago. The first one came while I was in the hospital emergency room one night seeking help to manage an intensely painful pain spike. Immediately after the nurse injected a dose of morphine into the line of my IV drip it felt like there was an elephant sat on my chest preventing me from breathing properly. Catching my breath felt impossible and I started to feel dizzy, as I lay almost flat on my back on the hospital bed. The medical team treating me had to jump into action to make sure I wasn’t having an allergic reaction or a coronary episode of some kind. They ruled out both and concluded that the feeling that my lungs compressed caused me to panic.

This morning’s panic attack happened because of what I suspect were two concurrent shocks to my system. The first was waking suddenly from a very vivid nightmare. I don’t want to recount it because it’s the kind of thing best left in darkness. However, every moment of it felt frighteningly real and when I woke from it I was afraid. I was trembling. I was breathing heavily. When I moved I felt intense pain in my back, pelvis, and legs that made it hard for me to move so I could self-sooth and calm my breathing. Falling out of such lucid images of fear to land in the pain-filled reality of my body must have shocked my nervous system in a way similar to the day I received that shot of morphine in the emergency room.

When I was finally able to stand up I made my way to the bathroom where I sat for a long time trying to catch my breath. I had to talk to myself to coax my body back to calm. I’m not certain how long it took to normalize my breathing but it felt like an eternity and even then I was still shaking; still feeling the incredible pain shooting up my back and down my legs. In another eternity, I walked to the living room and sat on my couch where I have stayed most of today. I was also forced to face the reality that the plans of having one of my closest friends come visit me later in the day had to be postponed. That hurt too.

Sadly, there are times when my body and mind send me painful messages I can’t ignore. As a result, I’ve spent most of the day trying to move as little as possible because the pain has been so intense. Even though it’s early evening now, my hands are still somewhat shaky and my stomach still feels a bit unsettled. If I could clearly articulate what it felt like during this morning’s episode, it might look something like what I’ve drawn below: spikey, wavy, and disorganized all at once.

I hope no one else has had this kind of Saturday.

 

 

 

Kind Of Blue First Day Of Summer

I know I should be happy because it’s the first day of summer. Above all else, this means we’ve reached the definitive part of the year when the days are longer and it’s okay to wear shoes without socks. Not wearing socks may be my hands-down favourite thing about summer; closely followed by the earthy smell in the air when it starts to rain. But I’m not sensing the uplifting summer feeling today. It might be because I see before me another year when my summer will be spent mainly indoors as I struggle from day to day with pain that unlike the seasons seems endless.

Instead of thinking about the longer, sunny days ahead, I’m feeling rather blue…

I can only hope that tomorrow the sun will shine brighter and that light will lift my mood. While holding on to that hope I’ll have Miles keep me company.

 

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue – 1959 (Complete Album)

 

Good News After A Flawed Rush

Remember that rambling tale I wrote yesterday about what happens when you rush? Well, it turns out all was not for naught after the convoluted list of mishaps I went through to get to my non-appointment appointment. My Endocrinologist, who graciously saw me even though I arrived for my appointment five days early after her office hours had ended; called me first thing this morning to let me know that my blood test results were better than good – I guess that means they’re great (?)!

Nonetheless, there is a backstory on the blood tests and a reason for having an Endocrinologist. It’s because about eight years ago I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease, which is an immune system disorder that causes an overproduction of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism). If you want to learn more about it, clicking on the above highlighted words ‘Graves’ Disease’ will lead you to the Mayo Clinic’s overview. However, what I’m about to tell you isn’t pretty because I probably had the worst convergence of symptoms imaginable and it took quite some time and lots of tests to figure out exactly why my body was working against me.

The least concerning of the symptoms was excessive perspiration, which is as gross as it sounds. It made me feel conspicuous whenever I had to wear heavy jackets, multiple layers of warm clothing, or the temperature in a room or outdoors went above 20 degrees Celsius because I was guaranteed to have rivers running down my back or pools collecting under my armpits, but I could deal with it by changing clothes or taking a shower. I developed an intolerance to extreme heat that still makes it difficult for me to enjoy weather warmer than 25 degrees Celsius, so air conditioning has become a good friend of mine. Then there was the shortness of breath for no reason at all including just lying on my couch. It made me wonder how it had ever been possible for me to be a long-distance runner; and of course, the heart palpitations that started happening at random intervals didn’t help to put that question to rest. They scared the crap out of me each time I experienced the rapid fluttering in my chest.

I also lost a lot of weight. When a person of my physical build loses more than ten pounds it’s noticeable in the way your clothes fit, or stop fitting, and you start to look emaciated. The people in my life noticed it before I did because they could see the changes in my face, which is naturally angular; as it became leaner each time they saw me. I noticed it when the clothes I had altered after purchasing them to fit me properly, started to sag on my disappearing waist and other places. That weight loss caused incredible fatigue, but between my irritability, anxiety, and disrupted sleep patterns, I didn’t get much rest. The weight loss was accompanied by hair loss. I started to shed so much when I combed my hair it looked as though I might be related to some species of longhaired cat – strangely, I have such an abundance of thick hair on my head that the only place the loss was noticed was on the floor or in my brush. Finally, my skin began doing strange things and all those symptoms lumped together prompted a barrage of tests.

The first round of tests indicated that there was something not quite right with my liver. I had to stop taking all medications cold turkey for 30 days to clear my system and then redo all the blood tests. When the results from the second set of blood tests were delivered the one thing that stood out was the high level of thyroid hormones. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough for a complete diagnosis. I had to have a thyroid biopsy to rule out cancer and a thyroid scan that involved drinking radioactive dye to see if I had enlarged nodules (noncancerous lumps) growing on my thyroid that might have to be surgically removed or might require the complete removal of my thyroid gland. After all those uncomfortable diagnostic procedures, the good news was that I neither had cancer nor required surgery because either one or both would have meant taking thyroid hormone medication for the rest of my life absolutely never missing a dose, on top of whatever other treatment was prescribed.

What I did have to do was take anti-thyroid medication for a while to stop the overproduction of thyroid hormones. Early on, the dose had to be corrected to deal with the unexpected occurrence of side effects that are supposed to be rare: most notably vertigo that still affects me occasionally. However, the anti-thyroid treatment recreated the necessary hormonal balance within about three years and my Endocrinologist declared that I was safely in remission and could stop taking the medication. I got that good news about a month before my current illness showed up almost four years ago. Throughout this illness, I’ve had to continue having regular blood tests to check my thyroid hormone levels, ultrasound scans of my thyroid to monitor the size of the nodules, and check-ups with my Endocrinologist. When I saw her on Wednesday during my non-appointment appointment she told me that if the results of the blood tests looked good I didn’t have to see her again until next year at this time. Then if my blood test results are consistent through to that time it means I will have been in remission for five years and the likelihood of the Graves’ Disease recurring will be slim.

Where I was frustrated with myself on Wednesday for rushing to an appointment I didn’t have, today I’m quite content because of this good news. My hope is that my thyroid hormone levels stay normal until next year so I’ll have more energy freed up from having one less invisible illness to think about.

 

The words of this song don’t match my good news, but the mood of the song certainly does…

Sam Cooke – (Ain’t that) Good News

 

When Haste Really Makes Waste

When one lives in constant pain there is only so much energy available for doing things, so making mistakes with your time can be costly. For example, yesterday, I had to muster all the energy I could to get myself ready for an appointment with my Endocrinologist to make sure there are no hidden threats to my health lurking just below my larynx in my thyroid glands. However, nothing in the hours leading up to my appointment seemed to want to go right. Starting with overloading the circuit breakers while trying to make something to eat and running my stove, electric kettle, and toaster oven at the same time – I’m sure the toaster oven is the culprit because this never happened with my old one –, which resulted in partially toasted bread for my egg and cheddar cheese sandwich.

I’ll skip over showering and getting dressed because that’s an ongoing battle whether I’m rushed or not, and go right to traveling to the appointment. I ordered a ÜberX pick-up to get me to my appointment a few minutes early because my Endocrinologist may be the most efficient doctor I know so she is always on schedule. As I made my way out to the street, I called the driver because the Über app was still showing him as two minutes away, which is what it had said 2 minutes before. When the driver answered my call, he said he was waiting right outside my home. Of course, I couldn’t see him because once again the location-finder GPS in the app sent him about a block away from my home. When I told him this he seemed annoyed but said he would turn around and come get me. Luckily, I hadn’t closed the app and noticed that he canceled my pick-up.

At that point, time was ticking away and there were no available taxi cabs in sight so I ordered another ÜberX. This time I manually entered my address and searched for my destination, which I selected from a list of in-app suggestions. Can anyone see where this is going? The driver arrived within five minutes. I told him I was running late. He assured me he would get me to my appointment on time. He set off driving down a street, where at that time of day, promises slow-moving city traffic, but he was certain he would get me there on time regardless. I tried to let go of my anxiety and started to chat with him about why he chose to become an Über driver, which is a conversation that tends to deliver a wide array of responses: his was simply the convenience of managing his own schedule.

Within a few minutes, he announced that we were arriving at our destination, which for so many reasons wasn’t possible. When I looked up, I saw the wrong hospital in front of me. I looked at the Über app and realized that I had, of course, selected the wrong address for the hospital from the app-generated list when I ordered the second pick-up. Editing the drop-off address only made things worse because who knew that the hospital had so many clinic locations listed under its moniker. This course correction led to what might have been a hilarious sketch out of a sit-com, were it not for the fact that I was anxious about not making it to my Endocrinologist’s office before she shut the door for the day.

I directed the driver to take a back street shortcut where at the end of it we had to choose between joining slow-moving traffic again and trying to find the right one-way street to get us back on course. I opted for finding the one-way street, which all turned out to be designated to go in the direction opposite of where I needed to be and we landed on a main street with streetcar lines that ensured that our travel time would be extended. I called my doctor’s office to let them know I was running late but they were done answering calls for the day so I dropped right into voicemail. I left a message, which I’m sure was met this morning by a furrowed brow from the office administrator.

To get us out of the panic-inducing stop-and-go traffic, the ÜberX driver turned down a one-way street that could get us to a hospital entrance within a few short minutes. But… we missed the turn-off for the next street that would finally lead us there. He decided to take a chance at backing up to save me time, but there was a car coming down the one-way street behind us that made reversing an impossibility. By this point there was nothing to do but laugh. We were both laughing at what might be the most painfully comical Über ride experience for us both. We followed the street to its end then drove down two more streets that finally got us to the rear entrance of the hospital. I thanked him profusely for doing his best to get me there on time and only missing the mark by ten minutes after all the confusing stops, starts, and turns.

Then I walked as quickly as my very sore legs could carry me to the Endocrinology Department offices. To my relief, the doctor’s office door was still open and she was there, talking with two of her students. When she looked up and saw me, she smiled and asked what she could do for me. I apologized for being late for my appointment and she looked thoroughly confused. She told me I wasn’t booked for an appointment and double-checked her patient log for the day that I certainly was not on because my appoint, that I so determinedly tried to get to, was scheduled for June 19th, which was five days away. I had mistakenly entered it into my calendar for the incorrect date.

Thankfully, she’s a patient-focused doctor. Instead of making me return in five days, she sent me to the lab to do my blood tests and stayed after the office should have been closed, to see me. So I guess, as much time as I wasted by rushing to get to my appointment early – I do see the irony in that statement – the day wasn’t completely squandered.

 

Rush – Closer To The Heart

 

Peanut Butter and Bananas

Some days are harder than others are.

On a day like today when my entire body feels sore from the moment I open my eyes, it’s hard to imagine anything that can help make me feel better. One would think all the pain medications I take might do that; but they only make it possible for me to cope with the always-present pain and the soreness, which is a by-product of any movement or exertion I make with my now atrophied muscles.

Today, however, there was one thing that made me feel wholly better for a short time. I made myself a peanut butter and banana sandwich. My version of a comfort food that I’ve been eating for as long I can remember. If you’ve never tried one, I suggest that you should, at least once in your life. Because, for me, peanut butter and banana sandwiches make everything feel better…