Rebecca Wood

Care Team

(listen to the poem, read by the author)

I specialize in specialists
My body segmented into disciplines
multidisciplinary multimorbidities
making me a freelance medical administrator
They say “care team” as though
at some point
they will hold a summit on my flesh
Annual conference comradery
discussing my auto immunity over
muffins and coffee from a dripping urn
Team building ice breakers before
mapping me on a flip chart
Noting the porous barriers between my diagnoses
doodling lines connecting
layers of my symptoms and severity and medicines and history
Fiddling with sticky edges of nametags
sizing up the new team members attending this year

I am subject and they say member
A misnomer
because I have to be the leader of this care team
who will never meet
Despite the muffins I bake and the conference hall I book
They will never discuss me together
even though I write their names and departments on invitations
a tongue twister of broken telephone
clinical notes passed between them
They couldn’t tell you each other’s names
despite the nametags I print out
They speak their siloed plans and prognosis to me alone as I try
to paint the large picture of my systems
Explaining my molecules and mechanisms of action
that I studied from patient pamphlets

I monitor my monthly bloodwork so that I can alert them to anomalies
because no one will see if I don’t see
I never learned to read a complete blood count
I never studied anatomy
No one ever taught me to speak the language of specialists
Or lead a care team
I have learned through immersion
As I wrangle those charged with caring
for my fragmented biology textbook body
My responsibility to make sure that my body is communicated
to this imagined care team
So my cells
Don’t get missed

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Magnetic Resonance Imaging

(listen to the poem, read by the author)

Fluorescent lit basement rooms filled with powerful hums and clicks
of million dollar machines that never shut down
Technicians in scrubs that work through the night
Intimate internal images of humans in tubes on tables appearing on screen
The chest cavity of the man who sat across from me in the waiting room
in our matching gowns
Curve of his ribs now exposed as the technician watches
Stay still.
Ear plugs in
Foam pads tucked around head and neck
Plastic cage clicked into place
Bulbous panic button filling palm
Stay still.
Deep vibration
pulse chirp thrum
Rhythmic for a moment then sound and buzz speed up
to chaos and dissipation
Stay still.
It’s hard not to jolt when the table moves deeper without warning
Jostled attempt to remain unmoving
as magnets resonate through me
Producing images of my head and neck
spine and eyes and brain
As I imagine scientists playing magnets like music to create these deep pictures
Experimenting with tempo and strength
Resonance and stillness
to reveal secret images
to find answers

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Soul Smells Comfort

(listen to the poem, read by the author)

Olfactory anchors
Reminding my soul self that there are benefits of having a body
Earthy aromas tied somewhere deep
Breath to heart to belly to memory
The smell of fresh coffee
sauteed onions and garlic
steam rising off double bergamot earl grey tea with milk
A tea towel over a rising yeasty ball of dough
Crust and soft bread
Taste comfort
swallowing into my body
Melting like butter and brown sugar and cinnamon on hot toast
cut into triangles

Body comfort
Seeking rest in pain
Calling for pillows and props and orthotic inserts
Soft blankets and stretches
Hot water bottles
Heating pads
Ice packs
Rubs and lotions
wafting mentholated tingles
Touch comfort
Ambiguity of pain
Uncertain timeline
The attempt at comfort counts
Sense memory prompts for spirit, mind and body

Meet pain with mint tea
Breathed into my body
Sensory herbal safety
The smell of green
of grass
of cedar
The mingle of sunlight and decay of pine needles on the forest floor
Damp soil and fresh herbs
Pungent smell of marigolds and stems of tomato plants
Staking my soul to this body
To this earth
To being alive
Soul entangled smells to breath together
body and spirit and matter and magic
To being able to rest.

Read Rebecca Wood’s Creative Nonfiction in this issue of Wordgathering.

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About the Author

Rebecca Wood lives with her plants and craft supplies in Toronto, Canada, and has been navigating an overactive immune system since the age of 19. She has graduate degrees in Early Childhood Studies and Women and Gender Studies and currently works in the Disability sector. Her writing explores themes of bodies, identity, magic, and grief.