The appointment to have Donna’s physical with Toronto Western Hospital’s Family Health team is in August of 2012. A day before, she complains to them the doctor is male and she does not want to go.
“Dr. Toussaint is a woman,” the female receptionist says to Donna over the phone.
Donna feels anger. “Well, I did not know that,” Donna says. “No one there even told me if my doctor was male or female. My first appointment was with a man and I just thought it was with a man again.”
Pause. “Well, we are booked for the rest of the month. You can call back in September to see if you can come in,” the receptionist says.
“Well, I may, but I will look for another doctor too.”
“Oh,” the receptionist says. “Whatever you want.”
Donna stomach grips as though hungry. Her younger sister Karen told her that since she was now forty, having regular physicals was very important.
“Well, I may call back.”
“Fine,” the receptionist says and hangs up.
Donna makes a dash for the Internet and searches for doctors. She picks up the phone and calls her friend Marie who lives up the street whom she usually avoids because she always calls her to complain about something. She has a good doctor. When she called her, she was not home. Donna was praying that she had finally found a job.
My days of August are happy. She received an African art book from her mom and another one from her sister for her birthday. Atwoki gave her a great greeting card that played the music Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper that used to be one of Donna’s favourite songs. She used to sing this song to him in her teens to annoy him. He would always smile. Donna’s eldest niece gave her a greeting card with her voice on it anchoring the news that there are so many candles on her birthday cake that there is a fire. Her long-time friend Tiffany spent most of the day with her and they reminisced.
Donna eats McDonald’s three times a day and exercises just about every day for thirty minutes on her treadmill in a corner of her apartment. She meets a beautiful new man. September comes at last.
Feeling inspired, early in September, she calls Toronto Western Hospital’s Family Health Team. The receptionist rebooks Donna with Dr. Toussaint and her appointment is later in the month.
Donna welcomes the new graduate students at OISE | University of Toronto. She works at the OISE Student Success Centre at the time. She continues to exercise for thirty minutes just about every day. She cuts out McDonald’s. Her smoking is reaching almost two packs a day. Her appointment is at 10:30 a.m. No time to exercise on a Tuesday morning, she showers, wears black and jumps in her car.
The best thing that morning is she finds a parking spot that she pays thirty-six dollars for. At least she finds a spot in the crowded lot. The next best thing, the beautiful black nurse with long gorgeous locks greets her as though they are old friends.
“Okay,” she says. “First we need to take your blood pressure, your weight, and your height.”
They chat and laugh as she leads Donna to the machinery.
“You will need to take off your shoes,” she says and sets up the equipment.
Donna razes down the zippers on both of her bootlegs and slides out of them. She steps on the scale: two hundred and twenty-five.
“I weigh myself sometimes at home,” Donna says. “Sometimes I weigh in at two twenty.”
The nurse says nothing to that.
“Okay, now we will need to take your height,” she does say.
Feeling confident, Donna stands under the silver conductor’s stick attached to a long pole with numbers. She can barely believe that after all of these years, this is still how height is measured. She guesses, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
“Five-seven,” the nurse says and removes the stick.
Man, that was not the music Donna wanted to be played. Something here needs to be fixed.
“I’m not five-seven,” Donna says. “I have always been five-nine and a half.”
The nurse says nothing to this.
“Okay, now your blood pressure,” she does say.
It looks like that machine Donna sees at Loblaws.
Donna sits and the nurse wraps flat black plastic around her bare arms and seals it with Velcro. The nurse pumps a black ball attached to the machine; numbers light up above their heads.
“That’s not what we wanted to see,” she says.
“What do you mean?” Donna asks.
“Well,” she says. “Your numbers are here,” she adds pointing to the one hundred and fifty, “we like to see them about twenty to thirty lower than that.”
Donna stares at these offensive numbers. “Oh,” she says.
“You have high blood pressure,” she says.
Donna hangs her short head a little. “Well,” she starts with her eyes looking up at the nurse, “I do smoke.”
“Well,” she says fast. “You are going to have to cut that out. Now you can see the doctor.”
New life…Donna sees a dietician at Loblaws for free who personally takes her around shopping with her. This morning she had oatmeal, with milk from Atwoki, four berries and fibre for breakfast. She plans to have the black beans and chickpeas mixed with vegetables and a smidgen of four oils plus non-salt seasoning for lunch. She throws out all of her sea salt and exercises for an hour each day. Still smoking, but her next physician’s appointment is something she needs to build up the courage to book. She really is five-nine and a half and she buys measuring tape to prove it to herself. She is praying. She is working on it. The prayers work, as they always do. She has faith. Plus, now she is around two hundred pounds. According to the doctor she saw at Toronto Western Hospital and a Reuters study conducted in 2011, she is at her ideal weight for a black woman.