I’m Back! – Health Nightmares, Weird Analogies about Canadian Health Care, and Queer Mermaids


I love how positive-yet-uncertain this bear looks. Which matches me perfectly right now. Like, “HI! I’m back…? Maybe…? I don’t know what’s going on….”

Hey everyone! I’m back (possibly? hopefully?) from my completely unintended hiatus!

Sigh. Let me be blunt: these past two and a half weeks have been the absolute worst.

You know the saying “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb”?

Well, June came in like a beautiful flying unicorn spraying rainbow spectral dust and has been crashing in a big glittery inferno ever since.

So. Let me try to sort this mess out for you into something that’s digestible and not a blog post equivalent of me sobbing into a pillow for an hour.

It started two weeks ago when I got a call from my mom saying that my grandmother back in Korea has stage 4 liver cancer. And that was a “I’m sorry, I don’t think I heard you properly” moment, because I’d seen her and talked to her in a video call a month ago and she’d seemed completely fine.

I hadn’t had to face the prospect of any of my grandparents not being healthy since my grandfather passed away 15 years ago, so I was at a loss to how to process it.

Now, that same week I’d been to the clinic because of some abdominal pains I’ve been having, and that led to a trip to the lab for blood tests. And not soon after I got the call about my grandmother, I found out from the doctor that my vitamin B12 levels were high, as were the numbers for one of my liver enzymes. Either one of those results by itself is notable but not exactly scary. Coupled together, however, means that there’s a probability of liver damage. (I had an ultrasound done since then and my liver seems fine, so that’s one worry off the list)

And that’s when my brain starting spinning in on itself.


One of my favourite end products of human evolution is pattern recognition–our ability to take disparate bits of information and create a whole picture out of them (WAIT, there’s a point to this, I swear). And I love that so much.

I love that we hung a fish, a lion, a queen across the sky because we saw specks of light in the dark and believed them to have meaning.

I look at the stucco patterns on my ceiling and convince myself there’s a shape of a person holding an umbrella.

We connect dots and find stories in chaos. Which is beautiful, right?

Except when our brain turns it against us.

Because somehow I connected my grandmother’s health troubles with my test results and came to the conclusion that there’s something severely, awfully wrong with my own liver. And when it comes to personal stuff, I tend to catastrophize. So whenever something remotely bad happens I can’t help but assume the worst.

Cue stress dialed up to 11.

I was shaking, I was having anxiety attacks, I couldn’t fall asleep at night, and when I did, I only managed about 4 hours before bolting awake.

So I decided to go work out at the gym every other evening because I desperately needed to release the stress somehow.

Cue breathing troubles.

My first two workout sessions went fine–I took it easy and did light cardio. After my third session, though, I was dizzy and wheezing and it felt like my chest was constricting and I could only take shallow breaths. And this lasted through the next day.

So I visited a clinic and the doctor sent me in for an X-ray and signed off a prescription for an inhaler. Now, I don’t have a history of asthma and I wasn’t sure if what I was experiencing was asthma, but I just wanted to breathe properly again and surely a couple of puffs couldn’t kill me, right?

So I tried two puffs.

Cue intense vertigo and wooziness (I’m chalking this up to the inhaler’s side effects).

And I spent two days lying in bed watching Youtube videos and Netflix because I couldn’t focus on anything else. Also, getting vertigo on a 5th floor balcony is decidedly not fun.

Then about five days later, I started having chest pains. It started with my chest and spread to the shoulders and neck, and there were periods where I was dizzy and couldn’t breathe properly. And on Thursday night it got severe to the point where I was slumping against the wall of my apartment.

So I went to the ER, and they set me up with an X-ray, ECG, and yet another blood test, and then had me wait 5 hours until they came to the conclusion of “Tests look fine, don’t think it’s a heart problem. Take Tylenol.”

And I went home at 2 AM.

(*deep breath* Do not turn this into a rant about the Canadian health care system. Do not turn this into a rant about the Canadian health care system. Do not–)

Here’s the thing about the Canadian health care system.


Let’s think of our doctors and hospitals and labs as little inns scattered across a kingdom. The quality of the inns is pretty great–clean environment, nice food, well-trained workers–but the roads that connect all the inns–the ones that you need to follow in order to get from one inn to the next–are unpaved and infested with bandits and giant man-eating scorpions.

So because you’re fending off swords and deadly stingers and trying not to trip over a minefield of uneven rocks, it takes you forever to reach the next inn, and by that point you’re poisoned and bleeding and sleep-deprived, and those well-trained workers have their work cut out for them. (oh god this is a terrible analogy)

You’re not really aware of the problem if you just visit the family doctor every now and then for checkups and things like the flu. But if you’re ever dealing with a more severe condition that has you moving from doctor to lab to doctor to specialist to lab, it becomes abundantly clear how inefficient and bogged-down the system can be. Especially compared to other countries that have universal healthcare.

But yeah! That’s kind of where I’m sitting at right now. Been crying a lot. Still dizzy. Still having chest pains. The tests say my heart is fine, so I suspect it’s a blood vessel issue, but I won’t know for sure until I see a cardiologist (which will probably take 4-6 weeks).

I think I’ve gotten past being scared and anxious into just plain exhausted. I hate the feeling of not knowing what’s going on with my body, but that’s what it is at the moment. I can’t yank our system by the collar and force it to work faster.

So in the meantime I want to try to get more rest and focus on positive things.

Like BLOGGING. And BOOKS. And GAMES. And talking with all you LOVELY, LOVELY PEOPLE. <3

So let’s close on a good note!


Some Happy Things that Happened in the Past Two Weeks

🌻 I caved in and bought watercolour paints that have been on my wishlist for half a year. They’re a brand called Daniel Smith and their special thing is that they mine minerals from all over the world and grind them into pigments to make a lot of their paints.


When I first started watercolour last year and began researching different brands, I kind of side-eyed Daniel Smith because using semi-precious gemstones to make paints (and charging $16-$30 per 15 mL tube) seemed kind of pretentious and elitist. But then I watched demonstrations and read articles and I saw how every paint behaves differently with the water in such mesmerizing ways…and it’s just the perfect marriage of science and art. How can I possibly hate that?

I’ve been playing around with them a bit and they. look. stunning.

🌻 I walked (very slowly) around one of my favourite forest trails in the region and sat by the lake for a couple of hours. Nothing gets me feeling more comfortable and at peace than being in the woods.

🌻 I saw female mallard ducks leading their ducklings on a practice flight session around a lake (a different one). It was disastrous and adorable and made me laugh.

🌻 I wrote an email to a UK publisher asking for an ARC, and to my joy and utter bafflement, they sent a physical copy over.

🌻 I stumbled across this freaking gorgeous painting on Twitter and I’m pretty sure it added several years to my life. I NEED it to be made into a story.

You can find the artist @trappedinvacancy on Twitter and Tumblr!




Now you! Tell me something you saw, heard, experienced that made you happy this month!

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Tammy June 25, 2019 - 6:12 am

Wow Kathy, what a month you’ve had😬 I hate that spiral of doom when you get bad news and then everything else goes to hell, been there! Maybe your chest pains are a panic attack? Which is fairly common. Hope things get better soon, and I LOVE that mermaid artwork too😁

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky June 27, 2019 - 12:29 am

Thanks, Tammy!! <3 I don't think it's a panic attack because those make me feel like I'm actually dying and these pains aren't quite as intense. But I definitely do think it's stress-related! I guess the biggest question now is will it go away on its own or will I need more tests and treatment. Hopefully the former!

bookbeachbunny June 25, 2019 - 1:00 pm

Oh man I feel for you! I’ve been there myself recently and at some points would think the stress and anxiety of dealing with the system was probably making it worse- especially since no one seemed to have a clue.

Stay strong and do whatever you need to take care of yourself!

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky June 27, 2019 - 1:12 am

Aw no I’m sorry to hear that!! I hope things are better for you now. The waiting part is the worst. Like, it’s your body and you want to do something about it quickly, but the system’s holding you back going “Nope. Not so fast.”

And thank you! <3 I've been binge watching baking/cooking shows and it's been helping a lot. 😀

Gerry@TheBookNookUK June 25, 2019 - 2:30 pm

Ah Kathy, let me send you a virtual hug as I can’t send you a physical one. That’s a proper shit month, excuse language, and I’m so sorry that you’ve had to go through all that.

As always I hope things turn a corner and though the happy and nice moments don’t shift the dark away they do allow for a reminder that there is some sunshine waiting. I’m totally rubbish at writing but I’ll give writing a mini story based on that picture a go for you as it’s such a pretty picture!

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky June 27, 2019 - 2:06 am

“I’m totally rubbish at writing”

“Hi, 911? I’d like to report a murder. I just saw the BIGGEST LIE the world and I think it might have killed me.”

But in all seriousness, thank you Gerry! Hugs and love! A proper shit month is the best description for it ugh…And I’ve been trying not to feel guilty about being so focused on myself when my grandmother is in a much worse condition. I know feeling guilty is illogical in this situation, but logic isn’t my brain’s strong suit.

And if you do write that mini story (*happy squeal*), it’ll be amazing and I will adore it. And that’s the truth. 😉 <3

Gerry@TheBookNookUK June 28, 2019 - 2:02 am

You know it’s so funny because people really beat themselves up over feeling bad. We tend to follow a ‘X is happening to me but Y is happening to someone else but I guess I don’t have Y so I should be fine with X’ approach but it makes no sense (although we all do it).

I’ve been told in the past ‘at least you don’t have X’ or ‘it could be worse because…’ and I hate that because people don’t know they do it to each other just as much as they do it to themselves.

Ultimately we wouldn’t say ‘I’m so happy because of X but it’s not as good as Y so I guess I shouldn’t be pleased with X’ and I think it comes down to the fact that people are still overall uncomfortable with dealing with emotional hurt in themselves and others and we try and squash it down as much as possible.

This is my long winded way of saying it’s so natural to a) feel crap about what is happening to oneself and b) feel guilty because of feeling crap even though I don’t believe we need to feel guilty! Feel what you need to feel because it needs to work itself out. I always say people are quite complex creatures that are capable of feeling many things at the same time so we shouldn’t feel guilty about legitimate feelings.

Honestly, can you tell that I’ve read a lot of CBT self help books?! Is it showing?!

I will totally write that story. The only things that I can’t promise is that it will be soon (although I’ll bump it up my list) or good! Just remember the effort ;P

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky July 8, 2019 - 12:30 am

Sigh. Why does wordpress do that thing where it won’t let you reply to a comment chain, so you have to open up a separate window?? I wish they’d stop changing the colour of the “Publish” button and fix these issues instead.

Ahem. That’s my old-man-grumbling for the day. 😀

“Can you tell that I’ve read a lot of CBT self help books?!” Haha YUP, I can totally tell! And I think I should invest in reading some of those books too, because holy hell, my brain could use some untangling every now and then (or every day, rather). Or get a new therapist! I had one before but she moved, and therapist-hunting is a lot like dating in that 1) I’m god-awful at it and 2) It’s super awkward when your personalities don’t really match. But this does help a lot–THANK YOU!! <3 I feel like we all need gentle swats over the head every now and then to remind ourselves that HEY, our feelings valid and important–even the super negative ones.

And I think social media plays a huge part in making us feel bad about feeling bad. I mean, we see horrible news nearly every day, and thanks to twitter and facebook they're all instantaneous and saturated. So we can't help but compare our hardships to millions of others be like, "Well, I'm not being rounded up in cages or being shot by the police. What's the big deal?"

Nicole Evans June 25, 2019 - 4:49 pm

Kathy, holy shit, my goodness, I am *so* sorry with how much you’ve had to deal with recently!!! I am hoping that you get some answers and clarity and peace with your health, so that your mental health can also take a break and you can finally relax (though, I definitely feel you on the irritation of a healthcare system that’s inept when others seem to manage it just fine).

June was…not a great month for me, either, but things are looking up (plus, puppy comes home this weekend, so that’s gotta be good, right!?). I hope you read good books, walk wonderful trails and play some great games to help get your mind off things! And if you ever need to rant or just someone to listen, I’m always, always here. <3

jennifertarheelreader June 25, 2019 - 6:57 pm

Kathy, I’ve been wondering where/how you were and am so sorry to hear you’ve been having a hard time with your health. Maybe you need what I like to call the reset button. I loved your happy things and wow, that painting is gorgeous! And your new paints- well, they are gorgeous too! I can’t wait to see what you create. I am so sorry about your grandma, too, and am sending lots of healing vibes for you and her and will be keeping you in my thoughts. ♥️ xoxoxoxo

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky June 28, 2019 - 12:04 pm

Jennifer!!! How are you?! I missed talking with you! Oh gosh, I would so love a reset button. They don’t sell those on Amazon, do they? 😛 And my grandma is at a special care facility now and she’s apparently comfortable and eating well, so that’s a small bit of good news.

All the hugs and love! I hope your month at least has been going well! <3 <3

arubunwritten June 26, 2019 - 2:29 am

I’m so sorry to hear about your last couple of weeks Kathy, I hope everything is okay. Canadian healthcare sounds a bit like the NHS.
Sending you good wishes ❤

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky June 28, 2019 - 10:28 pm

Thanks so much, Arub! <3 <3 Canadian healthcare could be worse (*stares at our southern neighbours*) but it definitely needs an overhaul.

MetalPhantasmReads June 26, 2019 - 6:39 am

Holy crap Kathy! I hope you’re doing better! That’s just scary 🙁 we’re all here for you and take all the time you need

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky June 29, 2019 - 8:55 pm

Thank so much Amanda!! <3 The pains are getting better (or maybe I'm just getting used to it lol), and I'll be seeing my family doctor soon so hopefully we'll work things out!

MetalPhantasmReads June 30, 2019 - 5:57 pm

Good I’m glad you’re feeling better 🙂 hopefully it keeps going from there

Lisa June 26, 2019 - 7:31 am

I’m so sorry to hear about how tough the last few weeks have been. I hope you get answers soon on your health situation and that you start feeling better. It’s great that you’re doing things that make you happy, like getting those gorgeous paints! Wishing you all the best.

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky June 29, 2019 - 8:25 pm

Thanks so much, Lisa! I’ve been painting a few small things to get back into the groove again, and it’s just incredible how much of a positive impact visual art can have on our mental health.

Dani @ Perspective of a Writer June 26, 2019 - 12:49 pm

GAHHH You’ve had the worst month Kathy!! I feel for you. ❤️ I have my own health things that I’m STILL dealing with so i totally get that spiral and you really have to work hard to mentally rest. Welcome back though! I hope some good reading will help.

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky June 28, 2019 - 8:38 pm

Aww no, I’m so sorry to hear that Dani! I hope things get better for you! Ughhh why can’t our bodies just leave us be so we can read and blog in peace? 🙁

Dani @ Perspective of a Writer June 28, 2019 - 9:40 pm

Exactly ❤️

Meeghan reads June 26, 2019 - 9:52 pm

Kathy!! I hope you’re ok. And I’m so sorry about your grandmother – that’s so tough. I hope you’re ok. Sending you so much love and best wishes for all your test results. I hope they can catch whatever it is that’s making you unwell. Love you!! 💕

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky June 30, 2019 - 10:04 pm

Hugs!! Thanks so much, Meeghan. <3 I'm trying to focus on one day at a time. And tomorrow's Canada Day so hopefully it'll be a worry-free day of festivals and getting stuffed with food. 😀

Meeghan reads July 1, 2019 - 7:05 pm

Well that sounds delicious!! I hope you have a great day!!

A Storm Of Pages June 27, 2019 - 1:23 am

Oh, that sounds like one horrific month! As someone who turns catastrophizing into an art herself, I completely get how that turn of events has led you to where you are! I would be right there with ya D: Here’s to hoping July turns into a shining sunny beacon of Summer – though if you’re in the UK you probably have been sharing the endless monsoon we seem to be having!
A good thing in June… I went down to London for two trips – one to spent with family, and one to see one of my favourite singers perform his debut album – boy has a godly voice.
I hope things will pick up for you soon, that you get some sort of answer for the stupid body problems, and all the rest and recovery and good wishes~

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky June 29, 2019 - 4:02 pm

Thank you!! <3 catastrophizers unite! I live in Vancouver and it used to rain a lot during June too, but global warming has us in a chokehold so now we actually have hot sunny summers. So not a lot of monsoons for us, but we have been getting a ton of wildfires in the past couple of years.

And aww it sounds like you had a lovely time!! Which singer was it?

Norrie June 27, 2019 - 11:44 pm

Aw, sorry to hear about your grandma. * hugs * <3
Hope you are feeling better soon – those walks in the forest sound lovely 🙂 I quite enjoy doing that too, although rarely get to it.
I used to watercolor in coloring books – it was pretty fun. Never tried to actually paint something, but it's a cool hobby. I usually just zone out whenever i do coloring and it's quite relaxing 🙂

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky June 30, 2019 - 9:28 pm

Thanks, Norrie! <3 And ooh I've been curious about coloring books! They're not your standard watercolour paper, so I don't know how well they absorb water, but I still kinda want to try it? It does sound relaxing.

waytoofantasy June 28, 2019 - 5:32 pm

Ah, Kathy, so sorry to hear about your grandmother. That’s tough. I’m glad that your own tests came back okay. I know exactly how you feel when your body turns against you though because I have that level of anxiety about things. When I found out my brother’s best friend had stage 4 cancer…it sent me into a spiral worrying about my own health issues. I’m older! I take less care of myself! What does this pain mean? Then the anxiety causes me to have random ‘symptoms’ and it’s just a weird crazy cycle that ends in panic attacks. I literally thought I was having a heart attack earlier this year but it turns out my chest was tight because I gained weight and my bra was too tight! (feel free to laugh–the doctor gave me a funny look for sure). Anxiety is so stupid but it’s not logical and I wish there were some way to just get through it easier, it’s tough.

I’m so glad you’re back and feeling a little better. *hugs*

Brianna June 29, 2019 - 3:29 pm

So glad you’re back!

My momma is currently battling stage 4 breast cancer – and, as much as I get annoyed when people sometimes try and compare situations to find similarities, I’m always here if you want to talk. Seriously. Your heart is golden. We’re all just breathing and taking it 24-hours at a time.

Sending loves your way! <3

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky July 2, 2019 - 1:59 am

You’re wonderful, Brianna, thank you. <3

I don't want to say "I'm sorry" because I've been hearing it a lot in the past month and it's getting to the point where it's just…macabre. So I'll just offer all my love and hugs and hope that it's enough.

Susy's Cozy World June 30, 2019 - 1:59 am

Well, that was quite a month! A huge hug! ❤️❤️❤️

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky June 30, 2019 - 2:03 pm

*Hugs back* <3 <3 <3

Captain's Quarters June 30, 2019 - 2:50 am

It was nice to get an update from ye even if the news isn’t all positive. Wishing ye a much better July! Arrrrr!
x The Captain

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky June 30, 2019 - 1:53 pm

Thank you for much, Captain! <3 Here's to a good July for both of us!

@lynnsbooks July 1, 2019 - 9:19 pm

So sorry to hear about your gran – that’s really hard to deal with and no wonder you suffered such anxiety yourself. One of my friends has health anxiety and she can become desperately worried about the sort of things that would never occur to me at all – so, whilst I don’t experience what you’re going through I can totally sympathise.
I absolutely love your positivity though – little things like being granted a UK ARC. That made me smile because tbh whenever I receive an approval for a book it makes me glow – in fact I never expect to be approved at all so they’re all like little explosions of delight.
I love that mermaid picture – it definitely deserves to be made into a story.
Lynn 😀

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky July 3, 2019 - 1:00 am

Thanks so much, Lynn. <3 And yeah, I'd love to take my anxiety out into the back alley and give it a good kicking (is that dark? that's probably dark). It's definitely not fun. But I'm trying to focus on one day at a time and find good distractions to keep me afloat. And it's been working pretty well this week, so yay!

And I'm 100% with you on getting accepting for ARCs. It's always a "I'm sorry, you want ME to review your book? Really???" moment. SUCH a fantastic feeling.

bitsnbooks July 6, 2019 - 2:29 pm

Oh god this doesn’t sound too fun, I hope you’re doing a bit better now. I’m sorry you’ve had so much stress. I know what that can be like and anxiety attacks are the absolute worse. I hope you can get some better answers on your health. I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother as well. Sending you hugs 💕

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky July 7, 2019 - 5:25 pm

*Hugs back* Thank you, Alisha!! <3 <3 The health stuff has been slowly getting better so hopefully by my next doctor's appointment all the symptoms will have disappeared. And my grandmother is in special care right now and eating mostly well, so that's a bit of good news!

July Wrap-Up: Family News, Red & Blue is the New Black – Pages Below the Vaulted Sky August 3, 2019 - 5:31 am

[…] it shortly, my grandmother passed away from cancer several weeks ago (I wrote about her diagnosis a month ago) and I’ve been dealing with a lot of the family stuff surrounding that. See, everyone on my […]


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