Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Big Ones - Part Six

A short hike above the town of Canmore, Alberta are twin jewels; Grassi Lakes. There, in September 1991, I painted my first ever plein air painting. Nowadays the trail is heavily traveled and the lakes are always crowded but in the summer of 1993, when I made a daily practice of meditating there early every morning, I had the lakes all to myself. A part of me will always be there just as the beauty and peace of this sacred place is always in my heart.  

FIREWEED AT GRASSI LAKES   1994 watercolour 7" x 10"  Collection of Mary Shillabeer and Tom Matier
Painting at Grassi Lakes August 2nd, 1992

Back in the 1990s spring kicked off our seasonal, reproduction business and all summer long, when it was in full swing, we kept a hectic pace. The above watercolour was my study. I had the use of the Canmore Artists and Artisans gallery space (mid week) over four weeks in April and May of 1995, but I managed only eight random paintings days before bringing the big oil home, where it sat, unfinished, for two years.

The large oil in progress at the Canmore Artists and Artisans Guild's gallery, April and May, 1995

FIREWEED AT GRASSI LAKES   1997 oil 4 x 6 feet   Collection of Gordon and Carol Godfrey

In order to include it in my solo show at Whyte Museum, Banff, I finished it at home, in August 1997. Saltiel; Routes Without Limits was a milestone for me. The curator and I were like oil and water. Gathering together 39 paintings from over a 25 year period was epic. But the joy of seeing them installed, side by side, in the large gallery (September 13th to November 30th, 1997) made it all so very worth while.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Medical Update

With both daughters in town, Richard Brown offered to do a family photo shoot, November 18th, 2018
Love our photo bombers
And we loved photobombing them!

My first chemotherapy treatment, of the last round, was on November 2nd at the Tom Baker Cancer Clinic, Calgary. A familiar place that makes me cringe whenever I enter. Rounds two and three were much more palitable at the Canmore Hospital. The 'chemo lite' that Dr. Glaze negotiated with me was Carboplatin, 455mg per treatment, which was given by IV over 45 minutes. Although the link says to expect hair loss, Dr. Glaze assured me that would not happen, this time, and it didn't.

November 22nd, 2018, my first chemo treatment in Canmore Hospital, Janice and Karen came to sing to me.

Before the second chemo treatment, my chemistry and blood work were strong so it was recommended I take a higher dose. I did. They increased it to 520mg. Putting that much through in the same time frame caused the vein I my left hand to collapse and to pain for a few days. By the third treatment I had lost weight and the dose was dropped back to 430mg.  

Chemo round three, December 13th, 2018 Part of the Threshold Choir came and sang to me, again.  My new cancer Hug Quilt.

For the past month and more I’ve been having stomach cramps with pretty much anything I eat. Just before Christmas Home Care began checking in on me daily and I began taking morphine for the pain. Palliative Care has been enlisted. It's felt I have months, not weeks. Fingers crossed. We're looking into MAID as well.  

Pain brought me into Emergency on the 20th, where I spent a night. It was then we determined we wouldn't be flying to Saskatoon on the 21st. That was also when the results of the December 18th PET and CT scans were given to me, here at Canmore Hospital. They are not favourable. The three rounds of chemo did little, if anything, to shrink the tumour(s) which are now plentiful and aggressively growing throughout my abdomen, liver and in a lung.  

Fortunately the Scammells were able to come to us for ten great days. In the 11th hour we scored a thawed/fresh, organic turkey from Valbella's and with plenty of cooks we had a full on turkey dinner. As we sat to eat Avery wanted to speak, but last. We held hands and went around the table expressing gratitude for being together. When Avery did speak she said "This may be Gran's last Christmas, so I want it to be a really good one." And it was.

Christmas dinner 2018
Knowing I needed help to deal with constipation and after the kids departed on New Year’s Day, Bill brought me to Emergency, again. I’ve been admitted and I’m still here. For 48 hours I was on IV, with nothing by mouth. My bowels finally moved on the 2nd and I'm empty. I'm back on a clear fluid diet, my intestines didn't care for the short foray to a full fluid diet. Broth and jello get awfully boring. My stomach is still distended. Palliative radiation is recommended to shrink the one large mass and relieve pressure to my intestines. I have an appointment with a radiology oncologist at the TBCC on the 10th.

I have a bladder infection (no symptoms but a regular, to-be-expected affliction for us folks with kidney stents) and I'm being treated with antibiotics by IV. All other medications go in the same way (aids for digestion to settle the bowels). I am 'unplugged' between infusions. 

It has been suggested/advised that I stay admitted and come and go on day passes. I may even sleep at home, occasionally. Bill brought me home the night before last for about three hours. Caught up with online banking, fussed around the house a bit and watched TV.

I'm looking forward to resolving a lot of my discomfort, to being able to eat again but in particular to Laura's, Amira's and Everett's visit for a week commencing January 26th.

The view out my window here at the Canmore General Hospital, January 5th, 2019


Sunday, December 30, 2018

Avery's Birthday Painting

Avery is of an age now that she can request the imagery for her birthday paintings. I'm challenged by the topics she selects but because I can paint whatever is asked of me I honour her wishes. I maintain that any artist can paint anything, they just have to want to!

Avery turned 10 on October 16th. The painting presentation happened December 22nd, the day the family arrived for Christmas

Rather than a traditional landscape background, I thought an abstracted, fun, turquoise and copper backdrop would create more magical sensation. The shinny textured bits were made using a commercial stencil and copper foil. I textured the grass with Golden Heavy Gel medium. To preserve the white areas of the horse I cut out a piece of frosted (semi clear) Mac-Tac in the horse's shape to use as a mask ...

The Mac-Tac mask removed from the painting makes for an interesting piece on its own
The background with the area of the horse preserved as white
"Avery's Unicorn" mixed media background, horse painted in oil, 16" x 12" on cradled panel
Ah yes, I think she likes it!
Definitely, a satisfied granddaughter!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Koebel Kid's Birthday Paintings 2018

I'm often late with delivery of these paintings but in the case of Amira's painting I was a few days early this year. Her birthday is December 9th, when she turned seven. I just happened to have started and finished her painting first. It was at the Pinto Museum, in Manila earlier this year, where I witnessed Amira seeing her first peacock. She was mesmerized by the male strutting with his tail feather spread out in an enormous fan.

The start.  I used a commercial stencil for the half moon, the texture on the right was created through a metal ribbon with holes

The half moon shape seemed to be just floating there, so I flipped the stencil to complete a circle ...

Refined and now sporting his crown
I added three real feathers.  "Amira's Peacock" acrylic on canvas, 12" x 24"

For Everett, who turned three on September 18th, I thought an airplane was appropriate as the family were poised to move from Manila to Singapore just before Christmas.  

A dramatic sundown was the start for Everett's painting
The airplane goes on

The painting looked rather blank to me. It was Bill who suggested adding the Manila skyline ...

Everett's "Manila to Singapore" oil on canvas 12" x 24" 
Detail of the plane
November 12th, presenting the paintings to Laura
She seemed extra pleased with Everett's painting.  Great because I thought it to be the weaker of the two 

The paintings were somewhat larger this year as we didn't need to ship them. With Laura visiting for ten days in November we were able to send the paintings, plus all the birthday and Christmas gifts, home with her in her luggage.

They opened their paintings December 4th, the day before the movers took the paintings along with the sea shipment
I think she likes it!
And the little man likes his airplane
Everett and Amira with their paintings
Thanks Laura for this family photograph after they disembarked from their flight in Singapore on December 22nd.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Road Trip Goes Awry

I was home from Lake O'Hara only a couple of days before we set out on our B.C. road trip. To celebrate my 70th birthday and our 49th wedding anniversary our first stop was Island Lake Lodge for two nights. We arrived September 12th, right on time for me to go directly to the 2.5 hour spa treatment/massage I'd booked. The clouds were down to the ground and it rained for most of our time there. On the heels of the O'Hara hikes (which I will never regret) I confess to not being up for the steep trails at Island Lake. I may have mentioned that both my knees need replacing, well patella resurfacing for sure. My left knee constantly radiates pain up to the hip and down to my foot. Until surgery (likely in the new year) I'm managing with T3s and Diclofenac cream.

On the porch of Red Eagle Lodge (our lodge, one of 4) in a brief moment of sunshine on my birthday, September 13th, 2018

The food at Island Lake Lodge is extraordinary. We'd eaten a substantial lunch en route, so we simply grazed on sumptuous appetizers that first evening. On our day, we indulged in a full-on decadent dinner that night ...
Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary in the Tamarack Lodge Dining Room at Island Lake Lodge, September 13th 
September 14th, leaving Island Lake Lodge.  The eco system on the west side of the Rockies is entirely different from that on the east 
Next stop was four nights with Win and John. Meg and Paul, from Canmore, timed it so they would be staying in Creston at the same time. It had been two years since the Skimmerhorn Sextet had assembled at the Dinn's. Unfortunately, it was too cold to sit on the winery's amazing patio - which affords a view to rival any in Tuscany. Their food and wine more than made up for the weather plus the company was in fine form.

The Skimmerhorn Sextet after yet another fantastic luncheon at Skimmerhorn Winery
At this time of the year one must wander through the vineyards!

The boys were left to their own resources while the gals played with paint in Win's new studio - they've moved since our last visit ...

Lots of industry but nothing was completely finished!
Of course there were the daily happy hours!

It was while we were in Creston that I began feeling 'off'. I couldn't get through a day without having a nap, nor could I focus on making more than backgrounds.

On the 18th, we bid farewell to our pals in Creston to embark on a long travel day along Highway #3 to Tsawwassen where we caught the ferry to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. A half hour drive from there brought us into Victoria. Promptly on arriving at our accommodation I vomited for the second time that day.

With Sharlene in Victoria's Chinatown, September 19th

After gallivanting, with me/us, all day long, hitting all the art supply stores, and other favourite haunts, Sharlene went home to prepare a fabulous dinner for us. The meal stayed down and I even braved some wine ...

With Sharlene and Ray at their place

The following day Bill drove me, Carole and Sharlene to Sidney for lunch and a look see. On our arrival, at 11am, I was so tired that I crawled into the back seat and slept for an hour while everyone shopped. Driving back into Victoria we stopped in to see "Oh the Places We've Been!" Sharlene was one of the artists in the three-woman-show exhibited at the Coast Collective.

With Sharlene and Carole.  You'd wouldn't know that minutes before this photo was taken I'd barfed up my lunch

Over the next two days the gals pleaded with me to go to the ER but I held off. I stopped thinking I had a flu bug when I vomited white rice. Then overnight, when I got up to go pee, nothing came. Still unable to pass urine Saturday morning (October 22nd) we took me to emergency at the Royal Jubilee Hospital.

It was a few hours before I got to see a doctor. The results of the blood work, which was done as soon as I arrived, indicated that my kidneys had failed. Not being able to void was frightening enough but imagine suddenly being told I was looking at dialysis?  The Foley catheter they installed produced nothing, my ureters were obstructed. 

My blood pressure has never been high but that morning it was off the charts at 197/89. It remained high during my eight day hospital stay even though I was put on a beta blocker, Metoprolol, which I am to take for one month. My blood pressure has since returned to normal.

Bill keeping the girls informed.  I spent a day and a night in the hall of the emergency room

On the morning of September 23rd, I had nephrostomy tubes installed. The right kidney drained copious amounts of urine while the left seemed to have little to give. Neither the CT scan nor the ultrasound detected tumours and scar tissue was suspected to be the reason for the blockages.

I missed the last two nights of our Airbnb booking and when Bill left the accommodation he moved in with Carole, who has lived a four minute walk from the Jubilee for the past thirty-eight years. It was Carole's husband, Chuck, whose memorial we missed, in May, because of my hospitalization then, and subsequent surgery.  

The nephrostomy tubes drained into my urine 'purses'

There was also bloody, foul smelling discharge from both my rectum and my vagina. You'll recall that both are truncated; I no longer have a uterus and with the colostomy bag my rectum is not attached to my colon. I honestly thought I might be dying. It certainly seemed as though I was rotting from the inside out.

For five days, I was pumped with IV fluid, supplemented with magnesium and potassium. My kidneys responded beautifully and on September 28th the external nephrostomy tubes were internalized as stents from my kidneys to my bladder. I stayed in hospital a few more days to insure all was stable and that I was voiding smoothly in the normal way. I contracted a bladder infection and left hospital armed with a ten-day regime of antibiotics.

Our Island friends were so kind and supportive, many visited me daily and I did get to go outdoors on fine days ... 

With Arlene in the Royal Jubilee's charming Japanese garden courtyard
The west coast was showing off its autumn colours

I was discharged October 1st. Excited to be free, we met Joe and Carol for lunch before wandering Fort Street and Oak Bay Avenue. Forgetting that I'd been mostly bed ridden for a week I expended too much energy. By the day's end I crashed. It was apparent that our plan to stay on the island for a few more days, with Mary and Tom at their place, had to be cancelled. We spent that night at Carole's and caught a morning ferry back to the mainland on the 2nd. We took two days to drive home, narrowly missing Alberta's freak October 1st blizzard.

On October 4th, we were to have flown to Saskatoon to spend Thanksgiving with Denise, Larry and Avery but that too had to be cancelled. I was delighted when they said they'd make the seven hour drive here to be with us for two nights ...

October 6th after our Thanksgiving feast, cooked by Larry

We also celebrated Avery's and my birthdays

Since being home I've had another CT scan (October 10th) which revealed that my kidneys have made a total recovery but that the cancer has returned. There is a growth in my pre-sacral area and there are hypodensities in my liver. Dr. Glaze, my surgical oncologist, tells me that without treatments I won't be fairing very well by March. We meet with her October 29th to discuss the course of action. For my family and because I myself want to 'buy' more time I've reconsidered and I'm prepared to undergo chemotherapy, again. In spite of the anger I have over all this, I'm in a  good head space and have no physical pain, beyond the leg. I prefer to say I'm living with cancer as opposed to fighting it. Please root for me in any way you wish - thank you.   

I'm thrilled to report that Laura is coming (solo) for ten days, arriving from Manila on November 11th. Denise too will be here with us for the weekend that falls within her sister's visit.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Lake O'Hara 2018

Lake O'Hara viewed from Sargent's Point, September 6th, 2018

Lake O'Hara never disappoints. We paint the same vistas and hike the same trails because they are all just so incredibly beautiful. Although I haven't been on all her expeditions this was the 12th year running that Patti Dyment arranged a painters/hikers trip to O'Hara. With the increasing numbers wishing to visit the area combined with Parks Canada's lottery system (to keep the area protected from over use) it has become increasingly difficult to arrange a stay at the Alpine Club of Canada's, Elizabeth Parker Hut. This year, Patti was given seven spots for three nights, September 6th to 9th.

On day one, five of us set to painting the classic viewpoint at Sargent's Point, again. Dave and Sharon Williams arrived the following day.

Pat and Bob Alin created watercolour /pen and ink sketches
Ralph Temple joined us for the first time and worked in oils

Patti and I painted in oils
We so enjoy working together!
Patti's oil from Sargent's Point, 12" x 16", is likely framed and hanging in a gallery somewhere ...

... while my oil from Sargent's Point, 12" x 12", remains unfinished languishing on a shelf!

Day two, we set off on the Oesa Trail with Victoria Lake and Falls as our destination.

Mount Odaray reflected in Lake O'Hara
With Pat on top of Sargent's Rock with Mount Odaray as backdrop

Our lunch spot, Victoria Lake and Ringrose Peak

Victoria Falls, just below Victoria Lake, is a particular favourite with all of us!

Ralph had his own adventure hauling all his oil painting gear, up to Victoria Falls, but ultimately caught up to us. We crammed into what little space there is, at this point along the Oesa Trail, to paint the Falls. Patti, Pat, Bob and I brought our watercolours for  their manageable size and weight. Here I made the worst painting of my entire life. No, you can't see it, my pride won't let me post it. Times like these are needed to keep me humble!

With Pat and Ralph at Victoria Falls. Even with my wretched painting I'm thrilled just to be there

Coming down from Victoria Falls, Pat spied this solitary mountain goat

Day three, was cooler, the clouds rolled in and the wind came up but the rain held off. It eventually cleared off entirely. Everyone, except Ralph who opted to paint from the shore of Lake O'Hara, hiked up onto the Opabin Plateau.

On the West Opabin Trail Pat is along side my favourite trees. Mary Lake below and Cathedral Mountain in the background
Pat, myself, Sharon, Dave, Bob and Patti at one of the many pools on the Opabin Plateau
While the rest of us hiked, the keeners (Sharon and Patti) painted.  The larches were just beginning to turn
A larch tree well on it's way to it's spectacular autumn colour
The O'Hara Lodge dock with canoes perfectly posed, on our return from Opabin

Day four dawned rainy and gloomy with no prospect of the weather improving so most of us called the expedition a wrap and caught the 11am bus out. As is always the case, it was a wonderful time leaving us with delightful memories.

I'm over a month late with this post because there was another trip, immediately on the on the heels of Lake O'Hara that presented something quite undesirable. Stay tuned.