Monday, June 4, 2018

Medical Update

My window seat in room 8302 at RockyView General Hospital overlooked the Glenmore Reservoir 

I'd like to believe that my body has opted to have any complications before this operation rather than after. The scheduled date for reconnecting my colon to my rectum (and closing the stoma) was scheduled for June 4th. That date is still fixed but the surgery focus has changed to deal with the surprise bowel problem. It won't be known until colorectal surgeon, Dr. Jenken, operates if he will be able to do what was originally planned as well.  

After not eating for three days the nurse wouldn't let me go out to the reservoir on foot - I had to have a wheelchair 

It all began back in April, a week after we arrived home from the Philippines. Thank goodness it didn't happen while we were there. It started with severe stomach cramps and when they didn't let up I went to see our GP. We began the investigation with a stool test which ruled out parasites. X-rays didn't show anything so I had a CT scan which showed a low grade abdominal obstruction but not actually what the obstruction was. It could be intestinal adhesions (not fun) or stool. I was advised to eat a low fibre diet of foods that were easy to digest. As passing stool was extremely difficult the Doc recommended I take Lax-A-Day for a few days. This resulted in diarrhea, but it was going where it was supposed to go - into the colostomy bag.

On May 15th, a couple of hours after after a bowl of tomato red/pepper soup I suddenly expelled a mess of lumpy matter (more like vomit) through both my vagina and my rectum.  This in a public washroom. I was shocked and frightened. I alerted Bill to come in and see it. As we were in Calgary, we took me directly to the Foothills ER. After waiting 3.5 hours the Doc deemed there was nothing they could do and I was sent home. Later it was established that it was that undigested lunch.   

The discharge accelerated over the next few days to where every time I ate anything, including drinking a bottle of Ensure, I had the same result. Expulsion out of both rectum and vagina. Another visit to the ER, this time in Canmore, determined I had developed a new fistula from the small intestine to my vagina. The burning of this undigested food exiting via both orifices was so painful I stopped eating for a couple of days. On May 21st, I tried a whole, small avocado and a soft boiled egg. Just over an hour later it exited the same routes. Over several hours, it continued to pour out. Once it stopped, the burned perineum took hours to calm down. Absolute living hell. This was the Victoria Day weekend and we had to cancel our flight to Victoria. On Tuesday morning, I phoned Dr. Jenken who advised me to go to the ER at Rockyview Hospital the following morning and he would find me there.

Flowers from Don and Ann

This hospital is not only beautifully located it's newer, more spacious and a lot less busy than the Foothills. May 23rd, I arrived at 10:30 to find no wait at the ER. Dr Jenken was alerted. Blood work, urine test and paperwork were done. I was admitted and in a bed by 1pm, immediately after which, I was whisked to a procedure room where Dr. Jenken did a scope of both my vagina and my rectum. On the big screen, I saw both fistulas. There has been one between my rectum and vagina, as a result of the first surgery in November 2016, but it is of no consequence since neither were attached to anything anymore. The scope was over and I was back in the room by 2pm.

View from room 8310 at sundown with Calgary's skyline in the distance

Initially, I was in a ward of four (the scenic photo at the top of this post) but after two nights I was moved to a room for two. Again I was lucky in getting the window seat, this time facing north.

On May 25th I was taken by ambulance, accompanied by, Gord Garrett, the best paramedic ever. He and driver paramedic, Geoff, took me to South Health Campus for a Vaginogram which confirmed the findings of the scope the day before. The two gents waited for me at South Health and brought me back to the Rockyview.  

May 27th, surrounded in blue when I was supposed to be wearing blue at Chuck Hester's Memorial
Doctor's note for the Victoria Airbnb, so we were eligible for a full refund

A PICC line was installed on the inside of my upper right arm, on May 24th. The line (which turned out to be 47cms or 18 inches long) lead to a vein in my chest. A perk of the PICC line is blood can be drawn through it avoiding a new stab in the crook of my elbow every time.

Every day, a substantially large bag of liquid food was pumped, via the line, into me over a 24 hour period. I'm never hungry but I sure miss the taste of food in my mouth. It was days into the feeding program when I announced that I was going squirrelly. Wish I'd thought to say that sooner. At first the feeding time was changed to over a 12 hour period, then it was upped to 16 hours. This enabled me to be unplugged for a few hours, don street clothes and leave the hospital. On one outing Bill and went to a matinee of the film Book Club. It was hilariously funny, light and spirit lifting. We smiled, laughed and, like teenagers, held hands, throughout the entire movie.    

Flowers from The Flower Children, Alice's and Brian's, garden
Bouquet from Alex and Colleen included an awesome crystal vase

An equally pleasing gift left by Alex was what he wrote under Patient Goals. It makes me smile every time I look at it!

The White Board

In an effort to slow the discharge of fluids (yes there still is rather a lot, even though I am not 'eating') every 6 hours I'm given an injection of octroetide to slow down fluids. Two ccs every time and it stings like hell. Every 3 hours I'm given a tablet of codeine for the same reason. As well I am topped up with an antibiotic via the IV. Dr. Jenken still feels there could be new cancer growth but all tests, scopes and biopsies have found none.  

From Saskatoon, on business, The Scammells were in Calgary, over Saturday night. They visited Sunday, June 3rd

Avery made this awesome drawing of me and Fred, my dancing partner, the IV pole ...

Marshalls, by marriage and/or blood

Surgery is slated for 12:50 today. I ask for your prayers and best energy vibes. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Painting With Patti

February 5th, 2018

When we moved back to Canmore, in August 2017, we secured a sweet townhouse in the complex of my dreams, but here I don't have a proper studio. Although I've painted at our kitchen table, I was pleased when Patti Dyment responded favourably to my request for a painting date at her place. Three days a week her large, well lit, open concept kitchen, dining, living room becomes her studio. We had such a good time we've turned these dates into regular events. 

Working on The Towers at Mount Asiniboine, January 22nd
Patti at work on her Towers, January 22nd

Mostly it's pretty serious business, but there is always time for laughter ...

January 22nd

Sometimes we work on the same subject. Such was the case on this day when we both painted Anastasia, from an image off an online paint-the-model photo website ...

February 12th
February 12th

That day I came home and worked on her too-small head, and more, for a further four hours.

She still isn't finished!

With the cradled panels we'd covered, using pretty scrapbooking papers, we launched into the following ...

February 26th, Patti at work on a portrait
Patti's gorgeous portrait
My iris

Patti had the brilliant idea to cover panels with old typographical maps. She brought some from home and since then Bill has coughed up several duplicate maps and donated them to our cause.

March 4th in our Dungeon - the perfect place for this kind of panel preparation

The very next day we were on a roll, both of us finished one painting, so we started another, on the papered panels ...

Patti's magnificent raven, March 5th
My bobcat, March 5th

Next, we both painted a bighorn ram portrait. Neither of us finished the second painting.

March 5th
March 5th
My bighorn

When Bill and I returned, from our month in the Philippines, Patti and I resumed our painting dates. Here we both worked on Bow Lake ...

April 22nd
April 22nd

Although the first paintings weren't finished, we moved on to begin another and worked on different images. By this time of day the sun had moved around to where it was pouring its brilliance in through the skylight. Here we are shifting around the room to escape being directly in the spotlight ...

Patti working on Ha Ling  
I opted to paint Quarry Lake

Now our task is to finish all these starts!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Christmas 2017

I was hoping to get this post out before Valentine's Day, close but ...

We're very fortunate to always spend Christmas with the Scammells. For the past decade we've taken turns hosting the holiday. Last year, when I needed it most, we had the pleasure of being pampered at their home. This past holiday season, our first back in Canmore, we were hosts. I managed well, but certainly accepted help in that last minute crunch of getting the feast to the table.

After the feast, Christmas night

Meanwhile in Manila ...

The Koebel's Christmas family portrait
Amira (6) and Everett (2)

With the wood stoved removed we were able to put up the big tree ...

Avery decorated the tree pretty much single handedly

On Christmas Eve the reading of the old, pop-up Night Before Christmas is a long standing tradition in our family.

Larry and the crazy turkey hat with Denise and Avery reading The Book
Avery trying to guess what's inside the biggest gift on Christmas morning
Hats play a big part in our Christmas celebrations
See what I mean?
And then there is this one!
Looks good on Denise too
Nine and very sparkly in her new Christmas outfit

We opted to not make a gingerbread house in 2016 but our comeback in 2017 was pretty spectacular. Avery spent a few days with us while her parents moved the bulk of their possessions from Calgary to Saskatoon. Before her parents arrived she I got a head start making the dough pieces for the house plus a ton of cookies before her Mom and Dad joined us ...

Lots of industry here
An excessive amount of cookies!

I was all hands on the project Christmas Eve ...

Everyone worked hard at assembling and icing cookies

It's a feat to get all the pieces in place and keep them there until the icing sets
The finished product

The above photo was taken at the small gathering we hosted on Boxing Day at our condo association's club house. It was somewhat of send-off for the Scammells who moved to Saskatoon right after the New Year arrived.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Amira's 6th Birthday Painting

Where Fairies Play  2017 oil on canvas 12" x 16"

Sometimes our daughters give me direction, sometimes the children do and sometimes there is no direction at all. I don't recall asking Amira for input nor do I remember her giving me any feedback, so I was on my own to come up with something a six year old girl would like.

The start

I was pretty excited about how the powdered (pan) pastels looked when I used them over my 12" x 12" commercial tree stencil - on paper.  However, when I used the stencil and the pastel pigments on a prepared canvas they simply wouldn't take.  Not at all.

Laying in colour with acrylic on the canvas

There was to be no shortcut, I had to paint the tree. The castle is borrowed from the internet.  I flipped it because I had placed the tree on the left ...

Internet image of the Disney castle, Anaheim, CA

All coloured in in acrylic - now what?

Once again I was not satisfied with the look of the painting, in acrylic paint, so I switched to oil. You might say I retreated to my comfort zone ...

With a coat of oil paint
Here I extended the bank of trees, to the left, and refined the castle a bit more ...
... and added a couple more fairies

The tree was a challenge. I had difficulty convincing myself that it looked authentic. As the painting dragged on, for eight days, I eventually had to tell myself that it was a fantasy piece, how authentic did that tree have to be after all

The final touch was adding the row of blue cornflowers, from where the fairy on the left had plucked her flower. I chose to leave Tinker Bell out of the painting.

Where Fairies Play  2017 oil  on canvas 12" x 16"

The parcel, with this painting, her brother's painting and the entire Manila family's birthday and Christmas gifts did not make it in time for Christmas. It's arrival, in January, seemed a disappointment at first but it was actually bit of a blessing in that the family had a second Christmas while Bill and I, here in Canmore, were able to witness the gift opening in a FaceTime call.

January 3rd, 2018, next to momma Laura, Amira opens her birthday painting 
The lovely Amira with her painting, February 2nd, 2018

Happy sixth birthday Amira!

Amira's official 6th birthday photo shoot. Her actual birthday is December 9th