Tuesday, June 6, 2017

May Medical Update

Janice, Dale, Bill, Jim, Susan and I make up most of 'The Tribe'.  We met for lunch, May 15th, at Bridges on First

With chemo treatments concluding on April 13th, May seemed like a nearly normal month. As my strength returned we got out more.  

May 3rd took on a life of it's own. We'd made prior arrangements to meet friends for lunch at Bridges on First, after my neuropathy physio assessment. Nothing effective was recommended, what is working is the cannabis oil! There, I was loaned a TENS machine to help manage the pain in my hip, but I didn't find it made any difference so, after 2.5 weeks of use, I bailed. During this appointment I had a phone message from nurse practitioner, Pam, advising me that an ultrasound was booked at 2pm that day (to investigate the spot on my liver) but she hadn't said where? We'd discussed having it done, closer to home, in Lethbridge or High River. As luck would have it, Pam was at the Holy Cross Centre, Calgary, where I was. We tracked her down to learn the ultra sound was scheduled at the Foothills, Calgary. It meant I could make the procedure, but that I couldn't eat lunch. I watched as Bill, Brian and Alice did. 

Before leaving the Foothills, I was adamant about seeing the radiologist regarding results of the ultrasound. It was inconclusive. I would need an MRI, which he informed me could take up to two months. Immediately and frantically, I called Pam and demanded an MRI, ASAP. It was arranged for six days later (May 9th). Two days after the MRI, my surgeon herself, phoned to announce most welcome news. There is nothing at all wrong my liver. Hallelujah.



Less than a month after listing our Claresholm house, the fourth showing yielded an offer on May 18th. On the 27th, the deal was sealed. We are dazzled and thrilled. Our realtor, Gary Lock, is the best. He's out of Airdrie and has amazing results selling properties all over the province. It's exciting to report we're in the process of buying a Canmore townhouse, in the complex of our wishes, Mountain Shadows.


Meg, Paul, me and Bil, May 21st 

On May 21st and 22nd, Meg and Paul visited from Canmore. They made it incredibly easy for us by staying at the nearby Bluebird Motel and bringing a ton of food. While the boys went off to scour the antique shops in Nanton, Meg and I made wonderful art messes on the back deck ...



Meg experimented with alcohol inks, I painted a journal page of our blooming Canada 150 tulips
May 28th.  I shall miss these mature bushes which flank both sides of our home here

May 26th I had a pre-op consultation where I met with an internal medicine doctor and an anesthesiologist. Surgery was May 31st ... 


All smiles just before the operation

It was a bitter disappointment to learn that the operation was unsuccessful in terms of reconnecting my colon to my rectum. As I understand it, there isn't enough colon to stretch out. There were a lot of adhesions, which were removed. There is a concern of incontinence because of a fissure between my vagina and my rectum which Dr. Glaze explained would allow stool to pass into my vagina. Later, I'll have a consultation with a colorectal surgeon regarding attempting reconnection but right now I can't bear the thought of having the incision sliced open a third time. For now, I continue to live with the colostomy bag. 

The news we cling to is Dr. Glaze telling us she could find no indication of cancer when she was inside of me.


With Maggie.  Boy do I ever look like my Father, especially with the new hair growth looking, for all the world, like a brush cut

All my visitors came on June 2nd. The stars aligned so that Maggie's week, in Calgary (visiting from Toronto) overlapped my short hospital stay at the Foothills. I am so grateful that she was able to spread her healing energy work on me, in person. 

Precious friends, Debie and Dean, made a special trip into the city just to visit. 

Again, Bill was able to stay at Denise's and Larry's Air B&B suite for three nights. They came bringing awesome food from Bridges on First which usurped the wretched hospital meals.  


Denise and Avery

During surgery, adding insult to injury, my bladder was adversely affected. I came home with the catheter still installed. It's to remain in place for seven days so that my bladder can heal. A Home Care nurse will come tomorrow, June 7th, to remove it. I'm to continue daily injections of blood thinner, for a month post surgery. 

On June 3rd, I begged to be and was discharged.

All the while, Bill was tearing around tending to the things which need attention when you are buying a property. The conditions on our future home are to be lifted June 12th. Possession date is August 1st. In many ways moving is a wonderful distraction from the medical issues and a perfect impetus to heal in preparation of going home ...


The Three Sisters, Canmore   


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Painters and Hikers at Lake O'Hara



Classic Lake O'Hara from Sargent's Point

Anyone who has ever been to Lake O'Hara will share my sentiment that, magically, one never tires of it. In the Canadian Rockies it's the biggest bang for your buck with numerous, satellite, alpine lakes, all equally gorgeous and close enough to easily hike to many of them in a single day. 

From September 5th to 8th, 2016, Bill and I joined another back country excursion arranged by Patti Dyment. Ten of us spent three nights in the Alpine Club of Canada's Elizabeth Parker Hut. Most of us bunked in the smaller cabin, the Wiwaxy Hut.


Elizabeth Parker Hut, left, Wiwaxy Hut is on the right (internet image)

Hut accommodations are self catering and rustic, although the kitchen is outfitted with all you need, including propane hotplates and a full sized stove and oven. If you aren't into outdoor toilets and sleeping on a continuous bunk, next to people you don't know, this is not for you.
  

Sharon, Patti, Grant, Gwen, Jan, Dave, Alice, Bill, Sharon and Meg in the common area of the Elizabeth Parker

For many, Lake O'Hara Lodge is cost prohibitive, plus securing reservations isn't easy. They have their own stylish bus to transport you to and from the region whereas hut and campground guests travel via old school buses. The Alpine Club of Canada's Elizabeth Parker Hut holds a maximum of 24 people and booking a stay is done, months in advance, by lottery. The third accommodation option is a 30 site campground which is usually booked out by 10am every summer morning. You can, and many do, just travel into the area as day trippers. Parks Canada recognizes the fragility of the landscape and limits access to the region via buses which have to be booked in advance. Numbers are restricted by the capacity of two school buses going in four times a day. Anyone wishing to trek the 11km access road (no private vehicles are permitted) before hitting Lake O'Hara itself and the sublime scenery beyond, is welcome to walk in.

In our group the keeners, who arrived on the 8:30am bus, were already hard at work when we arrived on the 10:30am bus ...


Jan and Patti 

When I'm at Lake O'Hara hiking is every bit as important as painting. My left hip needs replacing. Just prior to this trip, I had a cortisone shot that enabled me do two hikes which I wouldn't have been able to negotiate otherwise. The weather forecast was not favourable so, that first afternoon, while there were some blue sky patches, a few of us hit the trail to Lake McArthur ...


Meg, with the dramatic Wiwaxy Peaks beyond.  To the right you can just see the shore of Schaffer Lake  
Schaffer Lake
McArthur and Mount Biddle when we first arrived
Thanks to Meg for this image. We barely had enough time to take a few photos before ...
... those threatening clouds spilled over the mountain with ominous threats 

While we had hoped to be able to stay longer, Mother Nature had another idea letting us know, once again, how she rules and that weather in the mountains can change in a heartbeat.


Dave and Meg hustling away from Lake McArthur, which you can just barely see in the background 
Descending the tricky bit from Lake McArthur in a full on squall

Janet and Tom Novotny, of Chicago, are so in love with the Canadian Rockies they've been vacationing here every year since 1983. I'm sure stranger things have happened but even so what are the odds that they would be back at Lake O'Hara at precisely the same time, in both 2015 and 2016 as us? More O'Hara magic. You can't help but embrace their enthusiasm, plus they robustly join in on our hootenannies!    


With Janet and Tom

As already mentioned the hut holds 24 people and we were only 10, yet we hope the others will join in on our fun when we burst into song. Yes, we inflict our singing on whoever else is in residence and we aren't deterred if they're not inclined to sing along, but we are mindful of lights out/quiet time.  


Sharon, Dave, Patti, Grant, Janet and Meg

September 6th, I'm all smiles at the start of painting at Sargent's Point

I'm grateful for the many times I've spent at O'Hara under glorious, sunny skies, but on this particular trip the weather was quite ghastly. As the sky got darker it became more and more difficult for me to see what I was doing under my umbrella, which is intended to block the sun. I was cold, wet and generally cranky with how my painting was going, so I wiped off what you see here ...   


Now you see it and then no, it was gone!

Of course Grant just painted on and created another absolute jewel ...

  
Grant working on his Sargent's Point painting
Gwen Day also stuck out painting in the raw elements

September 7th brought more unsettled weather. Hiking seemed preferable to standing still painting so, Meg, Bill and I chose the latter and wandered up onto the Opabin Plateau ...


Bill on the Lodge's boat dock before heading up the West Opabin Trail
On the West Opabin Trail looking down on Mary Lake with Lake O'Hara beyond
Bill and the pools of Opabin Plateau with the WiWaxy Peaks in the background 
Meg and Alice on Opabin Plateau where the larches had begun to turn  
This is the sheer, raw beauty of Opabin Lake and Opabin Pass where one feels awfully small
I was thrilled to have made it to Opabin Lake

Our last morning, September 8th, dawned dismal with no prospect of the weather improving. Most everyone was weary of being soggy and cold. Several of us opted to take the first bus out at 9:30am. This is the transportation up and down the access road to Lake O'Hara ...


Tom, Sharon, Janet, Patti, Alice, Meg and Bill

On the ride down, we laughed as we recounted another incredible time together despite the weather because even in bad weather it's a most wonderful place to be. At the parking lot we bid one another farewell and happy trails, until we meet again.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

April Medical Report

For the most part things eased up in April. The burning pain of the neuropathy raged at the beginning of the month but was gone by month end. I still have a tingling sensation on the soles of my feet. Concerned about it advancing, I phoned the Tom Baker Cancer Centre to insist I have an appointment with my surgeon/oncologist, Dr. Glaze. Remarkably, I was given one the very next day, April 4th. We sighed with relief when she recommended we leave the Paclitaxel drug out of my final treatment all together.  


April 5th, with Henry and Vicki we pick up exactly where we left off, regardless when we were together last

April brought many visitors. I don't always remember to photograph everyone. It's always appreciated when folks come bearing gifts and food but it's their company I crave. Vicki and Henry stopped in on their way home to Jasper from Arizona. They brought supper and wine. Since it was two weeks after my second to last chemo treatment I opted to have a couple of glasses. It was only 5.5% alcohol and tasted absolutely marvellous. 

As we've done before, Bill strung a power cord to their motorhome. 2nd Street at 52nd Ave. became a campground for one night enabling us to extend our visit over breakfast.

On April 8th, we took another field trip to the mountains ...


The Livingstone Range as seen from Alberta Highway #3
Entering The Crowsnest Pass.  Left is The Frank Slide (Turtle Mountain), Crowsnest mountain in the distance
The Crowsnest Pass Art Gallery was showing an exhibition of student art. This collection of drawings was especially lovely 

Bill and I enjoyed lunch at Stone's Throw Cafe in Blairmore before going to the Castle Area to check out a favourite haunt, Beaver Mines Lake ...


Yours truly and a mountain I adore - Table Mountain

Out in its centre, the ice was off the lake. There was still a great deal of snow nestled in the trees of the campground which meant the road into the Recreation Area was closed.

*********

It disappointed me that the cannabis oil didn't alleviate my hip pain. When I got Cannimed's oil (1:20 TCH to CBDdosage up to 2ml, four times a day, without any relief, I called them. I was told that increasing the dosage further wasn't going to be of any benefit. April 10th, I resumed Celebrex, at 200mg twice a day. I continue to use cannabis oil (1ml, twice a day under my tongue) because I feel it's helping with the neuropathy pain. Also, as cancer cells are famous for rapidly dividing and multiplying the cannabinoids in cannabis oil are anti-proliferative and they can check cancer from metastasizing.


Last treatment. I blessed the chemo drugs, asking them to work for my highest good
  
My final chemotherapy treatment was on April 13th. Denise spent the time with me and Bill. The video may not play here, but you'll at least see a still of me with her. Ringing the bell signifies that your treatments are finished. It was most gratifying to let that bell peel!



We stopped at the Scammell's to collect Avery and gave an Easter gift bag to her

Later that afternoon we celebrated my final chemotherapy treatment at Bridges on First with fine food and champagne. 


At Bridges on First, Avery and Bill with the masterpiece she and her friend, Ferris, created 
Denise and Larry pulled out all the stops with a fine bottle of Italian champagne

When it was done we opened another bottle of champagne, a gift, received earlier that day, from John Webster who owns Webster Galleries and represents me in Calgary.


Yup, I enjoyed a glass or two!
Cathy and Dave brought lunch on April 14th
Back in The Anne Frank Room, Cathy created her second illustrated journal page
I showed Cathy my latest journal entry

It was mid March when I announced that I needed to go home. Canmore is home. Bill could be happy staying here in Claresholm but is prepared to honour my wish and so our home is for sale. Although Gary put the signs up the week prior, the listing went live on April 24th. We've had three showings but no offers, yet.


Bill and our long time friend, Gary, put up the signs April 19th

  


April brought an abundance of flowers. As the florist neglected to include names, with the message, the flowers on the right were a mystery for a day or so. Some serious sleuthing revealed that Vic and Avril had sent them from England. The bouquet on the left came from John and Win Din when I needed cheering up the most. I hit rock bottom on the 18th over the worsening hip pain and the humbling fact that I can't walk much at all without it becoming excruciating. Celebrex alone wasn't working so I was prescribed Hydromorphone. At first I was given 3mg tablets to be taken every three waking hours, this was later replaced with extended release capsules, 6mg every 12 hours. I notice a 20% to 30% reduction in pain. I'm not happy to be on narcotics, and Celebrex and Lyrica (for the neuropathy pain) but I they are so necessary for managing the pain.


The 'French Quarter' of our dining room

The sunflowers, came from my cousin, Claudine, who instructed me to put them in my best Van Gogh vase, against blue. As I don't have either, I placed them on the buffet beneath my painting 'Portes de Roussillon' 2004 oil, 22" x 30" with the pottery we bought in the Luberon near Roussillon, France.

Bill turned 73 on April 28th. Our family believes a birthday celebration can, and often does, last for up to a month. He managed to squeeze two celebrations in before April was over. 


April 28th, Bill and I celebrated his birthday at Mocha Cabana in Lethbridge
April 30th, Denise and Bill (yup that's another Long Island iced tea) at Bridges on First

On April 26th, I had a CT scan of my chest, abdomen and pelvis. The results came back saying all was looking good except for a 1cm spot on my liver, hitherto unseen. It was not detected in my last CT scan on November 22nd, seven days after surgery. I was told I'd need an ultra sound to determine just what it is. 


Sneaking into May and as this wasn't posted this yet, I can report that I had the ultra sound May 3rd. The radiologist said that he couldn't "characterize" what the spot was. I'll need a MRI for that "It's not good news or bad news" he said. "It's no news." This was not comforting. In fact I was downright frantic. I Immediately called and left messages with my  surgeon/oncologist and my nurse practitioner. The latter returned my call as we were driving home. She stressed that it's encouraging they couldn't determine anything from the ultra sound. She will book me a MRI. This "liver spot" won't interfere with the colostomy reversal slated to happen at the end of May.  

To close on a happy note, I give you an uplifting photo of me with Avery ... 


At Bridges on First, April 30th