Tag Archives: life has a way

THE SAGA CONTINUES AND…..CONCLUDES….COINCIDENCE?

The phone was lost on Friday; we bought a new one on Sunday afternoon; and by Wednesday we had put the whole experience behind us and were happily exploring Boysen Reservoir. This reservoir stretches in a north-south direction between Shoshoni on the south end and Thermopolis on the north end with the spectacular Wind River Canyon joining them. Mike wanted to see as much of the reservoir as was possible, the roads around it, and any potential camping spots we might be able to pull our fifth wheel trailer into.

We started on the west side of the reservoir, heading in the direction of Lake Cameahwait which is very close to Boysen reservoir…you can see the reservoir when you drive into the lake. This time though, instead of turning right onto the road to Cameahwait we went straight…the road was paved for a lot of the way but eventually turned into a well graded gravel road. We stopped often and turned into every side road we saw to explore….beautiful and remote-feeling.

Eventually the gravel road (turned out it was a loop road) became pavement again. Continuing along, we drove directly past the spot where we had gone fishing and kayaking exactly 7 days prior! No sooner had we passed “THE SPOT” and noted the absence of the fishermen and their fifth wheel trailers, than my phone, the new one that is, started to ring. It was a woman asking to speak to “Michael.” I put it on speaker and it turned out to be “Heather” calling from the Verizon store in Thermopolis to tell us that she had our phone!!!! We were gob-smacked….astounded….amazed…..couldn’t believe it…..asking each other “Now What?” COINCIDENCE? I always have believed there are no coincidences but this???? Hearing it had been found when we were in almost exactly the same spot we’d lost it???

At that point, we were near the south end of the reservoir, heading around to the east side where there are a lot more campgrounds to check out. We were already half way to Thermopolis so we headed directly there, deciding to investigate all the campgrounds on the return trip.

Arriving in Thermopolis, we located the Verizon store and met Heather who turned the phone over to us. Oh how we wished that phone could talk!!! She told us that the phone had been turned in by their ‘mail lady’ whose husband had found it floating not in Lake Cameahwait but at “Tough Creek” (Boysen Reservoir). Floating….probably it had been; close….but not where we’d been fishing and kayaking. It had been turned in a few days prior and Heather said she’d kept waiting for someone to call for it. We’d checked Shoshoni, Riverton, and Lander but hadn’t considered Thermopolis! She’d finally looked up the ID# on the back of the phone and had seen it belonged to us and called us. All the way back, we conjectured about what had happened because the facts didn’t match but finally, knowing we’d never get an answer, we stopped “scenario-izing” and simply were grateful for getting the phone back. That gratitude was amplified tenfold when we were informed by Heather that we would be able to return the new iPhone we’d purchased.

A huge thank-you goes out to the Verizon staff in Riverton, Lander and Thermololis who were so helpful; to Verizon, the company; to the fisherman who found the phone and to his wife who returned it to the Verizon store!

Repossessed

3 weeks later ….. and I have changed my mind!!

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 Friday, February 7, 2014Same Year …. New Model

I can’t quite believe it! It has only been three and a half weeks since Mike’s diagnosis of colon cancer; exactly three weeks today since his surgery and now, today, we have just returned from the first day of our running program! Here is my ‘Ode’ to the marvels of modern medicine, the mystery of the human body and the resilience of the human spirit. We are full of gratitude for how it has all turned out.

Mike stayed home from school for only a week and a day. By then, it was all systems go – from that day on, we started walking from 3 to 6 km. in Arad, every day after school. As we all know, walking promotes, among other things, talking….and so, we got to talking every

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day, about how much better Mike was feeling. Every day for him, has brought about small shifts in returning to normal …. food tasting better…..addiction to gum and salt crystal snacking lessening….energy increasing…..but BEST OF ALL….. a return to our previous zest for life…..feeling young again! From there, our talk turned to running and how it just might once again be possible, for both of us. Because, I too, became older and accepted my decrease of energy, putting it down to age……at the young age of 61!! How can that happen you ask? It happens so gradually that you don’t notice it and it affects every aspect of your life, from your relationship with each other and with friends, to the daily routines of life. Life becomes just a bit boring but, because it’s so gradual, you don’t notice. So now, today, I feel like it is the first day of the rest of our lives!!

For the first time, in a long time, I woke up this morning feeling positive and happy! It was 630 am, the sun was shining and the sky was brilliantly clear. It’s been cold and cloudy – unusual for Bahrain. I seem to have unconsciously…. mentally, brushed aside all the exasperations and frustrations of our retirement effort, the shock of Mike’s diagnosis, the added shock of his son Chris’s diagnosis of bone cancer and now it feels like a new beginning. And what is going through my mind is what my father tried to teach me but what I first really learned from Todd, the most outstanding model of this….that life is what you make it…..a lesson I keep learning over and over again!

So …. we headed out the door at around 730 am, new running shoes sparkling, sunglasses and baseball caps in place. We’d been planning all week long, on our daily walks, discussing our training focus, ‘slow and steady’. We decided to do 5 minute intervals; 1 minute of running followed by 4 minutes of fast walking and to do this for the next 2 weeks before increasing it to 2 minutes of running and 3 minutes of walking. Today we did the first 6 intervals – 6 minutes of total running, 24 minutes of total walking plus a good long warmup and cool down, beginning and end. Rewarded ourselves with breakfast at our favorite restaurant, Le Bateau.

Anyways, that’s my update. We continue to live each day as it comes and try to make decisions only when we have to, trying not to think too far into the future.

Tilster

Husband for SALE… My Perspective

My newsletter to friends and family… From My point of view – Tilster

For Sale: One Husband

Recently reconditioned but with a few parts missing, fully functioning with some tender care & maintenance!

January 22, 2014   Just look at those legs!!

PRICELESS!!!

Before I begin our saga, know that we are well. I had to think long and hard, procrastinating about how and when to share with you our latest adventure and how it has played itself out.

In the Beginning

How could you know that a simple blood test and a trip to Starbucks right after, would be the entrance into a dark tunnel filled with fear, doubt, anger, hope and recovery? Now, ten days after entering that black tunnel, we are re-emerging into the light.

As many of you are aware, Mike hasn’t been feeling his normal self lately. We put this down to the turbulence of retirement, allergies, changes of climate and country ….. never thinking it might be anything serious. At the end of September, we returned to Bahrain in response to an urgent plea from our former school; they were seriously short of teachers. Retirement not being quite what we thought it would be, it didn’t take us long to consider the offer and to accept. Within weeks, we were in Bahrain, happy to be back. Mike kept complaining about cold/flu – like symptoms and a burning in his chest so in November, we went to the ENT (ear/nose/throat) who did indeed find severe allergies and treated Mike for them. We decided to holiday in California for the winter break during the last two weeks of December, returning to Bahrain January 1st. While in California, we went on a hike with our good friends Shelley and Bernard but after the first 15 minutes, we had to turn back as Mike couldn’t make it.

We have a favorite place we like to go walking here, called Arad. It is a 3km walkway around a man made bay where the sea water fills the bay during high tide and leaves a mud flat during low. It is a beautiful place to walk, populated with flamingoes in ever-growing numbers, newly sprouting mangrove trees and all kinds of herons attracted by the multitude of fish. Usually, I have to stretch my legs to keep up with Mike but in the first week  back, it was Mike who couldn’t keep up with me, having to stop often to allow him to catch his breath and to allow the burning in his chest to subside. After that walk, we stopped by the hospital to make a follow up appointment with the same ENT. He checked Mike, said all was fine and escorted us up to the cardiologist. Immediately, the cardiologist took an ECG, sent Mike off for a chest X-ray and ordered blood tests, a stress test and a heart ultrasound. However, we had to wait a day for the last three tests as insurance had to okay it first. A few days later we had the okay from insurance to go ahead. Between fasting and working Mike eventually went in early on Jan. 13th which happened to be a holiday for us. You know what it’s like when you have to fast for a blood test …. you want a coffee and some food right after so off we went to Starbucks. We were just ordering our coffee when we received an emergency call from the technician at the lab, pleading/insisting that we come back for a re-test of Mike’s hemoglobin. We asked if we could finish our coffees – she said yes but to come as soon as possible. Still, we weren’t all that worried….what were we thinking??

Mike’s hemoglobin level turned out to be at “a panic level” of 4.9 (normal for males is 13 – 17). We found out later from doctors that anyone having this level is usually unconscious but because Mike’s body had adapted to this, he was still able to function. (Mike says it’s because he never uses his brain LOL!!)  We were next escorted to the ER. They wouldn’t let him leave. The task? To find out why his hemoglobin was so low.

Days of Discovery and Doubt

So …. an internist was called in who explained that given Mike’s age and symptoms, the most likely cause was internal bleeding in the gastric department. He was scheduled for an emergency endoscopy and colonoscopy. You all know about the preparation for that!! In addition he was given three units of packed red blood cells within the first night and day of being admitted. After that, he was feeling pretty good, other than the fact he couldn’t eat anything. The procedures showed a bleeding lesion and a tumor in an area of the colon called the ‘hepatic flex’ the bend of colon that passes in front of the liver on it’s way to join the small intestine. That’s important because of it’s proximity to the liver. Mike was still recovering from the sedative when the Doctor called me in to talk to her. She showed the pictures, explained that what I was seeing was a tumor …. and there my mind stopped working on anything other than the “C” word. “Yes” she said in response to my query, “99.9% sure! It is cancer!” She went on to explain and tell me what the next steps would be … a CT scan to see how much of the area was affected (we learned later that if the CT scan had shown any involvement of the liver or other surrounding tissues, they would not have done surgery right away. It was a good sign, not that we knew it at the time). The CT scan came back clear which meant that the liver appeared not to be involved. The procedures and the results of the procedures and CT scan were on Wednesday, Jan.15; surgery was scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 18. That whole time, Mike felt great (thanks to more RBCs) even though his favorite pastime (eating) was limited to clear liquids. On Saturday, the day of his surgery, we found out that our doctor here had arranged for a laparoscopic specialist to be flown in from Muscat, Dr. Lada. He was delightful….born and educated in Belgium….came to see us beforehand, drew us pictures and told us that he came just for us….that he wasn’t going to be in a hurry….so he inspired confidence. The surgery took three and a half hours ….doctors were pleased with how it went. They took out half the colon and a bit of the small intestine for re-attachment purposes as well as all of the associated lymph glands. Needless to say, for the first 24 hours Mike was in excruciating pain. Since then, we have come to learn more about what happened and what the tumor is. But first, let me delve into the anger part of our adventure.

Days of Anger

I slept on the couch in Mike’s room that first night. (I have spent most of every day in the hospital with Mike.) Willing as I was to do that the next night as well, Mike insisted I sleep at home in my own bed. His insistence, in addition to the associated aches and pains of sleeping on the couch, convinced me, so off I went – home. I was exhausted so by 830 pm I was in my PJs, ready for bed when Mike called, in an overpowering fit of rage. He had been in a deep sleep, full of pain meds and every and anything else they could pump him full of. The hospital admissions called him on the phone, out of this deep sleep, to tell him that insurance wouldn’t cover his hospital stay and that he had to pay 7500 BD or $20,000 USD!!! At 830 at night, the day after surgery!! Everything had been pre-approved! On came my clothes, up went my heart rate, into high alert, adrenalin on!!!! Raced over to the hospital to find Mike, so angry that pain was sidelined, stomping around the room hanging on to his drain (abdominal drain to collect blood and fluids from the surgery site), trying to call, threatening the nurses he would check out of the hospital, blood pressure up “higher than a cat’s back” and everyone around him scurrying around, trying to calm him down. Into that mess, I stepped. Tried more or less successfully to calm Mike down, put him into a wheel chair and wheeled him down to admissions (the phone in our room wouldn’t work) to call the insurance office in Dubai….. of course, there couldn’t be a solution….but they could at least have waited until morning for this bombshell. Put him back into bed and stayed until midnight. Then I went home to a more or less sleepless night. Next day, we went into action, making calls, writing letters, threatening the school, talking to the hospital admissions, doctors rallying fully behind us, and meanwhile having everyone reassure us that all would be well etc etc.  The insurance company did what all insurance companies do….they find any reason possible not to pay. Here were theirs:

Cancer is chronic – they don’t cover it.

It’s a pre-existing condition – they don’t cover pre-existing conditions.

We came back to Bahrain, late in the school year, just so Mike could get treatment!!

Our responses?? Thanks to the encouragement of our dear friend Carol, Mike went to my doctor in Kamloops while we were taking care of Peaceful Cove Resort and had a blood test. Thanks again to Carol’s coaching, Mike had it done at Life Labs and so was able to access the results online here and thus be able to prove that 10 months prior, his hemoglobin was normal as were the markers for cancer. That took care of number 1 and number 2. As far as coming back – Nargis, our HR person at the school,  took care of that by telling them she is the one who asked us to come back and teach. Mike wrote a scathingly brilliant letter to the insurance company, outlining our point of view, a copy of the blood tests with the added threat that should it be necessary, a court of law would most likely see it our way. Then, it became a waiting game. We didn’t have long to wait….yesterday, Jan. 22, we were informed by the insurance company themselves, via     e mail, that they would cover us 100%!

Days of Recovery and Hope

Now, it is today, Thursday, January 23rd. Mike is still in hospital, continuing his recovery. Today, we learned from the oncologist that the preliminary pathology indicates that he will NOT need chemo or radiation treatment. He has what is called an adenocarcinoma….slow growing….they think they have gotten it all. The lymph nodes have been pronounced clear as have the surrounding organs, and the tumor did not penetrate the outer wall of the colon. It has been there for a while so we consider ourselves lucky. In fact, we are filled with gratitude for the way everything has turned out. It could have been so much worse…! Apparently, if it had been known Mike had such a tumor, he would not have been permitted to fly because of the high risk of it bursting in midair. It is anticipated that Mike will be allowed to go home in a few more days.

Days of Learning

God, the Universe, the Fates, Karma, Entities or Deities of choice……keep trying to teach us the lesson of living in the moment. And so….in contradiction of the lesson we have just learned…..we are busy trying to plan how and when we want to return to Canada LOL! The real lesson is to take every day as it is offered and to cherish every moment you have with your loved ones. This latest episode of life has clearly shown us that there are no guarantees…Mike says, the Germans have a saying…..”Der mensch denkt, Gott lenkt.” Roughly translated it means “Man pleads, God leads!” When will we ever learn to let God lead?

PS: Bidding starts at all the money in the world……not enough!!!

Love & hugs

Tilly & Mike

Healthy as a Horse… “Dear God…”

5  February 2014

Only 3 weeks ago my tumor was discovered and my journey as a colon cancer patient began.

Today I am as though I had never been ill. I still have a bandage covering the still slightly tender incisions required for surgery.  But, other than that I feel so much better… it is at times difficult for me to remember that I was sick, much less that I was life-threatening sick.

As I reflect on the last three weeks, I am filled with an intense gratitude … for the doctors… for the nurses… for the staff of the hospital…. for the “universe”.

I laugh to myself as I think of an atheist’s prayer … “Dear God, I don’t really believe in you BUT thanks anyway.”

My cancer was a Stage II Grade 2 Adenocarcinoma… technical jargon a T3 N0 M0 …. All that stuff means is that it was a slow growing cancer that had not spread beyond the colon… had no lymph nodes involved and no spread to other parts of the body … IN SHORT … the surgery appears to have successfully removed all of the tumor. There are no HIGH RISK factors for recurrence. But that does not mean I can relax … still have tests every 3 months and a yearly colonoscopy… small price to pay to prevent another emergency surgery.

So, what am I? A cancer survivor? Cured? A statistic? Or am I just one very lucky victim who escaped the onslaught of a monstrous giant seeking to devour all who come within its shadow?

No I am just a guy in whose body some cells had their software go haywire and grow crazily. Luckily it was discovered in time and the mal-programmed cells were removed before they could spread their bad programming  elsewhere.

Til and I are now walking between 3 & 6km every day. We shopped for running shoes. I now hope to do some long distance running again. My first goal… 10k…. then maybe a half-marathon. Never thought I would run ANY distance again.

So I am on the mend… PHYSICALLY

Flashback to 28 January…

I just finished a call with Chris ( my son)… my world has been rocked with a 9.5 emotional earthquake. Chris has been fighting an infection in his jaw…. now after a biopsy the preliminary diagnosis is CANCER. The doctors are planning a second biopsy to confirm the result but his primary doctor is not holding out much hope. How I pray it will turn out negative.

“Dear God… I know what I said about believing in in you BUT can you do a repeat for Chris? Thanks in advance.” and I try to chuckle again…

how do I deal with this? It was easy when I was sick… but this is my son! My eyes keep watering up… i really feel… NO it is too early …have to wait for the 2nd biopsy results… there is always a chance… i am almost afraid to say “a mistake” because I might jinx it.  And my mind fills with images and memories… Chris at 3 wearing his bear claw slippers kicking a football around the living room… his best imitation of Rich Karlis… Bronco barefoot kicker (Chris heard BEARfoot) I smile and then the eyes water again…

Flash forward to yesterday… 4 February

This may be the worst day of my life so far… Chris called early. the 2nd biopsy confirms… Cancer. Surgical removal of part of his jaw will be required. Then, reconstruction of his jaw with bone taken from his leg bone(s)… then chemo and radiation therapy.

I am in a state of shock, astonished, gob-smacked, stunned, … my first thought turn skyward… “WHY?… WHY Chris? …. “ I want to rage, rail and scream…

Then the eyes water up again… I see the little boy running ….with his football, not a care… tossing a baseball to me and catching the return throw… I want to grab him up & run like hell to safety. ONLY the little boy is a grown man now AND  there is nothing I can do… I can’t even take on his burden and pain as every parent wishes they could for their suffering children.

My God, how the emotions flow… alternating between profound sadness and rage… I want to cry one minute and scream the next…

Two things occur to me simultaneously… One: none of my emotional drama has any effect on Chris or his condition… Two: this emotional drama is not conducive to my own health and well being … SO NOW that I am back to NORMAL (as normal as I can be),  it is time to focus all my thought and concern on Chris. And keep sending my positive vibes to him.

“Dear God …

Surgery – Healthy as a Horse… Sick as a Dog… Cancer P2

17 January 2014

been awake since 0415… lots on the mind. I called my son… he is in hospital also… with an infection of unknown origin.. he is waiting for results … hard to talk to him bc neither of us wants to burden the other with our woes… we keep it light and easy.

Today starts  the pre-operation preparation… more transfusion(s). My Hgb (hemoglobin count) has to be high enough for surgery…. at least 8 g/dL. I am feeling so much better that I forget I am still pretty ill and bleeding internally; which means I am still an ‘emergency’ case.

At 11 am my final transfusion (we hope) begins… two more hours and I should be topped up.

The Docs have had me on a liquid diet since I have been here… tea, fruit juices, chicken broth, and ENSURE (make sure I am getting all my nutrients). When I get tired of the vanilla flavored ENSURE… the nurses send it down to the cafeteria where they add strawberry flavor and make a “shake”. Wish they could make a Cinnamon roll flavor.

Dinner is my last meal… and then the clean out procedure begins anew… I don’t mind so much this time… and I will only have to drink two bottles of gunk (unlike the first time … took four bottles to get the job done. I guess that proves how full of “IT” I was!)

Oddly I find myself looking forward to the surgery. For a guy who always wants to be in control of things, it is strange that I am so ready to turn my fate over to a group of strangers. I guess when you have no other choice, THAT choice is easily embraced. With surgery over I can focus on recovery. Hopefully when all the post-operation results are in, chemo or radiation will not be necessary. Even though the CT scan indicated the tumor is localized, the only way to be sure is to section and examine the tumor and surrounding lymph nodes. I know it will be a number of days after surgery before we know for sure. I am resigned to letting things be. If chemo or radiation is needed then so be it.

My stay here has been as pleasant as it can be. The nursing staff (Raji, Anu, Ramya, Sibi, Jessica, Roby, Ragesh, Arnel, Bindu and Zahra) have all been phenomenal. I appreciate all the things they do. We (ordinary people) forget until we are sick in a hospital, that nurses do a heck of a lot more than just attend and give injections. I think they are as important to the healing process as the procedures and medicines are.

 

18 January 2014 06:49

Since 05:00 I have been poked, prodded, ecg’d, blood sucked, weight and measured… then more antibiotics and …. A BELLY SHAVE! At least I won’t have to worry about pulling of hairs as the dressings are changed.

The surgeon and specialist come in to explain (again) to us what will be happening. I am surprised that the hospital has flown in a Laparoscopic Surgery Specialist – Dr Latta from Muscat, Oman, just  for my surgery.

It is rainy and nasty looking out my window… can barely see across the bay. A really good day for surgery…. nothing better to do.

I suppose I should have some angst about this but, really? I am ready to get on with it… a treadmill stress test is scheduled immediately prior to surgery. What the heck for I do not know.

At first I suspect a bit of “nest feathering” but, the cardiologist explains that the anesthesia is hard on the heart so a test must be done to see if the heart can stand up to it. I pass the stress test with flying colors… something that I would not have had the strength for only two days prior.

10 minutes after the stress test I am loaded on a gurney and whisked off to the surgical theatre. Staring up at the ceiling moving by I thought of all the movies where this camera angle was used but it wasn’t as interesting this time.

The anesthesiologist introduced himself and explained what I could expect. He joked with me a bit then off to the operating theatre … strapped down, oxygenated, and the last thing I remember is the  anesthesiologist saying “good night”.

When I awake, it is his face I see first  … six inches from mine as he chants “deep breath, deep breath, deep breath”… the he makes me swear an oath to keep taking deep breaths… Hell I can barely keep my eyes open … and this guy wants me to focus on my breathing? My eyes roll up and back to lala land I go. A few minutes (?) later I wake put look across the aisle at he nurses and try to take a deep breath…. HURTS LIKE HELL! … and off to lala land I go again…

I don’t know how many times the process repeats itself but eventually I awake back in my room… in pain and unable to really take a deep breath without setting off waves of pain… in walks the anesthesiologist and tells Tilly that I made a promise to … looks at me expectantly and I mutter “breath deeply”… if I could have reached him I would have hurt him! 

the afternoon and evening a pass in an agonizing haze with Docs in & out inspecting their handiwork… i can barely make sense of what they are saying … not even sure I could reply. Finally bed-time and Tilly, thank God has decided to spend the night … her presence made the night tolerable…

The next morning I think, “AND What the HELL was I thinking? Looking forward to surgery? Damn!” The surgery has relieved me of 1/2 of my large intestine… and I chuckle to myself (OUCH) as I think “ I can only be  accused of being 1/2 full of “IT” from now on.”

But it is over and I am headed toward healing recovery… the prognosis is good (and depending on the lab rests chemo or radiation may not be needed – I can only hope). BUT there is one more battle to face… and that battle blind sides me and Tilly  totally.

Next: The Hospital and Insurance Company –  Battle Royale

Healthy as a Horse…Sick as a Dog…Cancer….

I have recently been discharged from the hospital  after cancer  surgery. The following few blogs detail the  two weeks of our saga based on my daily journal entries. It is my hope that anyone else diagnosed with cancer and reading this will be encouraged or at least comforted. It also my hope that anyone reading this will make sure they and their loved ones are screened on a regular basis. I am lucky, so far. Others are not!

16 January 2014

Please sir, could you come back to the hospital lab as soon as possible?” the voice on the phone said.

I am standing at Starbucks awaiting my coffee and cinnamon roll, could I come after I finish my b-fast?” I answer.

Yes, but please do come back, OK? We need to draw some more blood and confirm a result.” The voice said with a mix of demand and pleading.

And so our dark adventure began. One hour later, after having more blood drawn, the results confirmed, I am sitting in the ER. It seems I had a very low hemoglobin count in other words severe anemia.

It may be long time before I am going to get another cinnamon roll “, I thought; still not  twigging on to the importance of my situation. Other than a nagging cough, a bit of tiredness, and a problem tolerating exercise (which is the reason for my blood tests ordered by the doctor), I feel OK, not great but OK.

“We need to admit you to the hospital and determine the cause of your low blood count… which is most likely internal bleeding… in the colon.”, says the doctor.

S**T, no cinnamon rolls” I am thinking as I say “But I am feeling OK.”

The fact that I am sick… really sick, begins to dawn on me a few  hours later as the second of two units of blood (to raise and stabilize my Hgb count) is transfused in preparation for a colonoscopy. My mind clears and the symptoms of fatigue, mental fogginess and exercise discomfort I have experience the last few months begin to make sense. My Grandmother died of colorectal cancer when I was 8 years old. Now, I AM paying attention. Cinnamon rolls drop of my radar screen.

5 AM the next morning the “clean-out” process for my colonoscopy begins. Anyone familiar with the process knows how “not-so” pleasant this is. Essentially you drink a mix of awful tasting salts and chemistry that causes the entire digestive tract to empty. And you keep drinking this gunk until … well IF you been through it YOU KNOW… IF NOT then YOU REALLY DON’T WANT TO KNOW!

While the process might be unpleasant the real challenge is to make it to the toilet before (you can guess what) … the warning signs are brief and not to be ignored for a even a second! Even connected to an IV pole I somehow manage to make the scramble successfully every time.

After hours of waiting ; finally taken to the procedure room, I am sedated, scoped and examined… while I was not fully asleep (experienced a bit of pain and discomfort) I was not really awake either. I awoke to a slightly red-eyed Tilly (who has deserved mention long before this… as she has, had been and is so supportive… even to the point of taking the day off work to attend the procedure ) – the exam found a mass …. tumor… doughnut shaped growth… with a lesion (the source of my bleeding).

”A 99.9% probability that it is cancer.” said the Dr in response to Tilly’s first question.

Well there it was… probably the most scary scenario I had ever imagined, just  realized. I had often wondered how I would react… and feared considering the possibility of dying in the most horrible way possible… wasting away… in pain and no way to exit this world gracefully.

Surprising myself, I found that my first reaction was relief and  determination. Relief because I now had a definite cause for my distress and discomfort the last two or three months. Determination,  because knowing the source of my distress would allow me to focus all my energies to taking corrective measures. My second reaction was to ask myself as I looked into the tear reddened eyes of my wife, how I was going to emotionally support my family members (children and parents) from half the world away. That was going to be the hard part.

So, most likely I had the “BIG C” as these things usually turn out to be… Plus the family history is there… but we would have  t0 wait  for the “official” diagnosis until after surgery.

And yet, I was highly confident. Being severely anemic had brought me to the hospital and the very reason we had identified the problem. Anemia is a symptom of something more serious. Our diet has for the past few years has been so well balanced that food intake could not have been a cause. However, other causes of anemia are much more serious… bone marrow cancer (leukemia), kidney and/or liver disease.

So I count myself fortunate, so far. My tumor was in the best possible spot for surgery. A CT scan done later that evening  revealed no involvement with my liver (the closest major organ). My doctor is very positive and so am I.

Surgery will be on Saturday the 18th of January. With a good result and recovery I won’t have to figure out if I am more like Jack Nicholson or Morgan Freeman (a bad reference to the movie Bucket List)…

MIKAL

NEXT –   Pre Surgery, Post Surgery

A Long Strange Trip

“Lately, it occurs to me…. what a long strange trip it’s been” – Grateful Dead

We thought it was all figured out… We would “retire” from teaching to live in Southern California, find another mode to make enough money to see us the 5 to 7 years until old age benefits began and live our life while still able to enjoy it. We would get catastrophic health coverage just in case, while we sought part-time employment that offered medical benefits (yes there are companies that do offer their part-timers benefits). In the mean time we would pursue and perfect our respective arts, photography and writing in the goal of selling them.

It sure seemed like a great plan… but, life always has a way of throwing things in our paths that can change everything …

We had considered the possibility of “snow-birding”  6 months in Canada and 6 months in the US.   The only problem was … we had no residence in Canada and could ill afford one. Little did we know… life has a way of throwing things…

Shortly after we applied for catastrophic health insurance and two weeks before that application was underwritten and we were covered (BUT the insurance company sure as heck accepted our $$$ immediately!) we discovered that both Til & I (as a spouse) could be covered under BC  health insurance within three months of Til returning to Canada as a permanent resident.  We could get 100% health coverage – including vision and dental for less than 1/2 the cost of our $8400 per year; $15,000 deductible ‘Catastrophic’ policy (catastrophic, alright… to our bank account if we got sick) in the US.

‘No-Brainer’ 

We could afford to rent a home for the time we were in Canada and NOT spend any more $’s than we would have living in the US full time (and over-paying for “worthless” health insurance). The only catch? We would be required to live in BC for 6 months of every year. Besides BC highways being a biker’s paradise and BC being a fisherman’s dream and a photographer’s heaven; we figured that we could endure that ‘burden’.

Snow Birds we would become! BUT, in the mean time we would return home to California and wait until April to head north as we needed to find a place to live in Canada and submit the application for my permanent residency.

OR so we thought!

One week after our return to California, we received a call from our best friends in Canada telling us of the opportunity for taking care of the fishing lodge they had been winter care-takers of (for 6 previous years). We had expressed interest in replacing them if they ever decided not to return. There is no pay, BUT there is no rent or utilities to pay either. And other than being on premises to insure nothing freezes up in the main lodge if power goes out ( a fairly frequent occurrence); we have no other responsibilities.

‘No-Brainer’ again…

Within 10 days we had packed up our belongings; made arrangements for temporarily renting out our California home (figured we might as well make a few $ while up north); traveled to spend a few days with my folks in WY (and pick up a few cold weather things like ski’s, snowshoes, hats, gloves, parkas, and Sorrels) and crossed the border into Canada.

Canadians we have become … Til once again… And me?  Once an expat, i guess always an expat. But at least now I can spend 6 months (instead of 2) every year back “home”.

So, we are “settled” now… But, you never know… “it occurs to me…. what a long strange trip” it might still be.