Monday, September 26, 2016

No Fly Day

Trying to keep busy today so as not to remind myself that I'm not travelling in to work for my next rotation. Having been off the summer is not so unusual, as I've made that my habit as a casual to take the summer off. I managed last summer (even though job sharing) with time off for the daughter's wedding to again be out from May - September. So I'm four for four since starting this gig in 2012. But after having June/July off for post op recovery, today would have been the second day of my commute, were I not having treatments. At the time I type this…I would be landing in Inuvik, scrambling to drag my stacks of luggage to the Aklak Air counter and trotting out to the Beechcraft 1900 for the flight to Banksland. But….those plans are all waiting for 2017 now. I've just read a post from a RCMP couple attempting to get out on vacation stating the flight in to Sachs Harbour is cancelled today due to freezing rain…...somewhere. So, I'd have been stuck at some point along the way (likely Inuvik) with my perishables, something that has yet to happen to me in my interactions with the weather gods.

Since my current social life is focused around the healthcare system, you might think this will be a list of appointments or interactions but….. one must have small pleasures. I learned this about 15 years ago when I was employed in a provincial job where I worked from a home office and visited employees in their homes for insurance case management, I could find every craft shop, Frenchy's, farm market and local winery near my intended appointment and would reward myself accordingly. If I arrived early (not usually the case) after having miscalculated the distance or traffic I would check in for an overview to see if the locale rated a post appointment return. Usually the routine was to focus on work (which could be pretty intense as the employees were applying for disability benefits / being eased back to work) and I'd amuse myself with a little recreation following. Have some nice souvenirs from those days…..Cheticamp hooked rug coasters for example.  But I digress….

On Thursday the early morning routine of blood draw was augmented by the accompaniment of the eldest daughter who was having routine fasting blood work done too. She's not a fan of this activity (not that anyone is, but she carries a large portion of her father's genetic code in that respect) and we had to enter the fray of earlier blood collection due to the skipping breakfast.  I manage to avoid the rush by only have haematology measured (white count - immunity / Hgb) which doesn't require fasting. We stopped later at the local provincial park and I took a shower - bit nippy in the early morning of the concrete shower building. While about half way home I answered the phone (yes on handsfree) and the chemo nurse was advising my results were fine for the next day's treatment. For anyone tempted to accuse the healthcare system of dysfunction (and there are multiple opportunities) this is not one of them. I had my blood drawn at in a small community hospital about three hours drive from the city at 9:30 am, tests were run, reports generated and faxed (rural / urban run two different reporting systems so results can't be accessed digitally) to the tertiary cancer centre which the oncology nurse retrieved, reviewed and called me at 10:20 am to share. Hadn't even made it home yet from the lab, I told the nurse and we chuckled. 

By noon the shore captain arrived and we gathered ourselves, our things and headed towards the city. We stopped at the baby daughter's place, moved into in March which I hadn't seen yet outside the city and then a further stop to drop off halibut cheeks to muscle shirt man (don't ask) which is becoming a habit when we head in that direction. A rush hour drive across the city / bridge to the new parents and our granddaughter. Lots of fun to take turns snuggling with her - give me that baby! The life partner and his assistant eldest daughter made a run for wine and take out pizza at Piez Bistro which I recommend: 

hats and more hats
Of course the baby awoke and decided she was hungry too when the food arrived, so I ate quickly (as only nurses can) and then got more snuggles while her mother had her supper. As we sat in the glider rocker I got a bit emotional and told her that I will be there for her first birthday, I will dispute the reports that she's misbehaved at preschool and I will be watching for her first day of grade primary in French Immersion photo. She didn't argue. What better reason than a two week old grandchild to strengthen your resolve to fight eh? I had originally made a frog hat for the baby but miscalculated and it fit the 5 yr old grandson, so created a new one for her too.

We left our laundry with the daughters to do (now there's a switch….parents taking laundry home to their kids) and headed across the harbour to the hotel we'd booked for the night. Unfortunately with the insomnia of steroids (me) and snoring (he) I slept no more than if I walked the floor with a newborn. Enjoyed breakfast with the bus tour which had stayed as well. To each their own, but bus tours are definitely not on our travel bucket list…..just sayin. Over to the oncology clinic appointment where things are confirmed to be going well, up to the chemo floor and a two hour wait for the medication to arrive. How ridiculous! A 10 am appointment and the meds come up from pharmacy at noon. The nurses explained that pharmacy is understaffed, they are not covered there for their breaks and are not allowed to work overtime, so everyone waits for hours and the nurses (who don't want to) have to work overtime to get the treatments done. How annoying and unnecessary when the prescription is the same and could be done the week before. I made sure to share my thoughts on the patient satisfaction survey I received this week in the mail. On a positive note, only one try for the IV and the meds ran smoothly. The life partner exited to visit with his granddaughter, retrieve the daughter, laundry and run some errands and returned as my IV was being removed. 

We stopped at Pete's Frootique, a small independent market which has been purchased by a large grocery chain and although it's still good, there are signs of change. We picked up some gourmet treats, fruits and veggies and headed out of the downtown core. We convinced our chauffeur to stop at Michael's (crafts) for ergonomic crochet hooks and yarn (essentials of life) and browsed the aisles. Really pushing it, we further convinced our driver to stop at Chapters (bribed him with a Starbucks coffee) and I used my Plum points to pick up a discounted copy of a Winston Churchill biography. Crocheted my way home as I congratulated myself for the ergo purchase. Have decided to do hats for a mission which supports the homeless who can sure use a warm hat in the cold so a routine project which doesn't take much attention:

Although it rained (yeah for the water table) on the way home Friday evening, meaning we are able to have brief, very brief showers, the weather has certainly changed to autumn and it is quite chilly especially early morning and late evening. I am minding the cool breeze on my fuzz covered head and am switching from the cooler summer hats (to protect from sunburn) to the warmer crocheted versions. My wig is cool and comfortable as ventilated but the wind does blow through it. I didn't realize what an insulator hair was until it's disappeared. But as my son said….you've still got as much hair as Dad and a lot better chance of growing it back than he does at this point. 

In addition to my craft purchases we checked the post office box and found the Mary Maxim parcel had arrived. I had ordered a baby afghan kit for a daughter of one the shore captain's employees (childhood friend of our daughter as well), she is expecting a baby girl in a few weeks so I best get my act together. The project is small (should've read the specifications) but will work to put over a car seat. It is also optimistic to call it intermediate level. I spent the first evening getting the pattern straight in my head, ripping it out (sometimes called frogging) and replacing it until about 1 am, finally accomplishing about four rows without too many (noticeable) errors. It is a unique pattern/shade and she will appreciate it. so I am soldiering on. And the positive of staying up late is that you're tried enough to sleep. 

Slept until 10 am on Saturday and then puttered until those gainfully employed arrived home to ready for a memorial service for the husband of the plant's long term secretary. This created a flurry of finding dress clothes not recently worn, the lint brush for cat fur embellishments and showers measured in minutes. As we headed out to the vehicle our daughter discovered that Squeakers (indoor kitty on a harness) had escaped her leash and was no where to be found. Too late now, gotta go. We returned home after the service and reception to do a feline search and eventually she was located yowling in the top of a 30 ft. spruce tree swaying in the wind on the edge of our property. The shore captain headed in to the house changing from his funeral clothes, making bold pronouncements about how many trees he'd climbed in his lifetime. Meanwhile, the youngest daughter (aka cat whisper - half her father's weight and 33 years younger) had arrived for supper, shimmied up the trunk and convinced Squeakers to come down with her. We were impressed at the kitty's cooperation and nonviolence in the retrieval, thus the only scratches were from limbs. Perhaps she was in shock as she was not herself until today, or maybe distressed about all the balsam as she's quite fastidious. 

Sunday we started our day off with the monthly local Fire Dept. breakfast which we haven't attended for years, as Sunday has become a day to pack / ship fish for the transport to the USA. Our daughter and neighbour walked both ways to burn off the generous meal and we all enjoyed a visit with community members we haven't seen for a while, catching up on the local news. The remainder of the day unfolded the way that a weekend should with books, naps, crafts and general relaxing. 

So today has been (as predicted by oncology) the delayed day 4 - 7 set of classic side effects from treatment on Friday. Last month I had attributed it to perhaps withdrawal of steroids but the prevailing opinion is that the aches, overwhelming fatigue and general feeling of having been beaten with a log is due to the chemo. Oh well, at least I know what it is and it will be improving by tomorrow. And….Friday is the halfway point in the cycles. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Bus Chasing

As I ready for yet another trip to the city, I shall first update this blog. All is well and the trip shall include a visit with Miss Claire so am looking forward more than usual to the journey. 

This recent weekend we enjoyed having our grandson over and he is spirit lifting as only a five year old boy can be. I had arranged with his mother to pick him up at the nearest bus stop to us on Friday afternoon and return him there on Monday morning for school. I arrived early at the stop as I couldn't remember the exact arrival time (a lot has gone in my life since I did the school bus run in June) and there was a new driver this year. As 4 pm approached his mother texted to ask if he had arrived and I assured her I was waiting at the stop. Shortly thereafter the bus sped by. I quickly texted his mother 'bus went by' and began pursuit. Back in the day when our children rode the elementary school bus there were multiple stops through the three small communities but….no more. With our aging population there is not another stop until Ingomar which is about five minutes away. As I tailed the bus, the frantic texts from his mother arrived…is he on the bus? why didn't they stop? At the Ingomar fire hall the bus finally turned in and I approached the door. Our grandson quickly exited through the door and stood beside me with a relieved look on his face. The poor driver was very apologetic and explained that a substitute teacher had his class and hadn't provided the bus transfer form to her. That, and the perfect storm of the two young fellows who get off at the stop I frequent, not being on the bus Friday meant she didn't stop but continued on. Our grandson realized something was amiss as they passed out of our community and told the driver she'd "forgotten to let him go to his Nanak's ". I arranged to drop him off at the regular stop on Monday morning and we headed home. 

The weekend was spent with lego, crafts, playing games of mousetrap and scardy squirrel and reading books. He spent Saturday afternoon visiting his great Nanny with his Auntie and running errands. Sunday was Open Farm Day at Chestnut Hill Farm and so we enjoyed visiting the piggies, chickens, ducks and bee hives. We even saw his teacher and her family there so I introduced myself (her father was principal when our children were small) and she taught in Uluhuktak (next community to Sachs Harbour) when she began her career. Small world. The remainder of the afternoon was spent in secret preparations for an early birthday party as due to my anticipated immunocompromised status on the actual date I will be hibernating. We enjoyed a nice supper with blueberry cake/candles and I was treated to a scavenger hunt for some lovely gifts. I was thrilled with the handmade (supervised by the auntie) creations. As the little guy was being put in the tub that evening the pump sputtered and….we joined the waterless masses locally as we suffer through a major drought. 

Fortunately, it rained during the night and all day Monday. In fact, as we waited for the bus Monday morning there was a major cloudburst, which luckily slowed when the bus arrived. We had large grey wharf boxes brought over from the plant - the shore captain has been providing them locally for a few weeks now - and the fire department filled them with water suitable for everything but drinking. So, buckets of water to flush the toilet, boiled two large pots full to do the dishes from a dishwasher full of dirty dishes, paper plates, hand wipes, laundromat, showers at the provincial park and drinking bottled water. 

On Monday a buddy and myself first had a Cuban lunch at Shanty Cafe (she treated me - I am so spoiled) and we shopped at the craft shop of the sheltered workshop which is next door. Then we attended Look Good Feel Better at the regional hospital which is a sponsored session with about $200 worth of free cosmetics. None of the other ladies realized I was wearing a wig so I was a good advertisement for the section on hair replacement and I managed to put my makeup on without looking like a clown so it was a good time. I'm not likely to wear all the makeup but….there were some nice goodies. 

Tuesday when the well was checked….we had water to cover the foot valve at least a few inches but the pump had lost its prime and wouldn't pick up the water. So, the shore captain called a local plumber who promised to come 'first thing' in the morning when he was assured the man of the house would be here. I was sleeping soundly at 7 am when rudely awakened by my other half who said "get up, I have to go and the plumber isn't here yet". Not being a morning person I stumbled out of bed and he left. In the bathroom a few minutes later I heard my phone ringing and found a voice mail message stating "call me back, it'll probably be too late by the time you do", When I connected with the life partner who was not even two km up the road, he had passed the plumber on the way to our house and was directing me to pay him cash. Now a bit more awake I firmly educated him on the difference between have and want as in….I am a nurse I have to be at work 20 minutes to 7 to listen to report / you are self employed and want to be at work at a time you decide this morning - big difference. He protested that he would be away the next day and a half and had paperwork to do, no argument but the 5 minute wait for the plumber and his 15 minute service call (which netted him $120) could have been scheduled in there. The day is long when you're up that early. After breakfast I settled in to clean / organize my scrapbooking supplies and had a very productive couple of hours. Certainly not complete but a very good start. Lots of ideas for projects now that I've gotten my things out and looked at them. 

After lunch I enjoyed my book on the deck and the neighbour walked over to tell me that she had about six feet of water in her newly dug well. Apparently there were two attempts made as the first was dry as dust. She was pretty excited as she's been waterless for weeks now. We feasted on BBQ moose steaks for supper which had been a gift to the shore captain.

So tomorrow it's start the steroids and have the bloodwork day and then the trip to the city to overnight before the longer day of appointment and chemo. Completing this cycle will mark the halfway point of the treatments. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Positive vibe

You know how you need to be in a mood to write? It is especially easy when you have positive vibes pushing you and this is one of those situations. 

Claire's hat I crocheted
We received a call from our daughter on Saturday evening (who was due in a week ) to tell us that our baby granddaughter had arrived. Claire Ann was 8 lb 14 oz and both mother and baby are doing well. It was nice to take a tripto the city the next day for other than medical reasons. And really good to hold our newborn grandchild, while deciding although she's cute that she looks nothing like our own kids did. 

When I was hospitalized for pneumonia in mid August the Dr who had admitted me advised that the chest X-ray report from the radiologist advised I have a bone scan as there were areas on my ribs which could either be artifact (shadows but not sinister) or metastases (spread of cancer) and so he arranged for the body scan. I received a letter booking me for September 7th at the regional hospital. I have to say that reading the requisition with the 'rule out metastases' instructions next to my name and birthdate in the waiting room was disconcerting. The test requires that you receive an IV injection of radioactive dye and then return a few hours later for the scan. This allowed the life partner and I to run some errands (Canadian Tire, groceries and the butcher) and then enjoy a Cuban lunch at Shanty Cafe before heading back. The scan was somewhere between MRI and CT for claustrophobia inducing panic attacks and I managed ok. Today I received a call from the nurse in the referring physician's office - he's retired since my hospitalization but is one of those detail orientated types who checks reports from home and instructed her to let me know - that my scan was clear! Woohoo a huge relief as it's tough to stare that facing mortality stuff in the face and not have it affect you. 

I travelled to the city for my short chemo appointment (actually about 10 days ago now) and was in and out within 50 minutes. My white counts had dropped, but not as low as previously so good to have had the dosage reduced 80%, and they were still at a level to have the chemo. Managed to enjoy a Meditterean lunch afterwards with a northern colleague and my family in tow, before heading home. Today is the final day of my reduced white count, according to the oncologists so the plan is to have our grandson over on the weekend as I won't be so immunocompromised. 

Today I (again) did battle with my cell phone provider and 'think' I have arranged to have the phone plan I need at a price where I don't have to sell my car. This has been an ongoing skirmish over several months with amount of data and unlimited calling/texts being negotiated. As I said to the rep today….I will NEVER call Bell again and speak to anyone, I will only live chat so that I have a record of our discussion. He reversed the charges I was whining about. 

I also spent some time looking for my camera, which I have apparently misplaced - the trouble with having technology you can put in your pocket or purse….I have an alternate camera and had downloaded my recent photos but did not plan to be without my waterproof, freeze proof, shock proof camera just yet. I've likely put it somewhere 'safe' and you know what that leads to…..pulling apart the house to prevent admitting you've lost your mind. 

We are locally in the midst of a drought and many wells are dry. We still have water although the shore captain refuses to look in the well and see how much because "you can't save water, the level is according to the water table" to quote himself. Local Fire departments are filling wharf boxes with water for flushing of toilets etc for those who are out, the provincial park is open for showers, washing machines have been installed at Search & Rescue, taps are accessible at some fire halls and people on town water supplies have opened their homes for showers. Estimates are over 30% of the municipality is without water, rivers and lakes are at all time lows and lawns are charred. Yes, it's been a beautiful warm, sunny summer but we desperately need rain and for extended periods. 

Ending this post with some practical advice on packing for those of you in travel mode: