Western education 2013

Monday, August 25, 2014

.... off to the cottage....

..... with the pain in my sternum now creeping into my left breast.  Lifting my arm elicits pain that deepens into the underpit and swellls the tissue just beneath the skin.  The ache is somewhat akin to a tooth ache and sleeping becomes impossible.  After tossing and turning for the better part of an hour, I drag myself out of bed and make a cup of tea.  

The crickets are chirping in the dark signalling the end of August near the lake.  Lake Huron is a mere hundred meters away from the cottage a dear friend has gifted us with as a family holiday.  We are in the Bruce Penninsula, a gem in the province of Ontario and a few hours drive from where we live.  It is only 5 am and the sun will be up in a few hours.  For now, I will sit in the dark livingroom on a comfy couch and blog.

Over the past few days before heading out, we began the garden clean out signalling the end of the summer growing season.  There are still vegetables such as carrots, brussel sprouts, broccoli, pumpkins and a miniature water melon growing.  The tomato plants have a blight that has damaged a portion of the crop and it was fortunate that I picked most of the tomatoes before that began.  The rains and lack of heat this summer have created a challenging growing season for many gardeners this year.  It was such a cool summer that the potato plants produced berries... which look like tomatoes and contain true seeds.  Most years a potato plant will only produce tubers... which of course we eat.  Max was deeply disappointed considering all the work we put in to making the boxes. We made quite a bit of relish and salsa this year and we were able to freeze some beans for the winter.  Next year, we will have a different layout in the garden and will try other veggies.  As much as I liked the Cosmos in the front garden, they too will not be replanted due to the fact that they cast a shadow deep into the garden. 

While the garden did not pay for itself this year... the boost to my personal health and emotional well being was priceless.  There is nothing better than feeling a sense of accomplishment and looking forward each day to seeing what is new in the garden.  It was a great experiment and I am deeply grateful for each new neighbor I met this summer while puttering in my front garden.  

There were a number of special moments spent with my family.  Miss Lydia is becoming a young woman and I must say that our relationship as mother and daughter is amazing.  When I look at her... I see a lovely, intelligent and amazing human being to whom I am forever grateful for being given the priviledge of raising.  I did not have much of a relationship with my self=absorbed mother.... she could only reserve enough of herself to share with her eldest of three daughters.  i often thought she didn't care much for me with her often times short temper and lack of patience.  When I watch my daughter, I wonder if I would have been like her given the environment she grew up in?  I see a lot of me in her and am aware of how sensitive she is.... how sensitive I am.  I visited my mother just before heading out for vacation and she spent our time complaining about her friend Fred.....she continues to believe the world revolves around her.  I looked at her across the table and wondered how lonely her life must be when all she can do is complain about someone who is always trying to please her?  It might explain why he chose to sit at the other end of the table with his guests.  Her petty jealousy will eventually cost her a friendship with a truly wonderful man.  I simply looked at her and let her know that he could speak to whomever he wanted to. Sad.

Thursday 28th August
Today is filled with meetings at the college.  Its that time again and I am really excited to begin the school year!!  This year will see me working through the week and now on the weekend as the new coordinator for our program.  I have begun the process of organizing the course and working collaboratively with the other faculty members to produce a good flow between courses.  Students often think that each course is a stand-alone with no connection to their other subjects... so we are using our communications course to thread them all together and give some continuity to learning outcomes.  

I am in pain and gratefully taking the Tramacet prescription sent by my doctor to the pharmacy while I was on vacation.  I am to take it every 4 hours but unfortunately when I rose in agony this Friday morning at 4 am, I realized that I had not taken one before falling asleep.  Its a good thing I have Chiro today. Tuesday I will get my results from the CT scan and I am hoping all is well..... fingers crossed.  I have noticed that the stomach issues I was dealing with have stopped as of this past Sunday.  The prescription Tramacet is used for nerve pain and since it works we know that the pain is primarily nerve.  There are 'hot spots' along the left chest and underpit which hurt when touched.  This morning I am struggling with just moving my neck - typical symptom of sleeping in an awkward position to avoid the pain.  Chronic pain is difficult to deal with some days.  I try to move as much as possible to keep the lymphatic fluids moving but this morning.... not so much.  Each movement from the time I got out of bed to now is painful.  My kitty is trying desperately to get into my lap but a quick no and he moves off in search of another comfy spot - it is only 5:30 am.  I would love to go back to bed but I do not want to wake up Max...I will lay down on the couch and close my eyes for a while.

Thank goodness for Dr. Laura Gravelle who has helped me immeasurably today with the pain.  I can now move my neck and i am comfortable too now that the medicine has kicked in.  Her offices are now at 350 Oxford St. West.

Personal health care has to involve mental/emotional, physical and spiritual.  The oncologists just address the physicality of the cancer.  I am a strong woman physically and emotionally - I am pragmatic and have faced every part of my illness head on.  I do my research and am diligent about pursuing what I need while learning to advocate for myself every step of the way.  With the recent call from the hospital fund raising venture to expand the chemotherapy suite.... I am now convinced that cancer is on the rise and with the loss of two friends while on chemo.... I am sure we have not come any further in our approach to cancer treatments.   We are not addressing the causes of cancer and the constant fund raising into the billions has not brought us any closer to finding a cure... only a bandaid approach to this insidious illness.

Proper health has to start with proper eating.  Everything we put into our body has to be used to heal and assist in proper physical maintenance. Our bodies are incredible and with the necessary ingredients, it can heal itself.  Reducing stress every day and maintaining a positive attitude is key in starting the healing process.  Find hobbies and passions to create an excitement for living and a distraction from concentrating our thoughts on our illness.  Make future plans and strive to find goals that bring you personal satisfaction.  Read labels - better yet.... don't buy anything that has a label containing a long list of ingredients that look like a chemistry set.  My rye bread has three ingredients, none of which are preservatives.  Your skin is your largest organ.  Keep it clean and healthy but being aware of what you are putting on it.  Protect your skin from damage and infections.  Make decisions that make sense.
In the news this week:
ALS bucket challenge has hit most of my friends and I am grateful I have as yet, not been challenged...cold water would put me into painful spasms and I cannot afford to donate at this point.  I understand that a majority of the money raised is going to administration fees and wages.  It is getting harder to find charities that are not fundraising for incomes, marketing and administration.

Tim Hortons merger with Burger King - I sold my stock off at an inflated price and made a good return.  I have re-invested my earnings.  Today the stock is dropping.....which makes me feel way better about selling a stock.  Timing is everything.

My blog on Metastatic cancer - I was asked to post a link about the benefit of MRI's on a post I wrote 10 months ago.  I do not subscribe to mammograms or the hype about how many lives they are saving.  It is an x-ray and may actually do more harm than good.  I was told to have them as part of my  radiation trial in 2010.  Within weeks I had more mammograms than the average 65 year old.  When the radiation treatment failed... I was able to decline all future mammograms.  I chose instead to use MRI or ultrasound.  

Today we say goodbye to another of our World Vision Children because the community in which Isaiah lives in Nadowli, Chad, Africa is considered self sufficient.  We have been given another opportunity to support a new child named Demba from Mauritania.  We have a choice to either consider another child or to not support this one.  We have chosen to keep this one and still maintain our other child Diana in South Central America.  It is heartening when we see a community be able to stand on their own!!!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

....... pain....

Pain is our body's way of telling us that there is something wrong.  The pain is eminating from the breastbone and into both sides of my chest but most notably in the right side.  The pain is apparent when I cough, sneeze, or attempt to get up - pushing up off the bed or rolling over.  I can find a number of sensitive spots when I press down with my fingers.  Despite all of this, I get up and putter around....the movement is essential I think to reducing the pain even though it is painful to move.....

Miss Thelma, our beagle cross, had to go to the vet's office.  Her tail is tucked tightly between her legs and trying to manipulate it upwards and causing her to cry out in pain.  Our regular vet has just recently retired and has left her practice to a lovely Vet named Bonnie.  Max has to accompany Thelma and myself to the Vet's office because lifting her would cause too much pain.  As it is, she cannot get into or out of the car without falling.  She is not a patient dog and she pulls us around the waiting room as she goes from one bag of food to another sniffing it out while the resident kitty Bosco peers over the bench we have seated ourselves at.  

Bonnie is so soft spoken and very gentle with Thelma... she feels every inch of her and notes a number of lumps.  She finds a painful spot on Thelma's spine and continues to her tail where she gets a yelp from the slightest pull upward.  Her gentle face looks into mine when she lifts up Thelma to return her to the floor from the examining table.  She has a look of concern as she sits on the floor next to Thelma.  She plants a kiss on the top of Thelma's head and begins to talk to us about what our thoughts are on the care of Thelma... she gets up and excuses herself for a minute and returns with a box of kleenex.  Apparently my eyes had sprung a leak.  What is the difference in how we look at end-of-life care for our pets and for ourselves.  I am torn looking at our dog, our beautiful loving Thelma and realizing that her cancerous tumours will take her life soon and mine.... well, who knows.  We have to consider Thelma's quality of life.... and what does that mean??  It means that when she is in agony and can no longer move properly... we will have to consider the alternative.  For now, the steroids she is on is making her comfortable and she is beginning to eat again.  She is also peeing all over the floor because that is a side effect of the medication.  Let's hope she stays comfortable.

I am looking forward to beginning a new school year now that the summer has been disappointingly cool.  It's great though for working in the garden and I am preserving produce as it ripens on the vine.  So far I have made relish, pickled beets and Salsa.  Its amazing how good fresh veggies are just out of the garden!!!  The pumpkins are ripening fast and turning orange.  I wonder if they are turning early because of the cold nights??  The tomatoes are finishing their ripening on the counter and then once ripe... end up in the freezer until I have enough tomatoes to cook.  It makes it easier to remove the skins too... just run them under hot water and the skin splits and peels.  Easy peasy.


I have a love/hate relationship with FB.  I love the fact that you can communicate at a moment's notice to someone half a world away, look at their pics and know something about them that you might not otherwise have discovered.  I dislike the fact that people will use FB to air out their daily dramas, post endless selfies and post comments that they now feel obligated to defend using whatever tactics to win the argument.  Here's how one such incident played out...

A 'friend' posts a comment which became hotly debated.  My comment was then rewarded with a return volley that amounted to using my cancer journey on chemo as being a direct support of scientists using animals for testing.  What animal testing and the original post of declawing her cat had anything to do with my cancer journey felt like a slap in the face.  I was angry that such an insensitive and mean volley was followed by a typical disclaimer of 'well you are a strong and opinionated woman so I thought you wouldn't mind'.  The apology she issued privately through text ended with a 'but' and then turned it around back on to me.  

Is this a phenomenon of social media or is this just seeing what a person is made of?  After a back and forth and an offer to get together over lunch (my treat) .... she wanted me to know that she wasn't sure?  Its a great lesson to be learned to weigh out what you think and what should be written in response.  Perhaps the down side of social media is an upside to finding out how people really think and feel.  To be fair... after a lengthy back and forth, I let her know that I am writing a paper on my experiences with social networking... of course her name and identity will be anonymous.  Her response after my coming clean and letting her know about my experiment has us hopefully meeting for lunch to discuss what happened and how we could both learn from the experience. 

We are all responsible for what we put out there on the internet and should take ownership... of the 15 comments I put out on my social media friend's 'hot topics', clearly this was the only one who used a highly defensive mechanism to counter her point of view by stating how I couldn't stand for her to be right.  It had nothing to do with being right or wrong but more about crossing the line, using personal information to win a side of the argument in front of so many people that clearly was not related to the topic of discussion.   

It has been a few months of experimenting with social media on both FB and Disqus and I have learned so much about communicating socially online with others.  This latest experiment on FB was an eye opener.... I intentionally posted to stir the pot to see what reactions I would get...  I got more than what I bargained for and a few real surprises along the way.  I am writing a paper on my experiences with social media and what amounts to a uniquely different way of communicating through the written word. Knowing who you are communicating with is obviously really important and knowing to what extent a person will go to win an argument is equally as important.  Should I have unfriended her?  

The simple answer would be Yes, and I did, but without speaking face to face, which ultimately is the true test of communicating, it would have to be a 'not sure' right now.  Using my personal information against me publicly crosses boundaries of that friendship line.  We make many assumptions in our ability to communicate with others and it is always based on our own thoughts and feelings.  Looking forward to lunch and get the eye to eye communication of course depending on how she reads this post?

For the other 14 posts... many turned into wonderful opportunities to learn and grow from the interaction.  Some I apologized openly and genuinely to online as a show of respect for those I was 'battling' wits with and letting them know that I was learning the ropes on what trolls were and what online commentaries are really about.  There were return apologies and an offering of words of support and kindness from three of the combatants. These have proved to be invaluable in how one conducts themselves online.  Once out there on the internet,  it is virtually impossible to remove.  It is quintessentially a way to understand how you are perceived by the written word by others who do not know you and who care less what feelings get in the way of their retort once they feel offended.  Choose your words carefully, less you are misunderstood.

There was one post on FB where the topic was 'catcalling' and those late teen/early twenty somethings were brutal in their comments and had no qualms about openly attacking one of the young women who was posting comments.  Eventually it sank as low as to post naked photos and comments I dare not post here.

The first posting I did in this online experiment was with regards to an attack in China by a group of radical muslims.....the forum was hosted by a known American racist woman, Pamela Geller (not allowed in Canada because of her hate mongering). The comments were appalling, vicious attacks on anyone who had anything positive to say about Muslim people.  It was my first venture in learning how to not respond and to just be an observer.  I was interested in seeing which comments earned the most negative responses and how they were written.  Some pro-comments were upvoted primarily because they reflected the majority opinion.  Those that were pro-muslim drew the most dispicable behavior of "hey everyone look what I found out about this person..."  a true example of online bullying eliciting help from other online bullies with #norealname.  The whole experience rattled me to the core... was this really what people thought or was this a mob mentality playing out in the virtual world.  It was the first time I truly felt afraid of our world in general and wondered how in a civilized world, people could be so barbaric??

In all, my paper will eschew the experiences both good and bad in my online foray as a grown adult who has not grown up with online social networking. I am grateful that my self-esteem is healthy and that this experiment has made me wiser and more prudent about what I post and what I comment on. Life is easier in the garden enjoying the bright sunshine and laughter of my children when I am not in pain.  Cheers!!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

August Long weekend visit....

The long weekend is here and my sister arrives in the late afternoon after a long drive from Ottawa.  Her smile lights up the front hallway as the kids come down the stairs to greet their Aunt Patricia and Uncle Al.  It's been a year and so much has happened since their last visit.  Patricia spoils us with lovely gifts and grins widely when Lydia wraps her arms around her Aunt and thanks her.  Mitch pulls on the red Roots sweatshirt and gives her a hug.  He has grown and slimmed down since she last saw him and comments about how adorable he looks.  Lydia comes in for a second hug and smiles up at her wonderful Aunt.  How lucky are we that she and Alan have made the journey again.   My gift is a Coach purse... my first ever!!  I have only hugs and love to give back.  

They have brought steak with them for supper so Alan and Mitchel head into the kitchen to begin the preparation while us gals head to the back deck to catch up with a beer in hand.  I love listening to her stories and of the places they have visited... later in the weekend, they will show us a slide show of the highlights of their 9 week trip to Australia and New Zealand.  I wish we had done more travelling when I had the full-time income.  I am deeply proud of them for pursuing what is important to them in life and living their lives to the fullest.  They are a phenomenal couple!!! 

Patricia pulls together an amazing salad and Mitchel has cooked unbelievable steaks and baked potatoes with guidance from Alan.  Wow, what an amazing meal.  We continue chatting into the evening over beers until they head off to their hotel. 

Saturday has us heading out to Port Stanley for a visit to their famous beach and then later to eat at GT's on the beach.  Mitchel has decided to stay home - he is feeling under the weather.  The day is overcast and by the looks of the weather warning on the Weather Network, it will soon turn ugly as the afternoon progresses.  We take advantage of the early afternoon to walk through the town after picnicking on the beach.  We take in the sights and the quaint shops as we stroll along.  The men decide to sit it out when we head into the 'girlie' shops and re-join us when a store piques their interest.  My sister chats amicably with the store owners and one in particular about a specific type of Italian glass.  Her travels have taken her around the world and she has experienced and learned so much....I quietly take in the conversation from a distance when I realize the artwork I am standing in front of is from a man I used to work with at the TV station years ago.  

My Beautiful sister Patricia

I could tell you about the man behind the artwork but not the form of art he does.  This is the second artist I knew from the two galleries we have just visited.  From near or far from where you live, there is always something to learn and experience.  It was fun playing tourist in a small town we have visited many times.

Welcome to Port Stanley

GT's On The Beach
Dinner was amazing here as we sat beneath the metal roof of GT's.  It wasn't long before the sky opened up and the rains poured down while we ate lake perch caught right here in Lake Eerie.  It is a large fresh water lake that forms one of the Great Lakes separating Ontario from the United States.  This lovely town of 38,000 swells to more than twice that in the summer with cottagers arriving from all over.  The local fisheries sell their fish in the market just off the harbour.  

Harbour Fish Market

One of the fishing boats moored behind the fish market in the harbour.  Two seagulls rest atop the hardware on the deck.

This is our last day together and we have decided to visit with my Dad at the longterm care facility.  They tell us he is in a grumpy mood as we make our way to his room.  This is Patricia's first visit with him in years and she is not sure what to expect when we arrive.  He is laying down on his bed just staring around when I approach and get close enough to get his attention - he is blind in one eye and has minimal sight in the other.  He hears my voice and looks up into my face and smiles.  "Hello Dad", I smile back into his now broadly grinning face.  "I have a visitor here who has come to see you.  Would you like to see Patricia?"  He looks confused at first and then his face brightens as she moves in for a hello.  We help him to sit up and note that his PJ's are wet from sweat.  No worries, the PSW has come in to take Dad to the bath.  Since the bath is not ready, we are walking him around the floor trying to keep him occupied until its ready - about 15 minutes later!!!

We will head downstairs to the outside garden to have our coffee with him.  She is happy that he has some lucid moments in our visit together.  She takes him around the small garden and points out flowers and things of interest including the myriad of little feathered visitors.  We have our coffee at a little cafe table in the now deserted garden.  Then the hijinks and hilarity started.... here is Dad being silly!!  Oh, and my new look.... from Artic Blonde to redhead.  

Monday August 3rd 

Tuesday August 4th....

...... gets me out of bed soon after falling asleep.  My stomach is rolling and the burning sensation lets me know that the liver or gall bladder is once again dumping its contents. I head to the spare bedroom to lie down but find myself groaning as I push myself back up off the bed and head to the bathroom.  There is some relief but the bowel doesn't feel empty and hasn't for a few days.  I want to cry but I know that it will only serve to make matters worse so I head downstairs to take a tablespoon of Apple Cider Raw/unpasturized/organic Cider vinegar.  The pain will slowly ebb and flow.  Max has made his way downstairs... I can hear him behind me but I tell him to not touch me....I have my head on the counter and I am jogging my feet up and down to help slosh the vinegar around the belly.  I ask him to go to bed as I make my way to the dining room to continue my jog on the spot as I lean in to the table.  I can hear him head up the stairs.  I hope he gets some sleep.  It takes another 15 minutes before I make my way back up the stairs and slump into the spare room bed.  I turn over and note that the pain in my sternum has radiated into the ribs.  Great.  Just one more thing to be concerned about.  At least it doesn't hurt when I breathe..... at least not yet anyway.  This morning is dark and stormy - perfect background for how I am feeling.  

I find out that I have an ultrasound appointment for the one day that I am volunteering at the College so now I am attempting to get that changed if I can to another day.  The frustration of being in pain and a constant stream of appointments and medical pokes is driving me nuts.  The CT scan only showed the abdomen and not the chest.... so here we go again with another scan which hopefully does not happen on my holidays... but knowing my luck.... it will.  Sigh.  This morning, the frustration showed in the tears escaping down my cheeks as I kept busy trying to not focus on how I am feeling these days.