Western education 2013

Thursday, October 2, 2014

... not the best news....

..... from the Chemotherapist in Tuesday's appointment.....

The bone scan results are in.  Surprise!!  The cancer has found new homes in bones other than the sternum.  The bone scan clearly shows grey shadows in the left and right hip and the left femur where it creates the ball joint that fits into the hip.  There are shadows in vertebrae C7 and L1 which have been determined as minor... although to a cancer patient, whose cancer is spreading quickly... minors turn into majors quickly.  There is a soft bulge next to C7 in my back that I was aware of a month ago and knew that it too would be a clear indicator of cancer.

Dr Younis rarely smiles and his demeanour is very business-like.  He is there to deliver bad news and does it in a matter-of-fact way.  He just states the facts which I clearly appreciate.  He also is frugal when it comes to offering chemo because at this stage in the game, it would be useless to give it to me when I am still living a good quality of life.  He also takes into account that I am not a fan of chemo and am not eager to even entertain another course of toxic sludge that will not stop the cancer but instead hold it temporarily at bay. It will be suggested as a last resort and likely as just a palliative option.  These conversations lack emotion as I receive the news he is delivering.  There is an option available to assist with building the bones to reduce fractures and bone pain.  It is an I.V  infusion called Pamidronate which is given every 4 weeks for the rest of a person's life unless they are unable to continue it due to intestinal issues or compromised Kidney function.  He asks me if I have a drug plan.... yes but only during the months I am teaching partial load.... I begin to wonder just how much this is going to cost.

He lets me know that I need to do a follow up x-ray of my left leg and hip to see if a fracture shows up to indicate the extent of spread.  He parts a few minutes later and the nurse returns with a permission slip for the infusions and lets me know that the hospital will call with an appointment time.  Great!!  More pokes to an already stressed vascular system in the only arm that can have needles.  I lost track a long time ago about how many injections I have had.

I head over to X-ray in the next building.  I try to call Max but he doesn't pick up.  I feel this desperate loneliness all of a sudden as I drift past the windows overlooking the cancer garden and head into the heart of B building.  X-Ray is busy and busier still when the overhead announces a fire exercise and I am told to head around the corner and sit to wait my turn.  I am handed a card with a number.  A gentleman across from me is standing behind a counter and looking every bit as much a Maitre 'd in his pressed pants and shirt.  His job is to coordinate patients into the right X-ray suite.  He tells me that it was quiet yesterday and I respond by letting him know that it isn't going to make a difference as I have become used to waiting for many appointments in my lengthy journey of cancer and its metastasis.  I don't know why I said it but after I heard myself, the shock hit me and I found myself feeling emotional.  He excuses himself only to return a minute later.  He crooks his finger at me and motions for me to follow him.  He extends his hand out and takes the number from my hand while guiding me around the corner.  He places my paperwork in the intake folder outside the door and motions for me to sit on a chair across the way.  I smile and thank him..... he smiles and wishes me luck and then heads back in the direction we came from.

The X-Ray tech peeks her head out and calls my name.  I head in as she asks who I am and my date of birth while pointing at the table under the scanner.  "Please have a seat while I figure out what we need to do" she says as she walks around the corner.  I am alone in a quiet room and the tears are starting to form on the lower lid threatening to burst like a damn to let the flood waters escape.  I hold myself to concentrate on just getting through the exam and head home.  The tech returns and instructs me to lay down...the dam bursts and I can't hold back the tears that endlessly course down the side of my face soaking into the sheet beneath my head.  "Oh dear!  Are you OK?  Can I get you a kleenex?" She grabs me a kleenex and I wipe the tears.  I cross my arms over my face when she returns with another tech to assist in rolling me to my side while trying to slip a wedge behind me to keep me in place.  I laugh when they react to me getting too close to the edge - comedic interval in an otherwise stressful day.  They are both quite sweet and help me to my feet when the procedure is completed.  They wish me luck when I say thank you and head out wearing my sunglasses.  My eyes are notorious for giving away how I am feeling and especially the deep red when I have been crying.

I head home and find myself alone.  Everyone is off to school or work.  Max still isn't answering my calls so I assume he is busy.  I call Sarah.  We both have a little teary moment and then I ask her out for breakfast at a local eatery.  I get there first and ask the waitstaff if Gail is available.  Gail makes her way over to my table a few minutes later and takes one look at me before I start tearing up again.  She quickly sits down and takes my hand.  She is the manager of this busy eatery and one of the kindest people you could meet....(my friends are all this way and I am truly blessed).... she sits with me until Sarah arrives bearing a lovely bouquet and a set of glazed eyes.  Gail stands up to let Sarah in and gives me a hug.  "Breakfast is on me" she says as she walks away to assist with an increasing line-up at the front door.

Sarah has tucked a beautiful hand-made card in amongst the flowers and her touching note springs new tears in a tear-weary face.  She isn't sure what to say to me and even I do not know what to say.... so we discuss what we are having for breakfast while sipping on our coffees.  It is so good to see her and suddenly I do not feel alone any more.  I can't remember everything we chatted about only the feeling of being safe and loved.  We decide to head back to my place after breakfast and another quick conversation with Gail complete with hugs.

When I was in University, I took a Native studies course and learned about smudging.  When we arrive home I ask Sarah if she would like to smudge the house with me.  Sure!!  We find a clay pot in the garage and I pull out the dried Sage leaves from my garden.  I love the pungent aroma of dried sage when you crush it.  Smudging though requires that you burn the Sage and use the smoke to help cleanse your body of thoughts, feelings and spiritual blockages.  We will also smudge the entire house.  I wave my hand over the pot because I do not have a feather to fan the embers.... it distinguishes quickly and I have to keep re-igniting it throughout the ritual.  We head to each room and enter it... I describe out loud what the room is and in the case of the bedrooms, who sleeps there.  I ask the spirits who are benevolent to stay and protect us and invite those who are not to simply leave.  Sarah helps to open the windows as I wave the smoke to help escort unwelcome 'visitors' to our home.  I just go with it and the words begin to flow.... and the confidence mounts as we near the last room and bless it and its regular occupant.  There, I feel better.... until I realize I am running late for an afternoon coordinator's course.  Sarah and I hug and part ways as I head off to my next appointment.....

.... and make it with a minute to spare.  I am deeply grateful that I did not miss the opportunity to meet our amazing instructor who stayed to speak with me after class.... and we discovered how much we have in common.  People will come into your life to challenge and teach you... they will also be put into your path to support you when you need it the most.  I will keep this conversation private but it is suffice to say....there are many soul friends on our Earth and we are blessed for finding them and recognizing them when we do.

Despite the long day, I find myself heading over to Sara J's house for a glass of water and a chat after leaving the College.  Her dog Roxy greets me at the door and then plays with me when I get down on the floor to pat her and give her kisses.  She romps around between Sara and myself through our visit.  I enjoy watching her languish and give cuddles to Sara and then bounce over onto the couch I am reclined in to greet me with a wagging tail.  Such amazing magic that our animals bring to our spirits... its as if they can read our minds.  When I was a young child I would often sit in the woods and animals would come up to me and sit with me... as I grew, the same thing would happen with small children who would just unabashedly climb into my lap to say Hi... often when I was out an about in restaurants or at parks with my own children.  I noticed a few years ago that the stresses in my life had blocked that 'invitation' to children and pets to just come over.  I think they could sense how stressed I really was and that my spirit was closed to connecting with others.  My illness has given me much clarity as to what is really important in life.... to connect, to live, laugh and love.  I am in a good place now according to the little baby a block over and now Sara's dog Roxy.... an open and inviting good place.

It's time to head back home... the rain has started and it feels good.  I am at peace as I head back to my own family.  When I arrive, I see Max in the back yard grilling on the BBQ.  He is deep in thought and turns as I stand at the kitchen sliding doors looking out at him.  He beckons me with a wave to come out.  I step through the door and the tears start the minute he hugs me.... I have been trying to keep from sobbing all day but in his arms it feels safe to let go.  My mantra with him this year is a string of 'sorries'.... sorry for dragging you through this seemingly endless stream of bad news.  He looks weary.... I feel incredibly guilty.  I love you endlessly Max.

My father-in-law Terry is an amazing human being and the one I usually turn to when I need to talk to someone with a level head in the family.  He is a great listener and always has good insight from an observers position.  He assures me on the phone that he and Max's mom will look out for the family if anything happens to me.  I let him know to remind Max to wait at least 2 years before dating again or I will haunt him... add to that the fact that I will haunt the nosy neighbours across the street if they are still living there when my day comes.  We laugh about this and he assures me that Max will take time to heal..... and that the neighbours will get what they deserve.  He also tells me that I now need to blog about my organic pain medication after witnessing how quickly and effectively it works..... so here goes....

Medical Marijuana 
This may certainly come as a great surprise to all who know me.... 40 years of saying 'just say no to drugs' and yet, here I am going against everything I was taught about mj.  I was worried what my friends would say or how they would take the news.  Funny, not one person has been judgemental.  Instead, they have let me know that it is a wise decision.  So, this week so far, I have given his information to a few people......

How does this work?  Well, interestingly enough, no doctor will give you a referral to his services hence the reason why they have a no referral service.  I went to an appointment on a Tuesday in early September with my CT scans in hand to speak to him about obtaining medical marijuana.  I stepped into the examination room and within a few minutes, a handsome young man entered and introduced himself as Dr. Mike Hart.  We had a conversation about my pain after showing him diagnostic evidence of the bone metastasis and then I broke down.  I was at a point of desperation and no sleep making me absolutely exhausted and not eating.  He indicated that there were a number of Canadian Government sanctioned growers.  I chose one and he sent off the request with support documentation to the producers at Tilray   They in turn sent me an email confirming my acceptance and how to login to their site.  I was able to login that day and order the medication that I felt best suited my situation - needing sleep and pain control.  Within 24 hours, a parcel arrived at my front door and voila!!  You are only sent the buds of the plant.  On the secure package is the information on the strain and how much THC and CBD is in your particular order.  That was the easy part.  The hard part was now to try and convert the buds into an oil for consumption.  I do not smoke and understand through research that you do not fully benefit from marijuana medically if you smoke or inhale it.  I looked up sites for RSO oil  from a Canadian who grew and concocted his own MJ oil to cure his cancer.  I also looked up the Stoner's Cookbook online on the suggestion of the doctor's office  to see how I could make edibles that didn't taste gross.

My first order came in with a manual grinding tool which I used to break down the buds into manageable flakes.  I measured how much then I added a 1:1 ratio of organic coconut oil I purchased from Costco.  I then cooked the two together for about 45 minutes on the stovetop.... dear God my house stank horribly of weed... running the kitchen fan simply sent the scent outside.  I prayed no one in the neighbourhood would notice.  There are teens living near by and never mind the one currently living in our house who immediately noticed.  Yes, I am candid and honest with my children and they just accepted the fact that mommy was now a night time pot head.... I am still having a hard time wrapping my head around the old stigmas still swirling in my brain.....  Once the concoction was cooked to the desired time, I then used a special caning cloth to strain out the organic material and then put it in the fridge to harden.  Once hard, the oil has floated to the top and the water and fine organic material are on the bottom.  I removed the hard oil and discarded the water and scraped off any organic material still clinging to the bottom of the block of oil.  I store it in a cool place and well sealed.  At night, I scoop out 1/2 tsp of solid oil into a cup of tea.  In about 45 minutes, I am fast asleep and will only wake up to go to the washroom.

There were a few occasions when, after making the RSO oil... using 99% isopropyl alcohol to denature the oil from the plant.... that I was too stoned to get up.  I learned to use this one sparingly (no taste test while 'cooking' it) as you only require a minute portion approx the size of half a grain of rice.  I detest the taste and promise myself to never do that again.  Next time I will try to locate some Neufie Screech to denature it.  Is it volatile while cooking.... YES!!  While trying to evaporate off the remaining isopropyl on my gas stove, it immediately ignited.  Lucky there was a lid nearby.

I have created my own unique way of cooking my oil and doing it outside without an open flame.  I use a rice cooker and a crucible made by Cuisinart in a double boiler method.  It works exceptionally well without a fire!!!

I have learned to use a small amount and about an hour before bed.  I go to bed really early so that I can get a full 8 hours and wake up a few hours before work begins.  The RSO I will take on a Saturday night when I know I have no where to go - gives me opportunity to figure out how much is too much and what is just right.  I personally hate being stoned and this hasn't changed my attitudes about recreational pot.  I did have to go to the hospital late at night on Tuesday night and I realize the head lolling had more to do with the cannabis than it did my sudden onset of fever.  Thank goodness it is just a cold virus.  By the time we had to leave the hospital.... I was suddenly hungry.... and asked Max to pull into the McDonald's drive through.  The hamburger barely left its container before it was devoured.  As much as I do not like McDonalds... the hamburger was the first thing I had eaten in weeks that I could taste and was actually hungry enough to eat it.  After returning home at 4 am... I slept like a log and awoke a few hours later to teach my classes.  I need to eat more because the weight is steadily falling off... my impossible to wear jeans are now impossibly loose on me.

My cousin Torsten Friedrich from Freiburg Germany passes away.... after his lung cancer metastasized into his vertebrae this past week.  My sister Pat and her husband Alan were wonderful for travelling to visit him before he succumbed to his illness weeks ago.  The morning they saw him, his cervical vertebrae were crumbling like a house filled with termites.  Cancer is just like termites - they start little colonies in 'perfect' spots and then move their expanding numbers in other locations.  They could never imagine the destruction to their natural habitat they exact with each hole they drill so that they will eventually kill their host.  May you rest in peace now Torsten and know that you will be missed by all who love you.  I believe the Reiki master got it right when she said you had visited with us during one of our sessions just a few days before you passed away.

Cancer is a parasite with no eyes, no ears and no comprehension of what it is doing.  We as humans can say the same thing about ourselves as we wreck havoc on the earth that sustains our lives.... until we one day will make it uninhabitable.  I could talk about this all day but the disappointment in man's ever greedy need to control and manipulate the earth to their benefit would upset me too much.

Moving always forward....
My mantra has to remain positive and while I am still on this earth... continue to always do my best and to help whenever I can.  I finally planned out and paid for our trip to Mexico in December.  While it has been advised for me to take it easy... fractures can happen so fast with cancer compromised bones that I will just have to swim and drink pool side while I send the family out to Zip line in the jungle and take day trips out to the ruins... of course if I go, i will be walking only.  William will fly in to meet up with us and then we will all fly out together to our sunny destination.  YAY!!!

I guess that sums up the past couple of days..... radiation treatments are completed tomorrow and next Tuesday, I will be heading to the Chemo suite to get the bone building infusion done.  Live each day by accepting the journey you are on is meant to grow your soul and give you the spirit that keeps you strong on your most trying days.  xoxoxox

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