Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Changes in Bill's and therefore in my World

It's been a while.  About three weeks before Bill's surgery on April 24th for Colon Cancer, it became impossible to blog.  I was just too scared, at first, and then, too busy.  We're not out of the woods yet.  There will be six months of chemo treatments and then, a couple of months after that, one more surgery to put Bill's digestive system back in order.  There have been complications along the way, but much to celebrate as well.  When this beautiful package from friend, Ann, arrived in the mail, I had the most wonderful time watching Bill's pleasure as he checked out the different items.
We both loved the puzzle that was not too hard and not too easy.  Perfect to wile away
a rainy afternoon a couple of days later.  Bill put most of the pieces together but I had fun doing the border while he filled in the story of Brendan the Navigator's perilous voyage to find paradise.  As you can see, Black Jack was happy to supervise, and I believe.. 
she approved of the final result that now lies proudly displayed on the coffee table.  Thank you, Ann!  Your sweet thoughtfulness really meant a lot to both of us.
I began this post on June 12th, Bill's birthday, hoping it would be a way of expressing how much I love him.  Here I am on Tuesday, the 17th, a week past my goal. So, you ask, what did I give Bill for his birthday?   I'd show you the date-cherry squares, but they are consumed.  I adapted the recipe from this one found at KB's site.   She describes herself as an "inspirational artist, writer, yogini, musician and dog lover" but so far, I've just explored the date square recipe, one that I've used and enjoyed many times over.  Here are approximate proportions in my adaptation for a 9" square pan: 1 c. coconut, 1 c. almonds, 1/3 c. dates for the crust/topping and about 1.3 C. dates/dried cherries with 1/2 cup water for the filling. Everything unsweetened, raw, organic, mixed in the food processor and pressed into a 9" square pan.  But, I digress.  What did I give Bill that you can actually see?  Well, here are the pictures taken on the afternoon of the 12th. 
Nobody was more surprised than Bill when we had lift off!
and higher..
and higher..
and still higher it went on this..
magnificent day when the rain stopped, the wind died and the sun found pathways between cotton ball clouds.  Whoops, that little helicopter moved a bit more quickly than anticipated.
Then, in an instant, it dove, 
tried to recover, and finally.. crash landed.  Undaunted, Bill feels sure a minor repair will have "us" flying again soon, and in the mean time, we are happy to admire..  
the vivid red of "our" gutsy little Litehawk.
Black Jack, once again, supervised with vivacious enthusiasm.  
I am driven to document our voyage over these past seven weeks, and realize that will mean another way-too-long post.  For those of you with limited time, this might be a good spot to stop reading.  That I love Bill is probably quite evident, and that is the most important message of this post.  I am inspired by his courage in dealing with the challenges of an illness that took both of us by surprise and joining him to celebrate the many good moments seems the best strategy to give us strength to cope with whatever lies ahead.  Together, and with the help of "salt of the earth" people around us, we aim to live a long, healthy life together, but in the mean time, an "in the moment" philosophy will make sure that we don't miss the good stuff along the way to that goal.  
The Voyage
A few days before the surgery, we climbed Mount Thom.  Both of us, for some reason, saw Thom as Thorn, and to this day, we refer to it as such, though we did discover our error somewhere along the trail.  It was a challenging but very satisfying hike, and Bill did what I thought was an especially cool "tree hugger" impersonation.
We spent some time talking with this young hiker, and though we have forgotten her name, we remember her friendliness, discipline (she was training to do the West Coast Trail with her brother and some friends) and quiet appreciation for the beauty around us.
One of the most spectacular events of the day was a raven dance involving a gathering of perhaps 25 or more ravens.  Neither of us had ever witnessed anything like it before.  Here are a couple of photos to give you an idea of their wild frolicking.
This one threw the clump of earth, flipped upside down..
and caught it in a spectacular feat of acrobatic skill.  We noticed them as we climbed, but the ultimate show was from the lookout at the top.  That kept us entertained for at least an hour.  
I love this photo of Bill and Black Jack taken a day or two later in David Lam Park.

Some of you may remember Tupper, the only seagull I have ever seen with a tail that points up.  Get it?  Tail up equals Tupper :)  That day, Tupper gave us a flying demonstration that absolutely reassured me that s/he is getting along just fine in his/her modified flying form.  
Two days before the surgery, we walked at Jericho Park and Bill spotted this turtle.
He tried to encourage a crow to sit in his hand, and almost succeeded.  In the end, the crow waited him out, and accepted a treat thrown to what it considered a safer distance.  No matter.  I love the picture of the attempt and Black Jack's expressions as she ponders the waste of throwing her treats out of reach.
This was moments after being wheeled out of the recovery room.  Bless his heart for finding a way to make me laugh.   
It was a rocky time for the next 13 days, especially when the epidural wore off and reality set in.  Throughout, Bill and I walked the halls of St. Paul's Hospital as much as possible, and enjoyed the architectural details..
of a structure first built in 1894 by the Sisters of Providence.  
You can read some of the hospital's history here.
Each day, we caught new details of the balconies and pathways viewed from our 10th floor perspective.  
Often, I imagined Rapunzel letting down her hair from the various windows.
From my downtown apartment, it was only a 15 minute walk to the hospital, and along the way, I often enjoyed the gardens, some in front of private dwellings and others in community gardens.  This flower, on one of our difficult days, gave me much comfort.
In each wing, photos of the staff members were posted.  I name only  a few of many hardworking and dedicated people: Ali because he not only offered lots of positive and helpful advice but he loved to talk photography, Gordon because he was super efficient and always found time for a little play with Black Jack, Marianne who was never actually Bill's nurse but was always willing to talk when we had questions, and finally, the overworked cleaning lady who brightened whenever she found a moment to tell me about her dogs.  
One day, Bill pointed out the golden light on this tree and I knew his keen eye was returning to active duty.

The views from Bill's room and from the hallways were often spectacular, but the walls..
also had much of interest.  This was Bill's favourite painting.  If you look closely, you can see his reflection in it.
There was also an aquarium with some colourful species of fish that were new to us.

We were both fascinated with this baby feeding from its mother.
I also deeply appreciated that well-behaved dogs were permitted to visit.  Bill was too ill to gain much pleasure from Black Jack's presence but just knowing that she didn't have to spend such long hours at home, and that I could cuddle her from time to time was so very comforting.  She even stayed with me one entire night when Bill's condition became especially worrying.  She was unusually quiet, sitting in this chair, sometimes checking out the view and sometimes watching over Bill.  She accompanied us for our walks in the hallways and loved it when nurse Gordon stopped to play with her or give her a little massage.  She loved entering and leaving the hospital, partly because there was a resident skunk living under a bush near the front door and she also spied rats late one night chasing each other around the garbage bin on the front sidewalk.  We didn't see them again, but for Black Jack, the potential for a repeat performance was most enticing.
This is Finnegan, another very sweet dog, willing to accept a treat from me, but mostly absorbed with the job of watching over his mistress who spent several days in the bed across from Bill's.  Black Jack and Finnegan took a moment to exchange greetings, but seemed to understand that the focus was on their respective charges and not on each other.
Bill was discharged on May 6th, a happy (and slightly scary) day for both of us. Black Jack and I are now settled in his Point Grey home, and doing our best to take care of him.
"Hey, Cousin!"
We saw this flower on one of our first walks.
Black Jack loved visiting Jericho beach on a day when the sun came out.
We also have had some lovely walks in Pacific Spirit Park.  Bill especially enjoyed this gnome watching over the forest.
We sat for a while on this park bench contemplating the inscription, "Great spot to see both the forest and the trees."
Bill and I summoned the energy to vote in Elections BC, with just a little help in the form of a suggestion (command) from his sister, Phyllis :)
From Bill's back yard, I have the great pleasure of watching birds in the neighbouring gardens.  On each side of us are avid gardeners who also happen to be very friendly and generous human beings.  I've been given free reign to enter their gardens to take pictures to my heart's content.  This hummingbird was in Marie's garden,   
We also enjoy walking along the lane behind the house and Bill was the first to notice this weather vane..

as well as this drawing on a boarded up garage.  Both were brand new to us, though we were pretty sure they had been there for quite some time, possibly even years. 
Black Jack has adjusted to the changes in her life in typical fashion.  As long as she has her loved ones nearby, food to eat, a soft place to sleep and a bit of vim and vigour in her life, she's happy.  She also loves to seek out a sunny spot in Bill's yard.  As you can see, she's suffering quite a bit, but dealing bravely with the hardships.

A visit from Paul (Bill's nephew-in-law), with his two dear little sons, was great fun.  We walked to Trimble Park where Bill and Paul caught up on the latest news..

and Paul's five-year-old overcame his fear of dogs.  It did my heart good to see how much fun he had with Black Jack.

I admire Paul for many reasons (amazing violinist, chef, husband, father) but the one that stands out most in my mind is his ability to let the inner kid in him come to the surface.  He and his youngest son made me laugh..

and smile.. 
"Hm.  Where did my hat go?"

and just plain enjoy the day.
"What do you think?  Is it me?"  

Bill's sister, Phyllis, is one of those salt-of-the-earth" people I mentioned.  More about that in a moment, but here, her delight in her beautiful grandchild, and her encouragement of what I believe will be a lifelong respect and love for nature, just warms my heart.  

Black Jack fell asleep about three seconds after returning home from the park.

These roses are in Jane's garden on our west side.  I love to watch both Jane and Marie work in their gardens.  Contentment, appreciation, anticipation and sheer joy come through in their voices and in the way they lovingly handle the each new bloom.

Hardly a day goes by that I don't admire and want to photograph a flower.  

More pictures of happy Black Jack.  She loves that Bill is once more able to play..

her favourite run-between-Carol-and-Bill game.

I was happy to catch just the tiniest bit of red in this hummingbird in Marie's garden, but then..

it stuck its tongue out!  Wow!  A first for me to see such a sight.

It's impossible to catch up all we have done or thought about over the past few weeks, so I bow to the inevitable and make this a to-be-continued post.  Before I go, though, I need to tell you about two people.  Raven, Bill's ex-wife is one of them.  She cooked (I'm guessing for days) to prepare soups that have slowly been disappearing from our freezer.  Raven is a cook extraordinaire.  One day, she spent several hours teaching me how to make soup, though I haven't yet taken advantage of my lesson, since she has kept us stocked.  My biggest regret is that I didn't take pictures of her that day, so I will have to make do with a very nice one of her that I took when we visited Salt Spring two summers ago.
Another person I must tell you about is Phyllis, Bill's sister.  When Bill and I went through a particularly difficult time, Phyllis arrived within hours of learning about it.  She flew (!) from Victoria and stayed for several days, during which time the meds kicked in and things began to look up again.  She did most of the cooking while she was here, and helped me with ideas for cooking salmon and chicken.  (I've been vegetarian for 40+ years and vegan for the last two, but know it is important to give Bill the foods that he enjoys.)  Well, Phyllis, you will be thrilled to know that I found a great recipe for salmon that Bill absolutely loves.  Here it is, just in case anyone else could use a recipe idea. The only change I made is substituting mustard seeds (ground) for the dijon.  She came again the following week, this time just for the afternoon, and we enjoyed a lovely walk together.
I tried to take a picture with Black Jack but she was having so much fun rolling in the grass, we couldn't get her to pose.
The day before she left from the first visit, she brought us these flowers.  

The memory of her kindness is forever wrapped up in these last two photographs.  Thank you so much, Phyllis!

Hopefully, more to follow soon but in the meantime, I apologize for not getting to your blogs.  I'm hoping to return to that enjoyable past time in the future, but for now, my beautiful Bill remains top priority.  And, don't forget!  You can read about people from around the world by checking out the Our World Tuesday web site.  Thank you so much for taking time to stop by!


  1. i read every word and looked at every photo. i am so glad to see you post again! i truly hope the worst is behind all of you. bless you and those that have supported you - you have such great love around you.

    blackjack is the most expressive dog. she tells your story right along with you - nice to see her joy return. :)

    1. Thank you so much, TexWis! You are amazing to respond so quickly and so faithfully, and we both appreciate your good wishes a whole lot!

  2. ugg colon cancer is nothing to fool with, sadly it runs in the family and two members have passed from it. blackjack looks to be having tons of fun too.

    1. Thanks for the message, Pat Hatt. It runs in my family too, I guess, since my dad had surgery for it (1957) at age 55, but happily, lived another 25 years after that with no recurrence. So sorry you lost two family members to it, and am hoping you never have to face it yourself, but the good news is that the recovery rate is very good if it's caught early. Coming over to visit your blog very soon. Need some humorous rhyme talent right about now :)

  3. I could not help but think of Penelope when I saw the picture of you with that hat on your head, Carol. So nice to see Bill up and about and hearing that you are continuing to explore the natural and cultural worlds together. St. Paul’s intrigues me architecturally, too, but not as much as that long and slender hummingbird’s tongue! Thanks as always for sharing all these special moments in your world!

    1. Thanks from one wannabe Penelope to the real deal :) Yes, that hummingbird tongue was pretty intriguing for sure :)

  4. So sorry Bill is battling cancer. You both look such a comfortable couple and Black Jack is just such a love. That photo of Bill and Black Jack is a winner. I will keep Bill in my prayers -- and you too because it's hard to be the one watching.

    1. Thanks so much, Chris. Your support is very much appreciated, and yes, I do love that photo.

  5. My Granddad had to have a really big operation for bowel cancer last year and I was really scared, but he is doing so well and feels so much better now. I am sure your Bill will feel great soon too. From Findlay

    1. Wonderful news, Findlay, for you and for me too :) Thank you so much for commenting.

  6. What a touching post ... how do you manage to take such beautiful photos despite all that serious stuff going on? I would totally forget my camera! Best wishes to Bill for a successful recovery. I've just taken on a project to do cancer awareness presentations to seniors to encourage check ups and facilitate early detection. I'll be thinking about you all as I'm out and about doing these presentations!

    1. Great to hear from you, LDF! Photography documents the story but at the same time, I guess, distracts me from dwelling on my fears. Bravo to you for taking on the cancer awareness project. Even one life saved would make it worth while, but I'm betting the odds could be much higher for the positive affect of your presentations.

  7. Carol, I'm so glad to see you post again - I've been thinking of you and Bill and hoping his recovery is going well. I know his sense of humour will help see you both through the difficult times, as will your love and care.
    I love the photo of the hummingbird with the sticking-out-tongue! Wow, I can't even get a photo of a hummingbird period - they move so dang fast.
    Hugs to you both and Black Jack too.

    1. Thanks, jean. Bill's sense of humour has been stretched to the limit with this illness but it still manages to peek through every once in a while when I least expect it. And yes, those hummingbirds are really quick! That tongue shot was pure luck, as are most of the flying ones. Hugs right back to you! Thank you for all the work you are doing to help rescued and lost dogs.

  8. Bless you all. Hope Bill makes a total recovery. He is a wonderful person.

    1. No question about the truth of that last sentence :) Thanks so much for your good wishes!

  9. I am so delighted that you are back "on air" and, of course, love the subject of this post-my brother!! I am so happy that you are there to help him during this challenging time! Hugs for you both and pats for Blackjack! Phyllis

  10. Thank you, Phyllis. Wonderful to hear from you and all hugs/pats very much appreciated!

  11. Great pictures and difficult times. Hope all goes well.

    Australia sunshine (even in winter!) available at the click of a mouse.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

    1. Thanks, Stewart! Since sunshine is at a bit of a premium today in Vancouver, I will drop by to catch the Australian version soon.

  12. Carol and Bill....I must apologize for missing this post. IU am happy I found it today.

    Your lives have been turned upside down, inside out and shaken. I can see through this post Carol that you have both called upon your resilience and your love of nature/life to help you through the healing portion of this journey.

    What hit me immediately was that you are both fortunate to have each other because the love you share has been evident form the start. I am sure you have been told Carol that the 'caregiver'...you...also need to take care of yourself. Caregivers lives are also effected by such traumatic events. I know you are and Bill wouldn't have it any other way.

    Thanks you so much for taking some precious energy to update us on Bill's progress and rehabilitation. We are thinking of you both and sending prayers/energy for a speedy recovery.

    1. My goodness, no apology needed, Jim, but how wonderful to hear from you! No worries about taking care of myself. Bill makes sure that I get out most days to the gym and he helps out in lots of other ways as well. Together, as you so accurately observed, we look for daily pleasures (music, nature, art, Black Jack) to keep us strong but comments like yours go a long way to boosting our moral as well.

  13. Reading your post sent me back to a time when I had to help my Mom with her cancer. Hospitals, the unknown, friends, the sounds of people chatting in hallways, staring for hours out windows, waking up in the morning to 'oh right she has cancer' ~~~ I really can't find the words to express my sadness because I don't want there to be sadness. Carrying on with 'hope', joy and one day at a time philosophy really is all one can do.

    As Jim said above....caretakers have to take care of themselves as well...so very important...Bill would understand this I know. Black Jack really is a Godsend waiting patiently and when the coast is clear...sheer joy of running in the grasses.

    Thanks for showing us the views from the hospital, sunset on English Bay...I haven't witnessed this since 1999...the painting by Joe Average...beauty! The buildings surrounding the hospital. We had a friend working there from the 1970's onward. We've lost touch but if he were still there you'd hear his jovial laughter in the halls.
    Loved the gnome tree in Pacific Spirit Park....and your hat is a topper...love it!!

    Take care of both of you and all my best to Bill!


  14. Wonderful to hear from you, Ron! I hadn't realized you dealt with your Mom's cancer, but it sure was obvious from your words that you totally "get" the situation we find ourselves in right now. "Hope, joy and one day at a time" are a good way to go for sure. Glad you enjoyed the views, and yes, the Joe Average painting is a winner! Virtual hugs to you and Jim and pats for your dear Sophie!

  15. It seems/appears I've missed a great deal. Thankfully your post has brought me up to date on the challenges you all are experiencing.

    I am sorry to hear of the news but will keep you all in my thoughts and prayers. The best medicine is the power of love. It is obvious to me and your blog followers that there is no shortage.

    [[ HUGS ]]