Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bill and Carol Post #9 for Our World Tuesday

For the benefit of any new readers, I will repeat this introductory paragraph for each post that Bill and I write, at least for the next little while. His surgery in April and a life-threatening septic infection seven months later, as well as various other complicating factors, caused several episodes of delirium that resulted in cognitive dysfunction.  While he isn't fully recovered yet, the improvement is dramatic and he continues to show steady progress.  It is my great joy and privilege to be by his side to witness that as it happens.  All writing in black is by Bill, as transcribed from his memory journal.  All writing in blue is by Carol.  Thank you so much for reading this.  If ever you have a loved one going through surgery, you will need to be a very strong advocate for them.  Nurses and doctors work hard to bring their patients back to health but they cannot know your loved one as you do.  Report any personality or physical changes you see in him/her and follow up on that report, no matter how the medical system seems designed to resist your efforts.  The danger is not over when a patient wakes up after surgery.  Delirium can turn up a day or two later and mild cases can go undetected for months.  A sudden trigger can push a mild case over the edge.  Understanding that could very well save a life.

Tuesday, December 3rd
Bill had a medical test at St. Paul's, the first of two that will decide whether his colon is healthy enough to undergo surgery to close (reverse) his ileostomy.  When we emerged from the hospital several hours later, the sun had set and the Lights of Hope were creating a beautiful show.  I was ecstatic to see the lights and even more elated to see that, after quite a difficult time, Bill was responding to my happiness with great pleasure..   Black Jack had accompanied us, and here, you can see Bill and Black Jack as tiny figures on the right hand side, as they make their way out the front door of the hospital and down the sidewalk to Burrard Street.  This is the behind-the-scenes appearance of the lights.
As I followed him down the sidewalk, I took a couple of photos..
 to show some of the beautiful details hidden from the street view. 
Bill stood under the archway and, bless his heart, managed a smile.  My hero.  There is a skunk (and family?) that lives somewhere in or behind that hedge.  There are also rats that I have observed running around late at night.  In other words, Black Jack is on the hunt. 
 Bill and Black Jack are standing on the left side of the arch (quite difficult to make them out).
 Well over a 100 volunteers gave their time to assemble miles and miles of donated lights.
This gentleman stood every day at the street corner in front of the hospital during Bill's lengthy hospitalization.  He accepted change when offered, but never asked for money and it was clear to me that he took a genuine interest in the people he saw day to day, whether they found change for him or not. The day that I was able to take Bill to the cafe across the street was pretty special; I know I was smiling ear to ear.  I felt that gentleman was celebrating with us.  He was elated to see how much better Bill looked last Tuesday and kindly agreed to a photo, one that I treasure.   
 Bill, to my surprise, said he felt well enough to stop for a latte and cookie at Harrison's Galleries, so off we went, our way brightened..  
 by lights that seemed to spring up everywhere.. 
My mood was jubilant.  We had survived another hurdle and now could spend some precious time together over yummy lattes and cookies, surrounded by the warm ambiance of Harrison's Galleries.
It seems each time we go to the gallery, I notice new details.  That day, I saw the bird at the top of the street lamp in this painting, called It Could Happen Here.  It is by Stewart Jones.  A quote from his bio page says: "The shapes cut by the wires and cast shadows are what catch my attention and in turn are the principle subjects of my paintings."  This page will take you to his other works.
Wednesday, December 4th 
If you follow my facebook account, you will have seen these next photos.  Bill wrote in his journal:
Walked to George Wainborn Park and gave Black Jack a good run there.
 We had fun on the swings.
Then went to Buzz Cafe at Harrison's Galleries.  (No pics for this, so will continue with a few more swinging photos.) Then went to the dollar store to get cotton gloves to wear at night over hand-cream to try and get some moisture back into my hands).  We came home and I napped while Carol putzed. :) We watched Rick Mercer who was in Whistler. 
I looked at the pictures of Carol on the swings over and over.
 I realized that Bill and I feed.
 on each other's happiness.  
Thursday, December 5th
Heard Julian Armour, cellist, talk on CBC Radio2 but did not find any youtube of him playing.  For some reason, a search of him led to Mahler Symphony #9.  Caol asked me about my favorite instrument and we decided it was soprano voice.  That took us to a James Levine masterclass where he coached a soprano.  
Bill found that lesson perplexing and I think a bit disturbing, since he worried for the soprano's feelings.  Having been through many years of music lessons and some master classes, I believed she was very lucky that Mr. Levine put so much energy into demanding HER point of view.  A fine vocal instrument, such as Mr. Levine believes this student has, is an extraordinary gift, but that alone does not make a complete artist.  The other part of the equation is the artist's unique point of view that must be communicated to the audience.  Though Bill felt a bit "befuddled" by our conversation following this youtube, parts of Mr. Levine's lesson could be applied to him.  Bill, like Mr. Levine, often forces me to examine and articulate my point of view.  In this case, I tried hard to explain why I believed the lesson to be a good one.  I wasn't successful at the time, but that's okay.  I appreciate that Bill's prodding to look into my thoughts is a good thing, and when we talked about that late last night, my reasoning was beginning to make more sense to him.   

Had a visit from Bev, Hilda and Bob.  We went to Bean Around the World bistro in Yaletown.
Black Jack quickly sensed a friend in Hilda.
Bob is a man of many talents.  He is a brick layer by trade but  can put his hand to just about any job around the house, whether it be heavy construction, carpentry, plumbing or electronics.  He also has had some fairly recent surgery so he and Bill had lots to talk about.  Bill really appreciated that.  Bev is the longest working employee of UBC and will have completed 50 years of service in the library in August!  She kept everyone laughing with her hilarious stories about learning to drive.   
Black Jack enjoyed every minute of the visit.  Bill finds socializing pretty stressful.  He feels that he is not the same person he was and worries that friends who have known him since his youth will not see the same guy they once loved.  I wish he could see himself as we all see him:  sweet, funny, kind - a beautiful soul, and in a very handsome package, I might add.
Bill, Hilda and Bob humoured me with a few more photos before we headed to Bean Around the World.
Bev joined in the fun, and then we were off.  Bev loves, and I mean loves, shopping, so there were Yaletown shops to scout out for future visits and catch-up conversations too as we walked in Vancouver's brisk weather.  Hilda and Bob brought along their ipad, with pictures of their home in Comox, their very cute dog and their beautiful grandkids.  Some stories, some laughter and some reconnecting with Bill made it a very good visit.  Staying in touch should be easier in this day in age, but in fact, it seems to be a challenge for most people and the effort Bev, Hilda and Bob made to spend time with us was really appreciated.  
Nelson Mandela has died at age 95 after a prolonged lung infection.  We discovered this news when we returned home after the visit.  There is profound grief worldwide at his passing but also a sense of wonder and celebration that such a selfless man existed.  As Michael Enright stated in this article: "His 95 years on earth could just barely contain the fullness of his life and the grandeur of his spirit."  There is a house system at the school where I taught, with four namesakes, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Mahatma Gandhi.  I would have been honoured to be in any of those houses but was especially pleased to be in the Mandela house.  Mandela understood many things that seem to evade a large segment of the world's population but there are two that stand out for me: "No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion." I still remember my confusion as a child when I first understood from the behaviour of adults around me, the concept of hating another person because of their race, religion or background.  It made no sense to me then and it makes no sense to me now.  The second understanding is one that continues to inspire me.  Knowing that bitterness is a waste of precious life energy is one thing, but Mandela lived that knowledge, every moment of every day. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said yesterday, "He was angry at injustice, not at individuals.  He hated hatred, not the people caught in its grip."  I give you one more quote from Mr. Ki-Moon because it expresses beautifully the joy a person can feel when s/he is able to dispel bitterness : “Nelson Mandela showed us the way with a heart larger than this stadium and an infectious smile that could easily power its lights. In fact, it lit up the world..."Thank you Mr. Mandela.  I hope we can carry your spirit into the future and continue to let it work its magic.

Friday, December 6
I'm not sure if anyone will find this interesting, but here is our breakfast menu.  Bill has two scrambled eggs (Rabbit River Free Range Organic with the SPCA seal of approval and toast with peanut butter and sugar-free jam (sweetened with fruit juice).  While he is eating that, I prepare one of three grains.  We have a three-day cycle with oats, quinoa, and buckwheat and then back to oats again on day 4.  I chop up an apple that goes into the grain.  
We both eat cranberries (frozen) and blueberries (frozen if not in season) mixed in.  I also cut strawberries (fresh) and bananas and cherries (frozen)in Bill's.  Mine gets a generous portion of blackberries.  Sprinkled walnuts on top, with flax meal and either chia or hemp seeds added.  Bill adds Greek Yogurt to his.  I think we do really well with our nutritional breakfast and I might add that it is quite delicious.  How about you, dear reader.  What is your breakfast menu of choice? 
Friday, December 6
The day began with a wonderful game of fetch.
I love these shots.
We also took a short walk around David Lam Park.  Bill was impressed with the orderly cormorants.
Took a taxi to the recycle centre and thence to Pet Shop Boys for a nail trim for Black Jack.  Below, Dave emerges with Black Jack after her trim.  I have to say this is the best deal in town.  Absolutely stress free for Black Jack and only ten dollars.  The money over this holiday period is donated to animal welfare and rescue.  I tried to pay extra because I appreciate Dave and Christopher (the owners) so much, but they put that money into the animal fund as well.  Check out their link.  The Pet Shop Boys has been a very happy find for Black Jack. 
Then we walked back across the Cambie Bridge..    
on a cold wintry day..
to Harrison Galleries..
for a lovely reward.. 
of lattes and cookies! 
The warmth was welcome and we deserved it!
Saturday, December 7th
We are listening to Saturday Night Blues on CBC Radio Two. Repeat of last evening's concert..  very enjoyable!
Black Jack seeks refuge between Bill's feet to escape the dreaded winter coat!
We went out about noon with a minus eight degree temperature.  Not many people on the seawall.  We were so brave!  Even Black Jack may be secretly happy to have her winter coat on when it is really needed.  We don't want a shivery dog!
I enjoyed a few different duck species that have shown up lately along False Creek.  This is a female Common Merganser.  She is swimming through the reflection of a plastic chair on the dock above.
She continued on her way and through an unidentified yellow reflection.
This is just scum against the seawall but both Bill and I loved the colours.
This is a male Bufflehead; the sun caught the rainbow colours in his face perfectly.
I think this is a male Hooded Merganser.  He appears to be well satisfied with lunch.

From the back, I think he appears to be wearing a Cardinal's hat.

This cutie (house sparrow?) was sitting in the tree by the door of our apartment building when we returned home.  I could have sworn s/he winked at me.
Sunday, December 8th
Went to The Roundhouse and watched a dance performance presented by Out Innerspace/Modus Operandi.  Very inspiring to see young dancers so energized and creative.  We have followed Tiffany Tregarthen and David Raymond (shown below) for a while.  It was fascinating to listen to some of Tiffany's thought about the role of dance in the future. If I could manage it, I would be at every single performance she and/or David is involved in.  Next Saturday, they will direct a dance workshop at Creekside Community Centre.
Monday, December 9th
This was the day before Bill had his second medical test to see if his colon is healthy.  He wrote in the evening, "How do I feel about the sigmoidoscopy tomorrow?  I don't fear it, I am resigned and curious."  

I have always remarked that Bill is a very orderly person.  On Monday, it occurred to me that he eats his breakfast in similar fashion to the way many people shovel snow.
We woke up to the first snowfall of the year in David Lam Park.  The school children loved it!
Tuesday, December 10th
We survived the medical exam and were both thrilled to learn that Bill's colon is now considered to be in excellent shape.  The news should arrive this week with a date for the reversal surgery.  Bill has wanted this very much, and although we will go into the surgery more aware of possible risks, we could hardly contain our happiness as we left the hospital and headed to Bean Around the World.  I asked Bill to mimic the position of the fellow sitting on the curb in the picture and loved the result in the photo below.  Bill wrote in his journal that evening, "I thought my test with Dr. Raval today went very well.  I was happy about it.  I don't fear the reversal and am optimistic about the outcome.  His optimism after such a difficult time following his last surgery gives me hope.  Keeping my fingers and toes crossed, and in the mean time, we will go forward with every brain-healing strategy I can think of.    
Bill and I thank you for reading our thoughts and posting yours as well.  I am finding it hard to get to your blogs to leave comments.  Yet, the kind comments that have come our way lead me to believe I will be forgiven with the knowledge that a more two-way exchange will follow as soon as I am able.  In the mean time, we are posting to Our World Tuesday, even though this is Thursday.  Do take a moment or two to check out this find blog meme with posts from around the world.  And, as you go about your day, may you encounter and pass on infectious Mandela-style smiles that light up your world and the worlds of those around you.


  1. hallelujah for great results on the colon tests! i am so glad! black jack had a LOT of fun in this post. exercise, gleeful attention. she's got it all. :) your friends look like fun. :)

  2. oh, and i like your merganser shots and the bishop's hat reference. :)

  3. I'm so happy for you that you've been able to get out and about for such beautiful walks. And the reversal surgery will be awesome! I'm sure you'll both be very happy to have it over with so you can move forward together. Lorne's chemo has been cut in 1/3 but he goes every week with some time off at Christmas. The whole cocktail nearly killed him this time, and the oncologist was open to his stopping. But Lorne said No that he wants to continue even if it takes longer because of weaker treatments. So on we go...I'm going for physio for my broken ankle now but yesterday turned it and went backwards a few steps. Will see what the physio says tomorrow.

  4. I like the pictures of you on the swings … very uplifting, indeed. :) And the fabulously nutritious breakfast should make you the healthiest two people on the planet. The reversal coming up gives much reason for optimism!

  5. By the way, I must add that your shoveling snow analogy for what it must be like to eat a hardy breakfast without an appetite is perfect poetic imagery.

  6. So happy to hear, Bill, that you are 'ready' to go for the reversal surgery!! What good news!
    Carol, I can sense your enthusiasm and positive feelings in all of your photos. You two really do get around that 'town'!! Over one bridge, then another!! No wonder you are both in such good shape! Keep it up!

    We are very ritualistic too at breakfast. It is our favourite and largest meal of the day. OK...first we have an egg each, usually hard-boiled. Then a bowl of fruit...banana, orange, apple, few nuts, a date or two, sometimes a half of pomegranate, then a bowl of a mix of oat bran and cream of rice and ground flax, this is alternated with a fruit/ blueberry smoothie every other day. End with Matcha tea for me and coffee for Ron. That will get us going till about 2PM when we have our main meal of the day!
    Have a wonderful weekend you two joyful people.

  7. Lovely shots of the light - so festive and hopeful! And Black Jack looks thrilled.

  8. I, of course, am so happy that the tests proved that Bill is healthy and go forward with the reversal! Your diet at breakfast is absolutely wonderful! Thanks for the photos of the visits! I have not seen Hilda for 35 years! Hi, Hilda!! Bill, I love the "thinker" pose! Hugs for you both! Phyllis

  9. What a busy week you've had. Lots of very fresh air and exercise combined with the coffee and biscuits.Loved those photos of the lights.

  10. Your daily routine sounds just perfect, walking, talking, laughing and all over again. The lattes sound mighty enticing I could handle that, right about now.
    It so good to hear that Bill's health is improving and please tell him not to worry about what others think, they just love him and want the best.
    Ron and Sophie