Monday 30 January 2023

Mundane Monday - Red, White, or Neither ?

 Recently, our government came out with its latest guidelines for alcohol consumption: Canadians should consume no more than two drinks per week of alcohol. The previous Health Canada guidelines said men should have no more than three drinks per day and women, no more than two per day. For many of us, the new guidelines are laughable and we scratch our heads to think, why? How is it that our government wishes to also control us in this aspect of our lives? But I'll just tuck my tinfoil hat away for the time being.

My drink of choice would be red wine and I imagine quite a few women would also choose wine as their choice of alcohol. Depending on the class that I taught that year or the administration I was working under, I might enjoy/require a glass of wine while making supper or not. In fact, I don't know that I knew many teachers who did not partake in an alcoholic beverage from time to time, and that says something about the profession. An afternoon at the pool in the summer might entail a very cold Budlight Lime (beer). A rare supper out at a restaurant would usually include a wine or a beer (whilst I shuddered at the cost). But it was always enjoyable, social, fun... I wonder how a Mediterranean audience would react to the two drinks per week suggestion?

So today's Mundane Monday question is this: do you prefer red wine, white wine, or no wine? You can also chime in on which specific kind you prefer, if you wish. You can say if you would adhere to the new Health Canada guidelines or not. You can even theorize why a beer loving, six months out of the year crappy weather enduring nation is being told to cut back! All hail Mundane Monday. 

Saturday 28 January 2023

Saturday, January 28, 2023

 I woke up in my own bed this morning. The cat decided to go outside even though I had to push the snow away with the bottom of the door as I opened it. The furnace kicked on, which is a sound that I love, and I am drinking coffee from an actual cup. 

On Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday morning, of this week I was in a city, in a hotel, sharing a suite with a woman I did not know, but who was very nice. I was having my radiation therapy. It was the easiest thing I've gone through on this whole journey.

For $33.00 a night, I got to stay at this hotel and received three meals a day. I also had the benefit of catching a shuttle van that ran every half hour between the hospital and the hotel. I drove myself to the hotel. I did not see the point of husband coming along with me, as I knew I'd be sharing with someone else and he would have been bored out of his mind. So he stayed home and took care of my three chickens and the cats were happy because he let them come up to our bedroom at night. 

It was a bit like a secret society, as every person who boarded the shuttle van carried with them a blue folder. We all had "the blue folder" which comes from the hospital's radiation department and has all your necessary information and schedule in it. Some people had been doing this routine for a couple of weeks now, and for me it was brand new. Everyone gets the weekend off. I drove back home at 10:00 yesterday morning, all done my treatment and fully checked out of the hotel. Some people had family members coming to retrieve them and take them back home and others, like me, drove themselves. We are all out-of-towners, hence the reason we were at the hotel. 

I will drive (with husband this time) back on Monday for my last session (just five days altogether - again fortunate) and an appointment with my very nice oncologist. Then I am done. Many, many others are not so fortunate and have plenty of sessions to go, as well as chemo. I have felt an incredible amount of gratitude this week. 

The suite in which I stayed had a kitchen with oven, full sized fridge, microwave, small dishwasher, kettle, coffee maker, and the necessary kitchen items one would need to eat or prepare basic meals. Yes, the hotel provides meals, but I imagine for someone on their third week there, they would be plenty tired of the selection (you don't have a choice, just the same meal for everyone unless you have dietary restrictions). I hear those people come on Monday with boxes of food for the week, so they can have their own comforts.

The suite also has a large sitting room with a couch, a big television, and a little table at which you could eat. I did not spend any time there, as the bedroom had its own television. There were two bathrooms, so my "suite mate" and I each had our own, which was a blessing for her, as she was going through some tough moments with her particular kind of cancer. Of course, towels, soaps, shampoo, etc. were all provided. 

As I said, this hotel was in the city, and actually right "down town" and so the traffic and many sirens, and sounds of people was quite constant through the daytime hours. While I was there, a large snowfall occurred, so the sound of snow removal equipment woke me in the early hours as well. In a way, however, it was comforting to have the sounds of life around me, so I didn't feel alone. My "suite mate" kept to herself, she was tired and worn out, and so we each just did our own thing and pretty much stayed in our rooms, unless it was mealtime, where someone knocked on the door to the suite and delivered our meals (in styrofoam containers). We transferred our food to regular plates to heat them up in the microwave as inevitably, they were cooled down by the time they got to us. So she and I would have a little visit in the kitchen, and then return to our rooms to watch something on Netflix while we ate our meals. I didn't mind this routine. I wasn't there to make a new friend, and my heart went out to her and I felt fortunate all over again.

This past week, I read Elly Griffiths' Night Hawks which was fantastic, for all you Elly Griffiths fans. I also watched the entire short series on Netflix called "Inside Man" with David Tennant and Stanley Tucci. It was so good and I recommend it!

When the shuttle bus pulled up to the Cancer Clinic doorway at the hospital (HUGE hospital), we all would get out, take a number from a little machine on the wall and wait to be called up to the reception desk. They would check our schedule, highlight today's session in yellow highlighter and then we could proceed into the inner depths of the clinic where we would change into a hospital robe, sometimes just partially, depending on what part of your body is being irradiated, and wait to be called again. Everyone there is genuinely nice and caring and you start to feel like part of the gang after a while. The thing that struck me, however, was the paintings of trees and cute animals and super heroes, etc. on the walls, which of course meant that children were also receiving treatments, although I didn't see any while I was there. 

For those of you who have no idea what the procedure is to receive radiation treatment, I took a picture (I asked if I could) of the contraption that does the magic. 

And there is it, the machine that goes "ping" for all you Monty Python fans. So, for me with breast cancer, I would put my bottom in the end of that white sheet that you can see in the picture and my legs rested in the grooves of the blue thing you see at the end. My arms rested on those red pads you see at the top of the "bed". I was quite comfortable, and they make sure that you are comfortable. The giant apparatus slides out from it's cave in the wall and surrounds you and can turn as well. I have no idea how close it gets to you, because I just closed my eyes through the session. You can tell when you are being "zapped" because there is a whiney sound that happens. The two radiologists (techs?) are in another room speaking to you through a speaker. You can hear them and they can hear you. In my case, I had to take deep breaths in and hold them while I was being "zapped". They told me when to hold and when to breath normally. (it's to provide more room between where I'm being "zapped" and my heart, as my cancer was on the left side). The longest I had to hold my breath, I think, took me the time to count to 42 in my head. I would have three sessions altogether for each treatment. Honestly, it took longer to position me correctly than it did to receive the radiation treatment. It was completely painless and I was in and out of there in less than fifteen minutes. The hardest part was the breath holding because there was always one particularly long "zapping" each time. They had music playing in the background and on the last day, it was Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" and I found myself tapping my foot a bit and had to stop myself lest I move a bit and mess things up. 

So... as I said, I'm in the grateful stage of my journey. Grateful that for the most part it is over, grateful that my story is so different from other people in the hotel who are having radiation and chemo at the same time and look weary and worn out. Grateful that I can resume my normal life and carry on with very little worry about my future (don't think I can ever say 100% worry free, but that's to be expected). 

I intend for this to be my last post about my cancer journey. I need to move forward. I thought I would share this one, in case anyone reading this ever has to have radiation therapy, or has a friend or family member who has to have it, just as an information post, so you/they don't have to be afraid, because it's "easy peasy" as I texted to my own children.

 I thank every one of you who has been reading along through my journey and has provided positive thoughts and comments and even shared your own journeys. Have a contented weekend, all!

Saturday 14 January 2023

Seven Months Later

Here is a picture of my latest library haul.

 I have other books on a waiting list that I specifically want, but so do a lot of other people. I am not 100% sure that I haven't already read the Elly Griffiths one, but since I can't remember, I likely should re-read it anyway.

I want a bunch of books because, seven months later, I am finally going to be having my radiation therapy for my breast cancer. Yes, you read that correctly. Seven months later. I was diagnosed in July of 2022. In two weeks I will be going daily to a hospital in a city two and a half hours from my home to receive five doses of radiation altogether. 

Here is what I am thankful for. My cancer is early enough  and a of a type that doesn't require more than five doses. Research has shown that five doses actually equals the old standard of three and a half weeks (you get dosed Monday to Friday with weekends and holidays off). So that is a definite plus.

I won't be driving (or asking husband to drive) this on a daily basis. That would be insanity. Instead, the hospital and the cancer programme has a deal with a hotel in the city where you can stay for a small fee during your treatment time and they also provide a shuttle service back and forth to the hospital. This is incredibly civilized and kind. It is also cheaper than having to build more facilities and outfit them to provide radiation therapy in smaller centres. Hence the reason for the books.

Here is what has caused me mental anguish (I am being serious here) for the last seven months. Initially it was hearing that I had a cancer that I never imagined I would ever have. But after absorbing that information, the worst part, even beyond the tests and procedures and needles and biopsies and surgery and all the other physical stuff was the waiting. Every test required a waiting time. Every test result required an unbelievable amount of waiting time. If "they" said it would take two weeks, it would take four, or five, or six. And each one of these waiting times was filled with doubt, fear, anxiety, and then self loathing that I couldn't just pull it together and put my big girl panties on and reassure myself that it was all going to be o.k.

The final test which was ordered by an oncologist in a town close to where I live kind of did me in, psychologically. He suggested that chemotherapy might be needed, even though the surgeon never once suggested it would be needed. The test results were not done in two weeks, as stated. In fact, it was discovered that the samples hadn't even been sent away, and they had to go to California for testing. So, the entire month of December (Merry Christmas) was spent waiting, wondering, doubting... and of course, as many of you know, agonizing over my sister's health scare (she is doing very well and making incredible progress considering her previous state). 

I finally found out the results this past week. No, I do not require chemotherapy. I know I am lucky. I know many, many, many people out there are not that lucky and do have to go through chemo. But to dangle the chemo possibility in front of me after seven months was kind of the last straw. But now I know for sure.

And here's what I also know for sure. Yes, we have "free" health care in Canada  (it isn't, of course, but I didn't have to pay for any of this out of pocket. Instead I paid with my taxes for my entire working life), but the lack of doctors, nurses, techs, proper facilities all contribute to the extensive wait times and lack of care. Heaven help a person who can't advocate for themselves, a person who is old and unable to make the phone calls (you can NEVER talk to anyone directly) and navigate the technology, a person who doesn't just have a basic support system at home to help them manage the fear and the anxiety. You may recall that when all of this happened, I didn't even have a family doctor (primary care physician), mine having retired and not replaced. I had to do the work to get a new one and the only reason that happened was because of my cancer diagnosis. 

So, this ended up being a bit of a rant, I realize. To end on a slightly more upbeat note, I will share with you that I am now officially "cool". I am sporting three tattoos! Nope, I didn't go out and get some meaningful life journey tattoo at the local tattoo parlour (of which there are many). In order to line me up perfectly and zap me with radiation, I got measured and triangulated and received three tiny dots of black on my body. This is so that each time I get my radiation, I can be lined up perfectly, thereby guaranteeing the best possible treatment. Yup, that's me, super cool!

It's a brighter day today, cold, but bright. I saw a snowy owl on Thursday, which gave me no end of joy. I do hope everyone has a nice weekend, whatever that entails for you. My one goal today is to put away all the Christmas mugs / cups and replace them with our usual, every day ones. This is the last vestige of Christmas in the house and it is driving me nuts seeing them. When Christmas is over, it's over for me. Feel free to chime in about any of the above books, by the way. 

Thursday 5 January 2023

As Good as the Book?

 Many years ago, I read the then new book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to a large class of grade three students. I loved it and they loved it and I did different voices according to how I imagined they would sound. Hagrid used to make my voice quite hoarse after a while. Then the movie came out. I was wary because I loved the book so much that I didn't think I even wanted to see the movie. However, when I did see it, I was thrilled because the movie was just how I imagined the book to be, right down to Diagon Alley and the inside of the school. 

I think that is perhaps the only time a movie was created from a book that I was deeply familiar with that got it right. I have read many books over the years and some have been made into movies, or television shows, but they disappointed me every time. I suppose that is normal, as we create our own movies in our minds as we read. We decide what each character will look like, what they will sound like, the "feel" of the setting, the details, the nuances. 

For those of you my age, do you recall when they created the television series about girl detective Nancy Drew? It was so wrong on just about every count. I wasn't young anymore when the show was produced, but Nancy was wrong, the time period was wrong, everything was wrong. It was so disappointing.

I have enjoyed reading Janet Evanovich's numbered murder mysteries set in New Jersey with bond agent Stephanie Plum and her on again off again romances with her Jersey Italian boyfriend and dangerous Cuban partner in catching criminals. Then a movie was produced and the disappointment was enormous. The casting agent clearly had not read any of the books. Any of you familiar with this?

I wonder how the readers of Ian Fleming's James Bond series of books felt when they watched any of the subsequent movies? Which Bond was the correct one? Did the movies capture the books plots, villains, clever gadgets the way they imagined?

The reason I am thinking about this topic is something on I saw on the guide as I was looking through the channels on the tv. I saw something that said Will Trent. I kept scrolling through, looking for something I might want to record to watch later. The name kept niggling in the back of my brain and so I went back and looked at the info on this programme. Ah ha! Will Trent is the name of the main character in a series of crime books by the author, Karin Slaughter. I've read all of her books so far featuring this character and liked them quite a bit. Oh no, I thought. What will this be like? How can they create a series that captures storylines of all these books? 

Well, I set it to record and watched it a day later. Did they choose the correct Will Trent? Mmmm, no. He should have been more awkward, taller, and more vulnerable. And honestly, I don't think he was Spanish in the books. But he is now. They did get the dog correct, though. Betty, the chihuahua is the way she was portrayed in the books. 

I think perhaps the series, Shetland, based on the great books by Ann Cleeves was right on the money. I think their casting made sense and the setting was perfect. 

Chime in if you can relate to any of these, or if you can think of other movies or tv shows based on books that you read first, and then watched later. Were you pleased or disappointed?