Monday, July 24, 2017

MY FRIEND HY (1921-2017)

Recently I lost a dear and loved friend. HY, 96 years young, was a charismatic and unique man, who lived  life on his own  terms. His  recent obituary,written by his family, was vetted by HY,many years ago. He made certain that both his family and many friends were mentioned.. I am deeply honoured to be included in that list of friends.
 I first met Hy some 5 years ago when I volunteered with a Jewish agency.Told that they had an elderly man who had requested weekly visits with a volunteer who spoke Yiddish I  quickly volunteered ..Having been raised by a mother who spoke Yiddish to our German maid , I learned  a few basis phrases,( in truth mostly swear words I taught my grandchildren),I decided I was qualified for this assignment.
I arrived at Hy's home , to be met by a short,well groomed man , who seemed much younger than his stated age. He exhibited considerable energy, was highly animated and seem pleased to see me. We sat down in his kitchen, a ritual we followed on many occasions and Hy proceeded to tell me the most interesting stories of his youth on Kent Street, international travels including his beloved love of Bermuda and the Barbados, his incredible accomplishments in the music-recording industries and his brief but intriguing time in the military.I was memorized by this natural born raconteur.
 Later I began to bring  him soup from a local restaurant. A ritual we both enjoyed. On many occasions I went on outings with him to places he visited as a youth.He would introduce me to his friends ,now elderly, like a proud father and tell me stories associated with these places.

As you can surmise I quickly developed a close bond with HY. His irreverence,rebelliousness and don't give a damn attitude resonated with me.We became comfortable with each other and I always looked forward to our weekly encounters.Often times , Hy would pass on his life lessons that I valued greatly.
HY, was a mensch( a honourable man),who had a heart of gold(E.G. adopting his Vietnam family).and incredible love of life.
 Rest in peace.You have lived a long and meaningful life.
Thank you for allowing me to be your friend.

Saturday, May 6, 2017


Friday,Nov.13/2016, one of the luckiest days of my life, I survive a 9 hour colon-rectal operation that saved my life.Unexpectedly I was assigned  a senior surgeon who heroically attempted to do the surgery laparoscopy, despite the scarring ,of 2 previous surgeries in the same area.I will forever be indebted to her for her compassionate and highly professional care. Now, some 6 months later, after extensive radiation treatment , I am considered cancer free.
 For those of you(most I assume),unfamiliar with the inner workings of colon-rectal surgery,both my colon and rectum were removed, to be placed by an ostomy,whereby a muscle membrane is threaded through the abdomen wall and  is attached to a bag to collect solid waste.I was now an official baggier. Despite, being told prior to surgery that this is a real possibility, it is another matter altogether dealing with it. Simply stated my body had been shocked and traumatized both physically and psychologically. I was literally left holding the bag..
During the first days of hospitalization ,you are extremely weak and your only concern is to diminish the pain.At times I was on such a strong narcotic that I actually began to have visual hallucinations.Notwithstanding the empathy gained with my psychiatric patients ,I quickly chose not to take narcotics and substitute other more appropriate pain medication.After a few days of survival and re-awakening of one's bowels after massive surgery I was ready to learn about this new thing attached to my body.
The first person to teach you about the care of your ostomy is a nurse who specializes in this area and is called an endoscopy nurse(ET).You are expected before one can leave the hospital ,to be able to  empty and change the bag attached to my abdomen.In my case the ET nurse had a PhD and  very professionally and compassionately begin the process of teaching me to care for myself. At the beginning ET felt more like that  another ET(extra-terrestrial)character in the movie.Despite my initial fears and anxiety I soon was able to master this task. No doubt I was motivated by the desire to have a full and active lifestyle in this new body I had acquired.
After discharge, the task of teaching me fell to the community health nurse associated with Community Care Access Centre(CC AC).At first,like all timid students I was reluctant to engage,preferring to observe her do the work.Gradually, with her supervision, I was able to perform the necessary tasks.One day,home alone, I had a major failure of my ostomy. What to Do?
I had 2 choices: attempt to get help or try to fix it myself.With considerable trepidation and anxiety I followed my training and was successful in  re-attaching my ostomy.It was a day to celebrate my newfound freedom.As expected, when I told the nurse about this situation I was quickly terminated .
During this life changing experience I have received incredible moral and emotional support from my partner, friends and family. You know who you are.I am thankful and grateful for your presence in my life. I feel truly blessed.
People come into your life for a reason. Shortly after I terminated with the CC AC nurse  I received a telephone call from a representative of the firm I buy my health care supplies.After the usual chit-chat we discussed the specifics of caring for my ostomy. Over the phone,and latter by E-mail, she coached me in ways to simplify care of my ostomy. Every time I change my ostomy I think of the good fortune of being contacted by this very professional and caring health provider.
 Bagging it means living with the dangers of overflow,wind sounds emanating from strange parts of your body  and other awkward and embarrassing moments Recently I was playing bridge with my buddies,when suddenly  a crescendo of noise,not alike the passing of wind emitted from my stomach.After an awkward silence,I said"Excuse me". No one said a word and we continued our game.
 To live with a bag is to live with uncertainty,social embarrassment and other unknown challenges.One needs to think about the bigger picture.I AM ALIVE,well and active and for that I FEEL TRULY BLESSED>

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Two days post surgery I awake with excruciating back pain,intense nausea, and a distended stomach that made me feel and look 6 months pregnant.Despite the effects of the best narcotic pain medication known to mankind,it became readily apparent that a trip to the nearest hospital emergency department was necessary.
Triaged,registered,placed on a gurney,I was soon in an emergency's observation room.After being seen by a nurse,medical student, resident and staff Doctor,I was diagnosed with an inflated bladder.The remedy, the dreaded catheter. 
We all have family medical stories.Unfortunately. mine include a beloved uncle who was reported to have suffered a heart attack as a result of a botched catheter attempt. As the nurse is penetrating the Nozick sperm storage ,these memories do me absolutely no good.
Despite my apprehension and the relative minor pain, I soon feel a massive relief as I proceed to  be competitive with the world record for urine excretion.For those of you who needs details the current  record is 5 litres of your finest juices.
 Soon the catheter was removed and I was expected to go it alone.Despite absorbing massive amounts of water and giving it my best effort I could not do what any typical 5 year old does.Before I knew it the dreaded catheter is re-inserted. I am told to contact urology after 3 weeks has passed.
Thus, without consultation or asking my permission, I know have acquired a constant companion.For the most part Herman's needs are relativity minor.Clean him,empty him and attach him firmly to my thigh goes a long way in   living in a symbiotic relationship with him.Herman comes in 2 forms: 1- The long large nighttime form, which is cumbersome but provides maximum volume.Somehow I have learned to share my bed with Herman who on the plus side does not snore or turn over during the night.Once during the night I need to empty Herman to keep him happy but for the most part we are good housemates.
 Herman also comes in a sleek,light weight, day time version which has it's own particular needs.Although this version is attached to my leg and affords me some mobility I need to be very careful I do not cause strain with the Nozick sperm source. On one occasion the tension between Herman and the Nozick sperm source proved too much necessiating a brief but informative visit to the emergency department of my nearest hospital.
Won't you know it but my past life came back to help me out. Many years ago I dated a Jewish women from Montreal whose son's wedding I attended.Well to my surprise he was the emergency doctor who attended to me. In a most professional yet personable and compassionate manner he reassured me regarding my relationship with Herman I told him,"he did his mother proud."
Herman and I, with whom I need to be with  another 3 weeks,have now come to an understanding as to what constitutes a harmonious relationship. The essentials include no straining,frequent emptying, good hygiene, and a well anchored relationship.
I look forward to freeing myself from Herman in the near future,Life lesson learned:The human soul and body has an amazing capacity to adapt when required to do so.All of us are capable of extraordinary deeds when we are stretched to our maximum potential.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

70 I Am

Wow! How do you react, that with G-d's grace,you have managed to pass a significant milestone with most of your resources intact.70! It seems surreal, as if there are talking about somebody else.I feel so much younger.As someone who has always looked younger than my stated age I am now the benefactor of this phenomenon.

At 70,it's all about your health,values and giving back to society.My energy level,with the assistance of the odd power nap, has allowed me to be fully engaged in a number of activities. 

As a child, both my brother and I would have been considered candidates for Attentional Deficit Disorder.Today we are considered focused and energetic. No doubt, my adherence to a regimented exercise and diet routine has served to fuel my energy.

At 70, with the notable exception of my heart disease,which is well controlled, I enjoy excellent health that has allowed me to continue to practice my craft as a clinical psychologist, albeit  at a reduced schedule. In addition, I now enjoy the time to engage in numerous social activities, volunteer work and travel the world. 

On the occasion of my 70 birthday, one of my grandchildren described me as follows: "elderly,smart,kind, loving,strong,funny,great at my job, and best of all just plain awesome." I am totally humbled by that description and feel blessed to be held in such high esteem by my grandchildren. As I age it is more about them and how I can help them grow and learn to cope with the demands of today's modern technological world.

70 means having a mature and balanced look on life.It's more about counting one's ones blessings than wasting energy on toxic people or situations.

As one's body ages it begins to wear down accompanied by daily aches and pains. A good day is when I get up in the mourning and I count fewer than 3 minor aches.

Although I still run, OK let's be honest,jog at a leisurely pace, I rejoice in still being able to do it.Sure I pay the price the next day, but it is my personal victory over the insidious process of aging.

Emotionally there is a stability,an inner peace, now that there is no longer a need to compete or prove oneself.At this stage of life it is about enjoying the ride and not caring where you are going.

With aging comes a reality that we are in the final quarter of our life and for a lucky few they may get overtime.Every day brings sad news about one's peers including sickness,hospitalization, and death.Suddenly we  are thrust into the role of elder statesmen for our family as the younger generation seeks our advice and counsel. 

At 70 I am blessed with good health, a loving and supportive family and friends,as well as the love and ability to practice my craft.It remains a joy to go to the office, where despite my technological limitations,I feel  I can help my clients live more meaningful  lives. 

There will come a time, when I will no longer be able to do so. I will face those obstacles when they arise, but for the moment I rejoice and am thankful for all the pleasures that life continues to bring me daily.