Tuesday, December 5, 2017

My 72 Birthday

As I reach my 72th B.D. I feel blessed to have reached this milestone.72 is a multiple of the Hebrew number 18(chai), which means "life".18 represents good luck and is often given as a gift in multiples,symbolizing the gift of life or good luck.
 A  traditional blessing that gives thanks to G-d for reaching this age is as follows "Blessed are you Lord our G-d,Ruler of the Universe who has given us life, sustained us and allowed us to reach this day".
During the past year and a half I have had 2 major surgeries for colon rectal cancer as well as receiving 25 radiation treatments.Although at present, I am cancer free ,there is always the possibility of the cancer re-occurring.
 How do I cope with this  uncertainty?Perhaps the best way is to count one's blessings and to live each day as it is your last. Living in the present is easy to say but hardier to do..Each day I try to do something special ,whether it is going on a long walk beside the Ottawa River or  simply enjoying my own private thoughts.
I feel blessed for the emotional support and love I have received from family,friends and my part
 ner. During these difficult times they have been there for me,as have my clients, who have been supportive and understanding as I re--arrange my schedule to accommodate my medical appointments.
 I feel blessed I have survived and continue to enjoy practicing a craft that I truly enjoy and allows me to make a difference in others lives.I feel blessed I continue to travel the world and have many opportunities to be with my family.
Certainty each day I face new challenges and limitations as a result of living with a permanent ostomy. These difficulties have allowed me to be a more patient, understanding and caring person ..I now, truly understand some of the difficulties,challenges living with a disability. . Many of you who do so are my unsung heroes, I have a tremendous respect for your journey.
 Life is a challenge to all of us, much of it is up-hill against the wind, occasionally we enjoy those moments when the wind is behind our sail.We must learn to take advantage of these moments and soar to greater heights.
 I remain,engaged,curious,passionate and hopeful as I look forward to the years ahead.

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>