Sunday, March 12, 2017

Bonding over emesis: Another surgery in the books!

Well surgery #8 has come and gone, and compared to previous experiences,  I will chalk it up to a success.

After undergoing 7 previous knee surgeries, I went into 8 like a professional patient (or terrorist), negotiating my demands with the surgical staff as soon as I entered the surgery centre in Philadelphia.

"Ok, listen. We can do the Percocet but no Fentanyl this time. Last time I suffered convulsions and we do not want that happening again."

"Fine. I will take the general anesthetic, but you need to use the mouthpiece instead of the oxygen mask. You know I get claustrophobic under there."

"Where's my Versed? Did someone forget my Versed? You guys know that I get anxiety and need that Versed."

Ok. I wasn't actually that demanding - I definitely made requests politely as any nice Canadian would - but I did go in with my list of "optimal surgery strategies." Oh my god. They must hate the Type A controlling patient from the Cayman Islands! 

I exited the surgery centre the very afternoon after my surgery, feeling pretty badass and ready to conquer the famous Philly "Rocky" steps. My pain was minimal and I was on an anesthetic high. 

About 24 hours later, nausea rocked my world, and continued to rock my world for 3 days. Let's call it the "post surgery beach body diet." Aside: I have so much sympathy for people who suffer from nausea for long periods of time due to pregnancy or chemo treatments, for example. That must be so awful.

I met with my Orthopaedic Surgeon, the Cartilage Repair Specialist, 4 days after my surgery. My surgeon is a good guy and a total cartilage nerd. He LOVES cartilage. He loves to talk about cartilage, he loves to photograph cartilage (I now have an album of deteriorating cartilage pics), he loves to repair shitty cartilage - cartilage is his JAM. Given the fact that I have a rare cartilage condition, we are a match made in heaven and I am extremely lucky to have him as my surgeon.'s taken me a while to warm to my brilliant cartilage buddy. I have no particular reason, really. He listens. He explains things very well. He takes a lot of time with me. He emails back immediately if I send a question. He has good bedside manner. He's a likeable guy. But...he finds cartilage sooo enthralling that he smiles the whole time whilst discussing it- even when delivering bad news. It irked me. I felt like he saw me as a surgical challenge and was actually excited about my shitty knees (the dramatic side of me pictured a villain from a Disney movie rubbing his hands together, "Yes! This deteriorating cartilage is mine. All MINE!") I yearned for a bit of sympathy - maybe a frown -  to accompany, "Your knees are worse than expected." 

Luckily, we turned a corner on surgery #8. As I sat in his examination room, 4 days after surgery, listening to him describe the details of the next surgery - the cartilage implantation (smiling!), I felt that horrible familiar feeling of excess salivation and stomach roll. I quickly pushed my surgeon to the side and puked in the sink directly behind him. In that moment, something wonderful happened - he stopped smiling. I mean, he didn't hold my hair back or soothe me with a rendition of Frozen's, "Let it go!" But I felt like he saw me as a person who...well...puked. 

Although my Surgeon opted to exit the room for pukefest '17, upon his return, instead of continuing with the discussion of the next exciting surgery (happy face!), he commented, "You really are struggling with nausea. That's awful. We will try and solve that issue for you for the next surgery." EMPATHY! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I am more than just a challenging case, you know. There is a nauseated person attached to these scarred up knees! So now I feel like we can work together on this. It was a "me" issue and now I am over it. Yes. Let it go, indeed. 

I've been back on the island now for about 10 days and recovery is going well - there's always good days and bad days, but overall, it's been positive. A huge part of the success is the presence of my Mom. It's so nice having her company, as I find quiet alone time difficult, my head spinning with worries about my job and the upcoming challenges that the next surgery brings. I have this terrible habit of telling myself that I am not healing fast enough (I know. Ridiculous), and both Mom and Evan have been so supportive and reassuring that I am doing great. Mom has also been feeding, watering, and cheering me on during my physio exercises. Although she leaves the island on Wednesday, I still have a week to work on my strength and endurance so that I can return to work in the best shape possible. 

In all the flurry of post surgery activity, something terrible happened in our house. We forgot Dundee's Birthday. It completely slipped our minds. Oops. I awoke on Thursday to a Facebook memory of Dundee's birthday a year ago. Damn. I quickly looked at the date and realized that we had missed his birthday by a week! Luckily, Dundee hasn't had access to a calendar and as far as we know, did not suspect a thing. So we celebrated Dundee's 7th birthday on Friday with birthday hats, friends, and lots of pats. Have you ever seen such a big puppy smile? 

Cheers Friends!

One happy pooch!

Another Penn Medicine garment bag. Luckily they've started a punch card for me. One more surgery and I get a free shirt!

But how awesome is that pedicure? Perfection.

During my appointments Evan plays. With everything. He even froze his arm with anesthetic spray.

Oh good! Ev caught the post barf on camera! Ahh..the memories.

Just organizing my cartilage photo album (these are my intra-operative surgery photos). Someday I can show my awesome cartilage just how far it has come! ;)

Dundee and I do physio together every morning!

Dundee hugging his new birthday toy - exhausted from his party!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Training for #8

I have a small, brightly coloured Mead notebook that I keep around the house. If you peek inside, you will see (in my neat "teacher" printing) items such as:
  • Maintain weight. Protein!
  • Sleep goal: 8 hours a night
  • Meditation goal: 3 times a day
  • Gym 2-3 times a week: range of motion, stretching, upper body strength, core stability
  • Water exercise 2 times a week: range of motion, increase heart rate, stretch
  • Ice and heat for pain

At first glance, you might assume that I am training for something - perhaps a marathon or race of some sort. I guess I am in training, but not for something that most people train for. I am in training for my 8th knee surgery which takes place next week in Philadelphia.

Time to overhead squat the crutches!
I don't think that the majority of the population undergo regular surgeries once or twice a year like I do. On the other hand, I am aware of the fact that some are withstanding much more serious and life-threatening procedures than mine. But I would assume that most people go into surgery having no idea what to expect - there are so many unknowns. What happens before I fall asleep? Will I wake up? How will I feel when I wake up? Although each experience is different for me, I have 7 past surgeries to reflect upon - each experience has had its positives and each experience definitely has had its challenges. So I'm doing what any type-A control freak would do: I am using my past experiences to train and prepare for this surgery as best as I can so that I am in a position to succeed. But...and this is a huge but that I have spent hours discussing and analyzing with my Pain Psychologist:  I am prepared for the fact that obstacles will arise that I cannot control... and that is OK. (Haha, my $100/hr sessions are paying off!)

I hear friends saying, "You are so brave," but I don't necessarily feel brave. I feel like I am just living my life as best as I can with this shitty disease. To be honest, I am scared. As prepared as I am for this surgery and as strong as I presently feel physically and mentally, I am still fearful. Some of my fears are rational. I am afraid of the 10/10 pain that consistently hits me 2-3 hours post surgery. That pain is scary and, despite undergoing 7 surgeries, no Anesthetist, Surgeon, or Nurse has yet to determine how to control that pain for me during that period of time. I am also afraid of drug interactions. I've had a few bad ones that have caused me to shake and twitch uncontrollably. Kinda terrifying.

Some of my fears, however, are irrational. I had a nightmare that my surgery was on a Carnival Cruise Ship. My Ortho greeted me in a Captain's hat and said, "Welcome aboard, what joint are we doing today?" Perhaps you recall my post about our disastrous cruise on the "unfun" ship? Another irrational fear is the fear that my Anesthetist will have an "off" day and miscalculate my anesthetic, placing me into a lifelong coma (I mean, haven't you ever been daydreaming when you go to make minute rice and mistakingly add 2 cups of water instead of the prescribed 2/3 Cup of water? Does this ever happen to Anesthetists in the operating room??)

Ev and I head to Philadelphia on Wednesday, I meet with my Surgeon on Thursday - the brilliant cartilage man who is much too joyful when he delivers bad news - and I undergo surgery on Friday. This surgery is another "clean-up" operation to prepare my knee for upcoming cartilage implantation surgery. My Mom is meeting us there (my mom and Evan are a huge part of my successful recovery plan - thanks Team!) and we will spend a week in Philadelphia before we all fly back to the island for my rehabilitation. It sounds so simple when I write it all down! I am fully aware that the next month will test me, but I feel confident that I have a solid plan in place.

Note the stupid smile. Can you say "high as a kite?"

Stupid smile again! I am obviously drugged and think that I am going to the spa for a facial. 

In the meantime, Ev and I have been partaking in some fantastic island activities in an effort to relax and distract. Last night we did the Bioluminescence tour, which entails paddling a kayak to a bay at night where glowing plankton reside. It was a beautiful star-filled night sky and the ocean glowed liked tiny diamonds when you ran your paddle through the water (kinda like the scene in Life of Pi!) Today I have a pedicure at the swanky new Kimpton Hotel Spa (I will opt for a soothing toe hue to ensure that my Anesthetist is NOT distracted) :)

This week I have felt incredibly grateful that I live in such a beautiful place that promotes relaxation and serenity. I am also grateful for wine.

Cheers Friends!

Photo cred to Cayman Kayaks

Sunday, February 5, 2017

And the Rest Is History

It was September something 1996 and I was flipping my hot rolled curls, anxiously awaiting for the new student to arrive to our grade 12 Social Studies Class. He was rumoured to be a Prince Albert Raider. The Prince Albert Raiders were junior hockey players imported from exotic locales such as Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and Lloydminster, Alberta to play hockey in the Western Hockey League (WHL). In a small-ish city of 30,000 people, the arrival of a new boy from a different city was exciting news in my little egocentric teenage world.

I straightened my Shania Twain "Any Man of Mine" denim vest, sucked in, and turned as the classroom door opened.

"Evan Lindsay! Glad you could join us today," remarked Mr. T,  our sarcastic (and possibly drunk) Social Studies Teacher.

A tall, skinny, sullen-looking teenaged boy with a mop of curly ginger hair entered the room. As I examined his baggy jeans and Air Walk sneakers my first impression was that the new boy looked more like a skater than a polished imported WHL hockey player.

Likely re-calculating his save percentage

I didn't really get to know Evan until December of that year. He was quiet and often appeared a bit resentful about being traded to the Raiders. As I desperately attempted to climb the popularity ladder, Evan Lindsay appeared to care less about his high school social status and more about his goals against average. He intrigued me. He didn't seem to mind being alone (in high school? Gasp!), he didn't have a locker in the "square" with his teammates, and although he attended team parties, he always hung back quietly observing his surroundings. Evan Lindsay was different.

One night at a Christmas party, Evan and I seemed to hit it off. Spending most of the night seated on the floor next to each other, we laughed for hours, mocking the drunks as the party spiralled out of control. Reflecting on my relationship knowledge, all gathered from the teenage relationship bible,  "YM Magazine," I made the executive decision to play hard to get and wandered away from Evan to talk to some other boys. Evan did not follow me, and in fact, left the party soon after without saying goodbye. Undoubtably, according to YM Magazine's relationship quiz, "Does he like you?,"  this was a sure sign that we were "in the friend zone." Sigh. Now I knew.

Despite YM's sound advice, I continued to have a sneaking suspicion that Evan Lindsay liked me. In Social Studies class, he often casually walked by my desk, dropping a handful Mike 'n Ike candies in front of me. Occasionally, as a special surprise, he would tear a Mike 'N Ike in half and fuse it with another flavour. C'mon, people. That's gotta be flirtation? Something hot was brewing.

I met up again with Evan after Christmas at a house gathering. He immediately approached me and we picked up right where we left off, laughing and joking easily with each other. I was confused. It seemed as though he was interested, but my test had blatantly indicated zero romantic potential. So I did what any intelligent 17 year old girl would do, I delivered Evan another relationship "test."

I headed to the kitchen and reached up for the hot chocolate on the top shelf.  I beckoned (in my best sultry tone), "Evan, can you help me reach the hot chocolate. It's too high."

YM Magazine specified that if the boy reached around and touched you while he was retrieving the object, this gesture indicated that you had succeeded in "catching your crush."Obviously.

"Sure. Move."

Evan (very unromantically) bumped me out of the way and retrieved the hot chocolate.

Damn. According to YM Magazine, Evan and I had zero chance of being the next "it couple."

Despite the failed tests, I still felt chemistry with this tall skinny goalie, and given the fact that I talked about Evan all the time, my friends had begun to suspect that I had a crush on him. One day after school, as I sat on my best friend's bed discussing Evan's hilarious comment in class that day, my bestie shouted, "You like him! You totally like him!"

"No way. We're just friends. Seriously."

Without blinking an eye, Janna picked up her super cool see through phone and dialled Evan's phone number. When Evan answered the phone, Janna threw the receiver at me. Unprepared for a mature conversation, I squealed loudly and frantically hung up the phone. Epic fail.

A few weeks later we found ourselves at another party together. As soon as I entered the room, one of Evan's teammates approached me and said, "Evan Lindsay has been asking where you are."
My stomach fluttered excitedly. Evan Lindsay was asking about me? Perhaps he WAS interested? I decided to forgo all my YM relationship knowledge and just be "me" for the night.

As soon as I saw Ev that night, I knew that something had changed. We made small talk for a few minutes with stupid teenager, "I like you" smirks on our faces and then it happened. He asked me out on a date!

Three days later, on February 3, 1997, Evan and I stiffly sat side-by-side at the Cinema IV theatre in Prince Albert. "Star Wars" was being shown, but I don't recall processing one second of that movie. I was focused solely on Evan's hand, which moved closer and closer to mine, only to retreat a few seconds later. Evan never did get up the courage to hold my hand during that two hour movie. But I knew that he wanted to.

On the way back from the movie, in Evan's silver 1986 Mazda 626, we chatted easily about school and hockey. I was surprised when Evan rolled down his window and the -25 degree winter air shocked our faces.

"It's kinda hot in here," stated Ev calmly. I only found out years later that he had farted, and was desperately trying to mask the smell. Romance at its finest.

That night Evan walked me to the door of my mom's house and stood in the foyer grinning madly. Awkward silence ensued for what seemed like hours until I finally decided to break every YM relationship rule and stated, "I really want to kiss you."

And so we kissed. You know how some teenage kisses (and first kisses) are really bad? There can be tongues and teeth and uncoordinated nose placement in those early years when you are attempting to solve the mysteries of lip locking. Well my kiss with Evan was awesome. It was just a really great kiss with a boy whom I really liked. As we reluctantly pulled away and said goodbye, I knew that I had already developed real feelings for this sullen teenage boy with curly ginger hair. Although I kept it a secret for an entire month (Gasp!), I was in love.

Even though it was immediately apparent to me that Evan and I  shared a special connection, I did not imagine that his lips would be the lips that I would kiss for the next 20+ years. (So screw you, YM Magazine!)

Cheers to 20 years of ups, downs, highs, lows, tears, laughter, and joy. What a ride!

"As soon as I saw you I knew that an adventure was going to happen."
- Winnie The Pooh
Another pivotal kiss in our relationship!

Our first picture together. No awkwardness here.

First summer as a "couple"

One of us has always tanned easier than the other ;)

Teaching Ev how to two-step. It was short-lived.

Another awkward couple photo

Grade 12 Graduation. Ev slicked back the curls for the occasion. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Which Would You Rather?

Hey Friends!

I can't believe that Christmas has come and gone. The trip back to Canada was fantastic. It was the perfect mix of chilling in front of the fireplace with my Timmies and visiting with family and friends. In addition, I actually really enjoyed winter. It dawned on me, for the first time in 37 years, that winter is quite pretty. I loved watching the fat snowflakes fall, the sun set over the frozen lake, and the Christmas lights glistening on the snow-capped roof. So yes, winter isn't so bad if exposure is less than 2 weeks in length and there is an option to remain indoors the entire time! The knees, on the other hand, hate winter. The increase in pain and decrease in mobility just reinforced my decision to get the hell out of winter when I did 2 and a half years ago. If I could only move all my favourite Canadian peeps to Cayman. (Unfortunately we only have 2 bedrooms)
Looks like a BBQ on the deck is out of the question today

Christmas Eve with my Dad and Sis (Kayla flew in from the Netherlands!)

LOVE my mom (and sweaters!)

A boat selfie without the boat - such a great night!

Speaking of the knees, have you ever played a game called, "Which Would You Rather?" As a child, I loved to play this silly game. The premise of the game is that you present your "competitor" with 2 horribly disturbing undesirable scenarios, and your competitor must choose the one he/she would prefer. The clincher is that you are not allowed to say, "I choose neither." You must choose the scenario that you deem the best of the worst.

Let me give you an example:

"Which would you rather....Get your big toe backed over by a semi truck for 3 seconds or have your pinky finger slammed in a steel door for 10 seconds?"

Fun, right?
As I matured, the game became much more sophisticated and usually involved the names of boys with whom I adamantly denied liking.

For example, "Which would you rather…kiss insert name of boy you adamantly deny liking for 3 seconds or hold hands with insert name of another boy with sweaty hands that you adamantly deny liking for 15 minutes?

Whoa. Intense. And it provided hours of entertainment. I'm not sure if anyone actually "won" that game. Probably not, but it made for some interesting dialogue.

I was reminded of this silly little game when I was conversing with my Orthopedic Surgeon in Philadelphia.

We discussed the plan to implant the cartilage into my left knee in May. The concern is that the recovery for that surgery involves 6 weeks of non-weight bearing. This means hopping on crutches, without bearing any weight throughout that left knee. I've done it 3 times before. It's not fun. (Confession: it was kinda fun after the first surgery when I learned how to do stupid crutching tricks from youtube videos. The novelty definitely wore off by surgery number 3). The issue is, my right knee, which will be in charge of bearing my weight for those 6 weeks, has deteriorated significantly in the last few months and it is presently likely not strong enough to bear my weight for that length of time. Looks like I'm in another $%*&ing pickle.

So as my Surgeon joyfully (much too joyfully, if you ask me), presented the adult reality version of Which would you rather? I listened to the options and screamed (in my inside voice) "NEITHER! I CHOOSE NEITHER! THEY BOTH SUCK!"

Here's the question:

Which would you rather…

Wait until May, have the cartilage implanted in the left knee and hope that your deteriorating right knee can bear your weight, realizing that you may be bed-ridden/wheelchair bound for 6-8 weeks if your knee is not capable.


Opt for a scope surgery in February to clean out your right knee, in the hopes that it will be in a better position to bear your weight for the cartilage implantation surgery in May.

Hmmm....both tempting options. Option 2 is probably the most responsible choice. On the other hand, it involves an extra surgery. Recovering from 2 surgeries within 3 months of each other, especially given that I have already had 7 knee surgeries, is daunting. With each additional surgery, I am finding recovery increasingly difficult and am struggling to remain positive and hang on tight to that rope. You know, the rope that I'm presently at the end of. It's just sucky.

Initially I was pissed off and decided to forgo the responsible choice and take a chance with the right knee in May. You know, to spite my surgeon and his joyful face. But after a line of questioning from my very logical and reasonable hubby, and a quick read on Pinterest, I realized that I was lucky that I even had a choice, that I was only hurting myself by choosing the less responsible option, that being prepared is half the victory, and various other inspirational cliche quotes. So…big sigh…I have opted for the extra surgery in February. Big sigh.

I'm dreading it.

People often ask me how I remain so positive. I have to admit that it takes some work. I've come to terms with the fact that I have a degenerative disease. Most people see someone on crutches and assume that they are waiting to get "fixed." Unfortunately, that is not the case for me. There are surgeries that will improve my situation; however, although we can hope that things will stabilize, the degeneration of my cartilage appears to be a "forever" kind of thing. It's taken me years to come to terms with this, and at times, I am still struggling to accept this diagnosis.

And I'm not always optimistic and upbeat. I tend to save my low moments for the privacy of my home. I occasionally curl up in a ball on the couch, cry, and watch "Full House" reruns on repeat (Yes, Full House. Don't judge me but DJ has the most impressive wardrobe and Michelle is just so freakin funny). Sometimes I think, "Why me? What did I do to deserve this?" But…I like to be around people. I am a social person. And people, for the most part, do not want to hang around someone spewing negativity. So I make a conscious effort - a decision - to be positive. I work hard at it. I have enlisted the help of a team of professionals including a Pain Specialist, a Massage Therapist, a Pain Psychologist, and my Surgeon, who specializes in and researches cartilage repair. So at the end of the day, I have access to a wealth of knowledge and support and have placed myself in a position for success. In addition, I made a choice to move to an incredibly beautiful place that inspires relaxation and peace. Although this condition makes me feel powerless at times, I do know that I can control how I react to it.

In the meantime, my goal for the next 6 weeks is to focus on increasing my strength and having fun (you know: lift weights, swim in the sea, and drink wine).

Cheers to a happy and healthy 2017!

Dundee loves his beach sunsets

Our new favourite cocktail: The Margarita Mule. Definitely makes me better.

Life is good.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

What the cluck?

Ahhh…the sounds and sights of the Christmas season is upon us.

Sparkling white lights twinkle around the trunk of the palm trees.

"Jingle Bells" echoes in the grocery store as you place your eggnog in your cart.

Shoppers clamour the stores in search of the perfect holiday gift.

Children scream with excitement as they attempt to release the trapped chickens.

What a minute…what?

Oh yes, it's that time of year where the children... and chickens... go nuts.

Working as a Speech Therapist in the schools, I have come to the realization that there are 2 distinct times of year when it is virtually impossible to hold the attention of a student - the entire month of December and the entire month of June. I've tried. I've strategized ways around this predicament to no avail. The kids are just wild with excitement for Christmas in December and Summer Holidays in June.

Last week I attempted to re-assess all my students' speech and language skills. Worst. Idea. Ever. Not only were the students distracted, excitedly listing off their wish list for Santa, but many of them were nowhere to be found - either practicing for the Christmas concert in the Hall or carolling the neighbourhood on a class trip. If I did manage to re-assess a child, he was impulsively shouting out wrong responses to subjects that we have painstakingly drilled repeatedly in the last few months.

"Ok, J'Quan. Listen closely: a shirt, pants, and socks - they are all….."
(C'mon kid, we've been targeting categories for 3 months)


Ugh. So close.

To make matters worse, one of my schools decided to set out traps for chickens last week. As you may have suspected, given my multiple posts and complaints about chickens, there are a LOT of wild chickens on the island. The chickens roam free, digging in garbages, stopping traffic to cross with their fuzzy chicks, and fighting with each other in the streets (I once witnessed 5 chickens chasing a rooster who was running wildly with a piece of pizza in its mouth).

The chickens are a real nuisance on the school grounds because they jump in the garbage bins and leave a trial of half-eaten school lunches behind. One of my schools attempted to alleviate the problem by outfitting each bin with a lid; however, the chickens got savvy and began knocking off the lids by jumping up and bumping them off with their own heads! These chickens are calculating and I secretly fear that one day they, and the iguanas, will rule the island.

Desperate for a solution, the school decided to trial chicken trapping. You gotta do what you gotta do, but I seriously questioned why this chicken trapping trial had to occur directly outside my therapy window, during my re-assessment week, in the middle of the school day. In the words of Vivian (Pretty woman) "Big mistake. Big. Huge."

I tried to divert my students' attention away from the window where 3 cages sat, containing 2 desperately squawking chickens. Suddenly dozens of chickens descended upon the area, clucking wildly, and (from what I imagine), shouting reassurance to their trapped friends, "We will get you out! Stay calm Edna! Don't get your feathers in a knot Margaret!"

Cue the wild students. Curious students, transitioning to their next class, suddenly became interested in the commotion and descended upon the school yard as well. As I unsuccessfully attempted to extract a description of a bicycle out of J'Quan, the view out side  my window now consisted of dozens of flapping, squawking chickens and screaming students, either attempting to kill or release the trapped chickens (The jury is still out, but let's give them the benefit of the doubt and call it a "rescue mission")

Gritting my teeth, I stomped outside (when I say "stomped," I mean limped heavily and loudly), put my hands on my hips and screeched, "PUT THE CHICKENS DOWN AND GET BACK TO CLASS NOWWWWWWW!"

The shrillness of my "mom" voice was alarming. The students stared blankly at me for a mere second, likely deafened by the frequency of my voice, and then carried on with the loud, chaotic chicken rescue mission. I wiped the sweat that was now dripping down my face, arms, and legs, and stormed into the School office, yelling at no one in particular, "The chickens! You have to do something about the chickens!"

I had reached the end of my rope. I am no spring chicken, you know. I was ready to fly the coop (See what I did there?)

In the end, the chicken trapping was an epic fail. The students' rescue mission had succeeded and no chickens were trapped during that momentous afternoon.

Once the bird seed cleared, I calmly sat down at my computer and began composing a strongly worded email with the following subject line: "Chicken trapping is interfering with speech therapy."

At that moment it suddenly dawned on me that I was truly living a completely different life than I had ever imagined.

Update: I fly back to the Arctic Circle Saskatchewan in less than a week! I am so excited to see all my friends and family and celebrate my first Christmas in 4 years back at home. I am; however, slightly concerned about the weather forecast. When you google, "Prince Albert Weather," an alert pops up stating: "Extreme cold warning due to Polar vortex." EEEKS! Given that I haven't experienced "winter" in 2 years, I am a little apprehensive about how my body (especially my knees) will react to wind chills of -40 degrees Celsius. I showed one of my keen students a map depicting the current temperatures in Saskatchewan and his response was, "But that can't be possible. I don't get it." Yes, kid, yes it can be possible. My Caribbean co-workers questioned, "How do humans live there?" Um…we just do? I'm not exactly sure how to respond to these questions, but I do know that it is imperative that I locate a pair of socks before I fly out on Friday.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

It's a Dog's Life

Last we spoke, I was seeking some much needed solace after an "interesting" cruising experience on the "unfun" ship.

Unfortunately that solace lasted about 3.2 seconds.

Upon returning home, we noticed that our little white dog, Dundee, was not himself. With a history of back problems, we knew that he had likely hurt his back jumping off the couch or watching "Dogs with Jobs" with a little too much enthusiasm. We immediately gave him an anti-inflammatory pill in a spoonful of peanut butter and hoped he would feel better quickly.

He didn't. With each passing day, Dundee appeared to be experiencing increasing pain, his appetite diminished, and he just wasn't his usual happy Dundee self. The vet examined him and suggested that if he didn't improve soon, he would benefit from a CT Scan to determine the exact nature of his back injury. The kicker? The CT Scan was in Miami. Ugh.

Over the next few days, I administered my little dog Tramadol every 4 hours - shockingly the same painkiller and strength that I am on. Nights were the worst! Dundee would awaken panting, obviously in pain and I had to hold him tight so that he didn't thrash around. It was exhausting and difficult.

Now anyone who knows Evan well knows his incredible ability to sleep soundly in any situation. If Evan was a Miss America pageant contestant, he would likely win the talent competition with this unique and functional skill. It really is impressive! I suspect that he perfected his ability to sleep soundly in any situation after years of overnights on uncomfortable hockey buses. I actually questioned if Evan was faking this skill in order to avoid loss of sleep until the Firehall incident of 2008. In Evan's previous life, he was a Firefighter with the City of Calgary Fire Department. When there is a call, tones sound in the firehall, increasing in volume and pitch to alert the Firefighters to get moving ASAP. One night, Evan slept through an entire fire. He missed the tones, he missed the bustle of the firefighters moving around him, getting into their gear, and jumping into the truck. He missed the entire thing! Upon returning to the Hall after the fire, Evan's crew found Ev sound asleep in his bed, completely unaware of the night's events. So they did what any professional would do in that situation - they painted Evan's toenails red. Evan defended himself by explaining, "My panic threshold is not very high." Ya, it's probably for the best that he retired that career.

So, you see, I can't really blame Evan when he fails to wake in the middle of the night. He doesn't do it on purpose. But let's be honest here - it pisses me off…just a little.

On the third sleepless night, I held my shaking dog in my arms and physically shoved Evan from his slumber, "I need help!"

Ev did wake up briefly and took over the duties of holding and comforting our distraught dog. Seeing that he had it under control, I rolled over to catch an hour of sleep before I had to get up for work. I was quickly awakened from a light sleep to see Dundee wandering frantically around our bed while Ev slept soundly, arms out, holding an invisible dog. At that moment, I mentally retrieved my "Having a baby: pros and cons" checklist and dusted it off. Picturing sleepless night after sleepless night with a fussy baby, I added a big 'ol check mark under "cons" (Aside: Do not tell me that Evan would surely wake up if it was his own baby crying. He would not. End of discussion).

On Thursday night, Dundee became noticeably worse. The vet told me to watch carefully for any signs of motor issues such as difficulty walking or the dragging of his back legs. While trying to encourage Dundee to eat, Dundee stood up and began dragging his back legs. His back legs didn't work! What a horrible thing to witness. Frantic, I called the vet and we began arranging a referral to Miami for an emergency spinal surgery.

As annoyed as I was with Evan during the sleepless nights, I couldn't have asked for a better partner in crime as we prepared Dundee to travel to Miami. Evan quickly booked a flight while I arranged the paperwork to get Dundee off island (The Cayman Islands Department of Agriculture must approve every exit and entry of each animal). At this point I was sleep deprived and panicked, picturing my precious pet paralyzed. We knew that time was of the essence and Dundee required surgery immediately. Evan calmly packed his bag, carefully placed Dundee in his carry case, kissed me goodbye, assuring me that Dundee would be fine, and flew to Miami that night. As scared as I was, I felt reassured knowing that Evan was taking over the reigns.

Dundee received spinal surgery the next morning. He was diagnosed with a condition called "Intervertebral Disc Disorder," characterized by a ruptured disc in his back. Thankfully, they were able to operate in time, and he is expected to make a full recovery. We will, however, have to limit his jumping activity in the future, as he is prone to further disc problems. The Fido Network may be permanently replaced with The Food Network. Phew. Upon hearing that everything went well, I took a deep breath…but just for a second. We were now faced with the daunting task of importing him back on island.

The paperwork for importing your pet on island is extremely complicated. Blood titres to prove that your pet possesses the rabies vaccine, flea and tick treatments, as well as paperwork completed and signed by a Clinical Vet and a Federal Vet are required. Although Dundee was discharged from the Vet Hospital in Miami on Tuesday, Evan and I worked overtime to complete the paperwork so that he could fly back to the island by Thursday. Ev found himself in an Uber, searching the city of Miami for a USDA accredited Vet who would stamp our documents without the typically required week's notice. To make matters even more complicated, it was election day and Ev was stuck in traffic, gazing at posters of Trump's tangerine face everywhere (obviously Hollywood, Florida was Trump territory)  There was a bit of pleading, a bit of ass-kissing, and more than one text between us, "Are you F$#**ing kidding me?" Ev and I joked that our wallets were wide open at this point, makin' it rain all over Miami! Yes, Dundee is expected to make a full recovery in 6 weeks. Our wallets, however, may never fully recover. Haha.

In the end, my furry boys (Ev hadn't shaved in a week) returned back to island on Thursday night. I have never been so relieved to kiss that little black nose (That would be Dundee) and feel those comforting arms around me (That would be Evan).

I know that if you are not an animal lover, you will read this blog in dismay, wondering what would possess one to make such an effort for an animal. All I can say is, I consider my pets to be part of my family. They bring so much joy into my life and are completely dependent on me to keep them safe. There was no way that I could sit back and watch my buddy become paralyzed.

So now the fun begins. Dundee is confined to a kennel - puppy jail - for 6 weeks, with short walk breaks throughout the day. His first night in puppy jail was challenging and consisted of him rattling his bars at 4am shouting, "I was framed! I want my lawyer!" (Ok, I made that part up, but I'm sure that's what he would say if he could talk). Just like me, Dundee now has to partake in physio exercises! We can take our Tramadol, do our leg lifts together, and watch "Donut Showdown" - excellent puppy/human bonding time! And somehow Ev is not only graced with a rehabbing wife, but with a rehabbing dog as well.

"Lucky you!" I exclaimed.

"It's a good thing you guys are good-looking and loveable," he joked.

I am so looking forward to some down time here. I presently feel like I'm in a dodgeball game, avoiding balls left and right. I don't dare stand still in fear of being smacked in the face! Since my surgery in September, Evan hasn't been home for more than 10 days at a time. We are celebrating a long weekend on the island and Ev and I are really looking forward to some quiet, UNEVENTFUL time at home with our furry friends.

Cheers Friends!

Dundee is home! hooray!

This is not Dundee. This a random dog at the beach. I thought he looked like Evan because he is handsome and has lots of freckles

Dundee's very unfortunate reverse mohawk. 

Who's a good boy? 

Dundee is allowed out of puppy jail for visits with his friends

Biloxi kept Dundee's bed warm the entire time he was gone. 

I don't know what all the fuss is about…stupid dog. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Seas The Day?

Have you ever wished you could freeze a perfect moment in time? This summer at my Baba and Gido's 70th wedding anniversary, I glanced over at my Baba and Gido as my talented Aunties and cousin performed my Gido's favourite song. My Baba was smiling from ear to ear and my Gido's eyes had welled up with tears. He was obviously touched by their voices and all the family and friends who traveled far and wide to Meath Park, Saskatchewan, to show their love and support. I recall that moment vividly. The love in that room was palpable. I consciously made the effort to take a mental snapshot in my brain, as that moment in time felt so incredibly special. About 3 weeks later, My Gido was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. On October 20, just over 2 months after that special day, my Gido passed away at the age of 90 years.

My Gido loved to farm. He was a very dedicated, hard-working and successful farmer and land owner. Some of my favourite Gido memories include sitting in the combine with him, while he explained and demonstrated the function of the endless display of buttons and levers. Despite his ailing health, my Gido was still farming in mid-September. He wouldn't have wanted it any other way. I picture him now, in his heaven, wandering through the perfect canola field in his rubber boots. We will all miss him very much. My heart breaks for my Baba. She is a very strong, inspiring woman. She told me that she knows it's time to close that chapter of her book and begin a new one, but I can only imagine how difficult that must be after 70 years of marriage. Theirs was a true love story. 

Baba and Gido at our wedding in 2005

I experienced one of the hardest realities of living so far from home…I couldn't get back in time to be with my family for my Gido's funeral. It sucked. I spent an entire night awake, searching for flights that would get me to Saskatchewan within a few days. There were no flights under $3500 and less than 30 hours in length. The itineraries were ridiculous, with overnights in Cancun and Jamaica. I finally conceded that, given my present health (still dependent on that damn crutch), it just didn't make sense to spend 30 hours traveling each way for 2 days at home. I have never been so homesick in my life. I really wanted to be with my Dad, my Baba, my sister, and my extended family. I am so looking forward to going home for Christmas this year. 

A few months ago, I had booked a cruise for Evan and I during my half-term break. Knowing that getting back to Saskatchewan was off the table, and that the cruise was non-refundable, Evan and I decided to go on the 5 day cruise, hoping to relax and enjoy some quiet time away together. Plus, Evan and I have always wanted to visit Turks and Caicos and this was the only ship that included Turks in its itinerary during my school break. 

I'm not sure why I booked a cruise for us. To be perfectly honest, I find the cruise ship tourists to be quite annoying here on the island. I reasoned that perhaps I find cruise ship tourists annoying  because I am typically driving through them, attempting to get to work on time. Maybe if I was on holidays, I could thoroughly enjoy being an annoying cruise ship tourist as well. I mean, cruisers always look so carefree and oblivious when I almost hit them with my car. I wanted to be carefree and oblivious. I was wrong. I won't go as far  to say that the cruise was a mistake, but well, uh, it wasn't ideal.
I see land - we can make a jump for it!

Within an hour of arriving on the ship, still docked in Fort Lauderdale, I found myself seated in a buffet area, surrounded by intense volume. The people who stood and ate directly from the buffet table ate and spoke LOUDLY. The man who belched rudely from his table belched LOUDLY. The group of party animals who downed shot after shot whilst chanting, "USA! USA!" chanted LOUDLY. Wide-eyed and desperate, I looked across the table at Evan. Could we still get off the ship? We hadn't actually left our port just yet. I could still see the crew untying our ship from the dock. Could we jump? I could jump. Screw the knees! And right there, in the "country comfort buffet," barely 2 hours into our cruise, I began sobbing LOUDLY. 

"I don't want to be here. I want to be with my family. These people are too loud. This is awful!" I choked, chin trembling.

My always calm and cool husband took my hands in his and said, "Kirst. It's OK. This is where the knobs congregate. This is knobville. We will find the calm and quiet part of the ship and we will have a great time together."

He was right. We did find a quiet area of the ship and we did enjoy our time together. I would not; however, choose to go another cruise like that one again. Ever. 

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em? 

For one, everyone on the ship had knee problems. Or so it seemed. One-crutching around the ship was impossible without being stopped by someone who eagerly wanted to share their knee surgery tale. Ugh. Evan joked that I was like one of those bitchy contestants on the Bachelor - I was NOT there to make friends. Instead of stopping when a fellow passenger began sharing his riveting knee surgery story, I would simply snap, "I've had 7 knee surgeries" and angrily one-crutch away. Evan even resorted to holding up 7 fingers mockingly upon my angry exits. Haha. Oh dear. As far as I was concerned, no one on that ship had knees as bad as mine. On one interaction, a LOUD woman bellowed, "Oh honey, I know exactly how you feel!" as I turned to bark back my "7" story, I noticed that her leg was amputated from above the knee. Oops. I smiled meekly. She won. I was officially a cruise ship BIATCH. 

Craving a quiet and relaxed holiday, I was repelled by the intensity that my fellow cruisers were holidaying. I get it, some people only get 5 days off work to party like it's 1999, and we are incredibly lucky to live in a vacation destination. Maybe I used to vacation like this? On the other hand, even when I had limited vacation time and lived in a frigid climate, I have never been rude to servers on holidays nor have I ever had such little consideration for the people around me. Evan and I watched from a safe distance as each day, for 4-5 hours, the same group of middle-aged partiers guzzled Budweiser, belly flopped into the pool, and chanted "Hell YA WHOOOHOOOO!"(Apparently the universal language for "I am having fun.") Mouths gaping open, Evan and I stared in disbelief. Ev commented, "It's like we're at the zoo…but we're in the cage with the monkeys." Yep. The icing on the cake was when, at 11am, one gregarious partier began yelling insistently at the bartender, "One More!" signalling for a shot. By 1pm, and more than a dozen shots later, her face had officially fallen off. She slurred something incoherent to her spouse from across the pool. When he turned to attend to her, she responded with a…ahem…umm I don't even know how to write this…oral sex gesture. (I'd like to take this moment to apologize to my Baba and Grandma and anyone who has to demonstrate what that gesture looks like to them). That actually happened. Gross. Me. Out. The sideways rain for 4 days straight, along with a good bout of seasickness (puke!) just about finished me off. The grand finale was when the ship, mere miles away from the Turks coastline, had to turn and head back to sea, forgoing the port, due to dangerous weather conditions ("Bye Turks!") 

I'm just going to turn my chair around and pretend that I never saw that

Now I know I've painted a dismal picture, but to be honest, it wasn't ALL bad. There were some wonderfully good moments. I thoroughly enjoyed my tea and fruit on my balcony every morning, peacefully listening to the waves crash against the ship. On an island in the Bahamas, I was able to find a tiny chapel on the beach and silently say a prayer for my Gido and my family. I just wanted to feel close to them and that quiet little chapel was the perfect place for me to seek solace amidst the chaos. Evan and I were also able to spend some much needed time together, bonding over this "unique" experience, people-watching and discussing the disarray around us. Finally, I was so impressed with the service on the ship and was able to meet some amazing people who worked for the cruise line. One waiter stood and talked to me about his life and family in Bali for over an hour. One sweet staff member confided that she had just recently discovered that she was pregnant with her Spanish boyfriend's baby. I listened and nodded as she explained how scared she was to tell her disapproving South African parents. One Dominican bartender, Pedro, had the most contagious smile that I had ever experienced. I have never met someone who appeared to be so genuinely happy, despite the demands he was facing from my fellow passengers. He was inspiring…and he made an amazing margarita. Overall, the crew was phenomenal. If I could have cruised with the crew, it would have been a much different experience.

Our quiet spot - far from "Knobville"

Dinners together were the perfect people-watching experience

Best. Margarita. Ever. Drink until I forget about that nasty gesture. Haha. 

island in the Bahamas - the one beautiful day of sunshine

Our fabulous waitstaff

Pedro, the happiest man in the world!

Our peaceful balcony

Oh well. I realize now that I was not in the right frame of mind for such a vacation. Lesson learned. It felt really nice to return to Cayman, cuddle our pets, and Skype with my family. Despite being back at work, my tranquil little casa on the sea feels like the right "holiday" for me right now. whooohooo (that's my serene version). 

Crutches in paradise