Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Good news stories

It worked!

Friends, family, acquaintances and strangers - thank you for every letter or email written after the request in the previous blog post, titled "Let's Write!" I'm way behind with updating this blog and have been sitting on the update for several days. My apologies. Again.

In short, we needed to ask the powers that be for an extension of the date set for a conference about Bill C-442*.

Jim Wilson, president of CanLyme, wrote:
Our letter writing action worked.  PHAC has agreed with us to send a letter to the new Minister of Health to extend the date of the conference to at least May of 2016.  They called me Friday indicating they had been hearing of many letters suggesting an extension of time and that they will support it.
It should now be a simple rubber stamp of approval for the new Minister of Health (or existing one depending upon the outcome of the election) to extend the date.
Thank you everyone for taking the time to write... we can be a powerful group when needed.
[ * Bill C-442 is the Federal Framework on Lyme Disease Act, which was posted in December 2014. See post ]


Have you ever felt truly humbled and overwhelmed by the goodness and goodwill of people? I'm not talking about bringing a pot of soup when someone is sick, or flowers when there has been a death in the family. I'm talking about people going out of their way to organize and arrange an outpouring of love, a support that transcends towns and counties, spending their time, energy and money to create a festival of fun for people to get together, to show support as we go through a difficult time.

Bonnie is a force of nature with a heart of gold. I think she might be able to arrange for snowmen to dance if she wills it hard enough. When she heard of Arno and I both going through surgeries at the same time (me: brain tumour; him: thyroid cancer) as posted on this blog before, she swung into action. And swept many other friends along with her.

I knew something was being planned and arranged for the end of September, but requested it being low-key, like a potluck with some games and fun somewhere in the open, just outside the city. As the days before and shortly after our respective surgeries went on, I became aware of some whispers and giggles as friends made plans behind my back. I was not about to spoil their fun - they were planning a surprise and why mess it up? I don't even know how many people have been involved with planning and arranging and don't want to offend anyone!

But never in my wildest dreams could I imagine what was being created. When we arrived around 2 pm on that Sunday afternoon, there were tents and tables, chairs and a jumping castle, people milling about playing various games or browsing the used books, someone behind a BBQ to provide food, bowls of chips and snack food, and even a magician. Friends from near and far came over to smile and hug and enjoy our shocked faces. Those who couldn't attend, sent cards and gifts and good wishes.

There was a corn roast with corn and kettle to cook them in, donated by Gord. When I thanked him for it, he simply said, "You are my friend. I do things for my friends." And that was that.

Various groups of friends from different walks of life could meet and mingle and in some cases even say, "Hey! I know you from such-and-such, how do you know them then?"

I tried to take pictures and talk to everyone, but think I wandered around in shock for most of the day.
Below is a collage of only some of the pictures and people. (Click to view bigger)

Oh but wait, there is another good news story! It could have been a tragedy, but it turned out to be an amazing tale to tell - and added to my belief that there is no such thing as coincidence.

Friend Anne B and her husband Trev are long-time friends. We even shared a hotel room together way back in 2000, in San Diego. The three of us. But that's another story.

Trev and Anne were some of the first arrivals at the Fun Fest. She made sure to wear a bright green top in support of Lyme disease. When I looked around for her after I gathered about some of my wits, she was nowhere to be found. And then the story came out.

Trev was chatting with Ralph. Suddenly, one of the annoying yellow bees (wasps / yellow jackets) stung him on his hand. Within minutes, he started swelling. And we were at least twenty minutes from any of the four nearest hospitals. Ralph called for his wife, Anne K, to bring her EpiPen®. It was administered and Anne B took off to a hospital with Trev.

By the time I heard of the story, since friends were hiding it not to spoil our fun, they were at the hospital and Trev was getting treatment. He was put on IV and given another shot. The doctor said it was "a very close call". The EpiPen® gave him time to get to the hospital and for more treatment.

Here comes the amazing part. Anne K usually only takes one of her two EpiPens. Trev had never needed one before. That morning, when Anne K was switching purses, she looked at the EpiPens, noticing that one would expire in Nov. 2015 and has never been used. She decided on a whim to take both along that day. Coincidence? No such thing!

The day ended with a rousing game of horse racing --- involving plastic horses, numbered squares, dice, lots of yelling and much laughter,

It was a day of great fun.
It was humbling.
It was amazing,
It was healing.

If I haven't yet thanked you in person, sent an email or made a phone call or sent a card to thank everyone for what they had done to make this an unforgettable day, please forgive me. Know that we are overcome with your kindness and generosity. We can only try to pay it forward.

Thank you.

Dear Life,
Today I'm thankful for friends,
for EpiPens,
for folding chairs and laughter,
for people who are willing to care,
and for the joy of telling stories.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Let's write!

I'm several blog posts behind --- time seems to be hopping out of my hands! My apologies. I'll get to post the story about an amazing party held for us on September 26 (post added), about a visit to a quaint town in upstate New York and about dipping a toe (literally!) into the waters at the very southern tip of Canada. But first --- an important post and request for help if Canada is to set up a federal framework to deal with Lyme Disease. 

As per Bill C-442 *, the Lyme Disease Conference is required to be held by December 16, 2015 - but Health Canada hasn't planned for the event. There is no venue, no agenda, no date confirmed, no budget and no invitations to attendees.
Time has run out to stage a professional conference.

[ * Bill C-442 is the Federal Framework on Lyme Disease Act, which was posted in December 2014. See post ]

Jim Wilson has sent the following information and background:

The bureaucrats responsible for organizing the conference delayed appointing the chairpersons to organize the conference until late July 2015, despite many requests to get things going. Three chairpersons were finally appointed:

  • Jim Wilson, president and founder of CanLyme (link
  • Dan Gregson, President of the Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease of Canada (AMMI) (article plus picture
  • Dr. Greg Taylor, Chief Public Health Officer for the Public Health Agency of Canada (link with picture

The first meaningful meeting was set in August - but then the election was called for October 19.

Once the election was called, the Public Health Agency of Canada claimed that they could no longer talk to the chairpersons until after the election because election rules of Caretaker Convention applied which stipulates that only routine government businesses can be undertaken.

As a result the chairpersons have not been able to plan for the conference as required under Bill C-442 and in no way can they effectively execute a professional medical conference in the 7-8 weeks between October 19 and December 16, 2015. Medical conferences typically require many months of planning.

Currently there is no budget for this conference, no venue, no date, and no attendees.

They have sought advice from insiders and found that we can ask for an extension to the requirement that the conference be held by Dec. 16th this year - if major stakeholders agree. We want that date extended by at least six months, preferably into May 2016. 

Each Lyme patient is an important stakeholder.

Please use your own words to get the following message through:
"Bill C-442 requires that a medical conference be held by December 16, 2015.
Due to bureaucratic delays in not appointing chairpersons to organize the conference until the election was called, no discussions have been allowed and will not be allowed until after the election due to Caretaker Convention rules. There is no budget, no venue, no date, and no selection of presenters or attendees. In no way can a professional medical conference be structured with stakeholders in the few weeks following the election until Dec 16, 2015.
I am asking for your support in requesting an extension to the time commitment under the legislation for the medical conference to be held, moving that date forward to May 2016.
Only then can a properly structured conference be executed that will meet the good faith intent of the Bill that received unanimous support from all parties. The issues of diagnosis, treatment and surveillance are complex, requiring experts from various fields of science and medicine to provide input.
Looking forward to your reply."
The people to write to are:

1) Stephen Harper

2) Justin Trudeau

And very importantly, to the federal Deputy Minister of Health which can be done at

If you wish you can also send cc's to your local party candidates.


Thank you for taking action and for sharing this message with other Lyme patients in Canada! Every person counts. Together we are stronger.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Mundane tales


Hello, Life,
Today I heard that I'm "just a little old lady with a hole in her head" and need to be taken care of. Courtesy of Theo. Once I stopped laughing, I demanded that they put on a T-shirt for me immediately!
Sincerely, Marlene
Every day is an adventure if I get to spend it with some of the many people I love.

Breakfast --- a favourite part of our day! And the kids never say no to the opportunity to share. Last weekend we went to EggSmart again to have breakfast. Doesn't it look great? Our son bought us breakfast. All together now: "AWWWWW!"

And notice - Theo has developed curls these last few months! He always had stick straight hair like his mom. He said this week, rather than fight the curls, he has decided to embrace them. I love them!

Twice a year, we get together - about fifty of us. (A week later, not the same day as the picture above, in case you are worried about our eating habits.)  The food is always amazing. The jokes --- well -- imagine when a group of women get together and start chuckling! Our group at our table had our own fun and jokes, we visited with other friends at other tables and generally enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, catching up with friends and acquaintances. Pam had a hard time getting us to be quiet! Today's speaker was talking about an amazing adventure. 

The topic today was about the Camino, walking the almost 800 km (almost 500 miles) from France across northern Spain to the ocean. Barb donned her gear, including backpack and complete with two socks clipped to the back, flapping to dry as she explained the packing, the plans, the needed items, and the sleeping arrangements along the route. We hung on her words, imagined sleeping with perfect strangers in a room, being stepped on by an inebriated man, trudging on day after day despite blisters, sickness, exhaustion and streaming rain. She started with a companion but within days found herself alone on the road. It started out as a hiking trip for her and ended as a deeply spiritual experience. 


One of the great pleasures of summer is to stop by the Saturday farmer's market, fill up on fresh fruit and veg, meandering down the middle of Main Street and petting a few dogs along the way. Today was no different. Mid-morning found the four of us strolling down towards our favourite ice cream shop. They are closing this weekend, so we had to go down and get one more helping of the very excellent quality flavours offered!
Halfway down we stopped for Theo to try some Concord grapes. We all love them - we call them "glippertjies" in Afrikaans, which means that the sweet flesh of the grape easily slips out of the tart skin. Theo wanted to buy the large container but since the end of the market was near, we got a two-for-one. Off we strolled, each couple with a large bag of sweet, black grapes. We wandered down the street, and offered grapes to the few friends we encountered.

The leaves on the trees are changing, the quality of the sunlight is somehow sweeter, fuller, creating longer shadows which have a little chill when we step into them. Downtown feels alive, the large Jumbotron on the Garden Square pull people to the tables and create a vibrant, metropolitan feel. It is a joy going down there, getting a tea from T by Daniel or soup from the Little Ice Cream shop, and to sit and chat on the square, 

But our object was to visit our other favourite ice cream shop, where the owner knows us, greets us like family and knows our tastes and likes. He is closing this weekend for the winter, and Arno had to have one more rum-and-raisin cone! I didn't get pictures of all of us, but here is Theo's combination for today. Notice the size of the three scoops of excellent ice cream. He plans his tastes exactly, with a science of starting with one, flowing into the next and ending with a third.

We sat at the tables and chatted, watching the people stroll around the booths of the Farmer's Market at that end of the street and enjoying the visit.

For those who want to know and didn't come here to read about ice cream and grapes!
Arno's stitch came out this week. The wound is more swollen underneath, but there is no infection. We think there is more scar tissue, since the two surgeries were only two months apart. Picture will be below the text, but it really is not gross!

We now have an appointment with an Endocrinologist who will determine next steps. We don't know if the Radioactive Iodine will be done or not.

My wound is healing well and thanks to the foam above my bed (see post), I haven't hit my head once! The bubbles seem to be diminishing too. When I pick up something heavy (not allowed, but I forget) there is a clicking inside my head. Maybe the bone settling like a broken arm.

The friends from around town have cared for us, fed us, brought us treats and more to sustain us. We can't thank them enough. We can't repay them. We can only "bless them and accept it" - quote by Biska. We are doing that, With every morsel we enjoy we feel warm and loved. Thank you.

We know some friends have been planning a celebration for Sunday, getting together around a corn roast, salads, hotdogs and hamburgers. But we keep hearing little bits and pieces, about food donations, about a silent auction, about a magician and a jumping castle, about friends driving in ... I thought it would be a small potluck get-together for a few friends. Our hearts are full of appreciation as we fight the embarrassment about a fuss and many people working hard to create something special. The weather looks to be great. Watch this space ....

We made and cut out letters to attach to a backdrop to set up at the event today - we have to contribute SOMETHING! Bought a bag full of fun hats, boas, masks and a wig for people to put on and use the backdrop and their own phones or cameras to take fun pictures.

Arno's wound, just after the stitch came out on Wednesday.

Monday, September 21, 2015


These bubbles in my head --- yes. That's right. I'm officially an airhead. All insults welcome.

Seems that the air trapped inside the skull after the craniotomy will take a while to disperse. I have this dripping or popping inside my head, which started when I was still in ICU. Quite funny, really - sometimes louder than other times, and often it sort of echoes inside my mouth or teeth.

At first the sound was mostly on top of my head and I could put a finger on the wound site and almost "feel" the sound which happened at the same time inside my mouth. No, not a pulse, I checked! The rhythm is different. This is a whole other animal galloping around.

Lately it seems the sound had settled in my forehead, just above the right eye. If you tap a forefinger on your forehead, not too gently, you'll more or less hear the same sound. Sometimes it is much louder than other times. I've tried taping the sound - like having Pop Rocks inside my mouth - but nothing recorded. Guess it is all in the mind ....

Two weeks since surgery, and it is utterly amazing how much healing has happened. Mind you, I do keep bumping my head! It freaks Arno out. I hit it when getting into or out of a car, I hit it on the wall at the top of the bed. You know how a hurt finger or toe keeps getting bumped and in the way? Well, it seems to work with a head too!

Saturday I gave it a really good whack when settling on the bed to read a bit. The pillow I had ready, somehow moved down and whack! Arno was so upset, he went into our storage space, dug out a foam mattress cover and with some painter's tape in hand, set to making a bed buffer for his whacky wife. He'll probably not be happy about me sharing the picture, but here it is! Double layer foam, stuck to the wall good and proper without damaging it. I said if the tape stays a while, it might pull off the paint. "Then I paint the wall again!" he declared quite adamantly. Good man. Yes, I know.

The kids are having fun -- I now have two knit hats to add to the collection covering the bald spot, courtesy of Jaco and Chelsea! Sunday morning the pink one made its debut at church. But I had to send a picture to ask if it is the "acceptable level of floppiness" or if adjustments might be needed. I have no sense of style, see? They also brought a handful of socks, some with half a face of a cat or pug on either foot. The pugs went along to the fairgrounds on Sunday, and amused some friends.

The annual Fall Fair is over for another year. I love the fair, the smells, the sights, the people and the displays. Only wish we can somehow get more interest and have more people to take part! It is not about winning; it is about putting something in place to look at, to enjoy, to share, and to learn or teach. Did you know you can enter all sorts of crafts and hobbies, including baking, jams and jellies, knitting or crochet, antique items, flowers (both cut and potted), and more? Seriously - it is fun! Gardeners can enter their vegetables, including a class for the oddest shaped vegetable.

Look at these huge pumpkins, for instance, grown by young men in the community. The stalks top left are sunflowers, and the competition is for the tallest one.

Every year for the last five years or so, I've had the joy of being close to one of the raptors that were brought to educate and entertain visitors. Arno usually took the pictures. However, this year, he had the chance of holding the Bald Eagle as well. She is much heavier than she looks!

You can see the steri strips still covering his wound site. The stitch comes out on Wednesday. This time the wound seems more swollen than the previous time. We just hope it will heal as well again! We have the Miracle Oil all ready for application.

Today I received a phone call, saying that one of the kind church friends had left a meal for us on the porch. I just happened to be out at that time.

An hour later I arrive home --- and find no covered dishes waiting to be taken inside. What to do? I already sent a thank you, but what could have happened to the food? Nobody would have taken it from an enclosed porch, surely? And suppose there are dishes to be returned? I would have to check in and brave any discomfort.

Within two or three text messages flying back and forth, we determine that the delivery was made one street over. Now what? Do I try to find the house owners? Do I go and demand my food back? Do I leave it and hope they will enjoy an unexpected supper?

Too many questions, and too many options! I'm not so sure I'd eat a meal that suddenly arrives at my doorstep without prior notice! Suppose they toss it out? No, I'm off to find my food!

Around the block I walk, cell phone firmly clutched in hand, watching the house numbers. Two doors down from the target house, a lady is washing her car and fighting one of the obnoxious bees that seem to be everywhere this summer. We exchange pleasantries, and I wonder if she might watch where I'm going.

The house appears -- covered porch in sight - and I can see the containers from the sidewalk. All quiet. Nobody home. So I pick up the containers and purposefully stride away, arms full and eyes forward. Did anyone watch? Will I be stopped for stealing someone's food? Maybe if I move quickly enough I can be away before they start questioning what's going on!

Around the corner -- switch arms -- breathe --- go! Old bod protests against the sudden activity, clearly still trying to pretend to need to rest every so often. But here's our house, and a table. Phew! Breathe, woman, breathe! Hubby chooses that instant to call. I'm giving an admirable impression of  heavy breathing on the phone and can hear his concern mount on the other side. "Wait .... (wheeze) .... food ... (hiss) ... key .... (whoosh) ..."

All's well that ends well, and the kindly prepared meal is where it is supposed to be! Pulled pork and the freshest rolls, cabbage salad and a shepherd's pie to freeze for later. The generosity of people is amazing, and all we can do will be to pay it forward.

Little does number # Behind-us Street know that for a brief, shining while today they had supper all prepared and ready for them - and just as suddenly, it was snatched away, promptly done out of food!
Dear Life,
Today I'm thankful for laughter and misunderstandings, for cell phones and text messages, and for the many kind people around me.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Staples begone

It's good, and clean, and fresh, tralala ....

No, I have no idea why that old jingle from my childhood popped up as I started this blog post. An old washing powder ad that still sticks in my head decades later. Maybe because the staples are out of the wound today? I was so ready to have them gone! The wound looks good, has been inspected by all and sundry (some pictures to follow) and I've got a collection of borrowed hats and scarves to cover up if the need should be.

Mind you, when I walked into the doctor's office today for the appointment. I stood in line and then looked over my shoulder to see if friend and driver Sue had sat down yet. My eye caught the face of a young woman, with her eyes absolutely glued to my head. (I did have a hat, but it was in my hand and not on my head ... didn't think anyone would notice.) Her face was like a cartoon image. With bugging eyes, mouth slightly open and sort of skew, head tilted, unblinking gaze. What was she thinking when she saw the staples? Why did she even notice as I blew by her? Did the light catch the metal? Did she just see Friday the 13th? Is she afraid of Zombies??

It was all I could do to twist back forward and not to dissolve in laughter or go over to her to pat her on the head only to have her run screaming the other way!

So here's a quick collage, showing the special staple remover, the staples (28) out and the wound immediately after. Biggest view is the staple extractor, all clean and sterile so Marilyn doesn't have to be too freaked out!

Ten days after surgery
Next stop: Off we went, hunting for animal print socks I "needed" today to complete the look. The previous days were pink, with the pirate's hat from Jan. Bought some funky large earrings to go with it. 

Yesterday was green, and green socks (I love socks) to add. But today just wouldn't work, so we had to go hunting around a bit. Found some funky pink animal print socks. And a pink-ish animal print neck warmer of sorts I concocted on top of the head. 

Five of us were going out for lunch. Anne wanted to see the wound. So she stood up to unravel the hat thingy. Don't believe her face, it wasn't that bad, I promise!


Carolyn and Sue watching
Marilyn doesn't like having her picture taken, but we had a good old visit around the table. Great to catch up with friends, good food and laughter. Sue found me gourmet jelly beans --- yes the same ones I spilled all over the bleachers at the softball game! Eveyone had a taste. Today, I mean. Not the ones on the bleachers. The lovely scarf with cats on it is so soft and lovely, and one can never have too many Timmies cards .... Oh yes, and check out these gloves Anne gave me. With more "animal fur" added. She says so I can text in winter. LOL 

Right, the socks. Forgot to show you those.


As reported in the previous post about the surgery on Sept. 16, all went well. Arno was kept overnight to check his levels. Thursday morning our younger son picked me up and took me to hospital, where I sat with my feet on his bed as he stayed in bed ..... and on the phone ... and on the laptop .... working. Yes.  I have proof!

Trying to give the pink a rest, I concocted a green scarf around my head (no flair, unlike my friend Carolyn who always looks lovely in scarves), added a green-print top, green socks and the silver earrings. So that was Thursday -- picture -- and then with hubby in his hospital bed, clearly on the phone, and me wearing the same green scarf. See? He was working, 24 hours after surgery. And yes, I look a bit flat and wilted, I know. Previous day was a bit long!

Around noon, Carolyn picked me up from the hospital and we went off to the Fairgrounds. It was opening day, judging day, and we are involved with the Photography section. I've been convenor for several years (thanks, Pam!) and this year didn't think I'd get to the busiest day with all the surgeries happening. People bring entries the Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, then we have potluck with the judges and the big judging of all entries happen during the Thursday afternoon. The fair opens Thursday at 5 pm and runs until Sunday afternoon.

Thank goodness for an excellent team! Our judge was quick and decisive, the walls were covered in pictures and ribbons quickly and we had done our duty for another year. The entries are down, though --- no idea how to get more people to enter their pictures. Next year's theme will be "Apple Blossoms and Honey Bees" - maybe that will create more buzz!!

Around 3 pm, Arno was discharged after the surgeon stopped by to see what he looked like. Friend Bill picked him up, drove to the pharmacy for prescription and then dropped him at home. I was just deposited at home as well, and both of us zonked out for maybe half an hour or so.

We felt a heap better after that, believe me!  But it was not the end of an utterly awesome day. The doorbell went -- and Sheila breezed in with arms full of tin foil pans and delicious aromas following her. She brought a full meal of pork tenderloin, cabbage rolls, green beans, fresh croissants, a pecan pie (thanks to Donna!).  How wonderful. This is a first time ever for us -- but when we needed to eat last night, we dished up, toasted our blessings -- and had a meal together in peaceful quiet.

THANK YOU. Everyone. Thank you for looking after us. Thank you for caring and sharing your love.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Another surgery

Here we are again - Feels like almost old hat by now!

Friend Joe picked us up around 6:30 am to bring to hospital for Arno's second surgery.  The full thyroid and para-thyroid will be removed today, exactly 2 months after the left side was removed.

Gentle pink clouds on the horizon as the sun rose to greet us.

Thank you for all the messages, phone calls, care and concern coming our way!

8:00 am our time
Things went very quickly this time!
Processed, IV in, blood work done, paperwork checked. Arno is now sitting in a chair, waiting for the anaesthetist, operating nurse and surgeon to come by. If all goes well and according to schedule, he should be wheeled in around 9 am. Surgery to take about 90 minutes. I'll be waiting in the area and update when there is news.

Update: 9 am our time (plus 6 hours in South Africa) 
I'm impressed! Right on time at 9am all three mentioned above came by to talk, check and take Arno to the theatre. Surgery should last about 90 minutes. I'm having a coffee and hash brown while waiting. The surgeon will come find me in the waiting room after surgery to update.

Update: 11:00 am   
No real update yet, since I'm still waiting for the surgeon to come out. Two hours now, but I know
people are checking in. Arno's blood pressure was again quite high before the start of surgery and he had a bad headache. Last time they also had trouble with the blood pressure. I'm sure that's all the delay is right now.

Update: 11:40 am
Just spoke to the surgeon. He said everything went well. He didn't see anything that looked like obvious cancer in the thyroid that was being removed today. They tried to save the para-thyroid so the calcium levels can be better controlled. Arno will stay the night and might go home late tomorrow if all goes well, or possibly Friday.

We have to go in to see the surgeon next week to get the stitch removed and the wound checked. At that time.,we'll also get a referral to see an Endocrinologist to determine next steps.
( is the study of medicine that relates to the endocrine system, which is the system that controls hormones. An endocrinologist will deal with diseases that are caused by problems with hormones.)

11:50 am - Arno is now in recovery and might stay another hour before being moved to a room on the sixth floor. Depending on his recovery time and being awake, the next update might take an hour or two.

Update: 1:33 pm (7:33 pm in RSA) 
Arno is in his room, is talking and walking a bit. He is still only on clear fluids at this point. He is alone in an isolation room just because there are no other rooms available.

Fresh out of surgery

For those concerned about me: all good, thanks! Friend Sue is here and I'm under strict orders that she is in charge. I have no say .... 😀

Oh, the surgeon was quite taken aback when I asked for a spare nurse to take out my staples. Sort of a family deal. He then grinned and shook his head. Poor guy!


Theo stopped by the house to pick up Arno's laptop, since that can be switched onto the network and he can watch movies if he's awake during the night.
Updated pictures were sent so people can see the improvement a few hours, some rest and pain meds made. The human body is amazing!

Taken around 6:30 pm our time 
Small, tidy wound and thin draining tube
Doesn't he look a little brighter already?

Here's a bit showing the room, with the window looking out over the city to the right. He only has an IV going, and some oxygen to help, but the heart monitor will only be put on during the night. As soon as they are happy with his fluid intake, the IV will be removed too.

Below is a picture of the liquid meal the man had tonight. He felt he needed to share to get some sympathy ... Broth, milk, juice, tea and sorbet.

Hopefully in a few hours the nurse would allow him to enjoy some of the snack foods packed in his overnight bag.

All in all, a good day, although a tiring one!
Thanks again for all the help and support on many levels

~~~  This ends tonight's transmission ..... Field Guide end, September 16, 2015. ~~~ 


Monday, September 14, 2015


Dear Life,
Today I'm grateful for sunshine, friendship, casseroles, caring people with warm hearts and prayers reaching out across the globe.

On Saturday morning we went off to the Fairgrounds to help set up for the Fall Fair which is starting this coming week. I was ordered to sit and be quiet. Hmf! But it was nice to see all my friends. Working the Fall Fair is like meeting family.

Hubby was doing the heavy lifting and sorting, I wiped down plastic and drank coffee. Oh and showed those who wanted to see, the staples in my head. Always something to do, right?

Sunday we ventured out to Church - me wearing the pink pirate's hat from Jan (see post) and large earrings to complete the look. Really don't want people to get sick when they see my head at this stage, although it is a very neat and tidy wound. The support and outpouring of love made us feel humbled and overwhelmed.

We are embarrassed but Rev. Lloyd sat us down in hospital last week and told us to allow people to help, to reach out, and to embrace us. Thank you, everyone, for every greeting, every smile, every casserole or loaf promised, for driving and looking after us during this time. We sincerely appreciate every gesture and email.

PICTURE FUN - The twins
Joe is my champion, my brother, my twin, my friend. Picture below was taken at church the Sunday before my surgery on Tuesday -- we didn't know how bald I'd be after surgery and we needed to have a record! Front view with wide smiles, as you can see. Below that is the one from yesterday ...

Back views of our heads a week later. Who looks best? Yes, I know no warning on the staples this time, but it is clean and no blood and only the partial wound! Staples will be taken out on Friday, ten days after surgery. There is very little pain and I've only taken ordinary Tylenols two or three times a day since surgery. 

(Full wound taken on surgery day is on this post if you are curious. LINK

Today I'm by myself for the first time in days! Friends will pick me up for a coffee date and we'll have fun and laughter in the sunshine for an hour or two before the old bones would have to be rested on bed again. Seems the body will take a while to shake off the effects of the anaesthetic and the surgery, but there is a heap of improvement already, for sure. 

Arno is ready for his surgery on Wednesday. I think he just wants to get it over now so that we can carry on with our lives. 

My brother André was finally discharged today after his surgery last Wednesday! I have pictures of his wound, but haven't asked permission to use them. There is still some bleeding and yesterday two blood clots came out but at least he was set free and would be able to sleep in a quiet bed now. He still has to take it easy for a week as the internal wounds heal. 

Arno's brother Chris in Australia, who had cataract surgery on Sept. 3, says he can see colours so much clearer now. Although the eye is still a bit scratchy, it feels a lot better to be able than to see through a haze as the other eye still does. That one will be done in a few days. 


What joy to be with friends, to be out in the sunshine, to share coffee, cookies and stories and to know a week ago the surgery was still on the schedule. What amazing lives we live! I am always referred back to the poem often contributed as being written by Walt Whitman, but it was really Angela Morgan. 
[Shared on this blog in 2011: Such An Age As This ]

Sue picked me up and friend Anne B. met us at Fortinos to share conversation and catch up. We had to pose for a picture, right? Marilyn did the honours this time.

With Anne

Anne with her smile and blonde hair, and me with the pink pirate's hat and silver earrings. 

Marilyn brought a gift of her homemade scones, which are a particular favourite of mine --- only have to have brain surgery to convince her to make me some, hehehe! So we had to go hunt for clotted cream, which has been sold out for months lately. 

Ran into Sheila and we had to smile for a picture of course!

Such joy to have so many friends, to run into familiar faces, to be happy to see each other and to feel the warmth and care holding us up. 

With Sheila

Today, for the first time since about May, there was Clotted Cream in Fortino's!! 

I just had lunch of fresh scones, strawberry jam and clotted cream, added some rooibos tea --- now to rest and enjoy life!!

Thank you, Marilyn, for this gift; thank you all my friends for your love. There's more, many more to thank, and you know who you are and what you are busy arranging. 

Clotted cream
....."Due to its high saturated fat content, the regular consumption of clotted cream is usually thought to be bad for health, though some dairy fat in the diet is considered beneficial. ..."    
and I want to believe!!  LOL

  1. the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

Friday, September 11, 2015

What a hat!

To be home in my own bed, with my own pillow, the cats and quiet - what a bonus! And no, Anne, nobody pooped the bed last night --- but the one cat apparently pooped on the porch this morning and made Arno very upset since there was clean cat litter and scooped boxes as always for him! LOL
For the cat, that is. Not for Hubby. You asked!

Getting home yesterday afternoon, I was sent straight to bed. Started reading some emails and fell fast asleep. Guess I was more tired than I thought I was and sitting up in the car for the drive home was probably exhausting too. 

Had a good sleep for most of the night, caught up with brother Andre at around 4 am our time this morning and saw his wound as well. He has a longer cut but I have more staples, so there! He has 17 and I have 25 .... He is still on soft food and must take a lot of fluid to help flush out the bladder. He'll probably still be in hospital until Sunday. 

Friend Sue picked me up this morning and we went for breakfast at our favourite little shop nearby. Yes, I was wearing a scarf to stop people from throwing up if they looked at my head! The place was full but we managed to find a table. Before we went out, I chatted with various friends and mentioned to one friend where we'd be, not thinking anything of it. 

Next moment, 3/4 through our breakfast, Sue said, "Here comes a woman with hats ..." 
I thought, no, it can't be, but it was! Jan, my crazy, artistic friend who is a whizz with sewing anything you can dream of, had popped in covered in pink feathers and carrying two hats!

The tables were all full but she plonked a hat on my head and we had a good laugh with everyone around us! They were all staring and I whipped off the scarf so she could pop down a hat on my bald pate. She said she was going to make me something to wear after surgery, but didn't expect me to be out so soon and clearly took the idea too seriously!

So what do you think? Sue took pictures with the cell phone.
Pics on the right was when Jan first came in, standing in the middle of the restaurant with the windows behind us. The big one was when the people next to us left and Sue ordered us to pose properly for the camera. As you can tell, we were both very bored with ourselves. LOL

Jan, you are a gem! She had also bought a pink sort of pirate's style soft fabric hat, you can see over her hand, which was then put on under the hat for the last picture. I guess I'll have to get some bright pink stuff to borrow and wear during the upcoming Fall Fair to go with the funky hat!

I am so blessed to have all these people in my life --- THANK YOU!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Night at the hospital

Posting from home!

Apologies about no blog update yesterday. Didn't think anyone wanted to know anything after the fact of the completed surgery but caught flack from Janie (fortunately not a shoe flung to the head this time from her!) Trying to do a blog post from the iPad is - well - interesting to say the least.

So here goes. Updating you through the two nights and today spent at hospital. The end of this post will carry a warning so anyone squeamish can avoid scrolling past the "safe" stuff.

Yesterday (Sept. 9) was interesting after very little sleep during the night following surgery. My alarms and monitors kept going off since stuff attached to all four limbs and blood draining tube coming out back of the head out of the incision.

I tried sleeping, then playing games on the iPad, doze a bit, chat a bit - technology helped to pass the night, for sure!

Around 1:00 am during Tuesday night, which is 7 am Wednesday morning in South Africa, I phoned my dad to wish my brother success with his own surgery.  Complicated bladder procedure.  He was just getting changed so couldn't talk to him but good to set my dad's mind at ease about me so he could concentrate on the next child in surgery!

The ICU room was fabulous.  My night nurse, Catherine, a jewel. Within minutes of coming on duty, she had sorted out my blood collecting container from the wound by pinning it to the front of my surgical gown - it kept slipping off my shoulder and tugging the draining tube inside the wound.  Sort of like a mini-suction tube like you have at the dentist. Pinned to the gown, it magically didn't move and pull!

She didn't want to smile for a picture, though. But gave me a hug when she went off duty the next morning. Truly a sweetheart.

Catherine helped me brush my teeth in bed, since I couldn't get up yet.  Towels and dishes, water and wash cloths were brought.  Such a little thing, but makes such a difference I how you feel.  In the previous blog post you could see my liquid meal. Catherine went hunting for apple sauce to add to the bounty.  She came back with six little packets she had "stolen" from somewhere.  Just a little more substantial than lemon jello and cranberry juice! I snacked on those during the night.

7:41 am, Sept 9, 2015 (less than 24 hours after start of surgery): 
Surgeon came by to visit, took one look and stood smiling like a proud papa at the foot of the bed.  Guess that's a good sign! He also removed the head draining tube which was a huge relief.

Biska wanted to know if the wound was covered or not, so I took a picture.  Then Fi reckoned it was covered to protect my brain from zombies! My nurse, Jerry (who used to be a lumberjack in a previous life), told me to go look at YouTube to find how to avoid a Zombie Apocalypse. Such good and supportive friends, dragging new people into the void, right? Lol 

8:50 am, Sept 9, 2015 (24 hours after start of surgery): 
I have COFFEE! and it tastes good, not like the muck served up at Brampton Civic Hospital.  If Trillium can serve "real" coffee to patients, why can't Brampton? Same county and all that. 
Catheter removed and monitors off. Finger thingy to measure blood oxygen off. Yay! That thing bugged me squeezing my finger all night long.
Catheter was removed and Nurse Jerry said I should want to go to the washroom to drain my bladder in about four hours. Nope! My body, as usual, had its own ideas. Less than half an hour later he helped me stand and I went potty all by meself. Twice in one hour. Still swollen enough not to be able to get rings back on. 
Bat comments: I'm astounded! God is awesome!
She reckoned I deserved a sucker. Friend Bev came by with a Fortinos Cranberry-oatmeal cookie as prize. And another Timmies coffee. Hubby had already brought one earlier that morning when he stopped by. 

Green prayer shawl made by friend Sue H. kept me company in bed.

The DVT pump cuffs from ankle to thigh on each leg
around 7 pm, Sept 9, 2015 (31 hours after end of surgery): 
Walked with Arno through the hospital to the Timmies at the Main Entrance to visit with Jaco and Chelsea since my new room had barely enough space for two beds, never mind visitors. By then the wound dressing had come off and I had 25 staples and a very funky new hairdo on display. (Picture will be at the end of this post, so if you don't want to see, don't scroll pass a clear warning I'll insert!) 

Biska: Was your bum hanging out your green gown at least?

Answer: No! As soon as I was upright during the morning after surgery, I went to wash myself from forehead to tail and dressed in my own pink pjs. Nurse came by to help me wash --- and stood in the door with hands on hips, smiling and frowning at my attire. But she couldn't have been too mad. Called me "sunshine" and came by to visit in the new room. 

Between 1 am and 3:30 am, morning of Sept. 10:
My new roommate was noisy and complaining from the start when I got to the new room at 7 pm. Every time my nurse came in to do the paperwork to get me checked into the new ward, roomie would set up a wailing and demand for attention. Nurse would look at me apologetically and go over to her side. That's when hubby and I left the room to leave them to it, visiting with the kids elsewhere. Roomie was waiting for surgery but we couldn't understand why she was kept in a room instead of down in pre-op. 

Finally by 11 pm I had my last meds, put in my foam earplugs and donned eye mask to try and sleep. It worked - for about two hours when nurse shook me awake to give another pill. After that, sleeping was a joke, what with roomie kicking up a fuss as soon as her family walked in the room, setting off her IV alarm with her antics and then not pressing the bell to get the nurse to quiet the thing again. Piercing through the ear plugs. They kept telling her it was a sensitive thing and not to carry on so, but she would have none of that. 

I kicked up Netflix and put in the earbuds to watch Lilo and Stitch and not try to antagonize Morpheus! Then roomie  pooped the bed. Poor nurse had to clean up while I could pull my head under the sheet. By 3 am they bumped and moved my bed to get hers out to go to operating theatre. 

Sleep came after that, until once again I woke to bed being pulled and moved around to get her back in the room after surgery. She was on a morphine pump and I could hear the thing going constantly, again with the IV alarm going off every few minutes. 

By 5 am I slept again, only to be shaken awake again at 6 am for a pill and taking of vitals. A really good nap to about 6:45 am was enough to make me feel a little more human again. 

** Rant over ***

7 am, Sept. 10 (47 hours after start of surgery):
Took my trusty and beloved small Norwex cloth into the teeny tiny bathroom and started wiping some of the hard, dried blood out of the front part of my hair. Amazed at how much came out and how much better I felt after that! 

Breakfast arrived shortly after, and now knowing that the coffee was good, asked if there was maybe an extra cup around meant for a patient who was discharged. Roomie, probably trying to make up for the night, offered hers since she wasn't going to drink it. So I returned the favour by sharing lotion with her for her feet and a bendy straw I had brought from home. 

About 9 am, Sept 10:
Surgeon stopped in, smiled broadly and said he's "telling other doctors about me" - not sure what, since I was really trying to behave and not be difficult! He said he is leaving it up to Arno and I to decide what to do, going home today or staying until Friday morning. And I finally got him to smile for a picture with me after begging since before surgery! Thanked him for relieving the pressure in my head that felt like a tight helmet for the last few years. My head certainly felt lighter, after son Theo asked me to pay attention to that. 

Around 11 am, Sept 10:
Friend Rouxline came by after merrily driving down to the Lakeshore instead of turning on Queensway. LOL She had a goody bag in hand, but took one smell in my room and we departed to Timmies again to visit and have a steeped tea. Friends Carolyn and Bill called to say they are dropping by and joined us, her with a container of her 99-year old dad's homemade date squares which I love, and a container of more goodies. I thought I was going to go on my blubber during this surgery ... no such luck! 

After Carolyn and Bill walked me back to my room, knowing Arno was on the way, I enjoyed lunch - which was again too much to finish. I had the cauliflower soup, fruit and salad and left the pasta for Arno.

Told the nurses I'd vacant the bed and go sleep at home for the night. They started the discharge process, I waited for another friend to drop by --- thanks, Alexa! Took only about three years and a brain operation to see you again .... and then we were on the way home.

Peace and quiet, a nap on my own bed, cats saying hello, rooibos tea and Theo's homemade buttermilk rusks -- life is good!

From brain surgery to home in about 55 hours - not bad, I'd say. And not at all what was expected. Thought I'd be out of commission for days. Prayer at work.

MRI to be taken in about 6 weeks and back to the surgeon for checkup after that.

THANK YOU for all the messages, care, thoughts, prayers, emails, calls and interest from all over! I'm truly humbled and buoyed up by many people.

Now we concentrate on preparing Arno for his surgery on Sept. 16.

Oh and brother Andre came through his surgery, originally in a lot of pain, but now under control. He was still on bed rest and liquid diet when I talked to him earlier today. But sounded in good spirits and on the way back to health now that it was all over.

Thanks for all the thoughts surrounding him too!

Picture of wound with staples showing will follow below.  
Stop scrolling now if you don't want to see. I'll post small and those who want to see details, can click to enlarge. 

Still scrolling? Okay, here's a "safe" picture of the pink pjs and green prayer shawl. But below that is the staples. 

Front view

Back view with 25 staples and funky hairdo
The black marks and yellow-green bruises are where the prongs were stuck into the skin to hold the head absolutely still during the drilling and sawing process, as well as the surgery itself. 

Staples come out next week, about ten days after surgery. I got a special staple remover! My usual doctor will remove them. 

Good night, sweet friends!

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