Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Second New Hip ...

... is four weeks old today. Now I have two, but they don't match. The surgery for my first replaced hip (right) was on January 17th, 2014, by Dr. Malcom Chang in Lethbridge. That one is steel. The left hip, replaced by Dr. Jim MacKenzie in Calgary on October 17th, 2017, is titanium. I am healing well and will have a follow-up appointment with the surgeon on December 6th.

This is what medical science is capable of! 

In my last medical blog post I told you how my left leg went totally lame and the pain of that hip went completely off the charts. This put me in the Canmore hospital for five nights (August 20th to 25th) while the appropriate dosage of morphine was established. It certainly helped but by no means eliminated the pain. It did not permit me to bear weight on that leg forcing us to buy a walker the day I was discharged simply because I couldn't walk without one.

The three month wait for my consult with Dr. MacKenzie, ended September 6th. He deemed me an urgent case. I was so grateful to have been fast tracked, jumping his usual year long waiting list to be given a surgery date of October 17th. 

Karen Minish, curator of "Art For The Heart", and Bill installed some of my paintings at the Canmore Hospital, September 11th.

Our friends, Dave and Cathy, hosted a delightful dinner party for me on my 69th birthday. Dave's son is a paraplegic and they have an outdoor lift for his wheelchair which made entering their home really easy for me. Stairs posed a terrible problem for me during this stage. I'd go up and down indoor steps on my butt. 

September 13th, 2017, Dave helping me into his and Cathy's home. 

The pressure of needing to paint birthday paintings for our three grandchildren saw me finally take up the brushes. At the end of September I started my first painting of 2017, for grandson Everett, who turned two on September 18th. As it hasn't been received yet I've obliterated it in the photo. I laboured over a second painting for his sister, Amira, who will be six on December 9th. The paintings plus the young family's Christmas and birthday gifts began their journey October 19th via a slow boat to Manila. When the box arrives I can show you those paintings. 

September 30th, working on Everett's painting.

On October 5th I had a three month check up at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre when I was told I am in remission. Yahoo, as far as I'm concerned cancer is behind me and I'm on to becoming whole again.

Avery's birthday is October 16th. This year it fell the day before my hip replacement so we went into Calgary that evening to celebrate and then stayed overnight at the Scammell's. I've still got her birthday painting to create. It will be done before this year is out. She knows I'm late (it's happened before) and she's a forgiving child. The evening of her birthday she told me "I'm into dragons and Northern Lights. Just some thoughts for my birthday painting."

Larry, Avery and Denise.  Hard to believe our firstborn grandchild is nine already!

As this recent hip replacement was my third major surgery in eleven months I wasn't convinced I'd live through it. The morning of surgery I was hopelessly emotional. I chocked up watching Avery depart for school, and I was in tears as we drove off for the hospital watching Denise and Larry wave us goodbye from their front door. Hardest of all was kissing Bill just before they wheeled me off to the OR.

Just as with the first hip I had a spinal as opposed to a general anesthetic. I so welcomed the sedation and was beyond grateful to wake up in recovery. There are forty beds in the bone and joint unit at Calgary's, four year old, South Health Campus, but I never saw that unit. I spent my two night stay in recovery. It was great to go home on October 19th.

The upper body strength I gained in the two months of using the walker was remarkable ...

October 21st.  My deltoids and biceps haven't looked this good since I wielded a 5 pound shrink-wrapping gun!

The death grip with which I held onto the walker gave me painful callouses on the heels of my hands, especially my right hand ...

October 21st.  The waterproof bandage stayed on for a week.
October 29th, just like last time I had some swelling but minimal bruising, considering. 

Twenty-three staples, as opposed to thirty-five last time, were removed October 31st by our physician, Dr. Mark Hawkins, here in Canmore. The incision is 5.5" long an inch shorter than the first hip's scar. 

Immediately after surgery the wretched arthritic pain was gone, replaced by the pain of having all those muscles carved through but this is a temporary pain and my healing is going well. The phase one, twice daily exercises no longer cause me to wince. Somewhere in the second week I found I could use the cane as opposed to the walker and now I can take some steps without the cane. How wonderful it is to be able to walk again. On a Sunday drive, around Banff, I even managed the teeniest of hikes at the hoodoos ... 

October 29th, at a hoodoo lookout on Tunnel Mtn., with Mount Rundle in the background.

There are still some issues to overcome. I'm anemic and have been put on iron supplements. The neuropathy which I previously only felt in my feet had been tolerable but sometime in September it showed up in my hands. The ring finger of my right hand is especially affected. It always feels numb and tingly, and is highly sensitive to heat and cold. The burning sensation of both hands and feet, especially at night, is a plague. No one can predict if this will get better or worse. The cannabis oil that I felt was helping ran out October 26th. In the fray I let my registration/prescription lapse (September 9th) but I'm off to see Dr. Abounaja tomorrow to acquire a new prescription and ultimately further oil from Cannimed in the hopes that it will check the neuropathy.  

It's a year ago tomorrow that I had the radical hysterectomy. I was still having discharge. On October 31st, our GP pegged it as yeast and put me on Flagystatin, a suppository antibiotic, for ten days, which cleared that up. As with the other surgeries for six weeks post surgery I'm self-injecting a blood thinner daily (Fragmin this time) to prevent blood clots. 

As for weaning myself off morphine. I did not quit cold turkey but rather followed the recommendation of both the surgeon and our GP. On October 19th, I reduced the intake from 60mg every 8 hours to 30. A week later I halved it again and another week later I took the last 15mg tablet at 6am, on November 3rd. Quite simply it has been hell since. I was lucky to have only vomited once. The withdrawal symptoms both physical and mental are extensive. Worst of all is the insomnia. I long for an uninterrupted night's sleep. My dreams are vivid and plentiful. Some are highly entertaining while others frighten me to the point where I wake myself up to escape them. 

With further weight loss I'm barely 120 pounds. I've no strength or fitness. The diarrhea (another withdrawal symptom) in a colostomy bag is not for the faint of heart. I'm hoping that my colon can be reconnected to my rectum one day, but right now I have a strong aversion to more surgery.


To end on a happy note, one of the delights of being back in Canmore is seeing just how the art community has blossomed. It's so inspirational to find it even broader than it was a decade ago. On November 11th, I was so pleased to attend Pascale Ouellet's 9th solo show, 'Pretexts' at Elevation Gallery ...

Yours truly with gallery owner Cheryl Baxter (left) and artist Pascale Ouellet (right). 

The past year plus has been especially hard on both of us. I could never have survived it without Bill. He does everything and is everything to me. Thanks to family and friends who have been a huge support. I believe we all take the freedom to easily come and go for granted and so I tell you we are truly looking forward to my strength being rebuilt, enabling us to get out more and to resume traveling.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Birthday Paintings for the Manila Kids 2016

Everett's 1st birthday painting, Super Grandson and his Jeepney acrylic 12" x 16"

My grandkid birthday paintings are decidedly labours of love. Often I'll invite our daughters to have input regarding the subject matter. When Laura requested a Jeepney for Everett I had absolutely no idea what a Jeepney was. She sent images and I went into heart failure. What a complicated subject. 

I had to give myself the pep talk. The same one I give myself whenever I'm asked to paint something outrageous. In this talk I repeat things like "You can paint anything, you just have to want to paint this." "It's simply another challenge, now go and convince yourself that you want to paint it."

A painting that definitely required the pep talk is here.

A line of Jeepneys (Internet image)

Jeepneys are the most popular means of public transportation in the Philippines. They are known for their crowded bench seating and kitsch decorations. Jeepneys were originally made from U.S. military jeeps left over from WWII.

The sketch 
Day one of adding colour

With little boys and their attraction to super heroes I decided Everett ought to be portrayed as Superman. Originally I thought I wanted the body of the Jeepney to be metallic silver, but paintings like this one morph of their own volition. The vehicle asked to be turquoise. The rural background didn't feel right so I let it become urban. I had fun texturing the wall.

With a rural background 
More colour and the urban background

As is often the case this painting was late, but his sister's painting was almost on time. This is because their birthday and Christmas gifts get lumped together into one shipping box going to Manila (in October to arrive in December). Everett's birthday is September 18th and Amira's is December 9th.

Amira is old enough to have and express her opinions. When I asked her what she'd like for her 5th birthday painting she said "I like owls and bats." That had me heave a massive sigh of relief. With the shipping deadline looming, I rolled straight from the jeepney to the owl. After the intensity of working on the mechanical it was a pleasure to paint the organic and natural form of the owl. It flowed off my brush with ease.

The iridescent fusible fibres add a mystical quality to the full moon background
Oh wait, it needs bats!
Amira's 5th birthday painting is acrylic/mixed media 12" x 12" with the owl painted in oil 

It's not to say that Amira has only had easy paintings. For her 2nd birthday I gifted her with Mermaid Two. For her 3rd birthday I gave her Shoe Dreams. Both of these paintings were incredibly complex and in spite of the time they took, they were decidedly gratifying.

Everett and Amira checking out his Jeepney painting
Amira with her owl

I haven't created a single painting this year, which isn't much of a surprise given the year I've had. All three of our grandchildren have fall/winter birthdays, Avery's is October 16th. I may be even later than usual with their 2017 paintings, but I know everyone will understand. 


Before I sign off ... there is medical good news. On September 6th, at my appointment with orthopaedic surgeon Dr. MacKenzie, he deemed me an urgent case. He will give me a total left hip replacement on October 17th.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Life Beyond Cancer and Chemo

After my May 31st surgery, where the attempt to reconnect my colon to my rectum failed, I was discharged from hospital June 3rd. As I'd only been out of hospital for two days I didn't accompany Bill to Canmore for the house inspection on June 5th. Built in 1990, Mountain Shadows is a quiet, complex of 35 townhouses, with an awesome clubhouse, for the over 50 set. It's a spacious oasis of serenity in the now exceptionally busy Canmore. 

Our end unit is the one with the garage door open. 


Home Care nurse removed the catheter on June 7th. I had been discharged from Foothills with it, June 2nd. It was an amazing relief to find that my bladder worked well on her own. 

On June 8th, we met with Dr. Chang, the Lethbridge surgeon who gave me the total right hip replacement in January 2014. He was very negative about replacing my left hip before a colostomy reversal. Although I hope not, I may have the colostomy for life. I asked him if he would deny me a new hip, should a reversal not be possible? It was with reluctance that he agreed to do it. I signed the consent form. It's painfully obvious that he doesn't want to do it and with his fear around it all, I honestly would rather he isn't the doctor to do the surgery.  

Our physician, Dr. Yonemori, used some pretty strong language about Dr. Chang's reluctance and has referred me to another orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. MacKenzie, in Calgary. I have a consult with him on September 6th.

Much of June was spent experimenting with narcotics for relief of the hip pain. In addition to Celebrex, I took both the immediate and the extended release Hydromorphone capsules which promoted a tiredness that had me taking two to three hour naps every day. The Hyrdromorphone was replaced by Oxycodone. I'm no longer sleeping my life away. Nothing improves my mobility and the pain is still there although it is somewhat reduced.

Home Care returned to remove the staples from my incision June 14th. On June 20th I had the port, through which I received the chemotherapy drugs, removed.


The Manila family arrived in Canada on June 22nd. It was heartwarming to have our girls and their children with us for a short visit at the end of June. This was the last time we all sat together around this table - in our Claresholm house ...

Amira with Everett, Laura, Bill, Denise, Avery and me.  (Take note of the painting on the right.)

Denise and Avery could only stay one night. Laura and kids were with us for two. We drove them to Canmore, June 30th, so that we could wake up there on July 1st, for Canada's 150th birthday.

Laura with Avery and Everett
Everett with Denise
Gramps and Amira
Making cupcakes with Avery and Amira
The first (and last) time I painted with both granddaughters in the Anne Frank Room
I couldn't resist buying the girls dresses for Canada Day - it's what grandmothers do!
Our American born grandson dons Canada Day pyjamas!
With all our grandchildren, June 30th, at the Scammell's pub/restaurant, Bridges on First. 


The Koebel Clan at the Canada Day Parade
Denise, Evan (Adam's brother) with Laura and Jan (Adam's and Evan's mother)
Larry, Uncle Ronnie, Avery, yours truly and Amira
Bill and his sister, Linda

With a great deal of purging and packing yet to do we stayed in Canmore only the one night (June 30th). Before heading home, we joined Susan and Jim, at their place, for a Canada Day BBQ. Dale and Janice are missing from the photo because we weren't on the ball about taking the group shot before they departed to join family visiting them for the holiday.

Jim's son, Brian, Nadine, Brenda & Tom, Georgie, Susan & Jim, yours truly and Bill

Below is the unorthodox, clandestine, parking lot delivery of payment to our realtor (and friend of many years) who was thrilled to accept a painting as his commission for selling our Claresholm house. I also gave him a vintage Saltiel oil of Mount Rundle, from 1974, for his assistance in handling the necessary paperwork for our private purchase of the Canmore townhouse.

July 4th, the deal is sealed with our realtor Gary Lock
Mount Assiniboine and Sunburst Peak installed in Gary's and Michelle's home
Mount Assiniboine and Sunburst Peak 2007 oil 36x48 

The lunch and payment to Gary preceded my July 4th follow up appointment (for the May 31st surgery) with my surgeon, Dr.Glaze. I'd been having foul smelling discharge from both my vagina and my rectum so a CT scan was arranged and happened in Lethbridge on July 6th. Nothing untoward was found and yet the discharge continues although it is gradually diminishing.  

On July 8th, we were back in Canmore, for another single, overnight stay, this one to attend a surprise 40th birthday, which Adam had arranged before they left the Philippines. Again, we stayed in town just one night because we still had a great deal of work ahead of us before the moving truck's inevitable arrival.

A perfect day for a backyard party.  Denise and Laura in the foreground, the seniors scooped the shade!
Laura was surprised - who wouldn't be with a party thrown in your honour six months early?
Much to the delight of all the children, second cousin, Todd (referred to as Uncle Todd) arrived on his Harley!


July 25th

After the truck pulled away, we stayed on in the Claresholm house, utilizing the Murphy bed for two more nights, to facilitate cleaning the place, packing up our trailer, and our two vehicles, for the adventure of getting to Canmore. Here you'll find a photo essay of our five day journey to make the 2.5 hour drive from Claresholm to Canmore!

Our Claresholm physician was able to squeeze me in early on the morning of July 27th to give me a cortisone shot in the left hip. Unlike the injection I took last September, which I hiked off in a few days at Lake O'Hara, I babied this one so that it lasted nine days. It wasn't a cure but it was a wonderful gift of mobility and pain relief which got me through the move.

Our possession date in Canmore was August 1st. Thrilled to be back we've already enjoyed much of what this community has to offer. Sure it's a struggle to go from 1700 to 1100 square feet but our new home is precisely where we need to be. The moves final stamp of approval was when Telus phoned us to offer us our former phone number! I had requested it and even though it was not in service Telus originally said it was unavailable. The serendipity of it all can't be denied.

Photos of the new place will have to wait for another post because suddenly, on August 19th, the pain in my hip escalated beyond anything I've ever known and I became completely lame because my left leg will not tolerate any weight bearing. I spent the night of August 20th in the ER at the Canmore Hospital. The following day I was admitted. I'm here until the correct dosage of morphine is established to manage this pain.

August 22nd, 2017, outside the entrance to the Canmore Hospital

Our new mailing address and phone number ...
#15 - 216 Three Sisters Drive
Canmore, Alberta
T1W 2M2
403 678-2843
Our email addresses remain the same ...

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

May Medical Update

Janice, Dale, Bill, Jim, Susan and I make up most of 'The Tribe'.  We met for lunch, May 15th, at Bridges on First

With chemo treatments concluding on April 13th, May seemed like a nearly normal month. As my strength returned we got out more.  

May 3rd took on a life of it's own. We'd made prior arrangements to meet friends for lunch at Bridges on First, after my neuropathy physio assessment. Nothing effective was recommended, what is working is the cannabis oil! There, I was loaned a TENS machine to help manage the pain in my hip, but I didn't find it made any difference so, after 2.5 weeks of use, I bailed. During this appointment I had a phone message from nurse practitioner, Pam, advising me that an ultrasound was booked at 2pm that day (to investigate the spot on my liver) but she hadn't said where? We'd discussed having it done, closer to home, in Lethbridge or High River. As luck would have it, Pam was at the Holy Cross Centre, Calgary, where I was. We tracked her down to learn the ultra sound was scheduled at the Foothills, Calgary. It meant I could make the procedure, but that I couldn't eat lunch. I watched as Bill, Brian and Alice did. 

Before leaving the Foothills, I was adamant about seeing the radiologist regarding results of the ultrasound. It was inconclusive. I would need an MRI, which he informed me could take up to two months. Immediately and frantically, I called Pam and demanded an MRI, ASAP. It was arranged for six days later (May 9th). Two days after the MRI, my surgeon herself, phoned to announce most welcome news. There is nothing at all wrong my liver. Hallelujah.

Less than a month after listing our Claresholm house, the fourth showing yielded an offer on May 18th. On the 27th, the deal was sealed. We are dazzled and thrilled. Our realtor, Gary Lock, is the best. He's out of Airdrie and has amazing results selling properties all over the province. It's exciting to report we're in the process of buying a Canmore townhouse, in the complex of our wishes, Mountain Shadows.

Meg, Paul, me and Bil, May 21st 

On May 21st and 22nd, Meg and Paul visited from Canmore. They made it incredibly easy for us by staying at the nearby Bluebird Motel and bringing a ton of food. While the boys went off to scour the antique shops in Nanton, Meg and I made wonderful art messes on the back deck ...

Meg experimented with alcohol inks, I painted a journal page of our blooming Canada 150 tulips
May 28th.  I shall miss these mature bushes which flank both sides of our home here

May 26th I had a pre-op consultation where I met with an internal medicine doctor and an anesthesiologist. Surgery was May 31st ... 

All smiles just before the operation

It was a bitter disappointment to learn that the operation was unsuccessful in terms of reconnecting my colon to my rectum. As I understand it, there isn't enough colon to stretch out. There were a lot of adhesions, which were removed. There is a concern of incontinence because of a fissure between my vagina and my rectum which Dr. Glaze explained would allow stool to pass into my vagina. Later, I'll have a consultation with a colorectal surgeon regarding attempting reconnection but right now I can't bear the thought of having the incision sliced open a third time. For now, I continue to live with the colostomy bag. 

The news we cling to is Dr. Glaze telling us she could find no indication of cancer when she was inside of me.

With Maggie.  Boy do I ever look like my Father, especially with the new hair growth looking, for all the world, like a brush cut

All my visitors came on June 2nd. The stars aligned so that Maggie's week, in Calgary (visiting from Toronto) overlapped my short hospital stay at the Foothills. I am so grateful that she was able to spread her healing energy work on me, in person. 

Precious friends, Debie and Dean, made a special trip into the city just to visit. 

Again, Bill was able to stay at Denise's and Larry's Air B&B suite for three nights. They came bringing awesome food from Bridges on First which usurped the wretched hospital meals.  

Denise and Avery

During surgery, adding insult to injury, my bladder was adversely affected. I came home with the catheter still installed. It's to remain in place for seven days so that my bladder can heal. A Home Care nurse will come tomorrow, June 7th, to remove it. I'm to continue daily injections of blood thinner, for a month post surgery. 

On June 3rd, I begged to be and was discharged.

All the while, Bill was tearing around tending to the things which need attention when you are buying a property. The conditions on our future home are to be lifted June 12th. Possession date is August 1st. In many ways moving is a wonderful distraction from the medical issues and a perfect impetus to heal in preparation of going home ...

The Three Sisters, Canmore