Patients’ blog

NotSureGraeme Rocker is a professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax

 

 

Editor’s note: Part I of this series appeared as a Humanities article in CMAJ; part II appeared on CMAJ Blogs.

Days 1–4

Early days at home, with no major events until day 3. I simply could not get warm. It was the same on day 4. My extremities felt like blocks of ice coupled with which I had persistent cramps in hands and feet that wouldn’t shift. It finally dawned on me that this might be carpo-pedal spasm in a setting of some subconscious hyperventilation caused by overall discomfort. Whatever the cause, it was a lousy way to spend a day.

Day 5 Intense bladder spasms coupled with colonic gas distension pain made for, if not the worst pain, certainly the most discomfort yet. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as a horrible orgasm, but a bladder spasm in the early stages must come close to it. It’s a foul experience and for 5, 10, 15 seconds you pray for relief from an internal surge of gargantuan proportions and thank some deity when it passes. ...continue reading

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Graeme Rocker is a professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax

Editor’s note: Part I of this series appeared as a Humanities article in CMAJ.

I woke from the anesthetic with the worst dry mouth ever and the agonizing sensation of a massive overfilled bladder being ripped apart from the inside. I let loose some very repetitive Anglo-Saxon expletives not generally expected of a health care professional. When asked to rate the degree of agony on the usual scale of 0 to 10, I spluttered 15! Finally, a hydromorphone bolus kicked in, and I then settled into a few hours of patient-controlled analgesia. At some point that first night I felt the most sublime sense of calm, as if my place in the universe was just as it should be and that all would be well for all time. I can only presume it was an opioid haze. It still felt as if a mule had kicked me in the pelvis, but for a while it just it didn’t matter. That remarkable feeling never came again, but I was awed by the powers that these drugs have when used in the right amount, time and place. ...continue reading

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Peggy_newPeggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete.  She is now recovering from thoracic surgery and undergoing chemotherapy.

 

In the decade of my 60s I had fantastic opportunities for adventurous challenges. I climbed mountains, bicycled in Europe, swam lakes and seas, and enjoyed week-long hikes. Doors also opened for Masters’ competitions: local summer and winter triathlons, 10 k road races, National Swim Meets and International Dragon Boat races.

All of these challenges demanded physical training and power from my body. During that decade, my athletic participation, and hours in the gym, enabled me to increase my strength and stamina. Through determination and dedication to improve my fitness, my body never let me down. Every year I was curious to see how far I could push my coaches’ training demands, and every year I was thrilled to feel increased strength and to be injury-free. My fitness enhanced my sense of well-being and empowerment.

As a Master’s Athlete, I learned about driving my exhausted body ...continue reading

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Peggy_newPeggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete.  She is now recovering from thoracic surgery and undergoing chemotherapy.

 

My kind and generous friend, Gary, lives on the bank of the Gatineau River, looking half a kilometre across the water to the rolling Gatineau Hills on the other side. All summer he welcomes me to paddle his boats, especially his Outrigger Canoe (OC). On land, this boat looks cumbersome and awkward, but once launched, its pencil-like hull makes it a sleek and responsive craft. Last July, on the day that I was diagnosed with ‘highly suspicious tumours’, Gary helped me put the OC in the river and I paddled downstream to where the river widens even more, and in the vast solitude of open water and endless sky I wailed and raged at the universe, seeking guidance, grace and the courage to begin the next cancer detour in my life.

Now, nearing the end of February, I am half way through my chemo. The Chemotherapy Treatment Centre at ...continue reading

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jackihbrownJacki Hollywood Brown has been a military spouse for almost 25 years. In that time, she has lived in four Canadian provinces and two different countries. She maintains a regular blog at Canadian Army Wife.

 

 

Editor's note: This blog was originally published at Canadian Army Wife.

I’m pretty diligent about keeping our family’s vaccination records, but I bet there are not a lot of people that are so diligent.

In most provinces, you get a small folded bit of paper at birth (actual size 10 x 15 cm) on which to record all the vaccinations for your entire life. You must keep this little paper safe at all times and take it with you to every immunization appointment.

What if the vaccination card is:

  • stored in a pocket and goes through the wash and gets destroyed?
  • kept in your wallet and your wallet is stolen?
  • is just plain old lost?

...continue reading

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Peggy_newPeggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete.  She is now recovering from thoracic surgery and undergoing chemotherapy.

 

For years, I have proudly worn my swim club team T-shirt. The slogan on the front reads:

You don’t stop swimming because you get old,

You get old because you stop swimming!

In early January, as I was pulling into the Ottawa Y parking lot for swim practice, the radio announcer said, “For your morning commute, the time is 6:15, and the temperature is -27.”

I wasn’t alone in the pool that morning – there were 15 of us, and another twenty at the later practice. As usual, we moaned to our coach about a kick-set that is too long, and groaned about too many 100 IMs. But the brief bantering is part of the culture, part of the fun, and the coach takes it with a smile. Four mornings a week, for 22 years, I have been going to the National Capital Region Y Masters Swim Practice to start my day. Some of the swimmers who founded the club 34 years ago are still swimming; others devotees have joined more recently. One is an octogenarian. ...continue reading

Peggy_newPeggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete.  She is now recovering from thoracic surgery.

 

Several years ago I was at a café on Bank Street in Ottawa with two friends - Sarah, my long-time neighbour, and Amy, a breast cancer survivor, a ‘Pink Friend’. Our conversation drifted to memories of New Year’s Eve at the Millennium. Sarah reminisced about her New Year’s wedding, at which I was a guest. She remembered glowing candles in the church, twinkling fairy lights, her husband’s tuxedo, and her ball gown. Amy paused for a moment, and then contributed, “I remember that night; that’s the night my hair fell out!” Amy stated the bare fact, leaving the emotional content for me to paint for myself.

The re-telling of this story always produces laughter, although I only tell it in sensitive circumstances. But I remember that conversation for many reasons. I am not a philosopher, and thousands before me have poured their energy into the question of random universal events. But I do wonder if the Universe has a Poker Dealer who randomly flips down cards for the day: today – joy for you, and despair for you! ...continue reading

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Barry McMahon is retired and lives in Ottawa. He's the proud father of 3 daughters and a grandfather of 6 with an insatiable curiosity about all issues relating to promoting Human Dignity and Family

 

In less than a week I will be traveling to a small island in the Caribbean for some physiotherapy. It’s now an annual excursion that has impacted my quality of life in ways only a fellow quad would fully appreciate. As I pack my gear for the flight, my imagination is overwhelmed in anticipation of being submerged in the warm salty ocean drifting among coral, exotic sponges and a medley of mysterious creatures. It’s a celestial experience with endless marvels.

Barry McMahon diving in Bonaire.

Barry McMahon diving in Bonaire.

About 8 years ago when I was 58 the thought of me scuba diving was just a silly fantasy usually emerging after a few drams. I spend all day everyday sitting in a power wheelchair due to what is referred to as post-polio syndrome. My four limbs are paralyzed. So even though I am totally comfortable being in water it is limited to me floating around. Never did I think of exploring the undersea world of Jacques Cousteau as many of my generation did. Never, that is, until I met Hubert Chretien of Freedom at Depth. ...continue reading

Peggy_newPeggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete.  She is now recovering from thoracic surgery.
 

In 2003, I was on my way to the Kansai Airport, in Osaka, Japan. I'd been visiting my daughter in Fukui, Japan. I was alone in this city of 19 million, loaded down with my luggage, some of her luggage (she was soon to return to Canada), and her snowboard. Through the whim of the Travel Gods, I found myself totally and completely lost in Osaka’s underground, helplessly rooted to the foreign soil, and the clock was ticking on my flight departure. I was crushed with the bustle of professionals scurrying to their jobs, engulfed by the sound of the loudspeaker blaring train arrivals (in Japanese, of course), and blinded by the parade of lights scheduling departures, which were unreadable to me.

I could taste my fear and dreaded a personal, international meltdown. Desperately, I tried to make eye contact ...continue reading

Peggy_newPeggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete.  She is now recovering from thoracic surgery.
 

Just four letters, one syllable.

“When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking, and says its own name”. Grade One phonics - remember?

Used casually, we say, “Feeling no pain,” and, “No pain, no gain.” Or, “He’s a pain in the neck.”

It’s a simple word; we use it a lot.

I thought I knew about pain. I’ve given birth; I’ve rehabilitated a broken leg. I’d read the booklet, Pain Management after Surgery, put out by The Ottawa Hospital. I was ready, wasn’t I?

The first day after my surgery, barely conscious and experiencing major confusion, around me nurses were hovering, and asking, “On a scale of 1 – 10, how is your pain?”
Really?? Just minutes out of anaesthetic, focusing on breathing and being alive, I was expected to think and make decisions too? Luckily, I could answer, “Zero”.
“Good,” they said, “Your epidural is working.”
It was true: I couldn’t feel a thing. I was blissfully ignorant and didn’t care. My epidural was working.

On Day Two things changed, and pain was embroidered around the fringes of my consciousness. Nurses came to do the ‘Ice Check’ ...continue reading