Sunday, June 17, 2018

finally... cycling!

Given the late spring, a hospital stay, a bruised leg, feeling achy with shingles and generally wary of anything that might turn into an accident, I only yesterday went for my first bike ride this year. We cycled by the river at suppertime when the bike path tends to empty as people get hungry and go home. I prefer the slant of early evening light. We got home in time to have a bbq and wine in our tiny backyard where a rogue rosebush is blooming. Rogue because I don't do anything to it and am surprised that it continues to make buds and flower every year.
(Pics erratic because my camera is kaput, my phone is cheap, and as always I tilt. It's also possible that our backyard and our old house are crooked.)

Monday, June 11, 2018

How you get shingles

He was sitting on a bench talking about the different personalities of his bird companions. You don't want to mess with the larger, colourful ones. They're bosses. They expect respect and they'll bite when they don't get it. But the smaller white ones are biddable and crave affection. They combed his beard and drank from his mouth. Does that obedience and love for him make them less likely to be respected than the more independent birds?

He talked yin/yang and life balance.

Saturday evening in Magog, rock music blasting from a bar, laughter and clanking of dishes because all the restaurant windows were open on a fine June evening, and I was listening to Bird Man talk about life balance.

My life balance these past two weeks has been dealing with getting over the mess following sciatic pain down my left side and bingo! sprouting shingles on my right side. Lower body, upper body, left side, right side--not sure how to sit or what position to sleep in that wasn't going to hurt. Since I guessed I might have shingles as soon as I felt tingling and discovered a rash, I saw a doctor and started anti-viral medication promptly. I think I'm past the worst of it. I still get the occasional chills and I have an ugly rash, but I can't say it was painful--certainly not a scratch on sciatica.

Here's Lac Memphrémagog where we went last weekend for us both to relax. I love the view of the receding hills into Vermont. R had a long bike ride. He and I had a more meandering kind of walk together.

What's been interesting about the shingles has been people's reactions--not helped, I must admit, by my own ignorance. The doctor told me that I was not contagious until the rash made blisters, and even then *only* contagious if someone had direct contact with the oozing. That would mean that a person would have to reach under my shirt to touch my rash, once I had oozing blisters. Because I didn't want anyone who I was going to see to feel I put them at unnecessary risk, I told them I had shingles--assuming that they would also understand how absurd it was that they would be touching me under my shirt.

However, the word shingles was enough to keep them at bay--which makes me wonder what happens when even weightier words are used.

When I saw the doctor, what he didn't specify--I guess he thought I knew--was that even if someone were to touch the oozing blisters, THEY COULD NOT GET SHINGLES FROM ME. That's not how you get them!

If you have had chicken pox, you have the shingles virus in you ALREADY--and *you* can get shingles at any time if your immune system is weaker. That's right, you. Nothing to do with me. 

You cannot get shingles from someone else, even if you touch their oozing blisters.

What you can get, if you've never had it, is chicken pox. That's all. And again (have I said this often enough?), assuming you reached under my shirt and touched my oozing blisters. 

Thank you to the friend who did some research and sent me this link.

Since I don't want to give chicken pox to anyone who hasn't already had it, I am keeping my torso well covered so as not to tempt anyone to fondle my alligator-skin rash which, I'm sorry to disappoint any oozing-pustule fetishists, is already fading. 

Sunday, June 3, 2018

daily grain of sand

Our neighbour's fence blew down in a spring wind storm and during the time it will take him to get around to building another (months? a year? two years? he's an absentee Pointe landlord and no one uses the backyard), our tiny yard gets more sunlight than usual.

This is the first year my iris are resplendent with blooms, so it's the first time I discover that no matter how ponderously about-to-burst the buds are during the bright light of day, they open at night. It's a small and insignificant discovery in a world of horrors, but there is it. My daily grain of sand. It helps keep me sane(ish).

Yesterday's was noticing how the modest chandelier in the room where I do my prescribed anti-sciatica exercises cast a magnificently structured shadow on the ceiling. I lay on the floor, lifting my legs, tipping my toes, rubbing circles at the back of my knees, noticing the elongated twists of the shadow.

finding garbage / bringing it home

Our for a walk today. That's right, I'm walking again. First time I've been to the river since the leaves came out.

Along the way we saw some interesting garbage.

We brought the spinning wheel home. I think it's missing a few pieces but I don't expect to learn how to use it. It will make for an interesting end table.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

my version of the gabrielle roy walk

A drizzly day but I felt well enough to do my version of the Gabrielle Roy walk. Among other experiences, she wrote of the distance between the working-class poor of St. Henri looking up at the moneyed houses of Westmount on the hill overlooking their crowded hodgepodge of row houses. 

Yesterday I had one of several follow-up appointments at a clinic in Westmount and I decided to walk home down the hill, if slowly, stopping for breaks here and there along the way. 

Gabrielle Roy wrote about St. Henri but I aimed farther east where I live in Pointe St. Charles, which is next to St. Henri. There are some roundabout ways of getting to the Pointe. Most direct is to cross one of the two truss bridges across the Lachine Canal that separates the Pointe from the city. I do sometimes wonder what city planners in the 1800s meant by that--whether separating the hoi polloi from the bustling, fashionable metropolis that Montreal was becoming was deliberate or coincidental.

There's a difference in urban vibe almost as soon as you begin to walk through the Pointe. A man  (no longer a friend) once accused me of enjoying slumming. Do I? I have Alpie peasant and Canadian blue-collar roots. I'm not a snob. I might not wear or hang out Santa Claus pyjamas but I also don't find them an eyesore.

We have green spaces here as well, if with a train overpass in the background since rail lines cut through the Pointe. This is the route you'd be on if you were travelling between Toronto and Montreal.

And here, on the weekend, I planted tomatoes and basil and got R to pound in some stakes. My garden is still messy because I'm not bending down so easily, but it's getting there. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

sciatica + cortisone injection + blood thinner = NOOOOOO

It all ends well because here's the espresso and blood orange crème glacée I had yesterday afternoon after a very slow walk to the Atwater market. If it ends with ice cream, it can't be that tragic.

About two weeks ago an ongoing flirtation I have with sciatica became so severe that I was almost crippled. Couldn't stand, couldn't sit, couldn't lie down. Over-the-counter relief that I can take with my blood thinner and that doesn't give me nausea wasn't even touching the pain. It had to be bad because I finally went to ER (which I will not do unless I feel I'm close to death).

There I was assessed by a doctor who didn't listen. I told him I had mechanical heart valves. I told him I take blood thinners. I need to take them for the valves to function correctly. Without blood thinners, blood will clot around the valves. Blood thinners are a fact of my life. I didn't think I needed to scream that at him. Even busy and efficient as he was, it should have registered because I asked if he would order a certain blood test that is only done to test the level of anticoagulation, thereby saving me a trip to have it done the next day as I was supposed to. (There are some other details that played a role--I had just had a test and was still being bridged with Fragmin, another anticoagulant--but I told him that too. I did.) He was focused on solving the sciatica/pain problem and gave me a cortisone injection in my hip. I didn't see how long the needle was because I was on my side and in such pain that he could have taken a Japanese sword to me. R who was watching said the needle was 5". Even given spousal anxiety and exaggeration, it was probably long. 

He told me that it would take a few days for the cortisone to take full effect. The pain certainly didn't diminish the first two or three days. Nor did I look at the painful area. It was hard enough just to pull down my pants to use the toilet. I couldn't put my socks on. I was tossing my underpants at my foot like that ring on a peg game. I did notice bruising spreading down my thigh and then swelling but I wasn't sure if that was expected. If you're on a blood thinner, you tend to bruise more than most people do. It was only when R helped undress me in the evening that he said my affected buttock was purple. It seemed to me it was significantly ballooned too. I tried to reach a doctor but was not successful. Message on the answering machine never returned. (That's being looked into.) I did not want to return to ER.

Three days later in the morning I could no longer ignore that my knee was swollen and wow! What coloration! I called my ex-boss at the hospital who said to call my cardiologist who told me to get to ER where I was seen very quickly.

I had bled into my leg. Not just subcutaneously but into the muscle. My hemoglobin was still dropping. My blood thinners had to be stopped. I was given a snazzy medication--Beriplex--that reverses a week's worth of Warfarin in 15 minutes. That, however, left me with no blood thinners to protect my heart valves. There's a window of time that that's safe, though as the window gets smaller, the risk increases. I wasn't happy about that.

The one unexpected and pleasant development was that I was hospitalized in the spanking new K pavilion (at the Jewish General) where my old colleagues from my days as a unit coordinator now work. I saw many old friends and re-found the rich backdrop of sound that I hadn't even realized I missed.

I would sit in my room and listen to the layered mix of Carib English, laughter, Arabic, teeth sucking, doctors discussing cases, Quebecois French (or accented English), machines beeping, argumentative--but not arguing--Creole, carts wheeling by, prayer from a patient's room... 

The food improved once I spoke to the dietician about getting fresh fruit and yogurt and preferably vegetarian.

My friend who thought I'd be lonesome for my backyard where, as I kept lamenting, the squirrels were beheading my tulips sent me a bouquet of beheaded tulips. As the note said: If you have crazy friends, then you have all you need.

In with the grab bag of good and bad that life throws, I was reading the French translation of my novel Five Roses which I love! I have a hard time reading my own work once it's in print because I continue to see things I'd like to improve. Reading the novel in French gave me the distance to appreciate it differently. I am so very happy! AND I got the news that I received a grant from the Conseil des arts et lettres du Québec toward the writing of my next novel!

But there I still was in the hospital, albeit in a gilt cage--large, lovely room with en suite bathroom and shower and huge windows onto the sunset--hoping not to have a stroke. Am I being melodramatic? Maybe. But even a small percentage of risk is a risk I shouldn't have had to take.

There was some concern that starting anti-coagulation might start the bleeding again, so that was done conservatively. Small injections to start with. Yesterday I was able to come home again. The swelling had gone down but I'm going to have a bruise for months I'm told. And although I no longer have severe sciatica pain, I do still have pain and will be seeing a physiotherapist.

I don't want to write about the chat I had with the doctor who administered the cortisone. Though I will observe that his quick, cost-efficient assessment and processing of the patient cost the hospital seven days of hospitalization, specialists' visits, nursing care, CT scans--not to mention the week I had to spend there. Sure, it could have been worse but it also didn't have to happen.

I came home and walked very slowly to the community garden Pointe-Verte where everyone else's gardens have tiny plants and stakes in place and my plot is a mess of baby maple trees, but it hurts too much for me to stay bent or to do anything just yet. I sat in one of the Adirondack chairs under the trees and had a snooze.

And an ice cream.

Then followed this gent in argyle socks across the bridge back to the Pointe and home. While I was in the hospital, the leaves came out and spring finally happened.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

little awakenings

Slowly/lentement growth is unfurling in Montreal. The ash tree outside my window is bursting with fat furry buds.

A neighbour's plant snaked its way under her fence and our patio stones to find a sunny spot against R's artisanal parging.

In the garden the garlic cloves I planted last fall have sprouted. Yay!

And of course, rhubarb!

One of the reasons we decided to move to this neigbhourhood was the trees. It was August when we were looking for a place and the rest of the city was dry and hot. Even the grass and the trees on the mountain were yellowing. We came to the Pointe that was *so* green there was moss on the trees. I've since witnessed that the only time there isn't moss is during the cold-freeze of winter. So this is another sign of spring...