Friday, September 28, 2012

No Vacuuming for the foreseeable future...

Well, once again Tom has an excuse to not vacuum.  This has been a long-standing "ish' between us, ranging from not so friendly (on my part, because I HATE vacuuming) to more jovial as I started to hand the job off to the kids.  Ha.  There you have it.  Family dynamics -- not always pretty, but dynamic indeed!

This is, once again, an update on Tom's cancer situation.  In the last two weeks we've met with specialists at Cancer Care Manitoba three times, and Tom has been for an injection designed to shut down testosterone production. This injection takes place through the stomach, placing a slow-release pea-sized pellet under the skin.  The person responsible for the bigger case is intrigued by the kind of cancer cells that have gone into the pelvic girdle.  Apparently they aren't "typical" for prostate cancer cells so there will be additional screening.  Also, typically, radiation might be used to deal with bone metastases, but the radiation oncologist wanted to make sure the area wasn't too weakened.  Turns out it is, and thanks to her and her listening skills, she has discussed this issue with orthopedic surgeons who have agreed that something needs to be done to stabilize the area.

So Tom now needs to have more surgery to resolve the weakening of the bone in that area.  What he's most worried about is the hospital food:  "Cancer had moved over to my pelvis and right hip.  I had been saying since January that my hip was bothering me. Turns out that I have a soft spot on my pelvis.
They want to put a couple of pins in there before they start radiation.
This means another week in the hospital. Concordia this time [more hospital food].  I am not allowed to do any heavy lifting, so I guess vacuuming is OUT!"

He's gone from bad news (aggressive, high density (I think was the word) cancer) to more reasonable news (we can give you drugs to slow down the cancer's growth, and by all appearances, according to the latest PSA test, it has), to using a cane (feels justified given that the bone is so weak), which is a "sexy" (in the words of the kids in our house), bright cane, to having someone listen to him/us talking about that pain in his pelvis, to hearing about more surgery.  And the good news is... no more vacuuming!  


Monday, September 17, 2012


Throughout the spring and into the early summer, we watched the action on CBC's peregrine falcon cam.  Two sets of peregrine parents, located in Winnipeg and Brandon, were watched from afar.  The Winnipeg parents raised 4 birds; Brandon raised 3, although one of the Brandon youngsters died in mid August. This is part of a larger project called the Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project (Manitoba).

We eagerly watched the growth stages -- patient egg sitting by an adult for more than one month; the birthing of scrawny, large-winged, desperate-for-food babies who spent the next few weeks squished under a parent's body to shelter from the cold, wet or heat.  The baby birds grew quickly.  By mid to late summer they left the nests in which they were born.

The picture I loved the best (above)  is on the CBC's website, which is home to many more gorgeous shots. 

Watching the chicks emerge, grow and fledge made me think of my children and my role as a parent.  From being dependent on the adults for everything, the game started to change.  I watched the peregrine chicks emerge from under their mothers, screeching for food, jumping and hopping around the nest boxes, moving out from the nests to the roof's edge, hanging about, trying some jumps around the edges of their home buildings, and finally taking the big leap off the tall buildings on which they were raised.  From being fed mouth to mouth by their parents, they learned to tear apart the food brought by the parents; in fact, one of the videos posted is quite graphic.  I realized one day that the little fuzzballs were in fact major predators... efficient and voracious killing machines. 

I'm not going to compare child raising, or my own kids, to the predators of this story (although some days I might want to!), but I do love the image of fledging.  Much of the energy of our early years together was focused on making sure the babies and toddlers were fed, clothed, watered, put to sleep, entertained.  Our job as parents isn't over, by a long shot, but those little bald babies we had are certainly a bit hairier, more efficient at feeding, clothing and watering themselves, and usually manage to put themselves to bed.  And they can entertain themselves in such wonderful ways, interacting with friends and family in loving, feisty, positive, creative ways.

I know they are starting to move around the edges of our nest box.  They jump in and out. Forays into friendships, generating relationships that aren't set up by us.  I want them to keep trying, keep moving back and forth.  My job is to provide acceptance, love, and support to keep the movement going.  They already have the interest to try more.  I am there to make sure they take the necessary leaps when they are ready.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


The tomatoes are ready... more and more every day. We love salsa, especially when it's homemade, and given the tomato crop failure last year (fungus? slugs? everything seemed to rot on the vines), Tom took it as a personal challenge to grow some big, productive tomato plants. By the time he was finished planting, we had a row of tomato plants against the fence and 20 more plants in my mother's back yard.

Gabriel and Kai watered the plants faithfully.  They thrived.  Throve?  Is that a word?  This week Tom was able to get the salsa-making project on the road...

Choose the ripest tomatoes.

 Get ready to chop.

 Into the pot.  Add the ingredients.  Simmer.
Salsa by Tom

Recipe makes 4-5 jars
2 sticks celery, finely chopped (we use more)
10 medium tomatoes, peeled
2 garlic cloves, crushed or chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 small tins tomato paste
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp cumin
2 Jalapeno peppers, chopped (wear gloves)
2 ½ tsp pickling salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
Ground black pepper

Cook ingredients 1 hr on low heat.  Sterilise jars in oven at 200 for 15 minutes.  Ladle ingredients into jars.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Waiting Game, Part II

There's something very hard about all the waiting that goes on once you find out about cancer.  Two different doctors, each with different processes that are taking place.  They communicate with each other, but only if the patient mentions something or asks a question that might link the two. A link to another organization, called CancerCare Manitoba, that will then also get involved.  We still haven't talked to an oncologist.

Last week Tom met with his urologist for a second time following surgery.  The purpose was to discuss PSA levels post-surgery and ensure healing is taking place. The PSA level from August is high enough to warrant more aggressive therapy, so Tom is now required to take a drug which will remove the fuel of prostate cancer, testosterone, from his body.   Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone is released from the hypothalamus of the brain when the hypothalamus detects dropping levels of testosterone. LHRH is received by the receptors of the pituitary gland which releases luteinizing hormone or LH which travels to the testicles and begins the production of testosterone. In prostate cancer hormone therapy, LHRH agonists and antagonists are used to prevent the pituitary gland from releasing LH.  The drug is seen as the best way to control the spread of prostate cancer.   CancerCare provides the drugs free of charge for home-based cancer therapies.  Once CancerCare is notified, the patient should be able to take the prescription to the pharmacy and receive the required pharmaceutical product.  

Somehow, somewhere, in the meetings with doctors, receptionists, and pharmacists, no one thought to let Tom know that additional paperwork is required in order to process the request with CancerCare.  Finally, four days after Tom dropped off the prescription, repeated phone calls and discussions,  someone in the pharmacy thought it might be useful to mention the fact that additional paperwork would be required.  Bureaucracy is its own devious game; I'm used to it, given that work at a University, but I've always made it my goal to present information in the most transparent way possible.  So I dug deeper, and found a contact number buried in one of the many links on CancerCare's website. Don't you think that should be given to the patient with his or her prescription?  Where are the people who help to explain the process?  That should be part of post-surgical care, which starts as soon as the patient leaves the hospital.  I guess waiting wouldn't be as hard if you got all the information you needed to start the wait...

The MRI scan took place on Friday afternoon, and those results will be discussed with the general practitioner next week.  More waiting.  The plan is that there will be an oncologist (Cancer specialist) involved as soon as these results are processed.  In the mean time, Tom is dealing with the relentless pain in his hip/pelvic area, which creates its own spiral.  And this is the week the kids went back to school.  Tom is home right now, not teaching in September for the first time in 27 years, and is feeling the loss of his professional role as well.  So we wait, a bit longer, to see what will transpire.  Keep the thoughts and prayers coming -- he's very aware that his friends and loved ones continue to think about him.