Taking care of a blog is like taking care of a plant.

Before I get my hands on it.

Before I get my hands on it.

Taking care of a blog is a lot like taking care of a plant.  If you don’t write often on your blog, or water your plant more than once a month, it will die.  I actually often come up with great ideas for my web page but never remember to write them down.  One of the best pieces of advice I have ever come across, on finishing a written project, is to put empty boxes in a line in a room.  This is how J.K. Rowling is rumored to have written her books on Harry Potter.  I could do the same.  Whenever I have an idea for a piece on breast cancer, for example, I could jot down a few notes and put it in a box labeled “breast cancer”.  Eventually, the box would fill up enough to write an article.  Once this happens, all that needs to occur is putting the related pieces in order and typing the assembled product onto my web page.  Or, take a lot of small steps instead of an equivalent big step.

Maintaining a blog is not as easy as I thought it would be.  Under pressure to keep my content current, I sometimes write when I am not in the mood and churn out questionable material.  There have been several times I have started a post only to delete it when finished for one reason or another.  Perhaps the better thing to do is to sit on a questionable article for a day or two, and return to it with a fresh perspective.  I may decide it is worth keeping.

The other piece of advise I have deals with finding the time to manage one’s blog.  Some days I don’t feel like writing.  However, those days can still be productive if I focus on updating the programs that are relevant to my blog’s running.  I can also do the tedious job of sifting through the comments page and delete the spam.

Boy do I get a lot of spam and it often has to do with buying high end shoes in bulk. I am not sure why my blog is target for selling high end foot wear.  What does living with breast cancer, or being an ER physician, have to do with luxury high heels?  I can assure you that I would never wear a pair to work.  Scrubs and heels.  Nope.  Not a good match.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle I have to climb over is sleep, specifically,  getting a finished piece uploaded before I fall sleep.  You see, my best ideas come to me soon after I climb into bed.  But after a couple of hours, sometimes less, my eye lids start to feel real heavy – like now for example – and I surrender to sleep.  So, I will abruptly sign off here and close by saying short articles are better than no articles.  Hope the tips I gave were useful to you.  Until then, stay well.

Grateful to be home from the eternity shift.

Today was one of those shifts that seem to never end.  Every patient that I picked up required the use of just about every resource I had at my disposal – including my bladder control.  I didn’t feel great physically today thanks to a chest cold that a patient a couple of weeks ago gave me.  That’s ok.  That happens.  Although it seems to happen a heck of a lot more since chemo.  I have to say the highlight of this shift were the many patients who had waited at least five hours to be seen and were still pleasant and understanding.  In my years of practicing emergency medicine, I have noticed that often the patients who complain the most, are the ones that are in the ER for more minor reasons.  I can understand their perspective: “my problem is small and can be seen fast so see me before the dying man in the trauma room”.  These patients are the ones who are probably pissed off that we don’t have a drive through window.  Why not?  Everyone else has a driver through window.  The bank, pharmacy, restaurant all have drive through services, why not ERs?

I am going to stop here tonight because I am

Upcoming CBC Documentary: A Day Without Cancer

CBC will be airing the documentary “A Day Without Cancer” on the CBC’s documentary channel   The 2014 air dates air dates are listed below as well as the link to the film site and the CBC documentary site:

Monday June 2 at 10pm EST
Tuesday June 3 at 3am EST
Wednesday July 23 at 7pm EST
Thursday July 24 at 1am EST
Wednesday Aug 6 at 7pm EST
Thursday Aug 7 at 1am EST

Link to film site: http://adaywithoutcancer.ca/
Link to CBC Documentary channel site: http://www.cbc.ca/documentarychannel/feature-programs/

Thank you Alice for sharing this information with me.

Answering Someone Elses Phone.

Random KeysWell I made it out of the hospital after a brief stay as a patient.  I can confidently say that I hate being on the other side of the stethoscope.  One evening I was having a nap and was awoken by the hospital wide code alarm.  A “Code Blue” was called somewhere else in the hospital.  That means someone has collapsed and is in near or imminent death.  It was all I could do not to run and help.  With my leg swollen up to twice its size, I wouldn’t have gotten there with any speed.  Although I have a few stories from my experience recently, tonight I feel like writing about answering other peoples phones.  This topic has been on my mind lately.

There have been a few times when a phone that I happen to be near rings and I end up getting involved in something that I wish I avoided.  For example, answering the phone from an unknown caller and then ending up taking a survey because I am too polite to hang up.  The other day I read an article written by a physician venting on this very topic.  Instead of answering someone’s phone, the writer was lamenting on heeding a nurse’s call to help with a patient.  The nurse couldn’t find the patient’s regular doctor so asked the writer if they could give an order for something uncomplicated – I think it was a Tylenol order.  Due to an unexpected cascade of events, this unsuspecting physician ended up dealing with this patient for over an hour.  Good intentions turning into negative consequences.  I am sure there are many more examples of this phenomenon – trying to do the right thing and getting wrong results.

I have had good intentions many a time and ended up regretting it.  I have learned not to answer the phone when I don’t know the caller.  However, it is tough having an instinct to be helpful because it often seems to backfire.  I am sure all of this ties into a fear of disappointing others.  People who don’t care probably have much fewer unwanted events in their lives; less unwanted attention; less drama.  I just don’t think I can be one of those people.

Starts and Stops.

Peace & a Phone CallFor a while everything was going well, really well.  I was knocking on wood because I just could not believe my life could be any smoother.  Then, as I have come to expect it, the shit hit the fan…again.  I am writing this entry from a bed on the Children’s ward of where I work.  A few days ago, I developed a nasty leg infection.  The Kid’s ward is the nicest one in the hospital.  Besides kids, VIPs – like staff members – get put here.  I guess it is part of the perks that go with working here.

Speaking of perks, I have had no appetite.  So, I have stuck to a diet of ice cream and apple juice – both freely abundant on this ward.  Who would ever want to leave?  My leg is getting better.  The worst part of all of this is that I am supposed to be at work tomorrow.  The physician looking after me put the Kibosh on that this morning.  I don’t like letting my team down, even though this is out of my control.  So what caused all of this trouble?

The best I can figure is that I got bit by a spider.  Spiders digest their pray using potent flesh eating enzymes in their saliva.  When a spider bites a human leg, like my leg for example, that saliva causes tissue necrosis in the region they chomped down on.  That necrosis becomes infected by bacteria.  The result is a nasty case of cellulitis.  At the center of the cellulitis is a crater of destruction and necrotic skin.  It isn’t pretty.

The worst part of being sick is the feeling of letting down the people that mean most to you.  My wife is now a single parent because I am in here.  My colleagues are short a doctor when they are already strapped for resources.  It is hard not to feel guilty, even though this was all out of my control.  Why these things keep happening to me is unclear.  All I know is that I am powerless and must find peace in surrendering and let whatever needs to happen, happen.  I need to let go.

Flipping Pancakes.

Rainbow after the rain.Today was one of those days that started out flat.  My spouse and our kids are visiting my in-laws on the island.  I had to work, so opted to stay home and look after the dogs – who are great roommates by the way.  I have been more achy the past few days and that has been dampening my mood.  I like to be alone when I feel this way.

I had heard a couple years after a mastectomy, one can develop upper chest and neck pain.  I guess things are shifting and pulling.  For several reasons, mostly work related, I won’t be doing my reconstruction surgery until next winter.  Somehow I hope reconstruction will take care of these aches and balance my body out again.  To be totally honest, my weight gain hasn’t helped matters.

I decided to treat myself to a mineral bath using salts I had bought from a local spa.  While languishing in the salty water I realized that I have put on a lot of weight since chemo – a lot of weight.  How did this happen?  How did I let myself get to this point?  Granted I am far from “My 600 Pound Life”, I have become my worst enemy.  However, instead of breaking myself down, I took it all as a wake up call.  My cancer is gone.  The mourning is over.  Now is the time to rebuild.  I have made these battle cries before – all I need to do is read my older posts.  The time is right.  The weather is beautiful.  I have a bike, roller blades, swimming gear, running shoes, and access to some of the best terrain in Canada.  Whatever I choose to do, it has to be fun.  I love to have fun.  If I can combine that with weight loss, then I am smoking.  Actually, I won’t be smoking, that would be the worst thing I could do for my plight, what I mean is that I will be successful.

The reason I haven’t been successful in getting my weight down to a healthy level is that I have not really tried  My heart wasn’t in it.  Looking back, I really have been in what I can best describe as a mourning period after cancer.  I just wanted to be still.  I don’t feel that way anymore.  At least I don’t feel that way today.

Something I will do differently this time is focus on joy and fun.  I won’t think about the number of pounds, the holes in my belt, my cholesterol, my cardiovascular system, etc…  I will think about getting out there and doing something fun.  All I need to do is find something fun.  What a great goal!

Is Organic Food All That and a Bag of Chips?

www.Spud.ca

www.Spud.ca

There are few topics that my spouse and I disagree on.  This topic is one that is sure to get a passionate debate going between the two of us.  My spouse believes that “Organic” is Latin for “Scam”.  While there has been widespread documentation of companies labeling items as being “organic” when in fact they are not, in Canada regulations are more robust.  When a product has a label with the word “organic” on it, the product is usually just that.

I am a believer.  I am also a believer that organic items are better for one’s health.   Ever since cancer entered my life, I started looking for ways to build my immune system.  This desire was recently bolstered after I watched ‘The Dallas Buyer’s Club”.  The story centers around “Ron Woodruff” a cowboy whose fun-loving ways catch up with him when he learns he has AIDS and just two months left to live.  “Planning to die wth lhis] boots on, he goes on a crusade to beat AIDS.  Based on a true story, a lot of the advice Ron gathers from medical professionals in the field, as well as reading everything he can pertaining to AIDS related research, teach him that strengthening his immune system will translate into living a longer healthier life – with or without AIDS.  This notion isn’t that far removed from living life with cancer.

Our immune systems come with cancer fighting capabilities.  This is the reason I had a hard time fully trusting Western chemotherapy,  as it wipes out all of the rapidly dividing cells in the body, including the good ones.  I did chemotherapy because the research supporting it was convincing when it came to my beating the kind of breast cancer I had.  Now that I am finished chemotherapy, I am doing whatever I can to build my immune system.

I make sure I get enough sleep.  I take supplements that make me stronger.  Also, I am much more discerning when it comes to what I put in my body.  Enter the organic products.

Short of growing the food I eat, I have little control about the quality of the final product I am putting in my system.  I choose to believe in companies like www.spud.ca which work directly with almost all of the farmers and producers of the food it sells.  Having just started ordering from Spud.ca, I am fairly confident that they are the real deal.  One of the easiest ways I know to tell if what I am eating consists of really good quality organic material, is how fast it goes off.  I notice that organic produce goes bad far faster than non-organic.  The size of the produce is also an indicator as to whether what I am eating has been modified or not.  Strawberries should not be the size of my fist and lacking any flavor.  The “regular” strawberries I see at my local grocer are obviously enhanced.

I would recommend anyone do a back ground check on whatever they plan to eat.  Having done that, I look forward to eating the bounty I get to order every week from Spud.ca.  I have already started to notice results in how I feel.  The grocery bill has gone up a fair bit but the results are worth it – at least to me they are.  Now I just have to convince my spouse.

Live like you are driving.

My antibullying Champion.I think about this website every single day.  Lately, whenever I start to write an article, I just seem to stop.  Not surprisingly, this place reminds me of cancer.  I created this space all by myself and now can’t seem to stand sitting here.  My challenge is to recreate this space into something that better represents where I am right now, with cancer being in my rear view mirror.

When I was taught how to drive, I was taught to scan multiple places regularly.  Scan the dash, scan the road in front of me, scan the rear view, and repeat.  Yesterday I drove home from work late.  It was 3:30 in the morning.  I was tired but clear enough to drive.  I just focused on looking straight ahead, scanning left, then right, at each intersection, regardless of whether I had a green or red light.  Early in the morning is when drunk drivers t-bone innocent vehicles like mine when they blaze through red lights.  As I drove, it occurred to me that I had not looked in my rear-view for a couple of minutes.  I glanced up and thought “I hope there isn’t a police car trying to pull me over”.  I wasn’t doing anything worthy of being pulled over.  Then it occurred to me that the way I was driving was a metaphor of how I have been living my life lately.  Head in the sand?  I am not sure.

I am just trying to learn how to live life the way anyone should after beating cancer.  I am trying to live with the balance I have when I am driving perfectly.  Live with the balance of focusing on what is in front of me but without completely ignoring my rear-view mirror.  If I all I focus on is the fear of cancer coming back, I may drive right into a post.  If I totally ignore the rear-view, I may miss the earliest clue that cancer is trying to return.  The earlier cancer is detected, the more beatable it is.  There is reward for being vigilant without being hyper vigilant.  Balance.  Like so many things, it is all about balance.  When there is balance, there is calm.  Where there is calm, there is peace.  When I am at peace, I am happiest.

So, in the weeks to come, I will endeavor to live in balance.  I will also review this website, this cyber home for my thoughts, and change it to reflect the place that I am in my life right now.  Hence the picture of my beautiful boy, Nate.  He is where I am right now.  Life is beautiful.

Thoughts through a dilated pupil.

 

Nate & I in the park.I am having trouble typing because I had an appointment to get my eyes checked.  The eye specialist put some drops in my eyes to dilate my pupils.  So now I look like I am wacked out on crack.  Dilating pupils are part of a normal eye exam to get a better look at the retina which is in the very back of the eyeball.  The results of my exam were excellent.  Other than needing a mild prescription for seeing distance, my eyes are in great shape.

The other take-home message was to lose some weight.  I used to be in wickedly good shape.  I am now in a stage of life where I keep hoping that I will miraculously wake up thin.  It is a similar kind of thinking as opening the fridge repeatedly when there is nothing inside it that is good to eat.  On that note, my bedtime snack tonight is a small stack of pancakes.  It is a reward for putting up with veiled fat comments without falling apart.  Actually, I am not the “falling apart” kind.  It takes a lot to unravel me such as not being able to find the t.v. remote control, the microwave breaking down, or the engine light in my car going on in the middle of a desolate highway.  I hold it together pretty good on most days.

I sure hope this post isn’t full of spelling errors because there isn’t anything I can do about them.  Everything in my visual field looks like someone smeared my vision with Crisco – my favorite lard when baking.  Growing up I remember the television commercials for Crisco.  If I remember correctly, their slogan was “everything goes better with Crisco”.  There are so many levels of interpretation to that statement.  Still, I disagree with the “everything” part.  For example, having a tub of Crisco won’t get me far when my car engine light goes on or when I cannot find my tv remote.  Crisco certainly doesn’t help me win the inevitable argument with my spouse when I accuse her of misplacing the remote control.

The competing ad was for Tenderflake lard.  It is funny to think Saturday morning tv was broken up by lard wars.  I preferred the Tenderflake ads.  They featured a man slowly cutting into to a flaky apple pie and sprinkles of pastry bouncing into the air as the fork cut through the mouth watering image.  Thank God I just finished a stack of pancakes or else I would be downstairs making apple pie.

Tomorrow is my last day off before going on a stretch of shifts.  I have made a small list of things to do and sure hope that I get them done.  Having an 11 month old makes everything take longer but I am catching on.  With that I will sign off and try to focus on the tv.  I hope my vision is restored by morning.