Dispatches from Vancouver Island
VANCOUVER ISLAND, CANADA – Getting old isn’t for the faint of heart. I’m fifty six years old and recently I’ve been feeling every minute of it, and then some. I’ve reported elsewhere on my knee replacement and how much fun that was; these days that seems like complaining about a paper cut.
In my misspent youth, when I was ten feet tall and bullet-proof and I was in the film business, I occasionally used to do stunt work. A legacy of those days is a left shoulder that has given me problems since it first started to dislocate at the slightest provocation back when I was in my late thirties.
Eventually the joint became so unstable that a stiff breeze would have me trying to put it back in or, more often, going through the E.R. doors on a gurney. One hospital was so familiar with my visits that they had a designated bed and a standing order for meds; an E.R. doctor would bark out orders for “Versed, 2 ml. push with 100 mcg. Fentanyl and a drip in 3!” and someone would inevitably say, “Hey! Say hi to Patrick!” Moments later I would be coming around, a little groggy, my shoulder back in place secured by a sling. This happened three times in one day on a particularly memorable occasion, the third time right in the E.R. as I moved my left arm unadvisedly while getting off the table to leave.
Since those days, I have had three or four surgeries intended to stabilise the shoulder, each of which held for about a year. Then a new surgery was tried; something called a Weber rotation osteotomy.
You don’t even want to know what that entailed but it involved a lot of bolts, screws, plates, and assorted hardware and significantly restricted my range of motion leaving me unable to raise my left arm above the horizontal plane. That worked for more than a
decade but for a couple of years, I have been experiencing an increasing level of pain in that shoulder. A month or two ago, I had an orthoscopy and reduction (basically, a camera is inserted to take pictures and a #3 Dremel tool scrapes the bone smooth) done; the result is that I’m now scheduled to have a new shoulder put in to match my prosthetic knee joint. We can rebuild him, apparently. Piece by piece.
Meanwhile I was constantly aware of my age and gender as the result of my increasingly frequent nocturnal trips to the bathroom. Accordingly, I had my PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) tested. Uh, oh! 13.7 Anything over 4 is suspicious, get up there over 10 and you have a 50/50 chance of the pesky gland being cancerous. Nevertheless, it’s usually a slow growing cancer and the recommended course of action is to monitor PSA levels for 6 months and see if they increase. I had it tested again 30 days later and POW! 15.7….. 2 points in a month….very worrisome.
Family history is no picnic either. Paternal grandfather died of prostate cancer. Father successfully treated for a particularly aggressive variety of prostate cancer. Now me, with stratospheric PSA levels and climbing. Next step – biopsy. That’s a treat; insert yet another camera and other equipment and have look around and snip out ten samples for microscopic examination. Only, this time no incision is required, as nature has provided a convenient access hatch. What with the digital palpation exam this week and all the apparatus that’s going up there soon, the old back door will be seeing as much traffic as it would have had I spent time in prison when I was 17 and cute.
Oh, well. Wait and see.
On the other side of the world I have an old friend from my undergraduate days who is teaching school in the Middle East. She mentioned today on Facebook that she is experiencing a degree of homesickness and misses things Canadian. I suggested a list of Canadian words for her to teach her students so that they would incorporate them into their vocabularies, thereby surrounding her with the sounds of home. It was interesting to note just how many words and expressions are of Canadian origin or are common here but rare elsewhere. “Eh” isn’t the only one.
“Deke”. Purely Canadian; born here. And if you don’t know that word means,
you just don’t play or watch enough (ice) hockey. Toque, toboggan, toonie. Okay, all are words about cold, snow, or our currency, so no big surprises. “Two-four” and “mickey,” though; these refer respectively to a case of 24 beers or a flat pocket-sized pint bottle of booze. Okay, that makes sense, too. “Duo-Tang” “double-double”, “butter tart” “Nanaimo Bar”, “fire hall” “Chinook”…in order: a soft cover three hole paper report cover, two creams and two sugars in coffee, a dessert item, another dessert item, a fire station, and a hot wind that blows through prairie towns in the spring and melts an entire winter’s snow in a couple of hours. Well, Chinook makes sense. But the rest? What’s with all that sugar and artery clogging stuff? The generic employment of a brand name in office supplies? And, frankly, I don’t believe “fire hall” is truly a Canadianism. I mean, what about the world famous Old Fire Hall Theatre? Oh, yeah. That’s in Toronto (or T.O. as the natives call it). And maybe someone can tell me if a Caesar (the breakfast vodka and Clamato juice beverage) is only available in Canada. Or beer and clam (Clamato); I’ve never seen anyone drink that outside of Canada.
Springtime here on Vancouver Island. Although Yolanda has been here in every season the country has to offer, this is the first time she has been here long enough to see it go almost full circle. We got here in August, so she saw it go from glorious summer to autumn, to a winter of discontent and now spring. She finds it fascinating; not just the colours coming back after the bleak dreariness of a wet coast winter, but the people themselves.
As the days warm up, Canadians are everywhere seen emerging from their caves, yawning, blinking, and scratching in the unaccustomed daylight and looking around for something to do. Bicycles are appearing everywhere, parks are crowded, boats are coming out from under their tarps, and playgrounds are loud and noisy until the sun goes down. Highschool girls have dug out their shortest shorts, skirts, and halter tops and are enthusiastically exposing their chalky limbs to the sunlight and intense scrutiny of their classmates. All the signs are promising for a hot summer.
These and other random thoughts on a spring day….