Friday, April 12, 2013

We Are Blessed To Have Very Special Friends...

It was early in March when I wondered aloud on this blog about whether or not I would continue to write about my experiences with cancer and the effects of treatment. I received a number of communications from people suggesting they had found the blog informative. There were also a few notes that arrived from people that Gay and I have spent meaningful time with over the years.

Here's an example, received on March 9:
"You can’t stop now as it is the only way to keep in touch with you and Gay. We always kept reading your Blog to keep informed on your health."   Norman and Erna.

Norm and Erna Hartfelder are a couple from Leduc, Alberta. We lived next door to them for six years before making our way to the Okanagan Valley in 2005. We have stayed in touch since then, visiting back and forth a few times and connecting briefly on special occasions. Norm and Erna were aware of my health issues over the past year and were 100% behind Gay and I as we tried to figure out together how to tackle the treatment battles. Their support made us stronger.

Back in Leduc, where we lived from 1999 to 2005, our houses were positioned such that we actually shared a huge double driveway with Norm and Erna. We each had our own garages, but the driveway was this long, double-wide concrete run from the street to the garages.

Living on the prairies, the brutal cold and the accumulation of snow are stark realities every winter. This is both a blessing and a curse, as many folks love outdoor winter activities. Others simply bitch and moan about the snow and deal with it in their own miserable ways.

Gay and I were blessed in Leduc when we learned early that our new neighbors were retired, yet very active. Norm would bring his John Deere tractor home from his cottage in the fall, then he'd seem to wait patiently for the first snow. Then, he'd attach a huge blade to the front of his tractor and patrol the neighborhood shoveling snow off of driveways and sidewalks.

At times, his eagerness to tackle this job created a bit of competition among us. Gay and I were certainly capable of shoveling the snow, but we would generally prefer to do it upon returning home from work at the end of the day. Unfortunately, this gave Norm an entire day to get the jump on us!

Occasionally, Gay and I would say "to heck with it", and get at the snow early in the morning before we left for work. We felt it was our responsibility, but taking this job on didn't always seem to sit well with Erna.

I know that Gay and I enjoyed tackling the snow removal at times, especially taking care of the sidewalks leading to Norm and Erna's front steps. There were times I could "feel" Erna staring us down from her front window, but I didn't always want to let on that I could see her. We'd just carry on with our business, feeling satisfied afterward that we had at least contributed a bit toward keeping our sidewalks and driveways clear and safe.

But Erna would sure find a way to get after Gay and I, suggesting we should be leaving the snow alone because "it gives Norman something to do!"

There are so many fond memories of those days in Leduc, most of which are associated with our neighbors and how they chose to embrace us. Norm and Erna included us in many celebrations, and we grew to expect that a battle at the card table was going to be a frequent fact of life for us! And Norm was certainly a proficient bartender!

Gay and I have been blessed over the years to have had many friends in our lives, friends that we have to confirm are senior citizens. A few of our friends, those our age, have noticed this, and have occasionally asked us incredulously, "do you guys adopt old people?"

Well, we think it has kind of worked out the other way. We have often felt that some of these wonderful "older" couples have chosen to adopt us.

Since 1993, when Gay, Ashley and I left Saskatoon, we have never had our "immediate families" closer than about a six-hour drive. There is heartache in this at times, but there is also great satisfaction when we are able to travel home or host our families at our home.

Does absence make the heart grow fonder? Absolutely!

Norm Hartfelder passed away on Thursday evening in Leduc after an evening of dancing with friends in the community. We learned of this through some good friends back in Leduc. Admittedly, I cannot recall my immediate reaction, and a day later when Gay I were finally able  to talk about it, I had to say I was still speechless.

Norm was an enormous contributor to the growth in the County of Leduc and many of the successes the City of Leduc has experienced.

Norm and Erna blessed the community with their commitment to volunteerism, and were active in the church that welcomed Gay, Ashley and I during our time in Leduc. They grew a wonderful family, a group that has stuck close to home over the years, becoming active contributors in the community as well. This is probably the main reason Gay and I can sort of feel "okay" for now with Erna in mind, as we know she has a tremendous support group close by to help through these difficult days.

Norm Hartfelder will be missed.

The Health Side...
I continue to feel great physically, plenty of energy and I feel my strength is gradually returning. So far, so good, I suppose.
The bad news is my thyroid has become an issue and the medical staff are warning me to be aware of symptoms associated with "hypothyroid". The numbers, in terms of recent blood work, are getting worse.
But, I did like my doctor's response when I asked him if we should re-do the blood work to make sure the numbers are accurate. He said we could, but then he said, "sometimes I like to believe the patient rather than the results." Then he asked me how I have been feeling.
Well, truthfully, I have been feeling pretty damn good!
I have been joking that I arrive at the doctor's office these days presenting "50-year-old equipment", but I guess my thyroid has kind of "aged" more quickly due to radiation and chemotherapy.

On the upside, my hemoglobin levels (iron) continue to improve, steadily returning to normal, although this has been enhanced by some regular meds.

Stress is potentially a contributing factor to ill health during these post-treatment days, and I have to admit that I do continue to battle with a few specific individuals that make life challenging on the job. What's the old comedians' one-liner..."I'd call you stupid, but that would be an insult to stupid people!"

Sure, taking the high road is generally the best tonic associated with any grievous interaction with stubborn people, but I also believe that sometimes you get pushed to the point where you just have to roll up your sleeves, drop the gloves, and administer punishment. Really, I have to wonder at times...just how much crap does a person have to take?

More to come...