Thursday, January 28, 2010

And we trudge (sometimes gaily skipping) on...

Sunday took us down to the main square where we met several of our friends, sat on a bench, basked in the sun, watched puppies play and generally enjoyed our outing. We had walked downtown, climbing up one set of stairs that we'd avoided last time & made it! Cuenca has several sets of stairs leading up from the river when you're headed for downtown. Most are "advanced", some are "intermediate" and there are 1 or 2 sets that are for "beginners". This set was more of a "beginners". We took a cab home when Brian started to feel a bit tired and overall it was a great jaunt.

As is typical with us, Monday was chore/shopping day. Poor Fredi gets locked in the bedroom with her toys and chew stick and presumably suffers the entire time we're gone. (This is what we think; she may be lying back on the bed, examining her nails & enjoying the quiet time, only to get frantic [you know; for our sake] when we arrive.) In any case, we met a friend at the SuperMaxi and as friends will do, we were teased as to why Fredi wasn't with us. We explained that SuperMaxi (and the Malls) didn't allow dogs and that these days Fredi seems to know when it is Monday; "she starts to tremble and look sad" as soon as Shelley begins to gather her toys to put them in the bedroom. Our friend laughed (at us?) and told us we'd better "hurry home then". We did. Fredi was gratifyingly OVERJOYED to see us.

We walked downtown on Tuesday to El Tostador and got several weeks' worth of coffee. Loaded up, we took the bus home. Brian commented he felt he was in about the same shape he'd been in when we first arrived in Ecuador. What with all our walking etc., he was in much better shape after awhile. So...all things considered, he's not doing too bad. That evening we had been scheduled to have dinner at the Otabe Restaurant with some friends of ours. Unfortunately they had to cancel. Their house had been broken into the day before and they were still involved with insurance & police & general chaos matters. We told them (of course) we understood and pulled out some frozen salmon patties for our dinner. They were relatively lucky; no one was home when they were robbed and they'd gotten off relatively easy in that only a few things had been taken such as their computers, a digital camera & some (sad to say) sentimental jewelry. They're not discouraged with Ecuador and that's good (!) but there's no quick way to get over something like that. You just have to work your way through the feelings.

Most of the morning & early afternoon Wednesday we spent trying to phone Brian's Doctor (the specialist) to make an appointment to come in to see him. This is what the Doctor had instructed Brian to do. In the middle of our several calls, we took a walk in the neighbourhood and picked up a hanging plant to present to our hostess that evening. We'd been invited out for roast beef and yorkshire pudding. Finally, at around 4 o'clock in the afternoon the Doctor phoned back; could Brian come then?

He arranged an appointment for 9 am the next morning. (Just because we're in South America doesn't mean that we're required to take up all their customs.)

Aside: Here we are; smack dab in the middle of an exotic South American country; on the equator; far away from children & family, familiar & comforting, rain & sleet; cozy, snug, happy, healthy (these days) and somewhat amazed(!) You look back at the sequence of events that brought you to where you are and yet still; there is amazement(!) One would like to pat themselves on the back and congratulate themselves on their foresight & planning; yet... Is it a sequence of events or chaos leading to where we are now? Who knows? We don't; yet... it's good...it's very good.

As it turned out, we had curried chicken & shrimp, rice, salad & an absolutely wonderful dessert whose name we can neither pronounce nor spell. We asked about the roast beef & Yorkshire pudding we'd been promised and were duly shushed, so we changed the subject. We spent the evening in the company of a pair of really nice people & came home happy, over stuffed & contended.

Brian set off at 8:30 in the morning on Thursday for his Doctor's appointment at 9 and was home about an hour and a half later, all smiles and enthusiastic about his last post-op visit. Apparently he's almost a "poster child" for this type of procedure; getting back on his feet, post-op complications to a minimum, his scarring is healing well and the Doctor's very pleased with his walking every day. He's on a 3 month repeat visit routine for PSA tests (CT scans every 6 months) for the next while and then it changes to 4 months & then 6 months and after 5 years he's considered "cured". He was quite exuberant when he arrived home and as with each "good news" milestone we once again realized how much emotion we'd been keeping under wraps.

"You know" Shelley told him later on in the day "I hate to tell you this...but it's time to make a dentist appointment".

And we trudge (sometimes gaily skipping) on...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A-OK

Brian had a Doctor's appointment at 5 in the afternoon on Tuesday. He gathered himself up, caught a cab and took himself to the emergency department of the hospital (which was where they had arranged to meet). The surgeon was going to check Brian's scar since the staples had been removed and make sure everything was looking good. Brian arrived, asked the emergency personnel to page his Doctor (as per request) and then waited through a fair bit of confusion to find out the Doctor was in surgery and thus was unavailable. He made arrangements to go back the next day at the same time and try again. These days we aren't bothered in the least by these types of set backs. Our philosophy is "this is Ecuador" and we continue on with our day. Of course, it helps that we're retired. On a tight work schedule, constant delays, missed appointments & the chaos that ensues would be frustrating to say the least. Here, in the position we find ourselves, we try to be philosophical and go with the flow that seems to be a national pass time. It should be pointed out that Doctors don't seem to carry the support staff here that they do in North America. Most Doctors in Canada would have a nurse & a receptionist & maybe even a bookkeeper. Here, they seem to work with a team of other Doctors but the support staff isn't evident.

As it is, the next morning, Shelley having just finished a couple of household chores, was lying on the bed reading her book.* Brian, seeing her there, decided it would be a good idea to keep her company. We hadn't had showers, we were still in our pajamas. The phone rang. It was the surgeon. Could Brian come in right then? Brian looked at his watch, gave Shelley an eyebrow waggle and told the Doctor he'd be there in an hour. This too is Ecuador.

[Note(*): Most of the people we know have a woman that comes in and cleans on a regular basis. The cost is minimal, we haven't ever heard of any "bad things" happening because of it & one is supporting the Ecuadorian economy. Shelley, on the other hand, explains her resistance to this as follows: "I worked a full time job & raised 2 children & did all my own housework. Right now I've got more extra time than I ever had. It's good exercise." ...Each to their own...]

While Brian was off at the Doctor, Shelley took Fredi for a walk and then came home and computered for awhile. Two hours after Brian left, she decided to have a bath. While cogitating in the bathtub, she conjectured that perhaps Brian was getting the catheter removed as well. Two seconds later, Brian arrived home with that exact same announcement. We'd previously been told the removal wouldn't be until next week but this may have been a language problem. He also came home with a bag of adult diapers as it'll take a few days for his control to re-emerge. After all the indignities his condition brought on him, this was merely par for the course. He has another appointment next week just to make sure everything is going well, but at this point we're basking in the light at the end of the tunnel. Again, thank you for all who visited, sent cards & emails (!) We can't express how much your support has meant to us! Now...let's get back to living our lives!

The next day after we got back from our walk, Brian was sitting in his chair and Shelley handed him a sandwich for lunch. "It's about time I stopped waiting on you like this" Shelley told him.

Brian slowly looked up and responded with only the tiniest of twinkles in his eye: "No it isn't! You like it...right?!" He didn't bat his eye lashes but the overall feel of his response was as if he did.

Shelley smiled a small Mona Lisa smile, turned around and went into the bedroom to read her book for awhile.

Friday we took a bus downtown and Brian got a haircut and then we walked to the CB Carolina Bookstore, traded in our 10 books and picked up 10 more. There was the usual assortment of people at the store and Brian chatted while Shelley perused the shelves. We'd committed to going to Gringo Night so we didn't want to push it too much during the day. After we left the bookstore, we stopped in at Bananas right next door and picked up one of their wonderful turkey sandwiches for Brian's lunch and then caught a cab home. There'll be no drinking for Brian tonight but it'll be nice to get out and visit with our friends and newcomers.

We ended up at Zoe's and it was crazy there. The place was packed with people we didn't know and the noise level was beyond hearing. Of course there were people there that we did know & it was nice to visit. We had a burger and a chicken sandwich and talked with several folks but ended up going home quite early; around 7 o'clock. Brian was pretty tired as we'd had a full day compared to those we have been having. We gladly sat down and watched some TV and caught up the computer.

Shelley had told Brian that if he felt washed out in the morning, then we'd know we'd done too much on Friday. He didn't. After our morning routine, for the first time since Brian's operation, we took our long neighbourhood Fredi walk. Up near the river behind the Perez Coliseum, down Av de Las Americas past SuperMaxi and up the street to Puntos; then down whatever that street is called, behind the Las Quadras Apartments, down the hill, across the bridge and down the street to our place. Brian said he could "feel" the walk and was getting tired near the end of it, but pretty much everything was A-OK.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Out and About

With our plans to attempt to walk downtown on Sunday, we just did the regular short Fredi walk on Saturday and then puttered around the house the rest of the day. The power outages were 3 - 5 pm on Monday, 11 am - 1 pm on Tuesday and 9 - 11 am on Thursday. Wednesday & Friday were "free" days. Thus, Saturday morning, when there usually haven't been outages, it went out for an unscheduled hour or so. We've gotten so used to the blackouts, we barely even noticed.

Incidentally, the diesel shovel (which we've been told is called a Hy Hoe) has been continuously working in the river across from our apartment building for a couple of weeks now. It's built a rather tremendous rock wall along one side, smaller walls on the other and has re-arranged many of the rocks in the river itself so that it now flows harder against the island rather than against the street side. We suspect it's finished it's job at this point because on Friday it smoothed out the road it had made down the bank, evening out the ruts & generally seemed to be cleaning up after itself. We walked close past it, sitting idle on Saturday, and Shelley took Fredi over to the shovel to show her the "big monster". She was somewhat surprised to find there was someone in the shovel's cab. Brian conjectured that on the weekends and evenings when it wasn't in use, they'd have a security guard watching it the entire time. It's been quite the education watching the delicate work that can be done with such a tremendous shovel and we've commented to each other & visitors that the fellow operating it is a real "artist/craftsman".

Sunday took us to the main square downtown. Brian's stamina was great! The only problem was that the catheter rubs and makes things uncomfortable. Shelley told him he couldn't be making "those kinds of adjustments when we're in the middle of town" and Brian argued that he "could" but "shouldn't". We sat on on a bench in the park and watched the swirl of humanity ebbing and flowing, watched numerous small children in costumes, listened to the music coming from 3 different venues & eventually caught 2 different dance troupes doing their thing. The day was warm & clear & wonderful and it was absolutely the best place in the world to be after being basically cooped up for a couple of weeks. Shelley left Brian & Fredi on a bench and ventured to a bakery to pick up some of Cuenca's deadly but wonderful white buns. We phoned our friends that we often meet in the park on Sunday but they were busy elsewhere and even without the extra company, we had just a fabulous time. There's something about relative freedom after a confinment. Even Fredi seemed to be enjoying her time out more than usual! We got a cab home, not wanting to press things too far & got caught up in several Sunday traffic jams before we managed to make it home. It was a very neat (!) outing; we really enjoyed ourselves and after a hearty lunch of soup & bun & avocado for Brian, he & Fredi went down for a well deserved nap.

The things that frighten us, or more accurately, the things that we'd rather not deal with, are often discounted by other people. One person's irritation is another's joy. In any case, Shelley has gone to great lengths on several occasions not to have to do a large shopping trip without Brian. She'll buy 2 and 3 items of a product to keep her going over several weeks and do without other things if she must. She'll pop into corner stores and tiendas to resupply eggs & bread. Keep in mind she's raised 2 children largely on her own, worked full time at several high stress jobs, moved continents away from her previous homes, hammered out bank & business loans on her own, lived on a boat and at one point was even flown to Ottawa, Ontario to negotiate with the Canadian Federal government over a pension plan item. She's not without resources, however...

...Monday dawned and after much discussion as to specific points where Brian would take himself home if too tired, we both set off to the SuperMaxi to do a large shop. We stopped a couple of times on the walk up there and when we arrived at the Mall, Brian sat on a bench while Shelley explored a few lesser stores.

"You can stay here" Shelley told him arriving back at the bench "And I'll do the shopping and pick you up when I'm finished."

We're not sure if he simply doesn't trust Shelley to pick out the right meat or if he's being particularly stoic...in any case...he picked himself up and not only managed to make it through the store but took Fredi for a walk when we arrived home while Shelley put away the groceries.

"Umphhh" Brian groaned, flopping himself into his easy chair after walking Fredi.

The groceries were bought, exercise was had by all and nothing untoward happened. (OK...Brian complained he did too much for the rest of the day, but he was fine.) It's hard to ask for better than that!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Life is Good!

Tuesday afternoon we had our first visitors at home after Brian's operation. They stayed for an hour and we fed them coffee and offered Southern banana pudding (they demurred). It was nice having someone visit and it cheered us up and helped to alleviate the sameness. On the other hand, they stayed just the right length of time for Brian's strength. Again, we thank all the people out there who have been so kind to us.

One of our children is coming to Ecuador in February. It's a touchstone for us right now. She's only coming for 2 weeks but we're planning on going to the coast during that time and continually planning things that she'll like to see in Cuenca while she's here. We're looking forward to seeing Ecuador through the eyes of a newcomer and of course, simply looking forward to seeing our child. Someone just reminded us that when she's coming is the beginning of Carnival in Ecuador. We'd originally thought she'd be coming just after Carnival and it was a bit of a shock (and of course good news) that she would be here during Carnival. We however, felt we should quickly make hotel reservations in Quito for the night she arrives. After a small bit of anxiety, making the reservation was no problem. With Brian's operation and the subsequent fall out, looking forward to our child's visit is one of the things that makes it easy to go forward.

We've had more contact with the kids lately because of Brian's operation and that's a comfort too. Your children, not always the paragons of society you fantasized about while they were in the womb or when you too were a child, but still your blood and soul, and you love them deeply. There's a comfort there that makes up for the terrible 2's and the horrifying teenage years & life in general. These are things we didn't necessarily feel we'd find in retirement but are so grateful that we have.

Wednesday Brian was able to traverse the total short Fredi walk; down the street, across the bridge, up the street, across another bridge and then back down the street to our apartment. He was tired when we got home but not unduly so. The main problem is irritation from the catheter and there's not much that can be done about that until it's removed. They told him 21 days from the date of the operation so removal should be in about a week. It's one of those flip a coin things; it'll be a relief to have it removed but the removal itself will hurt.

Thursday Shelley had minor chores downtown, so she and Fredi headed off in the morning to get them done. Before leaving, we calculated approximately how long it would take to walk downtown and get the chores done and be half way home again. Brian had decided to get dressed and attempt to meet Shelley on her return trip. This was a success. He now figures he's going to try to walk downtown on Sunday and take a cab back home after seeing the sights (if any) in the main square. Again...his energy is coming back (although he's still on soup & juice; albeit with avocado & soaked buns thrown in) so, the main hurdle to overcome, getting back to our regular routine, is having the catheter removed and finding out about any possible radiation therapy.

Another couple came over on Thursday afternoon bringing home-made brownies and wished us well. We fed them coffee & Southern banana pudding. There's a special on banana pudding in this house as Shelley had made up a big batch thinking Brian would be able to eat it, but he couldn't. We had a wonderful couple of hours catching up with each other and talking about the things that are new. After they left, Brian actually ate a half a bun with ham on it, so we know now for sure he's on the mend!

The next morning sitting in his chair Brian told Shelley: "I'm not looking forward to this Doctor's appointment. I was stoic & brave & not whiny & now if they tell me I have to have radiation...I just don't want it to happen."

Shelley got down on her knees and put her head in Brian's lap and stoked his hand and we talked about having to do things whether you wanted to or not, and the timing of his radiation (if he has to have it) co-ordinated with our daughter's visit in February, and that essentially he's going to be OK, and that how being sick is a drag and...you know...other things.

You can't talk everything out. Some things just have to be seen through, but sometimes talking helps a little. After Brian had left the apartment, closed the door & punched the down button on the elevator, Shelley rushed out and down the hall: "It'll be OK" she told him.

"I know" he answered.

Two and a half hours later Shelley began to worry. Fredi perked up, presumably every time she heard the elevator, and between the 2 of them, the pacing became silly. Finally Brian arrived home 2 1/2 hours after his appointment time. It was good news! Brian burst through the door and while dealing with Fredi climbing all over him in her little girl doggie ecstasy he exclaimed, "I'm cured!" Brian & Shelley had a huge hug, a few tears flowed & Brian said the last time he was this happy "was the day we got our permanent visas."

He will get his catheter out in 10 more days and will have to return to the specialist every 3 months for blood work and will continue monitoring for the next 5 years. This is as per standard protocol. Relative to the not being able to eat thing: the Doctor advised this was very common after any major operation. Brian was given yet another medication and was advised this should clear the problem up with 3 or 4 days. We are very relieved, very happy & life (truly) is good!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Poco a Poco

By the afternoon on Saturday Brian was feeling much better. He'd managed to keep down a cup of chicken soup & was sipping juice a little at a time. The Doctor finally phoned around 2 pm and advised he'd be to our apartment between 4 & 6 to check on his wound. As he normally takes a nap in the afternoon, Shelley relented on her no sleeping during the day campaign and he went down for a snooze from 2 - 3. Over the phone the Doctor didn't seem that concerned about the vomiting; asking only if it was accompanied by pain. When the answer was negative, he pretty much dropped the subject.

The Doctor finally arrived around 6:15 pm. He'd been in surgery all day and that's why he hadn't returned Brian's phone call. He brought his daughter with him, who was studying to be a Doctor and who also spoke English very well. Shelley told her about their Doctor back in Canada and his two children who too were both Doctors.

"One of them" she said "wanted to be a jazz musician. I always thought being a Doctor was a great thing to fall back on if it didn't work out for him."

They removed the shunt in Brian's back left in from the spinal and checked his wound. They talked about the nausea and throwing up and finally decided it was caused by the medication he was taking and specifically the pain medication. As Brian had already experimented in not taking the pain medication, they decided he would forgo it from now on. The only time the wound really hurts is when he's moving to sit up or down. The Doctor and his daughter admired our apartment and we told them what wonderful care Brian had received in Ecuador.

Brian had a much better night. He woke up about 3:30 am and read for half an hour but this is as per his usual routine. The next day, after morning chores were done, Shelley & Fredi took a walk to the main square downtown. (They were just a tad cabin feverish.) At the park they saw 2 or 3 small childrens' parades & a group with a black bongo drummer doing a set in the gazebo. They walked to the 10th of August market and picked up some bananas as Shelley had read on line they're high in calories but easy to digest. Brian's not throwing up any more but he still has virtually no appetite. Almost everything he eats is nagged into him by Shelley.

"It's not that I mind you're not eating" Shelley told him with some of her tongue in her cheek. "It's just that I hate that you'll be loosing weight and I'm having such a struggle!"

Coming home carrying a dollar's worth of bananas (15) and a bag of limes, hot and a bit sweaty because the sun was shining big time again, and a tad tired having not gone for a good long walk for several days, Shelley decided to have a bath when she got home. During the middle of the bath, Brian stripped off his t-shirt, kneeled on the floor beside the tub and gave himself a "bird bath". Then, still bent over the tub, Shelley washed his hair. It actually worked out quite well.

Brian went to the Doctor on Monday and had the draining tube from his wound removed. "It was about a foot long!" Brian explained when he got home. The Doctor & Brian discussed his difficulty with eating and the accompanying constipation and he was given a mild laxative. There's going to be a consultative meeting between the urologist, the oncologist & a radiologist some time this week to discuss Brian's case. During the biopsy after his operation they found the tumors were more progressed than they thought from the original biopsy. Brian has an appointment on Friday to find out the results of the consultative process. He was a little bit nervous about this because he thought he was all done but was assured that this is standard protocol for all serious operations. There's a possibility that he may have to take radio therapy but will find out on Friday.

There had been some discussion about Brian walking up to the SuperMaxi with Shelley on Tuesday, sitting on a bench while she was shopping and then taking a cab home. Brian thought he'd be up to it because his visit to the Doctor hadn't tired him out. In the morning however, he was not feeling as good as the day before so Shelley went off to the store by herself. She picked up a number of soup packages, some salad & cheese & buns and then carried her two bags full home. Upon arrival Brian was in his street clothes and said he wanted to try walking down to the bridge, across the river, up the street to the next bridge, back across the river and home. This is our normal short Fredi walk which takes 15 or 20 minutes. We got about 1/3 of the way around the block and then Brian sat on a stone while Shelley & Fredi lay on the grass and we all rested in the Ecuador sun. We then retraced our steps to home because Brian's energy had just about run out.

We're not sure what to think of his not being able to eat thing. Every time he tries to eat anything substantial (other than juice or soup) it's like his esophagus closes off. Shelley mixed up a really thin smoothy with fruit & yogurt & banana and with his soups, at least he's getting his nutrition. If it keeps on until Friday when he sees the Doctor again, he'll be more assertive in finding out what may be causing it. By the way, his other problem is now OK.

Each day we'll walk a little more and before you know it, we'll be back to our regular walks. Once the catheter is removed it'll make things a lot simpler. As it is now, we put the whole device in one of Shelley's purses and Brian with aplomb throws it over his shoulder.

We continue to be touched by the emails we're receiving from family, friends & strangers who read this blog. Every moment in time when we touch each other; it's precious. Thank you again for your concern.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Persevering

Thursday morning Shelley slept in a bit and woke up to an accusatory stare from a small dog. Brian normally walks Fredi in the morning around 6 or 6:30. Fredi being patient enough to wait until 8:30 just goes to show what a remarkable dog she is. Our power was due to go out at 9 that morning so after a quick outing for Fredi, Shelley sat down at the computer to run off a paper copy of all the emails we'd received inquiring as to how Brian was doing. By 9:30 Shelley was out on the street waiting for the bus to put in her first appearance for the day with Brian.

Brian was doing much better. He'd had a spinal for the operation and the evening before he still couldn't feel his legs. Thursday morning the feeling was back. Shelley urged him to sit up and stand up and get himself moving a little bit and he did, but it was a big effort. Just before Shelley was about to leave some friends dropped by with cookies (!) to wish Brian well. We all stayed and chatted for another 20 minutes or so. Back at home, Shelley took Fredi for a decent walk, did some household chores and had herself an hour long nap. She was back at the hospital for her second visit of the day at around 4. Standing, waiting at the bus stop, some other friends spied her as they were driving by. They were just off to put in an appearance with Brian and kindly offered her a ride. That afternoon he'd had other visitors as well. We can't express enough how much we appreciate the emails and visits. All the attention really helps!

After Brian's evening company had departed Shelley again nagged him to get on his feet a bit. They've been giving him intravenous pain medication and had tried switching him to oral but it was too soon. We'd hoped that Brian would be home by Friday but think now it probably won't be until Saturday. This is not to say he's not doing well - he is. The Doctors had originally said Friday or Saturday, so nothing is off schedule.

That evening Shelley went to bed at around 9 pm and was asleep within about 20 minutes. She woke up the next morning at 7:30 am. Fredi was pleased! After walking the dog, checking the computer and having a bun for breakfast, she took off for the hospital around 9 am. Upon arrival at Brian's room, he was standing - unhooked from the machines - and looking pretty good. Shortly thereafter we were advised that it would be OK for Brian to go home. Concerned about Shelley travelling around with four thousand and some odd dollars in her pocket, one of the Doctors took her downstairs and spoke to a "special" cab driver who took her home, waited and brought her back. She gave the cabbie 5 bucks for his trouble and we was VERY pleased.

Shelley left Brian in his room to wait while she went off to pay the bill ($4,310) & get his prescriptions (7) filled ($87). Pretty much as soon as the administrative office saw/heard her, they phoned for an English speaking customer representative who guided Shelley through the bill paying procedure, went with her to 2 different pharmacies and came back with her to Brian's room to offer him a wheel chair if he felt he needed one. Brian demurred. He's walking around, albeit kind of stiff legged, bent over & slowly.

Brian will continue to have a catheter for 15 days from the date of the operation and a draining tube from the main wound for 5 more days. He's currently training Fredi that it is NOT OK to chew on the tubes. Brian is allowed to have a shower and encouraged to wash the bandaged area. He will go off to the hospital every few days to get the dressings changed and eventually have the tubes removed.

We only have good things to say about the care Brian received at the hospital. All the staff were very friendly. The food was comida tipica (slightly tough meat & rice) but the juice was fresh squeezed & they were big on apples. The English speaking hospital representative was so nice Shelley wanted to give her a hug and the care from all the staff really displayed that extra thought was being put into it. Brian's urologist is even coming (maybe) on Saturday (to our home!) to check his wound.

There's been some nausea & throwing up right after Brian tried to walk around. He's saying he's not hungry but Shelley's bullying yogurt & tea with sugar & soup & water into him. (To eat is to live.) Instructions from the Doctor was "lots of water". Life right now revolves around Fredi's walks (8 am, 10:30 am, 4pm & 11 pm) and Brian's medications (7 am, 9 am, 10 am, 1 pm (with food), 3 pm, 6 pm, 9 pm, 11 pm) He's sleeping a lot, especially after the pain pill. We're supposed to keep a record of blood going into the bulb from his wound. It has to be emptied (along with the catheter) every once in awhile. While Brian sleeps, Shelley watches TV & plays Scrabble on the computer (and frets).

There's struggle. There's pathos....you know....pathos. There's just attempting to get by. We reiterate love and continue. It's awful. What can one say? Throughout all...Fredi remains vigilant...always at Brian's side... always concerned.

The night was trying. Brian got very little sleep and thew up several times. Shelley felt his lack of sleep might have something to do with him sleeping away most of the day. In the morning we phoned the Doctor but by 12:30 pm still hadn't got a call back. It's very difficult for him to eat and when he does he usually throws up. Shelley continues to bully water & juice into him, nags him not to nap and we wait to hear from the Doctor.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Men at Work

They're dredging out the river and re-arranging the rocks in it with a big diesel shovel. The shovel formed its own road down the bank near our apartment and went about its business heading east in the river.

Shelley asked Brian what the machine in the river was called and the only thing he could come up with was "steam shovel". She looked at him over her glasses and said that was like calling the enter key on a computer the "carriage return".

At 3 o'clock in the afternoon the shovel came back through the middle of the river, struggled its way back onto the bank, pulled itself up the road it had made and then put itself onto the back of a long truck. The whole operation was actually pretty impressive. The river now has boulders piled up in strategic positions along the bank but to the uninformed eye looks pretty much the same as it did before it was all re-arranged. We're sure however, things are better now.

Regular power outages have resumed after the Christmas break: Monday 3-5 pm, Tuesday 1-3 pm, Wednesday 11 am - 1 pm, Thursday 9 - 11 am. Those who don't just skim over our statistics will note the outages are of a 2 hour duration now instead of 3. This perhaps is our reward due to the recent rain.

Brian was off first thing the next morning to give blood and was home within an hour and a half.

"Did they give you orange juice?" Shelley asked.

"No they didn't" Brian replied "But I spurted when they took the needle out! By the way, they sent me up to the pharmacy before the procedure to buy my own bag, tubes & needle. Crazy huh!"

We talked some more about details, comforted each other and then went about our day.

Throughout Monday afternoon & Tuesday morning, a dump truck came to the river and piled in several loads of boulders. It sounded like thunder every time they dumped a load and we'd go to the window to keep track of the progress. Tuesday in the late morning the shovel was back and went about rearranging the huge pile of boulders that had been left behind. It deftly moved the stones and created a well built wall against a piece of the river bank that presumably was beginning to wash out. Two tiny humans wandering back & forth and again presumably directed the operator of the shovel where to work next. We took Fredi for her walk, went to the grocery store, played Scrabble, went through the power outage, had a nap & read our books and throughout the whole day the shovel worked, slogging through the river and moving about huge pieces of rock.

Wednesday morning Brian kissed Shelley (still in bed) and slipped off to the hospital after turning on all 3 of the bedrooms lights, sighing a great deal & attempting to be thoughtful by turning off the wrong alarm clock. Everything that we could say & do had been said & done and it only remained to get the whole thing over with. As it was, Brian ended up phoning Shelley at 7:30 am to let her know the surgery had been bumped by an emergency and that she shouldn't come by the hospital now until 4 pm, at which time Brian should be back in his room after the operation.

"They set me up in a room" Brian told Shelley. "It's really quite nice! There's even a phone in it!"

After hanging up, it occurred to Shelley that perhaps Brian would like his stuff (which she was going to bring) earlier than 4 o'clock. She attempted to phone him back at the number left on their phone's display. Upon connecting she was put off and discouraged by rapid fire Spanish that she had no hope of understanding. On second thought, she figured by the time she was ready to leave it'd be almost time for his surgery so she decided to wait for 4 o'clock as had been arranged.

Unlike the first day, the shovel was not picked up by it's truck Tuesday night. It maneuvered its way up to the top of the bank and then parked and spent the night alone on the grass. Wednesday morning it was back in the river building its wall.

At 11 o'clock Brian phoned again to let Shelley know he hadn't gone into surgery yet and told her his room number.

"I tried to phone you back last time you phoned but I got lost in a Spanish voice mail system" Shelley told him.

"Why?" Brian asked. "What was up?"

"Oh, I just thought you might like me to bring you a book while you were waiting."

"Well" he told her. "There's a big screen TV in my room, just like the one I want to get for home and you keep putting me off and..." he paused for effect. "...they've got movie channels, so...I've been watching movies all morning."

Shelley grunted in reply & immediately lost any minor guilt feelings she'd been harbouring.

Later on Shelley took Fredi for her walk, over to the river, up the side walk to Av. de las Americas, down the street and basically around the block and back home again. There's a brick walk-way after the river-side green space where we free walk Fredi up to Av. de las Americas. For over a year now, we've been stepping around the spots where the bricks had been removed by some vandal. Today there were 3 men working on the sidewalk, replacing the bricks. "Bueno!" Shelley told the one young man who'd admired Fredi. "Bueno!"

At 4 o'clock Shelley arrived at the hospital. Her trip over was interrupted by 3 phone calls from Brian's best friend Jan, who is touring from Holland in Peru. The connection was terrible. Shelley finally shouted into a semi-dead phone that she'd e-mail as soon a she knew something.

Two orderlies (nurses or whatever) with spotty English told Shelley that Brian would be 2 more hours. They directed her to his room and she spent some time exploring and examining the free shampoo, toothbrush & paste, conditioner, face wash, q-tips etc. etc. and trying to get the TV to work. After about 15 minutes, the 2 men came back and told her Brian would be in his room in about 15 minutes.

Not too longer later Brian was wheeled into the room, coherent but tired. As seems to be normal in any hospital situation, every 15 minutes or so a nurse or orderly would come into the room and check this and that and administer that and this and we'd thank them and they'd leave. We talked until Brian started to slur and get sleepy. Shelley co-ordinated when she'd arrive the next morning and then Brian rolled over & presumably went to sleep. She tucked him in and that was that.

Outside the hospital Shelley encountered yet another street festival. Normally cabs are available right outside the hospital, but this day none were there. Instead there was a bandstand and various vendors selling various products and mucho people wandering everywhere. With aplomb that she herself noted, Shelley walked up the street, caught a cab and came home. One more (maybe 3) days and he'll be home.

Needless to say, Fredi was OVERJOYED to see Shelley when she got there.

Monday, January 4, 2010

We'll Take a Cup of Kindness Yet

New Year's Eve Day we took down the Christmas decorations, swept the floor of all the sparkles, stapled our year's receipts together, took Fredi for her walk (Brian did), had leisurely baths (Fredi too), lay down and read our books (Brian & Fredi had a nap) and generally prepped ourselves for New Year's Eve and a brand new year. We hadn't promised anyone that we'd manage to stay out until midnight (although we'd been teased about it), but were expecting to visit the main square after our dinner out (and perhaps other areas) to watch the burning of the effigies. Not a bad idea, burning away the past year so you can start anew... It was somewhat of an effort for the person organizing the dinner to find a place that would be open late enough. The whole exercise required several e-mails! Most of the restaurants wanted to close mid-afternoon so presumably they could party too! In the end of course, our hostess did find a suitable venue at Mediterraneo. Brian & Shelley were a little glad the choice fell to Mediterraneo as they very much like the young couple who own the place and always relish their menu. It was kind of like Cheers because the owner, when we arrived, greeted Brian by name.

It's 12:10 am New Year's Day. In a place where fireworks are an everyday occasion, right this minute they're everywhere. Turn in any direction, any degree, and there's a star burst in front of you. We just came in from watching our neighbour's effigy burning on the lawn just across the street. Apparently if you jump over it 3 times, it's good luck. We demurred, although we were welcome to do the feat. We had a marvelous time at the restaurant with 4 other couples and afterwards wandered a bit through the streets looking at the huge scenes put together, all to be burned at midnight. No taxi's were running by the time we were ready to go home; everyone in Cuenca was out celebrating. With some concern for our safety from our friends, we walked home in complete harmony and it was a wonderful end to a great year.

New Year's Day we woke up at 5:15 in the morning to the sound of receiving a text message on our phone. Coming out of a fairly deep sleep, we both instantly worried there was something wrong with the children. Nothing was wrong; it was simply a belated "Happy New Year!" from a different time zone. We weren't much successful at going back to a deep sleep after that but did manage to doze for awhile longer. Later in the morning, when taking Fredi for her walk, we passed dozens of burned spots on the lawn, little piles of ash & partially burned legs sticking out from garbage cans, where effigies were torched to take away 2009. Having much less sleep than normal, after our walk we were content to computer, read & watch TV to wile away the rest of the day.

Saturday, we'd been invited to a "Trailer Trash" party, where we were going to be served something called Scramble Dogs, corn chips & Velveeta cheese. We were requested to wear our spandex & coveralls. This was due to take place at 2 in the afternoon, so as seems to be our routine for the last few days, we puttered around the house, took Fredi for a walk in the neighbourhood and had a long bath, between eating & trying to have a short nap. We walked to our hosts' apartment and although 7 minutes late were the second to the last people to get there. Some of the people had on real costumes and it was a bit of a hoot. Shelley wore coveralls & her hair up in a side ponytail. Brian introduced us to everybody as "Buck & Bobbie Sue". Scramble Dogs turned out to be a bun with ketchup & mustard, topped with a hot dog, topped with chili, topped with coleslaw, topped with onions and are really quite tasty! There was the requisite Velveeta cheese as well as potato salad, various chips & dips & plenty of beer. A good time was had by all. We ended up being the first people to leave. It's been a busy last few weeks and we just sort of wanted to go home and hunker down.

Instead of Monday, which is our usual shopping/chore day, we switched and did it on Sunday. Brian's got a doctor's appointment first thing Monday morning and then he'll find out when he hits the hospital and everything happens. The grocery store was much more crowded than we're used to. The idea of queuing hasn't taken root here in Ecuador and one has to head to a check out counter hoping that no kamikaze will duck in front of you. Brian accidently smashed a jar of sweet & sour sauce on the floor much to his chagrin & the shelf man's disgust. We doubled up on a lot of our shopping because Shelley's hoping to avoid the trip by herself next week. Brian won't be up to shopping with her the week after that either, but at least he'll be home to keep Fredi out of the way while she's unpacking. We got home, Brian took Fredi for her walk and Shelley put on a load of laundry, put away the groceries, made a batch of lasagna & squeezed 20 or so limes (we keep the juice in the fridge for tea and what have you). While Brian was out walking Fredi he even got a phone call from the friends we often spontaneously meet in the park on Sunday. They were wondering where we were. That's kind of a nice feeling! As it is, we're all stocked up now and ready for whatever the week throws at us.

Brian was supposed to phone the specialist at 8 Monday morning and make sure his 9 am appointment was on track. It was. Sitting in our computer room, Brian on the small couch, Shelley at the computer, we talked about the possible scenario for the upcoming day and week ahead.

"It might take awhile before the other Doctor that speaks English is available, so I can't tell you when I'll be home" Brian told Shelley.

"Are you nervous?" Shelley asked, noting that he was flinging his arms around when he talked, like Shelley herself does when she's nervous.

"Not about today" Brian told her in minor disgust.

As it turned out Brian was home before 10:30 am. The specialist & he had conducted the interview all in Spanish & pigeon English. He was to go to the hospital on Tuesday and give blood for possible use during the surgery. He was to report to the hospital Wednesday morning at 7 am to be prepped for surgery. The surgery will last 2 or 3 hours and he'll be in recovery for an hour or so. Thus, Shelley was instructed to come see him (bringing a small bag with his pajamas & toiletries & a book) at the hospital at around 1:00 pm. He'll be kept in the hospital for another 1 or 2 days, coming home on Friday or Saturday depending on his recovery time. We will pay for the whole procedure at his discharge. He will have a catheter for up to 10 days after the operation and be in pain for about a week. They will do a biopsy of the prostate after removal to confirm that the cancer hasn't spread and he'll get the results to that next Monday. A complete recovery is expected within 2 weeks or so.

At this point Brian is very impressed with the quality of care that he is getting. The urologist reiterated that all of the indicators are that the cancer is localized in the prostate and we are absolutely confident that he will have a 100% recovery. At this point, we'd like to thank all our friends and well-wishers for their kind thoughts & concern. It's nice to know you're not all alone thousands of miles from home.