The Cancer Diaries, Part 22

Three days off over Xmas from the daily drive felt like a longer holiday, although it wasn’t enough time for my bowels to heal properly. So far an irritable bowel, reduced urine stream, and my hot “flashes” (or surges) are the only side effects I’ve noticed. They are, however, enough to make me less than comfortable at times.

I was warned I might feel fatigued, too; not just the normal state of being tired from too little sleep (what with pets and hot “flashes”), but deep fatigue. Not yet, but I still have three weeks of treatment to go, so perhaps it will come in the future.

For anyone wishing a “white Christmas” this year, we certainly got it. Starting Friday, Dec. 25, it snowed continually for three days and I shovelled or blew snow from the front walk and driveway numerous times. The snow and cold curtailled our dogwalking somewhat since Bella is a small, shorthaired dog and gets cold feet easily. Most walks were a mere circle around two or three blocks (800-1,300 m). We did manage one nice, long walk through Harbourview Park on Sunday, the only real outing we had. But it was a pretty weekend: I spent my time indoors: blogging, and playing World of Tanks and some other computer games when not reading. Outside, I shovelled.

And while it’s not cancer-related, as my Xmas present to myself, I ordered an ASUS gaming monitor (on sale) for my laptop, in large part to be able to both play games and to watch movies (the former on my laptop, the later through a Blu-ray/DVD player). I like the B-films from my large collection of scifi and monster B-films. Susan doesn’t care to watch, so I have to see them by myself. The gaming monitor has a headphone jack that will let me watch them without disturbing her with the sounds of some rubber-suited monster stomping on papier mâché cities.

What worries me is the weather forecast for the coming week: snow, wind, and cold. That doesn’t bode well for traffic conditions. But perhaps the weather will be mild enough it doesn’t stay around for very long.

Radiation treatment, 21st session

Warmer temperatures brought rain that has begun to wash away the snow. The ski hills at Blue Mountain would be weeping over the warm weather, if it weren’t for the fact they are closed for the COVID lockdown. The drive to Barrie was quick, dry,  and painless. The treatment was quick, and painless, too.

The hospital coffee shops, gift shops, and a lot of the medical and social services were shut down for Boxing Day. The cancer care treatment centre remained open. No big lineup was at the entrance waiting to get in, today, and almost everyone ahead of me was headed for the cancer centre, as I was. The atrium was eerily empty of people.

Today, it seemed the waiting rooms held mostly people in poor condition, suffering, and perhaps in pain. It felt more like a place where people wait to die rather than come to get treatment. Compared to most of the people I saw in my short time there, I am very much alive. Still, it is somewhat depressing to again be reminded that everyone in this room is here for one reason: we all have cancer.

I didn’t have too long to wait for my treatment, but I did manage to get a few pages further into Edward Humes’ Door to Door: The Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation. it’s a fascinating book that gives me a whole new insight into shipping, consumer goods, transportation, cargo containers, and all things related. Got my schedule for next week, and spoke to the nurse to briefly review my treatment, as we usually do every Monday.

Continue reading “The Cancer Diaries, Part 22”

The $9 Million Dollar Mayor

Throwing money awayMore than eight million of your dollars have been spent to date on the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry (SVJI), and it may top $9 million if you add in the costs the town doesn’t include in its calculations, as well as the proposed $700,000 report-about-the-report. And that should stick to our $9 million-dollar mayor.

There is a breakdown of the SVJI costs as of Dec. 18, 2020, on the town’s website. Sort of. The $8,098,547.40 total doesn’t include two key components: first, the salary and expenses of the inquiry’s judge. While that was paid for by the province, not simply by local taxpayers, it’s still a cost we all have to bear in our annual income tax paid to the province. Even the lowest provincial judges make at least $250,000 a year, so the true SVJI costs should be another $500,000 or even higher.

Then there are the unreported costs for town staff, too, and we do pay these: including overtime, time and paperwork to respond to and accommodate the SVJI requests, travel, time and paperwork to respond to residents’ questions and requests about the inquiry, time to set up rooms and hearing space, to provide water, electricity, and advice, to move departments out of town hall, then back again, for any incidental costs to accommodate the inquiry. How much that was I cannot estimate, but because so many senior staff were involved, I’d guess it easily tops $250,000 spread over the inquiry’s time here.

On top of that, there’s that $700,000 additional to be spent for staff to write a report about the report — a task we’re told is as important as ensuring our drinking water is safe. I’m sure you’ve already read my comments about that expensive, bureaucratic codswallop.

And we’re not sure if that’s the final tally or there are still bills to be paid. The town hall cash register keeps singing to the Nine-Million-Dollar Mayor’s tune.

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The Cancer Diaries, Part 21

Solar flareHot flashes are becoming more frequent, but I was warned they would be thus in the latter part of the treatment. I’m about halfway through the first stage of the hormone therapy process. My next hormone treatment (Lupron shot) will be given in about six weeks, shortly after my next blood test. I won’t know if I need more treatment (like chemotherapy or more hormones), however, for several more months after that.

I’m not sure why they’re called hot “flashes” as if they were lightning — they’re more like swelling eruptions from within; at least for me they arrive not abruptly but like a wave that builds as it reaches shore, then breaks and dissipates as the next wave is forming in the water behind it. I would have called them flares or surges, not flashes.

Susan and I took a long walk with our dog, Bella, into the downtown and back on Saturday, and on Sunday we walked to and through Harbourview Park; three to four kilometres each time. During those walks, I had hot “flares” several times, making me uncomfortably warm despite the winter weather. And, of course, I wake up with them at night. (If not them, then the cats and dog jockeying for a position to lie beside me will waken me.) And then they’re gone, leaving me cold and dragging the covers back over my exposed flesh (we keep our house cool at night, the thermostat set to 61F/16C).

This weekend, I suffered a tad more from an irritable bowel than earlier, if that’s the proper description. The radiation is affecting my intestines, and I am expressing mucous when I excrete or urinate. Not sure if this will get better and my body will recover when the treatment stops, but I suspect my bowels will never fully recover. Radiation kills cells. And possibly my gut flora won’t recover, either. Damn, but I need to ask about it’ find out if there’s anything I can or should do to help my intestinal fauna. I hate to think the cure is worse than the disease.

Meanwhile, I’ve started reading (among the many books on the go) the first of the second of Len Deighton’s spy thriller trilogies: Hook, Line, and Sinker. I first read it back in the 1980s, but wanted to re-read it as I had re-read the first trilogy (Game, Set, and Match, finished this fall) and plan to go on to the final trilogy, Faith, Hope, and Charity (which I have not read) when done. As Prospero says, in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, “My library/Was dukedom large enough.”

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As Important as Clean Drinking Water?

Dilbert
I wonder how the people of Walkerton would feel about Collingwood CAO’s statement, reported in Collingwood Today, that implementing the 300-plus recommendations of the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry (SVJI) is “equivalent with the top priorities we have, like providing clean drinking water.”

I wonder how many people in our town will be saved from a painful, water-borne illness and possible death if, for example, the town encourages the province to implement recommendation number two:

2 Describing the mayor as both the head of Council and chief executive officer blurs the fact that the mayor is the head of Council and the chief administrative officer (CAO) is the head of staff. There must be a clear division of roles and responsibilities between the mayor and the CAO, a separation of the political from the administrative.

Nothing like a ‘clear division” to make the community safe from evil.

The Walkerton tragedy was the result of a failure to ensure clean drinking water. More than 2,000 people fell ill, and six died. From that event came the province’s Safe Drinking Water Act that makes council members personally responsible and liable for ensuring the water residents receive is safe, and changed the way municipalities managed their water supplies. And can you please tell me how this is equivalent to producing a report-about-the-report?

Seems to me it belittles the people of Walkerton to compare their suffering and trauma with the results of a questionable inquiry that cost taxpayers more than $8 million that could have been better spent fixing our decaying roads and sidewalks, and upgrading our own water treatment plant. And keep in mind that the SVJI report is a summation of opinions, not a legal decision. 

So please help me understand why Collingwood’s CAO thinks that reporting on the 300-plus recommendations that were mostly generic, irrelevant, or appear outside the inquiry’s mandate — and relate to events that are now at least eight years old — are on equal footing to ensuring we have clean water.  

Okay, I do understand that it is highly unlikely that most, if any, of our council members have read through the entire 914 pages, and need a precis; perhaps the whole thing reduced to a dozen bullets on PowerPoint slides, written in a large font and read aloud, slowly, at a council meeting. After all, none of them were elected for their intellectual prowess, and reading was never their forte. But is it worth another $700,000 of your money to explain it to them?

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The Cancer Diaries, Part 20

A weekend off from the long, daily drive and the treatment certainly seems like a treat these days. On weekends, I get to have an easy morning, leisurely cups of tea, do some writing, play some computer games, take a long walk with Susan and Bella (weather permitting), then enjoy a quiet afternoon of reading, more tea, and maybe some online gaming with a friend. The prospect of spending another five or more weeks driving back and forth, suffering increasing side effects while missing my leisurely mornings, doesn’t thrill me.

What choice do I have? That’s one of the things about cancer: it reduces the number of choices you have in life. You really can’t do anything or go anywhere without thinking about it. But at least on weekends, I think about it less.

I’m now experiencing more hot flashes, particularly at night. Susan even changed the duvet for a lighter cover because we both suffer them now. I still usually have a small dog and a cat or two sleeping against me, though, so I sometimes get hot quickly. A thrash of covers usually follows. Then the inevitable cooldown comes and I wrap myself up again.

I took a chance on the weekend and stopped putting a pad in my underwear. I had been wearing one ever since I had my catheter removed, back in mid-July. I started with the full diaper, but only for a day or so, then moved to a heavy-duty pad. I quickly was able to use a thin pad, though. And I’ve continued to do my Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles because I don’t have a prostate to control my urine flow. I seem to have gained sufficient control, and not had any leak, even a tiny one, for the past couple of weeks. I’ve hesitated to stop using a pad before this “just in case,” but decided I’d had enough of them. And so far, it’s been fine.

However, since I began radiation treatment, my urine flow has reduced, which I suspect has something to do with the radiation scarring or hardening my urethra. Not sure what this bodes for my urinary future.

(As an aside, over the weekend I ordered some books from the UK, which I don’t expect to see until January, including the collected essays of George Orwell (the Everyman edition, which contains material not found in any of my current books), and a Hannah Arendt reader.)

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The irony, the hypocrisy

Mob ruleThere’s a letter on the council consent agenda that will either make you shake your head in wonder at the brash irony of it, or laughing at a writer who plays a fawning Rudy Giuliani to Saunderson’s Trump.

It’s from Claire Tucker-Reid, the co-chair of the former Central Park Steering Committee (SPSC; our current mayor was the other), the committee that can be argued to be the cause of this recent and expensive turmoil that led to the town wasting more than $8 million of your money on a vindictive judicial inquiry (or, as some believe, a vendetta). The inquiry enriched lawyers but did nothing for the rest of us. Sure, we got 300-plus mostly generic or irrelevant recommendations, but can we fix the potholes with them? With $8 million we could have.

The letter’s author is also a self-professed member of the small, disruptive, special-interest lobbying group “Better Together Collingwood” (which was neither better than nor together with the rest of the community) that tried to bully council through mob rule into giving the YMCA a $35 million handout back in 2012.

And to top it off, she was the “campaign chair Mayor Saunderson, for the last 2 municipal elections.” No conflicts there, right?

You might recall that the SPSC had its own conflicts, not least from having an employee of a developer who made a competing proposal to build a rec facility as a voting member. It had a YMCA representative voting. What about the personal relationships between the writer and the former director of the PRC? Didn’t the inquiry rail on about how personal or business relationships were “hidden conflicts” even though they weren’t legally recognized as such?

If you accept the conclusions of the judicial inquiry that conflicts of interest exist outside the legal requirements of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, then from what I see, this letter is pretty hypocritical. But there has long been a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do block of Saunderson supporters for whom such considerations of fairness or transparency do not apply.

What about the committee’s refusal to share critical information with council six or more months before the final report was presented? And failed to share its meeting minutes with council, thus keeping council in the dark about its machinations. This knowledge might have caused council to shut the committee down much earlier because it had failed in its mandate (to develop a partnership), or at the very least it should have changed the nature of both the committee and the discussion around building a recplex.

Examining their activities, I find it hard not to conclude that the  CPSC acted in a secretive and deceptive manner. But I digress.

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The Cancer Diaries, Part 19

I was fortunate in being able to get my tooth fixed within 48 hours of losing a portion of it. I hadn’t expected to be able to see my dentist for at least a week, maybe even more, but there was an opening, a cancellation, and I grabbed it. I had a vision of having to spend a week or more eschewing tough or crunchy foods to avoid having another piece of enamel break away from around the old filling. No morning muesli, no peanuts or crunchy peanut butter, nothing too chewy or crusty like the sort of bread I prefer, no olives in case one had a fragment of pit in it. Sigh. Thinking about that on top of my daily drive to treatment made me rather tetchy. But I was spared the distress and now have a repaired tooth. Tip of my hat to Dr. Kemp and his staff.

Still, I was feeling a bit low, over the weekend. Not depressed; just off my feed. Sluggish, tired, lacking my usual oomph. Not sure if it’s a side effect of treatment, the grey, dreary weather, or my general lack of deep sleep. I am missing our usual morning walks, our cups of tea together, and our chatting. Susan and I normally walk our dog 2-4 km every morning after breakfast, often into the parks or along our trails, but since I’m off for early treatment, I don’t get to join her. It’s not just the exercise I miss, but the enjoyment of being with her, and the calming effect of walking in the woods or by the water, or just the pleasure of walking around my small home town. And I regularly play online games with a friend out of province, often daily (when time and circumstances permit), but of late he’s been recovering from eye surgery and unable to play, so even the fun of that stress relief has been missing. At least I still have my books to read.

To top it all off, I’ve had a bit of upset stomach/bowels this weekend, possibly a side effect of the radiation, although it seems a bit early for that. Might be food, or stress-related, too.

Controlling one’s bladder and bowels is the first step we make towards independence as a human; a significant milestone in our development. It is the moment we, as a species, can metaphorically start to leave the nest, and not be entirely dependent on others. Anything affecting that control later in life, let alone losing it, has a deep psychological effect. It feels like we’ve fallen back a step, become dependent again.  That only adds to the stress and anxiety of having cancer.

And now I begin my second week of daily radiation treatments.

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On growing old

De Senectute“We truly can’t praise the love and pursuit of wisdom enough,” wrote Marcus Tullius Cicero in one of his last works, How to Grow Old (De Senectute; aka On Aging or On Old Age), “since it allows a person to enjoy every stage of life free from worry.”

“Ancient wisdom for the second half of life,” is how Philip Freeman subtitles his translation of Cicero’s little book in his 2016 Princeton University edition. Cicero wrote his essay (not really a book as we think of them today) in 44 BCE, when he was already 62 years old. I’ve been reading Cicero again of late, searching for his wisdom as I, too age, and deal with the physical and medical complaints of aging. Freeman is a good translator, too; able to turn Cicero’s words into a readable, modern text.

I admit I guffawed a bit thinking of how Cicero’s praise for the lifelong pursuit of knowledge and wisdom compared with the current state of deliberate ignorance, conspiracies, QAnon piffle, the plethora of fake news among the rightwing, and the glut of pseudoscience in our modern world. From wingnut anti-GMO cultists to anti-maskers, homeopaths to anti-vaxxers, flat earthers to birthers, the ignorati in the White House to the banal plodders on Collingwood Council, we live in an age where knowledge is suspect, experts vilified,  truth denied, and wisdom is as rare as the proverbial hen’s teeth.

There are, will always be, those who aggressively avoid learning and reading, comfortable in their self-perpetuating stupidity. For whom the concept of “lifelong learning” ended in childhood. It’s just unfortunate for the rest of us that some of them are in government.

But Cicero wasn’t writing about politics, although he had a lot to say about politics in many other works. Reading his thoughts about governance, ethics, duty, and responsibility is always inspiring. To those who actually read, that is; admittedly a shrinking class in the Age of Ignorance (how many of our local councillors actually know who Ccicero was, let alone have read him?). But in De Senectute he was writing about how to grow old gracefully, calmly and stoically, without despair, yet still active and engaged. He didn’t want the latter part of life to be seen as merely an end, but rather as a continued opportunity to live, learn, and grow.
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I’m Struggling With Julian Jaynes

Julian JaynesI first came across Julian Jaynes and his controversial (or at least provocative) book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, back in the late 1970s. I bought a copy, and read part of it, but my life was in a bit of turmoil back then, and I didn’t get too far along in it. Over the years, the book left my shelves, possibly given away or traded in. It wasn’t until two years ago that I came across a used copy (the 1990 revised edition with Jaynes’ extensive afterword) at a stand in Kensington Market. I decided I should make another attempt, and bought it.

For the past several months, I’ve been slowly reading the book (one of many I read simultaneously, as is my wont), taking time to consider his ideas, statements, and hypotheses as seriously and completely as my limited, non-academic background in these areas allows. It hasn’t been easy. Of course, I’ve been somewhat distracted by other books and personal issues, but still…

Jaynes’ hypothesis is that consciousness is a later development in human history, one that occurred almost simultaneously with the development of civilization, and that it arose in humans through both language and the physiological separation of, and communication between, the two halves of our brains (the bicameral brain). The latter was heard as ghostly voices or the voices of the gods.

This is from the Julian Jaynes Society website:

Jaynes asserts that consciousness did not arise far back in human evolution but is a learned process based on metaphorical language. Prior to the development of consciousness, Jaynes argues humans operated under a previous mentality he called the bicameral (‘two-chambered’) mind. In the place of an internal dialogue, bicameral people experienced auditory hallucinations directing their actions, similar to the command hallucinations experienced by many people who hear voices today. These hallucinations were interpreted as the voices of chiefs, rulers, or the gods.

The site further adds, “Dating the development of consciousness (as Jaynes carefully defines it) to around the end of the second millennium B.C. [sic] in Greece and Mesopotamia. The transition occurred at different times in other parts of the world.” Wikipedia adds,

…his theory has four separate hypotheses: consciousness is based on and accessed by language; the non-conscious bicameral mind is based on verbal hallucinations; the breakdown of bicameral mind precedes consciousness, but the dating is variable; the ‘double brain’ of bicamerality is not today’s functional lateralization of the cerebral hemispheres. He also expanded on the impact of consciousness on imagination and memory, notions of The Self, emotions, anxiety, guilt, and sexuality.

Interesting hypothesis, even if it somewhat baffles me. However, I am fascinated by the nature and origins of consciousness, how we define it, where it comes from, where it is located within us, and its future. I am reading other related books in my efforts to understand it (including some works on the simulation theory, superintelligence, and the consciousness of octopodes).

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