Sunday, 25 June 2017

Vancouver!

I'm in Vancouver with Amy! I missed posting last week because I was hiking around a lake and I completely forgot. I'm having a wonderful time and will post many pictures once I get home. The next few days are going to be hot hot so I think the hiking will be at a min and instead I'll be sitting by a lake or river staying cool.

Monday, 12 June 2017

To Grampy David Watson

My grandfather died this past week. We had the funeral and burial yesterday in Centerville, NB where he laid to rest beside my Grandmother.

Grampy could be ridiculous at times.
My childhood memories of Grampy are vague. They mostly involve him leaving for the woods in the wee hours of the morning and returning at lunchtime to have a nap. And then not seeing him again until suppertime when we would have a meal of meat and potatoes because anything different like pizza or lasagna was considered "exotic."  In the evenings we would often play cards and no one wanted to be on his team because if you played the wrong card, you would hear about it.

As children, when we visited, we would run around the old farmhouse-turned-barn, jumping from the hayloft and feeding the cows. We would dare each other to go to the upper levels of the house and hold our breaths to see if the person would fall through the floor (it never happened). We would ride with Grampy in his truck and ask why the floor was packed with kitty litter boxes (it was his way of fixing a hole in the floor). He would often recruit us to pick off potatoes bugs from his garden but I'm pretty sure I just ended up eating the beans rather than being helpful.
Old farmhouse/barn
As a grandchild, you only ever see one small window into the life of your grandparent. You meet them after they've raise their children, after they've had a career, and when they are very much set in their routines. I don't think you really see them as a person with a life before you until you grow up yourself.

To me, Grampy was always the man who worked in the woods cutting down trees, watched TV way too loud, and liked to read books. He was hard to buy for because he would return most presents so we gave his candy during the holidays. Every time he saw Isaiah, he thanked him for taking care of me or for driving Amy and I to see him even though Isaiah had sat in the backseat the entire time. He saw the world in the certain way and enjoyed arguing that with other people.

As I've gotten older and heard more stories, I've started to learn about the complexities of my Grandfather. He was very pragmatic about nature and the circle of life. The deer heads hanging on the wall taught us pretty quickly about where meat came from. So it was a surprise to all of the grandchildren to have confirmation of the family legend that he couldn't take the cow that was named after one of the grandchildren to be slaughtered. He couldn't bring himself to "kill Andy." It was probably the last time the grandchildren were allowed to name the animals.

He was frugal and concerned about money but it was always to make sure his family would be taken care of. He sometimes took it a bit to the extreme. Like how he refused to buy new knobs for his stove top even though there was only one left so he had to switch it around if there was more than one burner on. How he "rescued" the "perfectly good" shirts that Grammy threw out and cut off the one good arm to would sew it to the body of another shirt. Nothing was ever to be wasted or thrown away.
Who needs this many saws?
I heard many stories of Grampy over this past weekend from his younger days. About how good he was at baseball. About how he loved to fish and play hockey. About how he made a rink for his children when they were little. About how good of a shot he was while hunting. A story that seems like family lore about how he once shot two birds with one bullet.

He loved family reunions and anniversary parties. He loved any time the family would get together to celebrate an occasion. We had to stop the traditional family softball games because he was still so competitive in his 80s that he slide into first base to avoid getting out (I wonder where we all get our competitiveness from). He tore his Achilles tendon but didn't tell anyone for over a day. He needed a cast and instead of staying inside to heal, he drove his lawnmower all over the property like a mobile scooter to tend to his garden and do other chores. It was hard to convince him to slow down. He had a giant 90th birthday party earlier this year which was attended by seemingly the entire family.

He was so happy to beat everyone at the family reunion sac race.
He was determined he would stay in his home until the day he died, and he did. He was still making rhubarb juice and clearing brush from his property the day before he died. He had his garden planted. I picked two tomatoes from the plants he had growing in his house. He had started an orange tree from a seed he planted.

On Saturday, armed with a hammer and axe handle for spiderweb protection, Amy and I went through the old barn for what will probably be the last time. We took pictures of all the old farm gear and laughed that anyone let us play in that place.
The old farmhouse is kind of creepy now.
Can't believe we use to play in here.
On Sunday I picked Grampy's rhubarb and today I've spent the afternoon making juice and freezing the rest for future pies.

I hope he died knowing that he took care of his family. That his family loved him and we'll continue to tell stories about him for years to come.

"No-one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away - until the clock he wound wears down, until the wine she made has finished its ferment, until the crop they planted is harvested. The span of someone's life, they say, is only the core of their actual existence.”
 ― Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Biking

This week I biked to the beach for the first time this year. No, it wasn't warm enough to swim or even to wade in the water but it was nice enough to sit by a rock, read my book, and enjoy the view. It only took me a little over two hours to get there compared to last year when it took about three. It was so easy this time. Ok, easy is overstating it, it was still a 40km bike ride. But the hills didn't seem as hilly and I didn't have to take so many breaks.
A really pretty view that does not photograph well.
I knew before the bike ride that I was physically stronger than I was a year ago but it's always nice to have these reminders. It affirms that all the exercising and terrible jogging I've been doing is actually helping. Even if my lung function isn't jumping up, the rest of my body is so much healthier overall which is great for my lung health.
The river!
The beach!
Like when Isaiah and I hiked around the trails by the Wentworth hostel two weeks ago. It was a trail I tried to do two years ago when I had cancer but wasn't yet diagnosed and almost fainted. My hemoglobin was so low that I couldn't make it up to the look-off. This time, not only did I make it to the look off, I did the entire loop.

I guess it's probably obvious that I would be stronger now than when I had cancer or was still recovering from chemotherapy. But the change has been so slow and gradual that I don't always notice. It's much more obvious when I can power up a hill on my bike that last year I would've had to stop on for a break. Or hiking up a steep section of a trail and not feeling light headed and short of breath.

It feels so amazing.
Apple blossoms in Wentworth Valley
The hike was 99% trees, streams, and mosquitoes.
The 1% that was a look-off (and mosquitoes)!

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Walk to make CF history

The Walk to make CF History was today! Thanks to everyone who donated to the cause and who came out in the cold yesterday to our yard sale in Petitcodiac. We appreciate everything that was donated and our team raised over 2500$. Yay!

Amy and I gave a little speech before the walk about having CF. We always feel that our speeches are a bit of a bummer but today especially so. I think it felt like more of a downer today because there were some kids there with CF and it was like we were telling them "You are going to go downhill. Enjoy your lung function now while you can. We are your future! Beware! P.S. Be a donor!" I mean, we don't say those words exactly and our speech is definitely more transplant-focused than perhaps someone elses would be. I guess we have to talk about their own experience and ours is at the "transplant" stage of having CF.

The only difference this year was that they set up a 5km run because they're trying to draw some new people from outside the usual families. But Isaiah and I ended up being the only ones running the 5km. Ah well. We still enjoyed it and I finished in under 40min! It wasn't quite as exhausting as the Transplant Trot but I'm still pretty tired sitting here tonight. I push myself much harder on these more official runs than I do when I'm outside on the trail by myself.

All in all, a great walk even though we didn't win any of the prizes. Oh well, there's always next year!

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Trip!

I finally got my trip cancellation insurance money back! What a huge relief is it to not have to think about it anymore.

You're probably wondering "what trip?" My planned Aruba trip in November 2015. The one I had to cancel because I was in the hospital being diagnosed with cancer. The one that was suppose to be my one-year post-transplant celebration. The trip that the rest of my family still went on without me because it seemed ridiculous to ruin their vacation just because I was stuck in the hospital. That one.

It's been a long fight with the company that I wasn't expecting because when I had to cancel my trip to Spain in 2013 due to hospitalization, I had zero issues. I sent in my paperwork and receipts and got my money back in 6-8 weeks. No questions and one form for the doctor to fill out. And that was related to my pre-existing condition so I was expecting a fight. This time was very, very different.

The day I was given my diagnosis and was told not to go to Aruba, Isaiah called United (United really is the worst but it was the cheapest) to set up the claim. We thought if we didn't delay, it would be easier. United sent the information to their subsidiary Allianz, who told him where to send the appropriate paperwork. We had that paperwork filled out by a doctor and waited two months to find out the claim was rejected because they said my doctor's visit several months before the trip counted as "active treatment."

I was so upset. My doctor visits are regular and there are often slight medication changes but my doctor had still said I was okay to travel. I made Isaiah deal with them because every time I would get on the phone to explain to the representative that my cancer was not related to my general check-up, I would start crying. I'm one of those people who cry frustration-tears and it didn't help that I was also in the middle of chemo so was incredibly emotional at the time. I didn't have any emotional energy to fight with an insurance company.

We appealed their decisions with more paperwork from a different doctor. Waited many months. Denied again.

Appealed their decision again with even more paperwork from the doctor. Waited many more months. Denied again.

Six months ago my doctor wrote a even stronger letter to the company and we weren't immediately denied, they simply requested more information. They asked for my medical file to be mailed to them. My medical file. Isaiah called and asked "her entire medical file?!" The man clarified that they just wanted the information from the initial hospitalization when my trip was cancelled.

I filed a request to the medical records section of the hospital for all my paperwork from my November-December admission in 2015. The woman asked if I wanted to have it printed and mailed to me. The cost was simply 40$ for the first 100 pages plus 0.25 cents per additional page plus shipping. The file was over 1000 pages.

The man from Allianz said paper copy was better but they would accept electronic "if we must." At over 250$ and 12% of a tree, I decided "we must email." Also, we have the technology, why do they make things so much more difficult? (I know the answer to that question) I opted for the cheaper option of having it mailed to me on a CD as a PDF instead. Once it showed up, Isaiah decrypted it and emailed the file to the company.

We waited another few months and I received an email saying the medical staff had overturned my initial rejection. I finally have a cheque in my hands (it's in the bank). What a relief. The drama is over.

And so I've booked a trip to Vancouver!!! Yay!!!!! In less than a month Amy and I will be getting on a plane and zooming off to find some mountains and killer whales. I'm unbelievably excited. I love traveling and exploring new places so much. It gives me so much energy. Leaving Atlantic Canada and not going to Toronto for the first time in 5 years!

I picked Vancouver for my first trip because:
1) I've wanted to go back and explore more since I was there cycling with David 9(!) years ago
2) I want to see some killer whales since the last ones I saw were in 1997 when we were there as a family
3) I want to hike all over the mountains
4) it's still in Canada so I have a safety net with good hospitals nearby if something goes wrong.

Amy and I have visited so many places together that being able to travel together again is the final confirmation that I'm healthy. After sitting in the hospital getting texts while she went to London, Germany, and Aruba without me, planning trips together makes me feel like my pre-transplant healthy self. How else to explain it than to say "I'm unbelievably excitement" about a million times.

Amy and Alley Adventure Again!

Without travel insurance for me this time, because if it took a year and half to get it back for getting cancer randomly, I'm definitely not getting it back now.