Three Years Later…

It was three years on March 29th.  Kevin died peacefully at home, with all of his immediate family around him.  How silly was I ever to think, to worry, that the memories I cherish would fade, that I would lose them.  They are all still there, the good memories and the tough ones. It’s magical how the mind can transport you back; how real and fresh the images are, how sharp the pain still is.  He was, for so long, the heart, the breath and the soul of this family, that I still struggle to move forward.  Kevin was, quite simply, my purpose for being, he was my world.

I read the posts our friends put up on the anniversary of his death, and I received messages from friends and family.  I reflected on what a huge loss it was when he died, what a tragedy that someone who lived life so fully lost the privilege of ‘being’ so early.  Kevin had so many plans and dreams, so much passion and love – we were so blessed to have had him in our lives.  He did the things he wanted to, without regret.  Never could it be said that he let an opportunity pass by, he believed that you had to get out there and make things happen.  I am a better person for having loved him.

I truly believe the person we are is the result of the paths we’ve chosen and the people who have crossed them or join us on them for a time. We can either learn as we travel or we can blindly go forward, that’s on us.  For the last three years I have blindly gone forward, out of necessity since it was just too painful to look for any lessons to come out of this.  But they are there, lurking around in my mind, waiting for me to sift through them.  Maybe soon I will tackle that process, because those lessons are important and it is the final legacy of my journey with Kevin – so I owe him that, to learn from him one last time.

 

To trip or not to trip

I hate the last week of March, it has such strong memories and my emotions are quite unpredictable at times.  My wedding anniversary was March 24th, and more pointedly Kevin died on March 29th – two heart rending events that I still mourn.  I know I go a little offside at this time, and so I have booked the week off work to save my peers the agony of having to deal with me, and to save me face since I know I go a little nutty.  The plan, when I booked the time off, was to travel someplace, anyplace just to take my mind off things.

This leads to my current dilemma.  After my last outing (November 2017) on the cruise, I didn’t fare so well.  Got sick day one and actually stayed sick until Christmas. A head cold that morphed into the real-deal flu (despite my flu shot prior to the cruise) and then on to pneumonia.  After this experience, I told my sister, who is my travelling partner, that I had no plans to go anywhere by plane or by ship for a while.  A staycation was what I was going to do in March.  Well a few days of minus 30 degrees Celsius weather had put paid to that.  My sister suspected the extreme chill might change my mind and had sent me a few emails highlighting some sunny warm resorts.  Now I find myself scanning the all inclusives, looking to spend that week someplace warm.

And so it is decision time:  where to go?  I am leaning towards Cuba.  I’ve been there a few times before and am favouring it because of the beautiful beaches and the fairly consistent good weather.  I recall from previous vacations there that the food was not spectacular, and the hotels rate themselves a little more generously than I would (a four star in Cuba is more like a three star in the Dominican and Barbados).  However, it is a direct flight and there are a few good hotel chains located there. I want an all-inclusive where the biggest decision I make in the morning is whether to lay by the pool or out on the beach.  And where nobody cares if the woman in the lounge chair behaves  a little peculiarly – they just figure I may have had a bit too much to drink.

Will I pick up a bug on the plane? Maybe, but at least this time I will have packed a small stash of remedies to see me through!

Post 2: The flu shot

So I will take one more kick at the flu shot and then move on.  It’s a personal decision as to whether one gets the shot and so it should remain.  (However, and notably, one of my sisters who works in a hospital not too far from where I live informed me that it is not an option for employees at that facility, they are required to take the shot.  I have to think that there is a huge human rights violation in this stance, it just hasn’t been challenged.)

It hasn’t been hard to fill the time that I have been off – all my body wants to do is sleep.  When I am awake I try to do something that gets me out of bed and that’s not a bath, the two things I craved while I was away (my bed and tub) just don’t have the same appeal.  So over the course of the last week I thought that I would look up the product monograph for the flu shot in general to see if the warnings or contraindications had changed much over the years.

What probably surprised me most was that it wasn’t easy to locate the individual monographs. I’ve spent years doing this stuff and have a whole assortment of ways to search.  In a nutshell, going to big pharma and reading about their trade name flu shots gives you some information and generally the PR version as to why the shot is necessary. Most websites usually refer you to the product insert in the packaging for more details.  Hmm that’s not very helpful.  Even when you get the shot, the nurse or doctor doesn’t say “oh and here’s the product insert, be sure to read it.” Actually, it’s one of the few instances where you get nothing detailed. In Canada when you pick up any prescription it is always accompanied by lots of paper outlining potential contraindications.  So no product monograph on the couple of individual sites I visited.  No problem.

The information has to be available to the public and it is.  Even better, it’s nicely captured on one website:  http://www.vaccinesafety.edu/package_inserts.htm.  The list includes those pharmaceutical companies supplying this year’s product.  I’m not entirely certain what vaccine I got, because I got nothing when I had the shot, but I tend to think a GlaxoSmithKline is most likely.  Interestingly, in this instance, on this centralized site, the GSK link to a product monograph doesn’t offer up the information immediately, rather the link takes you to a request page. Anyway, lots of the others are available, read a couple of them, they are all formatted in the same manner, so after a while you can skim through them.

One common element is the following clause:

Nonclinical Toxicilogy:  Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility

“TRADENAME” has not been evaluated for carcinogenic or mutagenic potential, or for impairment of fertility.

This is a mandatory disclosure in Canada, and I am sure if it wasn’t big pharma would have that out of there in the blink of an eye.  Regardless, I get that it is a seasonal product and therefore long term evaluation of the effects of the specific product are problematic due to the changing composition of the vaccine. But likely there are some elements that are constant, how and in what is it suspended and preserved?  My rational mind says we are playing with fire here.  Shooting ourselves up with a vaccine that may or may not help based on a scientific guess as to what the flu will look like.  Creating a man made version of it and then hitting up half the globe with it because people are frightened of what could happen if they don’t get it.  Regardless of where we live, we all start to hear the media buzz – the stories start in September every year about how this could be the worst year ever.  Hmm, wonder who may have a special interest in getting that messaging out?  We are sheep, just a flock of sheep.  Drive us straight to the edge of the cliff and watch us fall over.

My thoughts have tormented me on this.  When did I get sucked in?  I got sucked in when Kevin got sick, I didn’t want to expose him to anything, so I got the flu shot.  I didn’t get sick while I looked after him but it had nothing to do with the shot, and everything to do with the measures we implemented and the diet we maintained.  Feet are firmly planted back on the ground, it only took this hellish experience to get me there.  Enough on this, so much more to cover relating to the cruise.

 

Step up to the plate, ladies!

I am fresh back from a week long training session.  I was fortunate to tag on at the last minute and lucky enough to have a manager that is both flexible and supportive.  So off I go to a full week of women’s leadership training.  There were approximately 50 of us in attendance and we came from all over North America.  The training was local for me, so I came and went from the sessions everyday, while others stayed in the hotel.

Reflecting on my life prior to Kevin’s death, training wasn’t important to me.  I knew what my future was, it wasn’t about career, it was about retiring with him and just being and doing together-type stuff.  Take him out of the picture and things have changed dramatically.  Now I don’t know whether I will retire at my earliest possible date, I may just stay on, I just don’t know.  So when a spot came available for the training, I grabbed it.

It wasn’t a week of men-bashing, it was a week of contemplation, awareness, strategy and development.  When it began it struck me that there was a great deal of posturing in the room. That this was a collection of assertive, aggressive women.  I have worked with aggressive females before, some good experiences, some not so good.  There are those that will throw you under the bus and step on your writhing body to get ahead (but there are men like that too). Then there are those that will support you and look for ways to bring out your best.  Life is quite arbitrary in all sorts of ways, who we have to work with is usually out of our immediate control.  I think for this particular training, we all went into the week not knowing what to expect and, let’s face it, nobody wants to look or sound dumb.

We had some crazy good sessions and today, the final day, gave us a session with a financial planner extraordinaire – she was fabulous and if we could have taped the session and shared it with others I would have.  She wasn’t local though, and she will fly back some place south of the border and leave us to action what we learned.  (Max out that TFSA and get rid of that credit card debt! For us females, we may want to consider long term care insurance as we get into our mid to late 60’s.  And, so much more.)

We ended the training with a career planning discussion.  We were set up in groups of six, each group led by a senior “executive” high flyer (a female who has made it to that corner office) who talked through each of our plans, as well as having roundtable input from our peers.  It was at this point that I realized how far we had come from that first day.  The trust and honesty in the group fairly hummed around us.  If I had to use a colour to describe it, I would say it was a kind of golden yellow, the warmth of the sun at the end of the day.

I left the training feeling stronger.  Which is a relief because after the first two days all I could think was that there was too much to take in, and if I made new neural connections then I would have to keep “feeding” them, and if I didn’t keep feeding them then I would become a vacant, blathering idiot!  Anyway, I think if I did fire up some new neutrons that hopefully they came with synapses too – which would be a good thing, since I don’t want that stuff filed away in some dormant foggy area of my brain. This training really kickstarted me into thinking about my future and the degree of control I have over it. I met some remarkable people and I learned some pretty valuable stuff – not just work-related but life-related.  All in all a smashing success for me.

 

I Ache

Wowsie, I tried a little bit of exercise this week and I am still hurting.  It wasn’t even anything big, just some stretching and some exercises based on Callanetics.  But apparently I have absolutely no muscles left.  I’ve come along way in the two and half years since Kevin died.  I was so dedicated to staying well during the time he was ill – I had to stay well and fit, he needed me.  We juiced everyday, we’d have smoothies with spinach, kefir, flaxseed oil, greens, banana, fresh fruit and veg, it tasted so good.   Kevin harped at me every day to be healthy and to make sure I ate right and did the right things.  He was trying all sorts of natural remedies too, so I had to eat them along with him.

Oh, and we also walked.  Kevin and I walked every day up until a couple of weeks before he died.  Remarkable really, through the ice and snow. I would strap some ice grabbers on his feet, we’d take the walker, and away we’d go.  It was only when the visiting nurse told him it was dangerous for him to walk anywhere that he stopped, not only walking but also trying.  Take away hope and you leave nothing.

Anyway, thinking back to how I physically felt at that time I’d have to say I felt very good.  Psychologically a mess, but physically in great shape.  So, I think it’s time to get back to what worked for me. I used two exercise routines, and I liked them. The Genius of Flexibility by Bob Cooley, and Callanetics by Callan Pinckney. Nothing ached when I was following my own hybrid version of their routines.  But, to get back to that point I foresee a whole bunch of pain!