Thursday, May 28, 2020

Uncertainty



We watched a program on moths/butterflies last night.  It was fascinating to see the various combinations of colours and shapes they come in.  How some advertise their toxicity, while others mimic the signs even though they are not actually toxic.

The transformations the creatures go through until they at last emerge from their chrysalis to become their final incredible self are quite simply amazing.

Human beings don't change their form much.  We just go up, and sometimes 'out', we develop grey hair and jowls, but our physical shape remains pretty much the same throughout our lives.

On the other hand, we are adaptable to a degree that many other animals are not.  So we assess our situation and judge what needs to change - and then we change.  If we don't, we risk not surviving.

And so it is with this pandemic.  We are facing a virus with no known cure or vaccine at this time.  We do, however, understand how viruses work.  We know that transmission is from person to person and that right now avoiding contact with the virus is pretty much our only strategy for avoiding catching it.

In the beginning very little was known about the virus but as medical folk and researchers found out more, recommendations changed.  At first health officers were reluctant to recommend a mask, fearing that people would assume that a mask would provide 100% protection.  There were also too few medical masks and there was concern that front line health care workers would not have the personal protection they required to safely help those people who were already seriously ill.

So recommendations at first were to stay home and businesses were ordered shuttered.  Then as it became obvious that this virus was not going to go away any time soon, researchers found that cloth masks would help prevent asymptomatic carriers from spreading the virus and now the recommendation is to wear either paper or cloth masks.

But always, always - wash your hands with soap and water.  If you can't do that, hand sanitizer will help, but wash your hands when you can.

Politicians and businesses are scrambling, trying to figure out how to loosen restrictions, run businesses, maintain physical distancing of 6 feet, protecting staff and customers.

But overall, there is enormous uncertainty about so many things.  When will interacting without all these protective measures be safe?

The bad news is...it may take a very long time.  As in years, not months.  This may well be our new 'normal' for the foreseeable future.

For the minority of people who scream that the virus is a hoax - it isn't.  It is within the power of every person to take appropriate measures to protect themselves, their loved ones, and the staff of the businesses they frequent.  If you  love your manicurist or hair dresser?  Wear the mask.  If you love your library, teacher, students?  Wear the mask.  If you love your guild mates?  Wear the mask.

Maintaining physical distance and wearing a mask are our best strategies for avoiding becoming ill.

The cloth masks a friend made for us are now in Canada and on their way.  In the meantime, we are wearing either paper masks.  Doug also has some N95 masks purchased for the wildfire season last year.

I have a hair cut booked for tomorrow.  I will wear a mask because I know she has a compromised person in her home.  While I believe I have not encountered the virus, it is my duty as a concerned citizen of this country to follow guidelines and care for the people around me.

In the meantime, I seldom go into the public preferring to stay isolated as much as possible.  Because I can, I will.

Being pretty much an introvert I'm not having a terrible time missing social interactions in person.  So far I have done a couple of Skype calls with friends, stay in touch with distant friends via Facebook Messenger, emails and even (can you imagine!) phone.

This is a time of enormous uncertainty for human beings.  It was my hope that we could come together to help each other through these difficult times.  Some do.  Some...don't.

My hope is that we go through this time of isolation, much like the caterpillar in it's chrysalis and emerge into a society that is more equitable for all, no matter our colouring, no matter our shape, so that each and every person can shine.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Marathon



We are living in 'interesting' times.

As event cancellations mount, requirements for masks be worn, the US passes 100,000 deaths, soaring ever higher, the reality is that this is going to be a marathon.

The world has been hit with several waves of bubonic plague.  The one that lasted from 1346 to 1353 is considered to be one of the worst to ever happen.  Millions around the world died, some estimates putting the death toll at 1/3 of the population of the time.  Society went through upheaval after upheaval as the plague arrived not once, but several times, wave after wave.

Medical understanding of the time didn't have the resources or technology that we do today.  Some forms of the Black Death were so very virulent that you could be apparently healthy in the morning and dead by nightfall.

We are facing similar challenges right now with Covid-19, except that we do have an understanding of how a virus works, how to avoid catching one, and technology to help some people survive it.  Unfortunately some survivors are going to have long lasting deficits from the damage the virus has inflicted on them.  And some simply do not survive.

So far my community has escaped the worst of the virus, but people are having to make hard decisions - to open businesses or not, to return to work or not.  What society will look like in 3 months or 30, no one can say right now.  That bad outbreak of the bubonic plague was SEVEN YEARS.  Not seven months.

We have to start planning now for how we will continue.  Some businesses are taking precautions by installing plexi shields.  Some are requiring patrons wear masks.

Yesterday when I had my appointment with the audiologist, I was required to wear a mask.  They had masks available if I didn't have one, but I do.  They had hand sanitizer, and while I waited for my appointment, he wiped down the counters with sanitizer.

I made sure I touched nothing (or as little as I could), wore my mask, and we discussed the mask wearing.  (I was trying to disentangle my hearing aids from the mask elastic around my ears.)   He expressed the hope that once people  had gotten used to wearing masks and disinfecting their hands, that the habit would continue and that overall the flu/cold season (both viruses!) would be lessened because people would follow better hand hygiene, cough into their sleeves, or just stay home if they were sick, and so on.

When I 'retired' from teaching it wasn't anything to do with a pandemic but simply me being too tired and feeling too fragile to face long distance travel and the constant worry about getting sick while I was on a trip.  Teachers are now posting that their new terms of conditions for teaching will include that ALL the people involved will wear a mask.  Or they won't be allowed in the classroom.  Anyone not willing to wear a mask will not be able to attend the class.

If I were still teaching, haring all over creation, I would have a similar requirement.  I understand completely why a teacher would want to protect themselves AND THEIR STUDENTS from catching this (or any other air borne illness like flu/colds).

Covid-19 is not going to go away any time soon.  Will it last seven years?  I hope the hell not!  Will the Olds classes go ahead at Yadkin or Cape Breton in September?  No idea.  Will the border be open to anything other than essential travel?  No clue.  Will I be willing to get on a plane and travel from one coast to the other?  Uncertain.

I intend to not catch this virus because it will most likely kill me.  So I continue to stay home, stay out of the line of transmission as much as I possibly can.  I will wear a mask, wash my hands. 

My desire is that we will all survive this time and be able to continue with our lives, most likely with adaptations for the virus.  Because this one is going to take a while to be beaten back.  But there will be another.  That you can bet on.

Human beings are infinitely adaptable.  We are going to have to adapt to this new reality.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Roller Coaster


People like me who live with a disease like cancer frequently use the roller coaster as a metaphor for the journey.

Cancer is no longer a death sentence, depending on the type of cancer and access to good medical care.

I was extremely fortunate in that just as I presented to the local cancer clinic, a new oncologist had arrived to begin practicing here.  Happens that he was very experienced in the type of cancer I have and had actually developed a protocol to treat it.  At the time the protocol was not approved in this province, but he fought for me to get it and managed to get approval for me to benefit from his experience and knowledge.

But just because I was in remission for six years afterwards didn't mean I was 'cured'.  In fact I lived with that fear of return before every check up.  I did so well that my check ups went from every three months, to every six months to once a year.

And then it came back.

By that time, however, break throughs were being made in the treatment of the cancer I live with and instead of chemo again, the new oncologist put me on a 'miracle' drug.  Instead of poisoning my entire body with toxic chemicals in hopes of killing the cancer not the host (iow, moi) the new drug targeted just the rogue cells.  Unfortunately, while it worked extremely well to kill the cancer cells, it also did a number on the rest of me.  Commonly called 'adverse effects'.

And so I hit the portion of the roller coaster where the peaks became higher and the drops more stomach dropping.

Roller coasters are not a continuous round of sharp ups and downs - they give a few seconds of respite between rapid corners and stomach turning spirals.

And so does living with cancer.  At least the type of cancer I have.

Right now the peaks and valleys are fairly low.  I go in for check ups every six months.  Mostly I ignore the fact that I have cancer like a black cloud looming over me - like the cartoon character from Dogpatch - because for most of the year it is pretty far 'behind' me.

But I cannot forget for one minute that it is there.  And as the time for my check up draws nearer, I spend more time thinking about it - is this physical issue cancer?  Or allergies?  Is that physical issue cancer?  Or pandemic stress?

While I have gotten pretty good at isolating such thoughts (swimming in De Nile is not always a bad thing), the closer the appointment, the more I think about it.  Is it back?  Or do I get another 'pass'?

So I ride the roller coaster.

To those people who ask how I am 'celebrating' still being in remission?  I don't 'celebrate'.  As the stress of the 'not knowing' shifts to 'knowing' the remission holds, I can once again take a deep breath and shove the black cloud further away, further behind me.  Unless I detect symptoms, my next appointment is in six  months.  In the meantime, it will be back to weaving.  I still have way too much stash.

But the cancer, plus cardiac, plus my age, mean that I am three times susceptible to the Covid-19 virus.  So, because I can, I will continue to isolate as much as possible.  If I need to go out (as I do today) I will wear a mask.  I will sanitize my hands, mask, etc., when I get home.  I have the privilege of being able to self-isolate, so I am removing myself from the line of transmission as much as possible.

We are all riding the pandemic roller coaster.  Some of us just have extra twists and turns in ours...

Monday, May 25, 2020

Special Snowflake



Today was my six month check up at the cancer clinic.

I live with cancer.  The type of cancer I have is not (currently) considered curable, but it is indolent (slow growing) and it impacts my body in many ways.

My diagnosis was in 2011 and I spent that year in a constant round of tests, stress and treatments.  I was the first person in BC to benefit from the Rituxamab maintenance protocol, mainly because my oncologist at the time developed it and fought to get me on it.  He said he was seeing remission of up to 6 years. 

I got that six years.  And then it came back.

By that time, having already had chemo, I was eligible for one of the new 'miracle' drugs, which I took for almost exactly one year before the adverse effects became so onerous I couldn't go on any more.

My care team took me off the Ibrutinib and let my body recover as much as it could, lining up the next drug in the queue, which unfortunately had pretty much an identical list of adverse effects.

But my numbers stayed good and we held off starting any kind of treatment.  While some of the adverse effects did eventually resolve, the muscle pain did not, which is why I started the pain treatments. 

This  morning I found out my numbers were still good, I'm still in remission.  Even better news is that there is now another drug that can be used to treat the type of cancer I have and she is willing to skip over the other one and go straight to the latest one - when it becomes necessary.

But the fact that I have been in remission for a year is pretty 'special snowflake' and adds to the data that some people, having taken Ibrutinib, actually stay in remission.  The research scientists are tracking the data to see if some people reach 'cure' - as in it never does come back.

I don't know if I can be one of those people, but the fact that the cancer is dampened down enough that I do not need to begin treatment now is very encouraging.

Behind our masks (we both wore masks) we smiled, and while we discussed the potential of 'cure', we are both well aware that it might come back.  So I will go through this all over again in six months.

On the other hand, it's a huge positive that I do not have to start another round of treatment in the middle of a pandemic.

I will be grateful for small mercies.

And yes, I did wear a mask, not because I think I have been exposed to the virus, but because my allergies are such I didn't want anyone in the waiting area to worry about  my coughing.  I also sanitized my hands when I got to the van, then thoroughly washed my hands when I got home.

Stay safe.  This virus is going to be around for a while.  Opening things up doesn't mean it has gone away, just that there are now beds in ICU for you.  Until the second wave hits.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Perishable



If there is one thing that has been a running theme through this time of pandemic, it is this;..that we are perishable.

I do not personally know anyone who has died from the coronavirus, but I know people who have lost loved ones. 

We are being forced to examine our lives and face the fact that everything is perishable.

Some people cope with the stress and being at home by deep cleaning their houses.  Some have planted gardens, or taken up baking bread.

Some of us question the size of our stash - both the yarn (raw materials) and the product.  I, for one, have plenty of both.  I question why I keep making more when there is already a glut of textiles available.  And who will be able to afford to buy hand made textiles?

I am also old enough to have stash yarn that is beginning to show signs of aging - and perishing.  So again I feel pressure to not let that yarn go to 'waste' but to use it to make something useful before it ages out entirely.

After we return to some kind of 'normal' there are several ways we, as humans, could go.  We could learn the lesson that more for the sake of more is actually kind of silly.  Maybe we will stop competing to see who can spend more, buy the biggest house, the most expensive car, have the most jewelry.   We could stop flying half way round the globe en masse.  We could live more thoughtful lives.  We could waste less, recycle/reduce/reuse more.

We can work at forging stronger bonds between people, accepting folk for who they are, regardless of skin colour, religion (or not), ability and talent.  We could focus on helping everyone not just survive, but thrive. 

One of the fastest ways to stimulate the economy is to increase the minimum wage but it seems big corporations are hell bent on having the stimulus money go directly into their coffers before it runs through the fingers of people who are in some cases desperate for food and shelter.

Today's New York Times front page lists just 1000 people who have died from Covid-19 in the US.  I feel ill when I use the word 'just' because that is a tiny reflection of the 100,000 people who have died in that country.  So far.  And yet people are refusing to wear a mask or maintain physical distancing because the pandemic is a Dem hoax or something something gazpacho.

Other countries are experiencing similar difficulties with some people considering themselves above the recommendations.

But the bottom line here is this:  we are all perishable.  But we are all valuable - to someone.  Even those toting guns, demanding the economy be opened up are valuable to someone else.  For those people recommending that we all just jump into the public and get herd immunity as quickly as possible, never mind how many millions would die, I invite them to go first to show us how it's done.  How 'safe' it is.  How 'mild' the coronavirus is.  Prove to me it is 'just' the flu. 

I have the privilege of being able to stay home.  I always was an introvert so staying at home is not a particular hardship to me.  So I can remove myself from the line of transmission.  If and when I do need to go out (I have medical/self-care appointments this week) I will wear a mask.  I will clean the mask, my hands, my keys when I get home.  I will maintain physical distance or wear a mask when I can't.  Like for the aforementioned appointments.

Yesterday a friend came to visit and we sat outside, at either end of a long table we have in the carport for dealing with parcels.  It was great to have that in person visit, but we were both very careful about maintaining distance.  And even though I would have loved to give her a hug, I am saving hugs for when it is safe again.  For both of us.

We will go soon enough.  Let's not hasten the end date by ignoring the recommendations of safe distancing, mask wearing, washing hands etc.


Saturday, May 23, 2020

Lighting Candles


We are living in 'interesting' times. 

An author I follow on Twitter commented the other day that he would rather write about 'interesting' times than live in them.  I responded that I would rather read about them than live in them.

This morning someone did a long thread on how she had been a libertarian as a teenager and young adult, and how the mind set of being 'right' meant you had to 'win' every argument, whether or not that argument actually made any sense in terms of living harmoniously with others in society.

(I paraphrase.)

She said that she now preferred to focus on the good that could be done, daily looking for people working to make things better for society as a whole instead of just arguing for the sake of argument, scoring points by 'winning' at all costs.

It has been something I realize I have done instinctively.  I do not share memes on social media mocking other people.  I do not (publicly) call people names.  (I reserve the right to vent my frustration at politicians and their supporters, in private, so that I don't spread my frustration publicly.)

I try to focus on the good being done.  But as the rise of the alt-right grows and spreads, it becomes harder and harder.

Statistics show that the alt-right is actually a small percentage of society.  They are, unfortunately, apparently willing to resort to violence, either verbally, or even physically.

In a society that is supposed to be built on 'Christian' values, I find this disturbing and upsetting.

And so I try to retweet and share the stories of people doing good things.  Helping each other.  Holding each other up, not punching down.

We are living in 'interesting' times.  What we do once the pandemic is controlled will determine how our society goes on.  I will continue to try to light candles, not extinguish them.

So far I have not been personally impacted by anyone I know becoming ill and dying.  I will continue to stay 'isolated' as much as possible.  I will wear a mask when I need to go out.  I have been slowly beginning to have physical visits, but only at the recommended 6 feet distance, out of doors.  Doug continues to do all of the errands, allowing me to stay at home.

This is a privilege I do not take lightly so I will continue to stay out of the line of infection as much as is possible.  I do not want to be a vector of spreading the virus.

I have some appointments next week where I must be there physically.  I will wear a mask.  I will - as much as I am able - protect myself and others from the spread of this virus.

And yes, I read Ayn Rand as a teenager.  Atlas Shrugged if I remember correctly.  Decided I didn't like any of her characters enough to read another of her books.  

Friday, May 22, 2020

Feathers/Scales



A few years ago scientists began to put together the idea that birds were descended from dinosaurs and when you look at baby birds, there seems to be a definite resemblance!

There are also similarities between feathers and scales.

My next warp (once the one I just put on the loom is done) again uses blue hues.  Somewhat reminiscent of peacock colours, I am using this 'scale' design and will be crossing the light/medium value blues/blue greens with that dark cotton that appears to have not aged well.  Not well enough to use as warp, at any rate.

It will serve just fine as weft for towels, and I think it will make a very nice textile. 

And that is what life is all about, too.  Compromises.  Plan Bs.  Accepting something less than 'perfect' when it is 'good enough'.

Yesterday the local Community Arts Council announces that it was not going to hold the biggest craft fair of the community.  I was disheartened that so many people were making really negative comments, saying they would never support the fair again.  They said they were going to boycott because they were 'supporting' the artists.  Um, how does boycotting next year's fair support the artists who will participate - when it is safe to do so?

Instead the CAC will work at holding an on-line event.  If they offer consignment sales for their members, I will participate that way.  The fibre arts guild will be exploring if it might be feasible to hold a sale in the guild room, as we usually do early in December.

Just because there is a pandemic doesn't mean we can't do things.  We are just going to have to do them in a different way.

I am just back from the cancer clinic where I had my blood draw.  I am now on tenterhooks until Monday when I get the results back.  I think, I hope, I am still in remission.  But I will know on Monday.