Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Ringing out the old...and in with the new

I've come a long way.  Throughout September, I was asking Roger how he was feeling and what his heart rate was....well, let's just say I was asking him several times a day.  He was a good sport, and constantly reassured me he was feeling good -- in fact, better than August 27th - the day before the heart attack.

My family doctor took Roger on as a patient, and she was very surprised to meet such a healthy looking man who less than two weeks before had suffered a major heart attack.  She referred Roger to a cardiologist but a couple of weeks later, Roger experienced slight chest pains so I rushed him to Nanaimo General Hospital.

I went armed with his discharge papers from Idaho and they took excellent care of him while running a multitude of tests.  Fortunately it was determined he hadn't had another heart attack (the pain was residual pain from the heart attack around the heart's sac), and that the echo cardiogram showed that the heart was working well and another stent was not needed.  The cardiologist reviewed everything then told Roger to go live his life, and see him in a year.  It was like a "Get out of Jail Free" card.  We both started breathing easier.

The two of us made a conscious effort to eat better by loosely following the principles of the Mediterranean diet which focuses on fish, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, using herbs instead of salt, and getting lots of exercise.  Within 3 months Roger is down 30 pounds, and I am down 10.  The best part is it is a lifestyle change not a strict diet with lots of rules that are hard to maintain.  We still periodically splurge on some foods, but we're feeling so good that it is making it easier to stick with what's working.

We had lots of company this fall that came to see how Roger was doing, but I was lax in getting everyone's picture.  We welcomed Laurel and John MacPhail and his parents visiting from PEI; Roger's mom and sister; and Dwayne Majcher from Calgary who spent several weeks renovating a condo he and Annette recently purchased in Victoria.  As well, Roger's brother Jack, and his wife Siu, from San Diego were in Vancouver for a convention so we went over by ferry to spend a few hours with them.

We spent a sunny day in Vancouver with Roger's brother Jack and his wife, Siu.
Left to right:  Roger, Siu, Jack and Heather
Finding ways to get 10,000 steps in is a cinch.  I still pinch myself when I explore the beautiful parks and beaches in the area.

Driftwood on the beach
I've met a wonderful group of ladies who join me for aquasize at our resort's pool.  We try to go 2-3 times a week and we not only exercise, but we never run out of things to say or laugh about.
Left to right:  Victoria, Bernadette, Michelle and me.
Our aquasize group is named "MOA" which stands for Michelle Obama Arms!
Brad, Anette and Magnus flew to Japan for a three week holiday in October.  We picked up Obi on our way through Seattle from Idaho where we went to pick up our trailer from the property and brought it back to the island where we sold it the next day.  We had Obi for around five weeks and she had daily walks down to the beach and a park where she could run and play frisbee.  She is such a great dog and to us it is the perfect way of having a dog --- one that visits!

Tired after playing frisbee, Obi plopped herself into a puddle to cool off
A mom worries about her child no matter the age, so it wasn't surprising when Roger's mom, Madalene and his sister, Rhonda came for the weekend to see how Roger was doing.  We had a great visit and enjoyed going to Chemainus, a beautiful seaside village that is famous for its murals and theatre.  We saw the play, Hilda's Yard and loved it.

Clockwise from bottom left:  Roger's sister Rhonda, their mom, Heather and Roger at Cuckoo's - one of our favourite restaurants in nearby Coombs.

A big question we had was "would Roger be able to get travel insurance so he can continue working"?  Roger decided to find out, so called Pacific Blue Cross who had covered us so well.  We were relieved to find out that they would continue to cover him for 30 days at a time with a rider on the current policy.  It is as simple as calling before each trip, answering a few questions on his medical status, and letting them know what country(s) he would be going to. (We've since found the same coverage through BCAA that allows for longer stretches out of the country and as long as we sign up before we turn 60, no medical questionnaire is required since Roger has been stable for more than 3 months).

It didn't take long until the phone rang with a consulting job for him.  This time it was Jack, his brother who works for a geotechnical company in the States who asked if Roger could go to Costa Rica to help on a project that was having some challenges.   I was anxious saying goodbye to him, but knew I had to let him go.  It helped knowing Jack's son, Chris, was also working on the project, and that he would keep an eye on him. He's spent a few weeks there are he is scheduled to return in February.

Roger on the Atlantic coast of Costa Rica
While Roger was in Costa Rica, I brought Obi back to Brad, Anette and Magnus who had missed her.  I then flew to Kansas City to visit Roger's brother, Colin and his wife, Karen and their son, Cooper.  Roger had been looking forward to going too, but couldn't get away from the project.

Magnus did a fabulous job of introducing me to his teacher and classmates

Love this little boy to bits

I had a great weekend hanging out with Colin and Karen.  Cooper is attending University of Kansas but was able to spend part of the weekend at home.  He's come a long way from being a two year old who thought it was funny to silently hide behind curtains while I was babysitting him.  I was frantic that I had lost him and spent the longest 20 minutes of my life running through the house looking for him!  I've never let him forget it!
Left to right:  Cooper, Colin, Karen and me

Roger dodged Hurricane Otto and flew out of Costa Rica before it reached land.  While he was home we flew to Calgary for the Kinley Boomer --- a Christmas gathering that has happened for 131 years.

We rented a car through Hertz on points.  We couldn't believe it when the agent gave us the option of paying an additional $20 a day to have winter tires put on the 4X4 we rented.  Roger said, "It's Calgary and it's winter - and you charge for winter tires?"  In addition they charge $13.95 a day to add me as a second driver and then when we wanted to extend by one day, it was going to be $132!  We declined everything and have vowed not to use Hertz again.

It was a whirlwind five days in Calgary, and while we couldn't see everyone we wanted to, we were  glad to be able to have visits with:  Paul and Paula Williams, John and Laurel MacPhail, Colleen and Ed Walsh, Peggy and Bob Campbell, Kathy and Randy Cardon, my brother Russ and his wife Margaret, and two of my Auntie Elaine's best friends who I met for lunch along with Margaret.  

We stayed at Dwayne and Annette Majcher's home and had a blast.  We made plans to have them spend Christmas night with us, and for us to go to Victoria for New Years Eve.  Love having them spending more time on the island.

That weekend, we were reminded what Alberta winters are like when we drove home from the Boomer.  Luckily we left Calgary before the temperatures plummeted to the minus 20C range for two weeks.

The day after I got home from Calgary, winter came to Vancouver Island and it stayed for a couple of weeks which locals swear is unheard of.  It was hard finding a shovel to buy -- it is my third winter on the island and the first time I've needed to buy winter supplies.

The heavy, wet snow broke my beautiful magnolia tree -- I'm hoping it recovers in the spring.
This year I put my first Christmas tree in 9 years.  It was wonderful hanging ornaments that had been my parents, those we've collected on our travels, and ones we've given each other over the years.
Ready for Christmas!

Brad, Anette and Magnus spent Christmas in Calgary with the Wickenheisers, and we welcomed Annette, Dwayne and their daughter Nicole for the night.  We decided to do something very "un-Albertan-like" and take a backpack full of martini fixings down to the beach.  So fun to do and made for a memorable Christmas afternoon walking along the shoreline after having a cocktail looking out to the ocean.  Back at our cottage we had a traditional Christmas feast and then had a riotous evening playing "Mad Gab" which had all five of us in stitches.

Left to right:  Nicole, Heather, Roger, Annette, Dwayne

Toasting each other and so damn glad to be together

A first:  martinis on the beach on Christmas Day with good friends!
The following week we went to Victoria to spend a couple of days at the Majcher's newly renovated condo.  Dwayne did a superb job after gutting the place and truly made his mark on it.  Their location is fantastic --- within walking distance of the harbour, restaurants and shops and we had a great time.

We started off visiting Craigdarroch Castle built in 1890's for coal magnate Robert Dunsmuir.  The architecture is incredible and there are 32 of the original 47 stained glass windows in place.  It was well worth the visit.
Photo of Craigdarroch Castle
Courtesy: Craigdarroch Castle website

The castle was beautifully decorated for Christmas 
After a feast of oysters back at the condo, we headed down to the Harbour for the New Years Eve celebration.  There were lots of people but it was a great vibe and the lights were spectacular.  It makes us look forward to bringing our boat back to the Harbour when the weather warms up.
Victoria Harbour with the parliament buildings lit up in the background

Good friends Annette and Dwayne Majcher

We found a great outdoor patio with heaters, blankets and Spanish Coffees --- plus a ring side seat to the fireworks
To coordinate with the Canada-wide fireworks, Victoria's NYE fireworks were scheduled to go off at 9 p.m.  We were grateful we weren't in Halifax as they had to wait until 1 a.m.!

Back at the condo, we had more seafood and "warmed up" by the fire.  It was a great end to our holiday season with friends who are like family to us.

We are excited to head to Bothell on January 11th to celebrate Christmas again with Brad, Anette and Magnus.  A few days later we are flying out of Seattle to Belize to reconnect with friends, soak up some sunshine and do some snorkeling.  Hopefully Roger will get a good break before returning to work in Costa Rica.

While there was definitely a few rough patches and stresses in 2016, we are so very lucky to be well and happy as we usher in 2017.  The friends and family that shared the tough times with us are also there to share the good, and we count our lucky stars for that.

We're a bit older, a whole lot stronger and ready.  Bring it on.

"Life is like a camera.  Focus on what's important.  Capture the good times.  Develop from the negative, and if things don't turn out right - take another shot." 

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