Acoustic Neuroma Chronicles: Off my Game

I have had a pretty good run of late.

I had a chance to speak with an old running pal this week. We hadn’t seen each other in forever and I was surprised to learn that she also sported a hearing impairment. Her’s is for different reasons and is treated differently, but it was nice to find commonality. The longer I live the more I learn that people are more alike than different. If you take a moment, you can really relate to almost anyone on some level. My runner pal was no different. What we both agreed on was either we were less dizzy and our symptoms have improved or we have become accusation to them.

My Doc says its the second one. My dizzy never really goes away, I just become accustom to making accommodations.

I haven’t given it much thought until yesterday. Late in the afternoon, a wave a nausea hit me full force. I felt terrible. It is different than the flu or pregnancy. Its more like when you are really hot and the room has no ventilation and there is an oder that just doesn’t sit right. I broke out in a sweat and felt discombobulated or floaty. I needed to sit. When I sit I tend to nap.

After I awoke, the symptoms were still quite pronounced. It’s better today, but I am still dizzy.

I sat in some self-reflection yesterday to think about the changes I am experiencing. For starters, I have put on weight. That thing that happens when I don’t run as much….or at all. I am walking, but clearly not enough or not as far. I find time a factor lately but now that the family pressures have slowed down, I am able to get out more.

Other changes I noticed is how I dress myself. Lifting my right leg is risky if I am not using something for stability. I can still stand to put on my socks but I have to rock my foot so it does not leave the floor. ITs WAY TRICKIER than it sounds. I always try to stand to put my pants on but find myself leaning or falling over. Falling isn’t my first choice. Again, letting my right foot leave the floor without support is where I find I am failing.

My single sided deafness (SSD) is working out okay for me. Enough people now are respectful of it but I also have stopped apologizing for it. I won’t talk to people who use speaker phone, because I cannot hear you. I don’t care if you like to pace or drive when you talk to me, if I cannot hear you, I cannot communicate, so … end of story. I have also stopped worrying about missing conversation. If I need to know, someone will tell me. If I don’t need to know, I can sit on the stress free side of life. And I have to tell you, being stress free in my personal life is the best feeling in the world.

I have found peace on so many levels. I have started using Haida Art as a symbolic metaphor for my Acoustic Neuroma or perhaps as guidance as a way to reconfigure everything.

Years ago I went to the Alberta Art Gallery to see the Haida exhibit. I learned there are basic shapes both positive and negative that will repeat in a design.

It is pretty symbolic for me. The same pieces of the puzzle reconfigured into different images. Much like my daily tasks. I have the same things I need to do, but the task of doing them has changed so I need to reconfigure the task to get through my day, good bad or indifferent, the structure is the same, but the configuration is different.

Looking at my life this way lets me dwell on the positive and not the negative parts of living with Acoustic Neuroma. Each stage has had different struggles but so far I can alter things to have a positive outcome. Peace is a feeling I am not willing to compromise on any more.

I have always been drawn to the calming and repetitive nature of this art form. Traveling through the Vancouver Airport finds me lingering to admire the art pieces. This last time in January it became more, it was a realization that I needed to make changes to my structures so I can move forward with my progression. It sometimes takes me a long time to find the meaning in something that makes me pause, but when I do it, I find it was well worth the wait. I may be off my game, but my game is different now.

 

 

Edmonton Tourist: Nellie McClung Park

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It was a very blustery day in the city. Brush fires popping up in Edmonton (People, there is a fire ban, this means No Candles, Fireworks, wood stoves, fireplaces or campfires of any kind. Alberta is BURNING. Stop and give your head a shake because I will report you in a heart beat.).I was at Run Club this morning and had intended to walk over to Nellie McClung to explore before I went home. But I didn’t have The Captain with me and the guilt I felt was intense. So I went home, ate breakfast, had a nap and then asked my pup if he wanted to join me. He of course said yes.

Park # 6 on my quest to visit every River Valley Park in Edmonton this summer. Nellie McClung was one of the Famous 5. The women who spearheaded the Person’s Act, ensuring women would be considered people under the law. I often have to remind my bank this, especially when I wanted to withdraw money from my American Savings Account. I made an epic scene and reminded them that is had been 100 years since I was a declared a person under the law and HOW DARE they suggest I need the hubs permission to do ANYTHING….but I digress…

Nellie McClung is a tiny park located on 99 Street on the south side of the river. Sandwiched between Cloverdale park ( not listed as a River Valley Park – weird) and Queen Elizabeth Park. I pulled into the Old Timer’s Cabin and parked. The first thing that struck me is the non-traditional park experience. There was no picnic tables and and no wood stoves for picnics. I only found 1 bench and it was occupied by a friendly fellow who was clearly living off the land and spoke to his invisible friends but still managed to smile and say hello.

I use this trail a lot ever since that day I got lost and added an extra 6km to my route. Construction of the Walterdale Bridge made things complicated that day but I found a beautiful and peaceful trail as my reward. Since then, I prefer this route back to Run Club rather than the loud and noisy 99 Street.

Cap and I new if we turned north, we would be out of the park, so that doesn’t count as visiting. We headed south west towards Skunks Hollow and Queen Elizabeth Park.

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I stepped off the path to get a closer glimpse of the North Saskatchewan River. It was a beautiful green today, it looked as though it was filled with Glacier Flour, the silt that makes water green.

5 minutes later, and we were at Skunks Hollow. Well, that was the shortest walk ever.

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This is where I would move if I had my pick of anywhere in the city. It is perfect. Overlooking the river valley and has 2 parks in the backyard. Perfection. Plus, I really don’t think there are a lot of people who know it is even here.

Cap and I turned back in search of the road less traveled. After visiting 5 other parks, I have learned walkers have access to places that runners never visit. Little hidden gems that are nestled out of view. Nellie McClung did not disapoint.

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I decided on the road more travelled than the less traveled but still less travelled than the paved main path. Much safer for me because when Cap gets excited, he will drag me to my doom. I didn’t feel like swimming today so I stuck to the less precarious path.

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I was thinking about how every other park had a little gem tucked away when I came to this scene. A civilized tea set waiting for someone’s tea party. It was lovely and again I was thankful that my kids are not that thoughtful, I did not want to traverse down the steep embankment.

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We kept traveling along the path and found another path I wanted to explore but Cap was on full alert. Ears up, head still and then in crouch mode. He was ready to protect. It is a different stance from one of attack. So I trusted his instincts and we avoided that path. I will never know what he was saving me from, but I trust him enough to listen to him.

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By avoiding the potential peril, we were treated to beautiful river views.

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I have to admit, I live in a very beautiful city.

Eventually we intersected with the main path and we turned south to head back to the car.

Nellie McClung is lovely for exploring the river, great for runs, walks and bikes. It’s mostly a transitional park to either river crossing but it is a quiet lovely spot.

Next week, my second favourite park, Queen Elizabeth Park.

 

Spirit of Edmonton 

It has been an emotional week. My co-worker gave me this.

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I live in Edmonton. about 8 hours south of Fort McMurray. The McMurray fire is larger than the City of Calgary. 2000 square kilometres. 80,000 people have been displaced from their homes. I refuse to use refugees because these people are fellow Canadians, they are Albertans, they are family. They are not coming from a different country, they belong to us. They need to be rescued. They need compassion and they need help.

I have been overwhelmed but the generosity of Canadians but by Edmontonians is particular. People have opened their homes. Facebook after Facebook post was “I have room for a family” “I have farmland that can hold 100 RVs”, “I have $10000 to give”, “I have pasture for horses”and the list keeps growing.

80 000 people have been displaced while Fort McMurray burns to the ground. Families are homeless, Adults are unemployed and yet the city keeps giving. The amount of love that is felt is overwhelming. I cried when the Syrian Refugees who came to Canada banded together to give what little they had because they understood how Fort Mac felt. Think about that.

I sat in my living room yesterday and surveyed my surroundings. What would I take with 15 minutes to decide? Easy, All my important papers, my ID and passport, food for my dog, and the same for my family. It makes moving from my home seem really easy because suddenly you take inventory of what is important and my home is filled with stuff. Not very many things are important. I don’t have an attachment to things, I have an attachment to people and animals. It is times like this that you really understand what you need and what is not necessary.

It makes me think about the hate I see in media coming from the elections in the US. It makes me think about the hate coming from the middle east and it makes me think about the rivalries between races and religions. All of these things do not matter when you are shown disaster on this level. All that matters is what can you do to help. Not everyone can give with monetary items but everyone can give of time and effort. Everyone can give with kind words and gestures.

I met a women yesterday who was evacuated from Fort Mac. All she had was the clothes on her back and her purse. She went to Northlands to check in and services were there to help her get started with survival. She is now in temporary lodging but has been giving money for the immediate. She was buying clothes because she had none. Women were surrounding her in ways that gave me hope for humanity. Several women chipped in and bought her clothes, another gave her a Tim’s card for food, and another offered her house as a safe place to live. We all cried and hugged and she could not express how overwhelmed she was with the generosity of Edmonton. There is no where I’d rather live than here. Here in Canada. We are a nation of amazing people.

In the months ahead, I fear the fires will spread and most of the province will burn to the ground. We have had very little snow and no rain. We have been in a drought cycle for a long time with no end in sight. It will get worse before it gets better.

I need to remember but for the grace of God go I. Next time it could be me. Be grateful for what you have, give where you can and hug your family a little tighter tonight. You are one of the lucky ones.

 

Edmonton Tourist: Mill Creek Ravine

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Can someone tell me why Mill Creek Ravine is classified as a River Valley Park? It starts in South Edmonton by Argyll Road and ends about 2km away from the River. It does follow the creek all the way into the valley, but it is not really a Vally park. Not that I am complaining. Mill Creek Ravine is park #4 in my quest to visit all the valley parks. This one is my favourite running spot. I am always on the upper trail beginning my downward decent into the valley because running downhill is the most fun you can have on legs.

The Captain and I began at the 2.5km mark. How do I know the milage? I run this trail a lot. The Mill Creek Pool upper parking lot is 2.5 km away from the trail head. I have run that a gazillion times and have explored the lower trails down below. But I had never been along the creek itself at this point of trail. So Cap and I parked the car in the busy lot and made a right turn towards the creek down the long steep hill.

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The hill was loose gravel and my sled dog thought running down it might be fun, except it was too steep for me to run so I fell and he kept dragging me down the slope while my feet dug in as brakes. I finally had to yell at him to stop. The cyclists behind me thought this was hilarious. I have a very strong pup.

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The first thing I noticed about this new trail I was on was the blossoms. It is super early for leaves and flowers but I will take it! I love summer and today had that “summer in the city’ feel to it.

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When we made it down the hill, I took the time to brush the gravel out of my hands and emptied my shoes while Cap explored the first bridge and the creek.

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I was surprised by the amount of people down here. The upper trail is always busy in the mornings with runners getting their long run in for the week. But this was 1:00 PM, the runners have finished for the day and the cyclists were out. Apparently this is where they come. So many trails that meander all over the place down here, I made sure to stay close to the creek. I knew it would come out at the river so I didn’t fear getting lost.

I crossed 7 bridges that spanned the creek. Far mare than I was expecting.

As Cap and I wandered around, we found some seniors playing Pooh Sticks. A game my kids like to play when they were little. It is a game you play by tossing a stick downstream and rushing to the other side of the bridge to see whose stick won the race. Cap and I stopped to cheer them on a bit. We continued on and found the River Valley Clean up Volunteers in full force picking up refuse and the trash to keep our parks lovely. I got into this habit long ago from my dad. Out walking and I pick up trash I see and place it in the bin. If everyone did this, a big weekend wouldn’t be needed every year. So THANK YOU Volunteers! I appreciate the work you do!

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A little further along the creek and we found two boys building a fantastic fort. This is something I loved doing as a kid. When I lived in Hay River we had a forest behind us like this one and I spent hours working on my home away from home. These two boys built an impressive lean-to and had benches and a cooking area. There is nothing I love more than to see imagination at work.

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We kept pushing onward and discovered a picnic area. It would be a bit of a trip to pack fire wood in, but it can be done!

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As we wandered along the creek, we heard lots of birds and saw dozens of dogs but the rest of the wildlife was scarce. Even water in the creek was low. It has been a dry winter and even dryer spring so I am hoping for some solid rain to happen for a while.

As we entered deeper into the forest the noise of the city became so distant we could no longer hear it. As always it amazes me that I can be in Downtown Edmonton and feel like I am in the middle of nowhere.

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I had expected this walk to be about 2km to Connor’s Hill, the road that leads to the downtown core. But because of the meandering creek, we ended up walking 6km much farther than my dog prefers. We needed to stop in the shade so he could snack on some greens and cool his belly on the damp grass. I finally convinced he we needed to walk further because the apple tree was in bloom and I wanted a a photo of the sign, proof we were here.

To cheer Cap up, we climb the paved trail back to the parking lot. This was a 2.5 km trek, a much shorter distance than the way we arrived at the bottom.

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This was my 4th park. All 4 times I have experienced something that I had not seen before. It astounds me that Edmonton still holds secrets from me. Damn I love this city!

Next up Nellie McClung Park over by the Old Timers Cabin.

 

Plan A revised

img_2478It was a tough week for me.

My baby girl became an official adult. Work stress is beginning to feel like burn out. I’m too tired to relax and have fun at night. I am ready for an extended couple of days off but that is not around the corner. My usual stress decompress was missed last week and I fear it may be missed this week too.

I blame the burbs. At the time I moved in to the burbs I felt it was important. I chose my home based on school district and individual schools for my children. Living in the neighbourhood of the preferred school just made it simpler. Studies showed that schools where families have the same values about education helped promote secondary education for your own children.

Here we are with two adult children and no one remotely considering University …yet.

And I have no one to blame but myself.

I went back to school at the age of 43. Proof that school will always be there.

School is over-rated. AND ridiculously expensive.

I loved it for the most part. But I also discovered that what I loved about school, I can achieve on my own without the cost. I plain and simply love learning. I love research and I love solving problems. Non of this is education institution exclusive.

Both my kids are headed down an non-traditional career path. When you throw in conventional education, it suddenly alters the course of where they want to go. Now that they are both adults and understand responsibility, they know what needs to be done to get to their goal. I have stepped back and watched it happen before my eyes. I am there to catch them, but mostly they know where I stand. They often hear me say, “I do not care what you do as long as it isn’t hurtful to others and it productive to you and not self-destructive. Choose where you want to go and NO PLAN B. You can’t give your Plan A 100% focus if you have a plan B”

Plan B’s are for when you outgrow your goal and need a new path. I have had many paths. There is always time to reinvent yourself. I am living proof. I often defend my children as fiercely as any mother bear. “This is their choice. What worked or didn’t work for you is not our concern. My children have their own goals, their own life and their own mistakes to make. You have your own children….go be their parent.”

So with that said – my plan A is done. I need a new plan. I hate the burbs.

I want to live in one of two places. Either Edmonton’s River Valley or really close to it because that is my playground. Or I want to live in Vancouver because it is my other playground. I love both equally and have a magnet pull to be there. But my house is still full of people who need my support for a while longer.

I feel restless today. Usually that means heading to the valley with my dog and wondering around in nature because even though it is in the middle of the city, it feels like the middle of no where. I live 25km from the river valley. I need my car. My son is at work and has my car. I know everyone is thinking, “Why can he take the bus?” He can, but we live in the burbs in the City of Edmonton. It has THE WORST TRANSIT SYSTEM IN THE WORLD! a 2o minute drive to his place of work on a Saturday is the equivalent of a 2 hour one-way trip on the bus. So I let him have my car. My dog won’t go in the hubs car. He just won’t, 75lbs is a lot to lift into a car, so I won’t force him.

I want to live and play in my playground. I have earned that. This is now my new Plan A. I have no use for plan Bs

Dear Universe, I ask that you help me figure out how to move to the Valley or to Vancouver by Summer 2017.

I want to live surrounded by trees.

I want that peaceful feeling I get when I sit on a bench overlooking water.

I just don’t have that here in the burbs. I no longer feel like this is my home, its just easy.

It is easy because I don’t have to do anything. It is easy because it is familiar. It is easy because it is the same. Easy does not mean awesome. I have never been that girl who was satisfied with just good enough.

I do not need a big home. I do not need STUFF bursting from my closets.

I need a window, sunshine streaming in my room, a comfortable chair, a coffee pot and a shower that is roomy, a bed big enough to stretch and a short distance to my playground.

I have created a space that was nurturing and homey for my children. They are now grown. Now it is time to look after me. My plan is in place, and now I need to take the steps to get there.

Plan A it is.

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