May 2011 archive

A Treasure Trove

Well, it was preordained we weren’t going to the gardens today. It is raining like it only rains in the Pacific Northwest, as though the slate-gray clouds are settling an argument with the mossy paths, or the sky is doing some house work, sweeping everything clean, washing the floors down on earth. I have always wanted to go to the Museum of Anthropology, at UBC campus.

Artifacts from all over the world are stored there, but my favorites were pieces of native art from our area. The designs are very familiar to me, as I have lived on the culturally rich West Coast all my life. I sometimes like to imagine that many years ago, boats set sail from Japan, seeking that mythical ‘something’ beyond the horizon, and ended up meeting North American Native peoples of the coast, maybe the Haisla, Haida, Kwakwaka’wakw, or Coast Salish perhaps. Maybe the colors and patterns used are one of those ‘universal human ideas’, like the bow and arrow, spinning spindles or dresses, or maybe it has something to do with the fact that in order to get to the Americas, people had to walk across the icy bridge from Asia. To my eyes, there is a hint of an idea of ancient Japanese art. Don’t you ever play the game, ‘this reminds me of that, which reminded me of this’. Its very addictive, and can lead your mind to interesting places.

Vivid mask (click to enlarge)

When I was younger, I used to pour over the National Geographic articles, reading everything I could about explorations in dry, dusty lands, looking for traces of a by-gone civilization of terrible splendor. I wanted to join the archeologist, wearing khakis and toting my paintbrush for moving small gravel, and a magnifying glass, and a whole lot of patience and imagination. I since have decided that I don’t think I’d like to disturb the final resting places of kings or civilians, but still would like to help dig a city from layers of silt. I figure that the people obviously believed passionately in their religion, and the manner of their burial was often crucial to their journey into the afterlife or great beyond. This seems a silly thought for someone who spells Atheist with a capital ‘A’, denoting it like a religion. I can only imagine all the hours it took to collect all these artifacts, and preserve and label them with care.

Southern India, deity sculpture

Anyways, it was fated that it rained today, because otherwise we would not have seen an incredible beautiful place, or had a wonderful encounter with a stranger.

We didn’t follow a specific path around the museum, so we saw a smattering of everything. There are hundreds of thousands of artifacts, so we couldn’t have seen everything even if we camped out in the grand, glass-roofed hall. Our path was chosen for us by avoiding the large inclines. Tiny placards next to every artifact meant that, of course, not wanting to miss anything, for the first quarter of an hour, I wanted to stop and read each one. Quickly Mum and I both sensed the scale of the building, and begun touring at a more brisk pace. If I had had the energy, I’d have liked to stay there from opening time till closing, but we still had to catch the ferry. 

Drums in varying pitches

A Sound Massage

In regards to my health, things have picked up slightly since my MRV. The ultrasound I had yesterday wasn’t too bad. But damn, these tests are specific, which equals very long in the real world. An hour ultrasound of my neck? Didn’t realize there was that much stuff to gander at in the small big of cylindrical flesh between my squishy gray matter and heart!? An ultrasound isn’t too painful, except for the devices’ contact on my skin, and the pressure. The device emits a buzzing, which I can hear in my ear, like the drone of a bee, but lower in pitch, a sound that jabs needles of sound into my bones. The gel is disgusting, and was all the way up to my temples and in my hair. At least its water-based, and comes off in the shower. It wasn’t an attractive look though, let me tell you lol. Not a very effective hair gel, at least that’s one good thing. The nice technician didn’t see anything really obvious on the ultrasound, but it isn’t as accurate as the MRV, which will give us the definitive answer soon. Hopefully sooner versus later, because at the same time I would be getting the procedure to unblock my veins, I would get a new PICCline. OH yes, no port again, let me tell you. All that’s left to bear witness to that discomfort is a 2 inch incision scar, which is fading into a pink ridge, with the liberal application of pure vitamin E.

I did get the pure pleasure of visiting a vegan, organic bakery, which only opened up a few weeks ago. “Edible Flours” was a delightful experience, and the cupcake divine. Its so nice to be able to pick up something from a bakery, something I wouldn’t bake at home, and to not have to worry about the ingredients or ask the poor barista 20 questions about the composition of the confection. Pure bliss.

I am glad all the medical-related things are over. Now I can relax, without the added stress of knowing I have more tests later on. Tomorrow, if its a nice day, we’ll go to the Dr. Sun Yet-Sen Gardens, a pristine Japanese garden paradise. I went there on school trip when I was in grade 6, and the memories of the tranquility of the lush greens, rocky pagodas, ponds and raked stone gardens remain with me. Hmm…I think a yummy green vegan gum drop would go nicely with this memory…

Across the Strait of Georgia

A trip on BC Ferries is always a pleasant one. When I first came to the island, and across the Strait of Georgia, I spent the hour and a half ride with my nose pressed to the glass, taking in every new island’s pristine greenery, as we traveled from inlet to inlet. It is an amazing introduction to the Island. Small homes, rocky beaches, and lighthouses dot the otherwise forested islands. The deep green color is there all year round, blending evenly with the smog-free blue sky above, down to the crystalline gray-blue water, waiting at the bottom of the cliff. I’ve been on this trip many, many times since we moved here, and I am still gripped with a fascination, and an urge to take pictures through the salt-spray coated windows each time.

We were headed to Vancouver, to have an MRI and ultrasound, checking to see if I am a candidate for a procedure called CCSVI, which was developed for MS patients by an Italian doctor, Dr. Zamboni. They are looking for blocked veins in your neck, which could cause a vast varied of problems. Thankfully, I don’t have MS, but several Lyme patients have found this therapy very beneficial for them, which makes sense, as Lyme disease and MS mimic each other. It would be nice if this solved a lot of my problems…

 I am really exhausted after all the traveling we did today, and am glad the place we are staying at is so nice. It’s on the campus of UBC, close enough to the downtown core that it’s not a lot of work to pick up a vegan cupcake from Whole Foods.

Boat headed to one of the islands…

It’s Mother’s day today, and of course we spent a lot of time today on the ferry, which we can pretend was a pleasure cruise ahaha. Every day is mother’s day, though, in the real world. Mother’s are the best, everyone knows that, and I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I have the best mom every :D. I guess one good thing about me being so sick is that we get to spend lots of time together.
(Love you, Mama! <3)

The Screening

 I have been so exhausted over the past two days, that even the most mundane tasks seem overwhelming, except, of course, eating some vegan fruit gummy’s, which cheers me immensely. I thought that a high-powered (3 Tesla’s vs. 1.5) MRV (Magnetic resonance venography) couldn’t be too bad, but clearly I had underestimated the beastly machine.

En-route to the Clinic

In my youth, I have had many MRI’s, always checking that my brain was ‘normal’, not affected by my genetic condition, NF. These have always been mildly traumatic experiences, but holding Mum’s hand helped, and thinking of an open field or the sky, waiting beyond the facility doors. It’s the sheer volume of the machine that used to frighten me, but with an injection of tranquilizers, it was easier for my child-self to sit still for the 30-45 minute test. The MRV was looking for blocked veins in my neck (which would make me a candidate for this CCSVI therapy). The only place in Canada that has the equipment to do this kind of screening is in Vancouver, luckily, at a private clinic. We waited awhile in the high-ceilined, first to be ‘refereed’ by their physicians to get the MRV done, and then for my turn in the ‘coffin’.

If you have never had an MRI or MRV I will try my best to explain how it is, although you wouldn’t believe just how loud or uncomfortable it is, especially if you’re head and torso are deep in the machine. The table that you must lie on, if you are having an MRI of the brain/neck, is unbelievable ‘firm’, as though a small piece of uncompromisingly rigid foam is covering a rock hard plate, which is pretty close to how it is. It helps the image show up clearer, and though I’m sure it is important, I would have appreciated a bit more padding ;). The pain I suffer from affects me in various ways and depths (skin, bone, joint, nerve etc). Touching things with my body, or being touched causes wave after wave of excruciating pain to crash over me i, often making me pass out. Even sitting in a chair or lying in bed hurts, but I was turned down as a candidate to live in a space shuttle in zero-g, so what can you do?. I had heard that the test would probably take about 1.5 hours, but this turned out to be ‘active testing time’ meaning the time the machine was taking pictures. I thought I’d be able to bear lying on the hard table, for the estimated time, although I expected discomfort. The machine is very narrow, and an apparatus rather like a hockey-mask is put over your head, only increasing the sensation that you are trapped in a sarcophagus. I had no idea I was claustrophobic until my first MRI, where I found it difficult to breathe and keep myself from panicking. I am not even sure I was afraid of confined spaces until I found myself in one. Once you are tucked in and ready to go ,inside the machine, you are the requested to lie still, while the pictures are being taken, otherwise the test has to be repeated. Blurry pictures cannot be read well.

How it usually goes is a sequence of pictures is shot, and usually a technician talks to you in between the fifteen minute ‘photo shoots’ to tell you how long the next one will be, and either that you are doing well, or to try and sit still longer.  Yes, this is infuriating. Then the machine, which has been humming in the background all this time, awakens, like a monster rearing in it’s restricted, echoing plastic cave. A quick tattoo of booms jumps around the cramped space, a precursory warning of what is coming next. I usually jerk with the first BOOM of the actual picture taking, at such a high decibel, that even with the earplugs pressed to your head with pieces of foam, it cannot possible hope to drown out the racket. I think that they hope the earplugs will have a ‘placebo-esque’ affect on your eardrums, because in no possible universe could they seem helpful. The sound is so strong that it is impossible to think any thoughts while it blasts you, sometimes in a steady rhythm, on-off-on-off-on, and at other times a wave of constant sound, varying in pitch. It is exceptionally boring, because all you can do is just lie there, focusing on not moving, which of course makes your nose itch at the most inconvenient time, or a tick to go in your calf or your foot twitch in rebellion. Every thought is blasted from your mind. I wonder if this was an inspiration for the method of ‘questioning’ where the person is subjected to constant, defining music, in part to prevent sleep and wear the person down. It certainly is physiologically and physically draining, being so tense yet still for so long. Ever muscle rigid, crying to move, yet taped into place with sheer willpower. During the few seconds of respite while the machine moves you into place for the next set of photos, you can shift slightly. Wiggle. But the thing that would relieve the pain would be to roll on your side, to stand, any position but this one. As the minutes drag by, panic usually grips me. At some point I feel as if lying here anymore will cause my body to explode, that my sinews will be pulled free of the joints, which would relieve the pain. Just let it be over. Just let it be finished. The injection of contrast dye during the last few sequences makes my stomach flip over, squirming, and a shaking feeling grip my arms, spreading slowly over me. Discomfort is always my reaction with the dye, in part because it brings some part of me back to a terribly painful and frightening test I had as a toddler, again with an injection of dye, which I can remember vividly. At least I can tell the end is in sight, and the dye will be out of my bloodstream soon.

I’ve found spending time wishing something will end only makes it last longer. Just let it end… and 2.5 hours later it was finished. The pain is so great that I can barely sit up, just flipping onto my side would be enough, as the IV is slid from the crook of my elbow. Every inch buzzing, screaming, the relief enough to make tears leak from my eyes again. I know if you have not had a test this long, or aren’t in pain to begin with, that it would be difficult to understand the agony. I only hope that if you have to have this test done, the place where you go has earphones in the machine :), and that you really really think the procedure will help.

Then a burrito. Car. Bed.

Visiting x 3

Again, I got to visit the lovely Mrs. Crossley’s classroom and help out her kids. I had so much fun. Much ado about nothing is one of my favorite Shakepeare plays, and it was interesting reading a grade 8 students perspective on the play, and its motives. The guiding question (an International Baccalaureate Program (IB) staple, which is a question without an answer, essentially, just there to ‘guide’ your thinking) was “What is the difference between ‘being’ and ‘seeming’?.” As most of the complex characters of Much Ado put on both figurative and literal mask throughout the play, it is a good question to get kids thinking about motives, insecurities, and consequences of the characters (and by extension, their own) actions. I almost miss guiding questions. They challenged me to think beyond what was already written on the paper, and to form my own opinions about a work. I guess I can accept this as helpful now, but when you are in IB at school, you can definitely not appreciate the benefits of the program. I never considered myself a good proofreader, but I suppose after writing and editing my own essays for so long, it is much easier to approach another students’ essay.

It was a very ‘Shakespearean’ day all-round today. Two of my good friends, both named Laura (S. & G., respectively), and I hung out today. We baked cupcakes at Laura S’s house, which was so much fun. Vanilla vegan cupcakes with hand-beaten icing (didn’t work out so well), but the cupcakes were a nice golden-brown-caramel deliciousness. It was nice to just chillax and laugh with the girls, but I was pretty tired  after such a long, yet enjoyable, morning.

In the evening (ok, looking at my day on paper, it is easier to see why I am so tired), my good friend Stray came over, and we knit together and gabbed. She is a very awesome person, and enjoys a wide variety of arts and crafts, particularly fibre/fabric related ones, like me. I’ve known her since grade 5, perhaps even earlier, because I came to GNS for a few ‘trial days’ in grade 4. She is a very easy going person, full of the most amusing stories and strong opinions. My sides kind of hurt from laughing all day, actually. Hopefully tomorrow will be more restful…looking for a break!

I Voted! Did you?

Yeeaaah. Just Voted.

Congratulation Elizabeth May for getting a seat in Ottawa; a historic victory for the Green Party (a first for North America!). I live in Saanich, but was just outside of her riding, although I was definitely rooting for her loudly. It  is so exciting. Better luck next time for Shaunna Salsman, our Esquimault-Juan de Fuca GP candidate. What really drives me crazy is that only 61% of people, nationwide voted (that’s 14,720,580 of 23,971,740 registered voters). Wow. No wonder there is, yet again, another Conservative Majority Government in Ottawa. Alas. The way a vote counts in Canada is very confusing, and does not mean that a vote nation wide counts towards a seat in government. Hopefully this system will change in the near future, so the Green Parties percentage of votes will reflect the true number of seats voted in: 13. Hopefully next time, even more people of my age group, and rock the vote. It’s about time things were shaken up cross-country, and I feel we’re the ones to give it a go.

Today I had so much fun in my grade 6 teachers classroom, Mrs. Crossley. I dropped in on her grade 8 English class, and helped edit some of their essays on Much ado About Nothing. I remember doing this same project all those years ago, and I probably still have my green and pink mask about the character Beatrice somewhere. I had a great time helping the kids. Mrs. Crossley really taught me how to write a good essay, and I still follow the diagrams that she teaches from today. The format of an essay is so ingrained in my mind now that I do it automatically when I write anything. I signpost in my sleep, and my brain churns out a thesis statement on auto-pilot, as soon as I read the question or see the topic. I get to go back tomorrow, and I can’t wait :D.

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