But Thinking Makes it So …

As Hamlet says There is nothing either good nor bad but thinking makes it so.. Dec 16 I am thinking about my harrowing year. About a year ago I found a tumour in my leg. I received radiation therapy for it in February, followed by surgery in April. Just as I was starting to walk comfortably and feel human again in August, we went to camp and I had an abdominal attack that turned into an emergency appendectomy. I had to be tractored out of camp to the wharf, poured into the boat, loaded into the car, and driven to the emerg department about an hour and a half away. I recovered from that enough to attend a family destination wedding in the Dominican in December. Half of this time we spent visiting my daughter in the Bavaro Hospital, who got salmonella poisoning in the resort. So it has been a hospital year, and not an easy one, though all these disasters were survived, so I guess I have to say it has been a good year, in its own odd way. Today I sit in a warm dining room watching the squirrels raid my bird feeders, while I am alternately working on websites and knitting. Last January, I did not think I would still be alive to any of these things.

So a good year. IMG_20151216_150119969

I wish you all a good year to come.

2015 Books

2015-2016 Season Chosen Books

Date Book Author Hostess
These are the books we are reading and discussing for 2015
Sep 2015 The Children Act Ian McEwan Paddy Buchanan
Oct 28, 2015 The Shepherd’s Life James Rebanks Bess Blackwell
Nov 25, 2016 Based on a True Story Elizabeth Renzetti Julie Bowen
Jan 25, 2016 What the Dog Knows: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Way Dogs Perceive the World Cat Warren Kristen Gunn
Feb 24, 2016 Thinking fast and slow Daniel Kahneman Cathy Jakelski
Mar 30, 2016 Lucky Jim Kingsley Amis Liz Bamberger
Apr 27, 2016 If This is a Woman Sarah Helm Elizabeth Levin

2015 Suggestions

Suggested Books for 2015
Voting Book Author Suggested By
These are the books we are voting on for 2015
       A        All My Puny Sorrows Miriam Toews Kathy Young
          According to the Guardian review of this book which has been on the Globe best seller list for over a year the book “is based on the author’s own experience of her sister’s suicide” and is urgent, raw, witty, sharp and “evocatively conjures landscapes, from the small town in which the family live to the dark, jagged outcroppings of the great Canadian Shield.”
       B        The Back of the Turtle Thomas King Kathy Young and Mandy Hey
          According to the review of this 500 page book in the Globe and Mail “Thomas King is in the business of pointing out the awkwardness of all the years of tortured history between native people and non-native people. It’s just been so wrong, so lacking in humanity and so tragic, that it seems the only way to enter it is through comedy.” The book explores questions of recovery, both environmental and personal, and shows the two to be intrinsically linked to each other and to story-telling.
       C        The Children Act Ian McEwan Paddy Buchanan
          Fiona, a legal worker involved with family division, has her absorption in her career invaded by a crisis in her marriage to Jack, a professor in ancient history. Her subjective experience, as she reacts to his unhappy admissions, are described through legal cases she has worked on, and through digressions.
      D        David Copperfield Charles Dickens Liz Bamberger
          Liz’s favourite Dickens traces young David’s progress from his mother’s sheltering arms to the miseries of boarding-school and sweatshop and the rewards of friendship, romance, and self-discovery in his vocation as a writer. A cherished favorite with generations of readers (starting with Dickens himself), this novel combines a compelling narrative with a memorable cast, from the brutal Mr. Murdstone to the exuberantly optimistic Mr. Micawber.
      E        The Dragon Head of Hong Kong Ian Hamilton Kristen Gunn
          The prequel to the Ava Lee series, appearing in “The Water Rat of Wanchai”, this book introduces us to a new Canadian detective, Ava Lee, a forensic accountant who recovers stolen money for her clients all over the world. Ian Hamilton, who helped me fund university through the babysitting fees he paid me, has given us a new Canadian heroine – part international traveler, part Ninja, part strategist, part crimebusting sleuth.
      F        The Green Road Anne Enright Bess Blackwell
          Ireland’s fiction laureate structures this book loosely around a family reuniting in somewhat tragic circumstances but the strength of the book is the stories about the individual paths of the various family members.
      G        If This is a Woman Sarah Helm Elizabeth Levin
          The Guardian describes it as profoundly moving and Goodreads gives it a 4.4. On a sunny morning in May 1939 a phalanx of 800 women – housewives, doctors, opera singers, politicians, prostitutes – were marched through the woods fifty miles north of Berlin, driven on past a shining lake, then herded through giant gates of Ravensbrück, a concentration camp designed specifically for women by Heinrich Himmler, prime architect of the Nazi genocide.
      H        Inside the O’Briens Lisa Genova Cathy Jakelski
          A heart wrenching, beautifully written novel exploring Huntington’s Disease and its’ devastating effect on Joe O’Brien and his entire family. Lisa Genova is a genius in transforming this family’s tragedy into a uplifting story of living life to the fullest each and every day.
      I        Last Night In Montreal Emily St. John Mandel Liz Bamberger
          Lilia Albert spends her childhood and adolescence traveling constantly and changing identities and in adulthood, she finds it impossible to stop, haunted by an inability to remember her early childhood, abandoning lovers along with way, possibly still followed by a private detective who has pursued her for years. Then her latest lover follows her from New York to Montreal, determined to learn her secrets and make sure she’s safe.
      J        The Nightingale Kristin Hannah Paddy Buchanan
          When the village of Carriveau is invaded by the Nazis, Vianne Mauriac , whose husband Antoine is at the Front fighting for the French, is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive. Meanwhile her sister Isabelle , in Paris, joins the Resistance, and we hear the storied of the two sisters in war-torn France.
      K        On the Move Oliver Sacks Elizabeth Levin
          On the Move is the memoir of Oliver Sacks, a brilliantly unconventional physician and writer who has illuminated the many ways that the brain makes us human. Through his experiences – from his life as a young neurologist in the early 1960s, where he struggled with drug addiction, and then in New York, where he discovered a long-forgotten illness in the back wards of a chronic hospital – we learn of his love affairs, his struggles, his influences and his deep engagement with patients.
      L        Ordinary Grace William Kent Krueger Leslie Mitchell
          Thirteen year old Frank begins the 1961 summer season in Minnesota with the concerns of any teenage boy but tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family. Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy trying to understand the world falling apart around him, discovering the terribly price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.
      M        The Red Tent Anita Diamant Liz Bamberger
          Told in the voice of the biblical caharacter Dinah, Diamant imagines the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood–the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of the mothers–Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah–the four wives of Jacob, who love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through childhood, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land.
      N        The Round House Louise Erdrich Leslie Mitchell
          One summer Sunday morning in 1988, a woman from a North Dakota Ojibwe reserve is attacked, and her son Joe’s life is irrevocably transformed as he tries to help his mother heal and determine what happened. The quest takes him to the Round House, a sacred place of worship for the Ojibwe and the starting point for his adulthood.
      O        Ru Kim Thuy Mandy Hey
          An unforgettable journey from a palatial residence in Saigon to a crowded Malaysian refugee camp to a new beginning in Quebec.
      P        The Shepherd’s Life James Rebanks Bess Blackwell
          Rebanks writes about his family’s small sheep farm in the Lake District of England and the local farmers who have lived there for centuries. It is a book about Herdwick sheep, but also about continuity and roots and a sense of belonging in an age that’s increasingly about mobility and self-invention.
      Q        Thinking fast and slow Daniel Kahneman Elizabeth Levin
          Kahneman, who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2002, uses his own highly influential research while also masterfully synthesizing much of the relevant literature on why people believe crazy things, why they ignore the best available evidence and use unproven and unscientific alternative therapies, such as those surrounding vaccination. While there is no one answer, the book provides many useful and often overlooked insights into what drives our irrational beliefs and actions.
      R        To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee Liz Bamberger
           Through the eyes of a young girl, we see a small southern town as the girl’s father, a liberal lawyer , deals with cases and situations that expose the racism of the community. A classic American novel.
      S        What the Dog Knows: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World Cat Warren Kristen Gunn
          “In this combination of history, science, and memoir, North Carolina State journalism professor Warren looks at the ways in which domestic animals have been able to assist humans, specifically the world of cadaver dogs, drug and bomb detecting police dogs, and tracking dogs. The author quickly gains the reader’s sympathy with humorous accounts of her first days with Solo, the cadaver dog she’s owned since birth, and earns the reader’s respect with a well-researched chapter that calls into question much of the accepted and fluctuating statistics regarding dogs’ superior sense of smell….” (Publishers Weekly)

Dream Spirit

Last night was the first night since my MRI results came back that I did not have any dreams that disturbed me, or indeed, any that I recall. My worst dream ever happened 10 days ago, and since then, the dream intensity has reduced – no more burying people alive, but lots of mine shafts or underground tunnels with unknown locations of entrances and exits. Three nights ago I had a nightmare that woke me, but then I went back to sleep and I actually woke up in the morning giggling from a dream, so finally my nightmares had started to turn into dreams. Two nights ago I dreamed of a knitting pattern I have been trying to design. And last night – no nightmares or dreams of any sort. So good progress there. Whatever my dream spirit was trying to work out, it has worked out to its satisfaction for the time being.
Odd how that happens. My worst dream ever was 10 days ago, and immediately things began to improve, like when your illnesses break with a night of terrible fever. Maybe the child in that dream – the one who had to be sacrificed for me to live – was a part of my psyche my dream spirit had to let go of so I could get on with my recovery. At any rate, my mood has been lighter and more positive daily since that awful night and the following anxiety-filled day, so something has changed for the better. I hope I can hang on to that optimism and the energy that goes with it. Radiology almost over – next step , surgery.

But I have bad dreams…

I am journaling this because my oncologist suggested it  might help.  I don’t like taking drugs ( unless they are recreational ) so I don’t want to try the alternatives he and I discussed.

It is now 2015 and this year, so far, is no better than last year.  In January I was diagnosed with a malignant pleomorphic sarcoma – aka cancerous tumour in the leg. It is fast-growing, but still small. It is being treated with radiation therapy with surgery to follow and the long-term prognosis is good. That is what the left side of my brain has understood of the process.

The right side of my brain is harder to convince of anything. It is distrustful of authority, of change, of technology. It understands things differently.  My right side has been giving me dreams. Some nights, one. Other nights, several. They are all about death, and some are also about being buried alive. Last night I had the worst dream I have ever had, and I can’t shake it. It has made me teary and anxious all day long.  When I tried to explain it to my doctor, I could not. The adult in me understands what is happening and is fine. But the baby in me won’t stop crying…….

In the dream I had cancer and I had a doctor who knew a probable cure. I did not live in a wealthy western culture, but in a primitive, shamanic one. So my doctor ( ie shaman) had a cure that I didn’t really understand. It required a child to help out. I agreed to the cure therapy.

The cure worked rather like that old Mouse Trap game. First a ball rolls down a channel and that triggers a lever, etc, until at last a mouse is caught in a cage.

But in this dream, in the last step, my cancer was removed, and the child was thrown into a pit. The pit was like a narrow steel shaft deep in the ground.  In the “real” world, I live in a mining town so it is not hard to imagine where my subconscious came up with that image. I did not know, in the dream, that this was how the child was to be used in the cure, and I was horrified when I saw the child thrown into the pit.  I screamed at the shaman to pull the child out, that it didn’t matter what happened to me, I was an old lady, but the child should not be hurt.

On the shaman’s face was the same look I see on my doctor’s face when I ask him questions about my prognosis – about whether I will lose much muscle in my leg, about how soon I will walk again, etc. That look that says that you are too stupid to know what you are asking , and you have no idea what you are in for, and  what you are asking is probably impossible. He and his helpers said they would try to get the child out of the shaft, but I knew they would not be able to and the child would die all alone down there of heat or water loss, or starvation, or go mad. And I would be cured.

Of course, the dream was so horrifying, I woke up.  And yes, I know  it was just a dream.  But all day long, as I go through the treatment in my Canadian health care system, I keep wondering, is there a child being hurt somewhere in the world, in order to cure me, to keep me alive past my best before date?