More food for thought, and some thought for food

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, October 17, 2007

A quotation from Ernest Hemingway about forward-thinking determination faces me on the wall near my computer: “Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.”

I thought about these words when I read Edmonton coffee companion Colleen Chapman’s response to last week’s column. In that column I had referred to several of our readers who had struggled with health issues over the past year. Colleen picked up on two of the examples.

One, Morley fiddler and artist Roland Rollinmud, had mangled his left hand in an industrial encounter with a power saw, quite likely ending his fiddling days. Instead of succumbing to self-pity, however, he has applied his good right hand to his painting, with renewed vigour.

Colleen wrote:

“The story of the fiddler and the saw reminded me of the recovery I go through even today. Life must be terrible for those who only think about what they have lost. Granted, we must grieve our losses, but I remember my recovery from a terrible nerve injury to my arm – both the ulna and radial nerves are involved, both palsied in my right arm.

“I was a violist and musician of other sorts (clarinet, violin, piano, whatever) and I certainly grieved that loss, but I also remember the first movement I had in the arm was the tip of my middle finger – you know the one – and I told everyone, ‘Hey, if nothing else, I can be a taxi driver!’ I spent most of my time figuring out what I could do, not thinking about what I used to do. Those earlier memories are wonderful, but I revel now in what I can still do.”

The other example Colleen was inspired by was that of Candace Carnie, who had a football-size tumour removed from her abdomen. About this, Colleen wrote:

“Bette Davis said, ‘Old age ain't a place for sissies!’ The older I become the more I agree!  I spent Sunday at a hospital emergency ward passing a kidney stone, not the most pleasant experience I've ever had, but different nonetheless.

“I did one little bit of pity pot. ‘How come I'm blessed with kidney stones?’ I asked. Well, as I read about the lady with the football-size tumour, I thought, ‘Okay, thanks for the kidney stone.’"

I shared Colleen’s comments with Candace. Candace wrote back, filling me in on the rest of her story.

“When you spoke with me today, you told me about the current dialogue about coming out of a transitional life event (read: health) in a positive way. I believe the positive begins as one is about to plunge into that event.

“All available information told me that my tumour was benign, all 1.75 pounds of it. My surgeon told me early on that the intramural fibroid tumour was ‘the size of a football,’ and I kept the nickname! Inspired by a woman who had faced cancer surgery and had a 'Bye Bye Boob' party the night before the operation, I held my own 'Bye Bye Period' party several weeks before my own op. As I looked around at my guests, my mom included, I realized how wonderful it was to have female friends who were intelligent, articulate, professional, caring – and who shared the same sense of humour, knowing what to laugh at.”

Candace went on to say how she even included her medical team within the humour. She composed a memo for her surgeon and team. Lying outside the O.R. prior to surgery, she handed it to the surgeon, who read it and began to chuckle. Her memo said:

“Although Dr. M… has described the object to be removed as ‘the size of a football,’ the item itself is not to be mistaken for any type of sports equipment. Please be advised, no sports activities are permitted in the theatre until surgery is successfully and fully completed. NOTE: Punting of any kind will not be tolerated.”

Moving on briefly to a related topic before wrapping up this week’s column, one of our coffee companions has shared her concern about the quality of food currently served in health and elder-care institutions.

“I really don't understand why people who are supposed to be healers are feeding people essentially – well, poison! It's disgraceful,” wrote Christa Bedwin. “It's no wonder people feel sick. . . . Horrible. Criminal, really.”

If others of you share Christa’s concern, write back to me with your observations and feelings and I’ll consider doing a feature on the topic.

Meanwhile, speaking of food, I’ll close with a great line forwarded to me by coffee companion Charlene Pickard, formerly of Cochrane and now living in Parksville, B.C.:

“Save the earth. It’s the only planet with chocolate!”

© 2007 Warren Harbeck

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