Good News, Bad News

Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
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Monday, September 12, 2005

The surgeon undoubtedly sharpened his instruments before the vitrectomy on Sharon's right eye on September 7th and the operation was very successful. The amount of pain and discomfort this year was negligible compared to that experienced after a similar operation on her left eye last October. The expected healing time ranges from four weeks to six months, but indications so far are excellent. That's the good news.

The prognosis for Gerry, on the other hand, is not quite so encouraging....but perhaps a little background information would be in order first. We had planned to return to South America for approximately six months, before shipping the van to Africa where we expected to travel for another two years or so. The first hiccup came when we were informed that the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) only provides a once-in-a-lifetime allowance of two years for out-of-country health coverage. Our two years expire in January, 2006. Easy solution - we simply purchase private health coverage until such time that we decide to grow up and settle down back in Ontario - or so we thought!

The next morning we had an appointment with Gerry's specialist. After perusing the blood test results, he crushed all of our plans by insisting on another appointment within three months. He also strongly advised: "Whatever you do, don't let your OHIP lapse". Gerry was first diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL) about five years ago, but it appeared to be progressing quite slowly. Over the past year however, his white blood cell count has advanced at quite an alarming rate, so chemotherapy will possibly be necessary sooner rather than later. After some discussion, we scheduled the next check-up for early February - to coincide with the timing for re-establishing our residency in Ontario.

In the meantime, we are returning to Argentina on September 29th, and then have the challenge of getting our van back to Canada by early next year. We have explored a number of options, most of which were somewhat irresponsible - in other words "Channer-like"in ignoring all reasonable advice, or else exorbitantly expensive. The most reasonable appeared to be to retrieve the van in Buenos Aires and drive north through Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil and into Venezuela. From there we would ship the van to Miami and then make a quick dash back to Ottawa. On further examination, this plan turned out to be somewhat flawed, as the distances on the rough roads through the Amazonian basin in Brazil are so great that we would have to spend most of our time driving, with little time remaining to explore and enjoy...not to mention the possibility of January blizzards between Miami and Ottawa. As for the ultimate decision....you'll just have to stay tuned!

Back to Gerry's health: it is a treatable cancer, and we are optimistic that treatment won't be necessary right away. If so, we will return to our preferred nomadic way of life by mid-February, although perhaps in a somewhat different format. Could it be a visit to our friend Sherry in Thailand, combined with travels through Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam? A return to one of our favourite places in the world - the hacienda in Guatemala? Or will we perhaps manage to rent a camper van somewhere in Africa? At the moment it is all an unknown, except for the fact that in order to fulfil OHIP requirements we will have to be resident back in Ontario for 153 days each year. Next summer we will be looking to build or buy a small cottage on a lake - or maybe a condo in Ottawa, depending on the situation at that time. However, you can rest assured that our future plans will consist of more than just whiling away our time in rocking chairs!

September 9th marked the one year anniversary of Mike's death. In spite of initially having expressed a desire to spend the day by ourselves, we accepted the very kind offer of our hosts Nick and Fran to organize an Open House for our closest friends, whose love and caring continues unabated. Many messages of support flooded in from friends near and far who could not be with us, and in Zurich our niece Helen staged a unique Bookcrossing challenge and released seven books into the wild in memory of "Capt" Mike (for more details see http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/3222536).

Completely unexpected, but truly serendipitous, was a wonderful two-day visit from Mathew Williams - Mike's best friend from Johannesburg. He had been on a two-week work contract in northern Manitoba, and flew into Ottawa on September 8th. On the morning of the 9th, Mat accompanied us to the Herb Garden where we explored some of Mike's favourite spots and quietly reminisced and swopped stories. Mathew's presence was akin to having "a little bit of Mike" with us, so after he left we felt anew the intense waves of grief, pain and loneliness. Thanks Mat for your phenomenal support - we're so pleased that you and Nici have adopted us as your Canadian parents!
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