Wednesday, December 9, 2009

- Three Cheers for Tommy Douglas

Well, I haven't blogged since Sunday...did you think I'd been kidnapped by aliens? I wasn't. I had a Port-A-Cath installed in my chest Tuesday morning and it was a bit more painful than I'd bargained for.

As a result, I've been getting stoned on painkillers and gazing at psychedelic patterns on my bedroom ceiling as I mumble incoherently (okay, it hasn't been quite that bad - I'm just practicing being a Drama Queen).

A Port-A-Cath (or a port, or a PAC) is a small medical appliance they install beneath the skin. A catheter connects the port to a vein; the chemo can be injected through it and blood samples can be drawn multiple times, eliminating the need for needles in my arm over the next 15 months. I've always had itty bitty veins, and chemo makes veins harden, so I insisted on getting this to avoid being in pain for the next year and a bit. A very practical decision, wouldn't you say?

They gave me a local anesthetic, which was interesting. I could feel when the doctor started to cut - ewww. So after I screamed, writhing about in pain and nearly falling off of the Operating Room table - oh, sorry, I'm being dramatic again - after I politely indicated to the nice doctor that I could feel the scalpel, she increased the freezing.

Again I politely noted that I could still feel everything. A third dose was administered. And then a fourth.

"Um, just curious - why don't you do this under a general anesthetic?" I asked her. "Well, we don't have enough anesthesiologists." Aaccckkkkk!!!

Now, I am really pleased, for the most part, with the care I've been receiving throughout this cancer journey, but....this small piece of information was a bit of a jolt, I must say.

Anyways, the doctor finally froze the area enough that I couldn't feel anything serious, but it's sure been sore ever since the freezing wore off. I've been tired all day, and about an hour ago, I started feeling flu-like symptoms and am running a slight fever. Another half a degree increase and we call the doctor, according to the information sheet they sent home with me.

So this is what it looks like when it's installed - kinda like a stack of dimes or nickels implanted in the chest. (By the way, that's not me in this photo - I don't have a hairy chest and never have - I got the pic from Google images). When I get bloods taken or treatment administered, they just prick the skin and insert the needle directly into the line, which is a lot less painful than trying to insert a needle into my small little hardened veins.

So I get to carry this lumpy thingy around for the next year and a half, and I've heard that sometimes they leave it even longer, months after the chemo & treatment are completed, just in case they find more cancer and have to do more rounds of chemo. Lovely to think about, that, so let's not.

Have you heard enough? All righty, then, let's talk about something more cheerful. Just finished watching the movie Prairie Giant, a made-for-TV movie about the life of Tommy Douglas. Wow, what a great movie! Every Canadian should watch this film, and probably every North American, come to think of it.

Tommy Douglas (1904 – 1986) is the founder of Canadian Medicare. Tommy's daughter is Shirley Douglas, Shirley married Canadian actor Donald Sutherland, and their famous son is Kiefer Sutherland.

Prairie Giant is a wonderful chronicling of the political fight Tommy pursued to ensure all Canadians had access to free health care. He was a Baptist pastor, but had to resign when the denominational heads told him he could not be a pastor and a politician simultaneously. Click here to see the link.

Contrast that with Michael Moore's movie, Sicko. Moore's documentary focuses on the greed of the HMOs - Health Maintenance Organizations - and the absolute misery they allow to happen to their members.

Through ruthless maneuvering, HMOs manage to squirm out of millions of dollars worth of medical responsibility, allowing people who are ill to suffer and to die. Perhaps they should be named Sickness Maintenance Organizations, since they seem fairly adept at allowing a level of sickness to be maintained with large numbers of Americans every year. Click here to see: link.

Of course, Canada and the States have very strong ideas about each others' medical systems. Americans seem to hear horror stories about Canadians and their socialized medicine, while Canadians hear the sheer awfulness of their victimized neighbors-to-the-south and the despicable practices of these health insurance companies. Any Americans or Canadians care to comment below or clear up some of the myths surrounding either system?

I, for one, will forever go on the record as being grateful for socialized medicine. Even though there are many obvious flaws in our system, and even though doctors in Quebec in particular do not get anything close to a fair deal from our provincial government, I cannot tell you what an enormous relief it is to be receiving free health services at such a time as this.

“We are all in this world together, and the only test of our character that matters is how we look after the least fortunate among us. How we look after each other, not how we look after ourselves. That’s all that really matters, I think.”   - Tommy Douglas

It is bad enough to be faced with constant health concerns, without having to worry about bills, payment deadlines and the like.

And so, while Kiefer Sutherland is a famous actor and gets lots of notoriety, it's his grandfather tonight that I am celebrating, and tonight I am thanking God for His humble, persistent servant Tommy Douglas, who took pity on the plight of the sick and the dying and who, at great personal cost, pushed for Medicare until he saw victory in the political arena, and saw Medicare established on a federal level. From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Tommy!

Well, I must collapse into bed. Hope you are having a good week!


  1. Hi Wendy,
    I saw that movie about Tommy Douglas a few years ago and it made a huge impression on me. I truly believe that if it hadn't been for Tommy Douglas, we in Canada might still have an American-type health care system. I totally agree with you about Canadian Medicare. I am so glad you are being well taken care of without having to worry about paying for all your medical bills. You don't need that kind of stress when you're sick. All your energy should be going into fighting your disease. Sweet dreams.

  2. Hi Wendy,

    Believe me there are many Americans here like me who wishes we have Tommy Douglas here to fight for us. Michael Moore pointed out the evil of insurance companies but their pockets are way too deep and afford to buy votes. Good luck and hang tough, while we pray for your recovery please pray for universal health care for us.

  3. Hello Wendy,
    I am so glad to get back to you. I always.. always so much appreciate the effort that you put into your writing here for us.
    Wendy dear..this is so powerful what you have said! It is my belief that we (from the states) almost never get the straight poop on anything and particularly Health Care in today's climate. I am afraid for myself and family that we will not be represented well in Washington around our current health care issue.It seems clear that everyone affiliated with this issue has their own agenda which has little to do with the health and welfare of our people.
    I choose to listen to you and others like you!
    As you know a large focus of Carlsvilleproject is devoted to health issues;although I frankly have steered away from the political issues of the day, though not entirely.
    This issue I have addressed once before but with your permission I would like to use your post, at least in part, on my site.I think it is a message and prospective that needs to be shouted from the roof-tops.
    Please let me know about this when you can.
    I sincerely thank you so much for your input ( and I know it is not the first time..yes i do keep up as much as I can:) ) on this issue.
    You are very special,and you are always in my prayers.
    Warm Regards,

  4. Thank goodness for Drama Queens, Wendy. That's the only way to get through all this.

    Take heart,

  5. You are so brave and have so much courage - I am in awe and proud of you!!!


  6. Oh, no! I figured something was wrong when you didn't come by to chat shortly after we saw each other. I am so sorry to hear that it was not a good day :-(

    Did they take an x-ray after the port-o-cath was installed to make sure that it was well positioned?

    What are they planning to do to fix it, or do you not know yet? I know that going through this extra pain is not fun and definitely not what you had in mind but, trust me, after you have had a few chemo treatments with it, you will be happy that you made the decision.

    I had it installed after 6 cycles (because nobody told me it even existed and I had to ask about it!!!) Let me tell you, by cycle 6, it was taking like 5 minutes to find my veins just to have my blood test, and each time, my arms were getting more and more bruised. And, apparently, I was a 'good' case, so imagine.

    You have done the right thing by having it installed. Try not to be discouraged!

    We must really get together. Let me know what your best days are...


  7. Hi Wendy, Thanks so much for the download.very thoughtful..I wanted to let you know that I just published part of your piece on the carlsvilleproject site: I worked on for awhile...I hope you like it.

    I have also notified my contacts that it is now published..I think this is a wonderful message that you had on several different levels. i am hoping that you will get feedback around it. But what i really hope even more is that folks take responsibility for our medical system here in the States. To call their senitors and congressmen. Maybe you and Tommy Douglas will be an insperation!

    thanks again Wendy.. Hope you have a good weekend.

    Warmest wishes,

  8. Hi Wendy. By now I know that you know I'm an American, and all I can say about our health care system is that it definetly needs some over hauling ( even though our politicians in Washington are not in all that much of a hurry to deal with the issue )and again I have to agree with Carl as far as being afraid for proper representation. I also want to let you know that as I was writing this reply, I got a phone call from the hospital where I recently had another stay this past May and I have been sending small payments of around 10-20 dollars a month and now they are sending me an application for charity to help with this bill. Can't tell you just how upset I am with this issue.

  9. Hi Wendy,

    I think you are very brave and certainly allowed to cry when stuff hurts. I have a very low threshold for tolerating pain (like my son and unlike my husband and daughter) so by now I would have probably thrown in the towel and crawled in a corner to die.

    And now I know that when we don't hear from you on your blog, that's when we need to step up the prayers.

    You are a wonderful writer and also use good grammar and spelling. Is Timmy helping? Seems to be a wonderful cat. Almost human. But I digress. I also admire how you weave your faith into your blogs so naturally because it is obviously a part of you and will be with you on your journey.

    Enough. Just wanted to encourage you to feel free to cry, moan, etc. - whatever helps you get through this.

    Keep on keeping on...