North to Alaska!

In May Stefanie and I enjoyed a cruise to Alaska accompanied by my sister, Rae and her husband, Ray. Two rays of sunshine! Is it really necessary to say it was wonderful! It was great! The weather was kind to us with calm seas, not too much overcast and some sunny days.

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Heading North in  “Island Princess” there was plenty to look at as we were often close to shore. Our itinerary included Juneau, Skagway Glacier Bay and Ketchikan.

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Skagway was interesting, we should have taken the train ride with Rae and Ray, however we enjoyed visiting the town and the gold mining museum. I was particularly intrigued by the old steam snow plow on display near the town. It can be seen in action on YouTube, search “Skagway Snow plow”. Spectacular.

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The highlight of the trip was undoubtedly a visit to Glacier Bay. It was raining and cloudy as we approached the Margerie Glacier. The guide said it was good that it was overcast because the colors of the glacier would be more intense. As we drew nearer the sun came out. The guide said we are very lucky to see it in sunshine!! We drifted for a long time, just off the face of the glacier. We could hear the thunderous cracking of ice deep within the glacier and every now and then pieces would break off and splash into the sea. It was really quite awesome. We spotted a sea otter playing with a small chunk of floating ice as we departed. Too far off for a photo though.

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Of course, a great part of cruising centres around life on board. We dressed up for a formal night.

The last stop was Ketchikan where we went ashore and explored the shops. Observant readers will no doubt notice the effects of hormone treatment on my chest!! As well as my ostomy bag!

Returning to Vancouver, as we left the ship and proceeded through Customs, we were surprised to be pulled aside and taken away for questioning. We were detained for well over an hour, felt like two. I had applied for an extension of my visa. I had been waiting 3 months for approval that normally comes through in 35 days. Apparently I was not supposed to leave Canada while approval was pending. No one told me that! In the end it was all sorted out and I was handed my official visa extension giving me another 6 months from that date, so it was a good outcome, if a little scary. When we needed to use the bathroom we were escorted by an officer to make sure we didn’t do a runner, I guess. Just imagine me trying to escape with my walker!

All in all it was a great experience and created good memories for both of us. I was slowed down by my condition, however I am very happy to have done the things that I did do. It was cold and I think our next trip will be to warmer climates. Having said that, Alaska would not be the same if it was not cold!

Perspective

It all depends on your point of view. A year ago a PSA of 160 had me booking a flight to Australia, thinking it is all downhill from here. This week a PSA of 160 is a cause for celebration. Not too many prostate cancer survivors would agree with that, however it is true in my case.

You see, my last PSA was 1800 and the one before that was over 2100. I am pleased to report that Zytiga with Prednisone is working well and I am looking forward to even lower numbers in the future. Not only that, but I feel great!! Maybe it’s the Predisone, who knows. My appetite has returned, I am walking really well with no hip pain. Even though I feel stable I still use a stick or my walker. I don’t have the same endurance that I had 2 years ago, but I am happy with what I do have. The cementoplasty has worked really well. Whether I will have the same procedure for my spine remains to be seen, so far so good! At my last weigh in I was 77kg, up from the 69kg skeleton that came home from hospital. Friends are amazed at how well I look.

Ostomy blues- It is good to be alive, but this bag on my belly is really no fun. S is really pleased that now I can empty the thing by myself. I don’t even smell it any more!! It is a very interesting exercise, getting close up with your recent dinner. Tomorrow S and I have an appointment with an Ostomy Nurse and we will discuss what works and what doesn’t. The biggest problem involves wearing clothes. The stoma (bit of bowel sticking out of my belly) is right on my belt line, so I have to wear my trousers a couple of inches lower than usual. OK, but I am not a teenager. The colostomy bag hangs over my belt. I wear long shirts and sweaters but it still manages to peep out at anyone who might be looking. Very embarrassing. I can’t wear shirts tucked in, however I bought a guard that is supposed to protect the stoma so a belt can be tightened over it. It works but not very well. I will have to invent something! S came up with the idea of folding the bag over and taping it up. Works OK until the bag starts to get full which happens any time of the day or night, without warning. That means I have to take a bag of spares, rubber gloves and cleaning wipes with me if we go out for any length of time. How would you feel if you could not control your farts? I fart through my belly, not the normal raspberry, but a strange strangled gurgling noise that causes much amusement and curiosity. The literature tells me that ostomy bags (pouches) are scarcely visible beneath clothing…wrong! As soon as it gets any “output”, a nice word for shit, it pokes out as though I am smuggling wildlife. (Hope I don’t get frisked at Customs!)

However, the surgery doubtless saved my life so I am grateful for that and “Dumpy” and I will just have to come to terms with each other. Soon S and I will be heading off on an Alaska cruise with my sister and brother in law. A well earned reward for both S and myself. We are planning a road trip in June when we hope to drive down the Oregon Coast, maybe visit San Francisco. (Sailing under the Golden Gate bridge has been on my bucket list for many years) No one knows how much time they have left, so enjoy life to the full if you can. Thanks for reading my blog, and a special thanks to my good friends who encourage me with their comments. I do appreciate you even though we have never met, and you are always in my thoughts and prayers.