Ian and the guest editors are doing a wonderful job, bringing other points of view and observations to Price Tags.  More to come.  But now that I’m back home and feeling better, I’ll begin to slip in the occasional post – like this one.  And this:


Med worldThis month I entered the world of the old.  I learned that the modern miracle of medicine exacts its price, and I have to pay it in the age at which my body can practically function.
Now I move slowly, hunched-over, cane assisted.  Will I make the curb before the light changes?  Where, when I  need it, will be the next bench, chair or handrail? Is there a push-button for an automatic door?

I am one of those I see with canes and walkers who are invisible to the young.  There is little eye contact among us; even small gestures require small efforts.  There is only so much energy, and it is so limited.
But, there’s also a difference.  I can go back.
I can go back to the state I left prior to surgery, when, even though there was that internal menace, I still had the energy of a younger man, working out til the day before admission.  More than that, my mental image was of someone younger than someone else might objectively see.
At 66, let’s not be facile: I’m not young.  But it didn’t seem that long ago when I was.  And I still had the physical ability to play among them.  (Yes, it’s another reason why I cycle.)
The surgery was a profound shock to all of that. My physical age jumped decades into the world of the old and disabled.  But now each day brings more recovery.  Every step I take – prescriptive and literal – reverses the ravages of the intervention.  The body does its amazing thing: heals, restores and rejuvenates, sometimes at astonishing speed.  Getting out of a sick bed that required two physios now only requires two hands; a cane that was essential for every stable step is now an unneeded accessory around the house.  A walk around Lost Lagoon that seemed immeasurably impossible a week ago now seems to be an achievable target – perhaps next week, maybe this one.
“You,” says my surgeon,” will be back to normal in six months or less – only you’ll have more energy,” no longer fighting the internal menace.
“You mean,” I ask, ” I’ll feel even better, more lively, more active than I began?”
“Why not?” she says.
Not only will I return to the would I left, I can extend the pretense of youthiness – ignoring whatever the truly young may think when they see me on a dance floor.  Extraordinarily, I can do what humans have always desired: I can reverse the effects of time and age temporarily imposed.
This is a gift I never expected when I was told I had cancer.
Still, I know this is only for a brief moment: the horizon line of life will continue to close in as it has from the day any of us were born until we cross over to the place that none of us knows.  But at least I have been in on the lead-up: I have been old.  I will not welcome the constraints of age, or the departure of my temporarily abled status. But I will not fear it nor begrudge it so much.  I will be more accepting of the inevitable, I hope, since now I’ve had a little practice.
And I will no longer see those who are already there as invisible.


    1. I second that. Gordon, I admire your philosophy and will work to incorporate it into mine. Thank you for sharing your outlook.
      All the best wishes.

  1. There is a whole dimension to seeing the ability in disability; to learn how to recognize assets in deficits. To always acknowledge and remember that how we perceive mobility is a privilege; to think of how to mindfully create space and place for all ability. Heal speedily Gordon.

  2. It will be great to have you back Gordon! (as fun as it is filling in 🙂 ) Glad you’re mending well, and great to see such a good outlook from your doctors – that kind of outlook can only be infectious!

  3. Gordon,
    You echo my feelings after I had my hip replaced this year – early at the tender age of 48 (a skiing accident half a lifetime ago came back to bite me). For two years I lived with a bone-on-bone impingement. Still pushing it, short track speed skating, cycling, until I could take it no longer. I moved slowly from the temporarily abled to the mildly disabled until the chronic weariness of it motivated me to surgery. I am 100% now and back to my short track regime, chasing a few former Olympians around the ice once a week. However I too share an appreciation of the struggles of those with mobility challenges in a city that is challenging to move in.

  4. Thanks for sharing your insights! Cancer is something that all of us will face, directly or through our loved ones, so its an important topic not to shy away from!
    Get well soon!!

  5. Glad to hear of your rapidly improving recovery.
    As to the invisibility, one thing I did notice was that most things that were done – are being done – to improve accessibility benefit a much wider group than those we term “people with disabilities”. Which, as you note, is a term that covers all of us, sooner or later.

  6. Good perspective. Get well.
    It also shows the power of universal ( aka free ) healthcare that is paid for by our taxes and industrial activity. Only a well functioning industrial society can afford that. This is unfortunately all too often forgotten by all those protesting new bridges or roads, pipeline expansions, LNG projects, even hydro electric dams. It is those very projects that allows a society like Canada to attract 300,000+ immigrants a year, have clean air, a well educated work force and free healthcare. This perspective is often lacking by those that call themselves green or friends of the environment.
    Your post reminds me – and hopefully all your blog readers – of that need to never ever forget where money for expensive healthcare services comes from.
    Good perspective. Get well Gord !

    1. Harvey.
      I’d be honoured. I’m at 604-687-7382 if you’d like to speak. Otherwise, please print or post as appropriate.
      Sent from my iPad

  7. Glad to hear you’re doing well Gordon.
    Thanks go out to the people at VGH and to Jim Pattison for his generous contribution to the fine building.

      1. There was a window next to every bed you were in, Gordon. Sunshine, rain, a view of the outside world, all helped reduce the claustrophobia.

  8. Best wishes for good, steady recovery, Gord. Though you were knocked down a lot, most likely your good health and fitness prior to surgery is immensely contributing well to recovery.
    Yes recovery is temporary but may the upcoming be a long one for a number of years and with good spirits.

  9. Now we know where you disappeared to, rather than scouring the world’s leading cities for ideas. So glad to hear, Gordon, that you are now traveling Recovery Road. May it be a short one…Vancouver needs you!

  10. Glad to hear you’re recovering. Many of us boomers are getting on. Remember when the air was clean and sex was dirty?
    To top it off, I was in an elevator last month and I heard a song I liked.

  11. Wonderful, thoughtful piece Gord. After my near-death experience in 1963, I have taken very little for granted. Having seen the fickle finger touch many of us 60-somethings, I am resolutely cycling the hills of southern France, feeling little difference from my previous adventures in 1970 or 1984. We are blessed and fortunate. Be well, my friend.

  12. Thanks for the interesting insight on illness and aging. At times like that one truly appreciates those who work in our healthcare system. It may not be perfect, but from my experience it is damn good.

    1. Amen to that!
      Having seen firsthand my mother’s 12 years of lost independence, I am thankful for a public healthcare system that extended her life for so long, the majority of the years being very productive and full of humour despite the frustrating constraints on her mobility until she passed last June at 90 years of age, something possible only with 24/7/365 public care.
      It was an education as well to her eldest son, an urbanist who many times held her hand when she negotiated the onerous task of commuting from a suburban care facility to various family functions, appointments and shopping trips, a task she ultimately gave up on from the stress of using a highly inadequate HandiBus service in winter. One day that urbanist will write an essay on gauging the quality of urban design, and title it The Octogenarian Grandmother Test.
      Here’s to universal accessibility.
      All the best, Gordon.

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