Monthly Archives: January 2016

Naps

Thank heavens for naps, just an hour here and there can sure refresh a person. 

I think a nap might be a regular thing for me while I’m getting this treatment. Part of taking a little better care of myself. 

I can spend the time dreaming about a certain cowboy I sure miss. 

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Safe and Sound

All back safe and sound with my cousin in the UK. I forgot how homey it was and I enjoy our visits in the evening in front of the fire. That’s the best part.    

 

Languages

This morning I could not find an empty table in the lovely breakfast room. I asked a lone gentleman around my age if I could use a chair at the same table. Small talk is not part of Latvian culture (which is perfect for me) so I was expecting to eat quietly and quickly and leave. 

The gentleman, however did speak to me. Finally asking if it was English that I spoke. When I said yes he asked which country and seemed intrigued when I said Canada. He commented that I was a long way from home. (If he only knew). 

It turned out that he was a Norwegian whose English was pretty good, holidaying with some friends who were sleeping in. He was very polite and respectful so we had a brief conversation. 

In discussing the exchange rate between Canadian dollars and Euros (which is not good, by the way) he told me that the Norwegian economy was suffering much like Alberta from loss of jobs in the oil industry. Small world. 

What impresses me most about all the people I have met is the amount of languages they speak. At least three for the Latvians I have met:Latvian, Russian, and English. The Norwegian obviously spoke two for sure.  

I think I would feel bad, compared to them, if I hadn’t been trying to learn at least one other language. I’m not fluent in anything other than English but it isn’t the only language I love. 

Welsh, Cree, French, German, I even studied a little Latin. Maybe I could add a few more words that just Paldies (thank you) in the Latvian language. 

The Treatment

I know you are curious about the treatment I have come to Latvia for so I’ll explain.

 As you know, in Canada we (cancer patients) are given 3 options: surgery, chemo, and radiation (affectionately know to cancer patients as cut, poison, burn). The first option was not offered me because of the location of my cancer. The last two are things that in themselves are cancer causing. There has been basically not much of a change in those for the last 40 years (???  Ask why not. You might be appalled at the answer). 

As I understand it, it was dicovered that people, a person that had cancer who contracted rabies was miraculously cured of cancer. This started the wheels turning in Latvia and a brilliant lady Dr ‘habil med’ (look this term up) Aina Muceniece started the process of developing the treatment I have come over a whole ocean for.

 In the 40 years in which no progress was made in NorthAmerica other than earlier detection so the nightmarish treatments could begin even sooner (and I might add skew the 5 year survival statistics) this treatment has passed all the necessary clinical trials and is now available by prescription here in Latvia. Note: This was during a turbulent time and the collapse of the Soviet Union I’m sure must have caused delays and difficulties for the research team.  

The side effects from this are a slight fever which I have already experienced and I can tell you is much preferred over the side effects of conventional cancer treatments. 

Here I have had a CT, thorough blood work, met with an oncologist, immunologist, and nutritionist over a 4 day period (all very low stress) and had 3 intramuscular injections. 

The treatment itself, for the next three months, will consist of the same type of injection once per week.  At the end of that time I will be reassessed through blood tests sent to Latvia and my treatment plan will be reworked. It will not be more shots per week but may be less. 

I have a very good prognosis because of my decision to avoid chemo and radiation till I could try this. Thus I am basically healthy ( except I have cancer), I have already improved my lifestyle signicantly, I came early enough, and because of the type of cancer I have. 

Many people do not start searching for anything like this until all conventional options have proved unable to help and come with stage IV cancers and they may not have sufficient time for this type of treatment to work. It is not an aggressive therapy and works more slowly over time. 

I will write more about it as time passes and let you know how it goes. So far I am very impressed with everything that has been done for me, with the medical community here, and of course this beautiful city that has captured my heart. 

My Last Night in Riga

i am sad to be leaving this beautiful city. I did want to go to the opera theatre where they have world class ballet and opera. I have always loved ballet, opera not so much but the experience would have been once in a lifetime. Just not enough energy to do I wanted. 

   
 
 This monument was beautiful. Someone told me many people tried to move or destroy or get rid of her but the she still stands as a monument to liberty like another lady on another continent. 
  I’m sure the fountain is beautiful when it’s not so wintery.  
This was the side door of this church. How pretty is that? And right beside it in a little park was a covered skating arena and there is a charming canal that looks abandoned right now but I’m sure is wonderful in the summer. 

I went to 26th floor of a large hotel and watched the sunset over Riga as I ate my super. I will miss this beautiful healing city. 

  

People

It’s no secret I’m a bit of an introvert more comfortable in a herd of cows on the prairie than around even a small group of people (except if I’m teaching people something, it’s the only time my shyness doesn’t bother me at all). 

I do like people but I feel like I need to be cautious because of some hurt from times past. 

Tonight I am laying in bed awake ( I think I might have a slight fever as I am very warm but that is a small side effect of my treatment right now, no problem) thinking about all the good people in my life, my friends and family, old and new, far and near, the kind of people who step up to the plate when you need them. So many, I dare not mention for fear I would miss someone but you know who you are. 

I am so thankful for you. Know that you are loved. 

And I have come to love the Latvian people I have just met this week. The sweet young women who met me at the airport and organizes me, the driver that accompanied her  (very nice young man), the two women who did the CT scan (I really liked them both), the oncologist (bright young women), the immunologist and the interpreter today (made me feel so cared about and comfortable), the 6’5  young man who helped me save a 100€ today, who travels all around the world for his job (so glad he’s still alive after a very scarey adventure he told me about). I will meet a nutritionist tomorrow who I am sure will find a place in my heart as well. 

I guess people are winning over an old cowgirl. 

The Spirit in Riga

Words are such poor servants. 

The ones I can find from my 62 years of life I think cannot describe what I just felt. 

In Old Riga where I am staying the buildings are tall, well tall for me. But wherever I have gone I have not lost sight of the spire of St Peters Church.

  
 (How appropriate that it is named after my favourite apostle, the one I have felt a kinship with because of a name). Today I pulled out another of my brave cards that I have been saving and decided to find my own way down the narrow, bumpy, snowy streets to that church. 

Someone I talked to said it would be open and I could go in. For a small price I was taken up in the spire in an elevator by a warmly clad lady. From there I could see all of Riga. The river, the roof tops, towers and bridges. I didn’t know the names but still the view was spectacular. 

   
    
 The lady waited to take me back down in the elevated when I signalled I was done by pressing a button. If she had not been there I think I would have died of exposure because it was cold and a damp snow was falling. 

It was nice, interesting but it did not prepare me for the inside and its gothic style architecture. 

   
 Pictures could never do it justice it was just too beautiful. I studied art history and for close to 40 years I wondered what it would be like to stand under vaulted ceiling 3 or 4 stories high. Today I know. It was indescribable. The best I can say was that I imagined coming from a humble house with ceilings of a regular height hundreds of years ago and then stepping into all that vertical space. The eye can’t help but be drawn up to our heavenly home. It could be no less awe inspiring hundreds of years ago than it was for me today. 

My camera battery gave up and I took very few pictures, which was a blessing really. Instead of through the eye of the camera I saw it all through my own eyes. 

I sat in the front row of chairs (like I always do in church) and just cried. How could I be so blessed to have come from the prairie to this grand vaulted building in Latvia? To be in a church the likes of which I could only dream of experiencing. I thanked God. 

And then I thought, it’s sad I am here alone to experience this. But as I looked at the carving of my Saviour at the front I knew I wasn’t alone, I am never alone. He always is with me. 

I felt like I could hear the prayers of thousands through hundreds of years, pleading to the Saviour for help. Riga has had a turbulent history as one of the statues can attest; he bears the telltale mark of a bullet in the thigh. Perhaps they prayed for release from oppression and bondage. As I looked at the carving of the Lord on the cross I realized that all those prayers had been answered, maybe not from the bondage they had invisioned but rather from the bondage of sin, of death. When He hung on the cross he set us free. 

I wiped away my shameless tears so they would not freeze to my face and left to walk back to the hotel a much better person. My very soul had been touched by the Spirit in Riga. 

I am afraid when I leave, a piece of my heart will stay in this beautiful old city. 

Euros

I’m kind of fascinated by other types of money. Euros actually look quite a bit like Canadian money with loonies and toonies 5, 10, and 20 € bills. 

  
The bills are a different size which I find slightly uncomfortable with but I won’t have to use Euros for long. 

Symphonic Soup

OK. This is a new one for me. Have you ever thought food is like a symphony? I haven’t, not till today. 

I thought I’ll order good old tomato soup. I know what that’s like, right?

Well maybe not. 

    Every color in the art work in the centre of this bowl is like the different voice of each instrument in a symphony. 

You know how you listen carefully during the music and congratulate yourself when you recognize the difference between the flute and the piccolo, the bass and the cello, or French horn and the trumpet? Well tomato soup can be like that. Who knew. 

I find myself actually taking time to discover each taste and asking myself what is that? The only note I recognize in the symphonic soup is the tomato. Each slurp was different, fascinating. 

I wonder if I would have done that if I wasn’t here alone. No one to please, there is value in a little me-time. 

My world is expanding.  

Best Food is Simple Food

My favorite so far bread and milk. 

  
The little brown slices are really good but they are all good.