The dreaded day is near: caution, some gross stuff is mentioned

When you’re over 50, there are lots of things to be happy about. Being alive and healthy is one of them, but there are so many more, such as feeling confident in your own skin, having life experience and knowing what you want in life, having a sense of the bigger picture when things go wrong. There are some things that aren’t so great.

Last week, we were sitting on our deck, enjoying our breakfast. I was thinking about the week ahead and how much I was looking forward to it. Everything seemed to be falling into place. The kids are doing well. I’m on the last week of a medication I’ve been taking and I’ll be able to enjoy my wine again when it’s done. We’ve got tickets to a Broadway medley at the drama society on Thursday. I’m expecting a couple of good friends to visit while on their cruise next month.

The phone rang and  I was reminded of one of those things after 50 that isn’t so pleasant. You’re supposed to have a colonoscopy. I never thought about this until about a year before we left Canada. I went to see the doctor and got my referral, did my F.I.T (fecal immunochemical test) and waited. At that time in Calgary, people were waiting 3 years for their appointments. There was a queue jumping scandal, with whistle blowers and everything! I didn’t really expect to get in that soon.

My FIT was fine. I waited and over the course of a very stressful year which I may already have described, we packed up and/or gave away the contents of our twenty-one year life in our home, sold our house and moved out of the country. Not long after, I received the forwarded mail from Alberta Health telling me the date of my colonoscopy, which was months away. I had to cancel. I was no longer living in Alberta or covered by Alberta Health Care.

I saw my doctor here and she made another referral to the clinic in Cayman. The gastroenterologist comes to the island once a month. I waited. I made some trips. I had foot surgery. Several months had gone by. I finally called the clinic and they didn’t have my referral. Perhaps it was lost. I saw my doctor again and she submitted the referral again.

When the phone rang last week, it was the clinic calling with an appointment for me, this Thursday. Thursday! By the time I finish my medication, I’ll be on the preparation for the colonoscopy. I’ll have to miss the show at the drama society.

Right now, I’m doing something I’ve never done, follow a low fibre diet! Then I’m going to take something that will make me poop out everything. I’ll be “cleaned out” for the scope. Yuck! To me it’s ironic that I have to stop eating fibre, then take something to help me get “cleaned out”. The other irony is that a high fibre diet is preventive for colon cancer.

I can’t take Advil or aspirin or anything related. Since I’m still on medication, I also can’t take acetaminophen. This has been a challenge. Not only has my neck been sore lately, likely from the break from swimming during my recent cold, but my foot is sore. My foot which recently underwent surgery isn’t sore. It’s doing quite well, as it should 3 months post op. My other foot is sore.

So these are the things, the aches and pains and unpleasant procedures that come with being over 50. The sudden deaths of friends rather sucks, too, but that puts it all in perspective. I’m happy to be alive and relatively healthy.

Tomorrow, I’ll have breakfast then I’ll be on a clear fluid diet until after the colonoscopy. I’ve stocked up on Jello, ginger-ale, iced tea and coconut water. How fortunate for me that I’m doing my procedure here, so I can drink fresh coconut water.

The other benefit of having the procedure here is the preparation. I only have to drink a 5 ounce solution of Pico-Salax twice rather than the copious amounts of Colyte that is used in Canada. The hours spent in the bathroom are probably about the same. It makes me look forward to my next foot surgery.

Oh, and I’ll also have to wait a few more days before I can enjoy a glass of wine. I’ve only been on the low fibre diet for 2 days and I’m already craving a salad with nuts and seeds and fresh fruit, or a nice vegetable stir fry. This might cure me of my addiction to the baguettes that I have to buy just because they’re hot and fresh.

No matter how unpleasant this all is, most of my friends and family over 50 have gone through it. It could be worse. I could be forced to watch another presidential debate.






Challenge update: It’s a real challenge now!

Not only have I not been writing about my life challenge every week, but I’ve had more setbacks than I care to count.

At first I was doing great. I was getting toned and fit and I lost a few pounds. I could fit into some of my old clothes again. The first setback was being sick with the flu in the spring, then going to Canada for two weeks. I didn’t gain weight, but I had a set back in my fitness regime.

I was back into my regular activity, adding new challenges regularly, until my foot surgery. Major setback number two.

The recovery from surgery seemed endless. Even now I have twinges in my foot and it seems swollen at the end of the day. I can’t do all the exercises I had added to my routine.

Next came another trip to Canada. That one wasn’t too bad, because by then I could go for long walks and I could do a little exercise circuit in a small space, like in my parents tiny guest room or in a hotel room. I returned home feeling like I had made some progress since surgery, but it was time to get serious again. I had gained a couple of pounds back.

I started swimming again regularly, trying to increase my laps every day as my tolerance grew. I tried to add a workout or yoga every day. Things were going moderately well. Our daughter came to visit. She’s all about fitness, so I was able to mostly keep up with the swimming and yoga.

Now, I’m fighting a cold. This isn’t the every day “permacold” that I put down to allergies. That daily congestion that is actually relieved by a good swim. This is a wake up feeling fatigued, stuffed up and my throat feels tight kind of cold. This is a sinus headache, “I just want to read while lying outside on the anti-gravity lounger” kind of cold.

It’s a challenge, but that’s life. If you let every setback stop you, your goals will always seem unattainable. The thing is, I don’t have an end goal. My goal is to be fit and healthy and to find a routine that works towards that, and that I can live with. I think I’ve found it, but sometimes the challenge is to keep it going, even with the setbacks.

What’s it really like to retire in Paradise?

I originally started this blog to describe life in Paradise, the empty nest and retirement. I’ve tried to indirectly talk about our life here, but I’ve never really got down to the nitty gritty of what is really different. If we retired in Canada and spent our winters here and elsewhere, what would be the difference?

The most obvious thing that comes to mind is the people we’ve met because we live here full time. We have a sort of community, Caymanians, expats on work permits and expats with Caymanian status. We have our little “family” in our complex. If we lived in a condo in Canada we might meet our neighbours and hang out in a recreation room, but most likely we’d spend our social time with our friends and family. We might meet people in passing and know them by name, but it’s unlikely we’d have a regular weekend gathering, or get to know our neighbours as well as we do here. It’s not likely we’d all be adding each other on Facebook.

Here, we can almost guarantee that on the weekend our neighbours will be out by the pool. We can be as sociable as we want to be. We can join them for drinks or to cool off in the pool or just sit poolside and chat. We’ve come to know their drink preferences, their food preferences and whether or not they are having issues with immigration. We’ve met their visitors, sometimes even had more time to visit with them than their hosts. We know their friends, at least the ones who spend lots of time at our pool!

Another difference is that we’ve had to find all the professional services we would have continued to use in Canada, and we pay for them. We have on island, an optometrist, a dentist, a family doctor, a podiatrist, a physiotherapist and a hair stylist. We’ve shared drinks and meals with our optometrist. If we had maintained our Canadian residency, we would likely continue to see our former doctor, dentist, hair stylists (which I admit I still do in a pinch), physiotherapist and podiatrist.

We don’t eat out nearly as much as we did when we were visiting for shorter periods of time. We have a routine now, much like in Canada, where we have pizza every Friday. We have a well stocked pantry, a hurricane kit and our refrigerator is almost always full of beverages, condiments and produce, as well as assorted leftovers. We spend a lot of time shopping for food, preparing the food and cleaning up after eating the food.

We have had to become more patient about certain things. We don’t expect to run a dozen errands in a day if even one of them involves the government or a bank or anything that includes paperwork. We can accomplish a lot of grocery and wine shopping in a day, but paperwork moves on island time.  Long waits in immigration offices, banks and hospital admissions and/or billing areas are commonplace. Even doctors offices are much like those in Canada, and it’s a good idea to bring something to read while you wait.

Even beverage shopping takes a little longer, because we  like to chat with the people we’ve gotten to know over the past few years. We know about their families and if they are planning a trip somewhere soon.  We can tell if they are having an off day. It’s like a small town that way.

Power outages are not unusual. They aren’t common and they are more of an inconvenience than a disaster, but they do occur more regularly than they do in Canada. At those times it’s best to relax and try to stay cool and hope you’ve already had your coffee.

We feel less urgency to do things like snorkel or go for walks on the beach. The sea is always there, beckoning. We spend more time doing household chores because there is no one coming in to clean after we leave. I don’t have a helper or a kitchen fairy, so it’s all on us. We look forward to doing all those fun things when we have visitors. Oh, and we get resident rates!

We haven’t yet found a place to shop for clothing. We use our time off island to shop at vastly reduced prices compared to what is available here. I know there are clothing and shoe stores for the general population, located in small strip malls in random locations, but we haven’t been in to any of those.

The grocery stores all have their own advantages and disadvantages. It’s possible to buy almost anything here, except for Alberta extra aged Gouda from Sylvan star, but you have to know where to shop. Italian special cookies and crackers, imported cheeses at great prices, Kirk Market; fresh fish, Hurley’s or Foster’s in The Strand; bulk products, Cost U Less or Foster’s in West Bay. We know where the most convenient recycling depots are for the errands we have planned that day. If we’re going to a movie, we drop off our recycling in Camana Bay. If we’re getting groceries, we take the recycling to the bins outside the store. We’re still trying to remember which days the bins are not so full!

We know that if we want to see movies in the theatre, we need to see them within a week or two. Yes, we get first run movies, but they don’t stay long.  If we lived in Canada, we’d probably see the movies there or wait until they came out on dvd. No, we don’t watch stuff online if we can help it. The connections aren’t reliable enough and the power could cut out mid-movie, which would be frustrating. We still appreciate a big screen!

The biggest difference is the seasons. By the end of October we are looking forward to the end of hurricane season, while we watch friends posting photos of snow in Canada. It’s never cold here and it never snows. If I need long sleeves or long pants, it’s more for mosquito protection than for warmth. It is never too cold to go for a swim, no matter how cloudy or windy the weather. If we miss the cold or snow, we can simply plan a trip to Canada.