My Colonoscopy Adventure

“The lab test indicates there may be a problem in your colon,” my

Colon image from WebMD
image from WebMD

GP, Dr. Chou, told me in December, 2014. “I’m going to refer you for a colonoscopy.” Upon hearing these words, I realized Linda and I might soon be treading on an uncertain, even treacherous path. My Dad had endured intense pain at the end of his battle with cancer.

Linda’s online research didn’t reassure. Knowing she was already anxious, I said nothing about the symptoms I was experiencing. Dr. Chou told me these could be caused by other factors. “Polyps will do that,” he said. “No worries.”

Dr Jangra, a General Surgeon had an opening on January 20. To educate myself I picked up a copy of “The End of Diabetes.” It deals with a variety of serious health issues, including cancer. The author, Dr. Joel Fuhman takes a nutritional approach.

Not a fun read, it nixed virtually every culinary delight known to my palette. “Refined carbohydrates from processed foods and animal protein are at the core of our cancer and diabetes epidemic,” Dr. Fuhman says . Then, becoming quite specific, he states “white flour and sugar contribute to cancer.” Mentally I listed the forbidden foods, Linda’s white buns, hamburgers and fries, milk shakes, pizza, pancakes, etc. All foods I enjoy.

He does very generously permit greens and beans. “The increased fibre from these,” he says, “lowers glucose levels, increases bowel regularity, and protects against colon cancer development.” Reading this I briefly ceased grumbling. Couldn’t keep that up long.

indexI reluctantly shared this with Linda and she began hanging out around the bean bins at Cooper’s in Princeton. Beans and greens

Beans Wikipedia photo
Wikipedia photo

became staples in our home. Surprisingly, I enjoyed both. On the advice of Dr. Fuhman, we also began eating more nuts and seeds. I grudgingly pretty much eliminated dairy products. No ice cream or yogurt, or even milk with my morning bowl of oatmeal. Not a trace of compassion in the recommendations. In two months I lost 10 pounds.

Not wanting to be told I wasn’t ready, I began the colon cleansing process one day early (Sunday). Fruit in the morning, Linda’s broccoli soup at lunch, then only clear juice and broth. Juice and broth again on Monday. Nothing after 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.

At 2:30 pm Tuesday, I reported to the hospital and was directed to the waiting area. Although the outcome of the procedure concerned me, food was a more immediate interest. I dozed off for about a minute and dreamed I saw two hands place a platter of thick steaming pancakes in front of me. Quite a disappointment when I awoke before I could pour Lumber Jack syrup on them and indulge.

An hour later I was taken to a small enclosure. “Take off all your clothes and put on this gown with the opening to the back,” a nurse instructed. “Keep your socks on.” I wondered if they feared I’d get cold feet about this and attempt an escape.

My thoughts went back to Dr. Jangra’s statement that 9 out of 10 colonoscopy’s reveal no sign of cancer. I mentally counted the number of individuals I knew who had experienced the procedure without evidence of cancer. There had been at least 9. Would I be the unlucky #10?

Finally my cot was wheeled to the room where the procedure would

Dr. Jangra
Dr. Jangra

be performed. Dr. Jangra was waiting, and two nurses stood ready to send me to an unconscious state. I quickly said, “I’m hoping the doctor will permit me to take a couple of pictures for my blog and newspaper column.” He stood up and willingly posed. Then I was “out like a light”.

On January 28 I was back in Dr. Jangra’s office. “No cancer or polyps,” he said, seemingly happy to deliver positive news.

Two Smiling Nurses
Two Smiling Nurses

He knew I’d be writing about the experience and offered a little counsel. “One in 13 Canadian men will be diagnosed with colon cancer. Early detection is important.” He paused, then said, “Get lots of fibre in the diet. Also, go to for more information.”

Later that evening Linda surprised me with a photo of myself on the IMG_0870cot, still under the influence of the anaesthetic. Not a flattering shot but she insisted we post it on the blog. With the utmost reluctance I agreed.

Thank you Dr. Chou and Dr. Jangra, and the two nurses, for a very positive colonoscopy adventure.

Angelique Wood Chosen By NDP

With the selection of Angelique Wood as the NDP candidate for the Central Okanagan Similikameen-Nicola constituency, I find myself

Angelique Wood
Angelique Wood

dealing with an inner quandary. She is my neighbour, only two doors away. Also, I observed her efforts fairly carefully during the three years she was the RDOS representative for Area G. Her work ethic is impressive and she has an evident love for the Similkameen Valley and for Canada.

Given that I have a positive opinion of her, why would I hesitate to vote for her? It certainly isn’t that I favour one of the other two major parties.

I think former PM Jean Chretien best epitomizes why I might hesitate to vote for any party other than the Greens. Some years ago, I was in a line of people patiently standing in a hot sun waiting for the privilege of shaking his hand. When he finally appeared, he sped along the line with the determined visage of a Kentucky Derby race horse. He showed no warmth or interest in us.

His inner voice might have been saying, “I really would rather not be here. These people mean nothing to me. The only reason I’m here is that they are potential votes. Let’s get this done and leave.” This is only conjecture on my part but that certainly is the message his visage and body language conveyed. Only our votes mattered in his relentless drive to be re-elected.

Although I went away unimpressed, I still had some faith because of his famed Red Book boldly outlining Liberal Party promises. I agreed with my wife Linda when she said, “if he puts them in writing, surely he means to follow through on them.” How naive we were. How easily deluded. Experiences like this have made me cautious, even skeptical, when listening to politicians, especially those who could soon be governing our nation.

Does my lack of enchantment with political parties mean I won’t vote in the upcoming federal election? Certainly not. Does it mean I hold Angelique Wood accountable for the arrogance and failings of Jean Chretien and other politicians? Again, certainly not.

I’m actually deeply impressed by the founders of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) precursor to the NDP. Before being elected to Parliament, J.S. Woodsworth was superintendent of the All Peoples Mission, working with the poor in Winnipeg. Later, in an address to Parliament he said, “the economy should be planned for public benefit rather than allowing businesses to gouge customers.” Pierre Berton referred to him as “the conscience of Canada.”

On the provincial scene, in 1944 Tommy Douglas and the CCF won

Tommy Douglas photo courtesy of Douglas-Coldwell Foundation
Tommy Douglas
photo courtesy of Douglas-Coldwell Foundation

47 of the 52 seats in the Saskatchewan legislature. According to Vincent Lam in his biography of Douglas, the province at that time had the second highest provincial debt in Canada. The CCF, he says, recorded a surplus in each of its 17 years in power and steadily paid down the debt.

Speaking at the 1983 NDP National Convention, Douglas said, “We are not just interested in getting votes. We are seeking people willing to dedicate their lives to building a different kind of society. A society founded on the principles of concern for human well being and human welfare.”

Lam says “voters continued to elect the CCF in election after election, because they delivered what they promised.”

Lam states further, “the need for a Universal Public Health Care program was a well used plank in the Liberal federal election platform since the early years of the 20th century, one that was never followed by action.” It is his opinion that Douglas and the CCF can take credit for having the commitment and political will to make universal health care a reality in Canada.

I believe many Canadians long for politicians who will represent the wishes of the people to the leader, not the wishes of the leader to the people. With the Party Whip system, employed by the Big Three parties, this is difficult to achieve. It is for this reason I often vote Green.

I do recognize that we need people of integrity, ability and vision to sit on the benches of the governing party and the opposition. It is my opinion that Angelique Wood embodies some of the qualities and zeal of the party founders. Although I have never voted NDP and am troubled by their spending commitments, I do feel she established a strong track record in the RDOS. I may yet be persuaded to affix an x beside her name on election day.

The Allisons at Standing Rock

Henry and Barb Allison live on Reserve land directly across from the iconic Standing Rock on Highway #3 near Keremeos. From the IMG_0841outset of our 2 hour conversation with them in their immaculate log home, my wife Linda and I were impressed with their warmth and congeniality.

My interest in them stems in part from their status as Elders in the Lower Similkameen Indian Band. I was also curious about Standing Rock, a revered First Nations ceremonial site.

In response to my question about their home, Henry said, “I was a logger. I personally logged the trees for the house. I traded logs in exchange for the construction.”

I encouraged Henry to continue. “We weren’t going to build on this

Henry & Barb Allison with Standing Rock in the background
Henry & Barb Allison with Standing Rock in the background

site,” he said, “but Barb’s mom owned the land and she insisted we build here so we could protect Standing Rock.” They have been diligent in carrying out her wish, at times telling people not to deface the Rock with writing.

Henry was born in Princeton and lived in Hedley, attending school here to the end of grade 6. “It wasn’t easy,” he said. “The other kids teased us a lot because we were Indians. For a time we had to sit on a bench along the wall. The white kids had desks.” He completed grade 8 in Keremeos. In grade 9 his teacher said, “We don’t know how you’re doing it, but you must be cheating. You couldn’t be getting such high marks.” Frustrated by the racially inspired accusations, he quit school.

It was at the Keremeos School that he met Barb. They come from very different families. Barb’s parents were ranchers, living in Chopaka. “Dad was sent to a residential school,” she told us. “When the authorities came for us, he wouldn’t let them take us away.” She and her siblings rode horses across the Similkameen River to their school in Cawston. Like Henry, she and other Indian children had to initially sit on a bench against the wall.

Especially at that age, being Aboriginal was difficult. “One day some white boys told us they would wait for us at the railroad tracks,” she said. “They were going to beat us up. We waited at the school, hoping they would leave. Finally we went to meet them. When we put up our fists to defend ourselves, they ran away.”

Henry’s mom had been taken to a residential school at age 10 and wasn’t returned home until she was 18. “She didn’t see her mother all those years,” he said. “She never learned to be a mother and as an adult alcohol got a hold of her. Once, when I was 8, us kids were left with cousins in a cabin in the bush near Hope. We fished and picked berries to feed ourselves. We didn’t know if our parents would ever return. I felt abandoned.”

“I didn’t understand her life until I attended a workshop about residential school experience,” he said. “Then I was finally able to forgive her.”

Henry grew up to be physically robust, with a desire to leave his past behind. Working in the bush, he became a skilled logger, eventually owning 2 mills and his own logging show. He and Barb began dating and he gave her an engagement ring as a graduation gift.

“That really upset my mom,” Barb recalls. “She was completely against our engagement. She wanted me to go to university and become a lawyer.”

Barb and Henry met with her parents to talk. Finally her dad said,“ we better let them get married or they’ll run away.”

Henry was non-status at the time so when they got married, Barb lost her status.  Later she and a group of women travelled to Ottawa to plead for status and it was granted. “I had some trouble persuading them I was Indian,” she said. Possibly the bureaucrats in Ottawa didn’t understand that an Indian could be so intelligent and articulate.

After gaining some life experience, Barb was nominated for the position of band chief in 1994.  She won in spite of intense opposition.  Believing band accounting might be flawed, she submitted the books for a forensic audit in Kamloops. Irregularities came to light and some individuals lost their jobs and band funding. This was not an easy decision but she possessed the integrity and inner strength to do it.

We sensed the depth of their despair when they talked about the loss of one of their 3 children.  “Our son was 18,” Henry said, “He was my right hand man in our logging operation. One day when he was on the job the new pickup he was driving stalled on a hill and went over a steep bank. I was away with the logging truck at the time. When Barb arrived, she climbed down the bank and lay down beside him until he died.”  Now years later, both Barb and Henry still carry the grief of that loss.

When we left the Allisons and their comfortable house of blond logs, we felt we had become friends. The racism in their early years and also later hasn’t made them bitter. The tragic loss of their son has not robbed them of joy.

They have decided instead to focus on the wonderful blessing of having 2 children, 10 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. They have become resolute, people of integrity and strong character. Henry and Barb would indeed be good friends.

Snow Sculpture in Hedley

In a large population centre like Vancouver, we expect a variety of talent and skills. With a meagre population base such as we have in Hedley, we have to accept that in the realm of the arts, entertainment, sports, etc. there will be a smaller pool of talent. For this reason, when an individual unexpectedly exhibits skill in some area, we are pleasantly surprised.

This was the case when I received a phone call from Graham Gore, manager of the Hedley Fire Department and pastor of the local church. “Have you seen the snow sculpture our mutual neighbour created?” he asked. Unfortunately I can’t reveal the name of the sculptor because he abhors personal publicity. I can tell you that his background is in highway maintenance, certainly not in the arts. I admitted I wasn’t even aware of this recent creation.

Night photo by Linda Martens
Night photo by Linda Martens

“It’s where Webster and Scott intersect, not far from the Cenotaph,” he told me. Although it was already almost totally dark, Linda and I grabbed the camera and hurried to the site.

Thanks to the snow plowing crew that visited our community last Tuesday evening and worked well into the night, several large piles of snow had been heaped up around town. Our neighbour had selected one of these for his sculpting effort, a gleeful “SpongeBob” perched high on the mound. Although not nearly as ambitious, it reminds me of the heads of 4 U.S. presidents carved into the granite rock of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

Linda snapped a picture and Graham also sent me his photos of it.

Hedley's "SpongeBob" photo by Graham Gore
Hedley’s “SpongeBob”
photo by Graham Gore

The only outdoor item of permanent art work in Hedley is a painting of a blacksmith at work. It was commissioned some time ago by the One Way Adventure Foundation and adorns the end wall of the Post Office.

Unfortunately the snow sculpture will not enjoy the same longevity, but in the meantime it pleases us to know that someone in our midst chose to delight us with a talent we were not previously aware of. We accept that Hedley’s version of “SpongeBob” isn’t likely to last long, but of course there is the possibility someone will come up with a coating that will preserve it for posterity.

A big thank you from all of us to Hedley’s # 1 Sculptor.

A Lesson From This Week’s Snow

Due to the unusually heavy snow fall and lack of plowing this week,

Snow Filled Street
Snow Filled Street

many Hedley citizens couldn’t get their cars onto the streets for a couple of days. We shovelled our driveways meticulously and then waited for the imminent arrival of a plow. In spite of our great expectations, most streets remained clogged with snow to the end of Tuesday.

For some this became a source of irritation. One individual complained bitterly about the lack of service in Hedley. A neighbour suggested I write about it in the paper. “We might get some notice from the plow crews next time,” he said. I thought he was somewhat overly optimistic as to any clout my chiding might have. I did take photos but decided taking Argo to task would not be a productive use of this space.

At 9 pm a grader did roll into town and the operator demonstrated remarkable skill and thoughtfulness. We had expected 3 foot high ridges of snow across our driveways when he departed. There were virtually none. My neighbour who asked me to blast Argo humbly recanted. Graham Gore, Manager of the Hedley Fire Department, phoned the company to compliment them on the snow clearing effort.

After the streets were cleared, it occurred to me that we are unaccustomed to having our plans unduly disrupted by what is sometimes referred to as an “Act of God”. When our television screen shows the nasty results of a disastrous event such as a tsunami, earthquake, tornado or flood, it is usually in some distant underdeveloped country. Disasters don’t happen in the Similkameen Valley, do they?

Certainly we have been spared the heartache and turmoil that inevitably accompany major catastrophes. It may be time though to look back into our history for a reminder that we haven’t been entirely immune from weather events, and that we cannot expect to always be spared. Even peaceful Hedley has experienced occasional body blows by Mother Nature and her willing accomplices.

An early example of the weather wreaking havoc is the washouts at the ends of the dam crossing the Similkameen River. Writing in “Mines of the Eagle Country“, historian Doug Cox says “the dam had

Dam Washout
Dam Washout

been completed in 1915, using shovels, picks, wheel barrows and horse teams. It’s purpose was to supply power for the Daly Reduction Plant and townsites.” According to Cox, in 1935 a heavy build up of ice floes generated sufficient force to take out the ends of the dam. Deciding the dam wasn’t worth repairing, the company dynamited the middle pier and abandoned the project. It wouldn’t be the last time weather disrupted the lives of Hedley residents.

On January 24,1939 the hard fist of calamity struck the community with the vengeance of a terrorist attack. According to the now

Hedley Rock Slide,  Jan. 24, 1939
Hedley Rock Slide,
Jan. 24, 1939

defunct Similkameen Star, large boulders weighing as much as 25 tonnes broke off at the 1,700 foot level on Stemwinder Mountain. Some catapulted through homes, smashing them. Helen Moore, a former resident of Hedley now residing in Penticton, was living with her family in the slide area. A huge boulder crashed into the bedroom she shared with her sister. The Star reported that fortunately it came to rest between their beds and they were not injured. A man and a woman in another home were killed by a boulder that crushed their home. Subsequently a number of houses were moved from the slide area to Daly Avenue.

In 1948, and also in 1972, the elements again conspired to create havoc. In both cases 20 Mile Creek overflowed its banks. Ralph

1948 Hedley Flood
1948 Hedley Flood

Mackay, a longtime Hedley resident recalls that in 1972 “three houses went down the creek. A hydro pole and the lines came down. In one place the water line was uncovered and it was sticking out of the ground.” He saw the porch of a house near the creek hanging in the air. The ground had been washed out from under it. The nearby bridge on Webster Street had one end washed out. A large part of the town was under water.

Almost certainly these events were entirely unanticipated. Disasters usually are. When we are not troubled by unfortunate and unforeseen events for long periods, we become complacent. We see no need to be vigilant or to prepare.

The Canadian Red Cross has an Emergency Preparedness check list on its website to help us prepare for calamitous events.  This could be a good place to start our own preparation.

Heavy Snow Creates Problems

Tuesday, Jan.6, 2015. When we still lived in Abbotsford I sometimes felt a yearning to experience another Hedley winter. I credit my Mom with giving me that desire. She loved snow.

IMG_0828The past two days my wish has been abundantly granted. Of course, with the snow has come a considerable amount of shovelling. Sunday evening I moved about 6 inches off the driveway and the path to the storage shed and the Hen House. Yesterday snow fell well into the afternoon. More opportunity to shovel. Linda joined me this time.

Last night a plow made a token appearance in town. A few streets IMG_0838were cleared but in some cases a high ridge was left across streets. If those ridges are allowed to harden, we may see some ripped off mufflers scattered around town.

During the night a senior lady called 911, saying she had fallen and couldn’t get up. An ambulance was dispatched from Princeton. In the meantime the Hedley Fire Department received word of this emergency and two Fire Fighters and one First Responder hurried to the home. Because of the deep snow, the ambulance could not get close enough to the home and they called Mike Jacobs who lives nearby on the local reserve. Mike came immediately with his ATV and cleared the snow.

The paramedics got the lady on her feet and wanted to take her to the Princeton hospital. She decided she was now ok and elected not to go.

The two fire fighters returned to the Fire Hall and shortly received a call from the paramedics. One of their tire chains had broken and was stuck between the duels, making a loud knocking sound that concerned them. The Fire Fighters went to assist but when it was not possible to extract the chain, they summoned a tow truck. It was now Coffee Time at the Seniors’ Centre and the fire fighters went there to warm up. They expressed a lot of respect for the professionalism and dedication of the paramedics.

This incident points out one of the issues people in Hedley mention frequently. Other than the Fire Department’s First Responder service, we have no medical help readily available. In extreme adverse weather conditions, medical aid might not be available for several days, except possibly by helicopter. In 2014 a rock slide cut off access to the hospital in Penticton. The alternate routes, Nickel Plate Mountain Rd. and the Princeton- Summerland Highway take much longer and are vulnerable in bad weather. Also, had this particular emergency been on Hospital Hill (so called because Hedley had a hospital here many years ago in its boom time) even Mike’s ATV might not have been able to clear the street.

We are fortunate that our Fire Department is well organized and there is regular updating of skills. Often it is our first line of defense in an emergency.

Lessons From Hitchhiking

Grain Elevator
Grain Elevator

I was 19, standing on the outskirts of Pouce Coupe in northern B.C. with my thumb out, hoping some compassionate soul would give me a lift. My destination was Abbotsford and I planned to travel there via Alberta. The few dollars in my pocket were sufficient to buy little more than a loaf of bread, a package of sliced meat, and a cup of coffee. Picking up a hitch hiker was not considered especially dangerous at that time, but I was to discover most drivers were not willing to stop.

My first ride was with two young couples on a Sunday morning drive. I’m still surprised they picked me up. Before long it occurred to them they weren’t going to the next point where there was at least a semblance of civilization. After some discussion they extended their drive considerably and dropped me off at the B.C. /Alberta border. I can only guess at what motivated their thoughtfulness.

Farm Pickup Truck

At the small cafe on the border, I bought a cup of coffee so potent I worried it might be hazardous to my digestive system. Then, after standing too long on the bald, empty prairie stretching endlessly to the horizon, an elderly farmer in an aging rusted pickup bumped to a stop. He carried on well past his little farm because like the young couples, he didn’t want to leave me where drivers would be reluctant to pull over.

At the entrance to Grand Prairie, I was quickly picked up by three young men. An open case of beer was on the floor of the car and each had a bottle in hand. I was barely in the car when the driver glanced in his rear view mirror. “Cops,” he said and abruptly pulled onto a side street. I gathered they were just driving around town, hoping for some excitement. With his eyes frequently scrutinizing the rear view mirror, the driver made his way to the other end of town and dropped me off. Without that ride I’d almost certainly have needed to walk to this point. I appreciated what appeared to be an act of entirely unselfish helpfulness.

After a succession of rides, I found myself on the far side of Calgary. Dusk was approaching and I knew if I carried on, I might soon be standing in the mountainous darkness of Banff, hoping no bear would be looking for its dinner.

Grey station wagon (1)

An elderly man in a grey station wagon pulled over and pushed open the passenger door. I was dismayed to learn he was only going to Banff, where he lived. Evidently he came to trust me during our conversation enroute. Discovering I had little money, he said, “talk to my wife. She might put you up for a few dollars.” Darkness had fallen and I was relieved when his wife said I could stay for one dollar.

The following morning this wonderful trusting couple needed to leave for Calgary. They showed me where they kept their house key, and suggested I leave my bag in the house and look around town before carrying on. I gratefully accepted their offer, and after a little sightseeing I resumed my trek to Abbotsford.

Since that time I’ve sometimes thought back to my little hitch hiking adventure. I still wonder what motivated a very small percentage of drivers to stop, while the majority raced by blithely. Did they want to make a difference in someone’s life? Were they unselfish, giving individuals? Did they understand intuitively that an act of kindness can make the world a better place for someone?

For me the question concerning motivation is important. I’ve observed a similar dynamic prevail in community matters. A small minority of individuals shovel the walk of a frail pensioner, or provide a ride to the doctor. Often it is these people who serve on committees and boards of organizations. In Hedley, a handful of individuals put on the popular monthly pancake breakfasts and other events. Lately I’ve heard several say, “we are getting old. We won’t be able to do it much longer.” Do we delude ourselves with the belief others will always be there to do what is required to make this a pleasant community?

To retain what we have, and build on it, more of us need to rouse ourselves and get involved.