Thursday, January 31, 2013

Day 70

The numbers are in! Jacquie's aggregate number has moved up to 77. That is a percentage rate of old vs new cells covering many cell types including white blood cells, lymphocytes and many others. This is excellent as they apparently warned us that the numbers could drop on the second test. As of now, Jacquie is planning to go home on Day 90 rather than having to wait for Day 100.

Many thanks to the wonderful people who are treating her at Stanford. They are a classy bunch!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Guess who went to the Gym today?

Well, we both did.  Now before those of you who know me well go into apoplectic shock, you must know that this is all about Jacquie.   We set her up on the stationary bike and she rode for a few minutes  at a low setting.  But it was enough, her heart rate began to climb and she kept on going.  I was really proud of her.   Of course, I got on the other bike so we rode together for a short while and we stopped pretty quickly but nevertheless she did it.
What's more we have agreed to do it every day for the next month.
By the way, we were at the hospital this morning for her Monday check up and she is doing fine.  We still don't have the results from the latest stem cell test but will probably get them soon.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Jacquie's getting a little better every day

There are many challenges ahead for my dear sister Jacqueline as she moves toward the healing that we all pray for.   As of this writing I am delighted to say that she is getting better every day.  Her spirits are high, she has infrequent instead of constant nausea.   She's eating better and the dosages of several of her meds have either been discontinued entirely or progressing through a staged withdrawal.

Over the last couple of weeks I have become more and more aware of how serious this is and what diligence is required to protect her from infections of any kind.  It is a big responsibility and requires constant awareness.   It is very difficult to maintain a clean environment and more importantly, a clean set of practices when dealing with everyday things.  Of course we wash our hands constantly but it is so easy to touch my hair or my clothes while preparing a meal or dealing with meds and so on.  Yesterday I peeled a banana without washing it first.  Fortunately I remembered before I gave it to her but it was close.

It's also difficult because we touch the same things so often.  I handle her cutlery, and her dishes as I remove them from the dishwasher.   I make her sandwiches and other things to eat and sometimes touch my pants or my face or my hair while doing it.   Most of the time I remember and wash my hands right away but I'm sure there are times when I have been unconscious about it, thinking about something else, or dealing with some minor distraction.

Fortunately, she is less vulnerable now.  I don't know how Gerry and Paul dealt with it while she was so ill all the time.  It must have been tough.   In a way, I feel like I am getting the free ride here as she seems so much better now.   She's on day 66 now after her transplant and 2/3 of the way to the magic 100.   She has a very positive attitude and seldom complains about anything.  I often have to question her carefully to find how out she really feels.   I am really proud of her and really proud of Paul and Gerry for getting her through the really tough times.  My hat's off to you guys, I'm impressed!

I am in conflict right now because when Jacquie is all decked out to go somewhere she looks a bit like Darth Vader and I am very tempted to do a portrait of her.   But I understand that she doesn't want to be seen this way, big hat, dark glasses, scarf, mask, etc.  It's bad enough to be saddled with all of that and to be afraid of everyone around her when we are out as the last thing we want is for her immune system to go into overdrive and kill all those great stem cells that are rebuilding her blood, just because she caught a cold from someone in a lineup.

But every day she gets stronger and the likelihood of that happening is less.  So we count our blessings, wash our hands and applaud the vigilance that we aspire to.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Last Tuesday I flew a rather interesting route from Vancouver to San Jose.  I guess that's why they named it Delta Airlines as it seemed very triangular to me.  I'll be here for approximately 7 weeks looking after my sister Jacquie who is being treated for Leukaemia.   We are very fortunate that Jacquie was accepted into a protocol that was developed at Stanford.  

My sister Gerry is a nurse and she has been here since October supporting Jacquie during the preparation for a process to transplant some of my brother Paul's stem cells (hereinafter referred to as "the boys") into her body.   Jacquie had been on chemo for a year in preparation for the procedure.   The last part of the prep was a radiation process to kill most of the bone marrow in her body before introducing the boys into her system.  

This is the part where I have to tip my hat to my brother Paul for being the guy who won the family race to be Jacquie's donor.  Who would have guessed it?  He was a perfect match and though we all tried our best, Paul became the family hero who got to donate his stem cells to our dear sister "Jake" and literally save her life.  

After 35 days she was showing a 73% acceptance of his stem cells.  They were hoping for 30% so of course, we are never going to hear the end of this.     Now I'm not saying that Paul likes to brag but he is definitely his own hero and now he is my hero too.  (Enjoy this now Paul because I will never say this again!)

Of course there are other heroes in this story too, the biggest of whom is Gerry.  Jacquie had a very bad time of it following the transplant.   I won't go into the details but she was very sick and Gerry was there every step of the way, protecting, guiding, helping, treating, feeding, cleaning and generally being an earthbound angel.   She is leaving on Tuesday and I am taking over the care of my dear Jacquie for the next six weeks.   She is doing so well and I intend to take good care of her between now and March 2 when I return to Canada.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Do You Know The Way to San Jose?

Yup, I'm on my way south and at the moment I feel like I have been canned in a long tube along with a few other victims, hoping to get to our final destinations.   I have done a lot of flying in my life and I can remember my excitement for it in my youth.  I thought that flying was glamorous and fun.  Jetting from place to place, staying in famous hotels.  Sounded great at the time.  

When I finally decided to move back to Vancouver and hand in my frequent flyer cards, I felt so relieved to just settle down.  Even if it meant a big cut in income, I have never regretted it.

Did you know there are no direct flights to San Jose from Vancouver?   Not only that, to fly direct to San Francisco means that your ticket will cost you as much as 300% of the cheap fares.   Hey, I don't mind, here I am in Salt Lake City waiting for my connection to San Jose.  I've got a 3 hour layover and I'm just relaxing.  It does seem ridiculous to come all the way here to go there.  I'll have been in the air almost 4 hours by the time I get there but I've got time...

It's gonna be great to see my sisters!   I just wish GG and Mischa were here...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

In Transit

It has been over 3 years and two cameras since I started this project.   I won't bore you with all the details but I found myself commuting to work on the number 14 bus and realized that it was a somewhat depressing experience. The mornings were the toughest, most people seemed withdrawn into themselves and their own problems.   I found myself reviewing my life and asking myself the questions that we all ask.  "Is this worth it?  What am I going to have to deal with today?  How long am I prepared to do this?"    I usually carry a camera with me and when I feel moved like that I think of it as an opportunity to find out what I think, in visual terms.

There's a famous quote attributed to Anais Niin "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are".   I believe this to be true and I have proven it to myself many times.   I ask you to keep this in mind as you look at this work.  These pictures are not statements about other people, they are my statements about how I see other people, in this case, riding on the bus.

This is a small sampling of the pictures from this project.   There are currently 134 pictures that have survived editing.   I assembled 56 of them for a book and have printed and bound a maquette. 

These pictures are small but if you click on any one of them it will bring up a gallery where they are considerably larger.  I hope you find them as interesting as I do.

Weddings We Have Loved

Nicole and George

In 2011, Gaetanne and I made the decision to move to the Gulf Islands.   We weren't sure how we would do it or where we would finally end up but we were clear that it was right for us so we set about making it happen.  I have to tell you that it is one of the best things I have ever done.  Leaving the city has been difficult but it was definitely worth it.

Unfortunately, that finally put the cap on our wedding photography business.  I say unfortunately because it was a very joyful time in our lives.   We met so many wonderful people, joined with them and their families in celebrations that we felt privileged to be a part of.   Many photographers speak of wedding photography in disparaging terms.   We hear stories about bridezillas and dreaded mothers in law but I can honestly say that I loved every one I did.  It wasn't always easy, far from it, it was challenging in the extreme at times, especially when we were shooting film.   But I am proud of the work we did, and I love going back to look at the pictures we made.   We often joked that we probably look at our couples' pictures more that they did because they were too busy living their lives.   But for us it was all about the pictures. our contribution, sharing the joy, and loving the people.

Thanks to each and every one who invited us to be a part their special day, it was an honour and without doubt, one of the best times of my life.

Sonoko and Chris

Laura and Victor

And there are so many more...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

City vs Island Living

Over the last few weeks I have been in Vancouver to finish my In Transit series and in Victoria for the Christmas holidays.   It has been a year since I moved to the island and these trips have given me a chance to reflect on these two very different modes of living.

I have always been a city boy.  I was raised in Winnipeg and moved to Vancouver in the 70's.   The majority of my adult years have been spent living in apartments.   Moving into a cabin on an island has meant a big shift in consciousness.  Lots of things I took for granted require work now.  Heat is a big issue.  We use a wood stove as our primary heat source now and that means finding, buying, arranging delivery, stacking, chopping, re-stacking, making or buying kindling.  It also means keeping an eye on the fire periodically as I have the tendency to forget it until I feel cold.

Power outages are a drag.   They are unpredictable, frequent and have a big impact.  When the power is out, our water is also out as the pump is electric.   We keep a bucket of water next to the toilet, and that is good for two flushes.  The rest is problematic.

When I lived in the city, I ate out in restaurants pretty often, often just for coffee and a pastry but nevertheless, it was normal for me to visit a restaurant or a coffee shop once a day.   On the island, I usually make my own coffee (which I now prefer) and have snacks from the fridge or cupboard.  I'm growing to like cooking as well though I make no claims of skill.

I love the community here.  I like the spirit of the island and the sense that we all are responsible for the land.  I like having to drive slower because of the deer and other animals that frequently can be seen by the road.

I miss some things, galleries, movies, old friends, bookstores.   I feel disconnected in a way.   We have good internet service here but it's not like walking down the street.   I used to walk quite a lot in the city but have to push myself to get out here.   I love the waterfront but don't find trails and hiking very attractive.

I'd like to work with models again but that too, is not easy here.

I can afford to live on this island.  My rent is very reasonable, and the other costs are manageable.   I'm also less exposed to temptation so far as technology and cameras are concerned.   Thank God for digital photography as I don't need a lab or a darkroom to process film and make prints.

For the most part I feel self actualized.   I do what I want, when I want.  I love the little cabin and my tiny studio.   I think I am happier than I have ever been.

Could I move back to the city?  You bet!   Would I?  Nope!

Do I miss it?  Sometimes.

But not that much....