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My whole life, if anyone ever said, “Do you want to hear the good news or the bad news?”, I would ALWAYS choose to hear the bad news first so that I could end with the good news. So I’m doing the same with you, dear readers – I’m starting with the bad news so that you can move past that and enjoy the rest of the good news in this week’s post :).

At the end of June, just a week after we moved into our house, I ended up in hospital due to extreme bleeding and resulting shortness of breath. I needed 2 blood transfusions as my hemoglobin was down to 74 when the lowest end of the normal range is 115 – no wonder I could barely breathe when walking! As an aside – I’m hoping that now that I have Aussie blood in me, perhaps immigration here will expedite my application to become a permanent resident :). They did a pelvic ultrasound and the uterus looked to be quite the mess so they put me on an urgent list for a hysteroscopy to go in and see what was up. That procedure was done on July 24 and the surgeon told me it was worse than it looked on the ultrasound and she’d be very surprised if it wasn’t cancer. She put a rush on the histology results and sure enough, on Aug 1 we learned that I have endometrial cancer. The oncology nurse worked a miracle and got me booked the next day for a CT scan to see if there was any sign of spread. And then the anxious waiting started. If there’s no spread, a hysterectomy is the sole treatment required. If there is, then we’re looking at radiation and possibly chemo.

The downside to living in a small rural area is that any major health services are only provided in Brisbane – an 8-hour drive or 1.25-hour flight away. That’s where the oncology teams are and my local folks are not allowed to tell me the results of the CT (which were delivered to them on Aug 3) as that analysis and recommendations has to come direct from the specialist team. Initially I was going to have to wait until Aug 29 to hear the verdict but because I’m not a permanent resident or citizen and I don’t have Medicare, I have to pay or use private health insurance for all of my health care. So the folks in Brisbane recommended that I switch over to the private system as it would be faster and cheaper than the public system, and the same doctors work in both. So Hugh and I flew to Brisbane this past Monday to meet with an amazing gynecological oncologist on Tuesday. And the results were excellent! While they won’t know 100% until they do the hysterectomy, there are absolutely no signs of spread. There may have been tears of joy shed in the waiting room after the appointment. So this is the transition from bad news to good news :).

I have been totally impressed with most aspects of the health system I’ve witnessed. My first month was all in the public system and the individual physicians and nurses were all highly skilled and kind and really went out of their way to expedite things for me (from what I’ve heard from friends here, the lightning speed I experienced every step of the way in the public system is quite unusual). What they didn’t do well here was speak to each other or read each other’s notes. The hospital is still on a paper charting system so I don’t know if that was the problem or if there is a culture of not sharing information or what. I was quite glad to have good advocacy skills and perseverance to ensure that one person knew what the other had just told me. The private system has been exemplary top to bottom with outstanding attention to detail and fabulous communication between health professionals even when in different locations. As much as I am nervous about having the surgery on Aug 28 (simply because I’ve never had to have surgery before), I am feeling an incredible sense of calm because my confidence in my team is so high.

Hugh and I had been optimistic that we’d hear good news so we booked to spend an extra day in Brisbane. After our appointment with Dr. Morton, we went out for lunch at the historic Regatta (recommended to us by Dave, who sat next to Hugh on the flight down). We sat on the covered patio watching the river and the city traffic – entertaining when we never experience traffic anymore! Yes, that is a very big glass of wine in my hand and a very big smile on my face!

Allison B – I know exactly what you’re thinking when you’re eyeing up that lovely glass with the R on it :).

Even better – the chips that came with my sandwich were EXCELLENT and as close to Miss Vickie’s as we’ve seen anywhere. I asked the server if she could get me the brand so I could look for it and she gave me a bag of chips for free :).

We have since bought a bag from the grocery store and can confirm that they are indeed the best chips we’ve had here, it wasn’t just euphoria making us enjoy them :).

Another tip from Dave on the plane was to take the CityCat ferry up and down the river. It ended up being a 3-hour tour (no Gilligan’s Island mishaps) that cost us each $2.94! And we timed it perfectly to see all the sights from the river in daylight and again at night. Here are some of the bridges in daylight:

And here are some at night:

A few more photos taken from the CityCat – one showing the juxtaposition of old against new, one showing all the cranes (insane amount of building going on), and one showing the sunset from the ferry port Northshore Hamilton :):

Apparently Matt Damon was in town for Ekka (the Brisbane version of the agricultural show that occurred in our area in early June), but we didn’t bump into him. Rats.

Oh, no blog post would be complete without a bird photo:

This is the first pelican we’ve seen since being in Australia.

We decided to choose restaurants to eat at that serve food we can’t get in Yeppoon, so we went to a little hole in the wall Italian place called Ciro’s on Monday night and then a fabulous Lebanese place on Tue night. Both were delicious! Getting to Ciro’s (and the hospital, for that matter) from our hotel was a bit of a workout. Google Maps described the walk as “mostly flat.” I no longer trust Google Maps. This picture doesn’t remotely do justice to the steepness of the hill we had to climb to get from the river to the hospital (and Ciro’s, and the train to take us back to the airport – when we were additionally dragging our luggage):

Fortunately, when we’re back for surgery on the 28th, we’re staying at a lodge owned by the hospital, which is at the TOP of the hill :).

Brisbane is a beautiful city and we look forward to spending more time here. This is the pedestrian and cyclist walkway along the river:

And lots of birds even in a big city – see if you can find the lorikeet in this photo (harder to pick out because it isn’t the Rainbow one we get in Yeppoon that has a purple head):

And fortunately no magpies swooped us, but we did see a sign warning of this behaviour:

But the city is prepared for the aftermath of any swooping incidents – they have bike repair spots set up nearby:

When we were taking the train back to the airport, a wonderful young fellow offered his seat to us and we were thinking how lovely a world it is that even in a larger city, young people are kind. And then it dawned on us that we obviously looked elderly to him!!! Yikes, need to rethink my fitness and skincare routine.

We got home from Brisbane on Wed and we played in a new team-based pickleball league with our friends Geoff and Sharyn at 6:30pm that night (where I’m quite sure our friend Robyn went easy on me in my first ever singles match :)), and then scooted over to the Strand at 8pm to meet Leigh and Darren to watch the Matildas play in the semi-final game against England. Leigh once again ensured we were decked out for the occasion:

But it unfortunately wasn’t enough and they lost :). And then lost the bronze medal game last night. But still a really terrific run for the Matildas and they have definitely developed a massive new fan base!

Today Hugh went to a fermenting cooking class where he was to learn how to make sourdough bread and sauerkraut. We’re optimistic about the sauerkraut, but not so sure about the sourdough, it seems like it’s not going to be the sourdough we know and love. It’s in the oven now so we’ll see, but Hugh’s method (the Tartine method) is so completely different from what was shown in the class today that it was impossible to compare. So Hugh will be back to YouTube to see if he can figure out what he needs to change in his process to get the bread to fully rise the way it would in Canada.

Last item for this week – we’ve done incredibly well unpacking and getting our home all organized. We have 3 areas that are totally done. This is the sitting room at the front of the house, overlooking the mountains and facing north so that we can see both the sunrises and sunsets:

Laurie, your chairs fit in beautifully and Ray and April, so does your shelving unit! And Kev, the candlesticks from April that you painted copper for me also look spectacular here! Suz – you probably can’t quite see but Grandad’s Norman Rockwell plates are on the shelving unit, so they’ve traveled from England to Canada to Australia :). And I have a vase on the shelf that I bought just north of here in 2001 – it is now back home, along with a cutting board that I bought here back then too :). Kev – you’ll see the keyboard all set up, just need to arrange piano lessons now! And a brand new item is on the table with the lamp – a gorgeous glass piece from Paull Rodrigue in Dundas that I’m so relieved survived the shipping container intact! Paull assured us it would, but you just never know with glass…

Here is the guest bedroom and bathroom at the back of the house:

A great photo of Cole and Reese on the bedroom wall and everyone’s favourite, “A Dog, His Sheep, and Their Carrots” back up in the bathroom. Chris S – you may remember the other photo in the bathroom from the morning we went out on the boat in Maui as the miserable weather from the day before was clearing. I’ve been thinking of that trip a lot with the awful fires devastating Lahaina, just around the bay from where we stayed.

And here is the TV room in the middle of the house, which opens onto the side patio:

Two of our Paul Simon photographs are on prominent display! Need to get an area rug for this room. The entire house has tile floors, which is hard to get used to when we’ve had hardwood floors for the past 14 years. Hardwood is so lovely to stand on and walk on – tile, not so much! Cold and hard. I had contemplated leaving my slippers behind when we packed and I’m so glad I didn’t – really need them here!

Those of you who know my decorating tastes will notice that I’ve stuck with my favourite colours :).

Will post more photos later as we put on the finishing touches.

I’m not entirely sure if I’ll be on time for my next blog post. We fly to Brissy (Aussie short form for Brisbane) on the afternoon of Sunday the 27th, uterus/cervix/tubes/ovaries removal is Monday the 28th, should get out of hospital on Wednesday the 30th, and then should be able to fly home on Friday the 1st. So if I don’t get my usual post up on Sunday the 27th, I’ll either try to catch up mid-week or just bring you up to speed on Sunday the 3rd.

Enjoy your week!

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