Wednesday, May 9, 2012


I have spent more time in the Health Sciences Center over the past while than I would have preferred.

 Last week my wife's great-grand father had a fall. We spend a few hours in emergency making sure he was none the worse for the experience. The attention, care and speed at which his blood, heart and kidneys were tested amazed me. It is reassuring to know that we have a great medical system, when we need it. No worries about cost, competency or access.

Today, it was my turn. Back in December, a CAT scan had picked up a small brain tumor.  I was assured that it was not cancer, but the professionals wanted to determine if it was growing. It made for a stressful six months. It could have been lurking in my brain since I was a kid, or it might be a potential problem. All I could do was wait, and wait, and wait until enough time had passed to compare images.

Hospitals are amazingly busy places. Cleaners, nurses, doctors, orderlies, painters, order codes, pages, beeps, alarms, telephones, people in hospital gurneys, wheel chairs being, squeaky carts and slammed doors.  The noise is never ending, antagonistic and  stressful.  It is not a healing environment.  I suppose it is what it is, there could never be a zero noise.

While waiting for my MRI, I tried desperately to find some inner solitude. To tune out the environment around me and use the wait time for a some self-examination. No doubt, most people who have met me might label me as an extrovert. Today, I wanted to be alone. I needed alonetime.  These past few months of not knowing had certainly had an impact. I had grown frustrated with my lack of control.  I have begun to value the solitude that comes with alonetime. I just needed to shift out of thoughts of work, the future, the past, anger and a general feeling of fatigue. Over the past few months I have found a lot of solitude parked at Middle Cove, listening to the waves roll in and out, or crash on the cliffs.

Today there was no beach, just the unending environmental noise of a busy hospital waiting area, as other people took their places in line, preparing for their MRIs. Some read books, others brought along magazines. They seemed to be old pros.

For me the wait seemed like hours. It was the longest and hardest half-hour of my life. The last time I felt this way was back in 1994 when I had proposed some unpopular changes to the Liberal Party of NL constitution.

In my naiveness, I thought empowering the caucus to vote on the leader each spring spring would provide checks and balances. It would give backbenchers a little influence as opposed to being told what to do and how to vote.

My amendment caused quite a stir.  It was seen as a challenge to the premier. Conspiracy theorists on the 8th floor immediately felt that I was being propped up by a disgruntled group from the caucus. In fact the motion came out of a deep conversation with another young liberal who felt the current system was not empowering enough for backbenchers.

When I was summoned to the Premier's office - for the chat - I had to wait for what seemed to be hours. To me, it felt like my life was over. I had finally gone too far in my criticism and outspokenness.

I was in the birthing room for the birth of my kids, I have chosen where I want to work but the outcome of this test way beyond my control.

Like the long talk with a past premier, the MRI was not that bad. It will have unlocked a path forward,  quelled some chaos and make me reflect on the positive.

Unlike the reason for the conversation, the reason for the anxiousness is beyond my control. The results will determine my future. As the old folksong goes, When I reach that last big shoal,Where the ground swells break asunder, Where the wild sands roll to the surge's toll, Let me be a man and take it, When my dory fails to make it.

I am looking forward to moving ahead on a go-forward basis.  An experience like this certainly makes you put your life, your relationships and your priorities in perspective. You only get one shot at this life.

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