Monthly Archives: May 2014

Friends, I’m asking for the most precious gift you can give – your time

Those of you who know me know what a mess the last few years have been for me. Everything that could go wrong went wrong and I ended up at one point living on the streets. It was not a good time and it was a real low point, but I’ve managed to sort of get back on my feet.

Now I’m faced with one of the biggest decisions of my life and I’m really struggling with it. I need some help from those who know me well. I hope that you value the friendship that we had enough to invest a few minutes in giving me your honest opinions here. I don’t have a single friend here in London so I’m lost being on my own. Much as I’ve tried these past five years in London, I don’t have a “significant other” to talk to. First time in my life I’ve been alone and the timing could not be worse.

As I see it I have three options; one, to continue to struggle with my business, getting it to the point where I could sell it and improve my options. Realistically that would take probably three years, at which point I will be 68 years old with maybe not a lot of time left. I might mention here that I have doggedly applied for over a thousand jobs with not one response. Not all that surprising, I mean who is going to hire someone so close to retiring at 65? I don’t get to tell them that I went bankrupt and I don’t have a nickel to spare. Retirement is not an option, at least until they put me in a box.

The hardest part of staying here in London is that, first, I loathe this city more than any place I’ve ever lived in my entire life. The people are cold and arrogant. Those who know me really well would find it very hard to believe I was turned down by three different Meet-up groups, all with no explanation as to why. That really hurt and made me angry. I never had that kind of brush-off when I first arrived in Kelowna, in fact, the opposite was true and I soon had a very large group of wonderful friends. The city is dying because of all the employers who’ve closed up shop. Thousands of good paying jobs have been lost over the last couple of years. There’s very little to do here. The rivers and lakes are too polluted to swim in. The ski hill is a joke, more a bump than a hill. Much of the business district is empty stores. Not exactly the place to be optimistic about growing a business in.

The other part of living here breaks my heart. When I first came to this area I held out hope that I would get to see my two children and all the grand kids. My son did make a half-hearted attempt to see me two years ago and that was it. I haven’t seen my beautiful daughter in over twenty years now. She has two kids I’ve never met. My therapist suggested I might well live out my life and die and still have never been in touch with them. But the other two options mean I will never ever see any of them again, and that is a very hard decision to make.

So, option two was to return to the place I love – the Okanagan, but, you know that saying, “you can never go home again”? My life in the valley could not have been any better. I had wonderful friends. I danced my ass off at the Corral and had so many great dance partners. I owned three boats during my time and was out on the water as often as I could be. I water-skied, even learning to slalom. I downhill and cross-country skied. I snowmobiled around Kelowna and Revelstoke with my Dad, my brother and my brother-in-law. My son and daughter came out for the best three weeks of my entire life. I roller-bladed and skated. I even paraglided. My Dad and I went dirt-biking for more than ten years and every single ride was awesome. I played racquetball every week in the winter and I played in the pool league for over ten years. Life was very good.

If I was to return to the Okanagan now, well, first my Mum and Dad are both gone. I am estranged from my brother and sister for very good reasons. I don’t have a boat or a dirt-bike or a snowmobile or skis or a racquet or anything I would need, even if I could do any of those things, which today I can’t. My peripheral neuropathy means I can barely walk, let alone dance or ski. Not going to happen, so my life would just be full of regrets. My friends have all moved on or scattered across the country. Sure, it would be nice to see them again and get in a few hugs, but it would never be the same. Kelowna is also a very expensive place to live so it would be a struggle on my measly pension. More on that in a minute.

Most unfortunately I also hurt some people when my business failed. I went down owing a lot of money and my goal to see the house I gutted and rebuilt over a year and a half fell apart when one of the Westbank Chief’s said in the press that anyone who bought on native land was “stupid”. I ended up with a very beautiful white elephant. Then the “friend” I left living in the place let the snow build-up so much that the roof collapsed. I lost everything and not a lot of people would exactly welcome me back.

The third option, one I have researched to death, partly because of my not so great experience in Panama, is moving to Ecuador. The place I have researched has spring-like weather all year long, so no snow and no humidity. The cost of living is very cheap and there’s a very good chance that my health will improve by eating better and living in the mountain air. The people are friendly and Ecuador is fast becoming the best place for people to move to or retire. I have started building a website,, which is designed for Canadians looking to visit or move to Ecuador. The government has just increased the tourism budget significantly and there are a lot of opportunities everywhere, especially Real Estate. My dream is to travel around the country on my dirt-bike, taking pictures and writing a blog for the website, plus getting advertising to give me a little extra income.

Here’s the financial differences. When I turn sixty-five I no longer receive ODSP, which right now pays for my meds to the tune of about seven hundred dollars a month; however, I’m told that I will be able to continue to get assistance from the Feds. Right now I am receiving my small CPP, just under five hundred dollars, which I took early to survive. I will then get my OAS, which should be around five hundred as well, but then I also get the GIS because my income is so low, and that will be about four hundred dollars. All tolled it will be about fifteen hundred dollars a month, not enough to live here comfortably because my rent is “geared to income” so they will take about six hundred and fifty dollars in rent, far more than my apartment is worth. If I were to return to the Okanagan I wouldn’t be guaranteed to get any assisted housing, so my rent anywhere is going to be expensive.

The issue with moving to Ecuador is that I am not allowed to receive the GIS if I am out of the country more than six months, so I would lose that. I would be hopeful that I can supplement my income with the website after six months, but there’s no guarantee on that. Without any other income I would be left with about a thousand dollars a month, but my current meds in Ecuador would be about three hundred dollars. The government has just passed a law about a national health care plan which I could join as soon as I am a permanent resident. It’s about seventy dollars a month and covers all prescriptions.

So, if you’ve read this, you are a true friend and I thank you. Please share your honest opinions, good or bad. I’m usually a pretty decisive guy, but this one has me in knots, mostly about my kids. No matter what, that’s the tough part.

Living with pain

Not that long ago really, in terms of a lifetime, I was in great shape and very healthy. During my years in the Okanagan I was incredibly active. I ran a hiking club, year round. In the summer months every Sunday, weather permitting, I would roller-blade usually for several hours. I had several boats and went water-skiing at every opportunity, even learning to slalom. I biked the Kettle Valley many times. My Dad and I dirt-biked all over the Okanagan and in Revelstoke. I played tennis, although not as often as I would have liked. I even para-glided, which was awesome. In the winter I downhill skied, cross-country skied and snowmobiled. I played racquetball three times a week, including Sunday mornings which usually ran three hours or more. I danced for hours usually once or twice a week at the Corral. Most of my many good friends were twenty years younger than me because people my own age couldn’t keep up. I was a very fit one hundred and seventy pounds and, despite the fact that I smoked and ate my fair share of fast food, I had all kinds of stamina and energy. I slept like a baby and was rarely sick, usually a cold once a year or so.

Things changed in 2004 after my dirt-bike accident where I tore up my foot pretty bad. The doctor said I had to stay off my foot for probably up to a year because if I re-injured it I may never walk again. I heeded the advice and basically sat around eating and watching TV. Soon I had ballooned to two hundred and twenty pounds. Suddenly I had all kinds of health issues, like acid reflux, and I couldn’t walk up the stairs without puffing. When I went to my doctor he was shocked at my weight gain and bluntly told me I had better lose the weight or I would probably have a heart attack. This was also when I was diagnosed as diabetic.

Over the next few months I managed to lose the weight and gradually returned to my active lifestyle. I felt so much better and my diabetes was controlled by only Metformin and nothing else. After my Dad passed away in 2005 I moved in with my mother to care for her because she had Alzheimer’s. This was a twenty-four seven job so I had little chance to do anything that meant leaving her. My brother and sister were useless in giving me a break. I did manage to do a lot of work around the house and I completely rebuilt the beach area and added a new dock.

After my sister took my mother to Revelstoke I sold the house and moved to a place that I basically took over the mortgage on and worked my tail off for a year and a half gutting and rebuilding. Seven days a week I worked very long and physical days. One consequence was that by the end of the day I could barely walk because of the pain in my feet. I had plantar fasciitis big time, but I found inserts called HeelThatPain which worked really well and I still wear them today. At one point, after things fell apart with the reno, I was under such stress that my sugars were off the chart. My doctor put me on large doses of insulin which brought down my sugars. He also told me that I was a poster child for a heart attack and I needed to find a way to get out from under all the stress. This is when I moved to Panama.

In Panama I got involved in the renovation of a multi-apartment house for a guy back in Kelowna and again worked long days, seven days a week. In the sixteen months I was in Panama I took one week-end off. My meds continued to be Metformin and reasonably small doses of one kind of insulin. Then I had my gall bladder attack and my emergency surgery in a third-world hospital that nearly killed me.

After I was forced to return to Canada my first doctor was horrified at the twenty year-old type of invasive surgery I had and which would not bode well in the future. I still managed to remain fairly active in Toronto, mostly biking and some roller-blading. Then I moved to London and soon the downhill slide would start. I did continue to bike the trails around London and get in some roller-blading and ice skating before I started having issues with my feet. This started after I worked four months at Home Depot, walking the concrete floors in cheap work boots. By the end of even a four hour shift I could barely walk.

The pain in my feet continued to get worse and my doctor suspected I had peripheral neuropathy, which was soon confirmed by an EMG at the hospital. Not only did they confirm I had it in my feet, but it was also starting in my hands. This was particularly disturbing because I spend twelve hours a day on the computer. As my sugars continued to deteriorate my diabetic specialist doubled, then tripled my two types of insulin. This, combined with a total lack of exercise resulted in putting on thirty-five pounds. The acid reflux returned along with a host of new ailments. Just recently an ultrasound confirmed that I have what’s called an incisional hernia as a result of the botched surgery in Panama.

So, today this is my life. I am already on the maximum daily dose of Gabapentin, the pain killer for my neuropathy. Despite this the pain is twenty-four seven. I walk with a cane because the pain makes me lose my balance. The pain in my hands is now getting worse by the day. My hernia is painful, but the surgeon can’t operate until I somehow magically find a way to lose weight. My shoulders, which were diagnosed as “frozen shoulder” are painful, especially when trying to put a coat on. My knees are starting to ache like I have arthritis. I have to take a sleeping medication to stay asleep at night. I can’t eat anything without it causing unbelievable flatulence and belching. Because my sugars remain high I am having trouble with my vision, especially first thing in the morning. I have to magnify my windows to be able to read on the internet. I need a nap every day mid afternoon, partly because I have sleep apnea and also because of the meds I’m on.

There are days when I don’t think I can take it anymore. I just came out of fourteen weeks of counseling, which helped but offered no solutions for my situation. My therapist couldn’t believe what I have been through or how much I am dealing with now. My mental health is about as good as my physical health. The horrible situation with my kids, realizing that it’s been twenty years since my daughter had any contact with me. I have five grandchildren I’ve never met. I live in a city I loathe. I have no friends and no social life. Life is really taking a toll on my sanity right now. I am usually such a decisive person, but right now I am adrift. My quality of life is diminishing rapidly.

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