Year 1, Week 10: Another Week … and My Book is Out

1:10

While it has been a chemo week for my mother-in-law, it has also been a week of spectacular sunny weather here, giving opportunity for nice walks and being outside.

While her chemo went reasonably well, some annoying disorganization:

  • Out-patient chemo infusion plans were changed from a half-day to full-day (for increased hydration) just as she was preparing to leave;
  • Homecare arrangements were a comedy of errors. Scheduled to come between 8-9 pm, came an hour later without calling about the delay and forgetting to bring hydration, resulting in a further delay of an hour, all on a very long day for her;
  • Problems with the pump battery the next day, that required a further visit; and,
  • The usual reliance on spoken instructions for meds, rather than written information. Fortunately, based upon our previous experience, we were able to get the needed clarification – and incorporate into a reference table – to make things easier.

On the other hand, when the likely complications and side-effects emerge, good quick telephone response time and information, and going into emergency to get things checked out involved only an hour-long wait, with fortunately nothing serious that some additional meds cannot handle.

Overall, this experience makes me realize how fortunate I was in terms of my medical team, who were organized, with good written patient follow-up and side effect information, with only minor gaps or omissions. My homecare experience was also very good: competent staff, who would call if delayed, more modern and lightweight pumps, and no forgetting supplies.

I have been reading Andrew Westoll’s The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary, the story of former zoo and lab chimps and the people who care for them in their sanctuary outside of Montreal. A very powerful story on a number of levels and not an easy read. Some things that stood out for me:

  • How could we be so cruel to a species that shares so many of our social and nurturing instincts? Not uncommon as we look back at history but still striking;
  • The long-lasting effects of trauma (or PTSD) that is not unique to humans;
  • The dedication and determination of the team at the sanctuary, bordering on obsessiveness, required to make it work (the ‘crazy ones’ to use the iconic Apple ad);
  • How my rationalization – I didn’t know – is one that has been used throughout history, and is not justification, just as ignorance of the law is no excuse …; and,
  • The range of personalities and temperaments of the chimps, their social habits and structures, and the similarities and differences between them and us.

The end result is greater awareness of animal suffering from testing or other activities, and more sympathy for some of the issues pressed by PETA and other organizations. Some quotes to give the flavour of the book:

A primatologist would say Toby is a ‘highly enculturated’ ape. His identity lies somewhere between chimpanzee and human. Toby is a member of a strange new tribe of beings we have forged from the formal shape of the wild chimpanzee, a new hybrid fashioned in human laboratories, circuses, movie sets, and living rooms over the past one hundred or so years. Toby is, for all intents and purposes, the confused and conflicted humanzee of lore….

The Fauna staff acted on the simple but revolutionary idea that resilience in the face of suffering is not limited to humans but is a trait shared across species lines and perhaps throughout the animal kingdom….

… dramatic discoveries from the past half-century that illustrate how similar humans and chimpanzees are. With each breakthrough, a trait once thought to be uniquely human has been shown instead to be uniquely animal…

…. The core message of this field [trans-species psychology] is that human and animal minds are not distinct, as conventional wisdom holds, but are inextricably linked by our shared evolutionary history. The trans-species psychologist seeks to translate the latest scientific understanding of animal consciousness into human ethics, law, and culture. The goal?  To usher in a new paradigm for the way humans relate to animals.

…. More and more scientists are coming to the conclusion that the ways in which chimpanzee physiology differs from that of humans are not, in the end, all that subtle and that extrapolating results from chimps to humans requires a hefty leap in logic. Although it would be wrong to suggest that we have learned nothing from research on chimps over the last sixty years, the disaster of the HIV-AIDS research is certainly a cautionary tale worth heeding.

A society’s decisions about which communities or animal species are fair game for invasive research have never been based on how useful the results of the research might be or how many human lives ‘hang in the balance.’ these decisions have always been based on something much more fundamental: the moral and ethical beliefs that hold sway in that society at the time….

… and then we’re left searching for some kind of message from across the chasm. When science finishes narrowing the gap between us and the rest of the apes, this might be one of the few traits we can all agree is uniquely human: we ask why. We search for meaning. We find purpose in our lives by leaving no stone unturned in our search for it.

My book, Living with Cancer: A Journey is available now on iTunes/iBookstore (iPad media-rich edition here, recommended for those with iPads given the media and formatting) and Amazon (plain text edition here). Kobo appears to be a less mature platform and is taking longer than expected. 50 percent of my proceeds go to the Ottawa Hospital Foundation.

I have also set up a profile on Goodreads as part of my marketing, as well as getting ready for the related marketing efforts next week and formal ‘launch’ this coming Thursday.

Should you purchase my book (thank you!), I would also appreciate your short review (good, bad or indifferent) as the number of reviews makes a difference to the various search engines and the like.

Not sure how much or how little interest my book will generate, and I suppose I have the normal author jitters in that regard. However, getting it out feels like a significant accomplishment and as such is a good feeling in itself.

Next week I will be flying back to Ottawa for the book, my regular clinic update, and to see the kids.

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