Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Aging Process... is life over at 75?

In early December, 2014, Lynnda and I were driving from Mexico to Niagara in Canada... 2,500 miles. The objective was to return our German built vehicle to Canada for sale, since we had been unsuccessful in resolving issues with the quality of Mexican diesel fuel... it seems the pollution control devices in the vehicle were causing problems. We also experienced importation problems because the German built vehicle is not a NAFTA car. Seems odd, but both these issues, after two years of working the system, were too much, even in Mexico... we had to give up!

There was a great benefit of this drive, in that we got to listen to CBC Radio (Canada) and to NPR (America)... both of which have excellent, well researched articles, all day... the car has Sirius Satellite radio, so for four and a half days, we educated ourselves on current affairs; new science breakthroughs; historical programming and so on.

One of the most intriguing articles we heard was from CBC's Michael Enright's broadcast on his program Sunday Edition, on December 10, 2014. It was an interview with Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel who is an oncologist, treating cancer patients (mostly breast cancer). He is also a well published medical ethicist known for positions on euthanasia, medicare, and the dilemmas of human aging.

Lynnda and I were very interested in the discussion of Dr. Emanuel's position that would have him, and his recommendation is for most of us, stop trying to extend our lives past the age of 75. He wasn't talking about rights to die, or to live for that matter... he was putting forward the idea that after age 75, the average person has past his/her growth curve... loosing quality of life through chronic diseases and just wearing down... that we have generally lost our creativity at that stage... and our positive potential impact on our loved ones, the economy and so on.

The interview was captivating... Michael Enright is an excellent interviewer and asked many of the questions we both had... interestingly, the first person with whom we visited on arriving in Niagara also listened to the article and was similarly intrigued. I won't try and interpret Dr. Emanuel here... but I have re-listened to the article by CBC podcast... and I have read the article in the Atlantic. I am not sure I agree with the good Doctor... but he has raised my antenna, and as I continue to age, and accumulate spare parts and lose those we can do without, I have to admit... I get it!

This is a podcast of the interview... starting at the 4:52 point on the podcast listed below, here...

This is a link Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel's article in The Atlantic Magazine published in the October, 2014 issue:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Arguements for and against smoking cessation...

Had an interesting discussion, last week, while I was in Colorado, about the Affordable Care Act that was passed a couple of years ago in the USA... aka, ObamaCare. I was debating various subjects with a good friend while I was on a trip to Colorado. Healthcare in general came up... and since cancer is a subject that I have waxed eloquently (my grading on my comments), we were specifically discussing cancer and its impact on several of our friends... particularly the ones that are dead!

My friend is a libertarian and a very good business mind. Always searching for smaller government and lower costs in the economic cycles, he brought up that under ObamaCare we should be able to refuse care to smokers. It seems that there are tests we could do on patients that participate in the smoking habit. After-all, why should we, tax-payers have to pay for the care of people who made a choice to smoke... knowing full well that it would cause at a minimum a lower quality of life, and perhaps death. We decided to expand on the impact of not extending care to smokers.

First, cutting healthcare coverage would likely lead to many more people quitting the habit... through the tried and true method... "cold-turkey" or with the help of various support methods like nicotine patches, pills, support groups and so on... any costs would be picked up by ObamaCare. The benefit of this would be that over the next 20 years (a generation) it is likely the costs of diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke and so on would go down... at least in the short term.

In the short term? Ya, the short term... it seems that if people ultimately live longer, the total healthcare costs would go up... here are the numbers from a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, seventeen years ago... lifetime costs for smokers can be calculated as $72,700 among men and $94,700 among women, and lifetime costs among nonsmokers can be calculated as $83,400 and $111,000, respectively. This amounts to lifetime costs for nonsmokers that are higher by 15 percent among men and 18 percent among women. (entire study is here... )

It is likely the ratios have stayed the same, but like all other healthcare costs, they will be wildly higher than those quoted in the article. So, in the short term, getting folks to stop is a good idea, but in the long term, that will reverse, because older people just 'cost more'.

It is amazing that most people want to live longer lives... and on average, if they live longer, healthier lives, they will cost the system more... maybe there is an argument that could be used that we should all smoke more to save the government money... that's like smaller government... my libertarian friend wouldn't fall for that one, but I sense that there might be some folks at FOX who might report that a discovery has been found to reduce costs at HHS.

So, what are we arguing about... should we quit just to cut costs? Well, if the legislative body of Congress is really there to get itself re-elected, of course cutting costs in the short term would likely help get individuals re-elected.

But then we have other implications of cessation programs... one is the impact on the farmers who grow tobacco. The government could likely cut costs by not having to pay subsidies to farmers to "not grow tobacco or to support the price of the killer tobacco". These are just ten of several hundred thousand farmers that received subsidies from Uncle Sam for their tobacco crops... this process goes on and one can suppose that these farmers and their families would all vote against the party that tries to end these subsidies. Who would vote for that, which could get them un-elected.

Recipients of Tobacco Subsidies from farms in United States totaled $1,519,000,000 in from 1995-2012.
(* ownership information available)
LocationTobacco Subsidies
1Barnes Farming Corp ∗Spring Hope, NC 27882$2,265,492
2Worthington Farms Inc ∗Greenville, NC 27834$1,826,648
3Ham Farms Inc ∗Snow Hill, NC 28580$1,602,265
4Daniel H Lewis Farms Inc ∗Orrum, NC 28369$1,445,824
5Deas Bros Farms Inc ∗Jennings, FL 32053$1,325,463
6R Hart Hudson Farms Inc ∗South Hill, VA 23970$1,207,708
7Scott Farms Inc ∗Lucama, NC 27851$1,156,542
8Stuart Pierce Farms Inc ∗Ahoskie, NC 27910$1,153,762
9Roger H DupreeAngier, NC 27501$1,110,257
10Wayne Edwards Farms ∗Whitakers, NC 27891$1,104,368

More on smoking later...


Global cost of obesity... new report

Obesity has long been a social problem in the west... for what ever reason, obese people occasionally feel the bite of ridicule at the one end and ostracization on the other. Over the more recent years obesity has become a problem for one third of the world population... and for the individuals who are obese, it has become a major health problem. As the study of obesity developed, concerns about economic impact of the issues associated with obesity led to a report that has been published... it should give us cause for reflection as individuals, family members and friends...

It seems to me that the next step from this report by the McKinsey Group that I have copied in below, will be attempts to control the costs of obesity with reduction in health coverage; taxes on products that contribute to weight gain; and employer actions such as not hiring overweight people, not covering their health costs and so on.

Since it is claimed that obesity is a lifestyle choice, perhaps we should be helping our selves, family members (especially children) and friends to manage our personal weight through better diet, exercise and a general reduction in the number of calories we are consuming.

I pulled this report from CNN and it is available at their site...

Obesity costs global economy $2 trillion

November 20, 2014: 9:24 AM ET cost of obesity


The obesity epidemic has grown too big to ignore.

A new report by McKinsey estimates that obesity is costing the global economy $2 trillion per year. That makes it nearly as damaging as armed conflict or smoking, according to the consultants.
More than 2 billion people -- or almost 30% of the global population -- are currently considered overweight or obese, and the problem is expected to get worse.
Based on current trends, nearly half of the world's adults will be overweight or obese by 2030.
"Obesity, which should be preventable, is now responsible for about 5% of all deaths worldwide," the report stated.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Two Hills Ride Update

An update on the "Give to Live" ride that starts in about ten days... Ottawa to Halifax; Parliament Hill to Citadel Hill; the Two Hills Ride with many, many hills in-between... for example, we go through Lake Placid, New York where the Winter Olympics were held... twice... 1932 and 1980. There are some serious hills around this area... as we ride through perhaps we will remind ourselves that in 1980 Canada was not in the top ten of the medal count... the USA was third to the Soviet Union and East Germany... my, my, how things have changed! In Vancouver, 2010, the USA had the most medals (37) and Canada had the most gold (14)

Back to the cycling... and especially the Fund Raising... I want to thank my friends and family for helping me get to my goal of $10,000 for the Dr. Ryan Rhodes research at UVic. It feels good to contribute and I am sure all of my contacts have had that experience this year, for my ride and/or many other activities. We all thank you for all you do.

I had been on a very good track with my riding... getting up over 300 km per week for a sustained period. I have been ready for this ride for over a month. However, several weeks ago I had to really back it down... first I had some GI Problems that slowed me down a little and then my left knee started acting up.

This is the knee on which I had ACL surgery (1999) and a second procedure to correct some problems in 2003. I backed off the mileage and things started feeling better... as of last weekend I was back into long mileage, but had night pain that was not really tolerable. I decided to work with an orthopedic zyto see what could be done and yesterday we injected a non-steroidal product called SynviscOne.I was totally blown away by the work-up by Dr. Arturo Rodriguez in Guadalajara, to diagnose my problem, and the readily available product from Genzyme that would lub my knee for up to 8 months. After the ride, we will attend to any issues... but other than some cartilage issues, the knee that was operated on in Colorado by Dr. Jim Reese, I believe the Two Hills ride is well within my range of comfort.

I will be leaving Guadalajara on Wednesday the 17th and staying in Ottawa for a couple of days prior to the start of the ride. We meet up on the 19th and start the ride on the morning of the 20th. I plan to write updates here along the way... and perhaps upload some pics. When we get to Truro, my home town, we will be having a party on the Friday night and then a good send off to Halifax on Saturday morning. I am hoping we will have lots of additional riders for the last leg... perhaps my friend Chad Robertson will ride with us... he was my cancer surgeon during my cancer days. I hope to see him and some more of my friends at the QEII on Saturday or during the week following.

I plan to stay in Truro at a B&B there called the Belgravia... a beautiful in that is about 300 meters from the home in which I grew up during my time in Truro... good memories.

That's it till I update... BR

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I'm Back in the Saddle Again...

In Ajijic, the place in Mexico where Lynnda and I have established our home-away-from-home, we are enjoying a particularly beautiful 'rainy' season. The rain falls mainly in the night, and we get to see wild lightening strikes and sounds. The brown and yellow colors of the mountains in the winter turn to spectacular hues of green, contrasted with the beautiful blues of the skies. The silver lining of the clouds is the filling of Lake Chapala, the largest in Mexico, which gives up its bounty of water to the six million people of Guadalajara and our farms and people of lakeside.

It is around this beauty that I get to ride my bike, the 'Domane' as I call it... and train for next month's Two Hills Ride (my name for it) from Ottawa to Halifax... through the Adirondack, Green and White Mountains of New England. The terrain won't be different from here... up hill down dale and mountains occasionally that will challenge us all. We have been told we will likely see rain (unlike here, during the day-time) and possibly some snow. That will make it challenging... I put rain tires on my bike yesterday... but I don't have any studs! This week, after having pushed my mileage to the level the ride will require, I am already suffering from old age symptoms... a body that is saying "enough already" and a mind that is singing "I'm back in the saddle again". I will survive, happily.

And this ride, which starts just 31 days from today, will raise much needed money for research being done by the team at the University of Victoria in British Columbia that is headed up by Dr. Ryan Rhodes. They are researching ways to use exercise and diet to avoid over 25 diseases that include many cancers and chronic diseases... included are cardiovascular disease (heart attack and stroke), Parkinson Disease, Alzheimer Disease and so on. These are things from which we and our families, friends and acquaintances can benefit.

There is a cost to this research... particularly if it isn't done. Knowing what exercise to do; when, and how much to do can have a positive impact on the quality of our lives, if not length. Understanding what and how to eat foods that can have benefits in the same domain is just as important. Not knowing these things is costing society billions, hundreds of billions, each year. If we worry about the debt we will leave our children from the waste of government... shouldn't we worry more about the cost of living with our lifestyle that we seem to have unconsciously adopted.

A small investment in this research, through the Give to Live ride next month will go a long way... not into a dark hole... into ongoing research that has already produced results, and will continue to do so only with our help.
This is my last request for your help in raising more funding. To date, I have raised close to $9,000 between my Canadian Cancer Society receipted donations... and the donations. Lynnda and I will make a donation to ensure we go over my goal, and certainly we will donate if our donations are over my minimum commitment of $10,000... but with this note, I ask that you consider a donation that in many ways covers the many human ailments in one package.

Some will read this note who have already donated to the ride... for this I thank you. I am not asking for "more". For you, this note is both a thank you and an update as to where we are. Those who have not made a decision to donate, please consider it. For Canadian tax receipts, please go to my site at the Canadian Cancer Society who manages our donations...  For American tax receipts, please go to

Thank you

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Two Hills Ride... an update

Here we are on August 1st, with about fifty days of training and travel before the start of the Two Hills Ride with Give to Live... Parliament Hill to Halifax and the wonderful Citadel Hill. Here is a pic of our target in Halifax... It is right in the middle of the city, the highest point in the area, over-looking the harbor... so well fortified, nary a shot was fired... that's the way all wars should be fought... but that's another discussion...
                                                                                      This is Citadel Hill in Halifax, Check out this video
I have been increasing my normal riding program to the point where I have been riding around 300km per week with average speeds between 25 and 27km/h. I have been having some knee problems and when my bike started having some bottom bracket sound affects, I decided to take several days off. My knee is feeling better and the bike was serviced... just 2,000 km into this new ride, shouldn't be cranky yet... but hey it may have known that my knee was yelling at me that the climbing that I was doing had me overdrawn on my stamina account.
I should start sharing information with you, as committed. Here is some great news... we have raised $6,285 so far... toward the goal of $10,000. I have heard from donors that we have a few thousand coming, couldn't be more pleased to hear this. Also I have heard that it is a tough go this year for my friends... we have to recognize the environment we are in and also that in the early spring I was asked to raise money for the Heart And Stroke Cardiac Challenge... around $4,000 came in then... it was most appreciated, and I knew at the time I couldn't expect folks to come for this Two Hills Cancer ride, as well. Sooo, I have a bit of a hill to climb to the $10,000 but I will be persistent and will also be putting in another sizable donation myself.
The Ride itself has been mapped... here is the total route... Starting in Ottawa, we will cross over into New York State and then head east to the coast through the Adirondack, Green and White mountains of  New England and into New Brunswick. We will then skirt the Bay of Fundy and cross into Nova Scotia... on our last night we will stop in my home town of Truro, Nova Scotia. Then into Halifax in the morning... Hope I don't get lost...
The start and finish are not here, but I will post each day's ride as we move along
Suffice to say, while a beautiful ride, there are lots of hills in them-thar miles.
I very much appreciate the help folks are lending to my ride through the donations. I have a full belief in the work of Dr. Ryan Rhodes from the University of Victoria and the Livestrong Foundation. We are getting our money's worth, since there are no admin costs to this ride... all of your donation goes to where it needs to be.... thanks for that...
I will keep you up-to-date... BRuce 


Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Two Hills Ride...

Ok, today (May 22nd, 2014) I made my commitment to the 2 HILLS ride from Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario to Citadel Hill in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The ride will start on September 20th and we will arrive in Halifax on the 28th of September. In the interim, we will have ridden through the White, Green and Adirondack mountains of the Northeastern USA and into New Brunswick and Nova Scotia... what a ride... its been on my bucket list for years.

A few months ago the Give to Live Foundation decided that this year's fundraising event called ....
THE BIG RIDE would take this route. Even though I live in Mexico and the logistics of just getting to the ride with my bike and gear is almost insane, I decided to commit. I have had several second thoughts... mostly due to the logistics; and to interests that Lynnda and I have in other areas of endeavor. But a few days ago I received a note from a friend who has helped me with fundraising for several years... Jean Sloan wrote that from her new location in Calgary she would be running a giant yard sale to raise money for the ride and that many people had already pledged everything from a free-standing basket ball hoop to a new guitar and speaker for the sale... not to mention folks who are willing to pledge dollars to the ride. I can't tell you how much Jean's enthusiasm has motivated me in the past, and it was decisive this week, again!

Immediately I set about fixing not only my personal compass, but my donor page on the Canadian Cancer Society so we could get to raising as much as is possible. I received lots of help getting these things accomplished from folks like John Holloway and Brighid Langill, both from the Nova Scotia Chapter of the Canadian Cancer Society who will manage the donations from Canadian sources.

We are working with Livestrong to get live with the donor page there, so that the tax receipts for both Canadian and US citizens can be forthcoming without any problems... the US dollars do actually go to Livestrong, so it is all legal.

Well, other than the logistics of getting to and from Ottawa and Halifax... from Guadalajara... with my new Trek Domane bicycle... the issues shouldn't be too much of a problem. I am already in shape for this ride... although I am not certain how I will react to the weather. It used to be safe to expect good weather in September in the Northeast... but with the recent spring weather debacles I am not certain what to expect. Our rainy season here in Mexico will start next month, so I can train for the rain... but the snow, I don't know. I am riding around 250km per week right now... and after my stint at the CTS (Carmichael Cycling School) in April, I know not to be over confident of my fitness. There will be some great athletes on this ride, and I don't want to let them think that just because I am older, doesn't mean I am old. I hope to be able to stay with the experienced riders, and also to help those who haven't done long multi-day rides get through them.

I am ready for the challenge of fundraising, but there are some things that need to be in place before really launching my effort. I have to remember that we raised $4,000 just last month from my USA friends for the American Heart Association ... I hope we haven't tapped them out. We have lots of expats here in Mexico who have relatives and friends back home who are potentially able to ante-up... I will have a project here during the summer for them.

I need to redo my lists, and check them twice for this effort. I know my friends in Truro will be inclined to donate through the MacDougall clan, but we will try for the Facebook crowd at the site "you know you're from Truro when". Also, since we will be stopping over on September 27th in Truro (hope to be able to set up at Victoria Park) we might be able to have a fund-raising event that evening... with the MacDougall Clan.

So this is just musing about how to get the most for the two Cancer Foundations. This is an interesting year for the ride... we will be donating the funds raised to two entities... both of which spend most of their efforts on leading healthy lives in order to avoid cancer, if not prevent it altogether. Let's see if I can describe the two, just a little.

Starting with funding raised in Canada... we are trying to support Dr. Ryan Rhodes who chairs the Behavioural Medicine Laboratory at the University of Victoria. This group's mission "is to produce and disseminate innovative and population-relevant physical activity and health research of the highest calibre within an environment that fosters collaboration, community, pride, and life balance".
. I completely agree with the strategy of avoidance when it comes to the major disease groups from which humans suffer, like cancer. My personal experience with cancer and with two aortic valve replacements through open heart surgery, goes a little further... if you are healthy when your DNA or environment causes a catastrophic illness, your chance of survival and especially of THRIVEABILITY (my word) goes way up. I am convinced that there is life after all of these events, but one has to first be ready for the event... and then has to take advantage of that readiness and prepare for the next health test. I think that this is what Rhodes' group is about... check them out at. 

The second beneficiary is the Livestrong organization. I have long been a supporter of Livestrong. In fact, it was and at  that was the source of my inspiration in the days following my own diagnosis of cancer in 2006. From this group I not only learned about my particular cancer; I learned how to source clinical studies that were ongoing; how to properly eat; what questions to ask and also how to track what was happening. Back then I received my first cancer guidebook... I have given out a few dozen to friends and family who have been diagnosed... they are free... check them out here...

The reason that I am bringing this up is that some folks have associated Livestrong with Lance Armstrong... and correctly so, he was the founder. As a cyclist and a cancer survivor he also had a lot in common with what I was experiencing in 2006 and  with what millions of others were experiencing. But Armstrong is gone, and should be. But what Livestrong is about can't be mistaken for what Lance did away from Livestrong. To this day, I visit the site regularly and receive information from them on nutrition and exercise. This group is about living before cancer; living with cancer; and living a long, healthy life once the battles are won. I encourage you to have a look at this site which has been re-invigorated by the legacy leadership of Doug Ulman who is the President and CEO... livestrong thrives, and needs our help.

I will be back... BRuce

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Chronological Age... why do we use it as a measure of any kind?

Chronological Age... why do we use it as a measure of any kind?

Chronological age, the number of years or days a person has been alive is measured from the day we are born to one's present 'alive' date. For example, this past week I turned 66 years of age. I am now in my 67th year.

But what does either of these 'ages' really tell about the person... other than that they have survived for some number of years. We attach assumptions to one's age; wisdom for example seems to come with age... but absent knowledge of a person's education, life experiences, current health and well-being, one can't assume a person has wisdom.

When a person gets over some 'red-line' age, many of us assume that they are no longer 'with it'. A person of 80 years perhaps may be assumed to have no ability to drive a car; probably doesn't know how to use a computer or cell phone; and perhaps has become ill from 'old age'.

On the other end of life, a young person may not appear to have 'caring' as a part of their inner being. They may be assumed to be frivolous in their value processes. Certainly their decision making would be called into question by many of us that are 'older'.

Another problem with chronological age perhaps is that there is little that we can do to avoid all the assumptions the general population may associate with age... and the appearance of age... grey hair, some wrinkling of skin on the one hand; long hair, tattoos and body jewels on the other.

Perhaps we should be using a measure other than chronological age to measure a person. When today we are studying the relatively new measure of a country's progress on social scales (health, aging, education) called the Social Progress Index (SPI), that will be combined with the GDP or the measure of a country's material output... I recalled the measure of age called the Biological Age.

(Note: to read about SPI go to this link )

 If we can measure a country's SPI, perhaps we could measure a person's Biological Age... it has been done for years by healthcare professionals who are paid to appraise individuals of their progress toward fitness. In effect, a citizen would be submitted to various biological tests... blood tests, bone-density tests, flexibility tests, BMI studies, cardiovascular tests, brain function tests, psychological evaluations... and then be assigned a Biological Age.

Each of these many measurements of a person's biological profile that end up giving an age factor are potentially manageable. For example, with most blood studies, diet and exercise can make a difference. Other examples could include: with basic stretching exercises for minutes a day, flexibility can be improved; by doing brain exercises a person's mental agility can be developed; with 60 minutes of exercise a day a child can avoid some obesity factors.

If when a profile is done on a citizen, and a Biological Age is assigned, that person could then understand how to improve her/himself relative to quality of life, even though chronological life may not be impacted at all. The social impact on people could be significant... most who I have met feel better about themselves when they accomplish a biological goal that would likely impact their quality of life. But because we measure society based on chronological data, there is little incentive for folks to change their biological age.

We can take some of the measurements into our own hands. For example, flexibility has a significant impact on a person's quality of life. If one isn't routinely stretching muscles, tendons and ligaments there is the potential that when lifting something; avoiding something; or just maintaining a position for some hours, injury to a muscle could occur because an in-flexible body part tears. That injury could be debilitating and lead to a spiral that reduces other Biological Age components like cardiovascular exercise. Flexibility can be improved with a matter of minutes of stretches in the morning and during the day.

This is a personal issue since it clearly is not on the national agenda. When one looks at the SPI (Social Progress Index), it is clear that we in North America can be proud of the fact that we started and at one time lead many of the index measures... but also it is clear that we have fallen behind as countries have surpassed our efforts as we focused on less critical measures. Our countries' leadership needs to improve our SPI and in consequence, I suspect it will improve our GDP.

I am hoping that by refocusing our personal lives on Biological Age, we can as individuals, improve that which we can control ourselves. We start our lives as genetic combinations of our parents. Some biological factors can not be changed, but clearly they can be managed. That which gets measured, can be improved... let's not let societal factors relating to Chronological Age limit our ability to live more healthful lives and gain improved Biological Age.

Here are a couple of links that might be interesting on the subject of Biological Age


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Obesity Rate in the USA DOWN 43% in Ten Years

Wow... this is a headline in the New York Times today... the implications for the future are spectacular if this trend were to keep up... lower healthcare costs because of the concomitant diseases that often accompany obesity... diabetes, joint disease, heart disease, cancer. If this is combined with education, exercise and other opportunities for more comfortable people, it could develop into new budget opportunities in the USA. One can only hope that this trend will continue and be reflected in Canada and Mexico.

The New York Times |BREAKING NEWS ALERT |Unsubscribe
BREAKING NEWSTuesday, February 25, 2014 4:10 PM EST
Obesity Rate for Young Children Plummets 43% Over Past Decade, Federal Survey Finds
Federal health authorities on Tuesday reported a stunning 43 percent drop in the obesity rate among 2- to 5-year-old children over the past decade, the first broad decline in an epidemic that often leads to lifelong struggles with weight and higher risks for cancer, heart disease and stroke.
The drop emerged from a major federal health survey that experts say is the gold standard for evidence on what Americans weigh. The trend came as a welcome surprise to researchers. New evidence has shown that obesity takes hold young: Children who are overweight or obese between age 3 and 5 are five times as likely to be overweight or obese as adults.

There is more at


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Pinching myself again...

I started a blog a couple of years ago with the statement "once in a while, I have to give myself a pinch"...

I went on to thank the folks who had gotten me through my bouts with cancer and my aortic valve surgery. I was at the time celebrating five years cancer free and my heart valve was ten years old.

Today with the pinch, it dawned on me that I am now celebrating my 8th year cancer free, and now I also have a new porcine (pig's) heart valve that replaced the bull's valve I had for eleven years. Now with two open heart surgeries and my cancer surgeries, I have logged a lot of extra sleep to give me the energy to keep going forward. So, here I celebrate and remind myself that there are many, friends, acquaintances, and millions of others travelling these paths with me.

Here we are crossing the Continental Divide after a climb out of 
Yellow Stone's South Entrance. From the Left, Rodney Sallman,
Jason Stoke, Danelle Leslie Titus, me and my cancer surgeon
Chad Robertson.
I am reminded that my friends that rode from Vancouver to Austin, Texas with me just over three years ago were the most healthy people I could imagine... powering up ascents like this one to the left... and screaming down the other side of the divides. And yet Danelle, here in the blue riding jacket, has been battling a cancer challenge, almost since this picture was taken. She is facing it head on, and her family and friends are supporting her in the same way as mine did me during my cancer and heart challenges. It appears no one, no matter what we do, is immune to this and other diseases.

I am hoping that Danny and my friend Jeff Clarke in Ottawa both are able to overcome their individual challenges, mighty as they are, in the coming months and then celebrate over the years. I am reminded that we all have friends that need our encouragements and support. We can reach-out and touch each of them with a phone call, an email and a hug!

Not for me to wonder why, but to celebrate our ongoing lives, and take each challenge as if it were the Continental Divide... and try, try again to be ready.

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My Discovery, My Cancer...

In researching for my cycling and cancer story I went back through some drafts written some time ago and found this un-posted draft. Since friends are being diagnosed with cancer of some sort, almost weekly it seems, I thought I would post this to give some comfort that we all are crushed a little when we get that phone call... there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it doesn't have to be the last one we see... believe me!
When I ride on my own, which when I am training, is almost always... I usually leave home with a couple of things on my mind that I want to think about. There is a lot of empty space on the road and between my ears... since I don't believe in listening to music when I ride, I ask questions of myself, my own Five W's I like to call them... who, what, where, when and especially why. This is about things of the moment, or more arcane... often, I forget and my mind just wanders into a subject... ride-dreams. Often the dreams are about questions or answers I just don't understand. Sometimes I go so far as to 'vicariously' ask friends the same questions, to imagine what they would say. That way, I can be prepared for the answers when I ask them face-to-face. Great fun!

I was about to get a chance to ask lots of questions when the phone rang one Monday morning back in October of 2005. I answered in my normal, cheerful way... then my periodontist said to me, "Bruce, you have cancer!"

In reality, Dr. Stacy Matheson said a lot more than 'that' before she said 'that'... but I don't remember anything but... "Bruce, you have CANCER". That's a pretty short sentence, with a long meaning. Years Long! Sometimes smile to myself when I think about the five Double-U questions of that comment...

There were some answers I quickly recognized... the 'who' was clearly... me! The 'what' was a little more complex... but I quickly got the answer that it was 'squamous cell carcinoma'. I immediately knew that I would be reading a lot about this really weird name, for which I had no clue of a meaning. Sounded bad, it even smelled bad... really squishy!

The 'where' was also pretty simple... at least it started out that way. My cancer was right where the fourteen stitches were in my gums, just above my front, right tooth. My tongue instantly stretched forward, shooting between the upper lip and gum  to touch them... stringy, a couple of strands out of place... no blood taste any more... they were still there though... no swelling remained around them. My teeth were still there as I ran my tongue over them... strong, straight, porcelain, expensive, newish... squishy?

Dr. Matheson had put those stitches in on the Thursday before the phone call. I was scheduled to visit her later in that next week to get the stitches out. After all, she had just taken out a little tissue. I couldn't see what she took. The hole was sewn up, and I didn't get a look at what was on the tray where she had the silver tools. I did see a scalpel, and the thread and curved stitching needle. I wished I had looked at what came out! I did know she was sending it for pathology testing, but that was routine. Next time, I thought now, I will ask!

This Monday morning phone call had disturbed my peaceful coffee and Yahoo reading. I knew that the perio work I had had done was more extensive than I had anticipated, but nothing to worry about. I mean that fourteen stitches was right where I had had a red and occasional bleeding spot at the gum line, for about four years. My dentist had never shown any concern about it, only cutting it out a couple of times and just a stitch or two. He had recommended I see a dentist in Nova Scotia when we moved there. He wrote a referral, and so I ended up with Stacy who did exactly the right things. She removed the suspect tissue and had it sent for pathology tests. But all looked like it was routine, so "No worry" was what I had told Lynnda when I got home... as I took some pain killers... I mean it was only nine stitches!

Original Nine Stitches, October, 2005
Stacy went on to tell me that she had taken the liberty of making an appointment with a new oral surgeon at the QE II hospital in Halifax. He was available, and could see me later in the week. This didn't sound good.... she wasn't fooling around with it, surgeon, a couple of days later, wow, I searched for a pen and then some paper... panic had set in, but I realized that I was sitting at my computer, I didn't need a pen, or paper for that matter... as she started giving me details... Dr. Chad Robertson, Thursday, October.... 2005.

All of that had taken a matter of five minutes... She asked me if I had any questions, and I was so stunned that I said, "No". As I said no, already I realized that that was not the right answer... the silence on her end of the line confirmed her surprise... "right after you see Dr. Robertson, come and see me, I will take out the stitches" she said into my fog. I wrote that down...

It would be the last time I would be saying "no questions" for about five years. Lynnda was out when the call had come in, so I was alone in my fogged hole of disbelief. I don't remember what I first thought about the news...  it took some time to regain my thoughts that merged with the reality of my crash course in squamous cell carcinoma based on this new thing called Google... there was a lot of information... thousands of pages!

All of this conversation was taking place in our winterized cottage which we had moved into just a couple of months before. We were living in Oyster Pond, which is located on Jeddore Harbor in Nova Scotia. It is on the most easterly coast of mainland Canada. Lynnda and I had moved there from Colorado Springs in the summer so we could be closer to my Mother who was suffering many late life frailties and illnesses. On that Monday morning it was cold, foggy, a little rainy... I mean, it was a normal day down that way...

Charlie and I would have to go for a walk... that's where Lynnda was, walking with a couple of the neighbors. They did several miles every morning, quick time... then tea and coffee somewhere. I would have lots of time to myself before I would confront her and them, with my news. In fact, Charlie and I did take a long walk... in the other direction, down the shore road to where we could see the Loons and maybe some seals. I walked with Charlie, but I talked with me. I don't think I could have been sadder, some moments tears would mix with the fog, the fog in the air. On that walk, I never did get out of my fog... I never did figure out what to do... and I always know what to do... this was to be the new me... fogged!

Looking into the mid-day fog from the
Oyster Pond Cottage Deck, 2005.

On the walk, I talked with me about the 'when'... the initial discussion didn't go well! It was the first time I thought about 'when' I had the CANCER in the first place. I didn't know the answer to that during the walk. Certainly Charlie was no help, although he had been around for all the times I had had that red spot treated in the past, in Colorado Springs. But he was keeping mum about how he felt. I resolved to leave the 'when' alone for that walk... but also to call my dentist back in Colorado to find out what he thought about my diagnosis.

We continued to walk and I got to the 'why'. Wow, that question is a Pandora's box. Any time a person gets CANCER, I recommend that they not ask that question! Self-loathing is such a debilitating mind function that one shouldn't get into it. I know... now, that that walk was the beginning of my narcissistic search for a cause of my CANCER. It lasted for a few years, and I read hundreds of pages of opinion, research and social data. In the end, I came up with several reasons to believe that I had brought on my CANCER... but the real answer to that didn't arrive for five years, so I will leave the 'why' until later. Suffice to say, it is much better to bypass this question, since there is little that can be done about it... unless one is considering doing it again!

When I got back to the cottage, our renovation and construction crew was there. We were having a two car garage built, and even though it was fogging, the guys apparently decided to work... they weren't there when I left, but they had arrived. I guess when you live on the Eastern Shore, they would loose so many days if they didn't work on fog days, that they just decided to get wet. That's why the folks on the Eastern Shore sometimes complain of having moss between their toes... in the rest of the world we call it Athletes Foot!

It was great, having the guys there to talk to... it took my mind off the 'me' part of the cancer. I didn't say anything to Kim, Gary and Thomas about the call I had gotten. I got back on the computer and I just read, and printed what seemed like the important things. A lot would depend on what stage the cancer was when it was found. I didn't know that answer. I learned that morning, if there were  metastasis it could be in the lungs or brain... that wouldn't be good. There was a lot of data, but I wan't certain what to believe... there was conflicting information. I retained those pages... they are still on the Google Pages, too.

Lynnda came back at around eleven and we had a cup of tea with Kim. Kim Aaboe is a Danish boat builder; come post-and-beam home builder; come sailor and expert knot tyer. He is also a dry philosopher who could discuss practically anything with a matter-of-fact manner, that we had come to really enjoy. While he was building the garage, he was also helping us design and build out the kitchen, the down-stairs laundry room and practically everything else in the cottage on the point. He would become one of our strongest support partners, like his big beams, he was already keeping our minds off our problems with the cottage, and my Mother. I knew, even then, that I would be able do depend on Kim when the going got tough.

After tea, Kim went back to the building of the garage, and I had a chance to face-to-face with Lynnda. I put my best one on, and 'mentioned' that "Dr. Matheson called". I don' know if it was the look on my face, or the fact that there was an unexpected call from my periodontist... but I could see steel forming in her back, at the same time as her eyes searched mine. I went over the conversation I'd had with Stacy, and with Lynnda's lead, I put some steel in my upper lip. We had a discussion around the fact that we really had no information. What I had found on the internet really had no basis in fact... it needed to be vetted... and I didn't go over it with her. In retrospect, I suspect that she was on the computer within minutes of our conversation... lots of wasted paper!

It was amazing, the pressure was off, I'd had the discussion with Lynnda and everything was OK. At least it would be, so there was no reason to over-react. We would wait for the meeting with Chad Robertson before we over-reacted. Already we were smiling at our own fake bravado...but that's CANCER.

I decided to hit the books. I had signed up at Saint Mary's University for the EMBA program that started in August. I was doing very well and my papers were getting very high marks. I knew however, that if I did't do my reading assignments, I couldn't rely on my experience. Everyone in the class it seemed had great experience, and I knew I needed to be prepared for the discussion groups and to work on the team  for which I had been chosen. The rest of the day went quickly...

Lynnda and I had dinner early... even though it seemed late. The sun goes down early in Nova Scotia the later into the fall we get. It had been cloudy all day, even though the fog had lifted by noon. We washed the dishes... and went back into the office to do more reading. At around 8:30, I mosied over to Ron and Bev Smith's. Ron always had his thinking cap on, and I had already grown to rely on him for great arguments about politics, business, life and the English language. Ron had retired from teaching English when he was about 55, and Bev had also retired from teaching... but she had grown tired of Ron's and my enthusiasm for discussing things over glasses of red wine, till the wee hours.

It wasn't long before I brought up the appointment with Dr. Robertson. I remember Ron's words so well, as if it was yesterday... "fuck... life's not fair".

So, we had another glass of red, and whined about the fairness of life...

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Special Treatment for Seniors and Prisoners... hmmm

I was sent this commentary by John and Chris Gurin. It does give one pause for thought about the way we treat our seniors... and our prisoners. Here in Mexico we would probably get an interesting reaction from seniors were we to put them into jails. I sense this applies to the USA and Canadian jails, thanx to the ALCUs...

Here's the way it should be:
Let's put the seniors in jail and the criminals in nursing homes.
This would correct two things in one motion:
Seniors would have access to showers, hobbies and walks.
They would receive unlimited free prescriptions, dental and medical
Treatment, wheel chairs, etc.
They would receive money instead of having to pay it out.
They would have constant video monitoring, so they would be helped instantly... If they fell or needed assistance.
Bedding would be washed twice a week and all clothing would be ironed and returned to them.
A guard would check on them every 20 minutes.
All meals and snacks would be brought to them.
They would have family visits in a suite built for that purpose.
They would have access to a library, weight/fitness room, spiritual counseling, a pool and education...and free admission to in-house concerts by nationally recognized entertainment artists.
Simple clothing - i.e.. Shoes, slippers, pj's - and legal aid would be free, upon request.
There would be private, secure rooms provided for all with an outdoor exercise yard complete with gardens.
Each senior would have a P.C., T.V., phone and radio in their room at no cost.
They would receive daily phone calls.
There would be a board of directors to hear any complaints and the ACLU would fight for their rights and protection.
The guards would have a code of conduct to be strictly adhered to, with attorneys available, at no charge to protect the seniors and their families from abuse or neglect.
As for the criminals:
They would receive cold food.
They would be left alone and unsupervised.
They would receive showers once a week.
They would live in tiny rooms, for which they would have to pay $5,000 per month.
They would have no hope of ever getting out.
"Sounds like justice to me!" 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Stories From Truro, Nova Scotia

The Colchester Forum on Queen Street… circa 1963

This story is about an indoor ice rink called the Colchester Forum. It was at the center of skating and hockey for the people living in and around Truro, Nova Scotia from the 1930’s until early in 1963. As an impressionable young boy to whom the likes of Doug Harvey, Jacques Plante, Henri Richard,  and of course the Rocket, Maurice Richard were un-seeable Gods, I became engrossed in the life of the Colchester Forum, and the hockey played there. In the early 1960’s I was well on the way to becoming a hockey player and a life long fan. In addition to the Montreal Canadians, I could recite the names of local hockey players from the Truro and District Hockey League as well as each of the schools in the area. I learned how to decipher all the sports stories and stats in the Truro Daily News and the Halifax Chronicle-Herald. I could not recite the Periodic Table, but I knew if Gordie Howe had more goals than Bobby Hull or more penalty minutes than Eddie Shack.
I played Peewee and later Midget hockey in the Forum, but I may as well have been on the open ice of the flooded stone quarries that were around Truro. This because the Forum was not heated, and was really just an artificial ice rink built into an existing barn. The barn and its fields was originally owned by Bill Fleming. His new ice surface was located on the north side of Queen Street, near to downtown.
The new rink, and was destined to become one of the best known hockey centers in the Maritimes. Truro proper was never known as Hockeyville, but games played there included future NHL players. Allan Cup playoff teams developed from the players who called it their home. Initially it was named the Fleming Arena. Subsequent owners were Willard Cox who called it the Truro Forum and then in the late 50’s it was owned by George McCharles and Larry Hadfield who renamed it the Colchester Forum.
I retain vivid memories of the Forum, and many instances that occurred there, real and some imagined. The Forum as a building was awesome to me, and I suspect many of my age peers in Truro and Colchester County. It was one of the first artificial ice plants in the Maritimes. It was among the first to have the Blue Lines painted on the ice. Years later, it was among the first to have a center Red Line that made a pass from the defensive zone behind the Blue Line, to over the center Red Line, an off-side hockey rule. This was done to slow down the fastest hockey teams who could get break-aways several times a game with the long centering pass, down ice.
In many ways I am who I am today because of the Forum… I learned to wonder and wander; imagine and observe; strive and achieve or fail; respect, celebrate, grieve and so on at the Forum. Perhaps not my DNA, but definitely my hardware and software were developed from the beginnings that were centered in life at the Truro Forum.
I did a little research for this story, and received willing help from several folks. I want to acknowledge them ahead of the story; just in case you think my story and writing unworthy of completion… Lyle Carter, one of the Goalie Gods of my early hockey memories and a historian, writer, and just all-round-good-guy, has provided me with verbal, scanned and emailed notes… including some pictures of the forum. Johnny Hutcheson provided Lyle with some of his printed information including some pictures. My brother Harold Ross reminded me of several incidents that took place at the old Forum. I did find some information on the internet, but searches there made me glad that I have a brain, and grey matter that is intact, so as not to have to depend on the lack of uploads from the various news entities of the day. An article in the Truro Daily news, and an editorial from the same News was helpful in understanding some details for this story.
Here is my experience and the Forum’s impact on my memories…  

Circa 1963… I am about fourteen years old as I help this story unfold…
Six rink rats on ice hockey skates… each pushing rusted, black-bladed, hickory shafted, snow-plows, circled the chipped-up almost snowy ice of the old Colchester Forum. These were young people who volunteered to scrape the playing surface. Their goal was to end up with two piles of snow, one at each end of the ice. Hundreds of fans looked on from the edges of the boards… it was between the first and second period of the big game… I was intent on making sure I didn’t miss any part of the ice-making process… there wasn’t much else to do during intermissions back in 1963. Making the ice between periods would make a difference in the speed of the hockey in the next period. It could change the outcome of a team’s efforts during the subsequent period.
Curious, besides watching the hockey, I remember watching these Truro rink rats at every game I attended. Yes, I was there to cheer for teams named the Owls, Elks, Lions, Dairymen, Imperials and the Aces, as they played. Hockey in this Forum was like nowhere else in Nova Scotia… it was fast, powerful, exciting hockey. It was that way this night… we were watching the annual Truro District Hockey League All Star Game… Thursday, January 31st, 1963. Events of this evening are seared into my memories like few others.
A few of the fans were actually waiting to see who would bull-doze the big red snow scoop that would ultimately finish the ice cleaning job. I was among that group, leaning over the boards, intently watching. There at one end of the ice stood a very strong looking guy named Denny… one of the most powerful skaters anyone had ever seen… tonight we would see real power at work on the scoop!
Denny watched the human plow-team scraping the chipped ice. Pushed in the plows, the ice looked more like snow, piling up near where the goalie’s net would soon be replaced for the second period. When the piles became too big for the small plows to push, Denny bent over the scoop’s handle bars, and pushed it ahead of him… the leading edge was about four feet across, and had a skid pad on each side at the back. Denny first angled the scoop up, just a little, as he circled the pile that was near the north end of the rink… as he built up speed, leaning on the push-bar, driving his knees, skate blades ripping up ice-chips and snow, gathering speed, coming around for the second time he headed down the ice… more speed, more power… he lowered the leading edge to ice level…
It was heart pumping and then suddenly heart stopping, as the scoop exploded with ice-flakes blowing into the air. It was a direct hit, the scoop was full, but now at a dead stop. A small roar came up from the fans as we looked on… like I said, there wasn’t much to do during intermissions in 1963!
Skating backwards is a technique that’s very special; hard to teach and harder to learn… especially for some defenceman. It takes skill and strength… and for the scoop man, from a dead stop, with a scoop chock-full of heavy, snowy, ice it takes power. Denny, with bent hips and knees, dug into the ice with his skates… wiggling at the back end, pushing back with the knees… the scoop dislodged from the pile. A gaping hole was left in the drift-like pile, and then he stopped going backwards…
At this stage, I was dreaming of one day being able to just move that scoop… or at least pushing one of those steel snow plows. I’d show everyone I could do it, small as I was… and I knew the next stage of the scoop would be the hardest… bigger dreams…
Full of the white stuff, Denny started pumping ahead, driving the heavily loaded scoop ever faster… aiming for the open doors at the end of the rink… he had to get the snow well inside the wood-plank, floored area… where it would be shoveled outside, only to melt or freeze into a huge pile that often accompanied the really cold winter nights… faster, heart thumping fast… and then “BOOM” he hit the end, the scoop stopped dead, and the snow went flying into the back of the building…
Recovering the scoop, Denny rounded again for the next load… and this would go on for about ten minutes… seemed like more, because it was almost as interesting as the game, and getting the ice clean was critical to the quality of the hockey… without good snow and slush removal, the next stage of the process could never work. When Denny finished scooping the last of the large piles of snow, two of the small plows came together cleaning the scoop dregs, and followed him into the open doors… and back to anonymity.
Now came the big, heavy, fifty-gallon red tank, mounted on 14 inch black wheels and tires. It was pushed onto the ice. Steam was spewing from the open filling hole of the tank (hot water makes better ice), and then the real magic show started… the tall, grey headed guy (as I remember him, he was Reg), who would wheel the tank, went to the front of it. He was being careful not to slip and fall as he bent deeply, and opened a screw valve on the tank, just above ice level. Beyond the valve there were three-quarter inch pipes fixed onto the tank’s frame.  Opening the valve allowed the barrel’s hot water to stream into the distribution pipes… onto a well-worn, thick, thatched, hemp-like, rope pad that would disperse the steaming water smoothly onto the cut-up, scraped-up ice… but only if you moved the barrel at just-the-right-speed.
Big Reg was talented to the point where the old Truro Forum was known for its great ice… this was science and magic, combined. I was mesmerized by how smooth the ice could be… unless the home team was behind… then the ice would be made sticky to slow the game, a trick only the best ice-makers like Reg could do. For sure, this was no Zamboni, but the ice was as good as in the Montreal Forum, hockey’s Gold Standard. Tonight, the ice was perfect! The second period would be fast… lots of goals probably… unless the goal tenders were really sharp.
In the fan-stands, during the dead of winter, the wooden bench seats were so cold one would be as likely to choose to stand, rather than sit. Perhaps the winter hockey benches in towns like Truro, and around Canada, were the first to be known as “stands”. Perhaps the name migrated with the weather to the warmer sports of football, baseball and basketball, where the term “stands” seems like an oxymoron. Perhaps this was also the genesis of the term standing ovations… in fact, all ovations were standing in the dead of a hard winter in Truro, Nova Scotia in the early ‘60s.
Parking for most games was at the First United Church, Lorne Street parking lot. Walking to the Forum, in the dead of winter, could be treacherous… there was a narrow, poorly lit driveway, going down a hill, to the barn-like building. There were two levels of entry. The lower entrance took players and fans to the ice level. The upper level doors were opened for important games, when they needed the upper stands to be used, and there were only two very narrow, wooden stairways inside the building, to the upper stands. There was a small canteen near the entrance at the lower level, and a small ticket window by the door.
The rink surface itself was small by current standards… less than 200 feet long, as I remember. The width was also narrow compared to today. The goal posts, like the roof-girders above, were made of steel, but unlike the roof-girders, they had a tendency to come loose at critical times of games… with assists from the defending goal tenders. The netting was made of hemp rope, similar to that thatch on the watering tank. It had a tendency to break when a particularly hard shot got passed a goaltender… and had to be checked by the referee regularly… a tradition still in place today.
There were thick wooden boards that had absolutely no give, around the perimeter of the ice hockey surface. Today there are several inches of ‘give’ to the modern rinks… back then, the wooden boards seemed to jump toward you, rather than give, when a player checked another into them.
Straight up from the side boards, every eighteen feet, there were open structural beams; 12 inch, rough-hewn posts, soaring to the rafters. Defensemen used these beams as the extra man… squeezing smaller, rushing puck-carrying forwards into them… occasionally crushing a head or shoulder into them. In the days of the Truro Forum there were leather helmets, but few if any players used them… these pillar-like posts should have gotten danger-pay for unsuspecting, head-down, forwards! The posts could also block the perfect view of a crushing check, or a goal, for the unfortunate fan who was situated near a beam.
The Forum’s four corners were tight, not much more than square. They were friendly to the defense; they made it hard for the offence’s forwards to fore-check, without being slammed by a big defenseman. I can remember some of those, seeming, giants that were able to range from the goalie to the corner, without fear of a centering pass getting through… although I don’t remember if it was size or the smallness of the corners that was the limiting factor.
 In this undated photo one can see the upstairs area for fans; the tight corners; small size of the ice surface; large structural posts on the side boards; the goalie's crease was square;  the downstairs areas where the wire mesh protected fans; a cigarette advertisement, and a Coke ad with the same logo as today. (Photographer and date unknown, sourced from Lyle Carter) 
At the ends of the rink, and in the corners and behind the nets, there was chain link fencing that protected the fans and goal judges from the shots that missed the net. This chain link would allow clear vision of the puck coming, right at your head… it was only macho thinking that allowed one to try not to blink or alternatively jump-out-of-the-way, as the puck ricocheted off the metal of the fencing!
The chain link was rougher than the palms of a defenseman’s glove when getting rubbed or worse, checked into the end of the rink… it was when a player’s jersey or head got caught in the metal that a fan could sense and see the pain of a tear or the blood of a cut. We watched the offensive players who fore-checked, with respect reserved for MMA Octagon Fighters in more modern times… as defensemen lured forwards closer to their pending demise.
The Forum also had dressing rooms. The same two rooms that were used for the home and away teams to dress and plan strategies, were used as dressing rooms for the public skating sessions. During public skating days, one was for boys, the other for girls. The dressing rooms were also unheated. Wooden planked floors had openings to the ground, some so wide a skate blade could go through and trip up the unlucky wearer of the skate. Each dressing room had one toilet and they both had a long trough for boys and men to urinate… those that were shy, if they went outside, where it cold be so cold a urine stream might freeze in mid-air, might be stuck for a while.
Although it may seem like this was a den of horrors, the Truro Forum was actually a magnet to the residents of Truro and District, all the way out to villages like Brookfield, Middle Stewiacke, Debert and Tatamagouche. It wasn’t just hockey that engendered participation and fans. The public skating on Sunday afternoons at the Forum drew hundreds of skaters, young and not so. For the first hour the participants would go clockwise with the music. The music stopped, and all would reverse course, moving together in some sort of harmony. Some days they even cleaned the ice between direction changes.
There was usually some classical skating music, and couples would turn the ice loop, arm-in-arm, with long, smooth strides to the beat. At the same time, there were individuals on figure and hockey skates going in the same general direction, but not in unison. Every week there were a few really smooth skaters on the long, racing blades that could make it end to end and around the corners with just a few strides… smoothly pushing and gliding around the ice. These skaters were reflections of the population in Truro that still had their roots in Holland. The combination of all of these forms of skating made for interesting sessions with youngsters racing, adults skating to music and the long blades taking wide corners… organized chaos.
On any given open skate, I would pay my twenty-five cents (if I couldn’t sneak in) and meet many of my friends from Willow, Douglas and Alice Street schools, along with Saint Mary’s school. As I grew older, I started meeting each of my new-found girl-friends, as well as their many friends.  Being a very good skater was a great way to earn time with the girls, and not being reliant on having a hockey stick in one’s hand for balance, got allowed me to hold hands with favorites. I got to meet girls from all over Truro, and from Onslow and Brookfield, simply by being a good skater.
So the Truro Forum had become my social hub, as well as where I learned how to play my chippy style of hockey. It also became my escape place… to get away from home when I wasn’t getting along; and from school when I was bored. I would just go to the Forum and watch Truro live.
During this time my brother Harold was also becoming a strong hockey player. He was in his last year of peewee hockey in the winter of 1962/3. He had become tall and strong for his age and was becoming a leading defenseman for Willow Street School. I can remember that watching his games became another reason to be at the forum. I had started being the recorder for games and did a little refereeing around this time. I don’t remember if I ever gave him a penalty, but probably I sh/could have…
The rest of my life was moving along in a direction in which not everyone was happy. My teachers and parents seemed to be contriving to make me do only the things they wanted me to do. Of course, I was willing to fight the system and as a result, started failing in my school grades. At the time, hockey, skating and girls had become my focus, anything other than school.
In 1962, I had been held back a year after failing with Ms. Croft in Truro Junior High School. I was hanging out at the rink more and more. I had started smoking cigarettes, and acting out. The only positive influences I had seemed to be a couple of teachers and my hockey gods. The Physical Education teacher Bill Gatchel was also my Midget Hockey Coach. I liked history, English literature and geography, but not much else about school interested me.
While I was keeping a lid on most of my life, my memories are wrapped in the Truro forum and hockey… and it seems that many of us were going through the same thing. There was little else to do in the smallness that was Truro… small in many more ways than size, it was a time where I was bursting to get to the rest of my future.
All of this life experience was continuing as I stood and watched that All-Star game that Thursday night. It was brutally cold outside. Temperatures hovered near the low of zero degrees Fahrenheit, for the evening. It was an exciting game, with Bible Hill, the previous year’s championship team, playing the all-stars. But the cold caused the end of the game to be a relief, and most, if not all the fans headed, hurriedly, back to their parked vehicles. If the battery was frozen and the car didn’t start, the passengers joined the rest of the fans in trudging home in the sub-zero cold. No church in the morning, so cars were left in the parking lot.
I remember getting home having some hot chocolate with Mom, and getting to bed which was by far, the warmest place in the house. My brother Harold was playing his peewee hockey game in the morning and had gone to bed early. His game would be played at 8 AM… and he would be walking to the rink, hockey gear on with his skates and a hockey stick over his shoulder. Sleep came early for him.
Soon after I went to bed, the Truro Fire Alarm, which sounded like a loud horn, started to blare. It was not unusual to hear the alarm ringing from the top of the fire hall, in Truro’s center, at Prince and Young Streets. In the crisp winter air, it sounded like it was next door. I paid it little mind and settled into sleep. My dreams were of the game earlier in the evening, and how on Saturday I would be playing center on the second line of a Midget league game. I am sure I was dreaming of scoring goals and winning the game.
When the second alarm rang just 30 minutes after the first, it actually woke me. A second alarm was indeed, unusual. The town of 12,000 people had an all-volunteer fire department, so good that it often placed high in the Nova Scotia Firemen’s Competition at the Provincial Exhibition Grounds. A second alarm would likely pull everyone from bed, phones ringing, dreading fighting a fire in the biting cold of late January. We lived a mile or so from down town, and I could hear fire-engines’ sirens again, in the distance. But they didn’t sound for long… that meant the fire must be downtown I thought, but drifted off to sleep. No point in getting up, it was too cold to watch a fire, and at that hour, I wouldn’t have been allowed to go, anyway.
In just a few minutes I was sleeping soundly again… only to be awaken by a third alarm. This time I was up and looking out my bedroom window… the frost at the corners and edges of the windows couldn’t mask a glow in the sky. It was so bright, I didn’t notice that the cover over the three holes in the storm windows were open, that’s why I could hear the sirens and horns so clearly… and why my room was so cold. I slammed the cover over the holes and the inside window shut.
My parents were up already… we all wondered what building was burning. It was still too cold to head out… it was unlikely that the green Simca V8 car that my parents owned would start anyway. The car was made in France and was modeled after the Fiat… neither were intended for the Canadian winters of the 60’s. Even plugged in, it likely wouldn’t start. And, there was no way one should walk a mile, just to see a fire, in the cold frost of the night.
So, the speculation was on, as I crawled back into bed. Again, sleep came quickly.
In the dark of the early morning I wakened to my alarm. I would be walking with Harold to the Forum for his game. We needed to leave at 6:30, so I had set the alarm for 6AM. I could hear some voices in the kitchen, which was unusual for that time of the morning. I could smell coffee, and breakfast… and the voices were excited.
My parents had not gone back to bed after the third alarm… the bright glow in the sky to the east of our home was too much for my step-father to resist. He was not a fireman, but he knew many of the members of the Fire Hall, and he likely thought that this was a big fire, so perhaps he should go downtown. Perhaps it was his workplace on fire… Margolian’s was in an older building, and it would be a disaster for him were he to lose his job. The glow was apparently so bright and massive that he couldn’t pinpoint the location, so off he went.
He had come home at around 5:30AM to warm up and to talk to Mother about how to break the news to her two boys. The Colchester Forum was gone…
In its place was a skeleton of twisted steel beams, just the front wall and door would indicate what had stood prior to the disaster. Amazingly, no one was hurt in the three alarm fire. Apparently there was no saving the building from the first alarm… the Fire Chief indicated the fire started in the compressor room. There was an ammonia explosion, and a 250 gallon fuel tank burned like a torch according to the Truro Daily News report the afternoon of February 1st, 1963. The building was a total loss. The owners of the Forum estimated the financial loss from the fire to be around $30,000 and it was only insured for half that value. They indicated they had no intention of rebuilding the facility.
As I wakened to the news, I was in denial, as was my brother. He was determined to head down to the rink to play his peewee hockey game. This, in spite of Radio Station AM600, CKCL reporting non-stop on the loss of the building in the still smoldering, overnight fire. We sat, mostly in wonder of what we would do now… there were games to be played; time to be spent; whole lives seemed to hang in the balance of what would happen. Charles Archibald, the President of the Truro Minor Hockey Association reported there were over 1,000 children in the leagues of the association… they would be meeting soon, to plan for the future of hockey in Truro and its surrounding district.

These two scanned pic are from the Daily News. Sorry, but it is difficult to scan in JPG, so perhaps a little
explanation is in order... the upper picture shows the inferno with a couple of Truro Firemen in the foreground. The second is the aftermath... just twisted structural steel was all that was left. The article says it best:
It was the editorial the next day in the Daily News that actually captured the real impact of the fire. While many were talking about the cost to rebuild, estimated at $150,000 to $300,000 and the locations of such a facility… Victoria Park, Nova Scotia Agricultural College, TAAC Grounds and so on… the editorial stated among other things “the loss will be keenly felt by the young people. The Forum, such as it was, was of vital importance to them, not only to those resident of Truro, but the surrounding area”.
For me, the editorial was an understatement. It was my world.
Mine was a fragile existence. The Forum had provided what in the popular game of tag was called Home Base. For many reasons, school and family/home were not doing it for me at the time. I suspect that there were many of the 1,000 young people in the same situation. In perspective, it was the time of the Beatles invasion; cigarette smoking; girls; and many other confusing influences. This was the lot for many, we had problems with vision and perspective.
We had the radio… we could get the AM signal from CKCL and CJCH in Halifax. And with the help of signal skips we could on some nights get WCBS (Cousin Brucie), WABC and others, mostly rebroadcasting from Boston. We had the Truro Daily News and the Chronicle Herald and Mail-Star from Halifax. We had CBC TV and Radio and the very new CTV that was getting viewers by 1963. We had our parents and teachers, books and magazines. Stories from families lucky enough to travel to Florida for a few weeks in the winter gave us visions of a horizon… but not much to learn from.
For the next year, putting a hockey league together playing on open ice with rinks at most of the grade schools and the Junior High was helpful. These open rinks did not have artificial ice making, and weather was iffy, at best. For me, I was old enough and played a style that got me onto the Colchester County Academy, Brown and Gold, Hockey Team. It played in 1964 in the Headmaster’s Hockey Championships. The arena in New Glasgow, forty miles away, became our home ice. We played against Kings Academy, Sydney High School and then in the provincial finals, losing to Queen Elizabeth High School at the Halifax Forum.
Physical Education teachers started becoming important to me. The biggest impression was made on me by Bill Gatchel. He got me thinking about the things I could do if I was in shape. In addition, he taught us about healthy living, first aid, and calisthenics… which became my big interest. Hundreds of push, pull and sit-ups became my mantra. While running wasn’t yet a fad, I was starting to ride my Fuji ten-speed bicycle some distances… for example riding to the Wild Life Park in Shubenacadie. In those days I hadn’t even heard of the Tour de France, but that ride in 1964 comes to mind occasionally when I am ascending a difficult hill, on my bike, even today. In ‘64 it took me almost all day to get to Shubie, down and back. Today, it would be a matter of five hours, with time to watch the Otters, the stars of the park.
Absent these side-lines, I don’t know what would have happened to me. Yes, hockey came back with my playing for the Bearcats in Junior Hockey… but it was during these times that we went through our first exposure to American life. John Kennedy was assassinated later in 1963. More music was coming from more liberated writers and bands like the Beatles and Stones from other worlds. And while the boards of trade, city councils and political leaders bantered about the need to build a skating edifice, they forgot that it’s what happens inside those buildings… the institution within, that has the influence on young people. Time wasted…
For me, the lessons of scraping the ice cleanly; removing the snow completely; using hot water to make smooth ice… left a long lasting impression. Seeing a great local hockey player move up the ranks into the pro leagues gave me hope that one day, perhaps I could do the same… whether it be in hockey, or business, or politics. Having a place to go in dark hours, where I could play hockey, or get lost watching it, kept me out of the trouble into which I may easily have fallen, into early in life.
The life of the Colchester Forum as an institution more than just a building, had an impact on the history of Truro, Colchester County, Nova Scotia and at times Canada. When it burned that night in 1963, that all became a memory. Subsequent facilities became cookie cutter buildings with no personalities. They had Zamboni machines to clean the ice… and water them at the same time. These machines could even shave the ice so that games could be played longer into the spring because the ice could be kept just an inch thick, allowing the freezing pipes to keep the ice playable even when the building warms up. But most have no personality, at least not like the Colchester Forum in 1963.
The Editorial in the Daily News got it right… the loss of the forum was keenly felt by the young people of Truro. It is vaguely remembered by people who were not necessarily in its grasp, but clearly it has been a magnet for many a memory, for a very long time.
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Grad. Saint Mary's University, 1975, got into the medical device business initially in sales, then various management positions up to president, all in Medical Devices. I prefer therapy products over diagnostic, but they are all fun, and in a way have defined my life. I have now evolved, with help from my 35 year partner Lynnda with whom I now share every hour. I am into staying healthy, photography, kayaking, bicycling, gardening and two books a week. I wish I had gotten to this stage earlier!