I have not always been a SAABophile

I have not always been a SAABophile.  It has grown on me.  My first car love was Alfa Romeo.  Influenced by a grade 5 teacher who changed from having an Alfa Romeo 2000 GTV and upgraded to a new Alfa Romeo Alfetta GT.  We had to do a class talk and I did it on the Alfa.  I hung around the local Alfa Romeo car dealer so much that they offered me a job to clean cars and their offices on a Saturday morning and school holidays.  It was not until years later I realized the exploitation.  I did a lot of work for them for very little money.  The bonus and thrill for me was that one of the salesmen lived around the corner so I got a ride in the car he had selected to drive home that night.  At one stage on the lot they had an orange SAAB 99.  Riding to work one morning in this I encountered the quirky seatbelts clamp and the ignition between the seats.  Around that time one summer a friend and I did the rounds of all the new car dealers asking for brochures of their latest car offerings.  This was another early SAAB encounter.

 

Fast forward to the 2000s and my wife had had a SAAB desire.  She like the shape and style.  In the year 2000 we had two Toyota Corollas.  One we had bought from my father’s estate so was reasonably new and in good condition.  The other an older one we had had for about 6 years was 13 years old and clocking up lots of kilometers.  Our kids were getting older and we needed more a family car.  We had done a Queensland driving trip in the newer Corolla but it was squeezy with all our luggage.  We got our first 1989 SAAB 900i Combi in 2001 second hand from a lovely couple in Caulfield.  They put us onto Swedish Prestige in Huntingdale where they got it serviced.  Although a distance to travel to and on the other side of town I knew the value in dealing with good reliable mechanics’ who knew the SAAB quirks and had the parts and knowledge.  The added factor that they gave you a loaner SAAB for the time they serviced your car so it made the trek worthwhile.

Keeping SAABy well maintained we had a trouble free ownership.  One minor accident in 2013 where I went into the back of another car at traffic lights.  And one instance I can recall where the car’s computer had to have some work done on it as it was making the engine run rough and misfire.  Over 7 years of ownership, a Queensland driving holiday, and clocking up around 150,000 kilometers when we acquired my father in law’s 10 year old Corolla with low kilometers and good condition we were a car in excess.  We tried but could not find a buyer for SAABy so it was a sad day handing her over to a wrecker when it was not required in 2009.

The SAAB love was passed on to the next generation and my daughter sought out a low kilometre traveled 900i sedan for her first car in 2017.  As she was studying I agreed to fly interstate to pick up, buy, and drive it back from Wagga Wagga to Melbourne.  My SAAB love was rekindled and as our Corolla clocked up kilometers and deteriorated I started my SAAB search as a replacement.

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A couple of years later kindled by the life is too short thinking and wanting to have more of a safe feeling whilst commuting on the Ring Road I acquired our 1996 SAAB 900s at the start of 2019.  The trip to Canberra to pick up Barb the SAAB was an adventure with an overnight stop over in Albury Wodonga to catch up with a work colleague.  And this was a revisiting of the stop over for lunch with my daughter’s SAAB a couple of years beforehand in the same town and with the same colleague.

As Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear said once SAAB owners have a certain smug smile.  There is a knowledge that you have a unique and quirky car that is very safe.   It has been well engineered and thought out and when well maintained it is reliable.  It’s the shape, it’s the style, it’s the car I like.  Happy to be a SAAB owner and maintain the marque even though the company has ceased production.  And speaking of quirky here is a SAAB song

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Videos, Youtube and Netflix

During my recover I mentioned that I watched a lot of Netflix, catch-up tv and youtube. I thought I’d outline a little of what I watched. Not too long before the surgery and recovery period I had started searching Youtube for historical footage. I have quite a fascination to watch original footage from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, of Australiana. At one point I stumbled across the National Film And Sound Archives & their Youtube site.

 
Before and during the recovery time I was explored this site and stumbed across fascinating documentaries and footage to entice migrants to come to Australia in the post war years. This one for example The Way We Live Is a quaint video of British migration in 1959 setting up in Sydney Australia. It’s interesting to watch and hear aboutcontinental vs British food tastes, exotic fruits & it’s okay to leave baby at the checkout when supermarket shopping. 22:15- 25:30

Mainly For Women shows a country girl coming to the big smoke in the 70s to train to be a fully qualified calculating machine operator. Primarily the intention seems to be to come to the big smoke to find a potential husband
I found a wonderful 9 part series from 1967 of how to drive. The fundamentals are just as relevant today. What I really enjoyed was the driving around Melbourne and the suburbs and the emphasis on learning to drive with a manual 3 on the tree. Road Observation. How To Drive drives around areas of Box Hill and Dandenong Road.

A 9 part series from 1973 of the Skills of Defensive Driving.  The 7th episode includes a rolling FJ Holden and an XM Falcon crashing into a tree.  Who’s To Blame? Skills of Defensive Driving Episode 1 includes staged minor accidents including an original  Corona stopping and sliding sideways
The  series of the ABC show Torque with Peter Wherrett from the mid 70s

Torque V1 driving VC Commodore BMW 528i

Torque V2 XD Falcon & Bolwell project car

Torque V3 Chrysler Sigma

Torque V4 Corona & Datsun 200B

Torque v5 Porsche 924& VW Golf petrol, diesel, turbo diesel

Torque V6 4WDs International, Jeep, Toyota Hi-Lux, Subaru Leone wagon

Torque V7 Jaguar XJ6 & Suzuki Hatch

Torque V8 Rally driving with a Daihatsu Charade Datsun 280 ZX Alfa Romeo Alfasud Sprint

Torque V9 Mazda 626 & Safety cornering

Torque V10 Mazda 626 & Being affected by alcohol testing

I had ideally wanted to find episodes of Homicide, Division 4 or Matlock Police but I could not. On 7 plus I found the complete series of Blue Heelers from the 90s.  Blue Heelers follows the lives of the police officers stationed in fictional small country town; Mount Thomas. There were lots of episodes to watch. I got through the first series and mid way through the second series.

 
On a daily basis I watched an episode of Touched by an Angel which is always heart warming when the angel is revealed and often has a good message in the episode. Also on a regular basis I watched episodes of Escape to the Country  which I seem to have a fascination for and which I can watch constantly.

 
On Netflix I watched a number of movies such as Highwaymen, Roma, The Lady in the Van, Isn’t it Romantic and series such as Sex Education and Campus.

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Return to work, two month check up and the epilogue- life goes on- I am blessed.

After 4 weeks post the operation I was more or less recovered.  From a work perspective the bombshell came as the first phase of the library restructure was released changing the departments and spilling the positions of the existing managers to potentially apply for adjusted higher duty manager roles with a bit more responsibility.  After a coupe of weeks of consultation and feedback the additional bombshell was to find that 3 of the existing managers were leaving and not taking up new roles.  Initially it looked like all three were retiring but then within minutes of the announcement my manager announced that she had a new job at another institution to go to and was leaving almost immediately after almost 30 years at La Trobe.

In week 5 of recovery I still had another week before returning to work.  However I used the reality  of my wellness to come to work for half a day to attend a farewell luncheon for my department and for my manager,  and to have an informal handover with my colleague who had been acting for me,  and was about to go on long service leave,  so would not be present when I returned to work the following week.   Many people commented about how well I looked and how well recovered I seemed.  The mixed blessing was being away from the work chaos during this first phase of restructure.

With a growing confidence in my recover the last weeks of recover were almost a taste of early retirement.  Catching up with friends and family.  Doing what I liked when I liked.  Continuing with my video, youtube, and Netflix watching.  I returned to swimming starting tentatively at a local pubic pool doing just a few laps.  But then returning later in the week to work towards my pre operation usual swimming pattern.

I returned to work full time on April the 7th.  The option was there, from an at call doctor’s certificate, to have a phased part time approach to return to work.  However apart from low energy in the afternoons in the first couple of weeks I adapted back to full time work fairly well.  The bonus factor on returning to work at this time was coming back at a time with a couple of shorter weeks due to the Easter break and ANZAC day public holidays.

Life goes  on and I had my two month check up with my urologist.  This was per-empted with a blood and urine test.  Thankfully it was all clear.   My PSA at zero and not issues.   Having had the full prosectectomy there is no ongoing treatment, no radiation or chemo,  just monitoring.  My next check up is 6 months post surgery. The week before this I was  confident enough to discontinue wearing incontinence pads.  Quite an achievement and something post prostate surgery to be thankful of and not taken lightly.  For many patients this continues to be an issue for a long period post-surgery.

On my urologists advice I returned, very tentatively at first, to bike riding.  Given the location of the surgery this was deemed, by my doctors, to be the last thing to undertake.  At least 10 weeks post surgery.  My inaugural post-operative bike ride was on the 13th of April.   This was awkward and felt a bit strange.  However it went so well that I pushed it a bit too far and went for a longer ride the next day resulting in some back strain.  Too much too soon.  Slowly slowly.  I attended some physiotherapy a couple of days later to get some advice, therapy, and strengthening exercises.   A month later and I have invested in a new and more comfortable seat on my bike.  I have also signed up with my daughter to do around the bay in October so a big fitness recovery to work towards.

So there you have it.  My cancer and post cancer story so far.  There is one ongoing issue which I won’t go into here but which is perfectly normal and a standard longer-term post prostatectomy issue.   One to talk about at the Prostate Cancer Support Group.  Of course too the additional bombshells, from a work perspective, was finding out, on the 3 month anniversary of my surgery, that my position at work is redundant.  Still currently working through that at work so will not go into that here either.   Also on the home front over this time period was the very sad death of a dearly loved pet cat.  On a happier note,  and a blog post next week,  will be the story of the acquisition of a SAAB and the selling of the old Corolla.

It has been a remarkable journey.  A testimony to my good fortune, faith, and support from my loving family and friends.  Also a testimony to the good professional services that I have been privileged to have access to.  And  at this point in history,  to the technology, and in a country and location where it is available, and to be in the position and stage in live where I could afford it,   And to be in stable full time work where I had sick leave available and work colleague support during this period.  I am blessed.

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Prostate Cancer Support Group

Over this significant time period I have had a wealth of supports.  Family friends church work and a range of professional supports.  In this  post I mentioned my web searching to find out information once being diagnosed and being more prepared for my appointment.  I outlined how I quickly found the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA) website and off that website the  PCFA Online community   by spending time here I found a local support group    In this post I’d like to talk a little about my experience of the support group.

The first meeting I attended was before my operation.  It was also the group’s first meeting for 2019 and they were in transition to move from the community room to a refurbished meeting room in another premises.  The leader of the group was a good blokey bloke.  Friendly, open,  and well seasoned.  On this warm night the room was quite packed with around 20 guys and a few female supports and partners.  The formalities of the group were to welcome, update on business arising, report on finances and any news or correspondence.  The support mechanism was to go around the group and let each share as much or as little as they wanted to on the principle that what is said in the room stays in the room.  The order too that as a new comer you would go last,  after hearing everyone else share

As this meeting was only a couple of weeks before my operation to hear the variant stories was a bit overwhelming.  It helped me to come to terms with the spectrum of age and how it effects people, the differences in diagnosis, treatment options, and terminology to become familiar with.  Going back a few times post the operation it has been interesting to recognize and experience the camaraderie and ability to open up on a different level with those traveling a similar but not necessarily the same road as you.  It has also been interesting to reflect on the group’s  knowledge, and build on the experience by hearing and other people’s stories and being able to ask the direct and often frank questions.  And even sometimes have a laugh.

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Stent removal fine, but the next day….

As my days of recovery progressed my energy increased, as did my stamina, and my sleep patterns were getting more normal.  I was getting use to this new normal.  However, 14 days after catheter removal it became the day procedure for stent removal.  A new hospital and a new administrative process to deal with.  After fasting we arrived without a clear idea of how long the procedure would take.  St. Vincent’s hospital was just around the corner from the Epworth, so we were familiar with the parking process.  When we arrived for admission there seemed to be a computer issue.  However, with a volunteer, we were transferred to the next admission desk on another level.  At this desk it became even more unclear how long my procedure would take, and it was mentioned that it might be an overnight stay.   When it came to the next stage of admission, where i was to go behind the scenes,  it was suggested I say good bye to my wife and that she should go home and await a call.   I was admitted to get a hospital gown and to wait on a bed for the next steps.  At this point on beds, on trolleys, between thin curtains, and in full view of a busy desk, there was much to be seen and heard and to just wait.  I also learnt that I had a bladder infection and so had to be given additional antibiotics before the procedure could happen.

After a couple of hours, I was walked to the next waiting area.  Things moved faster from this point.  I walked into surgery room laid down on the table and was put under anesthetic.  I was then in recovery only a half hour later, and transferred to a ward not long after.  As opposed to my bad reaction to anesthetic from my major surgery all seemed to be fine.  I ate food.  I passed water.  The pharmacist came and gave me antibiotics to take home.  We even stopped off at McDonalds for some fries before coming home.  The day procedure had certainly taken a full day.  From a 10 am admission I was not released until after 7 pm.

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However, the next day I woke up with low energy.  I had a little bit of food but then after a second coffee I had violent vomiting and was feeling nauseous.  The hospital rang around 10 am as a courtesy call to ask how I was doing.  Their suggestion was to ask if I had a temperature and if it persists to go to a doctor as they were concerned I had picked up an infection.   Thankfully over a very sleepy and dozy day I recovered.  Later in the day I even got enough energy to receive a phone call, prepare the car,  receive a buyer, and sell a car we had had on the market for a couple of months over this period.  But that is another story.

 

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This won’t hurt much

After 11 awkward days of getting around and toileting came the day of the catheter removal.  This was to be performed at my urologist’s rooms by the very seasoned prostate nurse.  With slight fear and trepidation on my part the prostate nurse was  very reassuring stating that the injection to start is the worst thing.  Removing stitches on my stomach from the surgery was awkward and some were tight.  The actual catheter removal just seemed to happen.  I winced lied back on the bed and the nurse somehow deflated the inner balloon and out it came.

Post the removal we tested passing water and reiterated the pelvic floor exercises.  I’d forgotten to bring pads so was given special absorbent underwear.  After all this we had a brief catch up meeting with my urologist about how things were going, and also information about booking in for the stent removal from my bladder.  This was just going to be a day procedure.  It was going to be around the corner from the Epworth hospital at  St. Vincent’s hospital.  There was a certain amount of paperwork lodgement to be done and processed before that day.

As the days progressed after the catheter removal came a new sense of freedom and ability to get out and about.  With more walking and being able to drive and get out and about I gained more strength and confidence.  I still could not carry or lift anything but as time went by I progressed in my recovery.  With each outing I become aware of where the nearest pubic toilet was just in case, for reassurance, or an as need requirement.

My sleep patterns got better and my energy levels were getting better although an afternoon snooze or rest remained a requirement.  During this time I received a lovely package from work with a card and some goodies.

 

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Losing my Geelongness

Yesterday I went to a 50th birthday celebration.  Having already passed this age myself a few years ago I am at an age and stage where this is a thing as have attended a few in the last few years.  This friend I have known for over 30 years.  We first met though church connections and have maintained our friendship with mutual friends over all this time.  I was born bred and raised in Geelong.  I was also born bred and raised by my parents in the Methodist church which in Australia amalgamated with the Congregationalist and most of the Presbyterian church in 1977.  My parents church, as with a number of other Uniting churches of the 1980s were dying churches,  with elderly congregations,  and with just a remnant of youth.  The saving grace, at that time,  were Easter Camps and regular quarterly youth services where the remnant youth of these churches could get together.  It was via these means that I met Jenni whose birthday I went to, and a number of ongoing friends from that time were also at this celebration.    As a group we have diversified.  Some have married and had kids and some have divorced.  Some have changed denomination and maintained a faith and others have not. Some have remained in the Geelong region and some have moved to Melbourne.  It was a great time to reconnect with Jenni and her friends &  family, her connections, and our mutual friends.

 

At one point in the afternoon I was talking to a friend commenting how I felt, in some ways,  I had lost my “Geelongness”.  Having not lived there for 30 years, and as  my parents passed on in the 90s,  I am now not always so quick to visualize or know exactly where newer restaurants or coffee shops are or even recall less major streets away from the suburbs I frequented.  The guy I was speaking to could  relate to what I was saying as he had married a Geelong girl and had relocated from Melbourne.   A little later another person joined our group and when they mentioned what suburb in Melbourne they were living in the tables turned and  I needed a bit of clarification where that was.  Where  as the friend I had been talking to knew as it was his old stomping ground and so was asking location and closeness to a landmark and he knew exactly the street and location.  Later in the afternoon another experience of a Melbourne person to an ex Geelong now Melbourne person defining where in a street in a Melbourne suburb they lived as they had both lived and had a parent in that exact street.  It never ceases to amazes me the connections we have with those we interact with.

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