and the beat goes on…

Between rehearsing and handling organizational tasks for the Hamilton Gay Men’s Chorus (come to our first concert “Songs for a Snowy Evening” on December 1st, 2012!), rehearsing with the church choir for our choral (December 23, 2012 at 7:30 pm) and various other holiday services, struggling with work issues and dealing with DH’s health issues, I’m having just a dandy time here!

DH is scheduled for 6 month of chemotherapy to treat his pancreatic cancer; the chemo process will entail the following steps on a weekly basis for three weeks out of four:

1. DH registers at the chemo clinic.
2. The chemo nurse takes a blood sample and checks DH‘s blood for white cell and hemoglobin count. This takes half an hour for them to run the labs.
3. DH takes his pre-chemo pills, including a steroid, anti-nausea medication and an anti-inflammatory.
4. Should DH‘s blood counts be acceptable, they order the treatment from the pharmacy. This takes an hour to mix the appropriate blend.
5. Start infusion of chemotherapy. This takes half an hour for the infusion through the IV line.
6. Rush home as quickly as possible, so DH can be as comfortable as possible when the medicine hits his system.

So far the only issues he’s had are fatigue and flu-like symptoms (weakness, aches, chills, fever). However there is a cumulative effect, they are still poisoning his body and the surgeon commented that around month two or three is when you really begin to feel “shitty”.

The chemo clinic is in Toronto, one hour away, there is a cancer care center here in Hamilton, however we had appointment there on Monday – the doctor we saw just graduated in June and, needless to say, both DH and I were a wee bit anxious of having a youngun with no experience handling his treatment. While his treating oncologist will still be the doctor in Toronto who works with the transplant clinic…we were unsure.

The decision was pretty much made for us when the doctor arrived 2 and a half hours later than the scheduled appointment date and lamented about how complex DH’s case was. During the oral history and discussion of the case, the doctor visibly rolled his eyes twice at DH’s complaints and also was quite sarcastic at times. They had drawn blood in case of a possible treatment on the next day, however the doctor all but confirmed he would be unable to get permission to release the required medication and that he should continue with his scheduled treatment in Toronto.

BOTH THE DOCTOR AND THE NURSE VERBALLY AGREED TO RELEASE THE BLOOD LAB RESULTS TO THE TORONTO CLINIC SO DH WOULD NOT HAVE TO HAVE BLOOD DRAWN AGAIN.

When DH got to the cancer clinic in Toronto, they did not have the blood lab results and they requested them once again from the Hamilton clinic. Two hours later, they still were not sent. DH called me, frustrated, and asked me to call. I attempted to contact the nurse at the clinic and left several messages imploring them to have the blood tests released. Moral of the story, I convinced DH to let the Toronto clinic draw more blood and he finally got his treatment, getting home after 8pm (this was from a 2pm clinic appointment).

I attempted to contact the Hamilton clinic this morning and they refused to let me leave a message as it wasn’t an emergency. I’d rather leave a message as I do NOT wish to speak to them at the moment as their refusal to release the information caused a needless test to be redone and required further discomfort to DH. Whither “do no harm”?

On the plus side, my niece who is going through piano lessons, passed her first examination with the Royal Conservatory of Music with first class honours and was invited to play at the provincial showcase last Saturday. Yes, as the proud musician uncle, I went to see her and enjoyed seeing her exhibit her talents and the result of a lot of hard work. I’m very proud of her!

I’ve naively agreed to perform carols for the Ottawa Street BIA (right by Cannon Coffee Co and Hat’s Wear It’s At) for their evening street festival this Friday – come to see me if the weather is agreeable!

The Gay Men’s Chorus first concert is this Saturday at the First Unitarian Church here in Hamilton. I’m singing lead solo in “Still Still Still” (a beautiful Christmas Carol), playing guitar for a song I arranged for the chorus (http://www.singmerrychristmas.com/ for the original song and story – the songwriter donated it to us) as well as singing in the chorus proper and assisting the accompanist on various keyboards…we are also doing the World AIDS Day Vigil on December 3 and the St. Catherines LGBTQ Winter Solstice service on the 21st.

Lah dee dah di deeee!

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tempest in a tea room

Recently I was involved in a shitstorm that arose due to public comments I made about a great meal I had at a local restaurant (Hamilton’s Earth to Table), contrasting the experience I had with a number recent experiences with a competitor, located just down the street.

My comments were based on the fact that, over the last three visits I made to the competition, the food was cooked to the point of being inedible and was either returned to the kitchen less than 1/4 eaten or in the case of two take out orders, placed in my green compost bin.

Here’s the rub:  on ALL three occasions, I either told the waitress of the issue or called the restaurant to inform them.  The one time in person, I received a shrug and a “sorry”, no recommendation to re-cook my order or to “comp” my meal.  By the time the waitress popped around to ask how our meals were, my dining partners had completed their meals, tried mine and agreed that it was burnt to the point of being inedible.  Having a dinner re-cooked would have been out and I wasn’t hungry at that point any more.  With the two takeout orders, I wasn’t about to cycle half-way across the city to get a replacement meal for myself.

Regarding the comp:  I’m not out looking for free meals, I’m looking to have a decent meal with my friends and family in a pleasant and friendly atmosphere that clearly cares about its customers.

I have known the owners of this establishment for a number of years and have let them know about uneven and often awful service there on a couple of occasions.  This waitress’ indifference and lack of response highlighted this to me.  However, I like to give a place a second chance.  The two take out orders that were, again burnt to the point of inedibility (different menu items, no less) confirmed that I will vote with my feet and wallet and not darken the doors of this establishment until I’ve heard otherwise.

Now having worked in the food industry for over 10 years and living with a retired chef, I’d like to think that I have sympathy for restaurants.  It isn’t an easy industry to exist in and I heartily applaud those who can survive in it.

The main bugbear for any restaurant is consistency.  Consistency in food, recipes, service and atmosphere.  I’m not looking for a life changing meal when I eat out, I’m looking for something that is good, predictable and that I can ensure will provide me with the same level of food and service experience the next time I go there or provide the same to folks that I recommend eating there.

I simply cannot with this restaurant.  The food is uneven and with my experiences, the service ranges from hurried and indifferent to downright surly.  Which is a shame, because another restaurant owned by the same people is high up on my list of recommendations for local eateries as the food is consistently good and service is phenomenal.

And the owners know I am not one to suffer quietly; I WANT them to succeed and do well and inform them if there is an inconsistency or bad experience.  I have reported the issues to them honestly and openly.  They have responded appropriately and even offered to comp me a meal, which I refused because they are a small business and can’t really afford to do that.

I also don’t believe in letting them know when I’ll be in next because that will also allow them to make sure they go above and beyond their usual.  I don’t want that – I want to be treated as every other customer and KNOW that I will get a predictable product and service that I can feel comfortable recommending or bringing friends and family to.
That isn’t too much to ask for, isn’t it?  Customers are paying for a decent, edible meal in a comfortable atmosphere with attentive service.  One of their locations provides this, after several attempts eating at the other location, I cannot say I have experienced this.

I can’t (and won’t) apologise for my opinions, especially when they are based on multiple experiences and I had informed the staff and management of issues on a number of occasions.  Due to my taking this stand, I have been asked not to attend any of their locations.  I am, however happy to say these establishments are busy and will hopefully remain successful for years to come…so a lot of people disagree with me.  But that is what life is about – differing opinions.

So I will continue eating where I had the great meal and hope folks continue to eat at this place, while supporting the other restaurants if they find there a better experience than I have.