Montreal Halloween happenings for the last-minute crowd

Tonight is Halloween and Montrealers have plenty of fun ways to celebrate.

If you can’t score a ticket to a Rocky Horror show, here are a few West End happenings you may not have heard about:

Dia de los Muertos poster auction at Cafe 92°

While Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos has nothing to do with Halloween, you’ll probably see some Halloween costumes at this fundraiser for the NDG Food Depot.

Two of Cafe 92º’s owners, Claudia and Maria, hail from Mexico. For several years now they’ve turned their café into a place that educates people about Mexico’s Day of the Dead. The cafe’s decorations help explain the tradition and they sell Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead), a delicious sweetbread. Artwork from local artists is replaced with artistic posters created in Mexico to honour the Dia de los Muertos.

The gorgeous posters are auctioned off to the highest bidder with all proceeds going to the NDG Food Depot.

When: Today (Oct. 31, 2015) @ 5 p.m.
Where: Cafe 92º, (Sherbrooke & Montclair, take the 105 bus)

Get there early, bring plenty of cash (I’ve seen bids go as high as $100 as people compete to win a poster) and have a good time.

colourful skeleton Dia de los Muertos poster on wall at Cafe 92 degrees (2012)

NDG Food Depot’s 7th Annual Thriller Halloween Dance

Get your zombie on and march 4.5 km with other zombies through the streets of NDG, dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. If you haven’t done the dance before you may want to get there early. A hot meal will be served and the NDG Food Depot will have makeup artists and materials so you can make signs (for instance, “Solidarity with Zombies.”)

When: Today (Oct. 31, 2015). Be there at 4 p.m. to rehearse, get your makeup on etc. If you’re Walking Dead ready, meet the group at 5:30 p.m.

Where: 2146 Marlowe (Trinity Church),  near the Vendôme metro

Visit the Melrose Tunnel

For a few years now locals in the St. Raymond section of NDG have decorated the normally horrible pedestrian tunnel under the railway tracks that separate their community from the rest of NDG. The tunnel is usually a spooky place but it will be family-friendly and spooky and festive tonight, thanks to NDG community efforts.

When: You can visit anytime (folks from the NDG Park Art Hive are decorating it this afternoon) but after 5 p.m. is good.

Where: Melrose Tunnel. Walk south on Melrose Ave. to De Maisonneuve Blvd if you’re coming from Sherbrooke St. or find it by walking to Upper Lachine Rd. and Melrose Ave. and then head north on Melrose toward the railway tracks.

Update, Nov 2, 2015 Yvette Salinas posted a video of what the tunnel looked like in 2015:


A medical solution? (I’m back, slowly)

1870s photo of American orthopedic surgeon Lewis Albert Sayre observes the change in the curvature of the spine as a woman patient who has scoliosis self-suspends herself prior to being wrapped in a plaster of Paris bandage as a treatment for the curvature of the spine. Source:
1870s photo of American orthopedic surgeon Lewis Albert Sayre observing the change in the curvature of the spine as a woman patient who has scoliosis self-suspends herself prior to being wrapped in a plaster of Paris bandage as a treatment for the curvature of the spine. Source: Wikipedia

I’ve meant to blog for a while. An illness I’ve been facing on and off for over a year got so bad a few weeks ago I headed to the emergency department at the MUHC here in Montreal.

Today I received a call from a medical clinic offering me a chance to see a family doctor. I was thrilled at first – until I researched online and learned their brand spanking new clinic is tied to the private system. What this means is even though seeing a doctor is covered under medicare, any tests will probably come out of my pocket because I don’t have private health insurance and the clinic’s affiliated private lab does the tests. This is exactly the problem I faced with a previous medical clinic. Because I have to pay out-of-pocket for tests, or in some instances, wait a very long time if I use the public system, my health problems remain unresolved.

I’m feeling conflicted because if I had private insurance I would choose this clinic. Their fees are lower than the previous clinic I visited in Westmount which charged $20 for a urine test (they’re charging $10) but I fear the same problems. I went to the CLSC for blood and urine tests, which were free of charge to me since they were covered under medicare. The CLSC sent the results to my clinic but it took the walk-in clinic in Westmount over a month to give me the results. Had I paid I would have had the results right away or within a few days. This makes me angry because previous family doctors never charged me for tests and always referred me to the public system. We definitely have a two-tier medical system in Quebec. This illness is affecting my ability to earn a regular income and I feel I’m caught in the middle of a nightmare. I’m not sick enough for a hospital but whatever this is, it’s affecting my energy levels and because I don’t have private health insurance I can’t easily access the tests I need to find out what’s wrong.

It’s been a strange journey. For over a year I’ve had unusual symptoms. My abdomen is distended and I gained 20 pounds practically overnight. I’m not a big person and the extra weight is uncomfortable. I had a hard finding a family doctor until a friend recommended a walk-in clinic, one that is part of the Quebec government’s Réseau system, clinics that are supposed to make it easier for people to see a doctor. When I visited the clinic the doctor ordered blood work, a urine test and an ultrasound. The problem was this clinic had its own private facilities and was geared to people with private health insurance. If you weren’t insured and you couldn’t afford to pay the clinic for tests you might have a hard time. Sure medicare covered the doctor’s visit and I could go to a publicly funded CLSC clinic for the blood work and urine test,  but I was told it could take anywhere from six months to a year to get an ultrasound  in the public system. If I’d had private insurance or enough money to pay for everything out-of-pocket the private clinic would have done the tests right away.

I tried a lot of things to combat the bloating and fluid forming a doughnut around my abdomen. I changed my diet, following a low-fat, mostly vegetarian diet, started drinking warm water with lemon juice in the morning, drank smoothies and drank juiced veggie and fruits and sometimes followed a belly soother, low FODMAPs diet. I did yoga. For a while this seemed to work so I procrastinated on the blood work and urine test. But in August the problem came back full force and got so bad sitting was sheer agony. I was exhausted all the time and writing anything would knock the stuffing out of me. I had energy early in the morning and late in the afternoon and sometimes late at night so I would work odd hours to get things done. By the time I finally had the blood work and urine test I was worried. I had read about ovarian cancer and I had many of the symptoms associated with it though I wasn’t sure I had it. I’m a carrier for kidney disease and the carriers sometimes get sick.

It took the walk-in clinic over a month to tell me my test results. I had phoned and written to them, leaving messages on their voice mail, sending them emails, filling out their website contact form and finally sending the doctor a letter in the mail.  But no one got back to me. When I asked the Quebec government what to do, they suggested filing an Access to Information request for the test results!

It was late on a Sunday afternoon a few days after I’d spoken with the government that the clinic finally told me my test results revealed my blood tests were normal but I had an infection. They had me come in the next day to do another urine test and see a doctor. That doctor prescribed an antibiotic, more urine tests and an ultrasound. When I took the antibiotic my abdomen swelled up more than ever before and became hard. My mother used to work as an emergency room nurse and I told her I was worried since the problem was worsening and the antibiotic didn’t seem to be helping and should I go to a hospital? She suggested I give it a few more days but to go in if things didn’t improve. I called the Lakeshore Hospital and learned the average waiting time for an ultrasound there is 10 months.

I didn’t get better, my abdomen kept swelling and hurting more, so I headed to the MUHC’s Royal Victoria emergency. The first doctor I saw took me seriously and ordered an ultrasound for the following morning. Through that ultrasound I learned a lot of what worried me could be ruled out. I don’t have ovarian cancer or uterine fibroids. My reproductive system is fine. After discussing the ultrasound with a doctor, I was sent back to emergency where an annoyed resident physician at first lectured me about not having a family doctor and ultimately determined I was simply constipated since my blood work was perfect, as was my blood pressure and urine test. He prescribed a month’s worth of laxatives.

This doesn’t seem to be the answer. I’m taking probiotics and they seem to be helping a bit, I’ve learned about colon massage and read about how to reduce colon inflammation. I learned from reading online message boards that if you have scoliosis as I do, you may be susceptible to these sorts of problems. The doctors didn’t appear to be aware that scoliosis can affect the digestive system.

I’m still searching for a family doctor connected with the public system, i.e. with a hospital and not with a private lab, private radiology clinic etc. So if you live in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges area and you’ve heard of such a doctor and they’re taking new patients, please let me know.