"Our soul must perform two duties. The one is that we must reverently wonder and be surprised. The other is that we must gently let go and let be." Julian of Norwich

...Cancer teaches both!!!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Best Birthday Present

Wow! I got the best birthday present today! I had an afternoon appointment with my surgeon and got the "all clear" results from my latest CT Scan. Hallelujah! What a great relief! I had the scan two weeks ago and have been waiting patiently. Always a bit of a challenge! This is the second clear scan since my RFA procedure in March. Looking good! Interestingly... my liver resection surgery was three years ago on my 47th birthday. Must be my lucky day!
So much to be thankful for this week...

Blessings... Rob; in Vancouver

"Just to be is a blessing; just to live is holy." Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Turning 50!!

I was born Friday, October 4, 1957 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

On the day that I was born... international history was made by the Russian launch of Sputnik I and the beginning of the “space age”. Sputnik I was the first artificial satellite to be put into geocentric orbit. Sputnik I traveled 60 million kilometers before burning up on re-entry on January 4, 1958. Not bad for a little fella!!
On the day that I was born... Arkansas was embroiled in a great civil rights conflict over the integration of Central High School in nearby Little Rock. In early September of 1957 Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus deployed the Arkansas National guard to prevent nine African American high school students from attending Central High. President Dwight Eisenhower subsequently “federalized” the National Guard and deployed the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army to escort the students, now known as the “Little Rock Nine”, to their classes.
The desegregation of Central High was one of the pivotal battles in the American Civil Rights Movement. Opposition to desegregation was so strong in Arkansas that the State Legislature cancelled the whole 58/59 school year at Little Rock High Schools. I guess they figured that “no school” was preferable to “integrated schools”.

On the day that I was born... the very first episode of “Leave it to Beaver” aired on CBS Television. Baby Boomer kids are now well identified as a TV “market” by the major networks. Wow! How cool is that!

Wow… what a wonderful world!! And what a wonderful life I’ve had… so far…

Turning 50… Rob; in Vancouver

“And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.” Abe Lincoln

Sputnik Surprise!

More 1957 Highlights

Dr. Seuss publishes “The Cat in the Hat”

Jack Keroac writes “On the Road”

Ford launches the “Edsel”

Canada launches the “Avro Arrow”

Paul McCartney and John Lennon meet for the first time at St. Peters Church in Woolton, Liverpool… 3 years before the Beatles are formed.

Hit songs in the autumn of 1957 included…
  • Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis Presley,
  • Wake Up Little Susie” by the Everly Brothers, and
  • Honeycomb” by Jimmie Rodgers.

The Academy Award winning Best Film of 1957 was “The Bridge on the River Kwai” starring Alec Guinness.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Lance Rides in Vancouver

One of my hospital visitors after I was diagnosed in 2004 was my very good friend David from the Queen Charlotte Islands. David is a commercial fisherman, an avid bike racer, and a Tour de France fan. David was there the day I got out of the hospital after my colon surgery and helped me to get home. He and his beautiful wife Sandra have been solid friends and supporters along the whole journey. In those first weeks David brought me two special gifts which have nurtured and sustained me over the past three years. The first was a lovely plush lion, and the second was Lance Armstrong’s book, “It’s Not About the Bike”. The lion, a soft and cuddly symbol of courage, still watches over me from the headboard of my bed and the book has continued to inspire me in many ways… enough even to get me riding a bike again!!

It’s hard to believe it but at the time I hadn’t even heard of Lance Armstrong. Cancer and biking were not even on my radar.

I found Lance’s story to be very powerful, and very well told in his book. Lance’s survival is a source of inspiration to any who are facing an uphill battle in the cancer journey. An excerpt… “I’m asking you now at the outset to put aside your ideas about heroes and miracles, because I’m not storybook material… I’ll give you an example: I’ve read that I flew up the hills and mountains of France. But you don’t fly up a hill. You struggle slowly and painfully up a hill, and maybe, if you work very hard, you get to the top ahead of everybody else. Cancer is like that too. Good, strong people get cancer, and they do all the right things to beat it, and they still die. That is the essential truth that you learn. People die. And after you learn it, all other matters seem irrelevant. They just seem small.”

Lance survived against the odds. Not only did he survive, he thrived. He went on to win seven Tour de France bike races. Today Lance dedicates a significant amount of his time and energy to “LiveStrong” the “Lance Armstrong Foundation” http://www.livestrong.org/. Lance's work continues to raise money for cancer treatment and support and cancer awareness. He’s even raised the awareness to the level of the US Presidential campaign by hosting the “LiveStrong Presidential Cancer Forum”!! Way to go Lance!!
This weekend Lance is in Vancouver riding in the BC Cancer Foundations “Tour of Courage”. http://www.tourofcourage.ca/ Lance is leading a community ride on Sunday to help raise cancer funds in BC. Hopefully I can get out of church in time to watch them ride by (if the preacher is not too long winded!!). Too bad I’m not back up to riding yet… maybe next time I’ll be riding along with him!!

Blessings to all... Rob; in Vancouver

"Anything is possible. You can be told that you have a 90-percent chance or a 50-percent chance or a 1-percent chance, but you have to believe, and you have to fight." Lance Armstrong


What can we say... Thanks Lance!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Friday, August 31, 2007

August 31, 1997 Princess Diana... Dead at 36.

Princess Diana died on August 31, 1997. She was 36 years old. Today we mark the 10-year anniversary of that tragic day. I remember it well. I was 39 years old and living in Prince Rupert, BC.

Elton John modified the song “A Candle in the Wind” and sang it at her funeral as a personal tribute. A portion of "England's Rose"...

Goodbye England's rose;
may you ever grow in our hearts.
You were the grace that placed itself
where lives were torn apart.
You called out to our country,
and you whispered to those in pain.
Now you belong to heaven,
and the stars spell out your name.

And it seems to me you lived your life
like a candle in the wind:
never fading with the sunset
when the rain set in.
And your footsteps will always fall here,
along England's greenest hills;
your candle's burned out long before
your legend ever will…
---Elton John/Bernie Taupin

Part of what I’ve enjoyed in writing this journal is marking the significant milestones that have occurred during my lifetime. This was definitely another big one. There are numerous video’s on the “net” paying tribute to Diana including many to the music “England’s Rose” sung by Elton John. The one I've posted today is to the Simon and Garfunkel song, “The Sounds of Silence”. I found the beautiful pictures of Diana juxtaposed with the lyrics of silence and darkness to be very moving. Diana knew the meaning of darkness and her vulnerability made her more accessible to us all.

Take some time to remember Diana today.

TTFN… Rob; in Vancouver

"Above all we give thanks for the life of a woman I am so proud to be able to call my sister, the unique, the complex, the extraordinary and irreplaceable Diana whose beauty, both internal and external, will never be extinguished from our minds." Charles, Earl Spencer

Princess Diana - A Tribute

Elvis Rocks Vancouver: August 31, 1957

Elvis only performed three concerts outside of the United States, Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver. Vancouver was the last of these, 50 years ago today! Here’s a brief account from a Vancouver history page…

August 31, 1957: Elvis Presley performed one song at a packed Empire Stadium, left the stage when fans begin to battle with police. He returned to sing four more songs, none of which could be heard over the screaming. The next day, Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, happily read aloud to the media a local newspaper account of the riot.

The concert was cut short because of fans rushing the stage. The critics were not yet at a point of appreciating Rock & Roll music. Vancouver Province music critic Ida Halpern wrote that Elvis's performance was "an artificial and unhealthy exploitation of the enthusiasm of youth's body and mind . . . One could call it subsidized sex."

Tonight at the PNE they are having an "Elvis Concert" to commemorate the ocassion. There will be Elvis impersonators, the orignal MC, Red Robinson, and some Elvis friends to share memories. Should be fun!

I was in Fayetteville, Arkansas at the time, still enjoying the peace and security of Mom’s belly! Still 5 weeks from launch date! Little did I know what wild things were going on in the world into which I was about to arrive!!

Pushing 50… Rob; in Vancouver

“We were caught up in the crowd that jumped the wall and ran on to the field with thousands of other screaming, out-of-control fans.” Sharon Jones

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Back in the Saddle!!

Well this stage of the journey is finally winding down. I’ve got a couple more days of Xeloda (oral chemo… yeecchh!) left and then I’m done!! Yeah! It’s been almost six months since my last surgery and RFA procedure. Things are looking real good. Latest scans were clear. Tumor markers are way down. Bloodwork looks good. All systems are “go” for returning to the land of the living!

Not wanting to let any more moss gather… I’m back in the pulpit this Sunday, September 2nd. I’ve been spending a few days at the church for the last couple of weeks. I performed a marriage service last week and have been getting geared up to start back.

During the couple of days I’ve been working over the last few weeks I’ve been struck with how much I love my life and my vocation! I look forward to getting back into the rhythm of congregational life and the ebb and flow of the church seasons. I especially look forward to getting to know the wonderful folks at St. Stephen’s and spending some “quality time” with them all!!

Yes… it is so very good to be alive!!

I expect that my posting to “A Cancer Journal” will taper off quite a bit now. I’ll post a periodic note of interest and the occasional health update as scan results come in, but mostly I’ll be back to life as usual, and that doesn’t leave much time for “blogging”.

This blog has been lots of fun for me. And very helpful in terms of sharing some of my thoughts and feelings over the past few years. Thank you to all who have visited me here. During long weeks of being mostly “house bound” you have helped me to know that I am not alone. God bless you all!

Peace and blessings… Rob; in Vancouver

"The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." Frederick Buechner

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

St. Augustine, Florida – 442 Years Old

Today is the feast day of St. Augustine of Hippo (North Africa). St. Augustine died on August 28, 430 AD. Thus the feast. On “The Feast of St. Augustine”, August 28, 1565, Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés sighted land while cruising the waters off eastern Florida. He subsequently named the settlement they founded, St. Augustine, in honor of Augustine. I guess if they had been a day earlier they might have named the new town St. Monica, in honor of Augustine’s mother’s feast day! Anyways... it was August 28th and Augustine got the nod. St. Augustine has survived the years and is now known as “the oldest continuously occupied European-established city in the continental United States”.

St. Augustine has had a very colorful history. The French, Spanish, and British fought up and down the Florida coast during the colonial period. The Brits finally secured a claim after the Treaty of Paris in 1763. British tenure would be short lived as St. Augustine returned to Spanish control after the American War of Independence. St. Augustine finally came under American control in 1821 when Florida became an American territory.

The railroad came to St. Augustine in the late 19th century. Industrialist and railway magnate Henry Flagler transformed the town into a winter resort for wealthy folks wanting to escape the northern cold. The architecture of this period is truly breathtaking as witnessed by Flagler college and a number of other buildings.

My Mom and Dad have spent the winter in St. Augustine for the past 15 years. Lucky them! It is a great community and has really become a home to them. I like to visit them there as often as possible. Lately I’ve been making it down twice each winter, once in November before the season of Advent begins and again in February before Lent. These are wonderful holidays filled with golf and fun times with Mom & Dad and their wide circle of wild friends. I’ll be down there for about 10 days this November. Looking forward to it!!

TTFN… Rob; in Vancouver

“O Lord, help me to be pure... but not yet.” Saint Augustine

Thursday, August 23, 2007

“Dx” Day: August 23, 2004

My journey with this beast began three years ago today. It was a Monday morning. I had just returned from a two-week holiday in Oliver where I enjoyed great golf and some fun winery tours with Pam and good friends from Highlands Church. I was scheduled for a colonoscopy to investigate the cause of some periodic blood in my stool. The colonoscopy was done in the “Day Surgery” suite at Lion’s Gate Hospital in North Vancouver. I was processed, prepped, sedated, and scoped in a little over two hours. I only remember waking up in the recovery room afterwards. By that time Dr. Haniuk, the GI doctor who’d done the colonoscopy, had already gotten in touch with Dr. Chang, the on-call emergency surgeon for the day, and the clinic had called Pam who was now at my bedside.

Dr. Haniuk explained that they had discovered a “mass”, about the size of an egg, in the lower reaches of my sigmoid colon. I was a high risk for a bowel obstruction so Dr. Haniuk recommended that I have an emergency colon resection that day since I was already “cleaned out”. Dr. Chang concurred and explained the risks, including the possibility of a colostomy bag and the possibility that there might be nerve damage which could cause impotency. These were two great doctors who were able to collaborate and get things rolling right away.

It was a long day of waiting and wondering. The surgery was completed that same evening. Pretty good response time! On waking up in the recovery room the first person I saw was Leslie, a recovery room nurse from my congregation. Pam joined me shortly afterwards. The good news is that Dr.Chang was able to do a clean resection with a rejoining of the colon to the rectum. He really saved my butt! This thanks to a new “high-tech” stapling device they had to join the severed ends. Fortunately the other risk was avoided as well!!

I spent the next couple of days in the “close observation” suite of the surgical recovery ward. I was on an “epidural” (pain medication delivered to spine) so the pain management was fairly good. Dr. Chang was concerned about the “join” in my colon and I wasn’t to eat for 7-10 days. I stayed in the hospital awaiting biopsy results, undergoing further scans and tests, and slowly recovering. After a couple of days I was visited be Dr. Klimo, the oncologist. He talked to me about some possible chemo options and asked me to see him after I was discharged. Dr. Klimo is another great doctor and I continue to see him. While still in the hospital I was surgically outfitted with a “port-a-cath”, a port inserted in my chest and connected to the “vena cava” for ease of chemo infusions.

I had regular visitors during my whole stay in the hospital. The congregational response was awesome, tons of cards and lots of support for Pam and I and the family. I even had a visit from some of the Henry’s from Port Simpson!

These are just some of the things I remember on this the 3rd Anniversary. Since then it’s been quite a journey!!

Still trekking… Rob; in Vancouver

“I wake each morning with the thrill of expectation and the joy of being alive.And I'm thankful for this day.” Angela L. Wozniak

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Beatles in Vancouver

“August 22, 1964 Vancouver BC - Beatles give their first Canadian concert in Empire Stadium before 20,000 fans; hosted by DJ Red Robinson and broadcast live over radio station CKNW; play songs from their new album “Something New”; top ticket price $5.25; police cut concert short after 27 minutes, fearing a riot; bootlegged tapes of the show widely distributed.”

Wow! I’ll bet that was a concert. 43 years ago. Anybody out there who was at the concert?

I’m a great Beatle fan. So is my daughter Morgan I went to a Rain (Beatles Tribute Band) concert a couple of years ago and was amazed how many young folks were there. Half the house was under 30… the other half was us old farts like me. It was enjoyed by all.

I’ve posted a video of the Vancouver interview with the “Fab Four” and a cute music clip of “And I Love Her” with photo’s of some of Hollywood’s beautiful stars of the 60’s. How many can you recognize?

Enjoy… Rob; in Vancouver

“There are places I remember all my life, though some have changed. Some forever, not for better, some have gone and some remain.” The Beatles

The Beatles in Vancouver 1964

The pre-concert Beatle Interview. August 22, 1964.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Emotional Aftermath

One of the experiences of many cancer survivors is the flood of emotions that come after treatment is finished. These emotions cover the whole gamut from relief, joy, and elation, to anxiety, fear, anger, and sadness. Susan Nessim devotes a whole chapter to it in her book “Can Survive: Reclaiming Your Life After Cancer” It seems that when we are undergoing treatment, much of our focus and energy is directed towards coping with the treatment regime and side-effects. When treatment is done some of the emotional stuff we’ve been unconsciously repressing surfaces and needs to be dealt with. I guess it is kind of like a delayed stress reaction to a traumatic event in our lives.

This experience hit me fairly hard after my first diagnosis and treatment. I had very positive results from my surgery and chemo and there was no evidence of cancer when it was all through. Wow! I felt such relief, gratitude and gladness. It was so wonderful to share this time with the family and friends that supported us through the difficult journey.

And yet, at the same time, I was affected by more "afflictive" emotions as well. I was worried about what the future would bring. Would I have a recurrence? What then? I was particularly upset about being sidelined for so long in my ministry and concerned about the implications for my job. I was on disability for a whole year and it took its toll financially (there’s almost always financial concerns for cancer patients!). Pam and I needed to make some important decisions regarding my work life and our living arrangements.

I was very easily moved to tears during this time, tears of relief, gratitude, and joy as well as tears of grief, sadness, and loss. I took an extended period of time off after treatment to recover and enjoy some holiday time. Pam and I finally decided to sell our lovely townhouse in North Van and moved into a sweet little “empty nest” condo in the West End of Downtown Vancouver.

The move freed up enough cash for us to enjoy a wonderful summer with trips to Vancouver Island with the Spirit Singers, Edmonton (to get Robyn set up at university), Shushwap Lake with Dave and Sandra, Kelowna to visit Jack and Gail, and the big East Coast swing with all our girls to Nova Scotia, Ontario, New York City, and Cape Cod to visit family. It was a great celebration of life and we marked the 1 year anniversary of my diagnosis at a Yankee Stadium to see the Blue Jays trounce the Yankees!

Gradually my emotional climate found a place of equilibrium. With each new scan showing “no evidence of cancer” my future horizon began to open up again. And life went on…

TTFN… Rob; in Vancouver

“The great metaphors from all spiritual traditions — grace, liberation, being born again, awakening from illusion — testify that it is possible to transcend the conditioning of my past and do a new thing.” Sam Keen

Monday, August 20, 2007

Home Stretch

I’m just back from the chemo clinic after starting my final treatment cycle. My platelet count is still low so I received a reduced dose. I’m on the oral chemo for two more weeks and then I’m done! Yeah! A little too early to celebrate but it feels good to be on the home stretch.

While you wouldn’t expect it, this stage of recovery presents its own share of problems and issues. In the words of Sam Donaldson… “A cancer diagnosis leaves you feeling sad and scared, overwhelmed and isolated. Treatment can leave you physically devastated… Picking up the pieces during and after recovery presents its own set of physical, emotional, and social challenges.”

I became aware of this first-hand after my first round of surgery and chemo a few years back. I found the period immediately after chemo to be a time of great relief and gladness, but it also had its own challenges. Susan Nessim and Judith Ellis have written a great book called “Can Survive: Reclaiming Your Life After Cancer” . In it they talk about the particular challenges commonly experienced by cancer survivors once the treatment is over. The overall theme of the book is around making the transition from being a patient to a survivor, from being a person with cancer to a person with a history of cancer. A couple of excerpts…

“On leaving the hospital or outpatient clinic, recovering cancer patients are faced with a bumpy transition period as they learn to adjust to life without the intensive medical support they received during treatment. During this particularly vulnerable time, survivors encounter unanticipated difficulties, such as anxiety over ending treatments, fear of recurrence, and a variety of other problems of adjustment… In addition, some must learn to adapt to chronic pain or the loss of a body part, while others are at risk for long-term complications of treatment.”

“As they reenter the mainstream, recovered patients must frequently contend with such formidable cancer related obstacles as employment and insurance discrimination, altered family relationships, loss of friends, and, for some, loss of fertility. In short, cancer creates lifelong physical. Emotional, and psychological changes…”

Chapters that really spoke to me included:

  • Making the Transition to the Well World
  • The Emotional Aftermath
  • Moving Beyond the Fear of a Recurrence
  • When the Resume Includes Cancer
I’ll reflect a little more on some of these challenges over the next couple of weeks.

BTW… The local community newspaper did a short story on me and my blog last week. Here’s the link… “Minister Battles Cancer”

TTFN… Rob; in Vancouver

“The road to recovery can be pitted with potholes?” Susan Nessim

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sweet Hour of Prayer

There’s a great scene in the Lucy Maude Montgomery classic “Anne of Green Gables” where Marilla is teaching Anne how to pray after she and her brother Matthew have taken her in.

Marilla decided that Anne's religious training must be begun at once. Plainly there was no time to be lost.
"You must say your prayers while you are under my roof, Anne."

"I'd do anything to oblige you. But you'll have to tell me what to say for this once. After I get into bed I'll imagine out a real nice prayer to say always. I believe that it will be quite interesting, now that I come to think of it."
"Why, of course, if you want me to," assented Anne cheerfully.

"You must kneel down," said Marilla in embarrassment.

Anne knelt at Marilla's knee and looked up gravely. "Why must people kneel down to pray?" If I really wanted to pray I'll tell you what I'd do. I'd go out into a great big field all alone or into the deep, deep, woods, and I'd look up into the sky--up--up--up--into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I'd just FEEL a prayer. Well, I'm ready. What am I to say?"…

… "You're old enough to pray for yourself, Anne," she said finally. "Just thank God for your blessings and ask Him humbly for the things you want."
I’ve always chuckled at Marilla’s description of prayer. It reminds me a little of an old Flip Wilson quip… “Hey you all, I’m gonna pray now. Anybody want anything?” Unfortunately, things don’t always turn out the way we want.
"Just thank God for your blessings and ask Him humbly for the things you want.."

Sunday blessings... Rob; in Vancouver

“Our ordinary views of prayer are not found in the New Testament. We look upon prayer as a means for getting something for ourselves; the Bible idea of prayer is that we may get to know God.” Oswald Chambers

Amazing Grace - Elvis Presley

A fitting closing to a week that has been filled with the sounds and images of Elvis. Gospel was always his first love.
Peace and Blessings... Rob
"I don't know why she had to go so young. But it made me think about death. I don't feel I'll live a long life. That's why I have to get what I can from every day." Elvis

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Rock Idol Elvis Presley Dies at 42

By Larry Rohter and Tom Zito
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, August 17, 1977

Elvis Presley, who revolutionized American popular music with his earthy singing style and became a hero to two generations of rock 'n' roll fans, died yesterday in Memphis, Tenn. He was 42...

I was a just 19 year old college kid working in a forestry camp in Nordegg, Alberta on the day that Elvis died. Our crew marked the occasion with a roadtrip into Rocky Mtn. House and an evening at the Mount View Hotel Pub. It’s pretty hard to believe that was 30 years ago!

He was 42… Elvis’s career was really launched with the release of “Heartbreak Hotel” in January 1956. He had a run of about 21 years and left a lot of great music. While he is mostly remembered as the “King of Rock’n Roll” we all know he faired very well in the gospel genre too!!

He’s fondly remembered around the world today. Long Live the King!!

Rob; in Vancouver
"I ain't no saint, but I've tried never to do anything that would hurt my family or offend God...I figure all any kid needs is hope and the feeling he or she belongs. If I could do or say anything that would give some kid that feeling, I would believe I had contributed something to the world." Elvis

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Crazy Sexy Cancer

Kris Carr and friends have put together an awesome book and documentary on living with cancer. “Crazy Sexy Cancer" airs on The Learning Channel (TLC) on August 29th at 9PM. The book is released on August 27th. The following blurb comes from Kris’s website at http://www.crazysexycancer.com/. There is a very good "trailer" for the film at her site.

“Crazy Sexy Cancer is an irreverent and uplifting documentary about a young woman looking for a cure and finding her life.

In 2003, 31-year-old actress/photographer Kris Carr was diagnosed with a rare and incurable cancer. Weeks later she began filming her story. Taking a seemingly tragic situation and turning it into a creative expression, Kris shares her inspirational story of survival with courage, strength, and lots of humor.

With experimental treatment as her only option, Kris became determined to find answers where there were none. She traveled throughout the country interviewing experts in alternative medicine as she tenaciously dove head first into a fascinating and often hilarious holistic world. Along the way, she met other vivacious young women determined to become survivors. Their stories are as poignant and exciting as the women who tell them. As Kris's amazing journey unfolds, she realizes that healing is about truly living rather than fighting.”

TTFN… Rob: in Vancouver

“As women and men with cancer we live every day with a mind bending weight on our shoulders. We tiptoe on the razor-edge of mortality, one hand touching the heavens, the other grabbing the earth. We juggle dying with living while paying the bills, doing the grocery shopping, picking up the kids, changing the oil, fixing that damn leaky pipe." Kris Carr

Friday, August 10, 2007

August Greetings

I took a little break from “blogging” this week. I’m surrendering to my bodies need for more rest during the chemo phase and trying to restore a “normal” sleep pattern during the night. This has left shorter “gaps” between my “naps” during the daytime and cut into the time I have available for writing generally. I’m also beginning to anticipate, with great joy and excitement, a return to work in September. This is drawing my thoughts and energy away from this particular aspect of my life towards a renewed and expanded sense of life in “the future”.

On Sunday I’ll finish my 5th chemo cycle of 6. Yeah!! I have one more cycle to go and it will be all over in 3 weeks. After that I’ll be growing my hair back and shifting into “surveillance and prevention” mode, a state of ongoing monitoring on the one hand and prevention actions related to diet and life-style on the other. I’ll have regular CT Scans every 6 months to monitor the liver. The CT results are reviewed with my surgeon. I’ll also have regular check-ups with my oncologist who will review blood-work and generally keep an eye on things.

I will be posting to “A Cancer Journal” occasionally over the next couple of weeks on themes related to “reclaiming your life after treatment”. After September, I anticipate posting less frequently with general updates as needed and brief reflections on the ongoing journey.

I hope you’re having a great summer!!

Rob; in Vancouver

“May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.” John O'Donohue

Saturday, August 4, 2007


Have a laugh!

Friday, August 3, 2007

1967 Summer of Love

I was just a 9 year old kid during the summer of 1967, too young to be a hippy. I spent the summer packing rocks, picking blueberries, and swatting blackflies in northern Quebec; enjoying Expo ’67 in Montreal; chilling at the cottage on the St. Lawrence River; and enjoying a bus-trip with my bro to see the Red Sox and visit grandparents in Boston. It was a pretty awesome summer for a 9 year old kid!! We’d spend much of our summer in those days hoofing around the Canadian shield with our geologist father. It made for great family summers and lots of adventures. During the rest of the year we lived in Houghton, in the beautiful Upper Peninsula of Michigan. That was pretty cool too!

Summer memories were filled with music from the car or truck radio. Here’s a few of the hits I remember from that wonderful Summer of Love.

  • "I'm a Believer" - The Monkees
  • "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron" - The Royal Guardsmen
  • "Winchester Cathedral" - The New Vaudeville Band
  • "Georgy Girl" - The Seekers
  • The Beat Goes On" - Sonny and Cher
  • "Penny Lane" - The Beatles
  • "There's a Kind of Hush" - Herman's Hermits
  • Groovin'" - The Young Rascals
  • "Windy" - The Association
  • "San Francisco" - Scott McKenzie
  • "Can't Take My Eyes off of You" - Frankie Valli
  • "Up, Up and Away" - The Fifth Dimension
  • "Light My Fire" - The Doors
  • "A Whiter Shade of Pale" - Procol Harum
  • "White Rabbit" - Jefferson Airplane
  • "All You Need Is Love" - The Beatles
It’s amazing how much music our mind has the capacity to remember!! Just seeing the titles of these songs gets the melodies rolling.

Still groovin'... Rob; in Vancouver

"Love, love, love... love, love, love... love, love, love." The Beatles

San Francisco by Scott McKenzie

Iconic tune from the Summer of Love.
Enjoy... Rob; in Vancouver

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Scared Sacred Trailer

Finding faith in the midst of suffering...

"If ordinary human beings can see their own suffering then perhaps they become aware of the suffering of others."

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Down Days

Don’t let anybody kid you! There are lots of down days on this journey. Yesterday was a particularly tough chemo day. The nausea was bad and I spent a good chunk of the afternoon and evening chatting with Ralph on the great white telephone!

Surgery, radiation, chemo… they each take there toll. Recurrences and metastases contribute their own special horror. Add to this the stress of scans and blood tests, the emotional rollercoaster of fear, frustration, anger, and despair alternating with relief, joy, peace, and hope… well you get the picture. It’s tough on survivors, and just as tough on their loved ones.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m as positive as the next person when it comes to living with this beast. I think the right attitude and the “will to live” are important. But so is honesty and authenticity. Part of the reality of this disease is that it knocks the stuffing out of you!! Some days are really dark and tearful. We need mechanisms to release our sadness, fear, anger, and despair. It is not a sign of weakness, of losing, or of giving up. It is a sign that we are human, and an acknowledgement that letting go and release are part of the journey.

Music, meditation, and movies can be helpfully “cathartic”…
Catharsis : a Greek word meaning "purification" or "cleansing" derived from the ancient Greek kathairein "to purify, purge," and adjective katharos "pure or clean".

My colon cancer friends will appreciate that this word has also found its way into the medical lexicon as a bowel cleanser or purgative, cathartic. But I’m thinking of it more in terms of the emotional cleansing, or catharsis, that can happen when we are moved through compassion by tragedy, death, love, redemption, hope, or any of the other "really real" things in life.

TTFN… Rob; in Vancouver

“I cry a lot. My emotions are very close to my surface. I don't want to hold anything in so it festers and turns into pus - a pustule of emotion that explodes into a festering cesspool of depression.” Nicolas Cage

Sunday, July 29, 2007

For the Beauty of the Earth

John Rutter arrangement of classic hymn as sung by Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School (Primary) choir.

Respect for Creation

A respect for all creation and solidarity with all living things is a fundamental, but largely forgotten, aspect of most world religions. For some, all of creation is a revelation of divine love, a true blessing, to be honoured, cared for, shared, and preserved for future generations.

I learned of an incredible ethic of “respect for creation” from the Tsimshian elders I lived with for ten years on BC’s north coast. The traditional Tsimshian were a people who lived as “a part of creation” rather than “apart from creation”, as most of us live today. Their yearly cycles and daily activities were integrally related to the seasons. The coming of the oolichen in the spring was a time of great celebration as new life returned to the coastal villages by way of the “saviour fish” or “ha’li’mootg”. Then came the herring and the rich spawn laid on kelp and eel grass. May marked the season of seaweed gathering as families left the villages for their camps on the outer coast. Along with the seaweed harvesting, halibut was caught, sliced, and dried for winter food. Summer was the season for salmon fishing and berry gathering, and winter was a time of feasting, story telling and celebration of life. There was truly a season for everything and a time for every matter under heaven.

This closeness to creation is reflected in the Tsimshian worldview, in their spirituality, and in their traditional ethic of stewardship. I can only partially describe it as “a caring for, and sharing of, what is received from the creator and generations past for the benefit of both today’s people and generations to come.” This ethic applies to food gathering traditions, to stories, rituals, and cultural property, and to the land and sea. And everything took place with a profound sense of gratitude, thanksgiving, and prayer (sometimes spoken).

Earth, Teach Me: Ute Prayer

Earth teach me quiet

~ as the grasses are still with new light.
Earth teach me suffering

~ as old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility

~ as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me caring

~ as mothers nurture their young.
Earth teach me courage

~ as the tree that stands alone.
Earth teach me limitation

~ as the ant that crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom

~ as the eagle that soars in the sky.
Earth teach me acceptance

~ as the leaves that die each fall.
Earth teach me renewal

~ as the seed that rises in the spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself

~ as melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness

~ as dry fields weep with rain.

Peace and blessings... Rob

“This we know, the earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth. All things are connected like the blood which unites us all. We did not weave the web of life, We are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.” Chief Seattle

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Happy Birthday Terry Fox

Terry Fox was born on July 28, 1958 in Winnipeg, Manitoba and was raised in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, just outside of Vancouver. In 1977 Terry lost his right leg to osteosarcoma, a form of cancer. While in hospital as a young man Terry was deeply touched by the suffering of other cancer patients, especially children. He was determined to do something about it.

On April 12, 1980 Terry dipped his foot into the Atlantic Ocean in St. John’s, Newfoundland to begin his “Marathon of Hope”, a cross-Canada run to raise funds for cancer research. His plan was to run 42 km (26 miles) per day, the distance of a typical marathon. Terry’s original goal was to raise $1 million. He soon revised it to raise $1 for each Canadian or $24 million.

Terry began his run as a virtual unknown. By the time he reached Toronto, Terry was well known across the country. Toronto streets were lined with thousands of people and a huge rally was held with over 10,000 attending. Unfortunately the run came to an end just outside of Thunder Bay on September 1, 1980. After running for 143 days straight, a total distance of 5,373 kilometres (3,339 miles), Terry had to stop because of difficulty breathing. The cancer had spread to his lungs. Terry returned to British Columbia for further treatment. He developed pneumonia in June of 1981. Terry died at dawn on June 28, 1981, one month short of his 23rd birthday.

His “Marathon of Hope” raised over $24 million and was the inspiration for the Terry Fox Run”. The Terry Fox Run is held around the world on a Sunday in mid-September to raise funds for cancer research. This year the run will be held on September 16, 2007. To date over $400 million has been raised for cancer research.

In 1981 Rod Stewart and Bernie Taupin wrote “Never Give Up on a Dream”, a tribute to Terry’s “Marathon of Hope”. The video clip below includes pictures of Terry’s run to the music of Rod Stewart”.

“If there's doubt and you're cold,
don't you worry what the future holds.
We've gotta have heroes to teach us all
to never give up on a dream.
Claim the road, touch the sun,
no force on earth could stop you run.
When your heart bursts like the sun
never, never give up on a dream.”

Had Terry lived, he would have been 49 today.

Remembering Terry… Rob; in Vancouver.

“Even though I'm not running anymore, we still have to try to find a cure for cancer. Other people should go ahead and try to do their own thing now.” Terry Fox

"Never Give Up on a Dream"

Images of Terry's "Marathon of Hope" to the Rod Stewart/Bernie Taupin song "Never Give Up on a Dream". The song was written as a tribute to Terry.
If you can't view it in this window go to... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VboVtLFCb0A.
Rob; in Vancouver.
"It occurs very rarely in the life of a nation, that the courageous spirit of one person unites all people in the celebration of his life, and the mourning of his death." Pierre Elliot Trudeau

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

BC Nurses

To be diagnosed with cancer is to be launched into the midst of the health care system. Just coping with the system can be overwhelming! So much of what is happening is unfamiliar; so much is out of our control. For myself, I went from a colonoscopy, done in the “day surgery” suite, into the operating room in one day. So began my cancer journey, and so began my relationship with BC Nurses.

Between three major operations, four weeks in hospital, two extensive chemo programs, and numerous visits to various ambulatory care clinics, I’m sure I’ve been touched by the service of hundreds of nurses. Many I can’t remember, being either “out cold” or just too dopey!

What I do remember is the warm blanket wrapped around me when I was moved onto the surgery table in the freezing cold operating room. I remember the first person I saw in recovery after surgery, a nurse from my congregation, a familiar face and comforting presence. I remember the surgical recovery wards of Lion’s Gate and Vancouver General Hospitals and the teams of nurses that cared for me night and day. When I felt at my lowest they were there with help for pain, with firm reminders to do my coughing and breathing exercises (not fun!), and with support for the most basic of bodily functions (use your imagination!). I also remember the incredible respect that these nurses showed for my privacy and dignity in the midst of very vulnerable and embarrassing circumstances.

The Chemo Nurses are a special group. They’re on hand with advice for coping with Chemo side-effects. They make the jargon of “blood-work” understandable, administer the chemo medicine with skill and competence, and bring the human touch of caring and compassion to an environment which could too easily become cold and “clinical”.

Home-care nurses and nurses in the “ambulatory care clinics” round out the nursing care community for me. They would swing by the house to “de-access” my chemo port, or I’d swing by one of their clinics to have my port “flushed”, or to get an injection of Neupogen to boost my white blood cells. Again, they were available for consultation on side-effects and general health concerns. “Are you sleeping OK?”, “How about your digestive track? Things working OK?”. “Are you having any pain?”

In all of my experiences I’ve found BC Nurses to be caring and compassionate, well trained and competent, knowledgeable, and respectful of patient dignity, privacy and rights. A truly great group of people to have at the heart of our health care system.

So, to Leslie, Kim, Hazel, Myriam, Wendy, Chris, Judith, Erin, Shelly, Rufina, Karen, Aileen, Trevor, Judy, Natalie, Mary, Joyce, Shirley, Suki, Jenette, Deborah, Kathy, Marcus, Karen, Mia, Robin, Maria, Stephanie, Sandy, and the many whose names I regrettably can’t recall, Thank You. Thank you very much!

In Appreciation… Rob; in Vancouver

“Nurses - one of the few blessings of being ill.” Sara Moss-Wolfe

Sunday, July 22, 2007

What a Wonderful World

Enjoy this beautiful Louis Armstrong classic.
Have a great day... Rob

International Year of Rumi

The reflections over the past week were inspired by a 2003 lecture by Sufi Shaikh, Kabir Helminski. Kabir is of the Mevlevi Order, a Sufi tradition tracing its roots to the 13th century Persian mystic and poet Rumi. Rumi was born in 1207 and 2007 has been declared by UNESCO as the International Year of Rumi in honour of the 800 year anniversary of his birth. I invite you to join me in taking some time during this year to learn a little of Rumi, the Sufi Islamic tradition, and the Persian history of Afghanistan and Iran. As always, Wikipedia's a good place to start... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jalal_ad-Din_Muhammad_Rumi . There's a short clip from "Rumi-Turning Ecstatic", a film by Tina Petrova, on YOUTUBE at... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjSig4DxU_M. It shows the beautiful "turning with love" of the Sufi prayer tradition.
Here are some of Rumi's thoughts on prayer as translated by Kabir and Camille Helminski.

The Window of My Soul
Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi

During prayer I am accustomed to turn to God like this:
that's the meaning of the words of the Tradition,
'the delight felt in the ritual prayer.'
The window of my soul opens,
and from the purity of the Unseen World,
the Book of God comes to me straight.
The Book, the rain of Divine Grace, and the Light
are falling into my house through a window
from my real and original source.
The house without a window is Hell:
to make a window is the foundation of true religion.
Don't thrust your axe upon every thicket:
come, use your axe to cut open a window.
Translated by Camille and Kabir Helminski

Peace be to you... Rob
“Everyone sees the unseen in proportion to the clarity of his heart, and that depends upon how much he has polished it. Whoever has polished it more sees more - more unseen forms become manifest to him.” Rumi

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Evolution of Dance

Again with the dance!! This is the most viewed of YOUTUBE clips. 52 million hits!! If you can't play it within this window go to...
Rob... (_*_)
"And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh." Friedrich Nietzsche

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Funny Pages

Top Ten Ways To Know You Are A Cancer Survivor
10 Your alarm clock goes off at 6 a.m. and you're glad to hear it.
9. Your mother-in-law invites you to lunch and you just say NO.
8. You're back in the family rotation to take out the garbage.
7. When you no longer have an urge to choke the person who says, "all you need to beat cancer is the right attitude."
6. When your dental floss runs out and you buy 1000 yards.
5. When you use your toothbrush to brush your teeth and not comb your hair.
4. You have a chance to buy additional life insurance but you buy a new convertible car instead.
3. Your doctor tells you to lose weight and do something about your cholesterol and you actually listen.
2. When your biggest annual celebration is again your birthday, and not the day you were diagnosed.
1. When you use your Visa card more than your hospital parking pass.

Bad News and Really Bad News...
A seventy-year man goes to the doctor for a health check-up. After some tests and checks, the doctor comes in with a grave look on his face.
Doctor: Well, I have some bad news and some really bad news.
Guy: Well, give me the really bad news first.
Doctor: You have cancer, and only 6 months to live.
Guy: And the bad news?
Doctor: You have Alzheimer's disease.
Guy: Thank God. I was afraid I had cancer!

Enjoy the Day.... Rob (_*_)

"Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing." William James

Friday, July 13, 2007

Greetings from the Beautiful West End!!

Well I've had "A Cancer Journal" up and running for about a month now and I just wanted to say thank you to all who have stopped by. I've put up about 30 posts and had over 2400 visitors to the site. Some are daily guests, others less frequent but still regular, and a few just stopped by for a peak.
I've found this to be a helpful exercise for myself. I've jounalled sporadically for the past 27 years and always found it to be an important discipline in terms of reflecting on life's journey. Many of the posts so far have come from different sections of my journal during my first diagnosis and more recently with my recurrence. I'm trying to strike a balance between technical posts, spritual reflections, humour, music, inspiration, and personal updates. Weekend posts will continue to be along the lines of "The Funny Pages" and "Sweet Hour of Prayer". My plan is to continue posting daily until I go back to work in September. After that I'll probably post a little less frequently.
Some hints for using this site... pretty simple stuff mostly...
OLDER POSTS: Older posts can be accessed from from the "Blog Archive" to the left. Post titles from the current month are visible. The post titles from previous months can be accessed from a "drop-down" menu by clicking the arrow indictating the month.
LABELS: Each post has a number of labels located at the bottom. Yesterday's post, "To Everything There is a Season" has the following labels: companionship, death, journey, mentors, and Palliative Care. If you click these labels you can pull up other posts with a similar theme. The journey label refers to posts that have to do with particular aspects of my own journey.
COMMENTS: I really value the comments that folks have made so far. It's a good way for you to share your own thoughts, to add something, or to just say Hi!. You do not have to be a member to make a comment you can simply post it under ANONYMOUS and sign your name in the body of the comment. If you have any suggestions for future posts or resources you would like me to share please let me know.
SHARING THIS SITE: If you find a post that you would like to pass on to someone just click the envelope icon at the bottom of the post. It may be something inspirational, informative, or funny that could be apprecitated by someone else at just the right time. Alternatively you could just paste the URL from the browser window into an e-mail and forward it that way.
Next week I'm planning a 5-part series "Living with Cancer" based on a framework of lessons for living from Sufi teacher Kabir Helminski. It will be a combination of reflections, quotes and clips on living deeply, finding peace, and sharing goodness in the midst of this cancer experience. Moday's theme is "Committing to Your Highest Possibility".
Have a truly great summer weekend... Rob
“Journal writing is a voyage to the interior” Christina Baldwin

Monday, July 9, 2007

Chemo Day

Well the Chemo holiday is over and I'm back to the clinic today to start round 4 of 6. I'm now over the hump in this short program and I have the end in sight. I had my blood-work done on Thursday and saw my Oncologist on Friday. Everything looks good. My platelets were a little low so he prescribed the steroid Prednisone to help boost them. I'm not sure how that works but we did it several years ago and it seemed to do the trick.

Here's a flowchart of my chemo program. You can click it to get a larger version. Please disregard the many spelling errors!!

I'll start the day at the clinic by giving a blood sample. The lab will do up a complete blood count and if it looks good I'll start the intravenous drugs. If my platelets are still low I may get a reduced dose of a couple of the drugs. Prior to the chemo starting I'll have two anti-nausea medications, Kytril (oral) and Decadron (IV). Then I'll get my Avastin over about 1/2 hour. Before they start the Irenotecan I'll get an injection of Atropine to prevent an early onset of diarrhea (we like to get home before that business starts!!). I'll carry on with the Xeloda (oral chemo drug) twice/day for the next two weeks. Then I'll have a week off and start over again.

Our Chemo Clinic is a bright comfortable facility. Patients can receive their drugs in recliner chairs or on hospital beds. Volunteers provide refreshments, social workers and dietitians are available for consultations, children and families visit, there is a resource library, dvd players, AND jigsaw puzzles!

The highlights of the Chemo Clinic are the other patients and the Nurses. I find the other patients I meet at the clinic to be a great source of inspiration. Here we all are plugged into our IV machines chatting away. People from all walks of life, every age, gender, and culture, bound together in a common journey of healing and life! The Chemo Nurses are some of the angels who meet us on this journey. They review our blood-work, ask about any side-effects, make suggestions for dealing with side-effects, administer our various drugs, and respond to our many questions. They are models of nursing competence and compassion!!

As things are currently scheduled, and barring any deferrals to accommodate side effects, I'll have this all wrapped up and be back in the pulpit by September!!

Living in hope... Rob

"The dream of wellness sustained me throughout the reality of the treatment." Vickie Girard

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Funny Pages

Colonoscopies are no joke , but these comments during the exam were quite humorous..... A physician claimed that the following are actual comments made by his patients (predominately male) while he was performing their colonoscopies: from allnurses.com
1. "Take it easy, Doc, you're boldly going where no man has gone before."
2. "Find Amelia Earhart yet?"
3. "Can you hear me NOW?"
4. "Oh boy, that was sphincterrific!"
5. "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"
6. "You know, in Arkansas, we're now legally married."
7. "Any sign of the trapped miners, Chief?"
8. "You put your left hand in, you take your left hand out. You do the Hokey Pokey ..."
9. "Hey! Now I know how a Muppet feels!"
10."If your hand doesn't fit, you must acquit!"
11. "Hey, Doc, let me know if you find my dignity."
12. "You used to be an executive at Enron, didn't you?"
13. "Could you write me a note for my wife, saying that my head is not, in fact, up there?"

Have a truly great day!! Rob;
"Laughter in and of itself cannot cure cancer nor prevent cancer, but laughter as part of the full range of positive emotions including hope, love, faith, strong will to live, determination and purpose, can be a significant and indispensable aspect of the total fight for recovery."-Harold H. Benjamin, PhD

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Celebrate Life

I’ve always enjoyed life’s celebrations, big and small. Birthdays, weddings, baptisms, Christmas, New Years, Easter, anniversaries and all of the many special days that mark our passage through time and life have always been meaningful to me. I think there is something inherently important about marking life’s passages and celebrating life’s significant events.

But these events have taken on increased significance for me since being diagnosed with cancer. I feel that my appreciation of life’s frailty and brevity has been deepened since being diagnosed. I no longer take any day, any year, or the future for granted. Each day is a gift, each moment a blessing. Each passage and event is worthy of being lived deeply.

This past weekend we celebrated one of life’s great moments with my daughters wedding. Family and friends gathered from Florida, Georgia, Cape Cod, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, and throughout British Columbia for a wonderful long-weekend of celebration and feasting. It has been an absolute blast and I have enjoyed every tear and laughter filled moment. The day itself was grand, the service awesome, and the parade from the church to the reception with noise-makers and streamers a true delight! The reception, overlooking English Bay, was a wonderful feast with great fun and dance. The many events on either side of the wedding day itself rounded out a great Canada Day weekend of connecting and celebrating. Through it all we sang and danced, giving thanks for the gifts of family, friends, and the special love that brings two people together, body, mind, and soul.

I am so grateful to have been able to share my daughter’s wedding day with her. An extra week off chemo meant that I had good energy and could handle the long days. It’s been truly great to have this respite of celebration in the otherwise day-to-day regimen and tedium of chemo.

Several years ago, shortly after being diagnosed, I was visited by a wise and gifted colleague. As I shared with her my struggles around adjusting to life with cancer I asked, not really expecting an answer, “How do I live now?” My friend reflected for a moment and said simply and gently… “I think you have to do what’s life-giving.” Her words have been with me since that day, along with the questions from time-to-time, “Is this life-giving?” or “What is Life –giving in this moment?” or "How can I let this be life-giving?" Ultimately we have to discern what is “life-giving” for ourselves and choose the path that is sustaining in the midst of whatever we are going through.

Working with my daughter as she has planned her wedding, and sharing in this past weekend as we celebrated it, has definitely been LIFE-GIVING for me. As I said in my welcome to the guests at the dinner… “It’s times like this we can say… IT’S DAMN GOOD TO BE ALIVE!!”

Still Celebrating in Vancouver… Rob;

“Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us. So let us be swift to love, and make haste to show kindness.” Henri Amiel

Friday, June 29, 2007

Store Wars

For all you organinic Star Wars fans. Enjoy!!


"Food is power. Are you in control of yours?" John Jeavons

Thursday, June 21, 2007

What is RFA?

When I tell people I had RFA to treat a metastatic tumour in my liver they invariably ask... “What the H--- is RFA?” When I tell them that it is "Radio Frequency Ablation" they nod politely. When I try to explain by saying… “an alternating current is sent though electrodes inserted into the tumour resulting in coagulative necrosis of the malignant tissue” their eyes glaze over and they wish they could change the subject.

But RFA is just too cool not to talk about! It is one of those great new techniques that is changing how we approach small tumours in the liver and other locations. So here, in a nutshell, is a concise description of RFA. (with help from Medicinenet.com)

First let’s unpack the term.

Ablation: “Removal or excision. Ablation is usually carried out surgically. For example, surgical removal of the thyroid gland (a total thyroidectomy) is ablation of the thyroid. The word ablation comes from the Latin ablatum meaning to carry away.” Medicinenet.com

The geologists among us will of course recognize "ablation" as also referring to the erosional processes by which a glacier is reduced, thus yielding… “ablation till”. Fascinating as this is, I digress…

Radiofrequency ablation: “The use of electrodes to generate heat and destroy abnormal tissue. In radiofrequency ablation (RFA), heat is generated locally by a high frequency, alternating current that flows from the electrodes. A probe is inserted into the center of the tumor and the non-insulated electrodes, which are shaped like prongs, are projected into the tumor. The local heat that is generated melts the tissue (coagulative necrosis) that is adjacent to the probe. This results in a 3 cm to 5.5 cm sphere of dead tissue per treatment session. The probe is left in place for about 10 to 15 minutes.” Medicinenet.com

One of the really great things about RFA is that it can often be administered "percutaneously", or through the skin, making it a “minimally invasive” procedure. In my case, because of the tumour location, RFA was administered within open surgery. Several deployments of the probe were needed to create a "zone of ablation" large enough to encompass the whole tumour and allow for clear margins. A follow-up CT taken a couple of months later showed that the "zone of ablation", or "sphere of dead tissue", did completely encompass the pre-existent tumour (whew!!). I’m now taking Chemo to clean up any microscopic metastases that may be in the area. I'll be having regular CT scans down the road to keep an eye on things.

Now when people ask "What is RFA?". I just say... "We burnt that little sucker right out of there!!"

Enjoy the solstice... Rob; "The Cancer Geek"

"What is not cured by the knife may be cured by fire." Hippocrates

Friday, June 15, 2007

Chemo Strikes!

A new way for me to get around town while I'm on Chemo!!

Chemotherapy is standard fare for many survivors. Any cancers that have spread, or are at risk of spreading, beyond the local site seem to be candidates for chemo. Just the very thought of chemo conjures up feelings of nausea and dread for many. Horror stories abound!! Many, but not all, of them true!

I'm currently in the midst of my second round of chemo treatment. My first round, in 2004/05, lasted for 6 months and included the intravenous infusion of 3 or 4 different drugs administered for 2 days every 2 weeks. My current regime includes the intravenous infusion of 2 drugs and a 2-week cycle of an oral chemo in tablet form, all followed by a week off. My current chemo program is to reduce the possibility of future recurrences.

I'm amazed at the incredible variety of chemo drugs that are being used to fight cancer. And there are new ones coming online all the time. One of the new drugs I am taking today wasn't even available 3 years ago. It is the job of the oncologist to pick from these various drugs and to plan, prescribe, and administer the chemo program. A good oncologist is vital to an effective medical team. I'm lucky to have one of the best!!

It's the side effects that get us!! And how!! Side effects can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, hairloss, mouth sores, hand and foot sores, anemia, low white blood count, and low platlet count. Side effects vary widely from patient to patient and drug to drug. There are very effective drugs to counter the various side effects and the chemo dose can be reduced if side effects get too bad. My side effects have been varied. I've lost my hair, nausea and diarrhea are pretty standard, and my white blood cells and platelets have both declined. I'm taking another drug (Neupogen) to boost the white blood cells. Overall, though it's not too bad. My appetite is good, I have many good days, and CANCER IS BEING BEATEN!!. YAH!!

I remember a young women at a cancer workshop reflecting on the chemo program ahead of her. "I've got this horrible disease but there is this medicine that can help me. It may have some nasty side-effects but it can help me to be well again. It is the medicine I need."

Have a great weekend!.... Rob

"Yesterday I decided to go to the office. I got as far as the bedroom door. Chemo strikes." Peter Jennings