Tuesday, July 31, 2007
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
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
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
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
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
Here are some of Rumi's thoughts on prayer as translated by Kabir and Camille Helminski.
“The Window of My Soul”
Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi
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
Saturday, July 21, 2007
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...
"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
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
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.
Monday, July 9, 2007
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
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?"
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
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