"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!!!

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."