"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, December 4, 2009

Friday Update

I received my second dose of Erbitux on Wednesday.  The Irinotecan was dropped due to the severity of the side-effects.  It may be tried again later.  We will see.   As of today I am feeling fairly good so hope that this regime will be tolerable.  I do have the "Erbitux rash", an acne-like rash, on the chest, shoulders, back, face and scalp.  It itches and is a little unsightly but is otherwise managed well with lotion and antibiotics.  Moderate fatigue.

Christmas 2009
The Christmas boxes came up from storage last weekend so it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas around the condo.  Robyn will be home for Christmas, Brandon will be visiting, and my sister Beth and her friend Colin will be joining us from New Brunswick for New Years!  Yeah!  I'm already filled with the Christmas spirit! 

Pollock Family Christmas Blog
Last year I started a "Christmas Blog" in lieu of Christmas cards (which I always found too difficult to fit in with the busy Advent/Christmas church scene).  It was a lot of fun so I invite you to visit there from time-to-time during the season.  Pollock Family Christmas

Be well... Rob; in Vancouver

"The message of Christmas is that the visible material world is bound to the invisible spiritual world."
Author Unknown

Here Comes Santa Claus

Monday, November 30, 2009

Choices in Healing

Michael Lerner is the author of “Choices in Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer” (availble to read online). He's one of our leading thinkers when it comes to integrated cancer treatment. Here's what he would do if he faced a cancer diagnosis, in his own words…

  • “I would give careful thought to choosing a mainstream oncologist. I wouldn’t need someone with wonderful empathic skills--I’m fortunate to have other people in my life who provide that. But I would want a doctor who was basically kind, and on top of the medical literature regarding my disease. I would look for a doctor who was willing to take the time to answer my questions, and who supported my commitment to be deeply involved in my treatment decisions, and my commitment to complementary therapies. Finally, I would want a doctor who would stick with me medically and emotionally if recovery were not possible and I faced death.
  • I would use mainstream therapies that offered a real chance for recovery, but I would probably not use experimental therapies or therapies with a low probability of success that were highly toxic or compromised my capacity to live and, if it came to that, die as I chose.
  • I would use complementary therapies. I would look for a good support group and a psychotherapist experienced in working with people with cancer. I’ve been a vegetarian for many years, but I would look for ways to enhance my nutrition. I would meditate and practice yoga more often, and spend more time in Nature, taking walks in the woods, by the ocean, and in the mountains.
  • I would definitely use traditional Chinese medicine, both herbs and acupuncture.
  • I would strive for life, for recovery, with every possible tool and resource I could find. But if recovery were not possible, I would also work to face death in a way that deepened my growth and led to some resolution of my life and relationships.
  • I would pay a great deal of attention to the inner healing process that I hope a cancer diagnosis would trigger in me. I would give careful thought to the meaning of my life, what I had to let go of, and what I wanted to keep.
  • I would spend time with the people I value, and with books, writing, music, and my own vision of God. I would do everything I could do that I didn’t want to leave undone. I would not waste time with old obligations, though I would try to extricate myself from them decently.
  • I would try to live my own life my own way. I would try to accept the pain and sorrow inherent in my situation, but I would also look searchingly for the beauty, wisdom, and joy."
Well said Michael!!

TTFN... Rob; in Vancouver

"Everyone has a doctor in him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food."


Michael Lerner on Healing

Friday, November 27, 2009

On Suffering

Life is “dukkha”! Life is suffering! Herein lies the first noble truth in the Buddhist worldview. To live is to experience some manner of suffering.

Most of the world’s great philosophical and religious traditions attempt to deal with the reality of suffering and the many questions it raises. What causes suffering? How can we make sense of it? How do we overcome it, transcend it, or at least live with grace in the face of it?
“What is the noble truth of suffering? Birth is suffering, aging is suffering and sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering.” Buddha

Suffering has many faces; physical pain, illness, cancer, aging, and death; the individual or collective experience of violence, oppression, social injustice and inequality; stress and conflict in relationships, grief at the loss of a loved one, and anguish in parenting; unfulfilled dreams and expectations. Take your pick. The experience of some form of suffering in our lives is inescapable, try as we might to avoid it.

Franciscan priest and teacher, Richard Rohr, has said that one of the common denominators in all human suffering is the experience that we are powerless; we have been overwhelmed by circumstances and events beyond our power to control. The ancient psalms of lament often expressed this with words like... “I sink in deep mire where there is no foothold. I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me…”

One of the other thoughts that Richard shares about pain and suffering is… “In many ways, spirituality is about what we do with our pain. And the truth is, if we don't transform it, we will transmit it.” What Richard speaks of, and what we’ve all seen on many occasions, is the unresolved grief and pain of an individual, or of a group, transmitted through acts of anger, hatred, and violence towards others. Simone Weil puts it simply this way... “A hurtful act is the transference to others of the degradation which we bear in ourselves.”

We also see many examples of people who have endured horrible suffering and yet who have found ways to transform their pain and affliction into wisdom and grace. Elie Wiesel, holocaust survivor…
“I have learned two lessons in my life: first, there are no sufficient literary, psychological, or historical answers to human tragedy, only moral ones. Second, just as despair can come to one another only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings.”
"Breathe in suffering...
...Breathe out compassion."

Rob; in Vancouver

“Although the world is full of suffering,
it is also full of the overcoming of it.”
Helen Keller

Sounds of Silence

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Chemo Blues!

I've been struck down by a particular nasty reaction to chemo over this past week.  I'm finally up today after visit back to the hospital yesterday to receive fluids intravenously. 

One of the chemo drugs, Irinotecan, has diarrhea as a common side-effect.  I've had this chemo before and always handled it well with a little Imodium.  This time it was relentless and left me dehydrated and bed-ridden for 5 days!  My oncologist has said that I will not be receiving it again.  For which I am grateful.  He thought, and I concur, that the severe reaction was probably because of the previous radiation which had already left the bowels in a "distressed" state.

Next week I will just receive the one drug, Erbitux.  I may have others added down the road.  We'll see...

So... I am alive and well and will begin posting regularly again tomorrow.

TTFN... Rob; in Vancouver

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

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Update

I started my chemo program on Wednesday.  Suffering a little fatigue and nausea over the last couple of days.  Still waiting for some of the other side-effects to hit.  Over-all not too bad so far!  I'll have chemo every two weeks for the next 20 weeks or so.  I'd like to get a break at Christmas if possible.  We'll see.

I had a visit with my radiation oncologist on Thursday.  He is happy with the outcome of the radiation and expects me to see continued benefits in that area.

PET Scan
The plan to have a PET Scan in Edmonton has fallen through.  I don't know the details but there were some financial/billing problems between the Alberta and BC.  No plans for this scan now.  I'll probably have one when my Chemo program is finished.  This does not concern me as I'm pretty sure there is no other cancer to be found.  I was looking forward to a trip to Edmonton though!   But I would not be travelling on Chemo anyways. 

That's all folks!!

Rob; in Vancouver

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


I posted this a couple of years ago too.  It is pretty strange! I'm amazed by the new animation technology. I think they've really captured the spirit of cancer and chemo here!

I love it when this guy shaves! Great haircut too!

Enjoy... Rob

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chemo Plan - Finally!

Finally!  It starts!    Not that chemo is ever something that you WANT to do, it is good to be getting started.

I begin tomorrow with a program of Erbitux, the growth inhibitor I mentioned earlier, and Irinotecan, a chemotherapy drug I have taken twice before.  Both of these medicines will be administered by way of an intravenous infusion which I will receive at the North Vancouver Cancer Clinic.

This is how Erbitux works!

I'm familiar with the side-effects of Irinotecan,  nausea, severe diarrhea, suppression of the immune system (low white blood cells), and hair loss (sometimes).  Erbitux is known particularly for a nasty skin rash on the face, head, chest, shoulders, and back.  The trick with chemo is to manage the side-effects in such a way as to continue with the chemo program.

The plan is for me to receive these medicines once every two weeks for 20 weeks.  10 treatments in all.  If I am able to stick with it the treatments will be finished in mid-April.  It is a long program. 

Stay tuned for updates!

Rob; in Vancouver

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

Cancer 101

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Karen Armstrong - TED

Karen Armstrong speaking on compassion and the "Golden Rule"

"The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves." 

The Bowels of Compassion

Compassion is that wonderful human capacity to share deeply with others in their pain and suffering. It is a feeling that emerges in the gut, the bowels, the ancient bodily location of love and pity. Today we tend to identify compassion and love more frequently with the heart. It was not always so.

One Greek word that is translated into compassion in the ancient stories of biblical healing is Splagchnizomai.
splangkh-nid'-zom-ahee to be moved as to one's bowels, hence to be moved with compassion, have compassion (for the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity). The New Testament Greek Lexicon

This root of compassion speaks of a deep "visceral" yearning or moving in the very “bowels of our being” when confronted with the suffering of another. Compassion reminds us of the deep interconnection we have with all life. Compassion transcends all of the superficial divisions we set up to keep ourselves separate and isolated. It unites us in the most diverse and dire of situations.

Our capacity to experience compassion develops more deeply as we become aware of our own vulnerability and suffering. In the words of Sogyal Rinpoche… "when we finally know we are dying, and all other sentient beings are dying with us, we start to have a burning, almost heartbreaking sense of the fragility and preciousness of each moment and each being, and from this can grow a deep, clear, limitless compassion for all beings.”

More than just a gut feeling, compassion motivates us to live and act in ways that alleviate the suffering of others. Even if it just means listening to someone’s story or holding someone in our laps in the midst of great trauma and chaos.

With Love… Rob; in Vancouver

“But it’s hard to explain, Mitch. Now that I am suffering, I feel closer to others who are suffering than I ever did before.”
Tuesdays with Morrie

Originally posted in July 2007

If I Had a Hammer

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Flintstones - Winston Ads

I get a real kick out of these vintage Flintstone commercials for Winston cigarettes!   Back in the day!

We've come a long way since then.  Cigarette advertising is way down.  But smoking is still pretty popular with the kids!

Be well & Don't smoke!!   Rob; in Vancouver

Smoke, Smoke, Smoke!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Charter for Compassion

A call to bring the world together…

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect. read more...

With these words the Charter for Compassion was launched yesterday as a vehicle to promote peace, understanding, compassion, and justice in our world.  Amongst the early "affirmers" of the Charter are His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Karen Armstrong,  Queen Noor of Jordan, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Deepak Chopra, Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, and Sister Joan Chittister.


This initiative could not come at a better time for me.  After attending our Remembrance Day service on Wednesday I was overwhelmed by the awareness that, as we gather each year, we bear witness to our collective failure to create and sustain a just peace in this world. 

I invite you to visit the Charter for Compassion website, affirm the Charter and learn more about how we can restore compassionate thinking and compassionate action to the center of our lives.

With compassion...  Rob; in Vancouver

“The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.”
Thomas Merton

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Audacter et Strenue

Our Pollock’s came to Lachute, Quebec from Paisley, Renfrewshire in Scotland where they were weavers. They were part of a major immigration of Scots to Quebec in the early 1800’s. The Pollock name has taken on various forms in North America including Pogue and Polk. President James Polk, 11th US President, comes from the Pollock’s of Renfrewshire.

The name Pollock itself is derived from the lands of the parish of Pollock, in Renfrewshire, Scotland. The name is from the Gaelic “Pollag”, 'a little, pool, pit, or pond'.

The Pollock badge and coat of arms features the wild boar, passant (ie walking), pierced by an arrow or lance. The boar in heraldry typically means bravery and fierceness (fighting spirit), the boar “fights to the death”. I relate well to the arrow in the side of the boar as a symbol of “woundedness” which, in my case, refers to my many cancer scars... Ouch!!

The Pollock motto, Audacter et Strenue, is usually translated "boldly and strongly".
audacter, audaciter : boldly, proudly, fearlessly.
strenue, strenuus : brisk, active, vigorous/ turbulent, restive.

The characteristics of boldness (audaciousness) and strength take on new meaning for me as I dedicate myself to overcoming this dread disease. I love the word “audacious”. It names a radical, risky, unrestrained type of boldness that describes the type of “audacious hope” we need to have in the face of life-threatening circumstances.

“Audacious” has found its way into today’s business lexicon through the term BHAG. Pronounced BeeHAG, it’s an acronym for a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal. It names a clear and bold vision for the future. I have a BHAG for my future and it has to do with being around to celebrate a 50 year anniversary with my beloved Pam!! (We just had our 28th). I look forward to each day in the meantime!

Here’s hoping… Robertus De Pollock;

“The very least you can do in your life
is to figure out what you hope for.
And the most you can do
is live inside that hope.”
Barbara Kingsolver

Sesame Street - 40 Years

Sesame Street aired for the first time on November 10, 1969.  40 years ago today.  It was a favorite of my sister Beth!  

Here's Big Bird...

And here's Ernie...

Monday, November 9, 2009


Cancer brings its fair share of stress and anxiety into our lives. With a diagnosis we are launched into a maelstrom of appointments, scans, and tests. Waiting for the results of these tests can bring its own particular dread. In addition to an underlying fear of death or dying, there may be fear of recurrences or worry about treatment regimes and their side-effects. Each new pain experienced in the body can be imagined as a new cancer. Financial stress often accompanies cancer as healthcare costs rise and as income decreases or disappears. Cancer may force us into making significant decisions about our work, living arrangements, and lifestyles with each of these decisions embodying its own particular dimension of grief and loss. The list goes on...

The cumulative effect of this “cancer stress” and "anxiety" has the potential to further diminish our health and well-being beyond the physical effects of cancer itself. Since stress has been found to be a significant factor in decreasing our immune function it is vital to our health that we find effective ways of coping with it. Finding peace in the midst of the stress of cancer can be one of the survivor’s greatest challenges.

There is a particular kind of peace that naturally accompanies the sense of "contentment" that comes when things are going well in our lives. It is a very different and more elusive type of peace that comes in the midst of hardships. This is how I have come to understand "serenity", an inner quality of peace in the midst of chaos and stress. "Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm."

“Inner peace: (or peace of mind) A colloquialism that refers to a state of being mentally or spiritually at peace, with enough knowledge and understanding to keep oneself strong in the face of discord or stress… Peace of mind, serenity, and calmness are descriptions of a disposition free from the effects of stress. In some cultures, inner peace is considered a state of consciousness or enlightenment that may be cultivated by various forms of training, such as prayer, meditation, T'ai Chi Ch'uan or yoga, for example. Many spiritual practices refer to this peace as an experience of knowing oneself.” Wikipedia

Keeping ourselves strong and healthy in the face of cancer involves taking a proactive role in our own healing. It involves becoming informed about our illness and engaged in the healing process. It also involves, inasmuch as these things are possible, accepting the things we can’t change, letting go of fear and worry, and consenting to be at peace with the unresolved issues, tensions and dilemmas in our lives. Often easier said, than done!

Peace be with you...   Rob; in Vancouver

“Each one has to find his peace from within.
And peace, to be real, must be unaffected
by outside circumstances.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Let it be


Sunday, November 8, 2009

I'll Pray for You

These short pieces from Father Eugene Kennedy say a lot about what prayer means in terms of our relationship to one another.

"A change actually occurs between two persons when one promises sincerely to pray for the other. The former has actually placed him/herself into a new kind of relationship with the one to whom they have made the promise. He/she has committed themself to the other's world of personal concern..."
Kennedy sees prayer as someting much deeper than a simple wishing of "Good Luck!" or "Bon Voyage"....

"It means we that we have redefined ourselves in relation to our friend, that we have enlarged the boundaries of ourselves in order to stand closer to the other at a time when that is exactly what they need.  A shift occurs when we cast the votes of our time, attention, and prayers for another human being.  We are, through the power of the spirit and the reality of our committment, with them in a new and vitalizing way... We communicate faith, hope, and love in a truly living way."
Father Kennedy's understanding has helped me to view prayer as a way of deepening the relationships I am in.   In the silence of prayer I can practice a type of "mindfulness" that allows me to become more aware of  how I am connected to others.  In this way I am reminded of my relationship with all of humanity and indeed all life.

It is at once both gratifying and humbling to be aware that others are praying for you in this way.  During the time of my illness I have been supported by the prayer and love of thousands.  I remember once going to a health clinic for my flu shot.  When I gave the attending nurse my name, she said "I know you.  We pray for you and your family in my church."  I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude to know that this "stranger" had committed me to her circle of care and compassion.

Prayer in this way transcends the variety of religious traditions we know in the world.  It becomes a way of making the stranger a friend, of reconciling with an enemy, of healing relationships that are broken or strained, and of making peace in the world.

May it be so.

Rob; in Vancouver

“The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.”
Thomas Merton

Halleluia - Allison Crowe

 Allison Crowe singing a Leonard Cohen Classic

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Wild Hare - 1940

Elmer Fudd and "Bugs Bunny" in the original 1940 cartoon,  For your Saturday morning cartoon!  Bugs introduces the phrase "What's up Doc?" in this clip!  With the awesome voice talents of Mel Blanc.

What's up, Doc?    from wikipedia

"Bugsy's nonchalant carrot-chewing stance, as explained many years later by Chuck Jones, and again by Friz Freleng and Bob Clampett, comes from the movie, "It Happened One Night", from a scene where the Clark Gable character is leaning against a fence eating carrots more quickly than he is swallowing (as Bugs would later often do)... This scene was so famous at the time that most people immediately got the connection."

"The line, "What's up, Doc?", was added by director Tex Avery for this short...  When this short was screened in theaters, the scene of Bugs calmly chewing a carrot, followed by the nonchalant "What's Up, Doc?", went against any 1940s audience's expectation of how a rabbit might react to a hunter and caused complete pandemonium in the audience, bringing down the house in every theater. Because of the overwhelming reaction, Bugs eats a carrot and utters some version of the phrase in almost every one of his cartoons after that, sometimes entirely out of context as compared to this original use"  wikipedia

So... now you know the rest of the story!

That's all folks... Rob; in Vancouver

"Don't take life too seriously.
You'll never get out alive." 
Bugs Bunny

The Funny Pages

Here are a couple of old jokes to bring a smile to your day...

Two old baseball buddies with lung cancer were chatting on a park bench. Paul says, "I hope they have a baseball team in heaven." "Me too", says Jack. "Tell you what", says Paul, "If I die first, I'll give you a message about whether there is baseball in Heaven. If you die first, you can do the same for me." A year later, Paul is dead and Jack is sitting on the park bench when he hears: "Jack, it's me, Paul. I have great news! Guess what. There really is a baseball team in heaven." "Thank God", sighs Jack, "Now I can die in peace." "I'm glad you feel that way," says Paul, "because you're pitching tomorrow!

An Irishman named Mike O'Leary went to his doctor after a long illness. The doctor, after a lengthy examination, sighed and looked Mike in the eye and said, "I've some bad news for you... you have a cancer known as Galloping Leukemia and it can't be cured. I give you two weeks to a month." Mike, who was shocked and saddened by the news, but of solid character, managed to compose himself and walk from the doctor's office into the waiting room. There he saw his son, who had been waiting.

Mike said, "Son, we Irish celebrate when things are good and we celebrate when things don't go so well. In this case, things aren't so well. I have cancer and I've been given a short time to live. Let's head for the pub and have a few pints." After three or four pints, the two were feeling a little less somber. There were some laughs, some tears, and more beers.

They were eventually approached by some of Mike's old friends who asked what the two were celebrating. Mike told them that the Irish celebrate the good and the bad. He went on to tell them that they were drinking to his impending end. He told his friends, "I've only got a few weeks to live as I have been diagnosed with AIDS."

The friends gave O'Leary their condolences and they all had a few more beers. After his friends left, Mike's son leaned over and whispered in confusion, "Dad, I thought you said that you were dying from cancer. You just told your friends that you were dying from AIDS."

Mike replied, "I am dying from cancer, son. I just don't want any of those blokes sleeping with your mother after I'm gone."
Have a great weekend... Rob

"Laughter rises out of tragedy, when you need it the most, and rewards you for your courage." Erma Bombeck

Friday, November 6, 2009

"What's up Doc?"

It has been I while since I have posted anything regarding my progress on this journey.  It's been two months since I was diagnosed with a "local recurrence" of colon cancer, this time in the sacral/rectal region.  It has been 3 weeks since I finshed the 15 rounds of radiation and 2 weeks since I posted on my last visit to the oncologist.   Here is an update...


The radiation continues to be having a positive effect in terms of both pain relief and recovery of bladder function.  This is good because I am now rid of the indwelling catheter that I needed for about 5 weeks!  I'm not yet rid of the infection it left in its wake but we're working on that.   I am also completely off the morphine that was my constant companion for the same 5 weeks!  My understanding is that the radiation continues to work for some weeks after your last treatment.

Radiation Fatigue

This has improved immensely.  I went through a couple of weeks where I was overcome with fatigue.  There were times when I simply could not stay awake!  What's more, I would not feel refreshed or renewed after a 3 hour nap!  Not like me at all.  A short nap will almost always restore me.  This fatigue was even worse  than what I experienced earlier with chemo.  Fortunately it was short-lived and I am now enjoying very good energy levels.

PET Scan

This is supposed to happen in Alberta.  Edmonton I hope. (That way I can slip in a visit with Robyn and other family there!)  But I've had no word.  So I am waiting patiently...

MRI Scan Results - Liver

In the midst of this I had a regularly scheduled MRI scan of my liver to check for metastacies.  This is a 6 month routine for me although it is usually a CT scan.   I saw my liver surgeon this week and he is happy to report that things look stable in this area.  I was quite concerned before getting the results.  I didn't want another "front" to fight right now!  This is really good news.  

Treatment Plan Emerging

In my last post I mentioned that my original tumour was being tested to see if a certain growth inhibitor might work.  Well the results have come back favourable so I should be starting a new medicine soon. 

There is a certain protein known as KRAS (also known as V-Ki-ras2 Kirsten rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog).  KRAS functions as a molecular on/off switch, regulating cell growth.  KRAS can be either  "wild" or "mutated".  When "mutated" it can lead to unregulated cell growth and it is thus implicated in many types of cancer including colon cancer.  What is important in terms of treatment is that only normal or "wild" type KRAS tumours will respond to a new class of cancer growth inhibitors.  My tumour type is KRAS - "wild", which is wildly good news.  

The long and short of it is that I will most likely be receiving a cancer growth inhibitor known by the brand name of Erbitux.    I don't know if it will be paired with any other chemo medicines or not.  I also don't know when I'll start so I am again... waiting patiently.

Other Options

There are a few other options that are beginning to emerge.  Some of them are a little further afield both geographically and practically.  I am planning to explore some of them but want to get things in place with this next line of chemo first.  Once that is done I can begin to make some enquiries about some innovative surgical, radiation, and medicinal possibilities.

I can tell you that discovering and researching these options is a lot of work.  In this I am incredibly grateful to my "semicolon" friends in the "online" colon cancer community.  Their knowledge, experience, wisdom, compassion and companionship is a blessing to me each day

Restorative Care

I am now on an indefinite period of medical leave.  There is some obvious uncertainty about when I will be able to return to work.  For now it depends on the length, side-effects, and outcomes of various treatment regimes.  I am very grateful for the time off and continued care and support of my church community, especially the wonderful folks at St. Stephen's.

My Outlook

My outlook continues to be good, my "will to live" remains strong; I've got an absolutely awesome medical team who haven't given up on me yet; I continue to be engaged in healing touch, meditation, and prayer; and I am well supported by a wide network of family, friends and colleagues.   I remain "hopeful".

That's all folks...  Rob; in Vancouver

“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

The Beatles - And I Love Her

"Montage of some of Hollywood's superstars and most beautiful actresses such as Audrey Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn, Ann Margret, Leslie Caron, Doris Day, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman and Lauren Bacall."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

How 'bout dem Yankees!

How nice for the Yankees to win the series in their brand new Yankee Stadium!  Pam and I slipped out to a local pub Wednesday evening so we could catch Game 6 action over a burger and a beer.  What fun!

Morgan - Robyn -  Dad
Kelly - Pam

In the summer of 2005, after my first round with this beast, we made a family trip to the Maritimes, Ontario, New York City, and Cape Cod.  The highlight of New York, for me, was the tour of the old Yankee Stadium and the evening game we took in between the Yankees and the Blue Jays.  (The highlight for the girls was shopping at Victoria Secret!!)  

Behind us in the stands were a wild bunch of young men, drinking copious quantities of "Bud" and becoming increasingly disgusted in the Yankees, who were being trounced by the Jays.  Needless to say, their attentions were often drawn to the girls!  

Around about the 7th inning stretch I gave one of the young guys my camera and asked him to take a shot.  What resulted is probably the very best family picture we have ever had!   The smiles reflect both our delight in being there and the humorous rapport we shared with our inebriated photographer friend!

But really folks... Baseball in November!

Having a ball... Rob; in Vancouver

"I'd like to thank the good Lord
for making me a Yankee."
Joe DiMaggio

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"Living Well With Cancer"

In April 2003, I gathered with an eclectic community of Christians and Sufi Muslims for a workshop under the leadership of American Sufi Shaikh, Kabir Helminski. Kabir is of the Mevlevi Order, a Sufi tradition tracing its roots to the 13th century Persian poet Rumi. During one lecture Kabir shared a short outline of “5 Spiritual Principles to Live By”.

I was struck by the simplicity of the principles and by the commonality they held with other faith traditions, including my own. Helminski’s 5 principles are:

5. Radiate Blessing

Since being diagnosed, I have noticed how many cancer survivors have undergone personal transformations in line with these principles. The result is lives lived with a renewed sense of purpose and a richer appreciation for what is important. Many survivors speak of a deeper authenticity and honesty in their relationships and of a gentler pace of life, with more time spent “smelling the roses”.

I've reflected a little on each of these principles and present them here again as a summary. While I can’t do them justice in this short piece, I do hope that what I offer provides a faithful summary of “Helminski’s Principles” and a worthwhile basis for folks to reflect spiritually on “Living Well With Cancer”.

Be well... Rob; in Vancouver

Commit to Your Highest Possibility

“I want my will to live to be strong. I want to get as much time out of this as possible. And so I need to work at that with complete focus and dedication and clarity and concentration, and right effort." Treya Killam Wilber

Committing to our highest possibility is about life's purpose and intention. It is to choose LIFE, even in the very imminent face of death itself. It is, for some, “to discover and fulfill their destiny”. It is, for others, “to become who God intended them to be”.

Committing our highest possibility is to live each moment to its fullest. It is to exercise our power of choice towards what is life-giving in the current situation. This universal theme is proclaimed in cultures around the world. The Latin expression Carpe Diem implores us to “seize the day”… for tomorrow we may die. The Japanese have a term, Ichi Nichi, Issho, “one day, one lifetime”, which reminds us to live each day as if our whole life is summed up in it.

I have come to believe that a healthy awareness of the “proximity of death” can lead us to living with a deeper commitment to our highest possibility. Often this means identifying and letting go of the things that are inhibiting us. Too often our lives are clogged and cluttered with the trivial and meaningless. We become limited by “false identities”, we are plagued by fear and anxiety, and we suffer cravings, addictions, and aversions. It’s amazing how quickly we can see and name this stuff for what it is when we become more acutely aware of our mortality. Once we’ve named that which binds us, we can begin the process of relinquishing it and turning towards what gives life.

Sometimes in the cancer journey the highest possibility is directed totally towards our own health and healing. That’s just the way it is. I’ve had to give over huge chunks of my life to coping with surgery and chemo, and to self-care. It has to be recognized that sometimes the "highest possibility" is just getting out for a walk, having a nap, or having a little bite to eat. But sometimes... it is much, much more!

Committing to our highest possibility is a deeply personal matter. It means being true to ourselves in terms of “who we are”, “why we’re here”, and “where we’re going”. It involves discernment in discovering what is important in our lives and how to respond to it. It entails courage and integrity to allow ourselves to be defined by our core values and our "essential self" rather than by the “cookie cutter” identities our culture seeks to impose on us by our roles, occupations, possessions, or physical attributes and deficits.

Living with cancer can help to clarify the vision of our lives, allow us to realize untapped possibilities, free us to live more richly, and to love more deeply… may it be so.

Rob; in Vancouver

“All of us have been dying, hour by hour, since the moment we were born. Realizing this, let all things be placed in their proper perspective… Remember, it is always later than you think. Og Mandino

Awaken Attentiveness and Appreciation

When the Buddha started to wander around India shortly after his enlightenment, he encountered several men who recognized him to be a very extraordinary being.
They asked him, "Are you a god?"

"No," he replied.
"Are you a reincarnation of god?"

"No," he replied.
"Are you a wizard, then?" "No."
"Well, are you a man?" "No."
"So what are you?" they asked,

being very perplexed.
"I am awake."

To awaken attentiveness and appreciation is to enter in to the realm of “mindfulness”. It is about being intentionally aware of thoughts and actions in the present moment. It is also about seeing deeply into the nature of things and perceiving and appreciating the connections that exist between all things. I see this happening at an “inner level” as we become more conscious of our mind/body processes, and at an “outer level”, as we develop the “ecological imagination” needed to see our relationship with the environment that surrounds us. These are not separate processes and both are important towards seeing the connections between our mind, body, and the world in which we live and breathe.

Mindfulness figures prominently in new approaches to stress reduction and healing as developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachussetts Medical Center. The application of mindfulness in stress reduction is well covered in Kabat-Zinn’s book Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness”. Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as:

“…moment to moment awareness. It is cultivated by purposefully paying attention to things we ordinarily never give a moments thought to. It is a systematic approach to developing new kinds of control and wisdom in our lives, based on our inner capacities for relaxation, paying attention, awareness, and insight.

Kabat-Zinn describes our usually encumbered minds as often preoccupied with regrets over the past and worry and anxiety over the future. This can be particularly true when we are suffering an illness such as cancer. Our minds become literally flooded with worries, fears, fantasies, and plans related to our diagnosis, treatments, and the possible course of the disease. The result is that we live in a state of unawareness, or un-mindfulness.

“When unawareness dominates the mind, all our decisions and actions are affected by it. Unawareness can keep us from being in touch with our own body, its signals and its messages. This in turn can create many physical problems for us, problems we don’t even know we are generating ourselves. And living in a chronic state of unawareness can cause us to miss much of what is most beautiful and meaningful in our lives.” Jon Kabat-Zinn

Awakening attentiveness and appreciation involves a discipline, or practice, of clearing our minds and bringing our attention to where it is needed, beginning with our breath. Mindfulness meditation, a practice that derives from the Buddhist tradition, is used to develop a deeper and more focused capacity for awareness and attention.

Awakening attentiveness allows us to enter into a deeper level of self awareness about our mind/body, its relationship to the environment, and its healing needs. It also leads us to places of profound awe and wonder as we begin to appreciate anew the incredible miracle of creation and life.

Rob; mostly napping; in Vancouver

“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn't more complicated that that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.” Sylvia Boorstein

Cultivate a Spirit of Gratitude

“Gratitude is not only
the greatest of virtues,
but the parent of all the others.”


An “attitude of gratitude” emerges naturally when we’ve taken the time to be attentive to, and appreciative of, life’s many gifts and blessings. Even in the midst of illness or trial, the heart responds with gratitude to gifts that embody love and blessing.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie


For me, the practice of gratitude begins with this little lump of clay, my body… this incredible creation of earth, wind, water, and fire! Plagued, scarred, and diseased as it may be, it is still an awesome miracle in all of its mid-life glory!

“Real life isn't always going to be perfect or go our way, but the recurring acknowledgement of what is working in our lives can help us not only to survive but surmount our difficulties.”
Sara Ban Breathnach

I Give thanks for the gift of this day and for all of the possibility and potential it holds. I give thanks for the incredible blessing of love I have through family and friends and for the generosity and compassion of my church community.

I give thanks for the skill and the knowledge of my doctors, nurses and medical technicians; for the technology that makes cancer more treatable every day; and for a medical system in which access to care isn’t based on an ability to pay! I give thanks for the tears and the laughter that make life bearable even when the challenges of the day seem unbearable.

I give thanks for the patience, the humour, the strength, the wisdom, and the grace that are needed to face this journey afresh each day. In all these things, and so much more, I am richly blessed!

With thanks… Rob; in Vancouver

“A sacred illness is one that educates us and alters us from the inside out, provides experiences and therefore knowledge that we could not possibly achieve in any other way, and aligns us with a life path that is, ultimately, of benefit to ourselves and those around us.”
Deena Metzger

Find the Still Point

"Come and find the quiet center
in the crowded life we lead,
find the room for hope to enter,
find the frame where we are freed:
clear the chaos and the clutter,
clear our eyes, that we can see
all the things that really matter,
be at peace, and simply be."
Shirley Erena Murray

Our body and soul need times of quiet and rest to be whole and healthy. If this is true in our times of health… how much more so in times of healing and recovery! Finding the still point is about finding those quiet moments and places of stillness where we can regain a sense of equilibrium and help to create conditions more favourable to healing.

“Discontent creates a flurry of distraction in the mind. Worry, anxiety, doubt are just a few of the conflicting emotions that arise to erode my self-confidence. Focusing upon what is true offers me the opportunity to change my circumstances.” Sylvia Boorstein

Cancer came into my life with all manner of tyranny! Physical pain and bodily dysfunction; endless tests, scans, and appointments; relentless treatment schedules and debilitating side-effects; and a never-ending treadmill of anxious emotions and thoughts put cancer in the swirling center of a life that no longer seemed my own. Finding the “still point” in this vortex of crisis has been, and remains, an ongoing challenge.

“In the sweet territory of silence we touch the mystery. It's the place of reflection and contemplation, and it's the place where we can connect with the deep knowing, to the deep wisdom way.” Angeles Arrien

It is in times like this that I really appreciate the gifts that my faith tradition has provided. Particularly in its emphasis on Sabbath rest and in the many traditions it offers in the way of prayer and contemplation. Activities which have helped me to find the “still point”, time and time again, have included prayer and meditation, tai chi, healing touch, worship, long walks in the forest and along the seashore, reading and journaling, playing the guitar, and listening to music. I’ve enjoyed these activities both in solitude and in the company of friends and mentors.

Finding the “still point” grounds me in the landscape of God’s living presence and reminds me that all shall be well. Yah

Deep peace to you... Rob

"There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden, or even your bathtub." Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Radiate Blessing

“Blessing is a relationship between equals. When you bless others— you realize that your life matters. The people you bless can make you immortal."
Rachel Naomi Remen

Blessing has to do with the richness and abundance of life. To be blessed is to be “full of life” in all of its wonder and grace. To bless another is to enrich their lives with gifts of goodness, truth, or beauty. The call to “radiate blessing” is a summons to let our gratitude spill over into generosity. Radiating our blessing may take the form of compassionate action or service towards another. It may be a sharing of knowledge, experience or wisdom. Or it could be a joining with others in seeking peace, justice or healing.

Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen is a leader in the realm of “integrative medicine” and author of “Kitchen Table Wisdom” and “My Grandfather’s Blessinghttp://www.rachelremen.com/. Her thoughts on “blessing” are some of the most inspiring I’ve read. A sampling…

“A woman once told me that she did not feel the need to reach out to those around her because she prayed every day. Surely, this was enough. But a prayer is about our relationship to God; a blessing is about our relationship to the spark of God in one another. God may not need our attention as badly as the person next to us on the bus or behind us in line in the supermarket. Everyone in the world matters, and so do their blessings. When we bless others, we offer them refuge from an indifferent world.”

"We bless the life around us far more than we realize. Many simple, ordinary things that we do can affect those around us in profound ways: the unexpected phone call, the brief touch, the willingness to listen generously, the warm smile or wink of recognition. All it may take to restore someone's trust in life may be returning a lost earring or a dropped glove."

So there you have it. "Commit to the highest possibility"; "awaken attentiveness and appreciation"; "cultivate a spirit of gratitude"; "find the still point"; and "radiate blessing". Living fully, with or without cancer, is as simple, and as difficult, as that!

Peace and Blessings… Rob; in Vancouver

"I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to a fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again." Stephen Grellet

Rumi Quotes

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Wayfinders - Wade Davis

This year's CBC Massey Lectures were given by cultural anthropologist Wade Davis.  His theme, "The Wayinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World", is a complelling look at the importance of traditional wisdom and an affirmation of the world's ancient traditional cultures.  He draws his title from the incredible skill and knowledge used by the ancient Polynesian "Wayfinders" as they sailed thousands of miles on the open ocean from island to island.

Wade, a Canadian, is the "Explorer in Residence" at the National Geographic Society.  His earlier work includes "The Serpent and the Rainbow" which some may recall from a movie made of it in the eighties.  He spends much of his time in Northwestern BC and is familiar with the various First Nation communities we lived amongst there.

The Massey Lectures will be broadcast on CBC Ideas this week beginning tonight at 9pm.   Details and schedule here...  "The Wayfinders"

I'm well into the book that has been made from the lectures and am finding it very intersting.   I hope you can find a way to listen to even one or two of the lectures.  They are worthwhile.

Be well...  Rob; in Vancouver

“Every language is an old-growth forest of the mind, a watershed of thought, an ecosystem of spiritual possibilities.” Wade Davis

Do - Re - Me

With over 12 million hits on Youtube it is unlikely that this is new to you.  But I'm sure you will enjoy it again anyways.   Gotta Dance!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Francis of Asissi

make me a channel of Your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master…
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born
to Eternal Life. Amen.

Saint Francis of Assisi is one of those timeless saints who has transcended the particulars of his tradition. Though rooted in the Roman Catholic tradition his message and power is more truly universal, being neither bound nor owned by any single faith group. Rooted and grounded in the Spirit which unites all people, and tempered by the common experience of human suffering, Francis offers wisdom, hope, and inspiration to people in many different times and places. The life of Saint Francis is an embodiment of humility, simplicity, and compassion. He lived with a deep respect for creation, a comittement to non-violence, and gave generously of himself in a ministry of healing and reconciliation.
A Franciscan Blessing...
May God bless us with discomfort…
at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
so that we may live deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger…
at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless us with tears…
to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war,
so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with enough foolishness…
to believe that we can make a difference in this world,
so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.

Peace and blessings... Rob

“Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance. Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor vexation. Where there is poverty and joy, there is neither greed nor avarice. Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt.” Francis of Assisi