"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!!!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Waking Up




Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty-four brand new hours
are before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment
And to look at all beings
with eyes of compassion.
Thich Nhat Hanh

The Colonoscopy

As a colon cancer survivor I am well familiarized with "The Colonoscopy". This wonderful screening technology has saved many a butt, including mine!! The Colonoscopy is one of the recommended approaches to finding out what’s going on in your colon.


I have my colonoscopies in the “Minimally Invasive Surgical Suite” at my local hospital. “Minimally invasive” is a questionable term to describe the insertion of a six foot hose, complete with lights, camera, air and water jets, and surgical “snippers” into ones anus, up the rectum, and through the sigmoid, descending, transverse, and ascending colons, to map the inner regions of the bowels. Whew… Minimally invasive indeed!!

Actually, to be totally honest, the colonoscopy is a very simple, safe, and effective procedure. It’s done under a mild sedative which leaves you semi-conscious. I don’t remember my first colonoscopy at all and I have only vague recollections of seeing the viewing monitor during my second one. With a colonoscopy the doctor is able to visually inspect the lining of the colon, take samples of suspect tissue, and remove small polyps. It is really the best way to identify and analyse potential problems in the large intestine.



There’s lots of good information on the net about the colonoscopy. If you’re interested you could start with Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonoscopy . For an online tutorial on the colonoscopy check out Medline Plus at… http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/tutorials/colonoscopy/htm/index.htm.

And for a humorous look... check out the awesome clip below!!

It’s not easy to talk about medical issues going on below the belt. We are unnaturally uncomfortable with the language that describes these “nether regions”. When we talk about our head we’re quite at ease with speaking of the eyes, ears, nose and throat. But when it comes to the lower GI tract we get a little tongue-tied. Get over it!! And get your colonoscopy… today!!

TTFN… Rob; in Vancouver

"Cancer of the colon and rectum often causes no symptoms, especially at first. Regular screening is the best way to prevent colorectal cancer."


originally posted in Jully 2007

Lou Rawls Colonoscopy

Back by popular demand!  The Lou Rawls Colonoscopy!



Enjoy this clip of "Dr. Lou Rawls" administering a colonoscopy to Damon Wayons.
Whoever dreams this stuff up... God bless 'em!!
Rob; in Vancouver

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Winnie the Pooh

We Go Together! For a Friend!

Hope


Foundations of Healing #2: 


"The note we end on is, and must be,
the note of inexhaustible possibility and hope."
Evelyn Underhill
-------------------

On Sunday evening we broke bread with David and Sandra Beggs, our dear friends from the Queen Charlotte Islands.  We've known Sandra for years,  ever since our kids were in diapers and scrambling along the driftwood and sand beaches of Haida Gwai. 

In the midst of our meal of sockeye salmon Sandra presented me with the gift of a beautiful eagle feather. Sandra had beaded the stem of the feather into an intricate handle bearing two simple symbols, a cross, and the word HOPE.   She had been working on the beadwork since learning of my recurrence and filled each stitch with thoughts and prayers of hope and healing for me.   A veritable talisman of hope and healing energy from a place to which, and a people to whom, I am very deeply connected!!  WOW!!

--------------------

It is unimaginable for me to walk this path without a sense of hope which is shorn up and supported by others on this journey.  Shortly after my original diagnosis with metastatic colon cancer in 2004 I was visited by my friend Brian, a 10 year survivor at that time, who became for me a living symbol of hope and possibility.  Bearers of hope like Brian work miracles in the lives of other cancer survivors who are searching for a path of life in the midst of the valley of shadows.

I don't experience hope as a "pie-in-the-sky" dreaming or wishful thinking.  Nor is it a "pollyanish" or shallow cheerfulness in the face of obvious diasaster.  To be meaningful for me hope must take into account the reality of my life situation with all of its challenges and very real threats.  To be sustaining for me hope must be deeper and provide strength especially when things are NOT going well.  In this respect I find that hope emerges sometimes only after a period of deep sorrow and lament, a time of revisiting and revising expectations, and an opportunity to discover new possibilities.  In these times I'm inspired by the wise words of Vaclav Havel, who said of hope...

"Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good, not because it stands for a chance to succeed."

--------------------

For the "spiritually inclined" I invite you to explore the "practice of hope" at the excellent website "Spirituality and Practice" .  Here you will find inspiring quotes and practical suggestions on how to make HOPE a regular practice on your journey.  Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, founders of "Spirituality and Practice", describe the practice of HOPE as follows...

"Hope is a positive and potent spiritual practice with the power to pull us through difficult times. It is usually described with light metaphors — a ray, a beam, a glimmer of hope; the break in the clouds; the light at the end of the dark tunnel. It is often discovered in unexpected places."

"Hope can be learned with practice. Certain attitudes support it. One is patience, an ability to tolerate delays, a willingness to let events unfold in their own time. The other is courage, an attitude of confidence even when facing the unknown. A third is persistence, the determination to keep going no matter what happens. We have hope when we can say, all will be well, and we mean it."

All will be well...  Rob; in Vancouver

"There is no such thing as false hope. 
Only false despair!" 
Candace Pert

Here Comes the Sun

A hopeful song for a rainy day in Vancouver!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Foundations of Healing

InspireHealth is an integrated cancer care community in Vancouver, BC. I’ve mentioned them in previous posts back in 2007. They have an excellent model for approaching the healing of cancer as illustrated in the "Foundations of Healing" figure below .

(click picture to enlarge)

Note that at the very base of the pyramid is “Will to Live”, followed by “Hope”, “Spiritual Connection”, “Personal Autonomy”, “Mind-Body Awareness”, and so on. This model emphasizes a holistic approach towards healing cancer. An approach which affirms the whole person, body, mind, soul, and spirit rather than just focussing on the disease or tumour.

(click picture to enlarge)

A strictly "tumour based" approach disregards most of the basic foundations and targets only the tumour with either radiation, chemo, or surgery. Important as these conventional therapies are, they are not the whole story and it is questionable as to how effective they are in the long run in the absence of the other foundations. Without the underpinnings of a strong will to live, hope, emotional and spiritual connections, healthful diet and water, exercise, and stress reduction conventional therapies are easily undermined.

Over the next while I'd like to reflect on those "Foundations of Healing" that have been significant to me in my personal journey with cancer.  
Be Well...  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." Hippocrates

Will to Live

Foundations of Healing #1:  

In “The Mapmakers Wife” , Robert Whitaker tells the story of an 18th century Peruvian woman who makes a remarkable journey from the Andes Mountains down the Amazon River to be reunited with her beloved husband Jean. Isabel Godin left her home in 1770 with a large party which included her brothers, a nephew, and a fair complement of slaves, servants, guides, and mules.

Shortly into the journey things go terribly wrong and she finds herself alone and lost in the jungle of the upper Amazon. Isabel endured over 6 weeks of wandering in the jungle. During this time she watched her brothers and nephew die of starvation and was beset by plagues of ants, mosquitoes, botflies, and other nasty insects. Against all odds Isabel was found, survived, recovered, and completed her journey.

In reflecting on Isabel’s ordeal and remarkable survival Whitaker states that what seems to count most in survival is “an inner psychological strength nurtured by purpose, hope, and spiritual beliefs”. He also points out that Isabel was “experienced in a humble act practiced by nearly all survivors… prayer”. For Isabel the commitment to be reunited with Jean formed a compelling "will to live" which sustained her in the end. 


When it comes to living with cancer, a strong "will to live" will influence a person to become proactive in seeking and evaluating treatment options.  A strong "will to live" will empower a person to become more assertive in dealing with the medical system. And a strong "will to live" will help to push a person through treatment regimes that, while potentially life-saving, can be very life-limiting while in the midst of them (chemo, surgery, radiation, etc.). 

There comes a day when we may "relinquish" our "will to live".    I've personally witnessed this in people as they draw near to death and literally "let go" into a peaceful and grace filled acceptence of the end.   Discerning the time for this "letting go" is one of the most important pieces of soul-work we can do as we face the terminal stages of cancer or other life-threatening conditions.

My own will to live continues to be strong.  I have a wonderful family life that is filled with love, I have a meaningful vocation that continues to be fruitful, I am relatively "young", and I love this life and want to get as much out of it as possible.

A strong "will to live", in and of itself, is obviously not going to get us through everything.  Many people die in possession of the strongest possible "will to live".  What it will provide is purpose for the journey and courage for the work along the way.
Carpe Diem... Rob
------------------------------------
“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.
And yet, at the same time, be unattached to the results either way. Pain is not punishment, death is not failure, life is not reward.”
Treya Killam Wilber
originally posted June 2007

Wonderful World

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Elvis Sings Gospel

Sweet Hour of Prayer

Prayer is truly a universal discipline. In all cultures and traditions, all places and times, people have sought ways to commune with the infinite, with that which is totally beyond us and wholly "other". These prayers may be in the forms of lament, thanksgiving, confession, or petition or they may be times of deep silence, meditation, and a "listening" for God. Prayer takes place in any place and at any time. It may be communal or individual, formal or informal, spoken, sung, chanted, danced, drummed, or silent.

Here's a beautiful healing prayer that comes from the Bahai tradition.


HEALING...
Thy name is my healing, O my God,
and remembrance of Thee is my remedy.
Nearness to Thee is my hope,
and love for thee is my companion.
Thy mercy to me is my healing
and my succour in both this world
and the world to come.
Thou, verily, art the All-Bountiful,
the All-Knowing,
the All-Wise.
Bahá’u’lláh


Deep peace to you all... Rob; in Vancouver

"If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough." Meister Eckhart


originally posted in July 2007

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Biscuits are Burning!!



"OUCH!! MY BISCUITS ARE BURNING!!
FIRE IN THE HATCH!!
OUCH! OOCH! EECH!
GREEN HORNY TOADS, THAT SMARTS!!"
Yosemite Sam


Bugs Bunny & the Road-Runner Hour was a Saturday night staple in our home while I was growing up. The Saturday Night family ritual always included some combination of Bugs Bunny, Hockey Night in Canada, and the best homemade pizza in the world made by my Dad!
I remember an episode with Yosemite Sam harassing Bugs Bunny and winding up with his pants on fire, giving rise to the exclamation above... "My Biscuits are Burning!"
video

That's a little bit of how I'm feeling after my second dose of radiation at the BC Cancer Agency! I've got a slight, but noticable, burn happening in my butt. I don't want to give you too much information but wanted you to know that this is a GOOD THING and serves as a pleasant reminder to me that cancer cells are being killed!! Yes they are! And it's about time!

During the procedure I receive 3 blasts of radiation, about 15 seconds each, directed at my sacrum and rectum from three different angles. This concentrates three times the power of one blast at the focus of interest, in this case the tumour in my sacrum/rectum. Three different approaches are used to minimize the damage to healthy tissue along each of the radiation paths. Pretty clever if you ask me!

Yesterday I was lucky to be driven and accompanied by my beautiful daughter Morgan, who got a full tour and was able to observe the whole procedure. She was duly impressed. As was I. Morgan's pictures will accompany this post after she e-mails them to me... (Ahem!)



Yesterday was truly another great day on the journey, ending up watching silhouettes on the beach at the Sylvia Hotel with my gorgeous wife Pam, and daughter Kelly and her friend.

Life is good! Rob; in Vancouver
"We are continually faced with great opportunities
which are brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems."
Margaret Mead

Silhouettes - Herman's Hermits 1965

Friday, September 25, 2009

a '69 Classic - For Mom and Dad


Sweet Caroline
Neil Diamond


We Are Not Alone

Living with cancer means living in the midst of a community of saints and angels who  share their stories, their wisdom, their pain, and their joy with us, both in person and through the medium of the written word. I’ve come to know these people as "heroes" although I’m sure none of them would see themselves as such. Some, Like Lance Armstrong, have enjoyed long-term survival and cure against incredible odds. Others, like Terry Fox, have walked the path of death with incredible grace and dignity. Collectively these saints and angels guide and accompany us on our journeys, wherever they should lead.

One such guide for me is Treya Killam Wilber. Treya Killam was diagnosed with cancer a few days after her marriage to philosopher and author Ken Wilber. They cancelled their honeymoon plans and spent the better part of the next 5 years on a journey of cancer care and healing before she eventually died in 1989. Their story is told with profound intimacy and tenderness in the book Grace and Grit: Spirituality and Healing in the Life and Death of Treya Killam Wilber .



Treya was a woman of deep wisdom with a great gift for journaling through which she has shared her insights with us.

Some excerpts that continue to inspre me…

“I’m certain I played a role in my becoming ill. A role that was mostly unconscious and unintentional. And I know that I play a large role, this one very conscious and intentional, in getting well and staying well!” TKW

“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. And yet, at the same time, be unattached to the results either way. Pain is not punishment, death is not failure, life is not reward. TKW

Cancer would certainly be a part of my life from now on, but not simply in terms of constant check-ups and of constant awareness of the possibility of a recurrence. I was going to use it in as many ways as possible.
Philosophically... to get me to look at death more closely, to help me prepare to die when the time came, and to look at the meaning and purpose of my life.
Spiritually,... to rekindle my interest in finding and following a contemplative path.
Psychologically... to be kinder and more loving to myself and others and to express my anger more easily.
Materially... to eat mainly fresh whole foods and to exercise regularly. Mostly, to be gentle with myself.” TKW

In Treya's writing, "will to live" and "intentionality" are held in a gentle tension with a healthy sense of "detachment" which respects the physical limits and vulnerability of our common humanity. In the end Treya lives and dies with a quality which her husband Ken describes as "passionate equanimity", an elusive peace in the midst of profound paradox.


Peace and Blessings...
Rob
-------------
"Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but rather, of playing a bad hand well!" Robert Louis Stevenson

originally posted in June 2007

Thursday, September 24, 2009

He Ain't Heavy - 1969

Here are The Hollies playing their 1969 hit "He Ain't Heavy".  This version was released in September 1969 featuring Elton John on piano! Flashback 40 years and this tune was probably playing on your radio.  Today I dedicate it to all those who walk this long and winding road with us as friends, partners, spouses, caregivers, parents, children, brothers and sisters, sharing your love, hope, and tears long the way. 

"But for your love and friendship,
there would be no road worth taking.
But for your strength and support,
there would be no way to take it!"  
AMEN to that!

enjoy...



HE AIN"T HEAVY
(B. Scott and B. Russell)


The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when
But I'm strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy, he's my brother

So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We'll get there
For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain't heavy, he's my brother

If I'm laden at all
I'm laden with sadness
That everyone's heart
Isn't filled with the gladness
Of love for one another

It's a long, long road
From which there is no return
While we're on the way to there
Why not share
And the load
Doesn't weigh me down at all
He ain't heavy, he's my brother

He's my brother
He ain't heavy, he's my brother...




Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Radiation Therapy

The preliminaries are now finished and I am set to start radiation therapy tomorrow afternoon.  Whew!  The waiting is finally over!  It feels very good to now be getting on the way!

My Tumour
I have a tumour which seems to have begun on the outside of the colon in the vicinity of the original site.  This tumour has evaded detection and anchored itself to the sacrum, where it has now penetrated the bone.  It has also grown into the rectum, although it barely shows there on the sigmoidoscopy.  The involvement of the sacrum is particularly disturbing, considering both the high density of nerves which pass through this structure and the difficulty of totally eliminating cancer from bone.

Having cancer in the sacrum is a painful proposition.  Hence, the priority at this stage is to provide some pain relief by knocking the cancer back through radiation.

Radiation Therapy


I was scanned and tattooed today in preparation for radiation therapy.  The intent is to deliver a measured dose of radiation to the tumour without doing too much damage to surrounding healthy tissue. There are some slight side-effects but nothing that is expected to be too uncomfortable.  It is all very technical and I don't understand the half of it.  I will have 15 daily treatments beginning September 24 and ending about October 15th, with weekends off.  Each treatment session takes only a few minutes.

The Radiation Clinic at the BC Cancer Agency is an excellent facility.  I have found the doctors, nurses, technicians and staff to all be very caring and competant.  It is a very busy place!

I have been told that radiation usually does a good job of alleviating the pain of this type of cancer but that it does not usually eliminate ALL of the cancer.  Thus, the possibility of more chemo down the road.  But that is down the road.  For tomorrow and the next days we can hope for the best possible outcome from this particular therapy.  And a little pain relief would be a great blessing in its own!

Here it goes again...  Rob; in Vancouver

“What medicines do not heal, the lance will;
what the lance does not heal, fire will.”
Hippocrates

Remembering Arkansas in the Fall

Here is what I imagine remembering of Arkansas fall colors.



"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns." George Eliot

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Cancer Journey

My previous work in this journal was done over two years ago and may not be familiar to newcomers here, or remembered by those who walked the way with me at that time.  From time-to-time I will be revisiting some of the posts from that earlier period, and refreshing, revising, and reposting them now.  They will be kind of like re-runs of favorite episodes!  Here's one that reflects on cancer as "journey"...

Of the various metaphors that are used to speak of the experience of cancer I tend to relate best to the image of “journey”. Life as journey, road trip, pilgrimage, or quest has been a larger theme in my life and cancer, as a piece of that journey, fits nicely.

My own life has really been a veritable odyssey with varied stages and way-points, from it’s beginning in Fayetteville, Arkansas; through a childhood in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and adolescence in Calgary; with educational sojourns in Fredericton, NB and Castelgar, BC; finding lifelong love while on a cross Canada Christmas expedition; a 12 year tour of forestry work on Haida Gwai and throughout NW British Columbia; a passage by sea to the coastal Tsimshian village of Port Simpson and the beginning of a life of ministry; another stage in the beautiful northcoast town of Prince Rupert; and finally (so far) an urban adventure in the downtown heart of Vancouver.

Along the way there have been experiences as varied as the geography I’ve traversed, mountaintop highs, valley lows, ocean storms, prairie calms and everything in-between. I have found myself often in unfamiliar and uncharted territories and at times I’ve been lost. I have found companions on the way who have both guided and challenged me. I have been a son and a brother, a husband and a father, a forester and a minister. In ways that are both great and small I have both failed and succeeded in all of these roles. So it is with the journey of life.

I am particularly drawn to the language and theme of "pilgrimage" to speak of the experience of this journey.
pil·grim·age pílgrimij n. from L. peregrinatio
1. religious journey: a journey to a holy place, undertaken for religious reasons
2. trip to special place: a journey to a place with special significance

My friend Donald Grayston, himself an avid pilgrim, defines pilgrimage as  "a journey to a sacred place, in the expectation of transformation."

Cancer is most definitely NOT a path of ones choosing.  This is true of many of the classic quests in which the traveller is set upon a difficult road by way of circumstances beyond their choosing.  How the road is walked is, however, a matter of much choice.   In the pilgrimage of cancer the "sacred place" that we seek is a place of healing and well-being, a place of equanimity and peace.  And while the path may not be taken with the "expectation of transformation", such transformation often does take place, in ways that are perhaps subtle yet significant.

My experience of cancer has been a journey of varied terrain. Surgery and chemo are difficult roads. But there are grace-filled moments of rest and renewal along the way and companions to share the journey with. I have no idea where, when, or how this journey will end. We seldom know these things. In spite of all the recent set-backs, I do still have a vision of life beyond cancer and hopes for the future. But for the moment it's a matter of living through this stage, finding rest in the holy moments that are offered, and enjoying the company and the scenery as much as possible.

Safe travels… Rob; in Vancouver

“Be good, keep your feet dry,
your eyes open, your heart at peace
and your soul in the joy of Christ.”
Thomas Merton

All My Life's a Circle

An interesting interpretation of a Harry Chapin classic... enjoy!


Monday, September 21, 2009

"Cancerese"


Ok!  I know it, you know it, all cancer patients know it, cancer care workers know it...  we have our own language and secret code when it comes to talking about cancer.  Sure, all trades, fields, and disciplines have their own custom jargon.  This is true.  But how many of them have their own dictionary?  Well... I have just discovered the "Dictionary of Cancer Terms" as posted by the National Cancer Institute (US). 

The "Dictionary of Cancer Terms" contains over 6000 terms related to cancer and medicine.  Granted, many of these terms are shared with other branches of medicine or are found in general usage in the world-at-large, it is still an impressive vocabulary.  So impressive that the National Cancer institute also has both a Thesaurus AND a Metathesaurus!  A Metathesaurus!  

The Metathesaurus is a "comprehensive biomedical terminology database that includes 1,300,000 concepts mapped to 4,600,000 terms with 17, 000,000 relationships"!!  WOW!  I guess it is basically a thesaurus that has "metastacized" and gone totally beyond its normal state! 

This is, of course, the most fascinating of stuff!  I can take my laptop to my next appointment and translate as I go!!  Truly, it is a wondeful resource for the cancer pilgrim as they wander through this strange land.  Here are a few terms I share with you today...

colorectal cancer (KOH-loh-REK-tul KAN-ser) Cancer that develops in the colon (the longest part of the large intestine) and/or the rectum (the last several inches of the large intestine before the anus).

sigmoidoscopy (sig-MOY-DOS-koh-pee) Examination of the lower colon using a sigmoidoscope, inserted into the rectum. A sigmoidoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. (what I am having later today!)

spirituality (SPIR-ih-choo-A-lih-tee) Having to do with deep, often religious, feelings and beliefs, including a person’s sense of peace, purpose, connection to others, and beliefs about the meaning of life.

Be Well... Rob; in Vancouver

“Incomprehensible jargon is the hallmark of a profession.”
Kingman Brewster

Happy Birthday Leonard Cohen

I am reminded by a friend that today is Leonard Cohen's 75th Birthday!  A great Canadian poet and singer-songwriter.

ANTHEM
Sung by Julie Christensen and Perla Batalla




"Anthem"


The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.


Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.


We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government --
signs for all to see.


I can't run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they've summoned, they've summoned up
a thundercloud
and they're going to hear from me.


Ring the bells that still can ring ...


You can add up the parts
but you won't have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.


Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.


Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hallelujah Anyhow!



I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Recurrence

One of the particularly nasty aspects of cancer is that it has a tendency to “recur”. I mean it sucks to get cancer to begin with, but to be hit with a recurrence after fighting it off once really sucks!! AND to be struck a third time... well, as many of you affirmed in your notes to me, "IT JUST ISN'T FAIR!!"

My original diagnosis was in August of 2004. I spent the rest of 2004 and the first half of 2005 undergoing surgery and chemo until I was finally found “All Clear”. Yee Haw!! It was a great moment to get CT Scans, PET Scans, and blood work results all back “negative”. I was celebrating what we know in cancer lingo as “No Evidence of Disease” or “NED”.

Then in the fall of 2006 I had another CT Scan. Initially it looked good and my surgeon and I were quite happy… then he got the radiologist’s report and I got the call to come back to his office (never a good sign!). The radiologist had seen things a little differently and a PET Scan was ordered to confirm if the “hypodensity” on the CT Scan was indeed malignant. Well it was… so, there you have it… a recurrence!!

Initially, the news of the recurrence was pretty devastating. But eventually, as hopeful treatment options began to emerge, a “we’ve been through this before, and we can go through it again” attitude began to take root. I had successful RFA (What is RFA?), another round of chemo, and once again emerged with "No Evidence of Disease"!

So... here we go again! This time a "local recurrence". Local recurrence is what we call a cancer recurrence that takes place at the original location. In my case it seems that some residual cancer cells grew to become a malignant tumour in the vicinity of the original site. This tumour then spread "posteriorly" to the sacrum. Ouch!

I met with the oncologists at the BC Cancer Agency today and they have recommended a 15 day course of radiation. I have decided to go with this and will probably begin within the next week. It is a "painless procedure" with "minimal side-effects" which should "significantly reduce" the amount of pain I am experiencing. (for which I will be most grateful!)



Living with the possibility of a recurrence is a challenge that all cancer survivors have to face in some way or another. Author, and cancer survivor, Vickie Girard has a great philosophy for living with that possibility. She says it is like planning for a picnic when the weather forecast includes a possibility of showers. Do you cancel the picnic and stay home, or do you go out and enjoy the day anyways, perhaps putting a tarp and raincoat in the trunk?

So… do we let the possibility of a recurrence diminish our lives, or do we “seize the day” and live life to the fullest? Cancer be damned!!

Carpe Diem… Rob; in Vancouver

“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.” Margaret Thatcher

Here it Goes Again

OK Go - Here It Goes Again


"Just when you think you're in control,
just when you think you've got a hold,
just when you get on a roll,
Oh, here it goes, here it goes,
here it goes again.Oh, here it goes again.
I should have known,
should have known,
should have known again,
but here it goes again...
All right!
I guess there's got to be a break in the monotony,
but Jesus, when it rains how it pours...
Oh, here it goes, here it goes,
here it goes again.
Oh here it goes again..."
OK Go.

Patrick Swayze's Last Dance


PATRICK SWAYZE
August 18, 1952 - September 14, 2009
-----------------
"I found that dance was key to keeping depression out of my life. When you dance, things just go away, things don't seem so bad. There's no better way to take care of health than through something as joyous and beautiful as dance.”
Patrick Swayze

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Terry Fox Run: September 13, 2009

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 Sunday, September 13, 2009. To date over $400 million has been raised for cancer research.
http://www.terryfox.org/Run/

Remembering Terry... Rob; in Vancouver

“I know that you can do the impossible.” Terry Fox

Terry Fox Run



What can we say... Thanks Terry!!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Waiting...

Living with cancer involves all kinds of waiting!! It truly boggles the mind when you stop to think about it! There is the waiting for appointments to be scheduled, then the waiting for the appointment day and the time in the many "waiting rooms". If the appointment was a scan or other test there is the long waiting for the results.

It is safe to say that over the last 5 years I have pretty well always been waiting for some event to take place in terms of various appointments, scans, procedures, results, or whatever. You have to learn to become a "patient waiter" if you are going to live with cancer.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned to a friend that I was waiting for some test results. She empathized with me and offered that "waiting is sometimes the hardest part". I had to agree. Sometimes waiting is very difficult. Like a couple of years ago when I had to wait months to have a procedure done to remove a small tumour from my liver. Every week of waiting was another week of the tumour growing. It is hard to be a "patient waiter" when you have a cancer tumour growing in you!

Another kind of waiting is the waiting to get test results. I handle this much better. I figure that the scan is done and I can't do anything about it. It is nice to enjoy a few days of "unknowing" before bad news is confirmed!

So here I am waiting for an appointment with the Cancer Agency. It helps me to know that while I am waiting there is a team of top oncologists and technicians reviewing my very extensive file and designing a treatment plan that will help me along this stage of my journey. Soon enough the waiting will be over and I'll be taking on some combination of radiation, surgery, and chemo. For now waiting is OK!
Waiting in Hope! Rob
"I took a course in speed waiting. Now I can wait an hour in only ten minutes." Steven Wright

At The Doctor's Office

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Back-to-School!


The summer of 2009 is over!! Here in Vancouver the weather is definitely showing hints of the approaching fall season. Cool and Damp!

Only two of our girls are back-to-school this year. Kelly to UBC - Law, Morgan to Langara College - Library Technology. Robyn graduated from U of A last spring and is looking for work as a teacher in Edmonton. With a little luck she will be back-to-school as a teacher soon!! I'm sure it will feel odd for her to be on the other side of the desk after almost 20 years of public school, college, and university.

40 years ago, in September 1969, I was starting grade 7 at Woodman Jr. High in Calgary. We had just moved there from small town Houghton, Michigan so it was a lot of new stuff for me!

Top of the Pop Charts that month was "Sugar, Sugar" by the Archies!! How cool is that! 40 years later Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica are still going strong. I've even heard that Archie has proposed to Veronica! Who'd a' thought!

Have a great "back-to-school" day!

Rob; in Vancouver
"One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child."
Carl Jung


A Back-to-School Treat

SUGAR, SUGAR

Monday, September 7, 2009

Don't Be Afraid


Last Sunday I shared a brief reflection on FEAR with the folks at St. Stephen's. After reading a litany of "Do not be afraid" passages from the bible I recalled the wisdom of the great Jedi master Yoda...

“Fear is the path to the dark side.
Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate.
Hate leads to suffering.”

Fear is one of the most basic of human emotions and certainly a frequent experience of those living with cancer. I can admit to considerable fear in my own circumstance...

  • Fear of living in pain
  • Fear of job loss
  • Fear of the pain and suffering caused to loved ones
  • Fear of the unknown journey ahead
  • Fear of death

...to name but a few. I can't deny or minimize the reality of these fears. To be honest, I would even say that fear is an appropriate response given the circumstances!

I understand fear as a natural response to a perceived threat and part of what gets me ready for the "fight or flight" action that should follow. As such, fear is a "good thing" and a motivator to get me into the "fighting spirit" needed to take on cancer treatment. Unfortunately, too much of this "good thing" leads to chronic stress and a suppression of the immune system. NOT a good thing!

So, somehow, "fear" needs to be relinquished, "let go of". Like most challenges in life, this is easier said than done.

For me it is part of the daily soul work of living with cancer… sifting through, sorting out, and letting go of the myriad of “afflictive emotions” that litter the landscape. I find prayer, meditation and a pint of Guinness often helpful here!

Be not afraid… Rob; in Vancouver

“I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Thomas Merton

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Showers of Blessings!

What an incredible community of family, friends, and colleagues! We are so grateful for the many words of encouragement and support and for the prayers and healing thoughts that are being sent our way at this time. It means so much to know that we are not alone as we walk this journey. The experience of such positive and tangible emotional support goes a long ways towards making this difficult "adjustment stage" bearable.
This poem from 8 year old John Keenlyside says it all...


I'm now waiting for a call from the BC Cancer Agency, which I understand could take a week or two. They have my very extensive file and will no doubt need some time to come up with an approriate strategy. So it remains a time of some uncertainty as to what will follow. I'm anxious to get on with treatment but need the patience to let everything happen in due time. Grrrr...
In the meantime I can enjoy a few more weeks of life in a relatively normal way. Work and pray, eat and sleep, worship and play...
With many, many thanks... Rob
"It is important not only to be grateful to others
but also to be grateful for others."
Edward Hays

A Little Help From My Friends

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cancer Sucks!

Towards the end of this glorious summer I began to experience pain in my "tailbone". A bone scan last week and subsequent CT scan this week have confirmed the presence of cancer in the bone at the base of my spine. Another event to file under the banner "CANCER SUCKS".

Things had been looking pretty good up until this point. My spring scans and bloodwork were all good. C'est la vie!

I'm not too sure what's ahead at this point but the hope is that there will be a treatment plan to include some combination of radiation and chemo. I'm waiting now to hear from the BC Cancer Agency to begin the process.

During my last time of treatment, 2007, I posted regularly to this journal as a way of keeping family and friends informed of my progress and of sharing some reflections and resources related to living with cancer. I haven't posted for the last 2 years but with this new stage of the journey I'll begin posting again.

Peace and blessings...
Rob
“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.” Margaret Thatcher

Why Me Lord?

September 2007-September 2009


Here there was a wonderful two years
of life free of the effects of, or treatment of, cancer!




And what a delight it has been!
It truly gives substance to the meaning of "remission"!

_________________________


Life is good!!