Saturday, February 8, 2014

Still Standin': My Final Blog Entry...

So, this is it! But geez…where to start?

I’ve spoken with a few folks over the past couple of years, people interested in some thoughts and suggestions about my situation, and there are also many people I have engaged in an effort to acquire information. Thankfully, there is a pretty willing network out there, given the broad range of cancer issues and treatments.

Clearly, everyone deals with things differently.

There are those who choose to be completely secretive, effectively disappearing from the face of the earth during treatment. I recall speaking with one gentleman who lives in a well-known golf community in Kelowna. Same cancer as mine; same treatment. Identical. He and his wife chose to keep his situation very secret. One of his comments to me was, “people in our community don’t react very well to cancer”. Whether or not that is true, I think it’s sad.

And there are those who choose to be open, which can keep people engaged with others and keep lines of communication open. For me, the neat thing about doing it my way is that I was able to stay in touch with folks and often our interactions didn’t include talking about cancer. Hey, I didn’t start NOT liking hockey or golf, just because I was sick.

I’m glad I chose to handle it the way I did.

Confirmed on February 7, 2014 that I remain cancer-free.

The cancer-free verdict actually arrived in our world on February 5, 2013. So it’s been one year now.

Sounds like the longer I go without the cancer cells rearing their ugly head, the better the chances the disease will never return.

I re-visited the routine of blood tests and hospitals over the past week in preparation for my appointment at the BC Cancer Agency on February 7. You know, I don’t miss any of this stuff!

The blood work, well, it’s just another needle, eh? I suppose one benefit is I can now watch television dramas and when a doctor asks for a “CBC”, I now know he's asking for a “Complete Blood Count”. And no, I didn’t know what this meant before having to get all kinds of blood work done over the past couple of years.

I think in total, I’ve had four CT Scans at Kelowna General Hospital. A nurse sticks a needle in my arm, tapes it in place, then attaches a small length of hose. A few minutes later, a technician takes me into a room where I lay on a bed that moves in and out of a huge cylinder. Before this, the tech injects a fluid called “contrast”.

In the past, the medical team has always advised that the injection of the contrast can feel odd and produce some side effects. I have never had anything develop in the past, but during my final CT Scan on February 4, I felt that rush of warmth over my upper body and then, just a bit nauseous. I figure because this CT Scan was done early in the morning, while the others were always later in the day, my body wasn’t ready for this all.

Anyway, the tonic that takes care of the uneasiness is pretty simple. Just drink a ton of water and flush the contrast out the kidneys.

Part of me is eminently prepared to recognize that the entire situation has been a humbling experience. Faced with an adventure like this, there was plenty of navel-gazing…a process that started with disbelief, then became pretty much all of the following: fear, anger, acceptance, anticipation, pain, boredom, exhilaration and reflection.

But through it all, I sure have developed a new respect for the concept of self-talk, and just how it can help a person to manage challenges. Self-talk can be a valuable mechanism, one that can serve to motivate and encourage. It is also be very destructive.

Over the course of my adult life, and definitely during treatment, I have really gone back-and-forth on this one.

Like all of us, I appreciate compliments and recognition. But, I am also the type that can emphasize the negative. I mean, if 10 people say something positive about something I’ve done or achieved, then one person comes along and craps on me about it, I tend to fret about the negativity. I came to realize that this is something I have to change.

Last year, I raged in one blog posting about the behaviour I witness among some of the “assholes” of the world. I look back on that in particular and absolutely do not regret the rant because I am comfortable that I wanted to get it out of my system and make a point.

But, it’s disappointing to reflect on just how I allowed some truly negative people to impact my feelings. Alas, I could have changed the “self-talk”.

So, moving forward, goal number one is to try and quit over-thinking the negative. If 10 people are satisfied enough to pat me on the back for an accomplishment, I think it’s fair to suggest that it’s a disservice to them to allow one idiot to undo the positive impact of kind words and compliments.

The EFFECTS OF TREATMENT (aka “Side Effects”)…
A total of 14 months have passed since my last radiation treatment. The radiation has effectively:
            > decimated two of my salivary glands
            > destroyed what was a healthy thyroid
            > changed my taste buds

My mouth remains very dry unless I’m drinking water or chewing gum. Basically, I’m producing about 50% of the saliva I was used to producing for the first 50 years of my life. This has improved slightly over the past six months and there is hope it will continue to improve. Time will tell.

My hands and feet get cold quickly, a product of the current condition of my thyroid gland. This can be helped through prescription meds, but it’s taking a while to nail down the precise dosage. Again, time will tell.

There are many things that I encounter that simply do not taste the way they used to. Red wine, is something I’ve always enjoyed, but over the past year or so, it has become a non-entity in my world. Spicy foods were an absolute treat in my world, but the fiery sensation I used to enjoy is no longer something I can savour.

Dealing with this stuff is really just an inconvenience. They are the “effects of treatment”. Occasionally it seems like such a big price to pay, because everyone who is healthy absolutely takes these things for granted to some degree. For me, it’s kind of a drag, but better than the alternative.

Through it all, I have to say there really is one key to all of this. And that is…


The longer you ignore something that’s been nagging you, the harder the treatment is likely to be. I know I could have been better on top of things. In my case, I probably could have saved myself about six months.

What I mean is, I knew something was not 100%, but I did not advocate enough for myself in my dealings with my doctor(s). Now understand, I do not blame them for any of this. We stayed in contact throughout and we did get the diagnosis right. I just know that I could have been more persistent.

In retrospect, it is entirely possible that if I had been diagnosed a few months earlier, the treatment may not have had to be as aggressive as it was. This just seems like a logical train of thought to me, and is not based on any opinion I have asked for from anyone on the medical team. It is also entirely possible that perhaps I was just doomed…destined for a treatment regimen that would inevitably knock me on my ass.

Moving forward, I will be more on top of things that seem just a little out of sorts. I will advocate for myself. Things change when the chronological clock reads “50”. It’s all up to me now.

These are the people in my life that had even more impact than the medical staff I dealt with.

First and foremost, my wife Gay is the reason I’m “still standin’”. When I was in excruciating pain through much of November, 2012, she was the person who put her life on hold to comfort me. She dealt with all of the things about the diagnosis and treatment that really were just plain shitty. I absolutely understand how easy it would be for someone to simply give up and pack it in. Having someone who cares is a huge blessing.

We enjoy many things together, along with the small group of friends that we choose to keep close to us.

We have busy jobs and enjoy what we do with most of the people we work with.

After a great day at work, I want to be able to share it all with Gay when I get home.

After a crummy day on the job, I want Gay to be there for me to lean on.

When I travel, I want Gay to be there with me to enjoy everything there is to explore.

We have been blessed with a daughter who is mature, independent and successful.

Life is good.

Frankly, there are just too many to mention, although I have named a number of them through the course of this web-based narrative.

My parents were determined to be here in the Okanagan Valley while I was undergoing treatment. As a family, we have not encountered serious illness or tragedy, so this diagnosis was the first such episode.

The beautiful thing is that it got my folks off their butts and out of the Saskatchewan cold for three months last winter. For many reasons that I will not go into, that was a huge victory in itself.

I feel like my relationship with my brother and sister is more solid, although there is distance between us. They are both in Saskatoon. So yes, I am the only one who has truly left the nest.

But the real benefit to me is I think the relationship between my brother and sister has improved. They are two solid people with very good families who are successful in all that they do, despite traveling down very different paths during their adult lives.

I’m not certain they were particularly compatible for many of those years. But that seems to have changed lately. If my illness and recovery played a small role in what I see evolving between them, bringing them just a little bit closer to each other, it’s a real nice part of the success story.

Everybody has one. I am fortunate to have many!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Winding Down This Blog: Part One...

This will be my second last entry, as I feel like the time has come to call it a day with this "blog". I'll save a farewell note for a date in the near future that I have etched in my mind.

Since September of 2012, I've used this forum to talk about my cancer treatment in many different ways. There has been general information, some photos, my feelings of anger, the frustrations and some occasional attempts at humor. The beauty of it all from my perspective is that I have been comfortable with total ownership of the content, even those entries that may have compelled me to second-guess.

Occasionally I have probably tried to be philosophical as well, but this would probably be a little self-serving. I do not consider myself a great thinker by any stretch, but I am much more informed now as far cancer treatment is concerned. Sure, I know that the disease is a monster with many heads, so to speak, but I have witnessed first hand how the "system" deals favorably with cancer patients. And, there is most definitely some continuity among caregivers, the group of people affected by cancer who soldier on in the shadows of the cancer victim.

A year ago today, I had two chemotherapy sessions under my belt. I had undergone just over half of the 35 prescribed radiation treatments. I was about a week into life without the use of my taste buds. All of the treatment "promises" were coming true. Frankly, I was miserable...barely keeping it together from the neck up. The six weeks that followed were excruciating.

When I fast-forward to the present day, it really does all seem so very recent to me. As I reflect on the past year, how I have progressed on the health side, it is pretty easy to be thankful. I still deal with the effects of treatment throughout every day, the major and minor inconveniences that are in fact permanent now, along with the effects that may eventually disappear. I am amazed at what I have been able to accomplish, yet I am frustrated by circumstances  that have held me back. And of course, there is always the fear that new or persistent cancer cells will return and wreak some havoc. Indeed, it still is a mental game.

When I reflect on how I have changed emotionally through all of this, I am certain of a few things. I am much more compassionate when it comes to dealing with people who have been touched by illness. I think I am relatively safe when I say that "I feel their pain". To a large degree, I have "been there", so I have some understanding of just how difficult it is to look toward the future with confidence that hope has some merit. I admire the stick-to-it-iv-ness these people display, and I am thankful for those who have the support of their spouse, their families and their friends.

I also recognize that this entire adventure has changed the way that I choose to deal with unnecessary bullshit. I simply have no tolerance for the self-centered among us. I have grown weary of immaturity and blatant stupidity among adults, the misguided sense of entitlement that drives so many people to a state of complete ignorance. Admittedly, I have allowed myself to be roped into situations that ultimately result in me becoming a complainer at times. The reality is it's all just very unproductive for everyone.

I am about two weeks away from my fourth 90-day consultation at the BC Cancer Agency. So, yeah, that'll be about one year post-treatment. I am healthy on the outside, but I know there is still plenty of healing to come.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Dog Days of Summer...

So it was on August 12 when I arrived at the BC Cancer Agency in Kelowna, feeling okay but admittedly, kind of agitated. Coming off a busy weekend at work, then trying to cram eight hours of work into a six-hour shift on Monday was probably a little much to try and accomplish. Add in a couple of unexpected "golfer situations" at the last minute and my head was sufficiently spinning as I wheeled on to Highway 97.

The appointment was my second "90-day" post treatment consultation. The blood work and scans had been done in advance, along with reports from my annual physical on July 31. There was really nothing too exciting to report. The details...

Weight: a cool 174.8 pounds.

Thyroid: still a mess, but meds are in place to help deal with this adventure.

Tongue: sounds like everything looks and feels normal as far as the doc is concerned. There is no evidence of the tumor returning.

Epiglottis: the new adventure! This is the "flap" that opens a closes the larynx. Apparently, a piece of this has broken off, which is understandable due to the amount of radiation drilled into my neck. The concern here is that food may occasionally escape into my lungs, which can cause some irritation and coughing. Guess I'll just stay tuned.

Reflux: this burning in my neck and chest has been a bother for about six weeks. According to Bachand, this is totally an effect of stress. So, some more meds! It's frustrating...

Neck: there is significant scarring inside my neck, cartilage that remains hard and swollen on the right side. I still cannot grow hair on my neck, which isn't a big deal. It's just a noticeable effect of treatment. There is no sign of any swollen lymph nodes.

Overall, Dr. Bachand is happy with things, suggesting I am in very good shape physically based on the aggressiveness of the treatment. I may be through with CT Scans for awhile, although I have to check in again with the agency in three months.

Bachand has been a terrific young guy to deal with. He is careful to explain things clearly, and is not a guy putting huge restrictions on what I choose to do. He appears to be a little pissed off that I have been devoting so much time to work so soon after completing treatment. But, as has been the case all along, he acknowledges that I will "own" the consequences of these decisions.

Stress - Part 1: The entire 2013 calendar has really become a drag. There is, of course, recovery as one issue, but the curve balls from other areas have been coming at us in just a non-stop fashion. Of paramount concern...the gawddam clubhouse fire at the golf course. As a management team, we knew going in that the biggest challenge, a disinterested restaurant lease operator, would be a resolved issue very quickly into the golf season.  The inevitable came to pass at the end of April and we were elated to be turning the corner to provide an enhanced, personal experience on the food and beverage side. There was a real good vibe in the mix after just a couple of weeks, then the shit hit the fan when the clubhouse burnt down. We've kind of been playing catch up all season long as a result. Add in the occasional bouts of unnecessary consumer bullshit, and the environment can become just far too toxic. There have been some amazing triumphs for certain, but there have been far too many longer days and way too many glitches for our liking. Alas, no pain, no gain?

Stress - Part 2: My wife's best friend has been diagnosed with breast cancer. This situation entered our world in June. Heather and her husband had traveled to Kelowna last August to help Gay and I move to West Kelowna, just two weeks before my treatment was to start. We traveled back to Alberta in mid-July to spend a few days with them, which was well worth the drive. For Heather, the prognosis is good and a treatment plan will get rolling soon.
Stress - Part 3: Our "adopted" parents in Kelowna are fighting for their lives. Literally. Sure, when folks approach 90 years of age, the inevitable enters the realm of thinking, but that doesn't make the health-related challenges any easier to digest. Jack and Norrie have no family here. They have been so wonderfully co-dependent over the many years we have come to know them. But now, they are separated due to health issues, both in need of constant care. Gay and I have encountered some questionable decisions from the medical teams and social workers along the way, some baffling logic that has us very curious about the short- and long-term future. But, we'll gut this out.

Conclusion: Hey, it's surely not all doom and gloom these days, just a few crummy setbacks to overcome. We'll hang in there together, as we've done with some success over the past 25 years. The second half of August usually includes a few busy days at work and also a couple of fun "get-togethers" with friends as we kind of wind down the summer months. For certain, there are some good times ahead!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

An August Update...

Typical of this time of year is the pure exhaustion that comes with working in the golf industry. It's a fact of life, not necessarily an occupational "hazard", just an occupational "reality". From about mid-June to the end of August, I stare at my alarm clock five or six mornings every week. When it looks back at me, squarely in the eyes, it blasts this message: "4:44am".

The days are long on a couple of counts. Firstly, pure daylight. The skies in the Okanagan Valley are amazing early in the day. There is a peacefulness that greets every one of us in the region who enjoys arriving at a golf course before the general public has their way with our facilities. And secondly, there are just so many working hours to cover during the long daylight hours, as demand for play is huge during June, July and August. It's exciting for sure, this three-month period where the focus is so much on "work" that there really is very little time for "play" of any kind.

In recent years, I  usually prepare for this period in part by taking a group of great guys on a two-day golf excursion. It's become an annual trip in mid-June that includes two rounds of golf and an overnight. We stick pretty close to home, no more than a two-hour drive each way. The guys I travel with are the kind of people every circle of friends should include. They're just solid, successful, caring guys who enjoy the camaraderie for what it's worth. Once this mid-June adventure is over, I'm pretty much married to my job until the end of August. I don't have any major complaints about this at all, because I enjoy what I do for a living. It is much, much better than having a job that I constantly complain about. I think we all know people in this predicament? I am not one of them.

In the past, this high-energy, 12-week run has also been relatively easy to deal with, primarily because the entire team was proficient and we had things really dialed in on site. Add the clubhouse fire on May 11 to our list of current challenges, and 2013 has been very trying. Also in the past, I felt 100% healthy. This year, probably not so much. The entire season has been much more challenging than ever, due primarily to the things "unexpected".

I do not have the same energy level as in past years. I am confident this will improve, but for now, I am on fumes. For the most part, I have kept this to myself, although I am certain there are perceptive folks around who have kindly kept their observations to themselves. I suppose I kind of compare my role at work to that of "Sam Malone", the bartender at "Cheers". Really, I'm at work to kind of entertain the troops, keep an eye on the facility, make sure the "beans" are all in the right place, support our staff through any challenges they might encounter. But, as far as 2013 season goes, my sense of humor has certainly been put to the test.

After my treatment for cancer ended last November, the news in February that I was "cancer-free" was encouraging. But, dealing with the effects of treatment has been almost every bit as difficult as the treatment itself. There are many people in my world who recognize this, and they have been tremendously supportive.

Yet, there are also the assholes of the world, those who behave like bullies and really don't seem to give a damn about anyone but themselves. I have never enjoyed dealings with folks who seem to insist that an attitude of "do you know who I am" is sufficient justification for inflicting childish and ignorant bullshit. I have spent the entire month of July traveling along the "high road", while being thrown under the bus by what I believe is the lunatic fringe. I am just blown away by the behaviour of these 60-year-old toddlers!

On the other hand, there are the many wonderful people around who possess a multitude of redeeming qualities. Maturity. Integrity. Class. Self-respect.

Unfortunately, I think the assholes among us might struggle to define each of the aforementioned terms.

(By the way, there is a wonderful book folks might take a peak at, entitled "Assholes: A Theory". It's not a humorous's kind of an academic read. This can be sort of boring to some, but it's just a wonderful, informative concept. Just search the title online.)

Special Occasions...
I think we all know folks who it seems cannot wait to tell us about everything special happening in their lives. It's almost like the concept of "fishing for compliments". I giggle about this stuff, because I have always tried to be the  guy who acknowledges special occasions, without be prompted to do so. Not necessarily with cards and gifts all the time, but just a little nod of the head, a hug, or just a wink. I don't catch them all, but I do my best.

It was July 17, 2012 that I was diagnosed. When July 17, 2013 came and went without fanfare, I certainly knew the significance of the day. The significance to me. I received one phone call that day from a lady who also seemed to know the date would be some what meaningful. That was special. The crummy weather that day kept her from popping in to see me. She knows who she is. Thanks!

The Health Side...
Appointments have been juggled around a bit, so it looks like August 12 for my next consultation at the Cancer Agency in Kelowna.

On July 22, I left work after a couple of hours, feeling dizzy and just not quite right. I arrived at KGH about 11:00am and spent the day getting poked a prodded. I guess most of the tests done were to rule out that I was having a stroke.

On the positive side, the hospital staff slid me in for a CT Scan that day. The idea was to look at my brain, which of course confirmed that it is made mostly of straw! The doctors actually combined things and also scanned my neck area. So, this enabled me to cancel my originally schedule CT Scan appointment on August 1. So, I know that somebody on a cancellation list would have gotten a call to come in early for their scan. Guess that's a silver lining for somebody! I know my phone has rung over the past year when a surprise opening has come up. So, everybody wins!

That was an interesting day at KGH. I had an IV  inserted, something I did not enjoy as it reminded me too much about the three times I went through chemotherapy treatments. And, there was another reminder I could have lived without...five hours in the hospital is really boring!!

I continue to deal with a very dry mouth. This will be ongoing, so, I'll be pounding the fluids for some time I'm sure.

I have also experienced more "acid reflux" type symptoms over the past six weeks. Not sure where this is coming from, but it'll be discussed on August 12.

Moving forward...
Who knows what the future will hold? We have learned that three very special people in our lives have been diagnosed with various cancers, so we will be supporting them as they deal with their respective treatment schedules, and the effects of treatments.

Cancer is a scourge, but it really seems to be everywhere. Let's not forget the caregivers among us!

More to come...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Still Standin'...

Okay, I know I haven't been too diligent with the blog over the past month. Not one new post here, but really, the past few weeks have been a bloody nightmare on too many fronts. So, the "blog" didn't even make it's way to "second fiddle" stage.

It was refreshing to be on the receiving end of a clean bill of health from Dr. Bachand during the first week of May. Things really seemed to be falling into place on the health side, which I can assure you makes the "mind" perform much more efficiently. Then, unfortunately, the shit hit the fan during the morning hours of May 11 when the clubhouse at the Shannon Lake Golf Club was torched.

My phone rang a little before 5AM. Now, most of us probably would agree that if your phone rings at that time of day, the news is probably not good. When I was told the clubhouse had burned down, I chuckled at first, then wondered aloud, "yeh, so what's really goin' on?"

Alas, the building had gone up in flames, and so did much of the hard work we had put in over the course of the winter to get the facility ready to rock 'n roll. In reality, John Jacoby is the guy who really busts his ass during the off-season. It almost seems ritualistic to me, watching his focus on preparation during those dozen weeks between the golf course closing in late November and opening in early March. Really, while many folks are enjoying their winter homes at that time, I am quite confident they have no clue what kind of effort is being undertaken at the Shannon Lake Golf Club. Working without distraction can be a beautiful thing...

But, I digress. The fire at Shannon Lake created a couple of problems for me. Firstly, implementing a short-term operating strategy was not something we anticipated. Geezuz...four weeks into it and there are still many uncertainties. Secondly, I got sick almost immediately, initially from inhaling the smoke and chemical fumes from the site, which manifested into other kinds of grief like a chest and sinus infection. Yeh...good times. Admittedly, physically, due to the infections I pretty much still feel like shit these days, sniffling just about all day long.

On the upside, I'm tipping the scales at about 175 pounds. I am absolutely enjoying every minute of little tasks like being able to tie my shoe laces...both feet...without having to take a break after doing the first one, and without huffing and puffing when I'm finished. There are folks who insist on reminding me about my weight, how noticeable it is that I'm thinner now, suggesting they think I don't look healthy. Really...I lost 18 pounds in six months, and haven't lost another pound in the past four months!

I get that the commentary is borne out of concern, but what would happen if I walked up to a fat person who had just been ill and said, "geez, you don't look well, you should try and lose some weight." I'd get chastised in about two seconds by folks who'd felt I'd insulted them...

What people have to try and realize is I had pictured myself as rather a fat bastard over the past many years. So, you know, I'm kinda diggin' the rarefied air at 175! Sure, cancer treatment and the effects are not a preferred weight-loss program, but I can now see parts of my body without having to stand in front of a mirror. All in all, it's a nice change for me...

The Health Side
Went through the paces this week with regard to my dental situation. The horror stories associated with the treatment I went through include removal of all teeth for those with serious dental issues. Can you imagine? Having all of your teeth removed BEFORE treatment?

I was fortunate to go into all of this with pretty sound dental health. The chief concerns post-treatment relate to how a dry mouth might lead to problems with decay. Thankfully, despite the loss of some salivary gland function, everything looks okay as far as the dentist is concerned.

There is significant scar tissue along my jaw on the right side and I have noticed how hard the soft-tissue along the right side of me neck has been of late. I understand this is probably "here to stay", as the soft tissue has been butchered and damaged by radiation. On the left side of my neck, everything seems normal, according to the medical team.

Moving forward, it's all about maintaining good dental habits, which includes the use of fluoride trays everyday. It's just part of the "new normal".

Updates & Check Ups
CT Scan on July 25.
Consult with Dr. Bachand at the BC Cancer Agency on August 1.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Anger Management...

We spent a couple of hours at the BC Cancer Agency on Tuesday, May 7, a 90-day checkup. The last time in was on February 5. That was the day Dr. Francois Bachand gave us the news that the medical team and the treatment had managed to successfully obliterate the cancer cells!

Last week, it was a bit of a different tune, as the discussion was more about side effects and progress along those lines, rather than us wondering about the status of the tumor in my throat. For the record, the camera was snaked up my nose and into my throat again, and Bachand announced that everything in there that he could see looked "normal".

Well, "normal" is now a real buzzword in my world these days, as I am trying to come to terms with exactly what normal means. These days, it's "normal" for me to:

1. drink three or four glasses of water to choke down a sandwich or a hamburger.
2. chew about three pieces of gum per day.
3. be forgetful.
4. grow tired very early in the evenings.

Really, I recognize that these are just inconveniences now, although I find myself getting more and more angry about these inconveniences becoming the norm.

The biggest issue is how dry my mouth is. It's a new experience for me and one I am not enjoying. There is no timeline on this possibly changing for the better.

I am also being challenged with short-term memory issues. We discussed this last week and it is attributable to the drug used during my chemotherapy sessions. "Cisplatin" is the name of the drug, but apparently the "platin" group of drugs does make their way into our brains. For me, remembering entire phone numbers is an example of new challenge. I am not amused.

Feeling a little less energetic as the day wears on relates to thyroid function, or lack of the same. Effectively, the radiation treatments have sped up this process, that being the deterioration. It will not belong before we give a low-dose thyroid medication a try.

New Challenges...
We really felt we had things moving in the right direction at work these days at the Shannon Lake Golf Club. The golf course is in excellent condition, thanks to the team effort our grounds crew puts forward every day.

On the golf side, we've been fortunate that continuity over the past seven years has resulted in service level consistency. And, as a business, we have been profitable, which is unfortunately kind of a rarity in the golf industry these days.

At the end of April, the club took over operation of the food and beverage end of things, after four years of lease operators running the show. There was a real upbeat and positive vibe at the club in recent days, noticeable even to a few of the folks that many would recognize as our chronic complainers.

Then this...

The clubhouse at the Shannon Lake Golf Club, destroyed by fire on May 11, 2013.
Another look at the destruction.

Emotions are running pretty high, as many can imagine. A significant portion of the Membership looks at this building and realizes that about 25 years of memories have been generated on the property. We often joked about the state of the building and how we wished for more modern digs, but this incident is devastating. And the timing is terrible.

But, we have a good working Board at the club and a solid management team. That should be a favorable combination moving forward, as decisions will have to be made regarding our short-term operation strategies and the long-term plan that will relate to reconstruction.

For me these days, working in an environment with remnants of smoke damage and chemical fumes in the air is only an option if I choose to function as a complete idiot. After being there all day Saturday, I suffered through the evening and over night with pain and irritation in my throat, the likes of which I have not experienced for some time. Sure, it was a bad judgement call on my part to spend as much time around the property as I did on Saturday, but I suppose I'll have to attribute that to the shock and disappointment.

Actually, in retrospect, I am somewhat amused by the fact that the fire investigators wore masks and oxygen tanks while combing through the wreckage. Meanwhile many of us, including the on-lookers and illustrious media stood around by the clubhouse area just breathing in the toxic atmosphere. Really! What the hell were we  thinking?

Moving forward, I will not make the same mistake, although the shitty part of that decision is that more of the "on-site responsibility" in the short-term will fall upon the other members of the team. I'll work remotely for awhile on as many admin tasks as I can. Part of me feels like I'm shirking my responsibility by not being there in the trenches. The other part of me wants to stay alive...

Through it all, I recall an old saying; "you can't turn chicken shit into chicken salad". Or, "you can't whip shit into honey".

Well, I think that proving this old adage wrong might just sum up our new challenge.

So stay tuned...


Saturday, April 27, 2013

The "Promises" Keep Coming True...

Early on in my treatment odyssey, the medical staff I spoke with were always very open about side effects. Initially, I convinced myself that I was the guy that would rise above these issues, thus confounding the experts and moving on in continued good health.

But then reality kind of nailed me between the eyes when my taste buds ceased to function after about 15 radiation treatments. It was around this time that Gay coined the phrase, "maybe all of the promises are coming true".

Well, yeh, they all did come true over the course of treatment and also through post-treatment. Some issues were not particularly serious in my opinion, but others certainly gave me some grief.

PAIN: absolutely this was an issue as radiation continued to singe the inside of my throat. What the sunburn per day for 35 consecutive weekdays? Yeh, that'll do it!

WEIGHT LOSS: pretty logical on  this one, eh? When swallowing food becomes a painful proposition, shedding pounds is obviously going to be a result. The tale of the tape reveals that I lost 18 pounds during treatment. Had I been grossly "unfit" when treatment began, I probably would have lost more weight.

CONSTIPATION: I dodged the bullet on this one, likely for a couple of reasons. Firstly, over the past many years, I have been a religious "drinker of water". It is not uncommon for me to down 8 to 10 glasses a day. So, when the suggestion from the medical team was to maintain high fluid intake, it was not a new concept for me to buy into. Secondly, I used laxatives "in advance", meaning I did not wait for symptoms to get my attention. One-a-day made sense to me, rather than using a huge dosage to "undo" a festering problem. Hey, it worked for me.

CHEMO BRAIN: Sure, it's kind of a slang term, and it may not have any real medical relevance, but I "only" underwent three sessions. And, there was three weeks between sessions. I cannot imagine what patients endure when they experience a higher frequency. I have noticed some challenges with short-term retention of numbers, and I do not seem to be as quick and accurate when making calculations. Maybe this can all be attributed to being a 50-year-old? It's easier to blame the drugs!

FATIGUE: Oh yeh. While the treatment plan was effectively kicking the shit out of my system, I frequently ran out of gas. I feel very fortunate though that I did sleep well through it all, but while I was awake and mobile, I got to know the meaning of the word "lethargic".

SKIN: Again, our proactive approach on this one probably saved me some major grief. We used galaxall-based cremes a couple of times daily throughout treatment. There was also a saline-type solution recommended by the cancer agency that Gay made. It was a solution we used to soak a small towel, then it was placed on my neck in the evenings. It was "cooling" at first, but I wonder if the solution also served to condition the skin that was being butchered by radiation? Hey, it all worked out well, as I avoided any serious blistering or peeling. Today, as the inflammation in my throat continues to subside, I can see what appear to be stretch marks beginning to develop. It seems to makes sense.

TEETH & ORAL HEALTH: I was fortunate to begin treatment without any serious problems with my teeth. I learned that some people undergoing the same treatment have had  to have all of their teeth removed "before" treatment. Can you imagine how traumatic that would be...and how expensive? Today, I can tell things have changed. There is more space between some of my teeth, although I cannot completely ascertain how much of this would relate to treatment. I am also chewing gum (sugarless) more than I ever have, so I imagine my teeth are not always enjoying this. And naturally, my jaws get tired. It's a weird feeling.

SALIVARY GLANDS: If I understand this correctly, I had four salivary glands that functioned in an optimal fashion prior to treatment. Radiation effectively eliminated the ability of two of these to do their jobs. So, that would make for a 50% reduction in my ability to produce saliva. The negative impact on oral health remains to be seen, but saliva effectively helps to keep our mouths moist and it also helps to remove food particles from our teeth. It can also help to reduce plaque buildup. Naturally, I anticipate some challenges moving forward, which will be a drag because I've been pretty blessed with decent teeth and very few dental health issues. I used trays (mouth guards) during treatment everyday, but admittedly, I've kind of fallen off the regular use in recent weeks. Chewing gum helps to keep my mouth moist, but I've bitten my tongue at least half-a-dozen times of late. Geezuz that hurts!! And it bleeds so much!! Oddly, I find myself laughing while I'm spitting up the blood, obviously amused at my own stupidity. I continue to pound the water as well, which really helps, but it also compromises my desire to gain some weight. Oh well...

THYROID: My latest adventure! A few weeks ago my blood work confirmed I am on the road to hypothyroidism. Again, radiation is the culprit. I have begun to feel less energetic over the past week or so, which is bothersome, but seemingly, it's par for the course. We'll monitor all of this and see where it goes.

On May 7, we sit down with Dr. Bachand again at the cancer agency in Kelowna. I imagine he'll be snaking a camera down my throat again to check things out, along with evaluating my progress. I'll toss him a bunch of questions, certainly on the "thyroid" front. I think he has some more scans to set up for me as well.

More to come...