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!

1 comment:

  1. Well done! All the best to you and Gay. And always live for the now. . . . See you around the rinks. . . . gregg