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Posts Tagged ‘emotions’

Cass and I are sitting in the exam room at the BC Cancer Centre. I’ve taken my weight. I’m 225 lbs, no change from last check up, which pisses me off because of how much I’ve been exercising. I suppose the exercise can only offset the amount of beer and wine I drink to some extent. However, the beer and wine and good food are so much a part of what it’s worth living for, for me, so I’m going to go easy on myself for now.

Dr. Sheila breezes in and shakes our hands. She’s smiling… that’s always a good sign when seeing your oncologist. She asks me how I feel to which I answer ,”Fabulous”. She says I look good in real life and that my paperwork looks good too. She thumps my back and chest. She feels my throat, neck, armpits and groin. She palpates my liver and spleen. I’m a “good patient”. Everything is the size and shape that it’s supposed to be.

And there it is. 16 months in remission. Tearful hugs all around for the “participants” in this version of the “someone in the family has cancer” home game. Tonight we’ll have a well deserved bachannalia with friends. I remain, as always… the “for now lump free” Tom.

“I’m viewed as this weird, crippled character. But you got to take your lumps.” Billy Corgan

I was silent as a child, and silenced as a young woman; I am taking my lumps and bumps for being a big mouth, now, but usually from those whose opinion I don’t respect.” Sandra Cisneros


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A week or so ago, Gord and Janet called to confirm dinner with us on ‘Remission eve’. They also said that they’d be bringing dessert, no exceptions.

I announce the Tom Tam cake…made with Tom’s favorite cookie, the Tim Tam!

Thanks, Janet!

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This is the morning of my check up with my oncologist Dr. Sheila. I have been feeling “off” for the past week but it’s hard to know if that is because of a mild reaction to the H1N1 vaccine or because of anxiety related to this examination. I have been jumpy.

We wake up at 6am and loaf in bed until 8. I’m a bit of a basket case emotionally and have come to expect that on the mornings of these checks. There is a sun shower early and an intense rainbow because of it. It’s very beautiful and affects me emotionally. We get washed and dressed and head out to Pure Vanilla for scones and coffees. Cassie’s fruit galette is disappointing… the pastry was not flaky… sigh… our life is so hard <sarcasm>. Then it’s off to the Vancouver Island BC Cancer Association facility beside the Royal Jubilee Hospital.

It’s busy there. The clinic waiting room is full. I notice that the pamphlet rack has a new sign: “If you touch it… take it with you or throw it in the recycling!”. This is one of the measures to fight the transmission of influenza viruses but I think it will have the unintended affect of preventing people from looking at pamphlets.

Dr. Sheila breezes in, tells us that I look great, says that my blood test results look fine, prods and pokes my neck and torso, congratulates me on my continued remission, shakes my hand and leaves.

And with that… I pass one year in remission. As soon as the doctor leaves the exam room Cass and I grab each other in a fierce, tearful hug. I didn’t realize how much tension, worry and expectation we had been holding in over the last week in anticipation of these results. For me, this is an important anniversary. It’s one year since they first declared I was in remission. Through our happy tears we agree that this was a great year… a year of good love, fun, work and life. Every year you are well is a great one.

We will have some friends over for dinner tonight. Cassie is making roast beef. Yum.

I will have my next check in March 2010. Here’s hoping for another 4 months of “no lumps”.

“I’m very pleased with each advancing year. It stems back to when I was forty. I was a bit upset about reaching that milestone, but an older friend consoled me. ‘Don’t complain about growing old–many, many people do not have that privilege.’”
Earl Warren

“Life isn’t a matter of milestones but of moments”
Rose F. Kennedy

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I work for a biotech company. We produce software that is used in labs working primarily on biomarker research. As with any company, we’re here to make money, but there’s another more personal driving force: we’ve all been touched by cancer and we want to help prevent and cure it.

We are heavily involved with a group called the Canary Foundation, the world’s first non-profit organization dedicated solely to the funding, discovery and development of tests that will detect cancer early – the canary in the coal mine. Founded by ex-Cicso exec and philanthropist Don Listwin, 100% of money raised goes directly to research; Don’s family foundation covers all administrative expenses. The Canary Foundation has a large network of researchers and labs along the Canada and US west coast, each focusing on a piece of the puzzle. They also provide scientific program management to make sure that all funded research activities are on track and that any obstacles are rapidly addressed and overcome. This close level of research monitoring helps ensure an unusually rapid pace of research and is very different from most grant environments where reviews are typically done annually and at a cursory level.

I’m particularly motivated towards this cause, especially after Tom’s cancer journey this past year. Tom’s success is partly due to us discovering his cancer early (that and being the oldest known and treated cancer).  However, we haven’t always been so lucky; cancer has affected my family through the untimely loss of my beloved grandmother and Tom’s mother. They were affected by cancers that can be cured in their early stages, but with the current tests available, are almost impossible to detect in time for effective treatment.

I know that most of you already have some cause that you fund, but if you feel that this research is worthwhile, please donate something to help prevent the misery of cancer. You can safely donate online here. Thank you.

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It’s been a week since I’ve updated Lumpy’s Diary. The reason is a good one. I am feeling well and I have been much more engaged in my career as an IT professional. It certainly feels good to use my mind for solving difficult problems and be able to follow a thread of reasoning 3 or 4 layers deep without becoming confused. I feel like my mental acuity has largely returned. This gives me a high degree of satisfaction. I’ve discovered that, for me, the deterioration of my physical capabilities is not as alarming as the loss of my mental capabilities. It’s wonderful to realize that the deterioration of those capabilities due to the chemotherapy appears to have been temporary.

I’ve finished jPod by Douglas Coupland. It’s a very wry and enjoyable read though there are some self-indulgent moments that the author allows himself, like publishing 26 pages of listing pi to 100,000 digits and another 26 pages of a 100,000 digit random number. I really found the contrast between the kind of value that is added during work in Canada versus the value that is added in China a little painful to have illuminated. The Canadians (who are working at a video game publishing house suspiciously like EA) are worried about whether a skateboarding turtle is “perky” enough or whether the texture on the goal posts of a hockey game are realistic enough. In China they are trying to make running shoes and light bulbs under workplace conditions that haven’t been seen in Canada since the 1930s. I’m not saying I would want to be working under the conditions described. However, it did make some of what we consider “productivity” here to seem of trivial importance.

I’ve started on “Tropic of Cancer”, Henry Miller’s dense rant about life, living, the universe, women, drinking and everything else that matters. The cancer that he refers to in the title is the cancer that eats at the vitality and beauty of life. He not only sets himself against the cancer of hypocrisy and idiocy but also sets himself to embrace the cancer of ugliness, decay and dissipation. It’s a book that swings from high to low in a matter of paragraphs. It’s my 3rd time through it. I tried to read it during my cancer treatments but couldn’t face it. Now I’m keen.

Saturday night is Valentine’s day. We stay at home, light candles and make a fire in the hearth. Cassie makes a favourite meal I have requested: Chicken Tagine with Cous Cous. It’s wonderful and afterward we snuggle in bed with the dog.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday we take the horse to a clinic with an instructor that both Alli and Cassie like and have had a long term relationship with. This involves trailering him there and back (a 1 hour round trip) and a 45 minute lesson at the indoor arena. It’s very pleasant. Cassie and Alli are doing very well and look great. The truck and trailer work well and that’s a great satisfaction for me too.

So, life goes on, work goes on and love goes on.

“To sing you must first open your mouth. You must have a pair of lungs, and a little knowledge of music. It is not necessary to have an accordion, or a guitar. The essential thing is to want to sing. This then is a song. I am singing.” Henry Miller

“The humiliations and defeats, given with a primitive honesty, end not in frustration, despair or futility, but in hunger — for more life.” Anais Niin

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Dear Mom,

You considered having children an important and serious business. You had a degree from the University of Toronto as a nutritionist but you also had good common sense about what was good for people to eat. You often told me that when you were pregnant with me you liked to have a beef-steak with streamed broccoli for breakfast. I ate well as  a child and teenager. There was always lots of good food to eat and you cooked from scratch every night. As a preschooler I remember you getting dinner on the go at about 3pm unless you were cooking something Ukrainian, which had to be started in the morning.

You used to tell me about how both your and my dad’s genetic backgrounds were generally good. People in our family live into their late 70s or middle 80s. Heart disease is virtually unknown. Your father had died of cancer at the relatively young age of 69 but you always rationalized his early death with his occupation; He ran an auto repair shop from 1920 to 1965. You would tell me stories about the fumes and solvents that he used without the proper breathing apparatus and ventilation that is now required. Your implication was that my grandfather had “voided the warranty” on his body by subjecting himself to a carcinogenic environment so it was understandable that he didn’t live his full life.

I’m happy to have survived Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, at least so far. Long may that last. I don’t think that my contracting Hodgkins had much to do with either my genetic background or environmental toxins I might have encountered. I do think it relates to a prolonged period of impaired immunity I experienced due to a serious infection in 2007 which I discuss in detail in “A Child’s History of Lumps”. However, I do believe that all of the crap that had to be done to me to put the Hodgkin’s into remission has “voided my warranty”. I’m like a DVD player that had a sticker on that back that said “No User Serviceable Components Inside. Breaking of this seal Voids Warranty.” My seal is most definitely broken.

The chemicals and radiation treatments that were used to kill the malignancy has left a trail through my organs. The Adriomycin has possible heart effects and the Bleomycin has possible lung effects. The Vinblastine has caused neuralgia which I often feel in my fingers. The radiation treatments have increased my chances of contracting other types of cancers including Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. So, I’m sorry mom but, all bets are off on my possible projected life span.

However, I’m certainly happy to have had all the health, both genetic and environmental, that you gave to me. It was like capital that I had in the bank and needed to spend for a rainy day. It allowed me to withstand the cancer treatments. There are many people who are not healthy enough to do so. The doctor’s can decide that the condition (either genetically or due to deterioration) of your heart and lungs are too poor to withstand the Adriomycin and Bleomycin. My immune system could have dipped much farther than it did, exposing me to an infectious illness that might have killed me. There are a dozen times where my body could have failed me in my struggle. But it didn’t.

Thanks mom.

And sorry about breaking the seal… I had no alternative.

Love always, Tom.

Leona Petrachenko, 1924 – 2001

momandme3

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Today is our 6th anniversary. We try to celebrate all the things that are important to us and our marriage: boat, horse, dog, food, drink and %&(#%$. We wake up late, go for coffee at Pure Vanilla, visit the boat, visit the horse and now are back at home resting after some tasty %&(#%$ and waiting to go to Brasserie L’Ecole for dinner.

We’ve felt much more reflective this anniversary. We’re both very aware that our anniversary bookends my cancer diagnosis and treatment. We’re remembering that all we had to worry about last anniversary were trivial work troubles. This anniversary we have the whole process of cancer diagnosis and treatment to consider. We’re in agreement, strange as this may seem, that it was a “good” year.

That might seem like an oxymoron… that a year spent fighting cancer was good. However, we believe that we felt deeply about important things, dealt with issues that really mattered to us, lived in the moment, enjoyed each other’s mutual support, had meaningful relationships with our friends and family and reciprocally enjoyed their company and support. We felt pain and despair but also hope and victory. So, without a doubt, this was a good year… maybe a great year. That’s the way we see it. Happy anniversary.

“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their Finest Hour.'” Sir Winston Churchill

Happy anniversary, happy anniversary, happy anniversary... HAAAAAAAAA...PEE anniversary!!

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