Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sauna stove has arrived

There's no turning back now! Anna picked up our new sauna stove in Toronto last week. It's relatively small (easily fit in the back of our Forester) but heavy. It's an external feeding stove, which means all the bark and woody debris will stay outside. There's a heat shield around the stove, and a spot on the top to place rocks, so this will be a wet sauna. The structure will not be going up imminently, we're still waiting to get together with one of the guys from work to go over plans.

Went on a nice ski yesterday, in a howling winter storm, on the Jesse Lake ski trails. It's nice to see them in such good shape.

I keep getting sent more names to write on my hand during my next workout.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Thinking of others

Yesterday I met (online) a gentleman asking for help for his mother and aunt, both currently in a battle with cancer. He also lost his father-in-law to cancer last year. This guy is a Crossfitter, like myself. We stick together, kinda like firefighters. So I told him that I would write three names on my hand during today's workout, those of his family, Edith, Lillian, and Dennis. And so, I dedicated today's workout, an 8 km cross country ski, to them.

I also found out something new about a friend of ours, who has indolent lymphoma. (I won't post his name, to protect his privacy.) Anyway, he is going in for some tests tomorrow, which he is rather worried about. I guess I'll be writing his name on my hand for Tuesday's workout. Tomorrow I rest.

Awhile back, someone (a stranger) wrote my name on his hand and dedicated a workout to me. The way that Crossfitters do workouts, I know that he would have given it his all. I like that support, and am only too happy to pass it on. Just a little illustration of how one small good deed goes out into the world and multiplies.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Dirty confession

I have a shameful secret to reveal. I hope you won't all be disappointed in me. So far in this blog I've unintentionally written only of the positive, with perhaps a smattering of expected difficulties. But I must admit that I'm not always so cheery. I'm not always having a better day than yesterday. I get frustrated, I get angry, I get impatient. Sometimes I think I must be the most miserable person for Anna to have to spend her time with. I don't write on those days. The last few days have been like that. It's coincided with a resurgence of symptoms--night sweats (the first since chemo started), as well as 'that feeling' in my neck. Something is there doing something. I think my cancer is mad at me. Of course, I'm mad at it and there's no stopping my resolve to be rid of the damn thing.

You've probably guessed that, seen as I am writing, today must be a good day. And it has been. My workouts over the last two days have gone well, with some personal records and sore muscles to prove it. I just finished four days of work and am looking forward to a grand sleep in tomorrow. I might ski in to Reuben Lake again tomorrow, but this time it'll be an all day affair, with a good long lunch and a roaring campfire built in.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

15 km ski this afternoon

And boy am I tired. I hope you enjoy these photos. My back bacon-scallop-veggie stir fry is digesting, and I'm off to a warm bath. Off to work early tomorrow too.

Snowsquall on Rabbit Lake.

Nikita between the islands on Reuben Lake.

Cliffs on Reuben Lake.

Reuben-Paul Lake portage (left), Goulard Lumber road (right)

Long shadows on Paul Lake.

Cliffs on Paul Lake.

First tracks on Paul Lake.

Icefall on Paul Lake.

And sunset on Reuben. (No photos from the 2 hour ski back to the car in the dark!)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Coldest night of the year

-34 is what the thermometer says. I'm off to see Aline-the-mystical-healer this morning. This afternoon I'll follow that up with some heavy lifting at the New Liskeard pool and fitness centre, then a sauna. All good ways to keep warm.

UPDATE: New deadlift PR @ 345 lbs.! And too much money spent on CanLit at the Highway Bookshop. Aline says, "You can stop searching for yourself. You have found yourself." I like that. Time to grow into the self that I have found.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Off to the cheese factory

Smudge and I catching some rays. Can you believe, -25 C outside!

Four days post-chemo now. I'm still not feeling too hot. Usually get a little nauseated in the evenings. And fatigued midday. It's hard to explain, though. The nausea isn't similar to nausea I've felt before (think, "beer after liquor, never sicker"--Or is that the other way around? It's been awhile since I've had a bender. Actually, my last bender was Oct. 19, the day I found out I have cancer.) But the nausea of my chemotherapy is similar to hunger and indigestion and gut cramps all rolled into one. I never feel like I'm about to vomit though. And as for the fatigue. It's not like the fatigue of exhaustion, or of lack of sleep, or of simply being overwhelmed. But it's perhaps again a mixture of all of those. For the nausea I take my anti-nauseants, usually just one a day. For the fatigue, I sleep 9+ hours a night, and I keep active during the day. One of the books I read awhile back said that chemo patients who exercise regularly experience less fatigue than those who lay in bed all day. Regardless, I'd die of boredom lying in bed all day. Oh, and I've got the beginnings of the black hairy tongue again. Charming. Good oral hygiene helps, but I currently brush and mouthwash 3x a day and floss in the evenings, so I don't know what I could do better.

I did some figuring yesterday regarding my workouts, and posted my thoughts on the CrossFit discussion board. Click here to see what I wrote, as well as the wonderful comments that followed. Truly, those people keep me moving.

Anna and I are headed out for dinner tonight with friends of her's. She's got IBD, so has been great to deal with re. my food sensitivities.

This was dinner two nights ago. Bacon-wrapped venison lapjes and broccoli tomato stew with toasted pine nuts on top.

Friday, January 18, 2008


Yesterday's 7-hour chemo session came and went smoothly. The New Liskeard Daffodil Room was a swirl of activity, with 2 or 3 people coming in for shorter sessions, and Randall and I there both getting the rCHOP. Lynn says that's the first time in her 10 years there that she's had two patients on the same regimen on the same day. I also had a visit from Dr. Pariag, the surgeon who removed my largest tumour. It's always good to see him. He's very thorough and asks about my mental as well as physical health. He left yesterday by saying, "You're eating well, sleeping well, exercising, going to work, you don't have too much nausea, you have good bowel movements, your blood work is perfect, you have a beautiful wife. You're in a better situation than most people without cancer."

All this said, I'm very conscious that I cannot be the race leader who stops halfway to give an interview. I have to stay focused. I am beating cancer, but it's not yet finished. Four more chemo sessions to go and then the long five year observation period starts.

I'm trying to figure out a way to post the tally for Lisa and Jodie's Ride to Conquer Cancer fundraising efforts here. In the meantime, I've added the fundraising events to the sidebar. Note the new dates for the Skate-the-Oval and Dance-a-thon. I suspect right now that I will be at the Skate, but not the Dance. I'm torn about the Buddy Wasisname concert (May 9-10). I have vacation from May 2-13 and have been planning since November to spend that time on a canoe trip down the Makobe River with my buddies at the Friends of Temagami. That trip has been a big motivation for me. With my last chemo scheduled for April 10, I'll have to stay healthy throughout this flu-season and relatively side-effect free in order to make it on this whitewater paddle.

In case anyone was wondering about my workout on Wednesday went (Elizabeth): 21-15-9 reps of 105 lb. squat clean and ring dips
Time: 11:42.
Not a record, but I've never done it with that much weight before. And if anyone read the Jan. 11 Globe and Mail article on CrossFit, it is a good intro to my workout program. The article's title is off-putting (No Puke, No Pain, No Gain), but the writer quickly gets past this inaccurate perception and talks with real people who do CrossFit.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Chemo #4 tomorrow

Ahhh, that blissful last day before chemo. I'm feeling my strongest. This round I've not had misgivings or anxiety these last few days. Still feel great. Still setting personal records in my crossfitting:

Yesterday's workout was Diane:
21 205 lb. deadlift
21 handstand pushups
15 deadlifts
15 handstand pushups
9 deadlifts
9 handstand pushups
6:30 seconds, beating the old time by over 30 seconds.

How do I motivate myself through this self-inflicted torture? I tell myself that A) it's good for me, and B) it's only about 7 minutes. Just like how cancer treatments are 'only' 6 or 7 months.

Heading to work tonight. I'm making dinner for my crew, so I picked something yummy out of my low carb and/or gluten-free cookbooks. Dinner will be ginger-curry chicken (on rice for my high-carb colleagues) and desert will be an apple compote. While dinner is simmering, I'll do my last workout before chemo tomorrow. This one's named Elizabeth. She's the same 21-15-9 pattern, but with 105 lb. squat cleans and ring dips.

One of my firefighting buddies, Gord and his wife Tammy will be coming here sometime this weekend. Gord's being a tremendous help with the sauna project. He's coming up to see the site, do some figuring. I'm hoping that I'll be up for a ski with the two of them (and Anna). After last week's mid-winter melt the conditions are wonderful again.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Treatment's working!

Anna and I were at the Cancer Centre in Sudbury yesterday for a regular checkup. Dr. Herst says that my treatment is working. He can feel that the lump in my neck has decreased in size. Based on this, he does not feel it necessary for me to receive other diagnostic tests, such as a CT scan. Why expose me to all that radiation just to confirm what he can feel with his fingers? As for the question of 6 versus 8 courses of chemotherapy, he says there is not much data to indicate that one is better than another. He leans toward the full eight courses for two reasons. First, the Ontario government will pay for a lifetime maximum of eight courses of rituximab (my most expensive drug), and it's better to get eight courses of rituximab than to get six now and two sometime later. Kind of like how you're supposed to complete your vial of antibiotics, even if you feel fine after taking half the bottle. Secondly, doxorubicin (Lynn calls it the red devil) is cardiotoxic and has a lifetime maximum, which I will reach on my eigth treatment. Better again to max out with eight treatments than to take six now and an additional two in the future.

I'm celebrating today by going skiing with Nikita.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Rx: Eat healthy, sleep well, and exercise

Someone please remind me that when I eat on my diet, I feel remarkably better! I ate not too badly today, but not to well either. I had plain whole oatmeal for breakfast (should have added some protein and fat to round it out), steak and veggies for lunch (a fire department meal, that was actually right up my caveman-diet alley), and way too much dark chocolate (good in small doses) and bad coffee (bad in any dose). I'm back on the wagon for dinner, with hot and sour soup followed by a berry-soy shake.

Speaking of good nutrition, my oncologist has encouraged me to avoid taking vitamin and mineral supplements during chemotherapy, while my naturopath has encouraged me to continue, even increase, my supplementation. The oncologist's rationale is that there is no empirical evidence that antioxidant supplementation can help someone on chemotherapy, while there is a theoretical contraindication between the two. Many chemotherapy drugs, including some that I am on, are oxidants (they are free radicals, which attack cancer cells). Antioxidants, like vitamins A, C, E, zinc, or selenium (all of which I take) attack free radicals. In most people this is a good thing, but it could reduce the effectiveness of chemotherapy. The naturopath's rationale is that there are reports in peer-reviewed publications indicating that antioxidant supplementation during chemotherapy is beneficial. To wit, I found this article, about a meta-analysis which showed that antioxidant supplementation during chemo can decrease negative side effects, increasing the likelihood that the patient will complete the treatment, thereby increasing their chances of survival. Considering that I am aggressively supplementing with antioxidants outside of the active phase of chemo, and that I am tolerating the side effects quite well, I am perhaps the poster-boy for antioxidant supplementation during chemotherapy.

So, Doc Bob's prescription for everyone is: Eat healthy, sleep well, and exercise. Imagine what would happen to our health care system, or our society, if everyone did just this?

Watching CNN today, I saw a clip that said, "85% of women would chose to live 10 years less if they could do it at their ideal body weight!" Here's an idea, how about eat healthy, sleep well, and exercise? You'll be at your ideal weight and you'll probably live 10 years longer! It's true what they say: "People will do anything to be thin, except eat well and exercise."

For me, a healthy lifestyle has been a work in progress over the last two years (predating my cancer diagnosis). It's not easy. I have to choose each day to pursue health. The best advice I can give is take single steps. Don't try to change everything all at once. Change one thing. Do that one thing (whether that is cutting out sugar, or ignoring fad-diets, or walking to work) until it is a habit, then decide what the next step will be. You won't, "lose 20 lbs. in 20 days!" but a year from now you will be a new person. Every person reading this has the power to take the first step, and the next step, too!

Sunday, January 6, 2008


There! I did it! I'm on Facebook!

But I will not, repeat, will not spend too much time editing my profile and poking friends (whatever that is) and downloading stupid applications and sending 'friends' the gift of the day for $1. NFB will remain my vehicle for updating everyone on my cancer, my therapies, my life as it is now. The thing that drew me in is my sister Lisa's decision to do the Ride to Conquer Cancer along with Jodie. Lisa figures Facebook will be key in her fundraising. So now I'll be helping them both far exceed the $2500 fundraising minimum.

All that said, I'm looking for 'friends'.

Anna and I went out skiing yesterday, along with about 10 friends (real flesh-and-blood friends), to celebrate her birthday. The trails were lovely, I love wide groomed trails. Chris (Marie's hubby) and I went on the 'Super Blue' trail for advanced skiiers. Anna said she liked seeing the chemo patient and the cancer survivor heading off on the black diamond run. (Chris had a very nasty bout with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in, I believe, 2001. He has now passed his 5-year cancer-free date.) After skiing we all went to dinner at the Green Tomato in New Liskeard. My choices on the menu were severely restricted, but that doesn't mean I didn't completely enjoy what I did have: chardonnay, house salad, bison steak with veggies and fries, homemade blueberry sherbert, and coffee.

Rainy day today, so I'm staying put. Think I'll book back on and head to work tomorrow.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Day trip to Huntsville

It's almost 11 pm. I still have to go have a shower, so this will be short. Anna and I just got home from a trip to Huntsville (2.5 hours away) for an appointment with Dr. P., the naturopath. Anna had a consultation re. her health and our fertility, then I had a short follow-up. I also got the IV vitamins (75 g of vitamin C, among others). He figures this will kick my cold out pretty quickly. As for the cold, it's one of the weirdest I've ever had. I had a scratchy throat on the 1st, a fever of 37.8 and a wicked headache on the 2nd, then yesterday I felt almost normal and today I feel tired and a bit stuffy, but okay. We're supposed to go directly to the ER if my temp. hits 38 C, so we almost made a midnight trip to emerg. The weird thing is that my colds usually last about 3 weeks (where for normal people they last 3 days). Apparently my immune system is working fine! As for his words on my diet, he basically said avoid gluten (wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut and anything else with gluten, which is a lot of things--goodbye beer!), dairy, and garlic. Also on the list are peanuts, citrus fruit, kidney and lima beans.

Tomorrow we're going skiing at the Temiskaming Nordic Ski Club, then out for dinner with about 12 folks to celebrate Anna's 36th birthday (on the 3rd). Seems like we'll break out the swimtrunks on Sunday, it's supposed to go up to 8-10 degrees! Melt all the snow and we'll drive up the lake for a sauna at Camp Wanapitei! (That's where Anna and I met, for anyone that forgot!)

Anna says to say hi to all those out there in blogland.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Ugh, I hab a code

Yes, it seems that despite a week of our best efforts to keep Anna's cold at bay, I have caught it. I am coming into my middle week, after all, my immunosuppressed week. First got the scratchy throat yesterday morning, and started taking vitamin C and zinc like they're going out of style. Went to work last night, still hopeful that I might shake this. But it wasn't to be. I got to work and did my workout:

Double-under Helen, 3 rounds for time of:
40 double unders (skipping with the rope passing underfoot twice per jump)
21 dumbbell swings (35 lbs.)
12 pullups
Time: 9:32

Then I ate a good dinner, salmon, bacon-wrapped scallops and green beans. I was the 5th man again, so when a call came in at 2 am, I didn't go. I stayed behind on the airport crash truck. But it was a big call, so I didn't get much rest. There was radio chatter all night. I didn't like being left at the hall, having to listen to my buddies fighting a fire. But I knew I was getting sicker, and being there wouldn't do me or them much good. Anyway, I drove home at the end of my shift, crawled into bed and slept all day. Woke up at 3 pm and booked sick. Now off to the couch.