Friday, February 29, 2008

Thank God for my benefit plan

Left home yesterday in loads of time to get to the hospital a little bit early. Anna had left my car at the gas station, so I walked down there to pick it up. Minus 30ish overnight. Locks on the car were frozen. Walked back home to pick up some lock de-icer. Walked back to the gas station, de-iced the locks, climbed in and drove off, only somewhat late now. Got to the hospital, and into the lab. Waited long enough that the receptionist apologized, saying that she hadn't, "done one of these before." Then off to the oncology room to wait for the results to come in.

It took a good while for the results, and I was starting to get antsy about my timing. Usually if I get to the lab by 8:30, I can get out of the hospital by 4:30. I was a good hour late by this time. Finally the blood test results came in, and they weren't good. My white blood cell and absolute neutrophil counts are low. Lynn tells me though that this is good news, it means that Dr. Herst has me on just the right dose of chemo. If my counts had bottomed out in the first few rounds, that would indicate too high a dose. If they hadn't bottomed out at all, that might indicate too low a dose. So she seems to think that my cancer is having its ass kicked, to which I concur. However, she'd have to call Sudbury to get permission to continue with the treatment.

It took another half hour to get the answer back from Dr. Herst--go ahead with the treatment, but come back in tomorrow for an injection to boost my blood counts. Good news, and time to start the treatment. Not so fast....

Now I had to call my insurance company to make sure they would cover the injection, which apparently is quite expensive. After some backing-and-forthing we found out that the drug is only covered if I give it to myself--not if it's administered in a hospital. Well, for that kind of money, I can surely give myself a shot! I'll have to get a dose of this after each treatment from now on.

Now it was time to start my chemo, at 11:00! I was sure I wouldn't get out before 6.

The treatments went smoothly. My chemo-buddy was there, but he was well ahead of me. I snoozed through lunch due to the Benadryl. After lunch I had a visitor from Temagami, a friend who's wife is dying of cancer. She's in palliative care in another wing of the hospital. I'm glad he dropped in for a chat. Also looked like he needed to get out of her room for a bit, remove himself from that experience for a few moments.

Dr. Pariag came in for a visit in the afternoon. We chatted about my insomnia, and he convinced me to go home with a prescription for a sedative. I picked those pills up today, but am hoping to not have to use them. I've found that curling up to a heating pad puts me right to sleep when I start staring at the ceiling at 3 am.

Lynn did get me out of there by 4:30, I don't know how she did it but it wasn't by running my IVs wide open.

Of course, Anna's in Toronto and doesn't at all like me being alone on chemo days, let alone driving myself home. So she arranged for her friends Jayne and Leslie to carpool me home. Lynn got a chuckle of that, me being picked up by two women while my wife's away in another town! So they brought me home, made me some tea and sought assurances that I wouldn't get up to be a Busy Bob after they left. After finishing the tea it was a simple dinner and off to bed by 9. I had one of the best sleeps I've had in awhile, right through to 7:30, with the exception of an hour of tossing and turning, solved by the aforementioned heating pad.

This morning was spent in household chores. Our neighbour Erin (with the 15-month old twins) called to say she was going up to New Liskeard for some errands, did I want to carpool? Of course I did, so Erin and I were off to the north, with the girls in the back seat for their afternoon nap. Picked up my injection ($2,800!) and headed back to have Lynn instruct me in its use. I asked her, what would happen if someone needed this drug but did not have it covered by insurance? She said that they would get it, eventually, perhaps in a month after having gone through a lot of paperwork. To me, that's not right. If someone needs the drugs today, they should get them today, not in a month!

Lynn monitored me for an hour afterward, to make sure there would be no adverse reaction. All was fine, so we headed south again. Since returning I've simply been futzing away the afternoon. Am hoping for another great night's sleep.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Chemo #6 tomorrow

This time tomorrow I'll be 3/4 done! But I NEED to get a good night's sleep. It's 9:00 now, and my pumpkin-hour has arrived. Off to bed, and up at 6 tomorrow to take my prednisone and head off to the hospital. I'm considering an early morning workout at the New Liskeard Fitness Centre. You know, get the blood flowing, open the veins, ready for my life saving drugs. Anna's getting on the Toronto bus tonight, and will not be with me tomorrow. She's not comfortable with that, but it's for the greater good. She's set me up with her friends Jayne and Leslie, who will drive me home tomorrow evening and make sure I'm comfortable.

Send me kind throughts and prayers tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Those who have come before

I talked with Jodie earlier tonight and promised I would not stay up too late, but that I would post something. So I've got some photos from the recent trip to Toronto. I happened to walk past Princess Margaret Hospital (Ontario's 'premier' cancer hospital), and had Anna take this photo. Ever the Canadian patriot, I even have a flag planted on top of my shiny dome.

Then I walked north a block to Queen's Park (Ontario's Legislature, for my 'foreign' readers). On the grounds of this majestic building is the Ontario Fallen Firefighters' Memorial. On the Memorial are the names of 344 Ontario firefighters who have given their lives in the line of duty.

On that list, near the bottom of the last panel I searched, is the name of the only North Bay firefighter to give his life protecting the good people here, Platoon Chief Guy Cantin. Now I did not work with Guy, but many of my colleagues did, and every one of them has good stories to tell. (Sometimes I think a fire department is simply a collection of stories about those who have come before.) At Station One we have a painting, showing a bunker gear locker, empty of firefighter's clothing but for Guy's coat and boots. The painting hangs at the top of the stairs between the kitchen and the apparatus floor. Each time we get a call, we pass it. To me, the painting says, 'Guy is watching out for us.' That is, after all, the primary responsibility of a PC--make sure everyone goes home.

My current Platoon Chief, Richard Woodward, was a good friend of Guy's. Woody watched Guy die of cancer.

Woody's been great to me over the last few months, watching out for me like a guardian angel. I know he'd do it for any one who needs a helping hand, that's just the kind of man he is. So Woody, thank you. We're here for you, too.

Here's an article from the BBC which provides a good synopsis of the increased rates of cancer among firefighters.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Staring at the ceiling

Aline, my mystical healer, told me to get more rest. So here I am at 1:15 am, awake. I was in bed earlier, but couldn't stop staring at the ceiling. It's getting pretty common for me to go to sleep between 1 and 3 am, and not get up until 10 or 11. I'm fortunate that I'm able to do that on my four days off. But when I'm at work my sleep gets completely messed up and I finish the 4 days on completely drained.

Aline also said she felt in me the urge to travel. So I told her about the Makobe River trip planned for May. That's keeping me going, my motivation to stay healthy and come out the other end of chemo better than ever. Like Nietzsche said, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger."

All that said, I'm ready for chemo to be over. Been there, done that. Once chemo has done it's job, I'll say thank you very much, move on and won't look back.

I did enter some dietary information on FitDay yesterday, you can see it here. (Aline also asked me if I was losing weight, not something a 145 lb. athlete on chemotherapy wants to hear.) I must admit that recently I've been eating two big meals a day, breakfast (at noon) and dinner (at 6), plus some snacking in the afternoon or evening. But I was surprised to see that yesterday I only took in 2000 calories. Someone like me "should" eat 2500 a day. Carbs could have been lower, clocked in at 127 g for the day, much less than our society's 300-600 g/day average, but still more than I'd like. Was doing quite well (liver, eggs, and spinach for breakfast; pork roast and brasicas for dinner) until the big evening bowl of oatmeal and the ricecakes with hazelnut butter. Hey, at least I sprinkled the oats with ground flax, hemp seeds, and cinnamon!

Yesterday's exercise was a 4 km snowshoe, including a 2 km bushwhack, playing with my new GPS. For those of you who have never bushwhacked in the north woods in February before, well, lets just say it's an activity requiring safety eyewear. Just ask the one-eyed timber cruiser at Goulard Lumber. Good exercise, though!

Must be close to bedtime.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sunlight and naps

This is our cat Smudge lying in a patch of warm sun in front of the bedroom door. I like to think that she is guarding Bob's sleep. He has just come home from 4 nights of working and went to bed at 9am. I am working, so we put the housecoat under the door to block the sounds.

Bob hasn't posted in a few days so I thought I would. Things have been good. Though this is the cycle that Bob's white cells were lowest, he is still doing well. A few days ago he came home and I was still snoozing. He said he wasn't going to nap, but lay down and as we were talking, he was fading. I suggested he needed his sleep. He got up 4 hours later.

Today he has a massage treatment with Aline which he is very much looking forward to. The debate this morning was to go for a sauna before or after. I suggested that either was good and that his body could decide based on when he got up. He's not up yet, so it looks like after!

I missed my appointment with Aline a few weeks ago due to freezing rain - nooooo!!!! (I REALLY wanted to go). Fortunately she had a cancellation yesterday and I was able to take it! Ahhhhh....

Dave called today and is on a run across the country. He'll be stopping by - it looks like we'll have dinner with him in New Liskeard. We will be exchanging Christmas presents - we didn't get a chance to see them sooner as Dave's last run up this way didn't happen.

It has been beautiful weather here and we have another sunny sunny day with blue sky and cold crisp temperatures! I don't think there will be any skiing or a workout for Bob today, just massage and sauna and hopefully dinner with Dave!
Here is another shot of Smudge hanging out with Bob after this last round of chemo.

Thank you all for all of your support. It means SO much to us!

Friday, February 15, 2008

No title today

It's been a good few days, since I got off the prednisone. Seems that as my treatments progress, the side effects increase. One of my toenails is even turning black, which is a side effect of doxorubicin. (I can't even type that word without shuddering. But the Red Devil is my ally. A ruthless mercenary, who would kill me as soon as kill my cancer, but my ally nonetheless.) I'm trying to focus on the two healthy weeks ahead, rather than the three treatments still to come. Keeping eye on ball....

I've not been following my healthy-living ideals in the last week. In the days right after chemo I skiied every afternoon. Since going off prednisone I've been a blob at home, a busy blob, up to my eyeballs as a desk-jockey ecowarrior. No daily workouts. And I've not been eating like a caveman--too many carbs, not enough balance. I'm going back to work tomorrow evening, and that will give me a chance to reenter a healthier routine. I'll do some kind of workout and I'll eat well. Somehow it's quite easy for me to stay on-track at work.

Hebe, your care package arrived, thank you so much. The tea had exploded, but everything else was intact. I find I cannot appreciate the poems without reading them aloud, so I stand in sockfeet, by my stove, late at night, with only one light on in the house, and read. I've copied one poem into the sidebar, and I encourage everyone to read it aloud. Read it to yourself, or to a friend. Read it in the sunlight or by flashlight. Read it naked or clothed, I don't care, just read it aloud.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Be kind. Everyone you see is fighting a great battle

I just wanted to put down something in writing to say thank you to all those who comment here. If everyone is in a great battle (as Philo of Alexandria said, and "Anonymous" reminded me) then all these people are brothers and sisters in arms.

Let me start with Patricia from Nashville, whose comment got me thinking about all those who have left their kind words here on NFB. Patricia, we're in this together. Next workout, your name's written on my hand. Stay in touch.

Mom & Dad, Jodie, Sarah, Jane, Lisa & Yves, Lisa.... I know you're the ones out there reading this nearly every day (or sometimes many times a day!). Thank you so much. It means the world to me. Jodie, Sarah, and Lisa B., you three would love each other. And Jane, I got the GF booklet, thanks!

Beth: Sorry, but you can't actually pre-order a calendar. Of course I'll put the info up here as soon as it's available, probably late in the year.

To all the CFers out there: Gio, Adam and Caity, C_Mel, Charles, Wilson, Rocco, Matt, Mike L., Paul, StrengthDoc, Adam K., 1000yds, U'i. I know my name has been written on your hands, sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively, and I take strength from that. You all have much to give and I give thanks in return.

Morgan and Salima: truer healing words are rarely spoken.

Hebe, Pam, Teri, David & Priya, Chris & Marie, Larry & Roula, Peter & Leslie, Ed, Sara, Rob L., Kim, Marianne, Tracey, Wanda, Jen M., Maria, "The Other Jean", Bronwen, Pete/Lree/Ben, Jamey, Nico, Jason, Robb, Dave. Thank you all. Roberta, thank you for Churchill's immortal, inspirational words. Here they are again, in case anyone missed them.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

How to salvage a messed-up day

Prednisone is hitting me harder this time around. I'm moody. Yesterday I basically told Anna, "Don't touch me, don't talk to me." That kept me from being too annoyed with her (through absolutely no fault of her own) but it didn't make her too happy. But we bounced through that day with only a few scrapes and bruises.

This afternoon we went out for a ski to the Jesse Lake trails. Our mistake was skiing there right from home, across the windswept expanse of the lake, rather than driving to the beginning of the trail. Well, then her back was hurting, and she was tired, and she was thirsty, and she wanted to know, 'are we were there yet,' and I made the grievous mistake of calling her 'slowpoke' once (I was being pulled by the dog with the ski-jor harness at the time). Anyway, we stopped in at drop-dead gorgeous Little Jesse Lake for a rest and some hot cocoa. Then we started skiing again, and Anna started to complain about the wind. She tells me that at this point I was too quick with my dirty look, because she was about to say how beautiful and sheltered it was in the trees. But I mouthed off something true, but ill-advised, basically saying, "Shaddap, I'm trying to have a nice day and all you're doing is complaining. Maybe if you had cancer you'd appreciate the cold wind biting your cheeks. Reminds you that you're alive."

Remember my first cancer post? I said something about raindrops falling down the back of my neck.

Then I skiied on, and considered just skiing all the way home without waiting for her. Of course, I didn't. I told myself, "No, she's my sweetie, I love her, I'll stop in a sheltered place and we'll work this thing out." And that's what we did. She was crying. She told me how I'd misread her earlier. I apologized. She apologized for being a wet blanket. We kissed and made up. Then we continued the ski, all the way home, even across the windswept expanse of the lake. We finished the day by heading up to New Liskeard for a date! Spicy Thai curries and a movie (Emotional Arithmetic) at the Temiskaming Film Society.

And that's how to salvage a messed-up day.

Temagami and Home Again (a post from Bob's Mom)

As all you blog followers know, Anna has been in Toronto for a little over a week - the stay being extended in part because of the major snow storms that city has received in the last while. Joe and I travelled to Temagami last Wednesday and got Bob safely to New Liskeard and back on Thursday when he received his 5th chemo treatment. It was a long day starting at 6 am and ending about 9:30 pm. I can't remember when I last went to bed at 9:30 but this day was all about helping Bob conquer the cancer demon so he made the early bedtime call. We were back in Temagami about 5:00 and the aroma of supper was evident as we opened the door. Bob, being the ever-inventive cook, had elected to put a chicken into the slow cooker along with some proscuitto, lots of onion and some white wine before we left. Now, we only had to do some rice and a veggie and supper was on the table. Even though he was feeling the effects of too many drugs in his system, he was still able to eat a very good supper and wasn't bothered with any nausea. Even by this morning, he had not had to take any of the anti-nauseants although he always has them at the ready.

Friday was a quiet day; went for a walk to the bank and the post office and Bob did go for a short ski on the Jesse Lake trails. Nikita went along, too. I'm sure she was very pleased to be taken for a long walk as she had not been anywhere the day before. Anna arrived home that evening and was so happy to be there. This was the first treatment Bob received that she had missed and she wasn't feeling too good about that happening. However, we had convinced her that it was better to stay in Toronto an extra day and wait out this storm. With Anna back in Temagami, Joe and I prepared to come home on Saturday morning.

After packing and breakfast at the Busy Bee restaurant, we set out fully expecting to run into the next storm coming through as we had checked out the Weather Network. Various accumulations of new snow was forecast for locales between Temagami and Peterborough. We did experience wet snow and lots of slop and slush from oncoming vehicles but, all in all, the drive was uneventful and we arrived home to a driveway with a good 12" of snow in it and the only tracks in the snow were those of our 17 resident wild turkeys. As I write this, we are not completely dug out. I cleared the decks and one is covered again with snow that has slid off the roof. Joe still has a lot of driveway clearing to do with the snow blower. The car did not get into the garage tonight. This will still be there in the morning and we will tackle it with renewed energy.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Back in the cancer trenches

Yesterday I felt great. Top of my game. Today, not so much.

Mom and Dad arrived yesterday afternoon. (Remember, Anna's been down in Toronto for a week now.) I had enough time to say 'hello' to them before I had to be off to North Bay. Had to pick up my car after some brake work (unexpected repairs, hefty bill). Then I went to Station 1 for a little workout:

Push Jerk 3-3-3-3-3 (55 lbs/95/115/125/135)

Last night was the monthly union meeting. I wanted to say a personal thank you to my union brothers for supporting me and my family with trade days, bank time, well wishes, and carrying the load when it became too much of a burden for me. Everyone who knows me knows that I am pretty independent and I like to do things myself. I don't like to ask for help. I guess a lot of firefighters are like that, so they recognized that in me and offered their assistance without me having to ask. So I wanted to say thanks. I also wanted to thank them for their generous donations to the Ride to Conquer Cancer. We set a target of $800. At last count, it was $795 with some money still to come in. That money will go a long way toward helping Lisa and Jodie meet their overall target of $5700. (I think they can surpass that, too.)

Made it home by 9:30ish, but didn't turn the lights out until after 11:00. Then I was up at 3:30 and couldn't get back to sleep. Why is it that when your alarm goes off at 6:00, after tossing and turning for three hours, suddenly you pass out stone cold? Maybe next time I'll set my alarm for the middle of the night so I can get some good shut eye during the 'snooze'.

Prednisone pills, breakfast, then three of us piled into the car. Blood work was good (white blood cells could be a touch higher), and then I was comfy in my chemo chair for the next seven hours. Lynn was busy as always, juggling two of us in there for the day, two others for a half day, and other drop-ins getting ports flushed and the like. I keep telling her to wear a pedometre and tell me how many steps she does a day. Way over 10 thousand, I'm sure.

I napped through most of the day. The more chemos under my belt, the longer the naps become. Last time I napped for half the day, this time I had a good nap in the morning and a good one late in the day. You know, when you count up all the drugs that have gone into me today..... prednisone, tylenol, benedryl, rituximab, granisitron (sounds like one of the Transformers, not an anti-nauseant), vincristine, doxorubicin (the Red Devil), and cyclophosphamide..... Eight drugs, coursing through my veins. No wonder I feel toxic right now. I feel pale, green. I am sleepy. Time to brush my teeth and go to bed.

Not bad for someone who had absolutely no clue what I'd be writing when I sat down to this post.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Life is too short

Found this on the Canadian Canoe Routes forum. I added #40:

Here's 41 Tips for a Powerful New Year !

1. Take a 10-30 minute walk every day. And while you walk, smile.
It is the ultimate anti-depressant.

2. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day. Buy a lock if you have to.

3. Buy a Tivo (DVR), tape your late night shows and get more sleep.

4. When you wake up in the morning complete the following statement, 'My purpose is to___________ today.'

5. Live with the 3 E's -- Energy, Enthusiasm, Empathy.

6. Watch more movies, play more games and read more books than you did in 2007.

7. Make time to practice meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong and prayer. They provide us with daily fuel for our busy lives.

8. Spend more time with people over the age of 70 and under the age of 6.

9. Dream more while you are awake.

10. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less foods that are manufactured in plants.

11. Drink green tea and plenty of water. Eat blueberries, wild Alaskan salmon, broccoli, almonds & walnuts.

12. Try to make at least three people smile each day.

13. Clear your clutter from your house, your car, your desk and let new flowing energy into your life.

14. Don't waste your precious energy on gossip, energy vampires, issues of the past, negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.

15. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.

16. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card.

17. Smile and laugh more. It will keep the energy vampires away.

18. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

19. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

20. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

21. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

22. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

23. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

24. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, and wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: 'In five years, will this matter?'

27. Forgive everyone everything.

28. What other people think of you is none of your business.

29. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

30. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

31. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick.
Your friends will. Stay in touch.

32. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

33. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

34. The best is yet to come.

35. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

36. Do the right thing!

37. Call your mother and father often.

38. Each night before you go to bed complete the following statements: 'I am thankful for__________.' Today I accomplished_________.

39. Remember that you are too blessed to be stressed.

40. Life is too short to drink bad coffee.

41. Enjoy the ride. Remember that this is not Disney World and you certainly don't want a fast pass. You only have one ride through life so make the most of it and enjoy the ride

Monday, February 4, 2008

Humble Pie

Ok, ok, so New England tanked. Personally, I blame myself for their loss. Guaranteed, if I had backed the 'underdog' New York Giants, the Pats would've won. It seems I always end up on the losing side. Except for what really counts, the Super Bowl of Cancer.

On the positive side, fundraising efforts amongst the North Bay Firefighters are going well. I won't release any dollar amounts at this time, but I will say that we're on track to surpass the $800 we hoped to raise from them. That will go a long way toward the goal of $5700 that Lisa and Jodie have set for themselves. Jodie is a fundraising machine, with numerous events planned in the Peterborough area. She's passed the $1700 mark, and that's before any of the fundraising events! Lisa has not let her late start hold her back, with almost $1000 in the pot. Thanks to everyone that's made a donation so far! I do truly hope that some of you blog readers, whether you live in North Bay or St. Catherines or further afield, will make it to the Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers concert on May 9 & 10 in Peterborough. Tickets are going fast, and are available through Jodie. Contact her through her webpage. She is a personal trainer and runs a business called Your Body You in Lakefield.

There's also some media interest in North Bay. Everyone loves a story about, "a firefighter who's in a courageous battle for his life," even if that's a little cliched. I hope to use any story to further the fundraising and get a little good press for the firefighters.

I've not been posting my workouts here as often as I should've. I'm doing a 'workout lite' week, to recover from last week's sore back. Today was backsquat 3-3-3-3-3 (95 lbs/115/135/155/165). That's 2/3 of my max. effort backsquat of 245 lbs.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

You can leave your hat on

Not much to report today. I'm working nights. Anna's in Toronto this week. I've been hard at work lately on local environmental issues, preparing comments for the upcoming Forestry Plan. Trying to rest my back after wrenching it two days ago. Probably take the dog for a walk soon, and do some light stretching. Maybe a light workout when I get to work tonight.

Oh, I know what I can mention.... Some guys at work are planning a North Bay Fire Department 2009 Calendar. They want me in it. So I'll try out that little 'poll' option that Blogger gives me. Let me know, do you think I should be in the Firefighter's Calendar? Answer in the poll to the right. (It's all for a good cause, to support a new Children's Treatment Centre.)

(Cue "The Full Monty" soundtrack.)

PS Go Pats!