Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Herbalist

It sat in the elbow of the old "L" shaped plaza, between a used computer store and a the Karnaphuli Bazar. But before I could get to it, the light drizzle we'd been having all day turned to a heavy downpour.

I shut the car door and decided to wait the storm out. It rattled the roof of the car and ran down the front windscreen in sheets. I turned on the wiper blades for a minute. The stark black and white "Herb House" sign came and went, came and went as the blades fought uselessly against the deluge.

My Naturopath had sent me here on a quest, not for exotic herbs, but for a more soluble form of vitamin D. I had never been to an Herbalist before and didn't even know there was one in our community. My impression of an herbalist came exclusively from movies like the Goonies. I pictured a murky chaotic interior filled with bags and glass jars all hand labeled by an ancient Chinese Herbalist who sat in shadows at the rear of the store dreamily smoking his bong.

The noise of the rain against the car roof was deafening.

I ached. It was the third day since my chemotherapy treatment and side effects were beginning to show up. Every joint in my body was in pain, buffeted only slightly by extra strength Tylenol.

Linda had no desire for me to be here. She wanted me safely cacooned at home as H1N1 swept across the city. My immune system may, or may not, have been impacted by the chemo. We won't know until the next blood test in three weeks time. Chances are it has been only slightly impacted at this point, so I think I'm safe enough to be out, among people. Briefly.

Besides, I don't do cabin fever well. I need to be out. I need to be doing things.

Another car pulled across the parking lot, wiper blades going at double speed, its wheels leaving a wake across the wet lot as it crawled passed.

I had a lot to think about, while I waited for the storm to let up. I'd just been reading an article on studies being conducted at the Indiana University School of Medicine. The study's director, Margaret Moga, was researching the arcane practice of sending healing energy at lab mice injected with cancer cells. Expecting a 100 percent fatality rate, instead the results had been nothing less than astonishing.

Initially inspired personally by ancient Chinese methods of herbal and natural remedies, Maga was taken aback with the results of both the control group of mice and the "experimental" group. All mice in both groups, which were expected to die in less than thirty days and those that received the healing energies focused by the lab assistants, lived out full life spans.

The preparation for the experiment was straightforward enough--project pure and positive thoughts, feelings and visions personal to the "healer" through a training session, and focus the positive energy through open palms upon the experimental group. After series of treatments, the group receiving healing went into remission and beat the cancer... but so did the group not treated.

This would have come as a complete shock if it hadn't already been done in studies, rigidly controlled by other skeptical scientists, before. Does the bio-mind have a large scattered field of energy that encompassed more than the intended mouse? Or was it all just a meaningless oddity.

The world was a stranger place than I had assumed. I sat in the car in the storm and thought.

Until the rain turned off with a suddenness that was startling. For a moment the world was quiet and peaceful, until I began to hear traffic roaring and beeping along nearby Eglinton Ave.

I reopened the car door and ran across the parking lot to the Herb House and the ancient Chinese bong smoker.

Instead I found a clean and modern store that reminded me of a strange cross between a drug store and a pet shop, with shelves of drugs next to shelves of large bags. The store was staffed by a young Indian couple who were laughing and teasing each other. I approached and showed them the note from the Naturopath. The young woman smiled and went to get the liquid form of Vitamin D from the shelf.

"Look under 'V'", the man reminded her,looking up from his Blackberry, "Not under 'D'"

She gave him an ironic smirk, and deftly picked the product from the shelf.

He charged me $17.50 and 5 cents for the bag, as now required by Ontario law. And my first visit with an Herbalist was over.

And I went home, without the flu.


Those interested in reading more about the Healing experiment CLICK HERE

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Shoot Out

Looking for my Friday Shootout? Well it's not here any more.

Linda and I have decided to combine our efforts and host a single page for our shootouts on Friday. At least until I'm over this new round of chemotherapy.

So to see our contribution this week please CLICK HERE

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

This One's For Nancy

Nancy (aka Science Girl)
, had an interesting comment about the before and after pictures I posted yesterday: "To me, you look every bit as unhappy in either picture. Hair doesn't seem to be doing it for you either way."

I looked at the pictures again.

What I had intended to show was my mug looking calmly out of the photo with an expression it would be easy for me to reproduce for the after shot. The one showing me without hair. But when I looked at the photos again, with Nancy's eyes, I did see an unhappy man. A man facing the start of another cycle of chemo, this one more intense with much stronger potential side effects.

Sometimes the camera sees deeper into the soul that you intend.

Fortunately my day at the Chemo Day Care Centre proved more farce than tragedy and the side effects, so far, have been minimal.

The Chemo Day Care Centre is one huge long room with beds down either side of the longer walls. Each bed is separated from the others by a screen on either side but is open at the front for the nurses to monitor. So I can hear people on either side of me and can see the patients across the room from me.

My chemo would take five hours and begin with a half hour injection of steroids, followed by an antihistamine drip. Almost everyone is alergic to the Taxol, the main chemo drug I would be getting.

According to the Taxol Fact sheet I was given:

The following Taxol side effects are common (occurring in greater than 30%) for patients taking Taxol:

* Low blood counts. Your white and red blood cells and platelets may temporarily decrease. This can put you at increased risk for infection, anemia and/or bleeding.
* Hair loss
* Arthralgias and myalgias, pain in the joints and muscles. Usually temporary occurring 2 to 3 days after Taxol, and resolve within a few days.
* Peripheral neuropathy (numbness and tingling of the hands and feet)
* Nausea and vomiting (usually mild)
* Diarrhea
* Mouth sores
* Hypersensitivity reaction - fever, facial flushing, chills, shortness of breath, or hives after Taxol is given. The majority of these reactions occur within the first 10 minutes of an infusion. Notify your healthcare provider immediately (premedication regimen has significantly decreased the incidence of this reaction).

Typical of such fact sheets, the "shortness of breath" clause is deftly hidden in the final paragraph. According to my oncologist, it isn't shortness of breath, it is a sudden inability to breathe. And it occurred withing a minute or so of the Taxol drip being turned on.

As our nurse was explaining all of this to us, a loud elderly couple, on the other side of the screen next to us, were shouting questions at their nurse who was yelling answers back at them.

"What about his liver?" The woman was asking.

Our nurse was puzzled, mistakenly thinking Linda had asked the question.

"His liver? He has no trouble with his liver" She answered, looking back at my file in case she had missed something.

"I didn't say anything," said Linda.

"And that thing in this kidney!" the woman next to us shouted.

Our nurse looked up, "His kidney?"

"It wasn't me," said Linda.

And then we heard the nurse next to us shouting back her reply about the impact of chemo on the man's kidney.

Our nurse smiled. "They must be hard of hearing," she whispered.

Across the room, another nurse rolled a crash cart up against the wall and left it there, conveniently close to our bed.

"Don't worry if you have trouble catching your breathe once I start the Taxol drip," our nurse said reassuringly, "I'll be right here watching and will stop the drip immediately. And you will be able to breathe again, right away."

I nodded understanding, my eyes locked on the crash cart that had just been positioned across the room from us.

"And what about his heart," shouted the woman next to us.

Our nurse turned.

Linda shook her head and pointed at the screen next door. Our nurse smiled and shrugged.

As it turned out, when the time came to administer the Taxol, it had no noticeable effect on me at all. The nurse stayed with us for about 10 minutes, until it became clear I would have no reaction and then went on to her other patients. After a few minutes, the crash cart was wheeled away.

I went back to my Peter Jackson novel, "The Colour Of Darkness" and the day went on.

And so far, touch wood, I've had no side effects from this whatsoever. But, if I remember correctly from my last course of chemo treatments, the side effects often don't begin to be noticed until the third day.

So I have a way to go yet.

Still, as the picture at the top of this post shows, now that its over I can laugh again.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Can You See A Difference?

I can't See A Difference

Barry as he looked on the morning of Monday October 26th. Purportedly with hair.

Barry on the Afternoon of Monday October 26th. Is there a difference?

Move over Yul Bryner, there's a new King of Siam in town.

Or, as his daughter once said when he told her he was going to get a haircut, "What hair?"

Barry will be in the Chemo Day Care Centre at Princess Margaret Hospital today from 8:00 am until approximately 2:00 pm

His Nephew Mark is kindly driving Linda and himself downtown for the appointment.

Whether he is able to post here tomorrow will depend on his reaction to the treatment. If you don't find a post here for a few days you may want to check out his wife, Linda's blog for an update.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cosmic Events and Individual Tragedies

The Earth falls toward the massive star at the very centre of its solar system, while its speed attempts to fling it back into the cold void of space. But it can neither fall nor flee, locked for eternity in an endless struggle between these massive forces, it traces an uneasy ellipse around the sun.

The imperfect planet wobbles around an imaginary line passing through its poles, its axis. This line forms an angle, a tilt, of 23.4° with the perpendicular to the orbit of the Earth around the Sun.

Causing the seasons to change.

Now plunging the Northern Hemisphere of the planet into the dark cold of winter. The meteorological forces of the planet react to the change, raising massive storms, as cold winds from the north roar across the planet's surface, ripping and tearing their way south.

The trees cling to the earth, bending with the storms, giving up the beauty of the fall leaves as they struggle to survive the seasons change.

But not all are able.

Our smoke bush that stands beside the gazebo at the end of our yard, giving us its shade in the early fall and its beauty in the spring, has fallen. The victim of an individual weakness and cosmic forces far beyond its control.

There was a weakness where trunk became root. As the strong Fall winds tore around it, pushing relentlessly against its leafy canopy, it snapped and fell.

Taking with it one of the centre pieces of our garden. Its unique smokey seeds that brought visitors to a halt and made them gasp in wonder, will be no more.

It will now be cut into manageable pieces and replaced with a new tree, perhaps even another smoke bush. But it will be years before balance is restored to the garden and all is put right again.

The cosmos has spoken, the wheel of life has turned, the world is alive with forces beyond our control. And the best we can do is go with the flow, bend when the forces exceed our resistance, survive, and go on.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Visit With A Naturopath

The phone call came in after we had been waiting for ten minutes. The perky receptionist carried on a friendly conversation but kept glancing over at us as she spoke. Finally she put down the phone.

And told us the call was from the Naturopath, who was on her way but was stuck in traffic. She hoped to be no more than five minutes.

Used to being "patient patients", sometimes kept waiting for over an hour by overworked Oncologists at Princess Margret Hospital, five minutes was no problem at all.

Of course, Princess Margaret Hospital had more comfortable chairs in their waiting rooms. The Gentle Care Wellness Centre was more trendily ascetic in its decor. So we sat on a wooden bench and fended off offers of herbal tea from the receptionist.

I had never consulted a Naturopathic Doctor before and didn't quite know what to expect. I had been warned that she would prescribe a vegan diet, cutting out bread because of the gluten, stopping my drinking red wine, cutting out coffee, eliminating all dairy and would send me home with a variety of exotic herbs and vitamins. Maybe recommend Linda and I take up Yoga.

And as if thinking the word had conjured her up, the Centre's yoga teacher came hustling out to the waiting room for a cup of herbal tea. She saw us waiting and asked if we'd like a cup as well. But once more we fended off the offer.

A few minutes later still another trim and very fit woman emerged from the Centre's depths, saw us waiting and offered us herbal tea.

In stark contrast to the sleek staff at the Centre, a hugely obese statue of Buddha sat in the corner of the waiting room. And I started to wonder why statues of Buddha depicted him as fat. Wasn't Gautama an ascetic living only on food that was donated to him? Didn't he meditate for days under the Bodhi tree? How could he be fat. Did he cheat and while his followers were sleeping at night, run home to daddy's palace and engorge on food?

Certainly no one at the Gentle Care Wellness Centre was overweight. No sneaking home to daddy's palace at night for them.

The door opened and a tall, willowy and apparently pregnant lady came bursting in out of the cold and rain, shaking water from her long black hair. She paused at the sight of us, came over and introduced herself as our Naturopath.

"Can I get you a cup of herbal tea?" she asked.

We spent nearly two hours in her office going over my personal and medical history. I described my self prescribed MEDS program and she was delighted I was meditating and exercising and that we had switched to a vegetarian diet. She promised to send me some additional recipes of vegetarian foods she loved, but warned some of them had chicken in them. She had no problem with our drinking the occasional coffee, or glass of red wine. She never mentioned the evils of gluten in bread.

She did insist I stop taking vitamin D tablets, even though they were recommended by the Canadian Cancer Society, because little of the vitamin D was absorbed by the body in pill form. Instead she prescribed a liquid to be taken one drop on the tongue with each meal.

And speaking of my tongue, she examined mine with great care. The appearance of the tongue giving her deep insight into my overall health.

"If I didn't know you had cancer, I would think you were in very good health," she said after the examination.

I put my tongue away and thanked her.

She asked permission to discuss the peculiarities of my form of cancer with her herbalist who has thirty years more experience than she does and we booked a follow up appointment.

Then Linda and I went out into the rain and the cold and headed to Tim Horton's for coffee.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday "My Town" Shootout--Classics of Childhood

Patty and Reggie Girl pioneered the "My Town" Photo Shoot Out asking us to post photos of our local community every Friday. From a handful of participants it has grown into a world wide phenomenon with over 77 contributors and is now in the capable hands of ChefE, Jen and GingerV.

This week's theme, chosen by Ellisa, is CLASSICS OF CHILDHOOD.

For a comprehensive list and how to join instructions, just click on the camera at bottom of my side panel.

Next weeks theme, suggested by JarieLyn is Park Landscapes.

I live in Toronto, in the Scarborough area of Toronto, in the West Hill area of Scarborough. So West Hill will be the focus of my photos.


Arguably these photos may not be "Classics", but they are undoubtedly antiques by now, which is close to the same thing.

As an Explorer I was always on the go. However, in my English Pram in 1945 I had to wait for Mommy Power to get me moving.

At that age all I could do was dream of being a train engineer.

By the time we had moved to Canada in 1946, I had discovered a love for dogs and was inspired by their freedom to move.

I thought about becoming a farmer and working with massive farm machinery.

I wondered if by being nice to girls they would take me for a ride. And many did. Just not always in ways I had imagined.

Of course I could always rely on my dad and dream of being a fireman.

Or I could just strike out on my own and see what adventure the world had to offer.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Significant Change

I didn't think about it at the time, but sitting facing toward the rear on the comfortable seat of a GO train traveling at 100 kilometers an hour, while watching the world through the window retreat into the distance and being unable to look behind me at what was coming my way from the future, was highly metaphorical. Frighteningly so.

Tuesday's GO train took Linda and I into downtown Toronto for a critical visit with the medical oncologist. She had a lot of news for us. The CT scan conducted two weeks previously showed no change in the 3 cancerous "hot spots" in my hip and spine, showed that the tumour in my esophagus was continuing to shrink dramatically, and also showed no swelling in any of my lymph nodes.

So she had good news. Very good news.

However, esophageal cancer cells metastasize at the undetectable microscopic size of individual cells, travel down the lymphatic system to their host sites in the body (the Ileum in my case) and parasitically multiply over seven million times in size before a CT Scan can detect them.

But, the powerful gamma ray bone scan, that was conducted at the same time as the CT Scan, can detect cancerous growth in bones at much lower levels. And found new hot spots just beginning their rapid and uncontrolled growth on three of my ribs and in another section higher up on my spine. So now there were seven cancerous hot spots altogether in my bones, not three as we had believed.

And seven sites were too many for the oncologist to ignore.

So the oncologist has immediately arranged for an aggressive new chemo session of three cycles spread over the next three months in an attempt to slow down the spread of this cancer.

Sadly, this comes before the MEDS (Meditation, Exercise, Diet and Stress reduction) program I've started to work on has had enough time for a fair trial. I had only been on it for three weeks before the two scans took place. That makes five weeks total up to now.

But esophageal cancer is nothing to fool around with. It is so aggressive it never go into remission--but (if hit hard enough) it can get slowed to a crawl. Can give me some respite if not remission. Perhaps give me a few years for new discoveries to be made, or for the MEDS program or other alternative therapies to work their magic.

Because I'm not giving up on the MEDS program, to the extent that I can physically continue with it over the next nine to twelve weeks. I am also keeping tomorrow's appointment with the Naturopath.

On this powerful upcoming cycle of chemotherapy, there will be noticeable side effects. I will temporarily loose my hair, the feeling in my fingers and toes and will have my immune system seriously compromised. The fun never ends.

Hopefully I will have recovered from the rigors of my treatment by
Christmas, or (if not) we will have to make up for it with one heck of a
Valentines Day celebration next year!

On the GO train bouncing and swaying our way back to West Hill, I made sure I was facing forward, watching the world coming toward me. Holding Linda's hand and keeping a sharp eye on what the future had to bring.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

An Overdue Conversation With Lindsay

And so I settle down for a conversation with my dog, armed with some alarming new information.

Lindsay looks at me quizzically as I struggle to find my way into the discussion.

"Don't look at me that way, Lindsay. We have some things to discuss," I tell her.

She waits patiently.

"According to renowned canine expert Stanley Coren, professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia, dogs have a level of the intelligence about that of a 2-year-old toddler." I begin. " I'm not making this up. Coren presented his research, titled "How Dogs Think," at the American Psychological Association's August conference."

Lindsay blinked, obviously impressed.

"His research included examining other works as well as extensive behavioral measures from his own studies." I went on. "Yes Lindsay. I know intelligence varies with the type of dog and the dog's breed, but Coren said that the average dog can learn about 165 words, including signals and gestures. Dogs in the top 20 percent of intelligence can learn about 250 words."

Lindsay yawned.

"Oh no, you can't fool me any longer, Lindsay. Do you know what breed was right up there with the best of them? English Springer Spaniels. That's you, in case you've forgotten."

Lindsay went back to staring at me.

"Other findings suggest that dogs have a basic understanding of arithmetic (counting up to four or five, noticing errors in simple computations) and solving spatial problems (such as the fastest way to a favorite chair). Or, as in your case, the fastest way to food."

Lindsay yawned again and then rolled over on her back. An obvious ploy, unworthy of her intelligence. I would not be taken in by this distraction tactic.

"Oh no you don't. You don't fool me Lindsay. You have a vocabulary of over 200 words. You know exactly what I'm saying. You're not going to get away with playing dumb any longer. From now on I'm expecting intelligent feedback from you."

She looked at me from her upside down position, her tail beginning to wag, her eyes sparkling.

"No I'm not going to rub your belly! We're having a conversation here. Do you understand?"

Lindsay wiggled and looked expectantly into my eyes.

And suddenly, to my horror, I discovered my hand was rubbing her belly. Her tail was wagging contentedly back and forth.

"Oh Lindsay," I said. "What am I going to do with you?"

And she smiled, grateful that we were having this little conversation.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Overhearing a Conversation

I am alone in the front of the car driving while Linda visits with our grandson in the backseat. We have just been to the AMC theatre to see "Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs" and they are laughing over scenes in the movie.

"My favourite part," Linda tells him. "Was when the giant pancake squashed the school, and all the children cheered! And then they poured pancake syrup on it."

Tim giggled. "And my favourite part was when he said, 'You can be President of the back seat!'" Tim giggled some more, relishing the line. "President of the back seat!"

"That was a really funny thing to say," Linda agreed.

"Grandma, can I as you a question?"

"Certainly Tim."

"Is it true that grandpa has..." and he whispered a word to her so low I couldn't hear.

But there was only one word it could have been.

And suddenly, for a moment, for a very brief moment, I couldn't breathe.

"Yes Tim," Linda replied. "He does. Did your mommy tell you?"

"I asked her when grandpa was too sick to play with me that time."

"I remember." said Linda.

"Why couldn't they just take him into the hospital and keep him there until he's better."

"It doesn't work that way Tim. I wish they could."

"When we had the Terry Fox run to raise money for cancer at my school, I told them I was running for my grandpa."

"Oh Tim!" Linda was almost in tears. "That was so nice of you."

"My other favourite part in the movie was the spaghetti tornado."

Linda got left behind for a minute by the sudden turn in the conversation of an 8 year old.

"Yes and my second favourite part was when the giant meatball blocked the front door of his father's house." Linda said, catching up.

While I drove on through bright sunshine on one of the nicest days we've had in weeks.

A smile on my face.

And a lump in my throat.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

So What Are You Doing--Part 5 (Suppliments)

Nancy, the science girl,
has left me a fair warning: "just remember that supplements (if you take any) are not all they're cracked up to be. Often we metabolize something differently if we take a big bolus on its own, versus having that element as an integral part of a meal with many elements."

Indeed, choosing supplements is a risky business and has been the greatest challenge. There are hundreds out there each claiming miraculous cures for cancer. There are juicers and massive doses of vitamins, roots and herbs and teas, reduced calories, fruit pits and poisons all dangling their claims before my desperate eyes.

Maybe some of them work as advertised. Maybe some will kill you faster than the cancer. I'm trying to be judicious.

I was taking Essiac for a while, and even wrote a post in favour of it, but it's a diuretic that sometimes has a profound impact on some people.

I was one of those people and it was beginning to dehydrate me leaving me with stomach pains and aching muscles.

Linda's cousin is good friends with a Naturopathic Doctor who has recommended a Naturopath in my area to advise me further. This is an area where I clearly need some expert advice. I've booked an appointment with her for Friday morning.

The only things I'm taking at the present time are a multi-vitamin, Vitamin D (recommended by the Canadian Cancer Society considering how little sunlight we get here in the Winter), a garlic and mushroom supplement and Advil for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What Are You Doing--Part 4 (Meditation)

Researchers at Harvard Medical School have discovered that, in long-term practitioners of relaxation methods such as yoga and meditation, far more "disease-fighting genes" were active, compared to those who practised no form of relaxation.

In particular, they found genes that protect from disorders such as pain, infertility, high blood pressure and even rheumatoid arthritis were switched on. The changes, say the researchers, were induced by what they call "the relaxation effect", a phenomenon that could be just as powerful as any medical drug but without the side-effects.

Dr Herbert Benson, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, led the research. He found that a range of disease-fighting genes were active in the relaxation practitioners that were not active in the control group.

The good news for the control group with the less-healthy genes is that the research didn't stop there. The experiment, which showed just how responsive genes are to behaviour, mood and environment, revealed that genes can switch on, just as easily as they switch off.

After two months of practicing meditation, they were able to measure changes in the bodies of the control group – the genes that help fight inflammation, kill diseased cells and protect the body from cancer, all began to switch on.

More encouraging still, the benefits of the relaxation effect were found to increase with regular practice – the more people practised relaxation methods such as meditation or deep breathing, the greater their chances of remaining free of arthritis and joint pain with stronger immunity, healthier hormone levels and lower blood pressure.

Benson believes the research is pivotal because it shows how a person's state of mind affects the body on a physical and genetic level. It might also explain why relaxation induced by meditation or repetitive mantras is considered to be a powerful remedy in traditions such as Ayurveda in India or Tibetan medicine.

For meditation I am following the practice recommended by Yuttadhammo in his "How To Meditate" series. I do twelve minutes of sitting meditation and twelve minutes of walking meditation each day.

I am also doing some tapping exercises which build on acupuncture, Emotional Freedom Techniques and Body Talk.

And that about rounds out the changes to my life and where I'm pinning my hopes for recovery--or at least delay in the progression of my cancer. The meditation, tapping and physical exercise programs take up about an hour of my day. And I have to say I am feeling very good at the moment.

What impact all of this will have on my cancer will be determined by the various scans that are being conducted every couple of months at Princess Margaret Hospital.

I will let you know the results. And I am very open to comments or criticisms about the specifics of this approach.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday "My Town" Shootout--Sunrise/Sunset

Patty and Reggie Girl pioneered the "My Town" Photo Shoot Out asking us to post photos of our local community every Friday. From a handful of participants it has grown into a world wide phenomenon with over 77 contributors and is now in the capable hands of ChefE, Jen and GingerV.

This week's theme, chosen by Sherri, is SUNRISE/SUNSETS.

For a comprehensive list and how to join instructions, just click on the camera at bottom of my side panel.

Next weeks theme, suggested by Ellisa is Classics Of Childhood.

I live in Toronto, in the Scarborough area of Toronto, in the West Hill area of Scarborough. So West Hill will be the focus of my photos.

For the past month Toronto has been under cloudy skies and, for the most part, it has rained. Not spectacular dramatic thunderstorms, not torrential downpours that give us something to talk about, not anything "photographic", just endless drizzle that makes us moan

We haven't seen the sunrise or set for weeks. Instead the day just brightens. Kind of.

So I wondered about doing this shootout. There would be no glorious red skies at night, no sailor's delight. No spectacular greeting of the day.

I checked the topic heading again. No where did it specify the skies should flame with dramatic reds and oranges. No where did it require the actual sun needed to make an appearance. No where did it say murk and drizzle were disqualified.

And so I grabbed my camera and my slightly surprised dog and headed through the dark of night to the park at the bottom of Morningside to stalk the illusive sunrise. Unsurprisingly, we were alone in the gloaming, my boots rapidly getting wet from the rain drentched grass.

Ninety meters below us, the gray waters of the lake, churned and slammed against the clay bluffs as the black skies lightened into a gunmetal gray.

But even so, through the camera lens, I began to see interesting shapes. I began to see images that weren't bad. That were, in their own darkly subtle way, beautiful.

And as the skies brightened, I began to shoot. And to think. Without the camera, without this Friday blog to post, I would never be here and would never see this.

And strangely, as I clicked the shutter, alone in the lightening gloom of the day, I began to feel good. Honoured, in fact to be here to experience the coming of this day.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

So What Are You Doing? Part 3 (Exercise)

I'm not used to good news. At least not this year.

Not that the news I got at the Hospital yesterday was good news, exactly. More like neutral news. In fact, it would be better to call it old news, slightly updated.

And I was totally wrong about why they called me in so urgently. It had nothing to do with the news they had for me, or the doctor's need to head off to the golf course.

A million monkeys at a million key boards would eventually produce the entire works of Shakespeare before they would hit on the reason I was called in ahead of time.

They wanted me in yesterday because they were too busy!

Yes you heard right. Because they were too busy, they had added an additional clinic day this week to clear the back log. And I was part of the back log. So my appointment was moved up a week. How often does that happen in life?

What they wanted to tell me was that my bone marrow showed signs of a rare lymphoproliferative disorder, but the disorder was not interfering with the marrow's job of creating blood cells. If anything, because of the disorder, my white cell count was higher than it should be. However, the disease was progressing so slowly it would never kill me, and was unlikely to ever cause me any significant problem.

As well, my most recent CT Scan showed no swelling in any of my lymph glands. Maybe my personal MEDS program was working?

"Not likely," Linda thought. "We've only been on this program, in its entirety, for three weeks now. too soon have much of an impact."

Still you never know.

For the exercise part of the MEDS program, I am following the demands of my personal Fitness Instructor, Lindsay, who ensures I get out for a long run every morning and most evenings. Her walks along the top of the Scarborough Bluffs usually take us about an hour.

Then I follow the exercise routine suggested by Jorge Cruise, and do three sets of upper body exercises with four repetitions of ten movements, using 10 pound weights. This is followed by a similar set focusing on the lower body on alternate days.

Cruise's program is famous for only taking a few minutes of your time. In my case it takes about 15-20 minutes, including 5 minutes of warm up exercises.

The exercise, combined with meditation and some tapping exercises (to be explained later in this series) takes up about an hour of my day. Not an excessive amount of time considering the benefits I'm hoping to derive.

If only the hospital will leave me alone to get on with things!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

No Lindsay Post Today

Sorry no Lindsay blog today.

I've had a phone call moving my appointment with the hematological oncologist ahead from next Thursday to today. As in, he needs to see me immediately.

And no the secretary can't say why the change or why the urgency.

But my mind, of course, goes immediately to the repeat CT scan and a gamma ray bone scan that I had done at the end of last week, and wonders if the test results have shown any new concerns.

Or maybe the doctor has just decided to go golfing in South Carolina next week and is rescheduling everybody?

I do have a worrying and occasionally intense pain in my side, just below my rib cage on the right. It feels like the "stitch" you get in your side from running. Only it doesn't go away, or hasn't for the past few days now. But it's nowhere near where the cancer is, or was. Maybe I pulled a muscle exercising? Or maybe I danced the Highland Fling once too often at the Willow Manor Ball yesterday? Or was that the "Gay Gordons" I was doing? I always get those two confused.

Well, there is only one way to find out what the doctor has to tell me, and that doesn't leave time to write the Lindsay blog I had planned. So, I'm off to Princess Margaret Hospital. Again.


Look for a "Conversation With Lindsay" here next Wednesday.

And an update on my condition when I get back.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Willow's Manor Ball

For those looking for the second post in my "So What Are you Doing?" series, please jump to the post below this one.

OH NO! I'm going to be late for the rehearsal for Willow Manor's Ball! I know you're all invited over at Willow's Blog and I don't want to miss it.

But I've got a long run ahead of me! Here I come---


Pant! Pant!

It's a long run from Canada to Willow's place, and American customs officials are getting mite testy about bringing claymores across the border these days! It is just about exhausted me. However, I've found the first visitors to the Ball at last. But where is Linda?

Oh there she is. Just time now for a quick rehearsal, on the spacious grounds outside Willow's Manor before the ball begins--

And how did we do at the ball? Well you'll just have to click here to visit Linda's Blog and find out!

So What Are You Doing? Part 2 (Diet)

Not only do I have a health care crisis, my country has a health care crisis too. And maybe your country does as well?

Canada now imports 80 per cent of its fruits and vegetables and cannot even supply the servings recommended by its own Food Guide.

So our homegrown food supply – and the Canadian diet – is beginning to look a lot like a Lindsay's breakfast, packed with meat, dairy and grains, and nearly devoid of fruits and vegetables.

As an article on the front page of yesterday's Toronto Star points out, "Two-thirds of health-care costs can now be attributed to chronic diseases associated with unhealthy eating, according to a study released this year by the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI), "Building Convergence." The numbers are staggering: $32 billion a year for cancer and cardiovascular disease; $15.6 billion annually for diabetes by 2010.

"Dr. Jean-Pierre Després, director of research in cardiology at Laval University's Heart and Lung Institute in Quebec City, and the first international multidisciplinary chair on cardiometabolic risk is blunt about the cause – toxic foods and our sedentary lifestyle.

"Disturbingly, those toxic foods are everyday edibles that reach our plates in part because Canada has no national food policy, no national strategy to ensure its food system actually delivers nutritious food.

"Health Canada dutifully publishes the Canada's Food Guide, but, bizarrely, healthy food plays an insignificant role in health-care treatment, according to Després."

Not only is there a strong correlation between low fruit and vegetable consumption and obesity, but simply eating those recommended servings could also decrease cancers by at least 20 per cent, according to a recent study by the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute of Cancer Research.

As Dr. Servan-Schreiber points out in his book "Anti-Cancer, A New Way Of Life", "...the risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women is twice as big in whose who eat red meat more than once a day....The risk of colon cancer is twice as high for people who eat large quantities of meat as for those who consume fewer than 20 grams (about and ounce) a day.

"The risk stems, in part, from the fact that big meat eaters consume a lot less anticancer food, almost all of which consists of vegetables."

As part of my MEDS (Meditation, Exercise, Diet and Stress reduction) Program, Linda and I have switched to a vegetarian diet, low in sugar and salt and high in mushrooms and garlic. We have been following this diet for about three weeks now, and so far, avoiding meat has been relatively easy. I wasn't tempted by the Turkey at Sunday's Thanksgiving Dinner, for example. The numerous vegetable dishes were more than enough to make a feast.

I've been amazed to discover how many people I know are vegetarians. If any of you are and have vegetarian recipes you enjoy, feel free to leave them in the comments section below. When necessary, I'm using the sweetener Dr. Servan-Schreiber recommends, Agave nectar.

Add to that three cups of green tea a day a handful of unsalted cashews and almonds for a snack in the morning and fresh seasonal fruit in the evening (mostly peaches and plums this time of year).

And four ounces of organic red wine with dinner.

Eating out at restaurants can be a bit of a challenge. Where vegetarian choices are available they are mostly pasta dishes, which is fine, but some more variety would be nice guys!!

'Cause now I'm eating fruits and vegetables and nuts and leaving Lindsay's breakfast for her to eat.

Monday, October 12, 2009

So What Are You Doing?--Part 1 (Overview)

I was seated beneath the mounted head of a huge bull, his back festooned with lances, his eyes enraged with the thought of being stuck to the wall of a restaurant forever. I could sympathize with him.

Three friends from work had invited me out for dinner at a Spanish Restaurant, the Casa Barcolona in the West Bloor area of Toronto. The food was excellent and the tastes were new to me. In part the restaurant was chosen for the large number of vegetarian selections on its menu.

After getting caught up on events at the office, and the office gossip, inevitably the conversation turned to what I am doing now to combat the cancer that threatens my life.

Basically I'm following the advice given in a couple of books, "You Can Conquer Cancer" by Dr. Ian Gawler (who lost a leg to cancer thirty years ago); and "Anti-Cancer, A New Way Of Life" by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber (a brain cancer survivor).

Although written in different decades and on different continents, both books offer similar advice: meditate, eat a diet that feeds your immune system and creates a cancer resistant environment in your body, exercise, open yourself up to the support of others, reduce stress and avoid environmental toxins.

Over this week I want to post on each of the elements of this program in its turn. I call it my MEDS program (Meditation, Exercise, Diet and Stress reduction).

Tomorrow I'll talk about the changes Linda and I have made to our diets. And how I survived our Canadian Thanksgiving without turkey.

I welcome comments and criticism, after all it's kind of important for me to get this right.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Just South of Minden last week returning from our vacation, on the winding highway that skirts Gull Lake, a wild turkey suddenly scurried across the road and dashed into the under brush, missing the wheels of my car by inches.

"We almost had a free turkey for Thanksgiving," I told Linda.

Unlike the United States where one defining event established the tradition, in Canada Thanksgiving Day arose out of a combination of traditions.

In Newfoundland in 1578, the English navigator Martin Frobisher held a ceremony to give thanks for surviving the long journey. He was later knighted and had an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean in Northern Canada named after him, Frobisher Bay.

In 1621, in what is now the United States of America, the Pilgrims celebrated their harvest in the New World. By the 1750's settlers moving to Canada from America had taken this celebration to Nova Scotia.

At the same time, French settlers arriving in Canada with the explorer Samuel de Champlain held thanksgiving feasts and shared their food with their Indian neighbours. After the seven years war ended in 1763 the citizens of Halifax held a special day of Thanksgiving.

At the time of the American Revolution, the United Empire Loyalists, remaining loyal to the Government in England, moved to Canada and spread the Thanksgiving celebration to other parts of the country. Other English, and oher European, settlers were also used to having a harvest celebration in their churches and villages every Autumn.

In 1879 the Canadian Parliament declared the 6th November as a day of Thanksgiving and a national holiday. Over the years the date has changed with the third Monday in October being the most popular time. Finally on the 31st January 1957 the Canadian Parliament proclaimed that....

'A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been be observed on the second Monday in October.'

Our extended family is not waiting until Monday to celebrate. We long ago out grew the capacity of any of our homes to accommodate our numbers and need to rent a facility to hold our celebration. We've taken train rides together on old coal burning trains, have picnicked in parks in wild snow storms, have sailed the Toronto harbour of Lake Ontario in a windjammer; but this year we're meeting in a hall in Ajax on the shores of the lake.

My oldest daughter Kathy has made all the arrangements, including cooking the store brought turkey. We're bringing the pies, apple and pumpkin. Despite my earlier close encounter with the wild turkey, this will be my first thanksgiving not eating meat.

If I can resist temptation.

To me it's been one heck of a year, but it has also brought with it much to be thankful for.

To all my Canadian Friends, let me wish you and your families the Happiest Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday My Town Shoot Outs--Silhouette

Patty and Reggie Girl pioneered the "My Town" Photo Shoot Out asking us to post photos of our local community every Friday. From a handful of participants it has grown into a world wide phenomenon with over 77 contributors and is now in the capable hands of ChefE, Jen and GingerV.

This week's theme, chosen by Carrie, is SILHOUETTES.

For a comprehensive list and how to join instructions, just click on the camera at bottom of my side panel.

Next weeks theme, suggested by Sherri is Sunrise/Sunsets.

I live in Toronto, in the Scarborough area of Toronto, in the West Hill area of Scarborough. So West Hill will be the focus of my photos.


OK, you caught me with my silhouette down; I have nothing to original offer this week. But I do have a good excuse.

It's been raining for weeks which doesn't make for good silhouette back-lighting. And yesterday, when the sun finally shone, I spent the day being injected with radiation and then bombarded by gamma rays as part of a complete body bone scan at Toronto General Hospital.

Today I go back to Princess Margaret Hospital for a two month follow up CT scan to see if my cancer has spread from the time of the last procedure. Any difference between the two scans will give them an idea of the rate the disease has spread and from that they can guess if my life expectancy is best measured in weeks, months or years. The results will also help them determine when the next cycle of radiation and/or chemotherapy will begin.

I think that counts as an excuse? If not I'll have to think up a better one.

So nothing original from me today, but I did find some examples of silhouettes in my folders.

The first is of boats at docked at Pickering Marina. Linda and I had gone for dinner about a month ago and when we came out of the restaurant, this is what we saw.

The second is of Linda (she is the bump on the left), on top of the Indian burial mound here in West Hill, at sunset on the spring solstice.

This was a shot I published recently as part of the Puppy Social Club series. It also fit this theme and I thought it was worth a repeat.

The great blue heron tops the totem pole recently raised in the town of Minden, where we paused recently on our way home from vacation.

And finally, my favourite silhouette is of my granddaughter playing her violin. But then I'm just a sucker for any photo with Natasha in it.


Oh and by the way, Happy Leif Ericson Day--named in honor of the Viking who reached North American shores at Lance Aux Meadows Newfoundland, on October 9th, 1002 AD--or thereabout!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Escape To God's Country--Part 6 The Home Coming

We had a final breakfast at the Rosewood Inn, loaded up the car, checked out of the Grandview Resort and turned the car south to Toronto.

Highway #35 took dramatic turns through massive rock cuts and hillsides alive with Fall colours, even beneath heavy cloud and falling rain. On the way we drove through Dorcet where blogger Lorac writes so eloquently about life at her summer cottage.

We had planned to stop for lunch at Minden, where my daughter's In-Laws have their cottage, but had made excellent time and only paused to take a few photos.

Minden is a beautiful little town on a sleepy river but busy with cottagers closing up for the season.

Instead we drove on to Port Perry. To our surprise the town was overflowing with tourists and we were barely able to find a place to park.

The Front Porch, our favourite restaurant, had a line up out the door, so we ate at an Italian Restaurante down the street.

Which shall remain nameless. The food being expensive and tasteless. Linda's coffee being served in a mug decorated with someone else's lipstick. A disappointing final meal on our vacation.

An hour later we were home and as I inserted my key in the lock of the door I could already hear the waggy tail of a little wet nosed black dog pounding against the doorjam with excitement. Her long wait was over.

We were home.