Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Tribute To The Woodsman On The Loss Of His Wife

He calls himself the Woodsman, but not for the salacious meaning that may be crossing your mind.

He has a deep and passionate love of the woods and forests that surround his New England home. He and his wife Ann loved nothing better than vacationing deep in the wilderness of Northern Ontario.

I've never met the Woodsman, I know him only through his blog and through his reading of mine. His blog tends to be more explicitly philosophical and his favorite philosopher is Alfred North Whitehead who once said, "Philosophy begins in wonder. And, at the end, when philosophic thought has done its best, the wonder remains."

When I revealed my diagnosis of cancer, the Woodsman began writing privately to me with e-mails of support and suggestions. His wife Ann had successfully fought cancer six years ago so he knew something of the journey I was on.

Then in the summer he wrote to tell me his wife's cancer had returned, long after they had believed the battle had been won. However, he was full of confidence. They had beat cancer the first time and would again.

Yesterday, shockingly, he wrote to let me know Ann, his wife of 29 years, had died. No longer able to eat, she had been returned home from the hospital with the support of a hospice worker and had passed away in the embrace of her family.

My heart goes out to the Woodsman and his children at this time of their loss.

Cancer has taken just too many good people.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Linda becomes a 60's girl again today. Our daughter and her children are coming in from Guelph and we are going downtown to see the Nutcracker at the new Four Season's Centre.

Then out for a Birthday Dinner.

Hope all your dreams come true today Linda!

Happy 60th!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Best Wishes For The Season

Barry Linda and Lindsay

Wish you a Peaceful and Healthy

Holiday Season

The Joy of Your Friends and Family

The Love and Comfort of your Pets

And the Knowledge that your Company

Your Thoughts, Prayers and Wishes,

Have brought us

A Deep and Abiding Comfort

Through a Difficult 2009

And were deeply, deeply appreciated.

Although I will be a frequent visitor

At Your Blogs, I will not be posting here again

Until 2010

Please accept my best wishes for a



Saturday, December 19, 2009

Barry's Retirement Party

We were late but we made great time, hitting nearly every green light on the way downtown. Until we got to Bloor St where the traffic came to a complete halt.

And we sat and we waited.

There is major construction going on at Yonge and Bloor and our hotel for the night was only two city blocks from there. But traveling those two block took us over half an hour.

My retirement party had already started at another venue by the time Linda and I got to the hotel. We ran through our check in. The butler (yes a butler) helped us get our bags quickly up to the room and made certain the doorman had a cab ready for us.

We arrived at my party only half an hour late.

I worked for FSEAP for over 30 years. I hadn't intended to work there that long, but they kept giving me new responsibilities and interesting new assignments.

And I liked the people and was proud of the work. So the time passed.

Until suddenly, today, it was over.

Our Vice President, Carol-Anne gave a glowing speech about me, some of which was even true. And the staff of the agency applauded.

They gave me flowers. Massive bouquets. They played a Jib Jab video of me, and my two fellow retirees, dancing like elves. Showing moves Linda now insists I learn.

And I hugged and said goodbye to many many people.

Until it was all over. Then Linda and I headed back to the hotel for dinner.

We were staying for the night at the Windsor Arms, a small luxury hotel hidden away on a side street in the heart of Toronto. It may be small, in may be hidden, but it's where the rich and famous come to stay when they're in town.

Hence the butler.

I was tired after the drive and the party, so we stayed at the hotel for dinner.

Where we found Maryland Crab Cakes on the menu and ordered them in honour of fellow blogger Patty, a proud Crisfield Maryland resident. Well, in honour of Patty AND because I really love crab cakes.

Sir James and his family were dining at the table next to us. I'm not certain who Sir James is, but the waiter was delighted to see him.

"It is a pleasure to have you with us again, Sir James."

After dinner Nigel, the butler, got us a large vase for our flowers and brought us coffee for the evening.

Then the next day I went around the corner to Princess Margaret Hospital for one of the most important CT Scans for the year. I've been feeling great between chemo cycles, but we have no evidence yet that the Taxol is actually helping me. Nor will this CT scan likely show that.

What it could show is that the chemo isn't working. That the cancer is spreading. That I need radiation instead of chemo as a last line defense.

Given the limitations of technology, the best it is likely to show is no visible change since the previous scan. From that the oncologist will assume, that Taxol is doing its thing (although it may not) and we will just continue with the treatments into the new year.

And hope for the best.

And a long retirement.

For me.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday "My Town" Shootout--Dressed For Christmas

With retirement parties, CT scans, over night trips and Christmas shopping we were really late getting the FSO up this week.

But now we're ready!

Linda and I are continuing to combine our efforts and jointly host a single page for our Shootouts on Friday.

Our joint contribution will continue at least until I'm through this new round of chemotherapy (which was to end at Christmas but now is extended until February).

To see our contribution this week please CLICK HERE

Our tree is up, the lights are lit, and we're ready for you!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Day Lindsay Met Santa In The Forest

The noise came first. A thrashing, pouncing, rushing sound coming out of the deep forest to our left.

Lindsay froze, tail stiff, legs braced as she turned to face the on coming rush.

Then snow began to fly and a bright pink nose bounded out of the woods.

Closely followed by the large pure white Labrador puppy to which it was attached. The large and friendly puppy was a frenzy of glee, bowing toward Lindsay, tail whirling like a helicopter blade.

Lindsay relaxed and returned the bow, her own tail coming to life, and the two of them were suddenly off on a game of chase through the mounds of snow.

"Rudolf! Rudolf!" A deep and hearty voice bellowed from a distance. "Rudolf, where are you dog!"

The two animals went racing off toward the sound of the voice.

"Ah Ha! You've found a friend!"

"He has," I called back. "And she is friendly!"

I rounded the large tree growing in the path ahead of me, and came face to face with Santa Claus. There was no doubt who it was, with a large Santa hat perched on top of his white bearded face. Of course the rest of him was dressed in a more contemporary style, a heavy gray scarf, a long winter's coat made from some form of leather and Cossack boots. He held a thick staff in his right hand and leaned on it as the two dogs tore about at his feet before they dashed back off into the woods.

"Ha Ha Ha! I can certainly see she's friendly," Santa laughed.

"It's a beautiful day out today," I said, not knowing what else to say to Santa in his off time.

"It is, it is," the old man replied, nodding his head toward the two animals. "The dog's name is Rudolf. My wife named him. Me with my white beard like Santa and him with his bright pink nose. She thinks its funny."

"Well," I said.

"Oh, alright," the old man laughed again. "It is funny. Maybe I'll shave the beard off one day and confound her!"

"No, don't do that!" I was appalled.

"Oh don't worry," his eyes twinkled above his bushy beard. "Even I wouldn't know who I was without my beard. You know I was Santa for a couple of years up at the Mall. Most fun I ever had. At work."

The two dogs came tearing past us again, whirling around our feet before racing back off into the woods.

"Look at them go," Santa said. "I sure wish I had their energy."

"Me too."

"Well, I guess I better get going. Nice meeting you."

"Me too. It's not every day I get to meet Santa."

"Oh heck, that's an everyday experience for me. You be well now," He suddenly said with some seriousness.

"I will," I promised.

He called Rudolph's name again, and set off down the path, leaning heavily on his staff.

Within minutes Lindsay was back around my feet, looking up at me to see if I appreciated all the fun that had just taken place.

I gave her a pat on her head.

"Have I got a story to take home to Linda." I told her.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Unexpected Generosity

The Toronto newspapers this morning are filled with stories of murders, rapes, beatings, political skulduggery, and Tiger Woods' infidelities (hands up the lone woman who hasn't had an affair with Tiger).

It's enough to make you very discouraged about humanity.

That is, if the newspaper had gotten it right. The trouble is, Newspapers see only the exceptions to normal human behaviour. It's the exceptions that sell papers.

The "norm" goes unnoticed, unmentioned. But by ignoring the norm, by definition you are distorting reality. Big time.

What's normal is human decency. What's normal is human caring. What's normal is human generosity.

And it was an out pouring of generosity that greeted Linda on her return to work yesterday. Not only were there embraces all around from fellow teachers, but the children were ecstatic to have her back.

And as a token of their joy, the teachers at her school had done an exceptional thing. Because, you see, exceptions run in both directions, the good and the bad. Despite what Newspapers would have you believe.

The exceptional thing the teachers at Linda's school had done was to individually each cook us a meal from their favourite vegetarian recipe. Linda arrived at school to find boxes and boxes of dinners and lunches all prepared for her. To help ease her way back into the work force after 8 months of caring for me.

Of course, its surprising just how many people consider macaroni and cheese their favourite vegetarian meal. And in just how many ways it can be prepared.

But we literally don't have to do anything other than heat up a pre-prepared meal for the next month.

The world is awash in good people.

Believe it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Linda Returns To Work

It is still dark and cold in the early morning as the car backs cautiously down the driveway, pauses, and then backs out onto the quiet road.

The headlights swing away from the house and point northward. The car holds for a minute while gears are being switched and then crawls forward into the dark.

And Linda is gone, back to work for the first time in eight months.

She is only working a couple of days this week before the winter break but it is a preview of January when she will be working again full time.

Her time full and mine needing filling.

I had a plan for my retirement. I had carefully thought it through and had taken steps to put plans in place that would fill my days with activities that interested me. I had helped create a Community Association and was its first President. I created and maintained its website, was its Community Police liaison, chaired its monthly meetings, discussed our community needs with our local politicians, helped write its Newsletter.

I enjoyed it and looked forward to all I could accomplish with the extra time that would come my way when I retired.

But cancer ended that as it ended my involvement with work, years earlier than I intended.

Life, someone said, is what happens when you're busy planning other things.

For almost a year now my focus has been on regaining my health and it has been an interesting journey. Not fully won, but to a degree, certainly improved.

And to the degree I have my health back, I now need to think of ways to make use of it and re-involve myself in things that are less self centred.

Having good health, or even relatively good health, is like having a well tuned car sitting in the driveway, its tank full of gas. Only, cars were never made to sit in driveways. They are built for going places. For exploring.

I need to accept I have a future and an interesting life ahead of me. A life beyond, or certainly around, the next chemo treatment, the next doctor's appointment the next test.

Once I decide what to make of it.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Partying With Teachers

"If I didn't know you had cancer, I wouldn't know you had cancer," He shouted.

"Thank you, I think," I shouted back, laughing.

"I hope you don't mind talking about this here," he yelled.

"No, I don't mind at all." I shouted.

Linda and I were at her staff's Christmas Party. I don't know if you've ever partied with teachers? I don't know if you've ever associated teachers with partying?

I remember as a child the first time I ever saw one of my teachers outside the classroom and realized, for the first time, that they didn't just live in my school. They were actual people with full and rich lives.

Who sometimes partied.

Since then, of course, I've married a teacher and have attended many parties with teachers, and I've become somewhat of an expert on teacher parties.

And I can tell you they are different.

For one thing, they are loud.

Which is why we were shouting.

Because, you see, teachers are professional talkers. They like to talk. And they do. And they're good at it. Animated. Engaging.

But put 30 or 40 of them in a room and the decibel level rises to a near deafening roar. They certainly know how to project.

Teachers also like to shop talk and teacher shop talk is a foreign language littered with almost incomprehensible acronyms. ESL, IEPs, IPRCs and the like. And they like to gossip. So, unless you know the names of every teacher in the school and the background to their lives, there is no hope of joining in much of the conversation.

"Well its great to see you here. When Linda told us about you're having cancer, we were really worried." He yelled.

"Barry!" shouted another teacher behind me. She gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "How wonderful to see you again. And your bald head and everything!"

You see, there is another thing about teachers that I forgot to mention.

Even when they party, they care.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday My Town Shoot Out--Christmas Weather

As you can see from their tracks, a lot of people have been out to have a look. What did they come to see?

Linda and I are continuing to combine our efforts and jointly host a single page for our Shootouts on Friday. And that's where you'll have to go to find out what all those people came to see.

Our joint contribution will continue at least until I'm through this new round of chemotherapy (which was to end at Christmas but now is extended until February).

To see our contribution this week please CLICK HERE

Dress warmly and we'll you over there!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Storm

My brother John's SUV cuts through the snow packed streets in the dark of early morning with calm assurance. Linda and I are bundled comfortably inside listening to the radio playing softly in the background and joking with John about the news of the day.

I'm on my way to Princes Margaret Hospital for my third cycle of chemotherapy and Toronto has just been hit by the first winter storm of the season It is very early and the streets are yet to be packed with commuter traffic. Toronto's 600 snow plows and 200 salters have been out all night grooming the roads and we are driving through an ugly slush, not ice or snow.

The traffic flow has locked us into proximity with a "Shred It!" truck which is changing lanes periodically without signaling and speeding up and slowing down erratically. At one point it even pulled into a "No Stop" zone in front of us, put on its 4 way flashers and came to a complete halt. Blocking us in the lane behind it for several minutes until the traffic cleared and we could pass.

"Well, at least we've put him behind us," said John.

Only, 5 five minutes later he was back beside us again.

Despite the traffic and the storm and the "Shred It!" truck, John got us to the hospital only 10 minutes later than usual. Much faster than the nurse who was to administer my taxol. The traffic delayed her by over an hour, as the chemo waiting room filled to capacity and it was nearly 10 when we were called in for my treatment.

Although armed with two books, a kindle, an ipod filled with music and Linda for company, I slept through most of the 5 hour procedure. I'm getting bored with chemo. Bored with cancer. Bored with nurses and Princess Margaret Hospital. My explorer's nature wants always to move on beyond what I know and into the new.

Chemo is no longer new. It is become predictable. After today I will have three days of fatigue, then the side effects will begin. My joints will start to ache like a moderate case of arthritis, the glands in my neck might swell, I will start to loose more sensation in the tips of my fingers and the bottoms of my feet (a sensation loss I might never recover) and I would develop a chemo allergic rash across my head and down my body that would require Aveno baths twice a day and Benadryl (on top of all my other drugs).

Finally I would have a couple of weeks of freedom and relative normalcy as I recover my strength prior to the next cycle.

My MEDS program (Meditation, Exercise, Diet and Stress Reduction) is working well. It is largely focused on keeping my immune system from being too impacted by the taxol. During my previous cycles of chemo, in the summer, my immune system got dangerously low. So low consideration was given to discontinuing chemo altogether. This time around it was a healthy 3 after the first cycle and a near perfect 4.7 (a reading of 5 would be ideal) this time.

By 3 oclock we are finished and John arrives to drive us home. Outside the temperature has warmed up and the snow has turned to rain. We again beat the rush hour traffic on roads that are now only wet.

Lindsay greets us at the door as we arrive home. She has been cheated out of two days of walks and will get only short walks over the next few days as my post chemo fatigue settles in like a heavy weight.

Only the weight now has a new name for me--boredom. An old enemy. Too familiar and too boring. I will have to give it some thought. But for now, I'm very tired and have a lot of sleeping to do.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Toy Wicker Baby Carriage

It doesn't really resemble this photo. For one thing, it isn't painted and it isn't lined. But it has been in our family for nearly 40 years and has been loved by all our children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friendly visitors.

However, although it was one of the most loved of toys and one of the most used, and although we have stacks of photos of messy play rooms from down through the years, and I have searched through all of our albums, I am unable to find a single photo of it. It was always where the mess wasn't, I guess.

The wooden wheels squeak now, but otherwise it has been remarkably resilient to the passage of time. And the rough treatment of babies.

I'm not certain how we came by the wicker baby carriage, except that it originally belonged to my oldest daughter Kathy, who would load it up with dolls and parade it around the house. In her younger years the dolls were unceremoniously dumped into the carriage and only as she grew were they tucked in with any tenderness.

The little carriage inspired grandmothers and great-grandmothers to create blankets and sheets and pillows, which would almost immediately get dumped on the floor so more babies would fit within.

On Sunday we dusted it off and took it as a gift to my 16 month old granddaughter Hailey. We baby sat her for the afternoon while her parents took their older son to see Toronto Symphony's version of The Christmas Carol.

At first Hailey looked at it with some suspicion, toddling around it and poking at the baby within. Then taking hold of the handle and tentatively pushing it on squeaking wheels.

Before dumping the baby out and then picking it back up again and throwing it back into the carriage on its head.


Exactly as her mother Kathy had done to a similar baby over thirty years before.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

An Unexpected Transition

Black clouds like evil barges filled with winter snows are pushed violently across the cold skies of late Autumn. Massive winds guide their destination but also take time out to rock the car in which I'm sitting. Waiting. In the parking lot of the school where Linda works.

I've tilted the seat back and opened my Kindle to my place in 9 Dragons where Harry Bosch has just had unexpected news that changes the thrust of his story's plot as surely as if the wintery clouds above me had all decided to change direction and head south.

I knew how he felt. Linda and I had just received unexpected news from the doctor that was now in the process of changing our lives almost as radically. In a way it was good news, or at least was driven by good news.

I am managing this latest round of chemotherapy so well, the side effects are so minimal,I no longer need Linda's assistance. No longer need a primary caretaker. She is free to return to work. Immediately. The doctor said.

It's hard to disagree with him.

It's been 8 months now that we've both been off work and if some of those months were terrifying both physically and psychologically, those times are passed, have mellowed out. We've adjusted to a new reality. And now it's time for Linda to get back to work.

The wind suddenly reaches down and rocks the car gently. I look up from the Kindle to the school where Linda is in talking with her Principal about when she will start back. Its nearly the end of the term and her replacement has been hired on a long term/occasional contract and the timing of Linda's return depends not just on health issues but the terms of the contract along with the needs of the children in the class. Linda is hoping he will tell her to start back in January but the doctor's note says she is able to return tomorrow.

I have heard from my own work as well this week. I've received an invitation to attend our Seasonal Get-together next week, for the first time as a retired member of staff. Part of the plan for the get together is to honour all those staff members who have retired this year, so I am included. Although this was not the way I had planned to retire.

And suddenly Linda is outside the car, clutching papers in her hand. I unlock the doors and she jumps into the seat beside me.

"So?" I prompt, looking at the papers.

She follows my gaze and shakes her head no, "These are about something different" she says. "It looks like I'm starting back in January, but I may have to forfeit some pay. The Principal's going to see what he can do. There's only two seeks left now til Christmas break and a natural transition time for the kids."

"Well that's good news. What are the papers."

"Our staff party. You're invited. We're having dinner at a restaurant like last year and then going over to Gail's for a while. This is the menu and you have to choose what you want, although there are only two vegetable choices."

I look the menu over and pick the lasagna.

"We're going to need to get the battery replaced in your car," I tell her. We've been using my car for most of the time she's been off and her battery is run down and wouldn't start the other day. "I don't want it failing on you between home and work."

"Well, we've got some time to get that done now."

We do. And time to adjust.

Linda gets out and runs the papers back into the school.

I click off the Kindle and start the car and after a minute begin to feel the heater kicking in. Linda's days will soon be filled with work once again.

And I better get some plans in place for myself.

As the winter clouds roll in.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday My Town Shoot Out--My Favourite Things

Linda and I are continuing to combine our efforts and jointly host a single page for our Shootouts on Friday. This week we explore our favourite things about the early Christmas season. And if we don't have favourite things, then we have to build them. That's what I'm getting ready to do in the photo above.

Our joint contribution will continue at least until I'm through this new round of chemotherapy (which was to end at Christmas but now is extended until February).

To see our contribution this week please CLICK HERE

See you over there!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lindsay's Reading List

Her dad may have his nose buried in a Kindle, but Lindsay prefers traditional paper books. Books with feel. Books whose spines crackle when opened. Books that can be picked up and read anytime and never need to be plugged in.

Fortunately for her various bloggers have kept her little life enriched with reading material.

Cindy from Alaska
introduced her to Ned Rozell's extraordinary dog Jane ("Walking My Dog Jane")who hiked the entire length of the Alaska pipeline from Valdez in the south to Prudhoe Bay on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. Along the way they not only encounter Alaska's rugged geography, her amazing cast of iconoclastic characters who live in your memory long after the book has ended, her incredible wildlife, but come to know and trust each other with that special bond between man and dog and stretches back thousands of years into the prehistory of China.

If Jane explores the natural wilderness of Alaska, filled with the natural sights and smells of the Alaskan wilderness, Annabel Goldsmith's dog Copper has learned to explore and feel at home in the strange civilized world modern man and dog have made for themselves in the very heart of the British Isles. "Copper, a Dog's Life" was a gift from Sara Diane Williams in the UK and it tells the story of a dog who has learned to use life's modern conveniences to his own advantage. Copper would think nothing of hoping on a bus to go down to his faviourite pub in the evening, sometime escorted by his good friend Jessie the cat. Or, if the wanderlust really took over, he would travel to Richmond, Kingston or Brighton.

In her hilarious book, "Mama Pajama Tells A Story", blogger Patience Renzulli set out to buy a dog. Just one. After much searching and researching she eventually found a Whippet named Evil and Evil spoke to her in a way no other dog had. Evil often does that to a person, even when that person decides to rename Evil Gracious. And although Evil started out to be an only companion for Patience before long Evil (er Gracious) had been joined by eight other Whippets and Patience (and her husband's) lives were transformed.

Lindsay and I are only just getting into Patience adventures with her pack, but she is already whispering in my ear, "No we do not need another dog in the house--or another eight. And I'm getting too excited listening to other dog's adventures. Isn't it time to go out and have one of our own."

And so we shall.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mr. Toast's Tea Party--And How I Named My Blog Day

"Oh, I forgot to tell you. We're going to a tea party today."

"We are?"

"Yes, a virtual tea party at Mr. Toast's home in Aspen."

"Well, that's too bad. You know how much I love a good tea party, but I think I'm having chemo today."

"No that's next week."

"Well a CT Scan then?"


"MRI?" "No." "Full body X-Ray?" "No." "Ultra-Sound?" "No." "Radiation?" "No." "PET Scan?" "No." "Root Canal?" "No." "Surgery?" "No." "Hang Nail?"

"NO!" said Linda. "We're going to a tea party and you are going to love it."

"I will." I asked doubtfully.

"A virtual tea party. In Aspen. You will love it. But first we're going to Whistler to pick up some special friends to come with us."

To find out if I loved it, who the special friends were and what Linda had planned, check out Linda's blog HERE.

Or, if this is your cup of tea and you want to just join in the fun, drop into the party HERE


But before I rush off to the Party, Ruth at Synch-ro-ni-zing is holding a "How I Named My Blog Day" requesting we all give an explanation of how our blogs came by their monikers.

Well, here's what I had to say about that back when I began this blog back in May of 2008....

I have a philosophy of life.

That sounds a little pretentious. But I'm not unique in this, nor is having a personal philosophy of life elitist in any way.

You have a philosophy of life as well. It may be more elaborate than mine, it may be better reasoned, it may even be more passionately held. Or your philosophy may be more felt than articulated, less well organized and may contain more elements destined to cause you harm.

But either way, you cannot escape having a Philosophy of Life that guides you and protects you in important ways. My life's philosophy has led me along certain pathways to certain destinations.

It has led me into an exploration of life. It has led me here.

Over the next few weeks and months I want to share this philosophy with you. Feel free to join me.

There have always been explorers from the earliest times of human existence. Sometimes they were driven to explore by desperate circumstances following famines or drought. Most of the time it was just a part of their nature. They couldn't not explore.

Where others were content, they were driven to learn. It was sometimes not a survival trait, at least not for the explorer. For the tribe, having explorers in their midst usually provided an evolutionary and competitive advantage.

In those early times, exploration usually meant seeking out new territory. Learning what was over the next hill, what was around the next corner. Those were the days of the physical explorers whose current embodiment are the astronauts who may soon be living, and dying, on the Moon or Mars.

But there have always been intellectual explorers as well. In the beginning they were the shamans who sought the reasons for disease and misfortune, who wondered about the healing powers of herbs and plants, about the forces that moved the moon and the stars, who wondered at the seasons and the storms, who found the behaviour of animals and other members of their tribes of compelling interest. They guessed at explanations and put those guesses to the test with little understanding of the laws of science or the ubiquity of coincidence.

As always for explorers there is trial and a great deal of error.

But because of their courage to explore, we all learned. Gradually and painfully.

I'm not an explorer in those grand terms. I am an explorer on a more personal scale. I love to travel and love to meet people and love to learn. I love to try new things. I am restless for novelty and adventure. Although usually those adventures are of the intellectual kind.

It makes for an interesting life.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Anger and its Relationship to Cancer

The relationship between cancer and emotional states is somewhat unclear. It may be that anger, as a prime contributor to stress, is either a cause of cancer or, through the damage it does to the immune system, a prime contributor to its rate of growth and spread.

Or perhaps its being "nice" that's the prime contributor to the growth and spread of cancer and venting anger may be the force that contributes to its cure.

Should victims of cancer put on their game face and go to war against the disease, raging against the ravages of cruel fate, or should they relax into a positive frame of mind and just let the stress go?

Let's look at some of the latest research.

"Extremely low anger scores have been noted in numerous studies of patients with cancer. Such low scores suggest suppression, repression, or restraint of anger. There is evidence to show that suppressed anger can be a precursor to the development of cancer, and also a factor in its progression after diagnosis. Some studies indicate that it may be beneficial for patients to mobilize anger to battle their cancer. However, there is a paucity of research on the outcomes of various anger interventions. Longitudinal studies that repeatedly measure anger and other moods over the disease trajectory are needed...."
--Thomas SP, Groer M, Davis M, Droppleman P, Mozingo J, Pierce M.
College of Nursing, University of Tennessee

"Scientists and researchers have long argued about whether repressed anger predisposes women to breast cancer, and the controversy will probably continue for some time. About 20 years ago, several studies determined that women who have breast cancer and assert themselves live longer and have a better prognosis than women who do not have that "fighting spirit." A more recent study contradicts this finding, but does support and give weight to another conclusion: Women with breast cancer who feel helpless and hopeless do significantly worse than those who have a sense of power to help themselves."

"Studies have been conducted in which a group of happy individuals and a group of angry individuals were exposed to a cold virus. The results showed that the angry people got sick while they happy people stayed healthy...(However) It doesn’t matter if you maintain the healthiest diet in the world, exercise regularly and do everything else possible to stay healthy: bottling up your anger suppresses your immune system and makes you much more susceptible to cancer."
--Dr. Laurence Magne

"Extracts from Patrick Swayze's autobiography have revealed the actor felt 'anger, bitterness and despair' when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Patrick Swayze sank into a state of 'anger, bitterness and despair' when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer."

"Results suggest that anger control and negative affect are not associated with breast cancer, melanoma, or total cancer risk, although they may have a small role in risk of prostate, colorectal, and lung cancer. Although more research is needed to confirm these latter associations, the results suggest that if affective states are associated with cancer development, the association may differ for different cancers and argue against the use of total cancer as an outcome measure for studies in this area."
--Victoria M. White, Dallas R. English, Hamish Coates, Magdalen Legerlund, Ron Borland, Graham G. Giles

"Studies have indicated that stress can affect tumor growth and spread, but the precise biological mechanisms underlying these effects are not well understood. Scientists have suggested that the effects of stress on the immune system may in turn affect the growth of some tumors (7). However, recent research using animal models indicates that the body’s release of stress hormones can affect cancer cell functions directly (8).

"A review of studies that evaluated psychological factors and outcome in cancer patients suggests an association between certain psychological factors, such as feeling helpless or suppressing negative emotions, and the growth or spread of cancer, although this relationship was not consistently seen in all studies (3). In general, stronger relationships have been found between psychological factors and cancer growth and spread than between psychological factors and cancer development..."
--National Institute of Health

"“Stress doesn’t give you cancer, but it is a risk factor like genetic differences, like environmental carcinogens. There are a whole bunch of risk factors. Not everybody that smokes tobacco gets lung cancer.”
--David Spiegel, associate chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine.

My own belief (in the absence of more consistent scientific evidence) is that being in a state of anger, is a contributor to the growth and spread of cancer. By "state of anger" I mean someone whose prime emotional response to life is negative and belligerent. Someone who has trapped anger inside them.

It is the opposite of someone who is occasionally angered by life's circumstances, or is just periodically in a bad mood (who me?)and vents.

But, at the moment this is just a hunch.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Tail Of Two Philosophies

No, I spelled "Tail" correctly in the title. I'm being cute because this is a story about the Toronto Humane Society and the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Ontario SPCA). Who deal mainly with cats and dogs. Who have tails.

And this is my last opportunity to inject a little cuteness into this story.

The major news story in Toronto today concerns a police raid on the Toronto Humane Society and the arrest of all its senior staff members along with its entire board of directors on a charge of animal cruelty.

Police were acting on a tip supplied by the Ontario SPCA who have long been at odds with the philosophy of care that is the foundation of the Toronto Society's practice.

The Toronto Humane Society is an independent, non-profit animal adoption centre and hospital not funded by the government and relies solely on donations and volunteers. The organization prides itself as non-euthanasia and provides 24/7 care for the animals rescued.

The key here is the policy of "non-euthanasia". Except in extreme cases of animal distress, the Toronto Society believes in allowing sick animals to die a natural death. The Ontario SPCA finds this practice a form of animal cruelty enacted for fund raising purposes.

The police who conducted the raid on the Toronto Humane Society facility were shocked by the number of animals they found in extreme distress. Animals who obviously suffered from acts of cruelty and neglect. Four of the 1100 animals rescued from the Toronto facility have now been euthanized by the Ontario SPCA.

The Director of the Toronto Humane Society, as he was being arrested, told reporters, "Of course police found mistreated animals and extremely ill animals in our facility. We are an animal rescue facility and a hospital. If police were to search any human hospital in the city they would find examples of extremely ill and abused people. Would they arrest the doctors and staff and charge them with cruelty?"

The question is, at what point does a policy of non-euthansia of animals become a form of cruelty? Does it ever?

What do you think?

You can find more details about the story HERE

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday My Town Shootout--Smiles and Faces

Linda and I are continuing to combine our efforts and jointly host a single page for our Shootouts on Friday.

Our joint contribution will continue at least until I'm through this new round of chemotherapy (which was to end at Christmas but now is extended until February).

To see our contribution this week please CLICK HERE

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving America

Today my friends in the United States begin a unique process. They gather together with family and friends to give thanks, over a delicious feast, for the bounty that has come their way in the past year. They give thanks for the difficulties they have over come, they give thanks for the privilege of having each other in their lives.

Many will travel thousands of miles to gather together with their families for today's meal. In shelters for the homeless, in shelters for battered women, in hospitals and in workplaces, in church basements and in the finest restaurants, on American Naval ships and Army Barracks around the world, in ocean depths and on board the International Space Station, in jails and in soup kitchens and in family homes across the nation, food will be shared and thanks will be given.

To all the blogging friends I have come to know and love, who have reached out to Linda and I over the past year, as we have faced our own difficulties with as much courage and good humor as we could muster, I extend my thanks and my wishes for a wonderful day today and for the coming year ahead.

You are all exceptional people. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lindsay and the Strange Black Monolith

Once Upon A Time...

There was a little black nosed, waggy-tailed dog named Lindsay

Who had a father who vanished into a strange black Monolith.

He had been an attentive father who played with her, fed her and took her for long runs in the forest.

Then, one day, the mail man delivered a Kindle and Lindsay's father disappeared into it. Stared at it with rapt attention for hours on end.

Until one day he put it down and went out to the store. So Lindsay, being an inquisitive little black nosed waggy-tailed dog, decided to investigate.

But the Kindle was a great disappointment. It had no smell. It had no taste. It couldn't be eaten.

Well, of course it could be chewed, but it just wasn't food.

And her dad tended to get a little annoyed when she chewed things that were not food.

Puzzled, Lindsay couldn't understand the fascination the small black Monolith held for her father.

But then he was odd in other ways too.

So she went to her comfortable place behind his chair and went to sleep.

He would outgrow his fascination soon enough. She sighed.

Monday, November 23, 2009

What I learned Through Meditating

Not long before we were married Linda once asked me--

"Do you have to plan everything out?"

And I said--

"Me? I don't plan everything out.'

"Well," said Linda. "You you seem to."

Then, one weekend after we had been married for ten years, I said to Linda--

"Would you like to go for a drive in the country?"

"Oh, I'd love that," said Linda

"Where you like to go?" I asked her.

"Instead of planning ahead of time," said Linda. "Couldn't we just be spontaneous for once, just head out and see where we wind up?"

I said, "I don't need to plan everything. I can be spontaneous."

"Hummm?," said Linda.

One day, after we'd been married for twenty years, I asked Linda--

"What are you making for dinner tonight?"

"Well, we haven't even had breakfast yet, I thought I'd wait until evening to decide."


She smiled, "You always have to have everything planned out ahead of time don't you?"

"No. No, I can wait."

Last week I turned to Linda and wondered, "Is there anything special you'd like to do for our fortieth Wedding Anniversary?"

"That isn't until next May," said Linda, looking up from her laptop. "Isn't it a little early to be planning that yet?"

"Well, I was just wondering."

"No you were planning.' She laughed, "That's just you. Everything has to be planned out well ahead of time."

"Of course not. I'm very spontaneous. I certainly don't have to have everything all planned out for me."

Linda smiled.

Yesterday, after meditating, I said to Linda, "You know how I've been meditating for the last three months?"

"Yes," she said, "I do."

"And you know how thoughts distract everyone who tries to meditate?"


"Some people are distracted by worry and some by fear and some by anger...."


"Well, those thoughts don't distract me. I get distracted by thinking things like, 'I have to remember to buy light bulbs next time I'm at the store.' or 'I need to decide what to write about next time I blog.' or 'I better remember to bring out the snow shovels from the shed before it starts to snow.'"


"Do you see what I'm doing."


"Planning. My mind is busy planning things. Who would ever have thought someone as spontaneous as I am would have a brain that was busy planning things all the time? It's amazing what you learn about yourself when you meditate."

Linda smiled warmly, "It certainly is," she agreed

Images courtesy of Photobucket

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Comfort Of Hair Loss

This time around,
The Taxol Fact Sheet said,
You will loose your hair,
All of it.

And so I saw the barber,
And I said to him,
I have cancer,
Please shave my head.

He did,
And I had chemo,
And I waited for the rest of my hair
To fall out.

But it didn't,
And I thought,
To myself.

If it can't defeat a hair follicle,
What chance does it have,

Then one day Linda said,
"You know you have
no eyebrows

"And the hair on your head,
Hasn't grown back,
Any of it."

I ran to the mirror,
And it was true,
And more,
And I was comforted.

Secretly in my mind.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Home Town Shoot Out

Linda and I are continuing to combine our efforts and jointly host a single page for our Shootouts on Friday.

At least until I'm through this new round of chemotherapy (read Christmas). In fact I was so exhausted from my chemo yesterday that I warned our shootout would be delayed. But Linda wasn't as tired and so our post is up and on time. Teamwork!

To see our contribution this week please CLICK HERE

If you are wondering what you are about to see, here's a clue---