01 October 2008


I'll be indisposed

I'm having another colonoscopy on Thursday, my first in more than a year and a half. It's in preparation for surgery next week to reconnect my intestines so I can get rid of the bag of poop I've had to keep glued to my belly since the summer of 2007. So I won't be posting here tomorrow, I don't think.

And you know, in the scheme of what I've been through in the past couple of years, a colonoscopy is nothing. If you're over 50 or (like me, it turned out) are otherwise at risk for colorectal cancer, go get one. They give you good drugs, so you won't mind.

In the meantime, check out 50 images in honour of NASA's 50th birthday, via Bill.

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13 July 2007


Back home and moving slowly

I'm on my living room recliner couch now, after a week in the hospital (as you saw) that included:

  • Wonderfully adept surgery from Dr. Phang and Dr. Gourlay, who saved both my anal sphincter and my left kidney, which I thought I might lose.
  • Excellent, friendly, and caring treatment from all the nurses, doctors, and other staff of St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver who took care of me after that.
  • Very fast recovery to start, so that everyone thought I might come home Wednesday, after only five days, rather than the seven to ten days originally expected.
  • A big setback when my intravenous drip was disconnected, when I went into full-blown morphine withdrawal that had me shivering and twitching and groaning in pain through a whole night and morning.
  • Getting a handle on that problem and beginning a plan that will bring me off the morphine as I recover at home.
  • Having a visit from my great friend Simon, and then visiting him again as he recuperated in the same hospital from his own planned major heart-valve operation.

We could not share a room, since Simon's on the cardiac ward, but we remain PKBF (pain-killer buddies forever). Simon is still there for a few more days. Across the ocean my online cohort Jean-Hugues is also recuperating in a hospital in France after colon cancer surgery three days ago, so send them both your good vibes.

Thanks to my dad for posting updates, and to my wife for getting a few photos and the video up here (as well as for being generally wonderful, of course). Thanks to my kids for visiting and bringing stuff to help me feel better. I think my crazy wacky web guy activity will remain slow for the next while, but I'm back, baby.

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08 July 2007


Kickin' it old skool: pen and paper

07 July 2007


"Hi" from the hospital

27 June 2007


Let's put it this way

The big picture has not changed since yesterday, but we're moving on. Raging torrents of information continue to flood in from the medical staff. I had an ultrasound probe and met with my surgeon Dr. Phang today. My operation is currently tentatively scheduled for July 13.

It is possible that, in the long run (whatever that means under my current circumstances), I may yet regain some use of my anal sphincter, rather than needing a permanent colostomy bag, but I'll have a temporary one no matter what. It is also possible that one of my kidneys might need to be removed, or maybe my ureter (which has cancer stuck to it) will just be shortened. Those things are the new ideas to me today, although neither is either guaranteed or impossible. So maybe, maybe not. I see a urologist next Tuesday about the kidney thing.

There's a lot of that right now. Maybe, maybe not.

Maybe the guy who just started his lawnmower outside at 8:15 bloody p.m. on a Wednesday night will come to his senses and shut it off. Or maybe not.

Maybe the surgery and future chemotherapy and other treatments will put the cancer cells at bay and I will live another few decades. Or maybe not.

There's a strange clarity in not knowing for sure. We all live that way, I guess, I'm just more directly aware of it than most of you. In many people's lives—and mine too—there are risks. Risks of car crashes and flesh-eating bacteria and falls in the bathtub and deployments to Afghanistan and mountain-climbing accidents and earthquakes and tsunamis and accidental electrocution and choking on chicken bones. And aggressive cancer.

These bodies of ours are fragile things, and amazing things. Here's to keeping my jalopy running for awhile yet.

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12 June 2007


Radiation side effects last a long time

I called Alison, the friendly radiotherapy support nurse at the B.C. Cancer Agency, today because it's been three weeks since my last radiation treatment, and I'm still on a slow pendulum between painful, aching constipation and painful, gassy cramps and diarrhea. It takes three to four days to go between extremes. The days in the middle of pendulum (like yesterday, or last Thursday) can be pretty good, but the others (like today, or last Saturday) are far from it.

As I suspected—and unfortunately—it's nothing unusual as far as radiation side effects go. My internal tissues are inflamed, and they take a long time to calm down. The radiation is still taking effect and killing cancer cells. So feeling like crap three weeks later is par for the course, and the summary is that I just have to ride it out. I spent the four hours between when my family got home and the kids' bedtime either lying in bed or in sitting the bathroom. I was no help to my wife at all. Luckily I was able to help put the girls to sleep at least.

I'm supposed to make a guest appearance on The Lab With Leo tomorrow. Things are improving somewhat right now, but I hope they improve enough that I can get myself the hell out of the house to get down there.

I hate this. Hate it.

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26 May 2007


Memories of Cannon Beach via art therapy

My pre-surgery schedule is coalescing quickly. Next Friday, June 1, I meet with medical internists at St. Paul's Hospital to go over the medications I'm taking and see what adjustments I might need to make. June 15 I have a rectal ultrasound, and June 19 another CT Scan. June 26 I meet with Dr. Kennecke, my medical oncologist, to review pre-surgery plans. There will be other meetings in between and afterwards, with surgeons, anaesthesiologists, ostomy nurses, and so on. Barring a bed shortage, I will have surgery to remove my tumours and radically rebuild how my bowels work on Thursday, July 26—exactly two months from today.

Today my wife and I took to the kids to the Cancer Agency for a regular kids' art therapy group. The girls loved it (my oldest said, "It's a bad reason to go, but it was so much fun!"). One thing we did there is paint this banner together:

Miller Summary Holiday, Cannon Beach, Oregon

We won't get to Cannon Beach this year, but we will go back as soon as we can. It's one of my favourite places, along with Crater Lake (also in Oregon) and Schooner Cove on Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park (here in B.C.).

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22 May 2007


Going all the way

multipurpose toilet at Yōga Station #048 at Flickr.comThis is another post not for the squeamish, just so you know.

As my wife noted to me today, it's easy to get a bit blasé at the Cancer Agency—everyone there is dealing with cancer, and it almost seems normal. But today, after my final radiation treatment (yay!) and an excellent Mexican lunch with our friend Steven, I took a brief nap in his guest room and then walked to St. Paul's Hospital to meet with my surgeon, Dr. Brown. His news was not unexpected, but it wasn't the best case scenario either.

The upshot: when I have my tumour surgery in July, Dr. Brown recommends removing everything in my bowel from the bottom of my sigmoid colon on down, leaving with me no functioning rectum, and meaning that I will need a colostomy bag for the rest of my life. Yikes.

Now, I figured that might be the case, but it was still difficult to hear straight up. I can't argue with Dr. Brown's conclusion. He wants to eliminate every trace of cancer he can get at. All the tissue that was previously found to be cancerous, all the associated lymph nodes, and a buffer of extra tissue to ensure, as best as possible, that nothing malignant lingers.

I've read a little on the topic in case it came to this, and colostomies aren't nearly as nasty as you might think. Plenty of people have them, and those people swim, and do sports, and live their lives with hardly anyone knowing about it. And, to be frank, I'm not too fond of my rectum right now anyway. Ahem. I'll get used to my new body functions, as I have with my daily insulin needles over the past 16 years. But this reinforces that my cancer is a Big Deal. A Very Big Deal. This is what it takes to try to stop the cancer from killing me.

And it is a big step. The procedure will effectively move my anus up and onto the side of my abdomen, and the one I've been using since I was born almost 38 years ago will be sewn up, gone. That is just weird.

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