02 July 2007


My favourite places, and when to take me there

The other day in the car, my wife asked me if there were any places in the world I'd still like to visit. While yes, there are—it would be nice to see Paris, or New Zealand, or Istanbul—the question got me thinking more about my favourite places, the ones I've already been to where I'd like to return.

The ones that leaped to mind were all relatively close by, beautiful places in our Pacific Northwest neighbourhood of "Cascadia," wild places with water and evergreen trees, and each one reminds me of the people I shared them with:

  1. Crater LakeCrater Lake, Oregon, for my parents - I stayed at the rimside lodge at Crater Lake National Park several times with my parents when I was a kid, starting in 1976. The last time I was there was a day visit in 1993. I still want to go back, to see the bluest water I've ever encountered (yes, it's really that colour), the darkest and most star-filled night skies I've ever seen, and the clear evidence of our volcanic part of the world—the lake formed a few thousand years ago when the former Mount Mazama erupted so violently that it collapsed in on itself, and the resulting caldera filled with rain and snowmelt.

  2. Schooner CoveSchooner Cove, Long Beach, B.C., for my friends - In the late '80s and the early '90s, my nerd friends and I (sometimes several dozen of us) made an annual car trip across Georgia Straight and the spine of Vancouver Island to Pacific Rim National Park, more specifically to the beachside campground at Schooner Cove south of Tofino. It took a bit of a hike through primeval rainforest and a slog along the sand to get there, which was part of the fun. We pitched tents and drank and sang around the fire over the May or July long weekend. Once we picked a bad spot and nearly got flooded out by high tide in the middle of the night, so we were smarter in subsequent years. Another time, a juvenile elephant seal was molting on the beach right near camp, and pretty much ignored us even when we were mere feet away. The beach is closed to camping now, which makes the memories even better.

  3. Cannon BeachCannon Beach, Oregon, for my wife and daughters - I'd never been to Cannon Beach before my wife took me there in 1997, when she was pregnant for the first time. We've gone back several times since with both our daughters, in 2000, 2004, 2005, and 2006. It's an expensive tourist town in a spectacular location, which is one reason we like it so much: we can stay in a top-flight resort hotel steps away from the sand, and return from roasting marshmallows at sunset to a room with two bathtubs and a full kitchen. (As our fridge magnet says, "I love not camping.") We have had tremendous fun there each time, and I'm sad that my cancer treatment means we can't go back this summer, even though we were getting a little tired of it by last year.

Don't get me wrong. I love deserts and the tropics and mountains and other places too, but these three spots mean the most to me. So, inevitably, as we talked about them, the question came up: what if I don't make it back there? I do have metastatic cancer, after all, and there is even a small but non-trivial chance that I could die in surgery this week, something that's always a risk with an operation.

Here's what I told my wife. If I die, donate anything donatable: any organs or other parts, corneas, hair, whatever is useful to someone. If the rest of my body can be used to train medical students or get turned into a classroom skeleton or something, great, do that too. If there's anything left that no one can make use of, cremate that. Have a party, but not any kind of religious or spiritual ceremony—I don't believe in any of that stuff, so please don't pretend I did. If you can get together a band, have them play some fun songs, plus "Four Seasons in One Day" by Crowded House.

Then, when all that's done, split up the batch of my ashes and take them to Crater Lake, and Schooner Cove, and Cannon Beach, and put them in the water. Then enjoy those places as I did.

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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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