14 February 2010


Happy birthday, Marina

Candles out at Flickr.comFebruary 14 has many meanings for me. It's Valentine's Day, of course—the 16th my wife Air and I have spent together. It is also our daughter Marina's 12 birthday. But with the Winter Olympics here in Vancouver, including Canada's first gold medal of the event, there's extra resonance, since one of our athletes won gold on the day Marina was born back in 1998 too.

Air had a long, hard labour that February, and with the Nagano Olympics half a world away, we were able to watch many events live as a distraction in the middle of the night. Now our daughter is nearly a teenager, with her own mobile phone and Twitter account. (I got my first mobile phone when Air was pregnant that first time. I was 28. And getting on Twitter? I was 37.)

Happy birthday, Marina. Happy Valentine's Day to my lovely, wonderful, resourceful, smart, sharp, and stylish wife Air. Happy Olympics to all of you too.

Labels: , , , , , ,

04 February 2010


My tumours have shrunk for the first time ever

Flowers for shrunken tumoursToday I heard something I've never heard before: "your tumours have shrunk." Through all the many different varieties of chemotherapy and radiation and immunotherapy and experimental Phase 1 drug trials I've put myself under during the past three years, only surgery has ever knocked my cancer back. Everything else, at best, kept it at bay.

Until now. Of course this is good news—but that's all relative. The tumours I showed you back in September are still pretty big, but they are measurably smaller than they were in November. And that includes the new ones that had just appeared in the fall. So I still have cancer, a lot of it all over the inside of my chest, but just a little less of it than I did a couple of months ago. As I wrote to some friends, I'm not out of the woods, but at least I'm no longer sinking slowly into quicksand either.

Thus, this afternoon on the way out of the cancer clinic, my wife Air and I smiled a little, held hands, and bought some flowers to put in the house in celebration. Later on we had takeout sushi with the kids. And tomorrow I go back in for more chemotherapy, which I hope will continue to beat the shit out of those metastatic growths.

So I'll be a sleepy, nauseated lump of crap for the next three or four days. A bit of good news doesn't suddenly make things go easily, you see.

Labels: , , , ,

08 November 2009


What comes and goes

I've been a little sick this week. Not with an infection, but with what I think are side effects both from my cancer medication and from the H1N1 and seasonal flu shots I had last week. My right arm, where the H1N1 vaccine went in, is still sore like I've been punched. I've had periodic mild fevers all week, I've slept a lot, and the intestinal symptoms I usually have are more pronounced than usual.

I assume it's the combination of side effects that have made me a bit more ill, but it's hard to know. My cancer is growing very slowly in my lungs, but it's not shrinking. So I can expect that eventually it, or the effects of long-term therapies, or both together, will make me weaker and give me more pain. I don't think that's happening now. I expect and hope that as my immune system builds antibodies to the two flu strains (something that takes a week or two), I'll perk up a little.

I can't be certain. I always have some fear that a new weakness or pain I develop won't get better. The fear itself can be tiring, either at its usual low level or when it flares up. But that too is something I've become used to. Fear, like pain, like fatigue, comes and goes.

Some other things, I have discovered, do not. They stay. Love is one.

Labels: , , , ,

19 August 2009


Proud to be her man

Happy Anniversary dessertAs of today, August 19, 2009, my wife Air and I have been married 14 years. As on our wedding day, the weather was Amazing Vancouver Summer last evening, our Anniversary Eve: mid-20s Celsius, sun glinting off the water. The kind of weather which impels people to spend thousands of dollars to visit. We went to C Restaurant on False Creek, where we'd last dined exactly three years ago, just before our 11th anniversary.

You know that "in sickness and in health" thing? Don't take it lightly—we've had more than our share of that seesaw over the past decade and a half. Even yesterday, it was touch-and-go whether we'd have to cancel our reservation.

You see, I was tuckered out after moving some of the kids' furniture all afternoon, and feared the onset of the dreaded chemo-induced Jurassic Gut. But with the help of some medicine, the prospect of an excellent and relaxing meal, the sheer fabulousness of looking at my wife, and a lot of willpower and positive thinking, I not only made it downtown, but was symptom-free throughout dinner and the whole trip home. (And then everything got rolling once we returned, but I won't give you details...)

The restaurant provided some little extras for us: custom chocolate script on our dessert plate, plus post-dinner ice wine on the house. We spent a leisurely two and a half hours eating wonderful, creative seafood, and we held hands to look out across the water, making occasional snarky comments about passersby on both land and sea. When we told the waiter we were celebrating 14 years, he asked, "Did get married when you were teenagers?" That's a nice compliment, since we were both 26 back then.

Air and I have been happy and sad, content and afraid together. I'm not as strong or healthy as I used to be, and I'm greyer and far more scarred and broken. But I am proud to be her man, and I'll do my damnedest to be here for as many more anniversaries as I can.

Labels: , , , , , ,

23 October 2008


To fight, or to live

Cottony clouds 2 HDRMy wife Air is wiser than me—more self-aware, better at thinking long term. A big reason I'm not that way is because, until I developed cancer at the beginning of last year, I'd never had to face big, difficult decisions. I had a happy, stable childhood, did well in school, lucked into good jobs, and found her. (More accurately, she found me. See what I mean?)

Even after my cancer diagnosis, I've followed the path I've usually chosen in life. That is, I've coasted, and let gravity take me where it will. My treatment decisions have been easy ones. Follow doctors' orders. Get tests, have surgery, take chemotherapy and radiation, more tests, more surgery, more chemo, more chemicals, more treatments, coming up on two years' worth now.

On hold

The surgeries in my intestines were successful, but small nodules of cancer spread to my lungs anyway, and the chemical medicines for those haven't worked so well. The metastases continue to grow slowly, regardless of what my doctors have thrown at them.

My latest surgery a couple of weeks ago was my first that wasn't about attacking the cancer. It was simply to make my life better, to reconnect my intestines so that I'm no longer walking around with an ileostomy bag of poop glued to my belly. Now I have another new, healing scar, and I'm re-learning how to use the bathroom the way I used to.

That surgery prompted my wife to have a talk with me a couple of days ago. With her wisdom, and her insight, she's seen what I've been doing in my mind for the past couple of years. I've been treating my cancer as something to fight with everything the doctors and nurses can offer, no matter how sick they make me, hoping that one of those weapons will kill it so I can move on with my life. I've put my life on hold—and my family's life too, hers and our daughters'—to fight the disease, treating it as a phase to get through before I return to something normal.

Experiment, not treatment

Except that's not how it's going. The next treatment the B.C. Cancer Agency is offering me is a Phase I clinical trial of chemotherapy agents. That means it's a very early human test of the drugs involved, not even designed to find out whether the drugs work to fight cancer, but rather how patients like me respond to them—what levels they appear at in my bloodstream, how they interact, what side effects they produce. In other words, we've run out of the conventional therapies, and we're moving on to experimental ones that have a very small chance of working. They are, however, likely to produce side effects, even if they aren't effective in shrinking my cancer.

Air made me ask myself—after almost two years on hold, most of which I've spent hammered down by those side effects, or recovering from surgery—how I want to live my life with cancer. Because that's what it looks like I'll have to do. We don't know how long that will be: months certainly, years quite possibly. All indications are that, like my diabetes, I'll have cancer for the rest of my life. It will probably be what kills me, whenever that is.

Yet since I stopped my last chemo treatments in September, I've felt good, verging on healthy, better than I have in ages. Therefore, much of what I've suffered through, especially recently, has been from the treatments, not from the disease. I thought that suffering was a necessary part of the fight. So I thought. But now it's time to make some real decisions.

Real decisions

Do I want to be part of this new Phase I trial, to contribute semi-altruistically to cancer research, spending many days at the Cancer Agency getting tests, taking pills every day, maybe feeling sick all the time and getting more strange skin rashes, perhaps even developing other weird side effects like elevated blood pressure, maybe for no reason that might actually get me better?

Or do I want to look at something else, like Vancouver's Inspire Health Integrated Cancer Care, and the Callanish Retreats, to try different things and look at managing cancer instead of fighting it? Strange as it sounds, should I make cancer part of how I live my life, rather than something that stops me from living it?

When I heard about the trial yesterday, I assumed, almost unconsciously, that I'd proceed with it. But that's still coasting, just taking whatever the doctors serve up from a diminishing buffet. There are places I still want to go in my life, things I want to do, the husband and father I still want to be. Perhaps now is the time to go there, to do them, to be that, because I can't wait forever first.

I shouldn't waste my life trying win a fight that likely can't be won. I should take it off hold, and live it.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

18 September 2008


For better or for worse

There's no good reason to try to determine which has been the worst year of your life, but I do consider it from time to time. It could have been last year, when I found out I had cancer, went through painful simultaneous chemotherapy and radiation, had four different surgical procedures (one of which kept me in hospital for almost a month), lost 60 pounds, and ended off with yet more chemo and no end in sight for treatment, even though I was feeling better.

It could be that. But it could also have been 2004, when I nearly lost my wife Air to clinical depression. I alluded to what happened that year, but never wrote about it it any detail, to maintain her privacy.

Now, almost five years later, she has written a four-part series on surviving major depression, as guest blogger at Mental Health Notes. She covers her initial post-partum depression back in 2000, the catastrophic breakdown in 2004 that took her to our local hospital's mental health ward for two weeks, her subsequent intensive outpatient treatment program at the hospital and gradual return to work, and the silver linings she has learned about in the years since, and now that she's had to take care of me through all my health problems.

In that weighty year, the worst moment for me was one day, after bringing our daughters to visit Air in the hospital. We had played cards with her in the patient lounge, on the ward where nothing is sharp, and there is nothing mounted to the wall or ceiling that will hold a person's weight. I brought the kids back to the car and buckled them into their seats, then I slumped on the outside of the door, and I cried and cried, not even caring what the girls thought, or whether some stranger might see me there, weeping against the station wagon in the hospital parking lot. At that moment I didn't know if my wife would ever leave that ward, or if she did, what would happen. I feared our life together would change permanently.

And it did. But, in many ways, for the better. When you get married, there's a reason you pledge to stay together for better or for worse, and part of it is that the worse forges something in your marriage that the better never could.

I look at her writing this way: I don't have to be brave to admit I have cancer. It brings almost nothing but sympathy from everyone who hears. I wish it were so for depression and other mental illness, but it isn't. As someone who's never been clinically depressed, I regret terribly that I really didn't understand what Air was suffering at all until it had gotten very, very bad in late 2003 and early 2004. I didn't have a fucking clue. And most of the rest of us don't either. Many people who have no experience with it remain judgmental about mental illness, so for her to write about it candidly now, when she doesn't have to—well, that's brave.

Her treatments have worked extraordinarily well over the past four years, but as with my cancer, as long as she is alive her battle is never over. I hope I am a better help in her fight now than I was in my previous ignorance. As my love and the person who cares for me, she is certainly the best reason to try my hardest to stick around.

Labels: , , , , ,

19 August 2008


Lucky thirteen

Air at Me & Julio on Commercial Drive at Flickr.comThirteen years ago today, I was nervous and didn't sleep well. I had a garment bag hanging in the closet, and a couple of my best friends were staying with me. But my girlfriend Air, whom I lived with, wasn't there.

That's because we were getting married later that morning. She had stayed overnight with her two close friends, her wedding attendants. In the morning I put on my tuxedo and made my way to the Hart House on Deer Lake, not far from our home.

I didn't see Air arrive in the rented vintage Bentley limo with her friends and family. I waited outside on the lakeside lawn of the old mansion-turned-restaurant, under the huge tree at the end of the red carpet, with our 75 guests. I finally saw her emerge from the building into the sun as we played Van Morrison's "Crazy Love" on a boom box.

We've been together ever since, through thick and thin. And thick and thin there has been. I don't know who I'd be without her. Nor would I want to know.

Labels: , , ,

07 July 2008


An obvious discovery

Not surprisingly, I sleep better when my wife is home beside me. I'm glad everyone is back and snoozing away.

Labels: , , ,

11 June 2008



There is nothing so relaxing as watching my two daughters and my wife as they sleep.

Labels: , ,

07 June 2008


Derek and the Amazing Technicolor Vomit

Derek and the Amazing Technicolor Vomit at Flickr.comI've noted before how remarkable my wife is, both as a person and as a spouse. She's also amazing when I'm sick and when I'm not.

This week she had to deal with my being nastily ill once again: she not only shuttled me to emergency wards three different times and sat up with me there till insane hours of the early morning, but also kept the kids fed and clothed and schooled and loved, came to visit me with supplies (including some amazing lip balm), ran the house, went to work, and made sure everyone important knew what was going on with me.

I'm home now, but it was a gross week. After my overnight trip to Burnaby General Emergency (which wasn't too helpful) and visit to my oncologist (slightly more so), we went home. But I couldn't stay there. My intestinal pain got worse than ever (which is pretty darn bad), and we zipped down in the car to the emergency ward at Vancouver General Hospital instead—it is near the Cancer Agency, and has many more resources for handling both colon cancer and intestinal blockages.

I was at VGH for four days, and just returned home a couple of hours ago. During that time there was vomiting, lots of morphine injections, several X-rays, plenty of intravenous fluids, and no food or drink for the first couple of days. By Thursday things were improving. But man, overall it was brutal.

Now that I'm back on the couch in the house, I've decided to declare email bankruptcy for the week, purge my Gmail inbox (current count, 899 unfiled messages), and start over from scratch in the next couple of days. So if you emailed me recently, I won't reply now, sorry.

But I will get my wife some sort of nice treat in thanks for everything this week, that's for sure.

Labels: , , , , ,

22 April 2008


Burnaby's birds, beavers, bogs, and boats

Phat pigeon 2 at Flickr.comThe city of Burnaby, B.C., where I grew up and live, is just to the east of Vancouver itself, and is well known for a significant amount of parks and other green space for such an urban environment. One part of that is Burnaby Lake, a fairly large and extremely shallow wetland in the centre of the municipality.

The lake sits in Burnaby's central valley, and forms part of a waterway that starts at Trout Lake in Vancouver, runs east along Still Creek through Burnaby into the lake, and out into the Brunette River, which flows east and then south through Coquitlam into the Fraser River, which empties westward into the ocean. In recent decades governments have dredged the lake several times, both to provide enough depth for competitive rowing and to avoid having excessive sediment from development and the city's storm sewer system turn the lake into a mudflat—which is why the water's edge is so sharp in the satellite photo.

Metrotown skylineMy wife had the great idea of taking the kids on a ten-minute car ride down the hill from our house every few days to check out the waterfowl and other birds, and to see if any chicks have arrived yet this spring. So far they haven't. But there are tons of animals and plants there, from birds such as ducks, Canada geese, crows, and pigeons to carp, frogs, squirrels, and even a significant population of beavers, the world's largest rodent and Canada's mascot.

She's gone down there with them a bunch of times, but this weekend I was feeling well enough to tag along. And a couple of days ago the sunny weather and abundant animals brought out another example of local wildlife: the Canadian wildlife photographer, whose distinctive plumage and plaintive ktsch-ktsch-ktsch-ktch call (known affectionately as the "shutter-and-mirror-slap") were in fine form down at the Piper Spit pier. The next day we visited again (this time one of the girls' school friends joined us), but our bunch was alone because of the cold and rain, which actually turned to snow briefly.

Train wheels 1The entrance to that part of the park also crosses some railway tracks, which our daughters enjoy putting pennies on to see if they'll be flattened by passing trains. We're accumulating quite a collection of thin copper ovals now.

Exactly 20 years ago, in April 1988, I was working a summer job as a park naturalist, headquartered at the nature house at this exact spot, between the railway and the boardwalk. That job was where my wife and I first met. We led canoe tours of the lake some evenings (no motor craft allowed), and this year we're thinking of getting a canoe and taking our kids out there too.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

07 March 2008



I'm not sure if she's noticed, but after more than 12 years of marriage, and despite chemotherapy's deleterious effects on my vim and vigor, I still quite regularly check my wife out. Wink wink.

Labels: , , ,

02 March 2008



fear at Flickr.comBeware: graphic blog post ahead.

Chemotherapy isn't something your body gets used to—the side-effect symptoms generally just get worse and worse as you proceed with treatment. While I've had it better than some folks since my current round began in October, this week—and today in particular—has sucked.

I finished my usual chemo dosage on Friday, but my recovery, usually pretty quick, was slower then normal this week. I had my delayed CT scan Friday evening, then went out for dinner, but yesterday, Saturday, I felt hung over all day, with a dull headache and fatigue.

This morning was a disaster. One of the potential side effects of some of the chemo drugs is late-onset diarrhea, something I haven't had in the four months I've been on this treatment. But I got it last night. Because I've had a temporary ileostomy bag since the summer, I don't have the urge to go to the bathroom. The bag glued to the side of my belly simply fills up, and I have to notice and then head to the washroom to empty it. I did that around 1:30 a.m.

But if things go badly, as they did today, the bag leaks. I noticed around 7 a.m. when it filled up again. I was able to leap out of bed, charged with adrenaline, and avoid making a big mess. After cleaning things off I got into the shower and prepared to put on a new bag, but while washing my hair and shaving, I suddenly felt like I was going to pass out.

Normally for me that would be a sign of diabetic low blood glucose, but after spilling test strips across the kitchen counter, I checked my levels and they were normal. Something else was wrong, and I felt cold fear. I stumbled into the bedroom, still dripping from the shower, and woke my wife as I lay down to keep from falling over. Getting horizontal, I immediately felt a bit better.

After assessing the situation and talking to doctors at the Cancer Agency, she discovered that fluid loss probably made me dehydrated and light-headed. Electrolyte imbalances likely gave me the hangover-like symptoms too. I've been drinking fluids and taking Imodium, as well as sleeping, all day since. I feel mostly normal now, but the headache is still there. My wife is having a nap too, because she was out late last night and didn't get enough sleep before I zombie-crashed her awake first thing today.

I hate having to put her and the kids through crap like this. It scares me too. I hope tomorrow is better.

Labels: , , , , , ,

18 February 2008


Learning to say no

OK, NO, NO at Flickr.comSometimes I forget how sick I am. Not often, but on a day like today when the sun is shining and I have a week off from chemotherapy, when I can take the car in for service, then buy some groceries and take the bus home, make dinner, clean up, help get the kids to bed, and record a podcast, there are times when I forget the cancer.

At times like this, I have to remember what I've learned in the past year, which is to say no.

When I was healthier, I'd often get roped into (or rope myself into) projects that might be fun, or might benefit me or other people, or might even make me some money—but that turned out to be way more work than I expected. Or I'd end up saying yes to many little things that, individually, wouldn't take much effort, but collectively sucked up way too much of my time.

I can't do that now, and it has been a good lesson. During the rollercoaster of surgeries and radiation and chemo and weight loss and weight regain and wild swings in blood glucose and mood and physical ability since the beginning of 2007, I've simply dropped quite a number of things, sometimes with no warning. The world kept spinning, and the people who had to pick up the pieces did a good job, or made do without my contributions.

Seeing that, I've made myself a rule. When I get offered some freelance work or come across a volunteer project or a hobby activity that I might want to do—the kind of thing I'd have reflexively said yes to previously—I ask myself a question: if I'm well enough to do this kind of work, shouldn't I be ready to go back to my day job? If not (and so far, my answer has always been no, I'm nowhere near healthy enough), then I shouldn't take on anything big and new either. I shouldn't, and can't, juggle what I used to.

It's refreshing. I do smaller things here and there, and have managed to keep doing some activities I really enjoy, such as podcasting, playing with my band on occasion, and writing this blog. I do some chores around the house, hack around with computers, watch a bit of Discovery Channel, hang out with my kids and make sure they get to school in the morning, and spend time with my wife so I can look into her amazing blue eyes.

For now, in between all my medical appointments and such, that's plenty. And that's what I say yes to.

Labels: , , , , , ,

14 February 2008


Ten and twenty

Ice cream dome - 2The stereotype is that children seem to grow up instantly, but that's not my experience. Our older daughter turned ten today, Valentine's Day. She was born the same day that Catriona Le May Doan won a gold medal at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. Coincidentally, a couple of our good friends had their first child, also a daughter, two days ago. It occurred to me that by the time this new little girl reaches ten, my daughter will be twenty—the age I graduated from university.

The past ten years haven't, as the saying usually goes, gone by in a flash. They feel like ten years, really. And that's great. When my wife and I each held our friends' newborn yesterday, in the same hospital where our daughters (and I) were born, the little one's tiny sleeping face and delicious infant smell took us back to those early days when we first dove head-first into the sleep deprivation of early parenthood.

Since then we've had another daughter, now eight, and the kids have grown, learned to walk and talk and read and write and ride bikes and play piano, gone to preschool, made friends, started kindergarten, and now are in the second and fourth grades. They're learning math and spelling and have their own blogs and Gmail accounts. It doesn't surprise me that it took a decade to get here.

This spring also marks the twentieth anniversary of the day my wife and I first met, when we both worked as park naturalists for the Greater Vancouver Regional District parks department (now called Metro Vancouver Regional Parks). We were friends for a few years after that at the University of B.C., then lost touch until spring 1994, when we met again and started dating. By our first Valentine's Day, in 1995, we were already sharing a house and planning our wedding, which took place that August:

20 years on

She's been my wonderful Valentine ever since, and I've never wanted another. Twenty years doesn't seem an unreasonable time since then either. We've shared and endured a lot together.

Simply being able to say "I met my wife twenty years ago" does make me feel a bit old, but I like that too. Grey hairs might or might not be a sign of wisdom, but they are a sign that I'm still alive. So 2008 is an important anniversary year, especially following the last one. Happy birthday to my daughter. Happy Valentine's Day to my wife. Happy one more day for me.

Labels: , , , ,

07 October 2007


Bandages and partners

Big nasty bandages at Flickr.comOn Thursday, I spent a few hours at Vancouver Hospital in order to have a portacath inserted. It was a relatively minor surgical procedure, involving only some local anaesthetic and a bit of tranquilizer. Dr. Chen the vascular surgeon (coincidentally, the same guy who was supposed to treat my varicose veins in February, before my cancer diagnosis derailed things) put the port under my skin so that when I start chemotherapy in a couple of weeks, the nurses won't have to start a fresh IV every time I go to the cancer clinic.

Now I have a couple of big nasty bandages and the red stain from surgical disinfectant on the shaved right portion of my chest for a few days—I'm not allowed to shower or get the area wet until it's healed up. Compared to the major surgery and other things I've gone through in the past few months, this procedure was barely a blip.

Of course, as always, my lovely wife picked me up at the hospital. She has been amazing this year, shuttling me around and keeping the house running and the kids clean and clothed and fed and loved, as well as working and podcasting and helping out her friends too, while I've bounced from cranky chemoradiation victim to emaciated hospital patient to cane-toting recovery guy (with chemo coming again soon). And she still loves me, even as my treatments turn me into a half-mechanical cyborg.

She's the biggest reason I want to fight this disease and win. When we got married twelve years ago, I planned to grow old with her, and that's still what I so desperately want to do. Our kids, my parents and relatives, my friends and colleagues—they are all important too. But my wife, my partner, is the person I love and need the most.

I may not show that or say it as much as she deserves, but having her here with me is keeping me alive as much as any of the drugs or surgeries or blasts of charged particles. She's The One, and always will be.

Labels: , , , ,

09 September 2007


My wife's birthday

Today was my wife's birthday. Unlike her, who put together a huge blowout party for me a couple of months ago, all I managed to scrape up was some presents, some coffee in the morning, and a dinner out with the family at our favourite Chinese restaurant. We were all going to see a movie, but I ran out of energy and had to come home first while the three of them went to see Mr. Bean's Holiday.

That's another example of the tough time we've had all had this year. I'm hoping it will improve. There are a lot of marriages that don't work very well out there in the world. Ours is not one of them: since my wife and I got married in 1995, I've always thought it was the best thing I ever did, and she has always been the one for me. It would be a shame if something that works as well as our marriage gets cut short by this stupid disease of mine.

I think back to my father's mom, my Oma, who lost her first husband in a Berlin hospital in 1947, later remarried, and moved to Canada. She and her kids didn't end up having known him very well—as a soldier in the German army, he was gone for much of their marriage. Fortunately that is not true here. But if I fail in my fight with cancer and die, my wife and my children will be in the same position: they'll have their whole lives, maybe another 40 years or more at least (more years than I've been alive), to live without me.

The idea of that sucks, and makes me sad. Certainly I hope it doesn't happen. If it does, I want to leave some happy memories. I hope that today, while low key, will include some of them. The big mylar dragonfly balloon my daughters chose, perhaps.

Labels: , , ,

02 September 2007


Adding to the collection

When my wife and I were married in 1995, rather than a traditional bone china pattern, we chose an elaborate pattern from Portmeirion, from a factory in the U.K. The dishes and vases and bowls and vases we have accumulated over the years are safe to use in our dishwasher and oven, and since the kids have gotten old enough (i.e. no more likely to break the dishes than we are), we use them again as for our daily meals.

My wife even has one of the Portmeirion bees as a tattoo. She browses Craigslist in her spare time, and this week spotted a good deal on some more Portmeirion tableware. We bought it, and these are the latest additions to our collection:

New PM

After all these years I find the pattern—called Botanic Garden—very comforting, something that makes our home what it is. It makes morning coffee or evening sushi or spaghetti taste better.

Labels: , , , , ,

21 August 2007


Proper bling

Bling! at Flickr.comWhen my wife and I decided to get married back in 1994, we were still paying off student loans and car debts and the general detritus of university and early working life. We couldn't afford a traditional diamond solitaire engagement ring, so instead we bought a much less expensive set of matching blue-and-white sapphire rings (you can see mine on my right hand in this photo).

Also, I was a bit cynical about diamonds, with the whole De Beers cartel advertising campaigns, conflict diamonds, and so on. Conflict-free Canadian diamonds were not yet a force in the market as they are today (with a bit of their own controversy).

We have a bit more money now. Like a convertible sports car, a nice piece of art, or yet another guitar, a diamond ring is not a rational purchase, nor should it be. Yesterday the kids and my wife and I went to the mall and visited several jewelers, and she found a ring she loved, with a certified Canadian diamond. So we bought it. It was a good choice.

Labels: , ,

19 August 2007


Our 1995-2007

12th Anniversary - 02 - Presents at Flickr.comTwelve years ago I awoke to a cloudy morning, threatening rain. I didn't like that. My girlfriend was a few kilometres away in North Vancouver, similarly dismayed. But things improved.

Within a couple of hours the sun was shining through, and I was standing nervously in a tuxedo at the Hart House restaurant in Burnaby. Outside were chairs and a red carpet, and a dais beneath a large tree by the lake. Guests arrived.

Not much later, so did my girlfriend, in her dress, and Van Morrison's "Crazy Love" played on a boom box as she walked down the aisle and we were married. We ate with our relatives and friends, and then drove back to my parents' house, not far away, for a reception.

Today, we exchange simple presents on our twelfth anniversary, and later she and I ate out again, at The Cannery in Vancouver, also not far away.

We've been through a lot of shit together in this past decade and a bit. It has been a great time. I love her more than ever, and hope to continue for a long time to come.

Labels: , , , ,

15 July 2007


Taking it to the Strip

The Strip at Flickr.comMy wife and I have always had a good relationship, and not just in the stereotypical sense. We're lovers and partners and parents together, of course, but we're also pals, best friends. And while the past year has Sucked in a Big Way so far, it has also, in some ways, forged our bond even more strongly.

First of all, last year, before my cancer diagnosis, my wife made a rather sudden and delightful transition from putting up with my web-nerd geekiness (in a wifely way) to becoming a web geek herself. She started her own podcast, and then took off into realms I haven't touched, including helping to organize tech conferences, going whole-hog with Second Life and Twitter, and finally pulling me, heels dragging, into Facebook. I hope I've been able to make finding her inner computer nerd a little easier.

Going the other way, she's proved incredibly supportive during my cancer treatment, and I hope that in going through this awful experience, I have also come to be able to conceptualize some of the shit she's gone through in her own life. I don't know if a man will ever know what childbirth feels like, for instance, but I now know how a perforated bowel and blocked kidney feel, as well as a not-quite-effective epidural anaesthetic. And that's just the start of it.

There are a lot of times now, good and bad, amazing and heartbreaking, when she and I can simply give one another a look, and understand. Not always, of course, but I feel closer to her now than I ever have.

In a way this is all background for what might seem like a shocking thing for her to do less than two days after I left hospital following major cancer surgery: she's flown out of town with three girlfriends for a party week in Las Vegas.

"B-b-but she's supposed to be taking care of you!" I imagine the traditionalists might sputter. "How could she possibly leave town? For Vegas?!"

And that's why I wanted all the explanation up there. Because she booked this trip a few weeks ago, when my surgery date was still in flux, so we knew full well that I might end up in some sort of treatment hellhole just as her ticket dates came up. But in 2007 so far we've already been through so many canceled trips and sidetracked fun times and so much crap. We talked and talked about it, and of course she should go. Even if I were still in hospital, she should go. Not cancel another trip, but take that trip, dammit.

As it turns out, my parents (who live next door) can take care of anything I need—including our daughters, until the in-laws pick the girls up on Tuesday—and I'm genuinely feeling better than I have for months and months. I mean, I was cracking jokes while being wheeled from Recovery to my ward, more then nine days ago. I've had a few setbacks in between, but I'm feeling emotionally great, if physically drained.

So I want my wife to spend this, my first week at home where I'm mostly just snoozing and shuffling around slowly anyway, to have a big blast of a good time on the Strip, partying at night and hanging out at the MGM Grand drinking huge poolside beverages during the day. I can't go right now, so I want her and her friends to have enough fun for both of us.

I think that having her do that while I get better here is a pretty accurate measure of how good we are for one another. It's realistic, it's fun, and it feels good for everybody. And, more important, neither of us gives a damn if somebody else thinks we're wrong about that.

Labels: , , , ,

27 May 2007


I'm not brave

People hear that I have cancer and I've had chemo and radiation and am going to have surgery. They read this blog, where I talk about it all, which is something a lot of other cancer patients wouldn't do. They say, "You're so brave."

That's bullshit. I'm not brave. I have a disease, and with my doctors and my family, I'm fighting it. I hope to rid my body of it. I blog about it because I compulsively blog about everything. But the treatment is painful and exhausting, it is stressful, it makes me afraid. At the worst of it, I have retreated into a cranky, withdrawn, barely-there husk of myself, essentially forgetting everything from Mother's Day to the laundry piling up. The way I approach each day comes not from bravery, but from necessity, and sometimes desperation.

The real brave ones—the people in my life who have gone above and beyond the call of duty—are my family, including my daughters, and especially my wife. While I can occasionally manage to take the kids to school or help put them to bed, and maybe empty the dishwasher now and then, she has had to take over pretty much everything in our household.

She's shuttled me to the Cancer Agency almost every day. She puts up with me when I'm lying in bed moaning, or trapped in the bathroom for an hour, or when I can't even muster the motivation to give her a hug, or when I use up all the hot water trying to soothe my abdomen. She keeps the girls fed and clothed and clean and happy. She takes time for herself and talks to her friends and continues with her podcast.

You want brave? She's brave, and I love her.

Labels: , , , , ,