5 Great Things About Having Cancer

Everybody thinks having cancer is all doom and gloom; that survival is the only fwcp-1consideration and occupies every thought and action. Not true, I say! Continue reading “5 Great Things About Having Cancer”


Inspiring feedback

I am honored and inspired by the feedback and support for my blog and for the Canadian Bucket List Foundation.  It’s exhausting. I love it.

Among the dozens of comments, tweets, shares and blog comments I have received in the past few days, there is one that stands outinspire Continue reading “Inspiring feedback”

Operation Invitation Clarification

My post yesterday invited all readers to celebrate my first annual last birthday by saying “your first annual goodbyes on June 5th”.

I didn’t mean to suggest you travel anywhere or that I was having a party.

What I am suggesting is that you write a few words for this blog. Maybe your version of my obituary.  Tell a story, share an anecdote, tell lies, expose truths; have fun with it.

To be absolutely clear, I have no intention of dying. In fact, it’s the last thing I intend to do, literally.

Maybe there will be a 2nd, 3rd, 4th annual last birthday celebration here on colontosemicolon. Hopefully, the series will be cancelled before #2 due to a clean bill of health.

In the meantime, my birthdays come with an open invitation to celebrate, here on colontosemicolon, whatever relationship you and I have, however long, short, close or distant.

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A Birthday Invitation

May 5, 2016

My 57th birthday is one month from now. I was reminded of the fact this morning when I received notice by mail that my driver’s licence expires June 5th. To my surprise, it hit me hard and with enough shock to make me think; really think. My first reaction was, “why bother, I’m not going to need a driver’s license”. A surprising reaction since I have been Birthday.jpgdetermined to stay positive throughout this process. I had no idea these feelings were lurking.

Eight months ago my oncologist and surgeons prognosticated a 5% chance that I would be alive in 2 years. Since then I have read study after study describing measurable, statistically solid facts supporting their prognosis. Now I have been irradiated, carved up and poisoned with cancer killing chemicals but I have no idea whether the long term expectations have changed at all. Sometimes, I think, I believe the successful radiation and bowel surgery must mean the survival odds have grown. Everything I have read belies that belief. There appears to be no research showing any correlation between successful attacks on the primary tumor and long term survival.

At least on the surface I can choose to believe, as many of you have encouraged, that everything so far has been a series of good signs and positive results building toward a miraculous survival. As we have discussed, several times over the past eight months, doctors tend to be cautious about promising anything positive in their prognoses. That may certainly be true. At least the cautions and odds I was presented with prior to radiation and before surgery support that conclusion. If we take into account every horrible result I was threatened with in the interests of informed consent, I have beaten the odds on all accounts.

Doctors probably do avoid being too positive and they certainly take great care to inform a patient about the myriad ways their procedures might kill them.  The 5% survival rate for stage 4 colorectal cancer, however, isn’t a caution or an opinion. It is a simple, statistical, medical fact.

My gut reaction to a simple driver’s license renewal is undeniable. I have to face the fact that those feelings exist and aren’t imaginary figments. I can stay as outwardly positive as I desire but deep down, on the level of my new semicolon, I know the truth is that I am unlikely to see a 58th birthday.

This isn’t despair, resignation or submission. I am merely recognizing a fact supported by empirical evidence. I am by no means giving up the fight. I’ll attack every challenge with a positive and hopeful determination. I’ll shoot myself full of blood thinners every day, show up for chemo, surgery and whatever else they recommend. I’ll do it all with a smile and outward denial of the long odds. I’ll fight.

We’ve all lost people and wish we hadn’t waited to say our last farewell. I remember my feelings of satisfaction, closure and love when I chose to visit my dying brother in hospital instead of waiting to attend his memorial. I got to hold his hand, express my feelings, introduce him to his baby nephew and end our living relationship in a dignified, caring way. I wish I had the same opportunity with my mother, father and others I miss every day.

For all these reasons, I am declaring this June 5 my first annual last birthday. I’m planning to take the opportunity to craft my first annual eulogistic necrology. After all, if I write it myself, my obituary is bound to entertain and inform.

I’m inviting you all to say your first annual goodbyes on June 5th. You have a whole month to think about it but there is no pressure to get it right the first time. You can revise your opinions on my second annual last birthday in 2017.

I want a cake.

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Round 4 and Counting

I am reconsidering my thoughts on fighting cancer. It was my distinct impression that the doctors, nurses and technicians who dedicate their days and nights to the fight boxing.jpgare the front lines of the war. We patients are along for the ride by necessity.  What looks like bravery, as I said in I Don’t Feel So Courageous, is merely bowing to the inevitable and following medical advice. I might have been wrong.

My battle against cancer might involve more than I thought it did. Although showing up for chemo isn’t, in my opinion, any sort of bravery, showing up every time with a positive attitude, hopeful outlook and determination to understand and optimise the process might be. Continue reading “Round 4 and Counting”

Chemo starts again

Today we recommence pumping poison into my veins to combat the cancer on my liver and in my blood.  I’m hoping the nurses in the chamo clinic will be able to tell me why every square inch of my skin often itches so badly I want to scream in frustration.  I suspect it is a side effect of the Dalteparin that is thinning my blood enough for my heart to push it past the clots in my artery. There are moments when I would prefer the clogged up circulatory system to the raging itchiness.

I have an appointment next week with the Hematologist in Vancouver who, as I understand it, will be able to assess the thinness of my vital fluid and adjust the thinners appropriately.  Maybe that will help.

Well, time to head for the chemo clinic.  Besides, I can’t think of anything more to write.


The news today was neither bad nor good.  It was the most frustrating of outcomes; inconclusive.

cropped-12833462_748420765295023_666796293_n.jpgDr. Chung says there are still six tumors on my liver. Good. Two are larger than they were in December and four are the same. Not so good. There appears to be some sign of dead tissue in some of them but not enough to say that this cancer responds to chemo sufficiently to warrant slicing out a big chunk of liver.  So we just don’t know.

He ordered another CT scan for six weeks from now hoping we can get three more rounds of chemo into me in the meantime. I’m waiting for a call from the chemo clinic to restart my treatments which were postponed due to chest pains.  Now that we have identified the source (pulmonary embolisms) and thinned my blood sufficiently, we can start poisoning me again.

I whined to the oncologist last week that the last round of chemo caused severe cold sensitivity in my fingers and toes. Picking up anything out of the fridge was excruciating. Anything frozen was like handling hot coals.  I was pretty sure those meds needed some adjusting before permanent nerve damage was done.  She assured me this is a perfectly normal, minor side effect and there is a lot worse to look forward to.  I should talk to her about it again when I need to wear gloves to pick up a pencil.

While we wait for the call I’ll sip tea and learn to type with gloves on.



It’s Lotto Day

This morning we are off to VGH to see the liver surgeon. I’m a nervous wreck. This is when he decides if surgery is viable or not. He won’t do it at all unless the cancer is responding to the Chemo.
The CT scan I had last week should tell him whether the chemo is working. When I had a scan two weeks ago that discovered the clots in my artery, the tech said the lesions on my liver were bigger than they were in December. That sounds bad but isn’t necessarily horrible news. The on8116055362_beb0c08f67_kcologist says the new scan will tell us if the bigger lesions are half dead from the chemo. That would be good news.
I hate not knowing but I dread being told the worst. Still, as long as I don’t get the bad news there is hope. It’s like having a lottery ticket. I always feel rich until the draw is done.
Today the draw will be done..