A Good Week

It’s been awhile since I have posted.  I threw my back out for the second  time since Ben’s diagnosis, which has made it a bit challenging to take care of him.  (Possibly the equivalent of the “Man flu”.   Subconscious revenge for every time I ever got sick and Ben suddenly developed the “man flu” and needed me to take care of him.  Hahaha.  I know that the women out there know exactly what I’m talking about!  Now we’re even, Ben. Xo)

This week has been a good one so far, even with the “scan-xiety” while waiting for results of the PET scan.  I’m glad we were finally able to get that done, although personally I’m not that interested in the results.  It won’t make a difference to the treatment plan, and I don’t want the results to mess with Ben’s head.  It’s important that his subconscious mind believes unequivocally that his body can be healed.  But Ben says he understands that, and wants the details on exactly where all those little rogue cells are hiding so that he can meditate and visualize them all shrivelling up and dying. Death to those crappy cells.


Anyway….the week is going smoothly and we are both appreciating all the positivity and good things that have been taking place in our lives.  I am especially happy that Ben admitted to me he shouldn’t have eaten the bag of tostitos that I told him not to.  (Of course I was right.  Duh.  When am I not?!). We are now organic, sugar free,  pesticide free etc etc.  Dont be offended when we say “no thanks” to the snacks … it is safer for Ben to commit to proper eating then it is for him to have to deal with me when he doesn’t. 😀. Truthfully, I am half joking.  Ben has been experimenting with cooking different vegetables that have specific benefits, and eating and supplementing very well.  We are determined to get his immune system into Military Mode.

Yesterday was simply amazing and uplifting when Ben received the gift from Max Jeffrey. Ben had no idea what he would be receiving when he went down to the U.S. to pick it up.  (I did know, but I didn’t want to go with him due to the embarrassment I would be facing at the border with my husband bawling his eyes out.  Haha.  Kidding.  Sort of.  Not really.). Instead, I waited for him to return, with my video camera ready.  Unfortunately, we are too cheap to pay for the site upgrade that would allow me to attach the video clip of Ben thanking Max on camera, so you will have to use your imagination.

Also, Ben has had great difficulty walking for the last week or more.  He had been better, but then the pain came back with a vengeance and it was horrible to watch.  BUT….Dr B came to the rescue with good meds and now Ben is looking a little like a dancing fool…


(Or maybe just the fool part.  Haha!  But either way, he’s moving now, and that makes us all very happy!)

In addition to those happy moments, there has also been the fabulous news that this young man will be graduating on June 12th!!!


Ben and I are beside ourselves with joy!  I will facetime the ceremony so Ben can watch from the hospital and see our son toss his cap in the air.

That piece of fantastic news led to a shopping trip with my mom today, to pick out well deserved graduation gifts for Zak.  Unfortunately, neither of us found what we were looking for, but we do know exactly what we’re getting him so at least the hard part of deciding is done.  I cannot wait to see Zak’s joy when he receives his graduation gifts – one of the first ‘normal’ things to happen to him in this last year.  I know he will be thrilled.

As always, my family is a constant source of strength and support.  We will forever be grateful that they make themselves available  for reassurances at all times of the day and night.  I am overcome with gratitude when I think about all they have done and continue to do for us.  There is a lot of love there.  They bring us peace, and that is worth more then anything else right now. Thank you Mom, Dad, Lisa and Barb.  Thank you for always being here for both of us, and for always having treated Ben as your own son / brother.  You could not have ever given me a better gift then that. I am very grateful.  (Sometimes I think you may even love him a wee bit more then me, but I will let that go for now).

I am also so grateful for all the support our friends have shown us.  The random texts to check in, the rides for the kids, the get together invites (we are on for Friday, Smith Family), the spontaneous support at yoga class when I break down…haha. I know I don’t say it enough, but thank you all.  It means so much to know that others are thinking about the kids and getting them where they need to go.  Those things make us feel very cared for.

And on that note, I am going to sign off and head out for a walk with My Man.  Because we can.

Xo

Tapped, Racked and Blown Away

Well I had my PET Scan on Monday. They gave me an IV tap through which they pumped me full of radioactive sugar. This radioactive sugar apparently seeks out the evil cancer and lights it up on the screen for the Technicians and Doctors to see. So they pump me full of this stuff then I get to lay down and wait while it circulates through my system. Once I confirmed that my radioactiveness wasn’t going to wipe my iPhone, I popped a pain pill (for the pain) and an Ativan (for claustrophobia, thank-you childhood friends for beating me up and burying me in a hole) and continued listening to my audiobook (nope – not gonna tell you what it was). 45 minutes later, they stuck me in a noisy tube and took a bunch of pictures for about a half an hour. I really don’t know how long it was because I was kind of detached from myself. I think I feel asleep too. The wonders of modern medicine. Once It was done, I was told that my oncologist would get the results on Wednesday or so and that he would contact me for a follow-up. So there you go. That’s that for now.

Since I hadn’t been allowed to eat since 10AM and it was now 6PM, I convinced Wendy to take me to Noodle Box in Kitsilano (Burrard and 4th) for some authentic noodle madness. We both ordered some gluten-free Green Curry Chicken on rice noodles. I, of course, thought it was super-awesome and Wendy thought it was just Ok. Just Ok. Tell her Dennis, Jeff…Noodle Box is awesome!! WTF?!

Once we got home, I was toast. Exhausted. I had made plans with Zach to watch Ex-Machina that night but instead I racked out on the couch and passed out. Luckily, Zach was a trooper and waited for me to wake up. Once I shook off those cobwebs – radiation tends to do that to me – I popped up off the couch and was ready to go. Ex-Machina turned out to be a really good movie revolving around the extremely intelligent and narcissistic CEO of a Google-like company, his naïve yet equally intelligent employee and a hot cyborg (artificial life form) who needed to prove that she was almost human in order to survive. Watch it. It’s good.

Next. I received a package in the mail today from Wampler Pedals and was completely Blown Away!! It was sent to my US postal address so I took the opportunity to go fill our shitty van with gas. Just kidding, it’s a very well maintained and perfectly functioning van, I’m just sick of driving a minivan. It’s been 15 years after all. Back on track. I raced down to Blaine, gassed up and picked up may package. Well, when I opened it up at the postal outlet and examined the contents I was stranded in the US for a bit. Why? Because it would have been kind of suspicious of me to cross the border in a non-descript grey minivan with a large package on the passenger seat and an unkept, half bearded man in drivers seat bawling his eyes out. As a Federal Investigator myself, that would get my spidey senses going. I would have been detained as the long sought after “crying radioactive terrorist”. I don’t mind saying I was kind of bawling for a bit. But bawling like a man. Just so you know. Lol.

But seriously though, I was so touched by the care package that was sent. From the T-shirts, to the key chains, mug warmers, stickers, coffee cup, a note from Sherri (thank-you), and of course a signed special edition pink (cancer) Ego Compressor effect pedal from Brian Wampler’s personal archive collection. All, of course, completely unnecessary. But boy was I blown away.

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I also got a letter from Max. More on that later.

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Most of you know that I’ve been with the RCMP for 23 years now. Over the course of my 23 years of service, I always sought to do my best and never expected thanks in return. Sometimes I got the odd thank-you but it always felt like they were thanking the uniform and not the person wearing it. I learned early on that in the heat of the moment people often see us as just uniforms, there to do “what they are supposed to do”. So I accepted that, and did my job to the best of my abilities. On two occasions during those 23 years, I did receive heartfelt thank-you’s in the form of letters.

The first one was early in my service while I was stationed in Gibsons Landing. I responded to a Break & Enter during which a few boys broke into a retired woman’s home while she was away and stole her liquor, food and a small amount of pocket change. She discovered the break-in the following day and called the detachment. When I showed up, she was visibly shaken and couldn’t understand why the boys would do that. I was done with my fact finding within 5 or 10 minutes and could have left but I decided to have a tea with her when she offered. We sat and chatted for about 20 minutes – during which time dispatch was trying to get my ass out of there because a few calls were lined up in the cue. I told them this was more important and turned my portable radio down to whisper quiet. Once we were done our tea and I felt she had calmed down, I secured her broken window and promised to come back after work and fix it for good. Which I did. I’m pretty handy that way. Anyways, a week or so goes by and then I’m called into my Sergeant’s office. I did the automatic mental run through the previous week to see if I had screwed up somewhere and came up blank. Once I sat down in his office, he pulled out a letter and let me read it. It was from the retired lady whose window I had fixed. It turns out that the retired lady had spent most of her life working for the military in some capacity and she wrote a letter to my Sergeant commending me for my dedication to duty, professionalism and more importantly my compassion. It was quite a long letter detailing what I did and how much it helped her get past the horror of the break-in. My Sergeant (Sergeant Sargent – yup, for real!) gave me a copy and said “well done you little fucker” – we weren’t quite as professional behind closed doors. That letter kept me going over the years – especially when I needed a little pick-me-up and reminder and why I was subjecting myself to what sometimes felt like insanity. Lol

The second was about 10 years later when I was on Major Crime Section. I was thrown into a murder-for-hire investigation and had to work with the FBI. By working with the FBI, I mean they had a victim and one bad guy but the rest of the bad guys were in Canada so they need me to figure it all out on my end. So I did. It involved running an agent, witness protection, getting wiretaps authorizations, court documents etc, etc, etc… In a nutshell, no small task for one guy. I can’t go into detail but I got the job done. The case was finally put to rest, the victim’s mind was finally at ease and the bad guys were dealt with by the FBI. When the victim thanked the FBI agents they were quick to say that they barely did anything and told her that that Mountie in Canada did it all. That’s when I received letter number two. It was in the form of a large Thank-You card in which she detailed her fears now put to rest, her appreciation of my hard work and dedication, and her genuine heartfelt thanks.

I still have both letters. I read them every once and awhile. Sometimes when I run into them by accident, sometimes when I seek them out for a little mental reset. Well now I have three. That letter from Max and this whole “happiness bomb” situation will be a reference point for me for years to come. Thank-you Max, Brian, Travis, Sherri and everyone else at Wampler Pedals who had a part in this little care package.

Here I go again. Where’s the Kleenex?

Inspire Health and Happiness Bombs

Wow. What a great couple of days spent at Inspire Health. I can’t possibly say enough good things about it. The LIFE Program was 2 days of presentations and exposure to a wide variety of services offered by Inspire Health. From Taking Charge of Your Health, Stress Reduction Techniques, Support Groups to Recent Research, Nutrition, Physiology and Group Activities. The staff was fantastic, the other participants were fantastic, the food was fantastic. I plan on attending as many Inspire Health activities and appointments as I can. It’s better than a home away from home. It’s great because everyone is in the same boat and there for support. It was simply awesome.

They even catered the two days with Vegetarian dishes. Yes, vegetarian dishes. Those who know me well, know me as a huge meat eater. I need meat with everything. Even with my meat. Well I thoroughly enjoyed the vegetarian dishes and plan on cooking and serving some at my next meal…right beside my charred animal flesh. Yummy stuff.

My friends who have been touched by that little bastard called cancer (you know who you are) and anyone who wants to be my friend (you also know who you are – but I don’t) should get there asses over to Inspire Health as soon as possible. I guarantee you will not regret it.

Onto my second bit of cool news. I “play” guitar. The reason I have it in quotation is because I don’t consider myself very good, especially good enough to play some of the gear that I am fortunate enough to own. Some days I play well, some days I sound like shit but on both days I thoroughly enjoy the journey that is putting notes together and making cool sounds. It’s my thing and I love it. I even listen to podcasts that talk about playing guitar. One in particular is called Chasing Tone by Wampler Pedals. I love Brian Wampler’s guitar effects pedals (I own 5 or 6 of them) and the three guys that run the podcast seem like great people all around. Brian Wampler (resident genius, company owner and guitarist), Travis Feaster (artist relations and amazing blues guitarist) and Max Jeffrey (witty co-host, blogger and guitarist…probably a good one too). Anyways, on one of the recent podcasts Max spoke of his efforts to purchase a certain guitar pedal that is difficult to find. He and Travis had found one but the seller was asking waaaay too much for it and it really wasn’t worth it, despite the fact that Max really wanted it, he couldn’t buy it. Well, I happened to be cruising our local Craigslist and just happened to see the exact pedal that he had been looking for. From listening to one of the earlier podcasts, I knew that Max had a recent battle with cancer and was now cancer-free. I felt inspired to drop a “Happiness Bomb” on him so I called the seller and bought it for a decent price. I then brought it home, tested it out (sounded awesome) then packaged it up and mailed it to Max. I included a letter introducing myself, explaining my situation and asking him to accept the gift as a “Happiness Bomb”. Kind of like spontaneously buying a stranger a coffee except it was a rare guitar pedal instead. I also told him I expected absolutely nothing in return.

Well. Max got the pedal today. It sounds like he was really happy. Here’s a copy of the email he sent me…

Ben,

 

I just received your package – all I can say is WOW! The pedal is

incredible – I’ve wanted one for the better part of 10 years (and yes I am a

John Mayer freak. Lol.) But honestly Ben that’s not what I was the most

happy with. Your Letter knocked me off my feet! I hope you don’t mind –

but I passed your letter around our office here – and there wasn’t a dry

eye in the building – including myself. I am very blessed and very honored

that you chose to share your story with me. You have a good heart and I

know you will whip this thing!!! I expect a full report after June 8th!

(After you get some rest of course! 🙂

 

If you don’t mind – me and the rest of the staff would like to send you

out a little something. Nothing I can send you will ever be as cool as

what you sent me – but we want to say thank you from the bottom of our

hearts!

 

I will need your t-shirt size (not the only thing in the box. Lol) and a

good shipping address for you as well.

 

Once again Ben, thank you for sharing your story. We are all pulling for

you and praying hard. Kick Cancer’s Ass!!!!

 

Max

The funny thing is. I don’t really want anything in return. I’m just happy my package reached it’s destination and had the intended effect. Nothing can beat that! Happiness bombs all around!

Good Times: Cooking, Cleaning and Sipping Tea

Well not a whole lot new to report. But I thought I would chime in to say hi!

My mom and sister are here visiting. East coast meets west coast fun. I think they are enjoying the sunshine after their hellish east coast winter.

My sister introduced me to David’s Tea and Murchies Tea shops. I’ve always enjoyed the odd cup of tea but mostly stuck to the mainstays like English Breakfast, Green Tea and maybe some Chai once and awhile. Well…the flavours they serve…Pretty awesome. Now I have my own tea cup and measuring spoon. And of course several bags of flavoured teas. Good stuff. I find myself enjoying my teas more than coffee now! Thanks sis!

I’ve been spending a lot of time cooking, and planning meals and shopping for cool cooking shit. We’ve been to the Gourmet Warehouse twice so far and have not come back empty-handed. I picked up a Chef’s knife, sharpener, various spices and seasonings, avocado scooper, mini whisker…and of course I’ve made a mental note of a whole bunch of cookware I’d like to get. I like food and I like cooking so I am having fun – despite being on buckets of meds. Luckily my sister also enjoys the whole process (not the meds) but I am leaving her little room as my sous-chef. She mostly cleans for me. Lol.

Here are some of the meals I’ve prepared so far:

  1. Steak, baked potatoes and veggies…pretty simple I know…delicious though
  2. Thai Green Curry with Rice…delicious
  3. Thai Yellow Curry with Rice…delicious
  4. Pulled Pork…yup…it’s gonna be awesome (Wednesday!) it’s currently absorbing the rub I made for it today and will be ready for the nice and spicy Memphis Heat BBQ Sauce I also made. Can’t forget to pick-up some gluten-free buns.

Wendy and I start the InspireHealth.ca LIFE Program on Wednesday. My sister, Michelle, will be joining us as well. Should be interesting. They cover a wide range of topics over the course of two days. Looking forward to seeing what they have to say – especially about what we can do to increase my odds of survival.

One last thing I need to do is get into my chiropractor ASAP. My sacrum, right hip, ass cheek and IT-Band are killing me. Even with all of the pain meds I’m taking. I think it’s a mechanical issue and I’m hoping that it can be resolved without a manipulation. The oncologist and surgeon told me explicitly – NO MANIPULATION! It could break the sacrum. We wouldn’t want that to happen. Luckily my chiropractor doesn’t only crack backs. He is certified in a number of fields and I’m confident he can relieve some of the pain and recommend some balancing or strengthening exercises I could do. I find it very difficult to walk and it kind of sucks. I walk around like some goofy guy swinging his leg out and hanging onto stuff when I can. It’s kind of embarrassing. It’s not as sexy as say…walking around with a puppy or a newborn. What do you do…

We Have a Plan, Stan…

Well it sounds like my oncologist, Dr K, managed to get ahold of his buddy at VGH and arrange for my surgery to be expedited somewhat. I saw the surgeon, Dr S, today and felt good about him right from the get go. So did Wendy. He was a very nice guy and appears to know his stuff. He is good friends with my oncologist and made arrangements to rush my surgery and remove my shitty, deformed kidney-like organic blob. He went so far as to show me what the tumour looks like, where it is, how it will be removed and what the incisions will look like. The incision will look kind of bad-ass so I’ll have to figure out a tattoo design or something to compliment it. Yay!

It sounds like a big operation (there is nothing small about my tumour) and should be complication-free, although I was warned about some sobering possibilities that I will keep to myself. He is confident it will go well. I would feel better if I could coach him through it a bit, but it turns out I will likely be asleep for the process. Let hope so!

I’ll have to stay in the hospital for about a week and then will be sent home to recover for 3-5 weeks before any other treatment will be considered.

My surgery is set for June 8, which gives me time for succession planning as I like to call it. No I’m not looking for suitors for Wendy, just making sure that if shit goes sideways, she will have everything she needs.

I have to admit that I’m scared but recognize that the surgery is definitely a necessary evil. Having met the tool wielders involved, I feel confident that things will go well and that I am in good hands. I am looking forward to moving ahead and getting this deformed mass out of my body.

The other tumour located in the sacrum is another story altogether. I will have to deal with that some other way. It’s in a very bad spot and could cause major life-altering complications if the growth is not halted. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this but Wendy and I have joined a cancer support group called InspireHealth.ca and will be following their life healing plan as a complement to the Western Medicine. Both my oncologist and my surgeon fully support it as well. I’m really looking forward to that process because it gives me a sense of control over the outcome. I will do everything in my power to make sure my body has the best chance at healing itself.

Wendy and I have also decided to participate in an 18 month study through the Samueli Institute. They will be tracking our progress through treatment in order to collect and collate the information and results with the end goal of being able to show what may or may not work in terms on alternative treatments. There is a lot of anecdotal “evidence” out there that ends up being downgraded to “medical mysteries and folk tales”. They are trying to make sense of it as much as they can to see if these miracle recoveries, remission therapies or modalities have real-life applications and are replicable. I am more than happy to be their guinea pig. Oink oink. Lol!

Well, it’s time to get my day going…later

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

What a busy week. I picked up my mom and my sister at the airport on Monday. It’s awesome to have them here. It felt like I hadn’t seen them in forever but after being with them for a few minutes, it’s like we never parted company in the first place. It’s funny how familiar family can be. Nice to have them here.

I had my first meeting with the Inspire Health, a local not-for-profit for people living with cancer. Their mission is to help you find simple and practical steps to support your health, work with their team of physicians, exercise therapists, clinical counsellors and nutritionists to optimize your health. My friend and physiotherapist referred me to them. Wendy and I had our first fireside chat with the intro group. It was great. Their philosophy falls in line with everything I believe in so it should be a good match and I’m looking forward to my follow-up visits. They take a patient responsibility approach and I plan on doing everything I possibly can to “fix” myself…or at least allow my body to fix itself.

I also met with the local Kidney Cancer expert, Dr K today. He was awesome; smart, well informed and a straight shooter. That sounds like me without a Phd. Lol. Once again, my medical team of Wendy and Barb joined me to record the finer details and ask appropriate questions. Thanks ladies.

Long story short, despite receiving so-so news, I felt better after I left. I feel like I am in good hands. He did give me some good news; they will remove the kidney ASAP and possibly set me up with a clinical trial that could be beneficial provided I qualify. He also said he would do everything he could for me and would even go so far as to recommend any out of country treatment if he thought it would help. He believes the patient ultimately decides what’s best and it is not his responsibility to “vet” any treatment info because it’s not available in Canada. I respect that bit of rebelliousness. The bad news…the tumor in my sacrum is non-operable at this point. Any pro-active surgery would likely cause paralysis, incontinence and a whole other host of not-so-fun lifestyle changes. If the radiation worked and the tumour growth halted then they will most likely observe and treat if possible. Otherwise….you know how it ends.

I don’t mind the news. I like that he told me to be optimistic but not unrealistic. Make no mistake, he does hold out hope and remember we are not even started treatment yet. I still have to do a PET scan and maybe another CT Scan and I have to meet with a surgeon ASAP to get my shitty kidney out.

I think Dr K and I see eye-to-eye. I am not a fairytale and pixie dust kind of guy so I prefer the straight goods. I believe he can deliver that for me and I appreciate that. If I know what I am looking at, I can prepare myself to fight it. It will also allow me to get my head out of my ass and plan for what could be…I could live another 50 years or not quite that long. Time will tell. Until then, I will live with a smile on my face, good friends at my side and battle ready.