Friday, April 30, 2021

Take a Deep Breath In - Hold It - Breathe Out

SCAN-xiety 3.0

Well here we go again! It is time for another CT scan to determine if my latest line of treatment is making a difference or not. You may recall in my previous blog posts SCAN-xiety & SCAN-xiety 2.0my track record for receiving positive results has not been good. This brings forth additional anxiety each time leading up to the  test and waiting for the results. As the date of my CT scan draws closer our worry and fear increase proportionally. Many questions continue to swirl around in my head including:  will this time be different? will I finally get some positive news? has my new treatment made any difference at all? have all these tests, overnight stays at the hospital been worth the effort? 

I really did not expect mental health to be such a key factor in my cancer journey when this all started, but after you are diagnosed with cancer, your emotions run wild and are easily intensified. As Michelle mentioned in her blog post Our Life is a Rollercoaster, we have gone through every emotion imaginable from anger, frustration, fear, sadness, surprise, despair and hopefulness to just to name a few. The twists and turns of a cancer journey make life a living drama. It is not a ride we asked to be on but we are buckled in for the long haul and are ready to face all ups and downs and twists and turns that cancer brings our way. 

The stakes of these particular CT scan results are really high this time around because they will indicate whether or not  my treatment is making a difference. It will also indicate continuation or perhaps topping of my trial.  The CT scan review meeting with my oncologist is already set for early next week so at least I will not have a long wait to know. This is a small comfort because the emotions and worry set in during this waiting period for all.

Our hope is that this treatment is actually making a difference and that I am slowing down the spread and growth of my active tumours. This was the hopeful outcome of joining this trial in the first place and this is the message we hope to receive next week at the post CT scan meeting. I think that we deserve it. After several disappointing CT scan outcomes we are due for a positive one this time around. I have been following every protocol and attending every procedure, appointment and treatment without fail. We must reap the rewards of this commitment at some point, right?

Regardless of the outcome of the meeting next week, we will not give up! Giving up means admitting defeat and that is something I/we just can't do. I will do whatever it takes to keep moving forward, to keep as healthy as possible and to live my life with my family and friends. If this trial, is not working we will look for another one. There is always hope, there is always a possibility and least that is the the way we see it. 

Like the instructions during the CT Scan..... we need to take a deep breath in, hold it, hold it, hold it and then breathe out, while we wait.

" When you have exhausted all possibilities remember this, you haven't." ~ Thomas Edison


Friday, April 23, 2021

When In Sickness and in Health, Really Matters

In sickness and in health really does say it all! Michelle has fulfilled this marriage vow every step of the way along this life journey we are on. She is the one person who and has been there with me from day one. When we were challenged and moving from good health and life plans, to facing symptoms, all the scans and tests, the big "c" diagnosis,  the radiation, cycles of chemo,  up to my current clinical trial participation, she has been there for me in every possible way. As I wrote in My Michelle, she is the most important person in my life.  

Luckily my current level of care can best be described as minimal in terms of the physical needs as I am fully able to function and support myself in most areas. At least for now anyways! But a burden of care is not just care of sickness and nursing and medicine, it's all the other stuff, the living, the worrying, the supporting of me and our children, and the coping too. Michelle, has been there to provide my with much needed emotional support. This is an area that medicine & treatments can't address. She checks in on me throughout the day to see how I am doing and always tries to lift my spirits. One positive of the COVID pandemic is that she has been able to work from home 100%, so we are always home together.  I know how difficult it must be to remain positive herself, to have high spirits all the time and keep our family going in the right direction. It is a constant worry for her. I know that she often feels helpless and perhaps feels that there is really nothing she can do, but she is doing more than she knows. It means the world to me to have her by my side and to know that she is there for our children. She tries her best to ensure that I am comfortable by providing me with anything that I may need or want (she bakes great pies, LOL!). She is simple amazing! I am not sure how she keeps it all going really.

She is my champion, my advocate and my number one cheerleader. I know that this is not an easy thing to do when your own emotional state must be verging on despair at times.  I know that she is secretly researching and reviewing other trials and treatments in hopes of finding a new path forward that may lead to some more positive results.  Michelle does this work unselfishly (while maybe selfishly hoping for more time). She does it with love, care and compassion. I recognize the toll that this is all taking on her. 

Who cares for the caregivers?

Being a caregiver to a cancer patient is not a 9-5 job. It is 24/7, day and night job. There is no rest or respite for caregivers. This is a role that they did not ask for or ever wanted,  but regardless they take on this almost invisible role with determination and with a sense of purpose. Michelle does this each day with care and compassion.  I try not to be a burden for her and hope that she realizes how much she means to me. Michelle thank goodness I have you in my life.  

It hits me, this is when in sickness and health, really tests you, and really matters.

All my love to you Michelle X0X0


Health Update: I have now graduated from the 18th floor- Clinical trials space to the Chemo "Daycare" for treatment on the 4th floor at the hospital. Who would have thought that I would be in daycare at my age! LOL. I actually wish that I did not have to move floors! The 18th floor, although busy was nothing like my experience on the 4th floor this week. As always, I continue to be shocked by how many people are dealing with cancer and cancer treatments.  There are so many people and treatments underway, that  you have to take a number and then wait in a large, busy, socially distanced waiting room to be called to let you know which location to go to when it is your turn for treatment. I had to wait 2 hours past my appointment start time before a chair became available. I have been told that there are over one hundred chemo chairs on the floor and they are divided into stations or centres by colour. I was in the purple suite this week. Your actual chemo chair space is not much bigger than a small closet. You can forget about privacy. You are in close proximity to others that is for sure. Thank goodness for my headphones and laptop to keep me distracted and entertained, and what did we do before cell phones and texting to keep in touch.  But truly, I am  thankful that there is a chair and a space for me!

Friday, April 16, 2021

Putting on our shoes!

This week's blog come courtesy of My Michelle.

I love shoes of all kinds, it’s no secret and I don’t know why, I just do!  There’s just something about them that brings me joy – whether they are dress shoes with heels, a beautiful colour (blue is my favourite, but red shoes are special too!) and my more functional ones for walking and running.  There is a standing joke in my family, as one time, I did buy a few (yes I said a few) on a bit of a shopping spree at Jimmy Choo, and I continue to have the store reach out to me with my “personal shopper Andrew” trying to lure me back! Yes, I may have a bit of a shoe addiction problem!  But I do come by this honestly!  My mom is a big shoe lover.   At this time she is in long term care and not quite the same since her stroke of 2 years ago, but it brings a big smile to my face as I think of her and how just before this all happened and how we did a bit of a shoe “fashion show” trying on all her favourites!  She too is a lover of red shoes!  Lucky for me, Richard has never been too bothered by this hobby of mine as a “shoe collector”, although he was a bit concerned about the “Choo” shopping spree at the time! Lol.

This week kicked off the Southlake Virtual Challenge and fundraising efforts – Richard and I are entered as a team called Richard’s Roadrunners (Beep! Beep!) – not that we are doing a lot of running these days (other than back and forth to Toronto and Prince Margaret Hospital) but we are doing our best to get out and get walking, enhancing our fitness and wellness goals  for this amazing cause.  You just don’t realize how fortunate we are to have this amazing hospital here in our community and the top notch health care teams that they employ, until you need it.  Southlake and the Regional Cancer Centre have been there for us and Richard has received excellent care and follow up – and we are doing our small part to show our appreciation and raise funds.  We are actually in the top 10 for fundraisers for this cause and we thank  you for your support!

Certainly we have been much more active in the past than we are now, we have just settled into a new normal, and lowered our expectations a bit – adjusting to accommodate Richard’s energy levels and I’ve been adding a bit more in to ensure we hit our goals!  While I say adjusting to meet Richard’s energy levels, I have to say he is doing well and not much keeps him down and he continues to outpace me for sure on our walks!  Movement gives you so many benefits, not the least of which is a change in landscape:  something else to look at, other people to see, a chance to see neighbours and say hello (from a safe physical distance of course) and there is something about walking, that also gives you time to talk.   Sophie and our puppy Lily are consistent walking partners, and at times our sons Josh and Jon will join in.

It sometimes takes real motivation, teamwork and support to “put the shoes on” and get out the door, and in many ways, this is a metaphor for how we face these days and this part of our cancer journey together.  There are days when Richard leans on me and with encouragement, to  “put the shoes on”, and outside we go.  There are days (and these are many) when I lean on him and get motivation from him as he “puts the shoes on” and heads down to Princess Margaret Hospital, to participate in a clinical trial, and with the hope that this is working for him and for us.  

When he is away for his treatment, whether that is for the full day or with the overnight hospital stay, our house is a lot quieter,  our puppy mopes around, our kids mope around and we wait for the texts to come through from him to let us know  how Richard is doing, how the treatment is going, how he is feeling and importantly “when are you going to be home?”.  On these days, it is really hard to “put the shoes on” and go about my day.  Sophie and I try and get out for a walk to keep our team going and contributing to the virtual challenge, but we don’t really go out until we know that “daddy is doing well” and we can have a bit of a spring in our step.

We all have our challenges that we are working through every day and I hope that you find motivation to “put your shoes on” and just put one foot in front of the other.  I find that is sometimes all it takes, and before you know it,  you are walking and coping and able to face what life throws at you that day.  That’s all it takes, just face what this moment brings – that’s what I am trying to do.

I encourage you to “put your shoes on”, and if you need a little motivation, there’s nothing like a new and colourful pair to literally put some spring in your step!  I have a beautiful pink pair of trainers that make me smile.

Now I wonder what the new line up is this spring at Jimmy Choo….?

Love Michelle XO

Friday, April 9, 2021

Home Sweet Home

The title says it all, Home Sweet Home! You really don't fully appreciated your own home and all of it's comforts until you are away from home for a period of time. Over the past several weeks I have had to spend an overnight stay in the hospital for monitoring and blood draws. This is part of the requirements for me to be a participant in the trial study.  Although the nursing staff try their best to make you feel as comfortable as possible, it is difficult to replicate the comforts of home. Hospitals are such a sterile environment and rightly so. They need to be. Hotels they are not, that is for sure.

Although we are spending all of our time at home these days with our loved ones, I must say that I really miss my family when in the hospital. It is not the same watching Jeopardy without Michelle and our Miss Lily.  It is not the same eating dinner alone, instead of together at the family table, or being able to walk out the door and spend time in the backyard. I miss knowing where everyone is at in the house, and popping in for visits throughout the day. The comforts of home are just that, comfortable. It can be rather lonely being in the hospital. 

Other than my family, there are a couple more comforts from home that I truly miss. My pillow! The bed covers! Oh how I miss my memory foam pillow and heavy bed coverings from home when I stay at the hospital. I have even secretly asked Michelle if she thought that I would be allowed to bring my own pillow from home with me for my stays. No such luck. The pillows at the hospital are almost useless. They are so flat that they barely lift your head up off the bed. Even asking for a second one doesn't really make much of a difference. I truly miss my memory foam pillow. Michelle and I have become accustomed to a certain number of  blankets with a certain weight on our bed. After 32+ years of marriage we have mastered the 'Goldi-locks" phenomenon of "this one feels just right". When we were first married, I liked light weight and she liked heavy weight blankets. Over the years, she has slowly kept adding more and more blankets on the bed and I find that now I have slowly adjusted and become accustomed and comfortable with the weight of blankets on our bed. It is now actually hard to sleep when that weight is not there, and when she is not there. At the hospital you get one thin sheet and one super thin, light blanket. Not going to do it I am afraid! 

The food! What can I say, culinary dishes they are not. Food in hospitals is notoriously bad. My experiences have proven this again. I havent really eaten any of the meals offered to me for the most part. There must be a great deal of food wastage. It not an easy task to satisfy everyone's taste buds and food needs but I do feel they could do a little better in this department. I must admit I am somewhat spoiled at home for food, we have some awesome meals and baked goods that really are delicious.  My children suggested that I Uber something to my room. I couldn't bring myself to do that, not even sure if that would be allowed. Shhhhh! Even though I wasn't support to leave the hospital, I did sneak out and get some Swiss Chalet take out (next door to the hospital) this week during my stay. 

Being in a semi-private room means that you get the luck of the draw in terms of the window bed and with your patient partner. I have gotten the window bed only once out of the three stays at the hospital.  My roommates have also been diverse. They ranged from two that have said 'hello' and not much else to another that happened to also be from Newmarket. What are the chances! Conversation ensued and we ended up removing the drape barrier between our beds so that we were able to watch the Leafs game together that night on my laptop. Even though he was a Habs fan, I still let him watch the game with me! Go! Leafs! Go!

Luckily, I have completed my three required overnight stays at the hospital, and for now my time at the hospital will be confined to day visits only for treatment. I feel pretty good, tolerating the treatments well, and have great energy.  Let's hope it stays that way for a long time to come!

Cherish your family, and your home (your pillows and blankets!). 

Home, Sweet Home everyone.


Friday, April 2, 2021

A Room with a View: Looking out my Hospital Window

This blog post was written on Thursday, April 1st.

I am sitting here this morning, looking out my hospital room window, staring at all the office towers and city streets. They don't seem to have the usual hustle and bustle that they usually do. University Avenue or "Hospital A
lley" as it is also known (due to the number of hospitals located in close proximity), is much busier than most of the other downtown streets I have passed this morning on my way to treatment. On University Avenue, a flurry of patients and healthcare workers are all making their way to their intended destinations: starting shifts, ending shifts, off to appointments and treatments. The lack of hustle and bustle in other parts of the downtown are not surprising given the fact that most people are working from home these days. The hospital and the streets near them however seem as busy as ever!  

I arrived this morning before 7 a.m. to have my blood work done and there were actually only three people waiting in line at the blood lab at that time of morning. This early morning appointment meant that I was in and out quite quickly! Now what to do? I still have to wait until at least nine o'clock before the transition of overnight patients leaving for the day and new patients arriving get to take their place. Luckily there is a Timmies on the main floor so coffee number two here I come! I am still very happy that they were able to arrange for an early morning, same day, blood lab appointment, which although it makes for a very long day, it frees me up from making another trip down to the hospital on the day before. Less travel, less parking, less reminders!

Due to COVID restrictions and protocols there are really no places to go downtown. Once you enter the hospital, and after your COVID screening, you aren't really supposed to leave the hospital again until you are done for the day. As time went on, the flow and pace of people arriving at the hospital started to increase, soon the 18th floor waiting room couches are full. I will be spending the next eight hours or so on the 18th floor, the cancer trial floor with lots of time to stare out my window. 

A room with a view:  what a view out my window! Being on the 18th floor gives you a great view of downtown TO. I am so lucky to have the window view this week. In the past, I have had the second bed closest the the hallway and spent many hours of the day staring at a wall, sink and door. Not much motivation or stimulation with that view! Having the window view gives me the chance to stare outside and see what others are up to, what is happening in the world around me. I'm sure that most are doing something more pleasant than me. As I look down below, I can see a city school with kids playing on the pavement, people walking their dogs, people jogging and others rushing to wherever they are off to. As I sit up in my hospital bed with lots of time to kill, I am forced to slow down (not really by choice LOL) but it does give me alone time to think and ponder. This is not always a good thing. When I keep busy, I have less time to think about my current state of affairs. I try not to think and ponder too much these days. Thinking sometimes takes me down a negative path and it is not the path that I want to be on. I don't want to get myself into a personal pity party. Luckily I have my laptop, phone and wifi access to distract me. It is unfortunate that these times mean I need to be at the appointments and treatments solo.  I appreciate keeping up the text conversations with Michelle, our kids, extended family and friends.  This helps the day go a little faster, keeps me distracted, and keeps them informed, as I know its hard for them to be away as well.  Luckily the treatments allow me to be able to drive and be independent. With COVID restrictions and the distances into Toronto from our home, otherwise this would be really tough.  It also means when the treatments are done - I am "out-ta here" ASAP, (well until I get stuck on the North DVP trying to get home).  Keeping busy, having my independence, helps me to avoid going down these pity paths. 

Looking out my window provides a wonderful distraction but at the same time provides a reminder that life goes on! I plan to enjoy life as much as possible for as long as possible. 

Enjoy the view wherever you are, I sure am!


Friday, March 26, 2021

1st.... 2nd.....3rd.....

Well I had my 1st Port-a-Cath installed on Monday this week. I  have been hoping for some time now to have my PICC line removed as it is quite annoying. I also got rashes and itchiness due to a reaction to the dressing used to cover it, nothing seemed to really help it. Having a port-a-cath will also provide me with so much  more independence. With the PICC line I couldn't have a full bath and even had to have Michelle help me to cover it when showering.  It will also mean that I will be able to go swimming too! Our pool opening is set for early May so I will be ready to go by them. For those of you wondering, a port-a-cath is an implanted device which allows for easy access to the veins:  for taking blood samples, giving intravenous fluids and medications. Although I wish that I didn't need either, I am happy that this option was made available to me. This procedure provided short term pain for long term gain!

This week also means my 2nd biopsy in as many months. You might recall that I recently had a biopsy done. Newer samples are now needed for the study that I am on. Although a fairly non invasive procedure, it still means going under sedation and can have some complications. 

For the record, I have been in three different Toronto hospitals all in one week! Toronto Western on Monday, Princess Margaret on Thursday and Toronto General on Friday. Amazing really. We are so fortunate and lucky to have a world class medical system right here in Ontario. That is why I am supporting both Southlake Hospital through Richard's Roadrunners Virtual Challenge and have supported Princess Margaret Hospital through the purchase of a few of their Home lottery tickets. Who knows, I may be the lucky winner of both excellent care and treatment as well as a win a new home, car or cottage!

Well believe it or not this week already marks my 3rd week of treatment in the new trial. So far so good!  I had to spend another overnight stay in the hospital this week and will hopefully only need to do that one more time. I am pleased to say that I seem to be tolerating the treatment quite well with no immediate side effects to report. Another CT scan is now booked for the end of April. This is already starting to create some SCANxiety.

1st...2nd...3rd, sometimes it feels like it's three steps forward, and two steps back, but I hope through this journey, that I will at least be a step ahead of where I used to be. 


Friday, March 19, 2021

And so it begins again.......

Well that was fast! After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, I got accepted and have now started on a cancer clinical trial this past week. This new trial has produced many emotions that range from both ends of the spectrum:  hopefulness and trepidation. I have a lot of questions such as: "What have I agreed to?" "Will this be safe?" "Will this have a positive, negative or no impact in slowing down the growth of my cancer tumours?" With limited options comes more risky choices and decisions to make. "Will it be worth the risk?".  As Michelle had mentioned in last week's post, we enter into this with hope.

I must say that I have never visited a hospital so often and in such a short period of time in my entire life!  Last week I achieved a new personal record, five days in a row. To be honest,  I must admit that I have spent the better part of my life trying to avoid hospitals as much as possible. Hospitals have always kind of scared me. This is probably due to the fact that except for the birth of my three children, going or rushing to the hospital has usually meant that someone in my family was hurt or was dealing with a significant medical issue. Hospitals to me, signified concern, worry and fear. That really hasn't changed much for me now that I am a frequent "flyer" in hospitals, but I can now add hope, gratefulness and a sense of awe to this list. I am so very thankful and fortunate that this opportunity has presented itself to me. I am also so grateful for the hospital staff, who have been very compassionate and caring. I am in awe of the wonderful facilities, equipment and level of care that have been offered to me thus far. Simply amazing!

I have said this before but I must say it again, I really had no idea or realization of the vast numbers of people that are dealing with cancer. I am constantly shocked at the numbers.  I can literally see with my own eyes the impact that cancer has on so many others, not just myself. One quick example to share that highlights what I mean.  There is a large, beautiful waiting area  centrally located for patients to wait for their turn to draw blood. The startling part for me is the fact that this waiting area is so full and busy that they need to use the 'deli counter' number system to keep things running smoothly. You check in at the reception desk and wait to see your number come up on the big screen and then proceed to one of over a dozen blood technicians working simultaneously. Yes you read that right, a steady flow of patients getting blood work done from 7 a.m. until around 4 p.m. Surprising and scary at the same time! When you have cancer you sometimes feel alone, that this is only happening to you. This is obviously not the case. So many are impacted by cancer. And that's just the patients, with COVID 19 restrictions, family are unable to come into the hospital, so cancer is impacting so many more.

My new line of treatment takes an hour or so to administer but the monitoring process afterwards lasts a full twenty-four hour period and is preceded and followed up with numerous blood draws and checking of vitals to monitor my condition, hence my many visits to the blood labs and to the hospital. At the moment, I don't seem to have any severe side effects, just a few small things that thus far, all seem manageable. I hope it stays that way.  Is it working? Only time will tell, which will mean more tests and biopsies and the good old CT Scan.  All familiar testing ground for me now!

If you risk nothing, then you risk everything. ~ Geena Davis


Friday, March 12, 2021

In my Shoes

This week's blog comes courtesy of My Michelle. Enjoy!

Every once in a while, Richard asks me to contribute to his weekly blog.  I'm always honoured that he asks me, but equally a little reticent.  I am by nature, a private person, and very protective of our family, but I know that those of you who follow his blog either know him personally and care about him,  are struggling with your own troubles or travelling your own cancer journey and find his words and perspective inspiring.  As you know, while Richard has been doing well,  his cancer has continued to progress and we have made the decision to move into a clinical trial.  A decision that was not made lightly, or easily, but made with hope.

Why is hope so important? Other than the obvious of wishing for a different outcome, I think that hope is important because it encourages that little self narrative that helps make our current situation a little more bearable.  We have to believe and keep doing something.  It's just how Richard and I are "wired".  I also think it's a self protection mechanism as well, because the alternative is to despair, and there is no sense wasting time there!  That's also how Richard and I are "wired", we definitely like to get things done, not waste time and definitely do not like a pity party.

But despite what you "think" and "do" and "hope", sometimes your worries will manifest anyway.  I have trouble sleeping, I can't help it, I can't fix it, it has just become my new way of managing.  I do feel a strong responsibility to help smooth the way to help ensure that Richard has everything he needs to be as comfortable as possible, help find those distractions that are so important to help him keep coping, to find time to ease the fears and concerns of our children at this time when they are also trying to launch and find their way.  I am a nurse and somewhat knowledgable in navigating the healthcare system and able to have the key conversations with his caregivers and I take on this responsibility.  Like caregivers who find themselves in this kind of situation, I do feel the pressure, but  I also wouldn't have it any other way.  He's my Richard, and I bear the responsibility with love.

We were walking a great deal before the snow, ice and winter slowed us down, and we look forward to getting outside more, to get walking. I know that these things all help to tire one out (in a good way), help with getting a good sleep and help with a more positive mood. It seems like it has been a long, cold winter and we are very looking forward to spring, to some warmer weather and sunshine, time together in our gardens and kicking back by the pool.

I started off this blog with the title "In my Shoes" with the intent to share just a few things from the caregiver perspective and dealing with this cancer journey.  I think the title should really be "In Our Shoes" because we are not in this alone - not Richard, not me, Jon, Josh or Sophie - there's a whole extended family and community here with us, and we are grateful for the support.

Wishing you a good night!

Love Michelle

Friday, March 5, 2021


Negative- Well my biopsy results finally arrived this week after some delay. After double checking the tumour samples gathered from my liver biopsy, the tumours continue to grow, and my remaining treatment options are limited. More disappointing news for me and my family. Disappointment is something that we as a family are starting to get used to. We will however, as a family, always remain hopeful and optimistic-- but I must admit that our resilience level is starting to take a big hit. I keep asking myself, why is my body doing this to me? Why can I not catch a break? I must officially and publicly declare that I hate cancer!

Positive- One thing that is for sure is that I will not let cancer take away my hope, our hope. We will continue to press on despite these limited options, despite the fact that cancer is winning at the moment. I really want to be here to experience all of the life moments with my family including future weddings, grandchildren etc. There is still so much that I want to be apart of in the lives of my children. Michelle and I have so much more  that we want to do as a couple. If  mental perspective, determination and attitude play a role, I'm drawing new battle lines.  I will not give up!

A new journey/path begins....

My next journey centres around a new drug trial at the Princess Margaret Hospital. I am in the process (again) of having final tests completed to confirm my eligibility in a existing phase one trial. If confirmed, and we have our fingers crossed, treatments would begin next week. It  is unchartered waters, but what else can we do?  I'm not liking the alternative - doing nothing.  The ball is rolling and gaining momentum. Action at least is something, right?  I've never been in a clinical trial before, so at least this will also be interesting.

This new path involves overnight stays at the hospital and intense monitoring and vigilance to watch out for any possible side effects that may occur due to the treatment.  We shall see how this all plays out. My hope is that I will once again, have minimal side effects, as was the case for my past three treatment options and that this new treatment will slow or stop my cancer in its tracks. 

Isn't there a saying something about when one window closes, another one opens?  Well here's hoping that with this negative news, we are balanced off with some positive opportunity and the trial "opens a window" for us.

So we move on to our Plan "E", and as I see it, there's many more letters where that one came from and we'll just keep cycling onward!


Friday, February 26, 2021

Supporting My Local Hospital & Cancer Centre

No update to share as of yet on my biopsy results. My oncologist called me today to let me know that the lab is reanalyzing the sample. The results must be really close and they want to be totally sure of the results as this will determine which next path I will take in my cancer treatment. 

Supporting My Local Hospital- Southlake Regional Health Centre

I am so fortunate to have a hospital in my local community that has a regional cancer centre attached. This has meant the world to me, as I can attend appointments, tests and treatments with limited worry and relative ease. No long commutes, hefty parking fees or hours on the road going to and from treatments. This also means that my family is always close by. A blessing for sure. I am so fortunate so I want to ensure that others who may need our hospital, can get the same support that I am currently receiving, especially from the Stronach Cancer Centre with excellent, modern and up to date facilities and the wonderful, helpful caring staff.  

In my previous post, Supporting Cancer Research, I talked about the various cancer charities that I have supported over the years, not knowing that one day, I would myself be needing to rely on these resources for my own personal health. Our family had planned to participate in the Southlake 5K Run/Walk last year. Unfortunately due to COVID this event had to be cancelled. I am happy to announce that the Erdmann's have signed up again this year for the virtual version of this event. We invite you to join us!

This years event is called Run for Southlake Virtual Challenge. Michelle and I have created our own Virtual Challenge team called Richard's Roadrunners. We are always looking for people to join our team and cause. Between April 12th and May 9th our team have committed to focus on being physically active, supporting our personal wellbeing by eating well, being physically active, building our walking endurance & going the distance. We hope to record at least 40 km of walking during the four week event.

We invite you to join us!   You can find our team registration information here. We would love to have you join us virtually and set up your own goals. Lets achieve this together and raise money at the same time. Alternatively, if you can't commit to being apart of our team but would like to make a donation to the cause, you can do so here: 

Donation to Run for Southlake Virtual Challenge. Please be sure to donate under our team name Richard's Roadrunners. Our goal is to raise one thousand dollars for Southlake Regional Health Centre. We are almost halfway there already! Thanks to those that have already sponsored me, Michelle or our team. We really appreciate it. 

We will keep you updated on our progress in an upcoming blog post, once the event has begun. 

Thanks everyone and get your runners on!

Beep! Beep! Go Roadrunners!


Friday, February 19, 2021

Sometimes I forget!

It's true! Sometimes I forget that I have cancer. Hard to believe right? It is strange. It might be just for a few minutes during the day or sometimes, when I am lucky, for longer periods of time. There are days, when I can almost get through the entire day without thinking about cancer or my own personal circumstances. These are special moments. They are carefree moments. They are 'normal' moments. They provide a much needed escape from reality, my reality. Often they occur when I am distracted, busy or thinking of others. I talked about finding distractions in one of my previous blogs. I must say that it is getting harder and harder to find these lasting moments of distraction, especially as I wait for next steps in my cancer journey. I am thankful that they they still provide me with some respite from my reality.

Unfortunately there are also constant reminders or prompts that pop up all the time that quickly bring me back to reality! It might be a zap or a pain in my body or a telephone call that seems to come out of the blue, to book another appointment or to share some recent results. It can even be a television commercial about cancer treatments, cancer lotteries or donating to cancer causes. It is amazing how many commercials there are about cancer when you pay attention and notice them. Let me tell you that you can't get through an episode of Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy or Sunday Morning (our latest obsessions) without seeing a commercial about cancer, often multiple commercials, sometimes two in a row. These are shows that come over the US networks, where they can advertise directly to patients.  It is everywhere and impossible to ignore! I have noticed that even the talk shows seem to be highlighting people and families that are dealing with cancer or who have survived cancer. It is then, that my own reality comes roaring back.  Oh yeah, that's me, I'm a member of the cancer club.  It is sad and disappointing to say that prior to my own cancer diagnosis, I really didn't notice or pay much attention to cancer. Now I can't escape it.

Sometimes I forget what it was like 'before cancer'. I am now in my seventeenth month since being diagnosed with esophageal cancer. At that time, being here at seventeen months after my diagnosis was not even a possibility or part of the discussion.  That was the dream, to be an outlier! It has been a whirlwind since that fateful day back in September 2019. Sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago. I remember being so excited for the start of my retirement, excited for our planned retirement trips and exciting adventures that were upon us. Little did we know that we would have to detour, postpone and alter our plans due to an unplanned and unwelcome adventure that would take us on a medical roller coaster ride. This ride has had many ups and downs and plateaus along the way. I guess it is the ride of our life, for better or worse.

Sometimes forgetting is a good thing but I will never forget the love and support from my wife, family, friends and colleagues. You are what keeps me going, keeps me positive and keeps me hoping! 

I will always remember and be thankful,


Friday, February 12, 2021

B is for Biopsy

This week brought me back to Southlake Hospital in Newmarket for a liver biopsy.  Although the hospital was fairly quiet, I was still quite surprised to see fairly large numbers of people in the day surgery waiting room. The entire procedure from start to finish was about four and a half hours, although the procedure itself seemed to take less than half an hour. Surprisingly quick and painless, mind you I might have been sedated, so it could have taken a little longer than it seemed. I have to take it easy for a few days (no easy for the Energizer Bunny, but I am trying!).

This biopsy was scheduled by my oncologist to get a better understanding of what is happening with my liver.  This biopsy will hopefully provide us with some much needed new information about the tumours in my liver. Those three stubborn tumors that seem to be resisting all forms of treatment and continue to grow. How dare they! They may be stubborn, but I'm just as stubborn as they are!  Hopefully the results will show some biomarkers and results, that will open up some clinical trials options.   

In the meantime, life goes on! I'm going to try and take it easy for the next week and heal up.  This weekend brings both  Valentines Day and Family Day! Both centre around love and taking a little time to pause and recognize those we love, especially our families. I am so fortunate to have a wife and family that love me. I love them more than words can say. They are my life! I don't know what I would do without them. Michelle is my sweet valentine. She provides me with unconditional love and support. She masks her concern and worry very well, but she has had a few sleepless nights, keeping watch over me as I recover.  We are looking forward to getting some rest this weekend!  Our three kids are the best thing that ever happened to us. We are so proud of each of our children.  I hope they know it.  Family Day gives us that special reason to let them know, and to pause and show how happy I am to have them and our family. This weekend we celebrate love. We celebrate family. 

B is for biopsy, but it is also the "B" in Be my Valentine.

Wishing you a wonderful long weekend. Enjoy your family and spread some love!


Friday, February 5, 2021

Not Playing the Waiting Game!

I was going to call this week's blog, The Waiting Game, mostly because that is what our/my life seems to be right now, a never ending waiting game! Waiting for test results, waiting for next steps in my treatment and waiting for this lockdown to be lifted so life can return to some sort of 'the new normal'. Most of all we are waiting to check off more of our family bucket list items that are currently on hold. I guess we are all experiencing our own personal waiting game. This week, when I was discussing possible blog topics and titles with Michelle, like we do most weeks, she quickly pointed out that despite the waiting game that we are on, life still goes on, and despite cancer touching our lives, we've all made conscious efforts not to wait and to keep moving forward.

She reminded me that we really do have so much to celebrate and be thankful for, even during these dark times. While we feel like we are 'stuck in neutral' , life continues on for better or worse. She was quick to remind me of all the "better" moments that have been happening in our family's life over the past few weeks and months. It really helped to refocus my thoughts and reflect on some of the good milestones and positives. Sometimes we can get lost in a never ending cycle of negativity and disappointments, focused on cancer and treatments, and waiting for the next best thing, or any thing really, to happen. So with this in mind, and with a refocused attitude, I have to share that we actually have been doing more and we are not always playing a waiting game!

Over the past few weeks we have many instances to celebrate and be thankful for the blessings that have come our way. Michelle just accepted a new global role with her company.  She has worked hard for this and we are so very proud of her and I am so glad I am here to share it with her. Despite our personal family obstacles and support she gives me, she has remained strong and continues to be focused on loving us but also providing excellence in her career.  It's not easy and I know how worried she is about everything, but she keeps going.  Jonathan has completed his university degree and is exploring a variety of options that will use his skills and talents. He recently has been doing some stock footage/time lapse 4K video and posting it for sale.  Not easy to keep moving forward, when much of the film industry has slowed, and just when you are trying to launch.  Josh continues to move ahead in his job and at the same time he is exploring further post university studies. Not easy to keep working and advancing during a pandemic and we are so proud of him.  Sophie, our youngest, is a candidate to graduate with distinction from Queens, and has just completed her application to a Masters program. Her little sticker shop "Opal and Fern" just celebrated its first anniversary and has generated over two thousand item sales in its first year. An amazing achievement. Not easy to keep excelling at university and launching a business, when I know how worried she is about me, when she should be just enjoying her university years, but she keeps on reaching and we are so proud.  Even I have kept moving forward.  On a personal note, I supported a colleague in writing an article for the Canadian Association of Principals journal focused on leadership during the pandemic, was named as an author and it was published this month. This is one more  bucket item that I can cross off the list!  

Other positives include the health of my family remains good (except for me of course). We are generally happy and are managing/coping pretty well during this pandemic. Despite the constraints, we seem to be navigating it pretty well (even with five adults under one roof) at least from my point of view. Our little Lily continues to be the bright light for all of us and we just adore her. What a wonderful addition to our family.  

Michelle is right, we aren't  stuck in neutral, life goes on, we go on, and we need to appreciate these moments, the effort and celebrate all along the way!

No more waiting!