I am going through a bizarre set of events. I keep thinking and thinking and the thoughts provoke new thoughts, and I reverse my position don’t care about this or that, come to new conclusions, confuse myself to all high hell. What else do I have to do?

It turns out that I have a lot of options.

I went for my Chemo session last Tuesday. That is Tuesday the 11th of May. My blood count was. The admin staff were helpful. Quite a change from the previous week. More on that in a separate post coming today. The nurse let me know that this was my 14th session. I am a walking talking Chemo boy. The drugs came, and I was topped up. Got the Neulasta shot on Thursday. I slept for a week. My energy levels returned yesterday. I am all excited about New York where I will be tomorrow at this time. Things are good.

We were at the Fraser’s farm a couple of weekends ago. I designed a couple of new camera bags. I have to render them, sew up a couple of examples. Yes, I can sew. Learned from my mother. Then attempt to find a manufacturer, put together a business and marketing plan. The usual routine. The market is short of good practical camera bags.

I have also decided to start designing web pages for small business. Nothing fancy, no flash or anything complicated. Simple four to five pages of static stuff. I will also offer to maintain the site, update the software, make sure it is running, do the marketing for it and so on. I have revamped my photo site at farokh.ca. I will be creating a template of sorts in the next week or so. Then start calling or sending eMails out to some prospects that I already know might find this useful. I can do this from home, and be totally online, and at my own pace.

My friend Steve Mykolyn suggested the other day, that I start writing camera and related equipment reviews. I have thought about that. I am coming up with a template for that as well. I will probably focus on the every day user who is pondering buying a point and shoot camera, or an upgrade. None of the professional stuff. Professional, or semi-pros such as myself are pretty well versed. There are sites that pander to us. No one seems to be looking after the casual user in a meaningful and fun way.

We are re-doing our garden this year. Thinking of building a new pond, a shed, plant some new local plants. We hired a gardener to help out. I do not have the sustained energy to carry out the changes.

Busy? Just a bit. It occurred to me the other day that I am trying to find myself – again. I have no idea which of these projects will come to fruition. Maybe they all will. Maybe only one of them. It is becoming an interesting exercise. I am concentrating on the web design first. Once the template is set up and the eMails are sent, there is little left to do, except maybe a bit of marketing. Might even be fun.

I was told at the beginning of this adventure that I have some time to live, anywhere from tomorrow to five to ten years. Or more. Or whatever. I told Fetneh the other day, that I have to modify the numbers a bit. I had my operation about 9 months ago. I now have between four and nine years to live. I can be so funny. Five to ten sounds like so much more time. I could go one for the next five to ten telling people I have between five and ten. No one would be the wiser.

You go through life expecting to die of ripe old age. No one really expects to die sooner. No one is out there saying things like, Oh yeah, I expect to be fall out of a building by the time I am fifty. Cancer hits. The doctors do not like to give you a time frame when you would expect to die. Bad vibes there. The problem that appeared this week in my ever so feeble brain is that you now expect to die earlier, but when exactly? Not that you knew before. Expectations are now set for an early passing on. But when? This is getting stupid.

I went to the hospital yesterday, home away from home. It is amazing how quickly you adjust to your new surroundings. I went to spend a bit of time with a friend who was doing blood work and meeting with the palliative care people. She does not have much time left. She gave her blood to the vampires, and we went for lunch. Her husband was there. He keeps calling me the other man. The goal is to just talk, laugh, eat. We are going out for Ethiopian food when we come back from N.Y. I am going to cook Persian rice for her one evening. We do what we have to do.

I also ran into my lady with no nose. The cancer has spread a bit. She is due for more surgery on her cheekbones. We talked a bit. She was on the verge of tears. Don’t know what to say.

I look amazing. Everyone is saying that, so it must be true. My hair is growing, albeit (great word that!) slowly. I have apparently developed immunity to hair loss. Which is a good thing. I just read today that losing the hair in your ears results in losing your hearing. I am saved, I tell you, saved.

I am seeing my psychiatrist in June. A good talk is to be had. So much stuff to discuss. So many thoughts, so much stupidity, confusion. It will all pan out.

Thanks for listening. Thanks for being there.

This has been a busy week.

Met with the surgeon yesterday. She is still very happy with the rate of progress. No talk of reconnecting the rectum to the colon yet. She is leaving the Toronto General Hospital and going across the street to join Mount Sinai Hospital.  She is taking her patients with her. We are not in the mood to forge new relationships. It turns out that the hospitals, at least in Ontario, are beginning to specialise. The Toronto General Hospital specialises in liver issues including cancer, as well as transplants. They also specialise in a couple of other organs, but I forget what they are.

Mount Sinai specialises in colon cancer amongst other things. This makes it the perfect place for her to practice her trade, and by extensions the perfect place for us to be. All these changes will be taking place starting in May and finishing sometime over the summer. Future emergency visits will be at Mount Sinai as we terminate our relationship with the Toronto General. It also appears that virtually any hospital dealing with cancer is related in some way to the Princess Margaret Hospital. That relationship continues. There is a walkway between Mount Sinai and Princess Margaret. How much closer do you want them to be.

I mentioned to the good doctor that one of the reports we read referred to a rectal stump in my body. What exactly is a rectal stump? It turns out that the tube that goes to my rectum is about 15cm long and is stapled at the top. Goes nowhere. Having said that, it does discharge stuff, and stuff is where we will leave this. It is not stool or anything like that, just stuff. I developed a rash in the rectum area and was curious as to how this could happen, since the rectum is basically inactive. I was told to use the same stuff we use on a baby’s tender derriere, except the heavy duty stuff. Works really well. This may be more than you wish to know. That is what you get for reading this blog.

Met today with the oncologist, Dr. Hedley. Two things came out of today’s meeting. The first is a reaffirmation that my cancer is complicated. No more information than that. It is complicated, and given its nature, will require fine tuning at some points along the way. Considering everything, he was very impressed with my condition. My hair is growing back, I appear to be in good spirits, have put on a bit of weight, all good things.

He has a student from the UK studying with him. He asked if it was OK for the student to spend some time with me while he looked after someone else. No worries. The student asked a lot of questions going to the very beginning of the experience. Even asking such questions as to how we felt when we were told that I had cancer. That was seven or eight months ago. How time flies. I answered most of the questions without any problems. He seemed relieved to get straight answers. I think he was a bit surprised at the nature of the relationship we have with the Doctor and his staff.

Janet just mentioned that she thinks the doctor does not trust me fully. I put on brave face he said today. He is right, but not in front of him. He does not know that of course. He asks Janet for most of his answers. He thinks she will feed him the straight goods. While I am a two faced two bit liar.  Joking. We have a great relationship with the Doctor. I think he is relieved on some level to have a patient who is easy going and in good shape relatively speaking.

I think I will make an appointment to go see my family doctor, just to say howdy-doodee. You all know how much I love her. I have not seen her in 7 months.

I am in great shape right now. In a good mood and feeling very strong. Took a long walk on my way to the hospital. The Neulasta has not kicked in fully yet. I am expecting that to happen tomorrow or Friday at the latest. Everything is progressing as it should. I am also hoping that my general well being will help me withstand the assault that is Neulasta.

That is all for now. All is good. Strong and feeling good.

I found myself being really short tempered for a couple of weeks. It seemed to pass once the Neulasta kicked in. Maybe there was a connection?

The effects of life on the brain and emotions is staggering. I am not sure if those are the right expressions, but it seems you sometimes have little control for what goes on in your head and how it manifests itself. Everyone around you is really careful not to say anything that might upset me. Yet, there it is, the short temper coming out when the phone rings and people say stupid things to you.

One of my pet peeves is the security questions that people like Hydro ask you. What is your name? And now for security reason, we have to verify some information. Your address, postal code and phone number. All three pieces of information are public. Open the phone book. All there. Hardly security questions. I found myself getting more upset than usual at these inane questions. Also at sales people calling from Florida trying to sell me new doors and windows. Insane.

The honeymoon is over. This is a bit like a marriage. At some point you wake in the morning and realise a new normal has set in. Like it or not, this is your new life. Adjust. Get on with it.

I am not in any way, shape, or form, minimizing my plight and the chronic condition I am in. The past two weeks have really brought home the fact that it this is the future. We have to get on with our lives. This means that Janet has to get out more often. People have to be a bit less careful around me. I have to get accustomed to going for naps in the afternoon. I went for a drive this morning to buy bread and stuff for the house. Drove Leslie to her dinner party in the evening. I can do these things, and come home in one piece.

I am not being rushed to hospital for anything. I am as healthy as a cancer patient can be. My immune system appears to be very strong in spite of the cancer. No, it is not easy, but this is the new life. A combination of hospital visits to see Doctors, or get treatments. Then a week of good strong health.

The mother of one of Leslie’s friends died the other day. The mother of one of Janet’s cousins died the other day as well. Somehow, these episodes appeared more dire to me than what I am going through. Seems strange to say this, but all of a sudden, I thought, how terrible. My life went into the background. Theirs seemed so much more important.

I am making plans. Thinking of the future. It’s all good. Not that much energy to carry things out, and a bit scared about that. How can you start a project and do it only every two weeks? But there are options, and most of them can be done online.

Option 1. Become a WordPress expert of some sort. Create themes and plugins that I can sell to others. Maybe set up blog s for people. Others are doing it, and I can to. Certainly fits in nicely with my background. I just need to gain some expertise in WordPress. There are lots of books out there. Also need to become better at markting the blogs. But all that comes with practive and a lot of reading.

Options 2. Become a therapist of sorts to help others with chronic conditions. Take some online courses.

Option 3. A lot of people are pushing me into the art world. Daryl just bought me a wonderful water colour paint set, including paints, brushes, and paper. Included in the package is a free course from her sister who is a painter of some repute. I could become a painter, and incorporate my pictures, and maybe even some calligraphy. The possibilities are endless.

Al I need now is the courage of my convictions to do something. I cannot carry on like this for very much longer. The healthier I get, the more urgent is the need to do something, anything. Word Searches can only help so far.

One more thing, I have not shaved my head yet. It is thinning out, but there is still so much of it, that most people cannot tell I am losing it. For now, the hair stays.

Monday, Nov 23

Had an appointment to see the surgeon, Dr. Erin Kennedy. She was ecstatic. Have never seen her so amazingly cheerful. You look great she says. Have you seen your CT Scan report? Yes, we say, met with Dr. Hedley. Don’t pay any attention to it, she says. The increased size of the tumours is minor and to be expected. Ignore it and move on. She was positively bubbly over this.

We told her about the blood results that I posted earlier. Oh my God! The news gets better and better. She looked at my scar, which I must say looks remarkably good to me, and was even more excited. I have my hair, my scar is beautiful, my blood results positive. All is good with the world. She gets extra points.

Discussed the longer lasting effects of the last chemo. She is not surprised and mentions casually that the F5 chemo drug is cumulative. We should expect the effects to last longer. Great.

Next appointment on January. We will be seeing her for a long time.

Tuesday, Nov 24

Nothing really remarkable happened. I am tired, more so than usual. Slowly getting psyched up for the chemo on Thursday. Hopping that this week, the effects will not be so long lasting, in spite of what Dr. Kennedy says.

Wednesday, Nov 25

You have read all about that fateful day in my Art Therapy page. Devin picks me up from the Art Therapy session and we sometimes go out for lunch or something. I am too tired to go anywhere. We come home. I eventually do what I do every day, take a nap in the afternoon. Devin has to go to work. He plays the piano, plays on the computer, and finally goes. I spend the rest of the day reading articles, and doing my Word Searches.

Thursday, Nov 26

Drive Janet to work and myself to the hospital for blood work. Chemo is at 1:30. Doing my blood work at 9:00 means they will get it on time for the chemo session.

Drive over to Paulee’s house to pick up her dead computer to take to Steve’s. Her hard drive has crashed. It is fatal.

Go to the pharmacy to pick up my drugs. They do not have a renewable prescription. Call the Doctor and leave a message with the wonderful Susan, his assistant. She faxes the renewal over to the pharmacist, the equally wonderful Farrah who fills it right away. I go to Dash kitchens to grab a bite to eat while all this is going on. I am beginning to shake a bit from lack of food.

I call the Chemo Daycare unit before taking my drugs to see if chemo is a go or not. The nurse gives me a bit of a hard time until she recognises my name. Everything changes, and she is sweet as pie. No chemo this week. My white blood cell count has gone from 6.7 to 0.8 in one week. Too low for chemo.

I am very disappointed. You psyche yourself up for the drugs only to have them canceled. I have to go in to the daycare to have the pin removed from the Porta-Cath. The nurses are as cheerful as always.

On my way out, I run into an East European couple we met on our very first chemo session. She also has colon cancer and the requisite bag. She was waiting for her blood results. Her chemo was postponed the week before because of a low white cell count. I sat and talked with her for a while. She does not appear to have anyone to talk to about her cancer. We talked about the headaches that we get that feel like migraines. Tylenol has no effect on them. Only sleep seems to cure them. We talked about our continual exhaustion. She did not know that she could get her blood work done earlier in the morning, so she does not have to wait in chemo daycare for the results. She sounded tired. I hope I run into her again. Her husband is always with her.

Friday, Nov 27

This is my date day with Devin. He asked me what I wanted to do. I slept, virtually the whole day. I was exhausted. Not sure if it was the let down of not getting chemo or what. He went out to his club and ran a couple of errands. I stayed home. It was a truly bad day for me.

The only thing that happened to cheer me up was hearing from one of the participants of the Art Therapy session. We are now exchanging regular eMails. This is fantastic.

Nothing more to say about Friday.

Saturday, Nov 28

Miraculous recovery. Janet forced me out of bed. She did not have to try very hard. We decided that I have to force myself to get out of bed and do things. We went to the market and bought some food. It was great to see some of the merchants who know me. Big air hugs all around. Murray and his son Allen are particularly attached.

Came home and took a nap.

Went out later in the afternoon with Judy and Arlin to the Mercer Gallery to see an exhibit on advertising in magazines of the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s. It was very cool. Had coffee after and came home totally exhausted, but in a very positive way.

I cooked supper. Spaghetti with my patented tomato sauce. Delicious. Sorry for not inviting any of you. Maybe next time.

Sunday, Nov 29

Fetneh came for a visit. Always a welcome sight. We had a great time. And yes, I had to take a nap in the afternoon. I was exhausted by the time she left. I think I may have a recurring theme in my life. But again, a good and healthy feeling. We talked about all kinds of things.

Carys, my four year old niece was dropped off to spend the day with us. Paulee was going to a healthy living show. Carys is very shy and it her virtually the whole day to warm up to Fetneh. It was a delightful day. I played with Carys for a while, but could not keep up with her. Damn.

Janet spent a major part of the day with her Dad. Good thing. Glad Fetneh was here to keep me company.

All-in-all the weekend ended on a high note.

This is a turning point in the Art Therapy blog posting. I was expecting this to happen. The only unfortunate part is that the objections have come form people who have not read the blog.

The sessions are a safe place where people are encouraged to speak their mind. Someone taking notes might appear intrusive. I take notes to ensure accuracy in my posts and thoughts. The wording of what is said is so important. Did they say angry or upset? I have an excellent memory for these things. Is there a difference between taking notes inside the sessions, or jotting down similar notes after I walk out? There is a difference in how people feel as you are taking notes in front of them. I would have hoped that the openness which I showed would have been reassuring, but it appears not to be so.

No pictures either. I am allowed to take them outside the session but not inside. Not sure how that works. It doesn’t. So no pictures. I made a point of letting everyone know I was taking notes. I gave them the blog address. I asked before being allowed to take pictures. What happened between the second session where people were so open about letting me take pictures of their thoughts, and today?

I have made a major point of being discreet in my postings. This has not been difficult. Not an imposition by any means. A given under the circumstances. I have been very careful with the information I divulge. There has been nothing of a personal nature, for instance. The participants will recognise themselves, but no one outside the group will be able to tell who is who. The nature of the blog has also been positive. At least I hope it has. Am I surprised that people are uncomfortable? No. I was hoping for a bit of largess considering the huge amount of good this is doing to so many people.

The comfort of the group is of paramount importance. The nature of the post will change starting with this one. You will still benefit from the highly polished and amazing art that I paint, but there will no references to others, or a description of what they have painted. There will be comments, or more likely questions opened for discussion based on what was said. These will be of a more general nature. Human beings being what we are, there will also be cross fertilization going on. There is really no way of holding back a thought process that was provoked by what was said in the sessions. These might be used to start a fresh posting based on that thought. No offense intended to anyone. No judgments. No recrimination. No antagonism. The reactions of one and all are fully understandable and do not need either explaining or defending. It is what it is. A bit like having cancer. It is what it is.

The choice of colours in our paintings is interesting. Mine are pretty stark with a dash of colour. Others exhibit much more lively or darker colours. I have mentioned the liberal use of blue and green. The first dealing with water and its attributes, the second with new life, and freshness. Both dealing with coolness and calmness. Using darker or lighter colours reflecting our mood or state of mind. Even within a painting, starting with darker colours and somehow gravitating to lighter ones brings up a host of questions. Is your mood getting better from painting? From attending the sessions? From talking? From being around people you feel safe with? Why did you feel darker at the beginning?

A thought that crossed my mind at one point that had nothing to do with anything in particular has to do with interpretation. I have had a lot of trouble with art in general. How do you know if something is good or not? Does it matter? I often look at art and wonder if this is a piece that will be famous in 10, 15 or more years. And I missed the boat by not buying it now. I was talking with a friend about this, one day, oh so many years ago, and they said that I should stop torturing myself. Art is what I make of it. What I see. Nothing more or less. We bought a piece from a student at an art show a few years ago. It is a narrow piece painted on wood showing a clothesline from which hang a number of t-shirts that are a bit torn, with an inscription in Arabic. Second from the right is a perfect t-shirt with the Roots logo on it. I asked the girl about the political message behind it. Much to my surprise, she said there was none. She just painted it. She designed those t-shirts and like the look of it all strung together. I was shocked to say the least, and based on that premise alone, had to make the purchase.

All this to say, is there a possibility we are over-analyzing or paintings? Seeing convenient truths or perceived truths where there are none? I am not sure, but at some point, felt that sometimes, the message is pretty clear. Or we just painted for the fun of it. Let it be. Not sure.

My Painting

Cancer Thistle

Cancer Thistle

The painting depicts a thistle growing inside the body of a person, well OK, a man. The thistle represents cancer with its amazing roots invading the body.The thistle has some medicinal purpose. I chose it because the thistle is full of thorns that hurt when touched or come into contact with.

I played rugby while in boarding school in England. One of the fields we played in was full of thistles. It was so bad that you were careful to tackle someone only if there was no thistle around. Added a whole new dimension to the game.

The person is balancing Anger and Tranquility on the two scales neither winning the battle but equalising each other. Anger wells up in our bodies and is quelled by tranquility.

The person is standing on a bed that gives him strength. The list includes: Steadfast, Friends, Support, Hospital, Drugs, Food, Alternative, Meditation, Visualization, Safe Place, Prayers, Faith, Strength, Attitude, Perseverance, Humour, Depression, Self Pity, Exercise, Lies, Truths, Family, Insurance, Finances, Travel, Rest, Sleep, Guilt, Participate, Cook, Clean, Shop.

There was little doubt that the moderator was moved by the piece and thought it was very powerful. But again, no discussion. We had run out of time.

The eye is not red, contrary to what it looks like, but brown. No idea why it looks red.

The Real Thistle - with Bee

The Real Thistle - with Bee

I am saddened by the events of the day. Love the people who attend. So it goes.

avastin, avastin what art thou you come in a plastic bag invading my heart poisoning my body weakening my spirit racing through my body wrecking ball that you are stopping blood vessels from forming killing cancer cells yet here we are eight days later reeling from your invasion exhausted from your tentacles sleeping or awake [...]

Art Therapy: Session 3

I am sorry to report right from the start, that I did not take pictures. I am disappointed. The opportunity almost presented itself, but I was not able to explain why I wanted to take them. More on that further down. The mood in the room was light and very positive. Only three others showed [...]

Went to see the oncologist yesterday with mixed results. The last CT Scan we did was at the end of July, before the full diagnosis, and before the operation, and before the chemo, and just plain before. Monday’s CT Scan revealed more cancer tumours and activities. This is to be expected. No treatments results in [...]

Surprise! We get Avastin today. Dr. Hedley feels that enough time has gone by for me to have healed. Damn the creation of blood vessels. Full steam ahead. We searched the web for the side effects of Avastin. It includes just about anything that is not included with the other drugs. name it, and it [...]

Art Therapy: Session 2

We had Art Therapy today. Must be Wednesday. Three people from last week did not show up, two new people showed up. Except they are not new since the moderator and one of the participants know them. Hey, how are you, long time. And so on. This is a safe place after all. Five women [...]

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