My tolerances to extreme temperatures has disappeared. There was a time, just before my operation, when I was impervious to the cold of winter. I would walk around in a sweater in the middle on winter.

We lived in Montreal from 1968 to 1980. Winters in Montreal are truly horrific with temperatures dropping to -30C on a regular basis. I would walk Janet home after a date, then walk home from her house, a 45 minute jaunt through the balmy winter temperatures. I was dressed for the occasion and was never cold. Heavy winter coat, snowmobile boots, good gloves and so on.

We were in Swaziland in 1999. My father had just died and we were there for the funeral. We were going out one night. I was dressed in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. One of the locals looked at me and said I could not go out like that. I thought I was breaking some sort of local protocol. He explained that it was too cold. How cold is it? I asked. 10C, he says. I laughed. Call me when it gets to -20C. He thought about that for a moment then exclaimed that he had no idea what that would feel like.

Nahed Rushdy was at our house in Montreal for a visit. My mother always insisted that I drive everyone home. Too cold to have people wait for the bus. This evening was no different. We were all ready to leave when Nahed remarked about my lack of a winter coat. She insisted that a coat was in order, a sweater was just not warm enough. She even went so far as to remark that it was not more manly to behave the way I was. Fetneh came to my rescue. She sighed, he is not being manly, he is never cold. She sounded a bit exasperated, she was always cold.

I could not leave the house this past winter without a coat. It was not even a cold winter. Depressing. I have also lost my tolerance for heat. Cannot take a hot shower, drink hot beverages or food.

I have trouble adjusting to the slightest change in the condition of my stomach. I have a huge tolerance for foods, able to digest the most formidable of things. Indian food is back on the white list, as is Ethiopian food. The hot pepper sauce that some food joints love to add to your food is big on the no list. Mexican and middle east house are particularly partial to these sauces. Almost like adding Tabasco sauce to a meal. Every meal is becoming an adventure. I have yet to develop a concrete idea of what sends my stomach into a turmoil of activity. My tolerance for different foods changes all the time. Salads are good some days, and not on others.

I think, looking back, that my first inkling that my tolerances are changing should have taken place in the hospital. I was terrible at taking drugs, with my body reacting in totally unpredictable ways. Hardly the time to become conscious of tolerances, I must admit. As I said, looking back…

Every day since the operation has carried a relevance of sorts into what the body can tolerate. I looked at my naked body in a full length mirror the other day. It happened quite by accident. Came out of the bathroom in our hotel room in New York to find myself in front of the mirror. My body has gone through its fair share of changes over the years, from athletic to overweight to the sudden and unexpected battering that was the operation.

A bag, a scar, a port-a-cath. The bruises, the result of the new set of self administered injections. The bruises are expected, though hardly welcome. The body keeps absorbing the abuse that is heaped upon it. The visible signs surely point to the more extensive damage that was done internally, not just by the operation, but the myriad number of drugs it is forced to absorb.

Tolerances build up over time. Sometimes through ignorance of what is really going on. Other times though ignoring the many signs that are pointing in a very definite direction. The symptoms of my condition were there for a long time. I could no longer eat as much as I used to. Some foods had started disagreeing with me. I put it down to a changing constitution brought on by old age. At least older age. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I was sitting in La Guardia airport waiting for our flight home. Alarms went off. Soldiers came running. No guns were pulled. The soldiers stopped in front of a corridor and started chatting, then laughing, seemingly oblivious to the alarm itself. The public was not moved, no one reacted to the alarm. Another new normal.

Tolerance levels have changed.

Janet and I had a bunch of question for Dr. Hedley. They cantered primarily around the need to continue the Chemo Sessions if they were no longer effective. What were the repercussions of taking a Chemo Vacation at this point, or at the end of August as he was planning> Taking a vacation now would allow us to enjoy the summer.

We are slowly realizing that a lot of decisions are ours to make. If we want to quit the Chemo Session, than quit it is. We are in charge of our treatments. The doctors are there to guide and advise us. The ultimate decision is ours. This is a bit freaky. We are never sure if we are making the right decisions or not. Do we have the right amount of information to make a decision? Is it the right decision? To make matters worse, the doctors themselves are not sure either.

Every body reacts differently to the drugs. We were at a small party celebrating Kali’s birthday the other day. One of the friends has a brother with very advanced lung cancer. The gave him one Chemo session to which he reacted very badly. All the stuff they keep expecting me to go through. So sorry to disappoint. They removed his brother from any further Chemo treatments. So are you still on Chemo, he asks me. Yes. How long have you been on Chemo. Almost a year now, since last October. He was dumbfounded. I do not look or behave like a Chemo patient. Except for the afternoon naps. We are all different.

My blood work showed more positive results than last time. My liver enzymes are closer to where they should be with one indicative being totally in the normal range.

Dr. Hedley brought up the fact that we have not had a break since this thing started. I started feeling the pains in June 2009. By August 1, the diagnosis was fairly complete and certain. Operation on September 2, Chemo in October. Yikes. A year without a break. The doctor saw no reason why we should not stop the treatments right now and take our vacation. A CT-Scan was planned for Friday (today) to set a baseline for the future. Next CT-Scan in two months. Chemo would only start again if my situation deteriorates. A steady condition will result in a longer vacation.

A two month Chemo Vacation is on the books. Cannot believe it. I am in a bit of a daze. Basically what happens when you receive bad news or terrifically good news. You cannot believe your ears and shut down. Two months with no Chemo.

Janet and I stared at each other. What do you say? How do you react?

Doctor Hedley wanted to feel my stomach to make sure all was right. I suggested that things were still a bit tender. I can lift heavier bags now, but feel some discomfort if I overdo things. I am sure the healing process will speed up without the Chemo getting in the way. He appeared to confirm this. Good news. I am looking into going to the pool on a regular basis to strengthen the stomach a bit. I get bored swimming. Back and forth, you go. I will have to do it nevertheless.

Can we start eating raw meats again? I miss my steak tartar, sushi, and oysters. I was given the green light for sushi. Say it ain’t so. We decided on the spot that we would have that for dinner to celebrate. Diana, Nancy and her daughter Lily are coming over. Makes for a grand celebration.

Dr Hedley mentioned that we are in really good hands with his nurse, Shahnaz. We truly are. She is magnificent. She mentioned how much the nurses in the Chemo daycare like me. I walk in with my big laugh and cheer them up. The doctor just shook his head. All the nurses love him he says. Then gives me a gigantic hug before leaving.

Janet and I were left alone for a few minutes in the consulting room. She high fived me. This is the first time in almost a year were I could a glimmer of hope in her eyes. She seemed ecstatic over the news. She had a bright smile and a glitter to her eyes. That was enough to make me happy.

I phoned Fetneh and Fo’ad that night. It is always good to talk to them after news like this. It helps air my thoughts, clear the cobwebs a bit, get some perspective. I eMailed them of course, but that was not clear enough for them. Fetneh was jumping for joy. She made me promise to not withdraw from life because of this. The are chances of withdrawal symptoms creeping in if you are not careful. The hospital has been a home away from home, as it were. A very safe place to spend time in. You get sort of attached to these things. The routine. However horrible the Chemo experience is, you get used to the routine. The people. The support.

I assure her that I will not regress. I will keep the blog going. I may have a bit of trouble adjusting to the new freedom. We will see.

Fo’ad was just as supportive, of course. How does this change life? I don’t know. My curly head of hair may even make a comeback. I see no negatives in any of this. I become so much stronger when I am off Chemo for even a week. This can only be good.

We have lots of plans. We have been invited to all sorts of places. Long trips are out of the question. One day excursions within the vicinity of Toronto can be done. We are going to see Anne and Frank in Pickering, John and Sharon have invited us to their horse farm, Heather and Neil want us to go their farm. Heather reminded me that it is almost a year to the day when we went to their farm to share the news. Their friend Beth was there, also a cancer patient. She had a long conversation with me about what to expect. Strange to think of that now.

Devin is leaving us to go pursue a master degree in Change Management at the New School in New York City. We should be flying down on August 21. Sadness and happiness combined. I am ever so proud of him.

September will see me visit Montreal again to spend some time with Hong Lan. Janet will be attending the film festival in Toronto. My visit to Montreal will take some pressure off her. I have to talk to Hong Lan a bit more about what her remedies are. Stuff that includes acupuncture to increase energy levels. She deluged with so much information that I had trouble absorbing it all. A revisit is a must. To say nothing of spending time with Fetneh, of course. I will try and stay in the same apartment as before, taking advantage of Steve Mykolyn’s generosity. It is good to have a space of your own, specially when you are in my condition.

I lay down when we got home. All this stuff is a bit overwhelming. We had dinner and I returned to bed and made my phone calls.

Yesterday was my very first day of this vacation. I slept for a couple of hours in the afternoon. I also wandered around the house a bit lost. I have so many things to do, so many projects on the go. Where to start? Sleep of course. I am having lunch with Kali today. Looking forward to that. Planning the trip to New York when I get home from that.

Tomorrow is a new day. Taking us back to another sense of normalcy. Can’t wait.

Back to chemo daycare after an extra week off to celebrate the Baha’i New Year. That was on March 25. A very uneventful day as all visits to the Chemo Daycare unit are turning into.

The nurse showed up as promised. I had the pleasure of seeing Natalie again. Unplugged in no time. No fuss no muss as they say, though again I have no idea where the expression originates from. Muss is defined in the dictionary as: a state of disorder; muddle. I guess that would explain the expression, but who comes up with these?

The fatigue that set after the chemo is a whole other story. Janet tells me it is normal. I doubt it. I was virtually in bed for what seemed like forever. I would run one errand and retire to recover. I was finally out of bed and doing things on Thursday. What a relief. Kali joined me for coffee on Friday. We got to sit in the park.

A fabulous coffee house has opened around the corner from our house called The Rooster. Great coffee, lovely people and always packed. We bought our stuff and went across the street to enjoy the food, company and conversation. Kali is very well informed about the stuff Ronak Shah is talking about. Made for an interesting afternoon. Maybe once I have digested the information, I will talk about it a bit more. Fetneh also had an opinion. Makes for an interesting conversation.

Friday evening saw us in emergency at the Toronto General Hospital.

I am beginning to think it to be futile to imagine for a second that a normal existence of any kind is possible. Just as you start to relax and start a routine, something falls apart. In this case, I started experience a lot of discomfort in the stomach area to the right of the stoma. This was accompanied by a full day of no activity from the stomach. A bit disconcerting.

A doctor named Hodges looked after us. He actually had the temerity to read my chart and remember what he had read. He was very comforting and well informed about the situation. We did an stomach Xray to see if there was anything blocking the passage. Turns out that blockage of the passage is a definite possibility following operations such as mine. Not just now but essentially for ever. I keep hearing the for ever mantra over and over again. Have to start paying more attention, and come to some sort of understanding of “for ever”.

No obstruction, just stool being stubborn. Lost their way and are hunkering down for the long haul. Nothing some industrial strength Drano would not solve. I was prescribed something called Lactulose, which is over the counter. I have to take 2 tablespoons of this stuff up to four times a day. Makes ExLAx look like a glass of water. My bag floweth over. No really. Literally. Damn thing blew apart spilling its vile content. All I could do was make my way to the washroom to clean things up trying to contain the spillover. Life is nothing short of exciting. The only question I have is when do you know the system is back to normal? I guess I have to wait and see if the stomach pains return or not.

I was very upset yesterday. Mad as hell. How dare my body betray me like this? This is my one good week. The least it could is let me enjoy it. I now have to be careful for  a few days waiting for this to pass.

One more item to add to our list of stuff to watch out for.

And one more: The skin around the stoma has turned black. Not sure if it is because of the trauma it is going through or something to be really worried about. I have written to the wonderful Dr Kennedy, my surgeon for clarification. I am going to see her next Tuesday anyways. It would be nice to have some sort of clarification before that.

I have been in great spirits until yesterday, when my bag did the spilling over scene. Yesterday was not a good day, spiritually, nor physically, I guess.

Today is already better. Gita is supposed to join me for coffee. I might go to her place just for a change of scenery.

This has probably been the most difficult week since my operation. And that is saying plenty. Remember the wagging fingers letting me know in no uncertain terms that I had a major operation. Time heals all, and memories fade, specially memories of things that are hard to comprehend or come to terms with.

The first few months have crated all sorts of emotions, most of which you are all terribly familiar with by now. The constant expectation to wake up in the morning and find that this was a dream, a case of parallel universes, sliding doors, is always there. The thought that this was a wonderful joke, we all laughed, can we get back to reality now? is pervasive.

Life goes on.

This week was focused on getting my white blood cell counts up. I still have no idea, nor can anyone tell me, why your white blood cell count fluctuates so amazingly. From .8 to 6.7 back to .8.  The Neulasta shot was supposed to make ne feel like a new man. Not so fast. A new man I am not. I sleep every afternoon for a couple of hours in order to stay up at night and spend some time with Janet. I still end up going to bed around 9PM.

We attribute the exhaustion to the low white blood cell count. This conversation has really dominated the week.

I had lunch with my friend Yama yesterday. We met in a food court in the business district. I walked from Janet;s building where we get to park the car for free, to the business district. All underground. Much warmer that way. Temperatures in Toronto are now showing tendencies toward winter. Minus 5 to 10 Celsius. With the wind bearing down on you, it gets much colder. So underground it is. Hard to imagine what it is like if you live in a warm climate.  But there major paths built underground that allow you to go from one place to another without seeing the light of day. Welcome to the cold white north.

The walk was interesting. I don’t go out much where I am not in control of my surroundings. I go to the market mostly during the week when there are fewer people around. Less chance of having someone sneeze on me. Everything we do is geared to minimizing exposure. Here I am walking through the underground at lunch hour. Painfully aware of the multitudes running helter-skelter from one place to another. Some in an awful hurry, hardly paying attention to the people around them. I found myself walking along the walls, stopping often to let some yahoo breeze past me. It was just a bit scary. Not a lot scary, just a bit, as you come to realize how incredibly exposed you are.

Lisa Merdjanian was always complaining about taking the subway and putting up with the wheezing and sneezing multitudes. I am sure she is still complaining, except I am not there to listen. I suddenly found myself in the same predicament, looking out for people showing the slightest inclination to sneezing, or coughing.

The lunch was fun. Good to be out and talking about almost anything but what I am going through. I had to make a concerted effort to not talk about my chronic condition. Steer the conversation away. Talk about something else. Technology is good. I am trying to keep up with the trends, which are nothing short of amazing. Life is also good. I talked about our new fridge and dishwasher. Not very exciting, but it is cool. Trying to get back to some sense of normal. There is always the soft voice to remind yo of reality, but never mind that. Keep talking. Make jokes. Whine about things. All good normal conversations.

The walk home was more perilous. There were fewer people out, but I was very tired. Walked with one hand grazing the wall as a point of reference.  Still managed to go to the market and buy some fruits. We are out of bananas and that just won’t do. I buy fair trade bananas at the market which taste really good. Some pomegranates, pears, apples, blueberries.  The usual.

Small things that make a difference. You have all read about my bag coming off in my sleep. It happened again a couple of weeks ago when my hand got caught in there somewhere. I heard it snap off. It took a very short time in my sleepy haze to realize what had just happened. What a mess. Janet woke up and we changed the sheets. How do you keep that bag on? Some genius suggested  we look into this spandex girdle thing that pregnant wear over their pants. Turns out a lot of pregnant women keep wearing their regular clothes, except they can no longer do up their pants. Someone has come up with this spandex thing that looks like a tube top that women wear over their pants. It covers thar pants all the way up their bellies. Simple. We bought one, and Fetneh just sent me one which came today in the mail.

Instant relief is what this is. It covers the bag completely. No way for the bag to come off. I wear one every time I get into bed. It might also help solve some other issues. More on that in the future.

Some of our close friends are coming for dinner tonight. They are bringing dinner with them from Riz, a Pan Asian Cuisine restaurant. This takes a whole amount of pressure off Janet and Devin. All we have to do is vacuum the house and neat it up. I have to take a nap to make sure I have the energy to survive a major part of the evening.

Tomorrow is another day.

Life was measurably improved following the Saturday letdown. All my H1N1 symptoms are now over. My arm is no longer hurting. I am very glad I got the vaccine a week before the chemo treatment. The separation ensures no confusion of symptoms.

Sunday proved to be a good day. Janet went to the office in the morning. We went shopping for groceries in the afternoon. While most decry shopping for food as mundane and boring, I revel in the act. Mundane activities are a good thing. We went to Kensington Market. For those who live in foreign lands, Kensington Market is the immigration gateway to Toronto. It has been occupied by all sorts of different groups of people over the years. The current occupants are South American. Which is a good thing since Janet was making paella for dinner. Janet got to talk in Spanish with some people who were giving us advice on the best rice and the best way to go about making the dish.

We could buy live chicken at the market when we first moved to Toronto 30 years ago. All the live animals are gone now. I guess health regulations. We are living in a nanny state.

We had a good walk. Bought food, napkins, cheese slicer, the best garlic masher in the world, and a bunch of other stuff. As I said, mundane stuff.

Supper was amazing. Finished the leftovers the next night. And I don’t even feel guilty about not sharing them with anybody else.

Monday was an amazing day. I visited my ex-client, Monarch Wealth. I figured I was healthy enough. The most difficult part was stopping people from hugging, kissing and shaking hands with me. Not allowed. No sense in taking a chance. Picked up the dry cleaning once done. Bought light bulbs for the bathroom. Got a muffin and went home, I felt strong and mighty.

Sent in the request to move the blog to the new location. I mention this only to emphasize the attempted return to normality. All the while trying very hard to feel good about feeling good. There is always a nagging sense of impending doom back there somewhere. And as good as I feel, there also always seems to be some part of the body that insists on bringing you back to reality. Never anything serious. A small pang in the stomach is often all that is required. Shortness of breath after going up the stairs. Janet refuses to install an elevator for some reason.

I overdid my activities on Monday. I think there is some sense of urgency that builds up in you, so that when you feel good, you want to do everything in that one day. I paid the  price for it in some small measure on Tuesday when I was more tired that I anticipated. I refused to give in though and mustered up enough strength to go about as normal an existence as possible. Spent a good deal of time on the phone attempting to resolve the issues with the blog.

We are living in interesting times. We are creating amazing and wonderful technologies, the results of which are often unpredictable. The moving of the blog is one such example. We exported the blog and the database it was associated with. The idea was to move the domain to a new location and import everything back in.  That was a smooth process. WordPress which is the blogging program I use is not prepared to make the rest of the project an easy job. The database was pointed at the old location. Moving it did nothing. Every time you accessed it, you went to the old location. At some point, the new location stopped responding. We had to modify the pointers to point to the new location. There is no automated process for to take place. Did the writers of this beautiful program not envisage that anyone would want to move it to a new location?

There are numerous example of programming short sightedness.

I will cover Wednesday in its own entry. As I said, I feel strong and mighty.

Every once in a while, you wake up in the morning expecting this to be a nasty dream. But there is this bag thingy hanging off your stomach to remind you of the stark reality. We, Janet and I, have this dream often, except she has it without the bag being on her. We remind [...]

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