Thursday, April 24, 2014

Happy Birthday M.D.S.

Me and my dad circa 1968Today is my dad's birthday.  If you would like to know how old he is, I'll just say this, he was born the same day and year as Barbra Streisand. 

I love this picture of us.  My mum told me that I had measles when this picture was taken (I think it's Easter weekend 1968). 

When we were little, my dad was SO MUCH FUN.  Seriously, he would play games with us, be silly with us, actually act like a kid.  Looking back, from the ripe old age of 46 I realize now that he was not much more than a kid himself.  He was 25 when I was born.  When I think about some of the stunts I pulled when I was in my 20's, I can see why he was so much fun.  I can remember him getting into water fights with the neighours, building us wooden stilts, creating an elaborate slide made of ice in the winter, waking me up late at night to watch old movies with him... we may not have had all of the money in the world but looking back, we didn't miss out on a thing.

Happy Birthday Dad, or, as Aunt Marge Quigley would write, "Happy Birthday M.D.S." I love you to the moon and back!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Chemo - Round 2

Chemo round 2. #cancersucks @kghconnect #kghrocks #chemoSo round 2 of chemo was very similar to round 1!

Mark was lucky enough to have the same nurse (the fabulous Bev) and ended up in the same chair as last time. It was nice to have this familiarity for our second visit.  Not to mention, we are constantly impressed with the level of care he is receiving.  We feel very lucky to be so close to a facility like this.

In addition to receiving the actual chemo, some weeks he is going to see the doctor or resident.  Part of the process also involves him going in the day before (or the morning of chemo) to have blood drawn.  If his white cell count is good, he can have his chemo.  If it's not, he can't.  So far, he's been good for both visits. 

My office is right across the street from the cancer clinic so I'm able to pop over and sit with him while the bags drip, drip, drip.  After his first visit, he had some pretty strong nausea about an hour after we left the clinic.  Tonight it didn't take that long.  He started to feel symptoms from the chemo on the drive home.  We made it home, but just barely, before he was sick.  For the next round, we may need to get them to up his anti-nausea medication.  We really don't want to cut it much closer than we did today, that would be good for no one!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Grandpa Shanks

me and my grandpaThis is my favourite photo of me and my grandpa.

I know I have shared it here before.

He passed away when I was 17, I was probably around 2 when this photo was taken, on Merrick Street in Smiths Falls.

Today is his birthday and while it's not the only day of the year that I think about him, I think about him often, it seems more significant to share a photo or a memory about him on April 20.

For the last few years of his life, my grandpa lived with us.  He had sold the family house in Smiths Falls and moved to Amherstview after my grandma passed away.  Him living with us provided my brother and I with a special opportunity my cousins didn't have.  Probably because he lived with us and likely because we were a bit older than most of our cousins, we have more memories about him.  When you live with someone every day, and, in particular, when you help to be a care giver to someone at the end of their life, you get to know them as a person and not a mythic grandparent.  I feel priviledged to have known my grandpa as a man, wise and honourable, strong and principled.  I wish that we had a few more years together, so he could have known me as an adult and so I could have known him better.

To me, it's almost unbelievable that it is almost 30 years since he passed away.  It almost seems unreal.  I take comfort in knowing that in the end, he understood how much we loved and respected him.  Happy Birthday Grandpa.

Friday, April 18, 2014

a good Friday

I awoke this morning with a long list of things that I'd hoped to accomplish today.

It's now late afternoon and I haven't even made a dent in the list.

It's still a good Friday though.  Any Friday that is a holiday, is a good one in my books.  We had a very very relaxing day.  I think we both needed a break after this week.

My cold finally feels like it's on the way out.  From time to time, I'm still coughing, but it's definitely happening a lot less frequently.  I'm sleeping better too, which is probably why I'm feeling better.  Sleep, you wonderful healer you, I missed you so much!!

Mark's doing a lot better now than he was earlier in the week.  He had his PICC line cleaned again and the dressing changed on Wednesday.  His arm was really bruised around the line and we couldn't figure out why.  Apparently, the person who changed his dressing last week, had not let his skin dry properly and the bandage had created a bubble and that made everything shift around a lot and caused the damage.  Mark's no longer having any pain around it and hopefully the bruising will be gone in time for his second chemo day, next Wednesday.  His stomach has settled down now that we're being more careful about what he's eating. So far, he's really not (touch wood) had any of the side effects we were warned about.  I take this as a good sign that he'll tolerate the rest of the chemo well. I hope I'm not fooling myself!!

In honour of a lovely Friday, spent with my hunny, I thought I would share this blast from the past with you all. Shocked me to realize that this song is now 22 years old.  Oh well, it's still as much fun (to me) today as it was all those years ago.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Happy Birthday

Yesterday was Mark's birthday.  This year, we decided, for a number of reasons, we were going to not really celebrate our birthdays (mine is next month) until the summer.

Right now, we have a lot of stuff on our plates and we both feel like we'll be in a better position to really celebrate in June or July.  Having said that, over the weekend, we did have a really lovely meal (that Mark cooked) on Sunday.  At times, I could actually taste and smell my meal.  We had grilled shrimp and veggies, so delicious!! Tasting and smelling are not things to be taken for granted.  I have been suffering with a nasty headcold for about 10 days now and I literally dragged my butt around all weekend.  On Saturday, we did some errands but on Sunday, I only got up off the couch to drag stuff back and forth to the washing machine.

A wild weekend indeed!

On Mark's actual birthday, yesterday, there was no cake, no balloons, not a hoop or a lah.  We were both sick.  I couldn't talk at all (had lost my voice from the coughing and had not slept a wink on Sunday night).  Mark was sick to his stomach (just a tip from us to you, read the list of foods to avoid during chemo BEFORE you start chemo - the spicy foods he loves are not his friends right now).  It was a pretty lacklustre birthday for sure.

When the time comes that we're both feeling perkier and happier, we'll celebrate properly.  In the meantime, we're both just adjusting to the changes we've made in the household to accommodate the chemo and continuing to take things one day at a time.

Friday, April 11, 2014

out damned pump

Mark just had his pumped removed.

He's feeling a bit lighter for not having to carry it around but his arm is pretty sore.  We stopped off (I say "we" but I actually vegged out in the car, this cold is not getting any better) on the way home so he could have the community nursing folks take it out and flush his PICC line. 

It was a busy spot but I'm sure it's easier to stop off there than it is to wait around at the house for someone to show up and do it for us there.

So far, so good, as far as chemo side-effects go.  If he starts to feel rotten over the weekend, we don't have much planned so he can just rest up.

I know that is what I'd like to do because I will be a much happier camper when I can talk, without choking again.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

one down, eleven-ish to go

@taxichef has officially started chemo #KGH #cancer #cancersucks
Sometimes, the anticipation of something is far worse than the actual event.

If you are the type of person who always goes to the "worst case scenerio" when preparing for something you really don't want to do, that thing will often seem easy to deal with when the time comes.  If not "easy," perhaps tolerable is a better description.  Mark's first chemo session was definitely tolerable.  The day on the whole though, was exhausting.

Due to some miscommunication between departments at the clinic, poor Mark had to have his CT Scan and his PICC line installation done yesterday morning and then chemo in the afternoon.  He came through it all really well though and we were both pretty impressed by how smoothly the whole thing went.

The KGH Regional Cancer Centre is housed in a brand new facility.  Very spacious, bright and lovely.  From the windows you can see a stunning view of Lake Ontario and the Wolfe Island wind farm.  It was pretty quiet when we were in there.  I think that there were maybe only 2 or 3 other patients receiving their chemo during Mark's visit.  Because it was so quiet, I felt really bad whenever either of us coughed or blew our noses - yes, we both have horrible head colds right now.  First time all winter.  We've both had the flu this year but not a standard-issue cold, until now.  It's annoying, and frankly, gross, but it's not debilitating like the flu was.  We were advised that as long as we didn't have fever, it was okay to be there. 

Upon arrival at the clinic, Mark was given some anti-nausea meds and then he started to receive his chemo drugs and some fluids via IV into the PICC.  It took about 2.5 hours for the first half of his chemo meds to be delivered.  When the bags were empty, the nurse hooked up his pump.  He was given a little belt and a pouch (looks a lot like a pencil case) to wear.  The pump holds the second half of his chemo meds and they will be delivered slowly over a 46 hour period.  He was a little concerned about sleeping with it on but it was actually okay. I mean, our colds kept both of us up for most of last night but the pump was fine.  Last night before bed and again this morning, he had to take more of the anti-nausea medication but so far, he's not experiencing any side effects. 

His pump will come off tomorrow afternoon and in two weeks, we'll repeat this whole process again.  It's hard to know if he will have any side effects from his medication.  Apparently this particular drug is well tolerated by most folks so we're hoping that Mark will find that as well.

I guess when you've been through surgeries and all of the stuff that comes with it, sitting in a recliner for a few hours, hooked up to an IV isn't so bad.  Keeping our fingers crossed that the rest of the sessions will be as easy.  

Monday, April 07, 2014


Mark's first chemo day is Wednesday.  Less than 2 days from now.

He's scheduled to get his PICC line put in tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. and is supposed to have a CT Scan tomorrow as well.  That will be a lot of poking and prodding.

Wednesday afternoon he'll be receiving his first dose of chemo and we'll learn more about this pump thing that he'll have to "wear" for 2 days.  We have a lot more questions than we do answers right now but hopefully, it'll all go smoothly and we will be well on our way to figuring this stuff out.


Friday, April 04, 2014


Our sump pump is getting a workout right now.  We're under a heavy rain advisory and I cannot get over how much water is pouring out of our downspout right now.  Crazy.  The dogs won't go out, it's bananas.  The upside of this is that the snow seems to finally be melting on our front lawn.  Thank goodness, that's all I can say.

Hoping that the pump doesn't give out on us.  We've decided to watch The Commitments again, as we wait for the storm to let up, because Mark got "can't stand the rain" into his head and now it's my head so...yanno, movie time.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

my poor brain

My head is literally swimming right now.  I can't speak for Mark but I think he's feeling the same way right now.  Overwhelmed and drained.

We visited the cancer clinic this morning for his consultation about chemo.  Prior to the appointment, we'd not been advised about the nature of the appointment...we had no idea how long we'd be there or what would happen.

In the end, we were there over 3 hours.  Of that, very little time was spent waiting (which was good and not what we're used to when dealing with clinics in general).  An entire hour was spent with an oncology resident (Dr S), probably 30 minutes with the actual oncologist (Dr B) and a good sized chunk of time with Mark's primary nurse.  Her name is Lou and we've decided that we love her already.

The entire time we were there, we were bombarded with information.  SO much information.  It was a lot to process and I'm really glad that I went with Mark.  The plan is for him to start chemo next week. He'll have it once every two weeks for six months.  A PICC line will be put in next week and he'll get his first dose in the clinic and then will go home with a "baby bottle" pump for the rest of the dose.  The pump will be worn for 46 hours and then a nurse (either in a clinic or at home) will take it off and flush his line.  He can work while he's wearing the pump, as long as he feels up to it.  Apparently the big side effect is fatigue. Of course, there is a scary long list of creepy side effects but we know that not everyone gets every side effects and certainly they don't usually get them in an extreme way.  Most of the time, anyway.

So yeah, head is swimming and we're waiting for the appointments to come rolling in: CT Scan, PICC line installation, first Chemo dose.... his prognosis is good so we're trying to remain upbeat about things but six months is a long time and at this moment in time, it's kind of hard to see the forest for all of those trees.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

April Fool

Sharing this for fun, not because I'm trying to prank you (I don't really do that, was never very good at it, even as a child).  Really liked Chalk Circle back in the day, even saw them once at Dollar Bill's (yikes!) with Jane Siberry.  Actually, I wasn't WITH Jane Siberry, I was with my friend Pauline.  Jane was also performing that evening.  Also, I think Rebecca Jenkins spilled a drink in my purse that night.  Oh the 80's were so much fun huh??