Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rehab comes off road; failed driver's test means poor wife has to keep wheel all the time

I'll keep this short, since I'm pretty disappointed in myself.
I bombed the driver's test. Had trouble with signage, nearly blew up the car on the parallel park, made a "dangerous move," on a lane change.
After not driving for six months, I didn't feel ready going in and I should have listened to that.
Not happy.
I've been advised, through the good folks at GF Strong, to take some refresher lessons and try again.
This keeps pressure on Carol-Ann, who is handling all the driving duties for us right now.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Physio helping me getting my mind, as well as my body, back in shape

"You could have died. Instead, you're going to baseball games. Think about it."
And, with that, my physiotherapist, Paula Peres, made an attempt to get my head screwed on right.
I'm still getting better physically, working my way back from the Solitary Plasmacytoma tumour and  eight surgeries on my back that stole six months of my life. It's still not happening fast enough for me, at times, and I'm driving myself a little mad when I get into that frame of mind.
Part of it, I think, it's that you lose touch with reality. You spend six months in hospital and physical rehab, you run up against a lot of people who have had horrible things happen to them. On some level, it's become the norm for me. Doesn't everybody wind up a good chunk of a year on an operating table? Seriously?
Paula's done as well with me mentally as she's done physically, and I feel like she's done remarkable physically. She gets a good sense when I stop appreciating the small goals - I went to a Vancouver Canadians game for a few innings last Wednesday, utilizing a cane, and that's a pretty good step for me, all things considered - and isn't afraid to tell me exactly what she thinks.
I guess the biggest thing frustrating me is that I'm putting too much pressure on Carol-Ann carry the load. She's the most amazing wife ever -- as we've talked about here, she slept for 60-something days straight on a chair at at VGH. She recently went through a bout of laryngitis, an obvious off-shoot of all the stress she was under for so long, and I couldn't fully pick up the slack. I'm still not driving, and my energy level plummets in the afternoon, making it hard for me to make dinner five or six times a week like I used to.
My pain is OK. I'm stiff as a board in the morning still. It's a real struggle. I eventually get it stretched out, most often when I get to the pool. My shoulders are starting to bother me a bit, which could be from spending more and more time on the cane, as a opposed to the walker.
I'm also starting to work on my sleep apnea - that's a story for another time.
I do go for my driver's licence on Wednesday. If I can pull that off, that could solve a lot of problems.
We've come along way, but there's still much further to go.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Clinical remission? Sounds like a good start, after this battling cancer and back surgeries

Today's phrase of the day is "clinical remission."
Go ahead. Say it. Clinical. Remission. Knew you could.
That's what my radiation oncologist Dr. Jim Morris tagged my cancer on Wednesday. I'm not terribly surprised, since I had done a bunch of blood work 10 weeks ago, right near the end of my GF Strong stint, and it had been come back clean for cancer, too.
Still, it's good to hear.
Dr. Morris says that I'll continue to do blood tests every three months or so. Solitary Plasmacytoma has a massive recurrence rate -- we've been told anywhere between 30 and and 70 per cent from cancer docs.
He also said that once I start moving around a little bit better, he'll have me do some imaging tests and some scans.
It was all part of what was an almost perfect day. (The biggest downfall was hearing that a relative's pet is ill.)
Carol-Ann and I had a little lunch with our rock star buddy, Bif Naked (shameless name drop) at Earls (shameless plug to Carol-Ann's employer.) We coaxed our rock star surgeon, Dr. Robert Lee, to stop by. (Should be a shameless name drop. I predict it will be soon.)
Bif, at my insistence, rolled out one of her best stories. Dr. Lee was aghast. It was AWESOME. (I'd like to tell you the story, but I can't.)
Also, we got to visit my radiation techies, OJ and Amin (I hope I'm spelling that right. If I'm not, I apologize.) We hadn't seen them since they came to visit one day at VGH and drop off a walking stick, which was part of their bid to get me to get my strut on. (Yikes.) We also went to VGH and visited the good folks on the ninth floor spine ward, and found out along the way that one of my favourite GF Strong physios, Erica, had signed on there and one of my favourite VGH physios, Joanna, had transferred to GF.
The appointment with Dr. Morris was a fun way to top it all off. We spent the first four or five minutes talking about the Canucks and their playoff run. We got lost enough that I had to say, "Hey, before I forget, what about this cancer thing?"
It was yet another reminder of how dreadful the last few months have been, Carol-Ann and I have been very lucky.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On the mend with Mend: old pal from Coquitlam NOW newspaper days is latest to raise spirits during cancer/back surgery rehab

Family and friends have brought me inspiration at important times through this Extreme Steve Makeover: Home Edition.
I've been feeling a little down of late. Carol-Ann is dealing with a nasty bout of laryngitis, the obvious off-shoot of carrying so much of our load for the past six months. I've been too chicken to try to get my driver's licence back. There's various other things.
Then, one day recently, an envelope from Paul Mend, a friend from days at the Coquitlam NOW days, showed up, complete with $75.
The explanation came via a Facebook message: "The story is we did a fundraiser for families dealing with of the young ladies in my psych 12 class organized it...called Shave For The Brave...they raised over $12,000 total...anyways, I raised a few hundred from friends and such...but I didn't put any in because I said I had someone special I wanted to donate to...that would be you and your lovely it's not a lot, but hopefully you can head out for dinner one evening or just use it for whatever...keep kicking Cancer's ass, because it needs a serious butt whooping."
I was at the Coquitlam NOW from 1989-96. Paul was a hotshot volleyball and basketball coach in the area, so I used to talk to him all the time and got to know him pretty well. When I went to the Province full-time in 1997, I was covering high school sports, so I still talked to Paul fairly often. I haven't been on the high school beat for about eight years and have only spoken to Paul a couple of times over that span, yet the guy still thought enough to raise a cash for me.
How can I not be inspired to get better? It's happened a bunch throughout this process. Carol-Ann and I are very lucky.
(For the record: this IS NOT a suggestion that all my friends send me money. Some of you can send baked goods instead.)
As for the money, I think the plan will be to put it towards getting a Sports Illustrated subscription for the  radiation waiting room I frequented at the B.C. Cancer Agency. I was never pleased with the variety of reading there.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Doing the Kane Cane; cancer rehab improves enough to move from walker to walking stick

The good news is that my physio has cleared me to start using a cane for walking. The best news is that I've already got a name for it -- Evander.
Evander Kane just happens to be one of my all-time favourite athletes. He might be the most competitive person I've ever met. My favourite memory of him dates back to him being a 15-year-old call-up with the Vancouver Giants during their 2007 Memorial Cup run. In practice, he took a hack on the hands from Brendan Mikkelson, then a 19-year-old defenceman who had already signed a pro contract with the Anaheim Ducks. Kane said something to him, gave him a stiff right to the mouth, and skated away. Mikkelson shrugged and went the other direction.
It's not the kind of thing that wins you favour with your teammates. Evander knows that. It definitely went against your "respect your elders" code, but it gave an idea that Kane wanted what he wanted and wasn't afraid to upset people to get it. It's something I could appreciate.
Off the ice, he's always been very good to me and he was one of the first athletes I've covered to call me after I got the cancer diagnosis last October.
We're actually supposed to get together over the next few weeks, and hopefully I can introduce Evander Kane to Evander Cane.
My physio, Paula Peres, had me up on the cane, instead of the walker, last Tuesday, and I went from the laundry room in our basement, through the back yard, to the end of the driveway. She says that I can use it on a limited basis for the next while, as long as Carol-Ann is around.
I've only been out of GF Strong for about a month, so I think it's decent progress, at the very least. Paula says that she's pleased, too.
This rehab thing is still hard, though. I wake up sore every morning and it takes me awhile to feel even somewhat human. I don't know if it's the six rods and who gknows how many screws in my back, but it might be that. And emotionally I feel beat up at times; I cried much of Thursday, frustrated about how I was feeling and how tired I was and how worn out Carol-Ann is, from having to do so much more around the house.
Carol-Ann has been an angel, though, like always. She's keeping me together a lot of days, helping me focus on how far I've come rather than how far I have to go.
My spirits are better today. I had a good session at the pool (we're going four or five times a week...just walking in the shallow end right now) and felt like I had some jump afterwards.
Maybe a little work with my new friend Evander will work wonders for my psyche, too.