Sunday, May 20, 2012

Happy anniversary: one year ago today I was discharged from GF Strong rehab centre

Happy anniversary.
One year ago today, I was discharged from G.F. Strong rehab centre, sent home with a walker, a wheelchair and, in my mind, more will than won't.
I thought about getting a tattoo to celebrate. Maybe something across the top of my back, near the spot where they found the Solitary Plasmacytoma tumour in October, 2010, and where they did most of the work on the eight surgeries that ensued. Maybe some italics stating, "Dr. Robert Lee was here," and then a rendering of our good surgeon smiling and giving a thumbs up, followed by a list of the operation dates.
Yeah, if it wasn't a Sunday, and I wasn't deeply afraid of needles and pain, I'd totally do that.
Maybe next year.
May 20, 2011 feels like a lifetime ago. I had hoped to walk out of G.F. Strong under my own power, but I wasn't ready and was exclusively on a walker.
One of my goals coming home had been to walker every day to a fruit stand up the street and around the corner.
I tried it the first time my first morning home. I got to the front yard, across the the length of our house and then up the street a few blocks before I could do no more. I cried every step. Carol-Ann cheered every step, and trying to make it all better.
That was a frequent storyline this year. I was frustrated and angry and sad a lot when I tried things for first time.  I'm still not sure to this day whether it's because I've always thought I was further along than I really was or I'm just a stubborn son of a gun.
I remember the first day physiotherapist Paula Peres came to the house. She put me through a series of tests. I was pissed off at my results in every one. Finally she said, "Get over yourself. I'm here because you need work on things. You're paying me to work with you on things. You know that you're paying me, right?"
I really wanted to be good to work with. I know that was part of it. I told her that I wanted her to know that I was a hard worker. She said, "You wouldn't have gotten this far if you weren't a hard worker."
Oh, Paula. You had me at "Get over yourself."
We quickly progressed from walker to cane to nothing at all. Freestyle, as it were. One of my first walks around the neighbourhood without a cane or a walker I told Paula, "I'm a little freaked out."
Paula said: "I've got some advice."
I was keen to hear it.
"Don't fall. It could hurt."
Oh Paula.
She really was amazing. There was something very logical about her approach. I could see how her progression was working from drill to drill and I trusted that she knew what I was capable of. She had also had a good sense when I needed a boot in the butt and a pat on the back. There was days that she'd show up and say, "Yeah, you don't have that much today. We're going to take it easy."
We don't get anywhere close to where we are at without Paula.
Paula punted me in December, saying that I didn't need acute physio anymore. I'm still going to the pool four or five times a week. I've joined a gym in New West, and I actually played my first slopitch game of the season last week. I've started jogging even, albeit a few 100 metres at time, with stints of walking in between.
I've been clear of any signs of cancer for a year, and our new surgeon, Dr. Scott Paquette, said that I have no restrictions. (Dr. Lee moved back to England. He said it wasn't my fault, but I reckon it may have something do with it. He said one time, "I'm not dreaming about your wound anymore." I told him, "You can have nice dreams about my wound. You and my wound could be frolicking in a meadow, for instance.")
"Just go ahead and live your life," Dr. Paquette said.
Thanks for that, doc. Geez. In front of Carol-Ann? I thought I was going to get a pass from moving anything heavy. I thought I was all set. No such luck.
She's fair though. She'll give me every May 20 off to celebrate.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mumps? Seriously? Shouldn't I be exempt from that type of stuff after cancer?

First my doctor thought I had pneumonia. Just recently, she figured I had the mumps.
I had cancer. Shouldn't I be exempt from certain things now? Shouldn't I get a little, lamented card that allows me to bypass random stuff?
It's goofy.
No matter.
Sorry I haven't written in awhile. I have been doing well, working 40 hours a week, getting into a good fitness routine (the UBC thing didn't work out...a gym two blocks away from home is a better fit) and even throwing a little bit with my good friend Carla McAloney as we prep for the upcoming Headliner slopitch season. Scott Rintoul, our centre fielder, and Bif Naked, our catcher/infielder/outfielder/trash talker, would be so proud. (SHAMELESS NAME DROP TIMES TWO.)
Then my jaw swelled up two Wednesdays ago. Puffed up huge. Couldn't see my left ear looking at me straight on. Good thing my modelling career is long over.
I have to admit I was more than a little freaked, considering that we were told at the time of the Solitary Plasmacytoma diagnosis in my T-2 vertebrae in October, 2010, that there was anywhere between a 30 per cent and 70 per cent chance of recurrence. Stuff starts swelling up, cancer seems like a plausible answer.
We checked with the dentist first, though, hoping it was a tooth. It wasn't. He sent us directly to Richmond Emergency, which, of course, sent me into freaking out overdrive. Poor Carol-Ann. I wonder if she hasn't gone looking for the receipt on our marriage certification, hoping for a return policy.
At the hospital, a cheery fourth-year med student handled us at first, and then came back with a doctor.
They were wearing face shields and masks.
Good news? This doesn't present like cancer. Bad news? We think it presents like the mumps.
I'm over 40. The mumps? What next? Will my voice change again? (I'd like something with a Southern Drawl if someone somewhere is taking orders.)
Long story short (I know...too late), the mumps tests came back negative and our rock star GP, Dr. Jennifer Rogerson, reckons that I had some sort of virus acting some sort of gland. (Once she said, too, that it didn't present like cancer I stopped paying complete attention. Carol-Ann is on it. It's all good.)
The worst part, it's laid me up for the last 10 days or so. Back when she thought I might have had pneumonia (I didn't, by the way), I was still able to get my rehab work done. I was working out regularly. This thing has kicked my butt for about 10 days. I wasn't able to get my stories for the Province (shameless plug for my employer) completed, but little else. I'm just finally starting to feel like myself again. I got my first workout in over this stretch, albeit a lazy one at the pool, this morning.
Dr. Rogerson says that my immune system is only slightly compromised because of the radiation treatment and all the garbage they dumped into me during the eight back surgeries, but I really felt like I used to brush this stuff off before.
We'll see.
To quote my good friend Bif Naked (SHAMELESS NAME DROP PART DEUX), it's "always interesting."

BTW Here's my little speech from Interesting Vancouver.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

This cancer rehab thing still sucks three or four days a month

This cancer rehab thing still sucks three or four days a month.
Heard you missed me. I'm back. (Hey!) Brought my shameless plugs. (Shameless plug for Hot For Teacher, one of the all-time best Van Halen songs.)
Sorry I haven't blogged in awhile. I'm feeling great a large percentage of the time. I'm more active. My energy is increasing. I'm doing more around the house to help my Carol-Ann. I'm working 40 hours a week. At times, it's hard to remember that we were diagnosed with a Solitary Plasmacytoma tumour last October, went through 20 radiation sessions and eight surgeries.
And then there are days like today. My legs feel trunks full of encyclopedias. My back is squealing. My head is in a fog. It's a combination of more activity and more work and the fact that we're still not a year out from my final two surgeries and I'm being weaned slowly off the Hydromorphone pain killer.
I'd like to say no one told me this was coming, but my rock star physio, Paula Peres, predicted right away. She said that, as much as I've improved, there were going to be days like this (days like this my physio said) and I needed come to grips with it and not worry.
It's hard. I want to get something physical in, the pool or a walk or something. But I know that if I push through I could feel worse tomorrow.
I had my last apparent session with Paula last week. She said she was pleased. I don't know where we would be without her. Her and I meshed right away, and I trusted her methods, which, to me, is a major part of the battle. And she wasn't good for just the physical stuff -- the fact that she told me these melancholy days were coming does make them a little less daunting.
Another quick radiation-oncologist Dr. James Morris gave another clean bill of health last week, meaning that we're up to nine months cancer free.
It's exciting but I'll be even more upbeat when we are more free of these type of days.