Tuesday, December 15, 2009

MRI Results

I had a great meeting with my radiation oncologist yesterday. He came in with a big smile and said that he had some good news. The MRI showed no cancer and the tumour growth has shrunk and seems to be harmless. At this point he was comfortable to say that I had a 'complete response' and that they cannot find any more cancer. I hugged him twice and went home smiling.
I will be off to Germany today.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

This Week

This week was strange. I spent most of my time floating between work and bed. I wasn't really that sick but I was not able to be up without feeling a little tired and nauseous. I quite hate that feeling as I feel like a useless log that lies in bed all day. Hopefully I'll be a bit more productive this weekend.
I am still planning to go to Germany on Tuesday but I am terrified of the trip as well. This will be the first time that I am leaving my 'nest' and that I will travel without Angela for such along period of time. I am also worried that I will wreck everyone's Christmas by being the slightly depressed and sad person that I have become. I guess I'll just have to close my eyes and go for it.
I am scheduled for another MRI this Sunday morning as part of the follow up routine. They want to make sure that my bump is not growing. I am a little bit nervous about it but not too much. hopefully it will come back clean. Let's all think scar tissue again.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Adjuvent Chemo, Day 3 and Monday

The chemo went well overall. I did get a bit sick yesterday (day 3) and today. I pretty much slept non-stop since 1:00 pm yesterday till tonight. It feels like I am not sick enough to be in bed but not well enough to get up. Hopefully I will feel better tomorrow and be able to get to work for a bit. Things could definitely be worse and I am grateful for that. Let's hope it stays that way.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Adjuvent Chemo, Day 1

Today at 1:00 PM I was back in the chemo chair. It was strange to go back to the same rooms that I was in a few months ago. Truthfully I was quite anxious and nervous. After 3 hours I was done and will have to go back tomorrow and Sunday for a short session. After that I have one month before my next cycle. I am hoping that the side effects will be as tolerable as they were in Spring. Hopefully I will be well enough to go to Germany on the 15th of December.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Just When You Thought You Were Out...

Angela and I met with the Radiation Oncologist and the Surgeon on Monday. They told us that things do look promising (the PET scan came back clean, etc) but there is always the worry that the occasional cancer cell has survived that would trigger a recurrence in the future. The thing to do was to monitor me closely. This didn't leave me with a very confident feeling about the whole situation. I wanted to hear 'Go home, you're cancer free'.but I soon understood that this would not be said for several years. Even though the cancer was in remission the chances of a recurrence could not be ignored.
My Chemo Oncologist still asked to see us yesterday (Thursday) and presented us with a curve ball: He suggested to go back into two rounds of chemo (one a month) to hopefully kill any remaining cancer cells. In his opinion this would lower the chances of it coming back. He pointed out that I had been through a lot and that my body is weakened and that it probably would not be a walk in the park but that two months of loosing some 'quality of life' might be worth the extra insurance in the long term. I asked to think about it over the weekend but I thing I will go ahead with it. The first round will probably start already the end of next week.
I was planning to visit my family in Germany over Christmas starting the middle of December. If everything goes well and the side effects are not too bad I am still planning to go but I will make that decision shorty before that date. I really hope this trip will happen.
As for today I am getting ready for next week.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

PET Scan Results

I got a call from Cancer Care at about 3:00 PM this afternoon. The test reults were in and they felt they would like to spare me the torture of waiting for a week.
Here it is: The scan found nothing in my big bump. Nothing lit up (that's good, means no cancer), except a little at the roof of my mouth. They assume this to be inflammation rather than cancer and recommend close monitoring in the future.

This means that for the moment (a couple of months till the next scan) we are done. I will have a meeting with my doctor on Monday and will have a chance to ask any further questions.

I am extremely happy and relieved.

Thank you for all your prayers and positive thoughts!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

PET Scan

Today I went to get the scan done. It was interesting. They injected me with a radioactive sugar solution for an hour before they sent me into the tube (for about 40 minutes).

Now we have to wait for the results. I will meet with my physicians next Thursday (26th) to hear what came from it. Hopefully they will be able to tell from this scan if there is still live cancer or not. And so the waiting game continues.

Everybody say "scar-tissue"

Saturday, November 14, 2009

New York And Beyond

New York had a lot of good moments. Angela and I saw some Broadway shows, went to the Opera, saw a TV show taping and did some shopping. Unfortunately it became evident that my depression and anxiety was still going strong. There were many hours when I felt unable to enjoy myself and Angela and I spent a lot of time in our hotel room talking and trying to address my fears and worries. It seamed that I did not take last Thursdays results well at all. Even though I understand that a lot of the treatment has been successful (most of the cancer seems to be gone), I am also upset about the possibility of 2 cm of cancer that could still be left in the growth in my tongue. I realized that there is a good chance for surgery which would be painful and could mean permanent swallowing, eating and talking disability. I somehow resent the thought that, after all my suffering this summer, there is still more to come. At this point in the game my mind is just unable to deal with that and I am sinking deeper into a depression every day.
After we got back I went off to spend the weekend with some friends at a cottage where my dear friend Dick is arranging a yearly get together where we make music and just have a good time. So far I haven't been able to socialize much. I find myself sitting in the background by myself a lot and indulge myself in my overwhelming sadness. I can't help but mourn the playful and worry free life I once used to know. I cry a lot these days.
On Tuesday I will have my PET scan. With this scan they can determine (by chemical reactions) if the growth in my mouth has living cancer cells in it or not. Unfortunately this technology has a lot of space for error so there might not be any conclusive results. For this reason I am getting myself ready for the potential of surgery.
Poor Angela has to carry all of my emotional weight and is still able to make me feel better at times. She always knows just what to say to comfort me. I am, however, worried that she won't be able to keep this up much longer.
So, life is tough these days. And I am bracing myself for it to get tougher...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Results

The meeting is over and here is what Angela and I were told:

• We were shown the MRI from before the treatment. There was cancer covering about half of my tongue and part of the roof and sides of my mouth. Then they showed us last week's MRI. All the of the cancer was gone EXCEPT the 2cm of my infamous bump.

• Unfortunately they don't know what is inside this bump. It could be scar tissue, dead cells or alive cancer cells.

• I will undergo a PET scan in about two weeks that will hopefully clarify (with some margin of error) if these cancer cells are alive or dead.

• If they still are alive we could consider surgery or more chemo.

Bottom line is that this feels like good news. The cancer has not grown or spread. The treatment worked (at least for the most part). However, we can't say with certainty if I am cancer free yet. We'll have to wait for now and maybe undergo more options.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Distractions

Tomorrow is the meeting where will find out the results of the MRI scan. Obviously I am extremely nervous. I had a really bad night sleep already. Angela is working all day today and she arranged a fun day for me and my friends. David will be going for lunch and a movie with me and Clint and I will go to a spa and dinner after. I am looking forward to the distractions.
Angela and I also decided to go to New York on Friday. We figured that it would be better to mope around somewhere else in case we'll get bad news. If it's decent news we will have a good time taking in the big apple.
I will post the results of the meeting tomorrow afternoon.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Phoenix

Before all the treatments started, David and I were talking about what was to come. I told him that I was afraid of what a person I would become after all the suffering and struggling that was ahead of me. His response was an inspiration for me during a lot of hard times. "They will bring you as close to death as they can and then they put you back together. Like the Phoenix out of the ashes you will come back stronger and improved. Like an Olaf version 2.0" I will never forget that moment. There were, however, many times when I wasn't able to imagine the 'Phoenix' that I might become one day. Especially during the emotional turbulent times of the last weeks.
David came to visit last week and he left me a gift behind. A small picture that he drew onto a canvas. I was very touched by it and I would like to share it with everyone.

Thank you David!



Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thursday

The scan is done. We don't know the outcome until next Thursday but it's a step closer. Angela was working Tuesday night so David was kind enough to give me company at the hospital.
The picture is taken, now we just wait.
They also took my feeding tube out on Tuesday morning. The truth be told it was extremely painful. I actually went into a shock from the pain shortly after. By today things are pretty much healed and there is hardly any uncomfortableness left.
Kevin came to visit me last night. It was great to see him again.
Most of my thoughts during the day are focused on next Thursday. I am still anxious about the results. I still have a tendency to assume the worst outcome. Angela and some of my friends have had the courage to say that they think that things will be positive. Of course I know that nobody can say for sure, but it does feel good to get these moments of hope. I am trying really hard to get on board with that but I fail more often than not. I always feel that damn growth in my tongue that worries me.

Monday, October 26, 2009

After The Weekend

My weekend was overall rather nice. On Saturday we went to Mordan and spend the afternoon with family where we ate and played cards. It was nice to be with them. Yesterday evening I visited David. It was great to chat with him for a while.
My biggest struggle this weekend was to think about the upcoming scan and results in more positive terms. I can't help it, but unto now I automatically assumed the worst. I somehow have a hard time to allow myself the possibility of good or at least hopeful results. That is extremely draining on my mental state. For example: Angela bought a cottage lot this weekend that she has to build a cottage on over the next two years. She was very excited about it and I was happy for her. At the same time I was deeply sad because I wondered if I would be alive long enough to see it.
This morning I had another meeting with a counsellor at CancerCare. After listening to my experiences over the last three weeks she felt that I am processing things properly. Many people are trying to avoid the true pain and anxiety and she was glad to hear that I allow myself to work through them. That is encouraging but it doesn't take away the uncomfortableness and mental anguish that I experience these days.
Tomorrow night is my appointment for the MRI scan. That is a big deal. The truth about how things progressed inside my mouth will be exposed. Even though we will only hear about the results on the 5th I do feel the importance of that scan. Please send your prayers and positive thoughts at 6:00 PM.
One a more joyful note, I will have my feeding tube removed tomorrow morning. I am excited about that as it brings me one step closer to feeling a bit more normal again.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday

On wednesday night I had a good cry in the evening. Things just seemed so overwhelming and I was tired from being scared about the upcoming results.
Since then things were a bit better. I had a good day yesterday. After sleeping in I went to work for a bit and then we had our usual supper group. That companionship has been very valuable for Angela and me, since this group has become like family over the last ten years and we always spend time at the end of our supper hour to talk about our journey and to pray together. After that Angela and I went to a show at MTC to see Stefanie perform. It was good to be out in public. A lot of people were glad to see me and showed a lot of concern and seemed pleased that I looked rather well.
Today we had breakfast with Angela's dad and we're going to visit Donna and Dave tonight, which I am looking forward to. I really like being with friends and family these days.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Work

The thoughts of the upcoming scan and the results are all consuming these days. the tumour is still in my tongue and I have difficulties to shake my nervousness.
One attempt to make it through the next couple of weeks if anticipation is to go back to work for a few hours a day. I have been going for half days this week and will probably continue to do so. It feels good to be around the daCapo crew again. I truly enjoy having Clint close by as well. It is often difficult for me to concentrate on work but I am trying hard to get back into the swing of things. I am walking there ever day which gives me a good excuse to do my exercise.
Unfortunately I noticed that my hearing has suffered quite a bit from the treatment, most likely from the chemo. Most things sound muffled and distorted. As you can imagine that is really hard to take in my line of work. I can't help but to feel that life is kicking me while I'm down.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday

The last few days were not too bad. I am still scared regarding the outcome of the scan but I am getting a bit more hopeful that things might actually not be bad news. Until now I only considered that the therapy failed but I am slowly learning to be a bit more positive and hopeful. I guess it is possible that the scan shows positive progress.
I am filled by a profound sadness these days. I am clearly mourning the loss of the life I used to call my own. Everything has changed and it will never come back again. I ache for that fact and I feel defeated and weak within those thoughts. It almost feels like I am step by step saying goodbye to myself . I look at pictures from the time before cancer or I listen to music that I have produced and it feels like that person has died and will never come back. That slowly breaks my heart.
Angela and I have developed and evening ritual where we read a book together that she reads out aloud to both of us. We are currently reading a book titled "Man's Search For Meaning" by Victor E. Frankl. Frankl was a psychiatrist who was imprisoned in Auschwitz during the Nazi years. His book tells about his experiences there and analyses the meaning and nature of suffering. This book really speaks to me right now and I find it helps me to put perspective on my situation and gives me courage and inspiration for what is to come.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thanksgiving

For Thanksgiving we had some family over on Saturday and we also visited a larger gathering in Winkler on Monday. It was nice to see everyone.
My mood has improved a bit overall but still feels very heavy for a lot of the time. My mind is constantly thinking about cancer and the fear of what is to come. It is extremely difficult to shut that off. I'm working on it, though.
It is also tough to deal with the daily physical struggles (especially when everybody digs into their thanksgiving buffet while I'm drinking my can of meal replacement). Cancer Care told me that the road to recovery would take about 7 weeks and I realize now that that is just not true. I am predicting a total of two more months before things will return to a more normal state. For what I have read on some support group sites that seams about right. Unfortunately that means I will have to be more patient and tolerate my discomfort longer. I will do my best. The truth is that at the moment, between the pain and the fear, life does not come easy. I have to constantly work on living every hour without losing it. I told Clint this morning that "It really sucks to be me right now."
I went to work this morning. I was thinking to go in for a couple of hours a day to find some distraction and to feel a bit more productive again. Let's see if I can keep that up or a while.
But there are some short times of contentment when I have a glass of wine with Angela while we watch some good TV in the evenings. For those couple of hours life seems good and somewhat normal. I treasure those moments.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Progress

The last couple of days have been pretty good. Physically there are more and more small improvements every day. I haven't used my feeding tube for three days now and I am taking all my food in by mouth. Most of it is still liquid (soups, boost) but after using the feeding tube for 6 weeks I am pleased about that change. I am also slowly experimenting with some more 'mushy' foods like cream of wheat and yogurts, etc. My physical strength is also getting better. I am either walking or stationary biking for one hour every day and I do feel that that makes a difference in my day. I feel less tired and overall better about myself. My mental stage is still a struggle at times. There is some improvement over the previous week that is noticeable. Overall it is getting a bit easier to get through a day.
Some of my interests are coming back as well. After 2 months I picked up my guitar again for a bit. I dropped by work on Wednesday and I am planning to do that more regularly this coming week. I really enjoy visiting with people. Hopefully I'll be able to play some board games soon.
Peter took me out for some Sushi on Wednesday evening. Even though I had mostly soup it felt good to be out for a bit like a 'normal' person. Angela and I also went to see a show at MTC last night. It was the first time in months that I was among a crowd.
My daily fear is still there and I think I'll just have to learn to live with that. Until the scan at the end of October there is really nothing I can do about that.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Scared

I have been terrified over the last couple of days whenever I thought of the still existing cancer mass in my mouth. It has been almost 4 weeks since the end of my treatment and it still is of significant size. It has been explained to me that it will take some time for the cells to die out but by now I was hoping for bigger results. I am scheduled for a MRI on October 27th and a follow up meeting for November 5th. I don't know if I can live with this fear till then.
Please continue to pray for the cure...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Update

O.K., I think it is time to make an update about where I am at in the big picture.
Mood: My depression is still here, no question. But I do have good days in between the bad ones. Today was a good one. Yesterday was a bad one. We'll see what tomorrow will bring. My hope is that there will be slowly more good times than bad ones.
One of the reasons for my dark moods is my fear about the status of my tumour in my tongue. Even though it has gotten smaller it is definitely still there. I constantly think about it and get scared that it might not go away. I am trying really had to put these thoughts out of my head and focus on the recovery instead.
Food: I have to learn how to swallow again. So far I have succeeded with liquids. I do have one or two beer in the evening, my morning coffee and some pop and tea during the day. I also drink the occasional Boost instead of tube feeding. More solid food provide a challenge. This morning Angela made me some scrambled eggs and I ate most of it with some struggle. Small steps.
Physical: I am now down to about 171 lbs. That's 35 less than when I started. A lot of that is loss of muscle mass so I am slowly trying to get some exercise into my day. Today I walked to Advance Electronics and back. That's about 2 miles or 40 minutes. I had no trouble doing that and felt rather please with myself. Hopefully I will find the emotional strength to do something like that every day.
Overall it is clear that things are slowly improving. Hopefully it will continue to do so.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Samson


We have a new friend. His name is Samson and Angela and I brought him home Thursday night from the humane society. He is a 4 month old German Shepherd/Golden Retriever/many other things mix that already weighs 40 lbs.
Angela and I felt that this was a good time to get another dog. He will keep me occupied and hopefully he will transfer some of his puppy energy onto me. Welcome to the family, Samson.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

With A Little Help From My Friends

One of the ways I am trying to deal with my depressed state is to surround myself with my friends and have talks. Lucky for me I have lots of great friends. So for the last couple of days I have been inviting people to spend time with me (especially while Angela is working) and to give me a chance to verbalize my emotions. On Tuesday I got visits from James, Kevin and Clint. Yesterday Angus came for the afternoon and we saw Donna and Dave in the evening. Laura, Peter and Randy have committed to spending time with me over the weekend. I have to say it feels good to talk to them. At first I talk about the cancer and my depression and eventually the subject changes to something else. Before I know it we have been talking about something for a while without thinking about the cancer. That feels good. Today I already feel a bit better about things and, at least for the moment, the paralyzing feeling has lifted. Hopefully things will get better. I will also see the counsellor at CancerCare this afternoon. Thank you everybody for being there for me.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Depressed

I am depressed. There I said it. It's like a weight that is constantly pushing down on my shoulders and preventing me from enjoying a lot of aspects in life. Why am I like this? Hard to say. Obviously my physical discomfort doesn't help. Otherwise, I realize that I am thinking about cancer and my life with cancer all the time, and my mind is just cluttered with serious, negative, or often scary thoughts. This has been going on for about three weeks now and I find myself getting more and more paralyzed by it. Angela and I have talked a lot about it and her perspective is bang on in my opinion: As much as I was a positive individual in the beginning, by now I have already given up the fight. The frightening aspect of that is that she has no space to express her own fears or negative thoughts because we both would spiral downward together. I don't really know how and where to start in becoming a more positive and life-enjoying person again so I feel trapped for the moment. On Thursday I will go to see a counsellor from Psychosocial Oncology at CancerCare to see if some counseling might help.
For those of you praying for me, please add this to your list...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Poem

Yesterday Angela encouraged me to go for a run. I know that must sound crazy, but she succeeded in getting me to run the very short distance of 0.15 miles. That's about a minute. After that I was beat. We agreed that I would add 0.05 miles every day and in two weeks I would be able to run one full mile. So, as agreed I ran 0.2 miles today.

One of the most valued friendships that I found over that last couple of years is that with the co-author of our musical 'RICH', Vern Thiessen. Vern and I have only known each other for two years but have grown very close through our work together. He has taught me a lot about the industry, life, and friendship and I will be forever grateful for that. Vern lives in New York at the moment and he had a chance to come visit Winnipeg about three weeks ago while I was at my worst and in the hospital. I was barely able to speak to him and he left me with a late birthday gift; a poem that he wrote for me. Seeing that I was really sick, I waited until yesterday night to have it read to me by Angela. It took only a few lines before I was in tears. I asked Vern if I would be allowed to share it with all of you and here it is:

As a footnote I would like to point out that Pheidippides was the soldier that ran the distance from Marathon to Athens to announce the victory over the Persians. He died upon arriving after shouting out the message "We have won!".

MARATHON
(FOR OLAF)

You have run
my friend
from dusty Rome
to the deserts of Vegas
like ancient Pheidippides
from Marathon
you have run
to deliver the message in your heart:
"I am alive."

Twenty six miles
Pheidippides ran
his body battered
his stomach screaming
his mouth melting
every swallow
a nest of nails
every breath
begging him to stop.
Like you my friend
he hit his wall.
But when he saw the flag of Athens
flapping in the distance
he drew air deep into his lungs
and carried on.

You have felt the wall
my friend
at the Spanish Steps
or the Luxor Hotel.
You have seen the flag of the finish line
and like Pheidippides
you have done
what all great runners do
put one foot down
then another
till the message is delivered:
"I am alive."

But don't be mistaken
my friend
you are no Pheidippides.
Oh no.
Stronger than a soldier
you are
mightier than a myth
you could race him
a thousand times
over fennel fields
and the finish
you would never
let the bliss of your blood
burst your heart
as he did
you would never
lay down at the end and die
Oh no.
No.
You will see the flag of the Forks
and you will run to it.
You will cross over the line and shout
"I am alive."

And when you have showered
and rested
and drank your fill
we'll sit down
one more
you and I
to eat cake.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Good-Byes And Hellos

My mother left yesterday morning after living here with me (us) for 4 and a half weeks. She saw the worst of things and I assume that she will need some time to process everything she experienced here. But she found me roughly in the same shape that she left me and I guess that is good. Thank you for everything mom!
As a good news Angela came back yesterday as well. I am so very excited to have her back in my life after 10 days. This officially ends the nightmare that was my last two weeks. By the way, two weeks ago today was the last radiation session. I was told that the first 10 days to two weeks after would be the worst chapter of the treatment as all the additive effects would come to a peak. They were right. In retrospect I can say the the last couple of weeks was my own personal hell. I thought I was prepared but now I can say that I wasn't.
I am doing better now. I need less sleep during the day. I am actually up for a few hours and my mood is better as well. I still experience pain in my mouth but I am able to take small sips of liquid already. I am impatiently waiting for this to pass so I can eat and drink again. That is kind of the last reminder of my treatment side effects. I can feel a small difference in my recover almost every day now. My voice is also returning. A week ago I was only able to whisper but now I can speak almost normally.
Let's hope that things will move forward like this for the next few days.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday

Today I felt a bit stronger as I got up. Instead of staying in bed sleeping I decided to get up and deal with some unfinished emails. I also noticed that my room needs a bit of cleaning, I will do that after writing this entry. Maybe this is a sign that the days of depression are slowly passing. My last week was still pretty rough overall. If I'm lucky, this week will be better.
I have been able to keep all my food down. My biggest struggle is my mouth. There is still a lot of pain and I am still not able to swallow anything properly. My fantasies these days are along the lines of a big cold glass of Sprite that I could just down. Maybe one day.
Thank you everyone for regularly checking this blog even though the entries are sparse these days.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

So Far Away

I know it's been a while since my last post but here is the news for this week:
Angela has left on Monday to go for a 10 day work round in Thompson, Manitoba. That has been hard for both of us but we felt that I should be able take take care of myself with the help of my mother. The truth is that I miss her like crazy and that time slows down without her. Needless to say I am looking forward to next Thursday when she comes back home. Otherwise the recovery is moving forward with baby steps. I do feel better than last week at this time but the changes are small. I sleep for most of the day and when I am awake I am counting down the hours to my next sleep. My mother and I go for short walks every day and are otherwise enjoying our time together. Generally speaking I am still at the peak of the after effects of the treatment, and I am hoping that things will get better next week.
So, just hanging in there for now.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

It's A Wrap!

Yesterday was my last day of radiation. I had two sessions, one in the morning one in he afternoon. That's it, I'm done. No more Chemo, no more radiation. Now my beaten up body can start to recover. I have been spending most of my last few days in bed, either sleeping or taking it easy. Eating is still a bit of hit and miss. Sometimes the food says down, sometimes I throw up a lot. So, it's a bit of a mixed bag between doing well and doing lousy these days. Now I am impatiently waiting to get better. Some people say that the coming week will still worsen my condition a bit due to the additive effects of the radiation. I guess we'll see.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Home

After having spent a rather miserable time in the hospital for the most of last week (thank you Angela and Clint for the blog entries) I was finally released home of Tuesday. It was good to be back. Unfortunately things did not improve much. I was being fed through my tube but my stomach did not want t keep much of the food. I have been throwing up a lot over the last couple of days. I just feel unwell overall. I do have occasional outbreaks of sweat and feel tired and weak most of the time. My weight has dropped to 176 as of this morning which is about 30 lbs less than two weeks ago.

The good news: Tomorrow afternoon will be my very last session of radiation.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The spirit cannot endure the body when overfed, but, if underfed, the body cannot endure the spirit. ~St Frances de Sales

One more entry from Angela. Hopefully, this is the last blog post I will have to make on Olaf's behalf. Not only has he lacked internet access the last few days, but even more so the energy/desire to write or read his blog - it makes him too sad. While Olaf is a guy with many emotions and generally not afraid to express them, he usually has them under reasonable control. Not so last night.

The PEG was not usable for the first 48 hours, but he needed to stay in hospital for IV antibiotics. After 4 days in hospital, he was feeling very trapped, so with much cajoling we convinced them to let him go home for the night on Saturday. As a physician, I would be able to administer his IV medications myself, so armed with a bucket of filled syringes, we left the hospital on a night pass.

All afternoon he had been shivering uncontrollably - possibly from hunger, or possibly from going stir-crazy on the ward. I dropped him off at home with his mother, and met up with friends for Dim Sum (dining out has become a rarity for me and I was quite excited). Near the end of dinner I got a call from Olaf asking me to come home right away, with little explanation. I found him in the throws of a panic attack, complete with shaking, uncontrollable crying, and hyperventilating. This was something I'd never seen him do. He's mentioned frequently how happy he is NOT to have phobias of small spaces, needles, etc. Yet the last couple of days, he had become increasingly anxious about getting put into the mask, and had even asked his doctor for some sedatives before his most recent radiation treatment. Fortunately, we still had some on hand last night. I gave him one, and together with some reassurance and slow breathing, he settled down. But he was a beaten man, with no physical or emotional reserve with which to cope.

In the morning things seemed brighter (as they so often do) and we went back to then hospital to finally begin tube feeds. While we waited for the pump to arrive, they squirted an ounce of liquid food into the tube. That was vomited up shortly thereafter (apparently a little too much for his stomach to handle). However, once the pump was set up, he tolerated the rather meager 2 tablespoons per hour it feeds him, with minimal vomiting. Whether it's the 300 or so calories he received today, or just the psychological impact of knowing he was getting nutrition, he looked and felt much better today.

The current plan is to stay in hospital at the Health Sciences Centre until Tuesday so they can monitor any electrolyte changes from refeeding. He'll try to get passes for a few hours out once in a while just to maintain his sanity, and hopefully go home on Tuesday morning. Keep your fingers crossed for a new blog update then from a happier and less hungry Olaf!

Friday, September 4, 2009

More hospital than Olaf can stomach... (Clint's Version)

It appears that Olaf will be stuck in the hospital for at least two days. This is due to the fact that he just got his stomach feeding tube installed this morning, and thankfully not due to any other new nasty side effect of his treatment.

I had the pleasure of getting to visit with him a bit this afternoon. I am always sort of stuck between wanting to visit Olaf and worrying about bothering him if he is resting, sleeping, or generally feeling too terrible to want to see anyone (last night was unfortunately one of those cases.. a really terrible night I am told). I miss seeing him regularly as we have essentially spent every working day together here at the studio over the last decade. When I did get to see him today, he was looking tired and thin, but it made me feel good just to hang out with him for an hour or so, and I hope he felt the same way. I mentioned to him that it is a pity that the hospital has no internet he can use as several people have wondered when a new blog update might happen, and how he is doing. 'Well, do an entry for me.' he replied.

So here is a temporary update from my perspective. As indicated above, Olaf has finally got his feeding tube installed which should remedy the fact that he has not been able to eat for the last week or so. Unfortunately there appear to be wide variety of complications that can occur when someone who has not eaten for 8 or 9 days starts injecting food directly into their stomach, hence he is not really allowed to 'eat' with it until late in the weekend, and has been told that he needs to stay in the hospital for another 48 hours or more ( ...there were big discussions between Olaf and the nursing staff on this point). The installation of the feeding tube has really buoyed his spirits as it solves a big problem that has been getting him down (starvation) and seems to point to a time when the medical procedures will start remedying things instead of trying to just kill the cancer by almost killing him. The bad is that Olaf is not terribly happy about being stuck in the hospital, does not appreciate the 'company' of the other people in his room (see Ange's last post). However, the net effect seems to be positivish.

We talked quite a bit about how after today there will only be 5 radiation treatments left, and all the treatment will end next Friday. I got the impression from him that for the first time in two weeks this process was finally starting to feel finite.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A New Low: Angela's Version



Olaf's hoarseness has mandated that I frequently speak for him these days, and tonight that carries on into the blog. Tuesday we met with the surgeon regarding the feeding tube, or PEG (percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy). It's been roughly a week since Olaf has received nutrition or calories of any sort, and he is weak and hungry. The surgeon felt the fastest way to get it done would be to admit him to hospital so he could get squeezed in if any openings appeared. Unfortunately, there was no PEG forthcoming today, but we have been reassured it will likely happen tomorrow.

So for now, Olaf languishes in a hospital bed next to someone with a tracheostomy in need of frequent suctioning on one side, and someone who likes to watch Dr. Phil on full volume on the other side. He's been deemed "cytotoxic" because of the chemotherapy, so all body fluids have to segregated in a special bucket.

The novelty of the automatic bed wore off after 5 minutes (o.k., maybe 10), and now the minutes go by slowly; he's too weak and nauseous to do much, but not able to sleep. His third (and last) round of chemo on Tuesday has hit him quite hard. On the upside, he is receiving fluids around the clock and nausea medication through the IV instead of by mouth. But starvation, nausea, pain, and the general surroundings have all contributed to very low spirits. This is his lowest mood yet, and he is also anxious about his physical health.

With the chemotherapy finished, and only 8 radiation treatments left, hopefully he will see the light at the end of the tunnel once he gets a little food into his stomach.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Week 5

Today I started my 5th week of treatment (out of 6) and it is a rough start. I have been throwing up all weekend. Ironically I had no food in me. I haven't been able to eat (drink that is) anything for 3 days now as the pain to swallow has become too great. If I would have been able to, I doubt it would have stayed in my stomach for too long. I did receive fluids through an IV every day and that did help a bit. At least I am not dehydrated as well.
Angela, my mother, my mother-in-law Elisabeth, and I went to Grand Forks from Saturday till Sunday as an attempt to get away and hang out for a bit. We did have a good time as family but the trip turned out to be more taxing on my system than anticipated. I spend a lot of time sleeping or throwing up (once in the Target parking lot).
Tomorrow (Tuesday) I will be getting my 3rd and last round of chemo treatment. I am bracing myself for the impact. I will also have a consult regarding my feeding tube. This has been a longer process than I hoped. I will probably not get the operation for another couple of days and than it will need two to three days of healing before I can use it. Every one of these days means zero calories of food intake for me.
I am a little bit happy, though, that I have a layer of extra fat at the moment.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Breaking Point

For me, the breaking point in someone's life happens when the task ahead appears to be larger than one's perceived strength to deal with it. I think mine was yesterday.
The last few days have been very challenging. The damage and pain to my mouth has increased substantially. I have been barely able to drink, both my food and water, as it hurts too much to swallow. My body also developed a routine where it wakes me up about 11:30 at night. I violently shiver and chatter my teeth for about 15 minutes. Then I develop a fever and sweat for the next hour or so. After that the rest of the night continues as normal. I have also lost my voice and am only able to speak with a whisper now.
Seeing that I sill have more than two weeks of treatment left I decided to ask for a feeding tube during my check up with Dr. Leylek yesterday. As soon as he entered the room and asked me how I was doing, I started to cry. I told him about my situation and he agreed that the feeding tube would be a good idea at this time. I have a meeting with the surgeon next Tuesday and hopefully I'll get it 'installed' during that week. in the meantime I will be getting IV fluids daily to make sure that I'll stay hydrated. At least I don't have to drink water anymore for the time being. After that I spend a nice afternoon with Angela and my mom. In the evening we went to see Kevin in 'Beauty and the Beast' (Kevin as the beast) at Rainbow Stage.
After the performance we went backstage to say hi to Kevin and when I gave him a hug I started to cry without being able to stop. I was so overwhelmed by the emotions of the show and my own misery that I couldn't help myself.
This morning after a good night sleep I feel better. Ready to face another day...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My Mother

One of the hardest things I had to do on this journey was to tell my parents that I have cancer. I will never forget that conversation nor their reaction. The interesting thing was that my mother left me with more courage than I started with during that call.
I think it is fair to say that I have a pretty good relationship with my parents. I do miss them (my side of our family are all living in Germany) and I enjoy the times we get to spend together. Being a 'Mama's Boy' I do foster a relationship with my mom that is also largely based on friendship. I do turn to her when I need advice and often enjoy her insights in some of life's mysteries. For that reason it became very important to me that she would come to be here with us during the unique and challenging times. Three weeks ago I invited her and she immediately booked her flight. She arrived here last night. Needless to say I am excited to have her around and I am glad to be able to share this journey with her.
Welcome, and thank you for being here, Mom.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Weekend

My weekend hasn't been bad overall. After my challenging day on Friday I got better. Saturday my spirits and my well being were up. The nausea backed off for a bit and my mouth didn't bother me too much. I still spent most of it in bed but I think that will become the norm for the next few weeks. I kind of enjoy this stage of rest and reflection.
Today was not quite as positive. I woke up with a lot of pain and felt sluggish and a little depressed for most of the day. Still, it became a nice day overall, and I had a good time hanging out with Angela for most of it.
Tomorrow will be the start of week 4 out of 6. Let's hope for the best.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Treatment Day 15

Today was one of the tougher days. I went to my radiation session as usual at 8:00 this morning. I felt tired and in pain but made it through without complaints. I went home and slept till noon. Angela and I were originally planning to go away for a couple of days but decided to stay home instead which proved to be the wiser choice. In the early afternoon I went to use the bathroom and threw up all over the floor and sink. I broke out in a sweat and became very dizzy. As I was crouching on the floor to clean up my puke I thought: "This is it. This is how I will die. They will find my passed out in my own vomit. Like a rock-star." But I lived, even though I felt very sick for the next couple of hours. At 5:00 we got a call from Cancer Care informing us that there was a mistake on the schedule and that I have to go for a second radiation session ASAP. So, I went. After the session I barely made it to the hospital washroom and threw up again. At that point Angela and I became concerned that I wasn't able to keep any fluids in my body (which is especially important after Chemo) and so we went to the Chemo ward and requested some IV fluids which the very helpfully gave me over about 2 hours. Now I'm back home and I am feeling beat.
Tomorrow is a new day...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Chemo Round 2

Yesterday was my second round of chemo. the procedure was the same as last time, I spend the morning on the chemo ward and was home by lunch time. As expected the side effects are strong for the first few days. I slept most of the afternoon yesterday and went to bed early.
This morning I had my radiation at 8:00 and went back to bed by 8:40 where I slept till 11:30. I was trying to hydrate a bit and drank a large glass of water follow by some smoothie like juice hat was supposed to be my lunch. I threw both up about 5 minutes later. All that effort for nothing.
I don't feel great, so I 'm hoping that his day will pass by sleeping and resting.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Treatment Day 11

Today started my third week of treatment. The complications with my mouth continued throughout the weekend so I wasn't in the best of spirits this morning. In the end it turned out to be a decent day.
I haven't been able to eat anything but liquids all weekend. It's funny how fast one adapts. I am not able to taste anything anyway so the prospect of normal food is already beyond my grasp and I'm fine with that. The constant uncomfortableness and pain is making me edgy and I am trying hard to control that through positive thoughts. No always easy, though.
In addition I will be getting my second round of chemo tomorrow. Second out of three. So I am guessing that I won't be on top of my game for the next few days.
Angela and I are planning to go away for the coming weekend after my treatment of Friday. I am really looking forward to that. She has been working a lot lately and I am excited to have some alone time with her. It's like a treat for the challenges that are coming my way throughout the week.
Clint is back from his vacation in England. It was very nice to see him again. I missed him and it is good to have him back.
I also realized that it has been exactly 3 months and a day since Donna gave me the news that I had cancer. 3 months. Hard to believe that all of this happened in such a short period. Life is crazy sometimes.

Two weeks of treatment are down. Four more to go. I can do this.
God, please grant me the strength...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

My Mouth

It started yesterday morning when I woke up from the pain that I felt when I was swallowing in my sleep. It hurt. It kind of felt like trying to swallow a bunch of nails. That problem increased to a point that every swallow that I do (even just swallowing saliva) hurts a lot. I have also lost my sense of taste almost completely (which actually is preferable to the bad taste I had over the last week) and eating normal food becomes a challenge. I think I will switch to liquid food from now on. This is all over the course of two days. My concern is that I don't know where to go from here over the next 4 remaining weeks of radiation. Plus, I will be getting my second chemo round on Tuesday which I am also not particularly looking forward to. In short: things suck real bad right now. The worst part for me is that this constant the mouth pain one is also getting me emotionally worn out as it is always there.
I am curious to see what the next couple of days will bring. The good news is that Angela has become the queen of smoothies and that Boost comes in chocolate flavour.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Guitars

Last year in January I went to New York with my dear friend Richard. As I was walking around Times Square I saw an ad in the window of a small Jazz Club that announced that Les Paul would be performing that night. Being excited to have a chance to see that legendary inventor and performer, I bought a ticket for myself. As I was telling Angela about it on the phone she thought it might be cool to get a Les Paul guitar and get it signed by him after the concert. I pointed out that they are quite expensive and she decided to buy me one for my upcoming 40th birthday. So, Richard and I went to the Guitar Center in Manhattan that afternoon and picked and purchased a beautiful Les Paul Classic Gold-top on the spur of the moment. Sure enough, the then 92 year old Les was kind enough to take the time after the concert (which by then was around 1:00 in the morning) to sign my guitar. His son also insisted that I get a picture taken with him. I was so excited walking back to my hotel room that I was shaking: A brand new Gibson Les Paul from my wife, signed by Les Paul. Awesome!
Once I got home to Winnipeg I decided that it was time for me to properly learn guitar now that I owned such a quality instrument. I have been a self-taught player since my teenage years but just enough to get by. So, I bought some books and went at it. I probably spend about an hour every day practicing, and loved every minute of it. I kind of re-discovered my love for music outside of my job. This was just for my private enjoyment. But I was also hocked on the gear. Being a spender and a collector, I since acquired a few more guitars and equipment to feed my new found passion. Since I was diagnosed with cancer this hobby took on a whole new dimension. Being alone in my room with my guitars provided me with a certain kind of meditation while I was practicing. Learning scales and licks again and again does that to you. I also started to write new tunes that helped me to express myself. Once this is all over I think guitars will be a big part of my positive memories that helped me to get through this time.
And it all started on January 15th, 2008 with a gift and a signature.

Today Les Paul passed away peacefully at the age of 94.
In case you read this: Thank you Les!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Boxing

Today I tried to get over myself and my nausea and I went boxing over lunch. I have been going to the Pan Am Boxing club for about two years now as an additional exercise to my running. It is a very intense one-hour boot camp style workout that incorporates a variety of exercises from push-ups and sit-ups to hitting heavy bags. Truthfully, I came to love the atmosphere, the workout routine and the people there.
The last time I went was last week. I told the owner, Harry, that I was grateful for the club as I am undergoing treatment for cancer at the moment and that his gym and classes have become part of my personal healing process. Today somebody else was leading the class. Harry, a workout machine of a man, was around in the background training for himself. An hour is a long time when you have to do strenuous cardio workouts. After around 40 minutes we were supposed to do different routines on the heavy bags and I stopped for a moment because I felt I couldn't keep up anymore. The chemo has definitely left me weaker overall and I thought I had reached my limit for the day. I stood there for a second and put my face into my boxing gloves. 'Come on, don't stop!' I heard Harry call from behind as he ran towards my bag. 'Let's go! Let's go! Let's go!'. He placed himself beside me and made me follow his speed. 'Don't stop! Harder! Come on!' I wanted to say: "Don't you remember that I have chemo?' But I couldn't because I was too busy punching. He stayed with me for what seemed like an eternity. In reality it was probably 10 minutes. Harry taught me two things today: a) It's not always helpful to feel sorry for someone, including one's self. b) You still have a lot left in you even if you think you are ready to give up. Thank you, Harry.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Treatment Day 7

Yesterday started week two of my treatment (out of 6). This morning was already my 8th radiation session.
The last couple of days have been challenging with regards to overall well-being. I feel nauseous all the time and that takes a lot out of the enjoyment of day to day activities. In addition, I have trouble to enjoy food; First, because the nausea takes away a lot of my appetite, and secondly, everything tastes strange. I am lacking motivation to do anything. At first I thought I might be a bit depressed but I think it stems from a lack of physical energy. I also haven't worked out for a few days now and that frustrates me. The thought of running or other exercise makes me feel sick to my stomach. I have been able to go to work for a few hours during the day and that makes me feel at least a bit productive.
I really hope that some of this is a bit of an emotional low that will go away in a couple of days.

I was able to get together with Kevin over lunch today. It as great to see him. Talking to him always leaves me feeling better about things. He is currently performing at rainbow stage every evening as 'The Beast' in 'Beauty and The Beast.' It is a big role and I am extremely proud of him (as always). Congratulations on your success, Kevin.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Weekend With Peter

The person that is part of my life here in Canada that I know the longest is my friend Peter. We became friends while experiencing our church-motivated teenage years back in Germany. During some of these years Peter was actually the drummer for my band that I had going at that time. Later, after I already moved to Winnipeg in the early 90's, Peter decided to come to Winnipeg to study business at the same College that I took music courses and we were able to expand our friendship even further. Now, after more than 26 years of friendship, Peter lives in Winnipeg with his wife (and also dear friend) Tara and heir daughter Mila. Like many things in life our relationship has adapted itself to the many forms of our changing environments but somehow we were able to maintain the strong bond that survived the years.
Last week Peter and I decided that we would go away for a couple of days, and so we did yesterday and today. Peter joined me in the morning for my radiation session and then we took off to Grand Forks for a night. I have to say that I had a fantastic time. We talked a lot, did a bit of shopping, had good (well, Grand Forks style) food and played Wii in our hotel room till the early morning hours. I was very concerned about my fatigue during this trip but I had so much fun and distractions that I just kept going throughout the day.
As we were reflecting on the journey that each one of us took during their lives (separately and yet somehow together) we thought: What if somebody would have told us when we were 14 and playing in a band somewhere in Germany, that we would be living virtually next to each other somewhere in the depths of Canada and that we would be sitting in a Grand Forks restaurant trying to deal with my cancer situation? The road that life often takes is strange. Somehow that notion of unpredictability of time was comforting to me.
Thank you for a wonderful trip, Peter! To 26 more years of friendship.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday

Today was an interesting day. I actually had two radiation appointments, one at 8:10 am and one at 3:00 pm. They are doing this because I missed a day on Monday due to the holiday. Apparently it is fine to do two sessions in a day as long as there are at least 6 hours in between.
The exciting part was that Laura's agency hired me a while ago to write a song for a MTS television special. She then thought it would be a good good idea to include a documentary about me and my daily life. So, I had my own entourage of a small camera crew for most of the day. Cancer Care was kind enough to grant permission to had the radiation filmed, after which we went to the studio for a few interviews, filmed me at the boxing club and finally got some footage with Angela and me at home. It was really a lot of fun but I have to admit that I was very tired by the time we were done in the early afternoon. I slept for a couple of hours and then we went to join he celebration of Donna's mom Elaine and her now husband Leonard's wedding that happened this afternoon. Unfortunately I was too tired to stick around for a long time so we got back after an hour or so of visiting. Congratulations Elaine and Leonard! I am extremely happy for both of you.
Over all I have to say that this treatment is effecting me a lot. I felt very nauseous and tired for the last couple of days. Unlike anything that I experienced during the induction chemo.
I am looking forward to an early bed time tonight..

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Treatment Day 3

Today was a bit more challenging than the previous couple of days. I went to my radiation appointment for 8:30 am and stayed at work until lunch. After that I had to go home went straight to bed where I slept for almost 5 hours till 6:00 pm. After that Angela and I went to supper group and now I will take it easy for the rest of the evening. I decided not to work out today and give myself a little break.
After leaving the radiation this morning I did notice that my mouth had become dryer. This could be a side effect from the anti nausea medication as well but I think it could be the beginning of the radiation effects. We'll see, I guess.

Treatment Day 2

After having breakfast with Angela and Matthew I went to my radiation appointment at 9:20 am. Same procedure as yesterday but without the Beatles music.
After that I went to work for a few hours and walked back home in the early afternoon. I felt pretty good for most of the morning but once I got home I fell into bed and took a 3 hour nap.
Donna, David and Hannah came for a visit in the evening and we had a great time chatting and playing games. Hannah, who is four now, is turning into a wonderful girl and it is always a lot of pleasure to be around her.
Overall a decent day. So far the chemo side effects have been minimal.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Treatment Day 1


Well, here we go. Today was the big day: The start of the actual treatment we have been anticipating for a couple of months now. At 8:30 am I was given my first IV of fluids. After that they did a test radiation run in the radiation ward in the basement and I was sent back to the chemo ward to receive the chemo drug shortly after. It was explained to me that the drug is called 'Cisplatin' and is actually made of real platinum that is injected into my body. The good news is that my net worth went up a few dollars. At 1:00 pm I got my first radiation session. That was weird and cool at the same time. They bolted me to a table as predicted and a large UFO-shaped machine-head circled around me for about 20 minutes and irradiated the parts of my face that were carefully programmed into the computer system beforehand. This all happened while they blasted Beatles tunes through a stereo. I learned that one can only truly enjoy 'All you need is love','Hey Jude', 'Get Back', and 'They're gonna' crucify me' while having a plastic mask pushed over one's face. To summarize: A very unique and interesting day; Try everything once they say.
I was done there at about 2:00 and after taking a nap this afternoon I was able to work out in the evening. So far there are no side effects from the chemo that are noticeable. I will have my next radiation session tomorrow morning...and then 33 more after that. Let's blast this thing!

My brother-in-law Matthew emailed me another picture from the rainbow that he took during the Folk Festival. How very appropriate for today; Great timing Matt, thank you!

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Long Weekend

Angela had to work for most of this weekend and so I had some time for myself which I quite enjoyed. I worked out a lot (trying to gather strength for the coming week), watched an unhealthy amount of Corner Gas and played a lot of guitar while working on a new song for an upcoming project. In the evenings Angela and I were able to relax over some good food and wine and just enjoyed each other's company.
Today Jon Buller came for a visit from Vernon for most of this afternoon. It was really fantastic to see him. He has been supportive from a distance since he heard the news about my cancer through regular emails and comments on the blog. His concern had a strong impact on my day to day life here in Winnipeg. The short time we had today was very valuable to me. I love you Jon, please send a big hug to your family back home.
I was also able to spend time with my good friend Randy this evening who I haven't been able to connect with for a while. It was great to see him again. Thanks for a fun time jamming, Randy.

The big news this weekend, however, is that my mother will be coming. I felt that it was time to let my parents know that I would love to have them around for this rather challenging part of my life. My father was not able to take time off work but my mother immediately booked her flight. She will be coming during for two weeks at the end of August and early September. I am very happy about that.

Well, tomorrow is the big day: First day of radiation and a hefty dose of chemo. The truth is that I am scared and nervous...but I am finally ready to face the real treatment.

Our dear friend Gina sent me a poem this evening that I would love to share with everyone. Another touching example of the love and support that surrounds us. Thank you Gina!

'Twas the night before treatment,
And Olaf prepared
His pajamas, his toothbrush,
Not one thing was spared.

He knelt down by the bedside,
Said a meaningful prayer,
Then crawled in beside Angie,
And his feelings he shared.

'I love you so much', he blurted,
'And I'll never regret,
Our bond of friendship in marriage,
Your love and respect.'

They embraced one another,
And they both shed a tear
As they felt that true love
Melt away all the fear.

Olaf, I wish you God's blessing,
As you begin the next phase,
Of your treatment for cancer,
In the succeeding days.

Know that we will be praying
As the meds attack your sick cells,
And here's hoping that soon,
You'll be healthy and well!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Cancer Care

Yesterday was a big day for Angela and me. We had a meeting at Cancer Care with Dr. Maksymiak (chemo). The purpose was a check up after my second round of chemo and to discuss the results of me CT scan from the previous week.
I was pretty anxious in the few days leading up to that meeting. Seeing that I felt so good over the last week I was concerned that I maybe didn't get enough chemo (a theme that seems not to go away in my mind), that led to a fear that the team of physicians might not know what they're doing, etc. I was also a bit worried that they might have found something new on the scan and that the cancer spread over the last couple of months.
The meeting turned out to be great. First of all, there were no new discoveries; in fact the cancer was hidden by the many metal fillings in my teeth, so they couldn't really tell what size it was at the moment. By looking at it and by using my lack of pain as an indication, it seemed to be shrinking. My white blood cell level was way down and it became clear that any more chemo would have jeopardized the treatment that is to come. So, they were right to use the dosages they used. When you have to trust somebody potentially with your life it feels extremely good to get the sense that they are in control of the situation. With regards to the treatment that will begin on Tuesday I was informed that I would get a day of chemo every two weeks. That drug, unlike the ones I have gotten so far, would be highly toxic and I was promised that I wouldn't be 'short changed' with regards to unpleasant side effects. Apparently it is know to be hard on one's system. Well, I asked for it...
At the end Dr. Maksymiak elaborated a bit on the fact that things were looking up for the moment. The induction chemo seemed to have done its job and he is hopeful that the actual treatment of radiation and chemo will show good results.
After leaving the meeting a cried for a while while walking through the hallway. Tears of relief, though. No new bad news and a lot of hope.

Now I brace myself for Tuesday.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Strength

My weekend was nice. I went out for supper with Kevin on Saturday evening. As always it was good to see him. Sunday afternoon I spent with Angus on his birthday. Happy birthday, Angus. Last night our neighbors and friends, Rick and Kathy came for a visit and impromptu BBQ. Their presence is always a joy for me.

I did notice recently that my body is becoming more 'flabby' these days. Now that my pain is almost completely gone I am eating normally (maybe even more than I should) but my exercise routine has certainly suffered since I started chemo more than 5 weeks ago. I am trying to do something about that. I have been going to a boxing gym for the last couple of years in addition to my running. They have hardcore one hour classes that incorporate boxing exercises in a boot camp style intensity. I haven't been going for the last three months, using my cancer as an excuse. Today I went again for the first time. I survived and am pleased with myself about that. Take that, chemo! I am aware that there will be possible hardship coming my way in about a month from now so I am hoping to gain as much physically and mental strength during the next few weeks as possible. I am trying to focus on the well-being that I feel today rather than the fear of what's to come.
I have also decided to return to work again. My radiation doesn't start until early next week and I really don't have much of an excuse to stay at home anymore right now. Today was my first full day after 3 months and it was good to be back.
I am currently feeling that I am slowly returning to my normal life one small step at a time. There are moments when I totally forget that I have cancer. Sure is nice. The more I life with this disease the more I learn that a lot of what makes us enjoy life is controlled by the will and force of our minds this very day. I pray that I will be able to gather strength for the days when I don't see that.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

41

Yesterday was my 41st birthday. It was a nice day. In the morning I had a meeting with Michael and Dave at my house regarding a project we are currently working on. Michael brought me cupcakes which was very sweet (pun intended). After that I decided to go to work for a few hours and then Angela and I took in a Fringe show that Stefanie directed. In the evening Sherri and Clint had us over for super and games, where we had a great time just hanging out for a while.
During the day I couldn't help but reflect on my birthday last year. I was turning 40 then and we threw a big party. It was amazing to me to think about all the things that happened in our lives during just that one year. That, of course, includes the struggle with cancer. It would have seemed crazy to think about such a development on my last birthday. In fact, I reflected with Clint about the adventure that had been our lives over the last ten years and everything that has changed and happened during that period. Crazy. It did comfort me greatly to realize that I made the most of my time here and that I tried to make it as interesting as possible.
Let's see how it will feel next year on this day.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Montreal

We just got back home. Our trip to Montreal was tremendous fun. We shopped like only we can do, ate out lot and took in a few events from the Just For Laughs Festival. On Sunday evening (our anniversary) we got a knock at our hotel door just before we went out for dinner and a porter carted a beautiful cheese plate with a wonderful bottle of wine into our room, courtesy of Leilani and Julie. We were both very touched by that gesture and enjoyed our late night cheese and wine celebration. Thanks to both of you.
Overall, it was great to be away for a while but it is also good to be back. I am actually booked for a CT scan tonight at 9:30 PM already. So my thoughts are drifting back to my life with cancer, but that's fine.
Thank you Angela for 12 great years of marriage and a great trip. I am looking forward to many future anniversary trips to Montreal as we planned.



Sunday, July 19, 2009

Anniversary

Today is our 12th year wedding anniversary. Seeing that I will be tied down in Winnipeg for 7 weeks during the radiation treatment, we decided to go to Montreal for a few days to celebrate our marriage. We will be returning on Thursday. I have really been looking forward to this trip. I have to admit that being in our house for such a long period of time is a rather new experience for me and I am excited to have some distraction from my 'cancer life' for a while. So, now I'm writing this entry from the Sheraton in downtown Montreal. Happy Anniversary, Angie.
I am feeling rather well at the moment. The chemo side effects have become less and less every day. I was actually able to go to work for a bigger part of Thursday and Friday which was very nice. It was good to be around Clint and the rest of the staff again. The daCapo gang has certainly become like a family to me and I have missed everyone a lot. A few projects have been coming up for me and I am planning to get back to a semi-regular work attendance for the next month while Clint is traveling to Europe with his family.
For now it's just nice to be away from it all for a few days.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Liam

Tonight we got a visit from Angela's sister's family. Holly, her husband Kyle, my niece Morgan and my nephew Liam came from Steinbach to the city to spend an evening with us. Liam and I (and later Kyle) played a game for a few hours while the women went out.
This was the second visit I had from Liam over the last two weeks and I have to say that I very much enjoy my time with him. He is 12 now and overflowing with energy and passion for everything that comes his way. I see a young version of myself in him in may ways and I am often reminded what life was like at his age.
He is a great person, kind and caring, helpful and gentle but also full of life and enthusiasm. Last time we got together I was a bit sick and felt tired from my first round of chemo. We went out for a burger and while I was slumped in our booth, Liam tirelessly re-told me every detail of the movie 'Up' that he watched a few days earlier. After a while I couldn't help but feel better about myself. There was something in his enthusiasm and excitement that was hard to resist. Moments later he paused and said: 'Morgan and I were really sad and scared when we heard that you have cancer, uncle Olaf. That's because some people die from it.' 'I know' I responded 'And we're all hoping that I won't. Thank you for caring.' After that he passionately continued to tell me about the new additions to his collection of playing cards.
Liam is a good friend to have when one is stuck in a time of sadness and despair. Why worry about things that are far away in the future when there is so much to discover in this very moment.
Thanks, buddy...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Face To Face

This morning Angela and I went to Cancer Care again to start the preparations for my radiation treatment. 6 weeks ago they made a cast of my face with which they will literally screw me to the table while they point a computerized radiation gun to the underside of my chin. The idea is that I will not be able to move at all in order to prevent more tissue damage than necessary. Today they just wanted to make sure that the cast still fits. I guess they assumed that most chemo patients would have lost some weight by now. Not me, though, I'm staying nice and portly.
Lucky for me I am not claustrophobic at all. I will have to wear this mask every day for 15 minutes over a period of 7 weeks of treatment. If everything goes according to plan, the radiation will start on Tuesday, August 4th.
This morning was definitely a reminder that the real treatment is still ahead of me. I was told that I can expect certain side effects as the radiation process progresses. My mouth will very likely be extremely sore which will make it more and more difficult to swallow food. 50% of patients that had induction chemo first (including myself) will end up with a temporary feeding tube at the end. Ah well, let's keep those worries for later.
For now I am excited that things are moving ahead as planned.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tuesday

I just got home from a run. It was hard but I survived it. The truth is that I felt lousy yesterday afternoon and evening as well as this morning. When I woke up it felt like I was hit with a 2x4. I made myself get up, cleaned the house a bit and dealt with some emails. Then I got tired and nauseous again. I thought I would have two choices: curl up and play dead or make myself go for a run, hoping I would feel better after. So I did, and I do feel better.
The longer I am dealing with this cancer, the more I learn that a lot of the struggle is psychological rather than physical. If I tell myself to feel sick or weak, I will. Of course the trick is to still listen to my body. Hopefully I'll be able to find that healthy balance during my journey.

The other thing that I am learning is that life stinks. Literally. Since getting the chemo I am also very sensitive to smells. Especially food related odors. In the beginning Angela was making me smoothies every day to boost my vitamin intake. That also included experiments with vegetables. On my third day of the first chemo round she made a a smoothie that also included mushrooms. I didn't mind that until that point, but that day it tasted disgusting. Ever since I am smelling (and tasting) mushrooms whenever I get a bit sick from the treatment. Wired. The sad part is that I actually like(d) mushrooms. My heart goes out to all the women with morning sickness. Respect!

As you might remember, Angela and I joined a medical mission group this May in Lima, Peru. Some of the team just got together for a reunion and sent us these pictures. Truly touching. I was very moved. If you are reading this, I love you and I miss hanging out with you all.
Thank you.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Chemo Round 2 - Day 3

The day went by without too much nausea. I got my treatment this morning at 11:00. Again, I walked to and from the hospital and afterwards we went back to the Folk Fest. I can't honestly say that I felt great, but I did well overall. I had food in small quantities and made sure to rest as much as possible. I felt nothing close to the illness I felt at the third day of the last round. I am grateful for that and I am hoping that it will not get worse throughout the week.
So far so good.

Laura, Alan, Theresa, Gina, Matthew, Erin, Steve, Nancy, Jesse, Cindy, Holly, Kyle, Liam, Morgan, Ryan, Caroline, Kate, Oliver and Jasper. It was nice to run into you.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Chemo Round 2 - Day 2

This has been a pretty good day overall. I got up this morning and felt pretty good physically. No real side effects from the chemo yesterday. I worked around the house for a bit and walked to my treatment at 1:30. The session was short (about 40 minutes) and I felt good enough to walk back home after. Angela and I went to the Folk Fest again this evening and I felt good pretty much the rest of the day.
My hope is that I will still feel like this after the third treatment tomorrow. The third day hit me pretty hard during the first round.

The big news for me today, however, was that I got a new friend in the form of a Taylor 814ce Guitar. I have been shopping around for a 'special' instrument that would give me some joy and keep me occupied during the next few months of treatment. After a lot of back and forth I decided to commit to this absolutely beautiful instrument that is way above the quality of my actual playing.

As I said, it's been a pretty good day.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Chemo Round 2 - Day 1

I was back in the comfortable chemo chair again this morning at 8:15. The routine was exactly the same a three weeks ago. I was given an IV through which different drugs of various colors and dosages dripped into my body. I was done at about 2:00 PM. I was in good spirits but slept through most of the day due to some drowsy side effects of some of the meds. Even though it was only my second time it felt already like a bit of a routine. I met some very nice patients there and we shared our stories. It's good to put one's own situation in perspective (i.e. I was told of a lady who had 47 cycles so far).
After that Angela and I went to the Folk Fest again. I felt very good overall and we were able to meet up with Donna, Dave and Hannah and our wonderful friends Gina and Theresa. We have spent most of our time at the festival with that group so far and they certainly made the time there more enjoyable (there is only so much hippie culture I can take on my own).
I will be back for day 2 of the treatment tomorrow afternoon and for the last one on Sunday afternoon.

Leilani sent me an email with a quote that she heard from a friend:
"Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain."

How true.

Thursday Appointment

Yesterday was not a great day.
Angela and I went to my appointment in the morning. We didn't really know what the plan for the day was, so I packed everything I needed for a full day of chemo again. First they needed to take some blood to check my levels and then we saw the doctor(s) at around 10:30. As we got there we were given a schedule that had me booked for my next chemo on Wednesday July 15-17. I wasn't happy about that and I made that clear to the scheduling nurse. I was supposed to have chemo every three weeks and that would have made it a month. They apologized and re-booked me for today (Friday). Both doctors commented about how good I looked. They were surprised that I actually gained weight and were encouraged by the fact that my pain was considerably less since the chemo. My blood levels also looked very good. So far things seemed to be moving along great. I, however, spend the rest of the afternoon worrying. Somehow all my concerns about the chemo not working came to a climax after the meeting and I feel into a bit of an emotional downward spiral. Angela very patiently tried to explain that their approach is correct and reasonable. After an afternoon of sleeping we went to the Winnipeg Folk Fest with friends and my mood improved greatly. I ended up having a wonderful time.

There was a short rain storm at the festival and when we surfaced from under the tent that gave us shelter, there was a giant and wonderful rainbow in the sky. After that kind of a day it felt like it was put there just for me...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hairy Situation

I am losing my hair.
It comes out of my head in large chunks if I pull on it gently and my pillow is full of hair in the morning. My beard has also become patchy and thin.

On one hand I am excited to see that the chemo is doing its thing, on the other hand I can't help but be weirded out.

I realized yesterday that it almost feels that the whole cancer thing is coming to an end by now. We have had all these powerful emotional experiences and the chemo treatment was already three weeks ago. Routine is coming back a bit, and things are becoming 'normal' again. Clint said yesterday "By now I'm used to it." Well put.
Losing my hair now is a reminder that the impact of the treatment is just beginning. One more round of chemo and then still 7 weeks of radiation and chemo. There is lots to come yet...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Worries And Birthdays

Yesterday afternoon I started to worry. My mouth started to hurt a bit again and the cancer seemed larger to me as well. As I went for a run I obsessed about the fact that I was doing so well physically. "Shouldn't I be sicker by now?" I asked myself "Maybe they didn't give me enough of the chemo drugs? Maybe the wrong ones? How come they haven't checked up on me by now? How come I still have my hair?" etc, etc. Today I got up and my mind kept torturing me with the same worries. My next appointment will be this Thursday and I can't wait...

On the brighter side I celebrated two birthdays with friends today.

First, Angela and I visited Peter, Tara and Mila to celebrate Mila's 5th birthday. 5 years already. She truly has turned into a beautiful and wonderful person. Happy birthday Mila!
Then I got together with Kevin for supper and we celebrated his belated 37th birthday. As always I had a great time hanging out with him. I always felt that Kevin and I had a special connection as we share a lot of the same personality trades and he very much identifies with most of my thought patterns and vice versa. He is also a great listener and I couldn't resist to share my joys and struggles with him. Even though it was his birthday dinner we ended up talking about my views of death for a most of the time.
Way to bring the party down, Olaf. Happy birthday, buddy.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Routine

The last two days have been rather uneventful. Angela has been going back to work more frequently again and I as well am trying to get back to some kind of a routine.
I have been working on a project for a client from my home studio yesterday and today. I have to admit that I sat in front of the computer at first and went "Now what?" This was my life only 6 weeks ago and it took some getting use to again.
I did, however, produce some decent results and by the end of the day felt very good about myself. It was nice to actually 'work' for a while rather than focus on my illness and it's emotional and physical side effects.
I also went for another run and noticed that it does become more and more challenging. I am stubborn, though. I refuse to give the cancer and it's treatment control over all aspects of my life. Let's see how much longer I can keep it up.

Furthermore, I think I am starting to lose my hair. Clint came for a visit yesterday and I noticed that there were beard hairs in my teeth while I was talking. If I pull very gently, hair comes off my beard and head. Still not a lot but some. I think this might be the beginning...

We'll know soon enough.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Canada Day

Today Angela and I visited our friends Laura Hawkins and her husband Alan. Laura, a successful advertising agent, has been one of daCapo's very first clients and has become a true friend to us in addition to being a terrific and loyal client throughout the years.
As soon as I was diagnosed, Laura and Alan have been there for us. She sent us gifts, the occasional concerned email and has regularly posted encouraging comments on this blog as soon as there was a new posting. After several invites we were finally able to get together this afternoon. They have a wonderful house with a pool and so Angela and I were able to spend a relaxing and enjoyable afternoon with lots of delicious food and great company.
Laura is a constant reminder that my profession has provided me with relationships that have impacted and enriched my life very deeply.

(Sorry about the rather bad picture, Laura)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

It's Been 2 Weeks

So it's been 14 days since I got my Chemo treatment. I thought this might be a good time to let everyone know how things are going these days.

• My pain is a lot better. Before the treatment I had to take pain killers every 4 hours or so. Now there are often times when I totally forget about the cancer and I can go for most of the day without taking anything.
• My speaking and eating are getting better. I definitely notice a difference when eating. I get to use the right side of the mouth more and more. Chewing is noticeably better and less uncomfortable.
• The cancer is still there and it's still big. It does feel slightly smaller when touching it. Might just be wishful thinking. The area around it, however, is less swollen and less sensitive.
• I still have all my hair.
• I am more tired throughout the day. Exercise is harder but I'm still working out every day (Mostly running).
• I haven't really been nauseous since the first three days after the treatment. My appetite is good (I have gained a couple of pounds over the last two weeks).

I am scheduled for an appointment for July 9th where they will check my blood chemistry and probably administer the second round of Chemo shortly after that.

Well, so far so good.