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


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


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


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


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!