Category Archives: Motivation

Repossessed

3 weeks later ….. and I have changed my mind!!

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 Friday, February 7, 2014Same Year …. New Model

I can’t quite believe it! It has only been three and a half weeks since Mike’s diagnosis of colon cancer; exactly three weeks today since his surgery and now, today, we have just returned from the first day of our running program! Here is my ‘Ode’ to the marvels of modern medicine, the mystery of the human body and the resilience of the human spirit. We are full of gratitude for how it has all turned out.

Mike stayed home from school for only a week and a day. By then, it was all systems go – from that day on, we started walking from 3 to 6 km. in Arad, every day after school. As we all know, walking promotes, among other things, talking….and so, we got to talking every

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day, about how much better Mike was feeling. Every day for him, has brought about small shifts in returning to normal …. food tasting better…..addiction to gum and salt crystal snacking lessening….energy increasing…..but BEST OF ALL….. a return to our previous zest for life…..feeling young again! From there, our talk turned to running and how it just might once again be possible, for both of us. Because, I too, became older and accepted my decrease of energy, putting it down to age……at the young age of 61!! How can that happen you ask? It happens so gradually that you don’t notice it and it affects every aspect of your life, from your relationship with each other and with friends, to the daily routines of life. Life becomes just a bit boring but, because it’s so gradual, you don’t notice. So now, today, I feel like it is the first day of the rest of our lives!!

For the first time, in a long time, I woke up this morning feeling positive and happy! It was 630 am, the sun was shining and the sky was brilliantly clear. It’s been cold and cloudy – unusual for Bahrain. I seem to have unconsciously…. mentally, brushed aside all the exasperations and frustrations of our retirement effort, the shock of Mike’s diagnosis, the added shock of his son Chris’s diagnosis of bone cancer and now it feels like a new beginning. And what is going through my mind is what my father tried to teach me but what I first really learned from Todd, the most outstanding model of this….that life is what you make it…..a lesson I keep learning over and over again!

So …. we headed out the door at around 730 am, new running shoes sparkling, sunglasses and baseball caps in place. We’d been planning all week long, on our daily walks, discussing our training focus, ‘slow and steady’. We decided to do 5 minute intervals; 1 minute of running followed by 4 minutes of fast walking and to do this for the next 2 weeks before increasing it to 2 minutes of running and 3 minutes of walking. Today we did the first 6 intervals – 6 minutes of total running, 24 minutes of total walking plus a good long warmup and cool down, beginning and end. Rewarded ourselves with breakfast at our favorite restaurant, Le Bateau.

Anyways, that’s my update. We continue to live each day as it comes and try to make decisions only when we have to, trying not to think too far into the future.

Tilster

Healthy as a Horse… “Dear God…”

5  February 2014

Only 3 weeks ago my tumor was discovered and my journey as a colon cancer patient began.

Today I am as though I had never been ill. I still have a bandage covering the still slightly tender incisions required for surgery.  But, other than that I feel so much better… it is at times difficult for me to remember that I was sick, much less that I was life-threatening sick.

As I reflect on the last three weeks, I am filled with an intense gratitude … for the doctors… for the nurses… for the staff of the hospital…. for the “universe”.

I laugh to myself as I think of an atheist’s prayer … “Dear God, I don’t really believe in you BUT thanks anyway.”

My cancer was a Stage II Grade 2 Adenocarcinoma… technical jargon a T3 N0 M0 …. All that stuff means is that it was a slow growing cancer that had not spread beyond the colon… had no lymph nodes involved and no spread to other parts of the body … IN SHORT … the surgery appears to have successfully removed all of the tumor. There are no HIGH RISK factors for recurrence. But that does not mean I can relax … still have tests every 3 months and a yearly colonoscopy… small price to pay to prevent another emergency surgery.

So, what am I? A cancer survivor? Cured? A statistic? Or am I just one very lucky victim who escaped the onslaught of a monstrous giant seeking to devour all who come within its shadow?

No I am just a guy in whose body some cells had their software go haywire and grow crazily. Luckily it was discovered in time and the mal-programmed cells were removed before they could spread their bad programming  elsewhere.

Til and I are now walking between 3 & 6km every day. We shopped for running shoes. I now hope to do some long distance running again. My first goal… 10k…. then maybe a half-marathon. Never thought I would run ANY distance again.

So I am on the mend… PHYSICALLY

Flashback to 28 January…

I just finished a call with Chris ( my son)… my world has been rocked with a 9.5 emotional earthquake. Chris has been fighting an infection in his jaw…. now after a biopsy the preliminary diagnosis is CANCER. The doctors are planning a second biopsy to confirm the result but his primary doctor is not holding out much hope. How I pray it will turn out negative.

“Dear God… I know what I said about believing in in you BUT can you do a repeat for Chris? Thanks in advance.” and I try to chuckle again…

how do I deal with this? It was easy when I was sick… but this is my son! My eyes keep watering up… i really feel… NO it is too early …have to wait for the 2nd biopsy results… there is always a chance… i am almost afraid to say “a mistake” because I might jinx it.  And my mind fills with images and memories… Chris at 3 wearing his bear claw slippers kicking a football around the living room… his best imitation of Rich Karlis… Bronco barefoot kicker (Chris heard BEARfoot) I smile and then the eyes water again…

Flash forward to yesterday… 4 February

This may be the worst day of my life so far… Chris called early. the 2nd biopsy confirms… Cancer. Surgical removal of part of his jaw will be required. Then, reconstruction of his jaw with bone taken from his leg bone(s)… then chemo and radiation therapy.

I am in a state of shock, astonished, gob-smacked, stunned, … my first thought turn skyward… “WHY?… WHY Chris? …. “ I want to rage, rail and scream…

Then the eyes water up again… I see the little boy running ….with his football, not a care… tossing a baseball to me and catching the return throw… I want to grab him up & run like hell to safety. ONLY the little boy is a grown man now AND  there is nothing I can do… I can’t even take on his burden and pain as every parent wishes they could for their suffering children.

My God, how the emotions flow… alternating between profound sadness and rage… I want to cry one minute and scream the next…

Two things occur to me simultaneously… One: none of my emotional drama has any effect on Chris or his condition… Two: this emotional drama is not conducive to my own health and well being … SO NOW that I am back to NORMAL (as normal as I can be),  it is time to focus all my thought and concern on Chris. And keep sending my positive vibes to him.

“Dear God …

Surgery – Healthy as a Horse… Sick as a Dog… Cancer P2

17 January 2014

been awake since 0415… lots on the mind. I called my son… he is in hospital also… with an infection of unknown origin.. he is waiting for results … hard to talk to him bc neither of us wants to burden the other with our woes… we keep it light and easy.

Today starts  the pre-operation preparation… more transfusion(s). My Hgb (hemoglobin count) has to be high enough for surgery…. at least 8 g/dL. I am feeling so much better that I forget I am still pretty ill and bleeding internally; which means I am still an ‘emergency’ case.

At 11 am my final transfusion (we hope) begins… two more hours and I should be topped up.

The Docs have had me on a liquid diet since I have been here… tea, fruit juices, chicken broth, and ENSURE (make sure I am getting all my nutrients). When I get tired of the vanilla flavored ENSURE… the nurses send it down to the cafeteria where they add strawberry flavor and make a “shake”. Wish they could make a Cinnamon roll flavor.

Dinner is my last meal… and then the clean out procedure begins anew… I don’t mind so much this time… and I will only have to drink two bottles of gunk (unlike the first time … took four bottles to get the job done. I guess that proves how full of “IT” I was!)

Oddly I find myself looking forward to the surgery. For a guy who always wants to be in control of things, it is strange that I am so ready to turn my fate over to a group of strangers. I guess when you have no other choice, THAT choice is easily embraced. With surgery over I can focus on recovery. Hopefully when all the post-operation results are in, chemo or radiation will not be necessary. Even though the CT scan indicated the tumor is localized, the only way to be sure is to section and examine the tumor and surrounding lymph nodes. I know it will be a number of days after surgery before we know for sure. I am resigned to letting things be. If chemo or radiation is needed then so be it.

My stay here has been as pleasant as it can be. The nursing staff (Raji, Anu, Ramya, Sibi, Jessica, Roby, Ragesh, Arnel, Bindu and Zahra) have all been phenomenal. I appreciate all the things they do. We (ordinary people) forget until we are sick in a hospital, that nurses do a heck of a lot more than just attend and give injections. I think they are as important to the healing process as the procedures and medicines are.

 

18 January 2014 06:49

Since 05:00 I have been poked, prodded, ecg’d, blood sucked, weight and measured… then more antibiotics and …. A BELLY SHAVE! At least I won’t have to worry about pulling of hairs as the dressings are changed.

The surgeon and specialist come in to explain (again) to us what will be happening. I am surprised that the hospital has flown in a Laparoscopic Surgery Specialist – Dr Latta from Muscat, Oman, just  for my surgery.

It is rainy and nasty looking out my window… can barely see across the bay. A really good day for surgery…. nothing better to do.

I suppose I should have some angst about this but, really? I am ready to get on with it… a treadmill stress test is scheduled immediately prior to surgery. What the heck for I do not know.

At first I suspect a bit of “nest feathering” but, the cardiologist explains that the anesthesia is hard on the heart so a test must be done to see if the heart can stand up to it. I pass the stress test with flying colors… something that I would not have had the strength for only two days prior.

10 minutes after the stress test I am loaded on a gurney and whisked off to the surgical theatre. Staring up at the ceiling moving by I thought of all the movies where this camera angle was used but it wasn’t as interesting this time.

The anesthesiologist introduced himself and explained what I could expect. He joked with me a bit then off to the operating theatre … strapped down, oxygenated, and the last thing I remember is the  anesthesiologist saying “good night”.

When I awake, it is his face I see first  … six inches from mine as he chants “deep breath, deep breath, deep breath”… the he makes me swear an oath to keep taking deep breaths… Hell I can barely keep my eyes open … and this guy wants me to focus on my breathing? My eyes roll up and back to lala land I go. A few minutes (?) later I wake put look across the aisle at he nurses and try to take a deep breath…. HURTS LIKE HELL! … and off to lala land I go again…

I don’t know how many times the process repeats itself but eventually I awake back in my room… in pain and unable to really take a deep breath without setting off waves of pain… in walks the anesthesiologist and tells Tilly that I made a promise to … looks at me expectantly and I mutter “breath deeply”… if I could have reached him I would have hurt him! 

the afternoon and evening a pass in an agonizing haze with Docs in & out inspecting their handiwork… i can barely make sense of what they are saying … not even sure I could reply. Finally bed-time and Tilly, thank God has decided to spend the night … her presence made the night tolerable…

The next morning I think, “AND What the HELL was I thinking? Looking forward to surgery? Damn!” The surgery has relieved me of 1/2 of my large intestine… and I chuckle to myself (OUCH) as I think “ I can only be  accused of being 1/2 full of “IT” from now on.”

But it is over and I am headed toward healing recovery… the prognosis is good (and depending on the lab rests chemo or radiation may not be needed – I can only hope). BUT there is one more battle to face… and that battle blind sides me and Tilly  totally.

Next: The Hospital and Insurance Company –  Battle Royale

New Years Reprise – Resolutions

It is THAT time of year again… we all made it through Christmas without too big a hole (hopefully) in our budgets… without too much added bulk from the Christmas goodies. And THEN … along comes the tradition of NEW YEARS Resolution-ing.

In this tradition we create personal goals for the next year – a GOOD thing.  Then  a year from now most of us  will get to beat ourselves up for not reaching them – a BAD thing.  I seem to do this every year for the resolutions I made the previous year…

I live an endless annual cycle of New Year’s Resolutions hope and disillusionment.

It is a cold, rainy, and dark a 29th of December here on the west coast of Canada. So, I decided to make a list of things I wanted to accomplish in 2013… my lovely wife had suggested we do so over a bottle of wine on New Years eve… but I cheated. Besides I could not think of anything exciting to write about in my daily journal which I scribble in every morning once the coffee is hot.

As I looked over my list, feeling quite proud of my 2013 resolutions and the belief that they were all quite achievable in the next year, I was struck with how familiar they seemed … (common, I think to the mostly  mundane resolutions on probably 99+% of the lists of all the other resolution makers of the world)….

  • Lose weight
  •  Get more exercise …kinda goes with losing weight thing – but got it’s own number on the list anyway to make the list more impressive,
  • Eat right …same as with the losing weight/exercise things,
  • Be more productive,
  • Learn a new skill (or in my case re-learn) ”

But my 2013 resolutions were more than just familiar – common… they were familiar – familiar.

Having completed my NEW 2013 resolutions it was time to reflect upon my 2012 resolutions and…most likely chastise myself ,once again.  I dug out my journal from last December. I could have saved a heck of a lot of time this year if I had just  copied the 2012 resolutions. The  were almost identical to my ‘new’  resolutions…  apart from the RETIRE one. Digging further back into my journal tub I retrieved all my January journals from 2004.  Every year the same: … shape up … lose the flab … stop eating junk food… learn something… work harder… I didn’t need to write these things out every December … I should have just used a photocopier. SHEESH! Almost an entire decade gone and here I am still making the same bloody resolutions.

I always managed (with great success) to convince myself that I didn’t fulfill my resolutions  due to being “too busy” & having “not enough time”. But, for the last 6 months I have been “retired”!  So, I got NO EXCUSE this year because I have had  MORE than enough time!

As I write I realize, the  real problem is not TIME rather it is distraction.  Days, weeks, and months have  come and gone without me even once thinking about what I REALLY wanted to do… that happened only once a year every December while writing… New Years resolutions. We all make time for those things we really want to do UNLESS we put our lives on ‘auto-pilot’. For decades I flipped my life every morning to ‘auto-pilot’ and just got busy with what ever came along: work…  TV… emails… surfing the web… movies… the odd (not really that odd) bottle of wine/beer … phone calls… and to the easily distracted (me) even more things come along….

The key then, to doing what I want (fulfilling my resolutions) is short circuiting my auto-pilot long enough to remind myself what I really want.  Last November my friend and French blogger, Semeunacte  ( http://semeunacte.com -If you decide check it out make sure to have google translate active on your browser, unless you can read French.) wrote a blog detailing his method of  “how to generate a healthy motivation when you jump out of bed” and delaying the auto-pilot start up.

Remembering his article; I have decided to try out his ideas.

First I have written out my NEW resolutions

  • Spend more time with my family. (having been overseas for 10 months of every year for the last 8 years has left little time for my children and aging parents)
  • Re-learn Tai Chi. ( l quit practicing in 2010. Time to re-learn)
  • Lower BP by weight loss (lots of lb.s – not quite so intimidating if I convert to kg),  regulation of diet and exercise daily. (HAH! Got them all on one item this year.)
  • Master (as much as that is possible) Adobe Photoshop CS6.
  • Master the capabilities of my Nikon Camera. 
  • Show up to my writing daily.
  • Show up to my photography daily.

Then I titled this list: READ ME FIRST! 

Second, and  the key,  according to Semeunacte,  is to read this before starting my daily routine… just to remind myself what I really want for 2013.  I could put the list on my night stand next to the bed so I would read it first thing in the morning (which he advises) but, I prefer to keep it in my morning journal to read before I start my writing.

No excuses now… but first I have to add two more resolutions: Read my resolutions every morning. & Don’t make any more New Years resolutions. … just in case.

Wish me luck … as I  wish you luck with your resolutions.

I been watching too much NEWS!

About 6 months ago I noticed that people I work with, students and staff, began to subtly change. Many were not as cheerful when I greeted them.  There were fewer smiles, less jokes and more tension. Conversations with peers  mostly consisted of very short ‘bitch’sessions. Students who used to come every day to my classroom to say “HI” were coming less and less frequently. One student who was normally talkative seemed to be always engrossed in his breakfast at break – I did not realize a cinnamon roll could be so riveting day after day.  My life was becoming “serious”.

At one time the hall monitors called me the “laughing, singing man”. I would be-bop down the halls grinning and singing or humming a variety rock and roll golden oldies, usually the last one I had listened to before school. I always had a joke about the latest “edict” coming from the administration or a current fad sweeping the island. At the very  least I would find something to be cheery about…. an observation of a bright spot.  And today I realized it wasn’t they who had been changing… it was me.  I had become “serious”…. “deadly serious”… a scowling grumpy “serious” old fart!

Nobody told me about this change… I wasn’t even aware of this slide into “grumpy-old-man-itus”. I am not sure exactly when I started to become so boorish…

After a few minutes of contemplating my conversion from a life of joy to joyless living,  I quickly sought distraction on the TV (CNN International News)…

DEATH, TRAGEDY, SHOOTINGS, BOMB BLASTS, … etc. Same old stuff Nothing changed… still the same old world.  And suddenly I knew when this change began – 1800 hours, 30 August. The day I began to watch the NEWS daily!

News headlines always seem to read the same, only the names and dates change. It is as though news organizations have a list of headline templates ready to go and just wait for the effect, city, country, region, globe, disaster – natural or man-made (war, famine,etc.), numbers, and date to fill in the rest. Some examples might include:

  • Budget cuts cause (effect)
  • Debt Crisis in (country, region or planet)
  • (city, region or country)’s misery continues as (disaster) isolates communities 
  • Officials: At least (some number) killed as a result of (disaster) 
  • More residents evacuate as (disaster – natural or man-made) affects (city, region or country)   
  • Rescuers race against time & (disaster – natural or man-made) to save families 
  • Fast-growing (city, region or country) wildfire(s) scorches homes, prompt(s) evacuations 
  • Survivors recall (city, region or country)  slaughter
  •  (Date, week, month, year)  deadliest month for (country) troops in (city, region or country) 
  • Officials: (disaster – natural or man-made)  kill at least (number) in (city, region or country) 
  • (city, region or country) cracks down on demonstrations, opposition
  • (number)  killed in sectarian violence in (city, region or country) , official says 
  • (city, region or country) report: (number) dead in (number)  blasts in (city, region or country) 
  • (city, region or country)‘s new leader: A snowball’s chance? 
  • (number)  miners rescued from flooded mine in (city, region or country); (number)  still missing 

“Garbage in …. Garbage out” is what the old computer geeks once said. If you feed a computer crappy data it will only provide an analysis of crap.  Although I would scarcely compare our brains with computers I would say there are some similarities.

When  a computer program is designed to analyze light it filters out non light data. If it is designed to analyze sound, non-sounds (a range of wavelengths) are ignored. Much like a computer people create filters in their brains to let in only those things of interest or importance. A mother sleeping through a night filled with honking horns and blaring music only to awaken instantly to the sound of her child’s barely audible whimper is only one example. People notice and attend to what their mental filters hold on to; most of the other stuff is left out.

The problem is that people are  seldom are aware of the creation of their mental filters. It is one of the amazing automatic functions of the human brain. When people watch the news daily and get a steady input of tragedy they begin to only notice the tragic events around them. When they see only people doing bad things on the news they begin to view the strangers around them as potentially bad and suspect. Seeing only strife on the news causes people to filter out a significant amount of  the good things in life.

The beautiful thing is that without constant reinforcement the filters weaken and even though people don’t conciously choose to create the negative filters; they do have a choice..  to stop feeding their brain crappy data.

I decided to TURN OFF THE NEWS, get back to my life and be happy. Or at the very least cut down on the steady diet of news network mental junk food.

“Long, long time ago…

I can still remember…

 how the music used to make me smile…”  – American Pie, Don McLean

HEY IT WORKS!