Friday, October 24, 2008
Many of you have emailed, spoken or passed along word that you think I should write go ahead and write a book. Not just for public consumption but also one for prosperity in which Trent, and perhaps Trent's children can someday read and gather insight into who and where their grandfather BARRY LAROCK was and what he accomplished. Boy, is that ever a deep thought... Trent as a father and me as a grandfather... WOW!
But honestly, your words and inspiration hold true. In fact, everyone should put together their memoirs for their children and future grandchildren, why not? That's the way our ancestors did it. They kept what is called a journal in which they wrote family recipes, stories and reenactments of the history in their family lineage. We can learn a great amount about our past families from old photographs, old verbal accounts but nothing tells a historical tale better than the written word.
So, I did it. I went to Chapters and purchased a journal. I haven't started yet, but I'm going to write thoughts, past stories and my personal opinions on events so to keep and give to my family for their enjoyment and for my historical significance on earth from start to finish.
For now, however, I want to pass along another event in my life to those reading this blog that almost ended my life at age 14. It wasn't a surgery, a battle against cancer or even a first date gone bad. No it was none of those but rather a trip to Florida with my parents and my cousin Kent Ferguson. As the youngest of four children and a six year difference to my next eldest brother Blair, a majority of my life was spent as really an only child.
So with a trip to Florida planned and of course at the age of rebellion, I asked if cousin Kent could join us on the trip that year. Being the kind parents they are, Pat and Lorraine took on the responsibility of parenting Kent and I for the two-week adventure. En route to Orlando, we travelled down the Gulf coast and one day found a small little beach along the side of the road.
Out of the car faster than a greyhound after a rabbit, Kent and I made our way onto the beach and into the ocean for a dip. I am not a very good swimmer and I tend to be overly cautious when entering strange water so I vowed not to go in too deep and never over my head.
Meanwhile, Pat and Lorraine set up residence on the beach to relax in the sun and allow Kent and I to splash against the waves under the warm Florida sun. Life couldn't get much better.
As the time passed, however, Kent and I started to move in parallel line with the beach but further and further away from an ever-watching eye of Lorraine. She waited, and waited and of course couldn't control herself when she had seen enough and bellowed, like any good mother would, for the two of us to come closer.
The problem was, and of course we did not realize until later when those locals on the beach explained, that the rushing waves hid an small inlet pool of water that was well over my head. It wasn't massive but large enough to swallow small Barry.
When Lorraine called, Kent and I immediately listened and started to walk in a diagonal fashion towards Pat and Lorraine in order to get there a little sooner than later. Suddenly, my feet went out from under me. My breath was taken away by the rush of water and waves crashing against the back of my head. Kent, who was a good swimmer and without a heart condition, laughed as the waves hit and he began to easily swim to shore.
I, on the other hand, struggled. I tried to swim but couldn't move. My feet were kicking and my arms swinging but I was constantly being hit by waves forcing my head and arms under the water. I was drowning. I was taking in big breaths of air whenever I could but I wasn't moving and I certainly couldn't feel the earth beneath me. I can still remember to this day the thought I had after Kent tried to grab my arm and I saw it slip away. I knew I was drowning. Could this be the end of my life, I thought. I was just about to let go and allow my body to sink and take in as much water as I could when finally a total stranger reached for my arm and pulled me up and onto a bright yellow inflatable water bed raft. He quitely told me to me hold on and breath deeply, everything was going to be OK.
Afterwards as I laid on the beach with my scared chest and lungs gasping for air, I looked over a saw my Mom in tears and Dad holding her closely. I remember thanking God that day for the stranger, the yellow raft, and for not taking me. I knew then that it obviously wasn't time for me to die.
What I haven't told you yet was that in early May of that same year I had a what the doctors called was a complete correction of my heart condition, Tetralogy of Fallot. There was no way, as I look back, that a little water and a inlet lake was going to take me when I had just survived open heart surgery. There is a reason, however, why I believe that I was dealt that very close call. It was because I was put on this earth to do much more. I was given a second chance that day to live longer, breath more and to experience things in life that will define my existence. Whether it be though my work, my sports or though the most important thing in life... my family.
Whenever I see Kent these days I always think of that story. I have never mentioned it to him but I always am reminded of it. And I what I remember the most is just how lucky I am to have had another opportunity to live, love and enjoy life a little longer. And that's exactly what I am doing everyday!
In two weeks I will be away on a holiday with my brother, Blaine.
Blaine and I are ten years apart but in spite of the age difference we are also a lot alike. We are the adventurous type. Beth and Blair, my other siblings, are more home bodies than Blaine and I. Hockey friends of Blair and Blaine like to refer to the three of us as the 'Let's Go' brothers because we are always saying... "Let's go"... leading the way into whatever is next on the agenda.
Blaine, his friend Jim and I are going south to relax, beach it and chill out as Trent likes to call it. Blaine told me, "this is your holiday Barry, I'm just going to be your bodyguard. We're there to do what you want to do." Blaine is funny. If you knew him, you'd know that when we step off the plane, he will have the agenda planned for the entire week and Jim nor I will get a word in edgewise. I'm OK with that. I love the fact that Blaine decided to go away with me on a trip using a week's holidays to spend it with me. I know we're going to have a great time.
And I know I'm going to be extra, extra careful around the water!
Thanks for Reading and Sharing... next blog... November 11, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
The comment was in reference to an idea I had several years ago to write a book on my heart condition so others who have the same condition could recognize they are not alone and secondly to highlight the many medical advancements over the past 40 years that have kept me and thousands of others alive.
Not many of you know, but prior to the 1960s, children born with heart defects had little chance of survival. Those born with congenital defects in the 1960s are true pioneers in heart surgery and very, very lucky to be alive, thanks to doctors such as mine, Dr. William Thorton Mustard, a worldwide pioneer in open-heart surgery.
The comment, by the way, came from a administrative lead with the Adult Congenital Heart Clinic at Toronto General Hospital who with that statement basically shattered my dream of passing along the message to congenital heart conditions patients about the life I chose to lead. Many of them may still wallow in self pity and have led sheltered and extremely fragile lives. I was never like that. I never asked for pity but rather all I ever wanted and often did was to be normal and do exactly what others could do.
When in a challenge like the one before me now, perhaps I should rethink my idea. Hell, I've survived 5 open heart surgeries, one bout of cancer in the parotid gland and I'm currently battling the return of the big 'C' in both my lungs. For the past two years now, and from what I've been through, I could have said 'fuck it', and laid down and died. But, again, I've never been like that. I've always put up a fight. I have never really considered myself any different than anyone else. I set goals in life, I achieved them and I have lived what I am very proud of, and that is what I would call a 'Larock and Roll' lifestyle.
I say Larock and Roll because, of course, my last name is Larock and I've always had a "This is the Way I Roll' attitude about life. I was never a follower and always picked my friends. 'Friends' that to this day I have stayed in touch. 'Friends' that have come over to help us with random acts of kindness, and 'Friends' who would be there if I needed them for anything.
My mother, who was completely overprotective, I now realize, also did a wonderful job with my growth into adolescence and eventually adulthood because no matter what new adventures I wanted to do she never really said no but tried to persuade me to find an better, safer alternative. I tried to simply roll with the flow and made decisions based on what was best for my life and my body, respectively. Sometimes the choices I made for my life were not so good for my body, it would appear now.. but then I wouldn't be the person I am today if I stayed sheltered and protected.
Now I know that writing a book is difficult and I profess that perhaps it might not ever come to fruition. But over the next few weeks, I'm going to write here on my blog some of my life's stories, including regrets and accomplishments. I would like you the reader to be the judge as to warrant my future endeavour. Should I or should I not pursue my autobiography?
I want you to be honest as well. I don't want any pity cast upon me because of my current situation.
And so as a taste of one life experience I found very interesting, I want to recount my life crossing with Mr. Harold Ballard, the former owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
You see, Mr. Ballard was considered a mean tyrant who everyone hated because he didn't spend that much on the beloved Maple Leafs. But there is another side to Mr. Ballard. At times, Mr. Ballard would take a moment to be thankful for his life and success and share it with others. In 1974, when I was recovering from surgery at Toronto's Sick Children Hospital a crisp new $5.00 bill was beside my bed when I awoke after an afternoon nap. My mother wondered where the money came from as all six of us in the hospital's ward room discovered crisp new $5.00 bills. The hospital confirmed that it might have been Mr. Ballard as he would often come in and randomly give young patients money. A sort of pick me up for those less fortunate. Years later after reading Pal Hal by Dick Beddoes and working with at the Peterborough Memorial Centre with Mr. Peter Bourgeois, a personal driver of Mr. Ballard in the 1970s did I realize and honestly believe that I was a recipient of a Mr. Ballard $5.00 bill.
Sick Kids Hospital has always had sports figures come to spread hope in the eyes of young patients. Mr. Ballard, however, did it unanimously because of course he had a reputation to upkeep. Nobody would want to recognize that a man so evil could have a good side too.
***I want to touch on the loss of a friend recently. The City of Peterborough lost a good employee and a great man recently in the passing of solicitor John Hart. John passed away in his sleep while at a conference in Ottawa. When he left home before the conference he had no idea he would never return. Is that the way we should all go. Quietly in our sleep? My sister said that the way she wants to go.
But I beg to differ. I like my situation currently in that I can assess, prepare and take part in my potentially, a long-time from now soul's departure. I feel so sorry for John's family. He did not have a chance to say goodbye. He didn't suffer either. The only leason from his loss is that we should not take life for granted. Go and hug someone close today because they may not be here tomorrow. There is no garantee that I will be around next year. And there is certainly no garantee you will be either. My condolences to John's family and our family at City Hall for enduring such a sudden death. John Hart was a good man and I was proud to call him a friend of mine.
My cousin Grant Holohan has dedicated his 2009 Ride To Conquer Cancer to me. Grant is my wife's first cousin. I don't get to see much of Grant and his wife Liz because they live in Toronto but I am so happy and honoured that he has thought of me for his ride. I am also thankful that they, as well as Grant's brother Greg, have decided to do something about a cure for Cancer. If you wish to check out his personal website, please feel free to do so through the link on the right side of my page under 'MY BLOG LIST'. Thank you again Grant and Liz. Good Luck, earn lots of money and train hard!
Thanks for Reading and Sharing... next blog... October 21, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I was at my parents the other day and remember when I was the only one taking pills for my heart as a teenager. Now my parents kitchen table is chocked full of them. Heart pills, high blood pressure, diabetes, pain killers, hell they were spread all over the place. My Mom told me that she takes 19 pills a day now while my Dad is close behind at 11. Both of my parents are 77 years of age.
When I had my last heart surgery in the year 2000 to replace an overused valve, I had some other things corrected as well and was thankfully taken off the blood thinning pill, coumadin. For the first time since I was a teenager I was free of a daily pill. That lasted 8 years.
Beginning this past July, I was put back on pills recently for this dreaded cancer. This time, it's a potential life extending chemotherapy treatment in a pill form called Capecitabine. Disappointed with the thought of choking down another pill or two per day I was happy, however, to be receiving something that would hopefully take the cancer in my lungs away. Or if anything, slow the bastard of a disease down.
When I received the first prescription of Capecitabine I was surprised to learn that it wasn't just one or two pills per day but a total of eight. Four in the morning and four at night. I was informed I had to take them 12 hours apart and they must be taken within 30-minutes after I have eaten. This is the difficult part. You see, we usually eat at around 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm at night. This means that I would have to get up at 6:00 or 7:00 in the am to eat breakfast and then force 4 pills down my throat. There's no way my body could do it. I need my sleep at 6:00 am. Don't you?
In a compromise, I now take my pills between 10:00 and 11:00 am so therefore I can enjoy a 12 hour break just in time for a bedtime snack in the PM in order to take my pills. Confused? Don't worry; the bottom line is that taking pills are a pain in the ass but it's something I have to do.
The only good thing about these pills is that it appears that the cancer is slowing, according to the results of my last CT-Scan. That's great news. I suppose the other good news is that I have not lost any of my strawberry blonde locks, nor am I visiting the infamous porcelain bowl vomiting. I have one side effect which is a hand and foot disorder where my fingers and feet tingle, swell and get red and sore. They can also blister which is very bad because it opens you to infection. Thankfully, I have just endued the tingling, swelling and soreness, no blisters yet. The other side effect, very common to all forms of chemo, is fatigue. This is a daily occurrence and I have simply learned to live with it.
So this is where we are now. I am currently on week 2 of my fourth round of pill chemo. After two weeks of taking 4 pills, every 12 hours, I then go on a one week break where I recoup my system, blood count and energy. I then go to PMH (Princess Margaret Hospital) for blood work and a meeting with my doctor to ensure the side effects are not to strenuous on the body. If blood work is OK, then I return home to do it all over again. Pills, pills and more pills. Don't worry, you never get used to it.
Just ask my parents.
Thanks for reading and sharing.... Next Blog.... September 23, 2008
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
I know a lot of people have been wondering and asking about my blog and why I stopped so suddenly on June 23, 2008. The reason was because I had a change in medication and a change in my living habits. That week was a difficult one for me as I was told by my doctors that the injected chemotherapy didn't seem to be working and they were going to try an oral form of medication to see if they could slow down or stop the tumors from growing. I accepted the challenge and took on the new medication. Then on June 28th Jennifer and Trent changed my living habits by ending school for the summer and joining me at home 24 -7 (ahhhhhhhhhhh!) Just kidding.
The summer just blew by and here we are today with the recent addition of my blog.
Oh... What did we do this summer you ask? Well, I hate to brag but it was probably one of the best summers of my life. Many of you know how I dislike being away from work because I honestly do love my work, but this summer and this disease gave me an opportunity that most people could choose to do but fail to do in their entire lifetime. And that was to take the summer off with my family.
We went camping! We went on a cruise to the Eastern Caribbean! We stayed up late watching movies! We swam in our pool! We visited friends on Sunday evenings! And we slept in till 10:00 am or later. It was awesome and well deserved for all of us. There is nothing quite like being free to do what you want when you want with your family.
So now September comes and the family goes back to school. Jennifer back teaching and Trent back to being a student. Barry is relegated to kitchen chores, a bucket list of fall household chores and my newest commitment, getting back into shape. This is all because of some positive news I have received in the last couple of days.
This past weekend in Toronto I visited the MRI machine on Friday and then the CT-Scan machine on Saturday before going Monday (yesterday) for the results. Dr. Sui informed me, as she always does in such an honest and pleasant manner, that the results showed that there is still some progression of the disease but not as much as the last time I had an MRI and CT-Scan three months ago. So it appears the cancer is slowing down. Could this be due to the chemotherapy in June, July and August? Or is it because of the healthier lifestyle I have chosen? Or further still is it because my body is doing all that it can to fight this son of a bitch disease?
That's the puzzling part of cancer and its phases as not even the doctors know why, what or how anything works on it because it is different in every person. My doctor can't be sure its the chemo but she is confident enough to refill my perscription for another round against this monster in the pervervable ring. I am ready for the challenge. Eye of the Tiger Barry... Eye of the Tiger!
Another lesson I learned this summer about myself and facing this disease is that you have to maintain a positive attitude and you have to keep looking forward to the next event in your life. For me the cruise was a big family event that has since come and gone. Then it was Trent's lacrosse and hopes of making it to the provincials, which never happened. And now, I look forward to a holiday away with my brother Blaine in November. All this involves a positive attitude on living and keeping active by doing such mundane tasks as kitchen chores, cleaning the hot tub, closing the pool and even power washing the garbage receptacles.
I must admit, now that I am nearing the end of this blog edition, that it was very hard and a long time coming to sit down and write it. Once you are away from something for awhile it is hard to get back into it and pour your heart out on such a personal issue. But, because of your enquires and your continued support for my well being I have finally done it and I feel very gracious to all of you for doing so. You have provided me with yet a another chore to look forward too for the coming weeks ahead.
Thank you for reading and sharing...
Next Blog.... the road to new chemotherapy... September 15, 2008
Monday, June 23, 2008
On June 14, Trent and I went to the Blue Jays game in Toronto. Trent had never been to the Rogers Centre and so my brother Blaine, his daughter Melanie and son Roman met us in Toronto for an afternoon of baseball and dinner. It was a great day for Trent and I to spend together with his cousins and uncle of which we don't get to see very often. I also enjoyed the day because it was a day I didn't have to think about my illness, except of course for the beer at the game that I had to pass up when Blaine offered to purchase.
So while Trent and I were off enjoying an open Rogers Centre and a Chicago Cub victory, Jennifer was at home alone when she received a telephone call from friends of ours who just happened to enquire as to whether or not I had opened the pool for the season. When Jennifer responded that I had not, the friend suddenly responded to Jennifer's surprise that he'd be right over to help. And before Jennifer could say anything else, the friend was off the phone and on his way. But not only did he arrive alone with his wife but another couple joined them as well. And while the two couples worked around my house cutting grass and opening the pool Jennifer told me she was almost in tears because of this incredible random act of kindness. For these two couples to take a few hours of their precious Saturday after working all week to come and help us out with cutting the grass and opening the pool, it's was just too good to be true. A greatly appreciated act of kindness on their part.
When Trent and I arrived home later that evening after the ball game and a delicious dinner at the Yonge Street Koren Grill, I noticed that the grass had been cut. Jennifer's certainly not one to cut the grass so I knew something was up. Then as I entered the house I heard a strange sound coming from the open dining room patio door which sounded much like a motor running. Sure enough the pool was crystal clear and the pump in operation. I asked Jennifer, what went on here today and she told me.
She also held up a plate of chocolate macaroons of which a former summer student employee of mind had also dropped for me to enjoy. Jennifer and I looked at each other and I nearly cried. (I did actually, but I don't want to say that publicly).
Random acts of kindness are probably the greatest gift of all. I've always thought of myself as a kind person but what these and many others have done for me over the course of my illness now and in 2006 are far beyond what I have ever done to support another person. This type of giving with no expectation of return gives me a better understanding of what kindness really is all about. When I phoned to thank the two couples on Sunday morning personally, each couple said that after they left our house they both felt incredibly thankful to be able help as they did and the whole event made them feel very good inside.
I should also mention that since I've been off work I have received numerous cards from fellow employees, work related associations, friends, the local MPP, and others who are all helping me to stay positive during my treatments. Two of my very best high school friends came over one day and in another random act of kindness helped me to clean out my garage. And I have also received flowers, soup, movies and of course rides to Toronto for my treatments from friends and family who are all playing a vital role in my battle. I suppose, I am the general of this army and all of these random acts of kindness shall serve as my warriors until victory over this disease is complete. Heck, I'm starting to sound like William Wallace.
The point is that I guess it's a good time to thank all of you who have supported me in this fight thus far. To anyone who has felt the burden of cancer you know that when someone shows a random act of kindness, it makes you feel stronger, safer and better. Please keep helping me fight.
Appointment number 6 in Toronto was a typical day of blood work, lunch at Druxy's and then the dreaded chemo injection in the arm. The one thing that was very different on this day is the smell of the hospital. I getting sick of it. And I mean literally. I felt nauseated when I stepped into the front foyer of PMH this time and the stench of it was in my throat until we left.
Now I've been in many hospitals, eaten the food like no tomorrow and naturally enjoyed the attention of some of the nurses but the thought of going back to PMH next week is already getting to me. Does anyone have any ideas of how not to think of the smell of the hospital so I won't feel like throwing up. A week off will certainly help but if you have any idea, please let me know.
My nephew Nathan Latchford drove from Beachburg, Ontario (just west of Pembroke, Ontario) on Tuesday, June 17th to take me to Toronto. Nathan is a very good lad who grew up in the city but always worked and played on the Hutchinson farm in Otonabee. And so, after years of 4-H cattle shows, Nathan found himself a fiancee, Jackie, and so has moved away to Beachburg, Ontario to work in the in-law family business as well as continue with his love for cattle on the family farm. His life is different now then when he lived in Peterborough, he told me. "It's much slower up there Uncle Barry and I love it," he said.
I'm happy that Nathan is happy. It's important to be happy in life and I wish him and Jackie all the best in the world. He also asked me to share emcee duties at his wedding next June 2009. I told him that without question I would be there!
Nathan didn't know it at the time and quite frankly neither did I but at that moment Nathan officially joined my army. You see he gave me a reason to keep fighting and living until I can participate in his and Jackie's wonderful event. I can't wait to share in those duties.
Thanks for reading and sharing...
Next Blog - The Longest Day... June 30, 2008
Friday, June 13, 2008
In the past, the day was simply another event during the calendar year in which I got to see my father. As we get older, we begin to realize slowly just how fortunate we are to have our parents still around. And I'm especially lucky because my mom and dad still live close by and we do see them rather frequently. But this year, it's all going to be different.
I know my mom is having a tough time with my current condition. She's always been there for me and has looked after me forever. Jennifer still gets angry at times when my mother sticks up for me in her very sweet way of trying to keep me from harm. It's a Moms right to care and love for her child the way my mom does with me. She certainly doesn't want any harm to come to me and I know she's angry that all this is happening to her baby boy. I have to be strong so she can be strong too.
And I have to be strong for my father too. Back when everything was good (And I like to refer to that period as prior to 2006), my father would simply go with the flow. He would come to the house, do the odd thing to help out, serve his time at the family gathering, but honestly he was a lot like me and he would simply by his time until the end of the event, when he would say, "Come'on Lorraine, it's time to go home".
But not anymore. I can sense that my Dad aches when he see me these days. I know that he loves me and that he feels terrible for what I am going through. He's sorry, he wants to help but he knows there's not much he can do. I feel for him, especially now that I am a father, and in the same way, I too feel sorry for Trent and his pain with this entire misadventure. It's simply not fair .
The one thing my father never did as I grew up was too allow me to feel sorry for myself. He told me too many times "just do what you could do and have fun doing it". And that was always good enough for him. He wanted me to play sports and so I did, to the best of my ability. And it was a good solid respectable way of life for me. So good that it pushed me in the career I am in today and without my father's respect and admiration I certainly would not have 3 Mann Cup rings to my credit nor the experience of coaching professional lacrosse for the past four seasons.
I was also lucky enough to get his great personality. Everybody loves my Dad. He's funny, quirky, easy to talk too, a great listener and the best damn thing about him is that he's out there in the community for the kids, not himself. And if you're one of my top thousand friends you'll see similar qualities in me. Confidence included.
So today, Friday, after a long week of dragging my ass after chemo injection number 5, I went out today and bought my father a Father's Day gift. Honestly, it's probably the first that I have personally purchased for him ever. I know that sounds disgusting but that's the way it has been for the past 43 years. Like I said things now are different. I feel good about the gift. I feel good about inviting my parents and my brother and my sister to my house on Sunday for an afternoon Father's Day Lunch. I'm not going to say this might be the last Father's Day but I will say that it will be a memorable and emotional one.
And I'm going to hug and kiss my father on Sunday like never before. Because I know what he's feeling inside. And I want him to know that I do love him.
My sister Beth took me to Toronto this past Tuesday for my 5th Chemo injection. The day went rather smooth until the end when she announced that she didn't want me to write about her in my blog. I laughed and said, "the blog is simply a way to express my feelings Beth. I would never mean to offend anyone."
Beth has had a tough week with some extensive internal water damage at her house due to a crack in their bathroom toilet. So I suppose I'll decline from writing about her. If I were so inclined however, I was simply going to write about how nice it was to talk to her one-on-one for that day without family, parents and others around. You see, we rarely get to visit like that without others. My sister is a smart, beautiful woman who loves me as much as my mother and father do. She's been beside me at Sick Kids, Toronto General and now Princess Margaret through thick and thin. She's kind, generous and would do anything for me and my family. If there's one thing about these trips to Toronto is that there is always a silver lining. Being with a cherished family member for those eight hours is time well spent..... thank you.
Thanks for reading and sharing...
Next Blog - The 6th Chemo Visit.... June 18, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
I am weaker physically, my focus and concentration is a bit off and I've been terribly edgy. I must admit though that I have been extremely lucky, of course, not to feel nauseated nor have I vomited but there are other things that are beginning to creep into my being that I'm not comfortable with.
First, I was agitated Monday, the day before treatment this week because I had planned for a relatively quite day of rest and movies when both the telephone and door bell wouldn't stop ringing. Friends and family members, who are all generally concerned with my health, called or simply dropped by to say hello and then naturally ask that question I'm beginning to detest... "soooo... how are you feeling today?"
Who in there right mind would say... "terrible, I'm weak, my head is aching and I'm generally in a bitchy mood, but thanks for asking".
No, instead, with a smile on my face and sense of 'I can do this' I lead with a quick "not bad" followed by a "I'm a little weak but I'll get by." The problem with being under the weather is that nobody wants to be under the weather. We all want the normal routine to continue. We all want for our lives to go on. When we are sick for just a few days, say with the flu, we simply grin and bear it and we all know that the flu will eventually go away.
But when you get into a situation like the one I am currently in you're not sure, or pretty not so sure, that it is going to go away. I've finally realized that I'm going to be sick with this Chemo feeling for another number of weeks. And of course all this starts to play on your mind.
As for the friends and family, I'm not saying to stay away or stop calling at all, but instead thank you for thinking and caring about me. As I stated I don't like the way my mind is playing games on my general being. This is not about you. It's about me. I love visitors. I hate having cancer.
I'm also not comfortable with not being there for Trent. I had to miss being on the bench for his first box lacrosse game of the year in Clarington Tuesday. I was simply too tired after my treatment earlier that day to contribute as the teams trainer so I told Trent before the game that I wouldn't be on the bench. He looked at me with his beautiful blue eyes and said "it's OK Dad" but still he seemed a little disappointed. It's that feeling which hurts more than the six I.V. needle attempts in the arm I had early in treatments. It's that feeling that makes me detest the cancer even more.
And finally, I not comfortable with being unmotivated. We have a treadmill in the basement. I should be on it every second day getting some exercise to strengthen my immune system and stay in shape. But I'm not. I have a bicycle in the garage. I haven't rode it once in three weeks. Lance Armstrong rode his bike everyday when he had cancer and went through chemo. I read his book. What the hell is wrong with me? Get motivated. I don't know what it is but the chemo is fogging my mind a bit when it comes to what can I do. There is so much to do around the house. I want to get the pool open for the season. There is laundry, dishes, re-coating the lane way, but I simply don't have the energy. This whole thing sucks.
I've been off work for five weeks now and you know what? I miss it. Believe it or not but I miss my fellow employees, my sport contacts and my routine. I went into work yesterday to say hi to those in the office. It was a short visit but it was a tough visit just the same. All of these 'can't dos' start to build up and it's tough on the mind. I suppose it's just another battle that has to be won in the fight against cancer for all of us with the disease.
Tuesday, my friend Bill Duff took me to Toronto for my 4th day of treatment. Bill is a fantastic guy who would do anything for me if I asked. In fact, he's much like all my friends. It's great to have friends like Bill who offer to drive you to Chemo. It's certainly not a fun day for anyone, especially the driver, who has to come in a watch the faces of those sick at Princess Margaret.
The day went smooth with only two people to wait for in front of me to give blood. We then had a light snack before heading up to wait for approximately an hour before I was called in to unit 4 for treatment. My nurse was Anda, from Romania, was the same person who finally hit the mark after six I.V. attempts during my second chemo treatment. She said she didn't remember that day but I certainly did. I knew Anda would hit the mark first try and she did.
After the regular hour of treatment was over Bill and I were on our way home again. Another day of worry, fear and a constant reminder of my brutal disease was over. All I had to look forward too was the yucky feeling of being sleepy, agitated and grumpy for the next two weeks. All of which will subside before my next treatment on June 10. I'm officially done my second cycle and so I don't have to return to PMH until June 10 so my body can re-cooperate reproducing good cells destroyed by the chemo and getting rid of the bad cancer cells though human waste.
I know... I might have crossed the line with that one but with every poop I have to believe the cancer is getting exactly what it deserves. A flush right down the toilet.
Thanks for reading and sharing...
Next Blog - A New Cycle... June 10, 2008
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
You see my treatment is set in cycles whereas as I go one Tuesday, then the next and then I am off for a week to allow the body to recover from all the chemo that's left in my body. What I mean by recover is that the chemo destroys both bad cells (cancer) and good cells (white and red blood cells) so your body must have time to recoup those good cells (raise the white and red blood cells) before the next cycle of treatments.
Besides, I really didn't feel like writing last week. I took a vacation you might say. I didn't read my book by Eckert Tolle but instead played video games, watched movies and even took up cooking for Trent and Jennifer because I know how rough it is for her coming home from work and preparing supper. From work routine to home routine, we all go through it. But for now, we're in a different situation so I am taking up some of that responsibility (when I'm up for it) and it feels good being able to contribute.
So here we are.. cycle 2 or chemo treatment 3. Yesterday, my brother Blair showed up at 8:30 am for the ride to T.O. and Princess Margaret Hospital. Blair, my second brother and the one closest in age to me by 6 years, is a teacher and lives in Lakefield with his wife Jane and they have two beautiful daughters, Renee and Abby. Abby's going to have a baby soon and so I'll be a great uncle for the third time. But of course, Renee and Abby already know that I am their GREATEST Uncle.
Upon arrival at the PMH, I received my plastic card that read number 66 for blood giving only to look and find they were currently serving number 29 on the large neon sign. "It doesn't take that long to call your number" I said to Blair. But it was long enough for me to start worrying, because my appointment with the doctor (Dr. Sui) was for 11:30 am and still not given blood at 10:55 am. I gave blood around 11:05 am and made it to the appointment office to check in. But, of course, I had to wait until 12:10 pm to actually see the Doctor as the blood count had to get from the lab to my doctor first to ensure the levels were good for today's treatment. A little tip for non-frequent hospital goers... The first thing about hospitals is 'BE PREPARED TO WAIT.' I learned that a long time ago.
While waiting in the doctor's office I sat across from a gentlemen who I did not know. Or did I? He had an obvious scar in the same general location as I do on his neck and near his ear. He was about my age and waiting to see the same doctor. And I noticed his wife, spouse or girlfriend who looked very similar to Jennifer, also in this situation, nervous and in an obvious state of despair.
But it was not until I looked back at the man and deep into his eyes that I realized I was looking at myself. I could sense the nervousness that comes with every appointment. I could see in his eyes that he was sick and tired of this disease. And I could feel from his body image that it was crying out to say help me, help me to get better.
No it was me alright and I wanted to stand up and walk over and say, "I know exactly what you are going through". But I didn't... and why? I don't know. Today, I'm kicking myself in the ass because I didn't have the balls to stand up and say hello. I guess we are all so concerned with our own lives that we forget others who are crying out for help. Take the situation in China or Myanmar for example. Two distinct events with enormous tragic loss of lives in the past two weeks. For me, I feel very sorry for those families who have lost loved one so quickly without a chance to say goodbye. The dead, on the hand, didn't know it was coming and for the most part their lives were taken so quickly. Taken to school one morning and never to be seen again, buried beneath the rubble. In Myanmar, people were whisked away while standing next to a loved one, a body ripped out of the hand of another and taken away. This is incomprehensible to me.
I should have stood up and walked over the man. For we are the lucky ones when you compare to those events. We get to have our family close for now. We get to share in whatever time is left with our familes and friends. Hell, we could even plan to throw a whale of a goodbye party if we wanted too. The point is that you have to be thankful for what you have today not what you want tomorrow.
And furthermore, we certainly should have HOPE because we we are at the best hospital in Ontario and have faith that these doctors know what they are doing and they are going to stop, slow down or control what growing in our bodies. So I should have stood up and walked over the man and said...
"Do you know just how lucky we are?"
Maybe next week I'll take a stroll by the doctors office to see if the same man (or another perhaps) is waiting with the same look in his eyes and give him that message. A message that has long been my philosophy on life.
There is no future for any of us really. We can look at the past but we can't live in the past. And the future is not here yet, not even one-second of the future is here because when it is, it is the present. We have to live in the present and enjoy every moment that we are breathing and our heart is beating. Don't take for granted what you have in your life right now. Because it can be torn away in an instant.
The rest of the day went fairly smoothly. After the doctors office, I had quick X-Ray to see if anything in the form of pneumonia was stirring in the lungs then it was off to get chemo. Don't worry, the doctor called by the time I got home and said there was no pneumonia in the lungs... whew!
Brother Blair came in with me to the chemo room and had his eyes opened, I would have hope. This disease effects alot of people. Did you know there are 37 beds or chairs in the chemo room that is busy seven days a week for at least 8 hours per day giving people chemotheraphy to stop, slow or rid this disease. You do the math people. And it's just not seniors. There are people younger than me, the same age and then there are people in their 60s, 70s and 80s. It can effect anyone at anytime.
First poke and the I.V. was in this time and then after one hour of chemo it was out the door and home. Quicker that my first two appointments. My brother lit up a cigarette on the way to the parking garage and I didn't say anything... again. It's sad but I guess he didn't get the message.
So I'll stand up and say it now... BLAIR, TRY TO STOP SMOKING!
Thanks for reading and sharing...
Next Blog - Chemo Treatment #4 ... May 27, 2008
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
So as we loaded up the entourage of Pat and Lorraine Larock (my 77-year old parents) and my eldest sister (she hates when we say that) Beth, I was relaxed, confident and pleased that I had survived the first week without any nausea or vomiting.
Just some weakness throughout and a couple of days in bed and on the couch resting and relaxing. I did entail some slight headaches Wednesday and Thursday but by Friday the tiredness softened and I did make it to watch my favourite lacrosse goalie stop a lot of shots in a cruel 9-4 loss in women's lacrosse at the Kinsmen Civic Centre. The goalie by the way is my gorgeous wife Jennifer who plays much like I did as a young star... with great passion and a love for being part of a team.
Back to HWY 401, things were going great on the 1.5 hour commute into PMH on this sunny Tuesday morning. However, when we arrived at 10:40 am things quickly turned from optimistic to pessimistic when I arrived in line for my weekly blood work. My number in line was 29 while the large neon-lit number sign on the wall said they were currently serving number 86. That meant 43 people had to go in before me and as I looked around, believe me when I say, it looked like a whole lot more.
Slowly and quite efficiently, I might add, the numbers turned on the neon sign and people went through leading up to my call as number 29. When I entered the room my nurse directed me to cubicle 14 where I started to roll up my sleeve for the extraction of blood. The chemotherapy lab requires all patients to give blood before they give your specific chemotherapy to ensure your blood and body is strong enough to take the dosage. Chemo, by the way, is very heavy duty shit. It kills everything (all bad cells and sometimes good cells, white and red blood cells) in its way to the cancer and so giving blood is very important to the chemo process.
Another step in the process is for the nurse to ensure you are the right person who gave her #29. So she asks your a couple of questions like your name, age, and birth date. This particular nurse wasn't smiling and seeing that I was in a proactive mood I decided to try and make her smile. "What is your birth date sir?" she asked. "March 26, 1965, now being fair what's yours?" I replied with a grin. Once a small smile started I knew I had her. She said, "Oh, its in August," When I quickly added, "And that would be in the late 1970's I presume?." Right then I knew my job was done. The smile swept across her face from ear to ear and I honestly believed I made the rest of her day. I know that because she said "Oh, and thank you for the compliment," when I was preparing to leave.
Next on the agenda was, of course, another short break before Chemo at 12:00 noon. We stopped at Druxy's for a drink and then proceeded to wait for the next 1.5 hours in the chemo waiting room. I played PSP while Beth and Mom talked and Pat, while he had his midday siesta, complete with a gentle snore.
After the wait, it was finally time to tackle the Chemo room, an area set up with a few beds and few chairs for people to openly watch you get poked, IV'd and then we all site facing each other to watch as the Chemo enters your body. It's OK though because you know what? We're all in it together. Each one of us in that room faces the same fears, the same challenges and each of us have the same hope. And that is that this public display of nurses poking, I.Vs running and chemo flowing is all a plan to work and each of us are going to get rid of the cancer.
The next part of this blog may seem frightening especially if you don't like needles. But I don't have a choice. I had to endure the pain and frustration of being poked on both arms and in the wrist 7 times before the nurses could find a good I.V line or back-flow as they called it. Seven times is a lot but when you've been through what I have, seven is three less than 10. It's all in the way you think of it.
When it did finally arrive and the back flow was fine, my frustration finally subsided. Don't get me wrong I did give the nurses a small piece of my mind at being poked seven times but I'm not that crazy to know that it is a difficult job when the veins will simply not cooperate. And remember what I said before about Chemo being heavy shit. If it's not in the blood stream and leaking though a vein into the muscle, then there's a whole other ball of wax to contend with.
All in all the day went pretty smoothly. I received my 2nd treatment and the good thing is that I now have until May 20 before I return again for number 3. In the meantime, I have an appointment tomorrow (May 8) back at PMH for an MRI on my face region where I have been having some discomfort and they want to check it out to make sure the cancer has not returned to that original region. Then it's rest and relaxation with my family with hope that I can contend with treatment #2 and be able to watch Trent play lacrosse and try out for AA hockey this weekend.
As for my entourage yesterday, they are very special people to me and I want to thank them for sharing in my adventure.
My Dad, who has always supported me in my life, continues to be the comedian when we are at the hospital. I guess his philosophy has rubbed off on me, like many of his others, and that is too make someone smile who might not be very happy. Without smiles, the world would be a very sad place.
And to my sister, who has always been a second mother to me because she was 12 when I was born and therefore the perfect age for helping with such a sick child. She's always been there and supported me through hospital and life and always with great love. A lot of people know my father, brothers and I throughout the community but it always been my sister and my mother responsible for keeping us all so close as a family.
And finally to my mom, who will celebrate being my lucky mother for the 43rd time this weekend on Mothers Day. And that is certainly something to celebrate. She's been the one who is responsible for me having a level head, good job and great attitude about beating this disease, not to mention my other health problems. She's never told me but I've heard that I wasn't suppose to leave the hospital after birth. But she knew differently. She believed in me. She knew the odds were supposed to be beaten and she kindled the love that made it happen. I have always cherished every moment I am around her.
We should all cherish every moment we have with our families and our friends. Because life is simply way too short to not too.
Thanks for reading and sharing...
Next Blog - Chemo Treatment #3 ... May 20, 2008
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
However, today I wasn't going to work. Instead it was my first day of Chemotherapy at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto.
Our son Trent had asked the day before if he could join his mother and I on the adventure to Toronto. I, as well as his mother, thought it would be a good experience for the 11 year-old to witness in person that his father was not going to be hurt in anyway today but rather that the medicine he would receive will be given to help slow down the cancerous disease.
The day started out as usual with me anxious to get on the road while Trent and Jennifer took their sweet time. The trip was the usual 1.5 hours in length with, of course, two pee breaks in between. Once for Mom and the second for Dad.
When we arrived at PMH, I knew exactly where we were going. It's a place that I have been many times before and if you've never been there, I hope you never have to go. Don't get me wrong the Hospital is a wonderful place but from the first time I stepped through the door I've been amazed at the fact that this Hospital services ONLY patients with cancer. And there isn't just a few people in the lobby. There must be thousands in and out the door everyday. Not to mention the number of patients in the rooms upstairs. It certainly is an eye opening experience to say the least. And a very sad one as well.
Off topic - One day I read the many different types of cancers followed at the PMH. I was amazed at everything from lung, kidney, breast (which are the obvious) but then there is throat, testicle and eye cancer. Can you imagine having eye cancer? That would be horrible. But as I found out later when talking with my doctor, eye cancer is perhaps one of the lucky forms of cancer to have because you see with eye cancer, once you remove the eye... the cancer is... gone. You can always live and even drive with one eye.
Back to chemo day 1... After you arrive at the Daycare Chemo Clinic there tends to be a lot of what 'normal' people would call waiting. For us 'not normal' people this is called hospital patience. The problem is that there are so many people with cancer and more than 100 different types of chemotherapy drugs that you simply have to wait your turn. We waited approximately an hour to see the nurse who would administer my drugs. He was a nice fellow, Mike, who looked a little like Eddie Murphy, so Trent said. Jennifer and Trent watched and listened, as Mike, read through the many side effects that can take effect following Chemo. I knew the list because I've done a little research. I'm usually good with side effects which should help in my treatments. I didn't have many with radiation and I am hoping the same with Chemo. I was a tad mesmorized by the amount of times Mike mentioned nausea and vomitting because quite honestly I really hate doing it.
Then came time for Mike to adminster by injection I.V. the drug Prochlorperazine (pro-klor-pare-a-zeen) to help eleviate nausea or vomitting which is a main side effect of chemo. I was thankful to start with that one.
That process took approximately 15 minutes and then came time for the actual chemo drug entitled Gemcitabine (Jem-Site-a-been) which was again injected through an I.V. (as seen in the photo). This process took approximately 30 minutes. During this period we took photos with my cell phone camera of the event and Trent and I had a free juice and cookie supplied by one of the many tremendous volunteers at the PMH. A third and final solution was administered following the Gemcitabine to flush the system and prepare me to go home for the day. I think Trent was as drained as I was by this time and so we were both happy to leave the hospital hand in hand.
The whole procedure from arrival to out the parking lot was 2 hours. In total we left at 9:30 am and arrived home at 4:35 pm. I slept in the car on the road home because during the ride I suddenly felt like someone had hit me in the head with a hammer and I fell asleep rather quickly. I awoke just in time to turn into the laneway.
I truly think the day was important for Trent. It demonstrated to him two very important things. First, I was not harmed in any way during the procedure which might have been a concern for him going in. Secondly, it showed Trent that I am truly sick with something and that I do need some sort of medication. You see to him, I'm normal. Up until Monday I was working and coaching lacrosse. I had just gotten home from our last NLL games on the weekend in Minnesota and Chicago and I'm not surprise my boy was wondering "how come my Dad has become so sick so fast". He now knows it's not like that. The medicine I am receiving is going to help.
You see I had a revelation on the weekend while I was asleep in Minnesota.
Suddenly in the night I woke up and I said to myself, self... maybe, just maybe this chemo treatment will work. If I believe in it and give it a chance then perhaps it will stop, control and maybe even destroy the cancer cells that are currently growing in my lungs. And that would definitely extend my life.
Before that revelation I was too focused on dying rather than focused on living. All the news I have been given over the past two years has been negative. Oh... you have might cancer but its a slime chance.. but it was. Oh.. you have cancer but we'll get the rest with radiation... but they didn't and finally... Oh.. it's back and it's not curable.... well you know what? Maybe it is... I'm going to take the positive side of the road and focusing on it is from now on and so here's to hoping and praying that this funny 11-letter word Gemcitabine (Jem-Site-a-been) is going to work. Will you hope and pray with me?
Thanks for reading and sharing...
Next Blog - Chemo treatment #2 .... May 6, 2008
I have a very lenghtly medical history. I was born a blue-baby with a heart defect specifically known as tetraology of fallot. I have survived five open heart surgeries since birth, twice at age 2, one at age 9, another at 14, and finally a valve replacement at age 35. I've also been through many catherizations, blood tests, hospital visits and through it all have a deep, deep respect for the medical profession in Ontario. I am obviously very thankful for living in this country.
Since I was old enough to remember I always feared dying from sudden heart failure. When I awoke in each morning I always listened for my heart to beat. I opened my eyes slowly and then smiled. Why... because I had made it to another day. I have enjoyed a pretty good healthy life in general. I played sports as a child, started working at age 16 part-time, attending two community colleges and started to work full-time at age 26. I have been a volunteer for sport teams, assisted with provincial sport organizations at the Canada Games and captured two Canadian Lacrosse Championships with the Peterborough Lakers as the Video Coach and Assistant General Manager in 2006 and 2007 respectively.
My two greatest accomplishments are the day I was married to Jennifer Craw on November 16, 1991 and the birth of my son Trent on September 30, 1996. I've certainly accomplished a lot for a guy with a hole-in-his heart but I don't want to bore you right now with all the details.
After my last heart surgery in 2000, I thought life was going good. I no longer listened as carefully to the beat of my heart each morning. I enjoyed coaching my son's lacrosse teams and I enjoyed my time with adult lacrosse both amateur work with the Lakers and professional work with the Colorado Mammoth, Edmonton Rush and Chicago Shamrox in the National Lacrosse League.
But it was early June 2006 when all that changed.
A small lump on my neck emerged and my family physician, Dr. Ahee, referred me to a local ear, nose and throat specialist here in Peterborough, Dr. Fuco who sent me for an MRI and then met with me in his office. He told me that there was a mass of something in my neck. He first warned me that the mass could be removed because it is some sort of tumour most likely beign but possibiliy cancerous. Of course the first thought in anyones mind is... 'What did he just say?'. When you first hear those word, immediately thoughts of death enters your mind, but then he added, "Again that is a slight 10% chance, so not to worry".
On June 21, 2006 I had surgery to remove the tumour from my partiod gland and seven days later in his office, I was officially told the news. Adeniod Cystistic Carcenoma was the term he used but that obviously went stay over my head and into a terrified space. The only word I heard through the entire visit was Cancer.
Acting rather calm about the diagnoses, I noticed my spouse's (Jennifer) eyes were beginning to swell and her emotions quickly getting the best of her so I remained as calm as I could, and had experience doing so, so I started to ask questions pertaining to next steps, chances of getting it all and what is the overall pronogisis.
The next step was a referral to a doctor teacher friend of Dr. Fuco from Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. Dr. Irish, a leader in this field, was very throughtful and extremely helpful during our visit in July of 2006. He then in turn referred to me Dr. O'Sullivan, a radiation oncologist at Princess Margaret who arranged for raditation treatments as quick as possible in August, September and October to hopefully finally get rid of any reminents of the disease.
After completing the radition in October, I returned to PMH every three months for follow-up with Dr. O'Sullivan either seeing him in his clinic or in his office. Each time it was a quick look over and examine in the parodid area as well as inside of the mouth and concluding with some general questions pertaining to pain and areas of concerns. And then like that it was see you next time and I was off for another three months. On two occassions during these visits I had X-rays completed with the first one showing no signs of further disease.
However, in January of 2008, I received a telephone call from my congential heart doctor who had seen something on the X-Ray taken December 19, 2007. She had received the X-Ray because the paperwork for the X-Ray had been requested by her for an appointment I had in October on the heart side of my history and so since her name was on the paperwork, the results came back to her. She then notified both I and Dr. O'Sullivan who requested that I have a Cat Scan immediately of which was done in early February and confirmed that there were a number of very small cancer cells growing on both of my lungs.
After meeting with Dr. O'Sullivan to discuss potential options for treatment I have now been referred to Dr. Sui, another specialist in Adeniod Cystistic Carcemona which commonly mastisties to the lungs. Dr. Sui is a young asian doctor who tells it like it is. She is incredible to talk too and definetely knows her stuff. I have met with twice to date and have learned an incredible amount about this disease and the work she is doing. I desperately hope that through her knowledge she can extend my life.
You notice I said extend. One of the first things Dr. Sui told me was that there is no cure at this time for this type of cancer. They have ways to slow or stop the progress of the disease but they have not found a cure. This is very hard for me to accept. And for anyone who reads this blog I would suspect. However, there is good in this diagnosis.
Remember at the very beginning of this blog I explained that I used to wake up and listen for the beat of my heart. I no longer do that. I have learned in the past two years that life is what it delivers. I have been very, very, very, lucky to live 43 years. A lot of people, expecially people born in the 1960s with congential heart disease never got that chance, and another lot of people throw their chance at life away by sucide, drugs and other stupid stunts. And more that there are a lot of people have suffered far more than I have or ever will.
Sure, I can die tomorrow from sudden cardiac arrest and quite frankly that would suck.
If I were to then I would never get the chance I have now to prepare for death. To help plan with my wife and son for life after me. Right now my heart is good. My heart is healthy so I guess the plan for me is to go in another way. But I must be thankful for the way choosen and that is to prepare for my death.
From now on, I'm not going to be afraid of death but rather embrace life and put all good thoughts and plans into ensuring Jennifer and Trent can enjoy the very best of life after I am gone.
And so that's why I am writing this blog and hoping that many people read it. For people to understand that message. I am here to share my stories of fighting cancer and trying to extend my life. I am also writing it for people to understand that cancer is something that must be shared, put on display for people to get angry and do what they can because we must destory this disease once and for all. It is killing too many people. To many mothers, fathers, relatives and friends. We must find a way to control it, get rid of it and extend our lives. Because it's not really fair... that only the good die young.
Thanks for reading and sharing...
Next Blog... My first visit for Chemo... April 29, 2008