Friday, April 9, 2010

My Choice for Passing On...

Many things have been written and discussed over the centuries of human existence on what happens when you pass on.

Religion, of course, is the anchor that most of the Christian global population believes in with God taking our souls to heaven to be at peace, for evermore.

Others believe that when we pass on our souls are reincarnated into another body to live yet another life. All so that our soul may learn to grow and appreciate its journey to peace, for evermore.

The third option is, quite frankly, as abrupt as driving down any highway in Ontario and looking out the window to see the day’s road kill on the shoulder of the highway. One day we are here. The next, we are gone.

So what do I believe in? I asked myself this question one day recently because a lot of things go through your mind when you are faced with passing on. And like anything I buy into, I’d like to know my options.

I’ve researched all three for awhile now. First, reading two books on reincarnation and how the process of learning about your past lives can be channeled through hypnosis. I’ve seen hypnosis and isn’t that popular entertainment at Corporate Conventions and on Carnival Cruise Lines? Don’t get me wrong the books are extremely interesting. They say that when you pass on your future lives learn and grow from your past lives and your soul, or inner being, enters new bodies to develop an overall peacefulness much like religion informs us of heaven, and being with God.

Reincarnation is also interesting because I would love to know what my past lives were and how I passed on in them. We all would, I’m sure. The hard part about this option for me is that when I called to see about the possibility of regressing to a prior life through hypnosis, I was told the charge would be $75 for a three-hour session. When I set out to examine reincarnation, I honestly didn’t think about the cost of doing so.

Another fascinating aspect of reincarnation is the definition of a soul mate. Most people think the term soul mate has romantic meaning. But that is not true. As I see it, soul mate has really little to do with a star-crossed lover and more to do with an acquaintance, friend or even family member. In reincarnation, a soul mate is everyone who you come in contact with in this life; or who you have been in contact with before, in a previous life. So you could have been your grandfather’s teacher; or your brother may have been your girlfriend’s father, in a former life. I would prefer to think of it that way. And so, if I am reincarnated, my first request would be to be reincarnated as Trent’s nurse at his retirement home.

Now the third option, to me, just isn’t possible. Call it what you may, but it’s the way I feel, how I have lived and the rationale of why we all are on this earth as human beings. With our emotions, our ability to communicate and all the other attributes that make us Human over Animal, it’s easy to see that one of those reasons must be a soul or life force. And therefore if Human has a soul, then an Animal doesn’t. When an Animal passes on, its gift to the Earth is to replenish the ground with its composition. The Lion King termed it, the Cycle of Life. I just think there has to be more.

And so that brings us to Religion. A bountiful and pure answer that is driven by faith. To trust that we will be looked after by God is certainly pleasing. He is our Shepherd who watches over us and instills little miracles amongst us occasionally. These help breed the faith.

My mother says I am a miracle. Jennifer and I think Trent is a miracle. And I’m sure all of you have your own miracle in your life. Some of you might think that my choice to pass on and have faith in Religion is sort of a sure thing; but, it wasn’t.

Religion has not been so pleasing to our family over the years. Two events come to mind. First, my mother was raised Baptist and my father, Catholic. My grandfather refused to attend my parents wedding because of my father’s choice of a Baptist woman. My father is kind and loving but I know too he is stubborn and with his long memory his relationship with his father was never really the same. That was until my grandfather had nowhere to go and with my parents good hearts took him for the last 10 years of his life. There my mother and father fed, cleaned and cared for him before his death at age 91. A difference of religion can play havoc on families until family values from religion prevail.

The second story begins when my young two-year-old body was suffering in hospital in Toronto. One Sunday my parents, eager to see me, indicated to members of the congregation at Park Street Baptist Church that it they would not be attending Sunday’s service as they were off to visit me in Toronto for the day. One member of the congregation was extremely upset by this news and spoke proudly that God will look after me and that they should stay at Church instead. (Note: My mother, to this day, won’t tell me who the woman was but does note that the woman attended her 50th wedding anniversary.) Well, that conversation did not sit well with my parents and so trips to Park Street Baptist Church lessened and lessened when my bothers got involved in hockey until they were no more. My mother said she introduced us all too religion but wasn’t going to force it on us either.

And so religion in my parents’ home was never really discussed. My mother rarely took me to church only when I asked what Sunday school was all about. We went a few times. I listened to some stories. But God never showed up at Church and I’m sure I asked him really, really nicely in a prayer or two to reach into my chest and fix my heart so that I do everything all my friends could do. But he never did. So to me religion was always just an option, as my mother described.

I renewed my strength in God when I was baptized in my mid-30s. Why was I baptized so late in life? Well it was due to two special events. The first was the birth of Trent Larock in 1996. Trent was two years in the making and when he was born, I pledged to God and anyone that would listen that I would rekindle my questions about faith and promised to take him to church. We did that.

And then in the year 2000, I had my Mitral Valve replaced with a true pig valve in my heart, the gift of modern medicine technology. With those two life-altering events, Jennifer and I joined St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church and became good standing members of the congregation. We took in the teas; I joined the buildings committee and even post-dated our cheques for weekly contributions.

All was good. Then Trent and I were baptized. I wanted to be before my operation to ensure that we would all get to Heaven someday together. After the baptism and for a year or so following we continued to church each Sunday, but then Trent joined hockey. And a practice here, game there led to another here and another there. Soon we were not going to church anymore. But the bottom line is Jennifer and I had restored our faith in God and hopefully passed a little on to Trent for the future.

When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2006 I was angry. Why me was the common phrase. I asked God the question, “Why did you do this to me God after all I have been through?” I never got an answer. I wasn’t going back to church. I was done with faith… until recently.

In my research for what happens after you pass on, I was surprisingly drawn to pick up the Bible. I didn’t want to but when reading about reincarnation there were but a few, believe it or not, references to the Bible. Things sounded familiar, a lot of what I believed in now and therefore it coxed me to think about reading it again… but I didn’t.

Instead I went to Chapters where I found a book by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, entitled The Lord is My Shepherd – Healing Wisdom of the 23rd Psalm. I chose this book because it is based on the 23rd Psalm; the only psalm that I remember as a child and what I thought was a prayer to god, asking to keep us safe at night while we sleep.

The book is quite interesting because it is actually based on each line of the famous 23rd Psalm. The author takes each word of the Psalm and turns it into readable layman terms or Barry’s English as I call it. It’s purifying, encouraging and magnificent for the soul. I am reading the book for a second time now and underlining key words and phrases. I want Jennifer to keep this book and read it. Give it to Trent if he wants to read it. This one Psalm answers a lot of questions.

The other day I picked up the Bible. I started at the beginning and read well into the Old Testament. There are a lot of names in the Bible and stories about 900 year old men and a flood that covered the entire earth. Still, the most interesting stories are in the New Testament about Jesus. I find the Bible easier to read now then when I was younger or even when I was healthier. Perhaps that’s why people turn to God near death. It just makes more sense to me now. It feels good to open it and just start reading anywhere.

I made a choice the other day to believe in a spiritual departure. I’m going to pass on and go to heaven because of two reasons. First, I was baptized and second, because it is my mind’s choice. I am what I am because of who I am. I choose religion.

Thank you for reading and sharing,

Next blog... April 15, 2010... What's the dose of the day?

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Dog Day Afternoon - Buddy and I

Sorry this entry is a little past February 15, 2010 as promised but I hve been very, very busy these days training a puppy. Or at least attempting to train a puppy.

Buddy Larock, our newest edition, came into exsistence on October 17, 2009. We purchased him from a breeder in January and in a week from Wednesday on March 17, 2010 Buddy celebrates his five-month birthday. Oh boy, will that be party? That is if I don't strangle him first.

You see, training a puppy is extremely hard work. It demands a lot of attention, a schedule, rules and of course discipline. And these are all simply for the trainer. The puppy, well he's just happy go lucky puppy, bouncing, eating, pooping and peeing wherever and whenever he likes.

"Oh that training", Buddy throws out at me telepathically when I speak to him about leaking in the house. "Do I get a treat for that one?" is usually what telepathically follows.

Don't get me wrong, the unconditional love that Buddy brings to my life everyday is a welcomed treasure. He sits with me when I'm blue, he comforts and snuggles with me when I'm tired and he does whatever he can to make me smile whether its chasing his own tail, jumping from furniture to furniture or simply biting the back of Trent's ankles when he walks (now that's the funniest).

Buddy is a real helper too. He often wants to share his toys with me and will bring them and place them in a pile in front of my feet. He also helps me with tieing my shoes always getting his little paws on top of my fingers to knot the laces while using his razor sharp teeth to gnaw on my flesh. He often helps as well to wake Jennifer up when she sleeps in on weekdays and the weekends. Instead of me taking the heat, Buddy is now an easy blame for suddenly jumping on the bed and biting the very tip of Jennifer's nose. "Oh sorry! ...hehehe" Buddy says to me again telepathically.

The key to good training is consistency which is difficult in a house of three people. I am becoming Mr. Mean while Jennifer is Ms. Softy and Trent is well... 13. He doesn't handle poo well or Buddy peeing in his bedroom, which Buddy apparently thinks is hilarious, espeically when Trent often leaves his door open for just a few minutes. Overall Buddy is taking to training and is less and less hard work and more and more wonderful. Don't get me wrong, he's learning as are we, his three trainers.

In between training sessions when I am at home most of the day, Buddy and I catch up on some T.V. together, read a good book or have an afternoon nap every once-in-a-while. He has been a very welcomed edition to keep me company. And although, hard work is something that tires you out a little faster and keeps your body moving when you want to sit and relax, Buddy is exactly what I needed. He's smart, he funny and best of all he's very good at bitting Trent's ankles..hehehe. I think I will go a give him a hug right now!


So much to write about, so little time. I have to be honest and say that time is getting shorter. I am on oxygen at night and my breathing during the day is more laboured. I am trying my best to get up during the day and get out but somedays I just need to stay home and take it easy. NO one wants to admit they are dying and that's not what I am doing but I know and can tell I am getting sicker and sicker than even before January.

So much to write about, so little time. I realize I just wrote that but its true.

I have always wanted to write a book about my life and perhaps I should have but then again... who would read it? I mentioned on this blog that I honestly believe that I have done some very amazing things in my life that most people only dream of doing. And I have done so with every reason to feel sorry for myself. No reason to do that. So here's but one example.

The year is 1989 and I am working part-time for the Peterborough Sun, a small weekly newspaper in Peterborough. My parents, sister and her two children are going to Chicago to see friends of my sister who moved there with her husband, John Black, to work for Sears. I join them on the road trip. But before I go, I sell it to the newspaper and to the Chicago Blackhawks that I want to do an article on Steve Larmer, a Peterborough native and leading goal scorer of the Chicago Blackhawks, when I am in Chicago. So I arrange for a press pass to the old Chicago Stadium. My friend, Paul Jensen, thinks I'm crazy and told me I wouldn't get a press pass. I proved him wrong.

My father, nephew and sister's friend husband attend the game and I make my way to the press box at Chicago Stadium. Now this is an original six franchise and has been around since 1926. The building is in a very tough part of Chicago and go for it, like anyone else would.

I proudly show my pass and enter the press room which is full of food and drinks and NHL players out of the line-up. There are a few media guys as well like Mickey Redmond, also from Peterborough, but I do not approach him or bring it up. The Blackhawks are playing the Detroit Red Wings that night and so the Savard - Yzerman match-up is the only thing being discussed. I stand by myself and munch on the free food.

As the game starts I take my press box plastic chair, sorry nothing stylish, and sit down next to Bob Murray, an older veteran Blackhawks defenceman. After some brief conversation on who I was and what I was doing there, I settled in to watch the game beside my new friend Bob. The contest becomes a game filled with Yzerman moves that wonder the mind and Savardian spins that causes one to shutter. But the best moves of the night come from another player and I had no idea who he was because it was his debut that season, Jeremy Roenick. A young hot-shot that was rather small but fiesty as fiesty can be.

Following the game, I did my best to make it quickly through the crowd with my press pass snuggled tightly to my chest pocket until I had to flash it several times to the mature ushers enroute to the dressing room. I did say 1926 didn't I. I didn't know those ushers still worked there.

On my way down the stairs towards the dressing rooms I ran into Steve Larmer leaving the arena rather quickly. If I had been 20-seconds more, I would have missed him and my interview. Something that would not have looked good on my resume. So quckly I talked to Steve, otherwise known as Grandpa in the Blackhawks dressing room for his constant chewing of gum and laid back attitude towards the NHL persona. You see, Steve Larmer just considered hockey his job and never really looked it as a big deal. He did his job so well that he eventually won a Stanley Cup for it. That's not a bad way to look at it. Maybe more players should remember how lucky they are to be working for the NHL product.

After my interview with Steve, I made my way to get a quote off of Mike Keenan, coach of the Blackhawks. I had met Mike Keenan in Peterborough months before when the Petes had a roast of Scotty Bowman and both Bowman and Keenan were there. When I finally arrived at the dressing room I turned left into the large players room instead of right to the coaches room and all of a sudden someone yelled... "What the F*&^K are you doing here?"

Amongst Denis Savard, Dirk Graham, Steve Thomas, Doug Wilson and Jeremy Roenick, who just scored two goals that night, an old friend, just a skate blade taller than me, started to cross the room towards me. And you all know him too. You watched him during the 2010 Olympics and you should be able to tell by his bald head. It was Darren Pang. Panger and I played lacrosse against each other in Peewee. Darren, stayed at my parents house on Grady Avenue when he was in a lacrosse tournament as a peewee at 12 and then the following year, I stayed at his house when I went to a tournament in his hometown of Gloucester the next summer. We were majors that year and we played against each other. I stopped him on a breakaway and he scored on me twice. You don't forget people like Darren Pang. Beleive it or not, but Darren Pang and I went to see the movie GREASE together in a theatre when it first came out. And we grew up to be the same height.. imagine that!

I used to work at the Memorial Centre as well. From 1982 to 1988 I worked under Gary Watkins and Peter Bujold sweeping seats and eventually driving the Zamboni. When Panger played for the Ottawa 67s in Junior we would meet before the game or after and chat for a few minutes and Steve Yzerman who knew Panger as well from hockey days in Ottawa would also join us if he could. Sorry.. back to my story.

So Darren Pang comes over and starts to ask me how I am and we talk for about five minutes before he introduces me to everyone in the room. I almost walked on the middle carpet, a Chiefs head and Blackhawk logo, which is a NO, NO in that dressing room. Boy did I get the look. Panger then takes me to the coaches room and introduces me to Mike Keenan, who really had no idea we had met in Peterborough but had to make me feel good so nodded an oh yeah, I remember before I asked him a few questions about Steve Larmer.

After a couple of quotes from Iron Mike I made my way back up from the bowels of Chicago Stadium to find my father, nephew and sisters' friend husband. We made it to our car safely and off we drove to his home. Not a bad night of work for a part-time sports reporter at the Peterborough Sun. Was it worth asking for a press pass? ABSOLUTELY...

Thanks for reading and sharing...

Next blog... March 25, 2010... House of Commons Adventures

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Let's Just See How I Am Doing

They say no news is good news but when there is news... do we really want to hear it?

Some say "yes, course we do", while others will say "it all depends on the severity". For me, I always say give it to me straight, good or bad because like it or not, that's just the way it is.

So when Dr. Siu informed me on January 25 that the cancer had grown slightly since my last CT-Scan in November, I wasn't surprised. I could sense it. I had been struggling with shortness of breath at times and this coughing at night was driving me crazy. The reality is that things are getting worse and I now know I need further help to manage.

At the conclusion of my last appointment it was decided that I would go on Tarveca, an inhibitor cancer drug that can, in small cell lung patients, slow down or stop the progression of cancer. Of course this is not a cure nor is there a guarantee it will work but hopefully it will buy me more a little more time in the long run. It was also decided at this appointment that Dr. Siu would arrange for oxygen at night for me and I am too continue with my puffers during the day. All of this medication would all help to make me feel better and keep my quality of life more normal.

Now this is where the story gets interesting. You see, I have never been one for doing something easy. In fact, both Jennifer and I have always done things the hard way. For example, Trent was two years in the making. Some may call that the 'fun way' but when you're eager to have your first child, two years is a long time to wait.

So I arrive home with my medication Tarceva and take the first pill on the first day. On the second day, I take two pills and for the next four days, two pills each day. Unfortunately, when Saturday morning arrived I decided to count the number of pills left which were to last me a month and the numbers did not add up. I did not have enough pills left to finish the month.

As foolish as one can be, I ended up figuring out that I did not read the literature properly and instead of being short pills, I was taking too many pills and therefore overdosed on my supply of Tarceva. I took two per day instead of the prescribed one. A rash like no other rash developed on my face, neck, scalp and torso. I was getting as red as the brightest strawberry and as itchy as the biggest summer mosquito bite brings. After figuring out my blunder, I immediately called the hospital to see if I was going to die earlier than expected and spoke with a doctor at Princess Margaret Hospital who ended up being the boss of my doctor, Dr. Siu.

The doctor asked me a few questions pertaining to my general health and after I bored him with what I thought was a lengthy history of my congenital heart problems and numerous cancer treatments, he simply said, "oh". Then continued, "well you seem to be doing OK if after four days of taking the extra pills you're still standing. But please stop taking them immediately and don't take anymore until you see your doctor on Monday."

And so I did. For a week now I have suffered with the rash, even after getting some cream and an antibiotic following my appointment February 1st. I am still horribly embarrassed, however, considering my history with medications and my stupidity in overdosing and potentially cutting my life even shorter than it is. So people, that's why it is so very important to read your prescription bottle directions every time you take it. And don't forget to read the inside sheets of your prescription detailing all side effects as well.

Today, February 4, I am finally feeling better. My scalp doesn't itch, my face is no longer apple red and fatigue is not dragging my ass around the house slowly. I can now focus again on going back Monday Febraury 8 to Toronto for another blood test with hope of getting back on Tarceva and YES... taking the dose correctly. Perhaps then and with the good grace of God I can stick around a whole lot longer.


Just wanted to pass along thanks to a few people who have helped us in the past few weeks with rides and just for being there when I need someone to talk too. Andy Wasson, Ed Burke, and Jamie Batley have all driven me to Toronto recently. They are good friends and their time from work and family to drive me is greatly appreciated... Katrina Brumpton was the first person I called when I realized I overdosed on my pills. Katrina works at PRHC and she helped to calm me down and gave me great advice on what to do and who to call next.

Knowing I have these great people in my life helps me understand why I was selected to bear all of my illnesses. I have tried hard all my life to be a good friend to those who have treated me with respect and who have accepted me for who I am in spite of all of my health shortcomings. The time has come for me to slow down and allow some of that hard work to gently fall on the shoulders of my true friends. They don't just help me because they feel sorry for me. They do it because they know I have earned their friendship, their trust and their love. And that is exactly what friendship is all about.

Thanks for reading and sharing...

Next blog... February 15, 2010... Dog Day Afternoon

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It's a Wonderful Life

Christmas has come and Christmas has gone for another year. Are we all happy that it's over?

Not me. I find that time of year the one time when you can sit on your ass and do nothing and not get into trouble for it. Sure your spouse or significant other is always looking at you to assist with drinks, put out food for guests, or clean up after everyone leaves, but for the most part you can leave your pajamas on all day and nobody really cares. At least for few days.

In my last blog, I stated that I was going to take this Christmas season to enjoy it with Jennifer and Trent. And yes, we did thank you. It truly is a Wonderful Life.

I don't believe you want to read all the details of the Holiday Season but aside from being busy with family and parties, we did enjoy a few movies and Jennifer's newest board game, Blockus, together. Trent and Jennifer are rather good at it while I am, well... terrible. It's ok, I love to see the smiles on their faces when I pretend I'm such a bad loser.

On January 11, 2010, which was yesterday, I travelled to Princess Margaret Hospital for an appointment with Dr. Siu. The hope was that she would find a miracle trial over the holidays that would work on my Cancer and I would be cured in the very near future. Wouldn't that be friggin fantastic? The reality is there is no such drug yet.

You see, over the course of the holidays, I contracted bronchitis for which my local doctor, Dr. Ahee, prescribed an antibiotic. It certainly worked to get rid of the infection but the truth is that despite my determination to deny it, my breathing is getting more labored these days when I climb stairs, walk and/or do simple chores like take out the garbage.

I also have acquired a cough that many have supportively offered as a 'time of the year virus', but I know differently. I can feel it. I am keeping Jennifer awake at night and its causing me aches in my back and chest daily.

Dr. Siu confirmed that perhaps it may be the cancer growing so its was decided to order a CT-Scan on January 19, 2010 to determine its validity. At this time there is no new trial chemotherapy to give me but she did offer two other cancer drugs for me to read about on the internet and find out if they are covered through our work drug plans. You see, trials are 'free' while 'cancer drugs' cost lots of money. There are substantial side effects as well that one has to consider. She also offered the word I have most dreaded in recent discussions, oxygen. For me, being on oxygen was the worst thing in the world when I was in hospital as a child. First off, you look sick, secondly, you are sick if on oxygen and finally, its a bugger to get around with it. I will definitely have to read more about it first before I agree to it.

Cancer! It has to be the most hated disease, at least, in the Northern Hemisphere. Why can't it just get along with the body? I mean, Cancer wants to just take you over so quickly. I wouldn't mind sharing my body with a little cancer for say 30 - 50 years or so and then I would surely give it up for it. Go ahead, take my wilted, aged body and knock yourself out Cancer. But not 3, 5, or 10 years at best... that's way too damn short in terms of time remaining.

Trust me, I am not giving up but you have to admit that when a terminal illness moves to a next stage you get a whole lot more worried. Especially when the end seems to be closing in. It reminds me of Luke and Hans Solo in the trash compactor. Again that was only a movie with a happy ending.

On a happier note, we added another addition to our family this past weekend. Being home without my friend B.J. who passed away in November, was really tough on me. So Jennifer and I have been searching on the internet for a new friend. We found 11 week-old Buddy Larock, our newest Shitzpoo, on Kijji and picked him up in Bowmanville Saturday.

He's as black as midnight and you can barely see his bright little eyes until he looks up at you to say "I love you". Trent and Buddy are already good friends and I know Buddy and I will spend lots of time in the next few weeks learning how to pee where he is suppose to and not all over the house. I haven't quite figured out yet, however, who will be training who.

Thanks for reading and sharing...

Next Blog... January 25... "Let's Just See How I'm Doing"