Tuesday, December 27, 2011

It's slow going with throwing, but with cancer putting a dent in my mediocre slopitch career for a year, at least there's knowing

My rock star surgeon, Dr. Robert Lee, said that I couldn't start throwing a softball until after Christmas.
I gladly obliged. I waited for Boxing Day.
My good pal Carla McAloney came by yesterday and we threw for about 15 minutes in our front yard.
Beforehand, I was worried that my shoulder was going to fall off. I mean, they took the bottom of my trapezius muscles and folded them into the middle of my back in my eighth and final surgery. Who knew what might happened?
My shoulder held up fine. I'm not even sore today. On the flip side, though, I was disappointed at my balance. I didn't feel comfortable at all transferring my weight from my right leg to my left. Yes, it was the first time I had thrown in over a year, the first time since a bout of Solitary Plasmacytoma cancer, 20 radiation sessions and eight surgeries involving the collapse of my T-2 vertebrae.
Worried that I fall, I short-armed the ball a bunch, prompting Carla, of course, to belt out, "Nice work, T-Rex."
I know. It's just a starting point. I just thought I was farther along balance wise.
Overall, though, it was a spectacular Christmas, especially when you consider that I was tied to bed at VGH, with all sorts of tubes and contraptions connected to me, a year ago. We had a bunch of family from both sides over on Christmas Eve, I saw my folks on Christmas morning and Carol-Ann and I had dinner at her brother's on Christmas.
I even made it over to VGH after breakfast on Christmas. I picked up a couple of bags of chips, a couple of bags of cookies and assorted other junk food and dropped them off for the staff. You can't imagine Christmas in the hospital. You really can't. 
And then I walked out of there and went home. That was my present to myself.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Talking world juniors, Brendan Gallagher and that crazy Solitary Plasmacytoma cancer

I feel bad that I haven't checked in here in awhile. The good news is that it's because I'm busy. I'm working 30 hours a week. I'm getting closer and closer to my share of the household chores.  We even hosted a little shindig. (More about that later.)
Why now? It's world junior hockey tournament time and I don't think you can be a sports fan in this country legally without taking in that event with gusto. Vancouver Giants winger Brendan Gallagher has made the team, and he's a fan favourite looking for a place to happen. He's this scrappy, 5-foot-9ish guy who just might have been born minus the fear gene, considering the way he goes to the net and battles in the corner.
Let me offer up a little more about him. From what I know, he's a 19-year-old of tremendous character.
I've covered the Giants for the Province newspaper (shameless plug for my employer) since the 2004-05 season, so when I got sick last year among the first phone calls I put in were to team owner Ron Toigo, general manager Scott Bonner and coach Don Hay.
Just a few days before I got sick, Gallagher's grandfather, Matt, had lost his battle with cancer. Gallagher even started a fundraising campaign immediately afterwards. (Read about it here.)
Toigo and his son Peter were the first visitors to the hospital room for that initial stay, but Gallagher and fellow forwards James Henry and Craig Cunningham, with strength and conditioning coach Ian Gallagher (Brendan's dad) riding shotgun, were close behind.
I remember thinking how the three of them didn't have to be there, and Gallagher especially. Gallagher knew way too much about hospitals and cancer talk at that point. But they stayed and joked and told lies that a bunch of guys do and made me feel way better.
It was one of those inspiring moments I had during this whole bizarre episode.
I tracked down Gallagher when I got out that first time and went to a Giants game. I thanked him and told him that he wouldn't understand how much it met.
His answer? He shrugged and said, "Steve, it meant a lot to us that you were willing to see us."
Seriously. He's that kind of kid.
Meanwhile, I am feeling better. I haven't used Evander (The Cane) in over a month. My back is feeling a little out of sorts from time to time, like something is pulling, but I think it's a case of me getting more nerves working. There was a point in the hospital where I could feel so little in my back that one of the doctors put in a stitch or two without freezing. Or so I've been told.
The party, meanwhile, was a success by my way of thinking. Dr. Robert Lee, our rock star surgeon, showed up  and was the toast of the whole affair. He begged Carol-Ann and I to stop calling him, "Dr. Lee," but how do you not refer to the person who saved your life in something other than the highest regard?
We did manage to bust out a few "Roberts," before the night was done but then Scott Rintoul (shameless name drop) saw the good doctor for the first time and started bellowing, "Dr. Lee, Dr. Lee, Dr. Lee!!!"
It was like I set it up, but I didn't, which makes it even better.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Anniversary of first major surgery and of Christmas missed has memories flowing

Through this whole wacky cancer/back surgery/rehab thing, Carol-Ann and I have been blessed to be surrounded by people who could tell us what was coming next.
It started, of course, with Bif Naked (shameless name drop) in the first hours upon diagnosis saying, "Get ready to console people about your cancer." Sure enough, there was a bunch of "Hey...don't worry...I will be OK," right off the top. And it's rolled right through to our rock star GP, Dr. Jennifer Rogerson, telling us recently to get ready for emotions to flow back because we're hitting milestone days.
Consider that next week will mark the one-year anniversary of the first rods and screws surgery. (Ah, the first rods and screws. Life seemed so simple then.) It was right about here that I was really, really sick. I know that's hitting Carol-Ann hard, and I get a little teary when I think that we will actually get to spend Christmas at home this year. I still can't fathom that we missed Christmas, New Year's and both our birthdays last year. I feel so awful for Carol-Ann. I know it's not my fault, but it still bugs me.
She's been very cool about going a little extra hard for Christmas this year. She's the mature one, the smart with cash one, but she's not getting stressed about a few extra decorations and a little entertaining.
As well, our at-home physio, Paula Peres, has told me to be prepared for people not understanding that I'm still rehabbing. I'm starting to look "normal." I hardly use Evander (the cane) at all, and I actually think I move OK when I'm on stable terrain. Paula says that I need to appreciate that there are going to be days when I'm gutted, without an ounce of energy, and she hopes that people around me will appreciate it, too. 
For what it's worth, Tuesday's my last day with Paula. She says I no longer need acute rehab training. I start with my new trainers, Jesse Tupper and Sheila Townsend, today. I'm a little nervous - I'm a notorious people pleaser and I'd like to show that I'm worth working with. Of course, the cheque I'll write for them every week should be proof enough. I did cover Tupper and Townsend when they were playing sports in high school and at UBC, and we do have some friends in common (D-Watts, C-Watson...more shameless name dropping), so they understand what I've been through.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Want to walk more but too easily run down some days; dancer cancer/back surgery rehab

I'm frustrated.
I must have slept 14-16 hours yesterday. My body just shut down. It was bad. I couldn't even focus. I tried to watch Blue Bloods (love me some Tom Selleck, dating back to Magnum...) and had trouble keeping up with the story line.
My physio, Paul Peres, says that it's completely normal. I'm caught between rehab and real life. I'm just shy of six months out of the hospital. I'm working 30 hours a week. I'm trying to keep up with my share of the chores around here, doing dinners and laundry, so that Carol-Ann can get a break. I'm walking more and more freestyle. I've even taken to leaving Evander (The Cane) at home for jaunts to Vancouver Giants' practice and other work trips.
Paula says there are going to be days when I simply break down. Doesn't make it any easier. It still sucks.
I will be looking to change things up. Paula's down to visiting once a week and she says that she'll be all but done with me come early December. To keep things going, I'm planning on picking up a trainer -- I'm meeting Monday with Sheila Townsend and Jesse Tupper. The married couple are former UBC athletes and I covered them both. They just opened up their own gym and they know my story, so I like the connection.
Not to be a downer, but there's a chance that the cancer could come back. We've been told as high as 70 per cent chance. I need to be ready to fight if it happens again.
Things aren't all bad. I had dinner last Sunday with my first GF Strong roomie, Mike Sidhu. Mike was a good role model for me. Some people at GF do their routine classes, but little else. They lie in their beds all day. Mike was always on the go. Always doing something.
He's doing at his sister's house in Langley. He's doing pretty well, but he's still got his challenge.
That's something I get.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sorry, Roberto, but this whole cancer/back surgery thing is your fault, too

I have an announcement about my cancer. It's Roberto Luongo's fault.
Seriously. If he's going to get all the blame for how sad sack the Vancouver Canucks have started this season, then I'm tagging him for my Solitary Plasmacytoma tumour. He's probably behind the eight back surgeries and the six months in the hospital, too.
I blame him for proliferation of singing shows on television and for the fact that I wasn't 100 per cent certain that proliferation was the right word there and I had to Google it. I blame him for Google, Twitter and Tweet and IPad and all those techie terms that I feel a little goofy everytime I say. I blame him for Kenny Loggins not having anything to do with the new Footloose.
I blame him for my yearning for Pumpkin Spice Latte. I blame him for long division. No. Scratch that. I blame him for math in general.
And, before we get too ahead of ourselves, I bet he's the guy behind Impark. It's got to be him.
I'd like to blame him for why Crush The Tumour With Humour (CTTWH) has been idle of late, but I can't, and only in part because it would give more ammo to the lunatic fringe who think the above four paragraphs makes complete sense. (The Impark one may have merit, mind you.)
I haven't been writing because I've been busy trying to get better. Still at the pool four or five mornings a week. Still walking lots "free style" -- my rock star home physio Paula Peres has me up to 1.6 kilometres, and that includes varying surfaces and inclines. It's very strange. Paula will take Evander (my cane) away and my body will tense right up. She says it's a matter of my body not understanding how hard I need to work to do things now. She has a point. When I go Evander-less around the house these days, I'm not tense at all.
(TIME OUT: You keep hearing that Luongo is terrible. Really? Keep hearing that the Canucks should trade him. Really? Team is coming off their best season ever and he was a major reason why and he's being lambasted and lampooned for a poor start. Wasn't that the lowest scoring Stanley Cup final ever? No one wants to talk about that.)
Paula's happy enough in fact she's only seeing me once a week, down from twice. That has to be a sign of progress.
I'm also working between 20 and 30 hours a week. I did my first Vancouver Giants practice "free style," on Thursday morning, and survived the ordeal.
I even went to a Canuck game with Carol-Ann and sat in the stands, rather than the press box. Lots of stairs to be scaled, lots of people to navigated around.
I'm sure I was the same way before THE CANCER, but I can't believe how little people pay attention to folks with canes and walkers and even wheel chair.  Getting cut-off and or tail gated.... it drives my poor Carol-Ann crazy.
We did have a good time at the game, for what it's worth. I would have liked it more if Roberto played, though, to be honest.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Talk show: speech on cancer at Interesting Vancouver goes better than expected

I survived my speech.
I got through my 10 minutes at Interesting Vancouver, the self-professed multi-disciplinary conference with no singular theme, and even received some applause.
I wouldn't have been close, in my mind, without my Carol-Ann and our good buddy Bif Naked. (Shameless name drop.) I was freaked all day about it, and Carol-Ann busted her butt to try to keep me calm. At one point, she said, "If you get in trouble, just signal to me and I'll come up there with you." Now, Carol-Ann hates being singled out. She hates to be front and centre. She didn't sign up for this conference. She would have rescued me, though. That's part of why she's freakin' adorable.
We got to the event, which was at the Museum of Vancouver, and I was leading off the second half of speakers after intermission. Sure enough, the first half of speakers rocked it. Lots of prep time spent. Guys with slides. Guys with dance moves. One of them, I swear, had the Pips. (Gladys Knight's back-up singers...oh, I'm old.)
I had a bunch of bullet points on one scrap of paper. I had run over the first few sentences in my mind a few times, but I hadn't gotten anywhere close to a full run through. I had no idea what 10 minutes felt like.
I told Carol-Ann and Bif, "I'm so outclassed."
Bif gave me "Steve," and then a long pause, which is something she picked up from Carol-Ann and is basically short-hand for "concentrate on what I'm about to say to you, you big, friggin' goofball or I'm going to sock you one."
Then she continued.
"You're talking about cancer," she continued. "That's real. You say 'cancer,' and the room will go silent.' They'll be focussed on your every word."
So it came my turn. I'm limped up there, trusty Evander (The Cane) by my side, and I started with, "Hey, I didn't fall down...first step complete."
Out from the crowd came a couple of polite laughs.
Then I gave them, in my best radio voice: "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, childen of all ages...I'm Steve Ewen, and I'm very excited to be here."
Pronounced pause for effect.
"I'm excited to be here," I continued, "because I've always wanted to stand in front of a group of people and say, "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages. Next, off my bucket list, is hopping into a cab, pointing at a passing vehicle and saying, 'Quick, follow that car.'"
Pockets of laughter.
"I'm also excited to be here because I was diagnosed with cancer a year ago and this is my first chance to try to give back to all the people who were so supportive of my wife and I."
There were a few seconds of silence while people processed what I said, and then a more passionate round of applause.
Bif was right. As soon as the word, "cancer," came up, people dialled right in.
They were great. They laughed at all the right spots. They chortled at, "Hey, is that a tumour in my T-2 or are you just happy to see me?" They let me get emotional about Carol-Ann. At one point, I blurted out, "You guys are great...I'm taking you all home with me."
I was sore and tired, so we bolted right after and missed the last bunch of speakers.
So, basically, there's a chance I might do another speech sometime. The odds of telling too many of you beforehand, though, still aren't good.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Falling down, talking up: yet another chapter in this crazy cancer/back surgery rehab

The one-year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis was Sunday.
I gave myself some banged up knees and some wacky stress.
The knees first.
I had my first fall since leaving GF Strong in May on Thursday. And, yes, it's a good thing. I had been wondering how exactly it would feel and how I would react and whether I would be able to get up on my own.
Luckily, I was with our ace at-home physio, Paula Peres. We were out for a walk -- I'm up to about a kilometre and a half "free style" -- when she had me do a pivot and walk backwards. Well, I pivoted my big old booty off the sidewalk into the grass and slipped and kissed the dirt and muck. I was embarrassed, but didn't panic. Paula was worried about whether I hurt myself, but she didn't flip out either.
And, of course, when we told Carol-Ann, she didn't get too excited at all. It's hard to find something Carol-Ann isn't good at right now. ("I fell," I said. "That's exciting," Carol-Ann said. "How did it feel?")
As for the stress, I'm doing a 10-minute speech on my "situation," tonight for Interesting Vancouver, a newfangled seminar. I'm doing it for free, which makes me feel better, because there's exactly no  expectation that I'm going to be good. There are nine or 10 others speakers. Some of them have slides -- the only pictures I have are of my wound. How do you think that might play? Yeah, I didn't think so either.
I've got some bullet points written out, but I'm largely going to try to wing it, thinking that will be less stressfully. We'll see. But I am considerably freaked out.

PS Gary -- call me.

Friday, September 30, 2011

I'm bringing driving back: Cancer/back surgery rehab drives forward with return of licence

I got my driver's licence back. I'm almost an adult.
There's a certain lack of maturity thing that seems to be holding me back from full-fledged grown-up status, but we'll have to see.
As for driving, once you have a certain number of surgeries you apparently have to inform the Motor Vehicle Branch that your physical condition has changed and they put a hold on your licence until you take a road test.
I'm not sure what the minimum number of surgeries. I had eight, to combat a collapsed t-2 vertebrae and three infections brought on by a Solitary Plasmacytoma tumour and its treatment.
Much to my chagrin, I failed my first road test try, leading to me taking lessons with Young Driver's.
I'm not young. And, if you saw me on that first road test, you would maintain that I wasn't a driver, so that was OK.
After five sessions, featuring plenty of messy parallel parking, I had my road test on Wednesday. I got this nice young woman as the tester. As we pulled out of the parking stall, I showed off my one-handed steering technique, which brought nice young woman to say, "You went to Young Driver's...they did teach you to steer with two hands, right?"
Yep. Good start.
We ended up spending 45 minutes on the road, and probably 90 per cent of it in school zones. Nice young woman cited me for two infractions -- a missed shoulder check and failing to slow to 30 kilometres in a school zone quickly enough.  We didn't even try the parallel parking.
Young Driver's Guy told me that most tests he sees these days have 30-40 infractions.
Yes, I'm bragging. Or squealing on nice young woman. I'm not quite sure.
Either way, I feel like I've got a little bit more of my life back. It's hard to have to rely on others to get around.
Now, if someone could just fix this immaturity thing.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Gigantic return: Latest step in rehab includes return to covering WHL games at Coliseum


Back to work, back to work, back to work.
Tonight, I make my return to "real sports reporting," covering the Vancouver Giants' season opener against the Victoria Royals at the Pacific Coliseum. (Note my cool view above. Also note my mediocre photography skills. Barely passed Photo 101 during my Kwantlen College journalism days.)
I'm a little nervous. I haven't done an actually hockey game on deadline since early last season. I did do some of the Mann Cup lacrosse games recently, so I'm not exactly going in completely cold here.
What? Let the actual facts get in the way of a story? Why would I start now?
To recap, I'm nearly over my nasty chest cold. I saw our rock star GP, Dr. Jennifer Rogerson, today and she admitted to me that she thought at one point I had pneumonia. She went as far as having me do a chest x-ray.
Yeah. Not fun. Whatever. After cancer and eight back surgeries, I should be able to turn down anything with a lot of vowels that's difficult to spell. (Yes, I had to look up pneumonia.) And, besides, Crush the Pneumonia with Humour doesn't sing.
Still, my mobility is improving. I'm largely off the Walks (my walker) and I'm even avoiding Evander (my cane) for large chunks of time, especially around the house. I did about eight blocks "free style" with Carol-Ann last Sunday and then another three or four with Paula Peres, our rock star at home physio, on Tuesday. (Paula's pleased with my progress, considering how bad the chest cold has hit me.)
I do my driving test on Wednesday. I'm feeling more and more confident every time I go out.
And Carol-Ann's brother, Chuck, has moved in with his wife Lauren and their 20-month-old Samantha. We've moved downstairs -- in part because I like the TV and Carol-Ann was worried about Sam going up and down the stairs. They've found an apartment down the street and will be moving there end of the month. (Earlier on I had it as Carol-Ann's brother Paul. I get them confused. Sorry.)
Lots going on. Always.
I'll feel a lot better once I get my license back. That will give me back my freedom and keep me from begging, borrowing and stealing off Carol-Ann and my pool co-hort Susie Culp and others for rides.
And it will let me do more "real sports reporting."

Monday, September 12, 2011

I love the nightlife: Latest step in cancer/back surgery rehab includes covering lacrosse games

The Extreme Steve Makeover: Home Edition hit another milestone over the past few days, as I've returned to covering live events for The Province newspaper. Tonight will be my third straight evening at the Mann Cup, the Canadian Senior A box lacrosse championship series between the Ontario powerhouse Brampton Excelsiors and the host Langley Thunder.
I think I've written OK. My stories have been far from stunning, but they've made sense in my mind and I've hit deadline. My mobility at the games, though, hasn't been where I wanted. I've been a little wonky. (This word brought to you by former Vancouver Giants trainer Cory Cameron. Wonky was my all purpose injury word. Cory wondered if I thought it was a technical term. It drove him crazy.)
Carol-Ann has a different take. I finished writing the first games at 10 p.m. each night. As Carol-Ann says, it wasn't that long ago that 10 p.m. was three hours into my sleep for the night. As well, I'm still dealing with this lung infection thing. I'm still downing antibiotics twice a day.
I did nap most of today. But I need to listen to my body. Both Carol-Ann and Paula Peres, our at-home physio, say that I need to listen to my body.
I skipped my Paula session last Thursday. She was pleased with that. I see her again tomorrow. It'll be interesting to see how much I have in my tank after three straight nights of lacrosse.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Cough, cough, cough: Chest infection puts physio and work on backburner

Not happy.
I've picked up some sort of chest infection, which has been cutting into my rehab and kiboshed my first live coverage of an event, the opening game of the Mann Cup Senior A lacrosse championship tonight between the Langley Thunder and Brampton Excelsiors.
There's something honourable and noble about lacrosse, the way they play that hard for pride. Something old school. I was geeked up.
At least I'll get to watch it over the Internet.
It could be worse. Everytime I cough it sounds like I'm going to erupt out my insides, and it caused our GP, Dr. Jennifer Rogerson, enough concern that she sent me for a chest x-ray today. It came back normal, whatever that means.
I was nieve. I thought after everything we've been through the past eight or nine months, we got a pass for the next while on the simple, everyday things. At least I hoped for that.
So much for that.

Friday, September 2, 2011

A little R from R: physio prescribes rest from rehab, saying body needs break in this bid to rally from cancer/back surgeries

I feel almost athletic.
My physiotherapist, Paula Peres, says that the various aches and pains I've been feeling the past few days are my body yelling at me, saying that it needs a couple of days off. To that end, we did next to nothing in our regular Thursday session yesterday and I've tried to take it easy today. I did go to the pool this morning with my wife-appointed security guard and driver, Susie Culp, but I tried use it more as stretch-it-out session than anything else. And, up until this, I've been playing MLB11 on the PS3 today. (Cancer has done wonders for my video game skills, let me tell you.)
I can't lie it. I like the idea that she's telling me to dial it down. I'm like a catcher who doesn't play a day game after a night game. I'm like an outfielder who gets some time off before the playoffs. I'm like James Paxton, the Ladner left-hander and Seattle Mariners prospect who got shut down by the team (http://tinyurl.com/3c8vkoh) due to innings pitched limits. Who cares if it's the day after I did a big feature on him? (http://tinyurl.com/3cvx8zb

OK, I care. That sucked. That story got play across the country.
But no matter.
It's proof that I'm doing more and more. Paula and I walked to Moody Park last Tuesday free style (read: without help from the walker or Evander, my trusty cane) and toured around for a good 45 minutes, going up and down hills and across various terrains. I was free styling longer overall at slopitch a week ago Tuesday, when the Headliners captured their fifth VMRESSS title in eight years with a victory over the the Master Batter and Scorebook Throwers -- (for those who understand...Yes, I wrote that) -- but I was doing a lot more standing than walking. This thing on Tuesday was solid walking.
I had my first driving lesson Wednesday, and my teacher, Ricky Bobby, said immediately afterwards that he thought I could pass my test right now. For those devoted to CTTWH (Snarla, that's you), you'll recall I failed my driver's test at G.F. Strong, leading to these lessons.
I told R.B. (not his real name, in case you were wondering) that I felt much better after one session with him but still wanted at least two or three more jaunts with him riding shotgun before we started DRIVING FOR REAL. (Insert Da Da Da music here). He agreed that I was probably overly nervous at the test. That, and not overly intelligent, considering that I tried to do the test without practising after six months in a hospital bed.
Wednesday night, I took in the Vancouver Giants' intrasquad scrimmage, and stood for much of my time there.
That's a lot more going on than my body is used to. By Thursday morning, my hips and knees were aching and my shoulders and neck were sore. (That comes from the fact that shoulder checking is a skill that you generally use while driving a car only, although it does come in handy when you're in the kitchen with my Carol-Ann...more on that another time.) And I even took two fast-acting Hydro pain killers Wednesday night.
I like the fact that Paula trusts me enough that when I said on Thursday, "I'm sorry...I don't know how much I have to give for our session today) she opts to shut it down and take it easy. That's a good compliment to our working rapport.
Things are only going to get more complicated, since I'm covering the Mann Cup lacrosse finals starting next Wednesday in Langley. 




Saturday, August 27, 2011

Walking even more on the wild side; cancer rehab moving along nicely

Sorry I haven't been around much lately. It's been busy.
I"m working more and more. Carol-Ann and I have a house guest, her older brother Chuck, who's in the midst of moving here from North Carolina with his wife and 19-month-old or so. And softball season wrapped up Tuesday.
More importantly, I'm walking more and more.
I forgot Evander, my cane, for Tuesday's softball game. My buddy, D-Tam, came to pick me up since Carol-Ann had to work late at work, and, in my hurry to get going, we left Evander on the railing by the back door. I'm "much too cool," these days to go completely on the walker, so we went freestyle for the entire three hours or so. Luckily, I was so focussed on the Headliners vying for our fifth VMRESS (Vancouver Municipal Recreational Something Something) title in eight years that I wasn't freaked out about how much I was without Evander.
I was pretty sore the next day. I can't lie. I was working all sorts of muscles I haven't worked in months. Still, I I survived. (We won 14-10. Even some goofy rules junkie on our opponents couldn't spoil the fun.)
Paula Peres, the physio that comes to the house every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, seems quite pleased with the progress. She even brought up - albeit ever so briefly -- that maybe it's time for her to scale back her visits. It was the initial conversation, but it is the start of something.
My energy level is slowly coming back. I'm staying up later at night, I have more jump during the day.
There's still plenty to work on, though. I still can't shave on my own. I can't move my head enough because of the rods in my neck. I'm still not driving. My lessons were supposed to start on Wednesday, but my instructor had a family illness. We try again on Wednesday. I also can't get down on the floor and play with nephews or the family cat.
Still, the pluses are outweighing the negatives.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Walking the walk, visiting the mountain: taking a break from rehab for a little Whistler vacation

To quote Jim Ross, and who better to steal a sentence from than a legendary WWE announcer, business is about to pick up.
Carol-Ann and I are spending the weekend in Whistler. It's our first vacation since this whole cancer/back surgery thing bulldogged its way into our lives back in October. (NOTE TO BAD GUYS: Be wary of any skulduggery at our home, since we have a full SWAT team in place.)
We slept in today and then meandered around the village. I'm  back at the room resting; Carol-Ann has a friend up here, so she's hanging with her, getting into no good, no doubt.
She's finally over her bout of laryngitis and starting to feel like herself again. This whole mess has beaten her up physically, and not surprisingly, her body shut down for a time.
It's been an interesting week. I'm starting to spend less and less time using the walker to get around. At the house, I'm going freestyle for hours on end. Out and about, I'm using Evander, my cane, more frequency.
I Evandered it around GF Strong on Thursday, during my visit to see Dr. Brad Hallam, our psychologist.   Dr. Hallam seemed to be pretty pleased with how I'm dealing with my guilt and frustration and how I botched my driver's exam. I have a great faith in him; it's always good for me to check in with him to see how I'm doing. To think that this hasn't messed with my emotions and my mind as much as my body is foolish.
I got a chance during the stop in with several of the physios and rehab assistants who I had worked with during my two-plus months there, and the response was inspiring.
Derek was a rehab assistant during my final of three stay at the Vancouver physical rehab clinic. I Evandered it into the spine gym and he immediately gave me, "Look at you...look at you!!!"
Derek's a straight forward dude, and maybe the straightest of the straight forward. He's not a cheap compliment guy. He's a "If you're 10 minutes early for a session with him then you're five minutes late," type.
You get the idea.
He had always been positive about my prospects and I reminded him of that, telling him that he was one of the people at GF who told me that I was going to be able to walk again.
His response? "It doesn't make it any less exciting to see it, does it?"
Pretty cool.
After that, I had a session with our at-home physio, Paula Peres, and we Evandered it six blocks. That's the farthest I've gone so far.
The down news, in all of this, is that my body is continuing to break down a little. Paula thinks I've got a strained right hamstring, and has me icing it a few times a day. My back is also a little achy. It's logical, since I'm doing more and more every day after being largely sedentary for six months.



Monday, August 8, 2011

What's the story? Morning glory. Cancer/back surgery rehab now includes early pool times.

I haven't had any consistent jump the last few days. In a bid to mix things up, my wife-appointed daytime security guard, Susie, and I agreed to change our three-day-a-week swim time from noon to 7:15 a.m.
It's a plan. I didn't say it was a smart plan.
We'll see how I'm doing by the end of the day. It should be interesting. Over the past week or so, I've had bouts of zero energy. I've talked plenty with our physio, Paula Peres, and she says that it's completely reasonable, considering how much time I spent in the hospital. In fact, she maintains that she's surprised that I haven't had more of those breakdowns.
I get it. Doesn't mean I can't fight it.
Our GP, Dr. Jennifer Rogerson, says it's logical, too. My body has been through an awful thing, between the Solitary Plasmacytoma, the radiation, the eight surgeries.
She also ties a chunk of it to sleep apnea.
There may not be two words I hate more it the English language than "sleep apnea." Seriously. I've got one of those goofy machines that makes me look and feel like Darth Vader's lushy nephew. It's a terrible contraption to get used to and I'm still nowhere close to being comfortable with it.
Dr. Rogerson maintains that it will change my life and make me a happier person overall. There's a guy who sees another doctor in her office who tells everyone he comes across in the waiting room what the machine has done for his life.
Hello? I'm pretty freakin' happy much of the time. I get much happier, and I'll be hard to put up with.
I think a lot of this is that I'm wearing out mentally. I'm getting better physically all the time. Paula wants me to cut down on the walker use in favour of the cane (aka Evander). And for a few hours on both Saturday and Sunday around the house I went freestyle...no cane, no walker, just me.
I'm still frustrated. The better I get, the more I want to get better. I think things will improve once I get driving again -- I'm talking to companies about lessons today.
And maybe the early-morning pool sessions will be a plus.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

On the comeback trail yet again from cancer and back surgery

The better I get physically, the harder this gets emotionally.
I guess it's not that odd. My expectations three months ago were minimal. Don't need a police escort to get to the bathroom and back? Yipee for me. These days, if I'm not dropping 25 seconds off my 100 metre time every day, I'm bummed.
Yesterday was tough. I had no zip at all. None. I slept most of the day, and I hadn't done that for awhile.
Everybody has bad days. I had a plethora of them before this rigamarole started. I just can't get them out of my own head when they occur now.
I did have a solid physio session with Paula on Tuesday. It may have been the best I've been in a workout with her. As well, I banged out a couple of stories for the paper, so I did head into yesterday
Paula comes again today, and I'm primed -- at least right now -- for the workout. I
We'll see.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rehab comes off road; failed driver's test means poor wife has to keep wheel all the time

I'll keep this short, since I'm pretty disappointed in myself.
I bombed the driver's test. Had trouble with signage, nearly blew up the car on the parallel park, made a "dangerous move," on a lane change.
After not driving for six months, I didn't feel ready going in and I should have listened to that.
Not happy.
I've been advised, through the good folks at GF Strong, to take some refresher lessons and try again.
Damn.
This keeps pressure on Carol-Ann, who is handling all the driving duties for us right now.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Physio helping me getting my mind, as well as my body, back in shape

"You could have died. Instead, you're going to baseball games. Think about it."
And, with that, my physiotherapist, Paula Peres, made an attempt to get my head screwed on right.
I'm still getting better physically, working my way back from the Solitary Plasmacytoma tumour and  eight surgeries on my back that stole six months of my life. It's still not happening fast enough for me, at times, and I'm driving myself a little mad when I get into that frame of mind.
Part of it, I think, it's that you lose touch with reality. You spend six months in hospital and physical rehab, you run up against a lot of people who have had horrible things happen to them. On some level, it's become the norm for me. Doesn't everybody wind up a good chunk of a year on an operating table? Seriously?
Paula's done as well with me mentally as she's done physically, and I feel like she's done remarkable physically. She gets a good sense when I stop appreciating the small goals - I went to a Vancouver Canadians game for a few innings last Wednesday, utilizing a cane, and that's a pretty good step for me, all things considered - and isn't afraid to tell me exactly what she thinks.
I guess the biggest thing frustrating me is that I'm putting too much pressure on Carol-Ann carry the load. She's the most amazing wife ever -- as we've talked about here, she slept for 60-something days straight on a chair at at VGH. She recently went through a bout of laryngitis, an obvious off-shoot of all the stress she was under for so long, and I couldn't fully pick up the slack. I'm still not driving, and my energy level plummets in the afternoon, making it hard for me to make dinner five or six times a week like I used to.
My pain is OK. I'm stiff as a board in the morning still. It's a real struggle. I eventually get it stretched out, most often when I get to the pool. My shoulders are starting to bother me a bit, which could be from spending more and more time on the cane, as a opposed to the walker.
I'm also starting to work on my sleep apnea - that's a story for another time.
I do go for my driver's licence on Wednesday. If I can pull that off, that could solve a lot of problems.
We've come along way, but there's still much further to go.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Clinical remission? Sounds like a good start, after this battling cancer and back surgeries

Today's phrase of the day is "clinical remission."
Go ahead. Say it. Clinical. Remission. Knew you could.
That's what my radiation oncologist Dr. Jim Morris tagged my cancer on Wednesday. I'm not terribly surprised, since I had done a bunch of blood work 10 weeks ago, right near the end of my GF Strong stint, and it had been come back clean for cancer, too.
Still, it's good to hear.
Dr. Morris says that I'll continue to do blood tests every three months or so. Solitary Plasmacytoma has a massive recurrence rate -- we've been told anywhere between 30 and and 70 per cent from cancer docs.
He also said that once I start moving around a little bit better, he'll have me do some imaging tests and some scans.
It was all part of what was an almost perfect day. (The biggest downfall was hearing that a relative's pet is ill.)
Carol-Ann and I had a little lunch with our rock star buddy, Bif Naked (shameless name drop) at Earls (shameless plug to Carol-Ann's employer.) We coaxed our rock star surgeon, Dr. Robert Lee, to stop by. (Should be a shameless name drop. I predict it will be soon.)
Bif, at my insistence, rolled out one of her best stories. Dr. Lee was aghast. It was AWESOME. (I'd like to tell you the story, but I can't.)
Also, we got to visit my radiation techies, OJ and Amin (I hope I'm spelling that right. If I'm not, I apologize.) We hadn't seen them since they came to visit one day at VGH and drop off a walking stick, which was part of their bid to get me to get my strut on. (Yikes.) We also went to VGH and visited the good folks on the ninth floor spine ward, and found out along the way that one of my favourite GF Strong physios, Erica, had signed on there and one of my favourite VGH physios, Joanna, had transferred to GF.
The appointment with Dr. Morris was a fun way to top it all off. We spent the first four or five minutes talking about the Canucks and their playoff run. We got lost enough that I had to say, "Hey, before I forget, what about this cancer thing?"
It was yet another reminder of how dreadful the last few months have been, Carol-Ann and I have been very lucky.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On the mend with Mend: old pal from Coquitlam NOW newspaper days is latest to raise spirits during cancer/back surgery rehab

Family and friends have brought me inspiration at important times through this Extreme Steve Makeover: Home Edition.
I've been feeling a little down of late. Carol-Ann is dealing with a nasty bout of laryngitis, the obvious off-shoot of carrying so much of our load for the past six months. I've been too chicken to try to get my driver's licence back. There's various other things.
Then, one day recently, an envelope from Paul Mend, a friend from days at the Coquitlam NOW days, showed up, complete with $75.
The explanation came via a Facebook message: "The story is we did a fundraiser for families dealing with cancer....one of the young ladies in my psych 12 class organized it...called Shave For The Brave...they raised over $12,000 total...anyways, I raised a few hundred from friends and such...but I didn't put any in because I said I had someone special I wanted to donate to...that would be you and your lovely wife...so it's not a lot, but hopefully you can head out for dinner one evening or just use it for whatever...keep kicking Cancer's ass, because it needs a serious butt whooping."
I was at the Coquitlam NOW from 1989-96. Paul was a hotshot volleyball and basketball coach in the area, so I used to talk to him all the time and got to know him pretty well. When I went to the Province full-time in 1997, I was covering high school sports, so I still talked to Paul fairly often. I haven't been on the high school beat for about eight years and have only spoken to Paul a couple of times over that span, yet the guy still thought enough to raise a cash for me.
How can I not be inspired to get better? It's happened a bunch throughout this process. Carol-Ann and I are very lucky.
(For the record: this IS NOT a suggestion that all my friends send me money. Some of you can send baked goods instead.)
As for the money, I think the plan will be to put it towards getting a Sports Illustrated subscription for the  radiation waiting room I frequented at the B.C. Cancer Agency. I was never pleased with the variety of reading there.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Doing the Kane Cane; cancer rehab improves enough to move from walker to walking stick

The good news is that my physio has cleared me to start using a cane for walking. The best news is that I've already got a name for it -- Evander.
Evander Kane just happens to be one of my all-time favourite athletes. He might be the most competitive person I've ever met. My favourite memory of him dates back to him being a 15-year-old call-up with the Vancouver Giants during their 2007 Memorial Cup run. In practice, he took a hack on the hands from Brendan Mikkelson, then a 19-year-old defenceman who had already signed a pro contract with the Anaheim Ducks. Kane said something to him, gave him a stiff right to the mouth, and skated away. Mikkelson shrugged and went the other direction.
It's not the kind of thing that wins you favour with your teammates. Evander knows that. It definitely went against your "respect your elders" code, but it gave an idea that Kane wanted what he wanted and wasn't afraid to upset people to get it. It's something I could appreciate.
Off the ice, he's always been very good to me and he was one of the first athletes I've covered to call me after I got the cancer diagnosis last October.
We're actually supposed to get together over the next few weeks, and hopefully I can introduce Evander Kane to Evander Cane.
My physio, Paula Peres, had me up on the cane, instead of the walker, last Tuesday, and I went from the laundry room in our basement, through the back yard, to the end of the driveway. She says that I can use it on a limited basis for the next while, as long as Carol-Ann is around.
I've only been out of GF Strong for about a month, so I think it's decent progress, at the very least. Paula says that she's pleased, too.
This rehab thing is still hard, though. I wake up sore every morning and it takes me awhile to feel even somewhat human. I don't know if it's the six rods and who gknows how many screws in my back, but it might be that. And emotionally I feel beat up at times; I cried much of Thursday, frustrated about how I was feeling and how tired I was and how worn out Carol-Ann is, from having to do so much more around the house.
Carol-Ann has been an angel, though, like always. She's keeping me together a lot of days, helping me focus on how far I've come rather than how far I have to go.
My spirits are better today. I had a good session at the pool (we're going four or five times a week...just walking in the shallow end right now) and felt like I had some jump afterwards.
Maybe a little work with my new friend Evander will work wonders for my psyche, too.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Music, perceptions and Dennis Green famous quotes and their ties to cancer rehab

When you get cancer, you inevitably hear about how it "changes your perspective," and "shows who your friends really are," and things like that.
My take? Malarkey. Complete malarkey.
I'm the same person I was when I was diagnosed with a Solitary Plasmacytoma tumour in my T-2 vertebrae back in October. No better, no worse. No lights suddenly went on.
As for my family and friends, people have acted the way I expected them to act.
(Famous Dennis Green blow-up about the Bears being "who we thought there were," goes here.)
Carol-Ann has brave and graceful and a steadfast advocate for me. She's been everything she could be, and, considering who she is and how she was brought up, she's been everything I figured she would be.
The majority of the other people who I thought would be around all the time, who would call continually and email frequently, have done exactly that. The people who I figured would handle this at arm's length, due to fears of their own mortality or cancer in general or whatever else, have reacted that way.
Maybe one guy hasn't acted as expected, has been a little absent. No matter. His loss.
Carol-Ann and I have been blessed to receive the support we've received. We have amazing family and friends. And we're well aware that there's no way we'd get to this point without the assistance.
There have been things that have changed. This is going to sound goofy (that could be the subtitle for this blog...lets be honest) but I feel more of a connection to music than before. Certain songs at certain times have become rallying points for me.
(In interest of full disclosure -- which remains one of my favourite phrases -- my good buddy Arnie Sison maintains that I have the musical taste of a 12-year-old girl. I contend I have the musical taste of a really hip 12-year-old girl.)
Michael Buble's Home helped get me focussed during my last days at VGH and the early part of my third and final stint at GF Strong. I know it has nothing do with anything I've gone through, but the chorus, the idea of finally going home, played a role in me getting my head re-set when my thinking went awry.
(The line about feeling, "like I'm living someone else life," did connect for me, for what it's worth.)
Of late, it hasn't be a song as much as it's been a singer, Nicci Martinez, one of the contestants from The Voice. (In interest of full disclosure, I watch a lot of trendy trashy TV. I'd like to play like I'm high falutin, but I'm much more Dog The Bounty Hunter than PBS.)
Martinez, who covered The Dog Days Are Over last show, is this scrappy, little battler. She doesn't sing a song as much as she grabs around the scruff of the neck and takes it where she wants it to go.
I get that. I'm far from little, but I feel like a battler.
(I asked Carol-Ann today if she thought I was a battler and she agreed. I asked her if I was before cancer came around, and she said, "only when you were mad, and it didn't always make sense.")
I had the tunes blaring today when I went for my walk -- I did one kilometre for the first time, albeit with a walker.
Part of me is getting better. Part of me is staying the same.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My little marathon: this afternoon marks my first steps without any sort of device

It was only a few steps, but it was my own little marathon for the time being.
I walked 10 feet today without a walker, in the basement of our home and under the supervision of our physio Paula Peres. It's a terribly short distance, I know -- but it's my first steps solely on my own since October. That was just before I was diagnosed with a Solitary Plasmacytoma tumour in my T-2 vertebrae and long ahead of the eight back surgeries Carol-Ann and I have had to endure.
It's a terribly short distance, I know -- but there's been some suggestion, albeit usually worst-case scenario providing, that I'd never get off a walker.
It's a terribly short distance, I know -- but this is the happiest I've been since one of my dozen or so GF Strong physios, Hilary Cole, sucked me in to standing on my own without holding onto anything the first time in February. Hilary, in midst of my second of three stints at GF, got me engulfed in some serious conversation and all of the sudden I was up and on my feet.
It's the happiest I've been since I could move my left leg for my VGH physio Anne after surgery No. 7 back in February. That operation, which replaced my original four rods and screws in my back with six rods and screws, was a result of my left leg coming to a complete halt in my first go-round at GF. In the days leading up to the operation, my left leg wouldn't fire at all, no matter what I asked it to do. The morning after surgery, Anne came in, asked me to lift my leg off the bed, and I did it, and then I was able to keep it up when she pushed against it.
Maybe the coolest thing of all is that I'm this excited. This rehab thing is a grind, and it's so easy to get disappointed. It can be easier to look at what I've lost rather than what I've regained, and everyone I've talked to says that it's as hard mentally and emotionally as it is physically.
I'm sore and stiff every morning. We've tried to rectify that by going to Canada Games pool and splish splashing for 30 minutes to an hour. That tends to work. I see Paula twice a week, and she might work me harder than anybody I've ever had. (Apologies to various people.) I'm walking around the neighbourhood with my walker, and I'm doing day-to-day stuff like cooking and a laundry, and that takes a toll on me.
I'm also back at work, albeit for four hours a week right now. I had my stories in the paper last Friday. That was a decent milestone for me, but I think Thursday, when I'm slated to attend my first press conference since returning by covering Vancouver Giants' gathering, might be a bigger deal for me emotionally.
Thursday's also my next visit with Paula, so it could be quite a day, especially if this afternoon is any consideration.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Just when you thought it was safe to feel sorry for yourself, something like this comes along

I've never been an overly spiritual person, but I've always believed in fate.
This little squabble with cancer and back surgeries has only reiterated that.
I haven't had a lot of jump the past few days. My energy is low. At first, I tied it to battling a cold. Now, I'm thinking that I'm just worn out from the rehab -- I've made huge gains, but there's still much to go and it can be hard at times to rationalize that.
I had real trouble getting going this morning, but, with the help of cohort Susie Culp, I dragged myself to the pool and did my 45 minutes of walking back and forth, back and forth.
I came home, starting paring down my FOLLOWING list on Twitter like I routinely do and came across this Derek K. Miller guy. I remembered that he had cancer and was blogging about it, but I hadn't checked in on his blog in awhile.
I did, right here.
It quickly made me feel less sorry about my physical condition, although I'm jealous about the writing and the ideals.
Give it read. It certainly will make you think.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Doctor says I can have the write stuff; allows me to go back to work, albeit on a limited basis

Got some good news, and some good news. And, for that matter, some more good news.
Haven't read that here before too often, eh?
Kicking off, our GP, Dr. Jennifer Rogerson, agreed this morning (HOT OFF THE PRESS...HOT OFF THE PRESS...I've always wanted to say that...next up, I'll hop in a random cab and tell the driver to "Follow that car!!!") that I can go back to work a few hours a week starting next Monday.
We're talking four hours a week to start, but that's enough for me to do at least one story, and it'll help keep me sane and focused. And Dr. Rogerson says that it will be a good test of my mental and emotional stamina.
Province sports editor Jonathan McDonald has said all along that he wanted to ease me back into working, when ever that was going to happen, so it makes it easier knowing that he's on board with the medical folk. (Shameless plug for my boss. And, seriously, is there any better shameless plug?)
Also on the plus front, I stood on one foot, without holding onto anything,  several times Tuesday. It may seem tiny, but walking, on some level, is a series of one-footed stands, and I hadn't been anywhere close to standing on one foot in some time. I had, in fact, given up even trying for the final few weeks at GF Strong. I didn't have the strength in my hips or my core then.
And, to wrap up our happiness hat trick, my new at-home physio, Paula Peres is a butt kicker and seems to really get me.
I had my first session with her a week ago, and I so wanted to impress her, so wanted to show her that I was going to be good to work with. She put me through some signature assessment tests, and I struggled.
I was hard on myself about it, and she finally looked at me, and said, "Get over yourself." As she pointed out, if I didn't have things to improve on, she wouldn't have been there, taking my money.
"You know that you're paying me for this?" she said, big, goofy smile on her face.
That's one of the hard things with rehab -- it's just as much mental as it is physical. I don't want to be where I'm at, meandering around with a walker, but I need to remember how far I've gotten and how much time I've spent in a hospital bed. I need to remember my Solitary Plasmacytoma tumour and eight back surgeries.
It's tricky. But it's slowly getting better.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Home is where the schedule has to be: slowly getting workable daily schedule together for cancer/back surgery rehab out of our house

We're nine days into Extreme Steve Makeover: Home Edition and I feel like I'm starting to get into a routine.
The plan that we had come together with at GF Strong was for me to stretch and strengthen in the morning, and then go to the pool and maybe take a walk in the afternoon. Today was the first day we managed to pull it off.
In my defence, we had been told by all sorts of people to take it easy the first few days after discharge, Canada Games Pool down the street was booked with a swim meet last weekend and we did have other one-off events cut into things this week. For instance, I needed to go for a driver's rehab session at GF on Thursday, and I was dead-set on hitting the mall on Wednesday to buy Carol-Ann a ring, a memento for us making it through 20 sessions of radiation for a Solitary Plasmacytoma tumour, eight back surgeries and six months in VGH/GF.
With coaching from friends Bif Naked and Susie Culp, I picked out a little Topaz number. (Anybody who thinks that I'm sucking up to my wife by buying her a ring and then talking about it here...you're right.) And as much as it was about making Carol-Ann happy, it was a learning experience: assorted good folks at GF suggested I purchase a wheelchair for longer trips, "like to a mall," and sure enough, I was gutted by the end of the day. (The wheelchair we bought remains a storage cabinet for the time being, as I'm sticking with Walks, my walker.)
Originally, we were going to search through all the stores at Oakridge. Instead, we made it to a pair, and, thanks goodness, there was something very Carol-Ann at that final one.
I didn't have much left by the end of Thursday, either, but that was more mentally draining. The driver's rehab was largely computer generated, looking to test my reaction time with my hands and my feet. We also went over rules of the road and did a few basic strength tests.
The final bill? A tidy $275. (Could have gotten a nice pair of earrings to go with the ring for that.) Next up, I have to report to the Motor Vehicle Branch my spine injury, which in turn makes my current license invalid. I need my GP, Dr. Jennifer Rogerson, to fill out a form explaining my limitations and send it to MVB and then I take a road test set up by GF.
The final bill for that GF test? I think it's $325. (Could have gotten a nice pendant to go with the ring for that.) I pass, I get a license. I fail -- and we've been told that 50 per cent of people with my type of injury do -- and it's lessons ($161 per) and another road test (another $325, I think).
I did pick up a "Learn To Driver Smart -- Your Guide to Driving Safely," from GF, so I'll be studying that in the days leading up to my test.
We'll have to make it part of my routine.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dealing with a "lower body injury" while dealing with cancer/back surgery rehabilitation

I'm rehabbing hurt.
Before I left GF Strong for home late last week, the doctors and physios assessed that I had tendinitis in my knees.
How cool is that? It almost sounds athletic.
The good folks at GF said that the pain was coming from both fatigue from rehab and from poor walking form, due to me landing all too often on locked knees. They tied that to fear of my legs buckling, and, I hate to admit it, but that's more than fair.
Ice and rest is the treatment and, after my discharge Thursday night, I tried to take it easy for a few days. We've hired a physio, Paula, who will come to the house to bust my behind, but she suggested that I spend a week or so getting adjusted to being home before I get back to a regular workout routine.
Much of my first few days at home was spent hanging out with Charlie, the 18-year-old daughter of Carol-Ann's brother Chuck. Charlie, who lives in North Carolina, is one of my favourite people on the planet. She's scrappy and fun. And she's brave as can be -- there was all sorts of family stuff going on right when Carol-Ann and I were getting married, and Charlie, then 15, came up here all on her own for the ceremony. That was a big, big deal for Carol-Ann, and I'll be forever indebted to Charlie for that. (Read: I'll bail her out of whatever trouble she might get in and EVENTUALLY let her parents know about it.)
The timing of my discharge couldn't have been more perfect because of her arrival.
Charlie left for home today and Carol-Ann went back to work, meaning that I got to spend my first full day at home. I had hoped to go to Canada Games Pool to do some laps, but chickened out. I did get in some stretches and strengthening exercises, and me and my new best friend Walks (pictured above...a little something we purchased prior to departing GF) took a walk around the block.
It's scary. Stretching and strengthening at GF is generally done on raised mats; I did it on the floor at home today, and we had a couple of limited sessions at GF about getting up off the floor.
But I want to be known as a battler, and I want to get better and the only way I can do that is going outside my comfort zone.
For what it's worth, my knees are feeling better. I shouldn't have to ice them too much tonight.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

There's no place like home: Cancer, back surgery rehab moves to our house come May 20

I'm coming home. For good. Finally.
The fine folks here at GF Strong Rehab have all agreed that I can vamoose (good word) on Friday, May 20. I have been home on weekends the past month or so, but I haven't lived at there full time since late November. I haven't been on the main floor or the upstairs portion of our three-storey house since early October; new hand rails being put in should change that in the coming couple of weeks.
I'm far from back to "normal." (Quotes very much intentional.) I'm still needing a walker to get around. I'm still worn out.
They've worked my butt off here. I've never worked so hard in my life. I've tried things physically (there's a long, fairly steep hill out back that I've rode four times and counting in a wheelchair with much help from rehab assistant Derek) that I wouldn't have tried when I was 20.
Granted, that's an indictment of my past, but can't we all just let me revel a little bit, eh? (Hello...I have CANCER.)
The plan is that I won't immediately go back to work at the Province, but instead continue rehabbing every day for the first few weeks at least. We're going to hire a physiotherapist one or two days a week to make sure that I'm staying on track with form and function.
Erin, my occupational therapist here, and I have worked out a daily schedule that involves an hour of stationary bike riding, stretching and strengthening in the morning, cabbing to Canada Games pool for an hour water walking in the afternoon and an hour walk in the afternoon to pick up fresh veggies for dinner. (Yes, Erin has me on veggies. Next up, she'll create world peace. Then, she'll make Vancouver sports fans appreciate Roberto Luongo.)
I look at the schedule and wonder if it's not too ambitious, especially with daily chores around the house thrown in. But I must get better. There is no other option.
Like I've said before, I could be smarter and fitter on May 30, 2011 than I was on May 30, 2010, and that's after a bout with Solitary Plasmacytoma and eight surgeries on my back, including two separate ones to put in rods and screws to stabalize my spine.
As far as coming home, I'm most excited about spending more time with Carol-Ann and taking some of the stress of house up-keep off her shoulders. She's been busting her ass between work at Earl's corporate office (shameless plug for my wife's employer, who continues to be marvelous to us) and being at GF Strong every day and worrying about the house; she's looked so tired and worn out some days, and I have to admit that I've felt unbearably guilty at times. (I know that Carol-Ann's a sharp cookie and is making decisions that she wants to make...I'm just saying that I've felt guilty. Get off me...I have CANCER.)
Another plus for Carol-Ann and for me, as much as I hate to admit it, is that the family cat, Figaro, gets to come home after her extended stay with Carol-Ann's parents, Ron and Verna. I wasn't a cat person before Carol-Ann plopped Figaro into my life, and I contend that I'm a Figaro person more than a cat person right now. As I've pointed out before, Figaro and I have much in common; we like to lay on the couch walking TV, we don't like people touching our bellies and we both hang on every word Carol-Ann says.
(Full disclosure: there's been no sign cancer being present in my recent blood tests, and my radiation-oncologist, Dr. Jim Morris, says that he doesn't need to see me for the next three months. So, some of my "friends," like Carla McAloney, dispute whether I can play the CANCER card anymore. Frankly, I think that's just mean.)
I'm not sure what the next few days here at GF has in store for me. But I definitely want to get a little more momentum going towards my impending discharge.

Friday, May 13, 2011

New railings mean a chance to get back to good old days of time in the kitchen, master bedroom

This blog sat idle for several weeks. Now, it's running a million miles per hour.
I got home earlier tonight for my final weekend pass from GF Strong, and found that the workers Carol-Ann had hired had completed the railings on our stairs leading from the basement to the main floor.
The short version? Tonight, I made it to the main floor, which features the kitchen and master bedroom, for the first time since Oct. 19. That was the day we were admitted to VGH with what turned out to be a Solitary Plasmacytoma tumour in my T-2 vertebrae.
We did get to come home for much of November, but my walking was so wonky that I was confined downstairs. We went under the same premise during my early weekend passes from GF.
The railings on the stairs didn't go all the way to the top before, and there was a worry that I wouldn't make it all the way up.
Needless to say, it was simply spectacular when I did exactly that today. I cried my eyes out, wandering from room to room.
It was a good kind of cry this time, though.

Wheel and Deliver: Delivery Hill at GF Strong brings up and downs and ups again in rehab


This is Delivery Hill, at GF Strong. They make some of us wheelchair up and down it during therapy. The picture doesn't do it enough injustice, so to speak.

Want to battle back from cancer and multiple back surgeries? There's an Apps for that

Hopefully Amy Apps doesn't hate me for this, but this note I got from her a few weeks back is the latest thing to inspire me.
Amy is studying to be a physio. I saw her a few weeks back at GF Strong, when she was visiting for a conference or something. I first met her when she was playing with the Vancouver Whitecaps; by coincidence, I ended up moving into her building in Steveston soon after that, and we'd bump into one another in the hallways and parkade.
I wrote a story on her and her hockey-playing sister, Gillian, during Vancouver 2010.
When I talk about how lucky I am, it's because of things like this. (Sorry about the cliched headline, BTW.)

Hey Steve,

It was really good to see you too :) I really can't believe I bumped into you the way I did. It worked out perfectly. I want you to know how much I admire your fight with everything you have been through. It sounds like you have been able to keep humour and humility through an extremely trying time (understatement eh!) Your appreciation and love for the deeply important things in your life is an inspiration (no I'm not stalking :) and yes I read your blogs). I hope to see you again soon, and just so you know...you look really good. You do not look like a man who has been to hell and back. Keep fighting.

Take care,

Amy

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Top 10 memories from this wacky rehab from cancer, back surgery and assorted other things

In honour of my improving mobility, the hard-working staff here at G.F. Strong physical rehab and the fact that I've got a morning without any classes, may we present my favourite five memories so far of our little fracas with cancer, back surgeries and infection.
I've purposely tried to cut down on mentions of Carol-Ann, because every entry every time could be focused solely on her, considering how brave she's been and how much she's propped me up and kept me going in the right direction. She doesn't like the attention, for one, and I also want to try to keep some of the things that have happened strictly between my wife and I.
1. THOSE 11 DAYS IN VGH IN OCTOBER
We had a hoot in the week-plus leading up to the diagnosis of a Solitary Plasmacytoma tumour in my T-2 vertebrae.. We had 75 different people visit over that time, and everybody was in good spirits, full of life. Nurses quickly referred to it as the party room, Carol-Ann apologized more than once for the racket we were making.
Carol-Ann and I have to take credit for some of the fun -- Bif Naked (shameless name drop) had prepped us well, saying, "Get ready to console people about your cancer,"  and we made sure that we had the one-liners rolling off the top of the morning.
There were so many fun things that happened...my grandmother admitting her crush on Jay Janower (shameless name drop) when he came by, Carol-Ann feverishly handing out candies and cookies to random people in the hallways on our final night to cut down how much of the sugary booty we had amassed that she had to take him with us, and Iain MacIntyre (shameless name drop) commenting "There hasn't been a pee that long since the Austin Powers movie," when I went to relieve myself in the bathroom in the room. (My ego and pride quickly disintegrated.)
My favourite moment of all may have been when a young intern from B.C. Cancer came to check on my strength with one of those "Arm tug-of-war" tests. I was still feeling pretty well back then, and was weary of not pushing around any of the nurses when they did those tests. This guy popped me pretty hard the first time, and said, "Yep, been going to the gym."
He had 10 years on me. I had 75, 85 pounds on him. I looked at my dad and he nodded, and the next time I sent the poor kid sliding across the floor, shuffling his feet to keep from tipping over.
Yep, I really am an old 12-year-old sometimes.
2. SURGERY PREP
I hate operations. I loath them. I'm a control freak, and I can't stand having someone else having that kind of say over my body. As well, I'm a worst-case-scenario guy, so I greatly fear being one of those people who die during a "simple" surgery from an oddball complication.
I thought I hated flying. Compared to surgery, flying is like having a big, juicy BBQ'd steak. My hands still ache from the IV lines.
Every surgery, though, meant these intimate little moments for Carol-Ann and I. We'd sit in pre-op downstairs, and I'd cry like crazy, and she'd tell me over and over again how much she loves me and how everything was going to be alright. I'd grunt out: "I will fight for you," and she would nod and smile, and, before too long, they'd be taking me off to the operating room.
There were also one-on-one times with Dr. Robert Lee, our surgeon for six and half of the eight operations that we had. He was always very in tune to my mood and my fears. He knew how much I hate surgery. He knows how it freaks me out.
Before Surgery No. 7, which was the second rods-and-screws back rebuild, he came in to our hospital room to tell me that we had been pushed back a couple of hours. Carol-Ann was off getting a coffee.
After explaining the scheduling snafu, Dr. Lee looked at me, grinned, and said, "Steven...you know I'll take care of you, don't you?"
I nodded. He grinned again. And, sure enough, I'm better than I was when I was thrust into his care.
I don't know I'll ever thank him. No clue. I'm also not sure if anyone -- including Carol-Ann -- understands the bond I feel with Dr. Lee.
3. POOL TIME
In November, when I was living at home and doing radiation treatment, I wanted to do something physical to try to get in some semblance of shape. Finally, I got the OK from the powers that be to try walking in the pool.
I hate the water. (I'm a big wimp. I admit it.) But I knew it would help. Sure enough, we recruited eight people to come down to Canada Games that first time and either get in the water with me or cheer me on from the sidelines.
The support that night was pretty remarkable.
4. THAT CRAZY DR. LEE
Surgery No. 7 took place on a Friday. Afterwards, Dr. Lee told both Carol-Ann and I that he wouldn't see us on Saturday, but he would be in on Sunday. Dr. Lee is amazing...we routinely saw him twice a day, seven days a week.
At about 5 p.m. on Saturday, Carol-Ann got up, put on her coat and was getting ready to go get some takeout for dinner. We were going over what I wanted to eat when Dr. Lee's head popped out behind the corner. He ducked back for cover. Carol-Ann had no clue what was going on. Dr. Lee popped out again, big, cheezy smile. I knew it was on.
Steve: "I have a feeling that Dr. Lee is coming today..."
Carol-Ann: "I know you love your Dr. Lee, but you know what he told us...he's not coming until tomorrow. Don't get all excited."
Steve: "Carol-Ann?"
Carol-Ann: "You know what he said."
Steve: "Fine...you can just go get dinner then."
She turned, headed around the corner, and was absolutely stunned when she came across the grinning Dr. Lee.
He came into the room, did some strength testing, checked the wound, and said that he had decided to take Sunday off instead of Saturday. We would see him again on Monday, according to him.
Sunday, at about 11 a.m., Carol-Ann got up, got her coat on and was heading out for coffees when Dr. Lee's big, grinning mug popped out from around the corner again. He didn't have to do it twice for me to know what my job was.
Steve: "Carol-Ann...I hate to tell you, but I'm getting that Dr. Lee feeling again."
She was having none of it. She told me to stop it, but was concerned enough to turn around to see if she could see any feet under the curtain that just inside the room's doorway. There were none.
Dr. Lee, being Dr. Lee, had been crafty enough to jump into the bathroom. Our nurse that day, Julie, was coming around the corner at that time and he quietly waved her off. It was her second day on the job -- she had no idea who this strange man in our bathroom was, but she was willing to wait a few minutes to figure it out.
I tried to "warn" Carol-Ann, but she wasn't willing to accept my "help." She turned, went to leave, and was stunned AGAIN.
5. OH, WEBER
My Province colleague, Marc Weber (SHAMED name drop), has a way with people apparently. Sitting in pre-op before Surgery No. 2 (the first rods and screws), I was with Carol-Ann and, this time, Bif Naked.
I was facing the door. And I was more than a little surprised when Weber strutted through. Marc`s a tall, strapping lad. Good looking enough to be a doctor, or so I was told. (Thanks Bif.) That is one of the explanation of how he made it into that highly restricted area.
To this day, I haven`t gotten a straight answer on how he made it there.
6. THE FIRST STEPS AFTER SURGERY NO.7
My first trip to GF ended abruptly. My left leg up and quit on me. I couldn`t get it to move. I basically dragged it around behind me.
I went back to VGH and Dr. Lee and he said that he was 75 per cent sure that there was a problem with the initial rods and screws. They had found that one of the rods had broken via an x-ray earlier. During the surgery, they learned that the other main one was bent.
They try to get you up on your feet the day after surgery, in a bid, basically, to get your body restarted.
That first stand, when the leg didn`t fail, was major for me, because I wasn`t sure until then if the leg would work.
7. END AROUND
I have weak, wonky hips. (That wonky is for former Vancouver Giants trainer Cory Cameron, who hates that I use the word wonky to explain medical conditions.)  I have a big, burly buttocks.
In a bid to show me what I should be doing with my hips when walking, physios have routine had to grab my booty. Anne, my regular physio at VGH, is such a sweetie that she worried about how I was taking it.
I told her that not only was I OK with her grabbing my butt, Carol-Ann was good with it, too.
8. BLOCK PARTY
My second stint at VGH, which began in late November after my T-2 collapsed, was much different than my first. I was much sicker. Easily my least favourite memory was Carol-Ann relaying to me that one of the doctors told her after Surgery No. 3 -- The First Infection Washout -- that the next 24 to 48 hours were going to be crucial in my survival. The sheer fear on her face telling that story is something that broke my heart.
After having a huge, blowout party for our first stay, we toned things down for this time. Carol-Ann wanted a list of 10 or so people who could visit, and everybody else was off limits.
I quickly scribbled down some names of people who I thought would come. I forgot Iain MacIntyre (shameless name drop). It was middle of the hockey season...I never reckoned he`d have time.
He showed, but before I could say anything to Carol-Ann, she cut him off at the room`s doorway, physically blocked him out and started back-stepping him into the hallway. I eventually got her calmed down and got him back into room. It wasn`t funny at the time...it is now. Except for maybe Iain.
9. BRETT AND MICHELLE'S WEDDING RECEPTION
Brett plays short on our slopitch team, Michelle pitches. They eloped over the summer and had their reception in October. We got a hall pass from VGH to go.
They had a quiz to decide table order for eating and one of the questions was: "Make up a word using the letters from BRETT and MICHELLE and describe why it best suits their relationship."
The answer from our table of ball teammates: "It doesn't matter what the word is -- Ewen has cancer. We should eat first."
10. BLOGGED DOWN
One of the doctors here at GF is a stylish Russian gentleman, Dr. K. He surprised me when he knew the music of Bif Naked and made a point of introducing himself to her. I wrote about it, right down to how well put together the guy is.
The next day he came up to me and thanked me for noticing his shoes.  I didn`t see him as a Bif Naked listener, and I really didn`t see him as a Steve Ewen reader.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Come on Irene: Yet another role model vaults to forefront in midst of cancer, back surgery rehab

My hero list continues to grow.
I don't know too much about Irene. I think she's a touch older than me. She arrived at G.F. Strong, the Vancouver physical rehab centre, from Vancouver General Hospital, a few days after this, my third  instalment there.
We do share the same spine surgeon, Dr. Robert Lee. Dr. Lee regularly asks about other patients of his that I've come across at GF, and during my check-up this week I remembered to tell him about seeing Irene doing laps in the gymnasium with her walker when I was doing the same.
His eyes got big. Real big. So did his smile.
Why? Seems that the doctors at VGH gave Irene a 10 per cent chance of ever walking again after a car accident sent her to hospital. Her injuries were sustained in the cervical vertebrae, the ones nearest the skull.
Irene even did some laps without a walker this week, leaning instead on the arms of a rehab assistant. And she proudly proclaims "I will walk out of here," in regards to her discharge in late May.
Coming across her story and her attitude was exactly what I needed. I had been feeling a little sorry for myself. I had hoped to be home by late Ap ril, and when I was given a May 26 discharge date I frequently put my sulk on.
I focussed too much on the rotten things that I have happened to me, rather than the fact that all the medical people I've talked to have said that I have the chance to walk out of GF as well.
In fact, I have a chance to be healthier and happier and smarter on, lets say, May 30, 2011, than I was May 30, 2010, and that's after a bout with cancer (Solitary Plasmacytoma, in my T-2 vertebrae), two back rebuild surgeries, a muscle-flap surgery, and four surgeries to combat three infections.  It is, in part, an indictment of my lifestyle a year ago, but no matter.
This is my fourth straight weekend at home and I feel like I did more yesterday -- highlighted by going out for lunch with my parents, grandmother, an aunt and uncle and Carol-Ann, plus sitting out in the yard for a time -- than I did in my previous three leaves combined. My occupational therapist, Erin, is trying to healthy up my diet -- I even made split-pea soup earlier this week.
I feel like I'm back going in the right direction, and I have at least one more prominent reason why.
Thank you, Irene.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Closer I get, the more I contemplate; can see light at end of rehab tunnel, but it keeps moving

The closer I get to getting my life back, the more conflicted I feel.
I'm in the midst of my second weekend leave from GF Strong, the Vancouver physical rehab centre. Getting to hang out with Carol-Ann on our couch in front of our TV in our basement filled with our sports mementos inspires me to work even harder, to get healthier sooner. It also depresses me, knowing that we have to pack everything up in a few hours and head back to GF Strong for another five-day stretch.
We had our team meeting this week, where you sit down with doctors and various therapists and talk about progress and discharge date. I was hoping to be home by the end of April. The doctors and therapists pointed toward sometime in late May. They said that they felt I could be safe at home by the end of April, but wondered if I wasn't shortchanging myself on rehab.
The belief, amongst everyone that we've encountered, is that I can get back to somewhere close to where I was before this all happened. In basic terms, the expectation is that I'll walk out of GF Strong under my own power. Considering we've dealt with a Solitary Plasmacytoma tumour, 20 radiation sessions, a collapsed T-2 vertebrae, two different surgeries where they put rods and screws into my back and a whole whack of infection, the prognosis could be much worse.
It's hard. Outside of these two little sojourns, I have been in hospital since late November. I miss Carol-Ann like crazy. But she also deserves a husband who is as capable as he can be. But rehab is largely mental and emotional at this point, too. 
What to do? What to do?
To the credit of the people at GF Strong, they're trying to come up with a plan to make this work. They're looking into what can be done as from an outpatient situation.
I don't know. To quote my good buddy Bif Naked (shameless name drop...always improves my mood), "Life is interesting." Of course, it's much more interesting, as it were, when Bif says it. That's just how she rolls.
This week, we take more steps forward. We have been cleared for pool time, which I found hugely beneficial back in the early stages of THE CANCER. I go see my plastic surgeon, Dr. James Boyle, and have a check-up with him. 
The biggest worry for me, to be honest, is that our cat, Figaro, has to have surgery on Tuesday to combat a weepy eye. I'll be focussed on that.
Life really is interesting.


Monday, April 4, 2011

The morning after: looking back at first weekend off from cancer rehab, as visit home marks first trip to house since late November

I'm wearing all black today. I'm mourning the end of my weekend.
I returned from first weekend pass at G.F. Strong, and my first days at a our New Westminster home since late November, a tad sad that things ended so quick.
It was a perfect weekend in a lot of ways. We got in and out of the house safely. I managed my way around inside with little problem. And I was reminded how much I love it there -- at one point I said to Carol-Ann, "Man, our TV picture is clear. Has it always been like this?"
It has, too, inspired me to get better sooner. The latest goal has been to get out of here and sent home by the last week in April. We'll have a better gauge on whether that's realistic come Thursday, when we have our first planning meeting -- we meet with our therapists, nurses, etc to talk about a possible discharge date.
I've always wanted to get home, but now I want it that much more. And that should only increase -- we've been told that I should be free and clear to go home every weekend now until discharge.
Carol-Ann said that she was surprised, frankly, at how well things went. I wished that my movement was a little smoother, but I'm always like that. (I ran into former Vancouver Whitecaps stalwart Amy Apps in the halls here this morning. She was at GF Strong as part of her physiotherapist training class. I told her how embarrassed I was by the wheelchair and the walker, and she returned a shrug and smile, a shorthand for, "You've had eight surgeries since October...settle yourself down.")
Carol-Ann has always been a glass-half-fulll type, while I'm often a glass-half-empty. Dr. Brad Hallam, the psychologist we met together here, said that he'd have people be realistic thinkers, seeing the "whole glass." (Dr. Hallam was very complimentary of our relationship, saying that he didn't feel the need to see us again.)
Either way, I'm excited to see where we're going next.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Home, sweet home: Weekend pass to our house marks first time here since November

I'm home.
It could be my favourite sentence ever.
The good folks at G.F. Strong, including the ever-dapper Dr. K, agreed to let me head to our New Westminster residence for the weekend, before returning to the Vancouver facility for more physical rehab. It's the first time that I've been here since my T-2 vertebrae gave way on Nov. 28, starting my back surgery and rehab run.
I cried almost the entire car ride. (I gave up trying to be cool long ago. Luckily, Carol-Ann doesn't need me to be cool.)
I'm still not confident, or adept frankly, at navigating the stairs, so we're staying in the basement this weekend.
Last night, I slept in the same bed as Carol-Ann for the first time since Oct. 18. (When we got home from our first stint  at VGH, I was so much pain from the cancer that I was afraid to bump into her in the middle of the night, and I slept on the couch.) It obviously agreed with me, since we went to bid at 10 p.m. last night and I did get up until 10 a.m. today.
Carol-Ann and I both agreed that we'll keep this weekend pretty low key. Her folks were over last night, and my parents came by this afternoon, along with my Cancer Coach, Bif Naked. (Shameless name drop...can we have a CTTWH without a shameless name drop? I think not.)
My endurance is coming along, albeit slowly, and my balance is making baby steps forward every day. Still, there's loads to be positive about. My sits and stands (getting up and down on a mat without using your hands) were as smooth on Friday as they've been since this whole mishmash started. My walking feels more fluid than it did a week ago.
And, maybe most importantly, I got a good response from my radiation-oncologist, Dr. James Morris, this week. One of the dozen or so markers they got from me via blood tests was up slightly, although not into the danger numbers -- Dr. Morris said it wasn't significant enough to worry about now, but they would re-check it in a month.
By then, hopefully I'm much more accustomed to being at home.

PS Figaro, the family cat, has had her weepy eye attributed to eyelashes getting caught up in her eye. She get some kitty stitches this coming week in hopes to keep that from recurring.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Catching up with the cat: Visit to inlaws provides added inspiration in midst of GF Strong rehab

This is going to sting a little for some of you I imagine.
I'm a cat lover now.
It was never the plan. It just happened. Carol-Ann told me early on (I think it was right after "Hi, my name is Carol-Ann") that her cat Figaro was a keeper no matter what, and I slowly began to bond with her old gal. Consider this: Figaro and I are both slow moving, we both don't like people scratching our bellies and we both hang on Carol-Ann's every word.
A dog lover from an early age, I quickly became one of the guys I used to mock.
So, when you consider that we moved Figaro to Carol-Ann's folks' when this whole Solitary Plasmacytoma tumour-back surgery rigmarole started in November and I hadn't seen her since then, Saturday's visit to Ron and Verna's was a big, emotional deal.
Figaro is dealing with her own medical issues now, with a weepy eye. Carol-Ann and her folks are taking her to a specialist on Friday. Figaro is 13 years old now, so using anaesthetic on her isn't ideal, but it may have to happen to figure out what's going on.
Other than the eye, though, she looked good. She purred like usual, her fur looked normal. I have to admit that seeing her gives me a little extra jump to get better.
I do feel like I'm improving. We had just started practising steps here at GF Strong this week, and I successfully managed four outside and two inside at Ron and Verna's.
I had to stand for several minutes while learning to play bridge on Friday, too. And Dr. Robert Lee and Dr. James Boyle, our spine and plastic surgeons, respectively, at VGH signed off on me using a manual wheel chair, instead of a power one, which will help with my overall endurance.
The week ended much better than it started, when I was far too wobbly while cooking my pork chops on Tuesday. (Pork chops good...mobility around the kitchen not so much, but I did learn a lot from my OT, Erin, about vegetables.)
Hopefully, I can parlay all that into a good week next week and get closer to going home with Carol-Ann and, of course, the cat.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

From Bif Naked with love: My buddy meets my doctor and it's all about the shenanigans

Yesterday might have been the wackiest day in hospital or rehab. And, considering that I haven't been home since late November, that's a pretty good statement.
My buddy Bif Naked (shameless name drop) came by G.F. Strong to visit. She does that a few times a week; she's been integral in my recovery. My doctor team stopped by to check in, I introduced them to Bif (using her given name Beth) and didn't think too much of it.
My doctor team is headed up by Dr. K. It's just Dr. K, because no one seems to be able to pronounce his last name. He's Russian, but came to Canada 20 odd years ago. And he's stylish, even debonair (the first time I think I have used that word in copy, although it doesn't often come up in sports reporting). He's got these snazzy ties, and they always have a pocket handkerchief to match. The belt and the shoes are always the same colour.
To Steve-it-down, you could easily see  him hanging out with classy Igor Larionov, the former Vancouver Canuck centre. Dr. K would seem to be much more Beethoven than Bif Naked.
Sure enough, who searches out Beth and I in the lobby at GF but Dr. K. He explained that he didn't recognize her at first, but thinks she's a great singer and knows her music. Beth, without skipping a beat, replied, "Well, from Stevie, I'm starting to learn your 'music' and I like what you're doing."
It was that kind of day.
I ran into one of my first physiotherapists, Jackie, for the first time this visit. Jackie's a treat, once you figure her out.
The first time I met her, I thought it was going to be a standard chat. I eased back onto the bench, my arms behind me. She was stunned, "That's your posture? Really? This is rehab. This isn't some summer camp." All we did for the next 30 minutes was posture and she hammered me the second I feel out of form. We met for 40 minutes later in the day, and we did posture again. And when she told that she had a free 30 minutes again later that day, I told her that I would meet her, and I wanted to work posture. (My posture is still horrible, due to inactivity and surgeries, but it's much, much better than it was thanks to Jackie.)
And you know what? As soon as she figured out that I was willing to do the work, she was willing to do the work for me. I needed a new walker -- Jackie had it for me in two minutes. I wanted to learn transferring from a wheelchair to a car so I could go on a weekend drive -- Jackie was meeting me in the parking lot five minutes after I asked.
So, sure enough, I bumped into her yesterday. It wasn't "Hey, how been...I heard you had another surgery..." or something like that.
"So....[you're using] a power chair...what's with that?"
I laughed so hard. It was so Jackie. (Later on, she politicked hard to get me into a special balance class, which is also so Jackie.)
Also yesterday, Carol-Ann and I met with our radiation-oncologist, Dr. Morris, for the first time since November. He said that we wouldn't be finishing off our final five scheduled radiation sessions. He wanted to have some blood tests done, and would get back to me.
Today, I'm a little freaked out about my occupational therapy class, since I having to make pork chops and corn. The mobility is one thing, but I'm much more a BBQ guy than a kitchen guy as well.
Maybe I can bring Bif by as a distraction.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Crush the Can with humour; trip to Giants' game has pal Kenward bringing up Moose Jaw fiasco

Starting Day 5, Part III at G.F. Strong, the Vancouver physical rehab centre, and have to admit that I'm feeling a little wonky. A good chunk of that could be that I was out last night for two periods at the Vancouver Giants-Kelowna Rockets' game.
After a bout with Solitary Plasmacytoma cancer and eight back surgeries, I'm still not ready for much excitement. We did watch the game from the stands, rather than the Giants' suite like last time with Carol-Ann and I, so that's a step. I was still worn out by the second intermission and wasn't the least little bit on getting caught up in the crowd afterwards, either.
En route to the game (I went with Carla "Solitary Plasmacytoma hater" McAloney, allowing Carol-Ann a hall pass to hang with her buddies) I got a text from Joey Kenward (somewhat shameless name drop) who was in Moose Jaw to celebrate the final days of the rink there, the Crushed Can.
Jo-Jo, being Jo-Jo, had to remind me of my most recent visit to the Can. (That's what the somewhat shameless name drop was for.) It was 2006, the Giants were wrapping up a four-game sweep of the Moose Jaw Warriors, and I had food poisoning and I had it bad.
It could have been worse. Once the symptoms started coming on after a questionable helping of chicken wings, I went straight to the team doc, who gave me some meds that seemed to work a little. (I knew to do this after failing in that regard after getting food poisoning during a Canucks' 2004 playoff game in Calgary. You really haven't been sick until you've been sick in a public washroom with drunk hockey fans. And that's all I really need to say about that.)
I did manage to pull off what I thought was a fairly entertaining pre-game radio interview. The rink had a pronounced dip in the middle, so from the pressbox on the north side you can't see the top eight rows of seats south side. Jo-Jo had always explained to me as "If the bus driver gets in a knife fight in row 15, I can't tell from the press box. I was getting to that part of the story and realized I couldn't use Joey's version, so I blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
"If strippers were performing an act in Row 15, I wouldn't know from the press box."
Yeah, stay classy.
With all that, I wasn't out the woods from the sickness, though. By game time, I was probably stumbling around worse than I do now. (My walking, albeit with a walker has improved drastically of late.) After the game, when I went to get quotes, several players started chanting "Chicken Wings, Chicken Wings." They had obviously heard. Team captain Mark Fistric hadn't heard or had heard and didn't care because he picked me up in a bear hug, started carrying me around and said, "You're my dawg...you're my dawg." (I'm a big dude now, but I was a bigger dude then. The fact some 19-year-old kid could do that scared me.)
By the time I finished my stories, I couldn't step up for long periods, so I had to crawl my way down the stairs and out of the stands.
Nice.
Fast forward to today, I'm feeling as well as I've felt in months. I still get frustrated with how wobbly I am, but I'm trying to be patient. (I'm supposed to cook on Tuesday and stand for several minutes without any asssistance, and that's scaring me.)
We're on the Spine Floor this time, after being on the Brain Injury and Neuro-muscular floors on our past two trips, which means we get a whole new team of doctors, physios and occupational therapists. Everybody seems to be as ultra professional, just like the teams we've had here before.