My Cancer Journey - the First Anniversary of the Last Treatment

April 15, 2010

A significant date in my life.  One year ago today was the final radiation treatment in my war against throat cancer.  It is personal, very personal.  It was and is my war against what has become one of our greatest fears.  My cancer journey began with words you never want to hear from your doctor yet one in three Canadians do:
  1. "You have cancer" 
  2. "You have a 50/50 chance of survival"
  3. "You are in good health otherwise so we are going to take our most aggressive approach"
  4. "We are going to make you very sick in the hope of making you well again"
  5. "There are side effects, but only a small percentage of patients get them"
  6. "35 radiation treatments over an 8 week period, one per day with regular weekends and long weekends off"
  7. "3 chemotherapy treatments at three week intervals, at the beginning, middle and end of the radiation cycle"
  8. "You'll be hospitalized for the chemo as it is one of the most toxic our lab techs can mix."


The Y stands for you, the C stands for Cancer.  You can figure out the F word on your own.  Now, one year later, I am back.  I was declared cancer free with a PET scan at the end of last August.  I have since had two check-ups with the oncologist.  The report card has been good both times, but two positive results is not yet a row.  The next appointment is in June.  I am most pleased to say the process of recovery continues ahead of schedule.
  • I feel great
  • The 25 pounds lost while on a liquid diet for 4.5 months are mostly back
  • I have learned to process food in new ways to compensate for the loss of thin saliva
  • Food tastes great and my appetite is bigger than ever
  • Energy has returned
  • My throat is healing, my voice is stronger and I can eat pickles again
  • I am able to walk longer distances without pain in my leg (chemo caused a blood clot that required emergency surgery half way through treatments)
  • Tenderness in the jaw and neck area, while not gone altogether, is no longer a factor 
You can`t do it alone

I would not be at this point in the journey without the care and support of my wife and life partner Terrie.  All cancer patients require a team of doctors, nurses, technicians, care-givers, family and friends to have any chance of winning.  Terrie walked with me hand in hand.  She fed me, stroked me, kept me warm, remembered what I didn't even hear, organized everything, protected me when I needed protecting and kicked what was left of my butt when it needed kicking.  Family helped when needed.  Our daughter Natalie and her husband Rob, Terrie's sister Sandy, my sisters Shirley and Cathy all answered the bell.  We had friends visit when they could and all came to help.  None got in the way.

Two old friends were key for me

Lyle Bauer in Calgary and Mac Tyler in Vancouver had both been through the same cancer.  They served as mentors, answering questions honestly by phone and email.  Their support and advice was invaluable.

I know I had the prayers and support of hundreds of people across North America.  Some I have never met.  Others stayed in touch mostly by email letting me know they had spoken to God and have been sending positive energy my way every day.  My team was and continues to be unbelievable.

It was Lyle Bauer who said

“Your life has changed and now there will be many who look to you as the “warrior” for counsel and advice.  This is a team not of our choosing.  It however just might be the greatest team of our lives.  Never alone!”  It is for this reason that I am applying to the Canadian Cancer Society to become a mentor for other throat cancer patients and their families. 

Our son Jonathan, may he rest in peace, used to quote the legendary football coach Lou Holtz:  "Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”  Describes my team perfectly:
  • capable
  • motivated 
  • outstanding attitude  
You are all champions.  Thankyou.

Never alone!