2013 in review – WordPress Stats

In case interested, the stats. Not bad that I essentially stopped my blog in March.

Best wishes for the New Year.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 39,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Christmas TreeBest wishes for the holidays and 2014, no matter how you celebrate. Thank you all for your support over the past years. While my cancer journey continues its ups and downs, including another relapse and treatment, I am grateful to my family, friends and medical team for keeping me on this earth.

Andrew

My New Blog: Multicultural Meanderings | Working site on citizenship and multiculturalism issues.

As part of my book “Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism”, I have created a new blog to help me manage information and articles.

Multicultural Meanderings | Working site on citizenship and multiculturalism issues..

I have also created a related Facebook page, link below:

Andrew Griffith C&M

Part of my journey beyond my cancer identity :)

Ottawa Hospital Foundation Public Service Breakfast – April 2013

My patient testimonial to help raise funds for the Ottawa Hospital.

Each of the stories was very powerful in its own way, reminding how fortunate we are to have such good medical care in our community.

Year 1, Week 35: Time to Refocus

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As I continue my ‘new normal,’ it is time to shed, or at least place in the background, the cancer layer of my identity.

My writing, and your reading and comments, helped me tremendously through the rough and not so rough patches, and hopefully, helped a number of you as well. Putting this all together in book form was also a way to try to put this behind me, and have this reference material available to those who find it useful.

While I had originally planned to continue the blog until the two-year mark, the time when the worst of the odds are over, this increasingly seems artificial as I get on with my life. In many ways, as some of you have likely noticed, I am running out of things to say about cancer and lymphoma, and my weekly update is becoming rather artificial at best, narcissistic at worst.

And I have noticed from a number of other cancer-related blogs that I follow, that others have also scaled back, reflecting their need to ‘get on with their lives’ so to speak. So while I will continue to flag some articles of interest via Twitter, and post the occasional update should the occasion warrant it, I will no longer be compiling my articles of the week and writing my weekly updates.

I will still follow some of the cancer blogs that I have found particularly helpful, and tell my story where it can help fundraising or other awareness initiatives but, as we say in government, I will largely be in a ‘responsive mode.’

My other writing project, a book related to my time in government, is progressing and requires my focus and attention.

As you know, the nature of my lymphoma and treatment means that relapse remains a possibility. Hopefully, I will not need to reactivate this blog anytime soon. But for now, I have the luxury of signing off to pursue my other interests.

To the many of you who have followed this blog or dipped in occasionally, thank you for your interest and support. For those fellow travellers on the cancer journey, may you in particular be well, active and enjoy life.

Articles of Interest This Week

CBC

CBC

Cancer

In The simple act of truth in the face of incurable cancer, Elaine Waples speaks powerfully of what is important when faced with knowing that one will die. It all comes down to the people one loves. Quote:

The hard things that tug at the heart and create the pain are the unbearable truths to parents that they will lose a child; to siblings that the person they’ve known their entire lives will be gone; to children that they must overcome and move on. They convey a clear and undeniable message to doctors that they must relinquish the desire to salvage, fix and prolong.

In a similar vein, a doctor recalls how sharing his loss helped a patient come to terms with the terminal illness of her husband in Sharing my loss helped a patient’s loss.

This story surprised me: Suicide rates may be higher in stem cell transplant recipients, detailing the results of a massive European study of close to 300,000 stem cell recipients (both auto and allo). Delving into the details, some of the findings are more understandable: higher suicide rates among those suffering from GvHD, and higher relapse rates among those who have attempted suicide. But the overall findings still surprise me given the awe, wonder and gratitude that most of us feel when given another chance at life.

Hard to believe, but More Than a Quarter of Melanoma Survivors Skip Sunscreen, Study Finds. While the experts try to find excuses (more education needed, perhaps tanning is addictive), I am more drawn to a simpler explanation: human stupidity.

A good overview of progress in cancer research and treatment by Dr. Len Lichtenfeld of the American Cancer Society, more optimistic than usual, in Is Cancer Research and Treatment Moving From Evolution To Revolution?

A good piece in Le Devoir by Marika Audet-Lapointe, Libre-opinion – Cancer: abandonnons les métaphores guerrières:

Alors, s’il y a lieu de livrer un combat, d’accord, j’accepte, et je revendique le droit de la personne touchée par le cancer de choisir sa façon de composer avec le défi du cancer. Que chaque personne puisse vivre sa vie jusqu’au bout, comme il le souhaite. Qu’une fois rendu au bout du sursis que représente la vie, il puisse se tourner vers son miroir intérieur et se dire avec un grand sourire : « Combien de montagnes, de lac et de défis j’ai surmontés, et combien je suis heureux et fier de porter en moi la certitude d’avoir savouré la vie, ma vie, en harmonie avec mes valeurs et mes convictions. »

Jim Salwitz shares how he and other oncologists deliver bad news in How doctors give bad news, and puts it into perspective:

This takes us back the vital question asked by my friend; how does a doctor prepare emotionally to give bad news? I think the answer is that the physician prepares by getting ready to do his job well. If he does a good job delivering the bad news, than he has helped the patient and family move forward in a difficult time of their lives. Done well, this is satisfying and important work. While at times it can be sad and even tragic to work with patients who are experiencing overwhelming health events, if the doctor can guide them through such times, then some element of suffering can be avoided. The healing of suffering, giving the chance to cope and preserving hope, gives every doctor peace and solace.

Health and Wellness

Nearly 25% of nurses wouldn’t recommend their hospital reports on a survey of Canadian nurses. While the figure is alarming (somewhat attenuated that almost 90 percent think safety measures are adequate), I wonder whether if you asked nurses what alternative hospitals they would recommend if they would be able to come up with an answer (we generally know our own environment, strength and weaknesses, not other environments). It also tells me, which I already know, that nurses, like doctors, are always dissatisfied with the quality of care they can provide, a good sign as it helps prevent complacency and mistakes.

A more useful survey is CBC rates 10 hospitals best in Canada, as it provides hospital ratings. Of course, the rating system used can bias the results, but transparency does focus the mind on where improvements may be required. I checked out the ratings for The Ottawa Hospital (where I received my care) and it received a B. I would rate it higher for the cancer care I received; interestingly, it received highest ratings for being patient friendly.

Experts blast Health Canada’s approach to sodium reduction points out that voluntary guidelines without transparency and monitoring are likely to be little more than symbolic with little effectiveness. Another critique of government policy comes from André Picard in Tories deliver a hollow boast on health-care spending, noting how federal health policy has weakened a national healthcare consistency and delivery.

My Name is Roger, and I’m an alcoholic is about Roger Ebert’s experience with AA and how it helped him (and others) with his alcoholism, and a reminder of just how powerful support groups can be.

Lastly, Getting a Brain Boost Through Exercise reminds us of the importance of exercise to reducing memory loss and improve cognitive function, ideally through a mix of aerobics and strength training.

Other

A two-minute video of earth from space from a variety of perspectives.

I have featured earlier some of Christian Wyman’s reflections on religion and Christianity (see HERE), and Andrew Sullivan’s take on Wyman’s book On Christian Wiman’s “My Bright Abyss” captures the questioning better than some of the more secular reviews:

In short, Wiman’s book is the beginning of a conversation we very much need to have, and he clears away so much of the accumulated ridiculousness that has grown-up around discussions of religion in this country. He clarifies the questions we should be asking more than he offers “solutions.” Please read this book – for now, I only can urge that you approach this elegant, difficult testimony to what faith – always mingled with doubt, and always seeking to connect with lived experience – can mean in the modern world with honesty and an open heart. It truly is an essential book for our times.

Not sure whether I will read the book now, but one on my list.

A nice take on happiness in Happiness, Beyond the Data by Gary Cutting, in which he postulates four factors as being key to happiness: good luck, fulfilling work, the ‘proper pursuit’ of pleasure, and human love.

Year 1, Week 34: Back to Reality

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Funny how the drive back seemed longer than the drive down, leaving the palm trees behind and arriving back to early spring. Still a few snow patches left in Ottawa, but much less than when we left. We seemed to coming back with many of the regular ‘snowbirds’ (for non-Canadians, refers to retirees who escape the Canadian winter for 3-4 months), given the number of Canadian plates on the road.

But we made it back, getting back to our regular routine, with the usual list of things to get done as we prepare for the eventual real spring (only in May), thankful for the break that we had.

Have been having fun writing out different versions of my story for the Ottawa Hospital Foundation fundraiser mentioned earlier. Writing to the 5 minute mark (some 600 words) is a challenge; I have become too comfortable with the free-form of blog entries and too removed from the previous discipline of government briefing notes and decks! However, have sent in two versions for feedback, one organized conventionally (chronologically), one organized more thematically. Curious to see which one works better, and then can do the final revisions.

touch of evilFinally got around to watching Touch of Evil, the infamous Orson Welles film that the studio so butchered the editing, that he wrote a 58-page memo outlining the needed changes. The studio ignored him but many years later, Walter Murch re-edited the film using Orson Welles’ memo as the basis (the movie came to my attention about a year ago when reading Michael Ondaatje and Walter Murch’s The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film).

Not at the level of Citizen Kane, but still the work of a master, as the film noir tale of police corruption in a border town with Mexico unfolds. Welles himself plays the creepy and corrupt police chief Quinn all to well, Charles Heston plays Vargas, the honest Mexican drug official who brings Quinn down, and Janet Leigh plays Vargas’ wife, terrorized at Quinn’s doing, with a number of other strong members of the cast. While the complexity of the plot is sometimes hard to follow, some scenes are brilliant (the tension of the opening car bomb scene), and the film angles and lighting are wonderfully dramatic.

Next week will be catching up with some former colleagues as well as some serious work on my next writing project, more details to come when it is further advanced.