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

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.

Year 1, Week 32: Escaping More Snow

Warm at last!

Warm at last!

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Good timing to go South, as winter and snow continue in Ottawa….

Strange that the feeling of liberation from coats, hats, gloves (and shovelling!) is matched by the awareness that I have to get back to my summer ‘protective gear.’ While last year, I was just happy to be alive and walking, this year I feel a bit irritated that I have to cover up so much with SPF clothing and sunscreen, feel overdressed in the land of T-shirts and shorts, and be careful to avoid the mid-day sun. Not rational at all, but a reminder of how our expectations and irritations change as major problems diminish but emotionally there is a sense of loss nonetheless. Perhaps to complain is human!

That I complain about the necessary precautions to minimize sun exposure is a mark of just how little I have to complain about! Enjoy what we have, is a better approach.

None of this has prevented me from walking more, biking again, and for the first time in a number of years, swimming. My muscles feel it at the end of each day, but a good feeling, reminding me just of what I can do.

Even the drive down made me realize that I can do long drives again; while tiring, it was not exhausting, and was enjoyable seeing the slow transition from snow and temperate to green and sub-tropical, an awareness of the scale of our world that one does not appreciate from above.

All for this week.

Year 1, Week 31: A Few Movies and a Book

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Some good movies this week.

AmourFirst, I finally saw Amour by Michael Haneke, the winner of the Best Foreign Film at the Oscars (and far, far better and more profound than Argo ….). Not a cheery movie, about old age, and how the relationship changes when Anne, the wife, suffers a mild stroke and following an unsuccessful operation, gets weaker and more vulnerable quickly, and how her husband, Georges, who cares for her warmly and with patience, but in the end is worn down and can no longer cope. Brilliantly acted (Emanuelle Riva, Jean-Louis Trintignant, with Elizabeth Huppert as the stressed daughter), taking place within the increasing confines of their apartment, and with a pacing that captures the slowing down of old age and infirmity.

Well-worth seeing, even if the subject matter and treatment is uncomfortable, just like old age and infirmity. See this take The Brutal Truth of ‘Amour’ – NYTimes.com.

Poulet aux prunesAnother uneasy movie, Poulet aux prunes (Chicken with Plums) is the second movie of Marjane Satrapi, the author and director of Persepolis. Much darker, without the wry sense of humour of Persepolis, about a famous violinist, Nasser Ali (played by Mathieu Amalric, his loveless marriage and incapacity as a father, and his longing for Irane, his first and everlasting love, a love forbidden by her father, but one that transformed him from a good to great musician, able to catch ‘the sigh.’

A bit of magic realism, messages of love, loss, and art, playful in parts, not completely successful, but yet deeply moving. Not as ‘réusssi’ as Persepolis, but an interesting film nonetheless.

Emperor of ParisFrom ploughing through the details of the mafia in The Sixth Family, a much more enjoyable read in The Emperor of Paris by CS Richardson. In many ways, as I love Paris, an easy tale to fall for, how various characters – bakers, watchmakers, couturiers, restorers, booksellers – weave in and out of each others lives, and how finally the two protagonists come together and find one another. But somehow, the elegance of the writing and the richness of the language, come at the expense of the depth of  the characters and interest in the plot. The first half of the book I spent marvelling at the writing but wondering what was the story; the pace quickened in the second half. Overall, I enjoyed it, and his narrative, telling it backwards and elliptically, makes for an interesting style.

In other news, I have been discussing with the Ottawa Hospital Foundation how I can help with their fundraising efforts and have to find a way to tell my story in 5 minutes or less! A good writing and communications challenge.

We are off for a driving trip to Florida over the next few weeks. Given that winter appears to be stubborn this year (snow this past week and a cold wind today), will be nice to get away and have an early taste of summer.