The evolution of writing during a cancer journey – Kevin MD

My ‘writing through cancer’ piece on KevinMD.

The evolution of writing during a cancer journey.


Navigating Your Cancer Treatment: Andrew Griffith « Blessings in Disguise

Another nice review of my blog and book, by Rachel Turner of Blessings in Disguise, a faith-based cancer/lymphoma blog I follow regularly and enjoy reading and commenting upon. Quote:

The Kindle edition is a bargain at $3.99 because amid the 300+ pages are the heart and soul of a cancer patient who takes his treatment seriously, but living life even more so. If you want to know what a cancer patient thinks or feels, read this book. If you want to know what the treatment experience is like, especially one that involves stem cell transplants, read this book. If you want to know good book or movie recommendations, read this book because he includes those as well! 🙂

I think you will find Andrew’s blog and book, both, valuable resources, well-written, and deeply thoughtful.

Navigating Your Cancer Treatment: Andrew Griffith « Blessings in Disguise.

Year 1, Week 22: Transitioning


Have started getting back into my normal routine after the holidays, as well as some changes to shake things up a bit  (while I find routine and habit helpful for focus, one needs change now and then to avoid getting stale and, as our kids would say, boring ….).

On the change side, I started yoga this week (beginners Hatha, nice and gentle). Better than I expected, and I can see it helping with some of my stiffness as I continue. A funny reminder of the aging process, not only in terms of stiffness but of my hearing, being hard to follow the soft, calm instructions of the instructor. Pending getting hearing aids, I asked her next time to speak a bit louder.

This was also the week that I shifted from daily posts to a weekly summary. Not sure that this will save me much time – selecting, summarizing and group articles requires thought and attention – but forces me to think about what I read and how I present it in  a different manner. A work in progress, and ultimately your feedback and the blog stats will let me know how it is working for readers.

One of the ironies is that as I move to refocus away from my cancer identity, I need to spend more time on marketing my book, Living with Cancer: A Journey. My first review came out this week (here), particularly gratifying as it comes from an oncologist whose writings I respect, Jim Salwitz of Sunrise Rounds. And I have my first TV interview this coming week on our local community cable channel, which will force me to sharpen my message (for those interested and living in Ottawa, Rogers Monday 14 January sometime in the 11-12 Daytime Ottawa show – will provide a link should the segment allow for this). Uncertain whether more interest will materialize but given the modest book sales to date, need to pay some attention to increasing awareness.

djangoFrom the ‘history movie with a capital H of Lincoln that we saw earlier (here), we went to the pop culture of Tarantino’s Django Unchained. While I often find his movies too clever for their own good (in addition to excessive and gratuitous violence), he depicts slavery in all its horrors and depravities, combined with an almost comic book spaghetti Western frame. His script is extremely funny in parts and Christoph Waltz, as the bounty hunter King Shultz, steals the movie (as he did in Inglourious Basterds). Well worth seeing, as is Lincoln, two different takes, both equally valid, on that period of American history.

On a completely different tack, we also saw Rust and Bone (De Rouille et d’Os), a touching and complex love story between a drifting and struggling boxer (Matthias Schoenaerts) and a whale trainer who lost her legs in an accident on her show (Marion Cotillard). While superb acting by both protagonists, and how each brought out the best in the other, somehow it felt too contrived with too much of a Hollywood ending to be fully convincing. But worth while seeing for the acting alone, along with the exploration of an unlikely romance (no romcom this). My favourite scene, poetic in form, was her reconciliation scene with the whale that crippled her.

Other than that, some nice get togethers with friends and former colleagues to round out the week.

Living with Cancer: My First Book Review

My apologies for the self-serving post, but this is my first book review, by oncologist James Salwitz of Sunrise Rounds. Starting and ending quotes:

Some of the most informative books I have read about cancer care are not from scientists, academics or thought leaders, rather they are the writings of those at the front of the war, patients.  The personal experiences and insights of those who have persevered in the fight are vital guides for patient, family and doctor.


This is an important, modern book about life and cancer and Griffith is a skilled teacher. The author, who blogs at his website, My Lymphoma Journey, has made the book available through Amazon, iBookstore, Kobo or Lulu.  Living it is an excellent source of information and introspection, and is a valuable addition to the armamentaria of anyone involved in the battle against the dread disease.

Comments on Living: A book review – Sunrise Rounds | Sunrise Rounds.

Year 1, Week 20: Happy New Year

In contrast to last year’s roller coaster, this year was relatively calm and stable, as I continued my recovery from my allo stem cell transplant and progressed to my ‘new normal.

No hard decisions, just a few bumps in the road, and the ability to enjoy life with very few qualifications. I consider myself very fortunate.

Some of the usual markers – holidays, birthdays and anniversaries – and some of the special ones, like our daughter’s high school graduation and the cross-Canada trip with our son. One nice European trip for us, and then the more difficult stay in Geneva, to help my Mother-in-law with her cancer treatment, and a flip from the role of patient to caregiver, with all the echoes of earlier emotions and memories of my treatment.

Some achievements attained, like getting Living with Cancer: A Journey out (now also available in hard copy on Lulu), some not yet like the family tree (‘grunt work’ done, but putting it together in ‘book’ form remains). My blog continued with stable readership and views, and continued to provide an outlet for my health concerns. As I ‘wean’ myself from my cancer identity, I will start to phase down my blog over the next few months, another transition to my ‘new normal,’ and providing me more time for other activities.

While I am not a fan of New Year resolutions, and never sure whether my ‘new year’ should be my transplant date or the calendar one, I do have some objectives:

  • Shift from worrying about transplant-related milestones as my condition is largely stable, to addressing ‘normal’ health issues (e.g., fix my hernia, get hearing aids);
  • Broaden my exercise routine to include yoga to reduce my ongoing stiffness and, hopefully, neuropathy;
  • Finish my family tree; and,
  • Start identifying and working on post-retirement projects as I formally retire this January.

I rarely worry about my basic survival any more. My next family milestones – our son’s university graduation and a planned trip with my daughter late spring – are attainable and reasonable, and help me keep focused. Living in the ‘now’ and the near future, is how I manage the uncertainty and contingency of life, whether in general as it applies to all of us, or my particular circumstances. My next ‘treatment milestone’ is my two-year anniversary this August; at which time all the horrible stats about survival and serious chronic conditions will no longer apply. No guarantees after that, of course, but as time passes …..

Again, I am so thankful and fortunate to be one of the ‘lucky ones,’ as I think of the many, some I knew and some I did not, who are no longer here with us and their families. Life, and being with those we love, is so precious; while none of us should need to go through cancer (or equivalent) to understand this, somehow it deepens the realization and forces one to focus on those most important to us.

And whether struck by cancer, natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy, man-made ones like Sandy Hook, or living in the wrong place at the wrong time (sadly, any number of options), we are reminded of our individual and shared vulnerability, and how the support we give each other helps all of us, not just the person suffering.

As I do every  year, this version of Stand by Me best expresses my thanks to all of you who ‘stood by me’ over the past year and continue to do so. If you haven’t seen it, or even if you have, well worth watching as a great example of how music can bring people together.

And a last note on how our knowledge and understanding remains imperfect and incomplete throughout our life journey, from Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now:

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From WIN and LOSE and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

So thank you once again, and best wishes for 2013.