Ottawa Hospital Foundation Testimonial in “Life Support”

For those interested, an article about my journey (old history now!):


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 34: Back to Reality


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.

Year 1, Week 29: Not Much to Report


A quiet week. The hernia is all but in the past, and I continue to ramp up my activity levels. I restarted yoga, and apart from a few stretches, rarely felt any sharp pain. And thanks to some more winter weather, I was able to gradually – and gently – shovelling some snow. Another form of physio!

ottawa hospital foundationI also attended a ‘non-fundraising fundraiser’ (i.e., no pledge forms but strong messaging about how well funds are used) at The Ottawa Hospital. Really well-organized, and they have their messaging and story down pat (the mantra ‘Compassionate People, World-Class Care’) is matched by their emphasis, in highlighting success stories, on ‘talent, technology and research’.

More leading-edge work done here than I expected, although I had some confirmation while getting my second opinion from Toronto’s Princess Margaret Hospital, Canada’s leading cancer centre, of just how respected the Blood and Marrow Transplant team here is. The other message, always relevant, is how low fundraising administration costs are (20-25 percent, compared to most large cancer charities, which are in the 40 percent range), which is always something I look at.

A nice touch was being seated beside one of my nurses from 5 West (the hematology ward). Nice to catch up and, as she said, the nurses are always happy to see how patients are doing well after they have left their care.

The dinner even included a nice shout-out to my book!

moonriseWe watched Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. A quirky movie (like all of his movies), about two kids who find it difficult to fit in, one a boy scout in a camp, the other a girl from a dysfunctional family, who run away together. Never really comes together, even if it is well-filmed (the colour has a sepia tone which gives it an unusual warmth).

I continue to wade through my mafia book (The Sixth Family: The Collapse of the New York Mafia and the Rise of Vito Rizzuto). It is heavy going, and I think unfortunately, the storyline suffers through the endless details of meetings, killings, drug busts, court cases (successful and unsuccessful) and the like. I admire the authors’ detailed research but a shorter book would be more engaging.

Life continues to be good.

Living with Cancer: A Journey | The Ottawa Hospital Foundation

A short blurb on my book at the Ottawa Hospital Foundation website.

Living with Cancer: A Journey | The Ottawa Hospital Foundation.

Year 1, Week 10: Another Week … and My Book is Out


While it has been a chemo week for my mother-in-law, it has also been a week of spectacular sunny weather here, giving opportunity for nice walks and being outside.

While her chemo went reasonably well, some annoying disorganization:

  • Out-patient chemo infusion plans were changed from a half-day to full-day (for increased hydration) just as she was preparing to leave;
  • Homecare arrangements were a comedy of errors. Scheduled to come between 8-9 pm, came an hour later without calling about the delay and forgetting to bring hydration, resulting in a further delay of an hour, all on a very long day for her;
  • Problems with the pump battery the next day, that required a further visit; and,
  • The usual reliance on spoken instructions for meds, rather than written information. Fortunately, based upon our previous experience, we were able to get the needed clarification – and incorporate into a reference table – to make things easier.

On the other hand, when the likely complications and side-effects emerge, good quick telephone response time and information, and going into emergency to get things checked out involved only an hour-long wait, with fortunately nothing serious that some additional meds cannot handle.

Overall, this experience makes me realize how fortunate I was in terms of my medical team, who were organized, with good written patient follow-up and side effect information, with only minor gaps or omissions. My homecare experience was also very good: competent staff, who would call if delayed, more modern and lightweight pumps, and no forgetting supplies.

I have been reading Andrew Westoll’s The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary, the story of former zoo and lab chimps and the people who care for them in their sanctuary outside of Montreal. A very powerful story on a number of levels and not an easy read. Some things that stood out for me:

  • How could we be so cruel to a species that shares so many of our social and nurturing instincts? Not uncommon as we look back at history but still striking;
  • The long-lasting effects of trauma (or PTSD) that is not unique to humans;
  • The dedication and determination of the team at the sanctuary, bordering on obsessiveness, required to make it work (the ‘crazy ones’ to use the iconic Apple ad);
  • How my rationalization – I didn’t know – is one that has been used throughout history, and is not justification, just as ignorance of the law is no excuse …; and,
  • The range of personalities and temperaments of the chimps, their social habits and structures, and the similarities and differences between them and us.

The end result is greater awareness of animal suffering from testing or other activities, and more sympathy for some of the issues pressed by PETA and other organizations. Some quotes to give the flavour of the book:

A primatologist would say Toby is a ‘highly enculturated’ ape. His identity lies somewhere between chimpanzee and human. Toby is a member of a strange new tribe of beings we have forged from the formal shape of the wild chimpanzee, a new hybrid fashioned in human laboratories, circuses, movie sets, and living rooms over the past one hundred or so years. Toby is, for all intents and purposes, the confused and conflicted humanzee of lore….

The Fauna staff acted on the simple but revolutionary idea that resilience in the face of suffering is not limited to humans but is a trait shared across species lines and perhaps throughout the animal kingdom….

… dramatic discoveries from the past half-century that illustrate how similar humans and chimpanzees are. With each breakthrough, a trait once thought to be uniquely human has been shown instead to be uniquely animal…

…. The core message of this field [trans-species psychology] is that human and animal minds are not distinct, as conventional wisdom holds, but are inextricably linked by our shared evolutionary history. The trans-species psychologist seeks to translate the latest scientific understanding of animal consciousness into human ethics, law, and culture. The goal?  To usher in a new paradigm for the way humans relate to animals.

…. More and more scientists are coming to the conclusion that the ways in which chimpanzee physiology differs from that of humans are not, in the end, all that subtle and that extrapolating results from chimps to humans requires a hefty leap in logic. Although it would be wrong to suggest that we have learned nothing from research on chimps over the last sixty years, the disaster of the HIV-AIDS research is certainly a cautionary tale worth heeding.

A society’s decisions about which communities or animal species are fair game for invasive research have never been based on how useful the results of the research might be or how many human lives ‘hang in the balance.’ these decisions have always been based on something much more fundamental: the moral and ethical beliefs that hold sway in that society at the time….

… and then we’re left searching for some kind of message from across the chasm. When science finishes narrowing the gap between us and the rest of the apes, this might be one of the few traits we can all agree is uniquely human: we ask why. We search for meaning. We find purpose in our lives by leaving no stone unturned in our search for it.

My book, Living with Cancer: A Journey is available now on iTunes/iBookstore (iPad media-rich edition here, recommended for those with iPads given the media and formatting) and Amazon (plain text edition here). Kobo appears to be a less mature platform and is taking longer than expected. 50 percent of my proceeds go to the Ottawa Hospital Foundation.

I have also set up a profile on Goodreads as part of my marketing, as well as getting ready for the related marketing efforts next week and formal ‘launch’ this coming Thursday.

Should you purchase my book (thank you!), I would also appreciate your short review (good, bad or indifferent) as the number of reviews makes a difference to the various search engines and the like.

Not sure how much or how little interest my book will generate, and I suppose I have the normal author jitters in that regard. However, getting it out feels like a significant accomplishment and as such is a good feeling in itself.

Next week I will be flying back to Ottawa for the book, my regular clinic update, and to see the kids.

3 Tips for Navigating Pinktober and Corporate/Cause Partnerships – Forbes

A good piece to help consumers wade through the ‘pinkwashing’ that occurs during October (and for other cause-related marketing). The tips:

WHERE does the money go? “Breast cancer awareness, treatment, cure, etc.” is not descriptive enough. Work with a reputable 501c3 and make it clear to consumers who’s involved.

HOW MUCH money from products/services purchased goes to the designated charity? Statements such as “Ten percent of net proceeds” are overly vague. Even “One-hundred percent of net proceeds” could very well equal zero. Marketers, don’t be tricky here. What portion of the purchase price are you donating?

WHAT MINIMUM or MAXIMUM will be donated? Perhaps there’s a campaign minimum (“no matter what happens, we’ll donate $5,000”) or a cap to this charitable effort (“up to a maximum of $10,000”). Marketers must lay their cards on the table to earn consumers’ trust.

This also resonated with me; as I was deciding what portion of my book proceeds would go the Ottawa Hospital Foundation, I noticed a number of vague references (the worst being ‘a portion of’) and decided to be specific: 50 percent of my overall proceeds (i.e., gross, not net).

3 Tips for Navigating Pinktober and Corporate/Cause Partnerships – Forbes.