The Last Post

16 09 2014

Here we are at the end, loyal reader. If you’re reading this, it means I’ve passed away, hopefully without much suffering. Yes, I’m speaking from beyond the grave. Or in my case, the urn. Spooky!

Writing this last post is not easy. What do you say to properly close a chronicle of my life over the last 7 or 8 years? You have followed the twists and turns of my life through these writings of mine and often commented on them either here or on Facebook. For that I thank you, loyal reader. You have honoured me with your continuing support and attention.

When I started this blog in April of 2006, little did I expect I would end up chronicling the remainder of my life. Heck , I would have never thought that three short years later I would write about life with cancer. I hope it hasn’t been too self-indulgent.

I didn’t want this blog to just be about my life. I’m not that narcisstic. I hope that my movie, video game and restaurant reviews steered you towards some good experiences. From the statistics I see many people find their way here looking for information on French-Canadian Christmas traditions and old Québec TV shows. It’s fun to think I was in some small way an ambassador of my native province.

Is there a unifying point to this blog as a whole? Some lesson to impart from those life experiences? I’m not sure exactly. However there is one thing I’ve learned in my years that has helped to make my life happy. Take it from an atheist: simply follow Jesus’ commandment and love one another.

You don’t have to like everyone. But do love everyone. Forgive, help, comfort even those you can’t stand. Especially those you can’t stand. See others not as characters in your life but as complicated and unique as you are.

I hope this blog will be around for a good while. As long as it’s up my voice is still out there in the world while my body is in a beautiful wooden box. It’s not a great written work but I’m still proud to leave behind this legacy, this public portrait of who I was.

I can’t thank you enough for your loyal readership. May you find in your life as much happiness as I did.


Vive la visite!

7 09 2014

The last four days brought me a lot of joy, loyal reader. Indeed, I received an influx of visitors who are near and dear to my heart. Those folks dropped by to see how I wAs doing and if I needed anything. What kindness!

My friends Ashley, Bryan. Dave, Janinei, Stacey and Candida were with us for a fun pow wow on Wednesday. In this place, their support was like a wood stove on a cold night.

On Thursday, Friday (and later today), it was Dynamic Duo time as I was joined by my best man Andrew for some good old movies and TV shows we follow. It’s good to know his life is now back in the groove too!

Friday afternoon was dedicated to board games with my friend Natasha where she taught me The Game of Life and I won my first game. For the second game, we played a cool electronic version of the game.

On Saturday my three colleagues Keagan, Katie and Cindy came by for an hour or so, reminding me how much I miss our monthly dinners. Since Cindy comes from Québec and Keagan is bilingual, they clicked easily with my next visitors.

The most far-travelled visitors of all, my mother Lise and sister Isabelle flew in and came to see me yesterday. Lots of hugs all around and lots of catching up. To make things easier for us, my mother has decided to to come live with us at our place.

Finally’, another awesome friend was with us every day, often ferrying Erica and my family around: Candida, who also keeps an eye out for my safety.

To all of you guys, and to future visitors, thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking time of of your schedule for me. It’s a precious commodity.

In Limbo

4 09 2014

I’ve now been living in Palliative Care for four days, loyal reader. It’s better than staying at the Health Science Centre by a mile, but not as good as my last stay.

The big difference is my legs. Since they’re not capable of walking more than a few secondsl, I have to ask for help whenever I need to leave my bed. Even within the bed, it’s hard and painful to move around. Meaning so far I’ve been functionally nailed to the bed. If it nothing improves, I’ll surely be plagued by bedsores.

Now that I’m here, perhaps I should discuss the situation with my doctor. My longtime doctor, the amazing Dr. Tompkins, theorized that the steroid Decadron might be responsible for the condition of my legs and reducing it might let my muscles grow back enough to at least allow me to walk to the bathroom.

On the plus side, I still appreciate this unit. I have my XBox 360 to play, I have a higher data plan on my phone to compensate for the lack of Wi-Fi and I can quietly catch up to my podcasts and audiobooks.

I must admit, however, that the reason I’m here can weigh heavy on my mind, especially in the morning before my first coffee.

The Final Chapter

2 09 2014

Here we are, loyal reader, at the beginning of the end. As you’re probably already aware, I am now permanently resident at the Palliative Care Unit. How did I end up here, you ask?

It started last night after supper. Feeling a bit tired I lay my head down on the futon and my faithful phone woke me up at 10 PM to take my pill. After swallowing my nighttime dose, Erica and I realized that, as it did when I relapsed nearly a year ago and when I seized up last week, my brain couldn’t express itself vocally, only to generate random and even made-up words in English or French. My poor wife was scared since it probably meant that the cancer is progressing faster now. I wanted to reassure her but I could not make out the words and every attempt sounded even worse.

Desperate, she called our good friend Candida who hurried to our apartment to have a look at me. After talking with me and poking and prodding, the women decided to call an ambulance to bring me to the emergency room at the Health Science Centre where Erica and I spent a few hours.

The nurses took some blood work and a doctor examined me, but nothing showed up other than my speech, which was starting to get better gradually. We eventually discussed my options. I was entirely free to go back home if I felt safe to do so. I would have loved to, but rationally speaking our stairs were preventing me from leaving, especially if there was a fire. I could also be admitted at the HSC but there was probably nothing they could do. That therefore left option three: moving into a room at the Palliative Care Unit.

Erica and I were transferred by ambulance in the middle of the night in a room on the parking lot side of the PCU. As before, the room is homey and comfortable with a dresser, stuffy chair and flat screen TV.

One of the nurses welcomed us back and asked us a few questions about what had happened. After she heard the story, she figured we must be exhausted and she was not wrong! She brought a pillow for Erica and some blankets. Then she told Erica that can share the bed with me to be more comfortable than on the chair, ir simply for getting emotional support. What a great place to be!

We woke up at 8:30 this morning when we started talking about being here and what the future entails.

I am actually not as upset about finishing my life here. i’ve mulled that eventuality ever since my time here in April. Sometime this week someone will bring me my Xbox and Grand Theft Auto V. I’ll also either set up a Wi-Fi network or increase my iPhone data plan since there is no Wi-Fi here. And I’ll work on organizing my posthumous instructions once more since I lost most of it when the computer crashed.

I also now have time to relax and enjoy not just my video games but podcasts and audiobooks, which I’m very much looking forward to!

You know me, loyal reader. Despite this major announcement, I will make the most of this situation and so will Erica. But I will miss our cats!

Family in Mourning

30 08 2014

I want to dedicate this post, loyal reader, to Chantal Fillion who passed away yesterday after a long battle with a brain tumour.

I’ve never had the chance to meet Chantal. She’s the mother of my nephew Simon and from everything I’ve heard she was a strong and loving woman taken from us way too soon at age 40. There are no words I could write without feeling like I am intruding in the family’s grief, so I would encourage you, if you wish to follow their wishes, to donate to or volunteer for the Canadian Cancer Society. You’ll make a difference for a patient while they can still benefit from it.

My Buoys

28 08 2014

In this time of adaptation, loyal reader, I want to pay tribute to two special women who have carried me through: my wife Erica and her mother Pauline.

Especially in the past three weeks, Erica has taken on the chores I used to do such as sweeping, dusting, doing the laundry cleaning the litter box and taking out the garbage and recycling. Not only that, she also watches over me like a guardian angel: she cleans up my many spills, offers me coffees, drinks snacks, manages my medications, picks me up treats when she goes out, helps me get in and out of the shower and generally makes sure I am comfortable.

I am just floored by how much support she gives me, how much energy she has for me and how much love must fuel her care. She loves me for richer and poorer, in sickness and health. I’m the luckiest husband on Earth!

For the last two weeks, Erica’s mother has been staying with us and also has taken on a lot. Pauline is always the first to jump at doing the dishes (often taking them right from under our noses), the sweeping and the laundry. And like her daughter she watches me like a hawk to make sure I’m safe.

As a proud man, it took me a long time to accept sitting idly by while others work in my stead, but now it’s true that my body can’t handle it anymore so I can sit back in good conscience and take care of what I can.

Erica, I love you more than life itself and Pauline, you’re the best mother-in-law one could ask for!

Close One!

24 08 2014

What a terrible experience, loyal reader! To thank my wonderful mother-in-law, we opted to take her out for supper at City Light. It was delicious and we called a cab for the way back. Burdened by my walker, I carefully climbed into the back seat when I felt like I was in a freefall, getting sucked in between the seats as I lost consciousness.

I woke up a few minutes later strapped to a stretcher in the back of an ambulance en route towards St. Claire’s hospital. I was very confused but managed to stay half-coherent as the nurses asked my wife and I questions about my my medical history.

Erica let the nurses, doctors and I know that I suffered a seizure, with shaking, tongue-biting and everything. Never before have I felt anything like it. They gave me a special medication to prevent them from happening again, then ordered an ambulance to transport me to the Health Science Centre ER to see a neurologist and be admitted.

A CT scan that evening turned out nothing unusual therefor other than taking the new meds there was nothing to be done. After nearly 48 hours, I was ready to be discharged and to go home.

I gotta tell you, loyal reader, that it was no cakewalk. I never felt death springing so close to me. Without warning, my brain was shutting down and I was all out of time. I had wasted, taken for granted what I had left and I felt I couldn’t get it back. I was on the way to my doom.

In and out of sleep I drifted once we got to St. Claire’s and Erica kept the nurses and doctors up to date on my medical information. Since it was a seizure, it was decided to transfer me to the Health Science Centre where I could be seen by a neurologist and given a CT scan. Thankfully the results showed no sign of bleeding in my brain. The doctors decided to keep me a few days, therefore I spent the weekend immobile on a stretcher. Every trip to the washroom was a slow, dangerous slog with a walker. At least previous hospital stays had me in good enough form to walk, sit, read, etc.

Finally, one last fright: a nurse this morning asked me if I could get Erica to come in because the doctor wanted to speak with both of us. Terror overcame me since the last time a doctor asked to see us together was to break the news that my illness was terminal. Erica was equally scared when I called her and wasted no time coming in. Not helping matters was having to wait a half hour for the doctor.

Fortunately, it turns out she simply wanted to discuss if I wanted to be at home, at the hospital or in hospice. After going through the pros and cons, I stuck to my guns and picked quality of life over suffering in hospital. I was then finally discharged and we went home at long last.

I still have mental scars from my ordeal. The memory of disappearing in the cab and waking up is just too vivid yet. I’d gotten so used to living my life one day at a time that I forgot that I’ll someday run out of days, and I might not see it coming. I’m hoping it’ll happen in my sleep, but there’s no guarantees. I may suffer as my consciousness slowly slips into oblivion.

Until then, I just owe it to myself and my loved ones to make the best of it.