Wednesday, 26 June 2013

What is Important to a Cancer Survivor?

I am writing a post today based around a meeting I had at the cancer agency this week about a new initiative to make a "survivorship" program through the hospital system. This is more meant to be a discussion and not me "telling" people what a cancer survivor needs. I can only speak for myself in that regards! I was really excited to be a part of this and even more excited to hear others input! I will have the opportunity again to discuss this further so any input is welcome!

Finishing cancer treatment means a lot of things to a lot of people. No two people are the same. Depending on what combinations of chemo/radiation/surgery/other things someone gets it can leave you in a variety of places. As such, the agency is attempting to make something that will work for everyone. As such, a variety of topics are needed, for experiences and age groups.

Some of the main topics that we discussed were:

1. Prevention of secondary cancers (not recurring, but preventing new cancers)
2. Checkups, and all the tests that go along with it (GP vs oncologist)
3. What lifestyle changes can we make to help the cancer not coming back.
4. Rejoining the work force.
5. Long term emotional support and counselling
6. Community resources
7. "Other" was the last topic.

(All of these had sub sections of course)

One thing I thought might be important  was to divide it into two main sections of "immediate needs" and "long term" needs. I know from when I finished treatment my immediate concern was to get back into a workable body shape. I had lost basically all my muscle, had no energy and was generally in a really bad state. I wanted to be useful again. A topic that wasn't really covered in too much detail. Long term, a lot of my concerns were emotional after I had gotten used to the physical, it was more dealing with things less scan anxiety, concerns over whether or not cancer would come back. It was more in my mind as opposed to my body.

Another important thing I thought could be helpful would be something like "caregiver survivorship". Cancer certainly takes its toll on the person directly effected, but it can really wear out those who are caregivers as well. I know care givers can be forgotten about in this whole ordeal because they are not sick, but I have seen just how exhausted they get as well. It really does take a physical and mental toll and them as well, and we can't forget about them. The deserve to "feel better" too when it is all done.

I felt rejoining the workforce was really important, and tried to get a section for "employers" and maybe some helpful things to discuss with them. I know when I went back to work, it was the standard "great to have you back, everything is normal again", which we all know now really isn't the case. Having tips for return to work strategies would be great.

We also discussed greater awareness of community resources. It wasn't until after my treatment had completed and a year had gone by that I found out about a young adult support group....three blocks from my house. It would have been great to know about this during everything!

It is hard to sum up everything survivors need, but any input is greatly appreciated. In reality, every hospital has limited resources and only so many things can realistically be covered. It was great to hear that there are more people working towards this goal. So any thoughts or input would be great for my next meeting and I can let you all know how this project moves forward!



Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

Hello Everyone,

As many of you know, this past weekend I, along with 2650 other residents of British Columbia in support of the BC Cancer Foundation. The event this year raised over $10 million for cancer research, bringing the five year total of the event to over $50 million. Truly inspiring stuff, and reason for hope.

Tragically, this years event had a terrible and fatal accident involving a 16 year old cyclist (one article here: This was obviously very tragic, and very sad and my condolences go out to the family and the driver of the car. This was a very unfortunate and tragic accident. The ride will continue on next year, and the strength of the family has been amazing. His mother was in the event and released a statement stating she will continue to participate in the event next.

I want to congratulate everyone involved with the event though this year. The money raised is amazing and will make immediate impacts in cancer research projects that will benefit people world wide. I had the honour of participating in the opening ceremonies (I am having some trouble uploading the video....). Not a dry eye in the house, but it does an amazing job of symbolizing why we are here and why we continue to fight. Thank you to all of the organizers, with a special shout out to Byron and Boryana! Life long friends and amazing people!

I am very proud of my team, "Team Phoenix" as we raised almost $28000 and I have already registered the team for next year. This is a team photo about 6 km from the finish line.
From L to R: Destry, Eamonn, Jacquie, Jill, Heather, Sara, Shannon, Kurt
It was a long couple of days, but the weather was amazing this year. Last year it poured while this year it was sunny the whole way there over the two days. I was faster this year by more than an hour which was my goal. It was nice to see that I am getting stronger again. I can bike 240 km and feel not horrible afterwards (My legs were very stiff the next day but I still made it to work!). This was such an adventure again this year, over 16 hours on the bike (for me, some of my team mates are much faster!), but we made it. I am proud of the team and what they accomplished.

Here are a few selected photos from the trip (not in any particular order), I will be posting a full photo album in the next couple days, along with some video too. Some of the pics are my team, some random teams, the start line pictures of the crowd is amazing. So many people! I can't wait to do it all again next year!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Here we Go! Riding to Conquer Cancer!

Hey All! A bit of a long one today! I just kind of started writing this morning and it ended up being long!

In just three short days I will be riding my bicycle from Vancouver BC to Seattle WA in support of the BC Cancer Foundation. I can't wait! Thank you to all my readers and to all the people who took the time to read my web page about the ride! (

The week leading up to the ride is so much fun. Training has been completed for a few days now, and on things like twitter (#rtcc) things are popping up all over the place! I have been able to see pictures of the ride in Ontario, this week will be BC, and soon enough Quebec and Alberta will be following. Four awesome rides to conquer cancer!

It is an emotional week for sure. I used cycling  as a way to get back into shape after chemo/surgery/radiation, and as a vessel to give back to the people that helped me so much, and continue to monitor me and my health. Most importantly, they continue to help people diagnosed with cancer. Help them fight back.

One of the most interesting (for lack of a better word) parts of the ride is the "cheer stations" along the ride route. These are a few designated areas where people can gather and meet up to cheer on the riders (although there are people in spots all over the ride, it is so awesome to see just random people at the end of their driveways in the middle of farmland Washington out cheering us on!). Last year, I saw a kid with a sign that just said "Thanks! Heading to my last chemo". I nearly had to stop and break down. It was a really hard moment. I know what that kid is going through, I know the excitement of being "done" chemo and everything that comes after it. I don't know what it is to be that little and go through something like that. Tough kid, tough parents for sure. It is a painful reminder of how far we still have to go. 2 in 5 Canadians are diagnosed with cancer, and 1 in 4 die. I read recently it is the number one killer in every province in Canada now. Terrifying to know how close I was to the edge. To take a quote from Sara recently, "These aren't just numbers, these are people. Wives, Husbands, children, parents, friends brothers, sisters."

The total ride distance, 240 km, seems like a long way to go, but it is nothing compared to how far we still have to go in our fight against cancer. When people ask me about the distance, I say it is essentially nothing and I get funny looks a lot of the time. I train, I prepare. You can't do either for a cancer diagnosis. I can take breaks, I can rest, I can re-energize. Things I couldn't do when I had cancer. This distance and the obstacles that come with it are so minor compared to what I went through with cancer. A flat tire in the rain sucks for sure, but I can certainly put it into perspective. I can laugh about how my knees are stiff, my butt is sore, and so are my shoulders. But they will be fine in a few days. I know that. The people in the event are amazing. So helpful, and more importantly so positive in what can only be described as a happy, optimistic yet very somber event. Every person their has been affected by cancer, but they are still smiling. So many stories. We will beat this one day I am confident. So is everyone else.

I am in a very fortunate position. No matter what happens, I have had the last 18 months cancer free, and have been able to get on my bike (some people tell me too soon, but if I didn't I drive myself as hard, I probably would only be doing the ride for the first time this year...). I can do this event, and I will continue to, as long as I am healthy enough to do so. One thing cancer survivors know is how quickly things can change, and I respect that. But nothing will take away my desire to "help out". I am "healthy" outside of the nagging side effects that come along with cancer, but at the end of the day, I know many cancer patients are not as fortunate. Too many people have heard the word "incurable". I will continue to ride for them. 
Team Jerseys for the Ride!

My efforts are for everyone who had to fight, those who are, those who will fight in the future, and those who can't fight anymore.

So thanks again for your support everyone. Together, with our combined efforts we can beat this. We are all in this together,



PS I will put up pictures I take from the event as it goes along and post them up next week. They will be great! So no blog Sunday, but shortly after it will be up!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

One week to go until The big Ride!

Hey all,

It has been a busy weekend, last weekend of training and all for the big bike ride.

This coming Saturday, myself and 4000 other people will be cycling from Vancouver BC to Seattle WA. Should be exciting! As it seems to rain every year, I have planned accordingly and purchased some solid rain gear. I finished training on Saturday, and have done over 1000 km on my bike this year (by a lot) and am doing the full 240 km to Seattle next weekend. This one is for everyone who had to fight, everyone who still is, and every one who has to fight in the future.

It will be an emotional weekend I am sure. Last year, when I did it for the first time, I was so focused on "Getting there" and getting to the finish line. this year, I had some time to really think about everything going on. I personally raised over $3000 again this year, and I am pretty proud of that. I hope when I participate next year, I will be able to pass $10000 total raised. My team however, raised much more than this. It is really exciting. This week, we passed $26000 raised. Pretty exciting stuff!

I hope the money all goes to good use and really starts making a difference for people. I know I have personally been in equipment (PET-CT scanner) purchase from this ride at the BCCA. A piece of equipment that would not of been there otherwise. Really puts the whole ride into perspective. It is amazing what so many people can do just by a simple thing like getting on a bike.

I am thankful for everyone who donated. It really does make a difference. Research is working, and one day we will get there. Until then, I will keep riding my bike, and keep raising money.

Take care everyone and see you in Seattle!

PS I will still be posting this Wednesday before the ride, but I will be riding on Sunday so no post that day! But the next post will likely have many pictures and things from the ride! So stay tuned! See 4000 people making a difference!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Good News is Bittersweet

I got great news this week. I am 18 months free of cancer. Truly awesome and I am so very thankful for it. I find it hard to jump for joy so to speak though at moments like this.

Don't get me wrong, I couldn't be happier. I have my health. I am thrilled about that. I went in, my oncologist smiled, gave me the good news and I could have that wonderful moment of not worrying. But the "high" that comes with it only lasts shortly I find. Almost instantly I feel like a jerk because I am in the chemo clinic. There are active patients everywhere and people finding out they have cancer or are waiting on results or whatever. It brings me back to earth in a hurry. Like when you fall off your skis fast. It is so bittersweet. I am happy. I am lucky. Things seem to be going okay so far. But it isn't the story for everyone. It is a hard moment. Why does one person get to do well while others don't. It is an odd moment.

So when I leave, I call home, call my friends, and they all can be relieved too. Some people are great and give me all the time I need to talk about it. Some people just give me the "yeah I knew" and didn't seem too concerned at all. This is also a weird feeling. I am glad they are not bothered but at the same time, kind of mad about it. Why weren't they more concerned? Are they concerned at all? I don't know. I guess I am just a bit jealous that they don't have to worry or choose not to show me that they worry. It seems like leading up to an appointment some people give you all the time in the world, and then once it is over, they cut off communication again. I don't understand it. No worries I guess. I think I am just a bit confused by it all.

The check up results day is such an odd experience and no way to describe it properly I think. At least by me. I am happy to get good news after all the stress of medical tests. I get a few days to not worry. I wait until I get my appointment card in the mail and think about the next one. I think about all the people who haven't been as fortunate as me. It is an emotional day is all. I think about a lot of things, probably too much on these days. But I keep moving forward, as bittersweet as it is.