It was time for a vacation. Brandon, Kayla, Brittany, and I headed off to Barbados for the week. We took two separate flights, one from Montreal and one from Toronto. The drive to the airport was horrendous as the weather was nasty. Dad drove us and managed not to kill us before the vacation even began. After waiting an hour for the rental-car we were on our way to the villa.
The accommodations were great! We had a three bedroom until that overlooked the ocean. There was a private pool and fancy parking that required a gate code. I did the driving all week, on the wrong side of the road. Brandon or Brittany were in the passenger seat and thought I was a little close to the curb. I think I was overcompensating for not hitting the oncoming traffic on my side of the car. It is a weird sensation. All of the intersections were roundabouts. It took a bit of practice but by the end of the week I was a pro. I did however hit a few curbs with brightly yellow coloured rental car that screamed, “Stay away from this car at all times”.
We ate very well. Each night we tried a different restaurant. There was an area of town called the St. Lawrence Gap that was known for its eateries. We went there three or four times and never had a bad meal. It overlooked the water and provided some spectacular views. On Friday night we went to the Oisten’’s fish fry. It was a very busy spot. Tables were lined up on the beach and we had a good, but not great, meal. It was more about the ambiance. We took pictures of most of our meals as that seems to be the thing to do.
We spent some time at the wildlife reserve. The monkeys were the highlight for all of us. They are so cute and have such character. It was easy to spend a couple hours just sitting feet away from them as they jumped and played in the trees. Brandon had an opportunity to hold one of them on his chest. It was a baby and he fell right asleep. When it was time to leave the little guy clung with his claws on Brandon’s t-shirt. He would have fit in the carry-on.
I did a number of training runs throughout the week. It was hot in the morning, afternoon, and evening. I picked the morning. The streets were busy and not well suited to running. I did what I could and enjoyed the times Brittany was able to join me. I really feel the lack of energy due to the treatment. That is disappointing but to be expected.
So, we are all heading back to reality now. I received test results when I was away. After my first round of chemo the tumour is beginning to break up and shrink/disappear. My cancer cell count in my spinal fluid has dropped dramatically as well. However, my white blood cell count is still critically low. I was happy not to get too sick when I was away and was able to enjoy the time with the kids. The medical news was very positive as it means my body is responding well to the chemo. Fingers crossed for continued success. I don’t want to get too optimistic at this point. It is an emotional roller-coaster ride. I start round two this upcoming Thursday.
See you at the finish line…..
It seems with my last blog entry that I confused a few readers. My vacation plans do not occur until the last week in March, after my first round of treatments. I was attempting to avoid treatment until after my planned vacation, but things don’t always go as planned. I guess even published authors have room to improve their writing!
The days prior to starting treatment were worse than the actual treatment itself. At least mentally. I worried about everything. I was anxious about everything. Would I lose my hair right away (don’t laugh)? How sick would I get? How long would I be sick? Would I be as sick during my recovery phase as I am during the treatment? Could I cope on my own? The sleepless nights seemed endless. I think my biggest struggle has been watching those around me cope with the diagnosis. Both of the kids have been so strong at times, but not unlike me in my private moments I know this is killing them as well. I feel a sense of guilt for putting them through this. They didn’t sign up for this, but I guess neither did I.
It was a rocky start to treatment. My white blood cell count continued to drop prior to the treatment. This was a big concern to my oncologist as you need white cells to fight for you. If I hadn’t had enough of them it wouldn’t have been prudent to start chemo as it would have put me at huge risk. As it was my count was so low that if I would have caught the flu or a bad cold I would have had trouble fighting it off. I noticed every sneeze and cough around me. It was time to become a germa-phob. I tried not to touch door handles and used Purell like I owned stock in the company. The good news was that the count remained bad, but not bad enough that I couldn’t start treatment.
It went better than I expected. I was constantly waiting for some nasty side effect to happen, but I think I was very fortunate. I was very tired and lethargic. By mid-afternoon I was ready to lay down. My energy level continued to decline throughout the five days of treatments. Now that it’s over I go through another round of testing to see what effect it has had. My mental state was also all over the map. I think that has been the hardest part so far, managing my emotions and fear. I am so fortunate to have had support through all of this even though I am not an easy person to support. A particular smile from one friend that makes my worries go away. A morning hug from another that lets me know I am not alone. Late night texts from another that ground me in reality. I have had so many offers of help from all of you. Thank you.
I mentioned my kids above. I can’t wait to spend some time with them on vacation. We have a group text thread that is filled with words of encouragement and love from them every day. If anything good can come of this it is that we have become closer as a result of my journey. They amaze me.
Today is the first day of the twenty-three day recovery cycle. I was warned that round two will feel twice as bad as round one. The drug will build up in my body and have a cumulative effect. For now I am just going to focus on planning for my vacation at the end of the month. I need something positive to think about before the next round.
See you at the finish line, on the beach…..
Is this all a dream? I feel like I’m walking around inside a glass bubble, where I can see other people and even, with some difficulty, talk to them, but I am inhabiting a completely separate reality from them. The old adage that you shouldn’t judge someone until you walk a mile in their shoes is relevant. Of course, I wouldn’t want anyone to walk in this particular old and worn pair of shoes.
Recent blood tests are heading in the wrong direction so waiting to start treatment seems like a bad idea. I have been balancing the decision as to when to start treatment with a vacation I have booked with the kids. You may think, WTF, the vacation can wait, but priorities change when you are wearing the old and worn shoes. It is all a moot point now as the decision is made. Treatment will begin March 7th.
The particular chemotherapy I will be getting is done on a 28-day cycle. I get it for 5 days and then I get 23 days to recover. Then I repeat the process over and over again. There is a long list of side effects that each occur in a certain percentage of the patients taking the drug. Only time will tell which ones I have to battle. Saying I am scared would be an understatement. I am lucky to have lots of offers of support at this point. I will ask for it when I need it. Seven more days chemo free.
Looking forward to the week of vacation.
I still swim, bike, and run.
I still plan on seeing you at the finish line….
This year was supposed to be a more positive year. New year, new goals, new hope. I have never been one for resolutions, but I did see it as a chance for step forward. A little before Christmas I did an MRI and they found something. That led to an appointment at the local cancer center. The MRI showed one tumor and heavy shading on another part of my brain. They recommended a spinal tap and a PET scan. The spinal tap was used to pull fluid from me to test and see if cancer cells were present in the fluid. The theory is that brain cancer is usually the secondary location. It travels from elsewhere to the brain via the spinal fluid. Well that test was positive for cancer cells. I was referred to Sunnybrook in Toronto. They did another full round of testing, including a PET scan that searched for the primary source. The PET scan came back negative. That was not expected by the oncologists so I was unique. So I have cancer, but it is not presenting like the typical patient. I still can’t believe I am saying those words. I have brain cancer.
My vision gets blurry on and off. I pass out here and there. It has been wonderful (sarcasm). The headaches are unbearable at times. The list of drugs in my cabinet increases.
I have been strong before in my life. I lost a bunch of weight and did an Ironman. Of course, that is what this blog was all about in the beginning. I even did some book writing that people liked, lol. Maybe now the blog will have a new focus, who knows. I should be wanting to fight. I should look at it like just another challenge, but this feels different. It feels insurmountable. Life has left me without the energy to fight right now. I feel defeated.
I am still training for a summer Ironman. Maybe I have my head in the sand and that won’t be in the cards. The docs have presented me with options and I am pondering them now. I am on a regular regimen of testing now to monitor the changes in the size of the tumor, cancer cell count in my spinal fluid, etc. All of this which is just delaying the inevitable chemo treatments. I put more value on quality of life rather than quantity of life so chemo may not be in the cards for me.
As people have heard the news they all say the same thing, “What can I do?” Honestly if I could ask for one thing it would be that this disease not be the topic of all of our conversations. I want to just be Mike, not Mike with cancer. I haven’t changed even if there is something growing in my brain. It is hard to constantly have to answer the “How are you feeling?” or “Do you have any more news?” questions constantly. Maybe that is just a phase I am going through, I don’t know. I do know however, that 2019 is not looking as bright as I had hoped.
See you at the finish line…..
(Funny how that statement I have closed my blog with for years now has a different meaning)
What’s in a number? I travelled 132 kms during my training this week. I don’t have a lot to talk about today. Yes, I am struggling for words. I did some research on the number 132. Did you know that in binary, if you assign your digits from your thumb to your pinky 1, 2, 4, 8 and 16 on one hand and then 32, 64, 128, 256 and 512 on the other hand then the number 132 would be displayed using both middle fingers exclusively. So if someone labels you 132, it’s a subtle message that they don’t really like you.
If you take the sum of all 2-digit numbers you can make from 132, you get 132: . 132 is the smallest number with this property, which is shared by 264, 396 and 35964.
It was a leap year on the Julian calendar.
Goodbye my friends……..
It is easy to look back and think when we were younger we had better manners or were more respectful of our parents than the current generation of children. We played outside until it got dark, or the streetlights came on. It was a cardinal sin to want to stay indoors. I just got kicked out and told to play. That is how we learned to build social skills and prepare us for the challenges that life was sure to throw our way. Could the younger generation still have the same basic respect and kindness that we were taught was a necessity? They seem to spend far too much time indoors playing video games with imaginary friends on the other side of the planet that they are sure to never meet.
This week I got the answer to that question. A wonderful young lady named Farrah touched me. She has a love for animals and desperately wanted to save one from the local shelter. Farrah had been saving her money to pay the adoption fee. You might think this was a bit self serving as she would get to take the kitten home herself. That is where the story takes a turn. She was adopting an animal from the local SPCA to place in someone else’s home! What a selfless and ever so kind act. Being a bachelor I thought this might just be the thing I need. It might do my heart some good to come home to a new pet creating a sense of purpose. After very little thought I accepted the offer to be the beneficiary of Farrah’s awesome act of kindness.
I spent some time at the local SPCA with Allison (Farrah’s Mom!) picking out the perfect partner. To be honest it didn’t take very long. A little orange and white kitten picked me. He cuddled into my coat (leaving fur everywhere) and purred. Game over, he was going home with me. It turned out that he had a fever so we had a false start taking him home. After another day of meds at the SPCA he was ready to come home to his forever home.
With some help of my friends and co-workers I scoured the internet for an appropriate name. I wanted to go with a literary theme as some consider me an author. Gatsby, Dante, Booker, and many other names were considered. I finally landed on Kipling, or Kippers for short. You may have noticed the recent quote from Rupert Kipling on my author page. It was not a coincidence! Earlier tonight Kippers was delivered to my place by Farrah and Allison. The fun now begins as my place is sure to never look tidy again. I have started saving for new furniture that I am sure to need after the kitty phase.
So I have a new kitten and also a renewed sense of faith in our younger generation. Kindness it seems can be found everywhere if you just open yourself up and look for it. Farrah and Kippers have proved that to me.
See you at the next finish line…… (with Kippers)
It has been a long time since I’ve gone on a vacation. Things have been busy and it is time for a little rest and relaxation. I looked around for somewhere interesting to go and for various reasons I landed on Florence, Italy. I was there once before, but it was a day trip. I was captivated by the history, architecture, and mostly the art. I hope to see many museums and write. I am almost finished my third book, but I want to come back from Italy with a plot for book #4. I am hoping inspiration will hit! There is big news in Italy that will make it to the blog at some point soon!
I am trying to get back into my yoga practice. Over the summer I just didn’t find the time to attend. On Saturday I went back to the morning class and it was really good. I realized why I had missed it as it is very calming for me in an otherwise hectic and stressful life.
My triathlon group met last night to discuss the upcoming season. It was a smaller group that have all signed up for the full Ironman in Mont Tremblant in 2019. We discussed lodging, training plans, and warm-up races. The plan for the group is to do a monthly three hour ride indoors to get us through the winter (in addition to the regular training craziness). There may be a trip to Indiana in my future for the Muncie 70.3. I may also run the “around the bay” race in Hamilton in March.
This past week I travelled 151 kms during my training. The running volume is steadily increasing. There are more tempo runs and interval training being slipped into the program. My quads seem like they are in constant pain, lol.
See you at the next finish line….
It didn’t take long for the cooler weather to change the colour of the trees. It seemed like overnight they went from a deep green to all of the vibrant colours we come to expect in the fall. Last weekend we celebrated Thanksgiving. Brittany spent the weekend with Rui and his family north of Toronto, but Brandon and I got a chance to eat some of my mom’s turkey dinner. Brandon had taken the train down from Ottawa and we had a chance to get caught up. We drove through the old neighbourhood in Maitland and got a chance to talk to some good friends. The food at Mom’s was spectacular as usual. It will be a few weeks before I burn enough calories to offset the meal.
Brittany began her first full time job as a Physiotherapist. She accepted a position at the Humber River hospital in Toronto. It is a dream come true for her. She loves her chosen profession and prefers a hospital setting over private practice. We have lots to talk about now as we are both in the healthcare field. It is interesting for me to hear about the technology at Humber River and compare it to what we have at Providence Care. They are both relatively new facilities.
My latest book continues to get positive reviews from those who have read it. It is nice to get stopped in the hall at work and told that someone stayed up all night to read it. It is gaining some momentum via word of mouth. I may do a facebook marketing campaign soon like I did for my first book. It helps with international sales and exposure. I am just finishing up the first draft of my third book. It is called “Buried Past”. Stay tuned.
This past week I travelled 161 kilometres during my training.
See you at the next finish line…
My second book has been released! It is called In Hiding. It is a thriller that takes place in Key West, Florida. Each book I write is a different journey. After the creative process of the first draft there is months of work that follows. The cover art, the editing, the publishing, it all takes time. I have received plenty of positive feedback so far, overwhelmingly so! You can buy any of my books by using the links on my website at www.mrmceachern.com I also have copies if anyone is looking for an autographed copy. I am working on another author signing!!!
I have begun training for next season of triathlons. There are a number of us that are part of the IronStride Team that are racing at Mont Tremblant next year. It is good to have a group that is all doing the same event as it makes the training more interesting and supportive. We have a group meeting planned in October to discuss lodging and other logistical items.
This past week I travelled 142 kms during my training. See you at the next finish line.
The lead up to my Lake Placid race has seemed less than enthusiastic. I am doing most of the workouts that Randy has posted for me, but they are not feeling all that great. Kind of feels like I am going through the motions. I need to reset my goals for this one. Instead of performance goals (which I almost certainly won’t hit), I need to focus on process goals. If I can have a smooth race and keep a positive mindset I will have had a successful race.
Swim – Calm start and finish my stroke. I am losing power with a short stroke and i need to extend it. That will be my thought for the swim segment.
Bike – Survive the descent into Keene. It is a very fast (I hit 76 kms/hr in practice) downhill and a dangerous section of the course.
Run – One foot in front of the other and thank the volunteers at each station. Keep positive as it will hurt.
Last week I travelled 201 kms during my training.
See you at the Lake Placid finish line!