A Goal On the Horizon

I posted the following on Social Media yesterday (Sunday, October 11, 2020). I am a believer that anyone like me living with cancer, whether curable or not, brings hope to their life and benefits from setting goals to shoot for. Hope is a source of strength and a foundation on which to build positivity.

Will the adventure I describe below come to fruition? I don’t know but does it really matter. Clearly what I’m planning isn’t for everyone, but we all have dreams. There is no better time than when you’re living with cancer to figure out what you’d like to have on your bucket list. I encourage you to take action now.

Okay – Call me CRAZY!

Today I booked my non-refundable flight for the Race around the Netherlands 2021, departing from Halifax on Thursday, April 29th and returning on Monday, May 10th. I got a good rate, but more importantly, for now, any flights booked with Air Canada allow a free flight change for pretty much any reason until next June. I decided to pay an extra $60 which looks after the cost of one piece of luggage. Air Canada treats a bike case as that piece.

Clearly I’m taking a big risk. Right now, if I leave the Atlantic Bubble, which is made up of the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland, when I return to my home in Nova Scotia I am required to self isolate for fourteen days. I cannot afford to do that so the trip hinges around the restriction being lifted by next April. You may think “so what, it’s only another fourteen days.”

Don’t freak out or feel any sense of concern with the following. I have lived a full, charmed life filled with many adventures. I plan to continue to live large for as long as I can. Cycling is a new activity for me having got started a about four years ago. I love being part of the cycling community. I have the good fortune of a large loving family and massive collection of meaningful friendships with people around the world.

Many of you know I couldn’t race this year as I learned I had Esophageal cancer and started treatment in February. The tumour appeared to be localized and treatable. My treatment was radiation and chemotherapy followed by surgery which was supposed to remove most of my esophagus and stretch my stomach up to rejoin. When on the table and opened up, there was a change to that plan. My stomach was totally removed and half my esophagus. My duodenum was sealed at the top end and a section of my small intestine was dissected to join what remained of my esophagus to my small intestine such that my liver and pancreas still add enzymes to my digestive track. I eat pretty much everything but in child sized portions and at least six times a day. I never expected to look at a label in the market to make sure I’m buying the most fattening version of the product. I’m sure you get the idea but if you’re interested in more details I blog regularly about my cancer adventure at http://philohara.ca

Again, don’t feel sad; I don’t. In September, I learned that my cancer metastasized in my liver and it is incurable. I had options and after considering all the pros and cons with my wife and children, we decided I start an aggressive chemotherapy treatment. It is not a cure but if successful, it will slow the replication of cancer cells and extend the duration of my life from months to years.

Every two weeks I spend three hours in a chair at the chemotherapy clinic on an IV infusion pump. Then I head home with additional chemo drugs which drip through a Port-a-Cath implanted just under the skin at the top of my right boob. A tube runs from the back of the port through a vein and is positioned just above my heart. On the outside I wear what looks like a small baby bottle. It has a tube that runs under my shirt to the Port-a-Cath with a needle that makes a tiny pinch when inserted into the port and does not cause any bruising. For the next 42 hours, it drips toxic poisons we call chemo drugs into my body. Does that not sound delightful?
Well done that you’re still reading. Ha Ha

The dates of my travel wraps around my chemotherapy and should I have to self isolate, I will not be permitted into enter the chemo clinic. In other words, I would have to stop Chemo. Stopping is not an option so the only way I can make the trip is if the province lifts that self-isolation restriction. By the way, I’m not sure you need the fingers on one hand to count the number of active COVID cases in Nova Scotia and we’ve had long stretches when there have been no new cases.

My chemo before the race will be on Wednesday, April 28th and I’ll fly the next day and finish the baby bottle drip on Friday. (It should prove interesting getting through security at the airport.) The race starts on Saturday, May 1st. My next chemo is Wednesday, May 12th. I booked to fly on Monday, May 10th in order to have time to do required blood work on May 11th in preparation for the Wednesday session in the chair.
Clearly there are a lot of moving parts in this plan. It wouldn’t take much for this house-of-cards to collapse.

And I haven’t been on Kermit (the name of my Giant Any Road), the gym, or running since the start of my treatment. As a guy about to be 67 years old, this is a really big deal but I want be up to the task. We don’t get to choose all the roads we travel but we do get to choose how to be the best version of ourselves while on the ride.

I’ve got a lot to do the prepare for #RATN2021 but I am determined.
Let me finish by sharing a message I got from a friend who happens to be a palliative care physician.

“We are all living but we are all dying too … and it’s painful to know you’re further along that timeline than you’d hoped. I think you are so wise to focus on what it means to be living.” – Caitlin Lees

Well done! You got to the end of my post. 🙌🙌

Below is a selection of pictures from the race in 2019.

9 Replies to “A Goal On the Horizon”

  1. Hi Phil:

    Your wish is in God’s hands, as are you. No matter how your great adventure turns out, He’s got you!
    It’s wonderful to see you so positive and full of hope – but then, that is your nature.
    I’m cheering for you!


  2. This is awesome! You make me think I should book a similar trip to someplace on my bucket list – life is for living, not for waiting around!

    Make sure you let your oncologist know about your plans. If I know him, he’ll be excited for you. I’m also hopeful everyone can be flexible to support this, just in case one of those cards goes flying somewhere. Sometimes patients take what we call “chemo holidays” to get in some of those grand bucket list items.

    1. Thanks for the advise Caitlin. I have my next face-to-face Dr. Wojciech Morzychi on Tuesday, October 27th. and I plan to raised the idea of a “chemo holiday” next May so I can make the race in the Netherlands. During this week’s treatment, I shared my plans with the Nurses and they mentioned that it’s common for people to skip a treatment around six months just to give the body a break. I find it remarkable that I feel as good as I do with the only two significant side effects: super sensitivity to cold and I’m struggling finding the words I want to use in speech. We all occasionally get stuck where we know what the word is we want to use, can remember the first letter, know other words it sounds like, but just can’t come up we the word we want. In my case, that’s becoming more frequent. I guess it’s not uncommon with the chemo drugs I’m getting.

      Thanks again. It’s so comforting to have an expert like you as a support pillar. I’m learning so much.

      1. You’re doing all the hard work! And yes, not uncommon at all for chemo holidays. We all need a break sometime! You’re going to have to invest in some extra warm gloves for this winter. Fleece is going to be your new best friend 🙂

        Have you been back out on your bike much lately? The weather is just beautiful these days.

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