Health Update – Ring Around the Collar

The following post card arrived in the mail yesterday. It was unexpected but I was really impressed to have an artifact like this from a member of the Canadian Olympic Team and mailed from the Olympic Village in Tokyo.

Very Special Artifact

The Ring Story

Last week my wedding band slipped off my ring finger twice without warning. I have already had my band reduced in size once and although I’m tempted to do so again, I’m trying hard to increase my weight and fill out my bod first.

I seem to be stuck around 56 kg (125 lbs.). I also wear my cross on the same chain so having these two important artifacts together; one representing my love for my wife rubbing against my love for God seems pretty appropriate. There are many men who wear rings on chains to make a fashion statement. If you prefer, I can go with that lie; ha ha. No one has ever associated fashion and Phil O’Hara in the same sentence. I do try to colour coordinate but frequently fail.

Health Update – August 11, 2021

Today I have a morning appointment with my brilliant Oncologist, Dr. Wojciech Morzycki to learn the results of a recent CAT Scan. He ordered this additional scan because the earlier one showed some glow (probably a better term than this) around my Lumber 1 Vertebrae. This can indicate my cancer has spread to my bones and if that’s the case, he may wish to send me for radiation. However, the L1 is the vertebrae I fractured several weeks ago when I attempted to pick up my motorcycle so that “glow” might simply be a result of healing.

Right now I feel pretty good. Like all cancer patients, we will never feel normal-healthy again. We all have good and bad days. I have more days that I feel okay or near-normal. My bad ones are characterized by extreme exhaustion. In a three-week cycle, I seem to have two to three bad days and mostly just stay in bed. Even on the good days, I tire quickly but a mid-day nap perks me up. The bottom line is that I am doing just fine.

I did bloodwork on Monday. Hemoglobin (Hgb) aside, these are great numbers. Neutrinos (Neut), White Blood Cells (WBC), and Platlettes (PLT) are all in the normal range. Any day that I can refer to myself as normal is a good day.

There were two main reasons for the face-to-face visit with Dr. Morzycki: a. to find out if the “glow” on my L1 is cancerous and b. to discuss proceeding with the drug Vinorelbin. The “glow” is NOT cancer. Eureka! Jumping for joy!

I decided I will try one more drug known as Vinorelbin. Apparently this drug has been around for a long time and if effective, it will extend my life. It is not a cure but may stall the progress of my disease. The odds of success are quite low, around 5%, but if I don’t give it a try, I’ll never know. It is does work, it will stall my disease and I can stay on it indefinitely. There are likely to be side effects but they may prove minimal. Even if not minimal, feeling lousy because of side effects is a whole lot better that clocking out of this blue dot.

Dr. Morzycki wants me to complete four cycles and then send me for a CAT scan to find out if it’s working. A cycle is three weeks. I’ll be back in the 11th. floor clinic and on an infusion pump again to take this drug regularly. Oddly, I miss the wonderful team I met up in the clinic and enjoy every return visit to have my port-a-cath flushed once a month.

My sons Adam, Chris, Drew and I are heading to Montreal on September 10th. Drew and I are driving up in time to meet Adam and Chris at the airport. We will spend time visiting cathedrals where documented miracles occurred. My hope is that God might have one of those get-out-of-jail passes tucked in his pocket for me. My faith is strong so who knows?

We are staying at an AirBnB in the downtown near lots of great restaurants and bars so there will be some adult refreshments in our future. I watch a lot of cooking shows such as the one titled, You Gotta Eat Here and plan to visit at least one of those locations while in Montreal.

On Sunday, Adam and Chris fly home around 6:00 pm. Drew and I will stay another day to play the vacationing visitors role on Monday. This road trip continues. Here’s a full summary:

  • Sep 10 – Depart Halifax around 4:00 am to drive to Montreal in time to pick up Adam and Chris at the airport.
  • Sep 12 – Drop Adam and Chris so they can catch their flight home.
  • Sep 13 – Day in Montreal with Drew to sightsee.
  • Sep 14 – Drive to Ottawa and stay with Marianne and Kim in Gloucester. They plan to have a family event for us.
  • Sep 15 – Drive to Peterborough to stay at a Comfort Inn and spend time with Owen Stahn.
  • Sep 16 – Drive to Toronto. I have an AirBnB to spend two days with my friend Ryan. Drew plans to visit friends.
  • Sep 18 – Drew to drive me to the Muskokas to spend time with my Pinecrest cohorts from the 1970s.
    There are about 20 guys that attend this event annually. I’ve been invited but this is my first time.
  • Sep 19 – Drew to pick me up in the Muskokas and we drive to Jennison, MI (if the borders are open).
    We’ll stay with the Kunnen’s.
  • Sep 21 – Drive to Weymouth (west of Boston) and stay with Alexis, Matt, and Carson.
  • Sep 22 – Relocate to Newburyport (east end of Boston) and stay with my friends Nancy and Dan.
    My friends, Sheila, Jim, Karen, and Jan are joining me at a Pub to eat, drink, and tell lies about the past.
  • Sep 23 – Head home to Hali.

At the advice of Dr. Wojciech Morzycki, I will delay the start of taking Vinorelbine until after the road trip. It could be problematic to be on the road if I started to struggle with side effects. Also, I won’t have any health insurance if we can travel into the US. Should something happen to me in the US, Drew will toss me in the back seat and bolt back to the closest boarder into Canada.

With a start date after the road trip, that translates to starting Vinorelbine in the last week of September. Four cycles later, when Dr. Morzycki plans to schedule a CAT scan, puts me in mid-November to find out if Vinorelbine is working. Should that be the case, I will continue of the drug indefinitely with an occasional break to give my body a chance to recover. I suspect Dr. Morzycki is praying already. We have a very special relationship.

As I have said before, my care since my treatment started in January, 2020, has been remarkable. I know we’re in the middle of a provincial election and improved access to world class health care is a hot topic. However, those who suggest our system is broken are out of their minds. Yes, it can benefit from improvements and having more doctors and nurses to care for patients, but that seems to be true of pretty much every health system on the face of the planet. I count my blessings for all the people who have treated me with empathy, genuine interest, and professional care for almost two years now.

Under universal health care, I have no way to know how much the spend is on my health care. I can look to our neighbours to the south to get numbers for comparable treatment. I suspect my spend is close to or has surpassed a million dollars. To date, all I have paid for is to get the car in and out of the parking lot at the hospital when I go for appointments like today. Even my drugs are fully covered once my annual spend exceeds $424 which is my annual premium. Prior to then, I pay 20%. Since my drugs run around a $1,000 per month, I reached the $424 in the first month of the new budget year so all my prescriptions are ow fully covered. Universal drug care is a hot governmental topic so I suspect we’ll see that for all Canadians in the near future.

We are so lucky to have the kind of care we have in Canada contrary to the campaign assertions being emphasized by one of the parties seeking to form the next provincial government after the vote on August 17th.

Fundraiser Announcement

It breaks my heart reading about children with cancer. On two previous occasions, I joined a late summer fundraiser to help with care and research into childrens’ cancer. Previously I was able to participate as a regular cyclist. This year, my personal battle has left me ravaged and not up to doing much distance. I hope to do 100 km by the end of August but that may be a stretch. Regardless, I ask that you consider sponsoring me in this event for whatever you can afford to give. Today, Wednesday, August 11th., every contribution is being matched by a corporate sponsor so every dollar you donate is doubled. You can click on the image to the right to make a contribution to this worthwhile cause. I hope you’ll get on board.

A Gem I Just Came Across

Earlier today, while looking for an address in a message, I came across a link to a CTV clip about the relationship between Coach Brad and myself. It was made when we hit the milestone of being connected for 40 years. That was three years ago. Wow! Where has the time gone?

Click on the projector to the right and the clip will open in a new tab.

8 Replies to “Health Update – Ring Around the Collar”

  1. Phil, keep on keeping on, it sounds awesome that you and family will have a wonderful vacation. I wish all the very best times for your adventures. As always, sending love, prayers, positive thoughts to you, Janet and Family … Enjoy!!!

    1. I love having you in my corner. We are doing really well. I’m finding there aren’t enough hours in the days for all the things I’d like to tackle but I’ll keep trying.

      Peace, Love, and Laughter

  2. Loved this post Phil.

    I’m inspired by your continued warrior spirit in proceeding with this next round of treatment.

    Very moving clip on your Big Brother journey. Thanks for sharing. Just one more example of your remarkable character.

    1. I hadn’t thought about it in that way but here’s hoping when I visit the locations in Montreal with my sons where known miracles have taken place, here’s hoping God has one stuffed in his pocket for me.

      Peace, Love, and Laughter

  3. I wish we could join you on your search for your good-out-of-jail free card, Phil. Peter has a particular affection for the Cathedral of Notre Dame where his uncle Andre sang for years and years. And I love the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, where a lot of miracles have taken place. Please remind us when you head out, and you will be our special intention during the whole trip!

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