To Do or Not To Do List?

Behold the new gate.
New gate or gateway to the afterlife?

After 18 months of planning, delaying and postponing, I finally replaced the two rotting fence gates outside my home this week. This work was delayed so often it was a scandal: “Gategate.”

In finishing this project, I was able to cross off the biggest item on my “To Do” list. This list is driven largely by my need to leave everything around the house in working order for my wife, in case I die. The completion of the gates leaves me with a list of much smaller chores; the kind of things you can polish off in an evening (#9 – discard the paper towel cardboard tube).

So, why has my elation over building two gates been replaced by a shimmer of dread on the horizon?

Because once that list is whittled down, what’s left? Perhaps I have been given so much time, living with cancer, to secure my family’s physical and financial needs. What happens to that time once I have nothing left to complete?

I feel similarly about our fabulous summer. We started with a trip to Disneyland, rented a cabin in the woods and finally canoed our neighbourhood river. I built a sandbox for Will, finally read some Alice Munroe, introduced Will to camping and golfing (when we asked him his score on each hole, he answered “four” each time) and the other night we joined friends lakeside for the annual goose migration. It was a summer of new memories. Many activities were from my recreational To Do list.

There’s that black ship on the horizon again. With all these chores and adventures concluded, is Karma preparing me for my final exit?

Then I went golfing Monday. That afternoon gave me reason for hope… because I was terrible. I sucked so bad my golf bag was sponsored by Dyson. I had seven nines and shot more than 130. After six years of games, lessons and practice, I seem to be moving farther away from my goal of breaking 100. As long as I am so far from reaching one of my most coveted goals, I must still have some time left. Given Monday’s score, I would say lots of time.

My crappy golf game is keeping me alive.

(I just relayed this theory to Robin, who said: “If you get a hole in one, you’re f—-d.”)



Great news! Another brain tumour!

The future's so bright, we have to wear embarrassingly large shades.
The future’s so bright, we have to wear embarrassingly large shades.


For the cancerous, the best reprieve is when your oncologist says, “The latest scan is negative.”

I’ve never heard that.

The second-best reprieve happened to me this week. I was girding myself for another three days of in-hospital chemotherapy. It’s more boring than anything else, as the nausea and other side-effects tend to arrive a few days later. Still, entering hospital for those three days does take a lot of stiff-upper-lipping. I bring photos of Robin and Will, to remind me why I submit to this.

However, this time, fate intervened. A routine MRI (yes, my life now includes “routine” brain scans) located a tiny tumour in the back of my skull. Like the three tumours found in the spring, this is not as dangerous as it sounds. It can be removed by a gamma knife — a non-invasive radiation treatment I’ve described in past blogs.

My gamma procedure is scheduled for Sept. 24.  On Tuesday, my oncologist told me he wanted to remove any risk of chemo-radiation conflict in the weeks before and after the procedure. Radiation and chemotherapy work toward the same goal, but they don’t play well together, like Al Qaeda and ISIS, or the Oasis brothers.

So he cancelled this round of chemo, one day before it was scheduled to begin. Even better, my next round won’t start until  late October.

I left the hospital with a lightness I haven’t known in months. Despite hosting a cranial tumour and postponing life-sustaining chemotherapy, I felt… happy! As Pharrell says, “Raise your hands if you feel like a room without doxorubicin or ifosfamide.”

That reaction revealed how much I  dislike chemotherapy. For years, I have assured myself and others “It’s not so bad” and “I’m used to it now.” This week has made something very clear.

I hate chemo!

PS. I didn’t think anything could make me feel sympathy for Rob Ford, but I was wrong. I wish him well.