Comfort and the Pleasure of Family

Posted on: Fri, 07/27/2018 - 11:11 By: akpratt
psychedelic dahlia

Paul wrote to the Corinthians a greeting in his second letter that gives purpose to my journey:

1:3-5 All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.

It always amazes me how God speaks. Sometimes the whisper is so quiet we almost miss it.

There is a lot of water under the bridge since I last let you know how things were going.  With a goal of starting treatment on the 28th, there was lots to do. Legal stuff. Don't put off getting a will done. It can be hard to find a lawyer to do it in a hurry. Family visit stuff. The boys visit was in the works. And then treatment stuff. Let me try and tackle things in chronological order. The beginning of the treatment journey is coming as a second email shortly.

Sandy and Evan managed to play the Pratt last-minute-planning-games right up to the end. Evan couldn't decide if he wanted to drive with Sandy or fly. He flew. Though the Princess Pats almost sent him in a LAV (Light Armoured Vehicle) to fill sandbags in the Okanagan. He dodged that bullet with a leave application that wouldn't let him leave the country. He did laugh and chuckle every time a news story came on about about his buddies filling sandbags. He snuck up on me in the airport.  I'm blaming it on being distracted by the ironworkers doing a big lift right night next to the plate glass windows in the airport lounge. I was struck by those blue blue eyes of his as I saluted Master Corporal to welcome him.

Big hug and we were off to allow Evan to experience the hospital side of my life. My CT mapping/planning scan had been scheduled for Friday afternoon. Lots of laughter and advice. We had to sit for a few minutes to let my blood pressure come down from 180/110. It did drop to 150/80 pretty quickly. I had 120/75 when I checked in the morning so it is pretty obvious there is a severe white coat reaction going on. And then it was of to the CT machine. They lined me up with lasers and then inked me to begin the measuring process. They had a little trouble with my breathing - something the machine has to take into account when it targets the tumour. I suspect it is because I have always been a belly breather as opposed to a chest breather because of my singing. And then I got my first tattoos. The tattoos are little pinpricks to give permanent marks for aligning the radiation machine.

We watched the Radiation Teach video together. Educational video music is the same whether you are learning about the fire suppression system in a LAV or therapy for cancer. Somewhere in there I got the advice that my hair will come out in clumps so I should shave it off before it comes to that. Military Evan got a good chuckle out of that but he wears his hair as long as regulations allow. I did learn that I don't have to break the bank for parking and that a linear accelerator actually provides the radiation. I still haven't figured out why it doesn't just burn a hole right through me but it doesn't. It just disrupts the  DNA in the cells that are in the target tumour(s).

When I got out to the parking lot Evan got at a taste of what happens when I turn my phone off. I had a wrong number message for a patient that sounded fairly important. I was trying to get that sorted out when I had a call from the medical adjudicator from the CPP LTD. (For my American friends that is the Long Term Disability arm of the Canada Pension Plan.)  I answered a few questions about the triple cancer - yes it is three primary cancers; my work plans for First Aid - done on May 23; and Pratt Web Design - working out succession plans; and my children - yes they are all living on their own and are over the age of 18. She told me that there would be a four month waiting period but that I qualified for Long Term Disability.

Sandy rolled in about 6:00pm after driving 10 hours from Airdrie, AB. He got to follow the LAVs for a while just outside
Golden which gave Evan some more chuckles. We gabbed till late then got up early to do some camping. When the East side of Harrison Lake was crazy with partiers, we wound up on the Lost Creek Forestry Road by Stave Lake. A roadside pullout made a great back country campsite. We built a fire, burned some meat and had a wonderful evening reminiscing about camps of the past - mostly canoing. When we finally decided to pitch our tents, I realized my tent was leaning against my bedroom wall back in my apartment. Sandy graciously lent me his and emulated Evan's hooch by spreading a fly over his sleeping mat. The two of them got to check out the rain proofing of their camping technique when it rained in the night. They both survived.

Morning fire. With wet wood. I hadn't thought of putting some wood under the fly of my tent - been too long since I had camped out I guess. But with a team effort and patience we managed to get a fire going. Hot coffee, more meat with eggs and we started talking again. Now it was more about our current lives - funny stories from the work sites, lessons learned the hard way, and the joys of nature.

We came back to the apartment for Sunday night because I had promised the boys a talk-through a flash drive of slides and prints from my Dad's picture drawer. We didn't get through the whole thing but it was five hours of recording that gives them a much better picture of my early life. Interestingly enough many of the pictures were of family camping trips that I had taken as a child. We didn't even start on the box of prints that I have from Panama and their childhood. That will give me a chance to organize it a bit.

Too soon it was over and I was hugging Sandy good bye and watching Evan's plane depart but it was a good weekend that will give us all many good memories.

Two more days of work flashed by and finally I was walking out the gates of the project I have been providing First Aid on for the last three years. I reflected on the great people that I worked with and the many things that I learned about the amazing craft people who put together an LNG plant. A few came up and wished me well. The foreman who brought in crossword puzzles for me told me that he would save them till I came back. I sat in the car and sobbed a bit knowing that the chances of me returning were slim to none - seeing the end of an enjoyable phase of my life.

An in-depth session of Chemotherapy Teach happened on Friday. The nurse educator was hilarious. The other four patients in the room with Sandra and I weren't quite sure what to make of his dry jokes. Humour though is a great way of coping with pretty dramatic side effects. Infection is probably the greatest potential danger to me. Given my cavalier attitude to hand washing I have a new habit to work on. And I need to stay away from high risk activities - like chopping wood and long range canoe trips. For some reason as he worked through the side effects he seemed to keep looking at me and saying "you will experience this one." Nausea to the carboplatin. Allergic reaction to the paclitaxel. Hair loss. Burns from the radiation. Oh and by the way loss of touch sensitivity is common in paclitaxel. So I finally asked him point blank, "Am I something special or what?" and I realized that I was. The treatment is aggressive. The three cancers are complicated. Sandra and I walked away struck by the gravity of the situation.

I finally got confirmation that my chemotherapy would start on Tuesday morning and that radiation would begin that afternoon.

On Monday I met first with Dr. Fibach - standing in for Dr. Johal as medical oncologist. He gave me the green light to begin the treatment protocol and answered a few small questions that I had. In the process I discovered that I am the topic of hallway scuttlebutt. Again the three cancers but as he pointed out it was a team effort and quality control to deal with a difficult situation. I followed that up with my CT brain scan on Monday afternoon. After some delays due to a Code Blue (An emergency situation announced in a hospital or institution in which a patient is in cardiopulmonary arrest)  in Medical Imaging department, the technician confirmed that I do have a brain and he had good pictures of it. I will get the results at my next meeting with Dr. Lund.

The Code Blue was a reminder that death lingers near in even the most innocuous situations.

The passage that I began the newsletter with is confirmation to me that there is a purpose in all this. If I can come along side someone who is hurting and suffering and give them some small comfort then I see that as God's purpose in this mess. I have already experienced some of that as others have come along side me.

I'm grateful for the safe travels of the boys and the memories that were created. Pray for me as I begin the treatment protocol on Tuesday May 29th. 6 weeks of chemotherapy and 30 days of radiation.