Thursday, January 17, 2019


Andrew passed away on January 4th after a battle with nasopharyngeal cancer. It was a surprise to us, his university friends, a passing shot fired over e-mail, apparently nearly a year since his diagnosis. Those that could visited him at his house, his frame weak and thin, weighed down by the cancer, drugs, and radiation therapy. He kept a brave face, a rather deceptive face in hindsight.

I last saw him on December 12th, about a week before heading to Saskatoon for Christmas. At the time a small thought entered my head, that this could be the last time I'd see Andrew but I quickly dismissed it as we talked of foods he could try and measures he could take to make living at home safer. I was back in Toronto on the 31st when we got word that he had been moved to palliative care and would no longer be taking visitors, a concerning sign but even then we thought he still had a few weeks left, maybe even months.

His memorial was on January 12th, in Scarborough near his father's home, and I was heartened to see that it was well attended by family, friends, and coworkers, both current and old. I finally got to meet Andrew's sister, a figure whom he'd never given much detail about -- she seemed nice and appreciated everyone's sentiments. Andrew's father looked much the same though I felt like he did not recognize me. I was happy to see some of the old gang back together for the memorial. I gave a short speech which probably covered about 1% of all the things I could say about him, though of course I left out the stuff I nagged him about like climate change and Jordan Peterson.

Honestly I feel like I'm still processing Andrew's death, as if he's too fresh in my mind's eye. Not that I talked to him much in the past year, a fact that I lament somewhat now, though I suppose I was busy with my own medical and life goings-on. And certainly our personalities had diverged, something I credit to the different circles we frequented and relationships (or lack thereof) we were involved in.

But that he's no longer around is unreal to me. I can still hear his voice, hear his stifled laughter, see his grimacing smile. I will miss him, certainly, but he continues to be very much alive in my mind.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

a literal pain in the

How is it already December 19th? Yeesh. And it seems my aim of writing more posts this year has been a failure, a goal that kept getting pushed aside as life threw more things my way. Sure, a lack of discipline can also be blamed, but so can simply having very few tales to tell. And that's due to my disinclination to going out, being shy about breaking my routine and leaving my rather comfortable base.

MJ and I did go to Tokyo in September, which I'll write out in full later. A mostly enjoyable trip, memories that are still rather fresh in my mind's eye. I'd never had a strong desire to visit Japan, and I still find it odd that I was there, among the throngs of conservatively-dressed, impassive citizens, along spotless avenues and riding equally spotless subway trains. I'd say the highlight was a bicycle tour which took us through and around the downtown, the city being fairly amenable to cyclists. People talk about how good the food is, but I wonder if those people have taken advantage of the best Toronto has to offer.

When we got back MJ received news that she'd contracted a disease for which she needed surgery, so we've been dealing with her recovery, as well as attempting to plan for the future with what little we know. And a veterinarian visit revealed that Monkey also needed surgery, albeit a far less serious dental procedure, so that also added to our daily duties for a while.

Myself, my condition seems to have pretty much leveled out, a dismal molehill with little hope of much more. While I've gotten the hang of my diet, I still suffer in small bouts; nothing nearly as dreadful as my colitis pains but inconvenient enough to keep my ambitions low and spirit wan. The pain I experience can be of 3 types:
  1. A dull, throbbing pain in my groin, which began happening after my J-pouch connection surgery, leading me to think the operation brushed a nerve in the area. It seems to occur after using my pelvic muscles, or when I'm trying to hold my bowel movement for an extended period. In terms of intensity it's relatively low but it's enough to disturb my sleep.
  2. Going to the bathroom 5 to 6 times a day can take its toll on the skin, and mine is pretty aggravated on a good day, and explosively agonizing on bad ones. That's definitely something I miss about Japan -- why doesn't the world embrace water toilets?! I don't know how people with my affliction manage without one.
  3. Often the urge to visit the bathroom comes with cramps, unpleasantly bundled with a not insignificant threat of an embarrassing breach.
I manage with diet, and a couple pain killers when I know I need some extra protection.

Anyway, I'm off now to Saskatoon for a week. More when I get back, yeah?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Back in the saddle

Halifax Public Gardens
Halifax Public Gardens
Mary Jean got a post-doc in Halifax, and I spent a couple weeks there helping her get settled in. My expectations of the east coast were rather limited*, so I'm glad to have filled some of that in. Indeed, the more time I spend there the more I find myself enjoying Halifax, with its coastal charm, walk-able downtown, and many sprouting districts. As a small city (~400k people), it fits that desirable niche of being large enough to have the amenities of a modern city without the daunting issues of a bigger one.

Halifax Central Library
Halifax Central Library
My second week there was during an unseasonal heat wave, and while MJ worked I sought shelter in the beautiful Halifax Central Library, an impressive structure that embodies the coming together of civic will, a common good that all can enjoy, a modern structure that makes the most of efficient technologies.

I also got to get re-acquainted with some old friends, some dear faces whom I'd never forget but have not thought of for some time since they left Ontario. A joy re-remembered.

Halifax Town Clock
Halifax Town Clock
But how am I doing, you may well ask? I suffer in small bouts, a few moments of each day are maddening trips to the bathroom, the panic of being far from a good toilet always just under my awareness. It seems my body has settled, more or less, on 5 or 6 sessions a day. I still enjoy food but the consequences of even seemingly small mistakes can have long lasting effects. Being at work is good because it gives me a routine, which is something I'd like to hammer down. I worry about my weight (which is light) and my energy level (which is low).

Video games and Twitter help to distract, keep my mood neutral. Is this all I can look forward to? I shall continue to contemplate....

* I had driven around the US east coast back in 2010, but somehow those experiences didn't translate into a vision of what Nova Scotia would look like.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Lots of Netflix

One might think that with my two months off of work that I had a lot of free time to kill. In truth, however, when I was experiencing discomfort or pain, I turned to Twitter and simple mobile games to keep my mind occupied, and continue to find myself leaning on them to distract me at various times throughout the day.

I did watch some Netflix:
  • Disappointed by season 2 of Stranger Things, which makes me think season 1 was perhaps seen through rose-colored glasses. A little too goofy, with side-plots that did not pay off.
  • Thoroughly enjoyed the Fargo the series -- Billy Bob Thornton opposite Martin Freeman, who'da thunkit? Second season was weaker overall, but still enjoyable.
  • Inside Llewyn Davis -- I must be missing something because while it contained many of the ingredients I like this Coen brothers film just did not do it for me. Maybe they are not very good at all?
  • Big Mouth -- Watched this one on a whim and it surprisingly tickled me in the right places.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 -- Again, it felt like I should've liked this one more but I just was not that impressed. It's a just a little too smug in its self-awareness.
  • Train to Busan -- A decent take on a zombie film.
  • Bridesmaids -- Holy cow I finally saw Bridesmaids! I used to be a big fan of Kristen Wiig, and I recall being excited to see this one. But I guess my tastes have changed, or maybe the film was never really all that? It was ok.
  • Shrek -- MJ convinced me to check this one out, if only to take in such a well known film. I don't think it stood the test of time very well.
  • Narcos -- Excellent, if depressing to think about. How oblivious I was to this chaos!
  • Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency Season 2-- Possibly better than season 1? Random, unpredictable, over-the-top fun.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist (anime TV series) -- This one to fill in holes in time, usually enjoyed while eating. I mean, it's definitely a kids' show, and the premise is ridiculous. I don't suggest anyone get into it.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine -- Funny enough. Maybe I'm unable enjoy police humor?
  • Black Mirror Season 4 -- A couple good episodes and a bunch of terrible ones. Like, I regret seeing them, and not simply because they were physically disgusting.
  • Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories -- The comparison to Tampopo is fair, and that's a good thing.
  • Okja -- Another good idea well implemented but ultimately not satisfying.
Day to day, I fare well enough. Things have settled down, almost into a routine. My exciting improvements have leveled off. I seem to be having difficulty gaining weight, which is not helped by my shrunken appetite. I look forward to being more active, something I imagine happening during the warmer months.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

the other side

Well, I made it. The surgery itself was a success, and I remember the day vividly -- the thin hospital gown, the cold floor through flimsy slippers, the narrow operating table, the oxygen mask placed moments before I was put under. I spent a couple days at the hospital, tentatively trying foods (and sometimes failing to keep them down) and calling for pain medication. A couple friends visiting, holding my spirits up.

I was, for the first few weeks, going to the bathroom around 15 times a day, including a few trips overnight, which thoroughly disrupted my sleep schedule. After a while I kind of got used to waking up in the dark of deep night, hardly a thought in my head. My father was able to jury rig my toilet seat bidet, a puzzle that neither my friends or I could solve, and it made an enormous difference in my bathroom comfort level. Indeed, I now find using non-bidet toilets a delicate operation at best, excruciating at worst.

I had a brief hiccup in my recovery in mid-December, when my nausea prevented me from being able to keep solids down for a couple days. I went back to emergency and, while waiting for various tests, had an extreme nausea reaction to the dye they had me ingest, and I sprawled on the hospital floor for a good hour or so until the doctor took some mercy on me and sought out some pain relief. Frustrating that I should still have these bouts, that after everything I've gone through they remain in my life.

I am doing much better, now. I got a prescription to Lomotil, which has reduced my number of trips to the bathroom to about 4-8 a day. I am getting good sleep, and my appetite is pretty healthy. I have changed my diet to the recommended low fibre one -- lots of carbohydrates and protein, no raw fruits or vegetables, no nuts, etc. No alcohol, though I haven't been much for drinking over the past couple years.

I returned to work this week, and it's going alright. Still trying to build a new routine around my medication and diet and bathroom breaks. I find I have bursts of energy and optimism, which is a start.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

now to the other side

So, I have the second half of my pelvic pouch surgery tomorrow, where all my fears and hopes of the past year will be realized, the real work of recovery to begin. Today I consume only fluids in preparation, to slow my digestion and keep my insides clear. How much more misery must I endure, must I weather, before I learn how near I return to normalcy? I cannot help but contemplate the sequence of events that led here, and what, if anything, could have been done differently. I say this because I continue to believe that the outcome I fell into could have been avoided.

Which is not to say I blame any one individual, or even any single event. Sure, my troublesome journey seemed to have begun with my taking of naproxen for my knee, prescribed by the sports fitness surgeon. And perhaps, as my Colitis ramped up, I should’ve made my worries more pronounced, demanded greater intervention, from my gastroenterologist, who in turn could’ve ordered more accurate tests sooner. How much responsibility can I place on those emergency ward doctors, who wanted to help when I came to them crying in agony, who eased my pain but little else, for fear of working against my specialist? So you see the blame, the responsibility, is much diluted. I feel no ill towards anyone but do hope to perform better in seeking timely solutions.

Well, we shall see. How mad, how close to wits end will I approach, how near utmost despair shall I go? At least I have that brief sleep to look forward to, that moment’s respite in limbo, between not knowing and knowing. Were that I could inhabit it forever.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Winnipeg for a week

MJ ended up taking a post-doc position in Winnipeg, so it's back to a bachelor's life for me. I helped her move last month, a couple of cold and rainy days there. I remember nearly nothing of my previous visit to Winnipeg, many years ago, on a drive to Vancouver. I didn't get to see much of the city last month either as moving and shopping took up nearly all of our time, the stress of moving stretching everyone's patience.

I went back again last week and helped out with Thanksgiving dinner, which we had with her family. This includes her sister's cat, from whom I got some nasty scratches, he being young and easily excitable. MJ and I ate really well during the days following, trying out some of the trendier eateries, racking up the calories. I also got to see a presentation given by Kent Monkman at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, which was fascinating and sobering as he meticulously unwrapped the layers behind his work. MJ was able to get me a bicycle, so we saw a fair bit of the downtown that way, the Windy City earning its alias.

The people were plenty friendly, and the traffic tame by Toronto standards -- hardly any use of car horns, though grid-lock seemed ever present. Most of the park-land was around the rivers and the Forks, a location made into a tourist area, though I saw little draw of going there -- it seemed like any other river. Sure, it's a sight to behold when immersed in autumn colours but not exceptionally so.

I have been throwing myself into work and video games, there being only the cats to keep me company in the evenings. My next surgery is quickly coming up, an event for which I wonder how ready I am. Perhaps I am just filling in the time until then, when my fears and hopes are answered in full. Though indeed whenever I think about what I've gone through I'm sent through a maddening cycle of anger and despair.