Confined mostly to my home for the past six months I have met with few, small but meaningful milestones along the way. I celebrate each of them. I'm no A-type personality, but I was accustomed to an active, purposeful life. "Accomplishment" brings on a whole new meaning with terminal cancer.
Imagine a guy who, a little over a year ago began most days with damned near three full sets of his own age in push-ups. That was 3 x 55, folks. 165 over the course of 15 mins or thereabouts. I have to imagine him too, because he's not me anymore, I am no longer he. Today what once passed for the physique of a strong and healthy guy in his mid-fifties now looks more like my dad did at his sickest and shockingly thinnest, before he quietly died in his late 70s.
I'm Not Bragging, but...
But today I'm having a good day. I'm in good health and good spirits. The other day I walked to the pharmacist at the end of the block and picked up my prescriptions rather than have them delivered. Alone. Without my oxygen tank! I couldn't wait to tell someone.
Two weeks ago I sat and read in the backyard for about 45 minutes before the humidity forced me back inside for air conditioning.
Three weeks ago I donned alb, stole and dalmatic and served at the 830 Mass. I hadn't served at Mass in five months. Heck, I'd only attended twice. Mind you it took me two days to recover.
This is How We Do it...
My wife portions out twice-daily a buffet of pills and potions, each to control some conflicting side-effect or another, sometimes of the other. Chemo leads to anti-nausea drugs, which sometimes work. Strong opioids (pain killers) morning and evening affect the plumbing and lead to increased need of laxatives, or the opposite as the case may be; I have either in several varieties of remedies. I pray the good Lord will spare you from constipation, you my good friend, you my mortal enemy.
One of us injects me with blood thinners every morning. Right now it's Claire's turn to be nurse but I can self-inject, and do.
That's 9 or 10 prescribed pills, potions and injections twice a day PLUS my multi-vitamin for guys my age. I can't imagine what they'd be pumping into me right now if anyone thought this mesothelioma was even remotely curable. It is not.
Speaking of all the help from both my professional medical team and loving home team, we are careful to time my morning routine so that someone, either my wife or one of our three kids is home and standing by, ready to be traumatized if I slip and fall in the shower and they have to knock on that bathroom door. "Hello...dad? You decent? Please?" Hasn't happened yet.
A home nurse visits me 2 or 3 times a week in my home. Hospice of Windsor monitors and manages my pain levels and quality of life. Frank the Walkerville neighbourhood pharmacist is standing by for whatever I am prescribed next.
Friends drop by for a coffee and sometimes, if I can, we head out for a bite at a cafe down the street from the aforementioned Walkerville Pharmacy, just past the antique shop and William's the green grocer.
I consistently rate myself low to zero on the depression and anxiety scale at medical check-ins.
Physical exertion necessitates increased oxygen, and sometimes I supplement with a low-dose pain pill to open up the airways of my labouring, cancerous lungs. I go nowhere without an oxygen tank, except for a recent short walk to the pharmacist.
Too many opioids can lead to me repeating myself and have led to hallucinations, which are nowhere near as much fun as one might think.
The cancer in my lymph nodes causes cold sweats and I have a pill which kicks in PDQ (pretty darned quick!). Fast, but not fast enough and sometimes I have to change out of my perspiration soaked clothes and shiver through a scalding shower that just isn't ever warm enough. My father suffered similarly in his final winter.
As the days go by and chemo becomes an increasingly distant memory, the effects wear off (good and bad). Onset pain happens unexplicably, unpredictably. Lately I've enjoyed a better attention span. Now I can read and comprehend an entire chapter of a book at a time, and write short blog posts over several days.
Using a news app, I scan the news and opinions in three newspapers a day and industry sources; the local Windsor Star and the national Globe and Mail newspaper I read from cover to cover. Except for sports. I still don't care about sports.
I no longer automatically fall asleep when reading and praying.
And hey, I'm praying again in earnest; I couldn't. Life is good.
In December 2014 Jeremy Tyrrell was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a disease considered to be incurable. He has already quietly outlived the initial prognosis of several months and attributes it to the love of God, the prayers of friends and family, and the wonder of traditional modern medicine.