Friday, November 6, 2009

When you've survived leukemia, a sore elbow is nothing!

I haven't said much about my health in this blog, mostly because it's been great. In fact, since my transplant almost five years ago, I have been healthier than at any previous time, it seems that my immune system is very strong, perhaps stronger than ever. When everyone else is suffering from colds or whatever, I am fine.

Last week, I was exercising and while I was lifting weights I had a pretty sharp pain in my elbow. I had fallen about a month ago and cut the back of my elbow, and I went to a mirror to see if perhaps the cut had opened up. I was surprised to see that the back of my elbow was swollen to about the size of a golf ball, if not larger. I went to see a physiotherapist at the sports medicine clinic at the sports club where I exercise and he told me it was a bursitis and that the swelling was fluid, and that I should ice it, apply a compression bandage and it would get better. I did this for a few days and aside from the swelling, which reminds me of an alien growth (where is Ellen Ripley when you need her?), it didn't really bother me very much until Thursday when I woke up and it was sore and a little red, and warm to the touch. I feared an infection so I went to my hospital, Maisonneuve Rosemont, where I am pleased to say I was very well treated. I had my blood tested and my blood work is normal (hence my mantra – my body is a temple). While I have a bursitis, it's not infected and I have been prescribed Celebrex, an anti-inflammatory . In ten days, I should be as good as new. More importantly, I ran into one of my doctors, to whom I had sent an invitation for my trip, and he told me he thought it was a great idea and that he was planning to participate, perhaps for the last leg from Vienna to Budapest. Even better, he is trying to interest other doctors to come along. That would be wonderful, a real victory and celebration.

I've added a link on the right to the Velo-6 route and I plan to do the first 9 stages from the coast of France to Budapest. I am then going to continue off the route for a further 200 kilometres to Tolzva, the home of my maternal great grandparents and, until they immigrated to Canada, my grandparents.

As I was driving to the hospital this morning, I was thinking about how I would react if the results to blood tests were bad. It led me to reflect on how appreciative I am for the almost five years I have had since my transplant.

I feel an overwhelming gratitude for the second life I have been given. I remember being in the hospital after I was diagnosed in 2004 and being ready "to settle" for maybe just a year, a two or three of good health. I have had much more and I am looking forward to many more years. If however it is not to be, then I am thankful for what I have had. As I said in one of my earlier postings, that's what leukemia does to you, and it's not a bad thing.

I am very excited about the prospect of my doctors coming along with me on my cycle. I believe this will be an extraordinary experience. It's all part of surviving leukemia.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Every Person Needs A Plan

The key to many things, including raising money, is leverage. There's only so much you can do with your own hands and I therefore hope to enlist others to bike with me (for the whole trip, for a week or two, or for even a few days) and help me raise money. I’ve I sent out my first letters, to roughly 25 people who I think might be willing to help and thus far the reaction has been heartwarming. My intrepid kayaking partner Serge is going to drive the van, be Mr Fix-it, and bike to boot! My good friend and client, Wes from Toronto has committed to bike with me for at least the last 2 weeks of May (when I will be in Austria then Hungary!) and will help me raise money. Claude, Raynold, Garry, Jean-François and Wayne have all told me that they will do their best to bike with me for at least a period of time and I hope they will all help me raise money as well. Others have replied that they will do what they can to help, and Lenny, my friend and the owner of Montreal’s famous Moishes steakhouse ( - the best steak in town!), has even agreed to send letters to his biking friends. I want to raise at least $250,000 between now and my trip and, obviously, the more people helping the better.

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to continue to send letters to people who I think might be interested in biking or helping me actively raise funds, and early in the New Year I expect to start soliciting donations from everyone I know. If anyone reading this wants to help, please let me know.

I am also looking for equipment sponsors for the trip (I would love to have two spare bikes for people who come), the more the merrier.

Every day I realize how lucky I am. Last week my son Phil had his braces removed (hence the above photo) and my daughter Julianne received the proofs of her high school graduation photos. For other people, these might be everyday events, flashing by without recognition. For me, and other survivors, it's different. These are days and events which we didn't expect to see, they are gifts to be savored.