Friday, July 19, 2013

Walk a Mile in My Hip

I've always wondered why someone would keep their diagnosis a secret from their family and loved ones.

That's what I told my oncologist a couple of weeks ago as I sat on one of those hospital exam bed things, you know the one with with the deli paper on it. I felt the need to tell her why I was alone that day, that I came in secret and how I now understood why those people may have kept their news to themselves too.

Not long ago a friend asked about my experience in telling everyone about getting cancer. In answering his/her questions s/he said they'd heard enough to decide whether or not to tell people that s/he got a cancer and decided against it. That person's family knows, just not every Tom, Dick and Harry. S/he gets to be treated normal.

Personally, I couldn't walk without support for months so my cancer wasn't something we could keep to ourselves. Even now a couple years later I still have a hard time keeping up with people when walking and usually ask for them to slow down. My Grandpa Rebalkin was a slow walker, more like a shuffle really. Even before cancer I sometimes found myself doing what our family calls the Rebalkin Shuffle, now I just do it more. If we're ever walking together, please shuffle along.

Back to my appointment, I wanted to tell Faith about my appointment, I just didn't want her to worry or anyone else. She knew I was feeling fatigued, that my hip was acutely sore and I was waking up every night in sweats (not the atheltic wear). These type of symtoms for cancer survivors and their loved ones are worrisome.

So we put on a brave face, a stiff upper lip and go out and live life. What other option is there?

Though cancer is on the forefront of the mind, it's the LAST thing we want to talk about with every Tom, Dick and Harry. Please take no offence Tom or Harry.

Because I met with my oncologist early, my scheduled appointment in August was canceled. Which meant that I needed to tell Faith she didn't have to take that day off to accompany me. The cat was out of the bag and this burden was now hers too.

It's not my fault cancer came to me, but I have felt guilty on what a weight it has been to my family. I mentioned (vented) on Facebook something that happened to Faith. While out one Saturday an aquintance abruptly asked her, before any pleasantries "How's Ruban's cancer?" Perhaps it sounds as innocent as it it was meant, but it's such a loaded topic and a tiresome one too. Faith was polite, but when when she got home she unloaded on me on how insenstive the guy was, going on about cancer conspriacy's and other sky is falling stupidity.

Someone I think commented on my Facebook vent that they guy was just being nice, he meant well. I don't doubt that. We don't hate the guy or anything, but boy his type of comments were not healing, caring and similar words have never been appreciated.

Faith handled it well and the guy was cluesless to how Faith felt inside, like most unempatheic people do who make such dumb comments. Of course he didn't know that Faith was worried about me, her husband, her daughter's father. He didn't know that my blood work had just come back, that my white blood cell count was LOW. He had no idea that I was being tested for new or spreading cancer. He had no idea that just a day before she was being the strong one comforting me only to go in the next room after to quietly sob to herself.

If I sound a little harsh on the imbicilic comments and delivery that upset my wife well it's a fault I have. It goes like this, upset my wife and/or daughter and Papa Bear comes out. Otherwise Papa Bear will gladly hibernate.  

Last Saturday I had a CT Scan, the last test.

The night before last I was visiting friends. During the visit my friend's wife was on her iPad when she gasped. She just friend of theirs just passed away from cancer, a wife and mother three. The conversation naturally turned to this woman's life and mine too. Later that night my friend sent me a message hoping they didn't cross a line in our talk about cancer and reaffirmed their care and concern for me and my family. I was fine, they had nothing to worry about, though the email was appreciated nonethess. A sharp contrast to what Faith had to endure.

My heart sunk for this mother. I searched for her blog, found it only to find it too difficult to read. I was shocked to learn that she was diagnosed with cancer the very month and year I was. It felt odd that this woman, though a stranger to me, had passed away and I was still here. Sleep didnt come easy that night.

When I woke up the next day I just spent it all with Myrtle. Bike rides, parks, piggy back rides, reading, horsey back rides, silliness, whatever she wanted.

Finally my oncolgist called, and here's the low down:
no cancer (!)
my hip will always hurt and be a disabilty
low white blood cell count from the radiation therapy called neutropenia, which means my immune system is low
I have CRF, Cancer-related Fatigue, tiredness not rememdied by sleep, this was brought on by the radiation therapy and it can stay for years to indefinatley or be gone by tomorrow.

So of course the good news is to be free of cancer, everything else are just details.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to talk to us about cancer, or not.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Famous Last Words

Dear Reader, 

No one is happier than moi for there to be an end of sorts to my cancer. I say of "sorts" because typically one is never out of it's cross hairs until they die from something else. 

I can't wait to blog about something else. I already have a title for one post "You're So Vain You Think This Blog Is About You." Not super clever, the content will be less clever I'm sure and with no redeeming qualities too. And I can't wait. 

Enough about that, let's talk cancer.

The end of May 2012 I was re-diagnosed with cancer. Previously in March 2011 I was diagnosed with plasmacytoma then the following happened:

  • 5 days a week for 6 weeks of about 2.5 minutes of radiation each session
  • After I was declared in remission
  • In December was told that it looked like the treatment did not work as there was still a mass present. 
  • December 30th after further tests it showed I was indeed in remission and the lump was either scar tissue or a dead tumor cell. No bone marrow biopsy would be done as it was too invasive due to bone loss. 
  • May 2012 a PET/CT scan was done. It is EXTREMELY accurate, it's used all around the world for decades. If you want to read up on it here or here are some options. From this test is how I was re-diagnosed. My PET/CT Scan technician was a doctor, this is his field - his speciality. He then sent it to Dr. Wai, my oncologist and she confirmed the finding. So did my G.P. and Dr. Wai's colleagues. 
  • THEN I asked EVERY person I could think of who would pray for my health and family. I asked to include us in their prayers. Several congregations joined my family in prayer and fasting. Also to be prayed for in temples too. From Afghanistan to Australia and several places in between this took place. Nothing else was done for me, no medication, no special diet, just normal life.
  • Then there were the tests to determine if the cancer progressed to myeloma and what treatment would consist of, Dr. Wai said it would more than likely be high dose chemo in Vancouver. I had my 24 hour urine sample that was tested, a blood test and a bone marrow biopsy. May I add that a the doctor who performed the biopsy was adamant to perform no biopsy if he did not feel the PET/CT Scan warranted it. He was so unusually thorough and made very sure I knew what I was getting into that I wondered if I should even do the biopsy. Afterwards the hematology lab tech working with him said that's just how he operates, he doesn't do any biopsies unless there is a definite need. Again, I had yet another doctor (one taking the bone marrow) who confirmed that I was indeed diagnosed with cancer. 
  • The day of my bone marrow biopsy I also met with my orthopaedic surgeon. It was a short visit, he said it was now beyond his expertise and referred me to the expert, the top doctor in this field in all British Columbia, Dr. Clarkson in Vancouver. 
  • After this, the following week we met with Dr. Wai and instead of having any treatment prescribed, I was given a clean bill of health. I was told every thing looked good and I was in remission. Regarding the change she said "I don't know why." 
For all the Doubting Thomas's out there count up how many doctors who reviewed my case, count up their schooling years and may I note they were all easily in their 40's, 50's, and 60's. Plus, all the competent technicians that work with them. Add up the schooling and work experience and then compare it to yours in this field and say "Who would know more if he was misdiagnosed, them or me?"

I have no idea why I went into remission, but I know for some reason our Creator heard the petition of many and granted me health. For how long, who on Earth knows? I in no way feel I did anything to deserve this, nothing about me is more special than anyone else. All I know is I am a blessed man and I have no problem giving credit where credit is due, and that is the Master Physician.

But wait there's more!

Dr. Stone, the orthopaedic surgeon who referred me to Dr. Clarkson the orthopaedic oncologist surgeon because of the cancer found. Well Dr. Clarkson volleyed my case back to Dr. Stone because of my favourable test results. Furthermore, for the mean time no surgery is needed! 

I have gone from being diagnosed with cancer and needing surgery to going in remission needing no surgery in one month. I have never worn my beliefs on my sleeve, but I don't pretend they don't exist either. I believe all good things come from God and I believe me being in remission is a good thing. 

I still have a bum hip, but it may very well improve and I intend to do what I can to help it.

Honestly it's a lot to cope with, yes it is more than just good news. I thought/hoped/prayed I would be in this position months from now. Yet all of a sudden here it is. It is literally taking concerted mental effort to imagine good health and life that accompanies it. May I never take it for granted, slap me and shake me if I do. Well, unless you're bigger than me than just a friendly reminder will do. 

The End. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Confessions From the Praying Kind: How I Went Into Remission From Cancer

Since I'm clearly such a private person it's seems odd to me as much as it may to you that I  am to confess something in such an open format. 

I talk to myself. 

I'm not sure if there is ever a pause, rather an ongoing commentary on what's going on. I ask questions, state the obvious and make up dialogue for people when I pass by while driving or waiting for them to done their purchase in the checkout line. When I go to sleep I make up scenarios or stories to relax myself to sleep. 

I'm not really sure everyone does this continuous self talk, but I can't be the only one. My point is that this is nothing remotely new to me, I know my inner voice very, very, very well.  

I have read that I should have a prayer in my heart at all times, I have heard or read from people that some do. 

Some call it vibes, sending out thoughts into the Universe, or don't want to give it a name in the fear they'll sound like a nutjob. I just called it prayer and it's directed to my Father in Heaven.

Personally, I feel like all the stars have to be aligned to remember to consciously say a prayer when I wake up. Between the fog of sleep and my alarm clock that says "Daddy! Daddy! Waaaake uuup!" there's little personal time. Or personal space for that matter as my "alarm clock" insists on flushing the toilet for me. One day she'll stop, right?

Through the years I've had feasts and famines of prayer. Before marrying Faith I ended a draught of sorts. I prayed, just daily or weekly and definitely not as much as I would want my daughter to talk to her father (me). With my new marriage I felt direction was sorely needed, and wanted to be someone Faith could rely on. 

Then Myrtle came along. Even though there was one more person in my life, I felt alone. Alone in the sense of underprepared for a daughter, boys are no mystery to me, a girl though? Welcomed, but new territory nonetheless. So, I prayed much more for a lot more direction. 

As I already mentioned, I talk to myself and I know my inner voice quite well. So when I hear (feel, prompted, inspired) another voice, a voice rarely, very, very, very rarely with words that guide my and my families life I know it is from He that I pray to. 

I know it's not me talking to myself, rather there is a conversation with Divinity and little old me. Honestly, I'm not sure I understand it but I know I'm heard. Sometimes, especially if I haven't prayed for a bit or am not living in harmony with my inner compass I get nothing, like the line's dead. When I'm feeling gratitude (choosing to) and am giving and living up to what I ought to prayer is easier. 

What I'm getting at is that I've had plenty of experience in being the not praying type and the praying type. Much like the Vaudeville performer Sophie Tucker said "I've been rich and I've been poor. Believe me, rich is better." Well, for me praying has been better than not. 

Sufficeth to say, I know prayer works. So, when we were told by my oncologist Dr. Wai that the cancer had returned, after being stunned for a few hours I decided to ask everyone that I knew for sure who prays or at least did at some point. Additionally, I invited all those that also fast and to join my little family in a fast (24 hours without food, while praying for a purpose). 

After the prayer and fasting I had a few tests, 24 urine, blood and bone biopsy to determine my treatment. However Dr. Wai said all my tests showed to be in the normal levels and regarding the change? She said "I don't know why."

It's not everyday one goes from being diagnosed with cancer then going into remission with no treatment. But that happened to me, to my little family. As I write Faith is encouraging Myrtle to pick up toys, Myrtle is holding her doll blanket and doll. In the background the hum of our ice cream maker is going. It's family night. We have this relaxed time together, with no thought of the planned high dose chemo treatments I was to take in Vancouver. 

Is this not a miracle? Whether it's one more year or 100 more years I am grateful for it. 

Prayers were answered. If you prayed and fasted thank you! 

Ice cream is ready and Myrtle said "I share with Daddy!" Sounds good to me. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

My Mom's A Grr

I'm 34 and still need my mommy. 

That's good thing. I need my dad and brothers too.

Though in there in spirit, Faith and Myrtle couldn't come to be there in person for my bone marrow biopsy. It was no place for Myrtle, plus Faith fainted at my last one anyways. Due to me being radioactive they weren't able to come to my bone scan and skeletal survey last Friday either, thankfully my Uncle Darcy was able to fill in.

Inspired by Darcy's impromptu visit a plan was hatched. "Why don't I invite family to any appointment I'd be going alone to?!" My folks have first dibs, after that my Aunt Robin is next and then any other relative that wants to join in. Hopefully I won't have as many appointments as I do relatives, but it's nice to know there are many to draw support from. 

Having my mom there today was great! We talked politics, health, family, art, faith and Faith. My thoughts were everywhere, I was starting another topic before the other was finished and Mom didn't seem to mind. 

Our first item of business was finding where to go. The Royal Jubilee Hospital is an old one, with lots of additions that make it a maze. We only got lost once and yet made it on time for my blood work. 
After that we went to get the bone marrow biopsy. While waiting an acquaintance called my phone to ask what I was doing to heal. I've learned that there are people who care that I stick around and if they feel they know something that will help they tend to share it with me. But as I've mentioned before, it is literally impossible to follow every which remedy that is out there. I received an email recently stating if I were to eat fruit on an empty stomach it would detoxify my body and cure me of cancer. After some research this "cure" was based on a fraudulent claim by a scammer who went to jail for impersonating a doctor who later died of a brian tumor. What if I had believed this? I think for now on when someone claims they have a cure they'll need to re-write their will for everything to be left to Myrtle and a contract to support her till adulthood should the "cure" not work. Plus, they would need to be available to Faith 24/7 should she need a jar opened. I'm not messing around, it's my life and my life is my family's! 

Done my tangent. Moving on.

I was bagaztrillion times more at ease waiting while chatting with my mom. I like to think I'm so tough, too tough to need my mom - nope. Maybe that's because my mom's tough. In fact growing up us boys would call her a "Grr" and we'd say "grrr" if she was focused on a task or say "What a Grrr!"

Not only is she a Grr, she's a smart and a pretty one too. Which I was reminded of when in the biopsy room the doctor referred to Mom as my wife, to clarify that is not the case. 

It's not an exciting video, but here's me getting the bone marrow biopsy:
Here's what the doc got:
Bone core sample 
Marrow mixed with a liquid to thin it out 
Marrow samples
All the fun worked up an appetite and we had some time to kill so we visited the cafeteria. I had an amazing tomato basil soup. Fun fact: did you know tomatoes are healthier for you when cooked?

Our final stop at RJH was with Dr. Stone. It was a short visit, essentially he dumped me. He assured me it was him not me. After viewing my last Friday's bone scan he concluded I needed an expert, and that is Dr. Clarkson in Vancouver. I'll hear from his office "soon".

We left the hospital ready for a change of scenery. Mom offered to get some dessert. We drove to Fisherman's Warf, it was beautiful out. The seagulls were yelping, the seals were being fed by tourists and Ruban had some mini-soft taco's. Not dessert, but I'll take Mexican fare over dessert any day.

Myrtle noticed I was a little less active. Faith explained that I was sore. Myrtle was adamant that she see my ow-wee. I showed it and it scratched her curiosity. Later when Faith put her to bed, they both soon came out again. Myrtle being carried and all swaddled. I thought maybe Myrtle needed another kiss. But no, she was in tears saying "Daddy sore, Daddy sore! Kiss Daddy." I held her, moved by her empathy I didn't want her to see my tears.

Myrtle then got out of her blanket and said "I kiss it better, I kiss it" So I lifted the back of my shirt and I felt the pressure of her little head press so gently against my bandage. We had a good family hug and wept.

Myrtle turns 2 tomorrow, yet has more soul than any soul I've met. If even a big old bald man like myself still needs his mom, Myrtle needs her daddy even more.

...And we both need Faith too or nothing would get done.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ruban's Big Day Out

Last Friday I went to an appointment made long ago by my orthopaedic surgeon regarding my hip. He, Dr. Stone, is hoping my bone heals or in his words "remodels" itself so I don't have to get a hip replacement. As of now I am prime candidate for one, well that is except for my age. Like a lot of things these days, a hip replacement isn't built to last.

I'm not crazy about the pain my hip brings me, but I can live with it. I've learned a quick shuffle to chase Myrtle short distances. The other day at my parents I dropped something and before my mom could bend down to pick it up for me I did it with my toes. Talking to people standing up, waiting in lines, etc.,  I just favour my right leg. I can manage, you get the picture. 

Sitting up right isn't manageable, though there are some magic moments where I can go for an hour or two. Where I really excel in life is my ability to recline. Anybody know if La-Z-Boy is hiring testers?

Anyways, I had forgotten about my appointment until I got a call reminding me. Even then I thought it was odd that she said the call was a reminder, as I thought it was regarding my testing for cancer from Dr. Wai. 

Now I'm sounding like a senior getting confused with all their appointments and appointment times and locations and doctors and pills and vitamins.

Sometimes I feel older than my parents look ...combined. Now I'm rambling, where was I?

Oh, yes my bone scan. 

When injected with a radioactive tracer one is to steer clear from baby's and toddlers and nursing mom's and mom's to be. Which gives me leper status at home. 

Leaving to VGH was a little weepy for Faith and I. Though I can go it alone, that's not the point, part of being a family is that you don't have to go it alone. 

Arriving at VGH I was happy to see a friendly face, Anne. However she quickly pointed out that her son Nick was with her and he had meningitis so I better not stick around. Despite why they were there it provided some comfort to see one of my greatest Scrabble foes. 

I was injected and walking out before I knew it.

On my way out I bumped into yet another friend, Glen who is doing his residency. He asked about how I was doing and I updated him. Glen mentioned he prayed and fasted for me last Sunday while working at the hospital. We had a great conversation, at least it was on my end, covering prayer, treatment, and a fantastic story of him accidentally hacky-sacking a hip joint ball that popped out during a surgery he was watching.

Finally walking out of VGH I realized that I have been here lots before and never when I have been there with Faith have we bumped into anyone. People wonder how I know prayers get answered, well not being alone this day is an example.

Leaving the hospital I saw that my Uncle Darcy responded to a Facebook status I posted.
My uncle Darcy and I have never socialized before, maybe when I was but wee lad but other than that just a lot of fun Facebook banter. He's only been on the island for a the past year and a bit. Long story I wasn't sure what to expect, though I was open to get to know him. We texted and he arranged to meet me for my bone scan in a few hours.

In the mean time I went to the Wight's cafe for some company with Dave on their patio. Sun was out and Dave lived up to his good reputation was great company as always.

Before long I was back at VGH and Darcy was waiting for me. Just as we started talking my name was called for the bone scan. The scan takes 14 minutes. I laid there reflecting on what I was literally doing and what I literally wanted to be doing. I thought of Darcy waiting outside for me. After it was done I asked him to tell me about my Grandpa Rebalkin. Darcy and my father have different mothers, so Darcy's experience with my grandpa would be much different than my dads and I am interested in my family history.

Darcy shared as we walked down the halls for my skeletal survey, in the waiting room and when it was done the conversation just continued. Darcy offered to buy me a drink at the cafe and we went outside and talked more. I was fascinated. The more that was said the more I could feel that he was family.

There's this show called "Who Do You Think You Are?" It's about family history. Some celebrity's family history is uncovered and invariably the person will say something like "Oh, wow no wonder why my relative was like that, if that's what they went through."

Talking with Darcy was like me being on the show, minus the celebrity status. I felt more compassion for my dad and his siblings and my grandpa too.  I heard of some of my grandpa's traits I can see in myself.

Actually, beyond compassion for my father I can say I loved him more because I understood him more.

I had such a good time. While I was talking to Darcy I saw two more people, someone from church and the mid-wive who delivered our sweet Myrtle two years ago.

I just went for a bone scan and some x-rays, but prayers were answered as I got showered with smiles from friendly faces and connected with family and friends.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Chuck Norris' Tears

Goji Berries
Positive Thoughts
Lemon Juice
Vitamin C
Baking Soda
Cooked Chinese Food
Raw Food
Juice Fasts
"A guy I know."
Carbs Eliminated
Shark Liver
No Sugar
Açaí Berries
Green Tea

Q: What do these things have in common?
A: They CURE cancer!

Oh, and... 

I'm reminded of an Aesop Fable from about 2, 500 years ago.

A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: "You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?"

So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: "See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides."
So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn't gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: "Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along."

Well, the Man didn't know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: "Aren't you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yoursu and your hulking son?"

The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey's feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.

"That will teach you, said an old man who had followed them "Please all, and you will please none."

Personally, I do believe a healthy diet, spirit, mind and exercise goes a long, long, long, way. I don't mention all the above to mock anyone. In fact, I appreciate that anyone would care enough to suggest something that they feel would help - if that's you no need to stop. There are somethings that have been suggested that have enriched and bettered my quality of life, for which I am thankful - truly. But clearly I can't please all. 

Dr. Wai called Friday afternoon. We were out at an acquaintances home when she called. Faith and I went into our host's master bedroom to take the call while Myrtle happily played with their kids. What an odd situation, being in near strangers bedroom taking notes on their bed. Yes, it's taken me a year to remember to take notes when my oncologist calls. 

Here's the skinny:
  • There have been changes in my hipbone, good or bad, they're not sure. 
  • They are suspicious it's myeloma (meaning perhaps the plasmacytoma developed into myeloma)
  • My last blood work though was fine, which is reassuring.  
The PET/CT Scan wasn't the end all, be all I thought it was, more in depth testing will be done over the following few weeks:
  • 24 hour urine sample (if you see me with a big orange jug, it's not OJ)
  • Head to toes x-ray
  • And the very definitive, end all, be all test - the bone marrow biopsy (ouch)
If myeloma is there then I get a new oncologist, Dr. McPherson.  I met him last year and I hope to never meet him again during his working hours. Who wants to be like everyone else with something so mainstream as myeloma? Lame, right?

Plus, I'd have to go to Vancouver for treatment. I'd rather spend my summer in Victoria, the most beautiful place in Canada. Well, I mean after Edmonton of course. 

Today's news wasn't the best. After the call I told Faith that I'm glad people are praying for me.   

As Einstein said:

There are only two ways to live your life. 
One is as though nothing is a miracle. 
The other is as though everything is a miracle.

I choose to see life as a miracle and prayer has brought miracles in my life. 

For example it's a miracle that despite the news today Faith and I had a date night tonight and had a great time - peace of mind (though finicky) in a time like this is a miracle. It was also miraculous I was able to follow the plot of Men In Black 3 without even seeing Men In Black 2.

Pray for healing, courage and comfort and please while you're at it feel free to send some our way too.

Onward and upward. 

P.S. If you see Chuck Norris make him cry.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Words By Me, My Dad and Bruce Springsteen

Last week our family went to Vancouver for a PET/CT Scan my oncologist ordered about a month ago. 

We decided to make a trip out of it. I could've gone alone, but Faith was not going to miss out on being supportive and support was welcomed. 

We stayed two nights at my brother Jason and sister-in-law Colleen's home. (Side note, while there Colleen reached her goal raising $2,500 for cancer research

Myrtle LOVED being there, she LOVES her cousins and aunty and uncle. Perhaps the happiest she has ever been is is being there. Especially being with her cousin Kathryn and the dog. 

When I arrived in Vancouver at the BC Cancer Agency I went into a private room, and was injected with a radioactive sugar thru an IV.  Cancer feeds on sugar and since it's radioactive the PET/CT Scan is able to see if there is any cancer anywhere. 

I had to lie still for 45 minutes, I couldn't even read. I was allowed to listen to music so I put on some Josh Groban and like most people I fell asleep within a song or two. 

After my snooze I went into the PET/CT Scan room and lied down for another 45 minutes as the PET/CT machine did its business. 

On Monday my oncologist, Dr. Wai, called to give me the results of the scan. Fortunately Myrtle was napping and Faith was there listening on speaker. Cancer was showing in the same spot on my hip, luckily nowhere else. Today (Thursday May 31st) she is meeting with her colleagues to figure a course of action and I will get a call tomorrow regarding it. 

Our first response was nervous laughter. Disbelief. Faith and I hugged, wept. I called my parents, my brothers and then my in-laws. 

Myrtle slept through it all. How I envy her innocence. Just blissfully happy and content when she woke up. 

That night I got an email from my Dad. I read it and read it again to Faith and to my friend Mori when he visited. 

Dear Ruban,

In my writing course a few months ago, we were given the assignment to write about an incident this last year that was life changing – here is what I wrote.  I wanted to share this with you so you would know the love I feel for you and my desire to lighten your burden …

Dad Can Fix Anything
By Ron Rebalkin

            When I was a young boy, our family had very little money and as things go, stuff breaks. We could not afford to buy new things so there was always the need to have something fixed. Being the oldest boy, the task fell upon my shoulders to see if I could fix or at least get it to start or last awhile longer. I had the innate ability to figure out a way to repair most broken appliances, tables, chairs, lawnmowers and various mechanical pieces of equipment on the farm. Anything electrical should be left to professionals! This gift, blessing, or a curse sometimes, has been with me ever since.

            In most households with children, possessions break. Dad, my racetrack won’t work. Can you fix it? I usually corrected the problem and got the cars back on the track running around in circles. Dad, my drawer came out. Can you fix it? I did. Dad, my tire on my bike is flat. Can you fix it? My chain came off too. Can you fix it? My Cub Kar’s wheels won’t turn properly, can you fix them? A little powdered graphite fixed that problem.  My zipper is stuck. Can you fix it? Hey Dad, I need to move, can you help me put stuff back together after the move? Oh, I am moving to Calgary, could you haul my stuff there? Thought about that one for a few minutes. Drove to Calgary with the van packed to the roof. The vacuum cleaner wouldn’t work. I fixed it. Taps dripped. Fixed them too.  The washer leaked and dryer wouldn’t dry. I fixed them.

            As the boys got older, the problems were bigger and more diverse. Dad, I think the clutch is gone in my car. Can you fix it? I did.  Hey Dad, I am putting in new hardwood flooring, can you come over and help me fix the areas I had trouble with? Of course son. Painting homes, fixing their appliances, putting together Ikea furniture without any screws, nuts or bolts left over, installing blinds, door locks, broken dishwashers, leaky car windows and on and on the list goes. My father-in-law would call and ask if I could fix the lights as they had all gone out in the basement. Fixed that one easily, I just flipped the breaker.

Being able to fix things gives me a feeling of worth, sometimes even a purpose. I feel valued. I am Mister Fix It.

            Almost one year ago, my youngest son slipped at work landing on his hip and hurt it quite badly. He had many trips to the physiotherapist but the pain was still there and his hip was more tender than ever. Our family doctor sent him in for a MRI to see what the problem was. A few days later our son called and asked his mom and I to come over as soon as possible as he needed to talk to us. We went over right away. As we entered his home and saw him we knew something was wrong.

            He told us about the visit he had with the Family Doctor and that the Doctor had referred him to a specialist where he was told about the findings in the MRI. Our son was diagnosed with Singular Bone Plasmacytoma, which is a cancer that causes tumors to grow on the soft tissue and in the bone. He had a tumor the size of a kiwi on his hip bone, which was causing all the pain. I just sat there and held our five month old granddaughter feeling as if I was watching a movie and this was not real. It was real alright. Our son went through many more tests here in Victoria and Vancouver confirming the initial diagnosis. Over the past year he has had many radiation treatments, tests of all sorts and still the diagnosis for the future is open ended. It may not be able to be fixed.

            I have gone through so many emotions and feelings over the last year and it has taken a tremendous toll on me and my family. I feel absolutely helpless. I feel there is nothing I can do. I feel useless. I feel inept and try to act as if all is well with the world although I know it is not. I fix things and have all my life. This is one thing I can’t fix.

            A tremendous amount of solace came to my mind today. I thought of our Saviour hanging and dying on the cross alone without His Father removing the bitter cup – “fixing things” for his beloved Son.  In my heart I heard the quiet comforting whisper, a reminder to me, “Son, Dads can’t fix everything.” …

Who knew my Dad could write so well? Instead of asking for permission, Dad I hope you'll forgive me for sharing. 

I was feeling a little uneasy about the diagnosis. I've asked a few bazillion or so people to add me in their prayers. I don't think all will actually pray, but I know some will and I KNOW some have. How? It's hard to explain, I feel very comforted, at ease. Emotions are near the surface, understandably, but fear is being kept at bay and I feel confident about my future. 

I'm reminded of a chorus from a Bruce Springsteen song:

May your strength give us strength

May your faith give us faith

May your hope give us hope

May your love give us love

What ever tomorrow or whatever any day brings it is always onward and upward. 

My little family can use your strength, your faith, your hope, your love.