ChemoTreats: covid, cancer and chemo

So far, so good. I have managed to steer clear of any stray corona viruses, touch wood with fingers crossed while standing up and turning round counter-clockwise seven times then throwing a pinch of salt over my left shoulder. No covid, regardless of number, has found its way across my threshold.

A couple of months ago, I let my guard down. Mind you, back in those distant days, the guards weren’t up very high. Self-isolating wasn’t a word yet. It still isn’t, really. It’s two words temporarily joined at the hyphen. Two months ago, when we were all that much younger, they weren’t even an item. Now they are.

While I was distracted by the viral thunderclouds gathering on the horizon, a nasty little tumour snuck through my defenses and hid itself somewhere in my internal waste disposal system. I didn’t see it coming, and I didn’t feel it land.

I noticed that my urine was changing. There was a time when it fairly consistently resembled either apple juice or lemon juice. Then, in early February, I stood at the toilet bowl and watched the stream turn to a darker shade of amber. Tea-toned pee, you might say. That doesn’t look right, I thought. Then, while shaving one morning, I noticed that the whites of my eyes were yellowish. So was the skin on my shoulders and upper body. That doesn’t look right, I thought.

I called my doctor, and she gave me a ticket to the lab where I peed into a bottle and bled into half a dozen little vials. She called me in for an appointment a few days later and told me my cholesterol was amazing. Other results, she said, pointed to an unhappy liver. She sent me downtown to the Gastro-Intestinal Clinic to find out what it would take to cheer it up. One CT scan and an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography later, the problem came into focus. A neuroendocrine tumour was knocking on the front door of my pancreas.

Another CT scan showed it to be an unpleasantly aggressive little bastard. I’ve never been comfortable with aggression, but the tumour doesn’t care. It’s a carcinoma and it’s growing. At least now we know the extent of the problem. As luck would have it, I found a couple of oncologists in Kitchener who know of a solution. Chemotherapy is on its way.

I never thought I’d turn into the person who says, “Chemo isn’t fearful, it’s cheerful.” But here I am, saying it, even though I still haven’t sipped from this particular chalice.

I’m becoming increasingly resentful of COVID-19. The virus is like the large cement barriers placed down the centre of a highway. The ones used to stop us from crossing the line. It’s blocking access to our health care system, making us think twice before going for help.

COVID-19 isn’t stopping anything, but it’s slowing everything down. Wherever you look, there it is. It’s big, and it’s opportunistic. Whenever people drop their guard, let their attention lapse, another droplet of spittle slips through and another nurse goes into self-isolation.

Even in a pandemic, people need health care. Women still give birth; near-blind people need cataract surgery; people fall over and have their bones set; people with cancer lie down for a slow chemo drip. None of them have a straight path to treatment these days. It’s a long and winding road now, and we travel it at a reduced speed limit.

So there you have it. I shall make an effort to rejuvenate this web site. I don’t intend to live my illness out on Facebook, but I will drop a link to my blog whenever I update it. I will try to write my way through this stage of my journey. I promise to wash my hands after posting it. All I ask of you is that you wash your hands after reading it.

I fully expect this adventure to end well. Let’s sit back and see if it does.


  1. Oh Alan , so sorry to hear about this latest challenge. I will be thinking of you with all my might. Having gone something not quite as traumatic as you in January I was very fortunate for our health care and our doctors on their quick action otherwise I would not be sitting here writing to you. Take care my friend.

  2. Alan — sorry to hear about this and in such a tough time for going to hospital. Sending good vibrations your way.

  3. Comrade Pickersgill – Laughter is the Best Medicine, or so the Readers Digest told me so many times, reading it while sitting in a doctor’s office. Then again, Cancer is not a joke. Take care of yourself Al, by all means many of us would like to hear of your progress as this miserable journey winds its way through your life and health – and body. I wish you every success and victory and will keep you in my optimistic thoughts as we all are challenged in these uncertain times. Peace. DBinns

  4. As always I was happy to see a new post from you in my mailbox. I so enjoy the way you string your words together to paint a picture for your readers, and the humour that tinges all of it. I am so sorry to hear of your troubles with Cancer. What a nasty little c word it is. I am sending positive thoughts and vibes into the universe for you, and I hope they find the way to you and yours. If you are able to write of this time we are in, there are many of us who would enjoy reading your perspective of what is happening. Take care as best you can!

  5. Alan, you can beat this. Good God, man, you survived Quarrie, Rocco, Schnurr and Guelph’s own pompadoured Hamtak. Could anything be more insidious? After all, the location of the cancer instantly brought their names to mind. While you cannot solve your condition at the polls, I know that your campaign to win this one will be a successful one. Take care.

  6. Hi Alan. Victor and I are saddened to learn of this news. Our thoughts go out to you and your family. Being the fighter that you are we know you will overcome!

  7. Well now youngster thanks for letting me in on this latest twist and shout out on your path before you kicked it in the blogs. I gave you and Ron my elder instruction though I imagine you’ll do your best to ignore it any more now than when you were both in your teens and determined to attend that Stones concert. As you said a week or so ago at least its not pancreatic cancer. I did like your plan to try that cross-your-fingers cure. Bottom line I’m just asking you guys to stop making me feel so healthy. All that being said thanks for following doctor’s instructions and making your way through security to access treatment. Love you Alan.

  8. sorry to hear that you are dealing with such an illness. I will send prayers and hugs to you for full recovery and look forward to hearing from you again,

  9. Thinking of you, Alan. And yes the coronavirus is a bloody big pain in the neck for everyone with health issues.

  10. Comrade Alan. I hope the covid virus hasn’t slowed down your treatment. Wising you a speedy recovery.

  11. Be well. I saw you and Charlie walk by. You and that cute Westie always make me smile!

  12. Hi Alan
    George and I are sending you positive thoghts your way. Hoping you can get treatments soon. As a cancer survivor myself I truly didn’t find chemo daunting because it was at least something to fight with. Stay strong and take comfort in how many people are wishing you well.

    Carmel & George

  13. Alan, it’s been an awfully long time since we connected, and I feel badly about that. I regret the connection was lost. I have so many fond memories of working with you. My last remembrance was not about work, but of whooping it up at the Octoberfest celebration and where Randy and I ended up at your place where we continued to party. That was a number of years ago. Laura P wrote me, passing along a link to your post. I’m sorry to hear you are going through this health challenge. We are keeping you in our prayers. Take good care, Alan. With all good wishes, Constance and Randy

  14. Alan thank you for this post. My hands are dry from frequent washing, I’m doing my due diligence. i know you will do yours and you will overcome the little bustard.

Comments are closed.