Liver Cancer

(2021 01 05)

Completing a jig saw puzzle is as good a way as any to transition from one year to the next. Lynne and I like to start one on Boxing Day and get it done early in the new year. We have a half-finished one on the dining room table just now. It’s fortunate that nobody joins us for dinner these days.

Each new year is a new puzzle. The one we’re working on first is a 750-piece Ravensburger puzzle. The picture is dominated by a big red Northern Cardinal on a cement bird bath, surrounded by yellow and blue birds, and clusters of red, pink, yellow, and white flowers. We’ll get ‘er done, as my 6-year old BC grandson would say. There’s no time to waste.

We should all be old enough to know by now that all the seasonal magic is used up as Christmas Eve comes and goes. Any magic left in Frosty’s old silk hat is long gone by the time the new year rolls around. Our annual hope for a Happy New Year lasts a week, then fades away.

We should spend the week between the two holidays looking at what went right or wrong with the year just gone by. And thinking about what can get better in the year to come.

As far as my year went, I’ve chronicled a lot of it in my blog columns. You can scroll backwards and see for yourself how it all went down. Most of it wasn’t pleasant. It began in February with jaundice and a tumour, and ended in November with cancer spots in my liver. Treatments included chemotherapy, heavy duty pain killers, antibiotics, and radiation.

Throughout the spring, summer, and fall, my brain wouldn’t resolve the difference between a tumour and a cancer. If my health came up in conversation, I would acknowledge the tumour, but not the cancer. Steve Jobs and Alex Trebek had the same tumour and they kept going like a pair of Eveready bunnies.

By November, there was no escaping the truth. I don’t have a tumour on my pancreas. I have cancer in my liver. It took until then for the oncologist to tell me what I didn’t want to hear. That’s because it took me until November to ask the question I didn’t want answered.

The tumour had shrunk considerably, but cancer spots had moved into my liver and bowel. Metastasized is the word I wasn’t looking for. The only thing left for Lynne and me when we got off the phone with Dr. Valdes was to hug each other and soak ourselves with tears. It’ll be alright, we hoped.

Valdes was straightforward when he answered my questions. What does my future hold? Without treatment, about six months. With treatment, longer than that, but who knows by how much? He was careful to point out that the final decision about going back to chemotherapy belongs to us. This was easy. Two doctors have said the chemo drugs I took in the summer were effective against the tumour. There’s a good chance they’ll be effective again. On top of that, I consulted with all four of my sons and daughter.

All were in favour of doing whatever it takes to keep me around for as long as possible. When I opened voting to in-laws and other family members, the result was still unanimous. So that’s that. I go onto a second round of chemo on January 06.

When I began focusing the blog on the disease, I knew nothing about cancer other than it’s a disease to stay away from. It scares the bejesus out of anyone who gets close to it. People who have been given a diagnosis of a treatable, but incurable, disease are given something others are not. We can grieve for ourselves while still on this side of the grass. I do. Maybe we’ll take a look at this kind of grieving in a future post. But there’s a couple of other things to do first.

I have to find out what round two of chemo feels like, and two jigsaws to finish. That’s life these days, isn’t it? Finding a happy new year is about completing the old one. 


  1. Alan. I’m so sorry. But fight on Brother. We love you.

  2. Wishing you peace and the strength to fight this awful disease.

  3. This blog left me breathless and grieving. I thought of your partner (my Roberto has been gone 8 1/2 years). I then thought about how good it is that you have each other to share the next part of your journey. The response of your kids and extended family is a source of strength and support.
    There will be time to savour the small, sweet moments that are the essence of a life well lived.
    I send you my strength, solidarity and love, comrade brother.

  4. Thank you, Al, for always bringing clarity and perspective to tricky situations. Our very best wishes are with you and Little Lynne, and your family.

  5. Do you know how thrilled I am when I get the notification of a new blog post of yours?!
    Thrilled! Really thrilled.
    I love your writing….so fluid, so beautiful without being flowery, raw without excess.
    Thank you for sharing your journey and I’ll be cheering on your chemo stint and wishing you an uneventful recovery.

  6. Love you Alan! Good luck tomorrow and I hope that this chemo goes smoothly and I am so glad you are posting on with your treatment. We are all sending good energy your way!

  7. So, so sorry to.hear this, Alan. Not at all the news you wanted to hear and not easy news to live with. Thank you for your candour in sharing this hard information. Sending strength.

  8. Happy to have finally been part of a unanimous decision. I assume Charlie was given an opportunity to wag in on it. Big thanks out to Lynne for loving you so much all through these many years.

  9. Sending much love and healing strength to you and your family. May you all be surround by love and positive energy 🔆, mental, emotion and physical strength and security. I go in February 8th to remove tumor then it all starts again. I am scared as poverty, no car has taken me away from Toronto and Mississauga specialists and surgeons and Princess Margaret and Credit Valley Hospital treatments.

    Then adding COVID 19, but people like us have to take it day by day,. Just deep breathe and be grateful that I have battled 2 types of cancer before after 16 yrs on my own no family, both kids graduating 5 yrs university, both coming out to $35k debt no jobs in their fields or other fields, they still need their mom to lean on. Now more than ever I truly want to fight to live, as you do to. I hate saying fighting cancer etc. Cause it makes it look like people who die from it gave up and lost.

    My mom 43 passed away in my arms ovarian cancer and me 17 yrs old. I have been battling life in many ways, but we will never lose the battle cause we stopped fighting.

    I wish you well my friend, I am very happy you have your wife and kids and family and friends to support you through this journey.

    Love Kathleen

    1. Author

      Thanks, Kathleen, and good luck next month. As I see it, this disease has cancer sufferers and cancer survivors. Neither has anything to do with strength of will or character. I shall follow the doctor’s advice and see where it takes me. I do take strength and comfort from people like you who have been travelling this path for 16 years. Best wishes to you and the kids. I forget their names. Sorry.

  10. Alan I Just read your Blog am sorry you got to go through all that again with the chemo.. I wish you all the best and with the love of family and Friends you will get through it . it is almost two years ago when you visited me in the Hospital and am still here and am a wee bit older a big bit than you are . it is always a shock when you get the news of cancer . .my attitude was I wasn’t leaving this world without a fight don’t give up and keep right on to the end of the road I sing that to myself .All the best Alan we will be thinking of you Pearl .& Family

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