Posted by: cg00n | November 14, 2012

My Fall

Summer has blown out of here leaving us with a beautiful fall.  Even yesterday, in mid-November, it was 18C degrees and sunny.  There are still some mosquitoes around but I’ll take that over winter in the prairies anytime.

The long hiatus in writing here is entirely due to no news being good news, so I’ve been caught up in the busy-ness of living my life.  We were very pleased to be able to see some of you during our recent trip to Calgary & Banff.  All the free meals were the icing on the cake:  most enjoyable.  As always, we will be delighted whenever you show up on our doorstep.  Ideally you should give us a couple of hours notice.

My IL-2 injections continue to happen at 2-3 week intervals but we seem to be running out of things to inject.  This is a rather pleasant problem to have.  Dr. G asked me if I felt OK about that.  I certainly do!  It is always possible that the melanoma has simply moved somewhere else but a) that could happen anyway, b) there is no evidence to suggest that it has and c) there is still that helicopter waiting to fall out of the sky on top of me.  At the beginning of this year I was quite worried about the apparent progression of the disease but this new treatment regime is so effective that I’m half expecting to live to be 100.  Dr. G continues to be very optimistic about progress in cancer understanding and treatment in general and I find his attitude somewhat infectious.

Dr. M and his merry team looked me over a few days back and were suitably impressed, although I suspect they are actively searching for another victim to cut up:  they obviously need to stay in practice :-^  As a side effect we now have a somewhat embarrassing surplus of Mepilex dressings, so if anyone needs some drop me a line.  Also saw Dr. D a couple of weeks ago and we have decided that, since there is nothing worth cutting out, any attempt to get involved in Dr. Ohashi’s T-cell trial taking place in Toronto is more or less doomed to failure, at least for now.  When and if things change I’ll look into it again.  This sort of adoptive T-cell therapy is one of New Scientist’s picks for The Five Most Promising New Cancer Treatments – see the News Roundup, below, for more info.  Tomorrow I will go for my annual checkup with Dr. L which I fully expect to be unremarkable.  If I’m wrong you’ll hear about it.

All of this good news has made me lazy with respect to mindfulness.  Not so long ago I was exercising mindfulness most of the time but all that busy-ness of living I mentioned has been distracting.  Still, I have read a couple more books on the mind and how it can help the body to heal and I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal, something I mentioned back in May.  The objective is to force myself to really pay attention to the things that make my life worthwhile.  For the first couple of months my entries were short and fairly generic:

  • All the comforts of my pleasant existence
  • Thoughtful friends
  • Having no schedule; lack of hurricanes

Recently I realized that this is not good enough.  What I need to do is to record something quite specific and in enough detail that I can almost recreate the moment in my mind, something like:

  • The smell of wood fires burning on a crisp, colourful autumn day

That conjures up a vivid feeling of being there again. A recent New Scientist article (pointed out to me by Ms. Z.J of Calgary) on over-general memory underscores the importance of doing this.  It appears that those who suffer from depression have greater difficulty bringing to mind specific events, even good ones.  The theory goes that an inability to think of happy times when you’re feeling miserable just makes you feel worse, leading to a downward mood spiral.  So, the new insight on my part is that I may be less inclined to depression if I can recreate the good feeling of some past event.

Speaking of feelings, I have also realized that tuning into my senses and emotions during meditation is easier if I avoid sub-vocal cues altogether.  The kind of mindfulness meditation I do can use a few words to help maintain concentration.  For example, when paying attention to the breath one can keep a count or one can think (very lightly) “in … out …” as one breathes.  This is certainly helpful up to a point but I found I was getting too caught up in the words, using them more like a mantra as one would in transcendental meditation.   Recently I have been counting for the first 10 minutes or so just to get “in the groove”, after which I try to lose all the words and just sense stuff:  colours, sounds aches & pains, clothing against skin, breeze across face, scents in the air, whatever is happening, all the while being aware of any thoughts or ideas that cross my mind and not getting carried away by them.  It is a very delicate process, one that I could not have managed two or three years ago.  There is a feather-light quality to it that I have difficulty describing, but I highly recommend it!

News Roundup

Do you ever find yourself wishing the march of progress would slow down just enough for you to catch your breath?  Right now I’m having one of those moments.  The news in-tray is overflowing in all directions, so with shovel in hand I bring you the jumbo update.  Please sit down:  this will take a while.

In general news,

Progress on drugs and treatments continues apace:

Speaking of drug trials and such,

  • Ben Goldacre’s new book, Bad Pharma, sounds like a must-read.  His blog has a posting on why it is vitally important that all drug trial results are reported and why the current reporting system falls drastically short.  He also gave a TED talk.
  • The efficacy of Tamiflu is being questioned.  Apparently Roche has not shared all the trial data. I was just reading something about that sort of thing….

In the whacky whirl of mental health,

Around the world,

Thanks, as always, to those of you who send me snippets to include in this section.  With any luck they will benefit the rest of the audience too.

Until next time, may you be happy, safe, healthy, and at peace.



  1. Great to see your post. You’ve been on my mind, and I’ve been checking your site pretty much daily. I was actually going to post an inquiry last night. One of the things I do for peace of mind is morning Pages, 3 pages of long hand written every morning. Julia Cameron recommends describing in great detail where you are and how you feel. I also have been following Deepak Chopra’s 21 day meditation challenge. Not too late to join as all the meditations ate still available. It’s free and I find his voice very calming. Here’s the link
    I have a lot of sleep issues and am following a sleep clinic program. All seem to help. I had several scans, x-rays, blood tests and appointments last month. All came back clear. I’m happy you have no bad news as well. We press on 🙂

  2. Yahoo for the effectiveness of the current treatment plan. I plan to read that long list you posted …. perhaps some night when I have sleep issues. It is encouraging there is so much to report. Nice to see you in Banff. The month since has gone by in a whirlwind but such is the life of a nursing instructor and lone-parent hockey Mom.

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