Calendar

Important Dates 

Sept. 2nd, 2014 ~ Support Group ~ Amy (Caregiver)

Sept. 27th, 2014 ~ NS PC Awareness Walk/Run/Bike

Sept. 27th, 2014 ~ Cold Lake, Alberta Awareness Walk

Sept. 27th, 2014 ~ Nfld. PC Awareness Walk

Oct. 7th, 2014 ~ Support Group ~ Pharmacist

Oct. 25th, 2014 ~ PEI PC Awareness Walk

Nov. 1st, 2014 ~ NB Awareness Walk

Nov. 4th, 2014 ~ Support Group

Nov. 2014 ~ Pancreatic Cancer Awareness

Nov. 8th, 2014 ~ Light up the Lake - 5km Run

Nov. 15th, 2014 ~ Parade of Lights!

Dec. 2nd, 2014 ~ Support Group

» View Calendar

 

Recent Video

Support Group Guest Speakers:

Moamen Bydoun on indentifying therapeutic targets in pancreatic cancer:

Neemat Sobhani on Nautural Food Products and Health:

Dr. Scott Hurton on Pancreatic Cancer care research in Nova Scotia:

Debbie Matheson on being a caregiver:

Dr. Mark Walsh on Pancreatic Cancer "How are we doing and where are we going?"

Celine Burlock on how to find peace:

Roy Ellis talks about grief and loss:

Rob Rutledge talks about the mind-body-spirit connection:

Timothy Walker talks about Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction:

Dr. Colin MacLeod talks about naturopathic medicine and cancer:

Dr. Daniel Rayson talks about pancreatic cancer:

Reverend David McGinley talks about spirituality and cancer:

Stories of Remembrance

Saturday
Aug182012

In memory of Marie C. Gibson, 1944 - 2011

Marie Gibson was a loving mother and grandmother. As a single mother, she worked hard all her life to provide for her 3 children.

 

Her first bout with cancer was 30 years ago when she had to have a melanoma removed from her calf. They had to remove a large amount of tissue which caused her leg to swell over the years .. especially after a long work day. I can remember at one point watching her come home from her second job and watching her struggle to get out of her shoes as her leg had swelled so much she couldn't get them off.

 

Marie bared her pain quietly ,and never had a complaint to anyone. Whenever things went wrong or it was a bad day she still kept a smile on her face and said .. well it could be worse... she always looked at
the bright side of any situation.

 

As she approached her 65th birthday and possible retirement she decided to continue working as she enjoyed her work at the breast screening clinic, and didn't have a large retirement fund. After suffering with a reoccurring pain in her side she was diagnosed with tumours in her pancreas. Based upon the high risk category she was in, she made the courageous decision to have a major surgery and full removal of the pancreas.

 

This was a huge decision as the surgery was very complicated, and involved removal of the pancreas, gal bladder, and the lower part of the stomach. The result of which automatically meant she would become a type 1 diabetic .. requiring insulin for the rest of her life , and enzymes to digest food. Her attitude .. well it could be worse .. we might not have caught it before it was too late to do anything ... and what's a couple needles a day if it gives me more time with my family.

Marie suffered complications in surgery and had to be rushed back in for a second surgery the first night. Her 3 week recovery ended up being a 3 month hospital stay. She became a favourite amongst the staff as she always had a smile and never a complaint.

When she was finally able to go home she required constant assistance and we ( her three children) took turns spending time with her and nursing her back to health.. As a very independent woman it was
difficult for Marie to accept the limitations of her health and the constant nursing of her children. She was always appreciative for the care, and as a patient she was cooperative and always put in 100%
effort. We became a close knit family again as we hadn't been since we were kids.
 
Marie continued to have complications, and as a result of her surgery had a major loss in short term memory. She could remember her grade 1 teachers name .. but not what she had for breakfast or if she had taken her medications or insulin . As you can imagine this condition was problematic for a full blown diabetic ... Marie took it in stride though, and created a routine to help her with her day to day
healthcare. It was however apparent she would not be able to work, so she finally retired Dec 31.

A couple weeks later at a follow up appointment we got the worst news ... the tumours were back and had spread ..her pancreatic cancer had not been caught in time and had spread despite the surgery.
She asked the doctor what time she had left and was told likely it was less than a year. She hugged the doctor and thanked him for the time he had bought her.

I remember being so angry ,that it was unfair.She had worked all her life, and now at retirement, when she should be finally able to relax, and enjoy life, that it was being taken away. She however ,was okay
with it .. she explained to me that when she had her first bout with cancer.. she prayed to God to let her survive so she could see her children grow up and that God had kept his part of the deal. Her
children were all in their 40's and she had gotten to see the birth of her grand children. Her only regret was that she would miss their growing up, graduations and weddings etc.

Her health quickly deteriorated. She became almost housebound, with her only enjoyment coming in some light reading and watching tv and movies with her family. It was all the more devastating then, when she suddenly lost all sight in 1 eye. I cried.. thinking how much suffering can 1 person take and what did she ever do to deserve any of it.

She never got angry, or had self pity, just saying.. well it could be worse.. at least I still have 1 good eye.

After discussing Moms final wishes it was decided that she wanted to stay at home and not spend the last part of her life in a hospital. We learned to give her shots and made her as comfortable as possible.
As the pain became a constant factor in the last days of her life, and it became a chore to eat anything, Marie would still smile and try .. just to make us happy.
 
We were fortunate to all be able to be there and hold her as she passed Aug 14th, telling her it was okay to go ... we would see her in heaven. She passed, surrounded by her whole family.
We hope she knows how inspirational she was in our lives ... her work ethic, positive attitude, and boundless amounts of love. After watching her incredible battle, without ever hearing a complaint or
self pitying comment .. how can any of our day to day problems compare. Whenever we feel down, or having bad luck, or a bad day all we have to do is think of her and our problems suddenly don't seem so
big. She gives us the courage to deal with life head on and we hope with the same smile and positive attitude and as much love as we can muster. RIP .. you are missed.

- Thomas Gibson

 

Sunday
Feb192012

In memory of my dad, Kirk Durling

Hello,

I am writing to share my family's story about our father's battle and
loss to pancreatic cancer.

In June of 2010, my family lost my mother to liver cancer. It was a 4 month illness after diagnosis and we cared for her at home until about a week before she died. She passed away at the age of 56. My father was left behind, to raise his two grand children, (my older brother's) who my parents had been caring for since they were 3 years old and 3 months old.
In my family there is me, the middle daughter, my older brother and my younger sister. The loss of my mother was devastating but we have always been close and we banned together and tried to go on. My father carried on, worked, raised the children and still worried about us, his grown children.

Dad finally got himself a new four wheeler and was trying to enjoy his few days off from his job of almost 33 years. My father was a hard worker, a loving father and a loving husband. I love my father with all my heart and he is the strongest man I have ever known.

About 6 months after Mom passed away, my father started getting pain in his abdomen...and having trouble keeping food down on and off. But he continued to work. Finally, he was getting sick every time he ate, and could not keep food down at all. This was all within a matter of maybe 2 weeks. After many trops to doctors he was diagnosed at first with indigestion. Or a hernia.

Anyway, after more problems he was put in the hospital and he was told he had a blockage in his bile duct, not sure what it was and so they put in a stent and they did tests. He suffered greatly at this time. 

After sometime, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and the tumor was closing off part of his stomach. He was given the option of chemo and radiation and he of course tried it. They told us if it shrunk they would try to operate. In the end, the treatments made him so sick. And he lost probably 100 lbs ( he had been al arge man to begin with) I had never seen my father so thin. Finally we were called in and told they would no longer give him treatment because it was growing. We were put over to the palliative care tema. This all happened within 3 months maybe. I was 8 months pregnant at the time and felt helpless.

My sister moved in with dad to help with the children and I would come over every day and eve to care for him, as I am a CCA and the only family member he would allow to do his personal care. The tumor caused my father to lose the use of his right arm which was very hard for him. There is not enough room on the page for me to express how he suffered and how this great and wonder ful man, withered away. We had some many scares and hospital trips. From bowel blleds and passing out, to unresponsive spells and sweat out breaks. My sister was on her last nerve from the ordeal, but she soldiered on. She would have done anything for dad to keep him home as long as possible.

I will say the doctors in Halifax and the VON were wonderful and helped us, and they did their best. I have no complaints on those topics. 

When my father became too ill to stay home with my sister, he was placed in hospital. At this point he was not very talkative and not eating much at all. I know he was suffereing from a bed sore, but taht was a losing battle with his body in such bad shape and he was not taking in any nourishment. In March 2011, my father was in the hospital and I was also in on monitoring for high blood pressure from stress and they were worried about the baby. He passed away with my sister, me and our uncle at his side.

He was in the hospital maybe 2 weeks and the whole illness lasted 4 months, just like our mother. Within 9 months I had lost both my parents to cancers we hardly knw a thing about. This cancer is deadly. It is a true silent killer. We had no idea until it was too late how sick he was. It east away at you and leaves barely a shell of the person that once was. It is very hard to watch a loved one die from this cancer. It will be one year since he died next month. I wish there was more support and money for research. Every type of cancer needs a cure, but the cancers that are killing our loved ones with mere weeks or months need a cure NOW. 

My father was 57 when he died. I cannot express everything I meant to when I wrote this, and it's hard to put every detail down. I just hope we find a cure someday soon so more families can stay together with the ones they love.

Thank you.

-Karen Schofield.

Im memory of my dad, Kirk Norwood Durling (May 7, 1953 - March 16, 2011)

 

Friday
Feb112011

My Beautiful Mom ~ Blanche Roy

This is my beautiful mom, Blanche Roy. She was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer in August 2010. She had come to visit me for a few days and was looking after my son, her grandson while at was at work. When she got here, I noticed that she had lost weight and her color was grey. My mom just lived an hour and a half away from me and she visited me frequently. She had been complaining of some stomach trouble off and on over the period of about 1 year. Me being a nurse, I started the process of elimination and the symptoms she was describing to me were indicative of gallbladder trouble. Never in a million years did I ever think she had cancer. I guess I didn't want to think that way. Unfortunately, during her visit, she called me at work and told me that I needed to come home right away because she was very sick. I told her to hang up and call 911. I was hysterical! I left work and met her at the hospital where she was laying on a stretcher in the hallway. She was very weak, but her pain had subsided. Blood work and an ultrasound later revealed that she had stage 4 metastatic Pancreatic cancer. They told us that it looked like it started at the head of the pancreas and had spread to her bile duct, liver and lungs. When the doctor gave us the terrible news, I cried and my mom was in shock and she didn't even react. The next day she went back home and made an appointment to see her Doctor. She asked me to go to the appointment with her so my son and I went to her place the day before. When I got there, she was very jaundiced and very weak. Needless to say, I called one of my brothers and we took her to the hospital where they admitted her right away. They ran some tests and decided they needed to do an ERCP. They needed to insert a stent into her bile duct which was completely blocked. We were scared, but we knew it needed to be done. She stayed in the hospital for the week and was discharged home. It was a terrible week for her, she endured a lot of pain and nausea. The stent worked and she went home at the end of the week.

Over the next few months I went back and forth to her place to see her and help her around the apartment. She was being followed by an Extra Mural nurse, but her health was failing quickly and she was admitted again at the end of September for a few weeks because she was dehydrated from being unable to eat or drink very much. My brothers and I decided it was best to move her out of her apartment and in with my brother, because it wasn’t safe to be alone anymore. She agreed and they moved her while she was still in the hospital. I took her out on a day pass so she could see her new place. She loved it! This is a woman who never needed any help from anyone. She was completely independent all her life. She raised me and my three brothers while my dad was out working to provide for our family. My dad became ill at the age of 39 with his heart and she had to return to work. She worked, looked after me and my brothers and took care of my dad.

She enjoyed her day pass, but we had to go back, she didn't want to. A few days later they sent her home. Sadly she got weaker and was very sick and only spent 4 days at my brothers. She was admitted to the Palliative care unit on October 22nd. She died 5 days later. I was with her. I will never forget that moment when she took her last breathe. I laid my head on her arm for probably a half an hour or more. It was very peaceful. She didn't want to go. After we found out she had cancer she said to me " I thought I was going to live to 100 " I thought that too. My mother gave so much of herself all her life. She never needed help from anyone ever! She was the strongest woman I have ever known. She was the best mother you could ever ask for and she loved her kids so much. She cherished her grandchildren. I still feel so empty without her, she was my best friend. She asked me to make sure she didn't die in pain, and I kept my promise. She deserved to die with dignity. It was very peaceful. She took a big breathe and stopped, but when I started crying she tried really hard to take another one and then she was gone. I will never forget that moment for as long as I live, but I am so glad I was with her. I miss her more than words could ever explain. She was a beautiful person, inside and out and I feel so lucky to have had her as my mother. I love you mom. Until we meet again. xoxoxo

Tuesday
Jan182011

Catherine (Kate) Parsons

August 11, 1953 – October 23, 2003

“A mother’s love lives in the hearts of her children; shaped and moulded with tender hands.”

This is my mother’s story!

How can I describe the woman who made me who I am? Often after we lose a loved one we tend to raise them on a pedestal, the difference with me is that I have always had my mother on a pedestal. To describe her in several words she was kind, unselfish, and proud and the strongest most resilient woman I have ever known.

My mother was a single mother, raising two children on her own with very little resources, but she seemed to turn one dollar into two and I never went without. My brother is eight years older than me, so since the age of 12 it was just mom and I. During my teenage years I was as rebellious as most teen girls are, but my mother soon put me in my place and said “it is either we are friends or we are enemies” so we became friends, best friends (but if she felt as though I crossed the line and disrespected her, lookout!). She gave me the perfect balance of discipline and freedom and as a result I could talk to my mother about anything, even boy troubles. Most of my friends confided in my mother too, my house was the frequent gathering place for my friends and I, and my friends were known as “Katie’s girls.”

One New Years Eve, several of my friends decided to sleep at my house after a night out, when we got back mom already had the turkey in the oven and it smelled so good and we were so hungry, so we woke her up to tell her about our night as we always did and she said to go get it. It was about 3 am and here was my mother sitting up in her bed with five girls sitting around and a turkey roaster in the center, and we all dug in heartily! When I asked what we would have for dinner the next day, she simply said “I guess we’ll go to Monnie’s” (my Aunt’s place). She was so carefree!

I always thought my mother would be here forever, she had been through so much and survived, that I sometimes thought she was indestructible. But one day after a couple days of what we thought was the flu; my mother asked me if she looked yellow. That was the beginning of our short battle. She was hospitalized and several days later she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. While you would think that she would be concerned about the radical surgery she was facing my mother simply worried about her children. On May 27, 2003 my mother underwent the Whipple procedure, and before her surgery we simply hugged and said how much we loved each other, there was nothing left unsaid between us.

She was remarkable! The surgery was so challenging but soon she recovered and was almost back to her old self. She often referred to herself as the “Queen of the Whipple” with a proud fist raised high in the air. With the reality of this cancer hitting home, I asked my mother if there was anything she had ever wanted, she looked around her home which was in much need of repair and thinking about her two children who were so far in debt to student loans, she responded “I have everything I ever wanted.” I think about that everyday, very rarely are we free from want, yet my mother was content and happy with the way her life was, despite the challenges. She had two children whom she loved more than anything and our accomplishments were her accomplishments. She was proud of the people that we had become and she realized that we were her success and she did a pretty good job! Not to mention her granddaughter Rebecca who was one year old at the time, and who brought a light to her Nana’s life, that I believe kept mom strong throughout her illness.

On August 11, 2003 we celebrated my mother’s 50th birthday with a small gathering of friends and family. She was vibrant. It was the perfect end to the summer, because a few weeks later mom had to start her chemo and radiation. The treatments took a toll on her body and she was no longer as vibrant as she was, and as her daughter and caretaker I was scared, frustrated and lost. There was nowhere to turn and while I was patient and I hoped and prayed that she would improve, it just never happened.

On October 23, 2003, just five months after diagnosis, my mother lost her battle to pancreatic cancer. It was two weeks before my 21st birthday and it was the love that we shared that kept me strong. Even in death she was my strength, my hope and my inspiration.

My mother now has three grandchildren, all my brother and sister-in-laws children, and I know that they keep her busy as she is their guardian angel. I feel her with me everyday and though she has left me physically, I know she is still surrounding me with her love and light. It is for her that I am trying to live my life in a positive way, and become the person she knew I could be.

She was a Mother, Nana, Sister and Friend and she will be forever loved and missed by me (Serina), Leon, Jocelyn, Rebecca, Matthew and William.

-Serina Parsons

“If tears could build a stairway and memories a lane, I’d walk right up to heaven and bring you home again.”



Tuesday
Jan182011

Doreen Elizabeth (Dolly) Shunk

"We truly don’t know how important those who are closest are……..until they are gone."

We love and care for them but until they are no longer with us; we don’t know how much our lives are foDolly1.jpgrever changed.

Some of my fondest memories;

As a kid on Christmas morning it was always about getting my Aunt out of bed so I could open my presents. She was not an early riser and Christmas Day was no different for her.

When I was 15 years old I remember seeing my Aunt wearing her full leathers riding her 1974 Triumph down the road, to all my friends she was the coolest Aunt anyone could have. The first time she took me for a ride on her bike she calmly said “if we start to tip over, put your feet down and help me k”. Then there was my first night at the bar…yes you guessed it, my Aunt took me and bought me my first drink…I won’t tell you how old I was at the time but boy did I have fun that night!!

For several years my Aunt and I did not see each other much, instead she had an active life with her own group of friends she called “family”. There was always the occasional phone call or casual meeting, just enough to let me know she was there and ok.

About 8 years ago Dolly almost lost her life to an infection in her spinal column. I remember the day I was told she was in ICU at Sunnybrook and there was a possibility she would not walk again. For months she worked and fought hard to walk and regain her independence. It was then that we became very close. I had no idea how close we would become or that the title “Aunt” would become more like “Sister and Best friend”. It was also the time she found God and a deep spiritual belief. We were so far apart with religion that we often teased each other about it. I know her teasing was her worry of my lack of faith. As a result of the infection and surgery she was no longer able to work and was forced to settle for a less than comfortable disability payment. She never complained and always arrived with Birthday and Christmas gifts for everyone, even if it meant no grocery shopping that week. With her new challenges, Dolly still had the one thing that I will always remember about her………to have FUN!!! Life for her was all about living the moment and getting the most from each day.

With only 9 years between us in age it was easy for us to act like sisters rather than Aunt and Niece. She lived 2 blocks away from me and became a very important part of my family. Dolly walked through horrid weather to be with my kids every morning at 5:30 am to get them ready for school and as I said earlier she was NOT a morning person. Both Sarah and Tyler would look forward to Monday mornings because it meant Auntie Dolly would be there to take care of them. She had a caring, fun and feisty way of interacting with them. She shared her life experiences with all of us in hope she could save us the pain of her mistakes. I always knew the kids would be comfortable telling her things they would never tell my husband and me. I knew the kids were covered and would be looked after if they told her their deepest secrets.

Dolly never judged anyone for anything they did. She knew she was not perfect and thus nobody else was either. I know my grandmother used to shake her head at the sight of some of her friends. She looked deeper to find who people were. She had a special gift that made people feel comfortable.

Dolly’s fight with PC:

It all started with jaundice, neither of us for some very strange reason was too worried about it. I thought it’s probably some kind of infection; after all she lives a healthy life and is young right? Her doctor referred her to a local surgeon and after a couple of weeks of waiting, the ball started rolling downhill. Several failed ERCP’s followed by confirmed pancreatic tumour. Weeks of waiting to see a specialist at Toronto General Hospital where Dolly would finally have Percutaneous Transhepatic Biliary Drainage (drains externally into a bag) to give some relief from jaundice, which was causing extreme itching and fatigue. She was in fact glowing yellow; after all she had the jaundice for several weeks before receiving treatment. There were several complications as a result of the drains being used for jaundice. They had to be replaced often for they would clog or come out. They caused infections that required hospitalization, blood transfusions and IV antibiotics. Through all of the midnight drives to Toronto General Emergency Dept. after short stops at Orillia’s hospital for pain control, Dolly kept thinking positive. Not once did she say I am not going to make it or I give up and don’t want to be here. We both hoped the tumour could be removed. The surgeon at Toronto General gave us the news we so desperately wanted to hear, “the tumour appears to be operable and we will schedule you for a Whipple procedure”. The procedure was explained in full and all paperwork filled out. The two of us were on cloud nine and thinking of the future was no longer painful. Nine weeks later we were still waiting for a call from the surgeon to tell us when the surgery would take place. The call finally came but I had a feeling it was not going to be what we wanted to hear. The surgeon said “I need to see you about your most recent CT scan”. I never told Dolly I was scared about this appointment. I vividly remember the surgeon saying “the tumour is no longer operable, there was nothing they could do, the surgeon had no need to see Dolly again and well…….you have a few months to live”. Our worlds collapsed and the questions started “was the extended wait for surgery the reason she was no longer a surgical candidate”? Surgeon’s response was “we will never know now”. How about “I would like a second opinion” followed by “they are my colleagues but feel free to see them if you like”. The surgeon told us Dolly could receive chemotherapy as palliative care; it could help control pain and keep her more comfortable. That day is forever ingrained in my memory. Dolly and I cried for what seemed like hours. What bothered Dolly the most about dying? Not being there to see Sarah and Tyler grow up, go to university, get married and have children. The drive home from Toronto seemed never ending. She would stop crying long enough for me to start. I was angry about the lengthy waiting time for surgery and was telling her so when out of nowhere she looked at me and said, “It’s kind of exciting you know”. I said “what is exciting”? She said “Dying”. OMG I was mortified until she said, “I am going to a better place where there is no pain and starting a new life”. Of course my response was “OK then…whatever works for you Dolly”. This comment brought us both to a painful laugh. She smiled until we arrived home.

Dolly had 2 requests.

  1. Would I please find a way to let her die at home with her four kids and me by her side?
  2. Would I please quit smoking?

I promised her I would honor both requests. I had no idea these promises would be the most painful and difficult of my life. The next 8 months were full of battles followed by more battles. Her last major battle was that of a bypass surgery so she could continue to eat, the tumour had blocked her stomach from intestines. It was several calls to the surgeon before this permanent solution was put in place. It seemed as though they didn’t want to waste resources on someone who they thought would have been dead by now, all her treatments seemed to be a fight. Dolly endured several chemo treatments which did in fact keep her pain at a manageable level.

I knew the end was near when she developed Ascites. I was taking her to the hospital twice a week to have 5-6 litres of fluid drained from her stomach. She joked about it saying “I am bigger than you were when you were pregnant”!! The last trip to the hospital to drain this fluid I was told by her oncologist that she would not make it through the next 24 hours. She slowly stopped drinking, became confused and irritated at times but I knew I was witnessing the end of my Dolly. It was my turn to fulfill the last promise I made her. I kept the Dilaudid flowing as high as allowed, the Fentanyl patches, the Ativan, the Morphine etc. I gave her everything I could to keep her as pain free as possible. Two days later she was still fighting for her life. I told her over and over again it was ok for her to leave us now. We talked about almost everything that she wanted done before she died but there was one thing she could not talk about, the fate of her 2 fifteen year old cats and her deeply loved 14 year old dog. “Red Dog” didn’t leave her side for the last few days of her life; he knew she was going to leave him soon. Dolly never gave up and fought to live to the very end.

Life has forever changed for my family. We lost “Auntie Dolly” to Pancreatic Cancer on February 10, 2008 at her home in my arms at the tender age of 49 years after a courageous 8 month battle. Her “fur kids” joined her in heaven that same day.

You know when it’s time to let your loved one go but you never truly are ready to say goodbye.

Cathy Goodchild

Tuesday
Jan182011

Donald Joseph Driscoll

Donnie died from pancreatic cancer on January 12, 2008, he was only 48 years old. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October 2007. He lived for only 3 months after the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer was made.

What makes Donnie's story so unbearable is the fact that he started having pain in his abdomen and lower back in 1994. At that time Donnie was living in Ontario and started to be investigated there. He came home to PEI in 2002, as he was feeling increasingly unsure of his health. He told the doctors about his pain and weight loss and was immediately put on anti-depressants. The pain continued and got worse and he was put on Vioxx and higher doses of anti-depressants. He did get referred to two other physicians and he had a colonoscopy and an endoscopy done in 2004 but they did not reveal anything. Donnie was referred to a doctor in Moncton in March of 2007. Here, he was told that his pain was "emotional", not physical. No tests were done or ordered. He was advised to seek counseling, to stop chewing gum, avoid fatty foods, stop smoking, and try acupuncture. The doctor reassured him of the benignancy of his condition.

Donnie returned home, devastated and distressed about the diagnosis. He continued to push himself to go to work. Donnie was a server at the Racino in Charlottetown. He worked so hard, going up and down flights of stairs carrying trays of food and dishes even though walking was increasingly difficult. Donnie spent most his off time in bed, cut off from family and life in general. Donnie tried so many things to help himself. He tried healing touch therapy, neuro modulation therapy in Riverview, NB, he went to a counselor to work on his "emotional pain", and he tried many dietary and nutritional changes as well. Donnie tried so hard last summer to get himself better, it is pitiful to remember. He was found, on more than one occasion at his home in the depths of despair over his ever worsening pain and physical deterioration. We, his family were so worried and confused. I live with the knowledge that I let him down. I was not there for him. I mistakenly or naively believed that the doctors were trying to do the right thing. We encouraged Donnie to continue pushing for help from his doctor and to ask for tests to be done, nothing was done. Donnie went to the ER twice last summer and both times was sent away with a prescription.

Finally, Donnie could work no more. He was now bent over at the waist constantly, with his hands on the floor, as this was the only position that he could tolerate. He goes again to his doctor and basically begs for a CT scan. The doctor surprisingly orders one at his request, but still feels it is unnecessary. The doctor again mentions the effects of depression and how they can cause pain. The doctor still believes it is all in Donnie's head. At this appointment Donnie weighed less than 120lbs. Donnie waits for the CT for several weeks, spending his days now with my parents because he is afraid to be alone. He knows that he is dying and tells my father this. October 4th, 2007 Donnie is told that he has cancer. The cancer is in the lymph nodes, the liver, the lungs, the pelvic bones and the tail of the pancreas. Donnie is given Oxycontin and goes home with my sister to tell my parents.

The next three months is an ordeal that I am still trying to come to grips with. I still cannot believe all that Donnie suffered. I never knew that a human being could have pain like that. I totally believed that there would be something to ease Donnie's pain, but there wasn't. He suffered every day. I went home for Thanksgiving after being told about Donnie's diagnosis. When I got to Donnie's house he was in bed in pain. The Oxycontin was not working. I took him to the hospital and this time we were not leaving until they helped Donnie. I took him from his home and he never returned. Donnie was finally admitted to the hospital. They kept increasing the Oxycontin and added Morphine every hour as needed along with a list of other drugs, but it never really got on top of the pain. Chemotherapy was ordered. Donnie had one round of Gemcitabine and then came the news that his cancer was not Adenocarcinoma but a neuro endocrine tumor of the pancreas. This is a very rare form of pancreatic cancer and these tumors are very slow-growing.

Donnie's chemo was changed to Streptozotocin and Doxorubicin. He had one treatment of this. It was decided just before his second treatment that chemotherapy was not helping and in fact could do more harm than good. Treatment was stopped. It was now just palliative care that was required. We managed to get Donnie into the Palliative Care Unit in Charlottetown. We were so happy to go there and so was Donnie. We were hopeful that here he would get the pain under control. His medications were changed and tinkered with constantly. Donnie was now on Methadone 3 times a day, a Versid pump, Buscopan, Sandostatatin, Sufentenol and Deladid every hour along with, Ativan, Lyrica and others that I cannot remember. His pain was never any lower than 5 out of 10 with many times throughout each day where it went to well over 10. It was a constant ringing for help from Donnie's room. The nurses were wonderful. We, Donnie's family, were there with him every day. We fed him, we looked after him, and we watched over him and tried to comfort him. That is all that we could do, just be there for him. My parents came every day. They were overcome with grief and disbelief. It took a lot out of them as they are both in their 80's but they came religiously and faithfully for Donnie. Thus was Donnie's journey.

The last five days that he was with us, he was in fact not really with us. His lungs were filling with fluid and he was given a drug to dry up the secretions. Donnie never talked to us again after this drug was started. Although, I am sure that he made eye contact with me and my sister on several occasions. We never left his side and someone was always holding his hand or touching him just so that he would know that he was never alone. He did not have a drink or a bite of food for the next five days.

He left us quietly around midnight on January 12th, 2008. I miss him terribly. I miss chatting with him. I miss his big laugh. It is still so raw. I think it always will be. I just hope that he knows how much I love him. I hope and pray that Donnie is at peace and that he is smiling down on us. We love him so much. The one thing that I take from this experience is that I will never wait for a doctor to order a test for me or someone in my family. I will be an advocate for private health care clinics, as they fill a void in our health care system. I have lost faith in the heath care that we are provided with and will be forever skeptical of doctors. This is a piece of writing that we found on Donnie's desk and I am going to share it with you.

"This is the darkest time of my life. The suffering is beyond. God bless me, Thy will be done. Let your angels help you. Help me my friends, please help me. Oh, Lord, take pity on this sad boy and help him."

Donnie

Lovingly remembered forever, Your Sister,

Lynn (Driscoll) Butler



Tuesday
Jan182011

Bart Goodes

My father was always a person you could count on and trust. My name is Lisa and I was, like so many others, Daddy’s little girl. An only child and brought into what I have come to know as the most amazing family possible. Till the day that he died, he still claimed his best birthday present was when they brought me home.

Like many others, my father had no symptoms. It was one day when I noticed that his glasses didn’t look right. There appeared to be a yellow film on them. When taking them off we realized it was his eyes that had the colour. From that day, it was always something that I knew deep in my gut would take my father from me.

The next day we started our roller coaster ride that led me to today. February 20th, 2008. Six days with out my dad.

The day after I noticed dad’s eyes, he was admitted to the hospital for some tests. That was Tuesday. Wednesday he was released and scheduled to come back on Thursday for a test. The doctor’s appointment was for Thursday at 3:00 pm. That was when Dad was told he had pancreatic cancer. There was a tumour attached to the pancreas and sitting on the bile duct. But, with dad’s health and age, he was a prime candidate for the Whipple surgery. What a relief. We waited over weekend to see a surgeon on Tuesday. He was then scheduled for a stint to be put in to take the jaundice out of his body. That all happened on the Friday. To this day I am amazed at how quickly our health care had taken care of Dad.

Surgery was set for Sept. 26th, 2007. The surgery was a success from all reports, which gave us all a sigh of relief. Mom and I were talking to Dad and the surgeon by 2:00 in the afternoon. We felt so good thinking that Dad was one of the 5 percent. After a few days he was taken out of CCU and put on a regular floor. From there he contracted some type of infection and was then moved back to CCU. We almost lost him that night. They did many tests on Dad in October and kept comparing them. All still looked well. Then, we finally received the news that they had tested nine of the lymph nodes. Six came back with cancerous cells. But again, we still seemed optimistic with all. Dad would receive chemo to kill/slow down any cells in his body. He is healthy and active. We had a good shot at beating this thing.

Chemo was scheduled and done and relatively he made out well. Not to bad, all in all. When the nurse came to the house one day to do the routine checks on Dad, she noticed that he had a fever. So, Mom took him to the hospital. They thought they would do a ct scan and an MRI. From there we learned that it was all through Dad’s liver. The doctors were amazed at how fast it had grown on his liver. From the first scan in October until December, it had taken over. Dad’s cancer was now terminal. Man those words hurt.

They still were going to do chemo. Gentle, palliative chemo but, still chemo. It was six weeks ago Thursday when he had his last chemo session. That was his last trip into the hospital. Dad never came back home after that. It was also January 30th when they told us that Dad’s liver had shut down. I spent as much time with him as I could. I have 2 children and a business to run along with a husband that works full time; my time with my father was limited. But, I can say, it was still time that I would never trade, or regret.

My father, through it all, always kept a stiff upper lip, a smile and, a thank you for every nurse, doctor or patient that he met.

I did meet one man who was brought into the same room as Dad and the words that he said that night to my Mom, Dad and I. I will never forget. His honesty and sincerity will stay with me forever like the love for my father. After telling this gentleman that it was pancreatic cancer, he broke down into tears and revealed that his best friend died of the same disease. He then knew the inevitable for Dad.

He said “Sir I can not pray for your health, but I can pray for you to have the strength to go through death.” His eyes then turned to mine and he stuttered in between his tears, “I pray for your family to have the strength to carry on without you.”

I hope that I can grant that man his prayers. I know that Dad had the strength to face his death, with Mom and I by his side.

I really hope that we can understand and bring some more awareness to this type of cancer. The numbers are mind shattering. And they don’t seem to be getting any better.

Lisa Goodes



Tuesday
Jan182011

Gary Martin

Gary Martin and his wife Darlene in front of city hall in Halifax in 2006. Mr. Martin died Sunday. (Ted Pritchard Staff)

TWO THIN ARMS reach up to me.

"C’mere" he commands gruffly, "give me a hug!"

Awkwardly, I lean over him, trying my best to comply but failing miserably. Gary Martin, 53, is so wasted with cancer, he can’t lever himself up from the hospital bed to allow me to get at him. Instead, I give his shoulders a quick squeeze and try to make a joke of my clumsiness.

"You’ll have to excuse me, Gary," I croak, "I’m a Brit and we just don’t do hugs properly."

Gary chuckles. "You did just fine," he assures me, fumbling with the tube that’s dripping the morphine into his arm.

Four years ago, this once bull of a man with a passion for life, in general, and his community, in particular, learned he had pancreatic cancer. Gary knew it was his death sentence but he and his doctors confronted it with everything they had, refusing to yield an inch without a fight. Sadly, it was a battle they couldn’t win. The disease spread to his lungs, his abdomen and, eventually, his brain. Now here he lies in the Victoria general hospital’s palliative care unit, his days ebbing.

Throughout it all, Gary has been buttressed by Darlene, his wife of 32 years, and their three grown daughters. Not to mention countless others.

When the story of his illness broke in late 2006, the family was overwhelmed by the support of those he’d touched during his 26 years as a policeman, including a spell as the force’s media relations officer, which is when our paths first crossed. There was also an outpouring of concern from all the residents he’d helped during his four years leading a special response team tasked with resolving community problems. Not to mention his all-too-brief spell on regional council.

"I’ve seen so much go on in this city," he reflects. "Oh, if this city only knew some of the things that have held people back and that aren’t really the way things are portrayed." He pauses, deep in thought for a moment, then changes tack. "I’ve had a very, very good life," he allows, "a very fortunate life with Halifax Regional Municipality and I’m very proud of our city."

Which doesn’t mean, however, that there haven’t been some aspects associated with public service that didn’t start getting to him. "It’s a fact," he marvels, "that our citizens don’t realize exactly what we have here, they really don’t!"

He tells me he’s visited places like Cuba and the U.S. and he knows just how bad things can be elsewhere. "I’m listening to people getting mugged in Disneyland, the kidnappings, accidents and hostage takings and I’m saying, ‘I’m getting calls on a daily basis about grass not being cut!’ " Or people calling, complaining about not having flower baskets hung along their street in summer.

"What a beautiful place we have," he exclaims. "Why in God’s name do people always look to the bad?"

As a councillor, he recalls, he felt driven to try and come up with ways to make life that little bit better and happier for residents. "I thought I could really make a difference in that field," he murmurs. "In some cases, I could, and in some cases, there was just no way, absolutely no way. Boy-oh-boy, that’s frustrating!"

His frustrations extend to the way the game of municipal politics is sometimes played in Halifax. He likens it to a cartoon, one in which councillors have one face for the media, playing hardball and demanding this and that for their districts, and then behaving completely the opposite, when the cameras are shut off. According to Gary, when councillors are out of the public eye, having a coffee or a meal together, the partisan tough talk disappears and they’re co-operating as a team. Once they return to the public spotlight, however, the factionalism resumes.

I ask Gary if he was ever guilty of this kind of behaviour. He shakes his head. "Not so much," he replies. "Normally, I just stay out of it. If you hear me say something, it’s usually something I’ve got my heart into."

Game-playing notwithstanding, Gary is extremely fond of his council colleagues. "Gloria McCluskey is the most heart-warming person I’ve ever met," he says. "She loves the people and hates seeing injustices. She’ll put on a tough front — no one messes with Gloria McCluskey— yet Gloria is the heart and soul of HRM."

He also has kind words for the mayor. "Peter Kelly puts on a strong front with things but, my gosh, when I talk with him, one-on-one for advice, it’s, ‘How are you going to do this for the people, that for the people?’ People don’t see it. It’s not reported that way. These are things the public doesn’t see."

He has little patience with people who feel his constituency of Bedford has been overly-favoured by council. "Show me what we’ve got," he challenges. "We don’t have a recreation centre; the one we had is gone. We’re closing the youth centre; one rink has closed (and) . . . we have less parks."

Gary was born in Halifax and his one big disappointment as a councillor has been the disappearance of his city as a corporate identity. "Why are we called HRM?" he asks, pulling a face. "What is HRM? We’re not even a city! Why aren’t we a city?"

Just check any of the media, he urges me. More often than not, HRM is referred to simply as Halifax. "Halifax, Halifax, Halifax!" he cries.

In Gary’s opinion, the cumbersome HRM appellation exists to pacify those people who’re still unhappy with losing their own identities through the 1996 amalgamation. "This is something we should be working on. How can we build ourselves as a community, as a strong community, when we can’t even figure out a name?"

Let’s become a city again, he urges, a strong city. It won’t mean Bedford, Dartmouth and the other communities will lose their names or identities. They’d still be very much part of the whole, as they are now. "Just give us back Halifax," he pleads. "That’s going to be my last kick of the cat."

Sadly, it wasn’t to be. A push to resurrect Halifax as a corporate entity was voted down by council, late last year. It was the only major battle Gary Martin, the plain-speaking people’s champion, ever lost. Until Sunday.

(pduffy@herald.ca)

’What a beautiful place we have. Why in God’s name do people always look to the bad?’ GARY MARTIN

Peter Duffy appears Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.



Tuesday
Jan182011

Remembering Daniel Ivey

I am writing this story for my dad, Daniel Ivey. My name is Michelle and I was a daddy’s girl that’s for sure. Being an only child, I got to spend a lot of time with my dad growing up. I have fond memories of going for drives with my dad to just about anywhere, my favourite memory being the time we drove from Calgary to Vancouver through the Rockies in 1986 on our way to Expo’86. My dad loved going for drives. We ate a lot of cherries on that trip and every time I eat them, I think of us sharing a big bag of cherries on our venture.

In April of this year (2007), my dad developed a sudden pain in his abdomen. He waited a few days to see if it would pass but it didn’t, it only got worst. He must off gone to the Emergency Room about 10 times between April and August and also a trip to his Doctor. The pain was so bad and my dad was losing weight and looking paler everyday. They started off with the obvious tests… X-rays, colonoscopy, endoscope, ultrasound etc. and everything came back fine. Every time he came home, he would come with another prescription for another painkiller but still no diagnosis. Finally, one day in July he went to the hospital once again with excruciating abdominal pain. The doctor working that day mentioned a possible tumour on his pancreas. Until that day, I had never really heard or new much about Pancreatic Cancer. Little did I know how much my world was about to change. A few days later he was at the hospital having a CAT scan and later that afternoon, the Doctor who he had seen in the Emergency Room phoned him and told him to come to the office and he could bring someone if he wanted to. My dad being my dad didn’t want to bother me at work so he went alone and waited for me to get home to tell me the news. There was a tumour on his pancreas and they had diagnosed him with Pancreatic Cancer. They booked him for an MRI for staging of the tumour. I prayed like you wouldn’t believe in those days leading up to his MRI. After my dad’s MRI, the Doctor who ordered it phoned him at home to say the radiologist could find nothing on his pancreas. They said that there was some fluid in his abdomen but his pancreas appeared to be fine and it was most likely not pancreatic cancer. The Doctor said that he would have to go for more tests, and have a biopsy of the fluid to determine the cause of his pain. We were so relieved! By this time, we had both been online reading about pancreatic cancer and didn’t like what we had read. I actually said to him that it was so good that it was not his pancreas and that we could handle anything as long as it wasn’t pancreatic cancer. He agreed.

A few more weeks went by as we waited for his appointment for his biopsy. As time went by, dad got worst and worst and could no longer go to work. His stomach filled with fluid (called Ascites) and the Emergency Room even sent him home one day saying it was only “Gas”. I am not a doctor but I knew enough to know that his belly wasn’t swollen due to gas. The following week, I took dad to see his own Doctor. Before we left, he packed his bags because we both knew that his Doctor would have to admit him. He was so swollen; he could barely move and was in so much pain. Sure enough, he was admitted to the hospital and one week later we had the results of the biopsy. Dad had pancreatic cancer. What a blow it was. First thinking he did have it, then being relieved that he didn’t have it and now, it is confirmed – My dad had pancreatic cancer.

In the next 6 weeks, dad went through a lot. It took a lot to get his pain under control and he had to be drained several times due to the build up of fluid in his abdomen. He tried Chemo but it made him too sick. We all knew it was not good, but we chose to stay positive and not give up. I spent a lot of time with my dad in those 6 weeks. I took a leave from work so I could be there with him. I was there for every meal and we had some great chats during his time he had left, although we never talked about him dying.

On October 14th 2007, my dad passed away. He had had a real good week the week before and he was doing so well, I actually thought maybe he was going to live longer than anticipated. It was a Wednesday afternoon that my dad suddenly fell real ill. I remember being at home for a rest and the phone rang and it was the hospital calling to tell me how sick he was. I thought this can’t be right; I just left there a few hours ago. 3 days later he lost his battle with Pancreatic Cancer. I was with him until the end and I never gave up hope.

My father was a great dad. He loved going for drives, he loved listening to music, he loved cooking different foods, he was a dedicated employee never missing anytime from work until his illness. He was a very intelligent man. He could watch the game show “Jeopardy” and would know every answer to every question. He was full of knowledge and in those final days, I really appreciated everything my dad had taught me.

Anytime I had a question or didn’t believe what someone had told me about some fact…I would call on my dad because he always had the answers. It is so unfortunate that he will not be here to enjoy grandchildren and teach them everything he taught me. There will always be something missing in my life. He would want more awareness and attention given to this horrible disease so I vow to educate as many people as possible about Pancreatic Cancer.



Tuesday
Jan182011

A Husband and Father Remembered

My Dad Dale Zwicker was my hero. He worked at Dalhousie where he made a lot of things for the university and he made parts for special buildings. Some things he made are the Dalhousie eagle crest, he helped design and make the rock climbing wall at Dalhousie, he made the roof on one of the dollar stores, and if you ever go to Dalhousie you'll see a lot of my dad's work. Dalhousie put his name on some of the things he made and probably in 100 years you'll still see his name in Dalhousie. My dad showed me how to do lots of things. He showed me how to use a pocket knife and he showed me how to fish. The third time I went fishing with him I caught a trout and I wanted to name it floppy. Every summer we went to the same campground because my dad's cousins lived by the campground so his brothers and sisters and himself went to the campground. My dad had a lot of brothers and sisters. My dad made a tree house in our front yard, he helped us make a camp in our woods, and he made houses and he told me there were flies as big as your thumb nail. He helped make a lot of people happy because of the houses he made. My dad told me a lot of things about when he was a kid. When he was a kid he made skateboards for himself and would make bows and arrows with his brothers, and he went fishing. When he was a teenager he was tall and skinny. He went fishing with his dad and caught a three foot trout. When he was is high school a bully kept on bullying everyone but when he tried to pick on my dad he stuck up for himself. My dad made rafts with his friends and took them out on ponds and lakes. One time when they were out on a private pond a ranger started coming so the had to jump off. Luckily they made it to shore and they didn't stop running until they were home. Since my dad taught me a lot of things I can use a pocket knife by myself and I can fish. He was the best dad ever.

This was my sons assignment for school in grade 4

My husband Dale Zwicker passed away Sept. 20, 2005 at age 47 with pancreas cancer. Suffering with bad stomach pain we made our way to the emergency room never crossing our minds what we were going to hear. I will never forget those words, you have cancer is what the doctor told us that night. They ran some more test and the next day we were told the cancer was spread from the pancreas to the liver, both kidneys and both lungs and his whole chest wall cavity. The Jan before he had a cat scan on his back because it had been bothering him and the cat scan showed nothing. My first reaction was we can fight this together but then our hope was faded when he was told there was no treatment option and he should go home and spend time with his children (11 and 9 at the time) and family. The next big thing was how do you tell the children so they understand when you cant understand it all yourself. The weeks following were difficult. Dale passed away peacefully 10 weeks Sept 20, 2005 after first being diagnosed. Since his death I have heard of so many others being touch by this type of cancer and it is hitting younger and younger people all the time. Research for this type of caner is very essential especially early diagnoses.