With cancer treatment done, the family heads for a new normal

After her ovarian cancer was found during the c-section birth of our son Gordon in April, and after six months of chemotherapy, multiple surgeries, complications and hospitalizations, my wife Amanda is recovering. Treatment is officially over.

She's still tired and easily fatigued. The chemo has left her anemic and with with lingering joint pain. Toward the end of the treatment, she was really feeling down. She seems to be coming back to her normal self.

It's clear the chemo has left some side effects behind: neuropathy -- nerve damage in her feet, mostly; some "chemo brain" symptoms that show up as she grabs the wrong words when trying to explain something, although that could be "mommy brain"; and an unclear situation about the abscess she had after one of the surgeries.

Her hair's starting to come back! That's nice to see.


As for what happens next -- we're not exactly sure. The thing about cancer treatment is that once you're done, it's considered cured....until it comes back. Doctors don't usually use the term "cured" -- they say it's NED or No Evidence of Disease. Sometimes it's called remission. There might still be something going on, but unless there's something in blood or a scan to say so, you're NED.

With ovarian cancer, my understanding is that they don't bend over backwards looking for a return. They don't scan you frequently or check your blood. The docs say the research shows that finding and treating new tumors as soon as they arise does not make for a better outcome. In other words, patients are usually the ones to keep an eye on their own symptoms.

If the cancer comes back -- and it usually does -- then the doctors might do something about it. Intervening with more surgery and more chemo early on tends to make the patient sicker for longer and does not extend life. What it tends to do is make the cancer resistant and make the patient more susceptible to the cumulative effects of chemotherapy. So, they wait until there's something significant to treat before treating anything.

Well, that sucks, doesn't it? How do you go forward living a full, happy life while knowing that something deadly might be making a comeback inside you?

We don't know yet. I guess we'll find out. I wish it were as simple as saying "Well, I'm glad *that's* over with! Whew!"

Amanda has transitioned from cancer patient to cancer survivor. But they don't throw you a party. They don't give you a certificate. They don't give you a badge or a bracelet.

We've learned a ton about cancer in the past eight months. What it is, how it spreads, how it's treated, and how frighteningly awful it is. We have not learned about cancer survivorship. We don't know how to live normally now. What's normal? How normal is the new normal?

The transition in our household is a more practical one now. From the beginning of this journey, we've had an enormous amount of help under our own roof. Amanda's mother and stepfather have stayed with us. Barb and Wendall took care of Gordon so we could sleep. They did laundry and cooked meals and mowed the lawn and did groceries and fixed things around the house. They made an unbearable situation less unbearable. But now it's time for them to get their own lives back.

Wendall returned home to Ontario a little over a week ago. It was hard for him, since he'd obviously become very close with Gordon -- "little dude" as he calls him.

Barb heads home on Friday. Gordon loves his Nana. I'm sure we'll feel lost without her around for a while. She knows all the little tricks to get him to sleep or make him giggle. She's been a mom for 35 years. We're still rookies.

But it's time for us to learn how to be 'normal' parents. We've been working in the past few weeks to assume most of the care of our boy. Yeah, I've had poop on my hands too many times. We're getting less sleep. But this is what parents do, right? Okay, most moms don't have a hard time getting out of bed because their nerves have been damaged badly enough that standing up is a pain. But that's *our* normal.

Barb and Wendall -- thank you. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you for making this possible. I can't imagine how hard this has been on you. And I can't imagine how hard it will be to be so far away from Gordon in the weeks and months to come. I know everyone in our family has been feeling this way to an extent -- helpless. We're here, they're there.

This transition from cancer-patient-and-caregivers to survivor-spouse-and-baby might be the biggest functional shift in the house since Gordon was born. It's going to be difficult but we're going to do it.

And, hey, about Gordon. He's almost eight months old now. He has two little teeth and two more coming in up top. He's very tall. He's eating all kinds of different foods now, and likes almost all of them. Almost. Here he is trying beef for the first time, after a major failure trying chicken just days earlier.



I know this blog ends up being read by people outside our immediate family. Do any survivors in similar circumstances have wisdom to share on getting on to the next stage of living? I'm sure we'll tap into some professional resources for this stuff, but I'd love to see a few pearls here.

Big changes at work, including no more Maritime Morning Weekend Edition

Yesterday was one of those days that happens from time to time in radio, but nobody wants to be part of. The company where I work laid off a bunch of people and made big changes to the programming schedule.

It's hard to say goodbye to Maritime Morning Weekend Edition, the show I've been hosting for nearly a year.

It's a lot harder to say goodbye to some terrific people who I got to work with for as long as eight years.

Erica Munn was my broadcast partner when we launched in 2005, co-hosting the afternoon news wheel. Erica has deeply-held convictions and has a beautiful voice. She's a zany character and definitely an original. The newsroom is already different without her here.

Scott Macintosh delivered our sportscasts from the first day. While most broadcasters make speaking errors from time to time, often several times a day, Scott only flubbed once or twice a year. He's professional, reliable, even-tempered and a genuinely nice guy. He worked the most brutal shifts and never complained. I hope he and his family are okay.

The audience is seeing Jordi Morgan as the headline loss. Jordi hosted Maritime Morning for the past several years after Andrew Krystal left for Toronto. He was a polarizing host. Some thought he was a right-wing shill, but others thought he was just right. Either way, people listened. Jordi's a smart guy and has always been very kind to me. I've enjoyed working with him. I'm not sure what he'll be doing next, but it will certainly be interesting.

Desiree Finhert was the longest-serving member of our reporting staff. Desiree is an avid learner. She was great at bringing new story ideas to the table. She threw herself fully into whatever she was doing. I was looking forward to her coming back. She is currently on maternity leave.

Amanda Debison has been filling Desiree's spot on contract. I've had the pleasure of working alongside her on weekend mornings, when I got to see how hard she worked to gather news from all over the region. She'd even go out after her shift and gather pictures and tape for more stories. Beyond that, she's hilarious and had me nearly passed out from laughter most weekends. I hope someone hires her soon.

Melissa Mancini took over production of The Rick Howe Show when Jenn Howell moved to Ontario. Melissa is wise beyond her years. She's sharp, and deep, and adept at getting the backstory and the good interview. She'll bring value to whoever brings her on board. She's also very kind, and I felt such sincerity when she'd ask me every day how my wife Amanda was doing. I'd gladly work with her again.

Meghan Groff becomes the new morning show editor. She's a level-headed and smart team player who always has an eye on protecting the product. After several years of working in the talk show pit producing Jordi's Maritime Morning and a lifetime of world travel to some interesting places, she brings humility, organizational savvy and a real sense of what's interesting to listeners. Everyone's eager to help her out and help her shine.

Also gone but not forgotten are Lite92.9 jock Jamie Paterson, Myrna in Creative, Mike Bridges in Production and Mike in Sales. The people who remain in those departments are going to be working a lot more.

Layoffs were also handed out at other stations in the chain. Some people I worked with for years in Toronto are now jobless. I'm told our station in Ottawa was also thinned out.

These days are awful. I feel survivor guilt for still being here, but I'm grateful to still be employed.

The station has retooled the broadcast day with fewer people in an effort aimed at survival and ultimately profitability. It's hard. It's a full reset. I know a lot of listeners will be turned off at first. I get it. We come into peoples' homes and cars and headphones and then it all changes. It's hard for them. It's hard for us. We've lost people we spend more time with than our families.

So, the morning news wheel will run from 5am to 9am with Dan Ahlstrand and Brynn Langille. The Rick Howe Show moves to mornings, from 9am-1pm. Hockey Central will come from Sportsnet in Toronto from 1pm to 2pm. Todd Veinotte's show will be on from 2pm-6pm, then Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown.

As for me -- I'll be doing news updates from Monday to Friday. I'm also the new Web Editor and will have afternoon news updates on Lite92.9.

That means the end, for now, of Maritime Morning Weekend Edition. It might come back some time in the future, but we need to rebuild a solid base for the station before bringing back what was obviously a popular show.

I want to thank Erin Trafford, Brett Ruskin and Allison White for developing the show before I took it over last fall after Erin moved to TV. Thanks to Allison and Jenn MacNeil for producing the show over the past year or so. I know I'm not the most organized and I'm not the best at generating ideas. You've been very kind to me. I couldn't have gone on the air without your help.

Big thanks go out to our regular guests: HRP PC Don Jenkins with Crime Stoppers, Matt Corkum from halifaxtech.ca for explaining the technology that makes life fun, Jeremy Webb from Off the Leash for getting me out of the house and into the theatre, Dr. Chris Killacky for bringing ethical insight into the news, Roger Haineault from Taxfilers for giving insight to business from sometimes exotic locations, Tom Clark from Global News for taking time out of his pre-production on The West Block for explaining national affairs, dog trainer Tristan Flynn from Jollytails for developing the popular K9 Connection segment, and Harv Stewart for being so patient with me on sports.

Thank you to all the guests who've joined us by phone or in studio. I've had such great conversations on topics from the silly to the deadly serious. I've learned a lot. I think we've entertained people and even helped some. It's been a pleasure being able to share your stories.

Thanks, especially, to all the listeners. I worried that no one was listening, but every time we opened the phone lines for a contest, every line filled up immediately. I know people were listening. Thanks to those who phoned and wrote and tweeted. I like to think I gave everyone a fair shot, even Conspiracy Bob. Okay, I was harsh with the chemtrails guy, but he's just about the only one who deserved it.

Not every show was perfect, but it was getting better and better. We had some really great segments.

Is it over forever? Maybe not. Will I keep doing talk? Yes, I'll be filling in for Rick Howe when he's off. There's always the possibility that other time slots will become available. I'm open to it. I enjoyed doing the program and I think I did a good job.

Changes like these are difficult. I hope for the best for everyone who lost their jobs yesterday.

I hope the listeners will be understanding and not give up on News95.7. The people who remain are going to work hard to maintain the trust that has been built over the past eight years, and continuing the tradition of information and entertainment that has made the station part of the local fabric.

Stick around. As company founder Ted Rogers used to say, "The best is yet to come."

Today was my last day at work, and I'm okay with that

Today marks a weird spot on the calendar for me. It’s one of those landmarks that really doesn’t mean anything, other than to illustrate the...