Thursday, 28 January 2016

A miracle discovery

Starting just after midnight, early the morning of Sunday November 29 the tests began at the Cardiac Unit in Sturgeon Hospital, St Albert. It started with a portable ultrasound of my chest area. But then a good night's sleep and no more tests on Sunday.

It transpired that my heart was in perfect condition, according to all the tests imaginable and a few more. However, the shortness of breath episode was really a miracle in disguise. If it had not been for that, I might not be alive today!

CT scans and detailed ultrasound scans began immediately Monday the 30th, discovering what appeared to be clots on my lungs. Then during the week further CT scans and ultrasounds determined that I had a tumour on my left kidney. And that a piece of it had broken off and had migrated up a major vein to my heart area. And cancer presence in the lung area accounted for what appeared as blood clots on my lungs.

After all these revelations, it was evident that I did not belong in the Cardiac Unit, but needed to be transferred to urology at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton. So Friday morning Dec 4th I was transferred by ambulance. I was put under the care of Dr Adrian Fairey, Urologic Surgeon.

Dr Fairey came to see me on Friday afternoon. He was very blunt and realistic in his message. He said, given the circumstances where part of that 7 cm tumour had migrated up near the heart, it was a miracle that I had not already died. He said that the situation was so dangerous I could die soon at any t ime. He recommended immediate surgery, a 4 to 6 hour surgery that would involve all three areas, to remove the left cancerous kidney, and to find and remove the piece of tumour near the heart, and to see what could be done initially in the lung area. 

Dr Fairey said there were only a handful of surgeons in Canada that would attempt this operation. There was a 10% chance I would die on the operating table. Was I willing to go through with it? I have immediate approval and signed the appropriate document. I wanted to live, and it seemed to me the operation was less dangerous than the status quo alternative, and then there was an opportunity for further treatment if I pulled through the operation.

By this time Sandra and daughter Lynn were with me at the Hospital. Also Sandra's family arrived in numbers! Vera and Blair, Sylvia and Alan, Shania and Bryce, Alana and Matt (from southern Alberta), Janice and Doug (from North Battleford). Vera, Sylvia and Janice took turns watching during the nights so Sandra could get some sleep. We were all very worried, but thankful for the miracle of shortness of breath and faintness in Inuvik that led to the real problem being identified, so few days before. Cancer is a silent killer, but #imstillalive!

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

How it all began

On November 27, 2015 I was simply walking along a street in the Arctic town of Inuvik in the early afternoon when I became very short of breath. I managed to walk home and slept for 1 1/2 hours until about 4:00 PM. I picked up my spouse Sandra who was walking home from work and reported the shortness of breath incident to her. As a result we went to the Inuvik hospital to the walk-in clinic shortly before 5:00 PM. I was taken to one of those little rooms to await the doctor. He finally came, took my blood pressure, asked me some questions about my shortness of breath, and then said - "You are not walking out of here, I am ordering a wheel chair." So that's life, I drive to the hospital for what I think is a routine checkup and am told: "you are not leaving." Good thing Sandra was there to drive the car home.

That evening I was given the preliminary diagnosis of heart attack, had some Xrays that didn't show anything and the decision was made to fly me south by medevac plane to Edmonton for treatment. 

The following day, Saturday the 28th, I left in the evening from Inuvik in a King Air and arrived at the Cardiac Unit in the Sturgeon Hospital at St Alberta just north of Edmonton at about midnight. I thought it was ironical that I have flown a King Air as copilot, but here I had to lie in the cargo bay on a stretcher! Sandra arrived the following day, Sunday the 29th on a scheduled Canadian North flight.

The neat thing is that it was discovered that I did not in fact have a heart attack. Yes, my heart was stressed, because it had trouble pushing all that blood around in my lungs, trying to get enough oxygen, that afternoon of Friday the 27th