Saturday, 26 December 2015

Jeremy Kelvin Tyrrell
February 05,1959 -  December 20, 2015
It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of our father, Deacon Jeremy Tyrrell who passed away away December 20, 2015 from Mesothelioma. For those of you who may or may not have known, our dad was diagnosed just over a year ago with the disease. We were fortunate enough to have our dad with us at home from the end of March until earlier this week when we moved him into Hospice where he has been comfortable and received quality round the clock care. On behalf of our family, we would like to extend a warm thank you to all of our closeste friends, parishioners, colleagues, health care professionals, and strangers who have expressed the warmest and kindest of thoughts, prayers, visits, gifts, and well wishes throughout Dad's progress. He would want you all to know that he was just as touched by your kindness as much as you have expressed how he impacted your lives. There was not one day where he did not remark on the overwhelming feedback he and our family have received during this time.  As it was in his nature, our dad remained selfless, ensuring that everyone was comfortable and taken care of,  putting himself second before everyone else, even while under Hospice care. Our dad's humour, quick wit and renowned professionalism remained the standard we have all come to know and admire even in his final days. His pride and dignity remained intact even as things began to change. Our dad passed away under the most comfortable conditions surrounded by his sisters, Pat and Maureen; his children, Andrew and his wife Katie, Emily and Graeme; and his loving wife Claire. ~~ Duc in Altum Dad.~

Hospice of Windsor Essex has been an incredible gift and experience for our father and our family. If you feel so inclined please make adoration to support this necessary service so it may continue to provide excellent care for other families. As our father was a devoted Deacon of the Diocese of London he felt strongly in support of St. Peter's Seminary in London, Ontario. Donations in support of the seminary would also be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, 26 November 2015


I had never felt pain like it before. I was pretty sure it was beyond anything I could have imagined. It couldn't possibly get worse. 

It got worse. 

No surprise really. The last chemotherapy was sometime in July. Some people can tell you exactly what day, the hour of the last drip.  Not us. Not our thing. 

The point is this. Without medical intervention there was nothing left but for the mesothelioma in my abdomen, lungs and lymph nodes, free and unrestricted to do its thing. Four in the morning.  Agony. Despair. I am not exaggerating. New pain, new beyond anything I've ever imagined possible. 

People tell me I look pretty good (considering). The brackets are mine; its kind of implied and frankly, not easily hidden. Considering...a one year prognosis and we're 11 months in...yeah you're damned right I look good!  (Considering). Truth is I'm into big time double-digit weight loss. I weighed now what I weighed in grade 9, gaunt visage and unnatural skinniness notwithstanding. 

The pain took more out of me than I could have imagined possible. It is truly debilitating. For a moment, just for a moment, even hope was briefly lost. I didn't give up on hope, I just couldn't remember where I'd left it...St Anthony!  A little help here!  

All is lost if one abandon hope. I didn't, I just lost it for a time. I can see how that could stick. 

Pain is Manageable
OK, enough. One does not have to live in pain as one lives the next stage of life, as one experiences end of life. I hope this is the one thing you'll remember from this; pain is manageable. There is no lack of dignity in palliative care, in fact for me there has been a tremendous amount of grace and dignity.  It is the very rare cancer patient whose pain cannot be managed. We are making headway and my days are not racked with pain.  For now we have the right cocktail of pain meds, and that cocktail is revisited as needed; when pain creeps back into my day. It's not ok. We address it immediately. 

Hospice care for Canadians who need it is essential.  The arguments in favour of physician assisted suicide are pretty damned close to those for decent, responsible and affordable palliative care.  A voice in the treatment of a life threatening illness. To die as comfortably as possible. To not extend life unreasonably; to not die with tubes; to not die alone; to die at home, to not die in a hospital, to die in a Hospice setting...where available.  

That someone is listening. That someone hears me...

In December 2014 Jeremy Tyrrell was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a disease considered to be incurable. He has already quietly outlived the initial prognosis of several months and attributes it to the love of God, the prayers of friends and family, and the wonder of traditional modern medicine.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

OK, I'll Do It

I'm damned near close to living on borrowed time.  We're coming up on the one-year anniversary of when my original tumour was discovered.  Statistics for mesothelioma indicate that if I should make it the full year, I won't be around a whole lot longer.  Statistics be damned!  Let's just live it out and see what happens.

Here's what happened about three months into the cancer journey, last spring.

Knowing I had an abdominal tumour,  I went for a CT scan and a follow-up appointment with an oncologist at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. We learned that the mesothelioma had spread and set up new encampment in my lungs and lymph nodes.  It was a major setback for us.

For three months I had shown fortitude living with my life-threatening cancer in the abdomen, did I have it for a deadly disease now spreading in my lungs (that explained the cough) and in my lymph nodes?  It was a dismal diagnosis.

And it was one week away from Holy Week.  Lent was winding down, a Lent lived more vividly this year than ever before.  I had spent the last six weeks prayerfully joining my life and death to Christ's.  I was focused, very deliberately asking for Jesus to accompany me and I would do my best to emulate him in the pain, suffering, loneliness, and betrayal he endured, in the faith, confidence and almost super-human strength with which he lived.

In an absolute daze, I stood up to shake the hand of my oncologist and her student nurse, who were clearly anxious to be done with me.  Claire hugged me, tears in her eyes.  Everything was in slow-motion, crystal clear and yet weirdly surreal.

And I heard the words come out of my mouth in a conversation that I didn't realize I'd been silently having with God until that very moment.

"OK. I'll do it."  Where'd that come from?  It didn't matter, it was true;  I would do it.  I will live with this nasty development with the same faith and hope that I had been showing so far.  (Later I asked Claire if she heard me speak; I know I distinctly heard me say it.  She hadn't.  It was truly a holy and private moment between me and God.  It was the moment I regained my direction after a slight misstep.)

OK, I'll do it, like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane on Holy Thursday, when he asked if God might consider lifting the death sentence he was about to receive, knowing He wouldn't.  Thy will be done,  I had been repeating endlessly for the last three months.  But things just got different.  Things were surreal at the very same time as being very real indeed.

OK. I'll do it, as chemo was proposed as a way to control, not cure, they disease.  OK. I'll do it, as my morning routine, or a walk around the block with the dog, becomes impossible without being connected to an oxygen tank.  OK. I'll do it, as I admit that my wife and kids have extra responsibilities that used to be all mine.  OK. I'll do it, as I have to decline most guests and visitors because my health is so tenuous.

OK. I'll do it, but you're going to be there, too.  Right?

Monday, 12 October 2015

Thankful...and Moving On...

Is it wrong to not feel particularly thankful this year at Thanksgiving, or throughout the year?  Ah...there you go. Some of you slipping into your soft shoes for the conversational two-step that lies ahead. "Do I tell him he's wrong to be ungrateful in our land of such plenty?  Do I tell him it's ok just this once, just for him to get down in the dumps?  He didn't actually say he was ungrateful, there's some nuance here, maybe if I parse my answer, what does parse mean....?  What do I say?  What does he mean?"

Look, I'm not ungrateful. Perhaps I have thankfulness fatigue on Thanksgiving weekend much the same way I weary of the frozen smiles on New Years Eve.  So what are we going on about here?

All That I Have
I mean that I know I come from a wealthy land and a wealthy family, comparatively speaking. I say thanks and ask for God's protection every day during morning prayers for all this and more.  Once upon a time, I traveled like a boss and took clients to the finest restaurants.  I have savoured the sweet smoky earthiness of the perfect scotch in one hand, the perfect cigar in the other, the perfect band on stage and a beautiful sunset on the patio, all at the same time.  I'd have a lot of autographs if I collected famous people's signatures; I don't.  My car works; both of my cars do and so did I before I got sick.  I own property (I told you I was wealthy!) My meds are covered. 

I met and married the most beautiful woman who gave birth to a most beautiful baby, three of them actually. One grew up to be the other most beautiful woman I know. 

I mean that for a brief period of time after I was ordained as a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, I was able to do the work of charity, liturgy and a touch of evangelizing here and there, and there, and dear God, even there....  I mean that God had my back. I mean that God feels so strongly of my work in palliative care, it is apparently His will I join the ranks of the dying while I am still busy living. I mean that I am blessed to have the strength of my faith tempted by despair, anger, discomfort and pain, fatigue and bewilderment. His will, not mine...   

God, I laugh when they tell me I'm courageous.

All That I Want...
I mean that it is a blessing that while I never took everything I had for granted, I am not burdened with a sense of impending loss, of sorrow, of doom.  I was never all that attached to the things of this earth, though I do appreciate a good car, a great steak, a decent glass of wine and a good laugh every now and then. 

...Is What God Wants For Me
I mean I give thanks to God for the things I have, and say prayers for the people I love.  Claire and I are blessed with adult children who share our faith, expressed in quiet thanks for the people in our lives, and absolute disregard (contempt?) for that which can be bought or sold.

In December 2014 Jeremy Tyrrell was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a disease considered to be incurable. He has already quietly outlived the initial prognosis of several months and attributes it to the love of God, the prayers of friends and family, and the wonder of traditional modern medicine.

Here is the Tyrrell family, anti-clockwise from the bottom; Claire, Jeremy, Andrew with his wife Katie, Emily, Graeme

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Das Beer

Many years ago I ran a successful, busy roadhouse on the east side of this industrious border city of Windsor, Ontario. Nice place, definitely not high-class. One afternoon my weekly management meeting was interrupted by our bartender.  We'd run out of a brand named, generic tasting draught beer and had no full kegs left to replace the empty one until our next delivery, days hence. We did, however have a full keg of a different, equally bland brand, just aft with the draught, waiting for the bartender to crack the seal, connect the CO2 and prime the lines.  Only a thirsty patron waving a fiver stood between this and a frosty mug of perfectly poured beer, and dammit if there wasn't a parched patron perched at the rail ordering a pint at that very moment. What to do?  I mean really, can anyone distinguish between big brewery ales or lagers, one from the other?  Can anyone but a sommelier distinguish the popular swill from carbonated Clydesdale piss?  (Hint: it's in the foam. Mr Ed as a lesser head.  Both will give you the trots)

And so I made the decision to swap in the alternate brand and sell it under the name of the 86'd brand until our next delivery.  (To '86' a product is to designate it out of stock and/or unavailable.)

The owner of the joint just happened to be present and he immediately overruled me. "What's the big deal?" I challenged back. He knew our clients as well as I did. "They'll never know the difference."

"One is the correct beer, the other is not," he said.  "We do not lie to our guests."  You can imagine my sheepish face after being deservedly reprimanded in front of my management team and our bartender.  

Meanwhile over at Volkswagen...
It's not on the same scale, but maybe it is;  I sure wish the owner of that small town chain of roadhouses had been running the diesel division at Volkswagen in these last few years.  Maybe the lesson in truth learned in a bar in Windsor might have made it to das Corner Office in Wolfsburg. 

It sure has followed me everywhere. 

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Life with Mesothelioma in the Fall of 2015

Six months ago I got a phone call from Princess Margaret Hospital advising me to hurry to my closest Emergency ward because of a newly discovered blood clot in my arm, one that subsequently traveled to my lungs.  Thus began 56 hours in the hospital and thus ended my professional life.  Within a short period thereafter began the chemo, and all that comes with it.  The chemo is over. All that comes with it?  Not so much. 

Confined mostly to my home for the past six months I have met with few, small but meaningful milestones along the way. I celebrate each of them.  I'm no A-type personality, but I was accustomed to an active, purposeful life. "Accomplishment" brings on a whole new meaning with terminal cancer. 

Imagine a guy who, a little over a year ago began most days with damned near three full sets of his own age in push-ups. That was 3 x 55, folks.  165 over the course of 15 mins or thereabouts. I have to imagine him too, because he's not me anymore, I am no longer he.  Today what once passed for the physique of a strong and healthy guy in his mid-fifties now looks more like my dad did at his sickest and shockingly thinnest, before he quietly died in his late 70s.

I'm Not Bragging, but...
But today I'm having a good day. I'm in good health and good spirits. The other day I walked to the  pharmacist at the end of the block and picked up my prescriptions rather than have them delivered. Alone. Without my oxygen tank! I couldn't wait to tell someone. 

Two weeks ago I sat and read in the backyard for about 45 minutes before the humidity forced me back inside for air conditioning. 

Three weeks ago I donned alb, stole and dalmatic and served at the 830 Mass.  I hadn't served at Mass in five months. Heck, I'd only attended twice.  Mind you it took me two days to recover. 

This is How We Do it...
My wife portions out twice-daily a buffet of pills and potions, each to control some conflicting side-effect or another, sometimes of the other. Chemo leads to anti-nausea drugs, which sometimes work. Strong opioids (pain killers) morning and evening affect the plumbing and lead to increased need of laxatives, or the opposite as the case may be; I have either in several varieties of remedies.  I pray the good Lord will spare you from constipation, you my good friend, you my mortal enemy. 

One of us injects me with blood thinners every morning. Right now it's Claire's turn to be nurse but I can self-inject, and do. 

That's 9 or 10 prescribed pills, potions and injections twice a day PLUS my multi-vitamin for guys my age. I can't imagine what they'd be pumping into me right now if anyone thought this mesothelioma was even remotely curable. It is not.  

Speaking of all the help from both my professional medical team and loving home team, we are careful to time my morning routine so that someone, either my wife or one of our three kids is home and standing by, ready to be traumatized if I slip and fall in the shower and they have to knock on that bathroom door.  "  You decent?  Please?"  Hasn't happened yet. 

A home nurse visits me 2 or 3 times a week in my home. Hospice of Windsor monitors and manages my pain levels and quality of life. Frank the Walkerville neighbourhood pharmacist is standing by for whatever I am prescribed next.  

Friends drop by for a coffee and sometimes, if I can, we head out for a bite at a cafe down the street from the aforementioned Walkerville Pharmacy, just past the antique shop and William's the green grocer. 

I consistently rate myself low to zero on the depression and anxiety scale at medical check-ins.

Physical exertion necessitates increased oxygen, and sometimes I supplement with a low-dose pain pill to open up the airways of my labouring, cancerous lungs. I go nowhere without an oxygen tank, except for a recent short walk to the pharmacist.

Too many opioids can lead to me repeating myself and have led to hallucinations, which are nowhere near as much fun as one might think. 

The cancer in my lymph nodes causes cold sweats and I have a pill which kicks in PDQ (pretty darned quick!). Fast, but not fast enough and sometimes I have to change out of my perspiration soaked clothes and shiver through a scalding shower that just isn't ever warm enough. My father suffered similarly in his final winter. 

As the days go by and chemo becomes an increasingly distant memory, the effects wear off (good and bad). Onset pain happens unexplicably, unpredictably. Lately I've enjoyed a better attention span. Now I can read and comprehend an entire chapter of a book at a time, and write short blog posts over several days. 

Using a news app, I scan the news and opinions in three newspapers a day and industry sources; the local Windsor Star and the national Globe and Mail newspaper I read from cover to cover.  Except for sports. I still don't care about sports.

 I no longer automatically fall asleep when reading and praying.   

And hey, I'm praying again in earnest; I couldn't.  Life is good. 

In December 2014 Jeremy Tyrrell was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a disease considered to be incurable. He has already quietly outlived the initial prognosis of several months and attributes it to the love of God, the prayers of friends and family, and the wonder of traditional modern medicine.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

What I Know, What With all this Time to Reflect...

Having been recently diagnosed with a terminal illness and having taken some time for introspective thought, I have learned that these I know to be truths.

I know you don't know what you know until you sit back and think about what you do know for sure. I've been doing that and I've discovered - I know stuff. 

Charting a Course
I know that sports, work, athletic endeavours and good old R&R are better when it's difficult. I know that pushing the limits of what you can do, to the point of seriously considering that this just might be the one time you've gone too far is the most fun you'll ever have. I'm no athlete, but I grew up sailing against the prevailing winds on the Bay of Quinte and in some ways have never stopped sailing into the wind. 

I know that sometimes there can be rocks just below a calm surface.  I know you can only spot them by taking your eyes off the horizon to pay attention to your immediate surroundings.  I know a small rock can cause a big enough gash to sink a good sized sail boat. No really, I know that. It can happen in an ocean or a Great Lake. I know it. 

I know a map and a compass can save your life.

Living a Life
I know that trimming your wayward hairs (nose, eyebrows, ears) can make you look 5 years younger.

I know that you should keep your wife satisfied in at least two rooms in your home and one of them is not optional. 

I know you should play full out. I know you should give your employer, your business, your volunteer efforts, your family, your God, your all; I know one should even take breaks purposefully, and full out.  I mean that nothing, ever, is going to be satisfying to anyone, especially yourself, at half-effort. Nothing. Ever. 

I know that the fear of making a CLM (Career Limiting Move) in the late 70s and early 80s was likely the most debilitating blow struck to professional ambition and creativity of all time, as millions of 30-something boomers kept our heads down and collars buttoned in fear and plotting against each other.

I know that if I'm not in the bottom half in any given gathering of peers... it's time to change peers. Or at least change rooms. 

I know that kids grow up.  But I also know you'll recognize the best and worst of your parenting when you go toe-to-toe over something that really matters when they do. 

Management and Leadership
I know you should stand up when you work, as often and for as long as possible. This is not just a metaphor, though it is that too. I know when you stand up you'll be more creative. I know you'll have more energy.  I know you'll negotiate better. I know others may mock you.

I know if you're not being mocked, challenged and mind-checked once in awhile, you're just not trying hard enough. Either that or it's time for new friends and coworkers who actually care about you, who actually care about your collective cause. 

I know that loyalty and obedience to a cause, a leader, a belief is liberating.  I know that a good direct report has the boss's back.  I know that manipulating the boss (aka "managing up") is a fool's game; counterproductive, disloyal, damaging to the team and far more blatantly obvious than any boss will ever let on. 

I wish I'd known that 20 years ago.  I wish someone had told me. I wish I could guarantee I'd have listened. 

I  know that bad management is almost always to blame. Conversely I know that excellence in management is the best and only hope. 

I know the guy with the biggest title on his business card is not necessarily the guy with the best plan. I know leadership can flow from many sources.  I know only a fool ignores it. I know because I've been the fool. 

I know the fool on the hill quietly sees even more than he lets on. I know that love is not all you need, but it's the last thing you should surrender. I know that if you didn't recognize the Beatles reference just there you have much for which to forgive your parents. 

I know you should forgive, often and early.  That was a Jesus reference.

I know that I've been wrong so often that these days I'm usually only right by default. 

I know one should probably not always go for the laugh but I also know that betwen you and me, if someone going to do it, it's gonna be me. 

I know there's no real good reason you should take anything I've said seriously. Except this....

The Last Word
I know...I know that finishing and beginning every day in prayer and meditation is a game changer. I know that attending Mass regularly (at least weekly) is the right thing to do, and I wish you knew that too. I think maybe you do, in your own way. 

I know that finding out you're going to die, soon, is a lot easier knowing you're not going through it alone. 

I know that finding out you're going to die, soon, is a lot easier to accept when you can't remember the last time you took a day for granted anyway.

I know that finding out I was going to die, soon, was a lot easier on me than it was on you. 

But I Also Know...
I know that it ain't about me. 

I don't know just how much else I don't know, but I do know this...

I know that God knows all, see all, knows me, knows you...and I'm cool with it.

In December 2014 Jeremy Tyrrell was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a disease considered to be incurable. He has already quietly outlived the initial prognosis of several months and attributes it to the love of God, the prayers of friends and family, and the wonder of traditional modern medicine

Monday, 14 September 2015

Refugee Does Not Mean "Bad"

The Syrian Refugees...
Believe me when I tell you; at any moment one can go from being self-sufficient, from providing for one's family, from being, dare I say it, borderline relying completely on the generosity of others even if only for a moment. From my little perch, wrapped in a prayer shawl and popping my daily dose of anti-nausea pills I know just how quickly it can all change, as it has for so many in the Middle East. 

As you may know, my diagnosis of mesothelioma in mid-December offered me a  +/- year to live, 9 months ago. Since then, to say I have been completely in control of my own destiny would be an outright, bald-faced lie. I can barely choose my preferred breakfast cereal without help sometimes. I can imagine that can be a bit burdensome for my caregivers, if not now, then it could be. 

There, But for the Grace of God
Any of us could find himself a refugee, from his home, because of his religious or political beliefs, we may find ourselves ostracized and alone and God help us, on the run. Any of us can suddenly be too sick to work and find ourselves drawing from a system I thought could never repay what I have contributed in good health for almost 4 decades. Not so. I might even be overdrawn at this point.

When we are down and out, pray that we will be welcomed and helped. Pray we will not be denied our dignity. Pray our children will have enough to eat, and not vilified and criticized and given the label "refugee" as if a pejorative. 

Think it can't happen to you?  Look into the eyes of a man struggling to find food and shelter for his family in Canada. This guy had a flat screen and three-square meals daily not that long ago (just like you and me), now he's begging and pleading for a chance in the northern hemisphere.

Pray we will be forgiven for those times we haven't welcomed others.  If prayer's not your thing, don't worry...we've got you covered. Those who do will pray out the first steps and all the others along the way, you just jump in with your chequebook and by volunteering to help. You'll find us already there too, but ready for a little assistance. 

Thursday, 27 August 2015

You Can Get Bad Service Locally, Too

I was looking at the flyer for a well-known, popular local furniture store (which shall go unnamed) and thinking about all the money we've saved there.  Or more to the point, the money we haven't spent there.  But don't think we haven't tried. 

A Couch, A Washer and Dryer...
That time we couldn't get anyone to talk to us when we were looking for a couch?  Mucho $$$ saved or more accurately, NOT SPENT, when we walked out after being ignored for over 20 minutes. Or how about the time we were looking at washers and dryers? $$ saved that day (but spent a few days later at a national department store with actual sales people and actual service.)  

Oh sure we've spent more money elsewhere, but that feeling of not being invisible is priceless.

Businesses are not charities and should not rely on playing the "local" card as they dole out substandard, bad service.  We are not obligated to cut them a break. People say we should support local businesses instead of shopping at multi-nationals.  Maybe... but only when we get exceptional quality and service. 

Otherwise we're not shopping. We're enabling.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Post Chemo follow-up August 2015

It's time for another update, but if I may cheat a bit, instead of composing an entirely new Blog entry, I thought I'd just share the contents of an email I sent to my friend John, who is the Director of Deacons for the Diocese of London. 

"Hi John.  Things are going well at the moment, thank you. 

Chemo ended three weeks ago and typically it's about now I would have received another dose, so it will be interesting (in a "my life depends on it" kind of way) to see how the cancer will behave without anything to impede the inevitable progression. I find myself short of breath and having to wear the O2 a bit more this week, but Claire reminds me that this is always the case in the days leading up to my chemo treatment.  If it gets worse is what I'm waiting to see.  I am glad chemo is over, it was brutal but from what I have seen and read I haven't had it as bad as most others. Looking around and seeing a few of the other patients in the chemo lounge every 3 weeks I realized how very fortunate I have been. 

It is, however, a bit frustrating to have to admit that I can't do all the things I once could. Last Friday I said to Claire that I felt great and I planned to serve at Mass the next day.  The next day I couldn't get out of bed for more than about an hour at a time so I didn't even get to Mass.  I'm dying to go to Red Lobster for shrimp, but I only managed 3 bites of Claire's amazing roast chicken last night, and besides, I don't have the energy to go to a restaurant. It's like I'm living one life in my mind, and a different life in reality. 

As you've patiently experienced John, I may be a bit stubborn and I may not catch on right away, but when I do I don't let go, and I'm all in. So let's pray I can reconcile the new normal sooner than later.  But that doesn't stop me from hoping I can make the diaconal ordination in November. At one time I wouldn't dream of making plans more than 2 weeks out, so the chemo treatment has offered hope. 

Overall, I'm still in good health and as always, in good spirits. I finally have the stamina to spend more of my day in prayer and that helps me stay connected with our deacon community.  Considering that at one time I was anticipating a June or August funeral (July is way too hot) I would say that the treatment has increased my life span just a bit. 

Thanks for checking in. Thanks again for coming to see us, and for offering a Mass on my behalf. I hope you are well, and please extend my best wishes to Susan. I will continue to pray for you as I do every day. "For those who herd cats in the name of the Good Shepherd, we pray..."


Deacon Jeremy Tyrrell

Sent from my Holy iPad