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.