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.


  1. Our love, thoughts and prayers continue with you and Claire and A, E and G. We pray for peace, for pain relief and for wisdom for your medical team. We rejoice that you continue to show such gracious acceptance and dogged determination in this battle and that you continue to trust in Him who controls our destiny. Gentle hugs from the Gregory Clan.

  2. God bless you and your family, Jeremy. Your strength and faith are truly inspirational, and I wish you peace.

  3. Your strength lifts me up, your pain makes me cry, Your sharing is an incredible gift. Sent with much love

  4. Always positive, always inspirational , always teaching how to be better, always a friend to be proud of .

  5. My thoughts and prayers are with you Uncle. I teach with your daughter and always talk with her that your blogs really inspire me.

  6. Sometimes God keeps a good guy around longer than most. It's not always easy for the good guy. But God knows he will keep on doing great things. I'm glad Claire is there enjoying you and together doing good things. Your words help people because they are backed by faith and conviction. All the best to you, from the west side of Michigan.

  7. Jeremy such an inspiration in faith . So touching to see you serving at mass a few weeks ago. Prayers to you and your remarkably supportive family .

  8. You are such an inspiration to all who read your blogs. You are handling this difficult journey with faith, positivity and determination to make the most of whatever time you have left. I imagine God smiling down upon you and your precious family and seeing all of you through this. Praying for you every day.

  9. Please know you have a friend in Brazil [through your sister Patricia]. Sending you love, support and a strong brohug!

  10. Wow… What an awesome read. As I read it I can hear your voice. Your wit and your humor. Thanks for sharing. Hugs. Looking forward to connecting you with the nursing students. Coffee soon my friend.