Cancer – back to battle stations.

From prostatecancer.ca

Cancer is no stranger to the Murray household. My wife successfully battled two versions of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the first arriving in 2001 and the second in 2013. Thanks to an alert (and superb) family doctor and the world class expertise of Sunnybrook’s Odette Cancer Centre, she has made a complete recovery and leads a full life.

Imagine my annoyance and indignation to find that I too have cancer.

It started with a routine suggestion from my doctor to have a PSA test. This is a test that measures something called prostate-specific antigen. As men age, prostate antigen levels become higher. Cancer raises PSA levels too. I had resisted getting tested in the past because – well I just had. Put it down to boundless confidence in my immortality, some doubts about the test and yes, ignorance. About 12% of white men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetimes. For black men, the incidence is considerably higher while it’s lower for Asian men. The good news is that most men die with the disease rather than from it. The bad news is that it’s an unpleasant way to die. As some wit once said, “I’m not afraid of dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens”.

From Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.

Anyway, in response to my mild concern that something might be happening ‘down there’, the doctor suggested and I agreed to the test. The result was double the normal level for my age and the follow-up specialist recommended a biopsy. Prostate tissue samples can confirm but can’t eliminate a cancer diagnosis as the samples may not be from an affected area of the prostate.

The biopsy was done a week later in the specialist’s office. Without getting into the gory details, I was bent over a bench and it felt like an electric stapler barging around and firing inside my body. Definitely a moment requiring a stiff upper lip! Thankfully it was done quickly and efficiently. I waited three weeks for the results, expecting the ‘all clear’ and wasn’t particularly concerned.

The news was broken matter of factly in the specialist’s busy premises, “Out of the twelve samples we took, ten were cancerous”. I sat in a daze while he handed me a pamphlet and talked about a ‘Gleason Score’ (lower is better; my score was 7, indicating a moderate involvement – maximum is 10) along with probabilities and options for treatment. Luckily my wife was there and asked some pertinent questions.

Treatments for prostate cancer depend on how far it has progressed with options narrowing if the cancer has spread beyond the prostate. Basically the major options are:

  • Active surveillance if the involvement is low and / or the patient is older.
  • A radical  or partial prostatectomy (Removal of the prostate) if the cancer has not spread elsewhere.
  • Hormone treatment to suppress the body’s testosterone production. (Prostate cancer grows a lot slower in the absence of testosterone.)
  • Various radiation options to attack the cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy (These last three treatments can be used in combination.)
  • Palliative care -if the cancer is incurable.

Surgery is ineffective if the cancer has spread much beyond the prostate.

To determine treatment options, bone and soft tissue CAT scans were ordered. This was deja vu for my wife and brought back vivid memories of her own long agonizing hours spent in treatment and waiting for test results. After her first diagnosis she had radiation and in 2013, six chemotherapy treatments (every three weeks) with accompanying hair loss.

My CAT scans were clear indicating that the cancer hasn’t spread. What now? Luckily, I have the option to have the damned thing removed. This will likely eliminate the need for radiation and hormone treatments. The surgeon has ordered an MRI of the region so that he can plan his attack and the operation should take place in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, I’m 99% symptom free and a few weeks after the operation should be able to return to a ‘normal’ existence. I’m lucky that I have a loving wife to take care of me and access to a health care system that is second to none.

Note to men over 40: it’s probably a good idea to get a PSA test done so that a baseline reading can be established. The test isn’t totally reliable – see the diagram above – but it’s a useful diagnostic tool.

If members of your family have had prostate cancer you may be at increased risk. Early detection improves your chances and treatment options.

For more information go here.

Streety McStreetface

From nzherald.co.nz

A while back according to BlogTO, Toronto residents were asked to submit possible street names for the reconfigured Six Points area where Bloor, Kipling and Dundas used to merge in the form of a 1960’s dystopian mini expressway. The dystopian part is being demolished and replaced with some new streets and the city wants us to help with the naming via an online survey. Six hundred names were originally submitted by the public and the short list (chosen by city staff) is to say the least, interesting and contains a controversial name.

One of the contenders for your vote is the late local councillor and Mayor Rob Ford. According to the CBC, Rob Ford’s name was submitted for consideration, “…with a signed consent form from a representative of the Ford family”.

As if to steer voting towards the Premier’s brother, few of the remaining nine choices are compelling and even include the names of living people.

Here’s the list:

  1. Adobigok (Missisauga First Nation Word from which Etobicoke is derived.)
  2. Wadoopikang (Another Mississauga First Nation word – both mean, ‘Place where the alders grow’.)
  3. Biindagen (An Ojibway word – means ‘welcome’ or ‘come in’.)
  4. Darwyn Cooke (DC Comics artist and Etobicoke resident who died in 2016.)
  5. Diversity (From Toronto’s motto, ‘Diversity is our Strength’.)
  6. Jerry Howarth (Former Blue Jays broadcaster and current Etobicoke resident.)
  7. Dr. Judith Pilowsky (Etobicoke-based clinical psychologist.)
  8. Rob Ford (The late former Toronto councillor and mayor.)
  9. Westwood Theatre (A nondescript movie theatre in the Six Points area that was demolished in 1998.)
  10. Dr. W.K Fenton (Former Etobicoke medical Officer of Health 1938-1954.)

I must say, I’m not a fan of naming anything after people, living or dead. One era’s model citizens are the next era’s pariahs.

Sadly, we’ll never know if Streety McStreetface was a contender but I’m betting more than a few submitted the name.

Regardless, once the public has voted, city staff will determine the winners (just in case we haven’t voted the right way).

Vote for your completely representative choice here.

Open for business

Premier Doug Ford has returned from Florida with some new inspiration provided by Canada’s ‘11th province’. Doug seems to take his cultural lead from either Chicago where Deco Labels has a branch plant, or his Florida compound (Mar a Fordo?). According to rumours, the premier wants to truly make his mark on Ontario by re-jigging our licence plate motto. Some of us oldies can remember when it was ‘KEEP IT BEAUTIFUL’ and then the current, ‘YOURS TO DISCOVER’. Hell, I can even remember when we had to change the damned plates every year – everybody at the same time, front and back – in the middle of winter! Imagine the line-up at the liquor store on Christmas Eve – changing plates was similar, except people had to line-up outside and there was no booze at the end.

The trial balloon floated on Friday indicates that Mr. Ford is keen to change the slogan to a more capitalist, ‘OPEN FOR BUSINESS’. He also wants to get rid of that pesky front licence plate (just like Florida). One immediate benefit will be to give parking officers a little more in the way of exercise.

Perhaps readers can help Mr Ford come up with a better and more creative slogan for our car’s er, plate. Kindly place your suggestions in the comments section here, or on Facebook. Remember to keep it beautiful clean.

And finally

It’s been a fun photographic evening on WestonWeb. One more to go, with an an idea almost as old as the bike.

The photo below just appeared on the Toronto Public Library’s excellent photo stream. It shows Mike Barry, the recently-deceased father of Canadian cycling, riding a penny farthing.

From the TPL

The caption is:

Home of the bicycle: “Mike Barry rides a penny farthing, built in the late 1800s. Some Weston residents are hoping Weston will one day have a national cycling museum and hall of fame.”

The photo, and the article it accompanied, are from 1988.

30 years ago, the Weston BIA hatched a plan, hosted the first (and probably last) Weston Criterium, and started working on a mobile museum. They christened Weston “the home of the bicycle” and hoped to have a permanent museum underway within four years.

Clearly, it didn’t work.

But you know, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is today.

I think a cycling museum and hall of fame in Weston is a damned fine idea. Canada has a fine history of bike building and racing–and some of the best bikes in the world are still made here–but I don’t think there’s a proper museum anywhere in the country.

Norco, CCM, Rocky Mountain, Devinci, Mariposa and Cervélo are all Canadian brands, as are Cannondale, GT and Schwinn.

And bikes are beautiful. Sure, I’m a little biased, but I’d visit. Am I crazy?

Astonishing historical letters

The Weston Historical Society posted a link to The Canadian Letters and Images Project, which preserves letters from soldiers serving abroad.

One group of letters is from Bert Irwin, who was born in Weston. Irwin enlisted in 1915, and his brief letters are sad, occasionally charming, and completely terrifying. You must read them.

Irwin never seems to have believed in glory and honour of war. In a letter from what he calls “Hell” (his family looks to have added “Somme” to the top of the page letter, in pen) only four months into his time in Europe, he tells his parents, on small, pencilled pages, about a few of the things he has seen:

A big High explosive came near me and the flash and powder kind of got my goat and I thought I saw a big hole. I floundered into it on my head and it was only about a foot deep. I was like an ostrich then trying to bury my head in the mud. Just as I hit the bottom a big “dud” unexploded shell came over my shoulder half burying me. When I got back down the line to the old position it was all torn up but one dug out and two fellows were wounded and one shell shocked. I thought I was due for that but I didnt get it. I dont make any bones about saying Im darn scared of shells and anyone who says differently hasnt been there. Yesterday I was filling sand bags and I noticed a mule team on the cusp of the hill. The drivers were dismounted and seemed to be lost. I said to a fellow beside me, “They hadnt better stay there long” Just as said it a shell lit behind the waggon and scared them. They mounted and started off at the trot. I thought to myself “they’re getting out lucky” when a big fritz came shrieking down right into the centre of them. Five mules and two drivers were blown completely The other mule stood there and “hee hawd.” One leg was blown off. Somebody ran over and shot him.

These are the things he would share with his mother.

Irwin survived the Battle of the Somme–as well as Passchendaele and Vimy–and stayed at the front for two more years.


It wasn’t all horror. In June of 1918, Irwin wrestled another Canadian, and took joy in the licking he received:

I was in a wrestling bout for the Brigade yesterday. Went up against a fellow from B.C. who had one time been middleweight champion of Canada (I found this out after) Well I’m not ashamed to say he trimmed me up because he had the Science. All I’ve got is an imposing pose. I had him beat in that anyhow… I stuck it out for another round after that but he got me in the finish. So, bar having a lump on my forehead like an egg and a feeling all over like Id been skinned alive with a razor I dont feel too bad.

He was also arrested in Bologne for impersonating a sergeant so that he could ride in a better carriage.


In the last letters he wrote, he describes being hit.

He seems relieved–and seems to even wish his old friend, Cecil, who carried him to the dressing station–had been hit, too. ” I hope Cecil doesn’t get it”, he says. “I hated to see him go back.”

In the last sentence, of the last letter, he says, “I am in a fine hospital and am going to take my time getting better.”

Just another reason for optimism

Marion from the BIA sent along a bit of news I hadn’t heard: the Greater Toronto Airports Authority is working on a plan to make the Pearson airport area “Union Station West”—a second major hub for jobs and transit.

According to the GTAA, the airport alone employs 49,000 people, and the number is growing very fast. A further 250,000 people work in the area, making it the second-largest employment zone in Canada.¹ Yet almost 95% of the workers get there by car—and it’s a death zone for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users.

The GTAA is looking to fix that by building Toronto’s second major transit hub, just outside Terminals 1 and 3. This should improve commutes, draw employers, and smooth transit through the region.

What business is this of WestonWeb? Have a look at the map.

One of the seven transit routes planned to link up at Union Station West² currently makes it there: the UPX. We have a monopoly on commuter rail. Better, though: Three of the seven planned lines will stop in Weston or Mount Dennis.

Sure, it’s a dream right now, but as Union Station West grows, Weston and Mount Dennis are perfectly placed to be bedroom communities. A quick hop on a comfy, uncongested train could take you to your job uptown.


¹ I have my doubts about that last bit.

² They’re going to need another name.