Chasing a Dream

My temporary digs in Toronto                                                                                                             (Photo by Danny)

During the Spring of 2017, I separated from a forty year marriage and began planning a new life for Holly Golightly and me.  And as much as it pains me to write about such a private matter, I wanted to be very clear about one thing – it was not because of infidelity or anything nasty or sinister.  It’s been something I’d been wrestling with for several years and I was very unhappy, which resulted in an unhappy relationship for both of us.  I am not coming out of any closet – and I am totally straight – I just want for both of us to have happiness in our lives.

I decided to wait until my wife retired in December before leaving and we continue to share the same house, although we’ve had separate bedrooms and haven’t been intimate for many years.  We decided to list our house in the New Year and expect to have it on the market within the next few days.  We will be dividing everything equally, but I won’t be purchasing another home.  I wish her well, and that’s all I have to say on this matter.


In December, during one of my walks with the Surrey Trekkers and Vancouver Venturers Volkssport Clubs, I was chatting with my friend Frank S. about my future plans regarding housing options in Vancouver and he came up with a few recommendations that were very interesting.   But first, I had to resolve a pressing question, namely: ‘Where do I want to live?’  I had already decided to rent instead of buying but knew that it would be a challenge to find a place that allows dogs.  And I wasn’t sure if I wanted to remain in Vancouver – despite the fact that it is the best place on Earth – it is also very expensive.  So I started thinking about Vancouver Island and/or the Sunshine Coast.  But there was this silent voice from within, that urged me to consider my birthplace in Southern, Ontario.   That same voice reminded me of the secret dream I’ve had for many years, but shared with no one.  And now, I could begin chasing my dream!

But first, I had an appointment for a CT Scan on my lungs on January 12th.  A year and a half ago, they found two small spots on my right lung, and my oncologist wanted to compare the size of the spots after six months.  In February 2017, the CT Scan showed that the two spots were still in the upper chamber but now there were two additional spots on the lower chamber of the right lung!  Dr. K. scheduled my next CT Scan for September but by August, I was going through a lot of stress because of the separation and Holly’s illness and subsequent surgery.  I decided not to go for the scan or the follow-up appointment.  And I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even call to cancel those appointments.

I stopped my daily walks and continued to slide into a deeper depression, aka feeling sorry for myself.  I had stopped communicating with my brothers and sisters for more than a year but fortunately, I still had my family at the Fraser Valley Cancer Centre in Surrey, whom I love dearly; and my best friends’ Norm and Robert – who I consider the older brothers I never had but always wanted.  But as close as these people are to me – I haven’t shared my dream with anyone – it’s always been a secret.

They say there are three types of secrets that we all possess, namely:

  1. Secrets we share with family
  2. Secrets we share with best friends
  3. Secrets we keep hidden deep within 

But all of that changed in early October when I learned about the Surrey Trekkers Volkssport Club.  And just as the BC Cancer Agency had saved my life eight years ago – this walking/hiking club dragged me out of the darkness and into a world of smiles and friendship!  We walk three times a week at various locations in the Lower Mainland and Washington State.  I also joined the Vancouver Venturers Volkssport Club and I’m a member of the Washington Trail Association.  Walking with these clubs has been an effective treatment because amazingly, I lost the depression during my first walk with the Surrey Trekkers.  It has been the best thing that I have done for myself – in a very long time and I’ll be writing a lot more about it in the future!  


Chasing a Dream

The snowbirds had already begun the migration to a warmer climate in early December, and several other flocks would be leaving in January, after spending the Holiday Season at home with friends and family.  But I, on the other hand, decided to travel to a colder place – Toronto, Ontario.  You should have seen the look on the faces of my fellow walkers when they learned about my plans to visit the land of ice, snow and frigid temperatures (and people).

‘Danny, why are you going to Toronto?’ they’d ask politely while trying not to roll their eyes in shock and disbelief.

Someone once said, “It’s better to keep your mouth shut and be thought of as a fool – than to open it and remove all doubt!”  But I’m not sure the warning applies to the written word.  But in any event, here are the reasons why I’m visiting Ontario for three weeks in January.  I want to find answers to the following questions, namely:

  • Would I be able to live in Ontario, after leaving thirty-six years ago?  

A lot has changed over the years.  I’ve always liked Ontario but I like the West Coast best, followed by the East Coast.

  • Could I live in ‘downtown’ Toronto? 

I last lived in Toronto in 1974.  It was in a high-rise apartment in Etobicoke at the end of the subway line.   But I want to stay in the heart of downtown Toronto, preferably in the harbor area with an unobstructed view of Lake Ontario.

  • Would Holly and I be happy living in a high rise condo or apartment rental?

Holly is twelve years old and needs to be able to go outside when Nature calls.  But I’ve seen lots of people in Robert’s old apartment building with dogs, so it’s a possibility.  But my preference would be something on the ground level with a bit of an enclosed patio or balcony, so it will be easier for both the dog and me.  The experience will be valuable regardless of what city I choose to live.

  • Could I give up my vehicle and rely on transit? 

I’m getting older and finding it more difficult and stressful, driving in rush hours and/or in heavy traffic and driving in the dark.  I also have less patience with ignorant drivers, who seemed to become more plentiful in recent times.  I’d rather just rent a car for the day when I need it and walk or take transit as my normal mode of travel.  You also see more when you’re a passenger. 

  • Could I endure the cold, cold winters?

I’ve already answered that question.  NO!  But I’m hoping to go south during the winters, so this isn’t a factor.  


But Danny, how are you going to afford a hotel in downtown Toronto for three weeks?

Relax, Spanky – I’ve done some online research – comparing the cost of hotels vs AirNB.  And in so doing, it didn’t take long to realize that I could rent a condo for about half of what it would cost to rent a hotel room, as well as other advantages, including: 

  • Avoid the cost of staying in a hotel with no refrigerator or stove to make my special meals
  • I also compared AirNB vs Craigslist
    • AirNB gave much more info and pictures and better variety of choices and only featured listings that were available Jan 13-31st
    • No idea if Craigslist listings were accurate vs AirNB – so I went with the better known of the two choices
    • I’d be living with condo residents vs hotel guests – because they’d be friendlier if they thought I was a new neighbor
    • Having a washer and dryer was an added bonus to avoid dry cleaning bills – pack fewer clothes

I found a condo in a high-rise on York Street and Queens Quay – with an unobstructed view of the lake and just a few blocks from Union Station, Air Canada Centre and of course, the iconic CN Tower.  The cost per night was $113.   But the fee was non-refundable after I took possession, so I hoped the pictures and info were accurate.  I booked the condo from January 13 – 3oth and paid in advance.  I also planned to stay in a hotel at the Toronto Airport on January 3oth to avoid the next day rush to get to the airport.

I also booked my flight and chose Premium Seating vs Economy.  I used to travel Business Class when I was working – but that was when I had Super Elite and Elite status with Aeroplan and had lots of upgrade certificates.

Friday, January 12, 2018 

I went to Surrey Memorial Hospital at 8:00 AM for my CT Scan.  They inject a dye intravenously into you and then you feel a sudden, warm rush throughout your body.  The dye reacts to any cancer cells that are present and makes cancer visible.  The scan doesn’t take too long – and I’ve had many of them over the past eight years.  I asked Dr. Karvat’s secretary to book the follow-up appointment for February 2, 2018, so I could do the trip to Ontario.  All I could think about during the scan was my trip to Ontario the next day and finally, chasing a dream – my dream!

Now that you’ve got a little background but before we start this journey together – you might want to fasten your seatbelt, stand behind the sneeze guard and hang on tightly because I have no idea how or when this story is going to end!


Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge was the perfect place to wait for my plane to begin boarding and I was thankful that I had upgraded to business class.  During the last fifteen years of my career with General Motors of Canada Limited, I was a frequent flyer and obtained Aeroplan Elite or Super Elite status every year – which meant lots of free upgrade certificates – priority boarding and unlimited access to the Maple Leaf Lounge.  So even when I had the lowest fare – I still had all of those benefits. 

The lounge has a self-serve bar & beverage service, food, and snacks; workstations, desks, magazines, newspapers, and television to watch while waiting for your plane to board.  Although retired for thirteen years, and I no longer have access to free upgrades – there is the option when traveling by Air Canada to purchase access to the Maple Leaf Lounge for $50 – even if you’re flying in Economy Class.  It’s a great option, to consider when traveling economy class.

We boarded the 787 plane, and I had a private domain – complete with a seat that became a bed, TV monitor and desk; headphones, remote control – and the unit is both a window and aisle location; with nobody sitting on either side of me. 

The flight attendant soon arrived with a glass of orange juice and a breakfast menu.  I explained that I’m not able to eat solid food but if they had a yogurt or ice cream – I’d be happy with either.  She also offered me a newspaper from Australia – which is where the plane had originated from earlier. 

Soon we were 39,000 feet in the air, and I had my headphones on and listening to one of my Eagles tunes, and they began serving breakfast.  I could tell by the heavenly fragrance – they were serving pancakes and sausages.  The flight attendant brought me a yogurt with the saddest expression on her young face.

‘Are you sure that I can’t bring you something else?’ she whispered.

I thought about asking for a cocktail, but I seldom drink alcohol anymore because it burns my throat.  Back in the day, I would have ordered a double vodka on ice, with a dash of 7Up for color.  

‘No, but can I ask you a question?’ I whispered, ‘do you know Captain Joe G.?’

Immediately, her eyes lit up, and she was smiling from ear to ear.  We talked about our mutual friend and how Joe and his wife, Brenda, were my neighbors when I lived in Bedford, Nova Scotia (1989-’92).  Joe has been an Air Canada pilot for many years; we used to run into each other when he flew Dash 8’s with Air Nova in the 80’s.  It’s why I usually fly Air Canada – to support a buddy’s employment – and he always drove a GM product.  Brenda’s father was the regional manager of GMAC, which was also a connection.

I tried to configure the seat into a bed but couldn’t sleep a wink – I was too excited.  I decided to listen to one of the playlists of music on my laptop.  Next, to breathing, music is a ‘must have,’ and I have a library of over 10,000 songs – all of which I purchased.  I have never downloaded music or movies for free – artists deserve to get paid for their work and pirating is unconscionable.  Would you work if your employer decided not to pay you?   Me thinks, not!

The pilot’s voice suddenly shattered a hot daydream I was having.  He announced that we were about to land and the temperature was minus 35 degrees Celsius, with the windchill factor!  A large gasp of shock and disappointment erupted from the passengers.  ‘Where did they think we were landing – Hawaii?’, I thought.

Soon we were at the gate, and I was first off of the plane and racing to the luggage carousel to retrieve my suitcases.  After getting my bags, I went outside to get a limo and just about froze! 

On the drive downtown, I called Ramy G., the owner of the condo apartment, to confirm the address on York Street.  He told me to ring his buzzer when I got to the lobby of the building, and he would buzz me in.  He said that the apartment was open and the keys were on the kitchen counter.

The condo complex was actually two large high rises connected by a large lobby on the main floor.  It appeared to be a fairly new facility and it had two security people on the lobby desk, so I felt safe and secure.  ‘So far, so good!’ I thought.

I rang the buzzer to Ramy’s suite.  He buzzed me into the building and I headed to the elevator.  The apartment was on the 35th floor.  I had no sooner opened the door to the apartment when I heard the sirens from the street below.  I quickly dropped my suitcases on the floor and ran to the balcony door to see if the fire trucks were stopping at this complex. 

And that’s when I got the next shock! 

There was a sliding door to the balcony but the balcony itself was only 18 inches wide!  Not a lot of space to do anything but stand – and it was definitely too cold to do that! 

And although the sirens weren’t for this building, it made me wonder how I would ever be saved in the event of a fire; there isn’t a ladder tall enough in Toronto, that could even reach the 35th floor and there aren’t enough sheets in the condo to tie together to climb down thirty-five floors, either!

I looked around the condo and although it was very small – it appeared to have everything I’d need for my three-week stay.  I was dead tired but wanted to catch the evening news on the television and that’s when I got the next surprise – the tv didn’t get regular network or cable stations!  There was only a menu to view Netflix and other video/game options.  I tried various options but couldn’t find an option to view regular channels, so I called Ramy and asked how to get the television working.  He explained that it wasn’t a regular television but he would come to the condo in the morning to explain how to use it.  I was too tired to argue, so I started to unpack.  But there wasn’t even a dresser for my clothes – just one small end table with two drawers, beside the bed.  

‘Caveat emptor,’ I thought to myself and decided to unpack in the morning, instead.

But the bed was comfortable and within seconds, I was counting sheep.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

I awoke very early in the morning – despite the three hour difference in time zones.   The first day of a vacation is like the last day of school in June or the last day of work before retiring – and the Little Danny inside of me was excited at the thought of watching his first sunrise from the 35th floor of a lakefront condo in downtown Toronto!

I finished unpacking, made myself a protein smoothie and then took a shower and it was still dark!  But after pouring my third cup of coffee, I noticed the first rays of sunlight break-dancing on the eastern horizon.  I grabbed my cell phone and took a few pictures but forgot to open the screen door, so the photo isn’t going to win any awards but it will at least give you a sense of the location of the condo and the waterfront.

Morning sunrise from condo

I tried to figure out the television again but despite my best efforts – I couldn’t even get the menu to appear on the screen – just an error message.  It was too early to call Ramy, so I decided to start writing updates of my trip and posting them on my Facebook and Twitter pages.  I also started to send out emails and text messages to my friends in Southern Ontario – with invitations to get together during my stay.  I even had a place to entertain guests!  But there was one thing missing in the condo – and that was my Holly Golightly!  I have never been away from her for three weeks and I know how much we’ll miss each other but I also knew that I had to put thoughts of her away or I’d be torturing myself with guilt and despair.

I decided to book a car rental online and went to the Costco website because their rates were the most competitive and I was able to get a great deal with Enterprise, which had a location across from Union Station – which was within a few blocks of the condo.  I arranged to get the car at Noon and spent the rest of the morning trying to get the television working.  At about mid-morning, I called Ramy and asked him about the television again.  I also told him that the condo didn’t appear to be very clean, which he was surprised to hear.  He said that he was out-of-town and wouldn’t be back in Toronto until the next day but that he would send someone up to the condo in ten minutes, to resolve any issues I had.  He also said that the person would also give me a remote control to open the underground parking.  

I waited until late morning but nobody appeared so I decided to walk over to the Enterprise office to pick up my car rental.  As I was going down the elevator, every time it stopped and people entered the elevator, I would nod and/or say hello.  But everyone avoided eye contact and ignored my greeting, except one person with a large dog – the dog growled at me!  It’s not often that I’ve had a dog growl at me – I normally get along with all dogs.  But the dog only learns what it’s master teaches and I was about to dismiss the incident when suddenly I heard the dog owner’s friendly voice.

‘He’s a rescue dog – from Texas, and we’re his temporary foster home,’ the man spoke quietly.  

He was a tall, bearded man – about middle-aged and he was well-dressed.  It was Sunday – I wondered where he was going with his dog but didn’t ask.  Instead, I told him how wonderful it was to meet another dog owner and flashed a picture of Holly from my cell phone.  I was tempted to make up a story about saving Holly from some disaster but the truth was actually the opposite – she was with me 24/7 during my cancer treatments and recovery period, several years ago, and she’s never left my side since.  We said our goodbyes and I watched the pair walk down the hall ahead of me.  Every few steps, the dog would turn to see if I was coming with them.  It made me both sad and envious.

I walked out the lobby door of the building and into the freezing cold.  I had dressed warmly but nothing could prepare me for the frigid temperatures.  I walked up York Street to Front Street and then walked passed Union Station until I got to the Bay Street shopping mall.  I was surprised at how quiet the mall was but remembered that it was Sunday – maybe everyone’s at church, I thought.  But when I arrived at the Enterprise storefront office,  a sign on the door advised customers to go to the depot, located in the basement to meet the agent on duty.  Within several minutes I was standing at the Enterprise Kiosk.

‘Good afternoon, I have a reservation,’ I announced, somewhat proudly.

‘Sorry, we’re all booked!’ the agent replied.

‘But I have a reservation,’ I protested.  I just booked it online a couple of hours ago on Costco.  How could you possibly be completely booked?  What about the car that was reserved for me?  Did you rent it to someone else?’ 

I was starting to get upset. 

‘I just about froze my kahunas walking here in the freezing cold, and you’re telling me you’re sorry?  Well, I’m going to call Costco and complain about Enterprise double-booking rentals.

‘Sir, Enterprise didn’t double book – your issue is with Costco.  If they had checked our inventory – they would’ve found that we had no vehicles available.  And that’s not our problem – it’s theirs!’

I stormed out of his office, swearing under my breath and began the walk back to the condo.  But I was so hot from being angry that I hardly noticed the sub-zero temperatures.  When I got back to the condo lobby, one of the security guards mentioned that the temperature was minus 35 degrees Celcius, with the windchill factor!  By the way, am I the only guy who used to call it the ‘windshield factor’?  

When I got back inside the condo, I called Costco Travel and spoke to an agent about the fact that I had just frozen my kahunas in the freezing cold because Costco had screwed up on reserving me a vehicle.  The agent I spoke to had little sympathy and offered to find me another vehicle. 

‘No, I called to complain.  I want to speak to your supervisor so I can lodge a formal customer complaint – so that this isn’t repeated again.’  But he put me on hold and I waited and waited.  I was getting too upset and decided to just hang up and reserve a vehicle on my own.  But it was now mid-afternoon, so I decided to schedule the pickup for the next day – but this time with Budget.  

I spent the rest of the day on my laptop sending and receiving messages.  Later, I took a stroll to the Sobeys store to buy some supplies including fresh soup, yogurt, Pellegrino, ice cream and Ensure.  This is what I’ve been living on every day, since 2009.  I noticed two pubs in the same mall and thought about going inside to watch the news but both places had sports programs playing for their patrons – so I wouldn’t be able to watch the news or weather, for yet another day.  I’m starting to go through ‘withdrawal’ without being able to watch my favorite television programs (especially MSNBC, SPORTSNET  & HBO).  If I can last three weeks without watching network television – maybe that would be worth it.  I spend far too much time watching television and following US Politics – so, it’s probably just as well.

Monday, January 15, 2018

After my usual morning routine, I turned on the laptop and began reading my emails and updating my social media pages.  I called Ramy and told him that I would be picking up a vehicle and needed the remote control for the parking garage.  I also explained that despite his promise that someone would come to show me how to use the television – nobody had come!  He assured me that he would make everything right but that he was in his car and outside the city but expected to be back at the condo in about an hour.  He would bring me the remote at that time.  I thanked him and said goodbye.

About thirty minutes later, I heard a sudden knock on my condo door.  I couldn’t be sure if it was at my door or the neighbors but whoever was knocking – he/she seemed angry.  And then, a few seconds later, the knocking started again!  And now it sounded like it was coming from the neighbors.  Or had it? 

I began wondering things like:

  • maybe it’s the paperboy collecting?  Or
  • maybe it’s a police raid and they’re about to bust down the door? Or
  • maybe it’s a jealous husband or wife?  Or
  • maybe I’m just hearing things…

Suddenly, the knocking became louder and more aggressive. 

I quietly tiptoed to the door and peeked through the peephole and noticed a short, elderly man standing outside my door.  He had a remote control device in his hand.  He didn’t appear to be the same person as the one pictured on the AirNB ad but I wasn’t sure.  I opened the door.

‘Ramy?’, I asked.

‘No, Ramy’s dead!’, the man explained.

WTF!  I couldn’t believe my ears – I had just spoken to him thirty minutes ago – and now he’s dead?!  I felt an instant pang of guilt and genuine sorrow learning of his tragic death. 

‘Oh my God! (OMG!)’ I was struggling to find words as the short man walked passed me and into the living room.

‘Nice view!  You like view? Yes?’ 

He was smiling, which I found a bit odd.  But before I could say anything, the man picked up the tv remote and started playing with the buttons until he was able to get the menu.  He became very excited and proudly proclaimed that he’d fixed my television.

‘No, sir.  You don’t understand; I know how to turn on the television – but I want to watch the news and weather…’

‘See?  You got Netflix and everything!’

‘Listen, buddy, I don’t want to watch Netflix – that’s why I have a computer.  I want to watch regular programs like Rachel Maddow on MSNBC or Bill Maher on HBO, not to mention the NFL playoffs!’

The man suddenly realized the gravity of the situation and stopped speaking.  He stared at me for the longest moment and then suddenly his smile returned and he walked over to the balcony door.

‘You like view?  Very pretty, yes?’

‘No, I mean yes, it’s a nice view.  But please stop for a second – what happened to Ramy?  How did he die?  Was it a car accident?”

‘Ramy not died!’ he protested, ‘he away today.  You like view?’

‘But you said Ramy’s dead!’

‘Yes, I Ramy dead!’ he blurted.

‘Oh, you’re Ramy’s dad?  He’s not dead, then!’   I fought the urge to scream.

We both stood there, staring at each other for several seconds – neither of us knowing what to say.  Suddenly, the man became excited and began smiling, again.

‘You happy, now?  You like view, yes?  I tell Ramy you happy, okay?’

‘No.  Please tell your son I am not happy.’  I then escorted him to the door – shook his hand and thanked him. 

I closed the door and stood there wondering, what the heck just happened?  I glanced at my watch – it was Noon and I still hadn’t done anything!  I went to the computer and checked for messages.  I got a message from my friend in Oshawa, who suggested I join the Vintage Oshawa group on Facebook.  I went to that page and started reading some of the posts and started viewing the many photos and posts of familiar landmarks.  I even recognized some of the peoples’ names – and started leaving them messages.  Some of them were guys I hadn’t even seen since high school.  Suddenly, I had to decide:  continue reading stuff on the computer or walk to the mall to get my car rental.  I quickly put on my coat, scarf, toque, and gloves and headed out the door.  The temperature was still in the sub-zero range – and I now wished that I had a packed my balaclava!

But the frigid temperature was a nice change from the mild, Vancouver winter I’d left behind, and it was nice to be able to wear my winter clothes, for a change!  But that sentiment lasted for about two seconds, as my kahunas froze instantly, and I found myself walking up York Street on my tiptoes.  This time I got smart and took a detour through Union Station.  Many of the nearby buildings and malls are connected to the train and subway stations, by a series of tunnels and walkways and it was nice to feel warm and cuddly.

Soon, I was standing at the Budget car rental desk.  I was almost afraid to ask…

‘Yes, I have a reservation for a small car,’ I said boldly.   I was ‘loaded for bear’ and wasn’t going to get pushed around.  I stood there stoically and waited for the rental agent’s answer. 

‘Yes, sir.  Your name please?’

‘Danny St. Andrews,’ I replied.

‘One moment, Mr. Andrew,  Let me check that for you.’

‘Actually, it’s St. Andrews!’, I politely corrected him.

‘Yes, okay.  Denny St. Andrew, right?

‘No, Danny as in Daniel,’ I calmly corrected him.

‘Do you put an ‘S’ in Andrews?

‘Yes, but only by habit.’ 

‘Oh dear, you’ve reserved a compact vehicle.  Would you be interested in upgrading to a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV), for an additional $10?  They’re calling for snow this week and you’ll want to have four-wheel drive.’

‘Is that ten dollars extra, per day?’

‘Yes, Mr. Andrews.’

‘No, I’ll just stick with the compact.  If it snows, I won’t be driving anywhere,’ I lied (without feeling guilty).

After trying several other tactics to get me to upgrade to a more expensive vehicle, he called to their garage and started speaking to someone about what vehicles they had available.

‘Sir, we don’t have a compact vehicle, so we are going to give you an SUV for the same price.’

‘Awesome!  Thank you!’  Again, I lied.  I have been renting vehicles for many years and I know several universal rules on vehicle rentals, namely:

  1. Never rent from an airport location. There is a hidden ‘airport’ convenience fee that all the rental companies charge.  Also, most locations will let you drop off the vehicle at the airport for no additional fee – but you have to negotiate for this option.
  2. Never let them make you pay for upgrading a vehicle. They probably don’t have the type of vehicle you’ve reserved in their inventory – so don’t let them off the hook by agreeing to pay for an upgrade.
  3. Don’t pay for Sirius or WiFi – they charge $10 minimum per day. The vehicle you get will probably already have these – so why pay extra? 
  4. Don’t pay for roadside assistance. That too is a $10 per day charge.

I stuck to my position and didn’t waiver.  I ended up with a Jeep SUV – and it was loaded with options, including a heated seat and steering wheel!  And it had Sirius Radio and WiFi, too!  I could already feel my pair of kahunas growing back!  But I wasn’t through negotiating, yet.  Originally, I was only going to rent the vehicle for a couple of days – to drive to Oshawa to visit my parents and then on another day, drive to Angus, Ontario to visit my Aunt Fern.  But I was getting such a great deal – I decided to extend the rental for a full week – at the same price!  The agent agreed, and I drove back to the condo a happy boy; and proud of my negotiating prowess!

The drive back to the condo building took less than five minutes and pulled up to the underground parking door, which was closed.  I started pointing the remote at the door, but nothing happened!  I got out of the vehicle and started walking around the area – looking for a box or something to aim the remote at but there wasn’t anything visible.

Suddenly, the door opened and a car emerged from the underground.  I frantically began waving my arms in distress and hoped that the young lady driving, would stop.

‘Sorry, but I can’t get this remote to work.  Is there someplace I should be aiming at?’

But I didn’t hear the words coming from her mouth because she was the prettiest girl I’d seen in several days.  She had dark eyes – which reminded me of my gal pal Harinder; she was well-dressed and her smile almost invited me to flirt.  Geeze, maybe I should ask her what floor she lives on?

She started to explain how to work the remote – in a tone similar to the one you’d use when teaching a child something new.  I cut her off in mid-sentence by shouting ‘thanks!’, while jumping back into my vehicle.  ‘Why is it, that some people from a younger generation, feel it’s necessary to talk to seniors as though we’re senile or hard of hearing?’ I mumbled to myself, as I expertly parked the SUV in the tiniest of parking spaces.  

When I got back to my condo, I decided to make a few calls to schedule visits for the next few days, while I had the vehicle.  It was mid-afternoon, and it would be getting dark soon, so I decided to start writing a blog about this trip.  However, when I tried to log on to my website – I couldn’t perform any of the edit functions.  And although I could still access my emails and the internet – I wouldn’t be able to write or update this story about my trip! I spent the next three hours screaming and swearing at my notebook. 

I then turned my attention to the ‘wannabe’ television – wishing I could watch one of my favorite programs and wondering how I’ll survive without watching television for three weeks!  Suddenly, I felt alone and lonesome.  I made a few phone calls and decided to call it a day.  Tomorrow, I would be visiting my parents in Oshawa – I wonder if I’ll be able to find their place in the snow?  I called my Aunt Fern in Angus and made a date to see her on Wednesday. 

I also made a lunch date with a childhood friend – but that wouldn’t be until the next week.  I went to sleep thinking about her and wondering what we’ll talk about after not seeing each other in fifty years!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

I decided to avoid the morning rush hour madness and arrived at the flower shop in Whitby, by mid-morning.  I bought two red roses – one of for each of my parents and then headed to their place in Oshawa.  It was nice getting into a warm vehicle and within a few minutes, I was cruising up the Don Valley Parkway and listening to Howard Stern on Sirius Radio.  The temperature was in the sub-zero range and it was cloudy but I was excited to be going home.

However, I always get anxious when driving down Thorton Road towards my Ma and Dad’s place.  By the way, I’ve always called my mother, ‘Ma’ and it used to really bother my Dad because he thought I was being disrespectful.  He probably thought I was comparing her to ‘Ma Kettle’ of the classic Ma and Pa Kettle movies that I used to enjoy watching.  But from my earliest memory – I’ve always called her that and she knew it was my special term of affection for her.   Here is a video clip of our visit:

Visit with Ma and Dad

I got back in my vehicle and decided to drive to a few of my old haunts in Oshawa and Whitby to take some pictures for this story. 

The first stop was 109 Iroquois in north Oshawa, where I first boarded during my last year in high school.  My parents had moved to Georgetown in the Summer of 1968 but I stayed in Oshawa, to be near my girlfriend, and worked part-time to pay my room and board.  This house used to be the home of her sister Vicky and her husband Jerry.  They had a son named Danny, too!   However, as I pulled my vehicle to the curb to take the picture, one of the neighbors came to their window and appeared to be concerned with a stranger taking pictures.  So I left without taking the picture but it was nice to visit a place I had not seen since 1969.

I then drove by the home on Sutherland Avenue where I grew up.  I have driven by this house every time I’ve returned to Oshawa for the past forty years.  The only thing missing on the street was the Chestnut trees and children.  A few years ago, I visited the last remaining neighbor – Mrs. Mills and she had told me that although there was the same number of kids living on the street now as there was in the fifties and sixties – none of today’s kids played outside!  Their exercise now is limited to playing on their computers.

But I really was shocked at the changes in the downtown area – it no longer resembled the once vibrant center of what used to be my Universe.  But then I drove down Albert Street – past 275 and Fuller’s Store, and over the famous wooden, Albert Street bridge to Bloor Street, where my first wife’s family used to live.  That house is no longer there.

I then headed to Whitby to drop by an old friend’s place for a short visit, and then I headed back to Toronto – to avoid the afternoon rush hour.  But Toronto’s rush hour begins at about 6:30 AM in the morning and lasts all day until about 8:00 PM!  I used to think that Vancouver and Montreal had the worst traffic (and drivers!) but now the award goes to the big smoke (Toronto).

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Good morning, Toronto!

 Even though I didn’t have my dog, Holly, to wake me up at two or three o’clock every morning to let her outside to go potty, I found myself waking up at that time anyway.  Habits and routines are difficult to break but I’ve always preferred being an early riser.  Sometimes, when I travel and find myself unable to sleep, I’ll get dressed and take a drive around the city, while drinking coffee and listening to music.  You’d be surprised at the number of people out at that time of night. 

I probably should have left earlier than I did and I should have also relied on Google Map’s automated directions because, within a minute of getting on the Gardiner Expressway, I was in a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam all the way to Highway 427.  But I was listening to music and enjoying the scenery, so I didn’t mind the delay.

I arrived at Aunt Fern’s place mid-morning and we had a nice visit.  I learn so much of my family’s history from her.  She was married to my Ma’s brother (Uncle Jim), who passed away in the 1990’s.  She never remarried and lives happily with Amanda, her granddaughter (my second cousin).   I left in the early afternoon to avoid the afternoon rush hour but promised to come back to Angus for another visit before I return to Vancouver.

Danny & Aunt Fern

Thursday, January 18, 2018

It was colder than I was used to but I was anxious to do some walking.  My friend Verni, from the Vancouver Venturers, gave me a copy of a 10 KM route of the downtown core that she had used when she had visited Toronto but warned that it was difficult to follow because it was printed several years ago, and much had changed.


I wasn’t anywhere near the start point, so I just used the instructions as a guide.  I used to work and live in Toronto, so I wasn’t worried about getting lost.

My first stop was at Union Station on Front Street.  I stopped to chat with a policeman and was able to get a transit supervisor to take a clip of our brief conversation.  Here is the video clip of our chat:

Danny and Toronto Cop

A few blocks later, I was standing at the Air Canada Centre – home of the Toronto Maple Leafs (hockey) and Toronto Raptors (basketball).  The next video clip shows the awesome bronze statues of famous hockey players.  The tribute to Johnny Bower was so touching, I got a lump in my throat, but that was because I almost swallowed my bubble gum.  Here is the video clip:

Toronto Maple Leaf statues

Walking along Queen Street at University Avenue, I stopped at Osgoode Hall Law School – which moved to York University in the 1960’s.  In 1980, I wrote my LSAT exam (and passed) and hoped to apply there as a mature student.  But I decided to stay with General Motors and the rest is history (no regrets).  

Osgoode Hall Law School

I decided to take a detour from the route that Verni gave me and walked over a couple of blocks to Spadina Avenue.  I used to work for a company (Morgan-Uster Inc.) that has long since moved or gone out-of-business.  Switzer’s and Shopsy’s Deli are both gone, although neither was quite as famous as Swartz’s Deli in Montreal.  Here is a video clip:

Morgan-Uster Bldg.

While walking south on Spadina, I met Eduardo.  He feeds pigeons – lots of pigeons!  My cousin Donna, who works in Toronto, told me that he is well-known but not well-liked by some.  But I like animals – and the people who feed them.  Here are two video clips:

Eduardo the Pigeon Man (Part 1 of 2)

Eduardo the Pigeon Man (Part 2 of 2)

 Next, I walked to the offices of the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer.  I was a member of the Measurement Steering Committee for a few years but our meetings were usually in Montreal – so, this was the first time I’d been at the head office.  Met with some of my friends and made plans to return the following week.  Here is a video clip:

CPAC Head Office visit

I continued my walk for another half hour and then got back to the condo for a hot bath – followed by an afternoon nap.  I was meeting a new friend for dinner that night and I wanted to make a good impression.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Today, I was supposed to drive to Coburg,  to visit my friends since high school – Alice and Peter Hrehoruk, but I woke up with a touch of Montezuma’s Revenge (traveler’s diarrhea).  Before leaving Vancouver the week before, I had heard that a lot of it had been going around but it hadn’t affected me, until now.  However, it may have had something to do with the two bottles of wine that we drank the night before and the fact, that I seldom drink alcohol because it burns my throat.

So I called Alice and we rescheduled our visit to next week.  Alice mentioned that she had had the same stomach issue earlier that week.

I spent the rest of the day in bed – except for a quick visit to the pharmacy across the street – for some Kaopectate (Bismuth subsalicylate).  While in bed, I was reading my emails on my laptop and got a suggestion from my friend in Oshawa to join the Vintage Oshawa facebook page.  I couldn’t believe how excited I was getting from viewing the old photographs that people had posted!  The pictures brought back memories I had not thought about in decades.  It was because of Vintage Oshawa, that I decided to visit both my public and high schools.  My friend Beth sent me the names of the school principals for Dr. SJ Phillips School and O’Neill Collegiate & Vocational Institute and I sent each of them an email requesting permission to visit their respective schools.  Hopefully, I’ll get permission from both because I was already getting excited!  

Saturday, January 20, 2018

I awoke, had breakfast, showered, shaved and was soon driving to visit my Grandma Puffer in Ingoldsby, Ontario.  It would take a few hours to get there but I listened to music and enjoyed the drive.  I arrived in Minden before 9:30 AM and drove to the florist shop.  I get the same lump in my throat when I think about my Grandma – she and my Ma were both heroes of my heart.  Here is a video clip:

Minden Flower Shop

I drove down the road towards Haliburton – passed a few interesting sights along the way to the cemetery in Ingoldsby, including Puffer Road, named after my Ma’s family.  Here is a couple of video clips:

Visit with Grandma & Grandpa Puffer

Visit with Grandparents and Uncle Ron & Aunt Kay


To be continued…




Today’s tune from Danny’s library (purchased):  


Message from Santa Danny

Leigha Rock, Dr. Denise Laronde and Santa Danny (December 19, 2017)


Yesterday, Santa Danny went to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver to present a cheque towards oral cancer research at the university and BC Cancer Foundation.

He also visited with the staff in the Faculty of Dentistry, which is where Danny gave his speech during their Research Day in January 2016.  It was Dr. Laronde, who invited me, as a cancer patient/survivor to give a speech about oral cancer.

Here is the link to the presentation:  Danny’s speech at UBC Faculty of Dentistry

And Leigha Rock is a Ph.D. student (soon to be a doctor!) who I attended a number of evening dental study groups with.  In the recent ranking among doctorate students – Leigha ranked 3rd out of 900 in Canada!

I’ll be posting all of the pictures from Santa’s visit when I get back from my Wednesday walk with my friends at Surrey Trekkers.

Wishing everyone an awesome holiday season and a healthy and happy New Year!

Hugs & Luv,

Santa Danny


Not a creature was stirring…

Originally published on December 24, 2012

It was the morning of Christmas Eve and once again it didn’t feel like Christmas. 

It had been years since I last celebrated Christmas – but I remember it well.  It was in 1983 at my Mom & Dad’s place in Midland, Ontario.  My family always got together to celebrate Christmas at my parent’s place – but I had missed the last couple of Christmases because I was living in Vancouver.  My Dad came to the Toronto airport to pick me up – I had yet to see their new home in Midland – but I was more excited about seeing my Mom and brothers and sisters and my niece and nephew.  That’s what Christmas was all about to the St. Andrews family – being together and enjoying our own special traditions.  Some of those traditions included arriving on Christmas Eve and spending the night – so we could all get up together – just like when we were all growing up at our home in Oshawa and then later in Georgetown.

At my parents home in Georgetown, my Dad had built a wonderful bar in the rec room and he would wear a Christmas hat while he served drinks from his perch on a stool – behind the bar – which he considered “sacred” ground.  You NEVER went behind the bar when Dad was on duty – the words “self-serve” did not exist in his bar.  So as we arrived on Christmas Eve, the first thing you heard when you entered their house was the laughter and shouting from downstairs.  A few hugs and kisses with Mom and then you would head downstairs to reunite with the clan.

Early on Christmas morning – probably no later than 6:00 AM, my Dad would be the first one to awake and ready to act as Santa.  We would all gather around the Christmas Tree in the family room and my Dad would give each person one gift to open – beginning with my Mom.  Everyone would watch quietly as each person opened their gift – and then there would be loud outbursts of “ooh’s and ahh’s”.  My brothers, sisters and I would then prepare a large breakfast for everyone – and let Mom have the day off from the kitchen.  Immediately after breakfast we would all gather at the Christmas Tree and continue to open all the gifts. 

About mid-morning, Dad would announce that the bar was open.  Later, Mom would bring a platter of Scotch Eggs for us to snack on.  And then about mid-afternoon, we would all gather in the dining room for a sumptuous turkey dinner.  Later, my brother-in-law Brian – a professional photographer, would get everyone together for a family portrait – which we would all receive framed copies.  Then some of us would start to leave to go to our respective homes – which always made my Mom cry.  She was happiest when she had every one of us together – as a family – and always pleaded with us – “Do you have to go so soon?”

So, on this morning of Christmas Eve, I was having a coffee and looking at one of those family portraits – and I got homesick.  Homesick because I missed my Mom and Dad – and family – and those magical Christmases we shared together.  And I missed not having that special feeling that I used to get every year – at Christmas.  Two years ago, I went to Costco and bought a ton of outdoor Christmas lights – and decorated all of the hedges, evergreens, and fence – I had just finished my cancer treatments and didn’t know how many more Christmases I would be around for – and desperately hoping that the lights would bring back that special Christmas feeling.  But it didn’t.

Last week I wrote a blog about buying a complete Santa Claus outfit – so I could visit all of the patients at the Fraser Valley Cancer Centre – where I was treated – and where I have been volunteering every week for the past 16 months.  And as I made my way through the various clinics – almost all of the patients’ eyes would light up with excitement.  I was hearing voices from all sides – things like:  “Hi Santa!” and “Merry Christmas Santa” and “Hey Santa, can we get a picture of you with us?”  Within five minutes that special feeling returned – and I was a kid again.  I didn’t rush home and decorate the house with lights though; in fact, within hours of leaving the Cancer Centre, I lost the feeling – which made me really sad.

So on the morning of Christmas Eve, I decided to get dressed as Santa Claus, again – and go to the Cancer Centre and to Surrey Memorial Hospital.  As soon as I walked into the hospital lobby a woman ran up to me, pleading, “Oh Santa, could I get a picture with you and my Mom?”  I said “Sure – Ho, Ho Ho!”  The mother slowly walked up to me – she was in her patient gown and was wearing a Christmas hat.  I gave her a hug and was posing with her for the picture – when her daughter suddenly said: “Mom, why are you crying?”  Before the mother could answer, I squeezed her closer to me and asked her why she was crying.  She stared up at me and with tears rolling down her cheek, she cried, “Because I never thought I would ever meet Santa Claus!”   I kissed her on the cheek and whispered into her ear “I will always be with you”. 

I toured the Cancer Centre and then walked down the hall to the adjoining Surrey Memorial Hospital and took the elevator up to 51 North – the Oncology Floor.  I had been a patient there several times during my cancer treatments – when I was at my lowest point.  I walked into each of the patients’ room and wished them all a Happy Holiday.  On my way back to the elevator, I noticed a Palliative Care sign over the entrance to another wing of the floor.  “This is where the very sick and/or terminally ill patients are”, I thought to myself.  I walked into the ward and all of the medical staff were surprised to see Santa.  After posing for several photos I asked if it would be okay to say hello to the patients.  They replied in unison  “Of course you can – you’re Santa Claus!”

I made my way around the ward; entering each of the rooms and then holding the hand of each of the patients.  I didn’t know what to say but what suddenly burst out of my mouth was “I know that you’ve always believed in me, and I just wanted to drop by to say hello”.  One patient – an older man – was wearing a Christmas hat and said that he had awoken that morning excited with the hope that maybe a friend or family member might drop by for a visit.  But none had – until Santa Claus.  He held my hand for the longest time and just stared at me and then muttered: “Thank you Santa – Merry Christmas”.  I turned to leave his room – my eyes were filling with tears and I didn’t want him to see me cry.  After all, he believed in Santa Claus. 

And now so do I.

Santa Danny in the Chemo Room, December 24, 2012




Today’s Tune (from Danny’s library of purchased music):




Walking and Living on the EDGE


On April 11, 2017, at 2:00 PM, I walked on the edge of the CN Tower EDGE WALK in Toronto, Ontario.  It was almost the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life!   Almost! 

I had traveled to Toronto to attend the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer – Innovative Approaches to Optimal Cancer Care in Canada conference (April 7 & 8th) at the Harbour Castle Hotel (as a patient advocate) and had extended my trip a few days to do this, as it was the second last item on my Bucket List of things to do.  

The adventure took ninety minutes – with thirty minutes actually walking around the outside of the tower and doing various poses for the camera.  There were two staff members accompanying us at all times – one giving instructions and the other taking pictures and a video – which were included in the price of the package.  It was definitely, one of the most exciting things that I have ever done in my life.

UPDATE  June 1, 2017:  Here is a link to the four video clips of my walk.


“Living with Cancer isn’t a death sentence – but giving up on Living is.  Never stop chasing your Dreams and you’ll live Forever!” ~ Danny 




Moonshine in the Maritimes – The Final Chapter

My Ruthie

Readers of this blog will remember my original Moonshine in the Maritimes posting from November 8, 2016 –  a blog that was both painful to write and impossible for me to complete a final chapter.

But all of that changed this morning, and now my heart is racing, and my legs are shaking, and I can’t believe how excited I am!  And now, the final chapter is pulsing through my body – from my brain to my heart – and from my heart to my brain.  There’s so much that I want to say…

It’s currently Thursday, March 2, 2017, and I am leaving to go to the Promenade in White Rock to do my walk.  Walking helps me think, and I need to put all of these highly-charged emotions into words, sentences, and paragraphs.  And it has to be believable because frankly, it is – but I’ll leave it to you – and your judgment to decide for yourself.

But don’t ask me to re-publish the original blog – I deleted it one night when I was deep in a depressed state – missing my cousin Ruthie and feeling sorry for myself.  Isn’t that why we cry?  We’re hurt and feeling sorry for ourselves – wondering how our lives will ever be the same without our loved one.

So, my story will resume on the morning of  November 12, 2016, just before we said goodbye to my cousin Ruthie and witnessed her passing while holding her in our arms.  That moment changed my life forever, but it left me with more questions than answers.  But now I know for sure, that Ruthie is still with me – just like my Ma and Grandma Puffer are – and now I have proof!

Stay tuned kiddies, fasten your seatbelts and stand behind the sneeze guard – the ride is about to enter the dark tunnel, and you’re trying frantically to get out before the ghouls and goblins appear from the shadows.

The Last Chapter

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The trip to Moncton to visit my cousin Ruth had been planned for early Summer 2016 but I had a few medical issues that I was dealing with, so it wasn’t until that Sunday, that I booked my flight to Moncton.

Ruth, or Ruthie as her friends and family called her, is my first cousin on my Mom’s (Puffer) side.  Her Mom and mine were sisters.  We were never very close because Ruthie was ten years older than me, but we always seemed to have a connection.  My earliest memory of her was when she came to stay with us for a weekend visit; I was probably seven or eight years old at the time.  And she was the most beautiful girl that I had ever seen in my life.  At the time, I was hopelessly in love with Annette Funicello the Mouseketeer, on the Mickey Mouse Club Show on TV.

Annette Funicello – Mouseketeer



Annette Funicello 1942 – 2013









But Ruthie became her replacement, and I was now hopelessly in love, with a much older girl – who probably hardly knew I existed.  And that’s how little Danny first fell in love and began to dream and believe in the impossible.  Because sometimes, impossible dreams do come true!

Later in life, I would sometimes see Ruthie at weddings or funerals, but I never spoke to her as an adult until we saw each other one night, at her brother Terry’s house in Bramalea, Ontario in the 70’s.  It was a family get-together, and I was there with my parents and was in my twenties, and Ruthie and her husband Mike were standing in the kitchen with a crowd of people, laughing and enjoying themselves.  I told her that I had had a life-long crush on her – and still did.  She giggled and then hugged me and gave me a kiss on the lips.  I have never forgotten that moment – and how excited she made me feel.  I also remember telling Mike, her husband, how lucky he was to have her as his wife.  I never saw either of them again until I saw Ruthie at my Dad’s funeral in 2001.  She and her sister Patty and Patty’s husband came to the funeral together – and we sat and talked for quite a while about our lives and loves.  Once again, I told Ruthie that I still had my boyhood crush on her!

A few years later, on the week that my youngest brother Randy was getting married, my cousin Patty’s husband passed away.  And although I had only met him once – at my Dad’s funeral – he was a Newfie, and my family and I liked him.  So on the day after Randy’s wedding, I went to the funeral home in MisterandMissesAuga to pay my respects.  Most of the Walkers were there, but as I scanned the room, I couldn’t find my Ruthie.  I was standing at the coffin with Patti, and she gave me a white rose, which she explained meant ‘goodbye.’  It’s why I dislike white roses – because some goodbyes are forever and are often accompanied by a broken heart.  It’s also why I’ve always been frugal in saying goodbye – to loved ones.  But as I turned to walk away from the casket, I saw her!

My heart started thumping as I quickly made my way across the room to where my Ruthie was standing.  She had been talking with a couple of her lady friends and gave a shriek when she saw me.  And then she introduced me to her friends.

Ruthie:  This is my cousin Danny.  He used to wack off while fantasizing about me.

My face turned a scarlet red, and I became tongue-tied.   What could I possibly say in reply to that embarrassing introduction?  But without missing a beat, I shrugged my shoulders, turned to walk away and waved, saying…

Me:  And I still do!

And then I quickly ran outside to my car and drove back to my hotel in Toronto.  We never hugged or kissed, and it was another secret that I had planned to take to my grave.  But instead, I’m sharing it with you because I know that you can keep a secret.  Promise!?

I was on a plane home to Vancouver the next morning, still shuddering with embarrassment at Ruthie’s introduction.  But it made me smile and chuckle all the way home.  And it’s making me grin again this morning, as I write about it.  I mean, how did she ever find out about my secret fantasy?

Several years later, in June ’07 or ’08, I learned that my Ruthie was now living in Moncton.  I gave her a call and told her that I was planning a trip to visit my buddies Bill, Scotty and General and asked if she would like to get together.  A few weeks later I was staying at Junior’s place in Moncton.  I had set his father up in business years ago and then hired his son, Allan, as one of my District Managers for Western Canada.  HIs nickname was Junior, and he was now married and living in Moncton and had invited me to spend a few days with him and his wife, Jennifer.

While there, Ruthie and I got together and went out-on-the-town and partied until the early morning hours.  She came out to the couch where I was sleeping at about 5:00 am and suggested that I should probably leave before her daughter’s family wake up (they lived in the upper part of the duplex).  I was supposed to come back later to meet her daughter, but I time didn’t allow, and I returned to Vancouver, the next day.

But that night that we spent out-on-the-town, was like a first date and I learned so much about Ruthie… and our family’s history.  We never spoke again until after my Mom’s funeral in September 2010, a year after my cancer treatments had ended.  And it was at my Ma’s funeral that my family learned that I had cancer.  I hadn’t told anyone about my cancer because I was afraid that they’d tell my Mom.  And my Ma’s health was too fragile to withstand the news.  View Danny’s Cancer, Story

After Mom’s funeral, I returned to Vancouver and called Ruthie in Moncton.  News of my throat cancer had already reached her from the family grapevine but she still seemed surprised when I told her.  It had been less than a year, since my last treatment and I wasn’t sure about my future.  I was still clinging to the belief that I was in the “40% Group” that survives my type of cancer – but I was also a realist, and needed to have some basis in fact, to continue believing that I would survive.  And Ruthie was just the medicine I needed!

Ruthie had battled three different cancers over a 42 year period – and survived!  In fact, while I was going through my treatments in 2009, Ruthie had a part of her lung removed (lung cancer).  Years earlier, she had both breasts removed.  She was such a positive voice – and her words of encouragement were just what I needed to help me in my own battle.


To be continued.




Danny goes to Camp!

Danny will walk on the edge of the CN Tower in April


“In the dark of the broad daylight, I promise I’ll be there” ~ For Whom the Bell Tolls ~ BeeGees

It started the way all great trips start – with a simple plan.  Get to the CN Tower in Toronto – home of the Blue Jays – and do the Edge Walk outside the top – suspended by a leash.  It’s the kind of excitement that’s been missing in my life and I’ve convinced myself that it will restore the flame that once burned passionately in my soul.  But I couldn’t get passed the main obstacle to fulfilling this bucket list item – I’d already said all of my goodbyes to my hometown in Ontario, last Spring (see  My Last Visit ).

And it’s hard to justify the cost for hotel and airfare just to satisfy a silly need or whim, right?  Of course, it is Danny.  But all of that changed when my phone rang.

I looked at the call display and didn’t recognize the number, so I just disregarded it as I do with all unknown callers (telemarketers, scams etc.).  But this one left a message.  And the moment I heard it, I got excited – really, really excited!

It was the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer calling to confirm my attendance at the upcoming cancer conference in Toronto in April.  I had not understood that I had been invited to attend but the phone message was a request to discuss my flight and travel arrangements and meeting schedules etc.  And as excited as I am about anything related to cancer – I was selfishly happy to know that I might get to fulfill one of my last bucket list items, after all!

But then, I remembered what my buddy Billy used to say – “be careful what you ask for – ’cause you might get it!”  Scared, Danny?  Yup!  Still going to do the walk, Danny?  Yup!

And then today, as I sat watching my Blue Jays first preseason game on television, I decided to buy a ticket to their home opener on April 11th.  I was going to get the best seat I could get – who knows if I will ever be back to see another game.  I share the same philosophy on concert tickets – why watch the artist from the nose bleed section if you can afford to sit in better seats?  I mean, if I don’t smoke, and don’t drink, then surely attending a few concerts or sporting events in nice seats is not extravagant.  Well, it’s not to me – money has never been important to me.  It’s why I dislike being around people who appear obsessed with it.

And isn’t it great that I can order my ticket online and choose my seat?  And when you only are buying one ticket – you will always get better seats.  But then my heart stopped beating – the home opener is already sold out!  WTF? (Why The Face?).  Of course!  The whole city of Toronto will probably be closed for the day – to celebrate the home opener.  And right they should!

I quickly moved my cursed cursor down to the next game April 12th and quickly grabbed a lone seat, a few rows above the Dugout on the first base line!  And including my donation to the Blue Jays children’s fund, it only cost 80 bucks, all total!

In high school, we used to have a saying for being outrageously happy.  It was “YIPPEE SHIT HEMORAGE!”

And although I’m not really going to camp, it sure feels like shouting “YIPPEE SHIT HEMORAGE!”

And it’s what you’ll hear me shouting when I get the CN Tower Excellent Adventure, captured on my cell phone camera – and posted to this page in early April.



UPDATE 4/4/17:  I will be in Toronto for one week and will be visiting the following:

  • Parents grave
  • Cousin Donna & her family
  • Aunt Fern
  • Peter & Alice
  • Western Region Alumni (offsite)
  • The old ‘hood’ in Oshawa

– Danny


Snowflakes and Ice Cream

Danny’s place February 6, 2017


Nobody knows when it happened – but everyone knew that it had snowed during the night.  It’s an excellent example of the legal term ‘circumstantial evidence’ – although you didn’t see it actually snowing during the night – when you awoke and looked out the window – you accepted it as a ‘fact.’

But it seldom snows in Vancouver.  At least not like it has in the past three days!  In Seattle, yesterday was the second largest snowfall ever recorded in the past seventy years!  I’ve used my snowblower four times in the past two days – and now another five to six centimeters of snow this morning!  

I’ve been waiting for the ‘right’ time to resume my writing.  I can’t remember a year in my life when I had more hurt and disappointment than the past year (2016).  Usually, I bounce right back from setbacks but lately, I’ve found it takes much longer.  Life can sometimes seem to be like trying to put toothpaste back into its tube or feathers back into a pillow.

I recently returned from Montreal, where I had attended a meeting of the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, Measurement Steering Committee – Person-Centred-Perspective.  Our committee’s five-year term ends in March 2017 but the mandate of CPAC has just been renewed for another five years by the Government of Canada.  I am hoping to be invited to serve as a patient advocate on one of the new committees.

So, now that I am back at the keyboard – and anxious to reveal all of my ‘uppers and downers’ of last year – where should I begin?

To be continued…




Dying Embers of Summer

Holly enjoying a Fall morning in Lotusland

I’m told that one of the perks of being a grandfather is babysitting – except for when the occasion includes changing a diaper.  It’s not that men CAN’T perform this necessary ritual – it’s just that they’re afraid of pinning the diaper to the baby’s skin!  And that’s why they wait until after the child is ‘toilet trained.’   Note: this ‘rule’ does not apply if you’re a father (unless you celebrate ‘celibacy.’)

So when a friend’s three-year-old granddaughter said that she had to go to the washroom, he started to panic.  It’s not like he could just walk into the Ladies room with her!  His eyes began scanning the sports complex for a woman who could get him out of this jam and then it hit him!  He would take her into the Men’s Room – after he checked to ensure that the ‘coast was clear.’

Fortunately, the changeroom appeared empty, so he quickly went back out to get her.  But as they entered the room, a naked man suddenly appeared from the shower area!

His three-year-old granddaughter quickly raised her hand to shield her face and shouted “AWKWARD!” as she quickly ran out of the room.  It’s one of the funniest things I’ve heard in a long time and it’s probably why KIDS can sometimes appear to be much older than their years.

I thought about that story this morning as I got ready to go to the to the States to pick up some stuff from Trader Joe’s and Costco.  But first, I need to call Norm to see if he’s back from their cruise yet.  He and Dorean flew to Quebec City to cruise the St. Lawrence River and then along the Atlantic Coast to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  But they did it during the recent Hurricane Matthew storm!  

Thankfully, Norm spent many days and nights at sea fishing on his Dad’s boat, so he wouldn’t have been as afraid as most of the other passengers.  In fact, knowing Norm, he was probably helping to reassure and comfort all of the other passengers (and crew)!

Oooops!  There’s the phone ringing now …. and it’s Norm!  

“Hi, Norm, when did you get back?” 

“This morning!” Norm replied, “but you’ll never guess what happened on the ship during the storm and then again on the plane en route to Seattle last night?!”

To be continued.

I had so much to tell him because much had happened since we last had coffee together in late September.  I know that he’ll want to know how my cousin made out with her brush with the law.  It still makes me angry just thinking about it!

My cousin, who is in her late 70’s, lives in another province and is dependent on public transit to get around.  On this particular morning, she was standing at the bus stop, when suddenly she saw and heard several police cars racing down the street with sirens blaring.  She wondered briefly what the commotion was all about, but she was more interested in seeing if she could see her bus coming down the street.  

The next thing she knew, she was laying – face down on the ground, with a knee pressing against her back!  It happened so quickly; she didn’t even have time to scream. The two RCMP officers helped her up, and it was then that she learned that it was their police dog who had knocked her to the ground – at their command!

“We warned you to stop, and you refused our order, so that’s why we gave the ‘attack’ command to the dog.   You fit the description of one of two teenagers who had just committed a robbery in the area,” the Mounties explained.  

And then they left her standing there at the bus stop – alone!

My cousin had her back to them and had no idea that they were there and didn’t hear them calling out to her.  She somehow fit the description of a teenage boy – from behind!

My sweet cousin is also a cancer survivor – three times!  She had breast cancer 43 years ago and had both removed; several years later she had thyroid cancer, and then a few years ago, she had a cancer tumor removed from her lungs.  She is at best in fragile health and certainly posed no conceivable threat to the officers or their dog.

“Oh my God!” I yelled into the phone, “the Mounties did this to you and then just left you standing there?”

“Yes, and then when my bus arrived, I didn’t have my bus pass – it must have dropped from my hand when I was tackled to the ground,” my cousin replied.

She didn’t have any change in her purse so she couldn’t give the driver the exact fare, so the driver gave her a free ride – which was a bit embarrassing.

When she got home, she called 911 to report the police incident and got told that her call wasn’t an emergency!  But after my cousin angrily objected, two female Mounties arrived at her home.

The Mounties interviewed her and then left.  My cousin peaked through the window and noticed that the two Mounties were sitting in their car, but it didn’t appear that they were leaving.  In fact, they sat in their car for thirty-five minutes and then came back to her door.

“We’ve interviewed the two officers and their version of the story are different than yours.”

I couldn’t believe my ears!  My poor cousin, who has gone through so much pain and suffering in her life and now this?

“Are you going to charge the two Mounties?  You should at least lodge an official complaint,” I urged.

To be continued.

My cousin decided that it would be too stressful to pursue charges and although she is probably right, it still makes me angry just thinking about how stressed out she’s been because of the actions of those two brave policemen!   Their dog probably hates them for making it attack a helpless, senior lady.

But I guess it could have been worse – they could have tasered her too!

I can already imagine Norm shaking his head in disbelief when I tell him about my cousin’s ordeal.  Things were much different when he served with the Force!


Well, I will tell Norm about my incident in the washroom with two nurses, after my gall bladder operation on October 12th at Langley Memorial Hospital (LMH).  He will probably shake his head when I tell him about this incident, too.

I had arrived at LMH at 7:00 am for my 9:15 am surgery.  After prepping me for the operation, a nurse advised me that it would be delayed an hour.  Later, another nurse informed that there was now an additional delay.  They finally wheeled me into the operating room at 11:45 am, and that’s when the fun began!

In my meeting with the anesthesiologist the day before, it was decided that they would have to administer the oxygen by passing a hose through my nostril, down my throat and into my lung through the lung valve – and they would be doing this while I was awake!  The incubator that they usually place inside a patient’s mouth/throat might cut into the scar tissue inside my throat – causing my lungs to fill with blood.  So that is why they needed to use a different, more uncomfortable procedure.  But I had gone through this when they diagnosed me with throat cancer, seven years ago, so I knew what to expect.

The last thing I remembered was sitting upright and fighting with them while they held me and tried to put the tube down into my lungs.  And then, just as suddenly, I awoke in a darkly lighted dormitory.  It felt like being in a Spa!  

A nurse told me that they would be keeping me for about four hours and then I could go home.  I hate being in hospitals – even though I love the health care workers.  It’s just hard to sleep in a bed that’s not like the one at home, and I spent three weeks in hospital during my cancer treatments in 2009.

About two hours later, they moved me to the final recovery room.  It was painful trying to move or change position in bed.  The nurse tried to help me change positions, but I would get a sharp pain if I tried to lay on my side – I had to remain on my back.  She told me that I would be there for at least two hours.

I laid there and stared at the clock on the wall outside my room.  I watched the second hand as it slowly and continuously circled.  

“Hello, Nurse!” I shouted weakly, ” when can I go home?’

“Not until you go pee.”

“Okay, please bring me a can of ginger ale.”

About five minutes later, I had two nurses helping me to sit up in bed and then to walk me across the room to the bathroom.  The nurse pointed to the red cord beside the toilet and told me to pull it if I needed help.  She also said not to lock the door.

Now my Mom taught my three brothers and me to sit when we had to pee in the washroom at home.  So I was house-trained.  But the drill on this occasion called for me to remain to stand; which almost made me giggle with excitement.  But as I looked at the red cord and then down at the floor I noticed a steady stream of blood dripping on the floor!  And the front of my gown was covered in blood!  

I pulled the red cord.  I was no longer giggling.

The door suddenly burst open, and two nurses had things under control within a short but scary few moments.  And as they helped me back to my bed, I could see and feel their concern.  And that made me feel loved. 

I overheard the head nurse talking to my surgeon on the phone; mentioning “significant bleeding,” which added to the fear I felt creeping from within. 

But the two nurses cleaning me up had calmed everything and changed my dressings like I was a newborn baby!  And that too, made me feel loved.

I giggled for the rest of the evening until my release – on good behavior at 9:15 pm.  Soon I  would be home with my little Holly.  I hoped she wouldn’t be sulking again!


You can leave if you perform...

but the nurses wanted to see more!

How's this Nurse Cratchet?

No, my shoulder!!!

Okay, how's this ladies?

The nurses said I could now leave but they hid my clothes!


So then I tried a different tactic – a selfie!




Holly was happy to see me.  I spent the next four days in bed.  Lots of time to think about my life.


I’m hoping to resume writing in the New Year but my highest priority is to find a new ’cause’ to support (volunteer)!  I’m leaning towards something involving dogs, seniors or children.  If you have any suggestions, please drop me a line…



Shadows of September

The Ides of March had long stopped marching, and I had finally reconciled my heart and mind to the notion that ‘you can’t look back.’  I had returned to the land of Ontario only to find that everyone had left without leaving a Dear John or whatever type of note that one usually expects.  Even little Danny disappeared in the end; unable to keep up with his older and wiser self.  But ‘hurt’ is only ‘healed’ with time and wine; and besides, it was good to get back to Holly and my other families.

I decided to cease using social media for the Summer and rent a cabin somewhere on the Sunshine Coast with hopes of ‘rescuing the novel that had been held hostage by yours truly, a procrastinating writer.  A few of the rentals appeared perfect but were expensive, or they didn’t allow pets.  So we stayed at home to write the book.  

And every morning I got up early to begin writing, but it was impossible to focus on anything but the shadows of September racing through my brain until I decided to fight back – one more time – but this time with no secrets!  Those who wish to know will follow; others will please leave quietly without slamming the door. 

Now, as much as I try to remain neutral on the pros and cons of Facebook, it is an ideal platform to communicate with friends and family en masse as opposed to contacting each person individually.  And sometimes, posting a few pictures helps with the update or storyline.  So I decided to use Facebook to update everyone on the upcoming shadows of September – with hopes of being able to write a blog later to summarize with the details and hopefully, a happy ending. 

But I purposefully delayed writing this blog until today, October 1, 2016 – because it was easier to keep the source of the shadows hidden in a dark hole, covered by my fears, concerns, and regrets.  And it’s also because I’m just a little superstitious – as in ‘break a leg!’.  

So, dear reader, I will be writing about the weird Shadows of September with regular updates over the coming days and weeks.  And the final installment might surprise you!  So why not pour a drink, avoid rolling in your rocking chair while I lead you through the shadows of September.

Friday, September 9th  

Today I had a Contrast CT Scan of my lungs to see if the spots and shadow areas had grown or remained stable.  For most cancer patients, this is a time to be nervous.  Not that the procedure is unpleasant – it’s not.  It’s just that sometimes you have to wait a few weeks before you get the results from the oncologist.

I arrived at the Cancer Centre in Surrey an hour before my appointment so I could visit with my many friends on staff.  I told them that I wouldn’t be able to return for social visits anymore because of ongoing issues and concerns I was having with the BC Cancer Agency.  I resigned my position as a volunteer last December because of the increasing concerns I had re patient care and a respectful workplace environment – with both the Agency, Surrey Memorial Hospital and the Fraser Health Authority.   So social visits would be out, but I would stay in contact through Facebook and personal emails.  But it was hard; my healthcare gal and guy pals are like family to me, and I love each and every one of them.  And they return the love – times ten!

After the scan, I returned home to wait nervously for the results.  The appointment with Dr. K., my oncologist (and hero) wasn’t until September 21st, but I had lots of things to keep me busy during the wait.

Sunday, September 11th

Holly and I were alone, watching the Blue Jays game when the chest pains started and I knew that something bad was about to happen!  I was having difficulty catching my breath, but that was mostly because of the Fear that it was another attack.  I couldn’t determine if it was my heart because the pain surrounded my chest. 

I was buckled in pain and tried to get up from the recliner but got dizzy and had to sit down again.  Holly sensed something was wrong and jumped up on my lap and started to lick my face.  Holly is not a ‘licker’ – to anyone or anything but herself; so this was scary – I’ve always believed that animals are much more instinctive than humans.  And Holly sure looked worried!

I slowly walked to the front door and unlocked it and then returned to the recliner and sat down.  I popped a couple of Aspirin into my mouth and began chewing them as I called 911.  I told the dispatcher I thought I had a heart attack.  

Within minutes, three uniformed firemen came bursting through the door and surrounded my chair.  Holly was terrified and was trying to both protect me and hide from the huge men.  Then two paramedics came into the room and within another minute they were lifting me onto the stretcher which they had wheeled into the kitchen.  All the time that they were working on me, I was trying to calm Holly, but she was now beyond terrified.

They wheeled me through the front door, and the last thing Holly saw was me giving my house keys to one of the five giants who then locked her into the house alone and petrified. 

As the ambulance left my driveway, I worried about leaving Holly behind.  Dog people will understand – others will just roll their eyes.

Danny at LMH

Danny at Langley Memorial Hospital – September 14th – Photo by Nurse Cratchet

To be continued.

The paramedics wheeled me into Emergency and stayed with me until the nurse arrived.  My friend Norm used to be a paramedic with the ambulance service, and he told me that you needed to have empathy rather than sympathy for patients or you’d never be able to do your job.  Which doesn’t mean that you didn’t care – it just meant that you had to be able to keep your emotions in check.  And although I agree, I could also see the concerned expression on the paramedics’ faces – they made me feel like I was their Dad.  

My mind started wandering down the bumpy road of fear; maybe it’s the spots on my lungs.  That might explain why the pain was on both sides of my chest.  (I hate it whenever I worry about something; it always takes me to that ‘what if it’s Cancer?’ mind game.).

I was dying of thirst – my mouth felt as though it was full of sawdust.  But I couldn’t have any liquid before the ultrasound test, and that wouldn’t be until sometime on Monday.    

It was early afternoon when the lady in the Ultrasound Department showed me the culprit on the screen.  

“OMG!” I thought, “it looks like a baby ALIEN!” (as in the horror flick starring Sigourney Weaver.).

I jumped up and down on the gurney screaming “What is it?  What is it? Please get it out of me!  What is it?”

“Relax, Grandpa.  I’ll tell you if you’ll stop hugging me!” she giggled.

I slowly relaxed my arms and sheepishly muttered a “sorry!”

My eyes were searching her uniform for a name tag, but I couldn’t see one.  It was at that precise moment that I caught her eyes looking at what my eyes were staring at, and that made me blush.  (Danny note: are you still with me?)   

“They will probably suggest having it removed.”

“What, the alien?”, I asked.

“No Pops, your gall bladder.  They can remove it and then you won’t have any more problems,”

I tightened my arms around her and began thanking her for telling me that it wasn’t cancer.  And although I still had to wait for the results of my September 9th CT Scan, at least this wasn’t associated with my lungs.

“When can I get this operation done?” I asked.

“Lots of people get it done while there here,” she replied.  

“Great!  I’ll be able to get this done while I’m here but will I still be able to do the Terry Fox 10km Run/Walk on Sunday, September 18th?  I would only be walking and could always do the 1km or 5km route instead of the 10km option.  What do you think?” I asked.

“Your doctor and surgeon will discuss this with you when you get back to Emergency.”

A few hours later I saw a doctor who advised me that I had a fever and they wanted to keep me in the hospital until everything was back to normal.  They would do the surgery in four to six weeks, which will give my body a chance to recover from this episode.

“However, you cannot have any fat in your diet until you have the surgery.   Otherwise, the gallstone could start moving around again.”

“Will I be able to do the 10km walk this Sunday?” I asked.

“We will have to wait until we get your fever under control.”

I was finally able to drink, but I couldn’t have anything but clear fluids and jello for a couple of days.  But how would I ever manage to survive without fat for six weeks?  Even ENSURE and other food supplements have fat.  

On the second day, they moved me to a private room on the second floor.  It’s where a nurse took the above picture.  

I did a lot of thinking while in the hospital.  The next shadow of September was on the 18th, and it wasn’t just the Terry Fox Run/Walk that worried me.  No, it was the day before the 18th that I’ve always dreaded the most. 

To be continued.

I didn’t check my cell phone or notebook for messages during my first two days in captivity but started posting updates on my Facebook page.  (Some of my friends and family are not on social media, so I am repeating much of what I’ve already written.)  

I began receiving messages of support, and I tried to reply to each one, but my mind was not on my gall bladder or the surgery.  I was missing my Holly and knew that she was probably still grieving the kidnapping of her Daddy.  Dogs are different than humans – they love unconditionally – they cannot stop loving you – ever!

It was nice having a private room.  My previous hospital stays were during my cancer treatments seven years ago – and they were in semi-private rooms.  At the time, I didn’t realize that my health coverage had undergone significant ‘clawbacks’ from General Motors of Canada – the employer I spent 30 years working for and retired from in 2005.  A few weeks after my last radiation treatment, I got an invoice from the hospital for the semi-private room – I was no longer covered and had to pay the difference between a regular, four-patient room and semi-private.

Wednesday, September 14th

Today, my captors released me from the hospital.  All that I could think of was seeing my Holly Golightly and how excited she will be when she sees me come through the door.  I’m sure that she thought that I’d never be coming home again and I was excited about surprising her.

I was still weak because I hadn’t had any food since Sunday morning.   All of the homemade soup that I had stored in my freezer contained fat, so the only non-fat food I had was 0% yogurt.   But how could I survive on just 0% yogurt for six weeks, while waiting for the surgery to remove my gallbladder?  

And how would I ever be able to do the Terry Fox 10km Walk for Cancer Research on Sunday, which was just four days away!  I had people that made financial pledges of support, and I wasn’t about to quit.  

But Holly was all that I cared about now.  Everything else could wait.  I’m going to give her 100% of my attention, with hopes of getting her forgiveness.  She is almost ten years old and very loving.  But she is spoiled and stubborn – just the way I raised her and I know that after she gets over the excitement of seeing me alive, she will probably give me the cold shoulder and sulk for a few hours.

To be continued.

The pier in White Rock, BC

The pier in White Rock, BC

Every once in a while, if you’re lucky enough to be walking on the Pier in White Rock, you’ll notice an older man with a walker.  I used to see him when I took my early morning walks, and I always smiled at him because he reminded me of someone. 

He always appeared to be sad or lonely or maybe he was just tired of ‘being’ sociable to people who never, ever returned the nod or smile.  I guessed that he was all alone in this world – most of his loved ones had probably passed.  

But a few of his friends remain to keep him company, as he sits on the last bench at the end of the Pier.  

At first, he sits and just stares out at the ocean – as though stranded on an isolated island.  And then he pulls out a crumpled, paper bag from his pocket and pours a handful of seeds in his hand and then he waits.

I watched him as he silently waited.  I walked closer to see what he was doing, and it didn’t seem to bother him.  His dark eyes and weathered skin suggested he had spent most of his life in the outdoors.  Maybe, he was a retired logger or fisherman?

“Good morning, Pops!”  I waited for an answer, but he just kept staring out at the ocean.  I shrugged and started to walk away and then I heard his faint voice.

“I’m here!  I’m here!” he whispered.  But he wasn’t whispering to me.  And then a pigeon suddenly appeared on his outstretched hand and began to eat the seeds.  Within a minute, at least ten birds were sitting on his lap, shoulders, legs and even on the bench beside him.

He was now smiling and had a youthful sparkle in his eyes.  And although I haven’t seen that nice man for many months, I’m sure that the pigeons haven’t given up on his coming back to the Pier, so neither will I.  Besides, maybe he had an illness to deal with, too.

I envied him for that moment and couldn’t wait to get home to hug my Holly!

And that is the way it has always been for Holly and me.  We always miss each other and are always excited to see each other, regardless of how long we’re apart.  And we don’t give up on each other!

So I can’t think of any other way to describe how Holly met me when I got home from the hospital and walked through the front door!  It makes me cry inside each time I think about how she was so excited!  I was afraid that she was going to hyperventilate!

She got lots of treats and hugs and kisses for the next three days, and she would never leave my side for a second!  I still feel guilty about how terrified she was when those bullies came to take her Daddy away.  But her dreams were answered – because now her Daddy’s home!

Holly Golightly hiding behind Danny

Holly Golightly hiding behind Danny

I now had to gain strength for the Terry Fox Cancer walk on Sunday the 18th.  I wanted to be there at least for the Start of the run/walk, and then I could mingle around the area for an hour or so before going back home to bed.  

But first I had to deal with September 17th – the day in the month that I dread most.  

To be continued.

Saturday, September 17th  

It was on this day in 2010 that I called my dear Ma, who was in the hospital, that I was coming to Toronto to see her.  Her voice was quite feeble, and I know that she was tired when we said our ‘goodbyes,’ but I never dreamed that I would get a phone call six hours later telling me that she had passed away.  

She died without knowing the reason that I had not come to Ontario for the past 18 months for a visit.  I hadn’t seen her since early 2009, shortly before being diagnosed with Stage 3 Throat Cancer.  I never told anyone in my family that I had cancer because I didn’t want the news to get back to my mom, who wouldn’t have been able to handle the news.

And although Ma didn’t have cancer – she died with a broken heart.  She was the last of her brothers and sisters to survive.  And all of my Dad’s brothers and sisters are also gone.  

At her funeral in Oshawa, I said my goodbye and it was the first ‘Shadow’ created in my September calendar.  It was also the first time I cursed having Cancer.  It prevented me from seeing my Ma for the last 18 months of her life.  But the one thing that keeps haunting me is the day several months after my treatments had ended, that Ma called me and asked me if the reason I hadn’t been down to visit her was that I couldn’t afford the airplane ticket?  Could she send me the money to pay for the trip?  She said she wouldn’t tell anyone in the family.  

I could hardly talk at the time, but it sure made me cry inside.  I have never let my Mom pay for even coffee – she and Dad made enough sacrifice for us over the years.  

I still cry inside wishing that I could have been selfish enough to tell my Ma about my Cancer because I know that she would have given me a hug and told me that everything was going to be alright.  And I would have believed her, and it would have made me braver.  

But I didn’t have to be too brave during my three months of very painful treatments because of the outstanding care I received at the BC Cancer Agency in Surrey, BC.  They became my family, and so too, did my many actor friends in the Lower Mainland.  The support that I received led me to become a volunteer at the Cancer Centre in 2011.   

Sunday, September 18th 

I awoke at 3:30 am in the morning.  My doctor didn’t think that it was a good idea to try the Terry Fox 10km Run/Walk, but I said that I wanted to at least be there for the START.  I’ve always hated the idea of quitting – lots of people at the Cancer Centre encouraged me not to, and I wasn’t going to let a silly gallbladder prevent me from attending this important fundraiser for Cancer Research.

I said goodbye to Holly and drove to Douglas Park, in downtown Langley.  I stopped at Tim’s to get a coffee and arrived at the park at 7:45 am.  The Run/Walk Start wasn’t until 10:00 am, so I wandered around taking pictures and talking to the other early birds.  


Danny at Douglas Park, Langley BC September 18, 2016

To be continued.

I had just stopped a passerby to take a picture of me standing at the START / FINISH line when I noticed her!  Could it be Karen?  I walked closer to get a better look.

Yes, it was Karen M., a former St. John’s Therapy Dog Program volunteer, who used to visit the Cancer Centre in Surrey every Wednesday morning with Laura, her care dog.  Later, she began including Laura’s pup Jacob in their weekly visits, and patients and staff always enjoyed seeing the three of them.  Karen is a recovering cancer patient as well.

I walked up to her and asked her if she recognized me.  I’ve had lost a lot of weight in the four years since I last saw her and at first she didn’t know me – until she heard my voice.  We hugged, and she introduced me to her husband and Jacob’s pup.  Yes, Jacob now had a son!  Laura’s a grannie!  

“Wow! Where has time gone?” I asked, “and where is Laura and how’s she doing?”  

Karen said that Laura was home and that she was doing fine.

Danny with Karen’s family and Jacob and his pup/son.

Karen brought me up-to-date on her life and told me that she had a Team registered each year at theTerry Fox Run/Walk in Langley (Langley City and Langley Township).  

She introduced me to Fred, a new cancer patient currently undergoing radiation treatments for brain cancer.  

He and his wife were still trying to come to grips with the fact that Fred has cancer and the difficulty they had in remaining hopeful.  I told them my ‘40%’ story and how I was still here seven years later!  I also told them I believe cancer is also difficult for a patient’s caregiver/, family and friends because they feel so helpless; wishing that they could take away our pain and fears.  Cancer can be a ‘roller coaster’ of emotions, and you need to remain hopeful. 

I also told them I believe cancer is also very challenging for a patient’s caregiver/, family and friends because they feel so helpless; wishing that they could take away our pain and fears.  Cancer can be an emotional ordeal and can feel like a ‘wild, roller coaster’ ride.  Bottom line: you need to remain optimistic. 

I gave Fred my card and told him to call me anytime he wanted to talk.  


Fred, Karen and Danny – cancer warriors and best friends forever!

We hugged, and I wished them all well and headed over to the Dedication Wall, where you could write the name of the person you were going to be walking for in the Run/Walk.  

I asked Marg, one of the event volunteers if she would take a video clip of me putting my heart on the wall. Click on link below to view:

I then walked back to my car and had some quiet time alone with my thoughts about my Mom.  I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and love from everyone and it made me miss being a volunteer at the Cancer Centre in Surrey.  But that will be my next blog – I’ve got to finish this blog first.  

At 10:00 am, everyone gathered at the START/FINISH line, but I stayed at the back of the group because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to walk the 10km, much less the 5km or 1km alternate route options.

I figured that I would get a passerby to take a picture of me at the START line – to prove that I made it to the event. Lots of people were responsible for saving my life, and this was my chance to give something back, so I wasn’t going to quit without at least walking part of the 1km route.  Besides, I had raised over $250 from my sponsors: Andy F., Hillary F., and Loren J.

One other person was standing there, and I asked him if he would take my picture with my cell phone camera.

“Sure” offered the kind stranger, “if you’ll take mine?”

I am the world’s worst photographer, and I find it difficult to understand how my LG phone operates, let alone this man’s ultra sophisticated iPhone.  [My previous phones were Blackberry, but they didn’t have a touch screen and only a limited number of Apps.]

Okay,” I answered, “but can you show me how it works?”

To be continued.

We posed for each other and then introduced ourselves.

“Hi, My name is Danny.”  (I wasn’t wearing a name tag, but he was.)

We exchanged names and learned that we both had much in common; we were both cancer patients and neither of us were able to walk in the event. 

“Well, why don’t we try walking for a couple of blocks?  We can always turn back if we get too tired,” we both suggested at the same time!  So we decided to walk the 1km route.

I am not sure how long it took Howard and me to finish the race, but at least we finished!  We were standing at the FINISH line and took each other’s picture.  We asked a passerby to take Howard’s picture because the ones that I shot were less than stellar.  The person also took a picture of us together.

Howard and Danny - Best Friends Forever!

Howard and Danny – Best Friends Forever!

We then headed over to the stage area and were presented with our certificates and ribbon.  Howard introduced me to Marg, one of the event volunteers.  I told her that I used to volunteer at the Cancer Centre in Surrey and missed it very much.  



Danny, Marg, and Howard with ribbon and certificate!

I was too tired to stay for the rest of the festivities and headed home to Holly.  I spent the rest of the week in bed, resting for the next event on my schedule, namely the Push For Your Tush 10km Run/Walk on Sunday, September 25th at Jericho Beach, Vancouver.  

But there was one more thing on my schedule that really had me worried – my September 21st appointment with my oncologist to get the results from the September 9th Contrast CT Scan on my lungs.

Wednesday, September 21st

I will be writing a short blog about the results from my CT Scan in a few days.  But the visit to the Cancer Centre in Surrey was a chance to see all of my friends for hugs.  These people are family to me, and I love and miss them very much.  

Sunday, September 25th

Lui Passaglia & Danny at the PUSH Walk at Jericho Beach

I arrived at Jericho an hour before the 10:00 am START and walked around the site as volunteers were busy setting up tents and booths.  I went over to the Registration Desk, signed in and received my Survivor’s T-shirt.  

Push For Your Tush was my second Walk for Colon Cancer, so it was great to see some familiar faces from last year’s event.  Here is the link to that event:

Push For Your Tush

And here are the links to my Tush Man adventure (2 parts):


The Tush Man – Part 2 of 2

I also noticed that BC Cancer Foundation now had a booth for the event and I wandered over to introduce myself to the gentleman who was setting up the booth.  He appeared familiar, but I wasn’t sure if I knew him.

BC Cancer Foundation was there to support the walk.

BC Cancer Foundation was there to support the walk.

“Hi, my name is Daniel, and I used to be a volunteer at the BC Cancer Agency,” I said.  “It’s great to see the Foundation supporting this awesome event!  We shook hands and exchanged business cards.

I read his name and then cringed!  

“Were you at the Taste For Your Life Gala at the Terminal City Club last Spring?” I asked.

“Yes, I was,” he replied.

I cringed again.  

He would have seen my presentation! I cringed again and muttered that I should get going.  There was little point in explaining why I no longer volunteer, but I did tell him that I had significant concerns regarding patient care and that I was working on a critical analysis of the BC Cancer Agency.

I then visited the various booths in the area.  I bought three ‘Tara’ bracelets – crafted by a mother whose daughter had passed from colon cancer.  I gave away the one I bought last year to an old friend in Ontario.


Danny buying three ‘Tara’ cancer bracelets – he wears them every day!

We hugged and then I headed over to see my friend Lui Passaglia, a colon cancer survivor. He introduced me to his grandsons both of whom are football players!  (Lui is a legendary, BC Lion football player.) 

Lui’s grandsons, Lui and Danny discussing football

It was nearing the 10:00 am START, and I was already exhausted.  I hadn’t had anything to eat except 0% Fat Yogurt since being released from the hospital on September 15th.  I decided that I would only participate in the Start of the event and then just walk to the first marker.  


Cancer survivors cutting the ribbon at the start of Run/Walk.


Danny walked with Mary & her family to the 1 KM - her husband took pic

Danny walked with Mary & her family to the 1 KM – her husband took this picture – Good Luck Mary!  You’re in good hands with BC Cancer Foundation!



Lui’s Team even had kids and dogs pushing for increased awareness of Colon Cancer


Is that the half-way marker? Whoopee!

Is that the half-way marker? Whoopee!


It was an awesome day.  I met some new friends and was able to complete the whole 5 km Walk!  However, I was the last person to cross the FINISH line and most of the people had left.  I asked a passerby to take my picture before they took the balloons away.

Danny arrives at the half-way marker!



Danny made it to the FINISH but most of the people had already gone. But he did the complete 5 km!

And that’s a wrap!

(The End)



One More Walk


Terry Fox - he saved my life!

Terry Fox, and his family saved my life and millions of others!

In September 1981, I ran in the inaugural Terry Fox Run for Cancer Research.  I was thirty-one years old and living the dream in Oshawa, Ontario.  At that time, I didn’t know anybody who had the disease, but I was touched by this young man’s Marathon of Hope, and I wanted to raise money in his memory.

Over the next four decades, I lost many friends and family to Cancer and then in June 2009 it came knocking on my door.  I was rushed to the hospital with blood rushing from my mouth.  It was Stage 3 Throat Cancer, with a 40% chance of survival.  I received daily radiation treatments for the next seven weeks and also had chemotherapy.  And I am still here!

I am alive today because of dedicated people at the BC Cancer Agency and the staff of the Fraser Valley Cancer Centre in Surrey, BC.  They have become like family to me, and I love each and every one of them!

Last Fall, after undergoing a CT Scan, two spots were found in my lungs.  In a subsequent scan in 2016, the spots were still there.  I will be having my next CT Scan in few weeks, but rather than sitting around W&W (waiting and worrying) I’ve decided to register for the 2016 Terry Fox Run 10K Run – on September 18th – but this time, I’ll be walking.

My goal is to raise $1,000, and I’ve started it off by pledging $100.  I know that everyone is asking for money to support this or that worthy charity – but this fundraiser is for cancer research – and your financial help will save someone’s life!  I am alive today because of research – and your entire donation will go to research.

If you would like to support this worthy cause – why not walk with me or pledge a couple of bucks – or both!  No donation is too small (or too large).

Thanks for giving a pause for this cause.

By the way, I’m still living the dream!

Here is the link to my page:

UPDATE: September 19th –  I was able to complete the 1K walk but had to spend the rest of the day in bed.  I will be writing about the day in a future blog.    

Here are some photos from the event:

One hour before Start

Danny (September 18, 2016) His Ma passed on the same day in 2010.

Fred, Karen & Danny

Danny with Karen's family

Jacob and his pup son!

Nice to be with friends!

Danny crosses the finish line!

Howard & Danny finished!

Danny, Marg & Howard receive certificate & ribbon