Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sometimes you get sore

Literally..... Derek has developed a bedsore from all this lying on his back. It's something he can handle, but it does affect his sleep. Otherwise, he's eating more regular food, and intends to go for a walk later on. There will be a home care nurse visiting tomorrow, to make sure that Derek is progressing and to deal with whatever issues Derek has.

A little while ago, my sister and brother-in-law dropped by, and we had a beer. Derek joined us (he can't have any beer yet), and ate a fair bit of ice cream, and we had an animated conversation about various things; food and colon cancer, mainly. My brother-in-law has just recovered from a very similar bout with colon cancer, so the discussion was "authoritative". You sure can see that, at the bottom of it all, the only things that count are still the basics: health, food, family, and a roof over your head. It sure gives you a sense of perspective.

Monday, July 30, 2007

A day of rest

No doubt Derek is appreciating the "home" feeling - no hospital noises and the feeling of having his family around. He is eating more. He and Airdrie went for a short walk outside the house to the end of the block. Derek knows that excercise and any physical activities promote healing, so is doing as much as he can. Naturally, this is still tiring, and so he also has to rest.

I haven't seen a post in his blog for today. Maybe he'll blog a little later.

In any case, it's great to hear his voice around the house again.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Derek's home, but very tired. So, I don't think that he'll be blogging today, but who knows, sometimes he does things during the night when he can't sleep. I any case, we're all glad to have him back.

Before he left the hospital, his friend Simon came to visit, and they spent an hour or so together, in the room and the little lounge at the end of the hospital hallway. Simon may be leaving the hospital tomorrow. I imagine that Derek will leave a post on his blog tomorrow as well

Perhaps coming home?

Derek just phoned from the hospital to tell us that he may be coming home today. He'll have his lunch at the hospital, and then he'll decide whether he feels up to it. He told us that he walked all the way across the street to pick up a cappucino (his room is on the 10th floor of the hospital), and walked up a flight of stairs as well. It sure looks like eating normal food makes for rapid improvement. More later, perhaps from Derek on his own blog

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Moving along

This morning, we visited Derek again at the hospital, and we went down to the internet room where Derek put in a post on his own blog (http://www.penmachine.com/). You can see his comments there.

We spent a good part of the day with Derek. The thing that delights us is that Derek ate some really substantial food today. He had chocolate pudding, a real hamburger, a few slices of canned pears, and tea, as well as a tall Coffee "Americano" from the Starbucks I mentioned in one of my previous posts, along with a cheese sandwich. He is also reading quite a bit, and taking some naps to combat the fatigue which unfortunately still overcomes him after some physical activity. I think that, with the more substantial food, he'll overcome this situation soon.

In the early evening, we went to the cafeteria balcony, where Airdrie and their daughters Marina and Lauren dropped in a little later. This perked Derek up. Hilkka and I left soon after, to pick up some glucose strips for Dereks blood sugar tester.

Derek intends to watch the fireworks with Simon tonight.

The target for Derek's return home is still Monday. We'll see...

Friday, July 27, 2007

Another step forward

Derek is now off intravenous food and is eating more normally. Today Airdrie brought his Matzoball soup again; in addition had a cheese sandwich, some tea and a decaf tall cappucino from Starbucks. He weighed himself, too. With the lack of food at the beginning of his hospital stay, he is now down to 67 kg (148 pounds). This means that he's lost about 23 kg (50 pounds), a quarter of his normal weight. He also had a shower - at long last, he said.

The hospital food tray contained some fish, which, Derek was astounded to say, tasted very good. You'll notice that he's very interested in food.

He still tires quickly and his homecoming is now tentatively set for Monday (perhaps even part-time, meaning for some hours during the day). We want to make sure that Derek does not come home too early - we don't want to put him back into the hospital yet again.

During our visit, we all went down to see Derek's friend Simon, who is in hospital recovering from a heart valve replacement.

The loss of weight has made sitting in a chair really uncomfortable for Derek. so my wife Hilkka will buy him a "whoopy cushion" tomorrow, to see whether that'll help. His butt has no fat, so it's understandable. The recliner chairs at his house are what Derek is really looking forward to.

Derek is off all pain medication now (except the occasional Tylenol).

He'll have another chance to see the fireworks tomorrow, and he may also be using the "internet room". This means that you may see an new entry in his blog; watch for it...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

More food

Last night, Derek watched the fireworks (it was Spain's turn); he said they were very good.

Derek is having more food today. Before we went to visit him, he asked us to bring him a special kind of soup of which Airdrie had brought him a little yesterday. He told us where we could get it, and we drove by and picked some up for him. This is one of those special, hardy Jewish soups, with motzeballs (meatballs). We brought him a large portion, and he ate it all (except for the carrots, which are too fibrous at this time). He also asked for, and we brought him some no-sugar-added pudding and he had one of those (the package contains six). He also had some tea. His doctor is saying that they're aiming for a Saturday release from the hospital. We'll see how things are progressing, but it's something to aim for.

After all that food, he had a rest while we were at his bedside. He still gets tired quite easily, but makes an effort to move around. He's been down to the cafeteria on his own for some tea (six floors down and some distance to walk). Since he's is still tied to his intravenous rack, this is a slow process, but things are looking up some more.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Up a little more

Derek had a good, if tiring day. Many visitors, among them a couple of his band's members. He's getting more food by mouth, some broth, bouillon, decaf coffee, tea, Jell-O, etc. He's enjoying it all; we kept talking about the food he's going to eat once he is back to normal. In addition, he's still getting his intravenous sustenance. Derek's spirits are up; he also intends to watch the fireworks tonight. The view from his hospital floor will be excellent. So he's come up a little more; we're all happy about that.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Derek finally got off the nose tube. He also tried, and tolerated, some basic food. We went to the hospital cafeteria balcony, sat in the sun, and Derek had a little of the scone Hilkka had picked up. He said it tasted heavenly, he was ready to cry. Somewhat later, he also had a little bit of ice cream, and later still a cup of vegetable broth. He is still on the intravenous feeding. He felt best about having the nose tube removed, and it also cheered him up to be able to go for some oral food. Another thing he felt good about was that the removal of the nose tube allowed him to wash his face properly, and he "bathed" his nose for about ten minutes. He called that another "heavenly" experience. Oh, the little things in life.... Tomorrow, he expects to "eat" some more "easy" food (clear liquids). Hilkka intends to make him some chicken broth - without the chicken and the noodles.

Airdrie, Marina and Lauren visited at suppertime. They had been to Playland, and had a lot of stories to tell. It's funny how sunny weather cheers everybody up.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The tube man

Today, when we visited Derek, he was just having his first calories (food hooked up and fed intravenously) since he re-entered the hospital last week. The food is liquid, looks like milk, and will provide him with about 1700 calories per day. The rate at which it is dispensed is like drinking about 1/2 cup of this per hour. Derek is extremely glad to be getting some real food, finally. He also had a visit from Airdrie (we had Marina and Lauren at our place during that time), and also had a visit from his good friend Tod Maffin. Derek is hooked up to a number of tubes, all of which add something or other necessary for his well-being.

You can see some pictures of Derek here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mimiandpapa/sets/72157600975748237/

Again, I want to re-iterate, as does Derek, that the nurses and doctors at St Paul's hospital are doing an excellent job. He is getting attention all the time. Derek says that the nurses told him that he is a very good patient (he never complains), and that's one of the reasons for his wonderful treatment.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A dull day

We've all been a little down because of the weather (6 days of rain and drizzle), including Derek. His regimen continues as before (no food yet, only intravenous). Later during our visit we all perked up a bit because Derek is discharging less fluid from his stomach (mostly bile). It looks as though things are finally stabilizing. He'll get his food by feeding tube first, and then eventually start with liquid and the more solid food, as progress dictates. We had a good conversation about technical things, and he also watched a favourite show (mythbusters). His cousin Tarya also paid a visit, and Airdrie and Derek's daughters Marina and Lauren will also visit this evening. Derek is off morphine, with just a trace of side effects, which probably also contributed to his "down" feeling earlier in the day. Progress is being made.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A quiet day

Derek spent a quiet day today. He is having intravenous sugar and electrolytes, but no other food. Tomorrow he'll try some liquid food (he can sip water now and sucks on ice cubes). Derek also had the TV set connected. This is wonderful, he's taking an interest in normal things again. Airdrie has also brought him the Harry Potter book, and he's got a book by Steven Wozniak (of Apple fame) as well. At the time we visited, he had the room all to himself, the other patient (a man from England on a visit) has left. Derek says that he hardly needs the morphine any more; only small doses are being administered. We are hoping that he'll be able to tolerate the food, so that he can finally start to "fatten up".

Some good news

Airdrie phoned us last night to let us know that Derek's oncologist had phoned her. The pathology report says that Derek's removed cancerous colon tissue showed that all of the diseased tissue had been taken out, and nothing had been left behind. This is a good piece of news, and a big step forward in Derek's fight against the cancer. Of course, there is still a long way to go - more chemotherapy is yet to come, and there will also be another operation to "reconnect" his plumbing. We haven't talked to Derek today yet, but this is a great relief to him, no doubt, as it is for all of us.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Up again

We just returned from a visit with Derek at the hospital and are gratified to see him in good spirits. For the first time in months, he has no abdominal pains, and as a result, had a very good sleep last night. He's got a tube threaded through his nose to clear out his stomach, and he'll have NPO (no food by mouth). He'll be "fed" intravenously, in order to give his intestines a rest, and promote healing. His surgeon visited him while we were there, and asked about certain symptoms - as doctors are supposed to. He is the surgeon who removed the cancerous section of Derek's colon. The surgeon seemed satisfied with the answers Derek gave, and told him that he'd be in hospital over the weekend, at least. We are glad about that, because we could certainly not care for him as well as the staff at the hospital does. The consensus seems to be that there is some intestinal swelling, and that caused the problems with the inability to take food properly, and the pains that Derek has experienced post-operation. After all, this was serious surgery. You may have read the comments which Laurence in Paris (France) has left on the blog; her husband is going through very much the same problems, and Derek wishes him well (as we all do). When you are this closely involved with this insidious disease, you begin to understand what other people are going through.

It certainly is a rollercoaster.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A bit of a downer again

Derek phoned a little while ago to say that he hasn't been able to keep his food down, and that the nurses inserted a tube through his nose to empty his stomach. He says that he's feeling a lot better. His team of nutritionists and doctors will assess the situation in the morning. There is a possibility of a partial blockage somewhere - only partial apparently, because the ileostomy bag is receiving some output from Derek's intestine. We'll know more in the morning.

Continuing on the path

We just came back from a visit with Derek - he is on a controlled IV drip and his blood sugar is back to normal. He is tired from the medicines, but is eating some food and having tea. The meals that arrive are supplied by contract with outside caterers, and it shows. They send food which is a no-no for Derek (after all, he is diabetic and should also not have fibrous food), so Derek has to check the menu before he touches anything. The nurses then have to hunt around to find something suitable for him. This needs some work. The doctors and nurses are doing a first-class job. Derek is constantly monitored. It is gratifying to see that every effort is being made to keep him on the road to recovery.

Upward again

Derek phoned this morning from the hospital; he sounds like his old self. He's asking for his deoderant, some fresh pyjamas, a couple of the books he's reading, and a couple of other things. It's obvious to us that the withdrawal routine is responsible for his down periods. Derek said that he will try and eat this morning, including some "power food". I think that means some of the fortified liquid foods usually used by athletes. In any case, he sounds and feels a lot better this morning. More after we've visited him.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Rollercoaster

As you know from Derek's blog, he's going through the morphine withdrawal routine. In the last couple of days the symptoms have become bad enough for him to be unable to keep food down. So, we decided that it would be better for him to go back to the hospital. He'll have his electrolytes, and blood sugar levels brought back to normal and be under observation. We want to thank the hospital staff for the quick attention Derek has received so far - we had a bed in emergency quickly, and he's now got a bed in the regular hospital ward. Derek felt fine over the weekend - now he's down again. It is a rollercoaster recovery.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

One step at a time

For those of you who are wondering why Derek hasn't been blogging the last couple of days: Derek's feeling pretty tired these days - the withdrawal routine and the general healing is having some effect. He has an appetite, but is not eating overly much. We're trying to "fatten him up" by providing him high-calorie, sugar-free food and drink. It's up-and-down. Derek's sleeping and waking times are all over the map, he says. We're lucky to be next door to him and that's good for both him and us. We can help quickly with anything he might need.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Another way

Yesterday, I wrote at some length about the cells that make up a good part of "life" on Earth now. In particular, eukaryotic cells of which we humans are made up; a human can therefore be considered one way of assembling these cells. There are many different ways (i.e. insects, mollusks, etc...). Here is another way:

Sunday, July 15, 2007

On life

I'm not a biologist, far from it. But I have an open mind and am interested in reading up on subjects about which I know little. For Christmas 1991, Derek (who has a degree in marine biology) gave me a softcover book whose title is simply "Microcosmos". I suppose Derek's intent was meant as a juxtaposition to my interests in the "macrocosm" which is a subject of study in astronomy (a hobby of mine). This book was written by Dr. Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan. Its subject is the evolution of life from the beginning (four billion years ago) to now.

After many partially successful starts, so they write, the most basic form of life was found in the form of single cells without nucleus (prokaryotic cells). Other cell forms evolved which preyed on these prokaryotic cells and invaded them. Most of the prokaryotes died as a result. Since killing the host takes the invader with it, this is a self-defeating process. There were some prokaryotes, however, which got "sick" but did not die, even though they now contained the foreign invaders. Over time, the invaders, whose task it was to subvert the cell machinery to their own purposes (any virus does the same thing today), gave up some of their own functions (those that duplicated the identical function in their hosts), and the hosts acquired some beneficial functionalities from their invaders which they had not had before. This result then made host and invader dependent on each other - we call this process a symbiosis. Eventually, our current cell system evolved in such a way that these formerly foreign invaders are a necessity for a viable cell. Cells that contain this symbiotic arrangement are called eukaryotic cells. The inclusions are seen easily under a microscope - we call them mitochondria and nuclei. Most life forms, especially we humans, are made up of eukaryotic cells whose individual function depends critically on this symbiotic relationship.

Why am I mentioning all that? As may you know from my previous posts and Derek's own blog (http://www.penmachine.com/), Derek developed colon cancer within the last year. The aforementioned book states on page 148 of the softcover edition (Simon and Schuster Touchstone, publisher): .... "The body is totalitarian in its regulation of genes. Once a cell becomes a muscle cell, for example, it is so forever. The only exception to this rule of permanent roles within the body is during cancer, when cells seem to revert back to the more promordial condition of reproducing continuously, without regard to their place or function in the body. During cancer, chromosomes break apart and mitochondria reproduce even more rapidly then the cells of which they are a part..... ..... It is as if the uneasy alliances of the symbiotic partnerships that maintain the cells disintegrate. The symbionts fall out of line, once again asserting their independent tendencies, reliving their ancient past. The reasons, of course, are not all that clear, but cancer seems more an untimely regression than a disease. Genes are regulated and cells differentiated in the body by a complex interaction of biochemicals within the body. When these biochemicals are diluted by the introduction of cigarette smoke, sodium nitrate, and other carcinogens, they cannot perform their task. Consequently cells tend to behave like children in a class room whose teacher has left: they go wild, they get out of their cellular 'seats', they play and reproduce in an unregulated, wanton fashion."

Who knows what kicked off this serious turn of events in Derek's colon? It is easy to describe this condition in physical terms, but the emotional component for those who are afflicted, and their family and friends cannot be so easily understood. Derek never smoked, but what about the preservatives in our foods (among which are nitrates), second-hand cigarette smoke, pesticides used in agriculture, cosmic rays? We'll likely never know.

The irony of Derek giving me a book years ago, some of whose content describes a situation of which he is now a victim, is not lost on me.

For those of you who are interested in the book, it is still available here:


Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Beauty of Saturn

Those of you who read an earlier blog entry of mine know that one of my hobbies is astronomy. Besides scientific exploration, and a quest to find out our place in the universe, astronomy can also have real artistic value. As an example, here's an image transmitted from a NASA probe orbiting the planet Saturn, showing a "solar eclipse". This is an occasion when the probe (called Cassini) travels through Saturn's shadow, which means that the Sun is behind Saturn from this point of view. Therefore, Saturn appears here "backlit", something that can never be seen from Earth. Anyone who's ever seen Saturn through a telescope will realize that, though the view from Earth is impressive, Saturn looks quit different in this picture. It's almost like a "negative" image. If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you'll also see a faint, tiny blue dot to the left of Saturn outside the brightest part of the ring and inside the first faint "dust ring". That is the Earth, as seen from Cassini at the time, over 1000 Million km (620 Million miles) away. It is humbling to think that all humanity, it's joys and sorrows, are concentrated in this insignificant pixel. You may need to look at the picture in subdued surroundings, bright light will "swamp" the tiny image of the Earth.

Anyone interested in technology, as I am, will appreciate the immense amount of engineering and technical know-how it took to make it possible for anyone to view this picture on his or her computer (rocket flight, communications, internet, computer, and many other techniques, including software, etc...). We tend to take all these things for granted, but even one glitch in the technological chain would prevent this picture from reaching you. It is a testament to human ingenuity to have this view. See an enhanced version of this image at Seann's blog (that link shown in the accompanying comments section. Click on comments below)

This is the URL for more images from Cassini and other "Saturnalia"

Blogging again

It didn't take long for Derek to resume his activities on his blog. For those of you who haven't already found out, here's the link: http://www.penmachine.com/

Nobody could be happier than we are. Blogging will likely channel Derek's mind back to his community, and you'll have all pertinent information first hand.

In any case we'd like to thank all who take an interest in Derek's current problems for your support and concern. As parents, it is gratifying to know that Derek has so many friends.

Friday, July 13, 2007


Around 5:30 pm this afternoon my wife and I brought Derek back to his home. He is quite tired at this time but no doubt happy to be away from the hospital (no reflection on the great staff there!). He had a big day, visiting his friend Simon and dealing with the minutiae which go with hospital discharge. He even managed to walk up one flight of stairs at the hospital and did it again at home. We are all happy to see him back with his family. Airdrie and the kids prepared the house for him and got everything ready so that he'll be comfortable in his recovery.

I'm not sure when Derek will "reappear" on his blog, but since it does not require a lot of physical exertion, I expect that you'll hear from him directly sooner rather than later.

Coming home?

A phone call this morning from Derek has given us another upswing on his way to recovery. He said that he's feeling pretty good and that the withdrawal control program seems to be working. Yesterday evening, he had enough stamina to visit his good friend Simon James in Simons' hospital room five floors below. Simon had to have a heart valve replacement, due to a congenital problem which has plagued him all his life. Simon had his operation on Wednesday and is still pretty groggy, but is coherent and happy to see visitors for short periods. I'm sure that he and Derek have a lot to talk about. Derek intends to visit him again today.

Derek said that the staples used to hold his incision together are going to be removed today. The incision seems to have healed (note to Christa Giles: "knitted") very well. There'll likely always be a scar, but I think that the idea of stapling is to "minimize" its appearance.

It's Derek's choice regarding whether to come home today or stay another day. It all depends on how he feels later on. We'll let you know. You may see Derek on his blog soon.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Upward again

Today, my wife and I both visited Derek again and are happy to report that he is a lot better than yesterday. He's back on controlled doses of morphine - which proves that he really was showing withdrawal symptoms. While I stayed for about an hour, my wife spent an additional two with him. They went to the hospital's retaurant patio - and had a good discussion about things (big bands,various kinds of music, the inventors of overdubbing and multi-channel recording, Les Paul and Mary Ford, etc...) totally unrelated to Derek's fight with the cancer. It was Derek's first time in the open since his hospital stay began.

Derek is now going to follow a regimen of gradual morphine withdrawal, with lower and lower doses stretched over longer and longer periods. This should go on for about a week. Most of this is likely to happen at his home - we'll provide whatever needed support we can help with. This includes looking after our grandsdaughters - not a chore in any case; we love having them at our place.

Things are looking up again.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Derek just phoned from the hospital. He has asked me to post the following information: There seems to be a consensus developing among his medical support team that his current symptoms (described somewhat in my previous post) are a manifestation of morphine withdrawal. Derek had this idea earlier and it seems as though the team is leaning toward the same explanation. Before his operation, he was prescribed morphine tablets to control severe abdominal pain caused by the undetected perforation of his bowel by the colon cancer. There now appears to have been some leakage into into his bowel causing the pain. He was given morphine intravenously by the doctors to control post-operative pain and subsequently was able to use a control setup to self administer it when the pain got to be too overwhelming. The hospital team discontinued its use a couple of days ago, and instead prescribed an oral painkiller medication. According to medical literature (I did a quick "google"), the kind of symptoms he's experiencing are consistent with withdrawal symptoms (chills, twitching muscles, perspiration, abdominal and muscle cramps, etc...). Morphine withdrawal symptoms are at a peak 36 to 72 hours after stopping its use. Untreated, withdrawal symptoms take 5-7 days to disappear. Derek says that the hospital is consulting with the appropriate in-house doctors to establish a course of action. More on this when we know.

Too much to hope for

Derek has had a setback. Most of you'll know from his blog that he also has Type 1 diabetes. Right now, his blood sugar levels are out of balance, and he'll probably have to stay at the hospital for a few more days. He didn't get much sleep last night, because he also had "incisional" pains; the cuts in his abdominal muscles and skin are probably "knitting". His sense of humour hasn't left him, though. "The honeymoon is over" he said, "my body has finally realized what's happened". The hospital team seems to be getting his sugar levels back to where they should be, and there appears to be no post-operation infection (no fever). We hope for a quick return to normal recovery

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Hello, all

We've just come back from our visit with Derek at the hospital, and we're happy to report more improvement on Derek's part. He is eating a variety of (semi-solid) food, i.e. Cream-of-wheat, boiled egg, a little toast, some chicken and rice and banana. He also has a good appetite. We walked some more today. Derek is off all the external tubes. The ileostomy is doing its job, but Derek says that he has no control of it; the bag just fills up. With the way he's progressing, it is a good possibility that he'll come home tomorrow (Wednesday), or Thursday. He'll have a special diet, of course; the ladies in our house look forward to cooking for him and keeping him comfortable. There will also be a home nurse to change bandages, and possibly administer medications.

There is still a long way to go, but all of us (including Derek) are certainly relieved that things have gone well so far. I think Derek will be back on his blog in a few days.

All the Best to Jean-Hugues

Hello, all

Those of you are also reading the comments on Derek's and my blog will have seen postings from Jean-Hugues in Paris. He's just gone through the same kind of surgery Derek has had, and for the same reasons. My wife and I send you, Jean-Hugues, your wife Laurence, and your family all the best wishes for a speedy and complete recovery.

I'm sure the people who are reading Derek's and my blog are wishing Jean-Hugues a return to a healthy, normal life as well, and are sending you all their support.


Monday, July 9, 2007

More better

Hi all

We just came back from a visit with Derek at the hospital. He's recovered more since yesterday. His urinary catheter has been removed and he can pass urine in the normal way now. Also, he's had some Jello and chicken broth. His bowels are starting to work and the ileostomy bag is starting to fill up. All this is quite amazing, considering that the major operation he went through took place only three days ago. Together, we also took another one of his walks around the ward. While he is walking slowly, he keeps increasing the distance, challenging his body. It tires him out, but he knows that he's doing the right thing. He'll likely be off the intravenous tube in a day or two, now that he can take medication orally. Considering the circumstances, he's doing amazingly well.

Sunday, July 8, 2007


We visited Derek (Lauren, Marina [Derek's daughters], my wife, and I) for a short period this afternoon. Derek and Airdrie had walked around the ward a couple of times earlier today (probably about 200 meters - 660 ft) and he was fairly tired when we arrived. We didn't stay long. Derek is taking a lot less of the morphine drip today, but his gut hasn't started working yet (quite normal for this kind of operation). Airdrie has posted a couple of pictures on Derek's blog (http://www.penmachine.com/). We are all pleased about Derek's progress, none more than Derek himself.

Crater Lake

If you've read Derek's post of July 2, you'll remember his reference to Crater Lake and the dark night sky with a multitude of stars. Click on the picture for a larger view of what it looked like.

If you look at this picture in bright surroundings, you will see quite a bit less than what is actually in that picture. This is very similar to the "light pollution" which, in cities, is caused by street and house lights throwing unnecessary and otherwise unused light into the night sky, rather than onto the ground where it would do some good. If people were to use sufficiently shielded, correctly pointed, and motion sensor triggered lights, a fair percentage of this pollution could be avoided. You would also save money, since properly directed light would mean that fewer lights are needed in the first place. Light pollution is a big problem for earth-based deep space astronomy. Many people living in cities have never seen the Milky Way, nor any of the other phenomena in the sky which can only be perceived when the night sky is really dark. Look at the picture in a room with subdued light, and you'll be amazed how much more you can find.

Here are some more pictures which may interest you:


Alive man walking

Derek just phoned to let us know how things are going. He's walked from his hospital bed to the elevator and back - a considerable stretch, totaling approximately 50 meters (165 ft) - and sat up for a while. We're all happy with this wonderful progress. It's amazing how well the body deals with the healing when asked to do something. Not too long ago, the procedure would have been to stay immobile and "baby" the body. It seems that the more you ask of it, the better it responds. My wife and I plan to visit Derek later on today; more news then.

One thing which I haven't mentioned so far: everyone of us owes a great debt of gratitude to the doctors who are treating Derek - his team of doctors at the BC Cancer Institute, the surgeons at St. Paul's Hospital who so skillfully removed Derek's colon cancer, and the nurses and staff who look after Derek. Without them, all the good news above would likely have been much bleaker. So, from us (Derek's parents), as well as all members of our family, thank you...

The day after

Hi all,

By now, I imagine, many of you will have seen the short movie of Derek which Airdrie published on Derek's blog (penmachine.com). As you can tell, he is in very good shape. The pain suppressant is working well (a morphine drip which Derek controls by means of a small release button). We visited him yesterday and talked a lot about what he went through and what is still to come.

His operation on July 6 was a lengthy one (4 and 1/2 hours). As I mentioned before, the surgeons saved all his internal "plumbing". His shortened colon was reattached to what little remains of his rectum and he has a temporary ileostomy bag, which will be removed at a later time (likely some months). His left ureter has also been reconnected, but a temporary tube has been installed. This will be removed later as well. All of the original colon cancer was taken out. The cancer had expanded and attached itself to his tailbone; the cancer was removed from that site, too, but this area will have to be watched closely. The next steps in Derek's treatment will involve chemotherapy, as soon as he has recovered sufficiently. Derek has a great sense of relief (as we all do) that the operation is finally behind him, and that he is likely to regain most of his intestinal functions.

There are still many months of treatment ahead, to deal with the metastases, but an important step has been taken. Airdrie and I will keep you informed on our respective blogs.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Day

Hello, everyone.

Just to let you know that Derek came through the surgery in very good shape. All his internal connections were "saved" for later re-use (click on Derek's blog; his URL link (penmachine.com) is shown at the left. Read his July 5 blog entry). We've just returned from the hospital recovery room, and Derek is of clear mind, if a bit sore. He's been chatting with the nurses - I guess his gregarious personality can't be suppressed. This is a big load off all our minds. More details at a later date. Thank you all for your thinking of us and your support.

An update at 9pm: We just went back to the hospital to pick up our daughter-in-law Airdrie, who spent the evening with Derek in his hospital room. She tells us that he is cracking jokes, and is back to his former, happy personality. Of course he's still on pain medication and there will be a lengthy adaptation time before he can take solid food, etc. We'll visit again tomorrow, and I'll have a progress report then.


Thursday, July 5, 2007

The day before

In the last hour, my sister and brother-in-law dropped by and Derek joined us. We all sat on the back porch (those of you who were at Derek's birthday party will know what it looks like) and we had some of my brother-in-law's delicious homemade beer. Derek could not have that, because his current "purging" does not allow alcohol, so he had something like Gatorade. Derek was surprisingly upbeat and we all shared some good laughs; a great attitude, considering his surgery tomorrow. My brother-in-law had surgery for colon cancer as well earlier this year - he's recovered totally and has a clean bill of health at this time. We look at this as a good omen.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


My wife and I are spending these days under some serious tension. As you can tell from our son's blog, he is going to have an operation to have a good part of his colon and possibly one kidney removed (he suffers from metastatic colorectal cancer). This procedure is scheduled for Friday, July 6. We all hope for his full recovery, but it's going to be a lengthy slog. One thing we are proud of is the way he is dealing with his suffering - read his blog and you'll see what I mean. Here's his URL:


Tuesday, July 3, 2007


One of my hobbies is astronomy (not astrology), another is photography. I often combine the two.

Above is a picture of the transit of Mercury across the Sun on Nov.8, 2006. Click on the image for a larger view.

New today

Hi, all

I'm Derek K. Miller's dad (penmachine.com) and have decided to join the world-wide "blogger community". I won't pretend that my writing will come close in its form to the erudition of Derek's; however, I'll endeavor to shape my submissions in a clear and concise manner. Derek has a degree in non-fiction writing, so I have an excuse if my writing does not reach his level.

Since this is the first time I'm using this software, you may find that I'll change the appearance of this blog as I become more familiar with the way it works.

So, "hello" to everyone.

J.Karl Miller