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Monique - History

Hi all,
My dear spouse, family member and a good friend to many of you Monique Lussier was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2004. At that time she was treated over a period of several months and things seemed to be cleared up... with only periodic examinations to be done at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Centre (ORCC).

However on November 3, 2006, after being treated for some months for what we thought was a sports-related back injury, we learned that the cancer had returned. In response to your many queries we will try to update you through this Web page. Thanks for all your kindness, cards and best wishes. Your prayers and/or positive thoughts are appreciated. -pwm

Please feel free to call me (613) 833-1547 or e-mail: meikle[at] However, please accept my apologies if I do not reply to your individual e-mail. Your phone call would be easier to handle (and let us know if there is other information that we can add...).
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Hi all,
This page contains previous history on Monique as well as the items under the following TOC:
- pwm

Table of Contents

The beginning: How it all started
Chronology of events by date

The most recent update!!
The Previous Update (from what is currently on main page.)
Messages received from family, friends and colleagues
Definitions of some terms used

How this all started...
My dear spouse, family member and a good friend to many of you Monique Lussier was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2004. At that time she was treated over a period of several months and things seemed to be cleared up... with only periodic examinations to be done at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Centre (ORCC).

However on November 3, 2006, after being treated for some months for what we thought was a sports-related back injury, we learned that the cancer had returned. In response to your many queries we will try to update you through this Web page. Thanks for all your kindness, cards and best wishes. Your prayers and/or positive thoughts are appreciated. -pwm

Please feel free to call me (613) 833-1547 or e-mail: meikle[at] However, please accept my apologies if I do not reply to your individual e-mail. Your phone call would be easier to handle.
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November 2006:
We have had quite a challenging time since November 3, when Monique was diagnosed with a return of her breast cancer which found its way into her hip and pelvic bone area. Without going in to all the details (three weeks of radiation treatments and a multitude of tests), we were making daily visits to the Ottawa Regional Cancer Centre, then on Monday, November 27, due to her weakening condition, Monique was admitted to the General Hospital in an attempt to control her pain and build up her strength. She is certainly in the right place because we had reached the level of our capacity at home and it was a 24-hour care program that left us both drained.

Monique is getting excellent care in the Oncology Ward of the hospital and if they can control the pain and get her back so she can walk comfortably and climb stairs, we are hoping we can have her back home by mid-December.

It has been a real roller-coaster ride because the news and diagnosis from the various specialists has been often confusing... everything from optimistic to very ominous.
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Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2006:
ORCC - Another radiation treatment in the early morning with arrangements for a stretcher and a porter to bring Monique to the chemotherapy area for her first Pamidronate treatment for bone deterioration.
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Tuesday, December 5, 2006:
Monique underwent a big dose of chemotherapy today... Why?
Because all the results from the tests are not yet in and the because the General Hospital is waiting for the report on the original biopsy and lumptechtomy from around two years ago from the Montfort hospital, the doctors do not want to take any chances. If chemo is not started immediately, Monique's chances of the cancer progressing are greater. The General has been waiting almost two weeks to hear back from the Montfort... what bureaucracy!

We have been told that the reason the original biopsy sample is needed, is to determine exactly what type of cancer it was. There have been great strides in research even within the last 12 months, and certain cancer cells can be treated more actively than others. We are hoping that our sample will prove to be one of those.

At this point we are very hopeful. The cancer seems to be localized and has evidently not appeared in any of the vital organs (this often proves to be terminal). We can not speculate on anything at this time because every situation is different and each person is affected differently.
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Friday, Dec. 8, 2006:
Been through several looonng days at the hospital while Monique went through her chemotherapy session (on Wednesday, Dec. 6) and two follow-up days. I also attended a Chemotherapy workshop for patients and family members. Very informative... some scary side effects possible, but again, each person is different. The effects will not kick in for a while yet... they say 10 to 14 days.

In the meantime Monique has good and not-so-good days. During the day the hospital ward is very noisy with an incredible number of interuptions by doctors, medical teams, nurses, physio- therapists, pharmacists (for medication consultation) and various other individuals.
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Sunday, Dec. 10, 2006:
Surprised Monique with a visit with Crockett this afternoon. Much joy and happiness and great therapy for Monique and her roommate.
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Monday, Dec. 11, 2006:
Monique was hospitalized two weeks ago today.
Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2006:
Monique says she would like to be able to come home to get some rest (grin). She appears to be getting a bit stronger, although controlling her pain is still a challenge, even with a morphine pump. They are now trying a combination of pump and pain patches. And, because of the pain problem it looks like they may order up another MRI.

They did indeed bring Monique to the MRI area... about 9 p.m., unfortunately it appeared that the "regular" doctor was not on board and Monique was only given about half of the pain-killing medication needed to relieve pain when she is moved. The MRI procedure was so hurting that she could not continue the full scan and told them that she would not go through with it again.
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Thursday, Dec. 14, 2006:
The regular palliative care physician, just an excellent man, advised Monique that an MRI was absolutely necessary as they had to find out what was the reason for the continuing and increase in pain (The worry is that the cancer may be moving or increasing). He heavily sedated her and personally accompanied her to and from the MRI room and they were able to go through with the examination.

(I drop in for a quick evening visit and son James meets me at Monique's room. He happens to have a "sample" of good Portugese port, which Monique and roommate Cecile sample in small pill holders.)
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Friday, Dec. 15, 2006:
Celine and Denis (Monique's sister and spouse) visit from Montreal. They have come down several times and have been absolutely wonderful to us, helping out in more ways than we will ever be able to repay, along good friends Morlen and Brigitte Reynolds and with many other family members and neighbours... so many that it would take a page to fill.

Monique received the results of the MRI, and it appears that she has a fracture in the lower spine area. Her bones are evidently weak and fragile and she may have damaged them while moving in and out of bed. While not good news it was a big relief to her that it was not directly related or affected by the cancer area.

I drop in in the afternoon for a short visit and bring in some clean socks and nightgown. My boys James and Andrew are waiting with Crockett in the car... putting in quarters whenever the parking varmits check the meters.
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Saturday, Dec. 16, 2006:
I surprise Monique with another visit from Crockett. He is a big hit with many patients and staff alike and lies placidy asleep at our feet while we talk.

Monique's son Vincent, who is a new officer now stationed in Quebec City with the Vandoos (Royal 22e Régiment - Québec) came for visits, along with his financée, Vicki Baril.

A beautiful flower arrangement comes to Monique via one of our clients (CUTA).
(Thank you, gang!)
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Sunday, Dec. 17, 2006:
Vincent and Vicki are still in town and Vincent comes up for a short visit while I am there again with Crockett. He looks after the pup while I help my dearest friend with a refreshing shower.
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Monday, Dec. 18, 2006:
Monique was hospitalized three weeks ago today.

She had visitors today in the way of sister Celine (Denis), brother Jacques and son Vincent (Vicki). The always thoughful Celine brought in a batch of family pictures for everyone to enjoy. Later in the early evening, friend Murray McGregor, who was visiting another patient, dropped in to say hello.

I followed shortly thereafter with another terrific hot meal, thanks to friends Brigitte and Morlen Reynolds... chinese chicken, veggie-rice and home-grown carrots. Thanks B!!

Monique also learned today that a test (to determine if the specific type of her original biopsied cells would be favourable to an effective new treatment) proved negative and she would have to continue with current chemotherapy methods.

(Another beautiful floral arrangement comes thanks to friends Allan and Iryana... Thank you!)
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Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2006:
Monique tells me by phone that yet another combination of pain medication has been suggested by the staff phamacist. Also the physiotherapist who has been working with Monique believes that her fracture will not be affected by walking exercise and if the medical staff agree and can offer proper pain medication, Monique may be able to return home by Thursday.

A second Pamidronate (See under definitions) treatment is given today... this is done intravenously and takes two to three hours, and can be very tiring. Monique feels the effects because she has to lie in an uncomfortable position for a long time and this causes more pain.
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Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2006:
Things can really change quickly... a combination of things gives Monique a serious setback. The effects of the chemotherapy treatment are starting to kick in and one of the more dangerous side effects is fever. It can be deadly.

With low white blood cells Monique's immune system is vulnerable. She has picked up an infection and just overnight her temperature goes sky-high. Her legs and feet have also swollen terribly. The oncology doctor on duty calls early and suggest that I come in to be with Monique.

Monique is on an intravenous antibiotic and hydration liquid.

I meet up with her just as she is taken to the ultrasound department. They want to see what is causing the swelling. Monique is in considerable distress and the medication is causing her to drift in and out... it's not fun and the ultrasound procedure causes more pain and discomfort.

By supper time things seem to stabalize a bit and during the evening the temperature starts to lower. An X-Ray technician comes in with a "portable" x-ray machine. They want to see if there is any fluid in the lungs.

Around 9 p.m., Monique falls asleep and except for periodic spasms, thankfully seems to pass a comfortable night... sleeping until about five or six. (I have a cot set up next to her bed... the last time I had such a sleep was many years ago sitting up on an overnight train ride!)
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Thursday, Dec. 21, 2006:
The morning starts out well but at 8:30 a.m. a special nursing team arrives to insert a PICC line, a peripherally inserted central catheter which will allow for easier and more comfortable intravenous access.

Unfortunately the bed has to be changed first and as Monique is moved and rolled she experiences what I find to be the most excruciating pain yet. It is so disheartening to see my loved one so injured that it leads me to tears and I must find a quiet place to regain my composure and find myself.

As the PICC team prepares, the doctor present administers a strong sedative, which acts quickly to quell Monique's stress and discomfort. By early afternoon she is feeling better... she has a bit to eat and starts to remember yesterday's events... including a very short visit by Crockett's breeder, Marty Williams, who actually brought a new Golden Retriever puppy up to see Monique.

I have just returned home from 24 hours at the hospital and after a few household chores, will return for another night and another "train ride".
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Sunday, January 14, 2007:
We can't tell you how much we appreciate the kind words, cards, flowers, gifts, prayers and thoughtfulness that so many of you have shown to us over these many weeks. We are truly blessed with wonderful friends and family.

For those of you who have gone through these challenges you will understand the care and attention it takes on a day-to-day basis and you will know that updating this page has been impossible.

Let me give you a few highlights:

Dec.23: Monique was given a four day "pass" to come home for Christmas. Because of her condition she was not able to travel by car so a private ambulance service was used. The yellow ribbons tied along the driveway and on our front door was a lovely touch. Thanks B & M!

Over the Christmas holidays we had several visits from family and friends. Many brought food and drink with them. We enjoyed all of you and cannot thank you enough.

Jan. 2: Another visit to the Ottawa Regional Cancer Centre (ORCC), where several more tests were conducted along with an update from the chief oncologist.

Jan 3: A second chemotherapy treatment at the ORCC as an out-patient. along with another ultrasound. This day was particularly long and tiring, however the time involved to take the chemo medication was cut by hours thanks to the PICC line (SEE under definitions).

For a number of days, Monique is more tired after the chemo... than about a week later (Jan. 9-10) we have to be particularly careful and monitor her condition as her white blood cells are very low and she is vulnerable to infections and fever. We try to discourage visitors during this time.

Hey! January 14 is my daughter Suzanne's birthday... Happy Birthday my darling daughter!
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Click here for the latest information

Saturday, January 27, 2007:
Thanks to the Chemotherapy and the pamidronate (steroids)(SEE: definitions) treatments for the bone healing, we think Monique is feeling much stronger than when she came home... in fact "home" is the best place for her.

(Hospitals are no place to get rest, in fact they can be downright dangerous for patients who may be vulerable to the flu bugs going around!)

We had our "regular" chemo and pamidronate treatment this past Wednesday, January 24, preceeded on Tuesday by our pre-chemo blood work to make sure Monique's white cells were up enough to take the treatment. We also had an appointment with the oncologist to make sure everything was going well. This gives us an opportunity to ask any questions, or to voice any concerns that we may have, since the last visit.

Our palliative care doctor (No, "palliative" does not sound as bad as you think...) who looks after the medication for pain management, was really surprised to see Monique looking as good as she does and to see her on her feet and feeling quite chipper, standing and walking with the help of a walker.

I can tell you though that visits to the ORCC are very tiring, especially on chemo days. They leave us both drained and it takes a day or two for Monique to recover from the strain. (We usually like to cancel any activity or visits for a few days after.)

Monique's son Emmanuel (recently back from teaching in Korea, via London England) is visiting this weekend, so we are enjoying his time with us... especially 'cause he's doing the spahgetti tonight ;-)

A reminder to friends and family, in spite of the great home-nursing and occasional homecare worker visits, my days are pretty busy and I don't find a lot of time to do much else... but I am thinking of you(se) and hoping we can get together soon.
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Thursday, February 1, 2007:
Here is an update prompted by a few queries from family and friends...

Things are going as well as can be expected... on a day-to-day basis Monique has good days and bad days, but generally she seems to be getting stronger.

Because the cancer has affected the bones in the her back and spine area, pain is always present and all that can be done is to control it through constant medication via a CADD (Continuous Ambulatory Drug Delivery) pump. The pump administers the liquid medication (Fentanyl, in a 500 ml bag) which must be checked regularly for liquid levels (in millileters) and replenished about every three days. It runs on batteries which also have to be changed about twice a week.

We try to change the bags at a convenient time (during the day), but last night for example we overlooked the remaining levels and found ourselves up a 4:00 a.m. with a "low level" message. The bag actually ran out as we where changing it. It took a call to the on-call nurse to find out what we had to do to get the pump re-set.

As mentioned before Monique is also getting regular pamidronate doses, which take about an hour per session (combined with the chemo). This drug is to help heal the bones... if you remember back in December we learned that Monique had suffered a small spine fracture possibly from moving the wrong way... apparently some of the medication (chemo?) can leave the bones very brittle. We believe this injury has also added to the pain and discomfort.

Monique is in the process of chemotherapy treatments, which happen about every three to four weeks. They leave her tired for a few days afterwards, then about a week to ten days after that, we have to be particularly careful as her immune system is almost non existant until the white blood cells come back up. So during these time we discourage visitors and watch her temperature. Fever is the big worry and a high fever can be fatal.

Before each chemo treatment we have to check into the hospital the day before to have her blood work done to make sure the white counts are up enough to undergo the chemo on the next day.

We have another chemo session scheduled for February 14, then once that has taken effect another MRI examination is to be conducted to determine a "before and after" scenario to see what is happening with the cancer.

We can only hope tht the treatments are working. At this point we simply do not know.

If we don't call or udpate the Web page it is because we simply cannot maintain a regular schedule. Monique's needs are foremost, and they are generally more intense in the mornings until she is up and ready for the day. And, during the working week we must also try to keep up with the demands of our translation business. The days go by quickly and we are both drained at the end of them.
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Saturday, March 17, 2007:
Things have been pretty hectic at times since the last update on February 1. Monique has been hospitalized twice since then, due to dangerously high temperatures, and she requires a lot of attention. I do not like to leave her alone for longer than an hour or so, unless I have someone to stay with her.

She is responding well to the chemotherapy and the cancer tumours have shrunk, however the biggest problem is the severe pain caused by damaged vertebrae in her lower back area, which in turn are pinching the nerves. Sadly, the pain is always there and some days it is almost unbearable.

We have been to see a neurosurgeon specializing in spinal injuries to see if surgery will help to repair the damage, but he was not too hopeful given the type and area of damage. However nothing can be gained without the surgery so Monique has opted to have it done, sometime in early April. There are some risks involved and given that she just had her fifth chemotherapy treatment, we must now wait until her white blood count is back to a safe level.

Thanks for your messages of concern.

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Monday, July 2, 2007:
It has been a long haul since starting up this page some seven months ago... (yes hard to believe!).

Monique has had at least four stays (anywhere from one day to three weeks) in the hospital for various things including surgery to relieve the pain in her back, emergencies for high temperature, and close monitoring while various pain medications have been tested.

Yes that damndable pain. If we could just get rid of it we would be able to lead a relatively normal life. As it stands nothing that has been tried works 100 per cent, and on a scale of 1-to-10 (not scientific, but it's what they use as a measurement) Monique's pain ranges from a five, up to a ten on some days.

She has been virtually disabled for all of this time and walks, with difficulty using a four-legged walker. A wheelchair is needed for anything more than a walk around the house. We need a van for transportation as a car seat is too low and painful and a grateful thanks to our friends Morlen and Brigitte Reynolds (of Canaan Blueberries) we have been able to use their van for the many trips we make back and forth to hospital appointments... which seem to average three or four times a month.

Monique's care and comfort take priority so needless to say I don't have much time for other things these days and have dropped all but a few home-based activities.

If you want further up-to-date information, a phone call is probably the best way... and I will answer when I can. And again... thanks for your messages of concern. Patrick
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Sunday, October 28, 2007:
Many of you have been wondering what has been happening over the past several months as I have not updated this page since early July. First let me thank you for your support and wishes and offers of assistance. It has been a long and often difficult go and as principle caregiver I have had little time and energy to do much else..

Monique (was then) in the hospital (General Campus, Oncology Ward), having been admitted on Wednesday, September 26 for new procedures to eliminate her pain caused by damaged nerves and lower back bone.

Regrettably an initial attempt at blocking the pain did not work and worse, on Friday, October 5, she went into septic shock as a result of a blood infection.

As her temperature soared to almost 40-degrees-C and her blood pressure dropped dangerously low, she was transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU). Her condition was so serious that her family members were notified, and we thought we were going to lose her.

Thankfully, massive doses of anti-biotics and other medications to boost her blood pressure, took effect and she was returned to a stable condition. After a few days she was returned to the oncology ward where she remained in serious condition for another few weeks.

I have spent more nights than I can remember at the hospital and for the past ten days sleeping on a cot in her room helping her through the anxious moments and augmenting the great nursing care that she is getting, just by being there.

Unfortunately with this setback and ICU treatment her pain medication was altered and the two medication pumps that she was using to infuse drugs through a permanent intravenous, had to be stopped, so the pain levels returned at an almost unbearable rate.

But as the infection was eliminated and Monique's strength continued, another procedure, an Intrathecal, was introduced this past Friday, October 26. Essentially it is a "permanent" epidural in her lower back.

So far things seem to be working, but it is still too early to tell, and there can be great risks involved in this process... a return of infection, meningitis, paralysis, etc.

While the cancer is not curable, it is stable, sort of like diabetes. Diabetes is not curable but it is treatable and people can live fairly normal, productive and long lives with it.

If it had not been for the pain that Monique has had to endure, her life would be relatively normal. Hopefully this latest technique will work.

And again... thanks for your messages of concern.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007:
I have just returned home from the hospital, after 37 hours!

Monique has had another run of tough luck. On Monday evening (Nov. 19) she started to experience excruciating abdominal pain which lasted from around 10:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m. the next morning, before several X-rays (between 2 and 3 a.m.) and medical examinations determined that she had blocked bowels. I was with her for the entire session and it was heartbreaking to stand by not being able to do anything except hold her hand and offer comfort.

Relief did not come until sometime between 4 and 5 a.m. and sleep for Monique did not come until about 7:00 a.m. One of her doctors said that she was very close to having a bowel burst. A CAT scan was also ordered as a precaution to make sure it was not the cancer that caused the problem.

I remained with Monique throughout the day and until this morning and posted a note on her closed hospital room door: "This is a rest day. Beware of Dog!"

I played the part of the "watch dog" just to stop the constant traffic of people coming in and out of the room... doctors and nurses (O.K.!), physiotherapists, occupational therapists, hospital volunteers, cleaning staff, food staff, rehab-centre people, etc., etc. (NOT!) One morning while I was still with Monique, up to 15 different persons came into the room! Between that and the constant blare of the P.A. system used by the nursing station to alert and direct the medical staff, daytime rest is constantly being interrupted.

The nights are not always much better, starting with the 10:00 p.m. "wake-up" call for the sleeping patient to take his-or-her sleeping pill. Then during the night regular nursing visits to check the patients, the intravenous pumps, oxygen, etc. and the "regular" (between 4 and 6 a.m.) vital sign checks for pulse, blood pressure, temperature and oxygen (percentage) breathing intake.

Thankfully the more "mature" nurses are quiet, discreet and use unobtrusive mini-flashlights during their regular bed checks. Some of the younger ones (or older ones with poorer vision [grin]) tend to turn on the florescent lights and wake the patients up.

(Having spent the better part of the last month, sleeping on a cot in Monique's room, I have found only two or three nurses to be so inconspicuous as to not wake us during their nightly rounds.)
Incidentally, it was one year ago on November 3 that we got the devastating news that Monique's breast cancer had returned... to her lower back and pelvis area. The news at the time from the emergency room staff at the Montfort Hospital was very grave (no pun intented) and subsequent prognosis suggested that Monique's life span would be greatly curtailed. Here we are one year later and Monique is still going strong (I am sure in large part thanks to your prayers and positive thoughts), and again if it were not for the pain caused from damaged nerves, she would (we would) be able to lead fairly normal lives.
The good news at this time is that Monique has gone from three or four medication pumps down to one, which is currently feeding the Intrathecal epidural (a "permanent" port inserted into her left hip)... and the pain has been reduced substantially.

The method of monitoring the pain is not very scientific ("Monique, on a scale of one to ten, one being the least and ten being the most severe, what is your current pain level?"

It was often a 10+! It is now hovering around a 3 to 5, which would still be overwhelming for many people, however Monique apparently has a very high pain threshold.

Ironically but for the pain, Monique was admitted to the hospital in much better physical condition than she is in now. The setback from last month was almost fatal but she is making good progress both physically and mentally and barring any further bumps on her road to recovery we hope she will be back home again soon.

There are so many more interesting day-to-day anecdotes and details that I would like to share with you, but they would take a journal to fill. As a matter of fact they are filling my journal... maybe I'll let you read it sometime!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007:
Since the last update Monique has progressed very quickly from being completely bed-ridden to being able to walk with the help of a "walker" and assistance from the ward physiotherapists, and amazing the medical staff.

Her pain, thanks to a change in medication administered by the Intrathecal epidural has all but gone away, which I find almost miraculous and hard to believe, given that it has been such a terrible burden for almost a year!

(There is no change to the cancer. It continues to be stable and remains in check with medication.)

Because of her progress she was deemed to be a candidate for the Rehabilitation Center, which is located south and adjacent to the General Campus. And today, Monique was trasferred to the Rehab Centre.

Last Friday (November 30) Monique was given a day pass so we took advantage of it and had a fine meal at the Barley Mow, Tenth Line Road and Innes Road. What was extraordinary about this event was not that it was the first time Monique was able to leave the hospital for the first time in over two months, but was the fact that she was pain free and was actually able to sit down for a long period of time, a first in over a year!

After the meal we drove to our home so Monique could spend a bit of time in our house, then a quick tour of our town, Rockland, to show Monique the tremendous building progress since her admission to hospital.
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Wednesday, December 12, 2007:
Monique is doing remarkably well considering we almost lost her in early October. She moved into the (Ottawa) Rehabilitation Centre last Wednesday, December 5, 2007. (It is all part of the huge complex that makes up the General Campus of the Ottawa Hospital. SEE: and look for Rehabilitation Centre under the "Specialty Centres" in the left-hand column).

They are working on her strength and endurance so she will be able to walk, climb stairs and perform the everyday tasks of dressing, washing, etc... things that we so easily take for granted.

I have had her out a few times now and hope to have her out on regular weekend passes until she is strong enough to come home for good. I don't think it will be too long before she is discharged.

Yesterday, my sons James and Andrew were over to help put up most of the Christmas lights and decorations, but they left the tree for Monique and I to do over the weekend.
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Monday, December 17, 2007:
Monique was on a home pass for the weekend and we spent it quietly putting up some Christmas decorations and generally relaxing and enjoying each other's company.

First time Monique was able to spend a night at home in over two and a half months... and actually the first time she was able to sleep in our own bed rather than the hospital bed that was required before her pain was put under control.

Sunday's winter storm made it impossible to get her back to the Rehab Centre for Sunday evening... so we managed to get her back this morning thanks to a great friend and neighbour Morlen Reynolds, who was digging out our driveway at 7:30 a.m. with his good old John Deere.

Unfortunately Monique's catheter and pain pump gave us problems all weekend and the pump alarm kept going off most of Friday and Sunday nights so we had to "bury" it with pillows so we could sleep.

Back at the Rehab today, it looks like there may be a problem with the catheter so Monique is waiting for more expert examinations and a likely X-ray. She has not been lucky with some of the side effects and her pain level increased dramatically over night. (Just shows you how fragile things can be ;-(

The Rehab Centre physio activities close from December 22 to January 2, and the plan is to have Monique home for that time. We are planning a quiet holiday and foregoing any of our usual out-of-town Christmas gatherings with her family, so we can be close to the medical facilities if needs be.

Once again... thanks for your good wishes and messages of concern.
Best to all!
Sunday, December 23, 2007:
Never count your chickens, they say...

As mentioned in the last update, Monique's intrathecal catheter has been giving her problems all week and the pain medication has not been getting through, so extra "breakthroughs" (medication doses) have been necessary via injections of dilaudid.

Because of this problem the pain specialists decided to replace the catheter however they had some difficulty in reserving operating room space until Friday, Dec. 21.

Monique had her surgery around 1:00 p.m. It was supposed to be at 1:30 p.m. and I was going to be there for 12:30 p.m. to walk her down to the O.R. but they pulled a change on us and surprised everyone. I was sorry they had not called as I know Monique was pretty nervous about the operation.

Even though the operation is considered to be minor, the actual procedure in installing a catheter is very delicate so the doctor was quite concerned about getting the tubing in the right place and
hoping it wouls work. Things seemed to have gon well however they kept Monique in recovery almost until 6:00 p.m. to make sure everything was working O.K. Seems the new catheter was initially doing the job.

I helped Monique with her supper and she was very hungry to say the least, as she had to fast from midnight. She was pretty tired but feeling good.

Things were put in place earlier in the day to have Monique come home on a pass, but they threw in another little complication... she has to have anti-biotics administered by I.V. for three days to avoid possible infection. This item change was not sent on to the local home care services so the evening nurse was trying to sort that out with the Cornwall office before an 8:00 p.m. closing time.

I stayed with Monique until around 10:00 p.m. so it was a long day for both of us.

By Saturday (yesterday) even though the orders for medical supplies went through for the homecare nurse, Monique suffered a bit of a setback because the pain medication could not be adequately adjusted to control the pain, and, one of the many possible side-effects kicked in, ie) medication can affect the feeling in legs (even paralysis). (Monique is having difficulty moving her right leg and this condition has left her ability to move and walk, impaired.

As of today, Monique remains in the hospital. Hopefully she will be able to come home for Christmas, and the word I just received was that they will evidently have to try and fix/replace the catheter early in 2008. Bummer ;-(!

(Thanks again for your continuing prayers and/or best wishes and the best to you and yours for the holiday season and into the new year.)
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The Previous Update (from what is currently on main page):
Friday, January 3, 2008:
Thanks for your greetings, wishes and lovely Christmas cards.

Monique was not able to come home for Christmas and I spend the better part of six days with her at the Rehabilitation Center. Her pain could not be put under enough control for her to be home comfortably. However the nursing staff were just excellent. They moved a bed for me next to Monique's, couldn't do enough for us and offered to throw in extra food for me as well.

She finally came home on Thursday, December 27, however we had a major cirisis just after she arrived. Her CADD pump stopped functioning for a few hours and we could not get it fixed properly, even with the help of our wonderful homecare nurse and folks back at the hospital. For a while it looked as though we were going to have to return to the General Hospital, probably through emergency

I knew that it would take hours to go through that scenerio so I called the specialist doctor who has been treating Monique ( an anesthesiologist who also specializes in pain management)and she God bless her, believe it or not... made a "house call" all the way from Kanata! She was able to attach the pump lines back to the catheter (the port is under the skin in Monique's back), a delicate procedure that requires precision placement... couldn't believe her
dedication and humanness towards Monique... great relief at this end and the pump action stabilized.

So we kept Monique at home until New Year's Day when we had to meet this wonderful doctor at the pain clinic where she changed Monique's dressing again.

Monique then stayed back at the Rehab Center to get on with her physio sessions on January 2.

(On a positive note, Monique has progressed from being bedridden, moving to a wheelchair, and now using a walker. She is currently practising using two canes and with more physio should be walking more easily, soon. She was able to sit down at her computer this past week... first time in ages, and is actually talking about getting back into the ANABEL role, as well.)

(Thanks again for your continuing prayers and/or best wishes and the best to you and yours for 2008!)


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For the latest update, click here.

We take each day one at a time and hope for the best...
Look for more updates when I have the time...
(and let us know if there is other information that we can add...)

This has always been my favorite photo of Monique... taken a number of years ago. That is her nephew Guillaume.

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Messages Received:
( I would like to share your thoughts and wishes with other visitors to this site because many
of us know each other and this circumstance has brought many of you back into our lives
for the first time in many years. If YOU do not want your name or message shown, please
let me know and I will remove it. Sincere thanks to all for sharing. - Monique & Patrick )

Thursday, 14 Dec 2006:
How wonderful to talk to you today. Keep your chin up and don't forget the power of the 4-letter words (hope) we talked about!!!! Call me any time, day or night ... Tell Monique we are thinking of her and look forward to a visit with you both.
Talk to you soon. Fondest Regards
Gene Carson & Kathryn Whittaker, Toronto
Hi Patrick,
I am very sorry to hear about what your wife is going through. I sincerely hope for the best to come out of this. If you are open to it, I would like to hook up with you sometime and catch up. The beer's on me. In any case, all the best to you and Monique. My prayers are with you.
Roy Acres
former writer @ Newswest for Patrick Meikle
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Friday, 15 Dec 2006:
I found out only yesterday about the agony Monique has been going through, and I can empathize with both of you and the family of course. It's a wonder our paths didn't cross this past month or so; my wife is going her own hell with cancer of the esophagus and lymph nodes. She has finished
with her radiation and chemo treaments and now we wait, and wait for news of the hopeful demise of all those mean, vicious life wreckers. Colette had her chemo done at the General and radiation done at the Civic Cancer Centre.

You are probably wondering who the blazes am I. I used to take in your first Tuesday social gatherings some years ago with you, Hal, Roseleen, and others, and attended one of your famous BBQs at your place one summer.

I fervently hope Monique gets home in time for Christmas. We have to cling to those memorable occasions because we don't know how many we have left. My prayers are with you all.
Paul Daigneault
Dear friend & interlocutor,
Thank you for letting me know the seriousness of Monique's illness. I didn't know about the recurrence but do know from my sister, who survived a double mastectomy, that early detection is the key to victory. Everyone who has felt the warmth & love in your home knows how well- equipped you all are in mind & spirit to handle this painful crisis.

I pray for your continued family strength and humour to carry you through this time of trial and especially pray for our Lord to guide and comfort you all. You will also be in our special prayers this Sunday at All Saints Westboro -- where you have many friends.

This old poem for an old friend springs to mind for you:

Patrick's Pilgrims
My poet-friend is on a pilgrimage.
The harsh Croagh Patrick trail
Beckons him up
With cruel, uncaring hand.

Two thousand years of pain
And absolution mark that climb
For myriads of sinners.
Yet he strives for self-discovery;
Strides on for Socrates,
Stumbles towards epiphany.

Many have trod that stoney way And fall upon the shards of life;
They bleed.

I fall and rise again with my old friend
Across the wordless sea,
And sharpen, tune and hone
The holy word-hoard
Of arrivals.

( © Mike Heenan, March 17, 2002)

Yours aye,
Mike Heenan
So very sorry to hear that Monique is in the hospital. I will continue to remember her in my daily prayers. Know that you are both in our thoughts and will look forward to your updates as to Monique's condition. Take care, kindest regards to both of you.
Juanita Bondy
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Sat, 16 Dec 2006:
Hello Pat,
It's been a very long time, too long. As is so often the case, we are not in contact when life is going well. Gene called and told me about Monique and her struggle.

I came to the conclusion a long time ago that it is difficult to say anything very meaningful to people going through this sort of trial other than asking for updates when it is comfortable for you to do so. As trite and meaningless as it is; I will add that if there is anything we can do, please let us know, I wish I was still in Ottawa, I could be of some real assistance.

Please give my best regards to Monique, our thoughts are with her and you. I remember twins, is that correct? I hope they are managing. And of course your kids; they must be nearing, or in their 30's now. I hope they are all close by to help out. If you have a chance, send a quick message back, okay.
Greg Aldworth
I am so sorry to hear this news... I am both shocked, and saddened.... Sometimes I think that life is just not fair... This is one of those times....

Please be assured of my support, and prayers, as you both battle this challenging jog in your road of life together. I will watch the web for your medical updates, Patrick.

Hugs and heartfelt caring to you both,
Gale Begbie
Hello Patrick:
Thank you for the information concerning Monique. I am sorry to say that I did not know that she was ill. I remember in class when Lise was ill, that you had stated that you understood because Monique had just gone through treatment for cancer of the breast. I am assuming that this is now a
recurrence. I am truly sorry.

I remember meeting Monique at the year end party in May. I thought she was a very"classy" lady, and what a lucky fellow you were. We will never understand why bad things happen to good people.

Having been a nurse for 30 years, I know that miracles do happen, and one must never give up hope.

I will certainly keep Monique and you in my thoughts and prayers. I hope that you will keep me updated as to her condition when time permits.

Sonja Millette
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June-July 2006: The early months...
The memory is a blur but during the early part of summer Monique comes up with what is beleived to be an aerobics related back injury. After a few weeks when the discomfort continues an appointment is made with our family doctor. He treats the symptoms of a lower back injury and none of us make the connection that it may be cancer related.

Mid-September 2006: Another visit to the family doctor...
At this time our doctor can see that there has been no progress in the healing and as the pain symptoms seem to have moved downwards to the lower extremities and legs, he orders up an MRI, which he requests be done before he leaves on holidays on November 1. (About this time Monique is being prescribed the strongest possible pain killer available through a pharmacy.)

November 1, 2006: MRI update...
Through some communications mix-up the MRI clinic does not slot Monique in until November 29! I contact the clinic to try and have the appointment moved ahead but without a doctor's approval... they will not change the date. They suggest that we could try and reach the radiologist at the Montfort Hospital who may be able to help (this approach did not work). A last minute call to the family doctor finds that he is not available.

Given the continuing pain that Monique is having and the fact that her mobility has been greatly reduced to a slow shuffle and limp, we decide that it is time for another approach. Hence...

Friday, November 3, 2006: Visit to Emergency - Montfort Hospital
- After seven hours (!), an examination, X-Ray and CAT Scan, we learn that the cancer has
returned. They want to admit Monique immediately as the Montfort does not have an oncologist and they will bring one in as soon as possible, however, as we happen to have a follow-up at the ORCC on the coming Monday, they allow her to go home. The doctor cannot belief the terrific pain that Monique has endured all of this time.
(Given the serious tone of the emergency doctor and CAT technician, we assume the worse and we can tell you that we had a very difficult and emotional weekend ;-(

Monday, November 6, 2006: Appointment at ORCC...
Follow-up visit with radiology oncologist Dr. P.G.. His preliminary news is more encouraging. The cancer appears to be localized in the pelvic and hip bone area and he suggests that it is treatable. The pain that Monique is suffering should, with radiation, go away within weeks.

November 8 to 22:
Over the next two weeks, we make daily trips in to the ORCC for radiation treatments. The treatments themselves take only minutes but the hassle is in the parking and waiting times.

Sunday, November 19, 2006: MRI Clinic...
Fortunately we had the presence of mind not to cancel the original MRI exam originally scheduled for November 29 and they were able to move it ahead, 10 days to today. (The radiology oncologist suggested that we keep this appointment as MRI space is often difficult to get.)

November 21, 2006:
- 7:30 a.m. - ORCC - Radiation Treatment - Arrangements for a stretcher and a porter
- 9:00 a.m. - ORCC - Pamidronate treatment for bone deterioration

November 22, 2006:
- 8:30 a.m. - ORCC - Bone Scan preparation
- 9:45 a.m. - ORCC - Radiation Treatment
- 11:15 a.m. - Actual Bone Scan procedure

November 23, 2006:
8:30 a.m. - Meeting with Dr. S.D., chief medical oncologist - ORCC

November 24, 2006:
1:45 p.m. - ORCC - Heart examination (CANCELLED due to Monique's fatigued condition.)

Monday, November 27, 2006:
After several days of pain increase and weakened condition the oncology team recommend that Monique be hospitalized to try and control the pain. They advise us to call 911 and order and ambulance (This is the only way we will be able to get one quickly!) to bring Monique in to the hospital, whre they will be waiting for her. Fortunately the homecare nurse is on hand and gives a convincing reason to the operator.

The ambulance crew arrive (two regulars and a trainee) within about 20 minutes and walk in with their big muddy boots... then without listening to our information about Monique's particular condition and the fact that she cannot lie on her back, proceed (with rubber gloves on) to go through their one-size-fits-all check list of vital signs and questions (TFB). Then when they are ready, they pack her on to the gurney like any sack of potatoes and transport her to the Ottawa Hospital, General Campus, Emergency... Monique says later that it was the most painful ride she has ever had and that she wishes we had taken her in by car... at least we could have avoided every jolting bump on the road that felt like hammers raining down on her injury.

It only takes six hours before Monique is "processed" (TFB)... where were the people who said they would be waiting for her? ...oh, I forgot... things shut down at 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006:
Three o'clock in the afternoon and Monique is still in an emergency room as they have not been able to arrange a bed. While I am visiting her and go to get a snack, I come back and the room is empty. Monique has been moved! I have to search for someone who can then tell me that she has been moved up to the cancer ward, 5-East.

Monday, November 27, 2006 -to- Saturday, December 23, 2006:
Monique is admitted and remains in the Ottawa Hospital (General Campus) Oncology Ward ostensibly to strengthen her weakened condition and to help control her pain. The stay stretches into almost four weeks, during which time she receives excellent care from the medical team, but a hospital is no place to get any rest, and quite frankly the cancer ward can be a depressing place. (Most of the activities during this period are documented above.)

Saturday, December 23, 2006 -to- date:
Monique comes home for the Christmas holidays and because her condition (specifically the pain medication) has stabilized, she is allowed to remain home where she gathers strength and rest.

And now, back to our regular updates... click here.
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Tuesday, January 22, 2008:
Monique was officially discharged Monday, January 7.

She is working really hard to build up her strength and endurance and has progressed to walking now with the assistance of two canes. We have both joined a local fitness gym in Rockland and are going for short visits each day... she for the rehab, me for the weight loss ;-(

(Thanks for all your wishes...)


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(HINT: A good way to find most definitions of anything, is to go to "Google". Enter "Definition: [and the item you are seeking]" in the text box.)

CADD (Continuous Ambulatory Drug Delivery) pump - A CADD pump is a battery operated pump designed to deliver medication while you are up and about, in hospital or at home. It can be carried in a pouch over your shoulder. It is used to give a small amount of medication continuously. (An interesting aside... these pumps are about the size of a telephone key pad and are worth between $8000 and $10,000!! They know this because one was recently and accidentally destroyed when a patient was cremated and the cost of the pump was required for insurance purposes!) (Return to previous place.)
CAT scan - A series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles; the pictures are created by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. Also called computerized axial tomography, computed tomography (CT scan), or computerized tomography.
(Return to previous place.)

CUTA - The Canadian Urban Transit Association - See who they are.
(Return to previous place.)
Fentanyl - A narcotic analgesic used in combination with other drugs before, during, or following surgery and also for chronic pain management.r
Gurney - a wheeled cot or stretcher
(Return to previous place.)
Intrathecal - An intrathecal injection (often simply called "intrathecal") is an injection into the spinal canal (intrathecal space surrounding the spinal cord), as in a spinal anaesthesia or in chemotherapy or pain management applications.
(Return to previous place.)
MRI - Magnetic Resonance Imaging - a diagnostic procedure that uses a magnetic field to provide three-dimensional images of internal body structures... a painless diagnostic tool which uses a magnetic field and radio waves to see inside the body without using x-rays or surgery; a computer then interprets the radio waves and creates a picture of the internal body tissues.
(Return to previous place.)
ORCC - Ottawa Regional Cancer Centre
(Return to previous place.)
Pamidronate - Belongs to the group of drugs known as bisphosphonates that are used as treatment for hypercalcemia (abnormally high levels of calcium in the blood) and for cancer that has spread to the bone (bone metastases). Want more? Google this using quotation marks: "definition pamidronate".
(Return to previous place.)
PICC line - A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC or PIC line) is a form of intravenous access that can be used for a prolonged period of time, e.g. for long chemotherapy regimens, extended antibiotic therapy or total parenteral nutrition. (For more see: Wikipedia site.)
(Return to previous place.)
TFB - The frigging bureaucracy is incredible (A term used throughout this text! Do I get frustrated... I guess not ;-( )
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HOWEVER I must say - that in spite of the frigging bureaucracy, the waiting
times and the rotten way that we must pay over-charged parking fees to visit
sick and dying patients - the work and dedication of the medical team, doctors,
nurses, physiotherapists, orderlies and other staff has been first-rate, as has
been the assistance we have received from the home care and home nursing staff.

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