Hello, my name is Alistair Heath. I am 38 years old and I've just been told that I may not live to see my 39th birthday.
Being told your time is limited has a way of making you see things more clearly. Even though there is still a bit of shock and frustration and much I haven't fully processed yet, I remain full of love and passion and optimism; perhaps more than I have ever felt in my life.
So I thought I should tell you my story in order to contextualize what I want to do.
First of all, I am not giving up! I owe so much to my family and friends who have encouraged me to fight with everything I have and to take full advantage of the time I'm given and that's what I am going to do.
I am very lucky and grateful to have Carine (the most loving and wonderful girlfriend a guy could ask for!!!) and the support of family and friends. They have all been amazingly supportive and I love them so much for it!
This is the story up to now:
In November of 2009, I was diagnosed with cancer. Gastro Intestinal Stromal Tumour (GIST) is a cancer of the connective tissue and, in my case, it is located both on my stomach and liver. It is a rare cancer to begin with and more so for someone my age, as it tends to develop primarily in young children and the elderly. GIST is resistant to chemotherapy and radiation so I have been taking medication with mostly positive results, until recently.
A few months ago, on my doctor's advice, we switched to a new medication because the latest CT scan results had revealed tumour growth in a couple of areas of concern. At that time, I was feeling weak, tired and my appetite had all but disappeared. Shortly after starting the new meds, my appetite came back, my energy levels shot up and I felt better than I had in a long time, rejuvenated even, and I still do.
The most recent CT scan results, however are telling a different story. Despite feeling good and full of energy, there has been continued tumour growth which means that the new meds are not working. In Canada, at this time, there are really only 2 drugs used to treat GIST and I have now officially gone through both. My amazing doctor is working diligently on a new third line treatment but there is a fair bit of paperwork involved and the overall effectiveness of this new drug is less than promising.
Based on my prognosis and the not-yet-known effectiveness of the new meds, my time may be drastically reduced.
In addition, a lump that had been growing on my right hand became increasingly sore in recent months. A biopsy revealed that the lump is, in fact, cancerous. This is a completely different cancer and unrelated to the GIST affecting my liver and stomach. I was given the option of living with the lump on my hand or undergoing a surgical procedure which would remove my pinky and ring fingers entirely in order to keep this second cancer from spreading throughout my hand. Since we don't know exactly how much time I have left, surgery is being put on hold for the time being.
This brings us to why I am here.
With your help, I hope to raise money for my journey of healing and hopefully spread a little love while I'm at it
While I have the utmost faith in my doctor, it's time to pursue other forms of healing outside of clinical medicine. The most promising is an alternative treatment program, this March, in France. The program is based on self-healing practices that harness the power of the mind to heal the body. Five years ago I might have laughed at the notion, however, having heard and read so many stories of recovery and healing I have no choice but to believe this is possible. This is the first step.
In the hopes of achieving both peace and fulfillment, I hope to take a road trip through the United States upon my return from Europe, visiting as many of the beautiful national parks and landscapes as possible. The end of this journey will take me along the Pacific coast back home to Vancouver.
I want to be able to share these experiences with my friends and family and anyone else that might be inspired to appreciate every new day as a gift to be cherished.
In order to achieve this goal I will be setting up a dedicated web site to document my journey through writing, photography and videos of the people and places along the way. Having been a guitar player all of my adult life, I am also hoping to incorporate this into my travels - writing and playing as I go, creating an evolving sound track and hopefully meeting other musicians along the way who can contribute.
There are so many things I've always wanted to do and, like most of us, always assumed that I would have all the time in the world to do them.
With your help, in addition to my mission of healing, I will be able to see and do some of the things I have always wanted to while easing the burden on those who have already given me so much.
Thank you and much love to all
(If you are reading this on facebook, please disregard banner asking for donations).
This is a long overdue update and a message of gratitude to all of you.
This past year has been crazy to say the least. One to remember no doubt and hopefully one of many more to come.
As you may have guessed by now, I am not writing this from beyond the grave but in fact from my kitchen. Yes, I am still alive and well.
'Well' being a relative term but I am feeling just as optimistic and determined as ever before.
It has been a little over a year since my Dr. told me I likely had 6-8 months to live! Well, 13 months on and minus a couple of lumps and fingers I'm still going strong and ready for more! Thanks in no small part to the new meds that seem to be doing their job very well, I might add.
Generally, I would expect and appreciate my health professionals to be accurate and flawless in their prognoses but as you can imagine, in this case, I hope she missed the mark completely!
In addition to the meds, I credit the love and support of my beautiful, caring girlfriend Carine, my loving Mom of course, my incredible family (old and new), the best friends (near and far) a guy could hope for and all of you (if you do not fall into any of the above categories) for helping me and pushing me to keep moving forward.
(Bit of an awkward sentence there, sorry, I'm a bit out of practice)
I realize that much of what I have posted this year may be a little cheesy or trite but, well....too bad.
I am so full of love, inspiration, joy, passion, determination and perhaps a little gas that I just can't help myself.
Thanks to all of you, I have had the opportunity to do so much this past year and in many ways I believe that I am still here fighting, thanks to your love and support. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart
Some of you know that around this time last year, before this all started, I was in the process of getting my real estate license. I had done the exam and was interviewing with brokers around the city. I was excited about starting this new career and gearing up for it up until I had "the talk" with my Dr.
At that point, I decided to put everything on hold and subsequently set up this page and the rest has been sparsely documented on my blog since then. (I apologize for that and will be addressing that shortly).
Although I am certainly not out of the woods, as far as the cancer goes, I have decided to pursue that goal and will be joining an excellent brokerage here in Vancouver in the coming weeks.
I am very excited to be getting out and getting busy and productive again.
Without this site and the mind blowing generosity that has poured forth as a result, I am quite sure I would not be in the position I am in today.
Obviously, the financial benefits inherent in this process helped me immeasurably and allowed me to seek the alternative treatment I wanted as well as being able to see and do some of the things I would never have been able to do otherwise. All the while not knowing if I would be here to tell the tale a year down the road.
More importantly though, this site, and this process has shown me just how lucky I truly am to have such amazing, loving and compassionate people in my life. I love you all and I am forever in your debt. Thank you! Merci infiniment!
That said, I will be leaving this page up for occasional updates but I will be posting the majority of my updates as well as the retro-active posts from my travels this year on my blog:
As always, it is a beautiful day to be alive!!!!
Much love to you all!
It took a while to get it going but I am finally on my road trip!!!!
It has also been brought to my attention that a few people were not aware of my blog site, which is where I have been posting my updates and photos.
Please accept my apologies for not making that more clear.
Here is the link: http://alistairsjourney.wordpress.com/
Internet access has been scarce on the road so I have been updating whenever possible. My trusty little camera has also succumbed to the dusty elements so, unfortunately I missed out on a few good photo ops but I will post what I have so far. Despite having had my bike stolen it has been absolutely amazing so far.
Today, I am stocking up on food and a new camera before heading into the wilderness of Bryce Canyon. I have heard nothing but amazing things about Bryce and I look forward to sharing my experience with all of you.
Once again, none of this would be possible without all of you and I thank you all every day for everything I have been able to experience since this thing started.
My eternal love and gratitude to all of you and I hope this finds you all well.
Finally, I am packing the car to head out on my road trip that I've been planning for months, got a new bike rack, new tires and a tune up etc... I go to grab the bike and it's GONE!!!!! Stolen!!!!
It's been locked up in the same place for months and the day I finally go to strap it in to the bike rack it's gone. Talk about timing!
To all the bike thieves everywhere: YOU SUCK!!!!!!
Still going on the road trip however. Not going to let this take away from the mission.
Once again it's time to hit the road. This one is not necessarily part of my journey, in the sense that it has been planned for the past 2 years and is not all about me. It is for Carine's cousins wedding.
That doesn't mean I can't be a little self indulgent and treat it like an extension of my journey. In addition to the wedding taking place in New Orleans, this is also the first time that Carine and I are going somewhere together in a long time. That fact alone is the highlight of this trip.
As some of you may have noticed, I still have yet to leave on my planned road trip through the US. Well, life as we know, likes to throw the odd curve ball. Not to worry. Nothing too serious.
In the time I had between my return from Europe and this wedding, I thought would be a good time for the road trip. It was going to be tight, time wise but feasible. Then my doctor added some additional blood work to my appointment schedule which pushed back the tentative departure date. Then"¦. I cracked a tooth.
I've always had issues with my teeth as far back as I can remember. This tooth had been in need of attention for a long time and it finally reached it's limit and cracked right down the middle. Top right first molar.
Luckily, sort of, I had a root canal done to it years ago so there was no pain but it was clear that it had to be dealt with as I could only chew on one side of my mouth because it was moving around and it was kind of gross to be honest.
So here is where things get awesome/freaky/serendipitous. Not having a dentist in Vancouver yet, I had to call around and find one that could fit me in asap. I made a list based on online reviews and offices that were still taking new patients etc"¦.
Literally, the last dentist on my list was the only one that could fit me in and within 48 hrs no less. Not having a job currently and no insurance coverage, I was more than a little concerned about the cost of this whole process but it had to be done so off I went.
I had to fill out all the paperwork as a new patient when I arrived and when the Dr. came in he brought up the medication I had listed on my info sheet. Turns out it caught his eye because, as fate would have it, he happens to work in the dental department at the Cancer Agency and knows my doctor there very well. Happy coincidence? Yes, but there is more. When I mentioned my concern about not having coverage and the cost etc"¦ he says "let me make a call". Five minutes later he comes back with an appointment card. He figured out that I could have this whole thing covered by getting the tooth dealt with at the Cancer Agency"¦.at no cost.
Brilliant! Then, to top it all off, after he sanded down some of the sharp edges on my nasty tooth, he sent me on my way and his assistant says "no charge for the work today"!!!
My daily horoscope, that I read while in the waiting room foretold that I would receive some sort of windfall that day and that I would feel undeserving of it but should accept it because "˜you do deserve it'. Well, whether or not that is true, I accepted it and had to restrain myself from giving the hygienist a great big bear hug right there in the waiting room. I didn't want to give the other waiting patients the idea that they were just handing out free dental work so I restrained myself as best I could. In my excitement, all I could muster was to say "You're awesome!" in a strange, clenched tooth, whisper. We looked at each other, both slightly confused about my silent outburst and I turned and walked out.
As you probably know, dental work ain't cheap. I've had to pay absurd amounts for a simple consultation and x-rays with other dentists. These guys took x-rays and worked on my tooth enough that I can chew normally for the time being and didn't charge me a cent!!! You know, I've been embracing, or at least trying to embrace an unconditional love towards life and all mankind since this whole thing started and it's not always easy or natural. Especially when you see terrible things being done by terrible people around the world in the news"¦. or being stuck in traffic, but it's little things like this that fuel my positive outlook and helps maintain my faith in mankind. Sounds a little dramatic for a trivial issue like my wonky tooth but it's true.
Anyway, the appointment to have my tooth dealt with was yesterday. I went in to the Cancer Agency, met the Oral surgeon and was promptly pumped full of anesthetic. As we waited for the numbing to set in, the Dr. checked my x-rays and explained the procedure (extraction) and all the things I could not do after the procedure such as"¦. air travel, submerging myself in water, drinking alcohol etc"¦..
Me (with numb mouth): "Ummmm, Dr.? I'm supposed to get on a plane in less than 48 hrs, I'm going to spend the first few days sitting on a dock and swimming in Florida then going to New Orleans for an extravagant wedding attended, in large part, by a bunch of hard partying Dutch people.There may be booze involved." !!!
Oral Surgeon (with raised eyebrow): "Ok, call me when you get back and we'll take care of it then".
Me: "Good stuff. Thanks for the Novocaine"
So, all clear for the trip. It just so happens that this is my first time going to New Orleans and I've wanted to go for as long as I can remember. I absolutely love the music that comes from the southern US and I'm heading to one the most musically saturated cities in the world and arguably the birthplace of jazz. Holy crap I can't wait!!!!
Time to pack.
Remember people, although it has been easy for me, considering the free time and opportunities I've had lately; however big or small, every day will present you with a reason to say "Today is great day to be alive"!
The key is to accept that and learn to find the little gems even if they may not be obvious or clear on a given day.
My wish is for all of you to find that little gem every single day and embrace life and all of it's twists and turns.
My infinite thanks and gratitude to all of you once again for helping make this all possible.
I am currently in the midst of my first cycle of the new meds so no news or results yet on that front. I should have some feedback in a couple of weeks.
Otherwise, all blood tests and such have all come back with very positive results. Feeling good people! Feeling good!
Much love to you all!!!
Hi Alistair - I read your story and Iwent you to contact a gentlemen by the name of Royce Carder..that also had cancer and is living out his testimony...Please contact him he will be able to help you..Please..his phone number is 303-923-3332 Royce Carder..tell him I gave you his number..Call now..Be Blessed!!