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Meet...Angus

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Please take a moment to get to know Angus, better known in our community as WestCoastSailor. He is often found in our community sharing his wisdom and experiences with breast cancer, lung cancer, and as a caregiver.

Angus was diagnosed with lung cancer in early May of 2018. He had an interesting life but the cancer diagnosis came at a time when he wasn't expecting it. And it changed his life. He said "I was always expecting to work until I was 75 or 80 like my father and my grandfather before him."

                                                                           
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                                                                           Angus had his two brothers and their wives join him for this year's Relay for Life



Angus was born in Scotland coming to Canada at four years old. He grew up in northern Saskatchewan. Working on the family farm and taking long canoe trips in the North taught him the value of hard work and the beauty of God's creation. Shortly after graduation with a degree in Agriculture, Angus headed off to spend the next ten years doing agricultural development work in Panama during the turbulence of the Noriega era.

Coming back with a young family to Saskatchewan Angus earned a Master's in Business Administration which he turned into a job doing regional business development work in La Ronge, Saskatchewan. He taught classes in human resources, marketing and conflict resolution as well as managing a consulting practice doing strategic planning and conflict resolution. Somewhere in the midst of that he taught High School upgrading in Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics for a year.

He became a web designer on the early Internet specializing in a piece of software called Drupal, a content management system. That drew him to Surrey British Columbia. With the recession in 2008 - 2009 he had lost two major clients and was struggling to pay his bills. So he took a two week course in First Aid becoming a first aid attendant with a small company specializing in high hazard job sites. It was a job he soon came to love as it took him into exotic and strange businesses and locations while being able to help people. A side benefit was the opportunity to continue the web consultancy in the down time on the various job sites. As one superintendent fondly referred to it - "you double dipping bastard."

A slowdown in work meant that he was able to go to the doctor to deal with some pending health issues. One of those issues was a lump in his left breast. He knew what it meant. His mother had died of breast cancer. His brother had had breast cancer ten years earlier and his other brother had prophylactically had his breast tissue removed because they were extremely sensitive. The family doctor pointed out that he also had a very small lump in his right breast. He gave Angus a referral to the Jim Pattison Breast Clinic in Surrey BC telling him that he would get a call for an appointment in the next couple of days.

The first appointment was for an ultrasound in a month. When the next call came it was for a mammogram the next day if he could make it. He did and asked if they could fit the ultrasound in at the same time. After the mammogram the radiologist came and said they would get him to the ultrasound in a few minutes. When the nurse called the next day to make the third appointment for biopsies, his breast cancer suspicions felt confirmed.

Indeed seven days later the suspicions of male breast cancer were confirmed. He met with the doctor to begin the workup and plans for surgery. The first thing was to check for metastasis. A bone scan turned up nothing. The pelvic and upper body CT scan though found a mass in his right lung. Further testing determined that it was NSCLC (non small cell lung cancer). A PET scan confirmed that it was in some lymph nodes between the lungs as well as some small spots in the right lung staging it at 3C.

The breast cancer receded into the background at this point with the prority being treatment of the lung and lymph tumours. The oncologists took a curative approach with aggressive chemo/radiation of the tumours. Six cycles of Paclitaxol/Carboplatin over six weeks with concurrent thirty days of radiation. "The first two weeks will be a breeze. By the third week you'll start to feel some effects. And the final two weeks will leave you on the ropes." said the chemo nurse. True that.

Angus took six weeks to recover and then had a double mastectomy for his breast cancer. And four days after that he started on the recently approved immunotherapy drug durvalumab. After fourteen of a planned twenty four treatments, a CT scan revealed that the tumours in his left lung had begun to increase in size. A fine needle biopsy was done in April to determine whether these were metastasized breast cancer or lung cancer. When it was confirmed that these were indeed lung cancer, Angus's cancer was restaged to IV and he started treatment with afatinib.

Angus credits his varied life experiences and his faith with giving him resiliency in the face of daunting challenges. In October his wife of 12 years was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. Six weeks later she died peacefully in Whatcom Hospice House. Just as it appeared that his life expectancy was increasing and that his lung cancer might be curable to experience this tragic loss would have brought lesser men to their knees. Closing their home in Washington and returning to live full time in Canada in less than a month was a huge challenge. When in the middle of one frantic day, his brother stopped him mid sentence and said, "When I was on tamoxifen I could not have done the planning and execution that you have just done." Angus realized that there was a power greater than himself making it all do-able.

 
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                     This is from a sailing trip that my wife Yvette and I took before my diagnosis


Angus still does the occasional First Aid job and has a few web clients left. Filling his days with volunteer work, camping with his boys, and rediscovering his love of watercolour painting has made life worth living and truly enjoyable.
 
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Watercolor of Mt Baker, WA painted in January of 2019




Comments

WestCoastSailor‍ 
Hello, Angus. Your life journey is a reminder to me of the incredible resilience that some humans are capable of. I’m so sorry for the deep loss of your wife. I hope you continue to find Joy in life. Thanks for sharing your life with us!
Wishing you the best!
Virtual hugs to you
Judy
  • Posted Thu 09 Apr 2020 06:03 PM EDT
law
Wow, West Coast Sailor, what a profound bio you wrote. Such a strong core, considering the challenges you have had along the way.
I sure do admire your resiliency, your sailing acumen, and ability to mark one year of the afatinib.
I always enjoy your thoughts and entries on this site.
Happy Easter !!  
law
  • Posted Thu 09 Apr 2020 08:33 PM EDT
Boy been a while since I read that. It was written about a year ago. I'm coming up on my one year anniversary for the afatinib.

And thank you for the kind words.

Angus
  • Posted Thu 09 Apr 2020 07:34 PM EDT
What an amazing and inspirational journey you have had so far WestCoastSailor‍  I am impressed that you learned Drupal! I tried that a few times and had trouble getting the hang of it, so I became proficient in Word Press. Thank you for sharing all that!
  • Posted Sat 25 Jan 2020 10:01 PM EST
I would be honored to see one of my pictures painted!
  • Posted Sun 26 Jan 2020 12:05 AM EST
Yeah well I'm embarassed to report that this site is based in Drupal. Disclaimer I had nothing to do with its development amd resisted temptation to look at the underlying code to find out till last week. I have made a few presentations to our local Drupal group and am proposing to put a session together for the Drupal Summit in Seattle in March. I'm thinking about tackling Digital Legacy. There are some technical things that I'm doing for myself that I think might be worth sharing to the larger community.

I have a post brewing in response to the horses poster. BTW thank you for that. I printed it and want to print it on some card stock I have for such purposes.  It is sitting on my table to inspire me. I've tried painting it a couple of times too but the foreshortened body is a challenge. I wanted to get that tree trunk out of the center of his head. Moving it to the side makes a nice contrast to the dark hairy edge...

Angus
  • Posted Sat 25 Jan 2020 11:23 PM EST
Just getting caught up on my reading Angus.  You have had a roller coaster life with incredible highs and lows.  Your residency is amazing and now I can understand where your insightfulness comes from - the hard times give us clarity and make us appreciate the good times like nothing else can.  Thank you for allowing us the glimpse into your life.
  • Posted Sat 17 Aug 2019 05:59 PM EDT
Oh, yes, I do a bit of British, too, WestCoastSailor‍  . Take the bags out of the boot, but watch out, I think that lorry is trying to park, and then go in and take the lift to the fifth floor, oh wait take this poke  of sweeties up for the wee ones, you know, the bairnes. Then there's the French Canadian, like don't forget to close the light. 
  • Posted Tue 16 Jul 2019 05:41 PM EDT
WestCoastSailor‍ Angus, thanks for sharing your story with us all.  Some of us were aware of parts of your story from your contributions in the forums here but seeing it all and hearing the challenges that you and your family have experienced makes my personal situation feel trivial.  Sorry to hear about your wife all while dealing with your own cancer experience.
  • Posted Tue 16 Jul 2019 09:59 AM EDT

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