2003 - 2008
Around the time of playing my last gigs with Hot Cargo I started having a series of dental and health issues the first being a bad toothache the consequence of which was an extraction in early December, 2003, of a lower right molar and a root canal of the tooth behind it. In early 2004 I noticed my bite begin to change and I started losing chewing function. I visited my dentist several times for this problem and he suggested a partial lower denture. My tongue started to get very sore as well and to the chagrin of my wife I started to snore a lot whereupon she started to wear earplugs in bed. I saw a dermatologist for the tongue issues and got a bit of relief from an ointment of sorts but my bite continued to get worse. I saw an oral surgeon but he couldn't really get a handle on the problem. Finally, in early 2005, I had another molar extraction, on the lower left side by my new dentist, Dr. MacDonald, my former dentist, Dr. Fujino, having recently retired. This is where my 'quest for teeth' began. I started in the process of being fitted for that lower denture. At this time the dentist remarked that I had this large tongue that was getting in the way while trying to get a mold of my teeth. I had not previously noticed this. After several misfits I finally got a functioning denture albeit very uncomfortable due to the continuous misalignment of the teeth that the denture was positioned over. Ultimately, in September, I stopped wearing the thing. Earlier in the year, in the spring I noticed another health issue.
I started getting somewhat out of breath and having heart palpitations after fairly short walks somewhere around March. A short while later I noticed my ankles starting to swell at times and also my wife had expressed concerns that I might have sleep apnea. I also noticed these weird little reddish splotches appearing around my eyes, on my neck and in my armpits. I saw my GP, Dr. Adatia, and he referred me to a cardiac diagnostic clinic to address the heart issues. After seeing Dr. Nanji at the C-era clinic in September, I went through a series of tests which at first resulted in a diagnosis of atrial fibrillation. Around this time I also visited the sleep clinic at the Foothills Hospital and got information regarding Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Because Dr. Nanji noticed 'something else' in a Holter test EKG that warranted looking into, I had another test, an echocardiogram (ultrasound) of my heart. The result was this - the diagnosis of an extremely rare, progressive condition called AMYLOIDOSIS which I was told had no known cause nor cure! My bone marrow was over-producing proteins called amyloids, that normally pass through the system but in my case were infiltrating the walls of my heart causing stiffening of the tissue. So, on November 14, I came home from the clinic and Googled amyloidosis.
There, on the first link I clicked on, was a photo of some guy with these reddish/wine colored splotches on his face. Like mine. I went on to read the symptoms for this disease some of which are as follows:
- numbness of hands and feet (carpal tunnel syndrome - November, 2001)
- weak hand grip
- weight loss (down ~ 20-25 lbs since October 2003)
- shortness of breath (spring, 2005)
- swelling of the extremities (edema - spring, 2005)
- swallowing difficulties (2004)
- irregular heart rhythm (spring 2005)
- skin changes (spring 2005)
- enlarged tongue (first noticed early 2005)
That was me! Then I read about the prognoses. Median mortality rate upon diagnosis of ONE TO THREE YEARS!!!!! But there was hope. I was to become an AmyloidosiSurvivor
After my treatment at The Tom Baker Cancer Centre in July, 2006, my ability to play the guitar became severely compromised because of the weakness in my fingers and hands, dry skin and ratched, brittle fingernails. I could barely hold on to a pick. But I persevered and now, in 2008, my playing feels just about as good as it ever was although my life as a musician is limited to going to the occasional jam session to play. It's a lot of fun and very therapeutic in many ways. So, life goes on.