My van “Moose” is pretty much ready to go now. Some rather expensive repairs has put the 3C Canadian Road Trip/Expedition at jeopardy. Although I’ve recovered from the repair costs, I simply don’t have the money, nor will I be able to earn enough, to afford the fuel needed to fulfill the dream of completing the ultimate Canadian road trip of visiting all three Canadian coasts this summer.
My girlfriend started a GoFundMecampaign to try and help raise the needed funds. I’m asking all my friends, family, and now the public to help out however they can. I really am counting on the generosity of strangers here.
Being a recent cancer survivor and having undergone surgery, chemo, and months of radiation therapy, it has really driven home how important it is to enjoy life while you can. With cancer a reality of my life, I know that I have less days ahead of me than I have behind.
I’ve been postponing this dream trip for years, for one reason or another, but if I keep doing that, I’ll never end up doing it. Any Overlander, or VanLife person will tell you that if you wait for everything to be perfect, you will never get started, and I’m realizing the truth of that. So this summer, on the two year anniversary of my cancer surgery (June 24th), I plan to hit the road and start heading toward the west coast, then the north coast, and then to the east coast before looping back and returning home.
You can follow the adventure on my YouTubechannel and here on this blog.
Once again, my van “Moose” started showing his age. While up in Minden, Ontario Moose refused to start. At first, it seemed like a battery issue, and after getting a boost from one of the locals, I went and bought a new battery. The battery was only 3 years old, but I replaced it anyway based on the advice of a few mechanics I called. I was stranded. In a small town.
With no access to money (my cards were all being replaced, and I was awaiting delivery). I borrowed some money from my boss, bought a new battery, and swapped it out in the parking lot of my hotel.
Nothing. Sigh…It wasn’t the battery after all.
Based on the recommendations of the locals, I was referred to a local repair shop (Minden Auto Care), which happened to be a short walk from my hotel. Fortunately, he knew his way around Eurovans and felt confident he would figure it out once he had some time and when it warmed up. With the daytime highs at only -25c (-13F), it was simply too cold to check it in the parking lot of the hotel. A couple of days later, he had Moose towed to the warmth of his shop, and after a few hours, I got the phone call to come over to talk to him. Uh oh. That can’t be good.
The starter was corroded…badly. It would have to be replaced, but he assured me that it would be ready the next day. Fortunately, my banking and credit cards just arrived because this was going to be another big bill of over $700. With global shipping fees at an all time high due to Covid, everything is costing more, including car parts.
As luck would have it, the wrong starter was shipped to the shop, delaying the repairs by another day.
The next morning I was walking down the street and noticed that my van had been moved, so I stopped in to get an update. Low and behold, Moose was ready. They even repaired a coolant leak that I told them about.
With Moose ready to go early in the day, I packed up what I needed and hit the road back to Toronto before a nasty storm rolled in.
Another financial blow that put an even larger dent in my plans to drive across the country this summer. Fingers crossed.
Categories: Eurovan|Comments Off on Stranded in Minden – Won’t Start Due to Blown Starter
Not a good way to start the 2022. Just two days into the new year and disaster strikes. The timing chain on my van failed and I was stranded. With no choice, I had my van towed to my mechanic. I knew this would be a huge ordeal and I knew I would have to weigh the pros and cons of having it repaired at all. The van was then towed to another shop, who are experts on Volkswagens and who are more familiar with what would have to be done. They would have to drop out the chassis, transmission, and of course the engine before they could start opening up the engine and start the repairs.
With a global supply chain in taters due to the pandemic and so many people around the world off sick at the same time, it would take over a week for most of the needed parts to arrive. Once they did, wouldn’t you know it…the shop where my van was had their own outbreak of Covid-19 which shut them down for a week, and then…a snow storm prevented the mechanics from getting to work. Sheesh.
It would be three weeks at the shop before they finally got to work and it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. Cracked coolant housing, problems with the camshafts, and cracked hoses all had to be addressed. Sigh.
I finally got my van back with the work mostly complete. I still have to go back for to have the chain tensioner replaced because that’s still on backorder, so who knows when it will arrive…maybe a couple more weeks. In the end though it was a $4000 repair bill. OUCH!
This is a huge financial blow that puts the trip at risk. My main winter gig was to work with the winter car control school in Minden, Ontario but that got delayed because of another lockdown in Ontario in January. So no income from that but February will be busy but come March I will have to find another source of income. Hopefully I will have the van paid off by March and then and then I can start saving towards the trip. Coming up with the funds is going to be tough though.
I’ve dreamed for a long time to see more of this great country and I believe that everyone should tour their country at least once. I’m sure I’m not the only one to have such a dream and like most, I’ve kept putting it off or made excuses as to why I can’t do it just yet. Well, no more excuses.
But why now? Well 2020 was a horrible year for pretty much everyone on the planet as we all faced a global pandemic. For me though, I was also diagnosed with oral cancer of an aggressive nature. Two months after being diagnosed I had surgery, and after just a couple of weeks to recover, I underwent chemo and radiation therapy. Had my surgery been delayed by even one month, none of that would have been needed…it would have been funeral. I’ve had some brushes with death before but cancer is something nobody should have to go through.
Now that we’re nearing the end of 2021, I am, for now at least, cancer free and it’s time to find my way with some life altering changes. It’s time to focus on making the dream of exploring Canada a reality. I recently bought a 2002 VW Eurovan because I needed more space anyway and I realized that it could be the perfect vehicle to travel across the country in. I named it Moose.
I plan to depart Toronto on the two year anniversary of my cancer surgery and head west to the Pacific Ocean. From there I will head up to the north coast in the Arctic Circle and then head to the east coast before returning home.
Once all is said and done, I will have driven well over 25,000km (15,500miles), over about seven weeks. I’m not sure what I’ll see along the trip but it will certainly be an epic adventure and I’ll be sure to get lots of pictures and video.
The plan to spend the winter putting aside the money needed for the trip (once I pay off the van) and then prepare the van so that it’s set up for the trip.
Video episodes will be posted online but I could really use your help to make this dream come true. So please open your heart, and yes your wallet, by joining as a Patreon by clicking here: www.patreon.com/goforadv. You can also check out my YouTube channel to see some of videos that I’ve done in the past by clicking here: www.youtube.com/user/chroniclesadventure. Don’t forget to subscribe, like, and share!
What an experience that was. For anyone who has cancer, has fought cancer, or been with someone who has, you know how horrible of a disease it is and how hard it is to deal with. It runs in my family; my Grandfather died of it, my Uncle died of it, and my mother died of it. It was really just a matter of time before I was diagnosed with it also. No matter what lifestyle I lived, or what I ate, did or didn’t do…it was inevitable.
Now before you read on…some of the pictures below are graphic and may not be easy to look at.
My time came in 2020. As if the world entering a global pandemic wasn’t bad enough, I was diagnosed with Cancer in April. Specifically squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue and the tumor was growing fast. I first noticed it at the end of February and I thought I bit my tongue. A couple weeks later when I realized it needed to be looked at by a doctor, the world went into a lockdown and my family doctor wasn’t seeing any patients, nor were any walk-in clinics. Everyone was closed. I had to sit and wait even though the pain was getting worse day by day. Eventually, I had to resort to talking to a doctor via an online portal and I was referred to a Ear, Nose, Throat (ENT) specialist. They never called me so after another online consult, I was referred to yet another ENT. After a short video call with him and emailing him some pictures of my tongue, he called me back “Get in here now. ASAP”. I met him at his clinic and it was just him there. His clinic was officially closed due to the pandemic but he needed to see me in person and he knew right away what he was looking at.
While I was sitting in his chair, he excused himself (while the numbing agent he injected was taking affect so a biopsy could be done), so that he could call a friend of his at Princesses Margaret Hospital (PMH) in Toronto. PMH is one of the best cancer hospitals in North America (certainly the best in Canada) and the ball was set in motion for me to go there. That night I cried myself to sleep. This was it…my turn to deal with cancer and it was heartbreaking.
A couple weeks later, there I was at PMH with an ENT Oncologist, going over the positive results of the biopsy and discussing surgery. They would have to remove a small part of my tongue to get the tumor out and replace that material with some muscle from my thigh to support the remaining tongue. I would sound a tad different but no worries overall.
They would schedule the surgery ASAP but due to the growing pandemic, all surgeries had been put on hold. Did I mention that the cancer was spreading fast? While I was waiting for a surgery date, I had several appointments for MRI’s and meetings with my oncologists and the surgeons and it became clear that if the surgery wasn’t done soon, there wouldn’t be one at all, but instead a funeral. It was about two months from diagnosis to surgery. I knew it was growing fast but I was still expecting a decent recovery. I was wrong.
My surgery date was set for June 24th, 2020. By the time it came, I had lost nearly 30pds because I couldn’t really eat anymore and it hurt like hell. I was starving. Two months from diagnosis to surgery. It was a very long wait.
The surgery itself was 10hrs long and the surgical team was surprised at how much material they had to cut out. It was far more than they expected. They removed a few teeth to access my jaw, they removed all the Lymph Nodes in my neck, and they removed 80% of my tongue. I was only left with a bit at the very back. They also had to transplant at lot more muscle from my thigh to fill the void in my mouth. This ‘flap’ as they called it, would be essentially useless. I can’t use it or manipulate it, it doesn’t move, and it has zero sensation.
I was in the hospital for 12 days while I recovered from the surgery and while I was there I had a G-Tube installed in my stomach so that I could be fed. As it would turn out, I will never eat anything every again and this G-Tube is something I will have to live with forever so that I can use it to sustain myself. It would also have to be replaced every five months or so.
Now ordinarily when someone has a cancer related surgery, they are sent home for 2-3 months to recover before beginning any other treatments like chemo-therapy or radiation therapy. They gave me two weeks. Because the cancer so aggressive and had grown so much and spread into my lymph system, they didn’t want to risk waiting. So started the next chapter.
Still raw from surgery, radiation was five days a week for three months. It was nasty and before long the radiation poisoning and burns started. I was also to undergo three rounds of high dose chemo-therapy. I would have to be admitted to the hospital (after having my morning radiation done), spend the night while being pumped full of this chemical poison, and then go for my morning radiation treatment again the next day before going home.
The chemo treatment required a lot of blood tests before and after because it wrecks havoc on the body. By the time it came for my third round of chemo, and after weeks and weeks of radiation, by blood work wasn’t looking good. The doctors concluded that I wouldn’t survive the third and final round so obviously we skipped that one. The radiation would continue though. Nausea, some vomiting, constant fatigue, and lots of pain. I was left with some nasty radiation burns of my neck with open sores and some permanent hair loss in that area. Less to shave right?
Eventually the damage would mostly heal. Mostly. And the recovery process would carry on. I was referred to a couple speech therapists to help me learn to communicate because I was unable to speak. I had to use a note pad or an app on my phone to help me communicate with people. Due to the extensive material loss, the therapists were of no help and basically said I would need to write things down for people because I wouldn’t be able to talk ever again.
Cancer has become an indiscriminate disease but fortunately cancer medication and treatments have come a long way and survival rates have improved greatly over recent years. I was lucky also to have support at home. I can’t imagine going through this alone.
A little over a year later, I have learned to talk again…sort of. I’m still a bit difficult to understand (especially over the phone) but it doesn’t take long for people to figure out what I’m saying. Sometimes though I have to rephrase things to make myself understood. Basically, I sound like I have a mouth full of marbles or a couple tablespoons of water. Due to my swallowing difficulties, I often do have a fair amount of saliva in my mouth at all times which I sometimes have no choice but to spit out.
I was also told that I would never eat again after undergoing a live x-ray swallow test to see how well I can swallow. It starts off with swallowing water mixed with a radioactive dye (so they can see it on the x-ray) and they would make it thicker each time and see how far I would get. Well by the third solution, I was choking on it. It wasn’t even half as thick as a smoothie yet. Maybe as thick as the cream that you find in a coffee creamer.
At least I can still enjoy a beer but that’s one of the few drinks that I still enjoy. Everything else tastes horrible. I used to love coffee…now I can’t stand it. Juice? Nope. Soft drinks? Nah.
It’s been one hell of a journey and experience and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I knew one day I would have to face this but honestly I thought it would kill me. So far, I’m the only person in my family to be diagnosed with cancer and survive it. At least for now.