The end of one journey, the start of another

“Different Spokes” is the results of years of work, some of which I was a part of early on in it’s conception. It’s where I was hoping to take The Bikeport before life pulled me in a different direction.

The bicycles in this photo represent the end of an era for my family. The cruiser-style bicycle was my wife’s, before we committed to living car-free in Brampton for what ended up being 10 years. It was later passed on to my daughter. The orange mountain bike was Toby’s, and his older brother before him. Had Toby not become ill with cancer, he would probably be at the age now where we would consider sizing him up to another bicycle. A coming of age moment.

Instead, it’s the end of an era.

This photo carries a lot of weight with me: Joy and sorrow at the same time. A composition that reflects the bizarro state of my life.

I’m beyond thrilled that BikeBrampton and Punjabi Health Community Services in Brampton were able to make this happen. This is so awesome and I’m so sorry I can’t be a stronger participant in it. The people that made this happen are amazing. I’ve no doubt that Different Spokes is going to offer an amazing space for people using bicycles in Brampton.

It’s also a bittersweet moment to donate these bicycles. I still remember my last ride with #TheLegendaryToby, before his liver failed. We rode to A&W for burgers together. It’s an experience I’ve become used to in grief where I don’t want to separate from the things that belong to Toby, knowing full well that as we prepare to move, there isn’t space or purpose for keeping it. It’s better that it “live on” in another child’s possession.


I’m going to be a daddy — again!

WHAAAAAAA??

The start of this story technically goes back about 15-16 years, shortly after my second child was born. My wife and I came to an agreement that after recently having a second child fairly soon after our first, we should take a break before having more. We discussed options for birth control.

Decisions were made, procedures had, and — against the odds — we were expecting our third child, Toby, within 2 years anyway.

I made a decision to have a vasectomy performed. As far as Emily and I were concerned, we were finished with having children, now having had 3 close together.

Then, tragedy struck. Toby died unexpectedly of Cancer shortly after turning 12.

We continue to experience many emotions over our loss. Those feelings include the sense of being cheated. Robbed. One of our children was stolen from us by fate against our will. We still have so much love to give to our kids. With that in mind, we re-opened the discussion of having more children.

We weren’t naive about our chances of success. Emily and I are both in our 40s now. But, with open minds and hearts, we started seeking fertility consultation in May 2021.

The first action for me to take was to have a vasectomy reversal, which I did in July 2021.

Emily and I then started having discussions with Newlife Fertility Clinic in August 2021. Emily was monitored and both of us underwent testing to assess feasibility — including assessing the success of my vasectomy reversal. By December, the clinic had all of the data it needed.

During that time, my benefits plan at work came up for renewal. This was a good thing because it allowed me to increase my coverage to pay for fertility medication, which it wouldn’t have before. The new coverage began in January 2022, and that’s when Emily began the process of ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval.

In March 2022, after going through embryo screening and selection, the embryo was transferred, and we had a confirmed pregnancy!

Whose Cookies Are They?

Here’s a scenario to consider.

You’re making chocolate chip cookies. You’ve done your best to prepare, but you realize that you don’t have any chocolate chips! Your neighbour has some and kindly offers them to you so that you can complete your recipe and make your cookies.

Question: Whose cookies are they?

This thought experiment was one that I and Emily had to consider during the IVF process. The reason is that my post-vasectomy reversal testing indicated that I was not a viable donor to produce an embryo. Secondary male-factor infertility: At one time I was fertile, but am no longer.

So, we turned to a donor bank.

In choosing this, we were required to meet with an IVF councillor. One of the things we talked about is the nature of fatherhood, and what it means to be a father to children that I did not offer a biological contribution to.

What is a father, anyway?

Fatherhood is just as much a legal term as a biological one. But the more relevant example, in this case, is a relationship between a male parent and a child. I will be the only father these kids will ever know. They will be my children, and I will help raise them to be the best people with all the love that I have, as best as I possibly can.

Although we had help, we took the time to make the way for these kids to come into the world.

They’re our cookies.

Through this process, I came to learn that sperm donation is seen as altruistic in countries like Denmark, where 90% of donors state this as a reason for donating. This hadn’t occurred to me until I found myself needing a place to turn to for help. So, guys, consider donating. There are often shortages in Canada. It’s an amazing gift to people that want kids.


It’s Still In You To Give

After a 2-year hiatus, I returned to my local Canadian Blood Services clinic to donate blood.

At one point, I donated regularly. However, in 2019 I developed a chronic cough/throat clearing sensation. I’m still working with doctors to figure out the cause, or what works to reduce symptoms. In 2020, before a COVID-19 vaccine became available, this cough was problematic in convincing nursing staff that this was not “new or worsening”, and so my donation was refused. I decided to hold off until a vaccine was available, or the situation was otherwise more amenable for me to donate again.

Then, My son Toby died of Cancer in 2021.

That shook me to my core, and I’m still building up the fortitude to go outside and be in public again — never mind the pandemic. I wasn’t sure whether they would accept my donation. My cough hasn’t improved (or gotten particularly worse). But I am fully vaxxed + boosted, I haven’t left the country recently or otherwise done anything that puts me at high risk.

They did take my donation. That was really important to me, and was emotional if I’m totally honest.

By the time we learned that Toby had liver cancer, his liver had already failed. During his assessment, we discovered that cancer had already spread to his lymph nodes, which meant that he didn’t qualify for a liver transplant. It had infiltrated too much of his liver for a resection. Normally, aggressive chemotherapy would have been recommended, but as his liver had already failed, he wouldn’t have survived it.

We had no options. There was nothing we could do to help him. To save or extend his life.

Totally. Fucking. Helpless.

Had chemotherapy been an option, he would have needed blood platelets. Platelets that nearly anyone can donate. How fucked up is it that by the time I was able to donate again, it’s too late to save my son?

But, it’s not too late to extend or save another child’s life. Children that are going through chemotherapy right now. Children with parents that I hope never ever ever have to experience what I have.

You can help these children too. And everyone else that’s going through chemotherapy or experiencing any other number of situations that require platelets, or a blood transfusion.

Please consider donating.