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Hey, there’s a game I’ve been playing – where a pair always beats a royal flush.

If you’ve ever played poker, you’re probably scratching your head and wondering how I could ever make such a silly claim?

It goes back to 2009 when I entered the hospital during the last week of my radiation treatments for cancer.  At the time, I had begged my wife not to drive me to the cancer center.  I went through thirty days of the painful treatment and still had seven more days to endure.  But I was too sick to move and wanted to stay at home in bed.

My stomach tube was blocked and I wasn’t getting any liquids or nutrition.  I had continuous bouts of dry heaves (vomiting) and I was fragile.  When I got to the radiation department that morning, the therapists took one look at me and called the doctor over to examine me.  My body was starting to shut down, and I was extremely dehydrated.

They booked me into the hospital.

Initially, I laid on a bed in the ER department, and then I was transferred to 51 North, which is the oncology floor of Surrey Memorial Hospital.  All of the rooms were occupied, so I spent the next two days in the hallway.  I knew that I was in a severe condition, and I was desperately trying to summon the strength to continue the fight.

I missed my bed at home, and I was missing my dog, Holly.

On the third day, I moved into a room initially designed for two beds.  My bed was in-between the other two beds.

My chemical oncologist was with the lady at the next bed.  He was talking about her condition and explaining that she might have a week left to live.  She begged the doctor to let her be at home, but he told her that she needed to have someone with her 24/7.

After the doctor left the room, the lady got out of bed and walked over to my bed.  She told me that she wanted to die at home in her bed.  She said that she missed her cat and wanted her furry friend to be with her.

I didn’t know what to say to her.  I wanted to comfort her, but what can you say to someone who’s dying?

And that’s when it dawned on me.  Maybe, I’m in this room because I’m not going to survive.  Nobody had told me this – it was just an assumption.

View from my hospital bed in 51N at SMH (2009)        Photo by Danny

I often think about this picture.  I took it from my bed in that room.  I wondered if that was going to be the last thing I saw before I passed away?  Every time I look at it my eyes fill with tears.

The photo became my motivation to continue my battle with cancer; I did not want to die in a hospital.

I wanted to live.

I remembered what Vicky Grant, the radiation therapist had said to me when I told her I only had a forty percent chance of surviving.  “Well then, you’re going to be in the 40% group!”

RT Vicky Grant and Danny several years after cancer treatments    Photo by Danny

That was nineteen years ago.

It changed my life forever.  I made promises to myself that I’ve kept to this day.  One of them was to be a patient advocate.  I wanted to be there for anyone going through a similar situation.

I started to volunteer at the cancer center, so I could be a reminder that despite having only a 40% chance of surviving – I did.  I encourage patients to never give up on living.  I also began writing about my experience on this website.

I share my stories with the patients I’ve met over the years.  You may be one of those people. If so, I’m thrilled to know you’re still reading my stuff!

Each life is precious, and I’ve tried to be there for friends who’ve been facing severe health issues.  I can’t promise them that they’ll be as fortunate as I was, but maybe, my being with them will let them know that I understand how they’re feeling, and perhaps that will be a comfort.

Last year was a challenging year for me.  I lost my dear friend Connie MacLean to brain cancer.  And during the same period, my friend Suzette Laqua was facing brain surgery.  Their stories are in a story I wrote in November 2019.   Here is the link – A Happy Ending.

Two days ago, I received an update from Suzette.  Here is what she wrote:

It’s so nice to see your stories. Thanks for always keeping up on them. They are fantastic! 

I was going to call you a month ago and tell you that I had to go in for emergency surgery at Lions Gate Hospital but it happened so fast that I just ran out of time.

 Turns out that the left side of my head where I had my surgery last year, I started get really bad pain, I could feel a sharp pain near my temple. Next to my eyebrow bone it started to intend extremely deep.

And when I started calling the neurosurgeon’s office I was told that the pain was the healing and he would see me in March for an appointment and that the indent was a ‘cosmetic’ surgery and would be another 6 months after the March appointment, maybe September or October. 

I kept telling them the pain was excruciating and it felt like nails were trying to come out. I was being ignored.

Finally the end of January I had Myles take me to emergency in New West and they did a CT scan on me and funny – haha – I was called to see the surgeon right away and the surgery was booked asap.

He realized that my skull had rotated and the screws were coming through the front of my skull near my eye and that was the pain I was feeling – OMG hey?

But fast forward. I went in March 10th at 6:30am. My emergency surgery was 8:00-9:30am. I was supposed to stay in for 4 days.  I got to go home the next night, March 11th at 7:30pm because I was doing so well  

I took 2 Tylenol that night and haven’t taken one pain killer, Tylenol, aspirin, Advil, nothing, since. YAY!

I’m in heaven. I feel so so good. Not a headache, not a pain. Not even where he put the staples again. (I had them all pulled out by my family physician last Friday (16th).  He had to reopen my entire skull again, but that’s ok. My hair will grow back and scars are cool! 

So now we’re all at home, Myles thankfully works from home. Lucas (grade 7) would have been done spring break this weekend, but now will be done school for the summer. But the New West schools will be getting in touch. They want the kids to do some kind of school work. Even though they won’t be worth any grades but I think they want them to keep a little busy, which suits us fine.

I hope you’re doing well, I love reading your stories and look forward to them. Thank you for keepin’ on keeping on.  Once we can all visit again, let’s get together.  I still don’t have a drivers license.  I won’t get it back for 6 more months, I have to be seizure free for another six months – so far so good – yay! 

I’m looking forward to my amazing new journey! 

I read her email and found myself smiling from ear-to-ear!  Suzette is a warrior, and she never surrenders – despite the odds!

She came into my life a year after my cancer treatments had ended.  She was the producer of a movie I had a role in – Last Chance Casting.  It was one of the first films I did after my cancer treatments ended.

Suzette then started Canada’s first web festival here in Vancouver.  I attended each of her festivals, and they were fantastic.  Filmmakers from around the world submitted to the Vancouver Web Festivals, and it became a ‘must-attend’ event for people on both sides of the camera.

She had to put the festival on hold last year, due to her health issues, but she’ll soon be back – bigger and better!

If you or a loved one are suffering – never give up hope.  You are an exceptional person, and I know that a brighter day is just around the corner.

My friend Jackie, who volunteers at the Abbotsford Cancer Center, was given only a ten percent chance of surviving her cancer, and that was fifteen years ago!

I have a number of friends who’ve been on the edge of the abyss and spit into the eye of the grim reaper.  Among them are my buddies Suzette Laqua, Peter Hrehoruk, Norm Wolff and Norm Colon.  They are “as tough as nails” but they have warm hearts and they’ve never lost their sense of humor.

Their smile lights up any room they’re in and I consider each of them my heroes.

And that, dear reader, is why a pair, sometimes beats a royal flush!  We’re living proof!

“Living with cancer is not a death sentence, but giving up on living is!” ~ Danny

And when we take our final breath on this realm – may the grim reaper be exhausted from his battle with us.  (And may he never learn that a pair doesn’t beat a royal flush.)

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” ~ Hunter S. Thompson

And may we have a smile on our face!

Dedicated to you, my readers



Today’s tune from Danny’s library (purchased):


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About Post Author

Daniel (Danny) St. Andrews

An almost famous Film, Television & Stage Actor (as in almost pregnant) living in Vancouver, BC His other passions include cancer patient advocate (he had stage 3 throat cancer), walking with the Vancouver 'Venturers Walking Club, and of course, spoiling his dog, Holly Golightly. If you like the stuff he writes about - please leave a hug (or a comment).
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