Hooky Day

Every once in a while, you need to step back and take a day to get out of your routine and reset.  You need to put all of your obligations and everyone’s expectations of you aside and do something for yourself.  

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This week, it was Hudson who needed that break.  Between his Mom being away for a week and me keeping him up way past bedtime for a showing of Infinity Wars, he woke up absolutely zonked and feeling emotional and anxious one morning.  

I am fortunate enough to work for an employer that offers a nice little benefit called an “emergency” day.  It’s there for just such occasions when you need to drop everything and handle something personally.  It’s perfect for the unexpected moments that life throws at you.  I tapped into one of these days to give Hudson a day of full attention and flexibility.

We went back to sleep.  We made a great breakfast.  We walked our dog, well, he walked our dog while I trailed behind them.  We played at our local park.  And we made a delicious lunch together.     

After lunch, we decided to head over to High Park in Toronto to see if the Cherry Trees were blossoming yet.  Oddly, as we were leaving, he commented that we would be about 3 hours.  I didn’t think much about it at the time, but he was right, almost to the minute.   

We brought along our cameras to capture some of our day:

Susie is the Featured Athlete at Strive Life

For the 11 years that I've known my wife, she has always been a gym rat.  Unlike people that have a hard time getting off the couch, she jumps out of bed at the crack of dawn to make a morning class.  Or she squeezes in a workout at lunchtime.  Or she will sacrifice her evening to make sure that she gets a good sweat on.  

I've watched the evolution of her gym habits, including various memberships, spin classes, boxing routines, park boot camps, and exercise-based travel destinations.  

Now, her success and results are showcased on www.strivelife.ca with a before and after picture as a testament to how great the team at Strive is at helping their clients to overcome plateaus and drive better results through better form and high-intensity activity.

I've had the pleasure of attending a few of their classes myself and can report that I have not only never worked harder in a fitness class, but that I have never wanted to work harder.  The instructors are fantastic motivators, but it's the system they use that prepares you for success as an athlete.

Unlike most workout classes, where you warm-up, work-out, and cool down, Strive adds a step after the warm-up that makes a world of difference.  They call it the Body Primer.  Think of it as a validation of your form for each exercise before doing it with added weight or difficulty.  By adding in this extra step, you can very quickly progress in your skill and efficiency in doing each style of activity.

Susie has become markedly better at her form in all activities because of her time at Strive.  I am incredibly proud of her accomplishments.  
 

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She is now at 313 consecutive days of achieving her activity goal measured on an Apple Watch.   If you haven't seen her 100 Day progress video, you can check it out here.

Hudson's Haul Channel Promo Video

We are almost through the year for the Hudson's Haul project.  Standy by for an upcoming good, bad, and ugly analysis how our year went creating videos hosted by my 6-year-old son, Hudson.  

In the meantime, we have created a proper "Welcome to our Channel" introduction video featuring scenes from a number of our videos throughout the past year.  It was a lot of fun to watch back through the old footage and see how much we've changed our style and how many iterations of the project we have gone through to get to here.

Here you go!

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

We would like to take a moment to say thank you for your support of our blog and our other projects over the past few months!  We love sharing with you and we have lots of cool stuff planned for 2018!

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While celebrating and enjoying ourselves this season, we also like to take a moment to think about others.  We have a designated plan for giving back and our support this year is going to two very worthwhile causes.  If you haven't made your plans for giving, consider:

The Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto

Fort York Food Bank

A video call from Santa - from Portable North Pole (PNP)

We had an early Christmas gift delivered to the house from our friends at Portable North Pole (PNP).  

The gift included the Do-Good Elf, the Twenty Four Sleeps 'til Christmas book and access to a personalized Video Message from Santa and the crew at the workshop up north!

We've incorporated Hudson's video into the latest episode of Hudson's Haul: 

I am impressed by the cinematic quality of the video!  They've created a rich and authentic world upon which to build a customized experience.  Having Santa be able to speak to Hudson by name, know his age, and be able to reference pictures from our real life made this a magical experience.  The build-up to a reveal when Hudson could have been on either the "Nice List" or "Naughty List" had him on the edge of his seat.

We will make a new annual tradition of creating a personalized PNP video every year!  This up-close look at the inner workings of the North Pole village is such a treat.

The Elf was immediately given the name "Snowflake" and has been a constant companion for Hudson this week.  She even came to watch Hudson perform at his school Christmas concert.

Finally, I really appreciate that Portable North Pole donates 5% of all online sales to children's hospitals around the world. PNP has donated over $300,000 since 2012.   

Toronto Christmas Market 2017

Since 2013, Damian and I have made a point of going to the Toronto Christmas Market together with our families.  We book a date that will make sense and head down for an afternoon of fun and Christmas cheer.  A typical visit includes a visit to Santa, some shopping, a few snacks, lots of photos, and a sit-down bite to eat.

This year, Susie and I had taken Hudson to see Santa earlier, so we came up with a new way to enjoy the market: a photo scavenger hunt!   We made a list, checked it twice, and made our way down to the market.  Here is our list of must-have shots to finish the scavenger hunt:

  • Shot of the big Christmas Tree
  • An ornament bigger than your head
  • Pink trees
  • A gingerbread house
  • A photo with a smiling elf
  • A photo with soup
  • The Big Heart
  • A shot with the Werthers display
  • A shot with the Ferrero booth
  • The #TCM17 hashtag
  • A picture of lights
  • A shot of an oversize present
  • A cask
  • A picture of some people carolling
  • The Ferris Wheel
  • The Carousel
  • A shot of an old vehicle
  • A picture of a disco ball
  • A shot with one of the performers 
  • A picture on the "merci" bench

Of course, you can mix up the above with any of your favourites.  We made up a prize for Hudson if he could find all of the shots on the list ... a $10 prize that he could shop for as we were on the hunt.

Here is a Flickr album with some of our favourite shots from this year:

Toronto Christmas Market 2017

You people are savages

As a parent to a young man, part of my role is to set an example for how to behave in society and another part of my job is to provide guidance when we notice other people that aren't following the code that I've defined.

I like to think that I do an outstanding job with the former, but it's come to my attention that I may not be hitting the mark with the latter.

Anyone exposed to a toddler knows that you are on deck to answer any number of questions every day. Sometimes it can be easier to shoot out a quick response without thinking it through than to answer your little buddy asking: "Why?" another time. I've taken a shortcut sometimes and replied with a general catch-all:

          "Well Buddy, some people are just savages".

Here's an example: We find ourselves in a men's room that the previous user had left in a sorry state.  

Hudson asks me: "Dad, why it is such a mess in here?"
My response: "Well Buddy, some people are just savages".

Of course, the first time I gave him this answer, there was a barrage of additional questions; 

  • What is a savage? 
  • Why would someone act that way? 
  • Do you know who the savages are? 
  • Didn't anyone show them the right way to behave? 

This past winter, we found ourselves leaving an event on a day that the snow banks were melting. We could see the entire winter worth of trash that people had discarded and had collected into the snowbanks by the snow removal trucks all season.

Hudson, appalled at the site of so much garbage, asked: "Dad, why would people throw all their garbage into the snow?"

My lazy response: "Well Buddy, some people are just savages".

I didn't think much more about it as we walked down the street, or as we entered a hotel lobby, or hopped into the elevator with a crowd of people on our way to a parking lot.  But Hudson was still pondering.

I watched him slowly inspect every person in the elevator with us, then, with a strong and confident voice, he chastized:

"YOU PEOPLE ARE SAVAGES!"

I got a few dirty looks but, I figured, he probably wasn't wrong entirely.  One of those people probably had done something to deserve the title.  I shrugged and then hugged him into my leg.

When we got off the elevator, I explained that those likely weren't the same people who left trash in the street over the winter.  We talked about what we can do to make sure that the neighbourhood stays as clean as possible: like always using a garbage can, recycling our bottles and cans, and picking up after our dog.  

Despite some mild embarrassment, I think it was a good lesson.  

Letters to my Son - Tough Mudder 2012

Today is the Tough Mudder event that I've been planning to complete for over a year. A big part of why I wanted to do this is to prove to myself that, even with a heart condition, I can still live my life and love being active.

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After this, I won't be making any more unknown risks to be sure that I can be around while you are growing up.

If anything funny happens and I just don't make it out of this day, I just want you to know that I love you and that you can do anything that you want in this world.

This is a calculated risk and I believe truly that I will have you in my arms when I get home tonight.

I love you.


Well, I made it. I finished the Tough Mudder with my team of 7 guys, including your Uncles Bone and Gus. It was indeed tough. I expected that the most difficult part would be the obstacles, but it was really the distance that was much tougher. We covered 17km and 19 obstacles. I think if the terrain was flat it would have been pretty easy, but we were running up and down a ski hill all day long. I wore a heart rate monitor to keep my heart rate in check. The doctor gave me a limit of 130-140 bpm. That pretty much limits me to walking briskly, never mind climbing up and down ski hills.

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Since I took the stress test and had no strange rhythms up to 169 bpm, I gave myself a hard ceiling of 160bpm for the duration of the event. This was enough that I was able to walk up the hills and get a full run on during the gradual downslopes. Out of the group of us, I would fall behind on every uphill and then run to the front on each of the downhills. I skipped one of the two electricity obstacles, the Electric Eel, because I figured that I was cutting my risks from electric shock in half. There was no way that I wouldn't be running through the final obstacle: Electro-Shock Therapy.

Overall, it was a really stupid thing to do given the hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, but I set my mind to it and wanted to accomplish it to prove that my athletic life wasn't over.

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Leading up to the Mudder, I was able to lose a couple of pounds by eating better, build up some cardio by doing a lot of walking with you at the park, and I was able to get quite a bit stronger by doing more pushups each day than the prior day.

I am glad that I was able to finish the Mudder. I'm proud of myself and it definitely helped to get the need to do something athletic out of my system. The last year has been tough on me because I really loved being active and I really miss it. I really miss playing basketball, which I used to do a few times per week as an adult.

Back in high school, basketball was my life. I would get up early every morning, eat a quick breakfast, then head to school for 7:00am. The janitor would show up to let us into the school and unlock the gym. We always came prepared with a change of clothes and a basketball so that we didn't need to rely on getting access to any of the school facilities. We would play for 2 solid hours in the morning and then play at lunch for 45 minutes. Gym was every afternoon and sometimes we would even play during class. After school, I would play ball from 3:10pm to 4:00pm, then head to track practice from 4:00pm to 6:00pm every weeknight. Dinner was always ready when I got home from practice and, after doing the dishes, your Uncle Damian and I would play ball in the driveway until the sun would go down. Man, I miss those days.

Now, the doctor recommends nothing more strenuous than a brisk walk. It depresses me to no end. 

Letters to my Son - Sexual Preferences

Today, you are a sweet little boy with no idea that there are even different sexes to consider. I want you to know that I don't care which way you end up going. There's a long standing debate about whether being gay or straight is genetic or a product of your environment. We aren't here to figure out how or why, but I do want you to know that either way: gay, or straight, or transsexual, or anything else that comes up between now and when you read this, I love you and I accept you for whatever you are in this life. Please don't feel pressure to be anything that you think is expected or pre-determined.

As a little boy, you had an ongoing fascination with all things feminine. Whether it was pretending to be a princess or a fairy, or simply dressing up in one of your mom's dresses or sweaters and applying makeup, you were really excited to be a part of feminine things.

I am sure that is just a normal part of growing up and exploring what sexuality means. You will figure out how all this stuff works for you and I will be there with you whether you want me to play the role of Batman or Princess Anna from Frozen. 

The point of this short note is that I don't care what you turn out to prefer sexually.  I will support you and I will be the proudest dad in the world to meet your chosen life mate or lifestyle head-on, right by your side.  Whether that means standing by you at your wedding, playing wingman with boys or girls, or putting on assless chaps so that you can explore an alternate lifestyle, I will be your huckleberry and I will stand next to you as your proud father.

 

Letters to my Son - “One-and-Done”, The Only Child

When your mom and I started dating we talked about everything that was important as part of the process of getting to know each other. One of the little things that we agreed upon even before we got serious about each other was that we wanted to be able to live our lives in the city and that we wanted to be able to always maintain a certain lifestyle.

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Part of that discussion was an agreement that we were each only prepared to have one child. That would mean that we would be able to comfortably bear the costs of raising a child while providing all of our life necessities without having to sacrifice too much of our lifestyle.

Things like having university paid for by your parents would give you a leg up on the other kids who wouldn't have that same opportunity. I, for one, couldn't afford to go to school the same way that some of my friends did. My parents gave me what they could, but it was more in the form of support, food, and advice rather than the actual cash that is needed to pay for tuition and accommodations.

I had the stress of applying for government assistance to pay for school and then the ongoing stress of paying those loans back for years after I was done with school. I never finished my degree, partly because of the overwhelming feeling that I would never be able to finish paying for school. I don't want you to have that feeling. I want to be able to afford to pay for your education and give you all the things that I could never have.

Your mom and I also agreed that “one-and-done", as we would go on articulating the philosophy, would give us the opportunity to be the awesome parents that we know we can be, but also allow us to get back to having lives as individuals sooner since there wouldn't be other siblings trailing behind you.

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of course, I had some concerns about having only one child. I was the oldest of five kids and your mom was the youngest of three kids. Neither of us had any experience with what the life of an only child would be like. We both wanted to give you the best parts of our own childhoods, but quickly we realized that you wouldn't be growing up like either of us. Rather, you would have your own journey through life. Instead of trying to shoehorn our experiences into your life, we decided to just go with the flow and do whatever made the most sense for our family.

Sometimes I worry about whether you will be happy without any siblings. Having your uncle Damian around to play with always kept me out of trouble and, in fact, shaped my sense of responsibility because he always seemed to be on the verge of getting into trouble himself.

We had you around the same time that a lot of other friends had kids so I imagine that you will always have a family friend to play with growing up.

Also, I intend to spend as much time with you as possible for as long as you will let me so I hope that's healthy.

She did it for 100 straight days!

Susie tracks her progress every single day using the Apple Watch activity app, and completing the “Active Calories” ring as a benchmark for success each day.

She noticed that, on days that she was paying attention and motivated, she would close the ring, but on days that she didn’t watch it, she could be well under.

As someone who goes to up to three different gyms on a given week, anyone that knows her will tell you that she is a very active person.

I was fascinated seeing the shift in her being motivated to hit that goal each day.  At first, she would try to hit it on random individual days.  Then, she would hit small streaks and remark: “Can you believe I’ve hit this goal every day for a week?”

Then, in June of this year, there was a twist. After a missed day, she decided to hit that active calories goal every day ... for 100 days, no matter what.  It seemed like an achievable goal, but it would require focus.

On gym days, she would be most of the way there, but on the few days per week that she wasn’t scheduled for a big boost of activity, what then?

She challenged herself to hit the Apple Watch Active Calorie goal of 600 calories every day.  I, in turn, challenged her to make a quick vlog-style entry each day to tell the story and capture the experience.  This video is the result of her work:

I am so incredibly proud of her for setting and achieving this goal.  When you consider that it takes time to form a habit, you can really see her hit her stride around day 82 in the video.  

I am inspired. 

Since Susie started this project, I have been working out more, walking more, and generally more active.  I just looked at my Apple Watch history and I've hit the last 6 consecutive days, so I've bumped my target up as well.  

I Don't Care what you Think ... My Kid's Coming with Me!

 Eva and Cru selfie out for lunch

Eva and Cru selfie out for lunch

I remember the look this couple gave us when I first went out to eat with a toddler. Eva and I were in Toronto, visiting Nathan and Susie.  Hudson was probably around three years old. We walked about 5mins to this local joint called Sweet Lulu. It was probably around 8 pm.  In my opinion, the best part about living downtown would definitely be how close everything is. So many options. So we walk in, and this couple (I would say early 40s, obviously don't have kids) gives us this disgusted look and rolls their eyes in our direction. I instantly knew it was because Hudson was with us. I mean, it could have been because they thought he should be in bed, or maybe because they assumed he was gonna be loud and ruin their night, but they were definitely judging.  Thinking back now. I must have kinda got what they were thinking. Like, who takes a toddler to eat at 8 pm. And yeah, he probably should have been in bed. So, Nathan finds us a table right at the front of the restaurant. Big window, looking out onto Queen St West. Having a child now, I understand why that table was so important. So many fun things to look at. Cars, trucks, transit, police on horses, riffraff, etc. I say to Nathan, "you see the look those people gave us when we came in?" his response "Meh, I'm not gonna change the way I live just because I have a kid." 

So as a parent I've always taken that philosophy.  We're gonna live our lives, and Cru's coming along for the ride. Eva and I have found a few key essentials for a successful restaurant outing. Other than making sure the restaurant has wifi. lol

 Cru and the Guzzie and Guss

Cru and the Guzzie and Guss

First the "Guzzie and Gus". We got this as a baby shower gift from Brett and Anna. This is probably the best thing we got as a gift for Cru. No offence to anyone else, but we take this everywhere. It's amazing. It's a collapsible, portable highchair that hooks onto practically every kind of table. People are probably thinking. Well, we use the restaurant's high chair and it works just great. I'd say to them "Get off your wallet and get one." We've literally been using it from when Cru could hold his head up, and I think the weight restriction goes to 37lbs. The classic highchair restricts where you can sit. The "Guzzie and Guss", you can sit anywhere. Booths and tall tables, picnic tables, counter islands at family or friends places, you name it. We don't leave home without it.

 Staying clean in his Make my Day bib

Staying clean in his Make my Day bib

The second thing has to be his "Make my Day Baby Bib".  It's great.   We had Cru in it since he's been eating solid foods. It's a reusable, silicone bib that's got a little trough at the bottom. Catches everything.  It's excellent at home, and at restaurants for cleanup. We have two. One at home and one in Cru's Diaper bag.  We have more cloth bibs than Cru has clothes. It's crazy.  I think people think "I'll get them a bib, kids always need bibs." You're definitely right. However, you really only need one bib. The Make my Day Baby Bib.  Plus, it's environmentally friendly.  That's gotta count for something. lol

 Papa and Cru - Think baby bottle with straw

Papa and Cru - Think baby bottle with straw

Next is the "Think Baby" baby bottle. We tried tons of different bottles and sippy cups. Whats beauty about the "Think baby", is that it grows with your little one.  from a nipple to a sippy, and then to a straw.  It's got an awesome top/lid. We throw it in the bag and don't have to worry about it spilling. We originally had only one. Of course, I forgot it at a restaurant.  Three days later, guess what arrived on the porch from amazon.ca. That's right, four brand new ones. Eva says sarcastically "try not to lose these ones."

We were out recently at a restaurant and we had Cru distracted by something we had on our iPhone. I looked over and saw an older couple a few tables over watching us. I said to them "What did you guys do to keep your kids occupied when you took them out?" The husband replied, "We never took them out."

Maybe this is our generation, but just know we're bringing our kids, we're gonna do the best to keep them behaved. Judge us if you want. We don't care.   

Peter Munk Donates another $100 Million to namesake Cardiac Centre

Following up on my post from yesterday comes the news that the namesake for the unit within the Toronto General Hospital, Peter Munk, has donated an additional $100 Million towards heart research at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre.  This story in The Globe and Mail covers the donation in detail.   

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I have had the pleasure of receiving care in the Peter Munk wing of the hospital over the years, first for assessment and analysis, then later for treatment and recovery.  This truly is the best team in the world and they are recognized as such by their peers.

I would like to extend my thanks to Mr Peter Munk for this generous gift as well as congratulate the team at Toronto General Hospital on the incredible work that they do.  

Every person on the front line in the Munk wing works tirelessly to ensure that patients come first and that information is freely shared.  The whole place works like a clock with incredible precision when managing their incredible resources.  

And to keep such incredible talent as Dr Rakowski, Dr Ralph Edwards, Dr Harris, and Dr Spears on staff for such long segments of their career tells me that the doctors are treated well and given the resources they need to continue the research that keeps Toronto a global leader in heart research.  

Of course, I wouldn't have ever had the opportunity to tap into these resources without my primary care-giving cardiologist, Dr McEwan, whose willingness to make herself available to me, confidence in my treatment options, and knowledge in navigating the system have ensured that I can live with an excellent quality of life.   

As a beneficiary to the incredible research and talent at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, I can only imagine what will become possible with this new gift and the introduction of Artificial Intelligence in the monitoring and treatment of cardiac patients.

 

Letters to my Son - My Heart Condition

June 27, 2016

Some years ago, I found out that I have a genetic anomaly that causes a predisposition towards a thickening in a particular area of my heart.

It was fortunate how I even found out.  I had a doctor who was doing a routine physical, and she happened to hear a funny ‘murmur’ that she thought was worth having checked out.  I went for the test and, as you may or may not remember, the cardiac echo test is not particularly pleasant.  The echo found that there was an anomaly, and she said that we would keep an eye on it.  

She advised me to get my life insurance in order, but back then I was 25 or so and thought I was invincible, so I didn't consider that meant much.  In retrospect, that was a huge warning that I should have gotten my stuff in order immediately.  I did not realize that I would never again qualify for life insurance.  The moment of plausible deniability is something that they should teach in school.

Five years went by, and every year I was given a new requisition to have that cardiac echo repeated.  Every year I remembered how unpleasant it was, and I just tossed the order sheet.  After 5-6 years, my family doctor impressed on me how important it was to do the test, so I finally went back.  Sure enough, my thickened area was even thicker, so she referred me to the day-to-day cardiologist that I've seen every six months or so since.

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I worked with her to refine a combination of drugs that would help to limit the force and maintain the regularity of my heartbeat around the increased thickness in my heart.  She also referred me to the leading expert in the world that specializes in the particular condition that I have, Dr Harry Rakowski.  The disease is called Hypertrophic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy or HOCM for short.  

Dr Rakowski gave me a lot of education about my illness and recommended some lifestyle limitations such as limit my heart rate to 120 bpm, restrict any lifting to under 30 lbs, and always stay fully hydrated at all times.  These may seem easy, but to an athlete and active young man like myself, these were devastating.  At first, I was rebellious and ignorant.  I went out of my way to continue pretending there was nothing wrong with me but, soon enough, I started to feel symptoms.  Maybe it was the medication or possibly the feeling of missing the odd pill and feeling what life was like when I didn't have the medical assist helping to keep things in check, but I made the adjustments over two years.  No more basketball, which I had been playing three times a week until then.  No more running, spin classes, yoga or working out, not that I was ever a big gym-rat.   

I spent a couple of years balancing diet to accommodate the shift in exercise but, eventually, I just said "forget it" and let myself put on some weight gradually climbing 30lbs.  

When you came along, the lifting restriction went out the window because once you grew over 30 lbs, I wasn't about to stop picking you up.  I justified it to everyone by saying that you were holding on to me as much as I was holding on to you, but I know that the strain and weight are the same no matter who is hanging on to who.  I wasn't about to ever turn you down if you asked me to pick you up.

As for the hydration, I did get much better at maintaining a proper balance.   Not to say that I didn't occasionally slip, but I was always careful to stay awake longer and drink lots of water.

As I write this today, I have just met with Dr Anthony Ralph-Edwards, who will be my surgeon for an open-heart surgery procedure that will, hopefully, correct some of these problems and indeed give me a new lease on life.  As he put it today, it doesn't particularly change my overall prognosis since I am not expected to have a shortened lifespan as a result of the disease that I have.  Rather, this procedure will vastly increase the quality of my life by reducing symptoms.  

I've always had some symptoms, such as occasional atrial fibrillation, breathing issues, and angina.  Over the last six months, I've had a much more concerning issue which is occasionally feeling lightheaded and almost passing out.  At first, it was relatively random, but now it's happening when I do simple stuff like walking up a flight of stairs or playing golf.  I'm concerned enough that I want to get on to the surgery as quickly as possible.  I've scheduled the surgical pre-test for six weeks from now and the surgery eight weeks from now.