The Exam


Just last week I was talking to Walter over at about a podcast I had just listened to. The podcast was on the upcoming month of Movember, Mo being Aussie slang for a moustache. This is an annual fundraising and awareness effort put on by the Movember Foundation centered around men’s health. Particularly prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health, and suicide prevention. I have had friends participate many time in the past, and donated regularly to the cause … but I have never participated before. As it turns out, Walter had similar ideas.

So I found it a coincidental opportunity that saw me at the Doctors office on November 1st. The appointment had been setup long before I had decided to participate in Movember. Weeks before I had gone to get a referral from my doctor, and came out with that and an appointment for my annual physical. Apparently ‘annual’ means something, so he was a little upset that I hadn’t seen him in 4 years.

Who wants to see the doctor, heck even when I am sick or hurt I avoid it. I have patched cuts that should have been stitched with toilet paper and tape. I have entertained coughing fits for over 3 months before scheduling a doctor appointment. I skipped that ER until my ankle was the size of my head and I was essentially hauled there by friends. I could say it is because I am a guy, but as a guy I am far more logical than that. There are several reasons: Cost, Time, and Trust I think are the core issues though. Some of that is just my experience in the US, but I was never one to go to the doctor (or dentist) in Canada either.

So, what is it … a guy thing? I doubt it, might be more of a control thing combined with a ‘I can fix it’ attitude. Which could be considered a guy thing to some people. For me, I don’t want to rely on someone else to maintain my own worldly existence. Yet, fear is there too. I must say that I am often afraid when visiting the doctor, afraid that I will be told that there is something wrong … something I don’t know about … something that can’t be fixed.

Yet, there I was. Obeying the command of the doctor to come back on the 1st with all my lab work done. I was thinking, “could we not have this conversation over the phone.” But as I sat there I was thinking, this is an interesting opportunity. I am in for my physical on the first day of Movember, this is a perfect way to start off a month dedicated to men’s health awareness. “And heck … I am healthy, so this will be a piece of cake.”

That was until we started going over my numbers. Blood pressure … perfect, gained a few pounds (now only 5 lbs until I get to my goal weight), Cholesterol … high (damn, pizza and McD’s with the kids has been catching up with me), and the numbers back for the prostate check were … off … WHAT!!!. A sense of terror crept over me … “and what does that mean?” I asked. “Means you need to drop your drawers” was his response, kind of flat. So I did as he instructed. I allowed the medical student stay in the room in an effort to project a sense of comfort about the whole situation, but I was uncomfortable and there was no hiding it. Not from being naked or exposed in front of the doctor or the student, but from the thought of what was coming.

This had always been a joke. Even that morning we had laughed about the “bend over and cough” scenario. But now I was lying there in a fetal position, pants on the floor, butt exposed, and being … “manipulated”. It was a joke no longer. I cringed with every movement, more from the expectation and anticipation of the unknown than what was actually happening. Then it was over. While it was an odd sensation, there was no pain.

In the end, nothing abnormal to report. Suspicion is that there is an infection that needs to be addressed so I was given a prescription and, following a quick flu shot, sent on my merry way.

There are still a number of things I need to find information on, after getting and reading the information on CIPRO I have questions. I would like more details on the infection, would like to know more about options, and long term impacts if left ‘as is’. However, that is as much about my education as it is about my medical care. Knowing and understanding is important and the only way you have any control.

In my past I have always been reasonably healthy. My numbers have always been right between the goal posts. I have never had a reason to be worried. However, these past two years have been a strain on me, a strain that I thought had been all mental but it seems there has been a strain on my physical body as well. Not only am I not running, visiting the gym as much or eating right … but there is more I need to be monitoring. This opportunity, my coincidental opportunity, made this men’s health awareness a reality for me.

I need to pay attention.

That is what this month is all about. Bringing awareness to these issues so people go get their physicals done … yes it is uncomfortable. 12.9% of men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lives. That is uncomfortable too and the earlier is is found the better your chance for a positive outcome.

So I am all in with this month of Movember, it has already had impact.

Follow my progress on Facebook

Donate today:

Check out our team, the “Rad Mo Bros.”

Find out more on the Foundation and read the history. Nothing like a few beers and a crazy idea to kick off such a fun and impactful idea.


Blood, sweat, and the sweet smell of success

Tonight I hurt. I can be honest with myself about that. I have several bruises, my head aches and yet I couldn’t be happier. This past weekend I was participating in the AAU National Championships for TaeKwonDo, and not only was it a whole lot of fun just getting out of town for a couple days but I find such events good for both myself and my boys.

The struggleI am an active person in general and I love playing sports. I love putting it all out on the field, beach, floor, ice or mat (take your pick). I play to the final buzzer.  I don’t give up.  I enjoy the competition and the adrenaline that comes from it.  I also enjoy competing as part of a team, getting encouragement and criticism from those working towards the same goal.  Makes me push myself further not wanting to let the team down.  I find this attitude is good in life. It pushes me at work, it pushes me at home, and it pushes me in life.

Failure tells me I have more to learn, success tells me I can still do it, and the pain tells me I am still alive.

Yet, it is not just for me that I do these events. For, I am getting older and the hips don’t work as they once did. I do these competitions for my boys even though they don’t participate as they once did, they feel the pressure and they just want to play. I understand that, they are young, and I feel that the lessons and experiences can still be passed on as long as I continue.

Training for martial arts is a long process that takes sacrifice. We get together several times a week and that can sometimes really cramp life’s flow. So I want them to see that we are training for a purpose, an event that stands alone. We train for self-defense, we train to build confidence, we train for fitness – but often those are intangible to the children as they don’t have the life experiences yet to see the value. So I like the crescendo of these competitions; the build up, the anxiety, the nervousness, and the result of the moment. You are judged only by what you put out when it matters. There are times you need to focus and go all-in.

I also want them to see that I am a person too. I want them to watch as I struggle. I want them to see me get anxious, frustrated, and mad. I want them to see that I don’t always win, that sometimes I fall down. Because that happens. Yet it is critically important that they see that when I fail I learn, when I fall I get back up and when I get hit I keep on going. My theory is that in watching me they will be better situated to tackle their own disappointments, frustrations, and anger. I am not just telling them how to get through life – they see me living it.

AAUThis past weekend we experienced failure, pain, resilience, and success.  They watched as I made a major mistake during forms, one I had been making repeatedly in class leading up to the event. They watched as it ate at me, they saw the emotions involved.  They were filming as I took a shot to the head during sparring, giving me a bloody nose. They saw the intensity of battle. Yet they also saw that I stayed calm, I didn’t give up, and I didn’t back down.  They then got to watch as I fought back, held on and won gold. I got to see their pride. We then turned and together cheered on our teammates, gave tips and talked strategies.  We were together, supporting each our team in both failure and success. They experienced what it was like to be part of a a team in both competition and play. They saw how we can have fun while also taking the necessary moments to focus and perform.

They experienced a weekend of team spirit, perseverance and respect. They also got to see their Dad stand tall. Doesn’t get much better than that.


Lately my mind has been a bit foggy as I was consumed with the final stages of my Black Belt testing. I have been working towards this for almost 4 years, not including 3 years of Shotokan Karate training back while I was at University. In fact my previous training stood the test of time reasonably well as Taekwondo has strong roots with Shotokan as many of the arts founding member trained in Shotokan during the Japanese occupation of Korea in the early 20th Century … but that is another story.

© Damien Bouchard –

It was a Friday night, just rolled back into town from work and went immediately to the Dojang (Korean for Dojo) as it was now time for our 3-hr meditation. We had been fasting since Wednesday which had limited us to 3-cups of cooked rice a day, plus water and green tea; a practice designed to cleanse our bodies. The meditation was a way to help clean the mind and spirit. Both are more practically demonstrations of our resilience, both a mental and physical hurdle.

For the meditation, the three hours would be broken into three segments with 5-minute breaks to stretch and take any required bio breaks. While we typically do a short meditation, 1-2 minutes at most, to start each class. Tonight we would be sitting for a stretch of 60-minutes not moving, not talking, with the lights off save for a single candle sitting center of our group.

This was going to be a challenge, and it was …

Part 1: The journey here – Looking Back

We settled into our places, getting as comfortable as we could. As our instructor left the room we gave us our task for the hour, a ‘look back at your journey here’, and the door shut. The candle flickering in front of me. “I got this” I thought as I straightened by back and started breathing, calming myself.

It is hard to capture a journey of your own life, or at least I was finding it hard. I have memories, both good and bad, inspirational and depressing – but nothing seemed to chart a course, yet I am here. I kept trying to build on memories from my childhood, and try and see how they influenced choices in my teenage years and further into my adult years. Thought about days spent on the ski slopes and fishing off the dock on the lake. Remembered friends. I searched for a line, a thread, something that would help tell the story of me but the theme would not come.

Switching gears, I took a look at more recent events. A train of thought I have been riding a lot over the last couple years. I wasn’t getting any emotional engagement from my mind on any of it, maybe I was just done thinking about it. At this point the biggest challenge was staying in the past … my mind, as it often does, was floating around. As it does when I am in happier moods, it kept moving back to my ongoing hopes and dreams. I envisioned personal projects. Thought about upcoming events and things I needed to get done. Mentally reviewing my budget. I was conscious of this rabbit holes of thought and I kept dragging myself back to the past. To talk personal history with myself … about myself, remembering the splash of snow as I plowed into the snow banks in my toboggan. Moments of fear as I was learning to drive and making incredibly stupid decisions. Started to wonder … how the heck did I live long enough to get here?

I have often thought about getting my memoirs down at some point, but I don’t feel I have much to say. Most of my life I have spent looking forward, and often don’t stop to drop markers or take a look all the fences I hit or donuts I was doing. Always had a 5-year plan overflowing with ambitions … and was pushing forward. 2015 was a rough year for me as I felt all that fade away, I had spent most of that entire year stuck in a quagmire, and I have just started feeling like I was getting traction again. My dreams were starting to feed my passions again … hmm, wonder if this was what he was getting at?

My hip was starting to ache and readjusted slightly … 15 minutes left. I pondered what the next sessions would be like and my mind soon was back down the path of dinner plans for Saturday afternoon.

Part 2: What is this?

Quick stretch, my hip was starting to seize which is not a good sign for the night. Shot of hot green tea to wet the lips and we were back on our blankets. This time to answer the question of “what is this?”

This was the hardest session, my body had ached after the first hour and we were not a few minutes in and already my right hip was screaming at me. My mind was a hard thing to contain, it wondered often with its own goals and aspirations, luckily we had the koan (mantra) to help drag me back. I started with the physical aspects, “what is this?” … this is a room, this is a candle, this is me breathing. This is our meditation session. This is our black belt exam … so no, a beer when I get home would not be a good thing. I started looking at internally … this is me hungry, that pain … that is my hip.

Ok, enough playtime … I had actually started hunching over a bit and stopped breathing properly. Honestly, breathing was uncomfortable due to conflicting hunger pain that were felt as I took a breath into my lower abdomen. I straighten my back again, raised my chest and chin, relaxed my arms … and breathed deep. Almost instantly my emotions changed.

What is this … this is my black belt test. This was an accomplishment. A black belt was not a prize I have been after though. Have always been interested in martial arts, but more in the way of life and general skills than in belting. Joined with friends to a club at the University, and it just sort of became my thing. When I moved I searched for a new school but nothing seemed to fit, then work got busy and life just took over. When we decided to get our oldest involved, it wasn’t but two classes before I was standing beside him … I was not going to be able to sit and watch, I was going to do it WITH THEM.

The Dojang and the training had kept the consistency of life going, which helped me stay steady when life got really rocky. It also helped to have somewhere to go and kick a bag for an hour. Life was turning around, I was moving forward. My dreams and aspirations where back … and what is this? This was an accomplishment, or more specifically the moment of accomplishment. Something I have not really felt in some time.

I held onto that thought, “this” was the moment, a turning point possibly? This brought energy, my back straightened again and my breathing slowed into a pattern, I was able to relax. This was a moment where I was moving on and up after years of feeling beaten down. This was a moment of pride.

Excited I took a quick glance at the clock … foolish me. So much time left. The pain in my hip became apparent again forcing me to shift my position and ease the tension. The muscles in my back could be felt … as could my tailbone. What is this … this is me at almost 39!

Thought about “this” being resilience, especially with the fasting we have been attempting. This was my resolve. I would get this done.

Part 3: Who am I?

With 120 minutes down and only 60 minutes left to go, I could sense the excitement not only in myself but the group. For the third time we settled in and relaxed; answer me this “who am I?”

This has been a question I have been longing to gain an answer to for some time, with 60 minutes it was time to dig into it a big.

I first thought I was a dedicated worker, a helper, a dreamer. I am a developer. I am a person. Yet all those thought sounded like I was answering “What am I?” … was looking for “Who am I?” I started to look outwards, to famous figure heads. Who was Albert Einstein? Thomas Edison? Wayne Gretzky? And … found I was answering “what” they were or more what they were known for. Who there were I could not assess as I did not know them.

Ok … taking a look closer to home. Started looking at my friends, my children, and my parents as examples. Who are these people? They are loving. They are caring. They are fun. They are inspirational at times, and listeners when needed. Felt like I was on to something. You always know when you are onto something when the gears start turning on their own, the self-powered mind.

So who am I?

I am a son, a brother and a friend. I am both a parent and a child. I am a student and a teacher. I am an imperfect guy struggling to find my way in the world, yet I am a mentor and a role model. What I finally honed in on was that who is am is a connection, I am the interaction I have with others.

Determined to not look at the clock, I focused on the candle and pushed the pain or soreness of my body aside and contemplated my connection to my boys. Who do they see in me? What am I showing them? They see my struggles, my pain. Do they see my successes?

Who am I? … I am Dad. I was left smiling as the door opened and the final session came to a close.

The take away

This was tough. Found it hard to breath as my body desired food. My muscles were stiff and ached as they started to move again. I sit all day at work and through my commute to work – this was more sitting, and my body did NOT thank me for it. But it gave me a chance to still my body and try and still my mind. Realized that this doesn’t really take that long, most of my main thoughts presented themselves fairly quickly. Left me wondering how I could train myself to spend 10-15 minutes in the morning … maybe just one day a week. I am liking the thought of it.

After three hours I was able to center myself and focus on some key elements on my life I had not managed to frame into a common thread prior. This weekend was a marker, a milestone for me. I was a father, a son, a friend and a brother who, in this moment, was starting a fresh chapter in life … and I am finally excited to see what challenges and opportunities lie ahead. The next day I successfully completed the black belt exam, but it meant more. I had a new perspective.