My Disappearance and Creating a New Normal

Not that this blog sees a tonne of regular readers, but in an effort to explain what’s been going on for the last few weeks, I wanted to post something that I can point to from Twitter, Facebook, etc to explain the sudden disappearance of all all things Tooq a few weeks ago and where things are heading. As I’m the guy that writes the cheques and makes the calls for Tooq, this post lies more on the personal side of things than the product or release notes.

In the last half of January, I started experiencing some back pain, much as I have several times in the past. Figuring that I had a slight pinch in my spine, I worked through what was more a minor discomfort than actual pain. After the discomfort had grown and the pinch ceased to ease off, I made an appointment to see a chiropractor for the first time in many years. My back was indeed in need of adjustment and some ongoing therapy to correct several years of neglect and I made my way to five appointments over the course of a week. While my back did start to feel better, I was having more and more pain radiating from my spine around my right side to my sternum. This made laying on my side impossible and breathing was getting more and more difficult, though I was still able to function (including playing a game of ice hockey and presenting Tooq at DemoCamp Edmonton).

On February 1st, I awoke in a great deal of pain with back spasms and trouble breathing. I spent about two hours in extreme pain an discomfort while my wife was getting ready for work. Thanks to her gentle prodding, we made the decision to go to the ER and we made some arrangements to get our son to nursery school and get to the hospital. I was admitted quickly and having extreme pain again by the time we got to the hospital. I was given medication for the pain and lingered in the ER for a couple of days when the diagnosis was finally made. I had pneumonia, an infection in the sack around my lung and a collapsed lung, all on my right side. I was lucky enough to have one of the best known doctors in Edmonton be on call for respiratory issues and  after explaining what was going on, he inserted a chest tube to drain the fluid in the sack around my lung to allow the collapsed lung to re-inflate. This immediately helped, but as it turns out the tube couldn’t clear all the fluid surrounding my lung and I was informed that I would require thoracic surgery.

To make a long story short, I had surgery a week after being admitted to hospital, and spent another week recovering in hospital. Being someone that is connected to email and social networks, the sudden and unexpected loss of these lifelines was difficult to deal with. Here I am, trying to find friends and family funding for a startup, test our first product, launch our beta, and get a business off the ground and here I am, pulled unexpectedly from the game without notice. Not only that, but pulled, not only for a few days, but for two straight weeks and a long recovery ramp when I got home. The longer I was in the hospital, the more this drove me insane. All I had was my cheap pay as you go mobile where I could post to Facebook (but following threads was damn near impossible) and see that I had 400 emails in one of my inboxes (but sorting, viewing and managing was also impossible).

I was released from hospital on Sunday afternoon after fourteen days in two different hospitals. I was incredibly relieved and happy to be home with my wife and son, though exhausted and still nowhere near 100%.

I started thinking in my last days at the hospital about getting back to normal and how I would shape my plans to do so. Then I realized that I won’t get back to normal. I smoked for over 20 years and was given the gift of two weeks without nicotine. The antibiotics I’m on, don’t allow me to have any alcoholic beverages for at least six weeks (I normally have several beers throughout the week over meetings, socially, as part of a meal, etc). Tooq is low on funds now and is going to require a “plan B” to bridge the gap between paying bills due and finding some funds.  Things have changed immensely, without notice, and in a completely unexpected way. I always knew that running my own start-up would present challenges, this was one I just never expected. So rather than complain or bemoan the challenges thrown my way, I’m looking forward to creating a new normal, both personally and professionally. I have been given an opportunity to reshape myself personally and will have my hand forced into changing professionally.

On the personal side of things, not smoking is massive. I have smoked since I was thirteen and it has been part of my entire adult life. I never would have gotten through quitting for three days much less two weeks without something major. It is a gift in many ways that I have been given a two week head start and I plan to embrace it. Not drinking for six weeks (eight in total) is not nearly as daunting, though it is the longest stretch without alcohol in many years. Social events seem to be a part of start-up culture, I just get to be the guy drinking juice for a little while at events. Lastly, terrible hospital food saw me drop almost 20 pounds in my two week stay. I’m now the lightest I’ve been in several years, and without smoking and drinking, I should be able to continue a downward trend. It is the start of a personal metamorphosis into a healthier, happier me.

On the business side, I’ve got a lot of catch up to do and I’m just starting to regain my bearings today. I expect most of this week will be centered on getting back into the flow of things, assessing where things are at, formulating a plan and then acting on it. I can bridge some funds for a few months, and we should get beta out the door very soon. Tooq has not gone to plan, especially since ending up in the hospital, but we’ll pivot and move on, keeping our eye on the prize. I expect that my recovery (and ability to exhaust my energy very quickly) will provide some challenges over the next several weeks, but I’ll push on and ensure that the last few weeks are only a memory of how we were able to react successfully to a large challenge and persevere.

Bring on the New Normal. Thanks for reading.



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