Thursday, December 20, 2007
I was far too young to be able to say that I made a conscious choice to become a mother, but I was naively happy when it happened. Adam and I struggled through it together and somehow he managed to grow into a son to be proud of, despite my youth and inexperience.
Being a parent was also the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
I worried, made mistakes, shed tears and wish I could do a “re-do” of a few days that weren’t my best moments as a mother (or as a human being). But I never thought that my role as a mother was to make things easy for Adam or to give him material things that I didn’t have growing up. My role was to prepare him for life, and to give him the gifts of self-confidence, opportunity and love. If I somehow managed to contribute to the person Adam is today, despite any mistakes I made along the way, then I’ve done my job and can be proud of the interesting, witty, caring, reflective, remarkable man that he has become.
Adam is 30 now and living the life I dreamed for him, in Holland with his lovely wife Tara.
This post was inspired by Melanie, a young mom who is raising two beautiful, active little boys. With their mom's love, guidance and support, those boys will someday become the wonderful men they are meant to be.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
"all the sorrow and trouble of this world is caused by unhappy people. Not only in the big global Hilter-'n'-Stalin picture, but also on the smallest personal level. Even in my own life, I can see exactly where my episodes of unhappiness have brought suffering or distress or (at the very least) inconvenience to those around me. The search for contentment is, therefore, not merely a self-preserving and self-benefiting act but also a generous gift to the world. Clearing out all your misery gets you out of the way. You cease being an obstacle, not only to yourself but to anyone else. Only then are you free to serve and enjoy other people.”
I believe the gift is in truly being you – not about giving in or presenting a false sense of happiness to make others feel better. People who are content sometimes experience sadness, bad days (even bad hair days!), and occasionally go to what I call "the dark side". Contentment to me is when there is more good than bad and it balances out to be a pretty damn good life!
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Maybe it’s when you’ve had a similar life-changing experience that only those who have been there can understand. Maybe it’s when you get to the point where you can truly be yourself and not worry about being judged. Maybe it’s when they've been there for you when you needed someone to go with you to an appointment or a shoulder to cry on. Maybe it’s when you share a variety of experiences together – dragon boating, travel, skiing, Nordic walking, disappointments, celebrations, cottage weekends… and the list goes on.
My 'breast cancer friends' contribute to my life in a multitude of ways. There is no way that I can thank them for the times that they have surprised me, encouraged me, challenged me, comforted me, cooked for me, laughed with me, and just been there for me.
Dear friends: There are too many to list (and to show in the picture!) – but you know who you are (Jen, Anka, Jill, Bev, Mary Lou, Patricia, Jean, plus, plus, plus). I could say ‘thank you’, but that seems trite - something you say when someone passes the butter.
I remember trying to thank my friend Peg for dragging her along with me to an oncology appointment and apologizing for putting her through the emotional trauma of being there with me for some bad news. She looked at me with love and kindness and said “Chris, just shut up”. She not only made me laugh, but she taught me that friends know how much you appreciate their support, even if you can’t quite express it.
So… I’ll just shut up now. Until next time.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Nordic Walking involves walking with poles that have special handgrips and rubber feet on the bottom to help absorb the impact. I thought I could do it with regular hiking poles, but found out quickly that they can take a toll on your wrists and shoulders. I’ve joined a clinic that was set up for the Busting Out breast cancer survivor (aka thriver!) dragon boat team. (I’m no longer a member of the team, but it helps to know the organizer). It’s great to get outside and I’m hoping to benefit from the claim that it burns twice as many calories as regular walking.
No, the picture is not me, but maybe if I keep at it I’ll look like that by spring.
Friday, November 23, 2007
This picture is a self-portrait of Erin entitled "When I'm 65...". The first time I saw it it brought tears to my eyes -- maybe because I am amazed at her vision to be able to picture herself at 65, and maybe because I know that this is the only way that I will ever see her at this age. (Not to be morbid, but even if the cancer doesn't get me, chances are I won't be around in 40+ years!)
I was in the delivery room when Erin was born and when the doctor handed her to me I felt a connection to her that continues today.
Happy birthday Erin, daughter of my sister, daughter of my heart. You will continue to be beautiful at any age.
You can view Erin's art portfolio and pastry creations at http://lapetitelife.blogspot.com/.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
The seasons fly by at a faster rate with each passing year. If you live to be in your 90’s, I wonder if it speeds up so much that the winter snow and spring tulips and summer sun and fall leaves seem like a blur, moving so quickly that you only experience each one for what must seem like a moment in a long life of seasons.
It might be time to take my bike inside....
Monday, November 19, 2007
This afternoon started out with a bone scan (which doesn’t really have much to do with cancer, except for the increased risk of osteoporosis from Arimidex). I chatted with the technician and she ended up telling me that she was recently diagnosed with DCIS insitu (early stage breast cancer, before it forms a tumor) and that she is waiting to hear when she starts radiation. She was a real sweetie and even stood on a chair to take a picture of me getting the scan.
The second test was an ultrasound of a spot on my spine that I thought had been dismissed as clear after a CT scan a few months ago. The technician took the longest time studying the scans and going over and over the same spot on my back. Then she called in a doctor to have a look at it and they talked as if I wasn’t there, about “the diameters of the lesion” and whether or not it was “encapsulated” and other things that were too technical for me to understand. I started to panic when they talked about calling in a third person to have a look and then left the room.
All this time I was lying face down, with my mind racing ahead to treatment options and other not-so-positive scenarios. After much debate and a look at my last CT scan, they determined that it looked like nothing and that I should keep an eye on it and let the doctor know if it got any bigger. (How I’m supposed to do that when it’s in the middle of my back and I can’t reach it, I’m not quite sure!). I walked out of the hospital feeling a bit shell shocked, and made the wise decision to not go back to work this afternoon.
Just another day in the life of a cancer patient…
Friday, November 16, 2007
Elizabeth Gilbert spent a year traveling in Italy, India and Indonesia, putting herself back together after a divorce and searching for meaning in her life. I read it the first time for enjoyment, and then I read it again because there were wonderful tidbits that I wanted to remember. (My copy is well highlighted and dog-eared). Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book.
… to travel is worth any cost or sacrifice. I am loyal and constant in my love for travel, as I have not always been loyal and constant in my other loves. I feel about travel the way a happy new mother feels about her impossible, colicky restless newborn baby – I just don’t care what it puts me through. Because I adore it. Because it’s mine. Because it looks exactly like me. It can barf all over me if it wants to – I just don’t care.
The search for contentment is not merely a self-preserving and self-benefiting act, but also a generous gift to the world. Clearing out all your misery gets you out of the way. You cease being an obstacle, not only to yourself but to anyone else. Only then are you free to serve and enjoy other people.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
I don’t typically think of camels when I think of Tanzania, but I had read about a 1-day camel safari at the base of Mt. Meru and decided it was something that I didn’t want to miss. I’m not sure that it was my travelling companion, Jennifer’s first choice of how to spend a day in Tanzania, but she’s pretty much up for anything so I didn’t have to twist her arm to join me.
The first part of the day was uneventful, with our Masaii warrior guides leading our camels across the Mkuru Plains towards an enormous but dry gorge where we stopped for lunch. Before heading back, the weather changed quickly and we found ourselves unexpectedly in the middle of a flash flood with very limited shelter. We had no option but to start the long ride back on reluctant camels that were having difficulty getting their footing in the mud. We were soaked through to our skin and we could see lightening in the distance. It occurred to me more than once that maybe the top of a camel wasn’t the best place to be in a lightening storm…
As we sloshed our way back around huge mud holes, I remember hanging on to the camel’s saddle with cold and shrivelled wet hands, thinking: “This is my life! Here I am in this ridiculous situation and I’m so glad to be here! “. I felt giddy with the feeling of having every cell in my body awake and fully living the experience.
I often think about that moment and try to recapture the feeling of being fully alive; a feeling that I don’t often experience in my routine day-to-day life. I remind myself to slow down and make use of all of my senses, to be fully present and aware of the small pleasures of life. When I’m doing simple things like raking leaves, hiking with friends, or enjoying a good book, I remind myself to savour the experience, to say: "This is my life and I’m glad to be here!"
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Some great quotes from Carr's book:
I remember my radiologist saying to me, "Your mission now is to ask yourself every day, 'Am I doing what I want to be doing?'" I try to make the answer yes, even if it requires saying the word no and disappointing someone. - Sheryl Crow
Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given, than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is an opionion, not a fact. Impossible isn't a declaration, it's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing. - David Beckham
Incurable isn't a declaration, it's a dare! - Kris Carr
The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off. - Gloria Steinem
FUCK CANCER - Jackie Farry
Friday, November 9, 2007
A group of my dragon boat friends meet on Fridays and hike in Gatineau Park. I decided to ditch work a few Fridays this fall to join them.
Today’s hike was led by my Didi (Nepali for sister), Peg. While I can’t tell you the names of the trails that Peg led us on, I know that we ate lunch at Keogan cabin. It doesn't matter where we go; the trails are lovely and the views are spectacular. The shining sun and the sound of the leaves crunching under our feet created an ideal setting for spending time with friends and enjoying the beauty of the park.
What a great day to be alive!
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
While she was going through chemo, Mary and I went on a winter camping trip (in a yurt) with a group of friends in Algonquin Park. I remember cross-country skiing with her on that trip and thinking: If my cancer ever came back I hope to hell that I could handle it as well as she has. Little did I know that I would soon join her…
Since then, Mary spent a month downhill skiing out west, continued dragon boating (with or without hair), paddled in festivals (one in Singapore!), participated in winter training classes, continued to come out to walk/run with our Saturday morning group, went on a bicycle trip in Europe with her husband Eric, and has continued to live her life with style and courage. I like to say that Mary is a perfect blend of classy lady and tough broad.
When the cancer recently appeared in her hip, Mary was reluctant to tell me because we both know that whatever happens to her, there’s a possibility that I will eventually follow. I’ve assured her that she doesn’t have to protect me – that she’s not my role model because I think she had a miracle cure or because I think she’ll live forever, but rather because of how fully she is living her live, despite the cancer.
Understandably, Mary has spent some time ‘on the dark side’, as I call it, but she picks herself up and dusts herself off and gets on with her life. In the picture above she is showing off her FUCK CANCER gloves and slippers (an idea I stole off of Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips website, http://crazysexycancer.com/ -- I like that message better than pink ribbons). The picture was taken on the evening of her first radiation treatment on her hip.
Today is the last of 5 rounds of radiation for Mary. Yahoo! I hope the radiation blasted the hell out of that nasty stuff in her hip. Fuck cancer!!!
Sunday, November 4, 2007
I find a lovely little shelter from the wind on a rock that looks designed to be a seat, as if it was waiting for me. "Welcome back Chris" the rocks and the ocean seem to say. "We've missed you. We have life and energy to share with you. We'll be here whenever you need to come back and long after you are gone".
Sitting on the rocks, looking out at the water makes me feel alive, as if the world is full of possibilities. I am filled with joy and wonder in this magical place. I would think that such a powerful place would diminish me and make me feel small. Instead it shares it's power with me and I draw strength from it. The rocks are worn and broken, yet beautiful. Maybe it's OK to be broken; maybe I too am a beautiful work of imperfection. Maybe life isn't meant to be smooth, unblemished or organized.
I breathe in the salt air and feel life and health fill my lungs. I may not be as indestructible as the rocks and the ocean, but I am strong and tough and, like them, can take a beating and weather a storm. Because the rocks and ocean will be there for another million years, so will I. Because there will always be a part of me here at the edge of the world at Peggy's Cove.
That those of use born to privilege often don’t appreciate our luck. Those of us lucky enough to have been born in North America have truly won the birth lotto.
That “privilege” doesn’t just include the Donald Trumps & Paris Hilton’s of the world. Those of us that have a life with options and opportunities are privileged.
That we too often take for granted what we have. We think that our life is the norm, when in reality the majority of the people on this planet are just struggling to survive.
That joy doesn’t come from accumulation of possessions or wealth, but from the moments we experience.
That to truly be able to live in the light, we have to be willing to face our ‘dark side’. Living positively is not about avoidance.
That it’s important to live in the moment; to not let the moments fly by without us taking notice.
That if the cancer had to come back, it’s remarkable for it to come back in the unobtrusive way it did. I don’t know anyone else with metastasized disease that didn’t need chemo. I have a chance to live right now my way, and to make the choice to live my life with gratitude.
That I am truly blessed.
After Nadine left I spent a full week totally on my own. No TV, no deadlines, no where to be. I thought it would be lonely, but I loved having time to reflect, read, sit by the ocean, write in my journal, and just be. It's taken me 50 years, but I've learned to enjoy my own company.
My name is Christine Lynds and I have metastatic stage 4 breast cancer. The good news is that I am in a full remission and life goes on. The bad news is that having cancer doesn't give me a free-pass to avoid the day-to-day crap that we all have to deal with ... and life goes on.
I decided to call my blog The Edge of Light because:
- Some days I feel like I'm on the edge... on the edge of what I'm not sure... but definately on the edge;
- I'm not exactly new-agey, but I sometimes have foggy glimpses of enlightenment;
- It captures some of the drama of my favorite childhood soap opera: The Edge of Night;
- There is a lighter side to every challenge, including cancer; and
- I couldn't think of a more clever name.
Having cancer is sort of like having a near death experience. I feel like I’ve gone to the edge of the tunnel of light, peered in, looked death in the face. There were no voices urging me to ‘go towards the light’, so I went in another direction, towards another kind of light that is life.
One of the challenges of having metastatic cancer is that there aren't enough good-news stories. While it may be necessary to go to the 'dark side' at times, I want to create a blog that is about living in the moment and finding joy in the small things.