Friday, August 29, 2008

The Devil at the Door

A recent CT scan confirmed that the cancer is back in my lungs. This time it’s not a single tumor, but rather a scattering of small “spots” in both lungs (not sure that they are big enough to be called tumors). Surgery and radiation are not options, so I’m limited to chemo, along with some other non-conventional options such as alternative therapies (more to follow on that topic) or simply curling up into the fetal position. While I’ve considered the later, the practical side of me has opted for chemotherapy starting on September 9th.

The hardest part has been telling my family that it’s back. Understandably, they have questions that can’t be answered; questions like: WHY? I’ve given up trying to figure that one out and am putting my energy into enjoying my life. I felt the need to be “home” and near the ocean. So I’m spending the next week & a half in Nova Scotia getting prepared to start treatment when I return. The ocean gives me a sense of peace, which is the right place for my head to be as I face the side effects of Taxotere over the next several months. And the best part is that my son Adam (who is currently living is Holland) has decided to meet me in Halifax.

I am fortunate to have great support from family & friends. In a recent email, my friend Judy wrote:

"At the Burlington Dragonboat Festival the song for the flower ceremony was Lean on Me. We spent an hour at a singing workshop learning the lyrics. It was a good choice and the many teams sang it lustily. Today in the car I heard the song on the radio as I was thinking of you. I got totally caught up in the words and sentiments. If life were a movie you would be standing in your doorway (the white one with the gingerbread trim) wearing your black running shirt (which looks really good on you). Snow would be softly falling and all your friends would be gathered on your deck belting out "Lean on Me" in perfect harmony. Unfortunately I am a horrible singer but I am singing it in my heart. I hope you can hear it. You have so many people to lean on. I can't believe I have forgotten most of the words but I blame it on being 60.

Lean on me when you're not strong, I'll be your strength, I'll help you carry on, Girl it won't be long, Till I'm gonna need somebody to lean on."

To balance that out, here’s another response, from Jacquelin. Shorter, but just as meaningfull…

"Fucking hell. Sorry, can’t think of any other way to respond."

Monday, August 25, 2008


When I first met Patricia in a cancer support group in 1998, I’ll admit that I thought she was a bit too “new-agey” for my liking. During our group discussions she wrapped herself in a hand-woven blue shawl (which just happened to match the color of her eyes) and talked about things like 'Divine Light Invocation' and 'Dream Yoga'. The most shocking thing about our most controversial support group member was that she had refused any traditional treatment (lymph node dissection, chemotherapy, radiation, etc), other than the surgery necessary to remove a lump from her breast.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that Patricia probably knew more about her cancer and the effects of traditional treatment than any of us. She had witnessed first hand the death of her mother at a young age and then the death of her sister only a few months before her own diagnosis, both from breast cancer. Patricia made a decision to follow her own path. While the majority of us obediently did what the doctors told us to do – and prayed – Patricia researched alternative treatments and sought advice from alternative practitioners.

I also didn't realize that, in addition to being one of the most informed cancer patients I've ever met, Patricia would become the rock that most of us would turn to, for her wisdom and the calming effect she has in the midst of turmoil. I recently interviewed Patricia about her experience with recurrence and when I checked my notes I saw that I had written down “cancer explorer”. I’m not sure if the words came from her or from me, but it accurately describes her approach to living with cancer.

I also didn’t know that I would learn so much from Patricia, and that what she taught me would influence how I approach my own cancer journey.

I also didn't know that I would grow to love her like a sister.

Click here to read about what I’ve learned and continue to learn from my ‘bosom buddy’ Patricia.

If you would like to read about other women living with cancer, click on "Cancer Heroes" below.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sunnyside UP completes the MS Bike Tour!!

Well, we made it! All of the members of the Sunnyside UP finished the 150 km, with a few sore butts to show for it.

The speed demons in the front finished before the awesome threesome (Chris, Jennifer & Anka), but I'm counting it as a personal best (considering that I never biked that far before...).

Our team raised over $3,300 and had lots of fun doing it. Thanks to everyone who donated.

In the picture below: Chris, Jennifer, Dianne, Judy, Anka, Wendy, Sylvia, Steven (aka Puppy) & Christine. The Sunnyside UP team signs on our bike were made by Anne. What a team!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Message from a Friend

I received this from 2 friends this morning and thought it was worth sharing...

The other day a young person asked me how I felt about being old. I was taken aback, for I do not think of myself as old. Upon seeing my reaction, she was immediately embarrassed, but I explained that it was an interesting question, and I would ponder it, and let her know.

Old Age, I decided, is a gift. I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I have always wanted to be. Oh, not my body! I sometime despair over my body, the wrinkles, the baggy eyes, and the sagging butt. And often I am taken aback by that old person that lives in my mirror (who looks like my mother!), but I don't agonize over those things for long.

I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly. As I've aged, I've become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself. I've become my own friend. I don't chide myself for eating that extra cookie, or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn't need, but looks so avante garde on my patio. I am entitled to a treat, to be messy, to be extravagant.

I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.

Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 AM and sleep until noon? I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 60 & 70's, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love ... I will.

I will walk the beach in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set.

They, too, will get old. I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And I eventually remember the important things.

Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody's beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.

As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don't question myself anymore. I've even earned the right to be wrong.

So, to answer your question, I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day (if I feel like it).