Thursday, May 31, 2012

Laughing at Cancer......

We live in very interesting times.   I remember when I was young and people got cancer....they died.   It was the way things were.   We accepted the fact that to get a diagnoses of cancer was  a death knell.   For some it still is and I am saddened each time I hear of someone who has died from this illness.   The reality though today is different.   Cancer is still a very serious and often terminal illness.   BUT, there are more people living with cancer today than was true 20  years ago.  

When I say living with, I do not mean cured. I mean living with cancer, some constantly, some intermittently, some having been diagnosed and never knowing when it will rear its ugly head again.  Most cancers cannot be cured, they can only be treated and stabilized, but not cured.   Very few cancers have been found to be curable.    I personally do not even see the day in my mind where Ovarian Cancer can be cured.  My prayer is that there will be some magically scientific discovery about how to detect it early enough that it won't be as deadly.   If OVCA is discovered early (which in most cases it isn't) it is 95% treatable with a positive prognosis.   Notice I avoid using the word cure.   To cure something in my mind means that it is gone forever, never to return.   I have yet to meet any medical professional worth their salt who believes that is true with most cancers let alone OVCA.   But, I digress!

What I was thinking about today is how many of us are actually living with this disease day in and day out.   Not only that but we are doing so in almost total anonymity, if we choose.    Often, I find out someone else has been diagnosed with cancer only after I have admitted to it myself.   Then the person says "oh I had ....cancer 2 years ago, five years ago, 20 years ago, whatever.   Another member of the club.    We are a group of people who continue to live, function, and enjoy life in the midst of this terrible disease.   In some ways I think that is a success and a win over cancer.   It hasn't forced us to abandon our lives.   There are some changes and for some they are major, but we still do the things 'normal' people do too.   Today, I did my yard work, visited with friends, cleaned the house, walked the dog.   To a stranger I am just another person going about a 'normal' life.  To me, I am still expected to carry on and do the things necessary to life.    I am not dead yet, so I keep on trucking!

It was good to think these things today.  It made me feel good about myself and where I am today.  I still hate cancer, still don't see it as a blessing, but I felt that in many ways I had won the battle, at least for today.   Winning one day at a time is all that we can hope for.   Recognizing that we have done that gives us hope for the next day,and the day after that.    So here's to another day of normal chores tomorrow ....God willing!    I laugh at you cancer....haahahaha...look at me I have to cut the grass, take the garbage out....I laugh at you cancer, you can't stop me from doing all these yukky chores.....hahahahah, I still have to clean the house, walk the dog, clean up her sh....   hahahaha

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Prayers of Hope and Peace

I seem to be on a theme of hope and prayer this week so I will continue in this vein.

I am going to do things a little differently in this post.  It will be some prayers and quotes  I have found that keep me centred and capable of journeying this life that I have been given.  I wanted to share them in case they speak to others the same way they have spoken to me over the years.    Take them or leave them, but for me they have had the power to carry me through some very difficult moments.......

The Power of Prayer

The day was long, the burden I had borne, seemed heavier than I could longer bear.
And then it lifted - but I did not know someone had knelt in prayer, had taken me to God
that very hour, and asked the easing of the load.
And God, the infinite compassion, had stooped down, and taken it from me.

We cannot tell how often as we pray, for some bewildered one, hurt and distressed,
the answer comes.   But many times those hearts find sudden peace and rest.

Some one had prayed, and Faith, a reaching hand, took hold of God and brought Him down that day!
So many, many hearts have need of prayer, Oh, let us pray.

Hope (Jeremiah 29:11-13 NRSV)

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not
for harm, to give you a future with hope.
Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me,
I will hear you.
When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.....

God's Days (St. Paul's Chronicles, Claremore, Diocese of Oklahoma)

There are two days in the week upon which and about which I never worry; two carefree days
kept sacredly free from fear and apprehension.  One of these days is YESTERDAY, with its
cares and frets and pains and aches.  All its faults, its mistakes and its blunders have passed
forever beyond my recall. 
It was mine; it is God's.

The other day that I do not worry about is TOMORROW.  Tomorrow, with all its possible adversities, its burdens, its perils, its large promise and performance, its potential failures and mistakes, is far beyond my mastery as is its dead sister, Yesterday.  
Tomorrow is God's day; it will be mine.

There is left then, for myself, but one day in the week:  TODAY.   Any person can fight the battles of Today.  Any woman can carry the burdens of just one day; any man can resist the temptation of Today.  It is only when we willfully add the burdens of these two awful eternities - Yesterday and Tomorrow - such burdens as only Almighty God can sustain - that we break down.

It isn't the experience of Today that drives people mad.   It is the remorse of what happened Yesterday and the fear of what Tomorrow might bring.  
These are God's Days; leave them to Him.

I offer these words of wisdom as prayers for all who find themselves in need.   I have read these words many times over the years and they have played a big part in my journey of acceptance and faith.  I HOPE others too will find some solace in them and their journey will be lightened because of them......God Bless!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Hope vs Optimism

I recently had the privilege of spending a few days with a group of people who very much live my faith.   Although I have no problems living my faith day and day out, and of course everyone who knows me knows that is a big part of who I am, this past week was such a shot in the arm for me.   To spend time, laugh, share food and stories with  people who are as invested in their faith and their lives as I am was energizing.

One thing that really hit home  was the Cardinal's homily on Tuesday.  He spoke about many things but the one thing that I took away with me was the difference between optimism and hope.  I have always felt that through this journey, I have had a good and hopeful outlook.  Not just a positive attitude or a 'pollyanna' view of things but an actually hopeful belief that 'all will be well'.   That is what differentiates optimism from hope.  

Optimism is the belief that all will work out the way we want it to.   Hope is the belief that no matter what happens we trust that it will be o.k.    A very subtle but important difference.  

When I was first diagnosed I constantly heard people tell me that a positive attitude was very important in my healing.    No one explained exactly what that meant.   Was I suppose to go around with a smile on my face, because if so that certainly wasn't going to happen.   I didn't feel like smiling and I wasn't about to do it to make everyone else feel better.    Was I suppose to pretend that the thought of dying didn't scare the 'hell' out of me?   Was I to tell people 'don't worry' I will be fine?    I had to figure out  what this so important 'positive attitude' actually entailed.    Well, it meant none of these things, that I was sure of.   If it did then I would not be having a positive attitude.

I figured out through great thought and much prayer that this elusive idea of a positive attitude was really a state of hopefulness.   I had to accept that I had this terrible disease, but at the same time I had to come to a place that I knew no matter what happened my daughter and I would be fine.   I had to find a way to 'TRUST'.....that was what it mean to have a positive attitude, to have hope not just optimism.

Trust, that I would have the strength to do what I needed to do for the treatments.
Trust in the doctors and nurses who were there to help me.
Trust, that I would have the emotional and spiritual strength to get my daughter and I through whatever was ahead.
Trust, that even if I didn't 'make it', that my daughter would be looked after and that ultimately she would be fine (the hardest one to arrive at).
Trust in my body again, that had betrayed me, so that I could live without being in a constant state of anxiety.
Trust, finally in that fact that no matter what happens 'all will be well'......
Trust in God for me...that both my daughter and I will be looked after through love.

That was the difference between being optimistic about the future and hopeful.  Optimism would have meant that I would be cured, whole again, go back to the way things were.   That the ending would be a good one from the world's point of view.   Optimistic believes that the best state of being exists in this world.    It is a way of living that would be exhausting for someone with a serious disease mainly because it demands some kind of control over the circumstances.  It would be a disappointing way to live as nothing ever goes back to the way it was, even if you are cured and live for years.  Optimism does not demand acceptance.

Hope on the other hand allows for the reality to unfold with the consolation that no matter what happens it will be o.k.   It doesn't mean giving up or not doing what is necessary.  It only takes the burden of doing everything alone and then waiting to see if it was enough.   Hope allows for you to stand back at times and rest, knowing that you aren't jeopardizing your future.  Hope allows a sense of freedom and peace in a time when everything else seems to be bound up and in chaos.  Hope brings acceptance and so doesn't need to move backwards in order to find a sense of equilibrium.

I am thankful that I have found hope and do have that necessary positive attitude.    I only wish I didn't have to get cancer to come to see that we all need to have this disposition whether we are ill or is the way we are meant to live our lives no matter what.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

This moment......remembers that moment!

Haven't been able to write much lately.   Seems like all my feelings and emotions are mixed up and confused.   I feel well physically, although I do notice that I am more tired than usual.   Seem to want to nap alot and often have an idea for doing something then 'sleep' gets in the way.  Oh well, at least I am still essentially healthy.

I am feeling very sad though b/c someone I have known for thirty years is dying of cancer.   She has just sort of been around in my life all these years and I guess in many ways I never thought about a time when she wouldn't be.    It is also very close for me b/c she seems to be going down  hill really quickly.  Things can change so fast.  As I write this I find my eyes welling up and the tears starting to fall.  Life seems to just go by so quickly sometimes, and it scares me.   What seemed like just yesterday is actually many years ago. 

Eleven years ago today, I was at my 25th high school reunion in Montreal.   I was so excited!    A friend and I had driven up from Toronto (each with a child in tow) and were getting ready in our hotel room to go to the dinner and dance.    Another friend that we hadn't seen in 25 years (at least I hadn't) was due to come by the hotel to go with us.  It was such a fun time and so much to look forward to.   We felt like we were so old celebrating 25 years, but at the same time the emotions and excitement were similar to getting ready for a school dance.   Oh to get that time back!

The other side of that weekend was it was the beginning of my not feeling well.   I ended up leaving the dance early b/c I was just too tired.  I figured it was the trip and the excitement and so I didn't worry much.   The next day I spent walking around in all my old haunts with my then 12 year old daughter showing her all the childhood places and telling all kinds (albeit censored of course )stories of the things we used to do here and there.  I even went to my old house, knocked on the door and asked if I could show my daughter - the new owners were very happy to oblige.  I  remember we went for supper at the St.Hubert BBQ restaurant that was built on the old golf course that was behind my house when I was little was a great day.   Little did I know that what was coming would make that day engraved in my head because it is the last day I remember that she and I spent so care free.    39 days later I would be diagnosed with Stage 3, Grade 3, Clear Cell Epithelial Ovarian Cancer.    Our lives would never be the same again!

Life can change in a can change for good or bad...but nothing stays the same no matter how hard we try to make it.    Eleven years ago I was diagnosed with cancer and would go home to the East Coast about two months later.    This woman who is now dying would come to see me and comfort me......
I had the privilege of seeing her while I was in NS this past month and I am so grateful.   Who would have believed that so many years later I would still be here to say good bye to her.    She is much older than me and she has lived a full and good life, but still it breaks my heart to know that she will soon be gone.

As I sit here I realize that we all need to take a minute and just live now, right now, not tomorrow, not yesterday, not even a moment from now BUT RIGHT NOW......can you hear the birds, the silence, see the beauty, taste or smell the air, if so sit in it and wallow....don't move on till the moment is over and then live in the next may be your last and you will have missed it, and then again it may not.....but it may be the one moment you really want to remember and hold that day 11 years ago, feeling tired and drained, I still took the time to share it with my daughter and can sit and recall just about everything we said and in the moment then has given me many moments of joy both now and over the past eleven years.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hope in a very different way!

I have never done this before on my blog but something made me feel that this was very appropriate for anyone who is dealing with life threatening illnesses or just sorrow at how one's life has evolved.   It is always good to find hope in the world wherever that may be.   This story, for me, was a sense of hope that there is a connection between all created beings no matter what species we are.  

We must come to recognize this before we can ever have the world that is possible.   May you enjoy this story, and receive the same sense of wonder and awe that I did.    God bless Lawrence, and for me he is a saint of the stature of St. Francis of Assisi and Mother Theresa......may we all aspire to be what we have the potential to be and learn from our own woundedness how wonderful the world really is, and the power we have to make it even more beautiful!

Follow this link to read an amazing story of love:

Wild Elephants gather inexplicably, mourn death of “Elephant Whisperer” | Delight Makers

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Old stories......retold for the first time!

A most interesting thing happened to me yesterday and it still makes me shake my head.   I guess in some ways I figure everyone and their dog has heard my story about cancer and so I don't talk much about it anymore.   It has been 10 years or more and I really don't want to become that boring person who has nothing new to say and just keeps reiterating how sick she has been.....I have known of few of those in my life and really do not want to become one!!!!    Well, it seems that I have guessed wrong...esp when it comes to people who I have known for half my life but only see on rare occasions.

I was blessed to meet with a very old and dear friend the other day.....I had seen her a year ago but before that it had been some time.   Distance is mainly the reason, but changes in life stories and new chapters for both of us seemed to keep us too busy.....we facebook but that too has been mainly pictures and family updates.     Anyways, we met and as usual never missed a beat in talking about our families and the news that our children are involved in, new jobs, new partners, new grandchildren (for her).    Well, as we sat and chatted she asked me a question and I was taken back.....she had no idea really about the story of my cancer and the journey I have been on medically or personally in any detail.   This shouldn't surprise me, because I too realized I knew very little about someone and their journey with cancer recently.   It is amazing how we can talk and chat and sometimes never get the full picture.   Well, I had the courage to ask my friend to tell me her story recently, and this is the same thing that happened to me.

I filled her in on the 'story' of my journey and it was strange in many ways talking about it so completely.   It was almost as if I was listening to myself tell it but had moved on so much in many ways, I was a third party listening to my own story.   I really did think that I had told and re-told everyone, and it came to me that maybe that isn't really so.  I began to think of people in my life, especially old friends from the East that I haven't really spent a lot of time with over the past few years.   I am sure they know that I have been sick....I mean the East Coast is pretty small and nothing travels faster down there than bad news.   But, I probably have never spoken about it personally to a number of people.   Not that I am now going to contact each one, or send a completed version of my sordid struggle with cancer, but it makes me wonder if there are others who don't know the whole story.  

Why I am even talking about this is because although it was 'old' news for me, I watched her face and saw the same look I had seen so many times over 10 years ago.    It was not 'old' news for her and it was hard for her to hear.   I guess in many ways this story doesn't really get old in some ways.  The first time you hear it, it is as fresh as it was originally.    I am so glad that she asked me that question because if she is anything like me, she wanted it from the horses mouth and not just other peoples version.  

I am humbled by how much people care, and this was one of those moments even so many years later where that was the case again.   It is a real blessing when you are given the ability to see how much you are loved in life and how people really do want to know your story.....I am a very lucky person in so many ways....and again this trip has given me a new experience and something more to reflect on.!!!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Difficult decision......good decisions....

So here is the follow up to yesterday's blog.   I prayed on the situation very hard last night and decided that I would sleep on it and make a final decision today.    When I got up I felt that I really needed to go and visit.   It was not just because I felt obligated to, because I didn't, I really wanted to.   I made the decision it was more important to visit and share some laughs for  perhaps one last time than to worry about how I would feel afterwards.    I knew in my heart that if I didn't go I would regret it forever.  

So, I went and in the end was really glad I did.   I had a wonderful visit and we had lots of laughs.   It was worth every minute and in the end she looked better than I had imagined.   As I was leaving I realized that the memory of her today will be a far better one than what I would have had, had I chosen to forgo the visit.   Sometimes, the imagination takes us places that reality doesn't.   I cannot express how happy I am that I took a risk.  

If I can look half as good, be almost as positive and upbeat as her when I am facing the end I will be very pleased.   I also realized that she is an amazing woman.  I have known her since I was a teenager and I don't think I really appreciated her strength of heart.   I will be forever grateful that I came to know her so much more in this short visit than I have over the past thirty some years.   To have missed this and not had the opportunity to see her in this light would have been a sad thing.   I guess the moral of this story is that sometimes we are called to do difficult things in life, but sometimes we are often surprised at how powerful these experiences can be.

Thank you God for giving me the strength and the wisdom to take a risk today and visit someone who I know appreciated the visit and who instead of making me feel scared actually gave me a sense of peace and hope for whatever comes my way from this disease.   Life is very interesting, but sometimes the experiences that are closer to death can be the most educating........

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hard Decisions.......

First Happy May 1st to everyone everywhere.....we are certainly are a very different world today and we must always take time to reflect on what work means to us and how important it is to have meaningful, just employment.

Now for a sad situation I find myself in.   I have cancer and it is often hard for me to see others who have this disease but are not as fortunate as myself.  Since I was diagnosed I have said good bye to 29 women at least who I got to know because of this horrible disease.  There came a time when I stopped going to support groups, stopped going to fund raisers etc b/c it was just too hard on me.   I felt that I was constantly realizing that one more person was no longer there.    The other part was that often I would see people suffering through the final stages of cancer and wonder if that was how I would be when my turn came.   It is very hard to be objective when you are looking at someone who is suffering through this disease and you know that possibly one day you too will be at that place.  

I now find myself trying to decide whether I have the strength to visit someone I know who has terminal cancer, or if I just have to admit that I can't do  it.   I feel terrible!    I don't want to not see her, but on the other hand I don't know if emotionally I can deal with the fall out after I do.   I can honestly say that I will be stoic and 'normal' while I am visiting but I also know that after it will be very hard to deal with.  It is a selfish way to see things but I am trying in this time to be honest with myself.   I will pray hard about what I should or should not do.     It is my nature to care for and be there for others, but I don't know if that is possible at this point.   It is hard for me to admit it but maybe that is what I am being called to do for my own sanity.

God, let me know what I should far the universe seems to be telling me to look after myself and not feel bad about it..........oh I wish someone would find a cure for cancer and then this wouldn't even be a problem.......