Friday, January 25, 2013

A Journey from Fear to Courage, Despair to Hope ....Part II

This is the continuation of the article I wrote in 2003.......

"One of the interesting insights that I have had writing this article is that I have never been angry at God.  It never occurred to me that God had done this to me.  I remember in Thomistic Philosophy, Fr.  Smith saying that the body is corruptible and therefore disease is part of the human condition.   That kept me in check.  This was not divine retribution for past sins - it was my body breaking down.  My faith and belief in a good and loving God are what sustained me.  Once, when I was having chemotherapy and was falling asleep, I remember saying to a friend,  "God has been so good to me".  A few days later she reminded me of that statement and asked how could I say that when I was fighting such a horrible disease.   I began to share some of the blessings that had come my way since June 27.   God does not cause bad things to happen, but God sure gives us incredible strength to get through them.  In all this time, I have never lost faith.   I have railed at God saying 'why me?', but that lasts only a moment.  I remember the blessings that God has showered on me during this time:  letters and cards, phone calls and visits.  I had eleven priest visit me in hospital over a period of a week.  I kept thinking that the nursing staff was going to think I must be a nun.   My school community carried me on the days that I felt I couldn't go on.  Food was delivered cooked and uncooked.   {My daughter} was driven to activities.  Our lives were allowed to go on in the midst of illness because of the people God had placed in our way long before I became ill.  All of these things were reminders  that God was very much with me.

How have a changed so much as I stated at the beginning?  Well, first and foremost, I don't waste time on trivial matters.   If it isn't life or death, 'it ain't worth worrying about'.  I wake up everyday grateful for another day.  I realize how precious relationships are.  During the early part of my struggle, I would become angry at people who  focused too much on material things.  On an appointment to my oncologist I mentioned this 'not too proudly'.  He gently reminded me that in my situation relationships were the primary concern, but for the rest of the world RRSP's were the primary concern.   I think in many ways I am luckier than most.  I don't know how long I have any more than you do; I just have been reminded more tangibly how precious the time I have is.  I have the ability, and the excuse, to focus on more important intangibles than the rest of you.   Do I think about dying?  All the time!   Do I worry about dying?  Not in the least.  I'm too busy worrying about what I will do later today!!!!!!

Over this past  year, a lot of people have referred to the courage and strength that I have shown.  In some ways I guess that is true, but it is just how I deal with everything.   Don't think I haven't cried myself to sleep, or woken up in the night scared because those things have happened, and continue to happen.   What courage is not, is the absence of fear.   Courage is even when we are frightened we don't allow our fears to control us.   Fear is born out of human weakness, our woundedness.  It is a part of who we are as humans.  It is our faith, and our belief in God, that gives us the strength to over come those fears and live each day with joy.  I never wanted cancer and I would never wish this horrible disease on anyone.   But through it all, I have been reminded of the goodness of God.  Through people, God has shown me I am truly loved.  How many people in their lifetime get to see how much they are loved?  If for no other reason, that has made this journey worthwhile.   I don't know if the old adage, "God never gives you more than you can handle" is true.  I only know that whatever comes our way God walks the journey with us."

As I rewrite this article from 2003, I realize that I have not changed my understanding of life, or my own journey in many ways.   The words I wrote then are still true to me today.   I have had many more years since then and yet I have lived them to the fullest.  I look back and I can't say that I would live my life, or want to live my life any differently.    Cancer is not a blessing, but my life  has been blessed in so many ways, how could I regret where I have come from.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Hard days......many blessings!

Yesterday was one of those days that I call...mixed blessings.   It was very tough, it was reflective, and it was wonderful.

I attended a funeral yesterday of a beautiful woman who was diagnosed last February with cancer.   She had an amazing family.    Six wonderful children and a husband who adored her......needless to say the funeral was a hard one on many levels.   I couldn't help but keep thinking 'this will be me one day'.....hopefully I will have half the adorable grandchildren that she had coming up the aisle.   I think in many ways that  made me realize what kind of a legacy we actually leave this world.    Those children, looking so solemn but also so proud that they are part of this!   My sadness came when I thought that perhaps I won't get to see any of my grandchildren.  I know none of us knows how things will unfold, but the doubts creep in and it makes you realize what it is you really want to strive her daughter said, not success, travel, financial freedom, but to just 'be like my Mom'.....what a true tribute to this woman and who she was.

The second part of the funeral that actually hit me between the eyes was something another of her daughters said.   I have always hated the analogy of cancer being some kind of a war, all of us  battling this war and some surviving and some losing the battle.   I am not a violent person and that language  jumps out as violent and awful.    Well, this young woman put what I have felt for years to words......"some people say my mother lost her battle to cancer, but my faith tells me  that she has broken free of cancer, left it behind, and moved to a better place, cancer didn't win at all".   I can live with those words because I too believe this to be true.   We often pray for healing, but we forget that healing can manifest itself in more ways than 'getting better'.    We can also be healed by dying! is only in dying that we are risen again to new life healed of all those earthly pains, trials and tribulations.  How blessed that this child received such an amazing gift from her mother (and father), the gift of faith......what more can we hope to give our children!

So, as I said in the beginning, my day was a mixed blessing.    I was sad to say good-bye but I also realize that I have much to be grateful for and I can still hold my daughter in my 'earthly' arms and for me that is a blessing that is priceless.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Journey From Fear to Courage, Despair to Hope.....Part I

The following is an article that I was asked to write for a private publication.   I wrote this in 2003 and recently found it and thought that it is still very relevant for me and how I feel about my diagnosis, disease and life.    The following is an excerpt from that article........

......Nothing in the way I think, the way I am, or the way I do things is the same as it was before June 27, 2001.     On that day I found myself in the emergency department with abdominal pains, fever, and fatigue.   As most of us, I figured they would check me over, tell me it was bug, and send me home.

Unfortunately, that was not what happened.  I checked in at 10:00 a.m and by 4:00 p.m. I was in surgery for what was believed to be an acute appendicitis.  At 7:00 p.m. that evening the surgeon came to see me in my room and delivered the devastating news,  "I'm sorry to tell you this but we found tumours, and I think you have ovarian cancer."

The fear of the "C" word is in all of us.  We get a pain in our head or our groin and often think, "What if it's cancer?".  Well, I can say for myself that the fear was worse than the reality.   When I look back over the past months, I realize that God worked with me through this time exactly where I was.   My diagnosis was done quickly and without time to think.  I realize I work best that way.   Don't give me too much time to think about things because I will drive myself crazy.  Anyone who knows me well knows that I work better under pressure.  In a three week period of time I was diagnosed, had surgery twice, and was into chemotherapy.  I have thanked God many times for accepting me as I am.  I must digress for a moment and mention that through this period I kept telling the doctor that I had planned a trip East for August 5 and I needed to be well enough to go.   Some people thought I was crazy but I needed to focus on the future in order to have a sense of hope for myself, but also for my daughter.  I kept telling her that everything was going to be fine and the best way to make her believe this was to continue our lives as we had planned before my illness.  It wasn't exactly the trip we had planned and it was a difficult time for the two of us but we did, and now we have wonderful memories.  We chuckle about how sick I really was but we both learned that we could overcome our fear and continue our lives as we had before - one day at a time.  It is a lesson that has kept both of us going throughout the past year.   This year we did the trip again - I drove myself - and it was all the sweeter for having done it a year ago!

As I read this again so many years since I wrote it, I smile at how in many ways I was naive about what this disease would mean to my life.   At that point in time I was seeing this as an 'event' in my life to get through and move on.   Well, it changed my life forever yet I still feel that everything I wrote is true....and is still how I live my life.   One day at a time.......otherwise I would have gone out of my mind many times over the years worrying about 'what if' instead of going about my life and making many memories so there will be fewer what ifs when the time does  come to look back on my life and decide if it was worthwhile......from the view today I believe that it has been more than worthwhile.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New Bike!!!!!!!

So, I have been to yoga twice and love it.   I feel almost taller when I leave, as if my body has stretched a whole inch or so.   I am amazed at how flexible I am and yet I know I have much further to go.   It is awesome.

And my journey into the world, or at least into a better shape, continues.  I visited with a girlfriend this weekend and came home with a 'push bike' as opposed to a speed bike.   It is an old fashioned girls bike, slanted bar, large seat, no gears, back pedal to brake and even a little basket like Dorothy.  I thought I could put my shitzu Bilbo in it and ride around town.......wouldn't that be scary.

I have been looking for such a bike for awhile.   I have a 21 speed mountain bike but it is just too much bike for what I want to do.    In addition, my daughter has taken it to ride to and from where ever she goes so it probably will never be seen at this house again!!!!!   Anyways so I now have a new bike.   It's even cute.

I saw it in my friend's garage and she said it was her daughter's but she didn't like it.    So, voila, I took it for a test drive.   Somehow I don't remember it being that difficult to ride when I was twelve.  I remember flying around town with my 'push' bike, up and down hills no problem.   Well, I won't be attempting any hills in the near future.....flat ground will be my pathway and not very far.   I was so out of breath after my little test drive I couldn't believe it......a little embarrassed to be honest.   My friend's husband says "how far did you go you are so out of breath".....I was tempted to lie and say 'oh about 2 miles'....but I don't lie well and so the truth came out.....down the driveway!!!!! lol

So another divine attempt to move me in the direction of outside and in shape.   Will keep you posted on how that goes.

On another side, I haven't been feeling the best lately.   I have terrible nausea especially at night.   It has been going on for a few weeks and nothing seems to make it better.....or set it off.    I am tired of waking up at night and feeling awful so I have bitten the bullet and called my doctor.    We begin the dreaded tests again.   Having a cat scan to see what is going on.....never just a belly ache when you have cancer...especially if it last three or four weeks.   I was hoping it was just a virus, and it might be, but it isn't getting better and is worse now than three weeks ago.   Cancer sucks!    Any change and the hackles go up and the worry begins.   I plan on continuing my regime in the meantime, so that if there is absolutely nothing wrong I won't have wasted all that time, and if there is something wrong I will be in better shape to handle what comes.

Well, off to drive down my very short driveway to begin my biking career!!!!!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Moving back into the World.....God's way!!!

I truly believe that there is a force in the universe that gives us the energy, purpose and fortitude to continue the journey we are destined to.   Some may call that force Karma, or a multitude of other names, I choose God.    Mainly, because it means something to me, and it's simple and to the point.

Well, I feel that this force has decided that I have been in my 'own' world long enough and it is time for me to come back out and rejoin the world.   Lately I have been staying pretty low key, and probably sleeping way too much, but at times the soul needs to be replenished and so we cocoon ourselves in order that we can one day  face the rest of the journey.  I have found myself doing this at various times in my life, so I accept it and know that a time will come when I will be ready to move on.  If it was left up to me, and of course I always have a choice, I would probably continue this disconnect for way too long.   The all knowing God is aware of my weaknesses and so God has put the challenge forth  The world has been knocking at my door lately and I can no longer ignore it.   One reason being, that God knows when people come round with kindness and gifts I am  usually not one to refuse.   So today I begin my new found way of being in the world.    I have been given many gifts lately and none of them allow me to sleep.

The first was an incredible gift of a knitting course online.  Now, anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that that is my 'carrot'.    So I am learning something new, which gives me energy.    The second gift was a full out sale on winter boots at a store near my home....within walking distance.    Walking being a quiet resolution I had made between me and God that I would start up again in the New Year.....well my mantra has always been don't tell God your new winter WALKING boots that I could afford.   Hmmmmmm.....I smell a conspiracy!!!    The final clincher was  a neighbour arriving at my door this morning to offer me forever classes in Yoga (she just happens to teach them).    Ok, who told her I love Yoga?   Plus a free one class pass for a friend.   So, I caledl my daughter and said "want to join a yoga class with me this winter"   totally expecting her to say no..... she says 'when do we start'.   So tonight she and I are off to the local Yoga Studio (walking of course) ....which I am personally thrilled about at a number of levels.   It will help facilitate my new desire to walk more, take some of the night pain I experience away, and it means once a week I get daughter time!!!! :)

So, the universe has set in motion my return to the world....and I will choose to follow.  One thing I have learnt over the years, and especially in my journey with cancer, is that the God knows far better than I what I need in my life.   I just wish God didn't know me so well as to set such tempting traps!!!!!!!!

Sunday, January 6, 2013


Have you ever noticed in life that once you learn a new word, hear about a book, or read about something, you seem to continue to hear about it all around you.   Most of us know this experience and we probably have even commented on how that seems to work.

Well, when you have cancer it is a similar situation.....not necessarily one you want either.   Before I was diagnosed, I remember hearing about cancer of course, but I didn't really know alot of people with the disease or know anything at all about it.   Since 2001, it seems that my life is surrounded by this disease, and I know more about it than I ever really wanted to.   I hear things constantly on the radio about cancer, and often specifically Ovarian Cancer.   Until I became sick I only knew one person with this type of cancer and she had dies almost thirty years earlier.   Now, I know numerous women with OVCA, and even more unfortunately that I have buried.   

Not only OVCA seems to be a constant theme but all kinds of cancer.   I don't think a day goes by that someone doesn't tell me about some one they know who is in hospital, has been just diagnosed or has died from this awful disease.   Today is no different.   In the space of one day I have spoken to two people I know that have had to deal with the disease themselves, another who's spouse has just gone through treatment, an another who's father has died.   In addition, two more people who have loved ones fighting the disease, and the outlook is poor. 

I don't usually write about this kind of day, but it has hit me hard.   I guess today was just one of those days where you become overwhelmed and want to crawl into a hole.   I know that probably most people deal with this also, even if you don't have the disease yourself.   Cancer has become almost epidemic, and I am sure that there are very few people who have not been touched in some way by this disease.    It just seems that over the past eleven years, cancer has become more common in my daily life, and I am not meaning my own health.   

Today, while at Mass, I just shock my head and prayed that each of these people will find peace and purpose in whatever journey is ahead for them.   I also, asked God to please give me strength to be there for who ever needs me and also to remember in my prayers all the people with whom I have promised to pray.

Life is not suppose to be comfort seeking.........but rather character building.    I just have to remember that it is in the sorrow and sadness of others that we find our own compassion and love to move out into a world that is hurting.    It reminds me that I am needed, if only for a moment to listen to an other's story.    Thank you God for giving me ears to hear others cry out in has been a grace in my life ...

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

January......a new beginning!

Well the new year has begun and so far my biggest resolution is to remember to write 2013 on my cheques!!!!!....yes I still write cheques b/c I am old and don't like to give up everything old at the same time.  I do have an IPhone and a laptop so I  have entered the 21st century but want to hang onto some of the past too.....I guess you already knew that as I also blog which is a relatively NEW invention!!!!

Did you know that January is named after the goddess, Janus.    She was believed to be able to see both forward and backward.    So she could still see the old year while looking ahead to the new year.   I think that is poignant....we need to reflect on both at this time of year.   Not that we shouldn't do it more often than once a year, but as a species we seem to work better when we set certain time and space aside to mark events and activities.   Isn't that why we celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations etc.?   We could celebrate 365 days of the year but imagine how tired we would instead we have dates we can justify having a bit more fun, or more reflection than others.....thus January....time to look back on the themes that have been present in the past year and look forward to what they might mean for the coming year....

So I am really seeing a theme over the past few months in my life.  I am reflecting on it and trying to come to some sense of what I am being called to do.    I am not yet prepared to share what that might be but I have started a new regime in my life to help it unfold.

So, a new year, a new outlook, and hopefully continued health in order to develop my new ideas!!!!!

What's new in your life!!!!?????