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?'” And I do ask myself that, every day. I try to make the answer yes, even if it requires saying the word no and disappointing someone.
My experience was about letting go. It was about really experiencing all that was happening at the deepest emotional level, for that is where the big changes occur. That is where you meet yourself. Where you begin remembering who you are and who you were meant to be. I don’t believe you have to be diagnosed to come to these lessons, but sometimes the catastrophic moments in life force you to focus in on the immediate.
If you are a parent undergoing cancer treatments, the first thing you should do is try to stop eating (and drinking): beer, wine, coffee, anything with sugar and anything with caffeine. Then there are some gross drinks you should drink (ie: beat, ginger, lettuce and/or spinach, celery and carrott juice and/or medicinal tea) after you have had all of those drinks it reduces the chances of throwing-up during chemotherapy.
Personally I think that I am getting less time with my mom and more time with my friends. It may seem to you like a big treat but to me I like spending time with my family but don’t get me wrong I also like spending time with my friends just when you are in a situation like this you like spending time with your family.
Don’t Panic. Those are the insightful words that grace the cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the fictitious guide in the earthly book by Douglas Adams. I’ve tried to live by those words for most of my adult life. When our home was broken into in September 2006; don’t panic. When United Airlines lost our luggage last Christmas; don’t panic. When I discovered I didn’t have my wallet with me when I was at the grocery checkout a couple of months ago; don’t panic.
As the loved one and primary support of someone diagnosed with cancer, don’t panic is a golden rule. Throughout the process you will hear a variety of cancer experiences from people all too willing to share whether you want them to or not, whether they understand the impacts of their stories or not. Surgeons, oncologists, nurses and anaesthetists will use words you’ve never hear before and will talk about side effects and will likely allude to long term impacts from treatments.
You may even have an experience like we had a week after Andrea’s breast cancer diagnosis. Andrea’s dentist found a cyst in her mouth and suggested it be biopsied. Thankfully it turned out to be nothing (Andrea must have bitten the inside of her cheek). However, for four stressful hours, we dealt with the possibility that the cancer wasn’t confined to Andrea’s breast.
Being the primary support means you need to be rational and calm. New language, information and ideas need to considered as part of the whole and you need to remain coherent when throwing in the towel seems the logical thing to do. It’s completely okay to be emotional so long as you don’t let your emotions interfere with being an advocate for your partner, communicating with your medical team and making sound decisions.
I’ll talk more about emotions as I share more of my supporter experience.
Mark mumbled early this morning some plans involving scotch and the ringing out of “this horrid year”.
But doctors believe breast cancer takes six to eight years to develop to a detectable size and this was the year we caught it, cut it out, clubbed it and commenced construction of kick-ass “KEEP OUT” mechanisms.
So I say, “Thank You, 2009.”
… and good riddance!
Other happenings that rocked our 2009:
Nortel (my employer at the time) seeks Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States and Canada.
Not a huge surprise but it definitely rocked our world.
We adopt our pooch, Phaedra.
After 6 years of daily pleading, coercing, negotiating and plotting, we caved in. Little did we know she would become my very ownDr. White.
I leap from Nortel, and 22 years of software development, to a 12-month term position as a Technical Writer at EDC.
It was my first time without health benefits in my entire adult life, but it was walking distance from home and a chance to swap the stress of software development for the creative bliss of writing.
My “father”, Keith Ross, attempts to break into our home, spends who knows how long smashing on our front door, screaming through our mail slot and tearing out our mail slot and curtain.
As traumatic as this was for our entire family, it marked a clean endpoint of what has been an extremely painful, life long dysfunctional relationship.
I’m reunited with my long lost cousin, Kelly Clavette.
Kelly was my favourite cousin and a constant holiday companion throughout my childhood. We lost touch in our tweens. Thirty years later, Kelly and I “almost accidentally” reconnected and our renewed friendship with Kelly and her family brings our whole family true joy daily.
My diagnosis bridges the gap between myself and Mark’s parents, Rhoda and Bert Blevis.
Religious differences, unclear expecations and my own social anxiety had made my relationship with Mark’s parents a rocky one but the minute they received news of my diagnosis, Rhoda and Bert let bygones be bygones and promptly made themselves available to support our little family in any and every way. We couldn’t have made it this far (this sane) without their unbelievable support.
My diagnosis reunites me with my long lost brother, David Ross.
I’ve missed my little bro terribly and, regardless of the circumstances, I’m thrilled that we’re in each others’ lives again.
Mark abandons his own media endeavours and takes an exciting new position as a digital public affairs strategist with Fleishman-Hillard.
Health benefits and insurance and security, Oh My!
Our friend Caroline Coady announces she is cured of Stage 4 Colon Cancer.
Mark’s long time friend David O’Farrell loses his battle with cancer.
I revel in 14 years of Mark Blevis.
On December 22, 1995, while on a date with someone else and thanks to a huge number of coincidences, I met Mark Blevis. Lucky me! We’ve doubled the seven year itch and I’m still itching to be with this fabulous guy.
Whether or not we believe this disease has intentionally presented itself to do so, it’s definitely encouraging me to learn and grow in ways that my stubborn adherence to justice, fear and inertia has always prevented.
So, while the medical gurus cut, stitch, poke, scan, radiate and infuse me, it seems my role in building a new, improved, bionic me is to grasp the many opportunities for learning and then to choose and use new beliefs, patterns and perspectives that will build a stronger, happier, healthier me.
I’ll track them here, one at a time, in no particular order. Let’s start with a big, small one:
Journey Learning #1: I can survive without coffee, sugar and red wine.
Somewhere in the midst of surgery or treatment or chemotherapy, your own genie is goingto claw her way out of your core. And there’s no putting her back in the bottle once she’s free. And that’s a good thing, even a great thing, because she’s going to help you sing your song and live your life for the rest of your days.
The person you were before cancer? She suffered from an overload of personal anxiety and cultural repression. Frankly, she wasn’t having as much fun as she could have had.
But she’s about to do something huge — survive a devastating disease