The Fight of My Life  

 

A Quality of Life Editorial
by Kevin Shanahan

  I知 a cancer survivor.  Back then I shared the low times and the high.  I advocated the power of my mind to heal, the importance of physical activity, the power of prayer and my strong belief in the support from a guardian angel who is still with me today.

   Now I find myself in the fight of my life.  Even knowing the importance of daily walking for optimum health, my daily routine dwindled to once a month.   That first cancer took my right lung and my remaining lung had been affected by a chronic lung disease caused by my years of smoking.  Today I知 short of breath because I知 not walking and I知 not walking because I知 short of breath.  My worry is not knowing if the challenge is physical, or mental.  The few times I walk now aren't fun anymore.  It痴 a heavy task to get  my walking clothes on and a bigger task to place one foot in front of the other to get out the door.  Yes, I知 scared.

    Four years ago I had some surgery that went well, but a post-op type of infection required eight weeks of antibiotics.  Not long after I finished these, I developed a case of shingles.  They are painful and dirty.  Another round of different antibiotics and pain meds for another eight weeks.  This put me into spring of 2010 and I was starting to feel alive again when cancer reared its ugly head again.  Thankfully, it was a mild form that I could have just 努atched it with quarterly check-ups.  I chose to attack it with radiation, thirty-eight of them.  The biggest side affect was the fatigue that stayed with me right into the spring of 2011.  I was on the road to recovery when, in early July, Vane fell.  She broke her right arm and, worst of all, her back.  She would be in hospital for five long months.  She was paralyzed from the waist down, & would require heavy care.  Our lives would change forever.  Homecare was provided, doors widened, walls banged as she became accustomed to an electric wheelchair that had a mind of its own.  Sitting in a chair all day had another adverse affect.  Because of poor circulation, her remaining leg became gangrenous and a year after coming out of hospital she returned to have it amputated.

  We are no strangers to stress and I know that what happens to us represents only 10% of life.  The remaining 90% is represented by the way we handle what comes our way.  Knowing, or thinking I know, what needs to happen is easier said than done.  The number of times I have said this to myself, only tends to increase my anxiety.  I believe in naturopathic medicine and traditional native spirituality which led me through many doors this past year looking for answers.   I, sometimes, wonder if I am looking for that magic pill, that quick fix to my dilemma of not knowing if this fatigue is physical or if it痴 a mental fog, refusing to lift, preventing me from acting on what I know to be the safe way back to wellness.

  Now, as I write this paragraph, I have just returned from a stay at the hospital.  Pneumonia.  As I sat there, in my hospital room, looking at the world go by I had plenty of time to think.   My wife is in a wheelchair & I致e let myself get run down. Life doesn稚 just happen and now it is being threatened by my difficulty to do all I advocate to bring me back to wellness.  Some things will have to change.  Last night I was in bed at 8 PM, tired & not feeling well.  I looked around the room, then at the daylight still shining in the window and the last word I remember, before I fell off to sleep, was F*#@.

   

It Ain't Over Til It's Over  

 

A Quality of Life Editorial
by Kevin Shanahan

 
  What do I say to a friend, who is in a palliative care room, when she gets the news that she will not be coming out of there.   When I see her eyes glass over and a tear fall, I don't  think there is another moment,  in my life, when I have felt so helpless.   The frustration was overwhelming.  I was quick to remember that all I need to do is listen and just be there for her.   But I can't help feeling that there must be something I can do, or say, that will change the outcome.  Of course the first words rolling off my lips are "You're not giving up are you?"    She answered, "Of course not."    But I wondered if the words were for her, or just to shut me up.   Because if she wants to give up, that is entirely her choice.   

  When I was recovering from surgery, my favorite story was about Sherry Abbott.  She had been diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer.  The primary tumor was the size of a grapefruit and there were three inoperable tumors behind her heart and intertwined around her aorta.  The disease had also spread to her lymphatic system.  They told her she would not see the new year, 3 months.  (Hey, that's enough bad news to make most people bend over and want to kiss their tushi goodbye, right?)  Not Sherri.  She got into the Healing Journey Program and also practiced expecting positive outcomes and found ways to participate in her own recovery and wellness.  She got into Relaxation, Visualization and Meditation.  That was in 1989, folks.  She went on to ride her own Harley.  You may be able to find her story, and a lot more I'm sure, at www.lookgoodfeelbetter.ca.  

   Remember Rockin Ronnie Hawkins, the country rock singer?  He was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a short time to live.  He agreed to have a TV camera follow his last days on earth.   Ronnie decides to have a live wake.  Yup, why not have all his friends together for a party so he could enjoy them, instead of them looking down at him in his casket.   Well I'll tell ya, I can't relate the whole story, that's exactly what he did.  He then participated in meditation and relaxation,  had a lot of friends praying for him and also allowed two healers(of some sort) to do their thing from far away.  Some day I'm going to make it a point to get the whole story.  Because of his past lifestyle he became flat broke.  The camera still followed him every day(even to the outhouse cuz the water pipes froze in the house).  Every day he got better, instead of worse.  Doctors could not understand it, tests showed the cancer was gone.  He has, since, cut another album.  What if he had given up?  I think it would have been over for him.

  My friend, Dorothy, who has fought with cancer four times relates a story a little closer to home.  A friend of hers diagnosed with cancer on her brain was told it was terminal and that it wouldn't be long.  Well helllooo?  She  sells her home, her car, gets her affairs in order and moves in with her son, to await the big event.   Sheesh, she even gave away her cat.    That was almost four years ago?

  It is, entirely, ones own decision to give up when they are told they are going to die, like these three people were told.  But, for me, that poses another question.  When does one let go?

  I don't think we should ever give up.  Those people were told they would die very soon.  They did not give up.  There is shear determination and then we can never rule out miracles.    It ain't over til it's over.  

   
   
Kevin Shanahan Shares Some Reflections About Quality Life While Dealing With Cancer...
  
  

的t痴 Time To Start Another Journey, But I Need Your Help

   It's been 5 years since that day I heard those awful words, "You have a 5 cm mass in your right lung".  This was my six month cancer checkup and as I walked into the examining room my hero was looking at the chest x-ray through the viewing screen.  As he turned towards me, I could see the look of disappointment in his eyes and my heart just sunk.
  There have been so many wonderful things I have experienced, and I've met so many inspiring people, these past 5 years.  These new experiences taught me a new way to appreciate living.  I studied, and acted on, all the things I need do to insure cancer not return.  The physical activity, the complimentary medicines, the meditations all gave me a whole new approach to living a life of enlightenment.  From hiking 1200 ft mountains, to walking 25 kms, to snowshoeing for hours.  All showed my hero, I was his ideal patient.  A patient that took control of his well being, a patient who put his well being his first priority.  Somewhere back there it changed.  The further I got away from that original cancer diagnosis, the importance of all this wonderful enlightenment lessened.  I don't know why and I don't understand how I let it happen.
   I have become the type of person I detest most of all.  The one that whines about his lack of control, yet does not put one foot in front of the other to regain the upper hand.  Where did I go wrong?  I was so strong, so in control.  I have one lung and I have chronic bronchitis in it that plays havoc with my stamina.(Ahhhh poor lil ole me)  I have become a person with breathing problems that necessitated an increase in medications.  As I lessened my physical activity, I gained weight.  Fat requires more oxygen than muscle so I am short of breath.  This causes me to be very tired so the cycle repeats itself.  I'm too tired to walk, so I get bigger.  As I get bigger, I need more oxygen but there is not enough being provided by a lung that is not exercised.  So, the vicious cycle goes on.
   My hero, Dr. Bui, made the decision to remove my lung so I could live.  When he first saw me, I was 195 lbs of solid muscle.  I was walking 9 kms a day and in the best shape of my life.  I became an ideal patient.  I told him I didn't care how aggressive my cancer was, I was more aggressive.  I need a surgeon who was just as aggressive.  He said he was the man and so began "our" journey.  Over the years, the scheduled examinations showed his pride in my progress.  The ideal patient.
   But with this appointment, it wasn't the x-ray that was cause for his disappointment, it was my physical condition.  My chest x-ray was clear.  I didn't need  Dr. Bui to tell me what was wrong, why I feel the way I do.
  I drive an 18 wheeler 4 days a week.  I love driving.  I live for it.  Out there I can plan the most strenuous activity, plan the best party, even, almost, solve world hunger, walk/hike the most rugged trails.  But, nothing will change until I, physically, put one foot in front of the other.  I start the day after this writing.  I "will" get cracking!!!
  So I'm starting another journey, the road to recovery.  If you see me walking, give me a thumbs up.  If we meet, ask me if I have walked today.  My goal is 20 kms per week, to start.  I'll keep you in touch.  I need you to stick with me. I better be keeping my stick on the ice for this play.

My story I Need To Tell

    "Nothing" can change your life, your attitude, your priorities, like the words; "You have a 5cm. mass on your right lung. It may not be cancer, we'll run some tests"  I answered, "Ya right!!

     When I got the news about my lung mass, I first went to Vane.  Then ,for some reason, I thought my next priority was to finish repairs on the station wagon and get it out of the garage.  It was then that death entered my being and I got scared.  My biggest fear was the grandchildren growing up and forgetting me.  I resolved I was not ready to die, I'll finish the car when I'm better.  Now, how do I reverse what has been done?   I did not dwell on "why it happened".  I accepted the fact its from my years of smoking.              Then I went to the library and got 3 books. 1..The Healing Journey...  2..Cancer Survivors....3...About Cancer.

      I read the book about survivors and felt I had a good chance.  I've been a believer of the power of the mind and I have "dabbled" in it over the years by reading books and practicing meditating.  But, I never stuck with it.  Now I had a reason to get serious.  Enter the book, "The Healing Journey".  In the little time I had, between diagnosis and surgery, the journey told me it would be too much to ask my body to heal the lung.  So I had to concentrate on saving the other lung and ridding myself of any cancer cells in that same area.

     When we met the surgeon for the first time, he scared the living daylites out of us with that metastasized word.  He sent me for a cat scan.  That day, bringing the scan pictures from one hospital to another,I was overcome with fear like never before.  I turned to Vane and asked if she had that hole in the pit of her stomach.  Her face told the story.  We held each other, there on the sidewalk, for a while.  When we were waiting in the hall for the surgeon, fear hit me again.   Well, you can allow fear to do one of two things.  You can let it consume you, or motivate you.  I chose the latter.  When we were called in, and as I handed him the cat scan, I said "I don't care how aggressive this cancer is.  I'm more aggressive.  I'll will beat it and I will live.  But I need you to be just as aggressive.  Are you the man?"   He said he was.  And so began my journey.

     I am not a religious person, but I have always been spiritual.  I believe in God and the power of prayer.  So keep praying for my safe journey to wellness. Every morning I have asked God to stay with me throughout the day.  He assigned this task to a friend of ours, Maria.  She passed away 2 years ago, from cancer.  She is my guardian angel.  Any time a negative thought tries to enter my mind, or I feel despondent,  she shouts my name and assures me "everything will be all right".

     When I left the hospital that day(after the cat scan) my mind, body and spirit became "One".  My life was threatened and I was going to pool all resources to beat the threat.  My "Healing Journey" book calls it "connectedness"..   Nothing negative was going to penetrate my mind and I would not tolerate it from anyone else.  Nothing was going to harm, scare or intimidate me.  And it didn't.  I breezed through the Bronchoscopy and the lung surgery.   They were amazed at how quickly I awakened from surgery, how quickly I was out of bed and how soon I walked a mile.  And so it went, breaking all these milestones, focused only on getting through, and recovering from, the surgery.  And I did, in high spirits. I would even like to think I slowed the blood flow on my right side for the surgery.  I can't prove or disprove that, but its not important that I do, its the intent that counts.

      So now I am almost 8 weeks since the surgery.  I do not have that "connectedness" I spoke of earlier.  I look at that as "Its not required right now"   But it'll be there again if and when I need it.  Chemo is another level. Another story, that I will not try to tell you here.  However, I will fill in the story as it unfolds, and I can tell you I was more anxious about chemo than I was about having cancer.

      My life?  Cancer is behind me...and I have never been so sure of anything in my life.  Will I die?  Ya, some day...but not today.  Has it changed me?  Yes!  "Take time to smell the roses"  has a whole new meaning.  Every day is about learning my limits.  My only regret, is when the surgeon had me open, he didn't drop some patience in there.  I'm just glad my "private" nurse has enough of it for both of us.  Cuz without her, my journey would be harder.

 It Ain't Over Til It's Over

  What do I say to a friend, who is in a palliative care room, when she gets the news that she will not be coming out of there.   When I see her eyes glass over and a tear fall, I don't  think there is another moment,  in my life, when I have felt so helpless.   The frustration was overwhelming.  I was quick to remember that all I need to do is listen and just be there for her.   But I can't help feeling that there must be something I can do, or say, that will change the outcome.  Of course the first words rolling off my lips are "You're not giving up are you?"    She answered, "Of course not."    But I wondered if the words were for her, or just to shut me up.   Because if she wants to give up, that is entirely her choice.   

  When I was recovering from surgery, my favorite story was about Sherry Abbott.  She had been diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer.  The primary tumor was the size of a grapefruit and there were three inoperable tumors behind her heart and intertwined around her aorta.  The disease had also spread to her lymphatic system.  They told her she would not see the new year, 3 months.  (Hey, that's enough bad news to make most people bend over and want to kiss their tushi goodbye, right?)  Not Sherri.  She got into the Healing Journey Program and also practiced expecting positive outcomes and found ways to participate in her own recovery and wellness.  She got into Relaxation, Visualization and Meditation.  That was in 1989, folks.  She went on to ride her own Harley.  You may be able to find her story, and a lot more I'm sure, at www.lookgoodfeelbetter.ca.  

   Remember Rockin Ronnie Hawkins, the country rock singer?  He was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a short time to live.  He agreed to have a TV camera follow his last days on earth.   Ronnie decides to have a live wake.  Yup, why not have all his friends together for a party so he could enjoy them, instead of them looking down at him in his casket.   Well I'll tell ya, I can't relate the whole story, that's exactly what he did.  He then participated in meditation and relaxation,  had a lot of friends praying for him and also allowed two healers(of some sort) to do their thing from far away.  Some day I'm going to make it a point to get the whole story.  Because of his past lifestyle he became flat broke.  The camera still followed him every day(even to the outhouse cuz the water pipes froze in the house).  Every day he got better, instead of worse.  Doctors could not understand it, tests showed the cancer was gone.  He has, since, cut another album.  What if he had given up?  I think it would have been over for him.

  My friend, Dorothy, who has fought with cancer four times relates a story a little closer to home.  A friend of hers diagnosed with cancer on her brain was told it was terminal and that it wouldn't be long.  Well helllooo?  She  sells her home, her car, gets her affairs in order and moves in with her son, to await the big event.   Sheesh, she even gave away her cat.    That was almost four years ago?

  It is, entirely, ones own decision to give up when they are told they are going to die, like these three people were told.  But, for me, that poses another question.  When does one let go?

  I don't think we should ever give up.  Those people were told they would die very soon.  They did not give up.  There is shear determination and then we can never rule out miracles.    It ain't over til it's over.

Inukshuk

   It was three weeks after I had my right lung removed, from cancer, and I wasn't too optimistic about a future with only the one lung.  I had visions of spending my life in front of the TV/Computer, not being able to go outside in the winter, and overall, with very limited abilities.  What can I do with one lung, when climbing just a few steps rendered me breathless.  Nobody could tell me what I could, or couldn't, do.  Although, one un-informed home-care nurse scared the be-jeepers outta me when she insisted I not go outside in the winter and, if I did, to be sure I wore a mask to protect my lung from the frigid air. 

  When I found cancer, I was in the best shape of my life and accustomed to walking 5 miles a day.  So, the experience of not being able to climb a few steps, without being winded, weighted heavy on my hopes for a normal life.  Friends told me that I could live a long life with one lung, but they couldn't tell me the manner in which I was going to live it.  The Canadian Cancer Society connected me with another cancer survivor, that had similar surgery, and he was an inspiration.  He was 70 years old and played tennis.  Well, I figured if he could do it, I could too.  I would start with walking to the garage, 250 ft., and back.

 I remember those bygone days of dressing our 2 year old children, to play outside, on a cold winter day.  They had their snow suit, touque, scarf, mittens.  They were dressed so heavily.  They stood there with their arms out, just their eyes/nose visible with this look of, "Ok what do I do now?".  They could barely move.  Now picture an adult dressed in a similar fashion,  throw in a face mask, and our house had its very own Inukshuk standing in the yard.  Only my eyes were visible.  To say I was anxious would be an understatement.  A lot of notions entered my head.  "What if I can't breathe in the cold?  What if I need to go on oxygen?   It was sunny, but a minus 20 degrees.  I walked it.  The next day, when I reached the garage, I removed the mask and walked back, paying special attention to how my lung reacted to the cold.  The next day, I included the distance to the road.  The next day, to the neighbors.  On colder, cloudy, days I walked the Hanmer mall.  The merchants, and friends,  were my support gallery.  Within two weeks I had walked a mile, when I was told it would take six months to do it.  I realized it was "all" up to me.  

  After chemotherapy, I was referred to Pulmonary Rehab and then a Lung specialist.  Neither of these wonderful people mentioned anything about what I "couldn't" do.  They simply showed me the way to increase the capacity of the remaining lung, and what inhalers were best for me, and how to use them.  The rest was up to me.  I had, slowly, increased my walking, the breathing techniques, and commenced upper body conditioning to build my stamina.  From those days to now, I find the less I do--the less I "can" do.  In-other-words, if I do no physical activity today, my stamina will be less tomorrow.

There are days that are just a bummer that have no reasons why.  On those days, as I lay on the couch, I can really plan the physical activities I am going to do "tomorrow".  I know that nobody can do it, but me.  Nobody is going to take me by the hand or be responsible for my health.  I am responsible for my own well being.  It has got to be me that drags my sorry butt off that couch and get active.  On those real bummer days, it feels like I'm carrying the world on my shoulders.  There are days, though, that I just don't feel like doing anything.  A time out is ok, once in awhile, but not as a continuous practice.  I am careful to stay out of that rut, of staying inside.  Walking is my meditation, my quiet time.  Although I have walked, as much as, 20 K's I walk 6 K's on most days.  I'm doing some occasional snowshoeing, and during the no-snow season I love moderate hiking.  I have achieved more stamina than some men, who have both lungs.   There are some sayings that I have learned, throughout my life, but the one that carries the most substance for me is: 

Life Affirming People

   I drive truck(18 wheeler) and was homebound out of Fort Erie.  I had been fighting a snowstorm for over an hour.  It was one of those storms that drops your speed to a crawl because your visibility is barely beyond the windshield wipers and the headlights reflecting off the snow squalls are hypnotizing.  I pulled into my fueling stop, and barely overheard another trucker(on the CB radio) relating how the storm gets too bad and it stretches well beyond Sudbury.   I couldn't handle it for another 3 hours and thought, maybe, I should just get into the sleeper and call it a night, but I wasn't tired enough to sleep.  Then I thought I may have heard him wrong, or he was a young driver and/or a worry-wart.  I decided to chance it and when I pulled back onto the highway, I knew I had made a mistake.  The whole world disappeared in a blinding sheet of white.  I couldn't just turn around, so I thought I would try and get to the next town and park it for the night.

  The CB radio was quiet and it felt like I was out there alone.  I asked the next two, southbound, truckers of what I could expect and was told the storm only lasts for another hour and it was clear highway from there.  They told me to take it slow and I would make it, so I continued.  It wasn't until a while later I realized I was  enjoying the storm and was quite comfortable being out in it.  I  wondered why, in such horrible weather, I felt good about my surroundings.  Then I realized it was because, just up ahead, I knew it was going to end and I would be back on clear highway again.   I couldn't help think of my journey through cancer.  As long as I remembered it was going to get better, the struggle to get through was so much easier. 

  All during my journey through cancer, life affirming people were most important to me.  My faith in my power to heal and those type of people that encouraged me,  gave me the hope to get through surgery and the chemotherapy.  Like those two truck drivers who gave me the encouragement to carry on and arrive safely.  I have learned, through life, that as long as I believed in myself and my ability to carry on, I could handle whatever life decided to throw at me.  It is only through reflection I realize there were times I thought I was alone, lost faith in myself and endured a cloud of sadness that was only dissipated by someone who cared enough to encourage me.  I learned to ignore, and not talk to, those who would tell me of someone who passed away with my type of cancer.  Like I ignored the worry-wart trucker and listened to the more experienced, encouraging drivers to make it safely.   

My battle with cancer  had some rough times, but not so rough I couldn't handle it.  My cancer buddy, Bob, almost spent this Christmas in a hospital bed with his cancer, and was so sick at times he could have had two nurses in bed with him.  He understood my story about the snowstorm and had a similar attitude towards his own journey.  That attitude enabled him to go home on the 23rd.

There is nothing so precious as Faith in the power to heal.   Nothing so comforting as the trust in those medical angels that care for us.  But, most of all, there is nothing so compelling as Hope.  And Hope begins with "You"  

Another Thanksgiving Weekend

Another Thanksgiving weekend has come and gone.  I had taken a long walk that day.  The weather was a gorgeous fall day that surpassed the nicest day in summer.  The beauty, freshness and those fall aromas made me realize how fortunate I was to walk.  I have a lot to be thankful for.  Having gone through  cancer, "take time to smell the roses" took on a whole new meaning.  The most important things in my life are family, friends and music.  As I walked that day I remembered reading an article in our local Valley Vision, by Bob Kirwin.  He reminded us of all the things we should be grateful for.  I agreed with all his reminders.  Something else, though, troubled me that day.  Something I was missing.  Birds flying overhead with their happy sounds showed me freedom.  I realized none of these reminders can be, in any way, possible if it were not for my freedom.

  A few years ago I had the pleasure of attending the Highland Games in a little southern town that chose "Our Veterans" for their theme in the weekend games.  I was so overwhelmed with emotion at the games that I, later, wrote that over the years I have attended some Remembrance Day ceremonies, wore my poppy, but never felt the deep respect I experienced at these games.  The 65 massed bagpipe bands, were no doubt instrumental in the vision I was to experience that day.

  Walking this day, I looked up at that blue sky and it has never appeared so blue, nor the trees so colorful, the air so fresh.  I asked myself if I was experiencing another level of awareness, one I hadn't experienced yet?  I rationalized it wasn't, it was an awareness of to whom I, truly, owed my gratitude.

Those men & women who have fought, and continue to fight today, for my freedom.  My thanksgiving took on a whole new meaning.

  I remembered my vision, at the Highland Games.  I still believe that vision of soldiers marching away into the sunset(with those massed pipers playing), and smiling at me, was real enough that I whispered, "Thank You".  This day, on my walk, I stopped and said it again, "Thank You".  My eyes misted over, again, with emotion. And, as at the games, I felt they heard me and appreciated my gratitude.

  This Remembrance Day, I will wear my Poppy with more than my usual gratitude because I will remember the little things I am free to experience because our armed forces are out there protecting that freedom.  Some young men & women will continue to die.  I don't know how I would handle the loss of a son/daughter.   My young friend Chris, made quadriplegic by a snipers bullet, carries on with his life that was changed in a heartbeat.  He has no regrets.

 He supports his comrades with his heart.  He will wait to marry, in 2 years, because he wants those comrades at his wedding.  That is when their tour will end.  I wish them a speedy, safe, return. 

  To Chris,  those young men/women, and those veterans of yesteryear, my  heartfelt Thank You (that any man can offer)...............for my freedom.

 

Friendships

             A lot of people just do not understand cancer, whether its a loved one or a friend.  They want to avoid you because they are afraid of your illness.  Others may worry that they will upset you by saying the wrong thing.    All the books I have read tell me how some people act and what I should or shouldn't do about it.  At a time when you might expect others to rush to your aid, you are the one who may have to make the first move.

      I have read a lot of stories from cancer survivors and all express the good feelings that come from the tremendous support from family and friends and  the disappointment when a friend deserts you at a time when you need them most.  One lady tells us that, sadly, not all friends can offer support. "they're terrified of losing that person".  She goes on to tell us how a close friend withdrew.  "It was heartbreaking", she said, whose friend has since died.  She stated she understood, but it was so, so hard.  

      Lost friendships are one of the real heartbreaks people with cancer face.

      It took my journey through cancer to find that my best friend is my wife.   Some friends that weren't close, became closer and a wonderful support.  Family was very supportive and so many friends that showed they cared.  There were, of coarse, a few that fit the description of those described in the preceding paragraphs.   Especially, my closest friend.

I'll call him AH.  He did exactly that, he deserted me when I needed him the most.  He came to see me at the hospital, once, and I haven't seen him since.  He called every 3 or 4 weeks.  After the 2nd. call I told him how disappointed I was, in his support.  It changed nothing.  I consider it a lost friendship.  What he did is no different than if we were advancing to the front,in a war, and I got shot.  Instead of helping me back where I could be helped, he turned and ran...a coward.

    So, with some help from various books, I am sending you 10 steps on "How to support a friend".   Maybe it will help someone out there to better support a sick friend or family member.

1..Learn to listen without judging or offering advise.

2..Recognize that a person with cancer often feels that nobody really understands what they are going through---except another person with cancer.

3..Offer compassion, encouragement, and empathy, not pity.  And don't tell me how your uncle died with the same cancer.

4..Don't know what to say? Say nothing, just be there.  Women touch or hug, Men don't go there.

5..Remember that the person with cancer still has the same interests, whether its discussing world events, hockey, or gossip.

6..Make plans to do something enjoyable together...then DO IT.  Looking forward to something can brighten a difficult day.

7..Get practical: Drop off a dinner; walk their dog, cut the grass, shovel their driveway.  Don't offer...just go do it.

8..If your friend has children, plan to give them a break.  Take the kids to MacDonalds, to see a movie or just playing with them can offer relief.

9..Recognize that a person with cancer can feel angry sometimes and may even level some of it at you.  Don't take it personally.

10..Staying strong during stressful times, by taking care of yourself, will help your friend.

 So, there you have it "Friendships"

One Helluva Wait

Anyone who has had an ex-ray that showed an abnormality and then had to await an appointment for a cat scan can relate to the private hell that one goes through, during that waiting period.  Mine is two months.  I've heard of longer waiting periods.   In my case, I lost a lung to cancer last December.  So an abnormality on the other lung can be a tad shocking.  Normal aging aches and pains(I'm over 39) now become a major concern that can be blown out of proportion and wreak havoc within your mind, if you allow it.

I have read that  we don't have to say or think what we don't wish to.  We have a choice in those things, and we have to realize that and practice using that choice.   Just realize that you can think what you choose.  You don't have to pay any attention to those unwanted thoughts.  Knowing all this good stuff, I will never understand how I can be thinking about my children, and grandchildren, and be so full of happiness and then its like some bully comes pushing all those wonderful thoughts aside and replacing them with morbid thoughts of what the cat scan is going to reveal.  There are times that this bully is so strong that its one heck of a fight to get it out of there and get those sweet thoughts of living and loving back in my mind again.  My main goal is to stay focused on "today". 

 This wait brings on another dilemma.  Do you share the news about this concern with your family and friends?  In the beginning, I chose not to.  I'm a very positive person, but not everyone has that ability.  The extra burden of a friend, or family, whose life is again threatened can be just a tad too much to carry, for some people.  It's the uncertainty , the unknown, that creates havoc in our minds.  I have since told my children, and a few friends.  When it is known just what this abnormality is, and what can be done about it, is when I will share it with others.  Until then, everything is peachy.

Because of my previous articles in our local newspapers, I have made some wonderful new friends.   Ask any of those, waiting for CT scan, MRI, or specialist appointments what we need most.  I don't think 4-laning "any" highway will be the first suggestion that will cross their minds.  I have had first hand experience with our health system.  Our professionals are wonderful people who work hard, with what they have.  If we only have "one" of any particular piece of equipment, then the waits are long.  People suffer.  I'm sure that, sometimes, with some people, the abnormality gets worse during this period.  It's a travesty to see the billions of dollars that have been squandered by our government.  Money that could have been well spent to purchase a lot of new medical testing equipment.  Its no sense crying over spilled milk, but do you think they will learn not to spill any more?

One can not appreciate this dilemma until you have experienced the wait.  We don't think of death until we are faced with it, right?  We take things for granted, until we are threatened with losing it.  But, that's normal, isn't it?  It helps to take it  "one day at a time"

Healing Power Of Positive Thinking

   Diana's tumor was so large that a full mastectomy was required to cut out the cancerous cells.  She was 49.  When the surgery was over, Diana's doctor said "We'll become good friends because we will be seeing a lot of each other"  She said it wouldn't happen.  She was not going to spend the rest of her life looking over her shoulder to see if cancer had caught up with her.  She refused to live in fear.  She self-prescribed high doses of positive thinking and meditated every day.  That was 20 years ago!  You can catch her story in the Sept. issue of Canadian Living.

  Ann Marie was diagnosed with cancer in her lung, liver and brain.  The surgeon said he could not help her and gave her 9 months.  She walked out of that office and said "The hell with it all, I'm taking 9 years".  Today she is cancer free and well on her way to a long life, not just 9 years.  She had a choice when she walked out of that office.  She could have went home, got her affairs in order and waited.  She chose to live.  She chose to "beat" cancer.  She did.  She is my inspiration and support.

  Dorothy, in her young 70's, has tumors on both lungs.  She is taking a new type of Chemotherapy.  The tumors are shrinking.  What is extra special about this lady is that its her 4th. fight with cancer in 17 years.  She will win this one too.  She reminds me to  take life "one day at a time" and will be the first to tell you not to worry...be happy.   Have a cup of tea and a bun.

  These are just three people that developed their own body/mind connection.  There are centers, in various cities, that specialize in this field and  the medical profession is taking a second look at its advantages.  We have nothing in Sudbury , presently, but I'm just warming up.  We don't have a support group for people "living with cancer".  I'll get it going.  If you are interested, call me.  People have a need to talk about their fears and need to hear of other peoples experiences.  We are inspired by each other.

  Positive Thinking does not mean we deny we have an illness.  It doesn't mean pasting on a smile and repressing our fears.  The most important thing is to learn how to live our lives, not only in spite of our fears, but in a fuller, more present way because of them.  That same book tells me that fear can be a wonderful teacher of love.(I have yet to figure that part out?)    Inspiring people are important to me.  So is my being an inspiration to others.  I'm told there is a wonderful article on Positive Thinking in the Sept 27th. issue of Newsweek.  I can't wait to read it.

  I don't consider us  "cancer survivors".  We "beat" cancer.  And with the continuing support of people like Ann Marie, Dorothy and the many other new friends I have made, through this journey, we will continue to help others beat cancer.  And we can never express the gratitude that all those wonderful people at the cancer centre deserve.

 Keep your stick on the ice 

Six Months to Live (One Day At A Time?)

   If you, or I, were told that we had six months to live how would we handle it?    Anyone that has had a brush with cancer, or any serious illness, can relate to having those thoughts at one time or another during their journey to wellness. 

   My wife, and I, talked about it briefly.  She said she would max all the credit cards, shop til she dropped.  I told her that wasn't funny because I would get stuck with the bills.   Well, we wouldn't have to worry about cholesterol.   Don't obey yield signs?   Stomp the Eveready Bunny?  Better still, stomp Barney, that purple dinosaur.   But seriously, how would you handle it?

  Now I don't usually talk about death.  I don't like winter and I don't talk about that either.  It's coming, it is one of the four seasons and I will ease into it.  I have no choice, its either make the best of it or fight it until spring arrives.    But , yesterday, my friend Alice was told just  "that".  "You have six months!"  So it got me wondering,  how is she going to handle it?  "If it were me, how would I handle it?"  First of all, are they sure?  Maybe get another opinion?  Wasn't there a recent newspaper article on a fella, given six months to live, that's been dying for nine years?

  Your belief, about what happens after life, can play a major role in the acceptance of  death.   I believe in life after death and that it will be a better life.   That transition, from this life to the next, can be comparable to what it was like moving from teenager to adult life.   No way did I want to grow up(my wife is the first to say, I never have) but once I got here it wasn't so bad.  Well that's ok about the death part.    But what about the living part, until death, in the meantime?   How would I "live it"?   We would all handle it our own way.   I would certainly not want to behave in a manner that would burden those around me. 

  When first diagnosed with cancer, my first thoughts went to my grandchildren forgetting me.  So I would have to say that the ultimate best would be to hold them tight, every opportunity, and know that life is not ending, it is renewing itself.  I have a life rich in loving family and friends.  My property has beautiful trees, some wildlife and lots of birds.  I love music and would continue to dance alone(when nobody is watching).  Family, music and friends would be my  daily essential activity.  This would certainly be a beautiful way to spend each day. (So why don't I practice living those type of days, now?.....Darned  if I know, but I try)  I'm sure there would be dark moments, or days, during that period.  And yes, I would get afraid.  But mostly, I would fear having my family see me diminish physically.  And I would fear most that I will not be able to hide this fear.  And I would wonder if I made a difference.

  So, today, choose to live a life that matters, because;

  What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built;  Not what you got, but what you gave.

  What will matter is not your success, but your significance.   What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught.

  What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.

  What will matter is not your competence, but your character.

   What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many people will feel lasting loss when you're gone.

   What will matter is not your memories, but the memories that live in those who loved you.

   What will matter is not how long you will be remembered, but by whom, and for what.

   Living a life that matters doesn't happen by accident.   It's not a matter of circumstances, but a choice. 

Life Threatening Illness, A Teacher Of Love?

When your life is threatened by an illness, it doesn't take long to realize the important people, and appreciate special moments, in your life.  In my case, it was cancer;

It's been one year since I heard those dreadful words, "You have a five centimeter mass in your right lung".  Since then it has been a run of wonderful moments, and there have been some anxious ones too.  Cat scans, x-rays, surgery, chemotherapy, quarterly follow up examinations, a nodule appearing on my only lung, a tumor on my femur and, last, a PET scan in Hamilton.  That PET scan confirmed that I am cancer free. And even though cancer was beyond my control, my response to it was not.  I feel there is a purpose to all I have experienced.

I have made some new friends, and become closer to old ones.  Especially those who have had cancer.  Rita and Brenda, whom I have never met, called or wrote me.  I hope they are well, I think of them often.  Each one of us will continue this journey, of uncertainty, in our own way.  Jim walks and ski's and keeps fit.  Betty Ann also walks, and spends a good deal of her time with her grandchildren.  Milly is starting her chemo for new tumors.  Ann Marie is a working girl.  Dorothy helps out at the cancer center.  The survival stories appearing in our local newspapers are an inspiration to others, especially to those just getting their own diagnosis.

Just some of those wonderful moments are, forever, burned into my memory; The nurse in the operating room wearing a surgical mask, whose eyes showed such compassion and caring.  My 4-yr. old Shaelyn, taking my face in her little hands, looking me in the eye and saying, "Oh Poppy I love you".  10 yr. old Cordell telling me he feels so much better when I'm around.  6 yr. old Caitlin and 4 yr. old Riley showing such excitement over our "nature walk" or "sleepover".  My black Labrador retrievers eyes, when she knows we are leaving her at home, that say this really sucks ya know.  Working in the bush and stopping to watch snowflakes fall.  Hearing the words, "I love you" from my family.  I don't miss an opportunity to relish most things I took for granted.

It doesn't matter who I talk with, we will "all" tell you that our anxious moments come from every little new ache or pain.  When an abnormality shows up on an x-ray;  Waiting for a follow-up cat scan;  You are the last appointment, for the results, in a crowded hallway and the doctor is running behind.  Some have told me that it will never change.  As long as I live I will have these anxious moments.  I have written that I refuse to live my life looking over my shoulder to see if cancer has caught up with me.  And I still feel that way. Anxious "moments" I can handle, but I will not succumb to living a life of fear.  My emotional power comes from talking with people who inspire me, and from reading.  The things I have learned, that help prevent/cure cancer, are amazing.  I follow these daily, as much as I possibly can.

Being positive is my first line of defense.  Our Health system has been studying the affects of the power of the mind to heal.  Learning to meditate/relaxation helps boost my immune system.  They cannot tell me, these things work, because they have not studied it yet.  But, from all my reading sources, I believe it does.          Flor-Essence, an Ojibway remedy that has been known to cure cancer, is another means of keeping the odds in my favor.  A Banana, in the morning, has too many advantages to list.  An apple(peel on) in the evening because it has cancer fighting ingredients.  Green Tea at noon , when I can.  These reading sources state it should be announced that green tea cures/prevents cancer, but of course, our Health system must study it first.

The book "The Power of The Mind To heal" by Joan Borysenko is a continuous source of emotional power for me. 

I walk and work out, at least, 5 days a week.  It is paramount to my physical, and mental, well being.  And then, of course, their is diet.  And that is where I falter.  But, I "will" succeed.  Being addicted to grease just makes it harder.  "Praise the lard". 

Negativity  

 Being negative, I think, has got to be a "chosen" disease.  You know, those people that see the glass as half empty?  I have no patience for these types.  I, sometimes, allow them to annoy me and ruin part of my day.  You'll notice I said "allow"?  That's because I have a choice, I can walk away...sometimes:  But there are those people that must tell you their stories and there are occasions when I have some trouble shaking it off.  It is beyond me, why anyone has a need to tell me about another person who died with the same life threatening illness that I had.  I can only hope they, themselves, don't get a life threatening illness because they would be already..gone.  I like the words of one survivor,  "If you already give up on your diagnosis, cancer might as well have already won, because if it's beaten you at that point then there's not much left to go with."

Although cancer is behind me now, I still like to hear about those people that have beaten it and are living healthy/normal lives today.  That's right, Life-Affirming stories, not the one about the person who died.

If you are newly diagnosed with cancer, it is important that your Health Care Team be Life-Affirming.  I have learned that when we become a patient, all our senses are focused on getting information that has to do with staying alive.  We are really focused on that goal.  When any information relevant to survival is presented, our mind just soaks it up.  Your team leader is the physician.  All those wonderful people that make up the team play just as important a role as the physician.  A casual affirmation, from the person cleaning around your bed, can be an effective hypnotic suggestion that can carry as much weight as any other member of the team.

It is the upmost importance that the "whole" health care team know that their slightest word, gesture, or facial expression sinks directly into the mind of their patients as an indirect hypnotic suggestion.  Make it a Life-Affirming suggestion.

Having a positive attitude is an asset because every situation, properly perceived, becomes an opportunity to heal.  I'm including a silly little story about a frog.  But, when you read it, you will enjoy the significance of it.   So, be a FROG. 

There once was a bunch of tiny frogs,..... who arranged a running competition.

The goal was to reach the top of a very high tower.

A big crowd had gathered around the tower to see the race and cheer on the

contestants... The race began...

Honestly: No one in the crowd really believed that the tiny frogs would reach

the top of the tower. You heard statements such as:  "Oh, WAY too difficult!!"

"They will NEVER make it to the top." or: "Not a chance that they will succeed. The tower is too high!"

The tiny frogs began collapsing.  One by one... Except for those, who in a

fresh tempo, were climbing higher and higher...

The crowd continued to yell, "It is too difficult!!! No one will make it!"

More tiny frogs got tired and gave up...But ONE continued higher and higher

and higher... This one wouldn't give up!

At the end everyone else had given up climbing the tower.  Except for the one

tiny frog who, after a big effort, was the only one who reached the top!

THEN all of the other tiny frogs naturally wanted to know how this one frog

managed to do it?

A contestant asked the tiny frog how he had found the strength to succeed

and reach the goal?

It turned out... That the winner was DEAF!!!!

The wisdom of this story is: Never listen to other people's tendencies to be

negative or pessimistic...because they take your most wonderful dreams and

wishes away from you -- the ones you have in your heart!

Always think of the power that words have.  Because everything you hear and read

will affect your actions!

Therefore: ALWAYS be..POSITIVE! And above all: Be DEAF when people tell YOU

that you cannot fulfill your dreams!

It Ain't Over Til It's Over

  What do I say to a friend, who is in a palliative care room, when she gets the news that she will not be coming out of there.   When I see her eyes glass over and a tear fall, I don't  think there is another moment,  in my life, when I have felt so helpless.   The frustration was overwhelming.  I was quick to remember that all I need to do is listen and just be there for her.   But I can't help feeling that there must be something I can do, or say, that will change the outcome.  Of course the first words rolling off my lips are "You're not giving up are you?"    She answered, "Of course not."    But I wondered if the words were for her, or just to shut me up.   Because if she wants to give up, that is entirely her choice.   

  When I was recovering from surgery, my favorite story was about Sherry Abbott.  She had been diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer.  The primary tumor was the size of a grapefruit and there were three inoperable tumors behind her heart and intertwined around her aorta.  The disease had also spread to her lymphatic system.  They told her she would not see the new year, 3 months.  (Hey, that's enough bad news to make most people bend over and want to kiss their tushi goodbye, right?)  Not Sherri.  She got into the Healing Journey Program and also practiced expecting positive outcomes and found ways to participate in her own recovery and wellness.  She got into Relaxation, Visualization and Meditation.  That was in 1989, folks.  She went on to ride her own Harley.  You may be able to find her story, and a lot more I'm sure, at www.lookgoodfeelbetter.ca.  

   Remember Rockin Ronnie Hawkins, the country rock singer?  He was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a short time to live.  He agreed to have a TV camera follow his last days on earth.   Ronnie decides to have a live wake.  Yup, why not have all his friends together for a party so he could enjoy them, instead of them looking down at him in his casket.   Well I'll tell ya, I can't relate the whole story, that's exactly what he did.  He then participated in meditation and relaxation,  had a lot of friends praying for him and also allowed two healers(of some sort) to do their thing from far away.  Some day I'm going to make it a point to get the whole story.  Because of his past lifestyle he became flat broke.  The camera still followed him every day(even to the outhouse cuz the water pipes froze in the house).  Every day he got better, instead of worse.  Doctors could not understand it, tests showed the cancer was gone.  He has, since, cut another album.  What if he had given up?  I think it would have been over for him.

  My friend, Dorothy, who has fought with cancer four times relates a story a little closer to home.  A friend of hers diagnosed with cancer on her brain was told it was terminal and that it wouldn't be long.  Well helllooo?  She  sells her home, her car, gets her affairs in order and moves in with her son, to await the big event.   Sheesh, she even gave away her cat.    That was almost four years ago?

  It is, entirely, ones own decision to give up when they are told they are going to die, like these three people were told.  But, for me, that poses another question.  When does one let go?

  I don't think we should ever give up.  Those people were told they would die very soon.  They did not give up.  There is shear determination and then we can never rule out miracles.    It ain't over til it's over.

A Different Cancer

   How many times have we opened our newspapers and saw, in the obituaries, a young persons life has ended.  It may have been from cancer, heart disease, or an accident.  And we thought how tragic it was and went on with life.  But when it happens to a young friend, you just don't "go on" with life.  Your life will, forever, change.

   A tragic car accident claimed the life of a young friend, Chris.  Thoughts went through my mind like, why didn't I talk with him longer when I saw him last?   Why didn't I play more golf with him?  Why, why, why?  He will be missed by all who knew him.  But Chris doesn't hurt anymore and will be driving his ball off a greener tee.

  What is left behind is a form of cancer...Grief;  To lose an older family member, to the normal cycle of life is one kind of grief.  But, there can be no greater sadness than to lose a son/daughter.  Andy and I spoke of it today when we learned that Chris was gone.  We are suppose to go first, before our children, not them before us.  And when it happens to a child of a friend, I can't help but think "what if?".  These horrible thoughts come rushing to mind, "What if it were one of my children?  How would I go on?  How would I live?"

  I am a strong advocate of the power of the mind to heal and what can be accomplished with positive thinking.  

 I feel this way of thinking can change the outcome of any disease, not just cancer.  If you can picture a teeter totter, with a big cancer weight at on end.  The other end has got several weights, each one smaller that the cancer weight.  One is the body's own ability to fight disease, the second is modern medicine and the third being the power of the mind.  These three tip it in our favor.  But there is another weight that plays a major role in achieving success.....Family/Friends.

   I would be a fool if I truly felt I beat cancer all by myself.  My family and friends played a huge part in my victory.  Lisa reminded me that without my friends I would not have done as well as I did.  And she is right.  Nancy tells me that I have no idea how many people were praying for me, the day of my surgery.  During my recovery from surgery and my subsequent journey to wellness, I had some rough days.  A phone call, an e-mail or a friend dropping by was enough to pick me up and look ahead.  E-mails/phone calls that came in from Vancouver Island or from Newfoundland were the glue that held me together.  And thanks to you, my friends and family, I made it.  My private nurse, my beautiful children and grandchildren, my love is beyond words that was not as near the surface as it is today...because of Chris.

  Now Al, Liz, Valerie and Drew have their own journey to wellness.  I cannot think of any journey that a family must take that will require stamina, as much as this one.  Never will the support of friends, and family, be as important. 

  A young friend, Denyce, wrote me that; Cancer cannot cripple love, it can't shatter hope, corrode faith, it can't destroy peace.  It can't kill friendships, suppress memories, invade the soul and it can't steal eternal life.  With the loving support of friends, and family, Grief won't do it either.  Goodbye Chris.   

 One Day At A Time

   Gilbert was diagnosed with lung cancer, similar to the cancer/surgery I had.  Just hours before his surgery he complained of headaches.  A cat scan showed brain cancer.  His lung surgery was cancelled.  His journey to wellness would have a few more bumps in the road.  Radiation sessions, chemotherapy sessions and then his surgeon will re-evaluate.  It's like getting the wind knocked out of you.  He started reading "The Healing Journey" , taking Flor-Essence and when I saw him, a month or so later, he looked great and felt great.  He said those words I hear a lot, "Why do we have to get cancer to learn all these wonderful things about living?"

  I saw him, again, months later.  Although it was a beautiful hot day, he was wrapped up like it was February.  He was lying on the swing looking like someone had stolen his last candy.  His first words were, "How can I stay positive when I feel like I'm dying?".  We sat  while he told me what had caused him to feel so awful.  I could only tell him that when I had days like that, I reminded myself that it would pass.  We reminded each other how important it is to take it "One Day At A Time".  We drank in the beauty of his surroundings,  felt the sunshine on our faces and watched Connie working in the yard.  And that's what bothered him the most, he didn't have the strength to help her.

 I can't think of any phrase that packs so much meaning.  "One Day At A Time".  Sounds pretty simple doesn't it?  Yet I need regular reminders.  There is a poem Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow that goes, in part:  Yesterday with its mistakes and cares, its faults and blunders, its aches and pains has passed forever beyond our control.  Tomorrow with its possible adversities, its burdens, its large promise and poor performance is also beyond our immediate control.  That leaves Today.  Anyone can fight the battles of just one day.  It is only when you and I add the burdens of those two awful eternities- Yesterday and Tomorrow that we break down.

I often say I will not live my life looking over my shoulder to see if cancer will catch up with me.  There are times, though, that a part of my mind seems to want to dwell on the "what if?"  If I allow this kind of thinking to continue it can, quite easily, make a mountain out of a molehill.  I have learned, through reading, that I am in control of what I think.  Even though negative "what if" continues to invade my thinking, I acknowledge it then let it go.  I have read that "Negative emotions boil down to anger, and if we don't learn to express it and move on, we have a heaviness of the soul.  We are not really living each day, expecting positive outcomes.  We are creating our own problems, making ourselves physically, psychologically and emotionally sick.  But if we take better care of our selves by managing our emotional health, we can take better care of others."  Doing it One Day At A Time, makes it attainable.

Anyone who doesn't appreciate how the mind wants to wander off on its own, should try sitting still for three minutes.  Close your eyes and focus,only, on your breathing.(Don't breath any different)  Just pay attention to each breath and how your chest/belly rises.  And when that little voice says  "there is nothing to this", realize the mind has already wandered.  Try staying with the breathing for the three minutes. 

I have really experienced the benefits of taking it One day at a time.  It really works for me.  The other evening I watched our Labrador Retriever, Samantha, laying on our deck  She had her legs crossed, as ladies do, and she slowly looked at our surroundings.  She paused at each tree, each bush, the birds at the feeder.  There was an air of peacefulness.  As she sniffed the air, I couldn't help but think she was saying, "Now this is life as its meant to be".  It was a very spiritual moment we shared and I thought, yes, this is what it is all about.  It's how I feel, today, at this moment.  Today is made up of special moments, is it not?

I don't think I would feel differently if it were another type of illness.  Mine was cancer.  Yours might be heart, kidney failure, chronic back problems or who knows what.  We can appreciate not being in control, wholly, of what happens to our bodies,  But, we are in control of how we react to it.  That same poem says;  That leaves it not the experience of Today that drives us mad, it is the remorse or bitterness for something which happened Yesterday and the dread of what Tomorrow may bring.  Let us, therefore, live but one day at a time.

 Attitude Change

   When cancer struck, I was in the best shape of my life.  I was walking 5 miles a day, working with weights and was down to a muscled 195 lbs.  My regiment was nearly nonstop.  Gardening, landscaping. under-brushing, felling trees, golfing, socializing were all part of any given day.  All labors of love.  Removal of my right lung with 2 months of recovery, then 4 months of chemotherapy robbed me of all muscle mass.  It took another 8 months to rebuild myself.  This past FEB. I was at 220 lbs.  Too heavy for a man my height, with both lungs.  I increased the walks, the workouts and backed away from the table.  Spring arrives and I get back to my old, nonstop, regiment.  I lose 20 lbs., and feel good, only to have it all come crashing down.

  I crashed physically, and mentally.  It was a fatigue like no other.  It was as bad as the fatigue during chemotherapy, but it had its own uniqueness.  It brought its own set of symptoms, its own mental retardation that set of a flood of "what if's the cancer is back".  It was like being in a fight with a much stronger opponent.  My being "stronger" wasn't going to cut it.  I had to be "smarter" to win.  It took me two weeks to recover.  Well meaning friends remind me I'm 60.  I say, so what, I'll live now and age later.  Considering, though,  I am getting older and with chronic bronchitis in my remaining lung,  I need to make lifestyle changes. 

   Many years ago, I kept an article that featured "Twelve Prescriptions for the Millennium" by American Jesuit missionary, Robert Ronald.  Now, I need to put all these rules to practice.  It's the best prescription I have ever had.  I don't feel these rules are just for aging.  After "any" critical illness we need to adjust to our bodies limitations.    

Rule 1;  Look your troubles in the eye.  Problems not faced do not go away.  Life is a roller coaster of ups and downs.  Anticipate each dip, and prepare for it.

Rule 2;  Never say you can't, but do say you won't.  Neither be so discouraged that you quit, nor so stubborn you won't stop.  Troubles come sooner and last longer for those who wear themselves out. 

Rule 3;  For whatever you can no longer do, substitute something else.  There is nothing more refreshing than a good nap, as long as it's followed by waking up.  Find a way to slow down without stopping.

Rule 4;  Don't hide.  If you want your special needs attended to, you have to make them known.  Do not be ashamed of your limitations.

Rule 5;  Claim your rights and privileges, such as the right to refuse to eat more, the privilege of resting and pacing your activities, the right to assistance, the privilege of cutting back on your work, and so on.

Rule 6;  Be humble enough to accept help, and proud enough to ask for it.  Do not be ashamed to ask for what you need.  Accept help graciously.

Rule 7;  Always offer a helping hand and a comforting ear.  Stay interested in the world around you.  Concern for others lightens your own concerns.

Rule 8;  Put anger, sadness and regret behind you.  It's perfectly OK to feel anger at the pain and distress of growing old.  It isn't OK to stay angry.  It's perfectly OK to mourn the closing of chapters in your life.  It isn't OK to mourn the rest of your life.  It's OK to regret all things you could or should have done differently.  It isn't OK not to forgive yourself or others.  Don't let your anger today spill over into tomorrow.  Look back without regret, and forward without dread.

Rule 9;  Always look for the bright side.  We win or lose by how we interpret and react to everything that happens.  Winning is rejoicing in what you have left.  Losing is seeing only what you have lost.

Rule 10;  Take every day as it comes, and give it all you've got.  The thing to be afraid of is not what you fear, but letting the fear keep you from going on.

Rule 11;  Enjoy what each day brings.  Be open with wonder and excitement to new experiences, even those that come with decline.  Enjoy the ride down, even when you know there is no going back up.

Rule 12;  Stir up the tiger in your tank.  Your body will still be the same old jalopy, but life will have more oomph and satisfaction.

I'll use these rules to adapt with aging, with changes that were brought on by cancer and I'll do it One Day At A Time.  A lot of my friends did not get the privilege.

Prostate Cancer

A younger friend of mine, calls me to say he has Prostate Cancer.  He was very emotional.  I give him my usual advice about Positive Thinking and that cancer can be beat and not to write himself off.  It was later in our discussion that I find, he had not only "not" reached the oncologist stage but was basing his diagnosis on a blood test that revealed his Prostate-Specific Antigen(PSA) was moderately elevated.  He had been experiencing abdominal pain, trouble urinating, frequent night trips to the bathroom.  Of course he knew nothing about the prostate, how it enlarges as you age, what to(or not) eat/drink that affects it or what causes it to become inflamed.  But he had heard all about Prostate Cancer.  Funny isn't it, the mere mention of PC, how so many men are ready to bend over and kiss their tush goodbye.

I had just turned forty when I first experienced the symptoms of an enlarged prostate.  Like my friend, I knew nothing about the prostate and, of course, it wasn't talked about over a beer or two.  I was referred to a neurologist and after various tests and years of prescription drugs after each flare-up, the suggestion that I go through this(or that surgery) procedure.  Removal was even mentioned, and that was long before I turned 50.  I took my health into my own hands.  I learned all I could about the prostate, how it works, what causes it to become inflamed and what alterative medicines would help.  When I became more knowledgeable, the first thing I did was switch to a neurologist that had kept up with advances in his field.  Today, 20 yrs. later, my prostate is still with me and at a reasonable level of health.

My neurologist plays a major role in keeping a watchful eye on my prostate with yearly "digital and PSA" tests.  But it is my responsibility to insure it stays healthy.  Prescription drugs is not something I use anymore.  I take a daily alternative medicine(Saw Palmetto) that keeps my prostate healthy, and I am aware what food/liquids can affect its level of health.  I got most of my knowledge from a book            " Mayo Clinic on Prostate Health".

I have learned that levels of PSA can rise with Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia(BPH), an age related enlargement, and from Prostatitis( an inflammation) and that these increased levels are not necessarily indicative of cancer.  Books tell me that vegetables and fruits are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that guard against cancer.  We all know that "prevention" is the key.  Should I develop prostate cancer(God forbid), these same books tell me that prostate cancer is a chronic disorder that can be managed without jumping into aggressive and invasive measures.  Most men(in the past, before PSA testing)went to their graves with no inkling that their prostates harbour cancerous cells.

Should Prostate Cancer ever be diagnosed, most books tell me that rarely are any treatments more affective than "Watchful Waiting," or simply observing the course of the disease without taking any aggressive action.  Watchful Waiting doesn't mean doing nothing.  Most Health practitioners recommend "aggressive watchful waiting"; a comprehensive program of safe, noninvasive therapies that target general health, boost the immune system and specifically target the prostate.

It is so important we take charge of our health 

HOPE

   My brother could not understand why his co-worker( who had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer) would travel all the way to another province to try a different treatment to, possibly, save his life.  After all, terminal is terminal.  I reminded him about his favorite "old" car that the mechanic said was just worn out.  Now, he loved that old car and when he heard about this crackerjack mechanic in another part of town it didn't take long for him to bogey on over there.  This crackerjack fixed his old car......would you not do the same for yourself??

  This same brother, who was a tremendous support throughout my battle with cancer, wasn't really a strong advocate of the Power Of The Mind and this created some heated e-mails between us.  One e-mail, his exact words were; "You're not looking at reality at all.  You think that all cancer patients, if they are positive, will survive.  That's not reality.  That's Hope!!!"

  Last night I attended a monthly "Support Group" meeting, "People Living With Cancer".   Hope was one of the topics.  One lady wrote that there are others that seem to feel a responsibility to puncture your hopes.  When they say your dreams are false from which you must be protected.  God forbid anyone should go around entertaining false hope.  But in a sense, what other kind of hope is there?  There is a worse scenario than false hope.  It is no hope.

  Hope is willing to take a chance on the future.  And who is audacious enough to say what the future will bring.  Hope is the ability to see something on the horizon, that we are willing to move forward.  If our hope gets us from today to tomorrow, and in that new day we are ready or able to deal with something we thought we could not face, then hope has done it's job.

  One new friend, through cancer, called me her "Cancer Buddy".  We try to be there to help each other through the rough times.  There are lots of us who are willing to share our hopes and dreams and how we got through it.  We learn from each other.  We support each other.  If you are going through surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or you have already beat cancer then come on out and join us.   And bring your spouse, the caregiver.   We meet the third Wednesday of every month, at the Canadian Cancer Society building, on Regent...670-1234

  We remind ourselves of the frog, who was deaf, and was able to climb to the top of a building when all around him people kept telling him it was impossible.  Don't listen to those who would puncture your hopes, your dreams.  And stick to the fight when you're hardest hit, It's when things seem worst, that you must not quit.

 Veterans

Never before have I become so overwhelmed with remorse, so full of appreciation for our war dead...our veterans.  This weekend we watched young soldiers display their training, in competition, at the Highland Games in Maxville On.  Seeing our flag high in the sky, arrive with a skydiver reminded me that young men/women, like those competing, died so I could stand there, free, and watch the games without fear of attack.

The Glengarry Games were celebrating the Year of the Veteran.  The competitions were entertaining, people were friendly, the bands were wonderful, the younger people participating  and "all" walked tall and proud.  Fallen comrades in our police force were honored, especially the four young RCMP recently killed out west.  Some veterans, that were present, were held in high esteem and on parade for us to thank.

Over the years I have attended some Remembrance Day ceremonies, wore my Poppy , but never felt the deep respect I experienced at these games.  Mind you, 65 massed Pipe bands may have been instrumental in conjuring up some of the visions I experienced.  There is no sound, on earth, that can stir emotions like the bagpipes.  But I like to believe  my vision of soldiers marching away into the sunset, and smiling at me, were real enough that I whispered "Thank You".  I felt they heard me, saw my eyes water over, and understood my gratitude.

Still, today, our young soldiers continue to go where they are needed.  And as their commander recently reminds us, they are not toy soldiers.  They will bleed and some will die.  Not a nice thought for their Moms & Dads.   We may not always agree with the reason they are sent to various parts of the world, but we can all pray for their safe return.  Then they can continue to march and compete in various games and  hold their heads high.  Like cancer, war and terrorism can be prevented.  Together, we must leave no stone unturned until we find the cure .

We only need to look at that eighteen year old in our neighborhood and visualize him/her going off to war to protect the freedom we so take for granted.  Those teenagers from 60  years ago, who went off to war, are now in their 70's and 80's.  I'm sure they have never forgotten.    We must never forget.   We must always be thankful.

I copied these words off a sign that was erected, at the games;   "So slowly their numbers dwindle.   Until now they are just a few.   So take time while you have the chance.  To thank a Veteran of World War II."      I know I will.

Then there are these words from a song;     For the life we all know   There's debt we all owe    To the vets;  some with us today      For the price they have paid       The risks that they made       Are greater than any may say.            Play pipers play        In your own special way                   Our thanks to our daughters and sons      There is peace; there is power      Any day; any hour  ,   Sight and sound of the Pipers and Drums.

Anger  

  When I was given the news about my cancer, I experienced anger.  Why didn't I have a chest x-ray last year?  If my physician had suggested an x-ray last year, I would have caught the cancer sooner.   What is wrong with this health system, that I have to insist on a chest x-ray?  Why did I smoke for so many years?  Why me?   This wasn't in the plan, I don't deserve this.   Why, why, why?  

   Getting cancer created a lot of anger and resentment, and I didn't need books to tell me it wasn't good.   The lessons I have learned, through dealing with cancer, have taught me that it was in my best interest to deal with this anger.  I needed to forgive.   Now, forgiveness has never been one of my strengths.  Most likely I would forget long before forgiveness for the wrongdoing.    Of course, no story about anger would be complete without mentioning old "damaged" friendships.  How many friendships have we known, that had longstanding resentments and neither person  remembered the cause?  One of them dies and the other is left alone, saying, "Why didn't I....???, It was such a waste. Two words," I Forgive", would have healed the friendship."   Do we really want to wait until one of us is dead to forgive?  I have since learned that we become stronger when we forgive.  Forgiveness cuts our losses short.  It enables us to let go and move on.  

  Any critical illness is a frightening situation that can cause anger and resentment .  I experienced these two, profound, emotions.  We have a right to feel them.   A friend had a lump missed on a mammogram.  A friend who never smoked, gets lung cancer.  A botched surgery caused, another, chronic pain.  Any person on a health care team who lacks a life-affirming attitude will, always, anger me the most.  We have our reasons.  And it was perfectly OK, for me, to be angry.   But it would not be OK that I stayed angry.

  I have made a lot of new friends, through cancer.   Some still hurting, from anger and resentment, and It pains me to see them consumed by it.   Anger is a cancer, in its own right, that can also affect everyone dear to us.  

Resentments, like cancer, have a better chance of healing when it is taken care of in its early stages.   Nursing anger serves no purpose.  I am reminded of that old cliche, " Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die". 

I am living life one day at a time, and each new day is a blessing.  Although anger, periodically,  can cloud some moments, I move on and let go long before it turns to resentment.  I'd throw another cliche at you, about when life deals you a lemon- make lemonade, but you would probably resent me for it. 

Coping With An Illness

 "Oh Poppy, I know the worst day of your life.  It was when you had cancer, right?"

An awfully profound statement to be coming from a seven year old child, especially when it's been 2 years since I had cancer.  Of course I never thought to ask what her worst day was.  Maybe it was the day she learned I was sick.  I don't know because I missed that opportunity when she was saying these words to me.  In fact, I now realize that I never asked any of my family what they were feeling at the time.

  Our monthly meeting, "People Living With Cancer", the question was asked;  How did your family cope?  What are they feeling?  Did you share your worries, your pain?  What did they do, to get through it all?   I didn't have an answer because I never once asked how they were holding up, how they felt.

  Yes, it "was" the worst day of my life.  Nov 18/03 I was told I had a 5 cm. mass in my right lung.  I went through all the emotions, shock, sadness, fear and then I got angry.  I decided I was not going to die. The only words that explain my attitude at the time was "freight train".  I went at cancer like a train and I wasn't looking to see who I was leaving behind.  I was so strong, so positive, that I could not understand my family being anything else.  I would not tolerate any kind of negativity.   The troubling part of all this, is it took me two years to ask, "How did you cope?"

  For the most part, I find my adult family were on the train with me.  But, I left this lovely little 5 yr. old behind.  You see, I have 4 beautiful grandchildren.  Cordell and Shaelyn had distance to shield them from seeing me at my worst.  We had a short visit at Christmas, but my greatest pain was not being able to pick them up and hug them.   My other grandson, living nearby, was only 2 yrs. old.  He giggled and had to touch poppies bald head.  His sister was 5 and going to school.  Her SK class prayed for Poppy on surgery day.  They prayed each day I had chemotherapy.  Who knows what other children may have said, the things she may have heard.  Hindsight tells me, that is when the kisses and hugs stopped, she stopped looking at me, stopped touching me.  My selfish heart was broken.

  I feel about as smart as a bag of rocks.  One year later, on one of our nature walks, she asked me if I was going to die.  I still didn't clue in and just thought, children will be children.  When they were having some quality time, my daughter asked her why she doesn't kiss poppy any more?  She answered, "I'm afraid I'll catch cancer.  But please don't tell poppy I said that."  I have since inquired about educating her school, about cancer, through Supportive Care from the Cancer Center .  And still, I kept overlooking the obvious.  Her 7 year old worries that had spilled over into other parts of her childhood. 

  These past months, she is holding my hand more.  I still have to steal my kisses though, although now I think it has become more of a game.  At least, I hope that's why.  She is looking me in the eye more these days.  Progress is slow.  My heart yearns for her being able  to show her love, like she use to,  like my other grandchildren do.  I finally clued in and asked "Supportive Care" for help.  She goes to see them, soon.  I'll be there, and I'll be listening, this time.

 It's difficult to think of others when in so much worry and uncertainty ourselves.  If you are going through a critical illness or recently had one;  It's great to be strong and positive but ask your family(especially a younger child),  "How are you coping, how can I help you cope?"

Facing The End

  Cancer is a word that most of us fear - it makes us think of death.  But more and more people are surviving this disease.  So, while it's normal to feel afraid for someone who has cancer, you can always be hopeful.   The power of the mind, in battling any critical illness, can do wondrous things.    People that were given only months to live, are healthy many years later. 

  But,  sometimes, a friend with cancer doesn't get better.  It's at times like this I feel anger, frustration and that life,sometimes,  really sucks.  We have all lost someone to cancer.  I have lost some dear friends, over the years, and now there is a possibility I will lose Judy and Gilbert.  Because of my own battle with cancer, they became very special to me in a short time.  Judy is excited about life one day, then asking to die the next.  Gilberts eyes show his frustration with losing his faculties, one at a time.  Both have the fighting spirit to live and, yet, serenity in facing the possible end of life.   Each has been told they have only days left.  We stand there feeling so helpless, wishing for that magic wand to sprinkle special dust that will allow them to get up and walk with you, even if its that one last time.   But there is no wand and I can only think, "Oh My, Oh My, what am I to do?"

  On our way to the hospital, one day, I realized there didn't seem to be any shortage of people to pray for.  Most of us find it hard to talk about death and don't really know what to say or do.  Cancer Society booklets tell me we can help someone who is dying by being with them and showing we care.  We should,always, respect their wishes.  If they want to talk about going home, I'll help them talk about all the wonderful things that await them.  When they ask me about dying, I only answer that I think  we will be going to a better place. 

   I get a little upset with the, well-meaning, comment, "Oh, he/she is better off dead."  I do not agree.    They tell me that every extra minute, with those that love them, is precious.  I think only "they" will know when the battle is over and the end is near.

  As much as we want to support them, there comes a time when we must back away and leave them to the loving care of their family.  When any friend dies, it's quite common to feel a range of emotions.  We will feel sad, and even angry.  We may feel relieved that their suffering is over.  We may even feel guilty that we're still alive when such a wonderful person has died.

  I have learned that it is important to accept the fact that I am grieving and to allow myself to do so.  It's okay to grieve in my own way, and to deal with grief in a way that makes me feel better.   So, for now, I can only continue to pray for them.  If they do succumb to cancer, I will surely miss them and they will always be in my thoughts.

Friends

  It was during one of my chemotherapy sessions that I noticed the two older gentlemen, two chairs down from my chemo station.  Their  nurse asked if they were brothers.  One fella says, "Naw, we're old friends.  I came to sit with him during his therapy".  The session, being 3 hours long, gave them plenty of time to laugh and joke about old times.  There were, also, times of silence.  I could see each of them lost in their own thoughts.  While only a few feet apart they were miles away on some nostalgic trip of their own.

  I didn't know the extent of his cancer, but I couldn't help think they were each wondering how much longer they had together.  Thoughts that were better kept as "thoughts".  That generation, and a lot of mine, just did not express their private feelings about the possibility of dying, losing a good friend.  They found more comfort in talking about the good times, the hunting/fishing trips, the children, the time he hooked his buddies hat off on a wayward cast.  Most people prefer not to mention the possibility of dying.

 I felt a tinge of envy, because of the friendship they shared at that moment.  One of "my" old friends could not handle my illness, did not know what to say, what to do, so he stayed away.  This, unfortunately, is common.  Although it was not understandable, it was eventually  forgivable.  Today my mind goes back to how I spent so much energy trying to understand it, that I overlooked the true friend that was sitting by "my" chair.

 This friend never missed a session, was by my side each and every time.  Ya know, the type of friend you take for granted.  The one you see in movies as being sidelined and not appreciated for all the personal effort that went into a friendship or a project, when someone else gets all the credit for being the hero.  Someone I looked right through, that day I was watching the two older gentlemen, the way one would look through a cloud when looking for the sun.  Now, it gives clarity to that old saying, "Ya can't see the forest for the trees".  Another saying goes, "I overlooked an orchid while searching for a rose".

My wife and friend, Vane, was always there by my chair to offer me a book, bring me a coffee, cover me with a warming blanket because the Chemo drugs made me cold.  That worried look in her eyes when asking , "Are you OK?"   She is still by my side, still spoiling me.  Have I thanked her, told her how much I appreciated her caring or how much she meant to me?

Nawww!  Lottsa time fer dat, right?

TWO WOLVES

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.  He said, "My son, the battle is between 2 "wolves" inside us all.

One is Evil;  It is anger, envy, jealousy,sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good;  It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather:   "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

I  also know a native prayer that says, in part, "I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother but to fight my greatest enemy, myself."

Our native friends have a wonderful way of describing human nature, in poems and prayers, that specialists take volumes of books to accomplish the same end.

Positive and negative thinking is comparable to these wolves.  Since my run-in with cancer, I find the Evil wolf at my door more than I like to admit.  I have said that I will not live my life looking over my shoulder to see if cancer has caught up with me.  I find it a struggle to keep this evil wolf at bay.  It seems that every new ache/pain is enough to wake him.  My mind can be peculiar, when it entertains thoughts of "what if" the cancer is back.  I can then get in a downward mental spiral.  Thoughts of dying enter my head, along with a lot of other foolish notions.  This type of negative thinking can then cause me to feel ill.  Then, feeling a different ailment can start it over again.  If it is allowed to continue it can become a vicious, damaging, cycle. 

In the summer I like to hike.  Now I have fallen in love with snowshoeing.  I have said before, I am amazed that I can be feeling so wonderful(If you can picture being in nature with the trees all covered in a glistening coat of white) and the "evil wolf" appears and  attempts to take over.

My greatest enemy is "myself", the "evil wolf" that is in all of us.  Thankfully, my "Good Wolf" is strong enough to overcome.  There is a lot to be said for family, friends, music, physical activity, reading, meditation and volunteer work.   For me, keeping busy is my safety.  I find it important, though, to have a balance.  Sometimes that nap is important.  Not to take time for myself, every day, would lead to fatigue, mental and physical.  This would be an invitation for the wolf to return.

I feed the "Good Wolf".

Helping Someone With Cancer

  That very first day, in the Doctors office, I didn't need a trained eye to see the lung cancer on the x-ray.  That same night, when Jim and Lisa came over, I showed them the tumor, on the x-ray,  and how I had to get rid of this golf ball in my lung. 

   Not everyone reacts to cancer, the way I did, and not all friends come rushing over to show their support.  Many people are unsure about visiting someone who has cancer--it can be scary if you don't know what to expect.  But people with cancer need to know that you are there for them, so try not to shut them out.  Spending time with them can boost their spirits and make them feel part of life.  I am thankful for so many friends.

  The Canadian Cancer Society has some wonderful tips that will help. 

   1..Let the person with cancer be the leader.  Just listen to what they are saying, and do not offer advice unless you're asked to. 

   2..Respect their wishes.  Every person has their own feelings about their disease.  Some don't want to talk about it.  Others may, but not always.

   3..Set aside quality time when you won't be distracted.  Turn of cell phones and pagers.  Focus on the person you are visiting.

   4..Try to relate in the same way you did when they were in good health.  Your visit will give pleasure when you let them know that you still care.  When you can't come up with the words, a hug, a touch or a look filled with love can say it all.

    5..Ask "What are you feeling?" rather than "How are you feeling?"  Don't say, "I can imagine how you must feel' or "I know how you feel" to a person with cancer--because unless you've been there, you can't.

    6..Don't feel that you have to say something all the time.  Silence can help people pull their thoughts together.

    7..It's normal for people with cancer to be quieter than usual, to need time alone and to seem angry at times.

    8..Try to keep your eyes on the person you are talking to.  Touching and smiling show someone that they still mean as much to you.

    9..Don't be afraid to tell a joke and laugh---it may help the person with cancer get their mind off their illness.  It's OK to laugh and enjoy life, even when ill.

   10..Stay in touch as time passes.  Regular contact, in any form, can mean a lot.

  Having help with some practical, or everyday parts of life, can allow them to concentrate on other things, such as treatment or getting some rest.  Words like "When can I" rather than "What can I" make it easier for the person or their family to accept your help.  Other practical assistance like cutting grass, shovelling snow, bringing over some ready-made meals, taking the kids for an afternoon are all wonderful gestures.  But, most important, follow through on whatever it is you offer.  It's even better if you do it more than once.

  Our Canadian Cancer Society is only a phone call away.  They are experienced, caring people.  Supportive Care, at the Cancer Center , has a multitude of services, and very caring professionals, that are set up to make our journey through cancer so much easier.  Seek them out, they are waiting for your call. 

New Perspective?

  A young friend asked me;  "If you could turn back the hands of time and was given a choice of going through the cancer and all the things that came with it, versus not going through it, which would you choose?"   My choice, believe it or not, was cancer.  I couldn't believe how quick I made such a choice.  I guess I felt it had changed my life, so much for the better, to be the reason.

  I can still remember the paralyzing fear I felt when I was told that cancer had invaded my body.  But nobody told me that it would, forever, invade my whole being.  Although one of the first thoughts that flashed through my mind was "am I going to die?", I remember being more worried about everyone else, especially my grandchildren.  There were thoughts of what was left unfinished in my life, about needing a definite shift in priorities and that my life would never be the same.  It was the 18th of November and there was some light snow falling.  I remember standing alone, in my yard, and how those snowflakes took on a whole new beauty and how I was really looking at each one, and yes, as if seeing each one for the first time. 

  That was one of a few special moments, that day, that I made a decision I was going to live.  I was going to deal with cancer in an "Active" manner.  I was going to do something else to compliment the medical journey I was about to begin.  A book, "The Healing Journey" by Alastair Cunningham, showed me that when I am feeling optimistic & hopeful, my body gets in a very different state than if I were feeling pessimistic & hopeless.  That feeling would be a reflection of different chemistry.  This chemistry would have an affect on my immune system and on many other factors that can affect the cancer.

  I have learned so much, and come so far, I have a continuous longing for more.  And ya know, I'm really doing OK.   Oh, every now and then, that paralyzing fear crops up(the Evil Wolf), especially prior to my checkups.  I may not have any control of it's return, but it's what I do with it that is important to my mental well-being.  I won't listen to anything/anyone that  would undermine my sense of hope for a long life.  Besides, I don't want to know how long I'm going to live anyway.  Although I plan for tomorrow, I  concentrate on living my life today.

  One of the nicest things said to me was last fall on a hiking trip with a friend of mine, Mike.   He doesn't even know how appreciative I was of his statement.  We had been talking about endurance, staying fit, etc., when he said,  "Oh ya, I keep forgetting that you had cancer.".   I've become more conscious of  the little things and thankful for them.     

  Now, when I rise in the morning I give thanks, to God, for the morning light.  I give thanks for my life and my strength.  I give thanks for my health, my family and friends and thanks for the joy of living.  And if perchance I see no reason for giving thanks, I can rest assured the fault is in myself. 

Inukshuk

   It was three weeks after I had my right lung removed, from cancer, and I wasn't too optimistic about a future with only the one lung.  I had visions of spending my life in front of the TV/Computer, not being able to go outside in the winter, and overall, with very limited abilities.  What can I do with one lung, when climbing just a few steps rendered me breathless.  Nobody could tell me what I could, or couldn't, do.  Although, one un-informed home-care nurse scared the be-jeepers outta me when she insisted I not go outside in the winter and, if I did, to be sure I wore a mask to protect my lung from the frigid air. 

  When I found cancer, I was in the best shape of my life and accustomed to walking 5 miles a day.  So, the experience of not being able to climb a few steps, without being winded, weighted heavy on my hopes for a normal life.  Friends told me that I could live a long life with one lung, but they couldn't tell me the manner in which I was going to live it.  The Canadian Cancer Society connected me with another cancer survivor, that had similar surgery, and he was an inspiration.  He was 70 years old and played tennis.  Well, I figured if he could do it, I could too.  I would start with walking to the garage, 250 ft., and back.

 I remember those bygone days of dressing our 2 year old children, to play outside, on a cold winter day.  They had their snow suit, touque, scarf, mittens.  They were dressed so heavily.  They stood there with their arms out, just their eyes/nose visible with this look of, "Ok what do I do now?".  They could barely move.  Now picture an adult dressed in a similar fashion,  throw in a face mask, and our house had its very own Inukshuk standing in the yard.  Only my eyes were visible.  To say I was anxious would be an understatement.  A lot of notions entered my head.  "What if I can't breathe in the cold?  What if I need to go on oxygen?   It was sunny, but a minus 20 degrees.  I walked it.  The next day, when I reached the garage, I removed the mask and walked back, paying special attention to how my lung reacted to the cold.  The next day, I included the distance to the road.  The next day, to the neighbors.  On colder, cloudy, days I walked the Hanmer mall.  The merchants, and friends,  were my support gallery.  Within two weeks I had walked a mile, when I was told it would take six months to do it.  I realized it was "all" up to me.

  After chemotherapy, I was referred to Pulmonary Rehab and then a Lung specialist.  Neither of these wonderful people mentioned anything about what I "couldn't" do.  They simply showed me the way to increase the capacity of the remaining lung, and what inhalers were best for me, and how to use them.  The rest was up to me.  I had, slowly, increased my walking, the breathing techniques, and commenced upper body conditioning to build my stamina.  From those days to now, I find the less I do--the less I "can" do.  In-other-words, if I do no physical activity today, my stamina will be less tomorrow.

There are days that are just a bummer that have no reasons why.  On those days, as I lay on the couch, I can really plan the physical activities I am going to do "tomorrow".  I know that nobody can do it, but me.  Nobody is going to take me by the hand or be responsible for my health.  I am responsible for my own well being.  It has got to be me that drags my sorry butt off that couch and get active.  On those real bummer days, it feels like I'm carrying the world on my shoulders.  There are days, though, that I just don't feel like doing anything.  A time out is ok, once in awhile, but not as a continuous practice.  I am careful to stay out of that rut, of staying inside.  Walking is my meditation, my quiet time.  Although I have walked, as much as, 20 K's I walk 6 K's on most days.  I'm doing some occasional snowshoeing, and during the no-snow season I love moderate hiking.  I have achieved more stamina than some men, who have both lungs.   There are some sayings that I have learned, throughout my life, but the one that carries the most substance for me is: 

My Spirituality

   I wrote, in my original story, I was not a religious person but I was spiritual and I believed in nature.  I was raised to believe God, as punishing and not someone that could be a friend.   During my younger years I became very disenchanted with the church and its teachings and I walked away, hating everything about it, with a chip on my shoulder.   As I matured I developed my own relationship with God, without the church. 

  During my life, I sometimes wondered if I would panic, when near death, and go running to a church/priest, doubting this relationship I had developed with Him.  But, I always had questions about why he allowed wars, children to die and why a wonderful aunt spent her life in a wheelchair.  The age old answer, that he works in mysterious ways, just didn't cut it for me.  These questions created holes in our relationship, but I felt he would answer me when he was ready.  After all he was, now, my friend and I had come to trust him as forgiving, not punishing.  But church was ingrained deep within me so I started attending, periodically, with a lot of uncertainty and no trust. 

  Then I get those paralyzing words, "You have a 5 cm. mass on your right lung".   Cancer!!!  Well, it did not change my feelings about the church and the religious teachings I had hated.  I felt "comfortable" with my present relationship and simply said, "I may need a little help with this one, Bud."  He gave me a guardian angel to help me through.  Her name was Maria.  Cancer had taken her, just two years earlier, and she assured me all would be well.  Through Maria, I felt he was with me and that I would get the answers to those lingering questions of Why?.  Along comes the book, "When Bad Things Happen To Good People" and I got my answers.   

    I especially liked what it said;  "Could it be that God does not cause the bad things that happen to us?  Could it be that He doesn't decide which families shall give birth to a handicapped child, that He did not single out Ron to be crippled by a bullet or Helen by a degenerative disease, rather that He stands ready to help them and us to cope with our tragedies if we could only get beyond the feelings of guilt and anger that separate us from Him?  Could it be that "How could God do this to me?" is really the wrong question for us  to ask?   We can be sustained and comforted by the knowledge that the earthquake and the accident, like murder and the robbery, are not the will of God, but represent that aspect of reality which stands independent of his will, and which angers and saddens God even as it angers and saddens us.  I'd like to believe that God gives strength and courage to those who, unfairly and through no fault of their own, suffer pain and the fear of death.  I don't know why people are mortal and fated to die, and I don't know why people die at the time and in the way they do.  Perhaps we could try to understand it by picturing  what the world would be like if people lived forever.   

Why, then, do bad things happen to good people?  One reason is that our being human leaves us free to hurt each other, and God can't stop us without taking away the freedom that makes us human.  Human beings can cheat each other, rob each other, hurt each other, and God can only look down in pity and compassion at how little we have learned over the ages about how human beings should behave."

Although my relationship with God is not dependent on others, I attend church because there is a certain special strength that comes with being part of a functioning and harmonious community.  Above all, I've read, it gives it the substance and effectiveness that only a community can muster.  I guess it originates from that basic tribal need that recognizes religion as a whole, to function better as a group effort.   

These words from a song, sum it up for me;  While you're on earth you should shine like a star, brighten up the corner wherever you are.  Doing each day, the best you can do, so when you get to heaven they'll never hand you a rusty old halo, skinny white clouds, second hand wings full of patches and a robe so wooly that it scratches. 

I'm comfortable.

Amber Alert

  AMBER ALERT, call 911 operator...2 kids.  The words screamed down off the Electronic Messaging Board, just a few days ago.  I wrote the license plate number and watched for the suspicious vehicle.  It was an all Ontario alert.  I worried for the children.  A local radio station broadcast the reason for the alert.   Theodore, a 36 year old cancer-stricken father with only days to live, drove away from a domestic dispute with his two boys after assaulting his estranged wife.  Leukemia was robbing Terry of his life so I could relate to his desperation of spending his last days with the children he loved.  I can only assume the, alleged, assault came after the mothers concern for their safety, in the truck, to not grant him his dying wish.  So he drove away with Jacob,7 and Harrison, 5.

  The radio described Terry as only 100 pounds, covered in red spots, spitting up blood and with a large cut on his head.  When hearing the circumstances, I didn't feel as worried about the kids, anymore.  I felt he would not hurt them.  He just wanted to say goodbye, in his own way.  I agonized over his leaving the boys, as the cancer drained his last days.  I understood his need, his frustration, his anger at the disease, his impatience with the system and the, possible, disappointment in a  Health System that failed him.   I could not help raising the question, "Why, in such a young man, did the cancer reach a stage that did not enable it to be stopped and then force him to take these desperate measures?"

 The next day, the Sun carried a short story about the incident and the boys being found safe.  There was nothing about Theodore, or his condition.  A few more pages over, there was another story about a 52 year old fellow receiving a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.  He believed the disease might well have been spotted much earlier with better screening procedures.  This article went on to say, "that cancer screening is not reaching its full potential and more research is needed to identify effective screening tests for prostate, lung and ovarian cancers."  My experience shows our present system, is a "wait for symptoms" style.  This experience has shown me that when blood is evident,  you can rest assured you will have a harder battle ahead of you than had you detected cancer, in its early stages. 

  My cancer, with no symptoms, was growing undetected.   I requested a chest x-ray after a, clean, yearly medical because I was an ex-smoker.  That decision saved my life.   So when I see headlines about our having solid scientific evidence that screening through an organized program can reduce cancer deaths, I can tell you "I am proof of that statement".  Screening will save lives.  You remember that old slogan?  "Fight cancer with a checkup and a check".  Well the old hand is still out for the check, but we must wait for symptoms before getting a checkup?    Although our doctors/nurses are doing their best,  our health system needs to develop the, long awaited, screening system.  I have full confidence in our health system to find the way.

 What happened to Theodore?   Would early screening have detected his leukemia in it's early stages?  I think so.   I worry about him and wonder how he will spend his last days.   I checked the Sun for 2 more days...nothing.  His story is finished, he is not a news item anymore, his days numbered.  That alert day, there were thousands of truckers focused on finding his pickup truck.  I am sure that when most heard the circumstances, their worry lessened.  So Theodore, your last desperate act will be remembered by this cancer survivor.  You will be in my thoughts until they, like you, will fade.

God Bless You.

Relay For Life (A survivors view)

They asked for a "before" and "after" article on the Relay?  Hows this???  Have you ever been to one?   

  My very first Relay For Life.  An event I can only relate to the stories, from other survivors, of its impact on them.  Its main drive is to raise money for cancer research, and although my team  will be collecting pledges to do our part I can't help thinking there is a special something awaiting me.

Cancer has robbed me of friends and family.  It changed me.  It made me realize how fragile today is and leaves no promise of tomorrows.  There is power in numbers, there is power in prayer and there is a "special power" I have come to know.  The power that can only come from someone who's been there, and back.  The support from a "Cancer Buddy".

We can live as many, but we will fight as one.  I can't help thinking there is going to be a feeling, of power, of comradery, like I have never known before.  I feel those who have lost their lives, to cancer, will be there to form a protective bubble around us, like I want to form this same bubble around my family, my friends.

The first lap is a "survivors lap", being led by the bagpipes.  That ceremonial instrument tearing at the heartstrings will open the gates to a lot of emotions that I have, possibly, overlooked or held at bay.  Brenda tells me of her first survivors lap.  She wasn't sure if she could walk it until her 7 yr. old grandson stepped out on the track and offered her his hand.  He said he knew she had to walk.  The rest of the lap was very emotional.  Will I be able to handle such highly charged emotion without coming apart?  I don't know, maybe I need it.

The "Luminary Ceremony" is the one where you buy/light a candle in honor of those who died from cancer or in support of those who survived.  It is said to be the most powerful, the most moving, the most solemn dimension of the whole event.  As we stand together, during the ceremony, we remember those who were taken from us.  Many tears will be shed, songs sung, prayers uttered.  However, I think the most important concept is for my cancer buddies and I to be powerful reminders that cancer can be beaten.

The rest of the evening will be fun for everyone.  A time to meet old friends, make new ones and have a lot of fun, stay up all night and walk for a cure for cancer.  Lots of food, lots of entertainment.  What better way to spend a Friday night. 

The solemn moments are a part of the event and I look forward to them, in spite of their possible effects causing me a heavy heart.  I'm not sure how I will make it through these emotional moments, but I know I will not be alone.  There will be many experiencing the pain of loss.  There are times I feel guilty that I'm alive when someone so wonderful has died.  No matter what the emotion, standing together can be an important part of the healing process.  I will write of my experience.  If we meet, say hello.  It's important.

June 2nd., Come out and walk with us.  Come feel the support of those who can't be there.  Feel the support of family and friends and, above all, we will feel the support, the power, of  Cancer Buddies.

Stay On Track

My Relay for Life

   I wrote  that I was a bit apprehensive, that I couldn't help thinking there was a special something awaiting me.  I was never so right about anything being so special, in my life. 

    I love my family, but as I walked through those gates I felt the power of an extended family.  These were people, I felt, I could trust.  That was proven a short while later.  While walking around and showing off my grandchildren, my 5 yr. old grandson disappeared.  One second he was behind me, then "poof" he was gone.  At first, I panicked.  Then a feeling of peace came over me, that I need not worry, this crowd is my family.  I was worried more for him being scared.  In no time at all(actually an eternity) three nice ladies were keeping his attention so he wasn't too frightened.

   The "Survivors Lap" can only be described as "wonderfully spiritual".  The Pipe Band leading the walk raised the hair on my arms and with my immediate family at my side, and my extended family all around me I felt so wonderfully, wonderfully Safe.  The atmosphere had it's own attitude.  To a lady survivor, with one leg and on crutches, I jokingly said, "Can I race with you?"  She answered, "As long as you can keep up."  Archie, who just finished chemotherapy, came for part of the evening.  Robin, still taking chemo & radiation, also walked for a while.  Now those are winning attitudes.  Others stood around the track and continually applauded as we walked.  Comments like, "Thank you for surviving", "I'm proud of you", "I'm so glad you're here" were repeated often.  Then the balloons were released and we sent cancer flying far away from this night.

   The "Luminary Ceremony" was the most powerful, the most moving, and the most solemn experience of the evening.  Amazing Grace was performed and I remembered(with a prayer) all my friends that were taken by cancer.  Ahh, but, it was the moment of silence for those who died that got me.   Those 7500 candles , that burned all night, that gave the event an angelic aura caused my tears to flow.  I was standing midfield beside two teenage girls.  Their cry was ever so soft.  They held each other.  It wasn't important for whom they grieved.  Maybe it was a healing moment, for when it was over they recovered quickly and were bubbly again. 

    My 8 yr. old grand-daughter,  had been scared by my cancer and she has been slowly reconnecting to me, emotionally.  I guess it was her way of protecting herself.  A wonderful feeling was experienced relay night.  I cannot put a finger on it, can't explain it or draw a picture of it.  She looked me in the eye more, she held my hand tighter.  Her whole attitude, towards me, was lovingly.  When they got tired and Mommy had to take them home, she cried because she wanted to stay all night.  Before she left, she looked me in the eye, right down to my soul and said, "I love you Poppy."   There is "nothing" on this earth that is more special than that.  Next year, please God, I hope to have all my family present and make it a tradition.

   Yes, my evening with my "Cancer Buddies" was special and will be a unforgettable experience that will certainly be a yearly event.  But as I looked around I couldn't help notice the other special people that made the event such a success.  The volunteers were, absolutely, everywhere.  Without you I would not have had this wonderful experience.  You and the great sponsors that supported this event, organized it and achieved a perfect emotional journey for me and my Cancer Buddies.  To you, I say, Thank You.  You are so very special.

Cancer can't steal dreams

     My friend, and I, were climbing a 400 meter mountain and were on the last leg of a hike I had been dreaming of, for years.  Another Km and we were finished.  I was resting, again, and when I looked up he was holding his hiking staff out to me.  He said, "Grab on, I'll help pull you up".   I said, "Don't even think about it, don't embarrass me."      We were in beautiful Newfoundland and at the end of a grueling 21KM hike, where we had to be part mountain goat.  At one steep part of the mountain, the weight of my backpack was pulling me backwards.  Only my hiking staff saved me from having a, really mean,  tumble.

  Because friends care they, sometimes, tend to put me in a box that has parameters.   I've had cancer, chemotherapy and all the other stuff that comes with it and having one lung removed, there are things I should, or shouldn't, be doing.    Eighteen years ago when I knew alcohol was taking control, I quit drinking.  10 years ago when I felt nicotine was in control, I quit smoking.(Although, it took many quits til I got it right.)  Cancer was not going to control me either, or dictate how I lived. 

  Now, my Newfy buddy was also concerned because he had done that same hike 25 yrs. ago and he told me to stay off that mountain.   "Kevin bye,  with only one lung, you should turn back at 9 Km", he said.  Had my friend Mike & I listened to Gerald and turned back at that 9 km. ocean side rest station, the hike would have remained a "2" rating (with a 4 rating being "extreme").    What we didn't see, on the hiking guide, was beyond that point the rating went up to a "3"(Moderate to Extreme).  Twice we, mistakenly, followed sheep trails that lead us to an abrupt end at a steep drop to the ocean.    These two boo-boos added an extra 5 kms. to the torture we were heading into.  Only a few days later, we learned about another hiker falling to his death on the rocks below.

  Torture?  Yes!  You see some of these climbs were 400 meters high and, many times, the trail took us straight up.  My heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest.  My lung felt as if it was going to tear from its moorings.  These climbs were so steep I could only do 20 meters, then I'd have to stop to let my heart & lung slow down.  Also, the ocean air was heavier than my lung was accustomed to.  Turning back did flash through my mind though, but I knew I would regret that decision for the rest of my life. 

  Every once-in-a-while we would give each other this "puzzled" look that said "why did we not turn back as we were told, how much more can we endure, when will it end?"  But, it was during these times that I realized how lucky I was to be out there.  In some peculiar way, I was glad we continued and was going through this torture.  I was hiking for those who could not be out there.   I did think of my cancer-buddies that did not make it, but were with me in spirit.  Every ocean-side view was spectacular.  The memory of such beauty will remain in my heart forever.   As we neared the end, 8 hrs. later, my legs were like rubber and I felt every joint ready to give up.  I have never felt so tired and yet, so proud.  Cancer was far behind me.  It did not control or take away my dream, I did not allow it.  Hiking Gros Morne   National Park was a dream, a goal....I did it.   With "one" lung, I did it.  Nothing can match that feeling of accomplishment.  Cancer will never take that feeling away.

  As I wrote some of this article, it was 7:30 AM and I sat on my friends deck overlooking the bay, hot cup of coffee and a sincere appreciation for the joy of living and the benefit of a good nights rest.  But there was another feeling of appreciation; for friends that care enough to want me to stay off a mountain and for those who would offer their hiking staff to help me up that mountain.  Later, the next day,  we hiked other trails.   But let me tell you, we took a closer look at those hiking guides. 

  We need to remember;  Cancer cannot cripple love, shatter hope, corrode faith or destroy peace.  It can't kill friendships, suppress memories, invade the soul and it can't steal eternal life.  I didn't allow it to steal my dream either.  Don't allow it to steal yours.

The Black Horse

   My buddy, Percy,  was only 53 when he died.  His heart stopped and he was dead before hitting the ground.  He had been feeling so good that he stopped taking his medication, continued to smoke, and worked way too hard for someone with a heart condition.  Ten years later I still miss his contagious smile and, sometimes, I  resent his not taking proper care of himself so we could grow old, as buddies.

  Why is it when we are threatened by a critical illness we do all that's necessary to enhance our wellbeing?  But when some of us get back to feeling good again we tend to drift away from all those precautions that were so beneficial getting us through our illness.  When a person stops taking a necessary medication, stops a beneficial exercise or complimentary medicine, or continues to smoke is no different than taking a gun to our head.  The matter of  "when I'll die" is fast forwarded.

  I had stopped my daily meditation/relaxation ritual, only took my native cleansing recipe occasionally and had slacked off my walking and gained weight.  But I got lucky.  I got reminded of their importance when I experienced how cancer may feel if it came back in my brain.  Although it was caused by the side affects from a new medication, the fear of dying, though for a short time,  was no less frightening. 

   You need only ask any heart/cancer survivor how a new pain can set off a rush of, "Oh oh, it's back" type of thinking.  I found this tremendous demonstration of how indirect negative imagery can subvert the entire healing process.  A doctor asked a group of participants to close their eyes and meditate on anything they wanted other than a black horse.

  Close your eyes and try it for a minute.  Anything...but a black horse.  Find it hard?  Now close your eyes and meditate on a red rose.

  He explains that the black horse represents not dying.  When our efforts to heal are focused on the fear of death, when you are trying to keep death from happening, paradoxically we focus intently on it.  So, when imagery techniques or any technique is done to prevent death, we indirectly create ongoing images of black horses.  The red rose, on the other hand, represents a focus on life.  When we use imagery or any other technique to live life with more creativity, joy, and love, we automatically enhance indirect healing imagery.  It may be that a black horse will gallop through our rose field from time to time, but it isn't our major preoccupation.  We are not hypnotized by it.

  I need to remember the rose did not get beautiful by simply being a rose.  It was nurtured with the right amount of sun/rain.  Then it was pruned, fertilized and examined daily for pests that could destroy it.  So, it stands to reason that because there are long life genes in my family doesn't mean I, automatically, get to live them. 

  Between the period of finding cancer and my first chemotherapy session, I experienced a connectedness of mind, body and spirit.  I haven't experienced it since.   Nurturing my spirit is the real source of healing & strengthening my body through proper exercise & healthy eating habits, is something I am capable of doing... daily.   

A Bullet

   As I write, my heart is heavy.  I have often said that life can change in the blink of an eye and I have written how cancer changed mine in so many ways.  I have also written about the grief that parents experience when children are taken from them.  How when it happens to a friend, the hurt is too close to home.  I know a lot of us have, or know of, young people who are caught up in the troubles of our world and are in some other part of this same world doing their part for Canada .  Last year was the Year of The Veteran and it looks like we will continue to make new Vets.  Their commander, at that time, reminded us that our young people were not toy soldiers.  They would bleed and some would die.  He was never so right, unfortunately.

  Chris's, 24 yr. old soldier, life got changed with a bullet that severed his spine.  I spoke with his Dad the night it happened.  They didn't know much, only that he had been paralyzed from the neck down and was on a respirator.  They, along with Chris' pregnant wife, awaited an available flight to Germany .  The "not knowing", ground at their emotions like being continuously hit on the head with a hammer.  I could only offer them my thoughts and my prayers that he would survive it and come home.

  Recently I attended the Glengarry Highland Games again and watched our young soldiers compete/perform for our entertainment.  The highlight for me is the massed piper bands and last year I remember visualizing soldiers, of past wars, marching away into the sunset.  I whispered a "Thank You" to them for their sacrifice.  These massed bands play themselves out of the arena, in waves.  Exiting the center area, they crest a small hill.  As they piped themselves over this hill, and the sun showing its last beautiful rays of the day on their backs, I couldn't help but visualize our present,younger, soldiers.  I prayed for Chris, and those who have died, and the sadness I felt was so overwhelming that I had to hang my head to hide my tears.  I remember some words from a poem to our veterans.  "There's debt we all owe.  For the price they have paid.  The risks that they made.  Are greater than any may say."  It was at this time I felt I would follow the bagpipes through the fires of hell to protect our freedom.  But, I won't get that chance.  So young men & women, like Chris, must do it for me.

  Chris could only speak if somebody placed a finger over his breathing tube.  When his Dad did this, Chris whispered, "I'm proud to be a Canadian".  My eyes get misty every time I think of his effort to speak and to say such profound words.  "I'm proud to be a Canadian".   He is a bigger/braver man than I can ever hope to be.

  I am a strong advocate of the power of the mind to heal and what can be accomplished with positive thinking.  Chris is home, in Hamilton , in a rehabilitation center.  He is quadriplegic.  I'm sure he knows that starting all over again is going to be rough and some mighty hard times lay ahead.  I'm also sure he knows that he can make it, because he has actually picked up a water bottle.  That's progress.  One limb at a time, One Hour at a time or One Day at a time.  Whatever works.  You will be in my thoughts.  You will be in my prayers.  Our young men/women make "Me" proud to be a Canadian.

All this sure gives new meaning to the words, "We stand on guard for thee". 

Bittersweet Christmas

 Christmas, as an adult, has always been a sad time for me and I've never understood why.  Of course, Christmas will never be like those of my childhood.  Thankfully it has always been the children, on Christmas morning, that lifted my spirits and I was able to enjoy those who were with me. 

This Christmas will be bittersweet because some very special Cancer Buddies didn't survive their battle with cancer and I will miss them.  I  worried that a piece of me died with each of them.  A friend reminded me that maybe a little piece of each Cancer Buddy has remained as a part of me, and I like that.  

 I have heard people say that Christmas is not the same, that it's too commercialized, or that we have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas!    I don't think Christmas is any different today than it was so many years ago.....for the children.  For my true meaning of Christmas, I only need to look in the eyes of a child to see the excitement, that special something, I seem to be missing.  Some of my Christmas family, of long ago, are gone.  That part will never be the same.

Many of us will have our first Christmas without a loved one, taken by cancer or another critical illness.   We'll only have the memories of Christmas past and know that the rest will never be the same without that special person.  I can only hope that "all" children, today, are experiencing and building wonderful Christmas Memories.   I would like to share a poem written by a 13 year old boy who had battled a brain tumor for four years.  He died on December 14, 1997 and gave this poem to his mother.

I see the countless Christmas trees around the world below with tiny lights, like Heaven's stars, reflecting on the snow.

The sight is so spectacular, please wipe away the tear for I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear but the sounds of music can't compare with the Christmas choir up here.

I have no words to tell you, the joy their voices bring, For it is beyond description, to hear the angels sing.

I know how much you miss me, I see the pain inside your heart.  But I am not so far away, We really aren't apart.

So be happy for me, dear ones,  You know I hold you dear.  And be glad I'm spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

I sent you each a special gift, from my heavenly home above.  I sent you each a memory of my undying love.

After all, love is a gift more precious than pure gold.  It was always most important in the stories Jesus told.

Please love and keep each other, as my father said to do.  For I can't count the blessing or love he has for each of you.

So have a Merry Christmas and wipe away that tear.  Remember, I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

In Honor of my Cancer Buddies and "your" special person that will not be with you this Christmas;  Our thoughts and prayers will be with them.  Those Buddies will always remain a part of me.  To you, I say "Merry Christmas Memories" because that is what they are; "special and unique."

Life Affirming People 

   I drive truck(18 wheeler) and was homebound out of Fort Erie .  I had been fighting a snowstorm for over an hour.  It was one of those storms that drops your speed to a crawl because your visibility is barely beyond the windshield wipers and the headlights reflecting off the snow squalls are hypnotizing.  I pulled into my fueling stop, and barely overheard another trucker(on the CB radio) relating how the storm gets too bad and it stretches well beyond Sudbury .   I couldn't handle it for another 3 hours and thought, maybe, I should just get into the sleeper and call it a night, but I wasn't tired enough to sleep.  Then I thought I may have heard him wrong, or he was a young driver and/or a worry-wart.  I decided to chance it and when I pulled back onto the highway, I knew I had made a mistake.  The whole world disappeared in a blinding sheet of white.  I couldn't just turn around, so I thought I would try and get to the next town and park it for the night.

  The CB radio was quiet and it felt like I was out there alone.  I asked the next two, southbound, truckers of what I could expect and was told the storm only lasts for another hour and it was clear highway from there.  They told me to take it slow and I would make it, so I continued.  It wasn't until a while later I realized I was  enjoying the storm and was quite comfortable being out in it.  I  wondered why, in such horrible weather, I felt good about my surroundings.  Then I realized it was because, just up ahead, I knew it was going to end and I would be back on clear highway again.   I couldn't help think of my journey through cancer.  As long as I remembered it was going to get better, the struggle to get through was so much easier. 

  All during my journey through cancer, life affirming people were most important to me.  My faith in my power to heal and those type of people that encouraged me,  gave me the hope to get through surgery and the chemotherapy.  Like those two truck drivers who gave me the encouragement to carry on and arrive safely.  I have learned, through life, that as long as I believed in myself and my ability to carry on, I could handle whatever life decided to throw at me.  It is only through reflection I realize there were times I thought I was alone, lost faith in myself and endured a cloud of sadness that was only dissipated by someone who cared enough to encourage me.  I learned to ignore, and not talk to, those who would tell me of someone who passed away with my type of cancer.  Like I ignored the worry-wart trucker and listened to the more experienced, encouraging drivers to make it safely.   

My battle with cancer  had some rough times, but not so rough I couldn't handle it.  My cancer buddy, Bob, almost spent this Christmas in a hospital bed with his cancer, and was so sick at times he could have had two nurses in bed with him.  He understood my story about the snowstorm and had a similar attitude towards his own journey.  That attitude enabled him to go home on the 23rd.

There is nothing so precious as Faith in the power to heal.   Nothing so comforting as the trust in those medical angels that care for us.  But, most of all, there is nothing so compelling as Hope.  And Hope begins with "You"

Volunteers     

     When I was diagnosed with cancer, I was in the process of repairing my station  wagon to be mechanically fit so I could become a volunteer driver with the Canadian Cancer Society.  I had some friends that were volunteering, as drivers, and seemed all-the-better for it.  They spoke of having a common desire to make a difference in our community & in their own life, by giving of their time & expertise.

    In spite of my shocking news I, for some reason, thought my priority was to complete the repairs on the car.  It was standing beside that car, I made a decision to live.  I spoke out loud and told the car it could wait.  I must take care of myself first, get better, then I would complete the repairs and continue with my plans to drive as a volunteer. 

    I remember a nurse, while I was on the operating table, talking with me.  I remember her eyes.  Those eyes were so full of compassion and I have never forgotten them.  I wish I could meet her some day.  I told her about my wanting to be a volunteer driver and that "The Big Guy" figured I would better relate, if I experienced cancer.  Her eyes smiled, over the surgical mask, and I knew there could be nothing like the feeling of doing something good for others.  I would survive & I would drive.

   Well, I did become a Volunteer driver.  It's been 2 years now and I feel privileged to be a very small part of what is done to help cancer patients & their families.   I do it, mostly, because it makes me feel good.

  The good news is the cancer survival rate has increased significantly.  However, not every family has the means of getting to all the different treatments they need to battle their cancer.  Dealing with cancer is very stressful.  Not having a means to get to your treatments can add to that stress.

  The bad news is the shortage of volunteer drivers to help these families.  Our Canadian Cancer Society is requesting drivers, they need our help.  They need us to give of our time to help others.  Volunteers enhance the quality of life of people living with cancer.  I understand what a cancer patient is going through because I've been there.  

  Did you know everyone has cancer fighting powers??   I've heard, recently, that when you give of your time it releases special chemicals within the brain that makes a person feel good.(I can verify that).  However, it further tells us that these chemicals help us to live longer.  Go figure!  By giving of your time, you are rewarded with more of it.

  The Canadian Cancer Society needs you to help our neighbors living with cancer, by being a Volunteer Driver.   Living longer, because of it, is a bonus.   It doesn't matter if you can only drive once a week, your time is needed.   Call them today; 670-1234. 

Comfort 

  Mrs. K sat in her hospital bed with her angel white hair and a smile that has touched and enriched the lives of many.  I'm 93 yrs. old, she said, my lover has gone on without me and I can't dance.  They tell me I have cancer in my lungs.  I don't want any surgery.  I'm ready to join him now  because I know he's waiting to dance again.  Now Kevin, I know you don't agree with someone who wants to leave this earth, but I've lived my life.  I have no regrets, she said.  We talked then, about life, about its ups & downs and about her decision to go on and leave us behind.  The most profound words that stand out from our morning together was , "We only fail when we stop trying".  Words her grandson knows quite well as he recovers, in another hospital across the city, from an Afghan bullet that almost took his life.  Her grit is evident in his positive attitude towards living life to its fullest.

  A world away, my own mother, lays in her hospital bed weak from an undetermined illness.  She had lost an enormous amount of weight, looks and feels horrible.  Tests were being performed and family thought the worst.  Biopsies were performed and cancer was strongly suspected.   When these things happen, I'm reminded of my own mortality and I'm sad because I'm not close enough to run over and be there for her.  She has had her own profound moments and the words that stand out most in my memory are; "If I could live my life over, I wouldn't change a thing".  This being said by a women that raised 12 children in post war years is monumental. 

  When I visit our Cancer Centre I'm reminded, each time, how cancer can change lives.  I look at those experiencing their journey and can't help wonder how they are handling it.  Are they taking it as a "bump in the road", or "a mountain that can't be climbed".  Those that walk with their head held low, I want to take by the hand, and show them the way.  Show them how important attitude is for their future well being.  How "taking it one day at a time" makes it so much easier to get over the "bump".  How important it is to stick with the winners, to choose life and not get too comfortable.

I think it wise to accept the fact that as I get older there are some things I need do in moderation.  I'm comfortable with that, but what I refuse to do is use age, or cancer, as a reason for not trying something.  Like Mrs. K says, I only fail when I stop trying.  When, in my 90's, my body starts to give out on me I'll know when it is time to stop dancing.   I want to look back and not want to change a thing. 

 I've read that so many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a person than a secure future.  The very basic core of a living spirit is a passion for adventure.  The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.  

 I need to continue doing what makes me happy, what continues to stimulate me.  It is when I am challenged, and happy, that creates positive results and then affects those around me.  I don't want to live in a box nor have the threat of a past illness dictate what I should, or shouldn't, be doing.  I will never fail to try new things and especially, I don't ever want to get too comfortable.

Mothers Day

 The Roots of Character;   Those who preserve their integrity remain unshaken by the storms of daily life.  They do not stir like leaves on a tree or follow the herd where it runs.  In their mind remains the ideal attitude & conduct of living.  This is not something given to them by others.  It is their roots.....it is a strength that exists deep within them. 

  The best feeling in this world is family.  From it we draw love, friendship, moral support, and the fulfillment of all our special needs.

    No parent can be more proud of his children than I, of mine.  Their accomplishments are the type a father uses as bragging material and can carry like a trophy.   More important, I make a point of telling them occasionally.  I learned to do that early in their adulthood because TV, books etc, reminded us to do it.  My generation was lucky like that.

     I developed a positive attitude, the jar is always half full.  A trait that was instrumental in beating cancer.    I say "I Love You" a lot, to my family, because it was a learned trait my wife instilled in me.  Those positive traits of mine came from somewhere, were "planted" somehow.

     Mothers of my "Baby Boomer" generation parented strictly by grit and patterned their ways as they were raised by their own Mothers.  They didn't have all the parenting books, television and radio programs that my generation was so lucky to have.  

    There is a certain pride, on my part, that my Mother raised twelve children without the aid from these books and programs we had to raise our own, and all are doing well for themselves.  Throughout our lives we've had our mountains to climb and will have more, I'm sure.  To further compliment her family, the most profound words I've heard her speak; " If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn't change a thing".    How many of us can say that?

    I left home, early in life, with a grade 10 education and the dreams of youth that only experience could make or break. My time with my Mother was short.  My focus was on leaving home and making my own way.  Another woman entered my life and was to spend more time with me than I had with my own Mother.   She nurtured my roots.  She is still with me today, the Mother of my children.

   Those "sliver haired" ladies deserve recognition for raising children in an era that has been the fastest moving generation of time.  They are, truly, the Golden Girls of the century.  Today, my Mother is in a nursing home weak from an illness.  If I were near enough I would spend the day with her and tell her how much her efforts have meant to my life.  Cards are important to her and she is proud when there are twelve of them on her dresser.

  I would say "Happy Mothers Day Mom and Thanks for the Roots".  To my wife I say "Have a Happy Mothers Day and thanks for strengthening my Roots". 

My Relay

   There are experiences in life that  can never be forgotten.   Never, if you can ever help it, miss seeing the dawning of a new day or a sunset.  Each has its own experience in my memory and each is special.   No matter how many times I see them, I am in awe of their magnificence.  Like the birth of a grandchild or the passing of a friend, each emotion will always share a part of me. 

   The Canadian Cancer Society's  "Relay for Life" experience has become one, that can never be forgotten.  Each year will hold its own special feeling that will be different from the year before.

   The "survivors lap" holds its own significance of the dawning of a new day, the birth of a child, the joy of living.  It is ever so more magnificent because it is shared by so many, as we walk that track, so happy to have the privilege of another day to share with family and friends.  Surviving cancer is the dawning of a new life that takes on a whole new meaning that only survivors can share.  The learning to delight in the simple things.

   The sunset is followed by lighting of the some 8000 candles that surround us for the night.  Each one in honor of, or in memory of, a loved one.  A wonderful, loving feeling allows us to be part of them(through their candle) for this night.   Last year I felt their presence, like angels being with us to share the evening.  To catch us if we fall.  Encouraging us in our dreams.  Inspiring us to be happy.  Holding our hand with a promise to help us through our battle with cancer.

  The "Luminary Ceremony" for our friends who lost their battle to cancer is the most solemn, most powerful, experience of life.  The moment of silence allowed me to reflect and to accept that rotten things happen, that life can be unfair and people I love suffer.  I can't outsmart the pain of losing someone who has become special to me.  My tears will fall, I know,  But they will be strengthening tears because I will feel their presence once again.

  I would be remiss not to mention the reason we walk all night.  All the wonderful things that are being done to fight cancer, and find a cure cost a lot of money.   The Relay for Life is one of our bigger events to help with raising the needed funds.  My team, and I, will walk all night to help raise our share of this money.  My granddaughter, Caitlin, is doing her share by making pretty bracelets/necklaces and selling them.  We hope people, like you, will come out to walk with us on June 1st.  It begins at 6:00 PM .   If you can't, you may call 670-1234 and make a donation to help fight cancer.  

  May you always have an Angel by your side.

Those Low Times

Penny, a cancer buddy of mine, was feeling low and a little on the cranky side.  It just happened, that same day, I was experiencing those exact feelings.  Now, everyone gets these feelings from time to time but because we are cancer survivors, and really able to appreciate the little things in life, we are expected to not get low, or so it seems.  My wife has even asked what happened to my "positive attitude".

   These moods make me feel that life is unbearably serious & very difficult.  I don't know where the low comes from or how they are able to sneak up on me.  But, I know, they tend to make it seem that friends are not friendly, nobody understands my problems, and heartaches come.  My love grows cold and it almost seems that even God has died.   They are simply a "life sucks" period of time.  I've learned over the years that they will pass.  I just need to ride them out.

   Many years ago a friend had hurt me.  I can't remember what it was about, but I do remember during one of those very low times I happened to be in a room that had a picture of the "Last Supper".  I looked up and realized that a great man had been betrayed by a trusted friend.  I accepted my hurt and moved on.

  Years later I read that one day that dynamic preacher, Martin Luther, was despondent and showed it.  Soon he became aware his wife was dressed completely in black...for mourning.  "Why do you wear black?" he asked in amazement.  "For whom do you mourn?"  She replied, "You act as if God were dead."   He realized how silly it all was and changed his attitude.

  I know, of course, life is never as bad as it seems when I'm in these low moods and it is certainly not a good time to be analyzing my life.  I've read to do so would be emotional suicide.  Even the happiest of people, and great ones, tend to get quite low from time to time.  So, why should I be any different.

  I do know that when I am in these low moods, and being a cancer survivor, that negative thinking can run rampant if I allow it.  This is the time I need to stem the flow of negative thoughts before they can gain momentum, that life is a roller coaster with plenty of ups & downs.  Books have taught me that I'll find, in all cases, that if I ignore or dismiss a negative thought that fills my mind, a more peaceful feeling is only a moment away.  I, simply, must remind myself that it is only the thought that is negative, not my life and I feel this way because I am going through a low time.  It is not always easy to get through them, but being simply aware of them is a first step toward happiness again.

  Most of the time my life is, somewhat, balanced.  I'm doing what I love and loving what I do.  But, there are times it gets too hectic and I need to step back and organize myself.  Being so busy, that if I fell I would not have time to get up, is not good.  We win, or lose, by how we interpret and react to  everything that happens.

  So, keep your stick on the ice:

Life is but a Dream

  My High School class had its dreams of success and wondrous aspirations.  Some had to put our dreams aside because, at 18 years old, life got in the way and things got complicated.

 When I look at some of my school pictures, I am saddened for those who did not make it.  Some were gone before they had an opportunity to raise a family and others who were taken when life should have been at its peak of fulfillment.  I can't remember where cancer was, back then, because it wasn't a word I was familiar with.  Death, as I knew it, came in the guise of accidents, alcohol, or just too darn old.  Of course old ,back then, was 40's or so.  Those earlier years and school friends were another life, a world away.  We were scattered across the globe and only a few of us stayed in touch.  

 In reflection, it wasn't until I reached my own 40's that I was attending more funerals than I like to admit and things started happening to my health that gave me reason to start taking better care of myself.  Although a lot of those funerals were from cancer it was, still, not a familiar word in my life.  There were plenty of other health problems to occupy our lives.  But that all changed when close friends were being slowly taken from me, because of cancer.  Then I had my own battle with it, four short years ago.

  I say "short years" because even though I live one day at a time and have more appreciation for each moment, life should feel like it has slowed down.  It has not.   When I take the time to relax and/or meditate I look back to see that it all seems like a dream.  Today, I'm doing what I love and loving what I do.  So, I often take the time to reflect on my life and how lucky I am to be on the green side of the grass.  I say a prayer of gratitude and one for those dear sweet friends I thought would never die.

 I feel so fortunate that I have lived to see my children grow and see what they've become(and I'm so proud of them) and now I'm watching my grandchildren and how I can be an influence in their growing up.

  I have written on grief and the pain of losing a child.  I think there is no greater pain than to watch an adult child be taken slowly by cancer(when they should be at the peak of fulfillment) and stand, helplessly by, as he/she is taken from you. 

  Cancer, I guess,  has always been around in some form or another.  Sort of like our toes.  We don't realize they are there, until someone steps on them.

  For each special friend, I planted a spruce tree on a hill overlooking our pond where my grandchildren swim and play.  I call it "My Friends Hill".  I say hello to them most times as I pass, but some times I'm in a hurry and forget.  I know they understand, that's life.

  Last night I was having my glass of wine, sitting in the swing, with only the sound of the wind through the trees.  It was very peaceful and the words of a song came to mind that inspired this writing.  "If I could have one wish today and know it would be done.  Well I would say, everyone could stay, til they're too old to die young."

To My Friend

  They found him, on a Sunday morning, hanging from a beam in the basement of his apartment complex.  His job, his house & family were lost to his alcoholism and he ended his pain.  Earlier in the year I signed legal documents to have police pick him up to prevent him taking his life.  He was released hours later with instructions to get help for his alcohol abuse.  He wasn't angry with me, but told me he would get it done.  He did.  I think of him often and I don't think I have ever forgiven him.

   Long after my friend took his life I was diagnosed with cancer.  I can still remember the overwhelming fear that I could die.  I can still remember, like yesterday, when I was in my garage and decided I was going to beat cancer and live.  Any cancer survivor, or those going through it as I write, can relate to that paralyzing fear we must face before deciding to live.

  Remembering that feeling, prevents me from understanding why another friend would decide to end his life.  At a time when life is wonderful because of grandchildren, hobbies to keep him busy, friends to help out, and the list is endless, he would decide that because he has aches & pains, just doesn't give a damn any more, would then string a rope over a beam & put it around his neck only to get interrupted by his neighbor.  I reasoned this was a cowards way out.  A very selfish act that is unforgivable, in the very least.  Cancer is not picking off friends fast enough, this one wants to do it himself.  I am losing another friend and I feel helpless.  His reasoning is being dictated by alcohol and he is powerless to change the path he has chosen.

 We all know that life can, sometimes, be overwhelming.  As long as we keep our wits about us we can break down our big problems into a bunch of little ones that we can manage more easily.  No matter how bad we think it is today, it can be better tomorrow if you reach out to those who care about you. 

  I wrote these words to my friend and if someone out there is thinking of ending their life, like my friend, I want you to remember that, when you were born, you were unique, special and truly wonderful.  Yes, there are other exceptional people out there.  But no one can take your place in people's lives.  It's your advice they seek, your hugs they need, your opinion that matters, your attention they prize, your love they give thanks for.  Stressful times pass so much faster with you to turn to; celebrations are so much happier when you're there to share them.  Everyone agrees:  Thank goodness for you!!!

  None of us would choose that path unless it was caused by a mental illness or some addiction that would alter our thinking.   Dying is easy, there are many ways to die.  Living, on the other hand, is hard and more of a challenge than putting a rope around our neck.  That is why I think it cowardly.  Reaching out takes courage.  Admitting you have become powerless and your life has become unmanageable takes further courage. 

  Before you reach the end of your rope, my friend, reach out to those around you.  Those that care enough to go that extra mile with you.  There are so many avenues you can choose to address your pain, your problems, that dying for them is senseless.

  No one can do it for you.  It has got to be you.  We all know it is in you.  Just reach out and go for it;  Take the necessary steps to bring you back to a life that makes you look forward to getting up in the morning???

 I'll be here for my friend.................Someone will be there for you.

Radiothon of Hope

  We had our second annual "Radiothon of Hope" the week of Oct 24th on our Easy Rock radio station.  Anyone who tuned in on those days had their hearts torn from hearing one story, only to have it lifted with another.  People who have been through(or going through) their own cancer journey took the time to sit in front of the microphone and share their stories, with you, in the wish that it would help raise money for cancer research in Northern Ontario.

  Although the main focus was to raise money, it changed some peoples lives forever because it showed the side of cancer that we don't always see.  Yes we have all been touched by cancer and we have seen the downside of it, as it ripped dreams to shreds.  We've seen families split because of the tremendous strain.  We've seen some turn to religion as a crutch and those who never got past the anger.  But, like an iceberg, those emotions are only the part you can see.  Those who shared their journeys showed that the good stuff is below the surface.

  Their stories spoke of courage they never realized.  Love and support they never thought possible.  Hope and Faith, they would never think of achieving.  They spoke of how their love was never crippled by it.  They showed us how they never allowed it to invade the soul and how it could never steal eternal life.  When friends became closer and families ever so much more, a family.  They showed us that cancer is only a word.

  Throughout the three days, one of the songs that got a lot of airtime was "Calling All Angels".  This whole exercise was broadcast from our own cancer centre, where angels hang out.  You see, it's the angels who work, or volunteer, there that give compassion a whole new meaning.  Although they are all professionals, and it may be their calling, it takes someone really special to make hope and faith the biggest part of their daily aspirations.  I am proud to know them and call them my friends and they have become like my second family.

  All the emotions that were shared through that microphone were generally followed by a song that fit the story and gave it that little extra feeling that pulled at the heartstrings.  That took tremendous planning and dedication.  The radio announcers that pulled it off were absolute professionals that made you feel like you were there with them.  They will be, forever, changed by the tremendous compassion they experienced.  They said a lot of wonderful things, but the one that stayed with me was, "We don't want to see you here, but if you do get cancer there is no place we'd rather be than at this center.  And it's right here, in Sudbury for all of Northern Ontario .  Just a beautiful place , with the kind of people that make you feel wonderful."

  The money raised bested last years amount.   This shows me that we have more than our share of  caring people.  To our special angels at the cancer centre, I say Thank You from all of us. 

  
HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?
 
My 11 yr old granddaughter downloaded, and printed off, a list of 30 things you can do to avoid cancer.   It was surprising that she would still be worrying, especially since I've been cancer free for 6 years now.   Now, anyone that has been through cancer(or any life threatening disease), or has it now, can tell you  the many complimentary treatments we investigate to insure good health.

  I developed an interest in complimentary medicines many years ago when I was diagnosed with a  minor health issue.  I remember visiting the residence of a local herbalist/naturopath because I wanted a healthier way of living, while still enjoying my hot dogs & beer.   The bottles of pills & elixirs (he took daily) on his table were mind boggling.   He was an older gentleman whose complexion was one you would expect to see in a wax museum.  I was not impressed and I remember not wanting to be obsessed with such a daily regiment of  herbal medicines.  That was over twenty five years ago.   The knowledge and training of these complimentary medicines have come a long way and their role in healing diseases is showing a trend that is, finally, getting the attention of our various health systems.

  When I faced cancer, my greatest medicine was the power of the mind and the healing ways of positive thinking.  I took an active role in my healing.  I wasn't one to sit, passively, and do nothing except turn up for medical treatments.  Over the last six years I have read many books, listened to a lot of well meaning people with their wonderful remedies, played a lot of inspirational/meditation albums, searched the Internet, followed the advice of a wonderful naturopath, shared my journey with you through these articles,  do walking/hiking.  Then one day I took a look at the array of medicines(herbal & prescription) I take on a daily basis, the volume of books I have, the leaflets, printed pages of advice to insure optimum health.  I asked myself; "How much is too much?"

  Todays information highway can be a tad overwhelming.  There are more books/programs on optimum health than one knows which to believe.  Then when I decide on a path, I get bombarded daily with something better than the week before.   If I told you that how long I live is not as important as how well I live, it would be wrong because both are important to me.

  Recovering from recent surgery is a reminder of not being cut out for any kind of sedentary lifestyle.  How I think is how I am.  I will always be looking for what may be new, over that hill, but always remembering that some things will always be the same.  I fully agree with our wellness gurus that tell me how I choose to live my life, with a positive attitude, optimism & social interactions, has far more impact on my health than any vitamin or pill.

  From all these books etc, there are five suggestions that are repeated (in one form or another);  1..Drink plenty of water, 2..Eat smaller meals more often,  3..Keep toxins out of my body,  4..Getting the exercise/rest that I truly need,  5..Learning to relax.

  No matter how many new supplements are being pushed at us , common sense should always be our first defense and always with the advice of a reputable naturopath.

 
MORTALITY
 

   The phone call came  as I was having breakfast with some friends at our local deli.  That morning, a mutual friend had died.  He just didn't wake up. As I was listening to the details, another friend was walking by using a grocery cart for support.  Later, that morning, I drove a  younger friend to his chemotherapy.  On arrival at the cancer center, I met a cancer buddy being admitted because she was too weak.  Frustration & worry were etched in her face.  The sudden passing of a younger family member was still fresh in my thoughts and it seems that any time I meet with friends, the conversation usually swings to ones health and the medications they are on. Although I try not to encourage this style of conversation, there have been many times I realized that I was doing the same thing and it angered me. Some recent health issues were keeping me from the loves of my life; driving, hiking, snowshoeing and walking.  A few other issues, that week, made me feel the weight of the world on my shoulders. If this isn't frustrating enough,  I can always count on some helpful friend who thinks it important I be reminded of my age.  

  Things change as I go through life.  Some changes are to be expected,  like my taste in music changing from hour to hour.  An all niter, now, is sleeping through the night, til morning.  Having a reason to get out of bed is important but relaxation seems to be right up there with breathing.  Years ago when I drove for hours to visit with family, their first words were "How long did it take ya?"  Somewhere back there those first words changed to "You're looking good!" and it has been those words for many years until recently they changed to "Come on in, you must be tired."  Sheesh!!

  Age has always been, simply, a number and being old will always be fifteen years hence.  I am not fully retired yet and it is my intention to continue driving until that road ends.  I think retirement requires a special mind-set and I'm not sure if I can acquire it. I have struggled with that thought these past few months because, I can't help but wonder, what if my health dictates I retire.  Experience reminds me that the person awakening for that early morning walk is not the same fellow that planned it the night before. I realize there are times my mind will make promises that my body can't keep.

  Surviving cancer taught me to live for today.  In spite of the books that encourage me to live in the moment, or "the now", I'm always looking for enlightenment from whatever source to offer it and I know when one door closes, another beckons I step through. One can lose everything in an instant and when we lose something (health for example) we have to learn to move on, as unbearable as it may be.  We will do it in different ways, and at different times, after the loss.  That old cliche comes to mind,  "If life delivers you lemons, make lemonade".  But, I'm not there yet. 

 That old serenity prayer, most days, comes to mind; God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.  The courage to change the things I can.  The wisdom to know the difference. There is a short version to that prayer and if we meet, you only need ask.  To those that would, so readily, remind me of my mortality?  Kiss off!!

  
CANCER BUDDIES
 

A tumor had burst, in his abdominal area, and Larry's life ended like the throwing of a switch to close a light.   His life's blood was leaving him.  Chris tried, in vain, to bring him back but he was gone when he hit the floor.  She lost the love of her life.  I lost a good friend & cancer buddy.

   Just 36 hours later, Brenda, another cancer buddy never woke from her sleep.  The cancer had come back in her brain.  Just days before, as we drove to her treatment, she shared she wasn't going to make it.  She wasn't afraid.  She talked of her family and concern for her Edgar, the love of her life.

  We were three different people from different walks of life that had come together, through cancer, to become buddies.

    Larry and I were truck drivers delivering product to the same customer.  We were parked about a km apart and, because it was controlled unloading, we had to stay with the truck for that hour.  So we met over the CB radio.  We occasionally met each other going opposite directions, on our highways, so our conversations were brief.  I guess we could be called cyber buddies.  After two years I was leaving my employer for a new job.  Larry's job was coming to an end because his employer lost the contract.  I gave him my employers number, with a good reference, so he took over my old job and my truck.  For another two years we only met while going opposite directions but always exchanged highway information, said our hello and wished each other well until me meet again.  Then one week he wasn't out there.   I enquired with his co-worker.  He told me Larry had lung cancer and was trying to reach me.  The next morning, after 4 years, we got to meet each other face to face.  Then, for the next year we travelled his journey through cancer together.

 When my first article appeared in these pages Brenda was going through her own treatments and, in spite of all the side affects, took the time to send a card and letter of encouragement to a total stranger.  It was two years before we met in a coffee shop, for a brief moment.  We were both on the run and promised to meet again some day.  A year later we did meet again, at the cancer center, and spent some time getting to know each other.  It wasn't long, after that meeting, she moved into the valley.  We got to know them over ice cream, at the DQ, and we shared our inspirations to others at our "living with cancer" peer support meetings.  When her cancer came back, I became one of her drivers to get her to the many treatments.  Things got complicated, she got weaker.  The treatments weren't helping any more.  She was admitted, to hospital, the same day Larry had his final chemotherapy session.  I spoke to her briefly.  Her eyes showed no fear.  I think she knew it was time.  Three days later, she was gone.  

 I was angry at God and screamed for answers.  I know people come into our lives for a reason and, sometimes, it isn't clear to us until much later.  I've read to not let the pain of one season destroy the joy of all the rest.  To not judge life by that one difficult season, but to live simply, love generously, care deeply and speak kindly. 

Even though I will never talk to them again, in this life, they were special and made a difference in this mans life.  Until that day, bless them  for being in my life.

 
 

Copyright ゥ 2010 All Rights Reserved
Valley East Today is published by
Infocom Canada Business Consultants Inc.