Saturday, I continued on my quest to be a normal young person in the city. After having a nice visit with some of my family, I took a lovely walk through my neighbourhood and around the park and surrounding area. My feet ached from wearing terrible sandals. A regular person kind of ache. Not a cancer ache.
It strikes like a bolt out of the blue. When you are diagnosed with cancer, you are suddenly thrown into a world of hospitals and doctors, a world of tests and treatments, a world of stress and anxious waiting. It happened to me in 2006, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and it turned my world upside down.
Recently, a good friend of mine wrote me, wanting to introduce me to an esteemed colleague, and friend, who has cancer. She wanted me to meet him, and felt I would have a lot to share with him. She spoke to him about me as well. She shared this blog, and my history. She concluded with " Change is inevitable. Suffering is optional."
No, this is not about the horrific situation that has gripped the city of Boston. This is about a horrific situation that gripped a family. My extended family. My cousins, to be exact. A few weeks ago, my cousins Warren Roll and Kelly Goodman were told that their four-year-old daughter Jayden had cancer.
Sticky situation: In our daily lives, from work to the community and even within our very own family, we regularly receive news that may make us uncomfortable and will at times, leave us speechless and paralyzed. To enlighten you, and hopefully prepare you for what to say and do, here are some suggestions.
The memories of my mother are not of a cancer victim, they are not of a shaved head, or intravenous tubes, or a frail body. They are her wonderful spirit, her brave beautiful smile, and a loving acceptance of life that was contagious with everyone she touched. My mother didn't just talk the talk, she walked the walk.
It's like I was out there in the world for so many years being motherless and then one morning I peed on a stick and suddenly I was a mother. I couldn't have known then that the hole in my chest would only get bigger and that my loneliness would be married to the fact that I was motherless. I will never know love like this again, I thought, as I sat next to her hospital bed for the last time.
The second line of the serenity prayer is "to accept the things we cannot change." This sounds really easy but in reality can be quite difficult. A prime example of this is cancer. For those of us who contract cancer, we cannot change that fact. Once cancer is accepted, our attitude toward it changes.
Even though cancer is becoming more widespread among many families today, the fear and devastation that families feel when a loved one is inflicted with the disease has yet to recede. Cancer had always been something that "happened to other people" and "wouldn't be something that would affect us" for my immediate and extended family, until my mum was diagnosed with the disease.
For as long as I can remember, I have been an obsessive planner. I love to make plans, to organize, to prepare. And I'm quite good at it, too. Long-term goals, schedules. These are things I like. A fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants girl, I am not. With my cancer diagnosis, a lot of things came crashing down around me.
Serenity is priceless, especially when you have a life crisis like cancer. During these times, fear can be overwheming and your thoughts are a ceaseless series of awful possibilities. Our modern day world is not conducive to serenity. Even at the best of times, we are inundated with responsibilities and information.
I never in my life thought I would type the following sentence and have it be true: I shaved my head. We put on some upbeat music and made some jokes and laughed a bit. But then I lost control of my emotions and entered full mental case meltdown territory. I don't look like me. My hair is all over the floor. I am 28 years old. I have cancer.
During cancer treatments there are other, often less thought of expenses, that can really add up. Take hospital parking. Over a course of treatments this really adds up. Full parking charges, twice a week for six weeks can cost you up to $276 at Sunnybrook on top of the cost of getting your car to the hospital.