February 9, 2017
Every year at this time I celebrate the birth of my youngest daughter in 1991 as well as that same day in 1999 when I received the “all clear” call following a cancer diagnosis and treatment. I wrote an earlier version of this blog two years ago and wanted to share it again on the eve of this special day!
Love and blessings,
Just an An Ordinary Day
“Hey Mom, the doctor called and left a message.
You don’t have cancer anymore! Are you coming to my hockey game?”
“Hey Mom, why are you crying?
“Dad, why is Mom crying? Isn’t she happy?”
“Oh for sure! She’s crying because she’s so happy.”
“Okay, see you Mom. Love you!”
“Bye. Love you too Julia. Good luck!”
It was my youngest daughter Julia’s 8th birthday, Wednesday, February 10, 1999. It was around 6:00 PM and I was just getting home from work. Julia, dressed in her hockey gear, and her Dad were coming out of the house to leave for the rink as I stepped out of the car. This is the conversation that greeted me.
Reflecting back on this now, I see it as a prime example of the faith and trust of a young child. From the time I was diagnosed with cancer in May 1998, we had always assured Julia that I would be okay and, with her child-like faith, she took us at our word. The telephone message was no big thing; it was what she was told would happen; it was exactly what she was expecting.
After the hockey game, Julia and her Dad filled me in on the rest of the details. It was my oncologist from the NS Cancer Clinic who had left the message. He explained that it wasn’t his normal practice to leave patient updates on voice mail but he was going to be away for several days and assumed we’d want to hear the good news sooner rather than later. (As it turned out, Julia’s Dad had listened to the message earlier and was saving it for me to hear. When Julia checked the messages, she listened to it and then automatically, without thinking, hit the “delete” button.)
It was only on receiving this news that the full impact of the previous six months started to sink in. I’ve always been strong and, like many people, I did what I had to do to get through those months and be there for my family. I didn’t dare acknowledge or talk about the worries, fears and doubts that often ran through my mind. It was only once I got the “all clear” signal did I realize just how taxing the previous six months had been. All the suppressed emotions came flooding out. The relief was enormous and the tears flowed.
My journey with cancer began in May 1998 when the doctor told me that I had stage 2 cervical cancer. I was shocked and scared. My doctor initially thought I would require surgery but after a visit to the cancer clinic in Nova Scotia, I was told the most effective treatment plan would involve external radiation for five weeks, followed by more direct radiation for 60-70 hours. Since the necessary equipment wasn’t available on PEI at that time , I would travel to Halifax. I took some time off work and starting in early July, I spent the next five weeks in Halifax, coming home on the week-ends. This was a very difficult time physically and emotionally for me and our family but I was very lucky to have a lot of support from friends and family.
I finished treatment in the fall of that year and spent the next few weeks at home allowing the radiation to finish its job. We then spent the next couple of months travelling back and forth to Halifax every few weeks for follow-up tests and monitoring to determine if the treatment had been effective. Waiting and not knowing during those weeks were some of the longest and hardest times of the whole experience. Finally, on February 10, 1999, the call came, and, as they say, the rest is history.
I am so grateful for my journey with cancer, not because of the suffering or hard times, but because of all the lessons it taught me. What have I learned? So glad you asked:
- Children know how to trust and are so resilient-Julia taught me this. I want to have child-like faith.
- People do survive and recover from cancer-sharing brings hope and hope is healing. I want to bring hope.
- We are meant to live in community-no man or woman is an island. My family, friends and community supported me tremendously. I want to return the favor and give back when I can.
- Worry serves no purpose and at a time when there is sickness or tragedy, my limited energy can be much better invested in positive thoughts and good deeds. The universe/God/Spirit will provide if I remain open and positive. I want to worry less and trust more.
- All of life’s experiences eventually come together to form a beautiful tapestry. I want to open my mind and my eyes to see that the whole of my life is greater than the sum of its parts (thank you Aristotle).
February 10, 2015