Sunday, November 18, 2012

Silver Linings and Never Ending Support!

One week ago I posted Himalaya and Challenges. The next evening we went to see Leonard Cohen. I first heard his music in 1968 but had never seen him live in concert. When we bought tickets in September I had no idea that chemo would be in my life by the time he came to town. Yet the concert turned out to be on day 14 of my third cycle of chemo. One day later and I would never have been able to attend. But it must have been meant to be and no matter how many people say all his concerts have been amazing, for me I know this was his best! He is 78 years old and sang for almost 3 and a half hours along with what must be some of the most talented musicians and singers from around the world. His boundless energy propelled me full of life into my next cycle of chemo and even the days following.

Was that concert a silver lining? For me, yes it was. Normally I am leading treks and tours at this time of year; this year I got breast cancer but got to see Leonard Cohen and company!

There have been many silver linings that have given me strength and they do not stop. Of course I knew that I had good friends and a wonderful family but I honestly did not know that I would be blessed by overwhelming support and love in such amazing ways.

From the beginning I had friends who had already "been there, done that" with their breast cancer and they were there for me. Other friends listened to me rant and rave and did not judge me. My husband Dick who was in Turkey on "Van Kedisi" all through the difficult waiting for diagnosis time, talked to me on Skype daily and only when BC was confirmed did he say "FUCK!" Normally when anything remotely dire is going on, he says it immediately and often! Well, he got it right that day - "What the fuck" indeed!

Razzu in Kathmandu had Rinpoche do a "Puja" for me at Bodhinath within days of my diagnosis. I know the monastery well as I have been there with Razzu many times (and some of you my friends have also been there) so I was able to so much appreciate this ceremony, feeling as though I was there. Rinpoche told Razzu after the puja, that I am going to be OK, this in Tibetan. Good thing Razzu really does speak Tibetan - would not want to get that translation wrong!

Friends from elementary school days have brought immense support in different ways. Mary, my oldest friend, has brought me the gift of her decades of learning - special tinctures for healing and cancer and teas specific to my needs with all ingredients grown in her own island garden. Susan, whose husband Dennis died from leukaemia 35 years ago this month has chosen to jump on to the breast cancer bandwagon with me and  I think she already knows more about it than anyone who has not had BC! She was Dennis's caregiver  as they faced his cancer together and understands well what my family has been introduced to.

My "nurse" and fellow trekker Luba comes every other day to do my Neupogen injection which I am perfectly capable of doing myself but she does it better.

Friends pick me up for yoga, bring me soup, call me to go for walks and almost always say yes if I ask them if they will walk with me, play Settlers of Catan on MY schedule, send me funny jokes and beautiful photos, make me laugh and it just keeps happening! Blessings and prayers come from friends and family from all over the world and no matter about religion or spirituality, what comes across is the incredible caring.

My sisters call, send me poetry and care so much. One sister in law in NZ has sent me special berries to help things taste better (chemo does a number on the taste buds) and the other Skypes on a regular basis so I get to see her smiling face as well as talk.

And then there is Dick and our wonderful kids. Mary teaches me to write, Steven publicly "loves" me on Facebook and Andy has always championed my trekking efforts. Dick is from NZ, Mary and I were born in Grace Hospital in Vancouver, Steven in Singapore and Andy in Saudi Arabia. We have Dick to thank for providing us the opportunity to live and travel abroad. It was not always easy but I suspect it has given us a unique opportunity as a family.

 It is exactly four months today that I found the lump. I know that there will be many more months of treatment before I can say I have done all I can but thanks to all of you, the battle is shared.


  1. Hi Marian

    Going through many blogs on Cancer, i read this one and I wanted to post it on your blog.. Hopefully it will add on to your already positive attitude and make you feel that you are not the only one...

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    A Letter to the Newly Diagnosed on my One Year Cancerversary

    Dear Newly Diagnosed Breast Cancer Patient,

    I was diagnosed with breast cancer one year ago today. August 17th, 2009. On this cancerversary, I thought I would share some wisdom with you.

    The fear and shock you feel right now will pass. One year ago today, I felt it too. I know it doesn't seem like it will ever go away, and I know you feel like every nerve ending in your body is made out of high voltage wire. You will eat, sleep, dream, and think about nothing but Cancer for quite some time.

    But, as they say, this too shall pass. It will gradually become just a disease you are dealing with, like diabetes or high blood pressure - an inconvenience, but one you can manage. It's hard to understand that during the early days, and I know you don't believe me now, so you'll just have to trust me.

    The worst part of a cancer diagnosis is the uncertainty, and the worst part of the uncertainty is at the beginning. You are facing medical procedures that are unknown and pretty damn scary. You may be facing the loss of a body part or two, or even three, counting hair. You don't know what any of this is like: how you'll feel, how you'll react, how your family will deal with it. All you may know is what you've seen in the movies or on TV. You likely will have many sleepless nights, and be on an information hunt/overload for weeks, if not months - all to try to know what will happen to you - to see into the future.

    At some point though, you will come to terms with the fact that knowing the future is impossible, and living with the day you have is all you can do. You will find peace in that.

    There is a lot of controversy about having a positive attitude. A positive attitude will not change the course of your disease, nor will it cure you, nor should you feel required to put one on all of the time. Someone asked me if a pessimist can beat the disease, and the answer is yes. It's medical science that cures cancer, not attitude.

    However, if you can learn to see the positives, the humor, the blessings even, that come from this disease, than your treatment course will be easier on you. I believe that without a doubt. Some of the treatment won't be fun. Some may have long-lasting side effects. But, life goes on, and you have yours. Dwelling on the negatives, overlooking the good things, is, in my opinion, wasting your new life.

    A diagnosis of cancer will change you. It may always be in the back of your mind, and yes, nervousness and fear will again pop-up around testing times, but you will learn to manage it and eventually take it in stride.

    And, here's the thing: it's up to you whether cancer changes you for the better or not. It's entirely in your control. You can't alter the fact that you have the disease, but you can choose how you react to it.

    I want to tell you that I'm very sorry that you have to go through this. But, as horrible as it seems now, it will bring blessings to your life that you never expected. My advice? Look for them, even if it seems impossible.

    Especially if it seems impossible.

    Because, they are there.



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