Ah, La Pluie!

The sudden purge of angry skies
The sodden path of muck
The sonorous beat upon the roof
And I become unstuck

A burst of lighting in the air
An angry crack of words
A turbulent ride of feelings fly
The flock of startled birds

The storm does rage upon the land
Confusion marks the way
Like daggers shot from fists clenched tight
The nerves of steel do fray

Take cover from the storm anon
Take solace in the flight
For after the rain, the pause takes place
And day does turn to night

Slowly chaos finds its groove
And fury finds its peace
The gentle rain begins to fall
From Heavens full of Grace

To quench anew the desperate thirst
To replenish and replace
My bucket fills, so once again
My challenges I do face

I pause, I think, I find my path
My purpose to reveal
This storm that once raged deep within
Has now a new appeal

Without the rain, there is no life
Without dark, there is no light
I see the other side of things
Without wrong there is no right

I step outside to feel the drops
As they tumble upon my soul
And cleanse away my mortal wounds
Yes – life has had its toll

The joy of rain still sings to me
Until the time does come
When I no longer fill my cup
When I know my life is done

So – vive la pluie, long live the rain
Let us savour every drip
Let us invite the storms, the rain, the calm
… And then let’s find our grip!

Posted in cancer, Cancer Journey, celebration, challenges, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

I’ll See You in My Dreams

When I was young, I walked alone
Or at least that’s what I thought
It was only me, myself, and I
I was well schooled – but never taught

And as I grew, I began to learn
That “me” was really “we”
Not one small step I walked alone
Life’s lessons – I began to see

An outstretched hand, a worried hand
A hand that propped me high
A hand that fed, and clothed, and soothed me
When I failed before I’d try

The more I’ve lived, the more I’ve learned
The richness of our roots
The lessons taught by life alone
Are enough to fill our boots!

Each step I walk, each stone I turn
Reveals another key
And enables me to open doors
To a new eternity

An eternity of souls I take along
I hold them in my heart
They have not gone – they are not lost
Each one does play a part

Now I’m older  – and I can see
They speak without a word
I know the lesson I will teach
For it’s one that I have heard

There is nothing new, in this old world
For time and time again
A hug’s the cure, the fix, the seed
Which inspired the old refrain

I walk upon the shoulders now
Of the giants whom I have known
I’ve loved them, nursed them, listened carefully
And as a person – I have grown

We are so tall, we walk so strong
When we do not walk alone
When we remember the lessons taught
We thought that we had known –

She – and he – and they – are here
Their wisdom speaks to me
I hear their words, I live their lives
Their gifts have set me free

One day, I hope, to walk with them
The silent, mighty team
Those I’ve loved and kissed good-bye
Till then —
I’ll see you in my dreams!

Posted in acceptance, advice, aging, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

I Too, Want to be a Giant

I have heard, on two occasions this week-end, this marks the end of an era:  at my colleagues retirement party and at my friend’s funeral.  These words are bitter-sweet to me in that one needs to have something special – but that that special thing has to also end.

Last night, I hosted a retirement party for my dear friend and colleague, Sandra.  We taught together in Continuing Education for many years, which also means that we navigated some pretty tricky waters together too.   We learned how to be better teachers together.  We learned how to be better cheer-leaders together.  We learned that teaching students was more important than teaching curriculum.  We also learned that we don’t have to agree in order to cooperate.  That differences of opinion can be enriching.  That history belongs to those who take risks in innovation – and that also meant it was totally critical to not judge.  There is but a mere core of the original Barrie Learning Centre “power-team” left now.  Our “era” is closing.  Education has shifted to on-line learning and our days of live classroom learning are closing.  We changed lives.  We did.  And those lives will, in turn, create their own era.

Today, I attended a funeral for my dear friend Thelma.  She was a fantastic role model and confident to me.  She lead my children in church choir musicals and inspired me to be a contributing member of the church.  Thelma taught me how to listen and inspired me to become a loving listening.  She laughed a lot – found irony in life’s situations – and did her very best to tackle them with grace and dignity.  How can I not try to learn from that?  Thelma taught me to consider all my options before making decisions, to think of the “children” first (always), and to NEVER forget your roots – acknowledge the shoulders of the giants upon which you stand.  We had a pact, Thelma and I:  we would never give up – we would always have hope.  I sang at her funeral while her dear friends Eleanor and Jim played the scores from the children’s musicals Thelma has given to our church members. We all sang.  She would have wanted that.  She loved music.  She especially loved her family.  Above all else – she loved her family.  Her death marks the end of an era.  Her inspiration, however, lives on in those whose lives she changed, influenced, and supported.  And those lives will, in turn, create their own era.

A retirement and a funeral:  both mark ends of eras.  Both provide occasions where new opportunities arose.  No one wants to say good-bye.  No one wants to let go.  And so – each event spawned new opportunities.

As sad and as exhausted as I am emotionally – I remain affirmed that I am a better person as a result of belonging to those eras.  I would not have it any other way – I am privileged.  I am honoured to be able to stand on the shoulders of the giants whom I have known and love/ loved.  And I will never forget that it is because of them – that I am who I am today.

The depth to which we mourn is directly reflected in the depth to which we have loved. I will mourn the “ends of these eras” forever.  I am, however, committed to do the very best job I can do to live a life that will provide the opportunity for someone else to note – when I leave, that my departure marks “the end of an era”, for having marking that end – means I have made a difference.

And that I too – am a giant.

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

I’ve Been Stuck

I’ve been stuck lately.  I’ve not know what to say – to write – how to articulate / process what has happened.  Of course, rather than simply write and process through my emotions, I’ve avoided this blog.  Finally, today, I saw my therapist.  My emotions came through like a flood-gate.  It felt to good to finally let it all go… not to say that more isn’t coming, but at least I purged just a bit to be able to manage.

I knew something was wrong this morning during fitness with Vandie.

“Are you okay, Stacey?” asked Laura, my fellow labourer in step-class.  Between she and I we can keep Vandie believing that we can keep up.  In reality, it takes two of us to make a full fitness participant and these days, Laura is out-pacing me 5:1!

“I’m okay.  I’m just exhausted.”

Normally, I can push through the fatigue, the pain, the shortness of breath.  (Remember, it’s a fitness class so I’m supposed to be out of breath) This morning, I just couldn’t bring myself to “give ‘er”.  I had lost my grit.  I didn’t want to carry on.  I just wanted to sit down and cry.  I knew I was grieving.  For fuck’s sake – I just lost a dear friend of 30 years.  Why shouldn’t I be tired?  But – it is not forth-coming to put two and two together when one is grieving.  It’s like “rules don’t apply”.  You know what I mean?  I couldn’t see the forest for the trees… and so on.  I was never so happy when the cardio stopped and we took to the floor routine where I could hide my lack of interest in carrying on.  My arms hurt, my legs hurt, my feet hurt – my heart hurt.

“Stacey, are you sure you are okay?”  Laura asked again.

“I’m not okay – but I will be.”

“Yes.  You will be – because you know tomorrow is a new day.  You’ve been through this feeling before.”

And I had.  In truth – I’ve lost both parents.  I’ve lost many body parts to cancer.  I’ve lost my health virginity per se – if that’s a thing.  I’ve lost confidence in my body.  I’ve lost control over so many things… and now I’ve lost my Thelma.  My friend.  Of 30 years.  My mentor.  My rock.

It wasn’t all down hill today, though.  I got up from the floor routine (amazing, eh?) and made it to my therapy appointment at RVH to see “my” Kelly.  I am so very lucky that she is mine – I trust her.  I don’t feel judged.  She has tissue ready for me.  She is kind.  She listens.  Thelma would have really liked her.  So – I talked – I gushed – I cried – I laughed.  Then – I booked another appointment in another two weeks.

“Thelma grounded me,” I explained to Kelly.  She knew what to say to make things better.  She knew when to listen – and how to listen.  I had no idea there could be so many ways.. until her ear was gone.  Not only her ear – her heart – her marvelous mind – and part of me went with her.

“I am so lucky to have been part of her family – her family – we were more than friends.  I promised her I’d be there to help her stay in her own home as she aged.  I promised her I’d be there with her as she fought cancer.  I promised her I’d be there for her always.  I promised her I’d do whatever I could for her family – and I made good on those promises. I really did.  I have no regrets.  I do have, however, a hole in my life which I hadn’t realized was so big. It is so big – I couldn’t see around it – I still can’t.

I can only imagine that my own Mother had a big hug waiting for her when Thelma “moved on”.   I sometimes imagine the conversations they would have about family, and about life.  Thelma would have talked about dogs – but my Mom would not have connected too much on that front.  Grin.

I’m still processing.

“I’m further from death than I have been for a long time, Kelly,” I explained.

“I feel it in the way you talk, Stacey,” she replied.  “You said your Dad confessed that he thought he had figured out his purpose on Earth before he passed away.  You said he mentioned his purpose was to make people happy.  Let me ask you – do you know your purpose?”

I thought about it – my mind went blank.  What is my purpose?  It’s not like I haven’t thought about it before.  I know I like to help people.  Is that it?  Maybe.

“I’ll have to take some time to ponder that, Kelly,” I replied.  “Yes, I ‘ll give it some thought.”

I felt no pressure when I walked out of her office.  The anxiety had somewhat dissipated.  It wasn’t gone.  It wouldn’t be gone for a while – I am grieving.  But – I felt lighter.  I was definitely feeling lighter than when I entered her room – emotionally.  And that was a step in the right direction.  The dam had burst.  It wasn’t pretty.  I’m sure there was emotional shrapnel all over Kelly’s office after I left.  But I felt better.  I hoped I hadn’t damaged her… my words had been like bullets fired from an automatic rifle.  (Why these analogies of war?)

Now – time to see what burst from the dam and rebuild.  One piece at a time.

Posted in Uncategorized | 19 Comments

Hugs

Hugs to the Mothers who hugged us tight
Who held our hands and kissed us good-night

Hugs to the Mothers who are in our dreams
To some are icons, heroes, maybe even our memes!

Hugs to the Mothers whose lessons remain
Firmly and deeply entrenched in our brain

Our mothers, our grandmas, our aunts, and our friends
Remain our care-givers straight through till our ends

Hugs to the Mothers who have long since gone
Who may not be here with us – but whose memory still lives on

The teacher, the nurse, the provider, the calm
So blessed to have known you and to have called you my Mom!

Posted in appreciation, attitude, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments

Let Me Outside!

Oh, let me outside!

Outside – oh, outside!  A blue strip of sky pokes through the gray cloud with the promise of spring.  Lift me up, move me along, let me float through the clouds.  Let my mind take flight and soar far above…

Outside – oh out there!  The trees are in full bloom.  Their tender tendrils’ potential wait to erupt at the first hint of sun.  They are poised, ready to grow, ready to grow!  So many questions, so much to learn!  The young branches sway in the wind and play with the breeze.  They bounce and swing and inhale the glory of the morning.  Arms stretched to seize the day.

I need some of that outside inside today.  To bathe in the glory of the woods, to rinse in the chorus of the birds, to wrap in the warmth of the spring sun — ’tis the elixir my mind craves.  Point me in the right direction – towards the east – towards the rising sun.  There – is the light.  There is the beginning.  Point me to the door and lead me into the woods.  Let my feet touch the damp floors of the forest where the rain-sodden earth transforms old into new, rot into life, and lifts the mighty oak from the acorn.  Shower me in sunlight as I walk on the dappled path through the trees.  Let me hear the babble of the creek as it tells of its tales – the marvels of the world – the depths of the oceans!

Let the outside come in and fill me today.  Open my eyes to see beyond the flesh.  Ground me in your spring, root me in your soil, let me grow in joy.  Let me outside!

 

Posted in attitude, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Snowflakes in Spring

This post is dedicated to my dear friend, Thelma.  Oh, how I wished you could see these flowers for yourself… and so many other things this spring will bring.  I will watch them for you…

And just outside, the flowers bloom
No longer housed in their winter tomb
A robin sucks it juicy meal
From the ground with such great zeal

Just outside, the ground does swell
It’s secret treasures soon will tell
The tale of darkness turned to light
The start of day – the end of night

Oh, such promise is the spring
Such rich aromas it does bring
If I could reach beyond the door
Then out there, my spirit would soar

I rest.  I stay.  I sleep.  I dream.
Beneath the surface – so it may seem
I cannot rise, I cannot run
Yet I feel the touch of sun

I rise.  I fall.  I am but new
Today’s next challenge:  what shall I do?
Reflections linger, wander, rise
What is this body but disguise?

What will this day reveal to me?
Will my emotions be set free?
I loved, I listened, I hugged, I’ve heard
I’ve pondered carefully on every word

I’ve done my best, the best I could
As much as any mother should
I want to know that you’re okay
I think I’ve said all I could say

I think I’m ready, I’m prepared
So many moments that we’ve shared
I am the flower, I will bloom
I will not be shackled in winter’s tomb

I am there in spring’s soft arms
Enveloped by her innocent charm
I rise from earth to kiss the sun
I’ve broken ground, life’s just begun…

With much love!  I will miss you.

Posted in Poetry, spring, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Overcoming Stage-Fright

“I need a name for my book, Kevin.  I’m stuck on the title.  I want it to be positive, yet, to the point.”

Kevin and I began brainstorming a host of different ‘puns’ about cancer – cuz we are pun masters – to try to figure out an appropriate title.  We got stuck on a few ideas, mainly that the word cancer begins with “can”.  And that’s pretty positive.  But that didn’t seem to cut it.

“I can’t help but think about the word, ‘answer'”, Kevin said.  “You know, Canswer – instead of cancer?”

That was good.  That was clever.  That didn’t make the final cut.

“Something to do with the word ‘stage'”, he suggested.  “You know, like you thought Stage IV was a death sentence?  We had no idea what the concept meant when we first heard it – but it scared the heck out of us.”

“Stage-Fright?” I thought.  That was a good play on words… double entendu as it were.

But that was too negative.  And I don’t want a book that is suggesting anything more depressing about cancer than it already is.

And then – it dawned on me:  Overcoming Stage-Fright.  That name would suggest there is a way to overcome the fear of cancer.  And that’s 90% of the battle – emotional.  At least, that the part of the battle family and friends can help win.

“Overcoming Stage-Fright,” I suggested to Kevin.

“Yes.  I like that.  A guide for friends and family.  You can give tips to people who are supporting someone through cancer – to help them know how they may be helpful and encouraging.  So many people don’t know what to say – or what to do.  And often, they say things that are hurtful, when they are only trying to be helpful. You’ve certainly gone through enough to know what was helpful to you.”

And that was that.  I liked it.

I introduce to you now, my friends and family – the title of my up and coming book.  I have the layout.  I have the purpose.  I have a mission.  And so, I begin a new journey which will challenge me to review my first year of life as a person living with cancer.  It feels good to have a mission.  It feels good to think I will perhaps be able to provide helpful tips to those who are support networks for people living with cancer.  And I mean it when I say living with cancer – as I am a firm believer that someday soon, cancer will be a chronic illness – not a death sentence.

Fingers crossed.

First chore:  download September’s stories.  Egad.  Wish me luck.

Posted in cancer, Cancer Journey, challenges, courage, Uncategorized | 32 Comments

It Takes Courage – and Maybe Some Tulips

I cancelled my appointment with Dr. Singh on Wednesday.  I just didn’t have the guts to find out how I was doing.  You’d think that I’d be used to it by now – once a month appointments.  Nope.  Every visit is tough.  No – that’s not right.  It’s not the visit that is tough – it is having courage to go to an appointment that is tough.  Afterall, I’m given the verdict of “you are doing well” or “your cancer is back”.  Either way, I trust my doctor.  I have faith in her.  That’s not really the issue.  I think it’s just finding out that the tiny plans that you may / may not have made for the upcoming week/ month/ summer may change.

Dr. Singh’s office called that very afternoon I didn’t show.  So, what did I think?  “This can’t be good.  Why is she so desperate to see me?  Is there something she needs to talk to me about?”  Millions of questions – none of them good.  The office wanted to see if I was okay and if I wanted to come in on Friday instead.  sigh.  Such a build up for nothing.

Friday – today – came.  Thank goodness the appointment was in the morning, otherwise, I would have had all day to stress about it.  That’s what happens.  Too much idle time breeds too many wrong scenarios.  And I was afraid of the results of this month’s blood work.  After all, it was a year ago when I was “re-diagnosed” with cancer and begin my third round of chemo.  It was two years after I ended my first round of chemo.  I know these dates (helped by facebook), even though I’d like to think I don’t define myself by cancer.  I buy tulips (not daffodils).  I won’t attend ovarian cancer events (but will contribute).  I don’t wear teal (the colour which represents ovarian cancer).  You get the picture.  Yet – when it comes right down to it – there is still not a day that goes by when I don’t think about cancer.  In spite of my best efforts – I still live my life with cancer.

I don’t talk about it.  At least – not in casual conversation.  I keep it pretty private (even though here I am posting to my blog about it like a blabber mouth) because I don’t want to be defined by or known as, “the girl/ woman” with cancer.  I didn’t think I minded talking about it – but I do.  I have more interesting things in my life to talk about.  Even though cancer threatens me every day.  It’s like trying to ignore someone holding a knife to your throat while cooking dinner, doing laundry, dancing and singing, or grocery shopping.  You know the knife is there – but you also don’t want it to change who you are or what you do.  That takes energy.

Anyone dealing with a disease or life-threatening illness must be the same.

In any case, the knife moved away from my neck today to give me some breathing space.  “Your bloodwork is outstanding,” reported my nurse to which I replied  –

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me?”

Oops.  Couldn’t help it.  She laughed.  I asked her if I could give her a hug – she was good – we hugged and laughed and left to get my oncologist.

“I love it when you come to see me, Stacey,” she said.  “You are always so positive.  You inspire me.”

(What????)

“I inspire you?” I queried.

“Yes.  I love your attitude.  You lift my spirits and give me hope.”

Well, who knew.  She is real.  My Dr. Singh is a person too.  I needed my students to tell me when they thought I was doing a good job – and so did she.  Not a problem for me to sing her praises.  Without her – I’d be dead by now.  How does one not appreciate that!?

“Well – I am so very grateful for everything.  I am living my life, watching my children grow, travelling.  I went to Myrtle Beach this March Break with my family . I saw a ballet with my daughter.  I look forward to my son’s return from school.  I have made “tiny plans” for the future and have hope again that I will be able to see the Grand Canyon one day.   All this – because of you!”

She argued with me that it was because of my positive attitude that I was doing well.  But, we all know that it takes more than that – it takes good medicine and stellar care.  So – I would suppose my Dr. Singh and I have a symbiotic relationship.  And that’s good for me.

While I should look forward to next month’s visit – I know come time I will be trying to muster up courage once more.  It is not easy.  Nothing is easy about cancer – other than to recognize how challenging it can be.  Still – I am in good hands.  I have a wonderful family and wonderful friends who are here for me and with me.  How lucky am I?  I count my blessings every day.  And it seems the more I count them, the more joy I feel.  So, I’ll continue on this path for as long as I can – to summon a positive attitude and to face life with courage – and a nice bouquet of tulips doesn’t hurt!

I do wish I could have shared a glass of wine with my Mom and Dad, though, to celebrate as was always our tradition.  I am thankful to have those memories and to making new memories as we celebrate life.

Cheers!

Posted in acceptance, advice, appreciation, attitude, Uncategorized | 17 Comments

From Emotional Health to Mental Healing

“I don’t understand why we don’t consider emotional health as important as mental health!” Maggie would say to me.  “Honestly, it is just as important – if not more so.  If people were able to talk about their emotions they would perhaps be less inclined to experience better mental health.  Don’t you think?  When I ask you how you feeling, what would you say?”

“I’d say I feel fine.” I replied.

“There you go.  Fine is not an emotion.”

Right.  Fine is not an emotion.  So, how did I feel?  What are the words from which I could draw:  happy, sad, angry, depressed, anxious… I felt none of those.  At least, I didn’t think I felt any of those.  So seriously how did I feel?

“How are you?”  So often we ask one another this exact question.  And what is the reply? Fine?  Not bad.  I’ve been better.  And do we listen for the response?  I’ve come to think that how are you is really code for hey – I acknowledge you are here, but I really have to go.

What would happen if someone really gave a true answer?  “I’m sad.”  If they answered, that would require the person who asked the question to stop and engage in a conversation.  And that isn’t always the desired outcome when one is rushing off to work, or rushing to get home to cook dinner, or when one is exhausted from running around doing errands.

Furthermore, how would we handle the answer if it came at us?  “I’m sad.”  Then what?  I think the inevitable response would be, “why?” And if that came – then hold onto your hat for the story.

It seems to me then – we ought not to ask the question if one is not prepared for the answer.

Or maybe when asked the question, the response ought to be, “Do you really want to know?”.  That may just seem like an odd response though.  It could be considered highly indignant, almost rude, like you are insinuating that the person who asked didn’t really care.  That may be true – but how rude to challenge one’s integrity.

Ask me how I am.  Go ahead.  I’ll tell you.  I am frightened.  Yes.  That is an emotion.  I am lost.  No that’s not an emotion – but I feel that way.  I guess the reason I am frightened is because I am lost.  I sometimes feel that I have no direction, no purpose.  I don’t know what tomorrow will hold.  None of us do – but it seems cancer sharpens the word tomorrow to cut just a bit deeper into the darkness of the unknown.  Make plans for next year?  Ha!  I cannot.  I guess that’s what older people mean when they speak about tomorrow, next week, or next year with such uncertainty. I’m frightened I have lost my purpose.  Yes, my son still needs me to be around for him.  He needs to be loved, hugged, cuddled, and cooked for. The other two – well – they have found lives of their own.  I know they love me, as does my husband, but they don’t need me.  I’m a Mom – but the meaning has changed.  I’m a wife – but the meaning has changed.  I am not a teacher – at least not a classroom teacher.  I am not a daughter.  I am not many things.  Yeah – I’m frightened and a bit sad.  I think that’s part of cancer . There are many losses and grieving those losses is translated in so many ways.

Ask me how I am.  I am thankful.  No, that’s not an emotion.  Being thankful makes me feel joy.  Yes.  I am also happy.  I am glad.  I have so much to be thankful for and focusing on that makes me happy.  I guess this is a choice – to think about what I have to be thankful for.  My Dad always said, “remember the good times, Stacey and count your blessings.”  He smiled a lot in his golden years.  So – being happy is a choice?

Cancer.  The word is hotbed of emotions – most bad ones.  It calls us to take arm against an enemy (fear?), the fight a good fight (rage?), to think of the future (anticipation?), and maybe it calls us to be thankful (joy?).  And that’s just the beginning.  How many other words can evoke so many emotions.  I guess any chronic illness would do the same.

What happens, though, when we lock our emotions inside us?  What happens if we don’t talk about how we are feeling?  To not express joy, anger, fear… is to deny ourselves of our own humanity.  To stuff emotions causes stress and anxiety – leading to mental health issues.  Can we be poisoned by our own emotions?  We all need to be able to express how we are feeling.  And equally important, we all need to have someone who will not only ask the question, “How are you?”, but will also listen for the answer.  Maggie would call this person a “loving listener”.  We don’t need to solve the emotion. There is nothing to solve.  We don’t need to offer solutions, simply empower the person to find their own solutions.

Three words:  how are you

They are the key that could unleash the power of emotional health which could very well lead to emotional health and good mental healing.

If someone were to ask you, “How are you feeling today?” what / how would you answer?

Posted in mental health, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments