I can’t believe how I reacted to the news of Rob Ford’s cancer this morning. I honestly broke down and cried.
Rob Ford, Toronto’s rather “controversial” mayor, was diagnosed with cancer roughly the same day as I was. He began chemotherapy only days before me. We seem to have continued on the same regime and schedule even up until this coming treatment for him on Monday – and mine on Wednesday.
He was in the news again this morning with the announcement that his tumor had not shrunk. Furthermore, he has pneumonia.
No matter how much I disagree with his politics or ethics, I cannot but consider him as a fellow fighter. How absolutely discouraging to hear that his tumor had remained the same size. I can imagine how that news would affect me. It would be the worst kind of setback – other than hearing the tumor had grown. His family has got to be devastated. And to add pneumonia on top of that, just adds salt to the wound.
I’ll admit that maybe his personal habits have not been as disciplined as mine have been – yet I can’t help but draw parallels and empathize with the man. He was in the middle of large crowds days after chemo – campaigning. I have been in isolation. I limit visitors. Hand sanitizers have become part of my family’s routine. I eat well – mainly and primarily organic food or free-range and grain-fed meats. No alcohol (okay a couple thimbles full). No white sugar. I make my own whole wheat bread. And everything I eat is from scratch only. A friend of ours who was diagnosed with cancer several years ago developed pneumonia and she died. I do not want any complications that will lead me down the same path as my friend and Rob Ford. This means, however, that plans have to be altered.
My aunt just recently passed away – she was the last of her generation. I would normally have hopped on a plane BEFORE she passed and be there with family during our time of grief. Instead, I stayed home and my cousins graciously Skped me to include me in their “wake”. It was frustrating. I so wanted to be there to be “with” them. In spite of Skype – I felt left out, pissed off, and frustrated. Nonetheless – I cannot put myself in a position to travel – for my family’s sake. My job is to get better and that means I have to stay put. How could Rob Ford have done this to his family? Did his family ask him to continue his campaign or did he do it against his family’s wishes? Good health is not just for Rob or I – good health is for our families too.
It kills me to be home doing nothing … I have always been so active and involved. No matter what I think I’d like to do, though, I have to keep clawing myself back to slow down. I scheme ways that I can possibly get back to work – already thinking about how I can integrating into projects and positions. I don’t know. I don’t even have my first follow-up yet. I could take some courses on-line, maybe. I could find some curriculum projects, maybe. I could overwhelm myself too, maybe. I “get” where Rob Ford is coming from with his desire to do “something”. It is tough to switch from the fast lane to parked. Yet – if parking means healing – then that is what Ford and I need to do. Ford continues to speel that Fords, “never give up”. I don’t either – but why not be smart about it and recognize that we are not bigger than our biology?
I had a fantastic meeting yesterday with my union representative. He informed me about all the benefits we have as teachers and how I can tap into those benefits. I am telling you – I feel so grateful for everything that teachers of the past have fought for and achieved. I think of other professions where this is no such thing as long-term disability or even short-term disability or even sick days…. wow. I was encouraged to call the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan to see how my diagnosis would affect my pension. Admittedly the “shortened life expectancy” clause threw me off – but it was something that I needed to appreciate all in its own right. As I don’t even want to consider receiving that diagnosis – it may be a reality – and it could certainly benefit myself and my family. It reminds me of writing a will: it is something that is necessary, but all the while hopefully will not need to be actioned for a long time.
So it would seem I am in limbo world for now. My mind, of course, does not really accept that. I am frequently given reminders that I am still not well – which helps me to stay my course to eat well and rest. My hair (what is left) is beginning to fall out again and Rob Ford’s announcement that he has pneumonia may well be the universe’s way of telling me that my best laid plans of returning to work and life as I knew it – may well not be in the cards… for now. Neither, it would seem, for Rob Ford either.
I continue to follow Ford’s progress with interest and pray to God that I would not be so arrogant as to push what others have recommended to be my limits. I can’t help but feel sorry for the man who is almost on a course of self-destruction. I can’t help but hope to hell that my own efforts to eat well, isolate myself, and sustain good mental health will pay off in the end. After-all, I do not live in isolation – illness impacts everyone around me and their load is almost heavier than mine. This has been a difficult pill to swallow – that others need me to “behave” well to heal. It is an action that requires me to swallow my pride and to redefine what it means to achieve and produce on a daily basis. Perhaps Ford will, one day, behave too – for the sake of his family?
Of course, how could I neglect to include the poem “To a Mouse” by Robbie Burns when my entire post has been inspired by such insight? Although a tad difficult to follow because of the more obscure language, I have always enjoyed this poem – first introduced to me by my parents.
Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murdering pattle.
I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
An’ fellow mortal!
I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
‘S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t.
Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s win’s ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.
That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turned out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld.
But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Still thou are blest, compared wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!