Out of the Darkness

“Only after you are broken, can you know what you are made of”

How did the Thailand Wild Boars soccer team survive for 17 long days in a damp, dark cave.  They had no idea whether they would be saved.  They had no idea how long it would be until someone noticed they were even missing.  How is it that they did not just throw in the towel?

Grit?

Resilience?

Faith?

Team spirit?

It would seem that many are attributing their survival before their rescue to their coach.  A former monk, he taught the boys how to meditate.  Not only did this help to lower their need for oxygen – in an atmosphere that was oxygen deprived, but it also helped them to remain mentally calm.  Reports suggest they were meditating when the British scuba diver(s) found the boys.

The boys could not swim, they could not dive.  The path in front of them was down-right perilous.  The cave was pitch black.  The waters were turbulent and resembled coffee with cream.  The team was weak from lack of food, water, and potential infections.  If that doesn’t constitute a break, I’m not sure what does.

“Stacey, do you relate to this story at all?” asked my friend Sandra of me this morning?  “Did you feel like you were in a cave when you were first diagnosed with Stage 4 Ovarian cancer?” Now, there was an interested parallel in which I could sink my teeth.

That was a good question.  But I had a pretty quick answer.  “Yes. yes, I do relate.”  My diagnosis threw me into a cave of sorts.  I was lost, in the dark.   I didn’t know when or where help would arrive.  I was cold, numb.  I did almost everything I wasn’t supposed to do:  panic, read about my illness on the internet…. you know the story.  I couldn’t believe the world slept while I was wide awake in the middle of the night.  I was dying.  How could people sleep?  I felt almost trapped in my own body – all I wanted was for someone to cut the cancer out of me!  I had to learn patience.  I had to learn to not panic.  I had to learn to accept my reality without losing hope.  Yes – I could related to those boys.

My oncologist, my surgeon, my family and friends taught me how to meditate per se.  I received medical care swiftly and, although, there were no guarantees, I felt that I had partners in my health care and that these partners were much more capable of saving me at that moment than I was of saving myself.  I had no choice but to turn my life over to them.  Like the cave divers, however, my doctors were sort of navigating in an arena where there were no clear answers.  They could not guarantee they could save me – and time was ticking.  I went through chemo – surgery – more chemo.  Then more chemo.  I lost my hair three times.  When it seemed the chemo could no longer shrink my tumors, I met with doctors from Toronto General who told me about two more options:  immunotherapy and a freshly approved drug:  Lynparza (Olaparib).  Either choice was risky as neither one was really clear in terms of whether it would “save” me/ prolong my life.  Both were “shot in the dark” solutions.

I chose.  My family and I chose.  My doctors and I chose.  We chose to go the Lynparza route.

Like the boys being extracted out of the cave, my treatment too was perilous.  It was scary.  I counted on the advice and expertise of others.  I gave myself to medicine.

I was “rescued”.  To date, I have been in a drug-induced remission.  I have my doctors, the medical community, and my family and friends to thank for that.  They are my heroes.  They may not have made it to the international news – but they most certainly have made the same impact to me as the divers made to the Wild Boars Soccer Team.  I am alive today because of them – and because I believed in a solution.  I had faith in the process.  And there was some mighty Divine Intervention that had to have happened.  In my opinion.

I have lived for nearly four years now with a previously “fatal” form of cancer.  I am at peace with it.  I have not resigned myself to it – but I have become stronger because of it.  It took a lot of counselling and therapy to help me deal with my “new” reality, with the fears associated with having cancer, and with the memories of the trauma.  The mental healing was, quite truthfully, more challenging than the physical healing.  And I would anticipate the soccer team may require the same course of therapy to help them to emotionally deal with their ordeal as well.  Their journey of recovery has only just begun.

Yes.  I can relate.

I cannot presume to compare our journeys, but I feel I can walk a mile – have walked a mile – in their shoes.  I am confident that, with the proper help, with prayer, and with patience and support from others, they will see they are made of tough stuff.  I can only imagine what they will go on to achieve for themselves and, perhaps, for others.

Thank God for this very happy ending for the team – that in truth – is their beginning.

And I thank God for mine.

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About inmycorner

This blog began as an opportunity to tell my Dad's stories. I sat with him and the computer and together we told stories. It was a wonderful way to get to know Dad. He was 9. He and Mom had a wonderful life together and since she passed away a year and a half before him - Dad was ready to join her. I no longer tell his stories but have found stories of my own. The impetus to resume this blog was the discovery that I had stage 4 ovarian cancer. Since blogging had been so therapeutic for my dad and I to get through our grief, I felt maybe this would be a good outlet to process my situation. I also hoped it may serve as an outreach to anyone else who is facing this very ominous journey. So far, so good.
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20 Responses to Out of the Darkness

  1. I watched every day about these kids and coach, and the rescuers. And felt helpless. Like with yours, and family/friends here, who are going through things that I cannot change.

    I cheered for the soccer team.
    I cheer for you.

    I’ll keep cheering.

  2. great comparison – I too was amazed at how they survived in total darkness with no real hope for so long…

    • inmycorner says:

      I still think about them and wonder how they are getting along. so impressed with their teacher who said they must get back to learning and normal life.

  3. Judy says:

    I loved hearing about the boys meditating. I didn’t know that. It explains a lot about how they coped. Wow! Thank you for writing this. You definitely picked a beautiful and apt metaphor to describe courage in the darkness. Your story is inspiring!!!

  4. Colleen says:

    And you ( and they) are courageous heroes in your own right. ❤️❤️

  5. jonaismith says:

    Stacey you have such a wonderful way of expressing how many of us cancer patients feel but can’t find words for.
    I hope you have the opportunity to publish your words of encouragement for others. I spent the day at Sunnybrook having CT scans today and it always strikes me how lost and resigned some people look. They have no expressions on their faces…they are just waiting, hoping, praying. They are sick and tired of being sick and tired. How good it would be for them to pick up a booklet, flyer or heck even a book to read that would lighten their load.

    Remember the starfish story? Even if you gave the gift of a lighter heart to one person it would be so worth it. Reading material is limited to hospital and cancer society brochures. These people need to know they are loved, their lives matter, they have purpose.
    I’ve often thought I would like to take a bucketful of flowers and hand them out to the patients who are waiting for their treatments and doctors appointments. Just to tell a woman who has lost her hair that shes beautiful. To tell the person who is sitting alone that Jesus is there…just waiting for them to call His name.

    I bought a little bracelet at the Barrie Fair last year…it had the words “My story isnt over” inscribed on the metal part. I had wished I could buy them all and give them to cancer patients.
    Some days I talk to people or make them laugh…some days like today I was very quiet.

    I would love to visit health classes and speak about skin cancer and tanning. Maybe someday I’ll have the opportunity. For now I’m hoping to return to work in September.

    Maybe before I do we could have a wee visit.
    You are a very special person to many many people Stacey and in case you havent been told today, God loves you. ❤

    • inmycorner says:

      I have sat with this note from you for quite some time now – and reread it many times over. I wasn’t sure how to respond as your words touched me so deeply. You have such a lovely heart and gentle spirit.

      Thank you for these words of support. I know I am interested in writing that book/ journal/ whatever it will be – just need to figure out the framework for it. Maybe the title, “my story isn’t over” would be an apt title? Not sure.

      I have been volunteering at RVH recently in the chemo suite as a member of the patient and family advocacy council. As such – I get to do the things you want to do and encourage you to look into joining me. You would be amazing and you have quite the story yourself. I’ve met so many people with melanoma and it is a tough bugger to negotiate through. You will inspire others with your courage and success!

      Maybe we could discuss this more when we have coffee/ visit? (Email me at lepages@rogers.com and we could set something up?)

      Thanks so much for this beautiful message – so nice to know you are in my corner. You know I am in yours!

  6. Gallivanta says:

    The story of the boys is remarkable, as is yours. When people truly care for each other, we can hope for the best possible outcomes.

  7. April says:

    I’m so glad I read this post. I’m going through one of those “oh, there is a little something something on your right lung, let’s do another scan in 3 months”. Recurrence has been pushed to the farthest reaches of my mind and now I have to face another possibility that I hadn’t considered. You are truly an inspiration to me.

    • inmycorner says:

      Oh, no! April – so terrifying, isn’t it? No matter how hard you try to push it out of your mind – never gone. Now – now that it has taken more space in your world once again – make sure it stays in it’s place. Tame the friggin’ beast – you know what I mean. You MUST think positively, April. I will for you. We will get through this! There are SOOOOO many people who want you to be well – including doctors. Remember your success is theirs. They won’t let you down. And don’t let them. Okay? Prayers and hugs!

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