Challenges and Choices

I won’t lie. This past month has been a challenging season, due to pain, nausea, fatigue and breathing challenges. Living with cancer can be very challenging, but thankfully the pain, nausea and fatigue are improving. I’ve had to hunker down and rest a lot, but am thankful to still be able to spend a little time with people, get some exercise and continue to do some advocacy work. We don’t get to choose all of our life circumstances, but we often get choice in how we respond. We can control the things we can control. Choosing to give thanks even in the midst of challenges can be a real game changer.

The upper endoscopy which happened the end of September (mentioned in the previous post) went well. We learned that my esophagus (food pipe) had narrowed to the size of a pin prick. No wonder swallowing was so challenging! The next day the phone rang with an appointment for a stent to be inserted in my esophagus the day after. A stent is a flexible tube to help keep the esophagus open to make it easier to swallow food and drink. I was very thankful for the opportunity to take advantage of a cancellation and get this taken care of quickly. That procedure was harder on me than I anticipated, and I slept for some time in the hospital afterwards. I’m thankful for Jackie Manthorne, President and CEO of Canadian Cancer Survivors Network (pictured below) who waited patiently, helped get my prescription meds and got me home safe and sound. So many people have supported by driving to and/or from appointments. What a good gift! Because this time was such short notice I put a request out on facebook, and had multiple offers within a few minutes. Thanks also to Robyn Denis who drove me to the appointment. So many have offered and have driven, and you have no idea how much it means. Thank you!

Awesome advocate Jackie September 2022
Kim Andrea and Robyn – awesome advocates. Photo credit: Chris Draft 2019

I’m very grateful that swallowing is so much easier than it was in September. In addition to liquids and purĂ©ed foods, I can carefully chew and swallow soft foods. This helped make (Canadian) Thanksgiving Dinner much more enjoyable. Very thankful for my middle child and her boyfriend who cooked a delicious vegan dinner for us. There was tons of food, mostly on the kitchen counter since it would not all fit on the table. I still eat very small portion sizes, and could not finish all the yummy veggies on my plate that evening.

Canadian Thanksgiving 2022
Canadian Thanksgiving 2022

I’m also incredibly thankful for the gorgeous weather we’ve enjoyed this Fall. I went out walking as much as I could, often with my youngest who I’m so grateful for, and our big sweet dog. Here is some of the beauty we’ve been able to enjoy this past month.

Today I’m especially thankful for two dear friends who popped by this afternoon. We are blessed with so many good people who generously support us. Love and support can make a world of difference, especially during the challenging seasons, and I can’t tell you how much that means.

Could I challenge you to choose a friend or neighbour to reach out to with love and support in the next few weeks? This does not need to be someone affected by cancer, but could be someone going through a difficult season. Please never underestimate the difference you can make for someone!

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month! What is your Cancer Centre doing to celebrate survivors and raise awareness?

In the Bleak Midwinter

First of all, dear friends, let me remind you that January is radon month, so if you haven’t checked your home for radon, please do it this week-end! Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Please protect yourself and your loved ones by getting a test kit this week-end and using it! You can read more in my previous blog post: How Two Trips to the Basement Could Save Your Life. Thus ends my radon public service announcement! 🙂

You’re probably wondering what I’ve been up to lately, besides hanging out with my boys and walking the dog. The answer is LOTS!

The Ottawa support group is going well: 13 out at our January meeting. We have an awareness day planned at the General next Thursday. Drop by the Cancer Centre and say hello if you’re around!

Our December Ottawa support group party, with a delicious and generously catered meal from Chances R Restaurant

I’m working at collecting and connecting lung cancer patients across the country, so if you know of any, please send them in my direction! Today I was talking with dear folks in Winnipeg. Yesterday it was Calgary. It can be pretty lonely here in Canada, without other lung cancer friends around! That’s why I’m working to find and connect lung cancer patients in various geographic regions across this large land. I hope we will have patient support groups, awareness days and summits across the country!

There aren’t enough hours in the day! I love serving as a catalyst, a creative problem solver! I’m energized by this work, and eager to meet people, gather them together, and help build lung cancer communities.

I joined the Canadian Cancer Trials Group as (volunteer) patient representative, Lung Site, in November. The CCTG develops and conducts clinical trials, and includes all major cancer centres and many community hospitals across the country. This will afford me the opportunity to meet people doing lung cancer research across the country, and that should help with my community building work! As patient representative, I have opportunities to give input into the clinical trial process at many points along the way. Steep learning curve and big responsibility! It’s important that I get to know a wide variety of lung cancer patients so that I can fulfill my obligation to represent us all. I hope to listen and learn a lot in the coming months and hopefully years. I hope to live long enough to fulfill my three year term commitment. Perhaps another clinical trial will help extend my life once again!

I’ve also applied to the Scientist-Survivor program at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting this Spring in Atlanta. What a wonderful opportunity to meet researchers, advocates, oncologists and learn many things about research into all kinds of cancer, then pass my learning along to many others! I should hear any day if I’ve been accepted, and I am eagerly hoping!

Christmas Day 2018

But it’s not all lung cancer around here. Sadly, Jono’s Mum is extremely unwell. Jono and our youngest rushed off to Australia right after Christmas to be with her and the rest of Jono’s family. We wished we all could have gone. They shared many joyous times together in the midst of such sorrow, and have just returned home. We’d be grateful if you could spare a prayer or warm thought for the family as it seems the end is drawing near.

A Dog’s Life is Filled with Hope!

I’ve never been much of a dog person, but my daughter sure is. She loves dogs. She’s on her fourth “Dog Calendar” now – you know, the kind where there’s a new picture for each day of the year, and for my daughter, each doggie picture is cuter than the one before.

A little over a year ago, our family decided to adopt a rescue dog. We went in thinking we knew what we wanted (medium size, preferably black or mostly black). We chose Colo, even though he wasn’t exactly what we’d planned for (he’s white and the size of a small house horse). It’s hard to explain how it happened, but we love this dog, and we brought him home.

Somehow this dog keeps digging his way deeper and deeper into my heart. I’ve learned to scratch his ears in just the right places, and I’ve come to understand that this dog is filled with hope.

When I reach for my shoes, he’s hoping for a walk. When he hears a crinkly sound, he’s hoping for a treat.

Tonight I was making chocolate chip cookies, and the dog plonked himself down on the floor at my feet, looking at me with those gorgeous brown eyes, expectantly, waiting, looking up, hoping, anticipating, at the ready, just in case some small bit of batter might happen to fly out of the bowl.

Which (he should know by now) was not likely! And even if some small bit of chocolate chip batter did dare take the plunge toward the eager dog lying in wait below … how could he imagine that I would not, with my lightening-fast ninja-like reflexes, intercept it long before he had even the remotest chance? This dog lives in hope!

He knows that I am not some clumsy cook who would carelessly cast off delectable delights, especially not ones containing compounds dangerous to dogs. Yet he hopes!

Why shouldn’t he hope? Why shouldn’t we? After all, here I am alive and baking cookies five years after a terrible diagnosis. Why shouldn’t we live a life filled with hope?

Especially when the baker is holding out a spoon, filled with good cookie batter, just waiting for you! Hope!