Archive for the ‘Wrong Way to Hope’ Category

Life sure has been interesting since the last time I posted.

In May, I was approached by the head of Public Relations at The Cancer Knowledge Network, an online community for oncologists, cancer patients and medical students, who came across my blog which is posted on the Young Adult Cancer Canada website. I was asked if I would be interested in writing for their Patient Connect/Life After Cancer section. I couldn’t say no to the opportunity. In fact, I think it took me two seconds to reply with a resounding YES! I have written a few articles for them thus far, but am now volunteering for them in a different capacity – but that comes later in the year. I am excited to be contributing in a different capacity now, was I approached my five year clear/cancerversary later in the year.

In June, I was downtown for the Vancouver Canuck riots (I posted videos on YouTube under the name turnurlifearound). These videos were actually given to the Vancouver Police to use as evidence and to help them identify suspects). I found it very interesting to experience sheer chaos in the downtown core. As sad as it was, and scary at times, I am really glad I was there. I was thankfully safe, and was more interested in taking photos and videos to use for identification. It was absolutely insane.

In July, I was a peer supporter again with Young Adult Cancer Canada at Retreat Yourself West (which for your information is now open for 2012 registration). I met another amazing group of young adults and expanded my heart even further. I felt truly comfortable in this role for the first time, and enjoyed guiding the newbies along the process. Felt like a bit of a veteran, even though it was only the third time I had helped in that capacity, yet I already had six retreats and three survivor conferences under my belt.

Summer was pretty much non existent here in Vancouver, but I spent as much time as I could out in the sun when it was around. I found a new favourite place not very far from where I live, which is called Iona Beach. It’s near a sewage treatment plant, but the beach is pristine (water, I’m not so sure about).

At the beginning of November, I headed out to Ottawa for my fourth Young Adult Survivor Conference with YACC. It was SO wonderful to reconnect with all my old friends, and create new ones. Checking out the market, and doing a climb to Parliament Hill were bitter sweet, knowing that I was coming up to my five year cancerversary on December 2. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to attend this conference, as I’m not sure if I want to attend in future years, and instead give the opportunity to others who have a greater need to connect.

After I got back from my trip, I accepted the role of Editor to the Life After Cancer section of the Cancer Knowledge Network. Apparently, thus far, we’ve received over 5,000 hits, with over 600 hits to the number one read article of the site – Turning Your Life Around – Fear and Uncertainty, Part 2 in only a week. I’m so happy to know that 150,000 people from all over the world, have had a chance to checkout the different parts of this site, and am looking forward to further contributions. Right now, my focus is on finding writers, so if you’re interested, please leave a comment – I would love to connect!

On December 2, Mikey Lang, Jared Brick, Vikram Bubber and I, had the opportunity to attend a screening of Wrong Way to Hope at the Cancer Agency Community Forum in Vancouver. This was an extra special day for me, as it was my five year anniversary of finishing treatment. I was greeted with a bouquet of flowers and the ability to sit back and watch the film again. Loved the opportunity to talk and answer questions from the crowd. I met a wonderful young woman by the name of Terri Wingham, who introduced me to what she was doing – traveling around the world and volunteering with cancer centers. She invited me along, and I hope to make it happen this year. Her blog “A Fresh Chapter” is absolutely amazing, and I recommend you check it out.

The end of the year was a difficult one for me, having to make the choice to put my cat, Liz, down after over a year of battling kidney failure. The poor love was just not doing well since my trip back from the Ottawa YACC Survivor Conference (she was blind from hypertension when I came back, which was handled with medication, and she actually got her sight back). She had been on subcutaneous fluids for several months, and was on different types of medication, but it was hard for the last few months. She had a good life with me, considering I know she’d had a stressful four years prior to me adopting her from Forgotten Felines. I will miss her dearly, but am happy to have started 2012 without her struggling and the stress it caused all of us. Lucy (dog) is adapting and happy to have all of my attention now.

I would also like to introduce a guest writer I will be posting an article from shortly – David Haas. Please welcome his informative pieces on Wellness.

Happy 2012, and can’t wait to share more with you in whatever way possible.


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Last weekend I was listening to a podcast called Dot Matrix by Junior High School friends Sean and Justin (Facebook and website), and they recited a wonderful poem by Nikki Giovanni called Choices:


if i can’t do
what i want to do
then my job is to not
do what i don’t want
to do

it’s not the same thing
but it’s the best i can

if i can’t have
what i want . . . then
my job is to want
what i’ve got
and be satisfied
that at least there
is something more to want

since i can’t go
where i need
to go . . . then i must . . . go
where the signs point
through always understanding
parallel movement
isn’t lateral

when i can’t express
what i really feel
i practice feeling
what i can express
and none of it is equal
i know
but that’s why mankind
alone among the animals
learns to cry

This poem really spoke to me, at a time when I see the choices of others, or their inability to see the choices that are available. I also find that many people of my age range focus on the “what if’s”. I used to be a culprit of this, and I think it unfortunately and fortunately took cancer to open my eyes. I really don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. No one does. So, focusing on the now (thank you Eckhart Tolle), and doing what I feel is necessary helps me to focus on the big picture.

Whenever I think of the big picture I’m always brought back to the Owyhee River during the filming of Wrong Way to Hope. Mikey Lang, the producer, spoke about looking at the small fraction of our lives that we may be in crisis, and to try to focus on the positive. I know, easier said than done, but it really gave me perspective. Whenever I feel like nothing is going right, and I just want it all to crash down on me, I remember that in the big scheme of things, not only does He only give me what I can handle, but that the experience I’m having is so miniscule. I was in treatment for only three months.

An exercise I did through “The Vice-Busting Diet Journal” had me write down how many days I’d already been alive, when I thought I would live till, and how many days I thought I had left. That got me thinking.

  • So far I’ve been alive 409 months, so being treated for cancer only took  0.7% of my life.
  • I’ve been recovering for 4.5 years, which equals 54 months and only 13% of my life thus far.

Now, if I went as far to say that I think I might live until I’m 83, that gives me 588 months left. If I recalculated all of the above based on the fact that I would live a total of 997 months, that 54 months of suffering is nothing. It’s absolute peanuts. It’s 5.4% of my life.

Interesting perspective isn’t it? I talked to some people at work about this, and detailed about how many days I thought I had left – they thought it to be quite morbid. I, on the other hand, am a realist. Amy Spencer says it well in her book  “Meeting Your Half-Orange – An utterly upbeat guide to using dating optimism to find your perfect match.”

The dating world, like life, is made up of optimists and pessimists. Where do you fit in? Are you a glass half-full, who can see the positive side of being stuck with a boring date … fixing a flat tire in the rain? Or are you a glass half-empty, who can meet a handsome, well-adjusted guy who thinks you’re cute … and decide there must be something wrong with him? Maybe, after years of being disappointed in dating, you’ve become a little bit of both – what you’d consider a “realist.”

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with choosing to have a realistic perspective of my future. In fact, I think it allows me to get out there and experience life instead of sitting around at home feeling sorry for myself (not that I do this all the time…though ruminating can be very eye-opening and should be done at times for reflection).

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails. William Arthur Ward

That’s exactly it. I can adjust. I look at how much life I have left and want to live it to the fullest, but sometimes a big black cloud follows us around. For me it was the diagnosis of cancer.

My most recent article on Multimed’s Current Oncology Cancer Knowledge Network, discusses fear and uncertainty, and really about the choices we have. It speaks about my account of hearing the cancer diagnosis, and how those words rocked my world upside down. I didn’t feel like I had a choice. Doctor’s wanted me to begin therapy as soon as possible due to the cancer being so aggressive.

But it’s only in retrospect that I realize I did have a choice. I had a choice on how to react to that news, and I didn’t react well. I became very depressed, as I can imagine many do with this kind of news, and though I smile in these photos, the fear is underlying. Moving away from this has taken years of practice and a community with hearts big enough to handle it all.

As my focus for this year has been love and learning to love realistically, I have to share several books with you that have recently come to my attention and aide. Thanks to a dear friend Jared who introduced me to The Five Love Languages – Singles Edition by Gary Chapman, I have begun to learn about choices to love

The choice to love is the choice to take initiative. It is the choice to do or say something for the other person’s benefit, something that would help make them a better person, something that would enrich their lives or make life more meaningful for them.

If you’re interested in learning more, take this quick test:

Of the five love languages, I think my primary one is words of affirmation. I need to hear that I’m doing great, that I’m loved and cared for. I find it interesting that for some people it’s so difficult. Dr. Chapman states that we need to learn to speak all five languages in order to help make others feel loved.

I actually talked to my dad about this the other day. We’ve had a tense relationship over the years, but we always have really good, deep talks. Unfortunately sometimes they’re focused on him, but, well, if I can share some of my wisdom to help him get through, then I guess I’m doing something worthy. When someone says that they don’t feel loved, then we need to learn how to make them feel that they are. But, when we do all that we can, and learn what it is to make that person feel loved, and they still don’t, what do we do?

Would you change?

I feel that living life openly and genuinely is paramount to living life to the fullest, and that we’ll attract the person who will know how to love us the way we need to be loved. But in many ways, this is not how I’m living my life. Waiting and hoping goes against my values of no regrets and lots of passion. My good friend Marlene writes this perfectly in her blog Changing Times – An Open Letter.

Be vulnerable, don’t settle. Hmm, am I really listening to my own words, or is it all about learning to love realistically? Another book I came across by Lori Gottlieb ponders these questions “Marry Him – The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.” I’ve been thankful to have these books to reference and learn, as I don’t feel that I’ve had great examples of healthy relationships around me. Though I’m still torn.

A person doesn’t take care of the past in one fell swoop. Making peace with oneself comes in stages, and very often when we least expect it. But we need to do it – even if it means going back and looking the devil in the eye. We need to know we are no longer under the influence of past experiences, especially negative ones.

Time slowly but surely removes the sharp, annoying stones that have been in our shoes for years. We know we still have miles to go when something still fills us with anger. But when we can look with curiosity and disinterest upon a bad experience from the past, we know we have turned a corner. This is a spiritual turning point. Celebrate it and give thanks to the Spirit who makes it possible.

Joyce Sequichie Hifler is a new favourite author of mine. She writes daily meditations in “A Cherokee Feast of Days – Volume III” for July 24. I saw this a few days ago and they are wise words. I know in many ways that I’ve come very far, but in others, it’s just another layer of the onion being peeled off. Just when you think an issue is dealt with, life throws it at you another way and it’s there to deal with all over again.

Learning all over again can be tiresome, but it’s helpful. And then there’s sometimes we can use the teachings of others. Blogs are great for this. I came across a new one today that lists all the cancer related blogs out there. I asked to be put on his list, and he posted one of my entries! Checkout Being Cancer – thanks Dennis.

Oh, one more thing. I am on the eve of my third year as a peer supporter for Young Adult Cancer Canada’s Retreat Yourself West. As always, I’m anxiously anticipating meeting 24 young adult cancer survivors. It’s always exciting to spend time with people who’ve been through or are going through cancer. I likened the experience to how the Grinch’s heart “grew two-sizes that day.” I’m nowhere near being a Grinch, but I loved the concept of thinking that my heart can’t grow anymore, and then I come away from a weekend like this and I’m forever changed.

Finishing up with the Retreat this coming Monday means that YACC will be in full planning mode for the Survivor Conference being held in Ottawa this year from November 3 – 7. Applications are open, so please feel free to send them in. Last year was the only year I’ve missed and I hope to attend this one as well.

Can’t wait to share my experiences from Retreat in my next post. Love to you all!

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I just watched this amazing video by Brene Brown on Ted talks and I’m so fortunate to know how vulnerable I’ve been, and how this tenderness has connected me to so many wonderful people in my life. I recommend you watch it if you have some time to listen to it in the background. I did so while I was writing this post as I found it resonated with me so deeply.

I know that love and tenderness have been big topics for me this year, whether it’s been regarding a relationship I’m in which I am personally struggling with due to my past, or what I have felt is an imperative need in my life, or how much I allow myself to be open with others considering the hurt and pain I’ve encountered in dealing with cancer patients.

It’s interesting how much our past experiences denote our responses to current situations.

With regards to vulnerability, the breadth of relationships I have experienced with cancer patients and the wisdom gleaned have allowed me to really open up my heart, though it has been difficult to lose so many from this dreadful disease.

In fact, I must pay tribute to all those lost. This past week we have lost Caio, a 23 year old Osteo-Sarcoma cancer victim. I hate to say the word, but it’s really true. I know he lived with his cancer because of all the support he had, but I don’t think it’s right to live with a disease. I think it’s so unfair to cause so much pain to an angel, as he truly was one. He met everyone with such honour and appreciation of being, that it was impossible to not meet him with love. The memorial service that was held this past Friday was completely full. There was barely room for people to stand. His partner loved him dearly, and really showed this at the service. It was so touching. Several people shared their experiences, songs, poems and flowers, which allowed such a breadth of ceremony.

I’ve had a tough time dealing with his passing. Survivor guilt was never something I thought was possible, until I passed my one year cancer free mark. A survivor mentioned it to me as I’d never heard of it before. It’s a strange concept really; as happy as I am to be here, I’m so angry for those that lose their fight to this horrible disease.

There have honestly been too many to count during my journey post-cancer. I believe there is a post where I was detailing who and when people were leaving this dimension for another hopefully pain-free and peaceful one. I actually feel somewhat disgusted that I was chronicling people I’d met that I’d no longer be able to have relationships with.

I can’t be angry at myself for doing this though, it’s a human response to put things into context and that was my purpose at that time. It is no longer.

On a different topic of love, I’ve been fortunate enough to be asked back for a third time as a peer counsellor to Young Adult Cancer Canada’s Retreat Yourself West. At this retreat, I’m able to share my journey of cancer with others, and hope to reach out to those affected in order to help ease the stress and provide guidance.  Through meeting these people at retreat, as well as survivor conferences and through YACN, I have learned not only humility, but the ability to be vulnerable, which has allowed my heart to overflow with love and tenderness for all.


We had our first conference call the day after the fourth anniversary of my 30th birthday, and some of the words that were used to explain our involvement as peer supporters/facilitators were:  the ability to engage others emotionally by being open and authentic, therefore allowing others permission to do the same. This was summed up by each of the people on the call. I thought it was perfectly put.

Further to that, I think I have already mentioned that I am now writing for a website called the Cancer Knowledge Network through their Patient Connect portion. I have a new post coming up next week, so please be on the lookout!

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at life.

Through the twists and turns we sometimes feel as if we can’t handle another day of whatever it is that’s going on.

And then I think about where I’ve been, what I’ve done, and the endless possibilities ahead of me, and I appreciate every millisecond of it.

Now, that doesn’t mean that I treat my body the best I can, but I definitely treat my mind and soul to what I need.

Phew, these last four months have been busy. It’s been good. I’m happy to state that I’ve had consistently high energy levels for some time now and feeling good.

Let’s see, what has happened?

We’ve lost a few people from the community: Kirsten, Megan and Jean to name a few.

Kirsten was my inspiration for writing poetry. And I’ve just recently felt the push to start on my book again.

The original reason for this blog was actually to post excerpts from my book and request your thoughts. It just never happened and I’m remiss to say that I haven’t touched the book since last May. And it was just a touch. I opened the file, took a quick read and closed it.

I didn’t like what I’d read.

With time, I’ve realized that I need to understand the perspective I was writing from almost 2.5 years ago.

Lynne Tapper, Ian’s sister, just published her book “Living with feet too big for a glass slipper“. It’s exciting to see something published. I really dream for that. I just wish I had the time – well, I need to make it. I always put education ahead of writing.

In fact, I put education in front of several things – making jewellery, rest, pottery, poetry. Well, that’s life right? I’m trying to catch up a bit.

November – February, I ran my butt in the ground.  The Supervisory Training Certificate Program project is done. The Employee Services Intranet Portal will be implemented in the next few months. And all I get is a stupid t-shirt. I mean, three credits towards the Leadership Certificate Program at BCIT.

With Wrong Way to Hope beginning it’s North American tour this past Sunday, I’m stoked to be getting a tour t-shirt to sport around proudly!

March 20 marked the start of the tour and the screening at The Ridge theatre in Kerrisdale was well attended by over 250 people. Myself and four others gave two minute speeches post screening. Good questions asked.

I’m also happy to state that Mikey and I made it onto Urban Rush this week, 12, 5, 7 and 11 on Shaw, Channel 4. If you don’t get a chance to check it out, see the film on Youtube.

And Karin Dubois wrote an amazing article in the Georgia Straight on Saturday, March 19.

I will post again soon. I have lots to chat about, but I think this post is already long enough.

Love to you all. I couldn’t do it without all your support. YA’s rock!

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