L'chaim - to life

Posted on: Tue, 06/22/2021 - 19:02 By: journeyadmin
Ranuculus - Buttercup


Bare feet wiggling my toes in the grass. Must be summer time. I do have a Siwash sweater on and the rain is threatening as I write this. I feel good having the opportunity to sit and ruminate on the last few weeks.

This morning I was a bit preoccupied.

There has been a growing sense of restlessness. A New York Times article referred to "languishment."  It's a feeling that many of us are experiencing in the tail end of the pandemic. Then an article in Fast Company referred to the "Great Resignation." I've heard others referring to it as the "Great Reset." People have rethought their lives. We are deciding that we don't want to go back to the cubicle farms and the daily grind.

I'm up to my two week freedom after my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. And I'm wondering how my life will change. Has the pandemic lockdown been that big a deal? At the beginning it didn't seem like that big a change for  me. Then I had to give up in person meetings. I stopped going to church (which isn't as bad as it sounds) but it was different to do it through zoom.

After hearing about the dangers of covid-19 infection from my oncologist, I had to give up doing First Aid. That was more of a change than I expected, though it took a while to sink in. But then the reality of the border not being open crept up on me. Trying to start new relationships while maintaining old ones became more challenging.

So now what? After checking, my First Aid ticket is still valid till August 2022. Do I go back to the occasional job? I feel rusty. There is a mindset required that I have not had to practice for almost eighteen months. My web work hasn't been affected much. Recently I spoke to a potential new client. That potential fell through when I mentioned that my life was on a short timeline. Turns out they were looking for a longer term relationship. Ageist. Ableist. But the bigger question is do I want to keep on keeping on with the technology arms race that is working on the Interweb.

In April, National Poetry month, I took inspiration from a Vancouver poet. She has been writing a poem every day for several years. So I wrote a poem every day in April. (Well almost every day.) The strange thing is that I have kept it up. I find myself doing it at the end of the day and it has become a moment of reflection on the day. Sometimes on a feeling, sometimes on something that I saw, and once in a while it is a soaring flight of fancy.

The writing has been rewarding in that I now have a body of poems - about a hundred. I  could massage that into into something like a chapbook. Combined with earlier work and some of the fine tuned pieces that I have been reading publicly recently, I wonder if this is the book that everyone keeps talking to me about ...

Medically I have another 4 month reprieve till August. My CT scan showed "no significant changes." That is about as good as it gets. More exciting was the conversation with my oncologist. He suggested another oncologist might consider me a "pathological liar" hearing my story. Because the tale is so odd and has taken so many twists and turns, it is a miracle. But he assured me that it is all documented and he believes me. Still isn't everyone's story like this?

My recent hernia surgery is another one of those miracles. I felt ignored by the health system for two years. Then it happened in under a month once the oncologist made the referral. My initial interview with the surgeon was quick. "Yes it is a hernia. Yes I think I can do it laparoscopically but that will be a decision for the anesthesiologist. They may have reservations about putting you under completely."  If the chemo/radiation damage to my lungs is too extensive, then the surgery would need to be the traditional more invasive method.

Realizing that decision would rest on a phone interview was a bit daunting. After I described my running exercise habits, combined with what he saw in my lung scans, the anesthesiologist approved. He was confident that the laparoscopic surgery was the best option.  Imagine my surprise when I got a phone call the next day - Thursday asking if the following Tuesday would work for the surgery. Of course it did!

The day before my surgery, my phone service went down for an entire day. That made all the final confirmations impossible. But when I showed up the next day, they were ready for me. The simple technology that we take for granted. The phone company blamed a bad software update. I've been part of those and I don't envy the techs trying to sort it out. The $1.61 rebate was a slap in the face after the anxiety.

The pre-surgery interview process with the nurse took awhile. Other nurses kept calling her away, not once but three times, to start a difficult IV for someone else. I knew I had lucked out. That is the nurse I want to start my IV. We shared some good laughs over silly things that happen when you visit a hospital as much as I do.

Before I knew it, the surgery was all over and they were rolling me down to recovery. I had a couple of little - and I do mean little - bandages on my tummy. The after effects felt like maybe I had done too many sit-ups but otherwise no major side effects. No lifting. No running for three weeks. I was on my way.

Resisting the temptation to run was a lot harder than I expected. If you had told me going in how much I was going to miss running, I wouldn't have believed you. It made me realize how much that hour three times a week meant to me. Is it the mental focus required? Is it the endorphins afterwards? I'm not sure. What I can say is that walking didn't cut it.

So I bought a bike. I suspect the surgeon might have suggested that I not cycle either but I didn't ask him. I did take it easy though I did discover "a new way to die." On my first ride, an SUV pulled into the bike lane to go around a car in front of them and I had a near miss. I've been enjoying the expanded range in my neighbourhood. Having the bike allows exploring new parks and riding to my medical appointments.

I managed to get back up to my regular 5K runs in time for a 5K fundraiser.  "Give a Breath" is for lung cancer research at Queen Elizabeth hospital in Edmonton. Fellow lung cancer advocate Tim Monds is a main organizer and breathing is a worthy cause. Thanks to those who supported me on my run.

Advocacy continues to be an important part of my life. I am accepted into a research advocate training program called STARS (Supportive Training for Advocates on Research & Science.)  Sponsored by IASLC (International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer) the program trains volunteers with a personal connection to cancer. The program  selects people who are passionate about helping research translate into meaningful outcomes for patients and their families . Lung cancer research advocates provide the perspective of the lung cancer patient community to help research focus on the questions most important to patients and create studies that will extend lives and improve quality of life for people who have lung cancer.

These STARS graduates stand as a bridge between patients and the research community. They help others understand what is going on with lung cancer research. As well they bring the patient perspective to the research table.  

I continue to be an active voice on cancerconnection.ca. A digital story that I wrote about advocacy premiered at CAPO2021 (Canadian Association for Psychosocial Oncology). This piece drew parallels between my mothers journey with breast cancer forty years ago to my current journey with lung cancer.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cynUqm-8KBY) I also recorded an interview with the Lung Health Foundation. Initially they used it for a presentation on Parliament Hill. Now they have reworked it into a social media piece talking about the rising awareness of lung cancer. (https://lunghealth.ca/lung-health-advocate/)

But there are larger questions that have my attention as well . Recent events in Canada have refocused my attention on First Nations issues. Recent reading "Braiding Sweetgrass" by Robin Wall Kimmer reminded me there is a different way of seeing the world. Indigenous culture need not discard western scientific thought but gives perspective on it. Bob Joseph's book "21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act" highlights problems with the Indian Act. This genocidal Act has had dramatic negative effects on society. Many Canadians are not familiar with the "94 Calls to Action" of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. (http://trc.ca/assets/pdf/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf)

All this has left me listening and thinking. I wonder about sharing my knowledge and understanding. The challenge is to find ways that respect the damage done without re-traumatizing the victims.

A close friend recently sent me a text "l'chaim - to life." Offered as a toast traditionally at Jewish engagement parties it contrasts dramatically with a hashtag currently making the rounds in the cancer social media community - #LivingWhileDying.

David in Psalm 16 praises God with:

"Now you’ve got my feet on the life path,
 all radiant from the shining of your face.
Ever since you took my hand,
 I’m on the right way."

That is the promise of a Creator who cares deeply for us. While I might not know where I'm going I know that I desire to follow them. And that is my assurance that I am on the right way.

Thanks for all your encouragement and well wishes as I embark on this next phase of life.