Archives for posts with tag: cancer

Not all cancers are death sentences. Not all cancers are fast killers.

I need to get this out of my system. If you are a cancer patient, hear me out. Not all cancers are death sentences. Not all cancers are fast killers. However, pancreatic cancer is a difficult diagnosis to have.

Please, don’t despair. Don’t give up. I think it is 90% attitude and Ray is a testament to that. In the 6 years he pushed back at pancreatic cancer, advances were made. He was not the only one to live far beyond the expected statistical norm. Steve Jobs passed him by a year. And I know of people with a pancreatic cancer diagnosis who are still alive after 15 and 20 years. If you have a new diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, who knows? Don’t rely on statistics. New drugs, new advances are coming on stream every day. Our oncologist, Dr. Hagen Kennecke at the BC Cancer Agency did everything new he could find. Granted, Ray was exceptional. He never allowed cancer to have any power over him. And Hagen and the staff at BCCA battled right along side him.

Look at diet, it’s important. Look at acupuncture, yoga, meditation. All of these have immense power over your physical systems and can extend your life in a very healthy way. You can have control over this and you need to use it. You are not a victim. Fight back. But — most important — be invincible because you can be. Your next 5 or 6 years may be the time that we find a cure. Be strong. Live every day.

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Four weeks, six days

I knew Ray would die. Everybody says, “Oh, you could be crossing the street tomorrow and…”, but that’s not really the point, is it?

When someone you love has cancer, there is, suspended in air, a shoe. The first one hits the floor at the moment you hear the diagnosis. Cancer. The second one hangs there…

I stood, rigid, for I don’t know how long while a hotshot young GI specialist doing an ERCP poked around with a probe down Ray’s gut fishing for what he was looking for. He knew all along that he would find an adenocarcinoma. I was standing right outside the door. I heard every word. While he poked around — Ray moaning in discomfort the whole time, and the nurse telling him to hold still — the doctor talked to his team about his weekend. Workaday stuff this was for him. Afterwards he swaggered out and said, “yep, it’s cancer”.

Here’s the thing. No one had had the cahones to tell me that they suspected cancer, not the GP, or the phalanx of emergency doctors to which he sent us. They all kind of hoped someone else would do it. So this guy threw it at me like yesterday’s news. I remember the cool wall touching my back as I sunk into it. I remember thinking I needed to get to Ray. I remember hating that cold-hearted SOB for not even considering the human element in this equation. He gave it to me like an invoice for a car repair.

I didn’t know the first thing about pancreatic cancer. As knowledgable as I am about human anatomy, I wasn’t entirely sure what a pancreas did. I learned most of it within 48 hours. And I wept. Pancreatic cancer takes no prisoners. Most die within a year. The 5-year survival rate is under 5%. I remember calling my son and daughter, even less prepared for this, to tell them their dad had cancer. I had so much trouble forming the words. Who the hell knows how you are supposed to do this?

There is an epic story that follows this event which I will get to at some point in this blog, but my point tonight is that it is somewhat bizarre knowing you’re living with the love of your life while they are dying faster than you had expected. You don’t know how fast, or how it will all happen, but you can pretty much count on not having those halcyon days of sweet retirement together. That home looking over the vineyards in the Okanagan where we would enjoy the hot sun and play with our grandchildren — not happening. It’s blunt. It’s cruel. You know that other shoe will drop. It hangs there…suspended…waiting.

Twenty-five days

I don’t know where you are in the loss process. I’m not sure where I am. But it occurs to me that I have the ability to write and to rationalize my experiences. So, in the feint hope that I can help another person who is newly facing loss or who is raw from the loss of someone so important to them that the loss seems insurmountable, I’ll document my thoughts.

This is my first post, so bear with me. I lost Ray, my perfect soulmate on March 23, 2012. Three weeks and two days ago. I have the ability to distance myself from my own reality on occasion, as I’m sure we all do.

Ray was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on March 17, 2006. I was gobsmacked. He was only 52 years old! We were successful…planning our lives….making a difference, and then everything changed in a blink of an eye. I had to call my kids and tell them that their dad was seriously ill…but he was fine yesterday.

I’ll write about the in-between some other time, if you want me to, and if I think it’s needed. But for now, let me tell you that six years of knowing that someone is likely to die does not diminish the shock. We had times of absolute bliss where the cancer seemed so distant. But it was always that “other shoe” and we waited for it to drop. I always thought we were “just kidding”. Ray was one of the stoic people who never acknowledged the illness and just kept going. So, when he finally started to show signs of weakness: a cane, a wheelchair, a dependence on oxygen therapy, I had to start seeing the reality. It was a short reality. From the time he needed that cane and oxygen to the time he died was three short months. He went from a robust 200+ pounds to I don’t know what in that time. He was light, frail and struggling to breathe in such a short time. How could this happen??

Ray was well known in our professional field. Three hundred people attended his Celebration of Life. Countless others watched it via live feed and later watched the recorded version from all around the world. That makes this not greater or less than your loss. It’s just that I find it difficult to understand how someone so loved and respected could be plucked from life when he had so much more to do. I am struggling with that right now.

Here is what I worry about. People will give me and my children time to grieve. But it will be far, far less time than we need. My doctor sat me down last week and, though she never does this as she knows I’m “in control” she told me, “let me tell you something about grief”. She told me that I will need a minimum of one year…to start. That’s for all the anniversaries. Each day will be a day without Ray. The year won’t do it, but the problem is, friends and maybe even family, won’t give us even that one year. They’ll give us weeks, maybe months. Then they’ll want to get on with things and expect that we will do the same. But we can’t. There is a smoking, meteor-sized hole in our lives. We just can’t fill it in that fast.

If you are reading this and you’ve lost someone, fight for time. You deserve it and you need it. If you are a friend or family member, back off. Allow the loss to settle. That settling time will be long — likely much longer than you will understand.

I’ll write more as I see that I can.

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