Cancer: Been there! Done that!

After recovering from the shock of learning that I had colorectal cancer, one of my first reactions was to get information — lots of it.  Books from the library were helpful, but that didn’t give me local information.  I Googled for Canadian colorectal cancer blogs and found only one for Nova Scotia.  It helped prepare me for what was ahead.  I’ve started this blog as a way of giving back to others who may need help on a cancer journey.

To navigate my site, use the Timeline for a quick overview.  In it are many links to the appropriate postings.  If you want a more personal perspective and to know more of what I experienced, read through my Blog from the first posting.

One friend wrote me in an email, “This may sound weird, but try to enjoy your journey“.  Those few bold words have been my motto throughout my experience.  For those with a similar illness, I suggest you follow them as well, in your own way.  I fully realize that cancer is a very broad term and the disease comes in varying forms and degrees.  We each have our own journeys that may end differently.

I keep a journal that has been my companion on every consultation. In it I have my list of questions for and the doctor’s answers to them. That same journal records my shining moments and gives vent to the very darkest ones so that they don’t fester.  In it I have written what I have learned — my Gifts of Cancer.  Having cancer has opened my eyes in so many ways that I’ve barely had time to feel sorry for myself.  I am a better person now than I was before I had the disease, for it has taught me to see what is truly important in life.

I wish you well, my friend.

When the reverberations of shock subside in you,
May grace come to restore you to balance.
May it shape a new space in your heart
To embrace this illness as a teacher
Who has come to open your life to new worlds.Excerpt from A Blessing for a Friend on the Arrival of Illness
by John O’Donohue

15 Thoughts on “Cancer: Been there! Done that!

  1. William Ottney on February 18, 2012 at 9:26 am said:

    Thanks for sending me your blog. I have forwarded it to Gunhild, as she can especially identify with the Ring of Fire. By comparison, the surgery was easier than the radiation. She is coming up on Year 7 and is still cancer free.

    The waiting room sketches are a treat, and bring back memories of travelling with Gunhild to the Cancer Unit at KGH in 2005. A vivid [negative] memory: patients wheeling an O2 cylinder, outside smoking. “People are trying to save your life….what are you doing to help yourself?”

    Thanks Dick

    • Richard on February 18, 2012 at 1:52 pm said:

      Thanks for the comment, Bill. I have discovered there is quite a community of fellow travelers out there.

      Like you, I fail to understand those to don’t change their lifestyle habits when faced with a cancer diagnosis. Perhaps if the prognosis is bad, they simply want to maintain their pleasures. Even so, I don’t get it.

  2. Anonymous on February 19, 2012 at 6:32 pm said:

    Dear Donna and Dick,

    I have just read your blog, Dick, and need to say thank you for doing all that ‘work’ and writing it down. You explain it all so well: the physical, emotional and spiritual. You and your whole family will never be the same as before your diagnosis. You are all changed individuals. AND I think this is a good thing, although we all wish you didn’t have to experience a lot of this journey.

    I hope we can get together after you have recovered from your surgery. There is much we can learn from you.

    Much love to you both, and thanks again.


  3. Gracie B on May 17, 2012 at 7:16 pm said:

    I feel pain, sadness and helplessness. My husband has stage 4 cancer. I wish there was a site or support group blog for the family who suffer, but in a totally different way. It is a raw pain, full of fear.

    • Richard on May 17, 2012 at 11:19 pm said:

      Thank you for your comment, Gracie. With the liver involvement, my cancer is now stage 4, albeit at the very low end of the scale. Both Donna and I have had those moments of pain and sadness and helplessness. Doing mind-occupying activities has helped both of us through those periods. I’ve not tried them, but here are a couple of sites that may provide the support you are looking for. Yes. It’s tough and it’s scary and it’s filled with uncertainty. In many ways, the caregiver has the worst of it. My wife will attest to that. Keep in touch and let us know how you make out,


      Cancer Support Community
      Canadian Cancer Society

  4. Sandie Zobell on June 14, 2012 at 11:56 am said:

    HI Dick:

    Ted shared your blog with us and I am sorry to hear you are going through all of this but your journey appears to be positive and I think a positive attitude is the best health cure of them all! It is odd that I read this on the day of your liver surgery so I hope all went well!

    A very close friend of mine has been on the same journey and is keeping her head above it all and has finished her chemo and radiation and now will be undergoing surgery. Your inside perspective has been helpful to help me understand what she might be experiencing that only one can truly relate when it happens to ‘you’. She lives far away from me and prefers not to see anyone until she ‘really’ needs us. She has lots of local support with her husband and family.

    Your wife is great support and it is a lot of work being the caregiver. Having watched my Mom’s dedication to my Dad (as he slowly deteriorated due to dementia from us over the course of 15 years until his passing and a very young age of 72 not so long ago), it is also a very trying time of ups and downs, I think all family caregivers deserve medals-they are the watch dogs, worriers, laughter and the tears of support.

    God bless you, my friend, and look over you and your family! Sandie

    • Richard on June 17, 2012 at 8:39 am said:

      Thank you, Sandie. Lovely to hear from you and I am pleased you took a moment to comment. I hope I can help you with your friend. She will likely find twists and turns on her journey as well. Caregivers play such an important role, and it is easy for them to be missed in all the hustle. I am thankful to have Donna.

  5. Donna Jamieson on June 15, 2012 at 2:13 pm said:

    Good Morning Dearest Dick

    I have to let you know that this is the first time I have ever replied on a blog / site and I have not read much more than the first couple of lines on your intro and simply wanted to make contact immediately.

    I was thinking of you this morning (about 5:30 ish) as I was having a cup of tea and watching a beautiful sunrise here on the west coast. The reason you were on my mind was I began to think about the people I haved worked with that I have truly admired and really liked – - – so the universe was connecting us earlier today.

    My lovely amazing mum had a colostomy in 1977 and lived a very rich and active life ( as you do ) for another three decades. Amongst her volunteer positions Mum visited patients in hospital who were about to face the same procedure to talk about the day to day realities of it, as well as to offer encouragement.

    Dick, would love to catch up with you or email direct so let’s be in touch; it has been a while since we last had a chance to chat.

    Sending lots of love – you and yours will be in my thoughts and prayers !!

    Donna (the other one)

  6. Donna Jamieson on June 15, 2012 at 6:05 pm said:

    Dear Dick

    Me again – I was just reading your blog and can hear your voice and wonderful humour in every line.

    Mum would have loved the concept of naming her stoma but unfortunately in 1977 that was not part of the “experience”. I can relate to so many of your comments, as her colostomy simply became in some ways part of the family – - – in a good way. Mum liked an early tee off so for some time she was getting up at dreadful hours of the morning to irrigate and then eventually found that she could successfully do it the night before. I kept a few osotomy supplies at my home (probably left over from previous visits)and always had a small tea cup hook part way up the wall near the toilet / no one ever asked why it was there ??? Little things that become part of the new normal life. As my father was a Master Mariner – a Marine Pilot there were nautical terms applied to the irrigation process. When I called and if Mum was in the middle of irrigating, Dad would say “Oh your mother is in the bathroom pumping the bilges”. Certainly understand also the possible horror of Stella misbehaving and giving off a little toot!!

    Thinking of you and your family and just wanted to reach out again.

    Big Hugs

    • Richard on June 17, 2012 at 8:30 am said:

      Hi Donna,

      I home now and will make a post soon, but I must reply to this first. I wandered down to the hospital cafeteria where they have wifi to check my emails, and this comment showed up. It’s a good thing I was sitting down, because I laughed so that I had to clutch my sore belly and double over to manage the pain. The laughs came out in little wheezes. Thank you for this… I think.

      As for that cup hook, my solution is a little more camouflaged; I take a picture down from the wall in the bathroom and there is my ‘hook’. As for “Pumping the bilges” I’m going to use that!!

      Thank you so much for keeping in touch.


  7. Michael Bawtree on October 30, 2012 at 9:31 pm said:

    Dear Donna and Richard, It was amazing and serendipitous to bump into you at the Wild Caraway Restaurant last Thursday, and we both wanted to say thank you for your immediate love and support as Colin heads into his liver surgery next Friday November 9th at noon. We had a happy trip back that afternoon, and so happy that we had seen that beautiful Parrsboro shore. Let us share your photos if they are worth passing on!
    With all good wishes to you:
    Michael and Colin

    • Richard on October 31, 2012 at 11:28 am said:

      That was quite an amazing meeting, and Donna and I often talked about about it afterwards. Please keep me up-to-date with Colin’s surgery. at some time in the future, we’ll see you in Wolfville. Best to you both.

  8. Ringo on April 22, 2013 at 8:46 pm said:

    hey Elvis this is Ringo …just wanted to say thanks for the oat cookies ..I ate half of them so far ..i’ll save the rest for breakfast ..they’re very addictive & filling ….it was probably the healthiest thing I ate all day ..they go perfect with coffee…I don’t know if I told you this 1 but ….Do you know what Elvis said to his gardener ??…..”Thank you …thank you for the mulch ..” ….its a lot funnier when you say it in the Elvis voice …also thanks for the card & all the kind words ….you know what ?? ..I try to be up beat & positive thru the day but sometimes you see cancer patients come out & I can just tell they aren’t getting any better & it really takes the wind out of my sails …it was a real pleasure meeting you & your Wife …negativity breads negativity right ??..& so that’s why I stay positive & try to portray that to each customer & so far so good really seems to rub off on them …its really difficult sometimes but I try to treat everyone like they are my only customer .& I enjoy nothing more then getting a real honest to goodness belly laugh out of someone …..I made a woman laugh so hard 1 time that her stitches opened up & she had to go back in the next day …I’ve been there for a lil over 2 & a half yrs so far & I learned 2 very important lessons in that time ….1 is to COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS !!!!…..don’t take your health for granted ..EVER …..& the second most important thing I’ve learned is to NEVER judge anyone till you walk a mile in their shoes …….courageous ppl like you & your Wife inspire me everyday ….a lil kindness can go a long way ….your act of kindness ( giving me the card & the oat cookies )…certainly made my day ….its ppl like your Wife & yourself that make me actually look forward to going to work each day & keep doing what I do …..once again ..your positive attitude & act of kindness left a real good taste in my mouth …literally …lol …thanks again new friends

    • Richard on April 23, 2013 at 12:29 pm said:

      Ringo, I am honoured that you made a comment on my blog. You have life all figured out. It’s not about possessions and it’s not about status. It is about people and being able to leave people feeling better about themselves. You have a gift and you use it every day. Thank you.

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