Sincere Appreciation

Even though Stage IV cancer is generally terminal (yet even at this stage, there is a possibility of remission or living with cancer), and I was diagnosed as Stage IIIB, I nonetheless received my death sentence from some doctors, as you know.  So I do feel like a walking miracle.

Despite all the continuum of circumstances, like the attention I must put on maintaining my weight and health, finding efficiencies in order to preserve the most energy, dealing with the possibility of an early death, accepting life-style changes, and having had great stress for several years caused by the insurance litigation, I am appreciative to my surgeon, chemo and radio oncologists, team of nurses, family, and friends for all they’ve done for me.  Their support was immeasurable, and I hope I never forgot to say thank you.

One of my doctors outside of the cancer group asked me how I dealt with it, and what one would say to someone who has cancer.  In fact, several people asked me similar questions.

There is no right answer.  But we all have to understand and respect the ones who suffer from this illness and its dreadful treatments.  If you have someone in your life that has been diagnosed with cancer, don’t just let them know you will be there if they need you.  Even small gestures won’t go unnoticed, so offer the help that you can.

Take them for a walk, accompany them to a treatment or two, or bring takeout or something they like to their home and spend some time with them.  Some may not feel well enough all the time, but keep trying.  Can you offer to do some chores for them, or take them some place they need to go but too sick to get there on their own?

 

What do you see yourself offering someone in dire circumstances?

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I’m Still Here

When visiting doctors for myself or for my daughter, and my health history is questioned, there is a noticeable shock on the doctor’s face when they learn about my cancer.  Having had stomach cancer at such a young age still surprises most, even doctors.

I suppose it’s also because we don’t hear much about stomach cancer as we do about breast and colon cancers.  Since I’ve been treated for it, I hear about it very often, even in young to middle-age people.  Stomach cancer is widespread, Asia having had the highest incidence in 2012, according to World Cancer Research Fund International.  I’ve heard from gastroenterologists that the disease is very common there.

“But I’m still here.”  I offer a smile.

Stomach cancer has a low risk of survival.  Since I was only thirty-five years old when I was diagnosed in an advanced stage, doctors seem surprised that I’m still alive.

I am grateful for having overcome the odds of stomach cancer.  But fear still circulates my veins, as the reality of death remains a probability.

When curiosity becomes stronger than silence, even doctors voice their thoughts.  “What symptoms did you experience?”,  “…And you made it”, or  “You were so young for that type of cancer.”  Surprisingly, young doctors not experienced with that part of the anatomy question,  “How do you eat without a stomach?”  I think there should be much more research on the prevention and its causes, as well as living after stomach cancer.

“Actually, my surgeon tells me that more and more, stomach cancer affects the younger generation.”

“I wish you well.”

 

Enjoy your day and be well.

Patricia

Piece By Piece

Another way I felt I could contribute to cancer awareness was to make and sell jewellery at a time when homemade pieces were popular.  A percentage of every sale was collected and sent to the Montreal Thoracic Research Foundation, a cancer research group my surgeon and his associate founded in 2004.  I specified that I wanted the money to go to stomach cancer research, so hopefully, there are others doing the same.  My pennies can’t find a cure, but it was a small gesture I could offer the surgeon and hospital that “cured” me.

Helping others comes easy.  Admittedly, I wish some of that comfort I gave others could have helped me through some rough moments during and after cancer.  I didn’t take full advantage of the volunteer that was available to me.  Being constantly ill made it difficult to be concerned about how I was feeling emotionally.  I was usually on medications for physical pain and nausea, so the opportunities and the will were lacking.

Although having attended a general cancer group meeting didn’t prove helpful for me, I do recommend joining groups that specialize in your specific cancer.  You can learn much more about how others deal with symptoms and consequences.  You may even discover great new friends in the process.

I intend to continue my volunteer work as long as I can, and pray I can bring even a little hope into the lives of patients and their caregivers.  I only wish I could do more…

 

Finally getting warmer in Montreal!  Enjoy…

Watching You Die

On many occasions I’ve been asked how I can bear watching people die.  Why would I want to expose myself to these sad situations knowing there may be such an end for myself?  Well, they didn’t really put it that way, but that was the question.  “The gift is greater than the pain.”

I know I’m doing much good when my support brings comfort to patients and their family.  Positive feedback and appreciation brings me serenity and fulfillment.  If there wasn’t a need, volunteer groups would cease to exist.

It is also easier to share our fears and suffering with a volunteer – who is most likely a stranger and available to listen – so we don’t add to the burden of our loved ones.  Patients understand that those around us have their own pain to deal with, so sometimes we suffer in silence.  We do need someone to hear our deepest thoughts about life and death, even though they can’t do anything about them.

Some patients don’t even have family or close friends they can turn to for support.  It is difficult knowing you’re on your deathbed.  It is horrific not having anyone there to hold your hand.

Most people want to feel love more than ever during their final moments – to share emotions they would never have otherwise.  Saying goodbye is important for those who need closure, or to accept the end is near.  None of us wants to leave this Earth knowing we will not be missed.

The belief that some wait to die when our loved ones are not around still holds true for me, and I am more than happy to have been spared that choice for now.

I am privileged to have a big family that is always there with me, even though we don’t necessarily share the pain verbally.

 

Waiting for Spring… where are you!?  It feels like Winter is starting all over again in Montreal.  Hope your weather is better than here!

Patricia

Caution In Caring

Offering support is really simple.  But remain cautious towards judgments, whether or not you are a survivor yourself.  You do not know the extent of the other’s pain, tolerance, or their fate.

If you’ve been a caretaker, and decide to volunteer, you have a different perspective to a patient.  So please be careful in how you offer your wisdom, and pay attention to how it is received.  You must realize that if you are anyone but the patient, you are in no position to know how they feel.  You can acknowledge and try to console, but don’t claim to know.  You don’t.

We all have something special to offer others.  Whether a friend, relative, or stranger is fighting for their life, has an age-related issue, or simply needs assistance, a simple “let me help you” goes a long way.  And don’t wait for the patient to call you for help.  If you are sincere about helping someone, you will be there.  This is how I discovered who my true friends are.

 

Always wishing you a wonderful day.  Be cheerful, Spring is around the corner.

Patricia