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Globe and Mail Update

How has cancer touched you? ...Read the full article

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  1. merica chase from Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada writes: On September 29th, 2006, my beautiful, kind, strong older sister was told she had lung cancer. After three weeks of being hospitalized and undergoing a barrage of tests and being told 'We are not sure what is going on - but it is not cancer!' She was 50 years old, 12 years older than I; I can honestly say that I have never heard her complain or ever saw her cry. I was lucky enough to be with her when the oncologist examined her, and told her husband and I she had less than six months to live - the cancer was too far along - stage four adenocarcinoma of the lung with metastasis to the bone (later we would find out it had also spread to the liver and ovaries). My sister knew she had cancer but was adamant - she didn't want to know how much time she had. She lived only three days after her diagnosis. And as was so typical of her, spent her last hours ensuring that everyone else was, and would always be, cared for. She died surrounded by her family in the early morning of October 2nd. Her strength continues to amaze me.
  2. Martin Genier from Hamilton, writes: A week before Christmas 2005, I was diagnosed with skin cancer. At the ripe old age of 38, I was operated on within 10 days. Lost a large part of my leg and now live with the fear that my young boys may also have the disease. The hardest part has always been the unknown. The what ifs and what nots. Everyday I am reminded of how quickly it can all be taken away. Thankful everyday for still being here. Thanks for the great articles on a very scary subject.
  3. Becky Haig from Barrie, Ontario, Canada writes: I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer stage 3c on September 30th, 2005. I was 26yrs old. After being told by so many doctors that they were so sure this wasn't cancer, the bad news came like a slap across the face. I woke up from surgery not only to a cancer diagnosis but also to a hysterectomy. I am a single mom to the most amazing little boy in the world, Tyson. He is my fire, my inspiration and the driving force behind my survival. I don't know what I would do without him. I wonder some days, how he will do without me. I just learned on October 5th that, just 7 months out of chemo, the deadly beast is back. It has already spread throughout my abdomen and pelvis - I'm due to start chemo again next week. I worry about how I will do this again and manage to raise a 3 1/2 yr old little boy. I don't want his quality of life to suffer just because mine has to. I told him the other day that Mommy is sick again. He put his hand on my cheek and told me 'it's ok - I'll take care of you'. I will continue fighting this until there is no fight left in me - I have to, for my son.
  4. Shelley Gaudreau from North Bay,, Canada writes: I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October of 1999. It was quite a shock. I had lost my Mom to Parkinson's disease on September 25 of 1998 , and my Dad to a heart ailment in on August 16, 1999. Emotionally and physically I was fried. I'm sure the people on the street thought. I was nuts. I remember walking to the bus stop and looking up at the stars and asking, 'God are you mad at me? Did I do something to you?'

    The hardest part was telling my older sister Stephanie on the phone, via long distance. My closest friends I told face to face. The words 'I have cancer' are the hardest to say because they hurt so much. Both to say and hear.

    I have a wonderful medical team in Sudbury and with God's grace and their care I have been six years cancer free.
  5. barbara welsford from Mahone Bay, Canada writes: There is no doubt that my life, and my families life, have been shaped by cancer. My story started in October of 1974, at 19, with a diagnosis of osteosarcoma. Three days later doctors amputated my right leg. High dose chemo treatments began 1 week after that. I lost my hair, dropped to 85 pounds and nearly lost my life. I was fortunate to have a circle of friends who are still with me to this day, and a strong, supportive family. Life went on and I survived. My boyfriend (and now husband of 26 years) moved to Nova Scotia to attend university 2 years following treatments. We were married, have 2 beautiful grown children and life was cancer free for many years. In 2000 my father died of prostate cancer and in 2004 I was stunned with another diagnosis of my own...this time breast cancer, a month later they diagnosed thyroid cancer and a heart condition caused by previous chemo years before. More surgery, more chemo, radiation and more emotional trauma followed. Cancer had again taken hold of our lives. In December we face more surgery and our story will continue. Despite cancer and it's impact on me physically, I have always tried to live life fully enjoying SCUBA, swimming, sailing, downhill skiing, kayaking, 3 university degrees etc. and a job that works with children with disabilities. I am lucky to have the opportunity to touch their lives and for them to touch mine. The challenges cancer has presented my family and I over the years have not been easy but I like to think those challenges have made us stronger, more resilient....and a little more appreciative of each day.
  6. marcelin tremblant from montreal, Canada writes: Cancer is not a circus,it is a private matter,best dealt with within the confines of the patient's personal world.Each situation being fairly unique,a publication almost goes exactly counter to the best interest of all readers who are,or who may become affected by one of the many ailments dubbed cancer for lack of anything more accurate.
    Cancer hits at people's lives with unbearable force because we are taught of the great strides made by medicine during the past 50 years.We are led to deny there may be no real answer to our own case.Parents ,relatives and friends have suffered the indignities and pains inflicted upon them by the disease and its 'treatment',and nothing has been learnt or accepted.
    I believe that eventually,one researcher will have a eureka moment and this killer will be switched off once and for all.Unfortunately nobody is looking into turning the clock back for all those who passed on too soon.
  7. Ramona Matthews from Toronto, Canada writes: Thank you for a very meaningful and topical section in today's print edition. I would like to take issue, however, with the pink ribbon that your paper has chosen to use to represent this feature, 'Confronting Cancer,' on your website. While not wanting to take anything away from the tremendous support that society lends to those with breast cancer, may I remind you that the majority of us who live with cancer have forms of the disease that are breast cancer's 'poor cousins' in terms of societal awareness and financial support. As well, associating the pink ribbon with cancer in general, I feel, helps to fan the flames for all who fear that a breast cancer diagnosis is almost inevitable for every woman.

    The Canadian Cancer Society (www.cancer.ca: 'Canadian Cancer Statistics - 2006') estimates that 153,100 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Canada this year, 22,300 of which may be breast cancer. That means that 130,800 - the vast majority - will contend with many other forms of this disease. I am a 49 year old, who was diagnosed with a serious rectal cancer in 2004; it is now in remission. Frankly, I am sick of the pink ribbon, and yes, somewhat jealous, in a sense, of the cash it attracts.

    Please vanquish the pink ribbon as the identifying symbol for your series.

    Sincerely,
    Ramona Matthews
  8. David Suen from Maple Ridge, Canada writes: Thank you for this.

    Only with increased awareness and attention can we find a cure for Cancer.

    Hopefully one day no one will need to feel the pain and helplessness that this monster causes.
  9. Alicia Ayala from Toronto, Canada writes: June 15, 2006 is around the time my husband Juan has been diagnosticated with Large Cell Carcinoma in his right lung. Yes, has been a terrible news, he is actually having his 4th. Quemotheraphy treatments, those days are the worst for him, no energy, no apetite, no nothing, is a roller coaster every day, no knowing what to expect, so far the Doctor say he is improving, his lung is much clear than before, and hopefully he will have maybe one more treatment. We have two beautifull boys, age 10 and 3 years old. Cancer has touch the whole family, our days are not the same any more, but we have the total hope that he is going to get well soon. He have to keep being positive, even that sometimes is very dificult when he is dealing with the side efects. I love my husband very much, our kids adore him, we couldn't live without him, that why we stick to him like glue. Around the same time of the diagnosis, we have the happy news of being been accepted as a Permanent Resident, after 15 years of living here in Toronto, we are proud to finally belong to this beautifull Country, our Home. Thank you, and we'll win this battle no matter what !! Juan: I love you ! Dad: We love you Kevin and Christopher.
  10. Wendy Taylor from Burnaby, Canada writes: There are more people whose lives are affected by this disease than not. My loss was my best friend and husband who died four years ago from cancer of the bowel. He was 45 years old. His was, thankfully, not a prolonged fight. Before the cancer, he was a robust and independant man. The humility and grace with which he accepted the ravages of this disease , will continue to guide my outlook for the remainder of my life. In the big scheme of things, life events that go wrong just do not really matter.
  11. Chris Smart from Salt Spring Island, Canada writes: I published a series of poems on cancer in my book 'Decked and Dancing'. This one is for my friend who had a leg amputated. She is alive and well!

    Vanishing Wings

    A blue heron perches on one leg at the lagoon, still
    as a woman balancing a basket of fruit on her head.

    I dance on two feet in the kitchen, remember
    lost breasts, babies, wombs. My friend forfeits her leg.

    Her counselor says trust, patience, love. More love.
    What about the perfect line, a pure note, next year’s delphiniums?

    Either you lose a limb or your life, the surgeon says,
    as if my friend could choose.
    She basks in the rain

    rooted like a blue heron, intertidal,
    fishing for the mountain, the moon.

    Love bears loss, patience a gravestone.
    She points her phantom limb.

    Imagine a flock of blue herons
    wings spread wide, soaring.
  12. Robert Miller from Qualicum Beach, Canada writes: So-called incurable cancers can often be managed nowadays with a balanced application of integrative medicine. That is, the best of conventional medicine with the best in natural strategies, each applied with wisdom at the right time.

    I'm an 18 year survivor of incurable, stage 4 Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, well and very active with a prominent website devoted to helping patients with follicular lymphoma.
  13. Melanie Perlman from Montreal, Canada writes: My father was diagnosed with colon cancer in june and I agree with Ramona Matthews. These days, it seems like everywhere I look I see a pink ribbon or I see an advertisement for a breast cancer fundraiser and it is starting to become very disheartening. Don't get me wrong, I hope they will someday be able to find a cure for breast cancer but I feel that finding a cure for breast cancer has been put on the top of society's priority list and has left other cancers and the people who suffer from those cancers, in the dark. My family and I try to do everything we can for my father but we are starting to feel alone in our battle. I am hoping to someday be able to raise awareness about colon cancer and be able to raise money in order to help find a cure but I feel like that too will be a battle. For now, I will continue to wear my dark blue bracelet and hope that someday all types of cancer will be on the same awareness level.
  14. Cheryl Lennox from St. Catharines, Canada writes: Cancer is the plague of the 21st century.

    We lost our mother Rita Lennox to this disease on October 29, 2004.

    She was diagnosed on June 25, 2003 with a rare form of cancer called adenoid cystic carcinoma. Surgical removal was not possible since the cancer moved along the nerve tracts of her neck. She endured hard-core radiation but the cancer moved to her lungs.

    She was a good woman who should still be with us. A great loss.
  15. Wendy Young from Canada writes: Thanks to the Globe & Mail for showing the human side to the big 'C.' As a five-year Multiple Myeloma survivor, I become outraged at the reality of the almighty dollar as the means to survival for so many cancer victims. Although the drug that I will begin treatments with very soon is now recently funded in Ontario....my heart breaks for the women, men and children who not only have to endure the agony of illness, fear of death, daily emotional trauma, hospital visits and more...but then on top of all this, add the stress of feeling like an outcast who must beg or borrow the money to buy drugs to save or improve your life ...this is outrageous and inhumane. The amount of federal and provincial dollars that are wasted in so many other ways...could be giving life to so many. You absolutely, never know when this can happen to you and your loved ones, and no one is ever prepared. Canadians must advocate that all medically approved treaments should be funded, regardless of cost.
  16. Steve S from Calgary, Canada writes: It takes a village to fight a cancer. When my wife Susan was diagnosed with cancer in 1990, she began a fight like nothing I have ever seen before or since.
    I’d say her strategy worked. She used everything she could of modern, scientific medicine, and she used her Village. The result was that a cancer which normally would kill about a year after diagnosis did not kill her for many years, and most of her days were good ones. After she died, the Village had a new, unexpected, role to play.
    Early on in her struggle Sue had a dream of friends, limb holding limb to form a safety net that buoyed her up from the void below. Sometimes one would drop out, but another always came to keep the net whole. The rest of her life was like that. She continued to play and perform as a musician. We hosted big birthday parties with improper enthusiasm: “One more year, and I’m still here!” We worked to keep the safety net healthy. Our village was drawn from family, church, co-workers, music friends, neighbors, and other acquaintances. We kept it fun. Sue climbed a mountain with some hiking friends after the first two rounds of treatments.
    It wasn’t all good. There were thirteen days in Intensive Care at the edge of death while she believed she was being tortured. But the balance was good times worth the price. When the balance tipped the wrong way, she ended it.
    The end was hard on everyone. I moved from being on call 24 / 7 to being on duty 24 / 7. The Village helped out. After a few months, Sue died, and the Village and I found it was not quite over. The next months were a rescue effort, I am told. I was close to being institutionalized, but again the Village helped out, and I re-entered normal life. The Village had been several hundred in all. Having such a village is an important resource; being in one is both obligation and opportunity.
    Cancer, well fought, is not a private, isolated thing.
  17. Mike Rossi from Canada writes: I was treated 20 some odd years ago as a teen (16 at the time) for Ewings Sarcoma (soft tissue sarcoma). For the first 15 years or so, after treatment life pretty much returned to normal. I had issues at school, had to repeat a year, but I made it to complete 2 degrees (Science and Engineering). Then about 5 years ago, I notice that my health was changing. Loss of concentration, fatigue, trouble breathing, etc. I started searching for other Ewings surviors and I could not find any. Did they all expire? Impossible, I survived. So I joined the ACOR long term survivors list. Did you know that long term survivors have issues 10, 20 30 years out from treatment. Did you know that most family physicans do not know how to effectively treat long term survivors. I my case, I have radiatin damage to lung / heart. It is most likely the root cause of all my issues.. The ACOR group is a support group for people like us who have survived and need 'specialist care' and support. Through this group (Linda Zame) helped me to find a long term care specialist at Princess Margaret. I hope to get some answers as my current health conditions. Quite a few of the survivors on the list are suffering from Congestive Heart Failure, and are desparite to get doctor or specialist that can correctly see the damage to the heart and offer corrective actions for that 'specific damage' being chemical or radiation damage. I am most interested to get in contact with other long term Ewings Sarcoma survivors (20 years) who had that cancer in the ribs on the chest wall, to compare notes. Any help would be appreciated. Contact me at mike3892002@yahoo.com
  18. john webb from Victoria, Canada writes: The stories in this series are my stories. I was diagnosed with lung cancer in March 2006. The message was delivered over the phone and at meeting that evening at the doctor’s office. He did not pull any punches and my wife Moralea and I staggered home reeling from this new, completely overwhelming reality. Over the next couple of weeks I reconciled with death. It didn’t bother me so much as the pain in those I will be leaving behind. I have now been through chemo and two different radiation series. We came out of that a couple of months back feeling quite optimistic. But the fatigue returned a couple of weeks ago and last week the oncologist found a swollen lymph node in my neck. A series of new tests are being set up and she is suggesting chemo. It was made clear that these treatments will be palliative. I’ll do it just to stick around with those who love me a little longer.

    Right from the beginning I felt that I was lucky to live in a community with a great cancer support system, I have not had to wait for anything and the personnel at the cancer clinic have been wonderful. Another thing I have felt right from the beginning is gratitude that I do not have to go through this alone. I have a loving wife who is with me completely. Your stories have made clear to a large extent what must be like to have to face this alone - something I feel must at least double the pain, fear and anxiety.
  19. Greg Urbanoski from Regina, Canada writes: I read with interest your cancer series, especially since June 15, 2006 was two days after I had my thyroid removed because of papillary cancer. On January 3, 2006 my mother died when her lymphoma spread to her liver, my best friend did from leukemia a week before her and my father had died five years ago from anaplastic cancer of the thyroid that killed him in five months. Cancer is a different world, and when you cross over to that world, either as a care-giver or as a patient, you learn a whole new language and set of values. Our society is not built to reflect those values, because as a caregiver, I found myself without any idea or training, washing, feeding and trying to look after my mother to the best of my ability and without any clue if I was helping or making things worse. I could advocate a policy position here and there, but I suspect there is no magic bullet. Fear and silence is where cancer thrives, and if we are to address not just the medical costs, but the emotional ones as well, we have to talk, be open, and above all, not live in fear. My best wishes for everyone fighting this illness or helping someone to deal with it, and my condolences to everyone and their families who did the best they could.
  20. Sheila McManus from Canada writes: Your series could not be more timely for me, and I wanted to thank you for starting with the Focus section on cancer patients and their families. Four weeks ago my partner was diagnosed with advanced terminal pancreatic cancer, and she only has a few weeks left to live. Your Focus section made me realize just how big and diverse the community of patients and families is, and made me feel a good deal less alone. My grief is the grief of every other survivor out there.
  21. fiona henderson from winnipeg, writes: 2003 Scotland - loved older sister - teacher - two months from retirement - headaches - 'don't worry, middle ear infection' - falling over, crashing car - 'middle ear infections take a while' - tumour - chemotherapy - radiation - two weeks - 'looks good' - pains in back - 'see me at the end of the week' - died that afternoon - blood clot in lung.

    No summer holiday house, and what about the dog.........?

    She leaves an emptiness within me that is indescribable. Older sisters are always there, aren't they....?
  22. Helen Pettingill from Ontario, Canada writes: Ramona Matthews #7, I think you are absolutely right. I too support the fight against breast cancer but no more than I support the fight against all cancers in general. Besides, everything pink we see these days is beginning to look like nothing more than a marketing gimmick.
    That pink ribbon should not be used as a symbol of cancer for these G & M articles as it represents only one form of the disease. I suggest they make it green instead as green symbolizes 'go ahead' & environmental awareness (a lack of which is attributed to many cancers)- two great reasons to make it green.
  23. James Marshall from Collingwood, Ont., Canada writes: I would like to tell you of my personal experience with cancer and, fortunately, thanks to an excellent Oncologist, I am still here to tell you about. Starting at the beginning, in the early Fall of 1994, I was having a few problems and after a barium enema, I was told that I had a few polyps in my colon which would have to be removed as they could be cancerous. A colonoscopy followed and, sure enough, the polyps were cancerous. Next a bowel re-section to remove the infected section. We thought everything was fine and we were getting ready to leave for the Winter when a visit to the surgeon for a final checkup told me that I would have to have chemo as there could be some stems in the gland that could be infected. Twelve months of chemo followed, a milder version, every two weeks. Fortunately I didn't have too many side effects, but the mental drag is really something. About April of 1995 I said to the Oncologist, I need a break, and he allowed me to miss a treatment while I went South to see my friends and even played a few holes of golf. After that things went very smoothly and in November I was cancer free.
    2002 brought a new problem - I was very tired and losing weight. They couldn't determine the cause. Finally a ctscan determined that it was lymphoma, but they couldn't determine if it was Hodgkins or non-Hodgkins. A needle biopsy wasn't sufficient so I had to have a surgical biopsy near my throat. It was successful and they finally determined that it was Hodgkins. Chemo started in December - 12 treatments every two weeks, felt absolutely useless between treatments, and a daily needle for 10 days between treatments to keep the white blood count high enough. Fortunately in June 0f 2003 I was finished, have put on more than enough weight and while I still see my Oncologist every six months, I have been fine and am back doing everything I did before my illness. Thanks to a great Oncologist.
  24. Robert white from Vancouver, writes: My 15 Year old Daughter, Laura, was so excited that her final exams were finished and enjoyed the time with the family on her Sisters' Graduation night.
    Laura had been suffering with headaches and the Doctors did not know what was wrong. I asked for blood tests to be done and when the results came in our lives were changed forever. Laura was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia June 20th and in three weeks she was dead! Laura died from a flesh eating infection caused by the 'ICU' superbug called Enterobacter. Her Oncologist afterwards told us that this is a side effect from the Chemotherapy drugs. So many things went wrong in those 3 weeks Laura was in the Cancer Ward of the hospital. After two years the College of Physicians and Surgeons put some of the blame on Laura's treatment on two Doctors, an Oncologist replacing Laura's Oncologist who went on Vacation without letting his patients know and the Surgeon who performed a bothed up operation to insert an intravenous Catheter Line.

    The Hospital has made changes in the aftermath of the tragic death of our Laura. We sincerely hope these changes are being put in practice.

    Laura requires the dignity to know that future parents and children with Cancer in similar difficult circumstances know all the facts and truths about chemotherapy verbally and in writing with more consultation and options allowed to offset the risk of possible death due to the Chemotherapy drug side effects. Oncologists cannot continue to keep quiet about death to children, with especially AML, from the side effects of Chemotherapy and just hope it will not happen during initial discussions with the family.

    Robert White
    Parent
    Laura's Tribute Website:
    Http://angellaura.2ya.com/
  25. Helen Wainman from London, Canada writes: I notice you have an upcoming article on chemo, questioning whether there isn't a better way. You might be interested in my story. I am now just recovering from my first chemo session. I have five more to go.

    The irony is that I don't need chemo. It will make less than 4 per cent difference in my case. But even though I don't need it -and it won't do me any good - I have to go through it anyway in order to qualify for Herceptin.

    OHIP will not pay for Herceptin on its own.

    I'm early stage breast cancer. I had surgery in late September. It was a small tumour, the margins were clear and it had not spread to any nodes.

    But I tested positive for HER2, that aggressive little protein or gene that makes recurrence more likely.

    As a retired journalist, I've armed myself with information and believe I'm now a walking encyclopedia on HER2 and Herceptin. I know Herceptin is a miracle drug and was first used to treat women with advanced metastic breast cancer with very promising results.

    Then a second stage moved in and they began giving Herceptin to early stage breast cancer and node involvement with Herceptin.

    I belong to the third and newest wave - early stage with no node involvement. We're the new kids on the block when it comes to treatment and studies. Herceptin for us is regarded as a preventative measure.

    The computer printout they gave me along with the results of my pathology report indicate chemo will make very little difference. And who would choose to go through it when it makes less than 4 per cent difference?

    But I have no choice. I suspect - and hope treatment for women in my situation will change over the next few years and it will no longer be necessary to go through this gut-grinding, debilitating treatment in order to get the drug we really need.
  26. Jack Robertson from Canada writes: Last week, the Doctor just told my wife (49) that while investigating another issue (which turned out to be nothing) they think they have found secondary cancer in her lungs, indicating a primary tumor elsewhere.

    A bit of research tells me that the survival rate in this situation is not that good. We don't beleive that the Doctor would have explained the concern in such detail if the evidence wasn't highly likely that there was mestesses cancer in the lungs.

    To confirm, they will need to do a nother CT scan of the lungs. In the meantime we are stunned and paralysed by this event. But the unacceptable fact is that they have told us the date for the scan is set for Feb 16 - nearly 3 months away??

    Can anyone suggest how to accelerate this process? Taking 3 months to confirm a preliminary diagnosis is no better than 3 months waiting for treatment. As many have suggested - not knowing can be very painful.
  27. Nat Delle Palme from Canada writes: Born and raised in Ottawa, Mr. Delle Palme studied at the University of Alberta / Theatre Arts / 1975. After labouring in heavy industry in the Eastern Arctic, he returned to Ottawa and now lives in Pineview with his wife of 26 years, Geri and their 3 children.

    Diagnosed with bladder cancer in February 2006, Nat underwent chemotherapy after receiving a Neo-bladder at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. He is keen to make a full recovery and live long and prosper. His related poems attempt to capture the tension the patient experiences in trying to challenge themselves to fight this disease; accept medical interventions and develop hope through spiritual and emotional catharsis. Here is one of them . . .

    Off the Ward

    The cancer does not win outright
    though the minutiae of failures keeps piling on
    in my little personal dinghy,
    taking on water,
    forming a wake of perseverance
    built on a backwash of self-indulgence
    spraying stolid distractions from the bone weariness
    in confronting this selfish misery /

    Recalcitrant, I paddle back
    to vivid childhood dreams
    sketching time to suit emotionally
    reminiscing in a tableau of options,
    opportunities little wet dreams
    of emotional gratification
    all of it felt in languorous cuts
    building a bridge of memories
    imported, under priced, now valued highly
    not for what they were but what they seemed /

    a way of sailing
    in this personal milieu,
    smelling hope in the turbulent air
    this smoky morass called adulthood
    the balance sheet
    weighted with liabilities
    the foreboding foreseen /

    embarrassed, diffident children
    hard to deflect this invalidation
    of their youthful indifference,
    ignorant of my agonies

    I learn to smile, a little easier
    somewhat richer for engaging imagination
    to experience a little more
    of life's mystery
    2006
  28. Susan Carr from Edmonton, Canada writes: After almost two years of pain, including eight months of excrutiating pain, I was diagnosed in Dec. 2005, at age 63, with pancreatic cancer. Four weeks, later, Jan. 17, 2006, my surgeon removed a 6 cm adenocarcinoma along with the tail of my pancreas. Remarkably, there was no evidence that the cancer had spread. However, because pancreatic cancer has a nasty habit of recurring, I underwent chemotherapy for a 6-month period. [I agreed to participate in a clinical trial for the drug Gemcitabine.] I tolerated the treatments well and am now feeling well.

    A diagnosis of cancer changes one's life in an instant. Fortunately, blessings accompany the darkness. I quickly developed an acute awareness of what matters. Instead of my job dominating my life, I'm now walking daily in the river valley with my new puppy, training to be a volunteer court support worker with the John Howard Society, trying out Tai Chi, returning to my love of sewing; and, best of all, enjoying time with my grandchildren. And I plan to walk the Camino de Santiago in either the spring or fall to celebrate my 65th birthday. My experience has been that cancer brings out the best in us. I've been the recipient of wonderful gifts of loving care and support from family and friends that otherwise might not have surfaced. And my relationships with my daughters have deepened. Last Christmas, following my diagnosis, we had our best Christmas ever.

    Pancreatic cancer is both rare and deadly. It represents just 2-3% of all cancers, and overall only 6% survive 5 years [Canadian Cancer Society statistic]. It's a difficult cancer to diagnose; and by the time it's detected, it's usually too late for treatment. However, for people like me whose tumour was resectable, the 5-year survival rate is 10-20% depending on the pathology. In spite of the grim statistics, I feel calm, peaceful, and positive. I plan on being one of the lucky ones.
  29. jennifer galloway from Yellowknife, Canada writes: I would like to thank the author of the article, Erin Anderson, and all of the people who shared their stories in 'Cancer: A day in the life' Sat. Nov. 18, 2006. I cried throughout the pages.

    The day chronicled, June 15, is my birthday. I just turned 28 this year, less than a month after my daughter. Ava, was born, and my cancer has been in remission since the spring of 2001. In June of 1998, after I had just completed my first year of university, I was diagnosed with papillary carcinoma of the thyroid. I immediately had surgery to remove the thyroid gland and had radiation treatment. The cancer had spread to lymph nodes in my neck and cheast, and had spread to my lungs. Still, the prognosis was good: I was young, female and otherwise healthy. In 2001 a scan and blood work showed that I as in remission and in the spring of 2004 a repeat scan showed that I was cancer free. After my diagnosis I went on with my life, I finished my B.Sc. and went on to complete a doctorate. I continued working my part time job as well, I had to, I needed a sense of normalcy in my life. After my diagnosis I often sought out stories of others who had and were battling cancer. As some of the people shared in the article, cancer can be a lonely disease, even for those who have loving and supportive friends and family. It is a personal disease. I don't tell people about my battle with cancer. Even today I try to forget that part of my life but I can't because the lessons I learned during that trying period remain with me: live each day to the fullest, cherish the people in your life and be grateful to be alive.

    Thank you again for the article. It has motivated me to share my story for the first time,

    Jen
  30. Domenic Petrella from Montreal, Canada writes: When our Dad first told us that he had been diagnosed with a tumour on Dec.13,2006, he did what he always did in difficult times, he comforted us. He told us everything would be alright and that he was grateful for all that life had given him. His courage and selflessness gave us the strength to cope. Three days before christmas, the biopsy result confirmed Signet Ring Cell Adenocarcinoma stage 2 (stomach cancer). He never felt any pain but had difficulty swallowing. It got progressively worse to the point where he was unable to drink. He was operated on Jan.16,2006, with the removal of his stomach and part of his esophagus. Recovery was difficult but he never complained. He was released from hospital on Feb.15. He was so happy to be home. He started chemo at the end of April. At this point he started having difficulty swallowing again. In early May, a biopsy confirmed cancerous cells in his esophagus. In late May he started radiation but complications from lack of fluids brought him back to the hospital. On June 10 he was released from the hospital. His condition was deteriorating. He was unable to stay on his feet and struggled to get out of bed. On June 16 he was rushed to the hospital. Six days later a feeding tube was inserted. A stroke followed two days later affecting his site. He was released from hospital on June 28. Our poor dad could hardly move. He lay still in his bed with a blank stare. On July 3 he was rushed back to the hospital for the last time. He passed away on July 5. As hard as it was to see what this terrible disease did to our father, what we will remember the most will be the tremendous love our parents had for each other.
  31. Jenn Wallner from Toronto, Canada writes: On June 28, 2005, I called my parents from Budapest to tell them that my boyfriend Steve had asked me to marry him; that afternoon my father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. It was simultaneously one of the happiest and saddest days of my parents' lives. Rather than giving into anger and despair, both of my parents faced the diagnosis with courage and hope. Their faith and acceptance helped me to deal with the almost unshakeable saddness and sense of injustice that I felt about my father's fate. Despite his illness, he danced with me on my wedding day; he continued working through chemotherapy; and treated everyday just like any other. His last year was not one of fear, regret, or outrage - even though everyone facing their death would be justified for dwelling on these feelings. But, like so many others, he simply wanted to keep on living just like everyone else.

    On June 26, 2006, John Wallner passed away peacefully in his sleep surrounded by his family. He is missed by us all.
  32. Ian Elliott from Hamilton, Canada writes: In the spring of 1992 my little sister (6 yrs old at the time) was diagnosed with cancer. What could have been a terrible event in my families lives has turned out to be one of the best things to ever happen to us. I'm not saying the treatments we not difficult for my sister and still have some effects today, however, without my sister getting cancer my family would have never had a chance to join the Camp Trillium family. Camp Trillium is a place where families affected by childhood cancer can go to escape the hardships surrounding childhood cancer and can once again feel like a 'normal' family again. Camp Trillium is free for all families and children that want to attend. Their qualified nursing team made my parents feel at ease as my sister was still in an active protocol when we attended. Camp Trillium allowed my sister be a kid again during a time in her life as well as mine when we were asked to deal with issues that children are not meant to deal with. Camp also brought my family closer together as the daily stresses where removed allowing my parents to finally relax. Well that was nearly 15 years ago and it still feels like yesterday. My sister is well and healthy as is the rest of the family. As we grew up me and my 2 sisters grew up in the Camp Trillium family, which never turned us away even after she was off treatment and healthy. We have all worked at Camp Trillium during the summer as camp cousellors and just this fall I started working full time for Camp Trillium as the assistant director of fundraising. Camp Trillium is near and dear to my families heart as it is to many other families across Ontario. Cancer is a terrible thing, especially if you are a child, however there is always an upside and that just happens to be Camp Trillium.
  33. Melissa Louzon from Chatham, Canada writes: My 14 month old daughter, Madison is currently battling the 'cancer-monster'. She was diagnosed at a mere 9 months of age with Neuroblastoma Stage 3. We are currently enduring chemotherapy and surgery in the near future to hopefully remove a tumour from her spinal column. I can relate to all of the comments all to well. And I would like to thank the Globe and Mail for publishing the beautiful stories because cancer does effect people of all ages and walks of life. I pray everyday that we beat this terrible disease and I pray that my beautiful baby gets to experience all the joys and wonders that life has to offer.
  34. Wendy-Sue Bishop from Elliot Lake, Canada writes: I had the distinct pleasure and privilege,although some that have not taken this path may not understand,to have shared my Mom's adventure. With great dignity and amazing generosity of spirit my Mom lost her hard fought battle against Lymphoma on July 2, 1979. Two unbelievable years of diagnoses, endless hospital visits,chemo,radiation and ugly operations left my Mom with the realization that she wanted to enjoy the time she had left. She asked me to come home to be with her and I was so honored that it left me breathless. We weren't as close as I have envied many Mothers and daughters but we sure were, by the time she had decided she had had enough.In that time I yearned for what I had missed before, with my Mom and what would never be again. We talked incessantly;I rubber her legs until my palms were raw;she shared her amazing recipes with me;I did things with and for my Mom that I would have never dreamed of prior to all this;I suffered her pain,exhaustion.frustration and rare joy.We were one. This time was indeed a privilege for me and one that altered the entire course of my life.I decided to take up the fight that my Mom had signed me up for. Since then I have collected with the Candian Cancer Society raised dollars for Terry Fox,Relay for Life and other local ventures. Most recently I was involved the first two years that WTEBC came to Toronto, raising over $37,000 in a small town called Schomberg. I couldn't have done it without the entire village's help, not could I have done what I did for my Mom without the help of many-working together I am confident that one day we will find the illusive cure for this ugly,heart rendering and frightening disease.There is good that comes of everything'Life is not about the number of breaths we take, but about the moments that take our breath away'
  35. Linda Plater from Toronto, Canada writes: I can't believe she's gone. My friend, my peer, just 40. Departed Nov. 17, 2004. Mary, the healthiest person I know. She was a champion and many who knew her told me she was one of their top 5 friends of all time-- mine too.

    She won all the red ribbons for our Collingwood high school track team. Competed around the world. Ran a triathalon in Portugal in May... Began chemo in June for melanoma found on a mole on her back. Cancer spread like wildfire to her organs. Dead in November.

    We have to wonder if the high altitude, outdoor life, sun exposure, family orchard pesticides or just bad luck took Mary from us. So heartbreaking -- skin cancer -- Don't 98% of these people beat it? We miss her and always think of her when we hit the trails wherever we wander. We also miss her sister Kathy (died of brain cancer in 2001) and her dad John (internal cancer died 2003)
  36. Emma Irwin from Sooke, Canada writes: June 15th, 2006 was our daughter's first birthday - an enormous milestone for a baby girl diagnosed at 10 weeks old with Biphenotypic Leukemia, a rare and extraordinarily difficult combination of ALL and AML Leukemia. Our first daughter had just turned two.

    We nearly lost her so many times - after the first round of chemo she spent an entire month on a ventilator in the ICU at BC Children's hospital. Our sweet baby girl recieved a life-saving bone marrow transplant Decemeber 20th, 2005 at barely six months old. Time and time she again defied the odds through infection and complications of her transplant and treatment, she is a miracle many times over.

    Our community of Sooke, BC rallied around us and raised money to help pay accumulating bills during the eight straight months we were away from home. Friends, family and complete strangers showed us unbelievable kindess, generosity and beauty of spirit we are forever changed and inspired. Our medical care is second-to-none, we feel so grateful to live in Canada and for the opportunity of providing our daughter with a chance at the life she fought for.

    On June 16th, 2006 we had an enormous party overlooking meadow filled with daisies - a meadow rolling down to a twinkling ocean under a blue sky. It was the perfect day for our sweet Daisy's first birthday and everything we had prayed and dreamt of came true that day.

    On December 20th of this year we celebrate Daisy's first re-birthday : a tremendous milestone of one-year past transplant! You would never know it to look at her. Our journal is at: http://www.daisyirwin.blogspot.com
  37. Chuck Murray from Oakville, Canada writes: On February 1st 2002 at the age of 34 I was diagnosed with melanoma. After being reassured that only 4% of people with my depth have any spread, a subsequent biopsy of my lymph nodes proved otherwise. While waiting for my surgery to remove the remaining nodes under my right arm, my wife, pregnant at the time, went into labour. Coincidentally this was the day before I was booked for my full body CT scan to look for further spread. Something I will never forget is phoning Princess Margaret Hospital from the delivery room at Mt Sinai to cancel that scan. The call went something like this:
    “I’m calling to cancel my CT scan booked for tomorrow”
    “Sorry?” A polite way of asking if I was crazy.
    “I have a CT scan booked and can’t make it”
    “Sir, no one ever cancels these appointments” again telling me I’m crazy.
    “My wife’s in labour and I’m not going to miss the birth of my son, I need to reschedule”
    After further attempts to convince me, the wonderful staff at PMH managed to squeeze me in the following week. My wife gave birth to a fantastic, healthy boy and my CT scan was negative. As I approach my 5-year anniversary all signs of the disease, save my scars, are gone. But, as many have pointed out, you are never cured and you will never dare say you are. As I like to say, I don’t get a headache anymore; I get brain cancer.
  38. Carol Martina from Vancouver, Canada writes: The 'Cancer:A day in the life' was a powerful edition. The beautiful photo of Shelby reminded me of my own daughter, Madison who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour when she was just 5 1/2 months old. Like Shelby, Madison had an incredible fighting spirit and battled her disease with tenancity and grace. When she was feeling well she totally lived in the moment-embracing life to the fullest. She died at Canuck Place Children's Hospice just a few weeks after her fifth birthday. Also like Shelby she endured incredible pain and while we had many years to prepare for her possible death, I was not prepared for the pain she would have to endure. That pain is what continues to haunt me. To that end, our family was able to help establish the 'Madison Clinic' which is dedicated to maximizing comfort and quality of life for children with progressive, life-threatening conditions. The clinic which I believe is the only one of it's kind in the world, is a unique and specialized outpatient clinic because children and families need choice and flexibility in accessing advanced symptom management and if and when necessary, palliative care services. Madison Clinic is a partnership between BC Children’s Hospital and Canuck Place Children’s Hospice. The clinic, which is a pilot project, is located at BC Children's Hospital, is accessible to all BC children with chronic, life threatening illnesses regardless of diagnosis. Children can be referred by family members or any health care professional. For further information please go to: www.bcchildrens.ca click on 'services' and scroll down to 'Specialized Pediatrics' and click on 'Madison Clinic'

  39. Irene Fritschi Nelin from Delta, BC, Canada writes: As for so many others, cancer changed my life in 2006. My husband Doug died from colon cancer at the end of July at the age of 63. He had been diagnosed 14 months earlier - it was already a stage IV cancer. Once he was diagnosed, he received the best treatment and care possible. His surgery was scheduled immediately and as soon as he had recovered from it the chemotherapy treatments started. His oncologist even managed to make Avastin available to him under a special program when the drug had just been approved in Canada but not funded in BC. It was all too late for my husband. What makes me sad and occasionally angry is the fact that his death and many others could have been prevented. If there was a screening program in place I might be writing a different story today or better even, my husband could be writing his story as a cancer survivor. Doug had complained about some health problems, including inexplicable lack of energy and fatigue, a few years prior to the cancer diagnosis. He underwent various tests but not once did any of the healthprofessionals involved, suggest a colonoscopy. Yes, a screening program comes with a price but I have just witnessed how expensive the treatment for advanced cancer is and it 'only' bougth us about 6 additional months.
  40. Kat Wilson from Canada writes: Three more days will mark the fourth anniversary of my mother's death from oral cancer. Thankfully she died in the √Člisabeth Bruy√®re Health Centre in Ottawa, a palliative care ward that is unsurpassed for excellence. I cannot say enough about how well my mother was treated. They also took me (her caregiver) under their wing, nurturing us both through what had been a horrific time. The time before she arrived there.

    I never gave cancer - or the deterioration of our health care system - much thought until I was faced with the horrors of my mother's illness. When she was finally diagnosed - 6 months too late because an incompetent nurse, in a family clinic that is the most abysmal piece of unprofessional crap I've ever had the misfortune of encountering, repeatedly told my mother over a 6 month period that the pain she felt in her ear was 'nothing' - she underwent horrendous surgeries to remove her tongue, parts of her throat and all of her teeth. These surgeries were optional but my mother was desperate to live so she went through it all. Her life after that lacked quality to say the least. She had to be fed through a tube, lost horrendous amounts of weight and bone mass, and couldn't enunciate words. But she was alive and that's what mattered to her. Within a year the cancer returned with a vengeance and thus began the next chapter in hell for my mom. I had to fight tooth and nail to get support from her incompetent family physician to get her into palliative care. I don't have room in this comment box to describe the crap this so-called doctor put my mother through. Once my mother arrived at E.B., her pain was managed within minutes by a team of dedicated expert professionals. There she died with dignity, surrounded by loving people who truly had her best interests at heart. The doctors, nurses and volunteers were angels. Further, the entire service was free! Paid for by the public system.
  41. susanne lesniak from edmonton, Canada writes: I read the article by Erin Anderssen- A Day in The Life of Cancer- and was really touched by this, as my mom passed away from chronic lymphacytic leukemia this summer. It was not until after I read the article that I looked at the date. June 15, 2006 was the day that my mom died, at 12:55 pm. Its funny how these things seem to work! Anyhow, I feel that the pictures painted really exemplify the experiences that our family went through that day. Im glad to have the oportunity to learn about others that expericenced similar things that day, and I am glad to know that my mom shared that day with so many other amazing people.
    Susanne
  42. susanne lesniak from edmonton, Canada writes: November 1994, my mom, Cathy Lesniak, was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. She came home with the news to my dad, my sister and two little brothers. My mom fought this for the next 12 years, passing away June 15, 2006. I always thought of my mom as my hero, but it hasn't been until lately that I have come to understand just how amazing she really was. When she got diagnosed, she vowed that she would see my six year old brother graduate. She passed away only two weeks after his grade 12 graduation. My mom remained a mom throughout her entire battle with cancer. She lived for her family until the end. She had dinner on the table each evening, even if she had a bad appointment that day. She never felt sorry for herself. She spoiled us like the grandchildren she knew she would never have. She was dedicated and patient with us despite being faced with a terminal illness each day. My mom wanted nothing more than to live a normal life. She was not going to let cancer get the best of her. When she had to do chemo, she bought a treadmill so that she could still exercise at home. She arranged radiation treatments around vacations or social events. In fact, on Wednesday, June 7th, one week before she passed away, she stopped at the oncologist for an appointment. Instead of carrying on to the airport as planned, she was admitted to the cross cancer institute, and never left. The point being, that she really did live until the end. Because of this, many people were surprised to hear that she had died. Some didn't know that she was even sick. We have just begun sorting through some of her things and we are becoming more and more aware of how much of an internal battle that she fought. I believe that not a day went by where she did not question where she was going, or feel sad at the thought of leaving her family. She rarely let it show. She lived a life of dignity, filled with so much love and laughter. I have never met anyone as strong as her. She is a hero to many.
  43. Sharon Earle from Halifax, nova Scotia, Canada writes: I have a life story to relate about my experiences with Cancer. I have lived to the age of sixty-three years and most of my adult life I have been either enduring Cancer or recovering from it. I am a Cancer survivor. It was very scary when at the age of 40 in 1984, I received a telephone call from my physician with the bad news that I would have to go into hospital the next week because of a tumour that they had found on the untrasound x-ray. I had been experiencing severe cramping for some two years. Finally they operated. It had taken a long time to diagnose the condition. I am grateful for they quick action. Ten years later after yearly mammograms, they detected a tumour in my breast. Again major surgery. Radical. I was again declared cancer-free. With the anti-cancer drug that the oncologist prescribed for five years, I was able to continue with my life in a normal way. Again almost ten years later in October 2005, the physician informed me that they had found a tumour through the ultra-sound. Surgery once again at the same site. Again in January 2006, they performed surgery on my lung because the Cancer had penetrated through my chest wall.
    I am very happy to greet each day as a survivor. I am grateful to the physicians and nurses for the fact that I am alive. I celebrate my life by taking good care of myself. By nutrition, daily exercise and peace of mind, I hope to continue with my life for a good few years to come. I am one of the lucky people where the Cancer condition has been kept under control.

    Sharon Earle
    Halifax, Nova Scotia
  44. Jackie Haverty from Williams Lake, Canada writes: Hello. My husband died at age 36 from 'Familial Polyposis'. It was a devestating and long ordeal to go through. Unfortunately, my daughter had half of her colon removed when she was only 14 years old because of pre-cancerous polyps. she is now 36, the same age as her father was when he pased away. She recently had more polyps removed from her colon but now they've found some pre cancerous polyps in her duodenum. The doctors are not sure what to do and have suggested waiting for a few years to see what these polyps will do! My daughter has been diagnosed with FAP (Familial Adenmotous Plyposis)Sp?? I have just read about this condition and am not comfortable with leaving it to see what it does. Apparently, with FAP precancerous polyps can show up in the bones, skin and small intestine as well. FAP has managed to affect every generation in my husband's family and someone always dies of cancer. Does anyone now a good Physician that specializes in cancers of the colon or FAP? I have a 17 yer old grand daughter who will hopefully be screened soon. Yes, screening should be mandatory.

    I was elated to read about the information in the globe and Mail regarding the discovery of a stem cell as the cause of colon cancer. There is hope for the future:-)

    Jackie
  45. Hendrik Hart from Mount Albert, Canada writes: I have stage 4 cancer. But at age 70 and with my cancer's slow growth I am not despondent. My daughter also has stage 4 cancer. She is 38, has a daughter of 3, and is nearing the end of her journey. She insists on living explosively. From this situation, how could I not respond to your magnificent, thorough, sustained, focused exposure of the cancer monster and the fumbling of the ball in the interplay between politicians and the drug industry. You give dignity and hope even to those of us for whom the realization of your dreams comes too late. And I have been confirmed by your coverage in my view that the responses to cancer's destruction are multiform and can best be respected as such. For some it brings despair, for others it brings out the most powerful forces of life. Some relationships that once blossomed, now sour and die; others that were feeble have rebounded in new found strength. Some curse God. others experience blessings they would not have know without their suffering. To absorb all the responses to your weeks of coverage would take months if not years. May the example you are setting bring out effective forces of healing in the right places.
  46. Robin Arnfield from Vancouver, Canada writes: My father died of brain cancer earlier this year. It was very, very traumatic. He received wonderful medical care and help from his friends. But it was very sad to see his suffering. To see such an intelligent man reduced to the person he became in his last few weeks. The expression on his face - the pain and the suffering - will stay with me. I am sustained by my Christian faith in my bereavement.
  47. george turbitt from Canada writes: Jackie #44,I also suffer from 'Familial Polyposis' and do not take the wait and see approach as time is everything as I have found out. I had a colon resection at age 40 and have since lost a kidney and am struggling to hold on to my bladder because BCG treatments have failed. Every three months I return for a cystoscope to see how the bladder looks then it is usually a trip to the operating room for a T.U.R.B.T. which I have had so often I am begining to think it is named after me (check last name). I had an excellent Urologist (Dr. Fischer) that I believe is probably the best Doctor available with a genuine bed side manner that showed he actually cared about what you were going through. My Doctor that handles my sigmoidscopes and my families referal to Genetic studies is very thurough and aggressive with referals and knowledge is Dr. Trevor Seaton from Hamilton On. He seems to generate action from the genetics team and get accomplishments on follow up issues as it appears he has a real interest in the genetic side of the disease. Best of luck.
  48. Nicola Valentine from Burnaby, Canada writes: I see it as ironic that I consider myself fortunate to have been diagnosed with breast cancer in Vancouver in 2004 when I had the opportunity to take part in a study that looked at the effects of exercise on women undergoing chemotherapy (MacKenzie, Gelmon). Objectively, gains were measured in 'less loss': less bone loss, less aerobic loss, less stregth loss than the control group. The real gains, to us, were subjective and profound. For me, as I had always seen myself as an athletic person, this world of the gym was something I knew. In my topsy turvy cancer world, partipating in the gym was something that was safe, familiar and comfortable. For others in the study, who had never worked out, the gym was something new, challenging and exciting-perhaps leading to a new lifestyle. As I had always being a busy working person, now unable to work because of immunocompromise, the gym became my work. It got me up, showered, dressed, in my car and to the work-out. This structure to my day staved off depression I am sure. And no matter how rotten I felt at the beginning of exercise program, I always felt better at the end. And the gym gave us all a Support Group with a purpose. We laughed a lot with black humour predominating, at the indignities of treatment and cried a little with our fears. Mostly, though, we got on those treadmills and benchpressed because this was something active we could do against this disease. The study was completed in November of 2005 and while the designers of the program have attempted to set up a gym that people under cancer treament can use, for this the funds are scarce. I know that my oncologist has a dream: that accompanying the prescription for anti-nausea drugs, immune system boosters and chemotherapy, the newly diagnosed patient be given a prescription for exercise and a safe place to carry it out. At present this is more dream than reality.

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