Wednesday 24 April 2013


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We continue to develop and now have a regular mailing address as well!
Cancer Crossing
1-1660 Kenaston Blvd.
PO Box 70029 Kenaston PO
Winnipeg, MB  R3P 0X6

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Tuesday 16 April 2013

Caregiver Stress

What if you suddenly found yourself in the role of caregiver to a loved one with cancer?  Do you know what you would do?

We are learning through our interviews with cancer patients that most go through a process.  Whether they felt 'intuitively' they had something wrong with them or their diagnosis comes as a shock, they suffer an initial disbelief that they themselves, have cancer. 
Through the process of medical tests, doctor visits, treatments, experiencing the physical side effects of treatment, surgery, radiation or whatever their particular case entails, they eventually reach a point of acceptance.  They accept they have cancer or have had cancer.  If circumstances are such that the cancer will take the patients life, they come to accept that too, most often with peace.

Our interviews with caregivers are teaching us that their experience of cancer is an entirely different one than that of the patient. 

They feel compelled to try and do something about the diagnosis. 
Many run to the internet, seek out friends who have had experience with cancer to learn what they can over and above what a doctor has told them, to see if they can find a way, a loophole if you will, wherein will lie the 'cure'.  
They feel if they can get their loved one in for a second opinion they will learn that there is in fact, no cancer.  A mistake has been made.

They feel afraid to leave their loved one alone - afraid that in their absence 'the worst' will occur but if they are around, eagle eyed and watchful, then things will hang in the balance at 'okay'.
They feel compelled to ask again and again, 'How do you feel?', 'Are you okay?'.  They hold their breath while waiting for the answer, which they can only hope will be, 'I'm fine.'  They never believe the answer 'I'm fine', though.  The person has cancer, they cannot be fine.  They are only saying they are fine because they don't want me to worry.  So they worry more, wondering what is not fine about how the patient is REALLY feeling.

The stress is astronomic.  The level of responsibility they feel  is enormous.  Exhaustion sets in for which there is no relief.

This behaviour of the caregiver is very difficult for the cancer patient to understand.  Perhaps it is because when ones body is seriously ill, the mind undergoes a process which takes them on a long journey from disbelief, to acceptance, to peace, but for a caregiver, they are often stuck in denial or disbelief or overwhelmed with a feeling that they must take action even though they are not sure what it is.  Caregivers rarely seem to move to acceptance and if they do, peace doesn't seem to be attached.

If you know someone who is a caregiver to a cancer patient.  Give them a hug today.  They need it.

Monday 1 April 2013

Cleo, and (not) giving up

Cleo experienced Left Parotid Adenocarcinoma and had chemotherapy, surgery and radiation.

"I found radiation physically very difficult.  I spent three weeks in the hospital.  At one point I was starting to lose my faith or whatever you want to call it, because I was so sick and it was almost like, is it worth it?   I was so sick.   
At the same time I had cancer I had a friend who also had cancer and she went through chemo - she had a rare form of leukemia that was very aggressive.  They tried so many types of chemo on her and she was just so sick and at the end she said she was ready to go. 
She was my age and I thought to myself, am I going to get to that stage?  She died before I started radiation but when I was having my radiation I was feeling so sick and I thought now I know exactly how she felt.  I was almost ready to give up too but I couldn't.   I knew I couldn't give up".

Have you ever had a moment in your life when you say 'I give up'?  I'm sure there have been many.  Your boss puts that extra task on you that brings you to overload, a so called 'customer service' representative does not help your situation but instead puts you near the end of your rope or perhaps for the third year in a row, your 'easy to grow' petunias fail.  Certainly in any of these instances you might lose your cool and yell 'THAT'S IT, I GIVE UP!'.

Cancer treatment can be grueling.  It taxes the body and taxes the mind.  Some manage it better than others but no cancer patient gives up. 
Cleo has expressed what so many cancer patients wonder themselves but are afraid to utter - 'am I going to get to that stage?' (ready to die).  Regardless of your situation, we are hearing that the mind eventually comes to terms with the reality of the body.  A fighting mind comes from a body ready for battle, a mind that is accepting of death from disease is not 'giving up', but rather is the mind of a body that has completed the process of this particular life.  A mind at peace.

Cancer patients do not give up, quite the opposite, they draw deep down and find strength they never knew they had.  Fortunately the scales are tipping so more are winning the battle than not, but those who do not survive cancer never gave up, giving up is reserved for those who likely never really tried hard enough to begin with. 
To face cancer, to accept the reality of your cancer, to fight cancer is to never give up.  If you think you want to give up on your petunia garden or your tasks at work, maybe you haven't tried hard enough yet.  If you know someone who has, or has had cancer, look into their eyes.  What you will see will inspire you, for cancer alters a person forever.  They face challenges with a bolder more fearless approach and you can see it in their eyes, brimming forth from their soul.  You might want to ask one to help with your petunias!

Cleo's surgery left her with disfiguration on the left side of her face.  We asked Cleo 'how do you deal with the disfiguration of your face from the surgery?'  Her response:   "I just shrug, smile.  I just go on.  Once people get to know me they don't see it anymore.  If anyone asks, I say I had cancer and I lost the nerve that controls the muscle on this side of my face".  Cleo then adds about the cancer experience  "When it's over, it's over, move on.  Don't dwell on it".  Cleo follows her own advice - she went bungee jumping!