Cancer Times Are Always There

Even though it’s been a few years since my treatments ended, I still see the physical and yes, emotional scars. At times, both seem to fade and then I am reminded of what will always be there. No, I am still cancer free so I don’t want to alert anyone with a scare. It’s just the nerves that were cut in my face during the surgery seem to talk to me, remind me that they were damaged and that there was something growing inside.

My cancer was a strange form of skin cancer, so naturally any type of pimple will raise those hairs on my neck. I’m careful to not worry my wife, so I keep all the false alarms to myself. And at night when I am relaxing in bed with the covers pulled tight, I might have the tight throat and slight difficulty breathing as my airway is constricted by mucus (yuck). That just sounds horrible to write, but once you are treated with radiation in the head/neck, the area is sensitive. And certain foods might introduce a slight mucus layer that creates a bubble blocking your airway. Now talk about freaking out when you are sleeping, and can’t breathe! But that’s the deck that I continue to shuffle and play. We all have issues with cancer, and better to share than to hide them since we are all experiencing similar effects.

The same throat problems persist when training for endurance events with careful planning required to watch what I eat and make sure I can swallow the food. I’ve learned to take extra fluids to allow for more nutrition from the liquids and less reliance on the solids.

I guess I could look at things as half hairy (instead of half full). That is a reference to my face that can only grow hair on the part that was not radiated – the upper part. If it was 1955, that might be cool. But as I plan for everything, I keep two electric razors charged and shave every morning. I even took an electric razor along the John Muir Trail so I wouldn’t emerge 222 miles later looking like some freak of nature with pork chop sideburns, mustache and a smooth throat area.

My writing here is only to share with those who experience cancer, that cancer is always with you physically and mentally – and that’s ok. Trying to block the experience only gives it more energy. Redirect that energy to living with the disease and never letting it win no matter what. As proof, I’ll keep running and living my life instead of sitting around waiting for cancer to live my life for me.

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The Wonders of the Holiday Season

So many things to be thankful for, and so many experiences to reflect on. I have truly believed throughout my life that each day is to be treasured and each moment savoured. Though as you all know, that can be a very hard thing to do when navigating through every day life.  Sometimes life gives us a subtle nudge, and sometimes a good hard kick to remind us about the importance of living life to the fullest. Well let me tell you, this year has been the year that life apparently felt I needed a number of the not so subtle reminders, and even though my back end is bruised, I’m oh so grateful for those kicks.

In January, I met and filmed Josh Sundquist, that young powerhouse, that had turned what would put most folks over the edge, into a way of showing what overcoming adversity really means, and Russell Jim, a man that has a deeper love of the land and his people than I could have ever imagined was possible.

In February, I lost the dearest person in my life to cancer, and though there is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss her more than I can almost bear, I can’t believe how lucky I was to have had her in my life. She was my mother, my friend, my confident and my biggest supporter, and though she lost her battle, she never lost herself.

In May, I met the wonderful and loving Venus Gines, who is devoting all of her time, energy, money and heart into giving those that are unable to afford medical care a chance at finding and beating the most frightening disease of our time. Through her effort on that day in spring, over a thousand women were treated to free cancer screenings and exams.

In June, there was Bob, that amazing ninety year young tennis pro who is still competing in tournaments, Barbara, who at 79 is in final preparation for her adventure to the South Pole, and two thousand purple shirts making their way down Pennsylvania Ave. to show that Pancreatic Cancer can and will be beat.

In September, I finally met up with Barbie McQueen and through laughter and tears got a glimpse of her wonderful and heartbreaking time with Steve. They thought they had a few years to wage the fight against Mesothelioma, but ended up with only a few months. As you can only imagine, she is a great believer in the importance of now.

In October and November, I was able to spend more time with the international team of doctors and researchers that are on the leading edge of finding the causes and eventually the prevention and the cure of Mesothelioma and other related diseases. Their brilliance and dedication will change a great many things in the medical field of tomorrow.

Wow ! What a year and what amazing people occupy this planet of ours. Whether we’re saving the world or driving a child to their soccer game, each act of love makes life that much better. Each smile, laugh, or word of encouragement has an impact. Thank you all so much for taking the time to make comments on the posts. Some of you have asked if you can share the things you read here that touch you. Yes, absolutely, please do. Some of you have asked if you can post on the blog. Again, yes, absolutely if it’s in keeping with our theme of inspiring, motivating and educating. Write it as a comment, and if it indeed fits the theme, we’ll translate it to a post.

Have a wonderful Holiday Season and please take the time to enjoy your life.

All the Best, Heather

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