The gift of Cancer

If you look at it in the right light, cancer is truly a gift. 

I've been wanting to write this blog for a couple of months but haven't figured out how to take such a big thought and do it justice. It's been a story I have wanted to write for a while, but the idea was so big and the examples were plentiful, but I couldn't quite grasp how to articulate it - so I went to the best writer to figure it out. Thank you Jenny Poo for finally getting me to that point where it made sense.

The other reason I have been holding off on writing is because I don't want to come off as being phoney. I need people to know that I truly believe in what I am saying...and I'm guessing unless you have been through something like this you may not believe me when I say Cancer is a gift. 

So here goes.

Oh. And for clarity I hate having Cancer. My treatments suck, the thought of a shortened life is totally shitty and the stress on my family and friends is unbearable. But it's the cards I have been dealt. Sooo, ya, I'm not delusional.

So with that being said, I honestly believe having this rat bastard is indeed a gift when you pay attention to it. I  want to share this list here so you can start getting these gifts—or giving them—without having to lose a kidney or an exploding ass.

A list of gifts

Pies. So many pies. Professional pies from the Pie Cloud in Kensington and pies you make yourself with help from Humble Pie and People. People bring us a lot of pies. I love pie.

As well as dinners to eat before (or after) the pies. I am grateful, of course, because who doesn’t love pie?  But to be honest I feel a little awkward about accepting all the food, because, well I plan on eating for many years to come. And I don’t want people to think they have to keep bringing me food.

Thanks for all the grub everybody. And please, don’t feel you have to keep feeding me. You’re going to get bored of it, I promise.

The gifts are many:  I am always shocked by the thoughtfulness and creativity. A birdhouse made with Village Blonde cans, a Pax Vape, flowers 'because my mouth is destroyed but my eyes love seeing beautiful things', a coin that will be returned when I am healthy, a boy that died his hair orange only to have it shaved after raising $1600 for Cancer, a gorgeous professional family photo, ass cream, an artful book, and a tic tac toe game made by the littlest of gaffers. So meaningful, and a true gift of being there even when I'm not.

The kindness of strangers: A woman I’ve never even met made me a quilt. She’s the mother of a friend and she made me a special “healing blanket.”  The very first day I received this blanket I lay underneath it and instantly felt warm and happy. I lay under it when I need to escape and be calm. I will be forever grateful to the kindness shared by a complete stranger that knew the healing power of giving for the sake of giving. I promise that I will pay this one forward somehow.


Going grey:  The kids who work at Canadian Tire call me sir.  My own kids, however, call me Santa. So I am owning it and growing the beard out - now I'm waiting for my first Ho Ho Ho gig. 

Depression: This one is a little backwards. Depression is not a gift. But coming out of it was. This past summer, I sunk into a deep depression. For weeks, I was miserable, bitter and felt sorry for myself. I would catch myself having one of these destructive thoughts and I would think ‘Who are you and how did you get in my head?’

After a while, Tracey had enough. She kicked me in the ass and made me realize I needed to get some help. With her encouragement and support from old friends, I managed to beat my depression. It was pure will and determination to find the person I knew was still hiding inside me somewhere.

The gift is understanding that I can’t take my mental health for granted and I need to find the balance between alone time to practice meditating and being around people to give me energy. I was lucky, mine was largely drug induced, others are not so lucky and could use your help.

One in five adults in Canada will suffer a mental disorder in their lives--anxiety disorders and depression are the most common. Depression is the most treatable of all mental illnesses. If you’re depressed or know someone who is, and you don’t have a Tracey to help you sort it out, contact the Calgary Counselling Centre at 403.691.5991 or https://calgarycounselling.com/  They can help. 

Time. Not surprisingly, being told you may be running out of time makes you stop and enjoy the time you have right now, like right this second. My friend Avnish is helping me get better at being here in the moment. It’s tricky business but I keep practicing.  You can pack a lot of experience and joy in the next 60 seconds.  Try it: Ready, set, go!

Walks by the river. Or around the block. Or in the school yard. Since I’ve been diagnosed with cancer, I’ve gone on a lot of walks with friends and family.  Walking outside makes the conversation better. Even if I am limping a little because the drugs make my joints sore.

The L word:  I am hearing it a lot these days. Friends who used to just say ‘See ya Jim’ now say ‘I love you Jim’ and I say it back. It feels good throwing all that love around.

Intent: No need to waste time. If you want something - do it, eat it, ride it, chase it, spend it, drink it, just go get it - why waste time thinking about it.  I knew this one before, but it is seriously powerful and I am even more intentional on not waiting till a better time comes along. This is that time. 

Gallows humour:  I’ll tell the kids ‘I can’t answer the landline/grab the mail/unload the groceries from the car because I have cancer.’  Laughing at the rat bastard feels terrific. And once I stop laughing and they stop rolling their eyes, I generally help with the phone/mail and/or groceries. The ultimate Dad joke....

Friendship. Time well spent: I am genuinely thankful that I am ever present with friends now. No longer do I get distracted by the noise around me, instead I am right there in a conversation and this is one of the biggest, newest most undervalued gifts of all. There are so many missing moments as these are just the photos that made it to my phone. There are so many, and I am a lucky man.

Tracey - my greatest gift: She’s always been a gift, ever since the first time we met 24 years ago, but having cancer has made both of us dig deep. And when she suggests I am doing too much and need to cancel a meeting or just go have a bath, I am reminded of how much she loves me and how well she cares for me. So I listen. And that my friends may be the biggest gift of all for a stubborn old man like me.

Gifts that keep on giving:  When I come out of this, after the immunotherapy drugs have done their work and my body has healed, I will have all these gifts. They’re never going away.  I will carry them with me for the rest of my (long) life. Just like my grey hair. 




A stream of consciousness

I'm stable. They aren't.