I’ve Got This!

Last Saturday, Tracey stood alone on a dark stage with a spotlight trained on her.  Her short hair was a shiny, rich auburn brown, her eyes sparkled and her smile never left her face. She looked beautiful, vibrant and so very much alive. The evening was sold out and 300 pairs of eyes were riveted on her. Behind her a screen projected the poster for her one-woman show called “I’ve Got This!”

It all started last summer when she asked to meet with the team at the cancer wellness centre where I work.  “I have an idea!” she told us mysteriously. (Cancer wellness programs complement traditional medicine and help people to live well with cancer by addressing their emotional, spiritual and physical needs.)  Tracey had been diagnosed with breast cancer two years earlier but was now cancer-free.

Tracey is, by her own admission, a Type A personality.  A radio-show host, actress, faculty member at a college and former television anchor, she seems to always have several things going on at once.  She says that even when she was sick, she was driven – driven to become “the best cancer patient the world has ever seen”, that is.

Her journey wasn’t an easy one. She had a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer and initially had a toxic reaction to treatment. During her show, black and white photos of a bald, emaciated Tracey filled the screen behind her. When her treatment ended and she was declared cancer-free, another surprise awaited her:  she was sideswiped by a deep depression.

“There are days when I find it hard to get out of bed.   Sometimes I hear the phone ring and I don’t pick up …. just because the expectation is that I should be happy and I don’t want to disappoint.”   – Tracey

That’s when she joined our Centre.  She tried many of our programs, including yoga, meditation, sound healing and counselling.  With time, she returned to a version of her former self. (Cancer changes you, she says. You never go back to being exactly who you were before.)  With her positive attitude and energy restored, her ambitious idea was to mount a one-woman show about her cancer journey to benefit our Centre.

She wrote the show and convinced the college where she worked to provide the theatre and technicians for free. She recruited friends to help, solicited prizes for a raffle and silent auction, promoted the show, etc.  And on Saturday, November 9th, it all came together as she stood on stage in front of a full house.

You wouldn’t think a show about cancer could be funny. But it was.  It was also honest, raw, sweet and touching. I watched her radiant face as the show ended to thunderous applause and a standing ovation. I watched her two teen-aged sons hop onto the stage, one at the time, arms filled with flowers that they handed her before hugging her. And I shook my head in admiration. Not just of her talent, but of her take no prisoners attitude to cancer.

I hope I never have to find out how I would react to a cancer diagnosis, but something tells me I would want to crawl under a rock. Every day, though, I am inspired by men and women who smile and find joy while living with it. I saw a slogan recently that perfectly reflects their attitude:  Life with cancer is still life.

SoCS: The Next Big Win

He had booked the last flight home and it was intentional. “That way, they won’t be expecting me. The element of surprise will be on my side,” he thought with satisfaction.  The plane’s wheels hit the tarmac rudely jostling the passengers and then it sped toward the gate before the pilot applied the brakes. The aircraft then coasted the remaining part of the way until it nosed its way to the gate.

“Right, showtime,” he said to himself as he hefted his carry-on bag from the overhead bin.  He knew his family would not be overjoyed to see him. His father, in particular, had muttered “Get out of my sight,” in disgust and frustration the last time they saw each other. His mother would be his saving grace. He was her weak spot, her Achilles heel. He felt a pang of guilt when he thought about how he would play to that to get her to loosen her purse strings yet again. But not enough to deter him. After all, there was a great Casino in his hometown and he felt his next big win coming on.

Written for Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday. This week’s prompt is “ght.” Find a word that contains the letters “ght” in that order, and use it any way you’d like. Bonus points if you use three or more different words containing those letters. Have fun!

And then there was light!

Last Thursday evening, the rain beat relentlessly down on my windshield as I drove home. The wipers, even at high speed, swiped ineffectively at the water that pelted down onto on the glass. My hands gripped the wheel tightly and I peered forward, trying to see. The pavement was dark and slick and the red tail lights of the cars ahead of me were blurry in the falling rain. I finally arrived home feeling stressed but happy to have gotten there safely.

Later, the rain stopped but the wind kicked in. It howled, rattling windows and whistling through the night. In the early morning hours, the storm clouds scurried across the sky as if the devil himself was in hot pursuit. Large trees, with trunks I couldn’t even wrap my arms around were felled.  And then the lights went out and the house went cold.

I went to work for the day and when I came home Ben had made the season’s first fire in our stone fireplace to heat the house. We listened to the news on a battery-operated radio and knew we were in for the long haul:  Close to one million people were without power across the province. Not since the infamous ice storm of 1998 had things been this bad.

It was Friday night, and we sat by the fire, ate cold pizza, drank wine and I read by the light of a headlamp I use for cross country skiing until I fell asleep. It was a different way to spend an evening and surprisingly pleasant!  The next morning, Ben went out to get coffee and breakfast while I tended the fire. The outage was patchy, so while many homes and surrounding businesses had power, pockets of the area did not. When he returned, we sipped our coffee and hoped that things would be back to normal soon.

By mid-afternoon, the news was still not encouraging. The repair crews were hard at work, but there was a lot to do and we were told it could be at least another day before we had power again. Besides the radio, I stayed connected to the outside world through social media on my cell phone. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the power failure brought out the power of the community.

On Facebook, people in a neighbourhood group that I belong to who had power, opened up their homes to those who didn’t.  Anyone who needed to warm up, have a coffee, even charge their cell phones were welcome.

I posted my own status, explaining that the power was out but we were managing just fine. My own friends responded with personal messages, posts and phone calls urging us to come any time for a bowl of soup, a hot shower, whatever we needed.  The rest of me might have been chilly but the offers sure warmed my heart!

The power finally came back the next day, by which time the novelty of “camping indoors” had worn off. It was annoying and inconvenient, but in no way compared to people who live with the devastation of hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis. We are privileged and we know it, but I was still happy to finally update my status with this post: