Thursday, 25 April 2013

Health, Friends and Family...Life is Good

Whew!!! What a busy day it was today.  Don't get me wrong, this is not a complaint.  I didn't sleep well last night as I was worrying about the CT scan that I had this afternoon.  I was not able to eat or drink until after the CT scan which was scheduled for 1:30 p.m.  I'm pleased that I was able to run a couple of errands before spending a couple of hours at the hospital.

My CT scan was of my throat/chest and abdomen.  Now I'm waiting for the results.  In the meantime, life is great.  While at the hospital, I took the time to visit with a friend who is acutely struggling with her health.  I've been keeping her and her family in my prayers.  At times life seems so unfair.  Prayer helps soothe me but after today, I was questioning if prayer really helps with cures.  I truly believe it does but sometimes life just does not make sense.  I didn't want to overstay my welcome, so it was a brief visit.  I'm going to continue to pray for a major miracle.  I was unsettled and enjoyed the walk to my car which was a number of blocks away.  The sun was shining brightly but the wind was cool.  The brisk walk in the sunshine was soothing.

I finished my afternoon off by dropping by another friends' place to help pack as they prepare to move.  I'm not sure I was much of a help.  At times I felt like I was a hinderance as I was trying to pack but also didn't want to mess up their system.

Then I enjoyed a quick meal of chicken wings, fries and beer with my husband.  It was nice to reconnect after a number of busy days for both of us.  My mind has been more scattered and less sharp again.  Just as we sat down at our table, my husband says to me "Do you have the tickets?"  We were grabbing a bite to eat before we went off to our daughter's high school for a cabaret/cafe type of evening.  So... did I have the tickets? No.  I had seen them on the counter and intended to put them in my purse but....I forgot.  So my husband and I ordered our beer and then he left to return home to pick up the tickets.  I ordered our food and then waited and hoped that my husband would be able to get back in time to enjoy his Guiness and hot wings.  Talk about good timing!!!  Just as he returned and sat down, our wings were delivered to the table.

We enjoyed our meal together and then continued on our way to the high school.  What a great program of various talents was in store for us!  We thoroughly enjoyed the evening and were very happy to support our daughter as she worked behind the scenes.  She'll be having a late night as all the performers and stage hands help to tear down the cafe and then have a small party at a local restaurant.  This all brought back memories of my own high school days when I would be involved with the annual Cabaret, or the musicals.  I'm happy to see my daughter getting involved.

It's been a busy and long day.  I'm tired emotionally as I've struggled with my own anxieties but also tried to be supportive for my friends.  I'm tired physically because I pushed myself to walk very briskly on my way to the hospital and again on my return to the van.  I've also started a 30 Day Challenge of squats.  Today I completed 75 squats.  So I am tired.  I'm also starting to take stock of the gardens and work on cleaning them up as I didn't get much weeding and improvements made last year.

Tomorrow I'm hoping I will spend most of the day with my friends as they move.  I will excuse myself for about an hour while I return home to teach a couple of lessons.  Life is good as I share my time with family and friends.  That's truly what is important in life is our family and friends.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Circuitous Emotions

It's been a bit since I've posted an entry because I've been enjoying life.  My time has been filled teaching, learning, working in my yard and spending time with my daughter.  My husband and son were away for a week enjoying time together.  This was a fantastic opportunity for my daughter and I to reconnect and re-establish our mother-daughter bond.  We enjoyed dining out together.  We tried to enjoy some shopping but unfortunately my energy has not rebounded since I was sick with the cold/flu a month ago.  So the shopping excursion was cut short.  I was disappointed and impatient with my body.  But despite this little disappointment, we had a great week.  We laughed together, we dined together we watched movies together and enjoyed each other in the midst of a busy schedule (work for me and volunteer/school responsibilities for her).

My singing voice has still not rebounded after the cold/flu.  This concerns me because I was just back to singing in the choir and able to produce a nice tone with air support.  This morning as I was waking from a good night's sleep, I pondered my throat and voice.  My throat was scratchy sore across the whole base of the throat.  My neck muscles continue to ache just like they did in November 2011 which was one of the motivating reasons to make an appointment with my family doctor.  That appointment was the beginning of a chaotic and traumatic journey.  So this morning as I lay in bed in that magical moment between sleep and conciousness, my mind was wandering.  I have the window that I can see outside from my bed.  The sky this morning is a brilliant blue with a bright sun to make it appear warm and spring-like.  My emotions laying in bed were in conflict as I deal with the underlying worry of my health and also embraced the beautiful day outside.  As I lay there slowly coming into my day, I also thought "I should really get up and go off to church."  I was in conflict.  I want to enjoy some relaxation without rushing around and running off to "should do's".  I also want to worship and praise my God as I am thankful for where my health is compared to a year ago.  I also want to pray and bring to God my concerns regarding a friend who is struggling with her own serious health issues.  She has been waiting for a double lung transplant for over a year.  This past week she was hospitalized and her 2 teenage daughters were very distressed.  I've been praying for my friend but also for her family as they try to be brave and strong but at the same time struggle with their own fears.  I've wanted to share my mantra "One breath at a time, one moment at a time, one step at a time." with my friend and her family.  I'm just afraid that it is a little insensitive as she struggles to breathe.  How can I suggest "one breath at a time" when it is difficult for her to take one breath?!

I've labelled this post "Circuitous Emotions" because my emotions and thoughts are going in circles this morning.  As I write this, I'm up and listening to Jigs N' Reels on which is a radio show from Newfoundland, Canada.  It is a great way to lift my spirits and inject some joy into the soul.  So there's my circuitous emotions.  I'm going in circles between worry, fear and "down" emotions to joyful and happy emotions.  I do experience a joy for living and experiencing life to the absolute fullest.  As I listen to the jigs and reels, my feet are tapping and I even suggested trying to dance in the living room with my husband.  Of course, the dancing isn't happening but my toes are tapping and legs are swinging in time to the music.  Today it is very cold outside but it is dry, sunny and a gorgeous blue sky.  I've made the choice to not go to church today.  It is difficult to attend church when I can't sing without pain because I'm so used to singing in the choir.  This morning I calculated that I have been involved with choirs and church music up to November 2011 which adds up to 32 years.  No wonder I find it difficult to attend church and to sit in the congregation!!

I've spent my morning reading and contemplating how God works in our lives and in the world.  I must say that I've always been attuned to nature and it always brings peace and calm to my soul and thoughts. This is important for this coming week as I will be having a CT scan done to make sure that the lymphoma is still in remission.  Enjoying a walk in nature or sitting on my patio in the cold and watching the birds, squirrels, rabbits and ducks that visit my backyard all allows me to "be still" and feel the presence of God.  This is also when I bring my fears, worries and prayers to Him to carry for me so that I can continue to enjoy other moments in life with joy.  I believe that God is loving and caring and wants to carry our burdens.  He wants to be there to carry us when we can't walk on our own.  I can say from experience that life is so much easier to navigate when I surrender and rely on God to carry me.  But.....the challenge for me is to bend my will and to stop trying to "do" life on my own especially when life is going well.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Another 3 Month Check-Up

Well, yesterday was another one of my 3 month check ups.  I was very eager to have this appointment.  I've been having some of the same symptoms as I had in November of 2011 when I was diagnosed with the lymphoma.  As I blogged the other day, I've been feeling anxious about them.  So I was anxious and looking forward to seeing my oncologist to discuss the symptoms with him. I was so anxious for the appointment that I woke up at 5 a.m. with the various fears running through my mind.  My morning was spent visiting on the phone with a really good friend.  This helped keep me grounded and laughing.  The visit also helped the morning pass quickly and kept me distracted from my fears.

I always take lots of reading material to help the time pass as I wait for my appointment at the Cancer Clinic.  Yesterday, my son dropped me off early so he could have our only vehicle.  I decided to enjoy a small lunch which I purchased at the little cafe near the entrance.  I was going to write down some of my concerns and questions on a piece of paper while I ate so that I wouldn't forget to mention anything of importance to the doctor.  As I sat down at a table with my bowl of soup and bottle of water, I met a nurse who worked in the chemotherapy lab.  Was it ever nice to see her!  I remember at my last treatment, the nurses had encouraged me to come back just to visit them.  I've not been able to bring myself to go into the chemo lab.  As I mentioned this to the nurse that I met yesterday, she commented that this is a very common phenomena.  Once she left, another friend of mine from my church choir came by and sat with me while she had her own lunch.  Other people from the Canadian Cancer Society also came by to say hello to me.  I truly felt like God was bringing people over to me to help keep me calm and distracted.  Before I knew it, it was almost time to head up to the registration area to check in for my appointment.

After checking in for the appointment, I always have blood taken so they can check my blood levels (white cells, red cells and platelets) as well as any other changes that are signals and warning signs that the cancer may be returning.  The blood work is always taken at least 45 minutes before the actual doctor's appointment.  Yesterday, I brought some reading that I've been wanting to read and haven't had time.  My mom's older cousin has been writing his memoirs and I have a copy of the early years of his lifetime.  I was thoroughly enjoying having the time to read in the waiting room of the Cancer Clinic.  As I read the memoirs, I could envision my great-uncle (this cousin's father), my grandfather and the old farm houses, barns and rugged terrain where all the family eked out successful livings on the various farms.  I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of the inside of the farmhouse as it reminded me of my grandparent's farm house.  I loved that home!!  Before I knew it, my name was being called to come in for the appointment.  The memoirs and my own comforting memories helped keep me calm and I felt a warm glow within me.

Finally I met up with the doctor.  As always, he asked how I've been.  I described my symptoms that I've been dealing with and let him know that I had also caught the cold/flu virus that is circulating through the city at the moment.  He asked some other questions about other symptoms.  After answering him, he indicated he wanted to do a more thorough check up.  I had not had a check up like this since January 4, 2012 when I first met him at my first appointment before starting chemotherapy.  As he left the room so I could put on a gown, my heart started pounding and my stomach flipped over with fear.  The "what ifs" started in on me with a vengeance.  What if my cold and symptoms were really the lymphoma.  What if the doctor tells me "Yes, the lymphoma has relapsed and you need more treatment."  What would I tell my husband?  Then I stopped my thoughts and sternly told myself  "We will deal with whatever happens!  If I have to go through more chemotherapy, then we do that.  We will just meet whatever happens head on and deal with it."  Then I got into the gown and waited.  As I waited for the doctor to come back into the examination room, my heart continued to pound hard.  It seemed to shake my whole chest.

The doctor returned and checked me over.  At the end of the exam, he said "Well, I couldn't feel any lumps."  What a relief!!!  He's going to send me for a CT scan just to make sure that everything is still clear.  He believes it is.  I have to take hold of his experienced and educated opinion and hold on for dear life.  I really like my doctor.  He acknowledged that in the next few weeks I will have a bubble of fear hanging over me.  I most likely will have the CT scan in about 3 weeks time.  Then I will see my doctor again to go over the results.  He stressed again that he expects everything to be fine.  Regardless, I'm back to waiting.  Waiting for the CT scan appointment.  Waiting and trying to keep calm.

Just before I had started chemotherapy in 2012, a good friend had given me a box of note paper that says "Keep Calm and Carry On".  It was a constant reminder for me when I would start to get overwhelmed and scared during treatment.  Last night and again today, the note paper is on my coffee table and it was a comfort.  I will keep calm.  I will carry on.  Everything will be fine.

I'm going to enjoy a week with my daughter.  I'm going to make plans for my summer.  I'm going to make plans for my students and organize a year-end recital for them.  I'm going to continue to organize my Relay For Life team "Cathy Conquers Cancer".  I'm going to start to make a concerted effort to fundraise for the Relay For Life.  I'm going to walk in the Survivor's Lap.  I'm going to continue to try to live fully in each moment and enjoy the little things of each day.  I will continue to tell myself that the CT scan is just to confirm that everything is fine.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Will The Fear Ever Leave?!

This nagging fear that I live with has been what I was afraid would happen once I found out I was in remission last May.  There is always an underlying, simmering fear that the lymphoma will return.  That's the emotional part of me.  Then there is the logical part of me that says the odds are very low that "It" will return.  This is the constant fear and conflict that simmers within me.

The symptoms I had with the lymphoma were symptoms that are so common with minor colds or flus.  I was really fortunate that I didn't catch any viruses all winter long.  However, my "luck" ran out and I've had a sinus cold/flu for the last 2 weeks.  As I experienced an overwhelming fatigue, clogged sinuses, and a sore/achy throat, I started to fret that the lymphoma was returning.  As I was resting, I googled "lymphoma relapse symptoms".  Didn't I come across an anecdote where someone had it return as a tumour in their sinuses with all the symptoms of a major sinus cold!  Now what was I thinking that I would google that!!!!  So I talked myself out of panicking and settled myself somewhat.  However.....the underyling anxiety and fear is still there.

I am breathing better and the sinuses are cleared except for first thing in the morning.  So I can logically tell myself that this was just a cold/flu.  However, there has been more pressure at the site of the original tumour in my neck.  There has been achiness in the neck muscles as well.  I still get breathless.  My stomach has a tendency to feel nauseous at various times of the day.  I have been having more night sweats at night.  I can explain these symptoms away.  The neck pressure and achiness can be attributed to the cold.  The breathlessness can be attributed to the cold because I was having trouble breathing through the clogged sinuses.  The vague nauseousness can be explained as nerves and fear. The night sweats can be attributed to menopause.  The achiness in the neck an be attributed to the need for a chiropractic adjustment which is regularly scheduled for this Tuesday.  But......all these symptoms can also be the lymphoma returning.  I see my oncologist for a check up on Wednesday. The knowledge of that appointment has been like a life ring that I've been clinging to in order to help keep the fears at bay.  The blood tests that he always has me do before the appointment are supposed to show a protein that gets elevated if the lymphoma returns.  The blood levels (white cell, red cell and platelets) all get tested as well.

For the last two weeks, I've kept my fears to myself.  I don't want to be told that I worry too much.  I don't want to be told that the fears are groundless.  I get the distinct feeling as the months trudge along that my husband doesn't want to even think that the lymphoma might return.  I don't think anyone can understand what I'm truly feeling unless they've been through it and know what it is like to have a nagging, constant anxiety.

If there is a good side to this simmering anxiety, it is that I refuse to accept the status quo in life.  I still have a feeling of urgency to experience life fully.  When I wasn't teaching, I used to always think about work and worry about what was coming up next as far as recitals, competitions, etc.  Now, when I'm not teaching, I'm enjoying doing activities with my husband.  I still have my bucket list....oh I'm sorry, my husband calls it a "living list"....that I'm still trying to experience.

As I re-read this post while writing it, the readers may think I'm feeling down in the dumps.  I'm actually listening to some jigs and reels which keep my spirits up.  I'm not letting the anxiety take over but it simmers under the surface as I enjoy life.  I'm constantly enjoying having a friend living back in town after having been away for a few years.  I'm enjoying friends, family and spending time with my husband.  I'm making plans for my summer.  Every once in a while, the anxiety bubbles to the surface as fear.  I face it.  When I talked to my husband the other day, I pragmatically suggested that his immediate plans don't change regardless of the outcome of my appointment on Wednesday.  So if I find out that the lymphoma has returned, I want him to continue to go on a golfing holiday with our son.  I want him to continue to play softball with our son in the league they just signed up for.

The reality is that there is a 15 per cent chance that the lymphoma may return.  On the days that I get overwhelmed with fear, I remind myself that this percentage translates to an 85 per cent that it will stay in remission.  Once December of this year arrives, the percentage of relapse drops to 5 to 10 per cent.

Yesterday, I enjoyed a sunny afternoon pruning my grapevines until my hands were too cold to feel the grapevines.  Then I enjoyed a Sugar Shack Ale (made with maple syrup) on the patio with my husband.  We listened to the chickadees, blue jays, cardinals and robins.  Then we got cold and came indoors.  Last night we enjoyed some warm camraderie and fellowship with some very close friends while we watched Hockey Night in Canada.  So life continues to be good and enjoyable.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Cathy Conquers Cancer!

Today, I went by the local Canadian Cancer Society office to register the members of my team, "Cathy Conquers Cancer", for the Relay For Life 2013.  This event will take place on Friday, June 7 from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. on Saturday, June 8.   I'm looking forward to participating in it again this year.

Last year, I entered my team for the first time.  It was the first time I ever participated in the Relay For Life.  This is a fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society.  The funds raised at the local chapters stay within the community.  The money is used to run the office, run support programs for those who are stricken with this terrible disease, run support programs for the caregivers and families and a portion of the money raised also goes to research in the local area.  Last year, the Relay was held on Friday, June 1.  I decided to participate and enter a team in celebration of finishing my chemotherapy.  I had friends and family join me as we intended to stay all night long and walk the track.  Unfortunately, the weather didn't co-operate and the organizers had to cancel the event at 10 p.m. because the rain was too heavy and the wind was too strong.  I was disappointed in that I did not get to experience the overnight event.  In hindsight, it was probably a good thing that I wasn't there all night.  Although my mind was very willing, I don't know that it would have been the best thing for my body.  Also, unbeknownst to me, my husband had planned to force me to go home for some sleep during the night.  Anyway, I get to do the whole event this year and I am healthy and strong to be able to succeed at it.

The reason the event is held overnight is it symbolizes the experience of cancer.  As the event starts, it is still daylight and everyone is warm and cheerful.  As the night wears on, darkness descends (diagnosis of cancer) and everyone struggles to stay awake and dig deep within for the energy to continue through the night (similar to going through treatments).  As dawn approaches and the horizon begins to lighten with the approaching arrival of daylight, people begin to gain more energy as they literally see the light at the end of the tunnel and a long night (similar to finishing the arduous journey of treatments).  Finally at 7 a.m. with the sun fully up over the horizon and the brightness of day, it symbolizes the cancer being beaten into remission and being cured.  Like I said, last year I did not get to experience the whole event.  I have been told that it is very emotional.  I know that last year I did participate in the Survivor's Lap and I felt great joy.  There is also a memorial lap which I intend to participate in and remember my father, my mother-in-law, my friend who passed away from cancer in September as well as the other people I know who have passed away this year.  There is also the luminary walk.  This is a walk/run around the track which is lined with lit memorials (bags with tea lights in them).  These bags are decorated and have a person's name on it.  The person may be someone who has beaten this horrible disease or the name may be someone who did not manage to beat the disease.  The Luminary Walk takes place just as darkness falls.  Apparently it is a very powerful and emotional event.

As I registered my team members this afternoon, I noticed the banner from last year that all the survivors had signed.  I stopped and looked at it and found my name.  I must say that I got choked up as I remember going into the Surivor's Reception last year.  I had no idea what to do or where to go.  I didn't know anybody.  I remember feeling very shy and self-conscious.  Somebody came along and directed me to sign the Survivor's Banner with my name and the year that I underwent treatment.  It was very obvious at that time that I was a recent survivor.  I still did not have any hair!!  This afternoon as I looked at the banner, I noticed there were names with more than one year of treatment.  It was very sobering to see how many people survived not just one bout of this disease but then fought and survived a second bout.  How strong they must be within!!!!!  The ladies, working at the Canadian Cancer Society office today, took me to see two other banners.  In 2009 and 2010, they had all the participants and survivors sign the banners.  One of the office workers told me that a lady comes into the office every once in a while to look at one of those banners.  Her daughter had signed it as a survivor (she was only 14 years old) but is no longer here.  It brings the mother comfort to see her daughter's handwritten signature.

So I will be participating in the Relay For Life 2013.  I'm including a link here so that people can make online donations in my name or in support of my team "Cathy Conquers Cancer".  Please, please give generously.  Because other people were generous in the past, it allowed researchers to make advancements which have allowed me to be in remission.  I will never forget my oncologist telling me that if I had been diagnosed 15-20 years ago, I would have been given a prognosis of a life span of 3 to 6 months.  I would have been dead now.  So I ask again, please consider giving generously.  The link is:

Thank you.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

My Father

Please indulge me as I comfort myself with memories of my father.  You see, it was 22 years ago today that he passed away from lung cancer.  He was a dynamic man with a very strong personality.  It was very sad to see him diminished by this terrible disease.  He was 6' 2" tall and was always very strong and could be intimidating when he drew himself up to his full height.  The cancer reduced him to a mere 150 lbs (this from a man who was 200 and didn't  look "big").

He was diagnosed with lung cancer on November 30, 1990.  They gave him anywhere from 3 weeks to 4 months to live.  They offered him the option of experimental chemotherapy which would give him a 30% chance to live.  At the time, he said 30% is better than 0%.  So he opted for chemo. He spent Christmas 1990 in the hospital but they did give him a day pass to come home for Christmas Day.  I remember Dad going through the chemotherapy on New Year's Eve, Dec. 31, 1990.  My then boyfriend (now my husband) and I visited him in the hospital before leaving to visit my future in-laws in another city.  I remember my dad hooked up intravenously and as the chemo went into him, he had a basin to catch his retching.  It was awful and is the reason I had such a hard time with facing chemo 21 years later.  He did the chemo route for 6 sessions.  It didn't work.  All the chemo did for my dad was reduce the tumours slightly, but at the end of the 3 week cycle they would start to grow again.  It was the Wednesday before Easter (March 27, 1991) that the oncologist stopped the chemo and said there was nothing more they could do for my dad.  My dad was desperate to want to live.  He had 2 children (myself and my brother) being married in the summer of 1991 and he wanted to make it.  He chose to dose himself up with 80 vitamin C pills a day because he heard that vitamin C could cure cancer.  We (my future husband and I) visited him on Easter weekend 1991 and watched him choke down these vitamin C pills.  They would come back up as soon as he got them down.  It was heartbreaking to watch as he swallowed pills and then cough them back up.

On April 2, 1991, I was getting ready to leave my apartment to go to a nearby village and teach piano lessons for the evening.  The phone rang just as I had my coat on and about to walk out the door.  It was my mom calling to tell me that my dad had passed away that morning.

That's the background of 22 years ago today.  Now for the memories which help to give me comfort.  They say that time heals all hurts.  It doesn't heal the hurt but it does dull the pain.  But there is still pain and loss.  I remember my dad in various roles.  He was an autobody repairman by trade.  As a little child, I thought the sun rose and set on him.  He was my super hero.  He was so big and strong!  When he was filled with adrenalin he could lift cars.  He could tear off car doors.  Even at his funeral, there was a story of him going into the church boiler room to help remove the old boiler so that a new one could be installed.  There weren't enough helpers and he was ticked.  He was just recovering from a heart attack so he had to be in his 40's.  He told everyone to stay clear.  He went and closed the door.  The ones that were there to witness this event, told about hearing all this banging and grunting.  Then it became silent and the door opened to show my dad holding a sledge hammer and breathing hard.  He told everyone they could all help clear out the pieces of the old boiler.

My dad loved to go camping.  He loved having campfires and he loved playing with children.  He is the one who taught me about nature and to recognize different trees.  He also taught me how to recognize different animal tracks in the woods.  I can remember him on Sundays after church.  My mom would be making lunch and Dad would have me on his lap while he read little stories from the pamphlet that came home from Sunday School each week.  When we were all young children, my dad would get on his hands and knees and would be our "horse".  My 2 older brothers and I would climb on Dad's back and he would travel around on his hands and knees giving us a ride.

My mom's parents lived in the country.  As a little girl, I loved when Dad would speed up to go over the hills of the country roads and make our tummies lurch and tickle.

I also remember when he was in his late 40's, he had an angioplasty procedure done to clear his arteries.  He and my mom had a trailer at Carson's Camp in Sauble Beach.  The camp had just planted little cedar treees to make hedges between the backs of the lots.  They were maybe 2 or 3 feet high.  My dad was feeling so good after his procedure that he had to show us by hurdling the cedar trees!  We were a little afraid for him but he came back out of breath with a big smile on his face.

My dad loved stock car racing!  He introduced our family to watching live stock car racing at the various local tracks.  I remember my first time going to a race.  I was so excited because Dad had been taking my older brothers a number of times before we all went as a family.  I remember sitting in the stands and recognizing a boy from my kindergarten class (so I must have been 5 or 6 years old).  We went to the races regularly as I grew up.  I remember Dad helping to do body work on friends' cars during the week and then we would go watch the races on the weekend.  Eventually as teenagers and young adults, we would join Dad on Saturday nights up at Sauble Beach to go to the Sauble Speedway races.  He introduced my cousins to racing.  It became a family event and was so much fun.  Dad was a regular and got to know the track staff.  He was so proud when oldest brother entered his own car into the "Spectator Race".  This was an opportunity for people to enter their street cars and try to win a race.  There were only ever 2 vehicles on the track at a time.  The only requirement was that the driver had to wear a helmet.  I never saw my Dad so excited as my brother raced his car around the track.  When my brother won the race and then continued to beat the other entrants to win the Spectator Race Trophy, my Dad cheered the loudest.  I remember as we left the parking lot to head back to Dad's trailer at Sauble Beach, that my dad raised the trophy up through the open sunroof and cheered and yelled as he shook the trophy.  He was very much like a little kid.  To this day, my brother has that trophy on display.  I still watch the Daytona 500 every year and feel a little closer to my Dad.

Dad lived life to the fullest.  He was a very passionate man and sometimes we would feel his full wrath.  He apologized to me when he was diagnosed with the lung cancer and I was able to spend some alone time with him.  He felt all his emotions fully.  When I was a teenager, he had season's tickets to the Kitchener Rangers OHL games.  We sat 3 rows up from the ice.  This allowed my dad to heckle the players and the referees.  He loved it when the senior referee in the league was officiating the game.  The ref always answered Dad back when he heckled him.  Dad loved it!  One of my dad's favourite moments during his illness was when a few of the Kitchener Ranger players came by to visit him at home.  They brought a hockey stick which the whole team signed.  He loved it and it sat in the living room for the rest of his time on this earth.  Dad wasn't one to say how proud he was of his children.  We often didn't realize how much he cared and how much he felt about our accomplishments.  Only twice do I remember him "being proud" of me.  He didn't say anything directly to me but two different times I heard him bragging about my acitivities/talents.  One was when I used to sing the national anthem at the hockey games.  He would always take an opportunity to tell his friends that his daughter sang in front of 5,000 people.  He always cheered the loudest when I finished the anthem.  The other time he boasted about me was when he was telling a friend that I had made it onto a local television show called "Bowling For Dollars".  He was so excited and proud that I was getting strikes and in a tie with my opponent.  I eventually lost but he was very proud.  This just brought back the memory of when I was 13.  I was in a provincial championship (5 pin bowling) and I came in second place.  I wasn't bowling as well because I was feeling ill with all the tobacco smoke in the bowling alley.  This was during the 70's when smoking was allowed indoors.  My dad recognized I wasn't feeling well and he walked me up the stairs to the outside to get some fresh air.  Even though I came in second place, I do remember him being very proud of me.

When I found out about his diagnosis, I went ahead and ordered my wedding invitations.  I wanted his name on them and I wanted him to see them.  I also bought my wedding dress well ahead of the wedding.  I remember he was in the living room on the couch.  This would have been in January or February of 1991.  I had my wedding dress and I wanted to wear it for him.  He didn't want to see me in it as he was convinced that he was going to get me down the aisle either by walking or in a wheel chair.  I insisted on showing him the dress on me.  I'm so glad I did because it was the only time he saw me in it.  You see, my wedding was on August 10, 1991.  It was so hard to walk down the aisle without him.  I would have loved to have him there.  I managed to keep my composure as my brother walked me down the aisle.  That was until I saw my grandma (Dad's mom).  She was cryiing hard and I could only look at her and try to extend my compassion and sympathy.  I know that Dad saw me get married from above.  You see, he used to always honk his horn at wedding parties and he liked to squeal tires.  During a prayer in my wedding, we heard the squeal of tires just outside of the church.  I couldn't help myself.  I chuckled out loud (even during a prayer) and on the wedding video (where you can hear the squealing tires) you see me smiling.  That's because Dad was there!!  He would have loved the dance and the reception.  He would have been laughing the loudest at the various stories that were told.  He would have been "dancing up a storm" as he loved to be on the dance floor.

I wish Dad could have met my children.  He would have been totally smitten with my daughter.  I believe he would have spoiled her rotten.  He would be proud of all his grandchildren.  At times I see my Dad's expressions cross my son's face and I feel comfort and a sense of sadness.  Dad would be proud of all his own children as we have been successful adults.  People often say that time eases the pain of losing a loved one.  I can honestly say that after 22 years, the pain is still there.  It's not as sharp as it once was but it is still a dull ache.  As life events happen, I feel the keen sense of loss as he misses out on seeing those events.  Throughout the year on the anniversaries, birthdays and holidays, I still miss him.  Today is particularly poignant and difficult as the Easter weekend has fallen on the exact dates.  Dad survived the Easter weekend as he was able to see all his children.  He didn't see my one brother until the Easter Monday, April 1, 1991.  He died the next morning on April 2, 1991.

So here's to you Dad.  I may have been difficult going through the teenage years and we didn't agree or even like each other at times.  I wish you had lived long enough for me to reconnect as an adult.  We started to reconnect while you were sick and for that I'm eternally thankful.  Our healed relationship was just much too short.