"Our soul must perform two duties. The one is that we must reverently wonder and be surprised. The other is that we must gently let go and let be." Julian of Norwich

...Cancer teaches both!!!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Great Pumpkin!

Another  Halloween Treat!


Pumpkins and Munchkins! 1988





Kelly     -    Morgan     -     Robyn
Halloween 1988 - Queen Charlotte Islands

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Halloween Thriller!


Monster Mash

Happy Halloween!


Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!


What a blast...  Thanks Beth for the link!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Integrated Cancer Care

The days of battles between advocates of conventional and unconventional approaches to cancer care are coming to an end. New models of care are emerging which embrace the best of all healing traditions. Today a comprehensive approach to dealing with cancer is just as likely to include meditation, yoga, and massage as it is chemo, radiation, and surgery. Oncologists are increasingly supportive of patients who integrate complementary approaches with the more conventional ones.

Personally, I’ve relied on a combination which has included surgery, RFA, chemo, healing touch, meditation, prayer, exercise, Tai Chi, diet, and supplements. I have been supported in this approach by an innovated cancer care community in Vancouver called "InspireHealth" (formerly “the Center for Integrated Healing”). At InspireHealth a team of physicians and alternative health practitioners are available to guide and assist me in my treatment decisions. http://www.inspirehealth.ca/

In the United States, “Cancer Treatment Centers of America” have established a network of hospitals where conventional and complementary treatments are offered within the context of a holistic, patient-based approach to treating cancer. Their “evidence-based” approaches include nutritional support, naturopathic medicine, mind-body medicine, physical therapy, pain management, and spiritual support as well as the traditional tools of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy. http://www.cancercenter.com/

One of the classic texts in the in field of integrative cancer care is “Choices in Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer” by Michael Lerner. Michael identifies the following 12 elements of unconventional cancer therapies. He describes the first four on the list as the “vital quartet”.
1. Spiritual Approaches, including prayer and healing touch.
2. Psychological Approaches, including stress reduction.
3. Nutritional and Dietary Approaches.
4. Physical Approaches, including exercise and massage.
5. Traditional Medicine, including Traditional Chinese Medicine.
6. Pharmacological Approaches, including vitamin supplements.
7. Herbal Approaches.
8. Electromagnetic Approaches.
9. Unconventional Uses of Conventional Treatments.
10. Esoteric and Psychic Approaches.
11. Unconventional Instruments and Diagnostic Tests.
12. Humane Approaches.


“Patient-centered” and “integrative care” approaches mean that today, more than ever before, we have the opportunity to make informed and empowered choices about our care. Good thing... Eh!

Blessings… Rob

“The informed pursuit of treatment options… can also influence how we encounter our own mortality. Perhaps inner peace, freedom and meaning, even health lie embedded within the very pain, fear, and uncertainty we frequently experience as we face illness and engage with it as full participants along the road we call life.” Jon Kabat-Zinn

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

To Everything There is a Season

"To everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven…A time to be born and a time to die…” Ecclesiastes
 


In the course of my life as a minister I have spent much time in the presence of the dying and the bereaved. The names of those I have accompanied through these stages are written in my journals and their stories inspire my life and ministry. I believe that to walk with someone through the final stages of life is one of the most sacred experiences we can have.

From a spiritual perspective, "palliative", or "end-of-life", care is very much a service of “accompaniment”. The word accompaniment really names it well when you look at the Latin roots com-panis, "with bread". To accompany is to “break bread with”. It is to walk the journey with another as a companion for a particular and significant stage of life. When I remember those who have accompanied me in the difficult stages of my journey, I think of the following qualities that I value in them:
  • availability and commitment;
  • an ability to be a “non-anxious" presence;
  • honesty, humility, and compassion;
  • a capacity to both listen and reflect;
  • a comfort level with silence;
  • a sense of humor; and
  • a certain wisdom that comes from experience.
It is also important to me to have a person who shares somewhat of my spiritual orientation. In that way we can use a common language of symbol, story and prayer.
----------------------------
A particular challenge for the person living in the advanced stages of cancer is, “knowing when to let go”.  It seems to me that in the cancer journey there is a time to fight the "dragon" with all of the weapons we can muster. I've also seen that there can come a time when it's helpful to "let go", so that the final stage can be one of peace and dignity and not one of prolonged pain and suffering.

"Letting go" is not giving up. Death is not defeat or failure. It’s not about winning or losing, but rather about accepting the very imminent reality of our mortality. My experience has been that when the terminally ill reach the place of "letting go" a deep peace follows for the individual, their family, and their friends. Discerning the time of this transition is deeply personal and needs to be respected by caregivers and family alike.
-------------------------
End-of-life care belongs to the family. It is another area of medicine which is being reclaimed through patient and family empowerment and education. Many hospitals and communities now have progressive Palliative Care programs that help our loved ones through the final stages of life with dignity and respect.



In Canada, Dr. David Kuhl has written an insightful book on palliative care. What Dying People Want: Practical Wisdom for the End of Life is an excellent account of David’s 15 year experience of palliative care in Vancouver. In it he addresses such issues as: Time and Anxiety; Bad News; Physical Pain; Life Review; Speaking the Truth; Self-Realization; and Transcendence.

In the US, Dr. Ira Byock has written and advocated extensively on end-of-life care. His website, http://www.dyingwell.org/, has numerous helpful resources and an excellent synopsis of the Developmental Landmarks and Taskwork for the End of Life”. It is helpful reading if you, or a loved one, are facing end-of-life issues.

In peace... Rob; in Vancouver

"I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity". Gilda Radner
originally posted in July 2007

Turn, Turn, Turn 1965

Ancient Wisdom!   New Sound!


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Remembering Helen and Mark

This Sunday I remember two friends who have died of cancer in this past week.  Helen, a wonderful woman from St. Stephen's and Mark, aka "Limey", a "cyber friend" and fellow "semicolon" from my online cancer community.

Helen was a nurse, wife, mother, grandmother and stalwart friend to many at St. Stephen's.  She loved her summers on the boat with family, "Guiding", making pies with the "Holy Rollers", her family, and especially her granddaughters.  When you went to Helen's house you always knew there were kids around.  Maybe not at the moment, but recently or soon again.  Helen and I shared this dread disease for the 3 years I've known her and it often came up in our visits.  She lived with incredible grace, dignity, and a sense of humour.

Mark was a life partner to Earl, a devoted Dad, a beloved son and a friend to many including those in the colorectal cancer community where he was known as "Limey".  Like Helen, he loved the water and boating.  He, too, lived with incredible grace, dignity, and a sense of humour, even in the midst of great suffering and hardship on account of a relentless disease.

I share these brief words from Limey with the nautical theme, zest for life, and love of family that ties these two fellow travellers together...
"I want others to know that no matter what may come my way, that cancer has not and is not beating me down, it may adjust my sails, but it is not stopping the boat. Each of us has a journey that we are on. Cancer may be a part of my journey, but it does not make me who I am. My partner, my children, my family and my friends are what make me who I am."  Limey
AMEN to that!
------------------
"Crossing the Bar"
Alfred Lord Tennyson

Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,


But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.


Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;


For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.


Remembering, reflecting, and releasing...

Rob; in Vancouver

"Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned."
Edna St. Vincent Millay

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Saturday Funnies

Here is a Lego animation of a great comedy sketch by Eddie Izzard.   I love these Lego animations and have just discovered Eddie Izzard through a friend.  Enjoy!!   (some "adult language")



Friday, October 23, 2009

My Vist to the Oncologist!

One of the highlights in the life of "one-living-with-cancer" is the periodic visit to the Oncologist!  This happens at varous intervals depending on where one happens to be on the journey.  For myself, I am now done the radiation program so it was off to the Oncologist on Thursday to see what's next.  Kelly was my faithful driver and companion, now that Robyn is back in Edmonton!  (We miss you Robyn!  Bung says HI too!)

Bloodwork

No visit to the oncologist is complete without "bloodwork".  I had mine taken on Wednesday to make sure the results were in my Onc's hands by Thursday.  They usually take 4 vials and get results for various blood counts, kidney and liver enzymes, and tumour markers.  I used to diligently get copies of all this for my own file!  Now I'm not so interested!This week I had the added honour of providing a urine sample as well!

The Visit
I have one of the best Oncologists in the world, Dr. K.  He is very well regarded internationally and considered to be one of the best.  Dr. K is up to speed on the latest developments, actively involved in clinical trials, and very creative when it come to his work with Chemotherapy.  So far I have done two major rounds of chemo with Dr. K and I'm probably looking at number 3!

I think Dr. K has another 10,000 patients besides myself!  Fortunately he wasn't seeing them all on Thursday.  But there were plenty enough in the waiting room!   We waited for the standard 45 minutes after the appointed time and finally it was my turn! 

Dr. K wants to check my tumour to see if it is likely to be effectively killed by Erbitux, which is not really a "Chemo", but like a chemo.  Anyways it is very effective IF your tumour type matches.  I believe this to be true because I personally know folks who have been on it for years and haven't died yet.  So, again, we wait and see!



Overall though, Dr. K was very positive.  He says that either way we will "mop-up" whatever the radiation didn't get!  I like his attitude and am very glad to have him as my Onc!  

PET Scan
In the meantime he would like to send me to Alberta for a PET Scan. (PET Scan)  He wants me to go to Alberta because it takes way too long to get one in BC where we only have one publicly funded PET Scan machine.  Lucky Alberta has three!!  And it is too expensive to go to the States or elsewhere to get one privately!  So I'm waiting to see when I go to Alberta!



So that was my day at the Oncologist!  I finished it all up with a lovely session of Healing Hands and was home in time for lunch and a nap!

The End...

Rob; in Vancouver

"I'm going to beat this cancer...
...or die trying."
Michael Landon

I Gotta Feeling...

I hope today is a good day!


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What's Your Worldview on Cancer

Ken and Treya Wilber, based on their own particular experiences, have identified a number of different meanings and judgments that society assigns to illness based on a variety of “worldviews”. A worldview is simply an overall perspective by which one views and interprets the world. This is not an inclusive list by any means, but it provides a good basis for reflection on the types of “worldview” that inform our own judgements and meanings about cancer and other illnesses.

1. Christian: The fundamentalist message: Illness is basically a punishment from God for some sort of sin. The worse the illness, the more unspeakable the sin.
2. New Age: Illness is a lesson. You are giving yourself this disease because there is something important you have to learn from it in order to continue your spiritual growth and evolution. Mind alone causes illness and mind alone can cure it...
3. Medical: Illness is fundamentally a biophysical disorder, caused by biophysical factors (from viruses to trauma to genetic predisposition to environmental triggering agents). You needn't worry about psychological or spiritual treatments for most illnesses, because such alternative treatments are usually ineffectual and may actually prevent you from getting the proper medical attention.
4. Karma: Illness is the result of negative karma; that is, some non-virtuous past actions are now coming to fruition in the form of a disease. The disease is "bad" in the sense that it represents past non-virtue; but it is "good" in the sense that the disease process itself represents the burning up and the purifying of the past misdeed; it's purgation, a cleansing.
5. Psychological: As Woody Allen put it, "I don't get angry; I grow tumors instead." The idea is that, at least in pop psychology, repressed emotions cause illness. The extreme form: Illness as death wish.
6. Gnostic: Illness is an illusion. The entire manifest universe is a dream, a shadow, and one is free of illness only when one is free form illusory manifestation altogether, only when one awakens form the dream and discovers instead the One reality beyond the manifest universe. Spirit is the only reality, and in Spirit there is no illness…
7. Existential: Illness itself is without meaning. Accordingly it can take any meaning I choose to give it, and I am solely responsible for these choices. Men and women are finite and mortal, and the authentic response is to accept illness as part of one's finitude even while imbuing it with personal meaning.
8. Holistic: Illness is a product of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual factors, none of which can be isolated from the others, none of which can be ignored. Treatment must involve all of these dimensions...
9. Magical: Illness is retribution. "I deserve this because I wished So-and-so would die." Or, "I better not excel too much, something bad will happen to me." Or, "If too many good things happen to me, something bad has to happen." And so on.
10. Buddhist: Illness is an inescapable part of the manifest world; asking why there is illness is like asking why there is air. Birth, old age, sickness, and death--these are the marks of this world, all of whose phenomena are characterized by impermanence, suffering, and selflessness. Only in enlightenment, in the pure awareness of nirvana, is illness finally transcended, because then the entire phenomenal world is transcended as well.
11. Scientific: Whatever the illness is, it has a specific cause or cluster of causes. Some of these causes are determined, others are simply random or due to pure chance. Either way, there is no "meaning" to illness; there is only chance or necessity.

Grace and Grit: Spirituality and Healing in the Life and Death of Treya Killam Wilber

-------------------

That is quite a list. I resonate mostly with the medical, scientific, existential, and holistic views. Although I come from a scientific background, I generally think the medical/scientific views result in a very “flat-earth” perspective if taken purely on their own. They just deny too many other dimensions of reality. Reason and experience suggest there must be “more”. The holistic worldview accepts the reality of the medical/scientific views while also affirming the mind/body connection and allowing for psychological and spiritual dimensions. An integrated approach to healing is rooted in this worldview. My “existential” side believes that human beings naturally seek to find meaning in their experiences. Otherwise existence collapses down to a meaningless void in the midst of a cynical world where “nothing means nothing”.


My worldview is also informed by a Christian perspective, although it bears no resemblance to that noted above. The Christian view articulated above is really quite medieval and isn’t commonly held in most of the church communities I’ve known or belonged to (Thank God!). Most Christians actually hold much more enlightened and compassionate views more in line with the life and teachings of Jesus. Regrettably, the view as expressed above does persist in some Christian fundamentalist communities. It’s the type of negative view that leads to the stigmatizing of illnesses.  And, sadly, the stigmatizing of Christianity!  Enough said!!

What’s your worldview on cancer? Are there any in this list that define your beliefs? Feel free to comment.

That’s all folks… Rob; in Vancouver

“Unfortunately, our senses are limited, therefore our view of the world is limited. This is not a problem unless we start believing that what we perceive is all there is to be perceived. It is not.” Peter McWilliams
originally posted in July 2007

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Unexpected Blessings & Simple Joys

A friend of mine in the cancer community expressed a hope for me today... that I might find "unexpected blessings" and "simple joys".   As I read his note this morning I was just hoping that I would have the energy to finish my bran flakes!  But it has turned out to be a day filled with unexpected blessings and simple joys!

---------------

To begin with, the debilitating fatigue which has plagued me for the last week is gone!  Cause enough for celebration!

Shortly after breakfast I had an unexpected call from daughter Kelly.  She had no classes until this evening and time to spend with Dad!  Always a blessing and a joy! We decided we would take in the meditation session at InspireHealth, "do lunch" on Granville Island, and have an afternoon stroll on the Seawall.  A good plan!



We met on the bus downtown and had a totally awesome hour of meditation with 20 other cancer pilgrims at InspireHealth, my integrated cancer care community.  Such an incredible experience to find inner peace and outer stillness in the midst of our busy city lives, and to do so with others!   For me, today, to simply SIT (without pain), and to be AWAKE (without dozing), was blessing and joy enough!

Feeling both "at peace" and"energized", Kelly and I walked down to Granville Island where our "Netloft Lunch" was serenaded by a couple of maritime musicians playing a joyfully simple set of "jigs" and "reels".

A further treat was the "ferry ride" across the calm waters of False Creek. The view out from English Bay was beautiful.   There was a light off-shore fog partially obscuring the ships at anchor.  Otherwise the sky was mixed, cloud and clear, with warm sunshine prevailing.



Every view along the Seawall was a gorgeous palate of reds, oranges, greens, browns, and yellows.  The leaves are falling but the color in the trees is still spectacular.  A few more days perhaps!



We walked the Seawall along English Bay, past our Sylvia Hotel to Second Beach and then went around "Lost Lagoon" on our way back to the Westend Condo.  The last, and most unexpected, blessing was a beautiful Swan dance which I have never seen before.  Two large male Mute Swans, with wings preened, were turning synchronized circles, pirouettes really, in a very elaborate dance.  We were amazed!




This was truly a good day.  

Joyfully blessed...   Rob; in Vancouver

"It is the sweet, simple things of life
which are the real ones after all."
Laura Ingalls Wilder

Illness vs Sickness


Ken Wilber, in reflecting on his wife’s experience of cancer in Grace and Grit: Spirituality and Healing in the Life and Death of Treya Killam Wilber makes the distinction between the physical dimensions of cancer, the “illness”, and the social dimensions, the “sickness”. In Ken’s word’s…


"In any disease, a person is confronted with two very different entities. One, a person is faced with the actual disease process itself... Call this aspect of disease "illness". Cancer, for example, is an illness, a specific disease with medical and scientific dimensions…

But two, the person is also faced with how his or her society or culture deals with that illness – with all the judgements, fears, hopes, myths, stories, values, and meanings that a particular society hangs on each illness. Call this aspect of disease "sickness". Cancer is not only an illness, a scientific and medical phenomenon; it is also a sickness, a phenomenon loaded with cultural and social meanings…"   Ken Wilber

------------------

As a person living with cancer I can relate to what Ken is talking about. To be diagnosed with CANCER is to be subject to all kinds of assumptions, presumptions, perceptions, prognoses, and judgements based on what folks believe about cancer. I don’t think this happens in a malicious or even a conscious way, it just kind of happens as people and groups of people begin to make judgements about you based on their particular beliefs about cancer and the world.


Stigma
When a culture, or community, views an illness in a negative light, "stigma" results. The very identity of a person is transformed in a negative way based on society’s judgements and assumptions. This is most particularly true today of HIV/AIDS, addictions, and mental health illnesses.

The stigmatizing of cancer persists in our society as well. Many cancer survivors will speak of friends and colleagues avoiding them, of prospective employers shying away, or of people discounting their potential and devaluing their gifts because they have, or had, cancer. To be stigmatized is to be aware of a social process that has somehow judged us negatively, identified us as "sick" and "separated" us from the rest of the group.





I’m personally lucky in that, for the most part, I’m connected with people and communities that view cancer in a positive and supportive light. But there are many “worldviews” in our society which contribute to the stigmatizing of people with various illnesses, including cancer. Worldviews which see illness as punishment, or the consequence of “sin”, or because of “wrong thinking” do much to devalue the identity of those with the illness. Likewise there are many worldviews which contribute to a positive understanding of illness. Most of us are influenced by a number of these different ways of thinking. But that’s another post entirely… perhaps tomorrow.


TTFN… Rob; in Vancouver

“I thought during the first part of Treya's life her strength came from her being able to fight. Now, I thought, it started to come from her being able to surrender."  Ken Wilber

originally posted in July 2007

Imagine - John Lennon

Monday, October 19, 2009

A World Without Cancer

I was visiting over at Carl Wilton's Blog "A Pastor's Cancer Diary", yesterday and saw this video from the Livestrong Global Cancer Summit. The Global Cancer Summit was organized this past summer by Lance Armstrong's "Livestrong" and saw people gathered from around the world to imagine "A World Without Cancer". 





Sunday, October 18, 2009

Lord, It Is Night

Lord,
it is night.
The night is for stillness.
Let us be still
in the presence of God.

It is night after a long day.
What has been done
has been done;
what has not been done
has not been done.
Let it be.

The night is dark.
Let our fears
of the darkness
of the world and
of our own lives
rest in you.

The night is quiet.
Let the quietness
of your peace enfold us,
all dear to us, and
all who have no peace.

The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a
new day,
new joys,
new possibilities.

In your name we pray.
Amen

New Zealand Book of Prayer

In The Garden

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Radiation Fatigue!

WOW!  I have been knocked down over the last few days by Radiation Fatigue!  It began on Wednesday and by Friday and Saturday all I could do was sleep!  Phew!  I am familiar with some fatigue from chemo but this is far worse than anything I have previously experienced.   I am literally "unable to stay awake".  Pure and simple.  I've been up for several short (1 hour) blocks today (Saturday), but mostly I am "napping".  I wonder how long this will last?

Radiation Finished
Anyways...  I had my last radiation treatment on Friday.  15 of 15.  It is good to have it finished.  No bad side-effects apart from the fatigue. 

What Now?
Now we "wait and see" to learn what sort of effect the radiation has.  It continues to work for a few weeks and I'll be back to see the radiation oncologist in about 4 weeks.

Chemo?
I will also be seeing my regular oncologist in the next week or so.  I will learn then if there is any chemo approach that could help.


In the meantime it is NAPTIME....
 
Mostly napping...  Rob; in Vancouver

Thursday, October 15, 2009

You've Got A Friend

James Taylor and Carole King
1971





Especially for Craig in Texas!  Today, Tomorrow and the days after tomorrow!

Be Well...  Rob; in Vancouver


“This is my wish for you:
Comfort on difficult days,
smiles when sadness intrudes,
rainbows to follow the clouds,
laughter to kiss your lips,
sunsets to warm your heart,
hugs when spirits sag,
beauty for your eyes to see,
friendships to brighten your being,
faith so that you can believe,
confidence for when you doubt,
courage to know yourself,
patience to accept the truth,
Love to complete your life.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's Gonna Be OK...



Stuart Knight made this video with the intention of inspiring women facing any kind of cancer. It reminds me of so many of the strong and beautiful women in my family, and of the many women cancer survivors with whom I've had the honour of sharing the journey with. Stuart's wish is that this music and video be shared with the world so pass it on to any you think might appreciate it.

Blessings... Rob

"When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something's suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful." Barbara Bloom

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Facing Death

One of the central characters in the novel Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, is a young Japanese American girl by the name of Hatsue. Hatsue lives in two worlds, the modern world of 20th Century America and the ancient world of her traditional Japanese roots. She learns of her Japanese roots through an elder in her community, Mrs. Shigemura. I was struck by this particular exchange…

“Mrs. Shigemura taught her to seek union with the greater life and to imagine herself as a leaf on a great tree. The prospect of death in the autumn, she said, was irrelevant next to its happy recognition of its participation in the life of the tree itself. In America, she said, there was a fear of death; here life was separate from being. A Japanese, on the other hand, must see that life embraces death, and when she sees the truth of this, she will gain tranquility.”
David Guterson Snow Falling on Cedars

-------------------


Death is a difficult thing to face and talk about.  We often want to avoid thinking or talking about it in order to stay focused on the positive. But my experience has been that thoughts and questions about death inevitably emerge in the wake of a life-threatening diagnosis. Thus, it can be healthy, helpful, and indeed "positive" to reflect on death from time to time rather than leave it as an unnamed fear in the back of the mind.

In my experience as a pastor I have had the humble blessing of being with dying people and their loved ones on well over 200 occasions as I accompanied them through the final days and "celebrated life" in various memorial formats.  I remember each person well.  Their names are written in my journals and the witness of their "living and dying" informs my understandings of "life and death". 

In many instances I have found that the level of anguish and grief surrounding death is very much lessened as folks make their peace with it along the way.  One of the strange blessings of cancer is that it does allow for time for people to move through stages, to adjust to,  and to prepare for death.  This often means that important things can be said and done which can make this stage of life a rich blessing for both the person dying and their special friends and family.

--------------------



In many respects living with cancer ultimately means facing the reality of our mortality.  For me, this process began very shortly after my diagnosis in August 2004. My surgeon was fairly certain of the advanced staging of my cancer and he shared all of the information with me in an honest and caring way. I have a vivid memory of a long and tearful night in the hospital listening to Simon and Garfunkel on the headphones and adjusting to the news of my cancer. It was fairly clear to me that death was a possibility. Not a possibility I wanted to pursue, but one that I needed to face.

Facing death remains an ongoing theme in my cancer journey and it weaves like a golden thread in and out of my journal as it does my consciousness. My challenge has been to face death in a life-giving way that helps me to overcome my fear and that truly brings "tranquility".

Death… I wouldn’t want to dwell on it… but I wouldn’t want to ignore it either!

Deep peace of the Autumn Forest to you…  Rob

-----------------------
“There is no cure for birth and death,
save to enjoy the interval.”
George Santayana (1863 - 1952)

originally posted June 2007

Sounds of Silence


Monday, October 12, 2009

3 Daughters - A Father's Thanksgiving

Over the past 25 years or so I have had the good fortune of being Dad to Kelly, Robyn, and Morgan.  Those who know me, know that this is my life's great delight!  I used to be quite a photographer in the pre-digital age but haven't made the transition yet.  Not sure why.  I've always enjoyed taking pictures of all three of them.   Here are a couple of shots from the last year or so.  I'll have to dig into my collections for some older ones.  The collection would be an intersting "Study on Sisters"

-----------


Kelly     -     Robyn     -     Morgan
"A Stanley Park Walk-About"



Morgan     -     Kelly     -     Robyn
"At the Westend Condo"



Robyn     -     Morgan     -     Kelly
"Westend Pride Parade"

Giving thanks for the day...  Rob; in Vancouver

“I would maintain that thanks
are the highest form of thought,
and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
G. K. Chesterton

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Down in the River to Pray - Alison Krauss

I have a friend in Arlington Texas who is facing surgery this Thursday to remove colon cancer metastaces that have spread to his lungs. (This is just such a nasty disease!) Craig is a musician and great fan of Alison Krauss.  I'm posting this video and the following prayer for him as he prepares for his surgery. 




Peace and healing be with you this week Craig!

Rob; in Vancouver

"I think music in itself is healing. It's an explosive expression of humanity. It's something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we're from, everyone loves music." Billy Joel

Sweet Hour of Prayer

This blessing was shared with me by a healing touch community a couple of years ago. It is from Joyce Rupp.  I have used it often and shared it with many who are seeking healing in their lives.  Today I post it especially for my friend Craig as he readies himself for cancer surgery ths week.

Holding your hands over your own heart,
remembering the power of love within you;
receive this blessing:

--------------------

May you desire to be healed.

May what is wounded in your life
be restored to good health.

May you be receptive to the ways in which
healing needs to happen.

May you take good care of yourself.
May you extend compassion to all that hurts
within your body, mind, spirit.

May you be patient
with the time it takes to heal.

May you be aware of the wonders
of your body, mind, and spirit
and their amazing capacity to heal.

May the skills of all those
who are caring for you be used to the best
of their ability in returning you to good health.

May you be open to receive
from those who extend kindness,
care and compassion to you.

May you rest peacefully
under the sheltering wings of divine love,
trusting in God’s gracious presence.

May you find little moments of beauty
and joy to sustain you.

May you keep hope in your heart.


AMEN

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Peace and blessings... Rob
"If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is "thank you," that would suffice." Meister Eckhart

Inner or Outer Hope - You Decide!



Birthday card received today from friends Amanda and Chris in Scotland! 

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I Taw a Puddy Tat - 1948

A classic clip featuring the incredible voice talent of Mel Blanc as both Tweety AND Sylvester.  The historic inaguration of one of tv's most enduring rivalries!  For your Saturday morning cartoon viewing enjoyment!

One Day in the Life...

Yesterday was radiation treatment #12 of 15.  I was well cared for again by the "radiation therapists" of Unit 4 at the BC Cancer Agnecy.  Pictured below is your "Cancer Blogger" and the Unit 4 Team, Jana, Cara Lee, and Paul. 



I am again so impressed with the competance and compassion of BC's health care professionals.  The Radiation Therapists are truly an awesome group of people.  Each day I bring along another family member or friend, and each day the therapists patiently explain what is going on during the set up.

During the radiation cycle the Radiation Therapists are our main contact so they inquire about our health and well being and, in particular, any side-effects we may be having.  Their advice helps us to minimize any discomfort or problems that arise from the treatment.  My side-effects have been minimal.  I have managed the slight skin burn with Glaxol Base and handled the fatigue easily with an extra nap!

The measurements and alignment needed for the setup before the radiation treatment is very precise.  I have a few tatoos marked on my "behind" that they need to lined up with various lasers.  The care and diligence with which the radiation therapists work in this stage is a wonder to observe.  You wouldn't want to be out an inch or two!!   And you needn't worry with these teams!!



Apart from radiation...  I am totally enjoying the extended visit by daughter Robyn from Edmonton.  Today was lunch (tuna sandwiches) with Kelly and Robyn, and supper (sockeye salmon thanks to Billy B.) with Pam, Kelly, Robyn, Morgan and friends!  We are enjoying the very best of family time and seeing each meal as a veritable feast of loaves and fishes.  It means so much to us to be able to share these days and these meals.

The weekend ahead promises to be a continued time of deep thanksgiving!  A long weekend and an extra day off of radiation.  My last three treatments will begin next Wednesday.

Peace and blessings...  Rob; in Vancouver

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was,
"thank you,"  that would suffice."
Meister Eckhart

Friday, October 9, 2009

Healing Hands

Yesterday I was able to reconnect with a local healing community and resume a regular treatment plan of Healing Touch. For a time after my original surgery and during chemo I was able to receive this gift several times a week.  It has always been a part of my complementary care program.

A typical session of Healing Touch lasts for about an hour. I lie on my back and the practitioners work from either side of me using their hands, with some light touch, as instruments of energetic healing work. The sessions take place against the backdrop of gentle, contemplative music. The whole experience is one of deep meditation and peace.
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Healing Touch is an energy based system similar to Reiki in which the healers work with your energy system to promote balance, wholeness, and harmony. The Healing Touch Program has been developed through the work and experience of holistic nurse Janet Mentgen. Healing Touch International is the professional organization which oversees the training and certification of Healing Touch Practitioners. They consist of over 200 trainers and 2000 Certified Healing Touch Practitioners who have as their mission “to spread healing and light worldwide through the heart-centered practice and teaching of Healing Touch.” They define Healing Touch as follows:

“Healing Touch is a relaxing, nurturing energy therapy. Gentle touch assists in balancing your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Healing Touch works with your energy field to support your natural ability to heal. It is safe for all ages and works in harmony with standard medical care.” www.healingtouchinternational.org



 
According to Healing Touch International, Healing Touch can be helpful in the following ways.
- Reducing stress
- Calming anxiety, depression
- Decreasing pain
- Strengthening the immune system
- Enhancing recovery from surgery
- Complementing care for neck/back problems
- Deepening spiritual connection
- Supporting cancer care
- Creating a sense of well-being
- Easing acute and chronic conditions


Experiences of Healing Touch vary from individual to individual. Personally, I find it to be incredibly beneficial in terms of relaxation, pain reduction, wound healing, and spiritual grounding. Try it out if you ever get the chance.

TTFN… Rob

“There is deep wisdom within our very flesh, if we can only come to our senses and feel it.” Elizabeth A. Behnke

Healing Hands - Elton John


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Remembering Pooh!

An Unlikely Pilgrim


In late August 2004, Our Lady of the Lost and Found, a novel by Diane Schoemperlen, was delivered to my hospital bed as a gift from a friend and fellow cancer survivor. Our Lady” is a story of a middle-aged woman who takes Mary into her home as a house guest. Mary, weary from 2000 years of making appearances and healing the sick, is in need of rest and renewal and has "appeared" in this woman’s home with suitcase in hand. The story that unfolds is both a delightful tale of two women exchanging hospitality and becoming friends and a wonderful discovery of the most enduring healing icon in western history. Interspersed throughout the book are various accounts of Mary’s visitations and healings around the world including the story of Notre-Dame du Cap.

Notre-Dame du Cap is a shrine to the Blessed Virgin at Cap-De-La-Madeleine on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River.  Here, it is told, an ice bridge miraculously formed on the river to allow the transport of stones needed to build a new church. This ice bridge was called the “Rosary Bridge” by those who had prayed fervantly all winter for the freezing of the river. The parish priest of the day vowed to preserve the original chapel and have it dedicated to Mary. On the evening of the dedication, three witnesses saw the eyes of the statue of the Blessed Virgin open wide!

The original chapel, with the statue, has been preseved as a shrine and a beautiful basilica has been constructed on the site. Notre-Dame du Cap has become one of Canada’s leading pilgrimage sites having received millions of pilgrims including Pope John Paul II .
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In late September 2004 I had the opportunity to make a "pilgrimage" to Cap-De-La-Madeleine to visit the shrine of “Our Lady of the Cap”. Although an unlikely pilgrim, a protestant with no particular tradition of either pilgrimage or Mary, I truly felt called to make this journey.  I had recently undergone colon resection surgery, been diagnosed with metastatic colorectal cancer, and was scheduled for a liver resection the following week. My life was in upheaval, my future uncertain. I made a spur-of-moment trip to visit my folks in Ontario and took the side-trip to Cap-De-La-Madeleine with my Dad.

I found the visit to the shrine to be a peaceful and healing experience. I sat in silent prayer in both the old chapel and the basillica. I felt a profound sense of calm in both places. I lit candles to give thanks and to remember others and I walked prayerfully around the beautiful grounds and observed the Stations of the Cross.  I was filled with a sense of awe at the faith of people who made journeys to such sacred places. People yearning and searching for a place of peace where they might connect with the Holy and be renewed in body, mind, and spirit.


My friend Donald Grayston describes a "pilgrimage" as a journey to a place of  sacred or spiritual significance with the expectation of "transformation".  I like the intentionality around Don's notion of "expectation of transformation". 
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I cannot say that I experienced a miraculous cure on my visit to the shrine, I don’t think that is what I was looking for. But I did come away from Notre-Dame du Cap with a feeling of deep peace and hope, with a renewed sense of courage for what lay ahead, and with an assurance that all would be well.

5 years later, it is a pilgrimage that I can recall and remember.  As I remember, in the wonderful contemplative capacity of that word, I am filled again with the same sense of deep peace, hope, and courage that I experienced at that time.  And these are things that I need now, perhaps even more profoundly than I needed then!

Peace and blessings... Rob

"If we are spiritual beings on a human path rather than human beings who may be on a spiritual path... then life is not only a journey but a pilgrimage or quest as well. When we experience sacred moments it often is not so much a matter of outer geography but of finding soulful places within ourselves." Jean Shinoda

originally posted in June 2007