Am I not paying enough attention to cancer?

Okay, so yesterday I spent my entire Friday in front of the computer webcam making a video. It was a heck of a lot of work for something that is totally basic – but there was the editing, the lack of a script (my dad taught me in elementary school to never public speak using a written script . . . so instead we’d write points and I’d talk around those ideas . . . and then in high school during my debating club days, it was the same situation. So yesterday, I figured I’d ‘go natural’ and just talk. Four hours later . . .), and then of course the editing of my rambles. But it was SO worth it. The final result is open and honest, even if not fancy. I reckon open and honest come first when asking people to fund your project.

Okay, so the reality is that in preparing for this kickstarter campaign, even though I’m a wee bit overwhelmed with its growing requirement of commitments and work, it’s freaking FUN.

I’m having fun.

And it was realizing that last week that scared the crap outta me.

During an interview with a fabulous local blog, Apt613, on the kickstarter book project, I was asked about how I could jump into such a big project with the news I’d just received? You know, where do I find the energy? And my only answer for that was that this is my energy because it’s my joy. I’m also kinda worried about what happens next once this goal is realized (with your help!). Where does that energy go?

And then the other day a neighbour said to my mom that she’d “heard your daughter isn’t doing well.” Which is fine, and so understandable. Except that I am doing well. For someone in my situation, I’m able to walk, there’s been no chemo as of yet, I have my hair, my energy is good, I can breathe . . . I am doing very well.



But having had these questions, they must have lingered in the back of my mind or something, because the other day I had a big pause moment where a feeling of panic suddenly overcame me:

  • Am I in denial?
  • Am I not thinking about the cancer often enough?
  • Is it going to blindside me again, because I’m not paying enough attention?
  • How often should this be on my mind, should I be scared? Like, right now and today, should I have fear?

Because when I work on my book publishing goal, those feelings . . . that fear . . . it kinda just turns off. Is it a good thing? Or am I being naive?

Last week I had a coaching session with this lovely lady named Camille Boivin. She’s from Ottawa and I work with her for her company Sister Leadership. Anyhow, Cam is full of generosity and a desire to help people connect with their emotions and ambitions. And when the cancer came back, we started working together not as client and writer, but as coach and person-who-needs-some-emotional-work-done. (That’s me.)

So last week in our session I was talking about this anger I’d been feeling. And somehow that discussion of anger turned toward a discussion of sadness. Because along with that anger, I was feeling deeply sad (and still do sometimes, like when I realized last week I wasn’t feeling shitty enough). So we honed in on that sadness. Cam asked me to look back over my life when I’ve felt similar feelings of sadness.

*In this case of metastatic cancer, I’d say the sadness isn’t just about the disease, but more so about potentially leaving my husband behind and hurting my family and friends. The idea is completely crushing.

So I began thinking back in time when I’d felt feelings of loss and sadness. School graduations. Ends of summers working abroad. Moving to a new country. Saying goodbye at airport. Leaving a beloved workplace. Losing my golden retriever . . .

And then Cam asked me this: “If you could go back with what you know now, what would you tell yourself in those moments of sadness?”

And I said to her, “that even though it hurt, good things were coming . . . and love doesn’t stop just because you are separated. The love keeps on going.”

Because from school graduations came new schools, clubs and friends (and I just attended the wedding of my first friend ever – we may not be together always, but the love stays); end of the summer working abroad brought me back home where I found a bookstore job and made more friends there (though I’ll always love the Jasper Kids from 2002);  In moving to a new country I left my family and best friend, but learned oh so much about being independent and made such incredible friendships with people who I still carry in my heart even after returning to Canada; saying goodbye at the airport always means I get to say hello to someone on the other end; leaving my work gave time and space for me to become a writer; and losing my dog – well, that still hurts but the love doesn’t fade. Not one bit.

So I guess if I could go back to those moments when I felt that sadness, I would just tell myself that I’m not leaving the love and by moving forward more good things are going to happen.

Since that conversation I’ve felt a lot less angry, a lot less sad. I’ve been to doctor appointments, blood draws, chemo wards, searching for clinical studies, urine samples, meds from the pharmacy, acupuncture . . . but I’m not grieving the Catherine of four months ago who was almost certain she was cancer-free.

Today I am here, and I’d rather run forward toward whatever good can be created. This kickstarter is part of that. Being proactive in my health is part of that. Not being sad has been a result of those reflections.

Is it normal? Will it stay forever? Is it denial? Is it really because I haven’t met with Dr. Canada? I just don’t know.

How often should I think of the cancer, and will it do me any good? Again, I just don’t know.

It’s so strange to wonder if I’m not fearful enough. I also realize I’m new to metastatic cancer, and therefore incredibly naive to its realities. Is there a right way to cope? I would actually really appreciate hearing other people’s experiences with this fear vs. life thing – is there any use in holding fear close? I’ve been happier this past week than I’ve been for a while, and that is quite precious in these times.

Anyhow. That’s all I have to say about that.  Now, back to work!



To not overwhelm you with blog posts, I’m going to slip in the second excerpt from The Adventures of Claire Never-Ending. Meet Elizabeth (Amelia’s mother) and read her story here! If you want to sign up for an email notification when the project launches, you can do so here.


19 thoughts on “Am I not paying enough attention to cancer?

  1. Thank you Catherine for sharing your feelings and project too. I don’t have the health concerns you do, so it’s not my place to say anything other than what resonates for me. It reads to me like you’re living in the present moment. Here and now and very focused, and whatever your feeling is yours. There is no gauge or other persons experience to compare to, only you can be you. Whatever is going on, denial or naive, whatever, doesn’t matter. 100% in the moment. That’s where the juice is. Creativity in the moment. That’s why I love my work as an actor. I’m in the moment more when playing someone else than playing myself but through it I”m learning this is the same gift I can give my life that I give the characters, to be present to me. You’re one heck of an inspiration. Keep sharing, writing and video taping.
    PS Great pic above. You’re a delight!

  2. Good for you, Catherine! I’m not in the same situation as you, so my opinion may not be relevant… but I’ll give it anyway. A life coach friend of mine says that, if we’re prepared to face the fear, then there our brilliance lies beyond it. So perhaps you’re finding that brilliance beyond the fear when you’re working on your kickstarter campaign. And if you’re having fun, then even better. You may find that you re-visit the fear – but I certainly wouldn’t say you were in denial. You know the situation. You’ve faced the situation. Now you’re having fun. You can’t improve the situation by feeling fearful instead of happy. Keep doing what you’re doing – keep having fun, I say! x

  3. Catherine you are a smart and honest person. I feel I grow everytime I read your posts. I agree cancer or any of life’s challenges cannot take away love and I believe it’s the greatest gift we possess as human beings. I am glad to hear you are doing well and we think about you everyday. Nadia

  4. They sound like a lot of good reflections. Not being sad is good. I think it is ok to be sad and be mad, but you don’t want that to become who you are all of the time. Throwing yourself into something like the Big Project is a great way to keep yourself focused on things you love.

  5. I went through similar feelings after I was diagnosed. I just didn’t know if what I felt was normal, whether I was up or down. It seems many of us dwell on whether we are “doing” cancer right. It sounds like you are doing well. That is great. But if you have a down day, we are here for you.

  6. I don’t think you’re in denial at all. Life goes on for as long as it goes on. You are clearly dealing with your situation without allowing it to take over, which in my mind is the wisest course of all.

  7. I think what you are doing is so great and the best part- you are having fun. What a wonderful post about everything going on with you and I love how you are enjoying being in the moment. Pretty amazing.

    • Ah, well it’s kind of saving me to be honest. If I didn’t have this I might be dwelling quite a bit. Instead this is filling me up with inspiration for more writing after this project. I’m actually rather grateful.

  8. As a person living with metastatic breast cancer for a year and a half I have to say that you can’t live in fear all the time. There are moments when the fear can take over but usually they go away and you move on. There are days when I even forget that I have cancer. I love those days. There are always reminders but most of the time if you’re feeling well you have to just keep on going one day at a time and enjoy life.

  9. Oh wow Catherine, this is such a big post full of love and hope and life. It’s wonderful to read! Far be it from me to say what is ‘right’ or ‘good’ (only you can decide what’s right for you), but if asked to say it anyway, I think you’re doing what’s good for YOU and that the benefits of that come through even as you share your thoughts and words with us. As you know, my experience with metastatic cancer is quite different from your own; I experienced it, along with a terminal diagnosis, as a teenager, and so I think I was stupid and naive and totally clued out about the realities I was experiencing at the time…and sometimes I wonder if that saved my life. Of course I’ll never know, because anyway it’s all a crap shoot really, but I look back on how little time I had for fear during all that, and now, experiencing very different kinds of grief and loss and sadness in my life, I often wish I could tap into that foolish, fearless 16 yr old girl (maybe she’s still with me a bit).

    If you find something you’re passionate about, that makes your heart sing, that fills you with life…how could you NOT pursue it? That’s the main thing, really, right?

    Sending you so many good vibes!

  10. No, you are not in denial. You are living your life with passion by pursuing your writing and publishing goals. This passion is instilling a sense of fun and excitement in what you do. That fun, excitement, passion and love provides the momentum, strength and determination to move on. And I believe it helps the body’s immune system too.

    I liked it when you wrote, “I’m having fun.” That’s my own personal gauge as to whether I’m living my life to the fullest … I try to have fun in everything I do … that, and a sense of accomplishment. Wishing you creativity, spontaneity, joy!

  11. Thank you SO much for putting into words exactly what I’ve been feeling. My mets appeared right at diagnosis for me last April, and at the last group counselling I attended I expressed the same fears about being in denial. My mastectomy and oopherectomy are done I have “graduated” from tamoxifen to letrozole and now I just get to/have to live with the knowledge of my impending mortality and yet there is a part of me that truly believes I am not going anywhere anytime soon.
    I think my 2 young kids and their needs help me get through the days without thinking about the cancer. Your project sounds like an amazingly healthy way to do the same thing! Thinking about you and please know you have made me feel less “weird” for not being the wimpering puddle that everyone expects me to be!

  12. I think you are coping with everything in the way that bests works for u. Some of us break down completely, some go into denial and others keep living to the fullest. Soundss like u really r making the best of this and realising your dream. And why the hell not? I always think that u gotta keep dreaming or else why are living? Regardless of your life situation no one ever has to stop dreaming. And ure discussion on sadness moments taking u to better places, i couldnt agree with more. I feel the same way when i left canada 10yrs ago…it was hard and sad but it took me to where i am today. Good luck with your book. Look forward to following its progress. OBB (a Canuck cancer chick in Norway)

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