Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tough times don't last... tough people do. -Earl Cook

So, alot has happened in the past few weeks and I have to admit it has been extremely difficult for my entire family. We said goodbye to my cousin Earl on September 18 (Jeff's birthday) and this has been very hard on everyone. As most of you know Earl has been fighting hard against his cancer for the past several years. He never gave up - ever! He always smiled and lived his life the way that he wanted, never missing an opportunity to have fun. Just a month before, we spent the day at Quarry Days watching the kids on the rides and eating mini-doughnuts, sipping lemonade even though I know he was exhausted and not feeling great. I will never again be able to watch Trailor Park Boys and not think of Earl's goofy laugh! He had such a big heart always thinking of others. At an appointment for his CT not long ago, as the woman across from us was choking down the contrast she had to drink two glasses of, Earl says to me "Natalie, I want to give her some of my iced tea powder". Earl brings some Crystal light or iced tea mix to stir into the contrast so that it doesn't taste so terrible. After I said sure, he offered it to her. She declined smiling but I thought it was so sweet that he didn't like seeing someone else uncomfortable and wanted to help make it easier for her. It's hard to believe that we will never see him again. The boys are very angry and sad but they can all picture Earl up in heaven playing in goal for his team. The question was asked,"Where was Earl's God the night he died." My answer to this to the boys was "Right there with Earl in his arms releasing him from his pain and suffering." And I truly do believe this. The service for Earl was held at the MTS centre and was exactly what Earl would have wanted - a service about the two things that Earl loved most in this world - God and hockey. It was very spiritual and beautiful. We will all miss him so much. Like Earl used to say all the time "Tough times don't last...tough people do." He was definitely tough. We love you Earl!

Unfortunately, Earl was supposed to receive the Ace Bailey Award of Courage a week later. He was so looking forward to this evening even making sure that his surgery and any chemotherapy treatments would be arranged around this special night. His mom (Debbie) accepted his award on his behalf in Toronto and I'm sure that he was looking down and loving every minute of it.

While all this was happening we were still waiting for me to get in for the PET scan which showed that there was only one "hot spot" in my right middle lobe. Good news!! We waited anxiously for the next week until I got in to see the Thoracic surgeon to see if he thought that this was operable. I saw him yesterday and found out that -Yes- he will do the surgery the beginning of November. Since this is most likely another melanoma tumour we don't want to wait to watch and see if it spreads. I made sure that he knew how much I wanted this thing gone ASAP. The PET scan showed that it seems to be growing very slowly so another 4 weeks should not affect things too much. So now it's time to get my body strong for another surgery so that I can bounce back as quickly as last time. I am still working finishing up my back to work program and start full time next week. I will work until just before my surgery date and then will be off again for somewhere between 6-8 weeks for recovery. My boss is being really great about this and hopefully I won't run into any problems along the way.

It's hard to believe that "It's back" and I am having to deal with this again already. They talk about this being my fourth recurrence which makes absolutely no sense to me. The lesion on my temple would be the first occurrence, then the brain and lung happened at the same time so that would be REcurrence #1 and now the lung again would be REcurrence #2. By my books this would only be my 2nd recurrence but whatever....

I know that this is not the ideal situation. Of course it's not good when you're cancer reuccurs any number of times but I still feel well and am willing to do whatever it takes to get back to my previous NED (no evidence of disease) status.
I am much more accepting of my living with cancer and now realize that it will be with me now on and off (hopefully mostly off) for the rest of my life. I am trying to find a more balanced approach to dealing with this instead of living on this up and down rollar coaster which I am quite frankly tired of riding. I was listening to my Jann Arden CD on the way to work the other day and her cover song Peace Train came on. Then it hit me - I just need to hop on to the Peace Train. "I've been happy lately, thinking about the good things to come. Up on the edge of darkness, there rides a peace train. Peace train sounding louder, ride on the peace train. Come on the peace train. It's not so far from you and it's getting nearer. Soon it will all be true! Everyone up on the peace train!" I can guarantee you that as soon as that peace train comes anywhere near me again I am hitching a ride!!

So how does a person get ready for a doctor's appointment with a surgeon who will decide ultimately if he will do surgery or not? As I was getting ready Monday morning for my appointment I thought alot about this. I was preparing myself mentally for either decision that he would make. I rehearsed my side of things and reasons why I wanted this surgery several times in my head just in case I had to debate my side of things. Also, getting ready I thought about how I needed to look - not too healthy but not too sick either. What if he looked at me and thought "She doesn't look strong enough to go through another surgery." or "She's looks pretty good. She'll be fine for a while. This isn't a big rush." I actually laughed out loud at myself in the mirror thinking that I was losing my mind. Who thinks about how healthy or how sick they should look for a doctor's appointment??

So, here we are getting ready for another surgery and remaining hopeful that this will be the last one that I will need because the cancer does not come back. The weekend before surgery I will be attending the Young Adult Cancer Canada conference and am amazed that it has once again worked out perfectly and I will get the chance to reconnect with my friends before coming back for surgery. Some things just fall into place and work out the way that they are meant to and this is one of them.

Thank you to all of you for keeping me and my family in your thoughts and prayers. It means alot to us. And so Earl and I go our seperate ways on this journey but both of us I know will find our own peace....
Love you buddy xoxoxo


  1. I always look forward to reading your posts, even though they can break my heart with your honesty. Thanks for reminding us to enjoy life one day at a time. We'll be thinking of you.

  2. I was just reading your post from September 9, you really hit the nail on the head with how weird it is to go back to work! September 9 was my "canniversary" and also my first day back to work! And what did I find in my desk drawer but my "P" log from the weeks before my diagnosis! (long story short, my tumour made me pee, ALOT. Best of luck on your upcoming surgery.

    Colin Anderson