Health

My six-year cancerversary and thoughts on Jack Layton's final letter

I fully intended to do a video post this week, but then I got sick with strep throat and I just can't do it. So, let me start by apologizing to Leigh, who said specifically that she was hoping for a video this time. Sorry!

Elana Waldman

I fully intended to do a video post this week, but then I got sick with strep throat and I just can’t do it. So, let me start by apologizing to Leigh, who said specifically that she was hoping for a video this time. Sorry!

This past Friday I celebrated my six-year cancerversary. Interestingly, I really didn’t think about it much during the day. Last year, for my five-year, my friends Jordan and Faith had a party for me up at their cottage; we all celebrated and I was really emotional. This year, I was actually driving up to their cottage when I looked at Mark and said: “It’s been six years today.” That’s all I said. I was lying in bed later that night thinking about the fact that I hadn’t made a bigger deal of it this year. I started to wonder why that was. What I came up with was that I was busy with life, and isn’t that a wonderful reason to forget about the all-consuming effect that cancer can have?

People generally don’t like to complain to me about what is going on with them because they feel that in comparison to my having cancer, their complaints unworthy. I then say to them that if they have a problem, it doesn’t matter whether it is life-threatening or not; it is still a problem that needs to be figured out and dealt with. I like the fact that I am able to complain about the little things. I like the fact that I can get distracted with the trivial things because it means that cancer is not over-taking every aspect of my life. It isn’t controlling my day-to-day living.

Having said that, I am only three weeks out of feeling like complete crap because of the pleural effusion; when that was going on, there was nothing I was thinking about other than cancer and the implications of this disease. When I was dealing with that, cancer was definitely controlling my every thought and movement. However, it is great to know that I can get back into the swing of regular everyday living so quickly and easily. It is great to know that when I am not sick, cancer is just there — like any other issue. It just “festers” in the background. (You like how I brought the name into the discussion, huh? C’mon, admit it…that was clever.)

I think this revelation echoes what Jack Layton said in his letter to Canadians. “To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.”

We must stay optimistic and enjoy the time we have. We have to allow ourselves to get caught in the everyday that is life. Jack Layton lived this and was an amazing example of strength and courage in the face of this disease. He pulled through, ran an election campaign and brought his party to heights it had never before seen — and some say, never will again. His message is clear and hopeful, and one that I hope I continue to live for many years to come.