1 Down 29 to Go

Today my Dad started his Radiation treatments at the Cross Cancer Institute. I was so thankful that I was able to spend the day with him.

First up was a group information “Radiation Class” as I called it. We gathered in a private room to learn all there is to know about the process of undergoing Radiation treatments (complete with a slide show).  She was very thorough and informative.

After “class” we grabbed a bite to eat in the cafeteria and wouldn’t you know it, we bumped into a Couple who are Dad’s neighbours and they joined us for lunch.  Dad and Mr. W. (I will call him) traded prostate cancer war stories, and I chatted with Mrs. W. who I recognized from my days growing up in Vermilion. As I talked she scanned my face for a bit, and then said “You must have lost a lot of weight, I can notice a huge difference in your face.” Mr. W. interjected with “I remember you back when you were a brat!” I burst out laughing, cause you can’t argue with the truth, yup I was a brat! ha ha 😉

We wandered down the halls, and into a coffee shop to waste some time before Dad’s first Radiation appointment.

Along our walk we appreciated the artwork displayed  in the hallways, drawn by cancer patients.

These art pieces in particular really caught my eye…

I instantly thought of my dear friend Hope Walls when I saw this one…

We talked and waited.  There’s a lot of waiting involved during the process of treatment.

I realized as we sat and waited, there are very few times that I’m able to visit with my Dad alone, face-to-face.  We are a large family, and we travel in groups. I loved spending that time with him…just the two of us. He told me he bought a mini-van to conserve on gas so he could travel the 4 hour round-trip to and from Vermilion for his daily treatments.  That is for now anyway, as he has cattle to feed.

His appointment was drawing near, so we took the escalator down a level.  As we travelled down on the escalator, this painting slowly panned down out of sight, first the field, then the fluffy clouds, and finally the vibrant blue sky.

We arrived at the third waiting room of the day.

There was another gentleman waiting.  My Dad loves to visit, so they struck up conversation before Dad even sat down.  Dad explained that this was his first of 30 sessions, to which the gentleman commented “Ahhhh, you’re a newbie”. Dad smiled and replied “Tomorrow I won’t be.”

We waited, chatted, and waited some more until finally Dad was taken into the room marked with a Radiation placard on the door.

As I sat in the waiting room, two more gentlemen joined me. They had gotten to know one another through the course of their treatment. “How are you? Are they backed up today?”

I felt out-of-place, like I didn’t have a right to sit among these brave men. I was just the family member of a cancer patient.  I looked down and fiddled with my chipped nails. When I looked up, I met the kind eyes of a stranger…a gentleman who through the course of our chat, described to me how they discovered his cancer, and his agonizing course of treatment to date: surgery, skin grafts, medication, and now Radiation.  I sympathized with him, he smiled and warmly said “What’s a person to do? You just have to deal with it and make the most of it.”

Twenty minutes later, my Dad walked out of the room.  He stopped at the waiting room, waved, and said “1 down, 29 to go”.

At the end of the day, my cell buzzed in my pocket as I received an e-mail informing me that my friend Carmen had just made a generous donation to our Team for the Leduc Relay for Life. With her donation I reached my $4,000 fundraising goal (thank you!!!!!)

I took this time to tell Dad about every person who donated towards my pledge page (it took awhile too, because I had to tell him who everyone’s parents are if they are from the Vermilion area).  He was blown away by your support and generosity.  He just shook his head in amazement and smiled bigger than he had all day.  Thank you for your continued prayers, love and support.

There’s still a few days before the Relay on June 3rd. To date, Team Hope has raised $11,020!!!  Today, more than any other day, I realized how important it is to continue to fundraise in order to make  cancer history.

Click HERE to Pledge your Support. Every donation no matter how big or small makes a difference.

My Dad spent his day encouraging others who share a common bond. People just like him who walk through the doors of the Cross Cancer Institute to wage war against cancer in their own private fight.

As my Dad left the waiting room he will sit in for the next 6 weeks, he waved at those still there, and along with his customary Ralph grin he said “See you tomorrow!”

From my heart to yours,

Chrissy (as my Dad calls me)

On cancer

Yesterday was a hard day for our family….

I didn’t think about what I was going to say when I made that video. I just blurted out how I was feeling at that moment, I’ve never made a video before.

You see, my Mom, Dad, Aunty and I went into the appointment with the specialist at the Cross Cancer Institute feeling great about the appointment as we thought the doctor would just say that his levels had risen just a bit, nothing to worry about. It would take time for the levels to come down, and they will just keep an eye on it. Obviously that was not the case.

As we walked into the Cross Cancer Institute, I saw so many people sitting and waiting. Our waiting room was quiet. Chairs lined the halls, filled with people of all ages. All Waiting. Waiting for their turn to hear what the specialist would advise.

We were called into the doctor’s office, we all sat together, listening to the doctor explain the details in layman’s terms. He was very thorough and gave so much info that there was very little left to ask by the end of the appointment. We wore very little emotion on our faces, we all sat there expressionless. Like the wind had been knocked out of us. My Dad has the more aggressive type of Prostate cancer. There was no way I was going to break down at all, because that wouldn’t be fair to my father to have to comfort me when it’s him that has to deal with the reality that is cancer.

“Thank you for your time Doctor”. He left to explain the status of another cancer patient’s treatment in the next room. It was time to leave, digest the information, and Dad was advised to call back with what his decision would be. Wait? Seek radiation therapy as soon as possible?  Dad’s main worry after the appointment was in regards to who would look after his cattle. Yup, that’s my Dad, a soft-hearted man.

When we walked out of the doctor’s office into the waiting room, everything looked different. I smiled at everyone lined up still waiting to go for their appointment, and I thought: how is it we are here obviously dealing with cancer in some way…sitting, waiting, filled with anger, rage, sadness, frustration, and we are able to hold it together. We sit and we wait, reading magazines, looking out windows, inwardly hoping, inwardly praying. But we wear brave faces.

Everything looked different on the walk out.

We went to the nearby Southgate Centre for a coffee and a cinnamon bun. We didn’t say a lot, there were no tears, we just enjoyed one another’s company.

My Dad and I were visiting on a mall bench and looked up and thought the leaf art work in the sky light was so pretty…  Right after I took this picture, I looked to my right and my dear friend Tawny was walking by us. We never just accidentally bump into one another in the City.  Kismet.

We said our good-byes, and I drove home with the windows down, music turned up as loud as it would go.

I picked up my kids, fed them supper, sat down in my office and it all sunk in. I phoned a few of my sisters, and then I cried like a baby. And made that video.

But I want you to know something, despite the tears and the fears I shared, I feel very hopeful. My Dad is a fighter and I have faith he will make it through this second fight. I feel positive. At this point in my life, I’ve realized there is real power in sharing and connecting, and sometimes that means showing vulnerability.  It means we are not alone. There are others feeling the same frustration, pain, and anger.  One doesn’t have to put on a brave face all the time, it’s OK to show that emotion, and then move forward through it. By sharing, you create a circle of support that is so needed during times of trial.

cancer is that horrible disease that brings forward emotions one has never felt before, and often those feelings are just left within to grow and fester. Our family has always come together in faith and support. We believe in the power of prayer. My Dad asked me to share his journey with you so that he has people out there praying for him.

Sometimes, it’s hard to know what to say when you see someone in pain.  But, the positive thoughts, prayers, kind words, a hand reached out in support, a coffee delivered to your door, a phone call, an e-mail, a smile when you pass by…truly has the power to change the state of another’s heart. The strength of the human spirit is alive and well my friends. Thank you God for that.

There is power in authentic sharing and connecting. I believe it changes perceptions and it’s what makes walls come down. We are not alone, we are never alone.

So thank you to all our friends and family who have taken time out of their busy lives to support, care, and pray. We appreciate it more than you could ever know.

Thank you for all of those who have donated to our Team Hope for the Leduc Relay for Life.  http://convio.cancer.ca/goto/christinehopaluk
It’s the only way I know how to fight back at this time when I feel so helpless…not just in honour of my Father and in memory of my Aunt, but also for all of the loved ones out there who have been affected by cancer.

I will leave you with a blog post that I wrote before my Dad was diagnosed with Prostate cancer: http://christinehopaluk.com/blog/2010/08/07/at-the-farm-with-my-dad/

I love you Dad. Fight. Fight. Fight.

From my heart to yours,