A Standing Ovation

Yesterday was the best day of my life.

Yesterday, I volunteered, spoke, and was amazed, at the Canadian Cancer Society Golf Tournament at Cutten Fields.  Since being diagnosed I knew I wanted to volunteer at the tournament.  It is always the biggest and best tournament in the city and the money goes to a well deserving organization.  Bryan Dempsey is the Chair of the Organizing Committee, and is one of the very close friends I made while working at the club.  A few weeks ago he asked me if I would like to speak at the dinner.  I was absolutely honored and immediately began working on what I wanted to say.  Over the past couple weeks I think I re-wrote my speech over a dozen times, and finalized it just this Saturday night.

On Monday morning I woke up very excited (and a little nervous) for the day ahead.  I got ready for “work” for this first time in ages and my mom drove me to the club mid-morning.  I started the day working at the registration table, which was perfect!  I was able to see so many members who I have missed so very much since not being at work.  They seemed just as happy to see me, as I was to see them.  The day continued this way with lots of smiles and hugs as I moved on to work the putting contest and a “birdie” bet on hole 13.  I was already quite tired, but knew the day was just getting started as I frantically changed for dinner.  Steve was able to join us at the “VIP” table at dinner ; ) and we had an amazing meal, as always.  Live Auctions were taking place throughout the meal and as dessert was being served Bryan announced that they were to do a draw for the prizes donated to raise money for me.  Apparently, on the 9th hole tickets were being sold all day with the money raised to help cover my medical expenses.  They raised just over $3,000 for me on this hole and gave away some great prizes.  I knew that Bryan and Craig wanted to do some fundraising for me, but had no idea what was being done.  So, this came as a shock to me and I was amazed at just how generous everyone was with their ticket purchases.  Shocked and flattered by the amount of money raised, I got up to speak.  I have included my speech below for you to read if you are interested.  As I was told many times yesterday evening, “there was not a dry eye in the house” and as I finished and received an immediate standing ovation, my emotions certainly came poring out.  The power that I felt existed in that room was unlike anything I had ever experienced.  I knew that room held the strongest people in Guelph, a group that would bond together to make miracles happen.  And what happened next certainly proves that I was right.

Bryan thanked me and explained briefly about the financial struggles I have had since leaving work and that the club and him want to change that.  He explained that my medical expenses (not covered by insurance) will cost $12,000 – $15,000 for the year and that they needed to raise that for me tonight.  The auctioning immediately started all over again.  What happened next is a total blur to me.  People started yelling out phenomenal amounts of money for prizes all donated by Craig and Cutten Fields.  I did a lot of running around crying and hugging people for the money they had just “given” to me.  In under half an hour Bryan and Craig had met their goal and raised over $13,000 for me.  I am still in complete shock and have not been able to process what happened last night.  I am so extremely grateful for what Bryan, Craig, the Cutten Club, its members and guests did for me last night.  You have all removed a huge stressor from my life and have helped me in a very personal and critical way.  It was a lot more than money that I received last night.  I was shown what an amazing community I am apart of,  I received an overwhelming amount of encouragement, and I was given back some of what has been the hardest thing for me to loose – my independence.  I need to stop writing or that money is going to need to go towards a new laptop pretty soon – this one is covered in tears.  Please just know that I am SO thankful for what was done for me last night.  I was honored to be a part of such a phenomenal day (on top of what was raised for me, over $70,000 was raised for the Canadian Cancer Society).  I wish I had more words … Bryan, Craig, everyone who supported the tournament and me thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I love you all.

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Lynsey’s Canadian Cancer Society Tournament Speech

A lot of what Bryan has shared with us just now came as a surprise to me.  I was aware that some fundraising for my medical expenses was to be done today, however, I am completely shocked, amazed and honored at the generosity of everyone here.  The financial burden that comes with a cancer diagnosis is an additional stressor that no cancer patient needs.  Words cannot express the gratitude I feel towards Craig, Bryan and all the generous donors for this assistance.  This money will undoubtedly assist me in my fight against this horrible disease.  Thank you from the very bottom of my heart.

I am sure that each and every one of you has been affected or touched by cancer in some way, and I am sure that it is partially this experience that has brought you here today.  As Bryan mentioned, my experience with cancer turned very personal on December 15, 2011.  It is a day my family and I will never forget – as I was diagnosed with Brain Cancer.  I have an Oligodentroglioma Tumor in my right frontal lobe.  The tumor has been growing for about 4 years, and at the time of diagnosis it was 9 cm long and about 4 cm wide.  After years of complaining of headaches, migraines and other symptoms my doctor finally sent me for an MRI on November 26, 2011.  At this time I had just graduated from the University of Guelph and was thoroughly enjoying my job as Marketing Manager here at the Cutten Club.  I left work to have the MRI done, fully intending to be back within the hour.  Unfortunately, I never returned.  I was immediately sent to Hamilton General Hospital and a few days later had a Brain Biopsy.   This led to my diagnosis and a year long chemotherapy treatment plan.  Surgery is not an option due to the size and location of the mass, and radiation would be too invasive given my age.  While my doctors are all optimistic, there has been no change in the size of the tumor thus far.

Since attending this tournament last year, as a strong supporter of the Canadian Cancer Society and employee of the club, my life has changed an unbelievable amount.  To say the diagnosis was devastating would be an understatement.  In the span of 45 minutes my life was turned upside down.  I lost my ability to drive and work, and what has been the biggest struggle, I lost my newly found independence.  Those first few weeks, and months, were very challenging and dark.  The Canadian Cancer Society certainly helped me through the initial shock and helped me move forward with my new life.  At the hospital I was given all of their handbooks on healthy eating, side effects, and many other topics.  I also thoroughly read the mountains of information on their website about cancer research, cancer myths, emotional support and more.  More recently I have been using their online discussion boards to meet other patients, and learn from survivors.  The Canadian Cancer Society resource that I found most valuable was their Peer Support Program.  This resource allowed me to connect with a cancer survivor who was the same age as me.   It was wonderful to be able to talk to someone who understood what was going on in my life  – she made some wonderful suggestions on how to start fresh and move forward in positive way.  We talked on the phone a couple times and now keep in touch through the occasional e-mail.  I was able to connect with her at I time when I felt entirely isolated from my family and friends and felt different from any of the other cancer patients I had met, as I was about 40 years younger than them.

I truly believe that the Canadian Cancer Society, along with my amazing family and friends helped me move forward and turn this journey into something good.  I have learned how to be truly happy, the importance of living each day to its fullest, and the importance of giving back.  In the winter, when I was fitting into my new routine, I realized that it wasn’t just me who should learn and benefit from my cancer experience.  I knew there were two things I needed to do.  I created a blog where I share my experience (the good, bad and ugly parts of it) with the world.  I hope that in doing this I can bring some understanding to what cancer is like and help other cancer patients and their supporters through their own journeys.  Secondly, I formed a team for the Spring Sprint, which is the annual fundraising run for the Brain Tumor Foundation of Canada.  I named my team “The Firecrackers” after a nickname given to me by a close friend and personal mentor – Craig Moore.  It was also, and continues to be, the perfect description for my incredible support system.  The love, support, encouragement, and motivation that I received from day one of this journey from my family, friends, co-workers and even complete strangers, really reminded me of firecrackers.  These people would light me up when I was feeling down, put a smile on my face, and encourage me to keep fighting.   I somehow managed to recruit 86 team members and together with “My Firecrackers” raised $30,000  for the Brain Tumor Foundation of Canada.   This was the second highest amount in all of Canada and hopefully it will help to one day find a cure for my cancer.

As I continue to learn and grow throughout this journey I would like to say Thank You from the bottom of my heart for supporting the Canadian Cancer Society and me.  By supporting today’s golf tournament you have each made a personal contribution to my recovery.  Thank you for spending your time participating in this amazing day, and generously donating to a cause that has and will continue to save so many lives. Not only its ongoing research, but the programs and services offered by the Canadian Cancer Society are phenomenal and it is your generosity that makes this all possible.  I know that I, and other cancer patients would be lost without the work of this (wonderful) organization.

Craig and Bryan I don’t know how to begin to thank you for what you have done for me today.  The generosity, love, and support that you both have given me from the start of this journey is highlighted tonight by your willingness to raise these funds for me.  Thank you to each donor and supporter for helping me in such a personal and critical way.  Finally, thank you to all the volunteers and staff that helped to put together another outstanding tournament.  It has been an honor to participate and to meet so many generous and caring people.

By giving your support today each of you are now a part of of my “Firecrackers” team.  As I look back on this special day you will continue to light me up when I am feeling down, put a smile on my face and inspire me to keep fighting.   I don’t know where I would be without THE FIRECRACKERS in my life.  Thank you all for your never ending support of me, the Canadian Cancer Society and a life without cancer.

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Chemo Round #7

Today is day four of my seventh round of chemo and I have been feeling SOOO much better than my last round.  I feel as I did the first few rounds – very tired (have been sleeping about 12 hours a day), nauseous in the mornings, and stomach upset/cramps.  I can handle all of this just fine, and I have still been able to get out a few times this week, which makes me feel so much better.  I am very happy and relieved that all the horrible things I felt last month have not come back.

There are two things that I have started doing this month that may be helping me feel better.  Firstly, I have been taking a live probiotic twice a day for three weeks.  This was recommended by my naturopath and even when I wasn’t on chemo I noticed a difference.  It aids in digestion and helps detoxify your body on a daily basis.  I think this, combined with drinking lemon water overnight and in the morning has helped to lessen the stomach upset, cramping and general feeling of unwell and maybe even has helped eliminate the “brain fog” I experienced on every round of chemo up until now.  Secondly, I had my first acupuncture treatment yesterday.  This was preformed at my naturopaths office and was quite an interesting experience.  Has anyone else had acupuncture done?  What did you find?  It hurt MUCH less than I was expecting it to.  It simply felt like someone just gently flicked my skin each time a needle went in and I could only feel a couple of them once they were inserted.  I had about 20 needles down my shoulders and back, one in each of my ankles, and one in each of my wrists (those were the only two I could feel once inserted).  She did not leave the needles in for very long (maybe 10-15 minutes) as it was my first treatment.  When I went to get up after the treatment I felt totally mixed up, but in a good way.  I felt as if my energy flow and/or circulation was moving in a totally different direction than it normally would.  It took me awhile to come back to and be able to function normally.  For the remainder of the day I felt very refreshed, but drained.  I know this probably makes no sense, but I take this as a good sign meaning that there was a “shift” inside me and she got my energy flowing again and working as effectively as possible.  I see my Naturopath again on Wednesday so I look forward to talking more with her about this.

Thank you all for your prayers, positive wishes and support.  I think these also helped me to feel much better this round.  I am off to start packing for my family’s annual vacation on Georgian Bay now.  I am so happy I feel well and am going to be able to enjoy the time there with everyone!  Thank you and I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend : )