“Guest Appearances”

This page will hold all the blog posts made by other people.  There have been many people effected by my cancer journey and I would love for anyone who wants to their stories to be able to do so.  If you are interested in writing a blog post, please e-mail it to me and I will post it.  Some people (ex: Steve) may be making semi-regular posts.    

Guest Post by Mary Nairn (my Mom!) – Insights from a “schmalzy” poster

As I sat waiting for an appointment the other day, my eye was drawn to a poster on the wall.

It was one of those (often schmaltzy!) posters popular with organizations or businesses where “team building” is the mantra.  You know the posters… large, stunning photo at the top, one word ‘title’ below, followed by a (hopefully) inspiring, or at least uplifting phrase.

Usually I don’t give them much more than a passing “hmm… nice photo”, but this one really grabbed me.

Below the photo, the word “Character” appeared in large bold letters.  And below this it read: “The greater the difficulty, the more the glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputations from storms or tempests.”

I sat looking at the poster and thought – this is you, Lynsey.

You have already surmounted SO many things in battling the ‘tempest’ that is cancer, that I think it’s hard to see just how MUCH you have done.  I wondered if the “skillful pilot“ in the poster is like a “cancer fighter”.

Here’s my thinking…

Fighters are often heroes.  You are certainly one to me, and to many, MANY others.  I seldom go anywhere without someone stopping me to ask about you, or say wonderful things about you.  The recognition you received recently in the “40 Under 40” campaign AND in the Globe & Mail article, simply introduced a wider audience to the fighter/hero many of us have known for some time now.

Fighters often have back-upothers who fight along with them and who always ‘have their back’.  From the family members and close friends who formed your initial ‘support platoon’, the numbers continue to grow each week it seems.  So much so that you now have your own personal ARMY of people watching your back!

Fighters are often scared, but do what needs to be done, despite their fear.  Smart fighters know that if fear is shared, it has a way of dissipating.  Let others take on some of this fear, so that yours can lessen – and let this transfer of fear happen easily and OFTEN so that it can’t possibly take hold of your fighting spirit!

Fighters often inspire others.  Lynsey, you do this EVERY DAY – in ways that you may never know, and for people you may never ever meet.  Words of love and support for you continue to grow exponentially.  You are truly an inspiration to so many.

The many challenges you have faced, the hurdles you have surmounted, and the wild range of emotions you have dealt with — and overcome! — are mind-numbing…  AND YET… you have managed it all.  You continue to do so with grace, with courage, and of course, with a FIGHTER’S SPIRIT.

Just remember though… fighters are allowed to stop for a breath sometimes.  They’re allowed to regroup, take stock, and size up the enemy.  Know that the people watching your back are here for you… and we’re ready to follow you, and fight WITH you and FOR you… anywhere, anytime.

 

Guest Post by Mary Nairn (my Mom!)

It seems inevitable that as the year draws to a close, we look back over the past 12 months, think of the good (and the not-so-good) things that have transpired, and muse about how the upcoming year may unfold.

For our family, this past year has been like no other – difficult, distressing, demanding, and yet strangely uplifting as it has played out.

Maybe not so odd that a much-quoted-quote from Dickens came to mind during these end-of-year musings. To be sure I had remembered it correctly, I looked up the quote but found when I did that the original phrasing seemed to fall in the wrong order.

So, with apologies to ‘Charles’, I have rephrased it slightly to more accurately describe the past year of our lives…

‘It was the WORST of times, it was the best of times; it was the year of UN-believability, it was the year of Reality; it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of Hope; it was months of Despair; we had nothing before us, we had everything before us.’

my translation…

The worst of times – the darkness of Lynsey’s brain tumour diagnosis.
The best of times – the rise of an absolutely incredible number of supporters… not just Lynsey’s official Firecrackers team who provided such strong support before, during, and after the Spring Sprint fundraiser for the Brain Tumour Foundation in May, but the many, MANY people – friends, relatives, neighbours, friends of friends, co-workers, even complete strangers – who rallied ‘round with prayers, advice, rides, donations, research, friendship, financial support, and yes, even SOUP!
The year of UN-believability – how was it possible that our beautiful, full-of-energy daughter who had just started out on her very promising career, could be diagnosed with a brain tumour?!
The year of Reality – MRI’s and neurosurgeons don’t lie.
The season of Darkness – the 12 month ‘sentence’ of chemotherapy with its many accompanying challenges and side effects – and, of course, worry.
The spring of Hope – discovering many medical and personal support opportunities, including the discovery of YACC (Young Adult Cancer Canada) and the knowledge that people – around the world in fact! – were, and ARE holding Lynsey in their thoughts.
Months of Despair – the months of despair.
We had nothing before us, we had everything before us – the ‘nothing-ness’ of being POST-chemo coupled with the sense that new possibilities lie before us leaves us open to explore ALL options with a very positive attitude.

…and THAT is as close to Dickensian as I shall EVER be, I’m sure!

Strange that shortly after writing the above, I read an incredibly relevant posting on a friend’s Facebook page. It really struck a chord with me – and fit perfectly with my thoughts above. (Strange how things sometimes align like this without any conscious
intention – a bigger plan here perhaps?)

On this friend’s page, they were paying tribute to Nobel prize winner Rita Levi-Montalcini, who had passed away that day (at age 103!) and they quoted her as saying…

“Above all, don’t fear difficult moments. The best comes from them.”

During the past year, our family’s life seems to exemplify Levi-Montalcini’s words – many extremely ‘difficult moments’ but definite evidence of ‘the best’ coming from them.

First and foremost, there is Lynsey herself. In ways hard for many of us to even try to comprehend, Lynsey has shown unbelievable courage, and a strength FAR beyond her young years – qualities that have carried ALL of us through this year I believe. She deals
with things in a way that continually blows me away, and makes me feel privileged to be by her side on this journey.

The remarkable rise of supporters around our family is another of those ‘best’ things this year. The old adage about the cream rising to the top really applies here, for we have seen people who were mere acquaintances prior to this year become the closet of friends, and complete strangers encircle our family with support in many forms.

And the last, but certainly not the least of the ‘best’ things have been the stripping away of the insignificant in our lives and a fine-tuning of the focus on everyday joy. Priorities have been sharply realigned – and all in a wonderful way. The reality is that EVERY day is a gift… for EVERYONE, not just people who are struggling with things – and the sooner we all GET this, the better off we will be!

Previously, I wrote about fear and worry. Now I feel enveloped by a strong sense of hope and a lightness that comes with the joy of being intimately connected to remarkable people.

With everyone’s continued support, and with Lynsey as the beacon to light our way, ‘the best’ will continue to rise from the ‘difficult moments’ that may challenge us down the road.

Together, I feel certain we will achieve a HAPPY and HEALTH-FILLED New Year!

Guest Post by Steve Frangakis

For well, about a year now, I have been looking for articles, testimonials, anything, to guide me in some way in my role as a supporter to Lynsey. Aside from what I learned at the YACC conference, there has been very little. From time to time either Lynsey or I will come across something, start reading, and find nothing… new or interesting. The truth is, there was really nothing new or interesting out there to help me to begin with.

Honestly, a year ago, the one thing I knew about supporting someone with cancer and on chemotherapy was to wash my hands a lot.

And it’s not just me; it’s not just the direct supporters who have to feel their way around in the dark with this disease. It’s everyone who comes into contact with someone who has cancer. No one knows what to say, what to offer, or what to do in general.

“Well, you look great!” seems to be a common response to Lyns in particular. I can’t tell you from looking at Lyns what it feels like to have cancer, but I can tell when she wants to hit someone with a baseball bat. Pain, suffering, and weakness may not show, but they’re still there. (And don’t take the baseball bat thing personally. It’s really not your fault that you don’t know what to say. Again, without any sort of guidance, no one really does.)

I think one of the great things that I experienced at the YACC conference was the ability to talk openly about cancer with people other than Lyns. As she alluded to in her last post, we don’t really get to do that with anyone else we know. Again, not your fault. From what I gathered at the conference, it seems to be the ‘norm’.

As the world has seen time and time again, the ‘norm’ can change, but it has to be changed. That is why I stand behind Lynsey and Mary’s challenge to embrace vulnerability and be authentic with each other. I believe open, honest, and authentic conversation will be the only way for everyone involved to offer the thoughts, help and support that we all know they intend to. And not just to Lynsey, to each other.

Like I have said, there’s nothing out there that is going to tell you what to say or do. You can only learn that from expressing yourself authentically, hearing others do the same, and growing from that.

Lyns can’t do it alone, Mary can’t do it alone, I can’t do it alone, and you can’t do it alone. Please, let all of us help each other out with this. Who knows, maybe we’ll come up with something new or interesting.

A sincere thank you to everyone who has already reached out and responded to the challenge, and I look forward to reading what even more people have to share.

P.S. This speaker, Brené Brown, gives an amazing talk on the need for people to embrace their own vulnerability, and how it leads to a healthier lifestyle. I strongly suggest everyone check it out.

http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html

The “S” Word

By Mary Nairn (My Mom!), November 25, 2012

So…

…my beautiful daughter has thrown down the gauntlet!

Issued the challenge of authenticity to all of us who love her.

[ Now, first of all, before I write anymore, I have to point out that not only is she ‘a tough act to follow’ – the understatement of all understatements! – but on top of this, I’m doing something I never thought I would do… a blog post.  So bear with me as I struggle on both fronts! ]

With tomorrow marking exactly one year from the very worst day in our family’s life – the day Lynsey’s tumour was discovered on that hateful MRI – many emotions hurricane around me and muddle together.  One emotional descriptor, however, stands out above the rest – the “S” word that Lynsey herself identified in her blog post “The Weekend I Felt Normal” (Nov 9).

For most of this past year, I have dealt with the “S” word in the same way that most of the characters in the Harry Potter books related to “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” – that is to say, if “he” (Voldemort) was not actually named out loud, then perhaps he (or in my case, it) won’t be made real.

But Lynsey DID name the feeling.  And so must I – out loud this time…

SCARED.

(Intriguing that when I first saw this word in her post, my mind read it as “SACRED”. Knowing that I’m not dyslexic, when I realized how I was mis-reading the word, it made me wonder whether there was something subconsciously at play here that I should pay attention to. There have indeed been many moments, events and connections during this past year’s very-much-unasked-for journey, that would definitely warrant the ‘sacred’ description … but this is perhaps a musing for another day.)

So ‘SCARED’ was – and very much is – the word.

I can’t shake the image of all of us (our family, that is) being in an extremely wobbly boat during the past year – being tossed around in very choppy waters and certainly thrown about the boat, but all the while being held up and supported within it, and heading in a very specific and prescribed direction.

Now, as the year (and hence the treatment plan) nears ‘completion’, I can’t shake the new image of us having to step OUT of the boat – with no idea of whether there will be solid ground upon which to stand, or just whirling, heaving waters pulling us in an unknown direction.

Despite this unsettling feeling though, I DO feel that if we follow Harry Potter’s lead and speak the word out loud – SCARED – that we can defeat this emotion just as Voldemort was ultimately defeated.

And just like Harry, we too have many friends and supporters who continue to stand by us, fight with us, and help along the way — that means ALL of you who are reading this, and everyone connected to Lynsey in one way or another.

Now it YOUR turn to take up her authenticity challenge.

Together, let’s tackle “SCARED” and send it packing!

Hospital Visit

By Jen Braithwaite, June 7, 2012

“If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane”   ~ Jimmy Buffett

 This past week, Lynsey invited me to go to one of her medical appointments at the Juravinski Cancer Hospital in Hamilton. Lynsey’s cousin Becky, also a close friend, was already going down with her, and I was both honoured and glad to know that Lynsey felt comfortable enough including me in such a personal and sensitive experience.

One of the things that has impressed me the most about Lynsey, is how open and honest she has been, regarding the struggles she has been facing, since being diagnosed with cancer. Whether it has been the personal feelings and frustrations she has expressed in her blogs, or standing up in front of all the people in attendance at the  Spring Sprint Run, or even just during a casual conversation when she articulates her day-to-day worries, she proves time and again how strong she really is.

At the hospital, Lynsey automatically fell into routine, taking a number in the blood clinic waiting area.  While we waited for her number to be called, we were talking about the usual everyday, silly-stuff that is of no consequence (for example, what had being happening on the Bachelorette, etc.). We laughed a little and chatted, similarly to how we would if we were at one of our weekly breakfasts or at someone’s house. I started to wonder, (as did Becky), are we being disruptive somehow or not acting as you are suppose to act while in a cancer hospital waiting room? Most of the other patients, all of whom were noticeably older than Lynsey, were quiet and reserved. When we asked if she would have rather we not talk about such unimportant things, she replied, “Nope!” Talking about those things and acting how we  ‘normally’ would was what she wanted and needed at the time.

As I am only one of the many people in Lynsey’s life, who have had a glimpse into what she had been going through, it seemed that the routine of driving down to the hospital, having her blood drawn, talking with her cancer doctor about her symptoms and next steps, and finally going to the pharmacy to pick up her chemotherapy medication, had become like second nature to her.  All the while, I couldn’t help but think, how ridiculously unfair, that these are the types of activities that now fill up many of her days??

Even though, I am no stranger to hospitals myself, I found that this was such an eye-opening experience and one that I’m glad she chose to share. Lynsey has said that writing her blog and sharing her story has been very therapeutic and has helped her at times to cope. In doing so, I also think she is helping others. Helping people feel less alone and a little more brave, teaching people to be more understanding and compassionate towards others, and to just appreciate life!!

I know this, because I am one of those people!

Jen

Oh, I know

By Steve Frangakis, May 10, 2012

It’s been 166 days since Lyns and I first found out that she has cancer. The longest stretch of time I’ve spent away from her since then is probably about 5 days, so I’m no stranger to what she’s been going through… oh wait, I am. Truth be told despite all this time spent with Lyns, listening to how she’s feeling and seeing her emotions, I still have absolutely no clue what it is like to have cancer. One or two times I’ve caught myself saying “Oh, I know” when she’s trying to explain how she’s feeling, to which she would snap back, “Um, no. You don’t.” and she’s absolutely right. I don’t know, and unless you have or have had cancer, neither do you.

Stop and think about that for a second, and see how you feel…

For me, and probably for anyone who spends or has spent a great deal of time supporting someone with cancer, it’s a very bittersweet feeling. Of course I consider myself to be extremely fortunate not to have experienced that, but at the same time there is an inability for me to even begin to understand this part of her life. At times, it’s very frustrating because it’s right there, right in front of me, day in and day out- and I haven’t a clue.

I like putting things into analogies to help myself and other people understand them, so here’s what I came up with to describe this feeling… Imagine you have this box or container in front of you that you carry around with you everyday; it’s with you all the time. On the box is a label that reads “THERE’S SOMETHING BAD IN HERE”. You cannot open this box; you do not know exactly what is inside. You just know that it’s bad, and that’s about it. No matter how much you look at it, listen to it, etc. you just have no idea how bad the thing inside is, or how you would feel or react if it did open and you saw just what exactly was in there.

I came up with that analogy pretty quickly off the top of my head, and even as I’m writing I’m still trying to make sense of what exactly all those things mean. So far, I’ve come to the conclusion that the box and label represent our knowledge of the existence of cancer, and that it is bad. The inside is the twisted mess of the unknown things that come with it; the fear, the treatment, the emotions, etc. For people with cancer, this box has been opened, and they know. For the rest of us even if we know someone who knows what’s inside the box, we cannot walk up to them and tell them that we also know what’s inside. Because we don’t, it’s as simple as that.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. linelucy
    May 16, 2012 @ 17:13:38

    thanks for sharing this with all of us, and you’re soooo right, we don’t know what they are going through, all we know is that we care and love them and would take it all away for them if we could.

    Line

    Reply

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