Monday, October 20, 2014

A Bulldog Spirit

BC's Sea to Sky Highway along Howe Sound is a magnificent and dramatic drive. On a day with clear blue skies allowing miles of visibility, my husband Tom and I headed out to experience the new Sea to Sky Gondola ride up Mount Habrich. 

From the top of the summit station you look over the ocean, surrounding mountain ranges and the city of Squamish. It's wildlife country up there and I was hoping to be high enough to watch the eagles soaring at their level. 

On the way up from Vancouver I read the latest email from my cousin who is facing a new cancer diagnosis. This is a different situation than her first diagnosis 13 years ago when surgery, chemo and radiation beat back her breast cancer. Now lung cancer has blindsided her with the knee buckling news that her life is in more immediate danger. She's a feisty woman, determined to be brave and to fight for her life. Anyone who breeds champion Old English Bulldogs, as she does, has to be feisty and stubborn to contend with 50 plus pounds of willful energy and slobbery affection. These big dogs are courageous, alert and cheerful. Qualities my cousin has in spades to carry her through the next months of treatments. 

Finally we arrived at the parking lot. I've been on gondola rides before and I was excited to go. But, news to me, waiting in line at the gondola entrance, my heart thumped hard and my legs wobbled. There was a debate going on inside of me, "to go or not to go?"  But there were two little kids with their wheelchair granny in front of us and they all moved into the gondola. The little girl waved at me and that did it. I got in. The gondola doors slid shut and with a jerk we lifted up.  The ground fell away along with my stomach and my bravery. As in the children's rhyme, "Can't go over it. Can't go under it. Can't go around it. Gotta go through it!"  There was no over, under or around possible for me. I had to go through it. Instinctively I fell into maternity breathing, huffing and puffing to try to relax. Half way up, the wind whistled through an open window and the capsule swayed and even stopped. At that moment I could have birthed an elephant with or without my breathing. 

Ten buttock clenching moments later I gratefully stepped off onto terra firma. It came to me that my cousin is facing her own heart pounding treatment ride to reach health. Perhaps it was the thinner air that made me think that if I could calm down, I could honour her upcoming struggle by walking over a suspension bridge 825 meters high. I had already accomplished the first step by surviving the trip to the summit lodge, so on to the bridge.  With a hand clutching the railing, I stepped on to it. Fifteen feet in, I retreated. One more try. This time with sweaty hands on both railings I set off again. No go. I backed up.  I don't like being defeated so looking straight ahead and not down, I set off for a third attempt. No go. This time I turned back and found a bench in the sun where I ravished a huge chocolate chip cookie.  I felt silly watching others skip along over the chasm even enjoying the bounce of the bridge. 

Silly? What is this all about? Smack yourself woman! Lots of us would never even try to go up a mountain—or climb a tall step ladder. That's their decision.  I got up the mountain. I didn't faint or throw up. And so what if I did?  We don't have to feel brave all the time under all circumstances.  It's ok to be scared even in the face of carefully controlled, safe heights or life threatening cancer battles. Sometimes we have to choose to do tough things to get what we want. For my cousin her decisions are of a different order than overcoming wobbly knees at a gondola ride. 

DD has chosen tough treatments in her fight to live her life in the way she wishes. Those of us who love her support her. I hope that every time her hand falls on the head of one of her "bullies" her bulldog sprit will lift and she will carry on. 

I hope she will visit me and we'll both ride the Sea to Sky gondola to the top. Maybe we will even cross the bridge together. Maybe we'll both have the bulldog spirit.

 Go cousin DD, go! 

P.S. Coming down is a lot easier than going up. 

Thursday, October 02, 2014

My First Run for the Cure in British Columbia : Part II

Thinking back to that inaugural run day in the Lower Mainland, so many firsts come to mind.  Our first volunteers were a group of CIBC employees who registered participants, gave out race bags and processed the money.  That small group subsequently convinced CIBC that the Run touched their hearts and was a worthy cause for their bank to support. CIBC's invaluable participation today is due to those initial enthusiastic volunteers. Running Room volunteers also worked with us, handing out run kits, donating proceeds from the sale of their specifically designed running gear and generally creating sanity on the day of the event. 

Before CIBC came on board as the title sponsor, the first Run title sponsor was Honda Canada. Honda not only donated draw prizes and the use of a spiffy car for a whole year, but also donated office space for the Foundation. For close to three years, everything we did was in that free space above the Honda showroom at the Richmond Auto Mall.  Our costs scraped the floor rather than heading north.  BC Tel donated a phone system.  Early corporate supporters were so important. 

Another first?  The Run happened right in the middle of the 1993 Federal election campaigns.  The sitting Prime Minister, our first woman to hold the title, was Kim Campbell.  She and other politicians, including Mary Collins, Minister of National Health and Welfare, sported the T-shirts and mingled with the crowd.  At the final medal ceremony and celebration, Campbell looked for the youngsters in the audience and spoke warmly and with great wit about the value of participation in the Run and in public service.  The writing was on the wall for her campaign, but her enthusiasm and directness held everyone spellbound.

This time last year, at the 2013 CIBC Run for the Cure, my daughter was very, very pregnant.  Now Connor Thomas Caldwell Morness has arrived, and he like all children, will need the love of his mom. Connor is a feisty little fellow. He’s also, shall we say “in training” for this weekend’s run (see the video posted below too!) although he also revels in whizzing along in a running stroller with his mom. 

Chelsea loves to see the breeze ruffling his hair and to hear his laughter the faster they go. These are very special moments to have with a loved one. And, due to the progress we have made since founding the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation here in BC, Connor will be able to share many special moments in the future with his Nana too. And who knows what spin offs will benefit other cancers in the future?

The Vancouver Run is always on or within a day or two of my birthday. In a personal celebration I walk over to the route early to witness the thousands of people arriving ready to warm up to rockin’ music. Every year seems like the first when I overhear the stories the runners and volunteers bring with them, each doing their bit to create a future without breast cancer.  

Every year I am flooded with gratitude just to be there.