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. 

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