Category Archives: On Dying and Living

On Trees

It is May Day, but spring has been late to this part of the planet. The daffodils are just starting to bloom, but their trumpeting seems tentative, not blasting like some springs, and the tulips aren’t yet brave enough to … Continue reading

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On Curiosity

The theme this month at the Unitarian Church (a non-doctrinal, inter-faith community with a long history) I go to is curiosity. I like this: curiosity sounds like such a positive, life-affirming, even playful state of being to me. It’s also … Continue reading

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On Imagining

Last October (2017) I was sitting in a café with Roy and took out my journal to write. I didn’t feel like writing. The cafe was too crowded and busy, not a space for that kind of inward focus. So … Continue reading

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On Spring

I truly didn’t think I would see another spring, but this past week we did indeed officially reach the Spring Equinox! Of course, where I live it’s hardly spring in any real sense. Mounds of snow cover the gardens, and … Continue reading

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My Article in the Huffington Post!

I’m pretty thrilled to have this piece in Huffpost Personal published today! Yesterday, International Women’s Day, was the anniversary of my surgery, but the conversation I recount in the first paragraph of this article happened exactly a year ago today. How’s … Continue reading

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On International Women’s Day

Today, International Women’s Day, is the anniversary of my surgery and diagnosis. I met my surgeon only moments before being wheeled into the operating room. (I had met her colleague once, but he was now away.) She was hugely pregnant … Continue reading

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On Technology

I had hoped my phone would outlive me. I hate wasting my time on technology, and I didn’t want to spend any of the precious little time I have left learning how to use a new device. Already last month … Continue reading

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On Travel

When I returned from London in December, I was unwell and sure I would not travel again. Yet here I am on a plane somewhere, perhaps over Florida, on my way to Costa Rica. Last year Roy and I had … Continue reading

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On Magic

I got very sick at Christmas and never finished writing this post at the time. But since I just took my tree down last week, perhaps it’s not too late for one last word about the moment when magically, a … Continue reading

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On the Moment

Last week was a wonderful week. On Wednesday, as I cheerfully settled down to some writing, I commented to my son that few people would believe I am as happy as I am. I know on the one hand some … Continue reading

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On Changing the World (1)

A year ago, I attended the Women’s March here in Montreal in a rousing moment of sisterhood with women in so many other cities of the world. I wasn’t feeling very well that day, as my still undiagnosed disease was … Continue reading

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On Pain and Perspective

So far today, I have not been overcome by fatigue. Nor have I struggled against pain and discomfort. It’s not quite noon yet, and I’ve been up since eight. So this has been a good morning. I’ve even had enough … Continue reading

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On Leaving a Loved One

The other day while knitting, for diversion I picked one of the first movies that popped up in the first fringe netflix category I could find. It was Our Souls at Night starring the aged Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. … Continue reading

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On Flowers

The best part about being ill is the flowers. I received so many flowers from well-wishers after my surgery last winter and then for months afterwards, until the spring offered its own bounty outside the window. The flowers truly brightened … Continue reading

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On a Variation of Love

My son Nathan is away overseas on a touring contract. Right now he’s performing on a cruise-style ferry crossing between Stockholm and Helsinki every night. He was dating when he left, but he knew a long-distance relationship wouldn’t work, despite … Continue reading

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On Grief, the Shadow of Joy

I noticed this morning that I had labeled the front of my journal Summer 2016. I don’t write very regularly, so the notebook still isn’t filled, even at the end of Summer 2017. Curious about what I was thinking last … Continue reading

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On Hoping for Miracles

My palliative nurse keeps telling me that sometimes chemo patients’ hair grows in completely differently—for instance, curly instead of straight. I don’t know how she might have guessed that I have always coveted curls. Maybe from a glance at my … Continue reading

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On Giving Gifts

I have written here before about receiving gifts, and of the sweetness of gratitude. I do believe that gratitude is one of the cornerstones of happiness. But lately I’ve been thinking even more of giving gifts, of what I want … Continue reading

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On More Time

(Please note this post was written last August. Sometimes I write things and don’t get around to publishing them. Some of the information here is related to that time only.) Time is a strange thing, and our relationship with it is … Continue reading

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On Pain and Palliative Care

This morning I was reading The Art of Death by Edwidge Danticat. In it she recounts how her own mother refused all pain medication as she was dying of ovarian cancer because she didn’t want to be “gaga” at the … Continue reading

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On Motherhood

I’ve been a mother half my life. Nearly a quarter century, and most of my adulthood. In all that time, I have been trying to figure out how to mother in a way that feels right. Or at least with … Continue reading

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On Sadness

My friend Miriam asked me to write about sadness, so I’ll try. I’ve mentioned being sad a couple of times, but not much, considering the circumstances. I guess it hadn’t seemed worth remarking on, since it’s so obvious and ubiquitous. … Continue reading

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On a new normal

This is a strange space to inhabit. I’m not feeling that sick at the moment, and in my dreams I am still healthy. So I wake most mornings feeling perfectly fine. The emotional intensity of the first weeks after my … Continue reading

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On my disease

I hadn’t wanted to discuss details of my disease and current health status here, since I prefer to focus as little of my attention as possible on the medical part of this ordeal. My body demands enough attention and care … Continue reading

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On what to say to someone who has terminal cancer or any other terrible illness

We are all shocked and upset when we hear the bad news of another person’s diagnosis. We want to express a whole bunch of difficult emotions, but there truly aren’t adequate words. Most of us are worried we will say … Continue reading

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On Paths

Something about paths is so poignant to me. Naturally occurring paths, those that happen just because others have taken that way before: they are invitations. A dirt path worn across a vacant lot or cutting a corner, through the woods … Continue reading

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On Creativity

I have always loved art, both looking at it and making it. Since becoming ill (actually since the US election, which might very well be what made me sick), my need for visual art has intensified. If I had more … Continue reading

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On Control

It seems every other obituary these days starts with “lost her battle with cancer” or some similar phrasing. So much of our culture’s response to cancer is framed in terms of battle. The message is that if you are one … Continue reading

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On Work

A sure sign that you have an over-developed work ethic: one of your first thoughts upon receiving a terminal diagnosis is to wonder what special work is waiting for you on the other side. So much for resting in peace! … Continue reading

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On Gifts

When I first received this diagnosis, I also received a gift. (No, I will not offend anyone who is suffering directly or indirectly from cancer—or any other misfortune—to suggest that cancer itself is the gift. Cancer is just shitty luck, … Continue reading

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On Smiling

I got so sad the other day when I realized that being dead would mean never smiling at anyone ever again! The first person I can remember commenting on my smile was Pierre Elliott Trudeau on a high school trip … Continue reading

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On Hope

Miriam, one of my oldest and dearest friends, is a philosopher. These days she’s been writing about hope, so we’ve had a few talks about the difference between hope and optimism. From the beginning of this illness, I have said … Continue reading

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On Being Good and Being Grumpy

I’ve kind of felt like I’m attending my own funeral these past weeks, what with everyone publicly saying such nice things about me. You must be worried I’ll get a swelled head! To those who don’t really know me, please … Continue reading

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A Little Bit on Kindness

I’ve been thinking a lot about kindness lately, having received so much of it in the past several weeks. I’ve been struck with how deeply kindness can connect us with each other, how it is caring and compassion in action. … Continue reading

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On Luxury in Illness

The word that keeps coming to my mind is luxury. It is a strange word to apply to illness, but somehow, the two words keep linking in my mind. Can I say I am having a luxurious illness? Not really. … Continue reading

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Sharing my News

My dear friends, (This was first posted on facebook.) I have been uncertain about whether a facebook post is appropriate for this news. Though many of you already know about this, there are so many others who mean something to … Continue reading

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