Globe and Mail: Cancer: A day in the life
– incredible stories of compassion, strength and sadness
On Saturday Nov 18th, 2006, the Globe & Mail published Cancer: A day in the life.
is a unique look at fifty Canadians living with, or dying from
cancer. Fifty stories spread throughout the country, and
throughout a single day – June 15, 2006. These stories are
incredibly moving. Some are inspiring. Some are sad.
can personally relate to many of the stories that Globe & Mail
writer Erin Anderssen has collected. From stories of chemotherapy
treatment to being strong for friends and relatives, from tearful
relapses to joyful recovery and accomplishing athletic endeavors.
I lived through many of these experiences with my family and
friends. These are stories that will tug your heart strings. What
really comes through in the stories are the importance of partners,
family and friends.I don't know what I would have done without my
family and girlfriend at the time. There were times that felt very
lonely. There were times when it felt good just to have
company. There were times when family and friends really took
their own initiatives to help. Some people could talk about it –
others couldn't. The “C word” still really scared a lot of people
back in 1989.
It was 17 years ago
this month, that I had my last chemotherapy treatment. It was a
very fragile time in my life. My head was bald due to
chemotherapy, and because the drugs killed any fast growing cells in
your body, my finger nails had stopped growing, and my finger tips were
slightly numb due to the drug's effects on the nerve endings.
Balance was wobbly, and I lost the abiltiy to hear certains pitches of
sound. But the week before Christmas, I was swinging a badminton
raquet, wobbly on my feet – laughing and playing with my family.
21st, is always a special day for me. That was that day in 1989,
was diagnosed with a life-threatening concer tumor. I had been
gradually becoming sicker for months after initially complaining of
back pain. Little did I know it was one of the warning symptoms
testicular cancer. Like in one of the stories… my doctor saw me
an athletically fit young man of 28 and did not think that behind my
breast bone, a tumor would grow to the size of a large
grapefruit. The doctors later told me that if I hadn't had
treatment – my life
expectancy from that day would have been two weeks. It was that
serious. The tumor was pushing on my vena cava – restricting the
flow to my heart, and putting pressure on my lungs, which had then
filled half-way with fluid.
Upon reading the stories in the Globe & Mail, I thought back to what I was doing on June 15th 2006. This year I was busy preparing the Gung Haggis Fat Choy
dragon boat team for the Alcan Dragon Boat Festival that weekend. I was
also getting my accordion ready to help send off the Head Tax redress
train to Ottawa which would leave Vancouver on June 16th, and arrive in
time for the Government's offical apology for the Head Tax and
Exclusion Act on June 22nd.
Some people say “the cancer's gone – you're healthy now – get over
it.” But I am always a cancer survivor, and the experience stays with
you for the rest of your life. I try to watch my health, eat good
foods, exercise, reduce stress. As a Terry's Team member, each year I
speak at Terry Fox Run sites in the Greater Vancouver area, as well as
at elementary schools, serving as a living example that cancer research
has helped to make a difference. Every now and then, people who experience health crises ask me for
guidance about recovery. It's always good to talk to a walking success
story. I guess that's what I am.
After my hospital recovery, I tried to study lots of things about
health psychology and incorporated it into my studies at Simon Fraser
University. I took classes in Behavorial Methods and Psychology
of Emotion (psychology), Health and Illness and Medical Anthrology
(anthropology/sociology), as well as Kinesiology, and Athletics.
I had felt that I had effective used pyschological techniques such as
visualization, pain management, social support and
affirmations/self-talk, during my recovery from cancer, so I planned on
furthering graduate studies for Health and Sport Psychology. But
life takes turns down paths you don't expect. While I took one
graduate class at SFU in Health Psychology, I never did apply for
Psychology graduate school.
a picture of Todd Wong (me) with Doug Alward (Terry Fox's best friend)
and Terry Fleming (Terry Fox's high school basketball coach) at the
2005 25th Anniversary “Hometown Run” in Coquitlam. – photo Deb Martin
strange to think of the things that I would not have been involved in
if I had died of cancer 17 years ago. But it's true… The Toddish McWong's Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner would not exist. None of it's spin-offs would exist: the CBC television special “Gung Haggis Fat Choy”, Gung Haggis Fat Choy World Poetry Night at the Vancouver Public Library or the SFU Gung Haggis Fat Choy Canadian Games.
There would be no Taiwanese Dragon Boat Races in Vancouver, since I was
the first to present the idea to the Taiwanese Cultural Festival and
the Dragon Boat Association. And there certainly would be no Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dragon Boat team.
I wouldn't have been guest speaker at the 1993 Terry Fox Run in
Beijing, China, nor at any of the Terry Fox Runs or elementary schools that I have spoken at since. I wouldn't
have helped create the Asian Canadian Writer's Workshop's Pioneer
Community Dinners, nor the inaugural One Book One Vancouver program for
the Vancouver Public Library. I wouldn't have been present on the
campaign to save historic Joy Kogawa House
or Chinese Head Tax Redress campaign,
all have a life, and we make choices with how we live it. I am
glad that I have been able to help enrich my community, and the lives
of people that I connect with.
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Here are some significant articles about my cancer experience and my experiences as a Terry's Team member.
on Sun 18 Sep 2005 06:01 PM PDT
on Mon 19 Sep 2005 10:55 PM PDT
on Sat 30 Sep 2006 11:58 PM PDT