The one thing on my bucket list

I’m writing today from the chemo clinic at Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre. ClinicThey have me plugged in to the IV drips and the poisons are flowing. This is the sixth round of chemo and I thought it might be the last. My oncologist told me yesterday there will be at least 6 more. Three more months of chemo brain and getting my ass whipped at Scrabble.

She also told me that, depending on the opinion of the liver surgeon in two weeks, we may be dealing with an indefinite period of chemo treatments. Lovely.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. If the chemo isn’t working sufficiently to allow the liver surgery, then what would be the point of continuing? Unfortunately the oncologist I have doesn’t like answering questions like that one. Or like any other for that matter. At least she is talking long term treatment. That’s got to be a sign that I have entered the realm of the 5%; those that live past 2 years with this particular cancer.

My sister, Dr. Shirley, called me a few mornings back to remind me that I have always been in the 95th percentile in everything I’ve done. I wish I could say she was right. I can agree that I am often in the top 5% when I have control of the circumstances. There have been situations beyond my skills, abilities and control. There have been disappointments. There has been sadness. In this case, I am determined to prove her opinion correct.

Having something to do helps me stay positive. The most difficult part of the last eight months has been the idleness. Being unable to work has made it difficult to stay generally motivated. Exercise, paperwork, communication and social interaction all suffer. I have desperately needed something to motivate me; a cause to get behind and perform for in that 95th percentile.

This blog has kept me from sinking entirely into cancer patient limbo, but it hasn’t given me the same rewards as accomplishing something more concrete. Writing has always been my refuge and solace. Creativity feeds my soul. I’ve needed something to feed my life.

I know very intimately why so many cancer survivors dedicate their lives to helping others, organizing fundraisers, supporting research and generally continuing the battle well past their own personal win.  Cancer gets a grip on your life and your consciousness. It becomes such a force in your life that other endeavors pale in importance.

Like so many others who walked, ran or wheeled my path, I have found the cause that will drive my life as a survivor. I have found a cause. In a burst of prototypical cancer patient epiphany I saw the light. OK, I exaggerate. But I did stumble across a really good idea. With your help I can make it a reality.

I was discussing my treatment and experiences with a friend who was having some difficulty knowing what to say. I could tell he was uncomfortable and feeling inadequate in his contribution to the conversation. I told him about the young employee of mine who’s response to the news of my illness was, “What’s on your bucket list?”

“What is on your bucket list?” my friend asked.

“I can’t afford a bucket” I said.

“There should be some kind of Make-A-Wish for adults” he replied

That was it! All in a matter of seconds a flood of thoughts took me and shook me. Cancer wreaks havoc on a family financially. Even in Canada where we think our socialized medical system protects us from it, financial disaster lurks. While monthly expenses not covered by our excellent medical coverage increase, the family income is slashed as the patient becomes unable to work. All of those “someday” dreams are suddenly far beyond reach.

Remember the movie that popularized the term “bucket list”? You won’t find any reference in that wonderful script to the outrageous amount of money those two would have needed to accomplish everything that they did. The cost of travel insurance alone keeps most of us at home.

There needs to be an organization that removes those barriers and makes those dreams possible again. A Bucket List Foundation!

A few days of research convinced me that there are very compelling reasons such a Foundation is needed. Palliative care specialists, psychiatrists and other medical experts agree that attaining life dreams and bucket list goals enhances a patient’s outlook, general well-being and renews the desire to succeed in treatment. We all know that staying positive is a big part of the battle against life threatening illness.

So the Canadian Bucket List Foundation is born! The first of its kind in Canada, that I know of. I have found our first members of our board of directors in two distinguished medical doctors, an educator, a nurse and a travel specialist. Our first volunteers have responded to an invitation to become involved. You can tell we exist because we have a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CanadianBucketListFoundation/

We have referrals to major funding organizations who are available to us once the Foundation is officially established. We have begun to raise the funds to facilitate that goal.

Our crowdfunding campaign, https://www.gofundme.com/g3t3tdxu has launched to raise the money to register as a charitable foundation, build a proper and functional website and coordinate our first volunteers. The support, “retweets”, “shares” and “likes” have been gratifying and prove we are on the right track with a great idea.

This project is the one thing on my bucket list and I need your help to make it happen. So all you bloggers, Tweeters and social media influencers with Canadian followers take a little time to get the word out. Then drop a few dollars at gofundme. Together we can make a real difference. You know we can.

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59 thoughts on “The one thing on my bucket list

  1. Irene Aigner

    Hi, I am writeing on behalf if my younger brother who at 44 years old was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in January. He was self emplayed with a house insulating bussiness the last 20 years. His wife has progessive MS and they have 2 out thier 5 children (ages 13 and 16) still at home. They are low income and struggling terriably now finacialy. Radiation slowed the growth of the brain tumors down in January but the lymph lumps are back, we are currently waiting on his CT scan on Monday to see what to do now. If this bucket list foundation becomes a reality in time, how can he he apply? He is a advid fisherman and a dream fishing trip is on his bucket list. Thank you so much for your time.

    Like

  2. Pingback: The Afternoon Skate, May 18: The time dad played against Pele, Rod Stewart’s hockey son and the brawling Giants GM |

  3. Kelly Salmond

    I am a business development consultant who has helped many charitable organizations get their start. If I can volunteer my expertise to help in some way please let me know.

    Like

    1. At this point, Maureen, we are spreading the word and raising the seed money to get official charity status.

      Facebook and Twitter have been very useful. Share, Tweet, blog, & generally pester your friends and contacts frequently.

      The links are
      https://www.gofundme.com/canadianbucketlist
      https://www.facebook.com/CanadianBucketListFoundation/

      One excellent way to help is to visit the gofundme page frequently and “like” all the donations by clicking on the little hearts. Then use the FB and Twitter buttons to post right from there.

      You can also leave a message on facebook and our volunteer coordinator will be thrilled to hear from you.

      Thank you for your interest and support!

      GW

      Like

  4. Michelle Howard

    What a great idea. We live with cancer reaccurance between my husband and myself. We are only 47 and 52. The road is not easy. But what a practical way to continue with your time since you are “in this time of battle “. Life has no guarantees except this moment. My prayers are seriously with you and your family. Stepping outside of myself is one way ( and lots of Jesus’s hope and peace ) that gets me through everyday

    Like

  5. Rose

    Oh my goodness! I read your words with a shock of recognition. Cancer has taken hold of our lives and ruthlessly ground us all down these past few years, although it is my husband who has endured the chemo, radiation, surgeries, insertions, injections, consultations and endless tests. I can rattle off all sorts of new acronyms with alacrity now, and have sharpened my research skills to boot, never mind my alarming capacity to ask questions which the esteemed oncologists deign to answer, or dare not. Thank you for your honesty and utter irreverence, and your ability to laugh despite it all. Without laughter, we are all lost.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: The Afternoon Skate, May 18: The time dad played against Pele, Rod Stewart’s hockey son and the brawling Giants GM | The Province

  7. Jacquie Lowndes

    Fabulous idea! Thank you for your endeavors.I too have sat and watched in wonder as I allowed medical people to fill my veins with poison. I have always tried to live a relatively healthy lifestyle but the very idea of chemo and what it entails was quite overwhelming. I asked my oncologist, “When do I get to stand up and say I am cancer free”? He explained that if it doesn’t come back in 5 years I will be able to tell the world I could maybe, possibly be cancer free.” Thanks a lot. No gold star?Once my final treatment was finished my husband took me to Graceland, as promised. Number one on my Bucket List has been crossed off. The knowledge that I was going to go to Elvis’ home in Memphis was the carrot in front of the donkey. I stood at his grave and cried buckets, partly because of my unending love for the man and partly because it made the end of my chemo a reality. I made it was all I could think. God bless you.
    Jacquie

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: BC man wants to create a bucket list foundation for adults with cancer | Globalnews.ca

  9. Swimminhill

    Such a wonderful endeavor!

    I founded a support group/charity in the wake of an unfortunate diagnosis of neurofibromatosis…And just this past week had been researching to find an adult type make-a-wish foundation to no avail. It’s a wonderful idea, adults need joy, strength & distraction every bit as much as kiddos, we just tend to forget that.

    Best of luck, I’ll be watching (and sharing)!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Donna

    Shared this to Hell Yeah Prince George Facebook page; a group with 31,775 members here in Prince George. Your idea is fantastic! I wish you well, both with the foundation and your own battles. You are doing a great thing!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Lynn burnip

    I wish only success with your new venture. ..It is so healthy to work towards goals and to work with people who love and support you….you certainly have my prayers to cover all of this

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Ann

    I wish you all the best George. If I still lived in Abbotsford, I would come by to shake your hand for the your awesome creation “Canadian Bucket List Foundation”.

    Too many hours I have spent in one of those chairs. At the beginning of my cancer nightmare, I convinced my oncologist to give me an average of how long I could live with my type of cancer, I made him understand that I know it could be more or it could be less. He told me average life span was 6 to 8 years. Can’t say I was very thrilled about that number and decided I was determined too live much longer. Well this November it will be 9 years. If I am lucky I may get two more tries at chemo before time runs out. I told my oncologist, my parents lived into their eighties and I plan on doing the same, this may be a big reach, but what the heck, like they say, go big or go home. I started my bucket list this year and one thing on my list is a trip to Hawaii. I have never been and I am darn well going. I know it will set me back financially for a long time, but so be it, I will not get another chance.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Wendy Insley Saint-Onge

    Greetings. A friend sent me this post this morning – probably because I write a blog with the same subject matter. Cancer with a small ‘c’ is the term we adopted. I refuse to give the word any power.

    My husband was diagnosed with stage 4 collecting duct carcinoma in April of 2015. (Never heard of it? That’s because no one ever gets that type. Except him. The Titan, as he was known in our field. A strong, selfless and caring husband / father / Mountie who dedicated his life to helping others.

    Being a fellow Lower Mainlander and one who has spent endless hours scouring the internet over the last year (first for information, then for fellow bloggers, and now to find comfort which eludes me still), how is it that I never discovered your blog?

    When I get home and can access a computer instead of this phone with its annoyingly small font, I will read your blog more thoroughly. And I will share your gofundme page with my little group of loyal followers and those who, like myself, desperately miss The Titan.

    In the meantime, if you are looking for yet another family who plods along through all the crap that has likely become so familiar to you, you will find our story at wendylynnesaintonge.wordpress.com. (Shameless plug. Not for myself though, but simply because my husband is my favourite subject and he was a quiet hero).

    I wish you and your family strength and healing. I send extra uplifting thoughts to your wife also. This is a difficult path.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To the Titan! Stories like yours are my inspiration. I am going to very soon be looking for inspirational stories to include on our website. Yours will certainly fit the bill. Will you allow us to steal shamelessly from your blog?

      Like

      1. Wendy Insley Saint-Onge

        To The Titan indeed! Shamelessly steal at your will.

        Re: POG …. read this article: http://bccancerfoundation.com/about-us/news/bc-cancer-agency%E2%80%99s-pog-program-leads-unique-breakthrough-patient%E2%80%99s-treatment

        Push hard for trials. We were so lucky to get Ben in on both POG and on a trial of Nivolumab. But we had to research the shit out of the newest, latest and greatest and we pushed hard and then pushed some more. I had a relentless team. Everyone needs a relentless team.

        Like

  14. Carol

    I am awe struck by the number of persons there are that are living and fighting cancer. It seems once your in the social club at the Abbotsford Cancer Clinic you find a whole new universe. I was diagnosed with bile duct cancer almost a year ago. It was found by accident. It is not usually found before you pass away. I thought ( in a state of shock) I would fight it taking chemo therapy. Even though this type of cancer dose not respond to radiation or forms of chemo.
    I spent the next 5 months in bed. Unable to walk, or think properly. A light switch came on. I talked to my oncologist about the fact that it was terminal and there was not a cure. I made peace with myself and decided to stop chemo and forge ahead and live my life as is. It has taken over 2 months to clear the chemo from my system. I am walking and have 1/2 of my brain back. I am so pleased with my choice. I feel alive and happy again.

    Since I made my choice I have lost contact with the cancer center. I am back with my GP.
    It is such a awkward feeling to not have the daily appointments and blood test. Other than Fraser Valley health there are no follow ups. My life again is different.
    Every where I go I seem to end up having conversations with other people with cancer. It is like another world in the “real” world.
    I was so pleased to see your site. It was sent to me by a friend on Face book. Which I will share it on. I would love to contribute in some way. This would be second on my bucket list. My first is living and enjoying life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jill

      Both of my parents….both….died of bile duct cancer. How did you find it by accident. I am always wanting to know how I might stay on top of knowing, before finding out to late.

      Like

      1. Wendy Insley Saint-Onge

        Jill … I was so sad to read your comment. I believe bile duct cancer is in the same family as collecting duct, which my husband died from. And equally as rare. I am so sorry for your loss and for the fear that must cause you. I have no words that can comfort but know you are not alone.

        Like

      2. Carol

        Thank you for the note. I was diagnosed with lupus in my fifties so I was used too feeling strange or had never ending body discomforts. I went in for a physical last last spring to have every thing checked. The lupus had effected the function of the liver so I was on a medication to help(eurso) . I had not seen the liver specialist for a good 9 years so my doctor said I might as well go and get everything checked out. So she sent me for a ultra sound for my liver. She called me about a growth the found. It was 5x3x2 cm.
        I was so shocked,I had no pain or unusual symptoms. Then the adventure starts. It took Months to get it biopsied and to start treatment. I had no tumor markers. The cancer is like a sack and contained. I would suggest getting a ultra sound in your physical and check the results with your doctor and ask for all of the reports from the scan. There were no symptoms and is still no pain. the last time I had a ct scan it has not grown. They can’t give time line for life span, the oncologist said it could be 9 months or 2 years. Well it has been nine months and I am still going. I have been off chemo and and my life again and the gift of being with my family. I am at peace.
        Jill just be aware of how your body feels. Bowl movements, discomfort, pressure on your right
        side below your ribs.
        I am sorry about your parents, it makes me curious and want to ask question about that form of cancer and how long they lived with it. I am curious and scared at the same time to know.
        Again thank you for your note. Don’t hesitate to ever contact me, it was a comfort to hear from you.
        Carol

        Like

  15. What a wonderful and inspiring idea. I have lost my Granddad, Nanny, Grandmother and very recently my Father due to cancer and cancer-related health conditions, and feel something like this would be tremendous for people who end up missing out on so much or not being able to pursue their “someday” dreams. I will make sure to help spread the word on social media and donate online. Sincere best wishes to you as you continue your treatment!

    Like

  16. Wow fantastic selfless idea, I truly hope you beat your demon and live on to see your dream come true. Passing this on as fast as possible xoxoxoxoxo
    Also I truly hope you get to do all on your bucket list and more xoxo
    We all need a purpose and I think you have found yours, you know they say we all have a reason for being here, I believe this is yours xo

    Like

  17. What an amazing idea!! And a big thank you to you and everyone else involved so far in taking this on.
    I am a Radiation Therapist at the Abbotsford Cancer Centre and know too well the stories of patients like yourself. I have shared your post on my FB page and it has been shared many times already by both colleagues and friends alike. I wish you luck in this endeavour and with your cancer journey as well.

    Like

    1. There is nothing more gratifying than the encouragement of the people fighting this battle on the front lines. You and the rest of the hospital staff are my own personal army of heros.

      The ARHCC radiation department prepared my tumor for the phenomenally successful surgery that turned my colon into my semicolon. It is impossible to thank you enough.

      Keep spreading the word, my friend.

      Like

  18. Lisa

    This is an absolutely brilliant idea! I just had a conversation this morning with my mom about how the Make-A-Wish foundation etc help sick kids but that there’s nothing for kids like my 8yr old who have to deal with her Mom having terminal cancer.

    Like

  19. What a wonderful idea. Folks don’t realize that all though, yes, the actually chemo or radiation treatment is covered medically, there is no reimbursement for time lost at work to attend treatments, appointments, or staying at home to vomit. Someone has to take you to those appointments, so also that someone has to take time off work, pay for the cost of travel, etc etc. It adds up and doesn’t leave much money for “dreams”.
    My mother recently passed away of liver cancer 2 years ago, she had been sick on and off for 5 years. When they finally gave her the “1 year, no more treatment options available” she was quite sick. Her dream was to travel, as she hadn’t really travelled anywhere before. Luckily for us, my parents were financially able to book a trip last minute to mexico for a week. It was the oddest thing, the day she left I looked at her (as a nurse) and thought “Oh god, they’ll be back in 3 days, its a good thing she’s got travel insurance”. She was yellow from her skin to the whites of her eyes, vomiting every morning, not eating anything. Well I’ll be damned – I spoke with my parents on day 4 of the trip and my mom had been completely ASYMPTOMATIC so far. She continued to have an absence of her cancer symptoms, and noticeably more energy for the entire 7 days. Of course when she returned home she became sick again, but we were all amazed that after weeks and weeks of illness, what that trip did for her. She was able to check it off her bucket list, which i’m sure gave her a sense of accomplishment on its own.
    I’m sure if she were here today she would tell all newly diagnosed patients to make a bucket list and start working on it right now, even if your cancer is treatable. This is an amazing fund to help with that, I’ll definitely be sharing this!

    Like

    1. Kim,

      Your story confirms what our palliative care specialist and other doctors are telling us. Your mother’s bucket list dream gave her a week of peace and joy when it meant the most and left you and your family with happy memories from a time of deep sorrow. That’s what we are all about.

      Please tell me I can use your story in my blog and on our website?

      Like

  20. Alanna Marklinger

    This is such a fabulous foundation! I am so glad it’s getting off the ground and I know it will help many people live the rest of their days fulfilling their bucket lists. Love it! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  21. As a semicolon and semi-liver plus throw in a Code blue with lung clots , it has been quite a journey these last couple of years. Your blog is inspiring and reminds of where I come from and the battles to be fought in the future. Say hello to Jan, Barb and Wendy during your next session.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Anonymous

        Hi George, just finished up with my oncologist and got the news that dragon had decided to pay me another visit. Wish I could see him to kick him in the you know where, he seems to have a preference for my liver, maybe I should throw in some onions.

        Liked by 1 person

  22. Tiffany Sekora

    Absolutely agree.

    This is so refreshing. I appreciate you sharing your personal thoughts on your journey.

    In the past couple of years I have watched a number of friends and family (mom and dad included) fightand succumb to cancer. I wish you the best.

    With hugs

    Tiffany

    Like

  23. KH

    What a wonderful idea ♡ When I was diagnosed with cancer 9 years ago that was my one biggest regret at the time…that my life did not have any significance, that there wasn’t one dream of anything I had wanted to do with my life come to fruition. That made me incredibly sad. Yes I know as a mom of 3 and now a grandmother of 4 people told me that was my legacy. But I had other dreams that were important to me on a bucket list that at that time had done nothing but sit and collect dust. They were always my some day thoughts, my one day I will do this wishes. Things I had wanted to do with my life. The great news is I am doing them now – true it is slowly, because as you say the financial hardships of this disease deplete your resources in more ways than one – but I am doing them. And as a result of accomplishing a couple of those things on my bucket list I feel more complete somehow, that if I were to perish tomorrow it would be okay. My life will have meant something. This foundation you have begun is doing that for you – and it will eventually help thousands of other people as well. Thank you for bringing your idea to life ♡ I will share this with those that I know in an effort to help you realize your dream. And your sister is right…you are in the top 5%, in all the ways that count.

    Like

  24. Billy D

    There is always Hope, in every thing, every where. It takes a creative mind to seek it out. Hope is a state of mind.
    Keep up the good work. No effort goes without bearing fruit, somewhere with some one.
    I’m one of the survivors who volunteer to serve you in the chemo room. I can’t affect your outcome, but I can sure relate, be real, and make your journey more bearable.
    And when my other CLL cancer flares up in my old age, perhaps you will be there for me, too.
    Bill

    Like

    1. Thanks for the encouraging words, Bill. I think you underestimate your contribution to outcomes. Bringing positivity and encouragement into the clinic is an important and valuable role.

      Like

  25. Oh, wow. I see that you and I speak the same language. I love what you write. I love the way you write. And I love the way you think (even with chemo-brain). Off to do some work right now – but would love to see what I can do to help move your foundation forward. Thank-you for doing this!!!!!

    Like

    1. Thank you so much for the encouraging comment. We are all part of the team. So says the surgeon that turned my colon into my semicolon.

      Anything you can do to help and to encourage other to help would be, well, very helpful! Hahaha

      At this stage volunteers with social media skills are our most valuable resource. Aside from donors with deep pockets.

      Bucketlistcanada@gmail.com

      Liked by 1 person

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