July 4, 2008: I’m sitting in the waiting room of the Southlake Regional Health Care Centre in Newmarket, Ontario, my husband, Mike, by my side. My Golden Retriever at the time, Copper, is at home, probably pacing. He always was an intuitive dog.
My cancer surgery is scheduled for 8 a.m. but we’re expected to be there 90 minutes before. Mike pretends to read the Toronto Sun. I’m reading Memoirs of a Geisha, desperately trying to finish it before the anesthesiologist comes. That’s when I make a pact with myself: I’m going to come out of surgery. I’m going to beat cancer. And I’m going to be an author. After all, it’s what I’ve always said I wanted to do. What I always wanted to be.
Eight years later, I’ve written a few short stories. Two books, with two in process, and a couple of novellas percolating in my head. I’ve done the Bermuda Triangle Marathon Weekend with my friend, Michelle, who never stopped believing. Completed the Steelhead Half Ironman Triathon in Benton Harbor, Michigan, with my friend, Donna, who talked me into it and trained with me in wind and hail and heat and humidity.
I even managed to finish the two-day 200+ kilometre (124+ mile) Ride to Conquer Cancer from Toronto to Niagara, raising the $2,500 to enter, thanks to a host of friends and colleagues too numerous to mention.
So screw you cancer. You don’t win.
*July has a special meaning for me. It’s the month of my birthday. The month I signed my first publishing contract. The month I realized that I wanted to live. Not just live, but LIVE. On my terms. Doing what I wanted to do. Being who I wanted to be.
Starting July 6th, I’m going to unplug, take 21 days off the grid. Recharge. Read lots of books. Hold hands with my husband on the shores of Lake Superior. Drink fine wine and the best champagne. Eat Belgium truffles and Swiss chocolate. Pick wild blueberries. Swim, splash and play in the water. Hug my newest Golden Retriever, Gibbs, and silently remember all the Goldens who have enriched my life: Sandy. Einstein. Ranger. Copper.
I’ll be back, stronger and more determined than ever. Until then…