Monday, February 20, 2006

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0088 - Embracing Life

"My mother did not choose to be stricken with a deadly disease. She chose how she would deal with it. It took this tragic diagnosis to awaken my own perspective and attitude towards life. We CHOOSE our attitude. She chose to 'live'."

"Thank you mom."

Cheryl Pounder has just won her second gold medal at the Torino Winter Olympics as a member of the Canadian women's hockey team. But I think I can guarantee that, despite how important such a win is to her and her team mates, despite how proud she must be in their accomplishments on the ice, despite the incredible experiences she has had with Team Canada, it is having her mother in the stands watching her today that she values most.

The Record today had a front-page article about Cheryl and her mother Diane. Diane was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 1997, almost exactly 8 years earlier than my own diagnosis of rectal cancer. Like me, she had chemotherapy, radiation and surgery to anticipate. But she decided to embrace life by choosing to fight with everything at her disposal.

Cheryl was 20-years-old at the time and was soon to be cut from the Canadian women's team competing at the Nagano Winter Olympics. But with her mother's example before her, she fought back, becoming strong enough to make the Canadian women's team in both 2002 and 2006.

A good friend of mine and I have been corresponding recently about the life lessons we teach our children. My boys are aged 18 and 17. They will learn much from me during my battle with cancer, just as Cheryl learned so much from her mother Diane 8 years ago.

My friend used a computer analogy to describe how those lessons are translated from one generation to the other. When faced with situations for which they have no prior experience, the "default behaviour" will be whatever they have learned from their parent's behaviour under stressful circumstances. I hope that part of what they learn from me is similar to what Cheryl learned from Diane - "we CHOOSE our attitude."

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