Saturday, January 30, 2010

Life, unpredictable

Isn't it funny how life can be so unpredictable sometimes. Sometimes we're presented with challenges and just when we think we've figured out how we're going to deal with those challenges, the universe does something to prove that we are not the greatest power, and there are just somethings we can not control and must deal with no matter how much planning we've done or how unprepared we are.

In the first months of 2008 my mother was diagnosed with cancer. There was a tumor in her small intestine blocking the passage of food coming from her stomach. She underwent surgery to remove the tumor and then faced 6 months of chemotherapy to ensure there would be no spreading of the cancer. This was the scariest news I had ever received. I flew to Calgary to be with her during her surgery and see her through recovery as much as I could. But in the months to come, all I could do was be there over the phone to give her words of encouragement as she braved the turmoil of treatment without me. Not being there was torturous for me, although I knew she had support coming from every direction. Her family (my aunts and uncles) and friends made trips out from Ontario to visit with her. She had friends from every corner of her life come give her love, support and encouragement to continue through what I knew was the hardest thing she would ever endure. I went back to Calgary to celebrate with her after her final treatment in August 08. In the following months she received one green light check up after another, and life seemed to be getting back to normal. As we all expected, my mother was a survivor.

This past Christmas, exactly two years after her first diagnosis, my mother started her second bout of chemotherapy to fight the metastasized cancer in her lung. She moved from Calgary to Ontario to be close with her family in her sisters house in Bowmanville. I was there to see her for the holidays and be with her during her first treatment. It was December 29th 2009. I spent a few days with her once treatment started, but came home to Vancouver on New Years Eve.

Just a week later January 7th, I was on the first flight out of Vancouver to get back to Ontario as I learned that she had developed a septic blood infection and was now in the ICU in critical care. On January 9th, at 4pm, I sat next to her on her bed and held her hand as she died.

My mother was my best friend. My mentor. My hero. She was everything to me and everything that I am, I owe to her. I have to process and digest this reality so slowly and one tiny little piece at a time because if I think to hard about it, or try to understand that this has really happened, I actually feel like my heart stops beating. I'm getting through each day one day at a time. It's not getting any easier, in fact, it's getting tougher as each day is just one more since I've spoken to her last. I will be ok, although not likely for a while. I keep myself distracted, and when I'm sad.. I just be sad.

My blog is a personal journey that I've chosen to share with whoever wants to read it. I decided to share this news with you because I believe some of the lessons I've learned, or just the bit of life I've lived in the past 2 months will change who I am as a person. I've lost someone as close to me as I think anyone ever will be and I know that experience will have a substantial impact on the rest of my life.

Here are some of my new rules to live by.

1. You can never love someone too much. If you love them, tell them everyday. Show them everyday.

2. Be kind to people. Life is too short to hold grudges, be angry or bitter. Appreciate people for who they are. The world would be a different place if we were all just a little more kind.

3. Your family, whether it's your biological family, or those that are considered family are THE most important people. Hold them close.

4. You can have a great impact on people's life without even knowing it. Treat people with respect and tolerance and people will remember you for a lifetime.

5. Be thankful. Life is a wonderful, amazing thing. It's your choice to acknowledge that and enjoy everything it has to offer. It comes with challenges, but there are lessons to be learned in each one. Don't hold back - go out and get all you want out of it.

I get a lot of positive feedback from people in regard to my Ironman dreams and my general approach to life. Maybe that sounds strange to say, but I hear it often. It's a compliment, but it's also a choice I've made. I took the time to figure out what it is that makes me happy. What satisfies me? What brings me pleasure? What makes me proud? And after a lot of searching, I am only starting to figure out that there is no one thing. It's a thousand little things.

I tried searching for just one answer, and it seemed that just as I figured out what it is I wanted, and once I knew who I was... everything changed. Priorities change. Opinions change. Circumstances change. At first I thought this meant that I was lost. That I was never going to figure out just who I was or what it is that I wanted. But now I see the beauty in it. I will be a thousand things, and who I am will be something different to everyone that I meet. I'm ok with that.

My Mom gave me the tools I need to live a life of that measure. She taught me how to dream, how to not let fear control my life and to be the master of my own destiny by giving me courage to make my own choices. One of her greatest pieces of advice was to learn to live in the moment. Be present. If we're not, opportunities pass us right by.

More than ever, I vow to live my life in a constant attempt to live up to her standard. She was an incredible woman who touched the lives of man. She had a thirst for life and her dedication to being fulfilled and happy inspired almost everyone she encountered.

I will live the rest of my life in the presence of an angel, forever protecting, encouraging and inspiring.


  1. Sarah, I had no idea. My deepest sympathies to you.

    Today I was glad to have you back training with us anyway, but now doubly so.

    You've lots of love support in the club (even first thing on Sunday mornings!), hope to see as much of you as we can while the games are on.

  2. Sarah -- you rock -- I am so proud to call you my little sis! I will take your advise. Sarah I love you & miss your Mom! With all our love! Ashley