Idea: “What if we build a theme park where no one knows the name Disney? Tokyo
Disneyland now the most profitable park.” -BWhite #outofbox
“Sometimes improving the brand or organization is getting out-of-the-way of the next person with a great idea.” #mentor
“However attractive your strategy is, it’s helpful to occasionally look at the results.” – Winston Churchill #mentor
When you are ill, you often do not have the energy to be around people – even those you are close to. Visitors can take a lot out of you. This is one reason that people with cancer begin move into isolation.
Another reason is the concern about picking up something. Cancer treatments weaken your immune system. They stop bone marrow from making blood cells that help fight infections like the flu or even a common cold. Brenda is at greater risk right now of getting an infection. When her immune system is compromised by radiation and chemotherapy we have to be careful about who she is with. Our family and close friends have all been subjected to getting flu vaccine shots and encouraged not to visit if they are feeling sick in any way. We are thrilled with how healthy Brenda has been this entire journey. Not one cold, flu or fever episode.
Despite all these cautions, Brenda made the decision early on not to hide away in total isolation during her cancer journey. I understand this. Brenda has always lived life by sharing herself fully with others. Just because this is an awkward and highly personal season doesn’t mean she would hold back from trying to help others by her authentic sharing of what she is learning on the journey. Now we still do have visitors come to physically see her, but as public people we as her family are having to be careful not to overdo it and yet still provide Brenda the interaction with others that she desires.
So, our ‘daughter’ Kristin, her mother Sharon, and our ‘adopted daughter’ Steph became her communications team and set up a site and system where Brenda could share her journey via a blog and interact with many people whenever she wants and is able. Caring Bridge was selected for her journal and it has served us well. Brenda is able to post when she can and perhaps more importantly, read and reread the comments of visitors when she wants to.
Brenda has written about her experience with a lung cancer diagnosis. She is authentic and profound. Her faith and outlook have inspired people literally around the world. A friend from church, Tim Cunningham, began collecting all of Brenda’s writing and the vision is to one day create a book for cancer patients.
Thanks to all of you who have followed Brenda on this journey. Your comments and support for her mean more than I am able to express. This past week Brenda surpassed over 100,000 visitors.
That is a lot of visitors! Sure glad they were not all lined up at the front door. <Big Smile>
When talking with other husbands about my wife Brenda’s cancer diagnosis and current status they commonly say something like, “I don’t know how you do it!” Part question, part statement – it got me thinking what can you do? What am I doing?
Brenda was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer. Her cancer is labelled as “terminal” and by that an oncologist means that it cannot be cured. (We realize the X factor is of course God.) This prognosis is something we never anticipated would happen, but it can and it did. Prior, I had never given one thought as to how I might handle such a situation.
When stating “I don’t know how you do it” a man reveals a moment of self-reflection. He is imagining being in my circumstance and wondering what he would do if faced with a similar challenge. So, at the risk of being superficial, let me share some of what one can do if your spouse is staring death in the face.
2. Don’t be selfish. There are many times you will be tempted to throw a pity party for yourself – but your focus must be on the care of your loved one. Put their needs ahead of yours. Use inspiration for your attitude from The Princess Bride where Westley’s response to Buttercup’s demands is always “As you wish.”
3. Try not to whine. Yes you have experienced losses but try not to layer those onto what your spouse is experiencing. Don’t be thinking about what you do not have. This is related to the point above but with more of an encouragement to view time properly. Keep a long-term perspective.
4. Make a point of celebrating. Treasure the moments when a deep richness breaks through. Laugh when you can. Soak up truth and grace in those moments – times when you feel so much love between one another that you would not really want to trade it.
5. Lower your expectations. Pain causes us all to act in ways different from how we normally are. This means there will be moments of ‘oddness’ we need to put up with it. Lift yourself above the moment and realize these are unusual days. Just get over it.
6. Trust God. Regardless of the outcome I realize that I can trust God in all of this and that provides hope. Hope plays a HUGE factor in a cancer patient building up their immune system to help fight the cancer. Hope with them. Don’t place your hope in false or weak things. Don’t create false hope. Instead trust in God all of the time. Early on in our journey I realized God wanted me to fully trust Him. He actually wants us to live everyday like that. He is a God of hope.
7. Be positive. Be a glass half full kind of person. You know the question, “Is the glass half empty or half full?” It’s a way of determining if you are an optimist or pessimist. During a cancer journey you will experience all sorts of twists and turns along the way. Try, in each situation, to look for bright spots and recall with one another the things you are thankful for.
8. Focus on better days. Help your spouse not to dwell in the past. It is hard for them to remember what life used to be like when they had energy or hair. Instead, encourage them to save their energy for looking forward to enjoy one day at a time. Lean into each day and discover what purpose God might hold in it for you two to learn and experience together.
9. Be tenacious in your love and care. Keep doing all these things despite how difficult it might be. I have a coffee mug with the 1939 British motivational quote, “Stay calm and carry on” to reminder me. Make sure your loved one knows you are there – right there for them – always. Go out of your way to assure them by speaking their love language.
10. Take care of yourself too. Remember that to be any good in caring for your loved one, you must care for yourself too. Get rest; have close friends you can talk to; invest in others; pray; and arrange to have some breaks. Taking care of yourself is part of taking care of your spouse.
I did not start all of these things just because of Brenda’s diagnosis but because I love her. They were instilled in the covenant I made to her on our wedding day. It is found in a Bible passage that was read over us as a blessing and is from 1 Corinthians 13:4,6-8.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love does not want what it does not have.
Love…takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.
What might you add to this list?
In the lowest level of the Cancer Agency is an area I refer to as ‘The Bunker’ because of its nuclear warning signs everywhere and the thickness of the concrete doors. There is a quietness down here unlike the rest of the hospital. Silence because of the soundproofing of the construction and silence because it is a sad environment for the patients there.
It still freaks me out a little, and we have seen allot this year. Fourteen months ago they “took a chance” on Brenda with whole brain radiation – right here. I remember being told before the treatment, “You need to understand some people do not make it through the treatment.” That get’s your attention.
‘The Bunker’ is one place where I actually like to have someone with me waiting for Brenda. My daughters and sons came last year for they understood it is too easy for Dad to get discouraged when alone here. Half-joking I referred to it then as being like a scene from “The Walking Dead.” There are so many patients who are receiving radiation as a paliative treatment to help them with pain and they look like they are near the end of their journey.
So what is my wife doing here? She doesn’t fit in with this crowd. In fact she stands out. All the staff love her – you can see it in their faces and by how they interact with her. Peace and joy radiate from her because of our faith and the prayers of thousands who support her.
Brenda is not always steadfast and brave. We both have our moments. Last night she reached out to her little prayer circle because she said she was losing her nerve. We prayed, they prayed and today went well. Many do not know this, but my wife is from a card carrying Albertan ‘cowboy’ family. Often I see the cowgirl in her. Like a cute little Canadian version of John Wayne in a dress, Brenda would echo, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”
So here we are again in ‘The Bunker’ getting Brenda measured for a CT guided radiation treatment that starts Monday on the primary tumour in her lung. Technology today allows them to do this with a precision unknown even five years ago. Her tumour is of a size now where this radiation treatment is possible and her new oncologist wants us to “kill that thing” to relieve pain and continue extending her days. After the lung is zapped, the radiation oncologist mentioned wanting to “have a go” at the cancer in her back bones. This is all good news and provides hope and that sense of life and living another day.
Being in ‘The Bunker’ does something for me. The protective concrete environment here reminds me that cancer cannot silence Brenda’s courage. It cannot cripple our love for one another. It cannot break our family apart – we were prepared for such a challenge. Cancer cannot destroy friendship – in fact our friendships with others are growing deeper. Cancer cannot shatter the hope we have in God’s love, mercy and grace and we will not allow it to conquer our spirit in all of this.
So it is time to hunker down – apply ourselves seriously to the task – and hit ‘The Bunker.’
Prayers gratefully accepted. – Carson
I may not have the exact day correct, but I have been thinking a lot about my deep close friend Graham Johnston the last few days. It was in 2011 about this time that my friend Graham passed from this life.
I’m missing him a lot these days.
I wish I could talk with him about what Brenda and I are going through with her cancer diagnosis. I’m also missing how much fun we would have mixed of course with passionate discussions about ministry and vision. We longed to make an impact in the world that would glorify God. I miss him because I have recently been communicating with Susan Perlman and Martin Sanders. The four of us with Graham were like the “Rat Pack” of Leighton Ford’s Point Group. Often at our annual gathering we would stay up late into the night talking, laughing, sharing and praying.
Graham was one who would get incredibly passionate (and loud) about certain topics near and dear to his heart. These would include his wife Tracey; Paige and Carson (love that man’s name); “Subi” his church in Perth; his closest friends; preaching; mission work and of course his immediate family.
To Graham, a minister out of touch with today’s culture was like an uninformed missionary trying to teach in a foreign country. He was an amazing communicator and understood that to communicate God’s Word effectively, teachers need to know how to connect with and confront an audience of postmodern listeners. That is what inspired him to write Preaching To A Postmodern World: A Guide to Reaching Twenty-first Century Listeners. His insights written there continue to help speakers and teachers are birthed out of praxis and having been widely travelled.
Despite Grahams enormous influence globally, his legacy means more to me on a very personal level. Our son Jeremy and his wife Shari had the privilege of working with Graham at the church in Perth Australia in 2009. Seeing Graham modelling how to live life as an authentic Christian changed our kids. They returned back to Canada transformed. They loved church and made many friends there. They returned empowered, confidant, inspired, passionate and with a love for those in culture who perhaps would never enter the doors of a church.
As I share some of my friend Graham’s legacy let it be an encouragement to build on our legacy. You can start with some of what I learned from Graham:
- Be passionate about the things you really love and act on it. Get loud.
- Don’t be afraid to express and show your love for others.
- Love your church and let them know that.
- Communicate in a credible way with others about the love of God. Practice it.
- Build into and mentor those younger and empower them with confidence.
- Be generous. Share you time, your home, your resources, and your influence.
- Love your spouse and kids and let others know you do.
- Be authentic.
- Finish well!
So today Graham, I raise a toast to you. Your friendship endures to this day for we are indeed ‘forever friends.”