the cancermoon


With honeymoons and babymoons designed to celebrate and relax before major life events, I present: the cancermoon.

I had two long weeks of waiting for surgery after receiving my cancer diagnosis. The first week I frantically wrapped up work engagements, unsure of my future state. The next week I spent telling people, which was both wonderful and awful: wonderful to take inventory of all the lovely people I have in my life, and awful to get a jolt of those who ran for the hills. Thankfully the lovely outweigh the runners and I’m taking a lesson from Taylor Swift and trying to shake off the rest.

I missed having my job as a distraction. As a freelancer, I spend a lot of time in my own head, which is not necessarily a healthy thing when my head wanders into dark places.

So screw it, Mike and I decided to celebrate the grace period called the cancermoon before my surgery date as best we can. I feel perfectly healthy, which is so strange. I’m not sick (yet) but I do have cancer, which comes with its own unwanted sense of foreboding.

Feeling well – physically only, my mental state is another matter – lent itself to our cancermoon. We had booked a trip to Portland the weekend after my diagnosis. Then, post President 45, we decided we did not want to cross the border into a place that doesn’t welcome all people. Mike, Aaron and I recalibrated and nipped across the ocean to Victoria instead.

I loved our little trip. It was very chill. We sat on the packed ferry, quiet and reading. Ordered chicken dips at funky Ruby’s at Hotel Zed. Sourced Philip’s Microbrewery for Mike. Went to Munro’s bookstore for me. Got upgraded to a two bedroom suite. (My luck has changed!). Hung out. Smuggled pineapple fried rice from Foo Food into the Lego Batman movie.

The next day we ventured to China Beach on the west side of the island, Aaron complaining bitterly about the drive. But he perked up upon our arrival and was a surprisingly enthusiastic hiker. At the beach it was chilly but beautiful and sitting on a log watching the tide go out made me acutely aware of my own (in)significance.

Went to Chocolat Favoris and ate the best dipped cone ever (mine: crunchy chocolate hazelnut dip). Monday we packed up and wandered around the inner harbour. Stopped at the Empress Hotel and Mike treated us to cocktails at noon in their new shiny bar. Ventured out to Fort Street and I bought an (inadvertently) itchy hemp sweatshirt, we ate chorizo sandwiches and I found a record store for Mike. We sat motionless on the ferry on the way back where I bought another sweatshirt (this one less itchy) as part 1 of my ‘I have cancer and need comfy clothes’ shopping expedition.  This is all just ordinary stuff that seems really important to me now.

Over the weekend, when we were walking or hiking or eating, for a few minutes at a time, I forgot that I have cancer.   That’s what a cancermoon is all about.

During the week, my lovely friends from my dearly departed job took me out for dinner to Bistro Wagon Rouge, my favourite restaurant in all of Vancouver. My pal Isabel met me for red wine and we spent a lot of time giggling about the ridiculousness of the health care system and my situation as a whole.

My baby girl Ella arrived on Friday and she has provided a happy distraction. Ella is thoughtful, funny and beautiful and the world will be a better place when she graduates from nursing in two years. She insisted Mike and I book an overnight hotel on Saturday, and that we did. We felt less chill than last weekend and more anxious about the impending surgery which was three sleeps away.

This time, I did not stop thinking about cancer for very long. We couldn’t find anywhere to eat downtown on a Saturday night without a 45-minute wait, so we reluctantly had room service instead. My brother kindly arranged tickets to the best venue in Vancouver – the Commodore – but the act was lackluster. But maybe it was me lacking in luster. The next day my favourite weekend brunch restaurant was off – service so slow, food cold – but maybe I was the one who was off, slow and cold? My own perception is all mixed up with reality and so it is really hard to say. But our hotel room was lux and had a full view of the water, not a partial view as we had booked. The guy at check in gave us complimentary cocktails at the bar. I liked lying on the hotel room bed watching the seagulls squawk and dive bomb outside our window. I so enjoyed wandering around the city, holding my Mike’s hand.

The final day of the cancermoon was on Monday. Ella and I deemed it Shopping Distraction day and we were amused at the $2,100 bathrobes at Nordstrom and scoured downtown for soft button up shirts. We think there’s a business opportunity in selling convalescing clothes for old ladies like me. We got our toes done (pink!) and had sushi. That’s a perfect chick day with my perfect chick.

I know I have been mostly in denial but I also appreciate denial’s numbing side effect of pain control. I regret none of the cancermoon and would highly recommend this approach to stay stuck denial as long as you possibly can.

Alas, today is the day after my surgery and I’m sore and cranky and have nothing useful to say. I’m all bandaged up and hopped up on Tylenol 3s and (as my friend Isabel likes to say) this shit suddenly got real.

Ps:  I love the comments on my previous post, so much so that reading them makes me cry.  Thank you for your words, emails, texts, phone calls, flowers, chocolates, socks, cookies, food and cards my dear friends.  A special hat tip to those who have taken my boy Aaron out to have fun.

9 thoughts on “the cancermoon

  1. Kathy says:

    Sue, your ability to write such wonderful words has not been affected by Tylenol #3’s (which are really crappy drugs, by the way!) keep up your strength, keep reaching out to those who did not run for the hills, and I’ll tell Isabel to keep bringing you wine!!
    Love to all,

  2. Amy Ma says:

    They have Chocolat Favoris in Victoria BC now? Awesome sauce! Sneaking pineapple fried rice into a LEGO Batman movie? You are hilarious!

    Big hugs and sending you light and love!

  3. Tanja says:

    Sue – I’m thinking of you today, and sending positive and healing thoughts to you and your family. I reread most of your blogs today, and through the work that you do and in everything that you’ve shared (and including the anger at and frustrations with the individuals and systems that fail those who need them the most), I think grace is firmly in your corner already. May all the figurative hugs being sent your way make up for the fact that the real ones might hurt for a while 😉 Take care and let yourself be taken care of … there are a lot of people in your corner.

  4. msteele34 says:

    Sue, I had no idea the surgery was so soon. I hate that you are going through this and that I am so far away. At the same time I am glad you are on the other side of the surgery, and the business of getting you better can begin. I love reading your thoughtful, honest, vivid posts. I am wondering if writing so well has taught you how to live with such presence and perception and wisdom or if it’s living with such perception, presence and wisdom that has taught you how to write so well? No matter, you are a champ at both. I’m so glad you had your beautiful, lovely, loving Ella with you. She is such a gem–her mama’s daughter. I did send you some snail mail. Don’t know how long it will take to arrive via camel. Let’s talk soon, my friend. xo

  5. Karen C. says:

    Sue – I love your ability to take pleasure in and see the little and simple things in life. And that you continue to relish in the SLOW. I am happy that you’re surrounded by people that can help care for you and your family; friends who you can drink WINE with and who make you LAUGH. That is surely what I wish I could be doing for you. Until we can laugh and drink amaretto sours (too many) together, you will remain daily in my thoughts and prayers. Much love to you all.

  6. Lori says:

    Hi Sue,

    Lori here from Toronto. I read your last post 6 days after my 12 year cancer free anniversary (Feb. 8) from the same kind of cancer – DCIS. I was a fresh young 40 year old when I was told the news. It’s a hard road you are travelling down – I won’t lie – but like having a child with special needs like we both do, it’s one filled with pockets of lovey unexpected gifts. I look forward to reading about your journey and if you’d ever like to chat or email directly: Hugs to you and your family!

  7. srasmuss says:

    thank you for your honest telling of experience…it offers a challenge to those of us in healthcare delivery to never forget care compassion and humanity – i will certainly be sharing with students. i hope for you recovery-moon and restoration-moon

  8. Elaine says:

    So happy that you are home and in the hands of the ones that love you most!! I hope that your recovery goes well and that your spirits can be easily lifted when given the opportunity. Difficult as it may be, laughter is the best medicine and I know that you live with two of the funniest guys I know! Lol! Take care beautiful Sue… and be well❤

  9. Cliff Blank says:

    I just got back from Victoria. My only regret, I didn’t read your blog post sooner! That’s for sharing your travel tips. There is more to experience than Miniature World and Beaver Tails! 🙂

    Let me know if you need anything. My Mom and friend is forging through the same journey.

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