It would be an understatement to say that a year ago, I got a kick in the teeth when I was diagnosed with brain cancer.
Now, I can no longer brush my own teeth.
My new mailing address is Riverview Health Centre, where I have come to die, although you're not supposed to say that here.
When they brought me here, they promised I would never feel pain again, and they have been pretty true to that. When there is pain, there is a kind nurse with a needle and a machine to lift my sore, useless body into a wheelchair.
I have been unable to do any writing. I miss that like crazy, of course.
I can no longer walk independently. I hate the loss of independence, of needing someone to wash me and help with basic bodily functions. When you need someone to wash your face for you, it's a new low. I feel I've ceased to be me, and it's hard not to spend every day crying.
There have been some celebrations this year. My daughter got married last week, and I was able to attend. After days of practice sitting up in a wheelchair, the staff deemed me ready to go. Another decision was made for me.
But what has the past year meant? Have I had insights available only to those who have the curtain lifted back to reveal some deep meaning? I'm reminded of the observation Randy Pausch made when he wrote The Last Lecture; simply that time is all you've got until you realize you have a finite amount.
My Christian faith has carried me through. It's stronger than it ever was. My church family has been there for me. All around my room are things from them, both from the church I attend now -- Holy Trinity -- and the one I used to attend, St. Vital's St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church.
The thing I struggle to get across is how useless I feel physically... and intellectually.
I suppose I'm not entirely useless. I've been able to find meaning in fundraising. I started a campaign to build a school in Kenya through a program of Free the Children run by Craig and Marc Kielburger. A garden party to raise money pushed the campaign over the top. Enough was raised for three schools.
But truthfully? It was an act of selfishness that allowed me to give back. I say an act of selfishness because I did it for me. I didn't do it for Kenya. Is that insightful? Maybe, but I don't think I'm capable of being insightful right now.
Insight? I wish I hadn't smoked as a teenager, but I don't think I gave myself cancer.
I do know this: Choose your friends carefully. They're the ones who'll be wiping drool off your chin.
Something you should know: People have to laugh at your jokes when you have cancer.
I've discovered how insanely insecure I am, how much affirmation I need.
I have been unable to do any writing. I miss that like crazy, of course. But what it has made me realize is how very much I miss you, the readers.
A year ago, I wrote a column telling you about this diagnosis and that I would be out of touch for a while as I fought the monsters. Please know you have been the greatest gift to me.
You have allowed me into your homes, your lives as I have done this most marvellous of jobs. We have laughed, cried, been angry, and in the end, been a little bit better from our connections. I know I have.
I was thrilled to be offered the chance to write this. It was the best gift Free Press editor Paul Samyn could have given me, other than the chocolate.