Posts Tagged With: cancer

let us out

Listen. We get it. We do.

We know: you or someone you love is immuno-compromised in some way and you really need us to take this #covid-19 thing seriously and #staythefuckathome. Please know that we are taking this seriously, we are aware of how quickly this thing “goes viral” as it were, and we know the possible severity of the illness. No one is minimizing your concerns; not trying to down-play anything; trying to follow the guidelines as best we can. I just need you to think about some other things for a minute.

You have probably seen the tweets, maybe even shared the memes about the appalling fact that millions of school-aged children may be losing their one main daily meal now that most schools have closed. There are groups popping up all over the place to help those who experience this kind of food insecurity; local restaurants offering sack lunches, mom groups cooking casseroles, etc. We all know that even these types of kindnesses will be ending soon, and that’s worrisome for sure.

What’s also worrisome is the fact that people are being bullied, judged, shamed, and threatened for meeting up with their neighbours or allowing their children to see friends; for heading out for groceries or taking their dogs for a walk. For years we have been getting pummelled with reports and studies showing us that “online” connections aren’t what we should be encouraging for our children. We have been bullied, shamed, judged, and threatened by “better” parents who limit screen or gaming time and force their kids to interact face-to-face vs. face-timing. It’s like we just can’t win. For some parents, and for some children, this current situation of self-isolation is not a viable option. Really.

I sit on the Equity Committee at my son’s school. Our biggest concern is the mental health and well-being of our students; we need to build and foster a sense of belonging within our school community. Teenagers are not doing well, y’all. Even if they have a “happy” home life, they are feeling burdened and stressed. They are lost, they are scared, and they are depressed. They are anxiety-ridden. Existential angst among 12-19 year-olds is a real thing. Nihilism is creeping in at ever younger ages. And let’s not forget, not everyone has a “happy” home life.

There are a good many kids for whom home is not a happy place, or even a safe one. What if school is the only place a child has a sense of belonging? What if their group of friends is the only real family they have? What if their English teacher or school social worker is the only adult in their lives that they can trust? What if a student’s friendship with the school custodian is the only thing keeping both of those people going? What about those kids who come to school to get a couple of hours of sleep because it isn’t safe to do so at home?

We don’t know how long this pandemic will last. Provinces, states, and countries are declaring us to be in a state of emergency. Moms and dads who are barely keeping it together on their best days will be unable to do so indefinitely. Parents who are already stressed about financial issues or worry about their job security will have those anxieties hit overdrive. Families who face food insecurity on a daily basis may fall into despair and feel nothing but hopelessness. Being in forced isolation or quarantine may make it exponentially more difficult to distract yourself from your worries or put your coping skills into play.

My mother, at 92, is more active and has a fuller schedule than many people half her age. On Mondays she has her writing group (cancelled), on Tuesdays she goes singing (cancelled), on Wednesdays she volunteers at the seniors’ rec centre (closed), on Thursdays the home nurse comes to help with her shower (so far still on). Fridays are “weekend” or her day off, and on the weekends she usually visits friends in care homes (closed) or goes to the cinema (closed) or concerts (cancelled). She is keeping herself busy with crosswords, youtube, facebook, phone calls and e-mails. She’s not bored yet, but enjoyment from those things will only last so long. She lives a two-hour drive from us and I don’t know whether I should go see her or not. I certainly don’t want to expose her to any germs, but loneliness is a bitch and I know it will set in soon.

There must be a happy medium. I think there is, I believe we can all survive this without passing germs and without going bat-shit crazy. And so, when I went for a walk yesterday and saw some neighbours sitting on their porch, I stopped and talked. Yes, we stayed 6 feet apart; no, we didn’t sip from each other’s wine glasses. When BoyGenius’ friends rode up to our house on their bikes and tried to entice him out I sent him; between the four of them these kids are dealing with anxiety, depression, self-harm, low self-esteem, a parent with cancer, ADHD (x 3) and many other stressors. They needed to get out, they needed to spend time together, and we’re only on day 3. I feel confident (enough) that they maintained a safe level of social distance while getting some social connection.

Nobody wants to spread the #coronavirus. We are not trying to kill you or your loved ones. But we may need to get out and interact. Humans are social beings. This is only the beginning. Please understand that some of us cannot simply #staythefuckathome.

For some people the virus is not the worst thing that could happen to them. Covid-19 may not be what kills them. Isolation and loneliness could. Despair. Abusive relationships. We are living in a powder keg.

If you need help during this weird and surreal time we are living in, please reach out.

#weareallinthistogether

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my friend Gord

When my son was three years old, he attended a little “pre-school” learning programme offered by our town’s recreation department. It was, and still is, aptly titled “Ready, Set, School!” and is held at our local community centre. Our neighbourhood’s community centre shares space with our neighbourhood school. Children from every area of our town sign up for this particular programme; it’s very popular and we were lucky to get space. The great thing for those of us who live “in area” is that not only are our kids getting ready for school but they are getting accustomed to the very surroundings they will be spending the next 10 years of their lives in. It’s fantastic.

One day, when HardWorker and I were both attending a special Mothers’ Day Tea that is held in May, the pre-schoolers were “interrupted” by a visit from the school custodian. He was a familiar enough face to the kids, as he would come in once in awhile to check on the a/c or clean up a spill in the shared space. I guess some of the moms that were attending this special tea had a questioning look on their faces (something in the way of “who is this strange man who just walks in?”) because one of the teachers had just begun to introduce him to the parents when BoyGenius jumped up from the table, ran over and enveloped this man’s legs in a huge bear hug, very loudly proclaiming, “I love you, Mr. Gord!” The man smiled, looked at us to see if we were okay and seeing that we were, hugged back and said, “I love you, too, BG.”

That was the moment this man became my friend Gord. He saw 350+ children every day, and had for more than 20 years. He saw these pre-schoolers maybe once a week. He knew my son’s name.

As it turned out, Gord and HardWorker had met that previous winter, both taking the same night course offered by a local college. He spoke with us at length that day, wanting to be sure we were okay with him hugging our son, concerned that in this day and age one had to be so careful with showing affection. Aware that many parents wouldn’t like to hear him say he loved their child. He did, though. He loved them all. Every.Single.One.

Over the next 6 years, Gord would often recall that day and he would always tell me, “I’m sorry, but if those kids tell me they love me, I’m going to tell them right back,” or “I know you have to be so careful, but I’m not going to deny any child a hug.”

When BoyGenius started Junior Kindergarten he was very happy that he would get to see Mr. Gord every day. By Senior Kindergarten he started calling Mr. M by his ‘real’ name. In Kindergarten my son decided he wanted to have long hair. By SK his hair was halfway down his back and Gord often asked that BG keep him in mind when he decided to cut it, as Gord’s own hair was thinning. BoyGenius just smiled, never committing. He did cut it, the summer before Grade One. Gord asked him once what had happened to the hair they cut off? Wasn’t BG supposed to save it for him? BoyGenius just smiled. Gord smiled back. By Grade Two, BoyGenius had decided he would grow his hair long again. Gord was happy, mentioning only once or twice a year that he hoped BG would remember him if he ever cut it again. Once, in Grade Three, when a totally follically-challenged colleague of HardWorker’s asked BoyGenius the same thing, if he would give him his hair when he cut it, BoyGenius very quickly answered, “No, I already have a deal with someone else.” When I told Gord about this, he was over the moon and smiled for about a week; told me again how much he loved my son.

Gord told me more than once that even though he would be retired by then, he would be coming back to the school to see BoyGenius graduate. And if you knew Gord at all, you know that he would have been there. No doubt about it.

When Gord first got sick he underwent all the necessary treatments and couldn’t wait to get back to work. He did it. He came back. He needed to. Gord was worried that if he wasn’t able to come back to school/work as soon as he wanted, depression would begin to take hold. It wasn’t so much the fact that he had cancer that might set it off, but the fact that he wasn’t able to do the things that gave him joy. That he couldn’t be fully “there” for his family, his friends, his job, his school, his co-workers, his students. I’m sure there were dark moments still, but Gord felt better being able to come back to work. When the cancer launched another attack on his body, Gord remained upbeat, telling anyone who cared to ask that although he was having a set-back, or there was some new, strange, niggling symptom that cropped up just to irritate him, he was going to beat this disease. He certainly tried. When I last saw him in July, he told me, “Yes, another two or three chemo treatments and then I’ll have time to strengthen up.” He was weak, and tired. He smiled, I smiled. BoyGenius and I both took his hand. Gord and I both cried a bit.

Gord was a man who loved his family, his friends, his co-workers, his job, his school, his students. He often spoke of his wife and sons, told us how proud he was to have such a great family. To the end of his life he praised his wife, told me (and others, I’m sure) of how wonderful she was. He was so happy to have gained a granddaughter when one of his sons started seeing a woman with a little girl. He was nervous, he told me, so hopeful that their relationship would work out because he already loved this child. Gord was a hard-worker, proud of our school, proud of the staff and students, proud of his profession; he was a great advocate for his fellow union members; he was so appreciative and spoke highly of those who worked with him. If something needed tending to at the school, Gord would take care of it. If you had any questions about where something was located, Gord knew the answer. If you needed an extra person to volunteer to receive a whipped-cream pie in the face at our annual Fun Fair fundraiser, Gord was your man. If any of the kids needed a little steering in the right direction after taking a wrong turn, Gord would be happy to find jobs for them to do, a little something to divert them, as it were. This man had a smile, a hug, a laugh, AND TIME for everyone; he had a sparkle in his eyes and love and joy in his heart. This man also suffered from depression and anxiety. He didn’t hide it. He wasn’t too proud to let people know. Our world would be a much better place if all men took heed and strived to be the kind of man that Gord was.

The last two days, BoyGenius has been having trouble with his shoes being missing when he goes into school in the morning. He’s been finding them in the lost and found. Apparently the janitor is just sweeping them up from under his hook. I suggested he put them on the shelf above his hook. He says “but everybody’s shoes are under their hook. It’s just mine that end up in the lost and found.” I smiled a little to myself when he said this but I thought, no, I’m not going to say what I’m thinking. Then BoyGenius says, “Maybe it’s Mr. M’s ghost!” followed a couple of minutes later by, “I don’t know why he would be haunting me.”

I smiled and chuckled. “Because he loves you.”

I miss you. And I love you, Mr. Gord.

Categories: family, friendship, parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Donna Day … wanna help?

Last year around this time a few of my bloggity friends gathered from far and wide for an event that was being held in Chicago. I Want a Dumpster Baby, From the Bungalow, Pinwheels and Poppies, The Monster in Your Closet, Mary Tyler Mom … they were all there. Trade show, bloggers convention? Nope. A St. Baldrick’s event. “What’s that?” you ask. “Some religious gathering?” Nope. A shave. A fundraiser. An event. This particular one was being held in Chicago, put together by Donna’s Good Things in memory of and to

Donna's Good Things event is being held at the Candlelite in Chicago

Donna’s Good Things event is being held at the Candlelite in Chicago

honour Donna Quirke Hornik, to raise much needed money to fund research in the hopes that one day children won’t have to fight cancer. I couldn’t attend but I was there in spirit and I did donate some cash. Donna was an amazing little girl and you can read her story here. It’s not my story to tell so I won’t do that, but it is my story to share and it is up to all of us to do the same. If you know of anyone who has fought cancer then you know how horrible it is … if you know of any child who has had to fight cancer then you know how much worse that is. If you haven’t got a clue (and even if you do), then please read Donna’s story,  her family’s story, her mother’s story. It ain’t pretty … but it’s beautiful.

So, Mary Tyler Mom (Donna’s mother) asked some people to blog today, Donna Day, about this year’s event. You can find out more about it and make a donation here (in case you didn’t see that last link). I wasn’t actually specifically asked, but you know, I didn’t need to be. Research into pediatric cancer is a big deal. It needs to be funded. We need to do this; we can make a difference. Sure, it takes scientists and money and stuff .. but we’ve got those things. Donate.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you don’t actually have to attend an event in order to make a donation. You don’t even have to be in the same state, province or country. You can donate to Donna’s event just by clicking through. Also thanks to this here internet, you can check to see if there might be any events in your area, if you would be more comfortable donating to or attending something like that. And by doing just that, checking for local events, I came across this little gem: a group of Tau Kappa Epsilon students from UOIT is holding an event on March 8th, 2013 at the Campus Ice Centre in Oshawa, Ontario. These young men are standing together to try to keep cancer from bullying more and more children. How can you help? Donate! You can click through and pick a certain participant to support or you can donate to the event. These guys are hoping to raise $1500 to help fund childhood cancer research. That’s not too much. I’m sure we can push them over the top. St. Baldrick’s partners with Childhood Cancer Canada Foundation so if you’re a Canuck and want your funds to go towards a Canadian organization, not to worry, they will.

Honestly, I’m not too concerned as to which St. Baldrick’s event you donate to, I just want to get you to donate. St. Baldrick’s is a good organization and like I said above, research into pediatric cancer is a big deal.

Please help.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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