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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Conversation With My Mother – For World Cancer Day

Yesterday afternoon, I had the urge to phone my mother and talk to her.
Unfortunately, that couldn’t happen physically because my mom died on July 9, 2011, three months after being diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic and liver cancer.
Her death cut me to the core. I thought she’d live for another 10 years, like her mom, who died at age 94.
I didn’t realize how much I would miss my mom until after she died. I suppose that’s normal, but I don't like it. Her death has not stopped me from talking to her, however. I have conversations with her all the time – in my mind, on some higher level than I ever experienced prior to her death. She is a deep part of who I am, so it makes sense that she will always be with me in one way or another.
Today is World Cancer Day.
In honour of all those who are fighting this terrible disease, and those who have lost their fight or lost others to cancer, I am taking a giant step outside my comfort zone and sharing with you my most recent conversation with my mom.
This is what we talked about yesterday:

Hi, Mom. How are you doing?
Great. Really great.
I miss you.
I know you do, but it’s okay. Things are beautiful here and you are doing fine. You’re a good writer and a good person. Live your life and help others. That’s what it’s all about.
Thanks, Mom. What do you want me to do?
Tell them there is life after death. Tell them there is hope. Tell them Dionne’s story – over and over again. She helped me. She helped you cope with my death. Tell them all. Hope is important.
I’m trying, Mom. The journalist in me doesn’t often let the marketing/public relations person take over.
That’s okay. Be you. You are perfect.
Thanks, Mom. You always did know how to keep me grounded. Hey, wait a minute. That ‘you are perfect’ part doesn’t sound like the real you. You’re the one who told Auntie Janet not to read one of the books I published because she wouldn’t like it. While I was standing right there!
(A smile.) Well, it’s true. She wouldn’t have liked it. So there.
Ah, I can see your one eyebrow lifting right now. And your smile. I love that smile. More of a smirk, I guess. Thanks for that, by the way. It keeps people around me smiling a lot. Okay, Mom, I’ve cried enough tears for now. I’ll talk to you later. Have a good day.
I will. I always do.
I love you.
I love you, too. Be strong.

            So now I guess I have to follow my mom’s advice and tell you about Dionne Warner. She’s amazing. She’s battling her eighth cancer diagnosis right now, with grace and courage and tons of humour. She was fighting her fifth, sixth, and seventh cancer diagnoses when I met her in 2010 and began writing a book about her and her husband Graham.
The book’s called Never Leave Your Wingman: Dionne and Graham Warner’s Story of Hope, and it’s as much a love story as anything. It’s helped a lot of people, including me (we’ve sold more than 6,000 copies so far). Its about living life to the fullest, every day, whether youre sick or not.

 In April 2011, I had two chapters left to write of the book when we got the phone call that Mom had inoperable cancer. I worked on my laptop as we drove to Edmonton, Alberta to visit Mom that Easter weekend, and I looked at photos of Dionne and Graham Warner, dressed in costume and dancing into her chemo treatments in Regina, Saskatchewan. I shared those photos with my mom and my siblings and other family members in that hospital room. The photos made us laugh, gave us some information about cancer treatments, and took a lot of the fear out of cancer for us. We had never faced the disease that up-close-and-personal before.
A few weeks later, Mom phoned me from her home and asked, “Did that Dionne girl ever try
anything green?”
It took me a few minutes to figure out what Mom was asking, but I realized she meant alternative, complementary therapies aside from chemotherapy or radiation. “Yes, Mom. Dionne sees a doctor of natural medicine, which is different from a naturopath or a homeopath, and she takes supplements to help her fight the toxicity of her cancer treatments. She’s also been to Mexico twice for complementary therapies.”
A few weeks later, I found out that Mom was trying some homeopathic therapies. One of my aunts said the possibility of alternative treatments gave my mom some hope and put a smile back on her face and a new spring in her step. Mom started to bounce back mentally and be the same strong woman I’d grown up with.
Mom took that therapy until the day before she died. My youngest sister cared for her in that final week and when we arrived for our final visit with Mom, my tired, frail mom insisted on pulling herself out of bed and walking out to the living room to sit in her recliner. We knew it was draining every ounce of strength she had, but she was determined to make this final visit seem as normal as possible. It was heartbreaking and beautifully strong.
That’s my mom ... tough to the end. And that’s the spirit she wants all of us to live with.
Be strong. Fight to the end. Be good to each other. Help others. It’s what my mom did for all of her 84 years. It’s what Dionne Warner does in her ongoing cancer battles.
Cancer Sucks. But we don’t have to take it lying down.
Let’s Fight!

P.S.  You will be seeing a lot more about the inspiring Dionne Warner in the coming weeks. She is the face of the new national Beauty Gives Back campaign of the Look Good ... Feel Better program to help patients cope with cancer. She has been interviewed extensively by media across Canada and more is yet to come. You can read Dionne and Graham’s love story in our Never Leave Your Wingman book. (We’re selling signed copies on our website for $19.95 CAD, plus shipping, within Canada). $1 from every book sold is donated to the Cancer Research Unit at the University of Saskatchewan via the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency.
Here are some links that will tell you more about Dionne and Graham Warner and the Never Leave Your Wingman book:

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