Tag Archives: cancer

sweet canadian dreams smilin’ jack…

I don’t care what colours your preferred political party are—Jack Layton was a great Canadian leader.  He was, and continues to be, an inspirational force.  Canadian pride is limitless.  It forms lumps in even the most temperate of Canadian throats.  Jack Layton knew this.  He felt this.

In the days before his death, he penned a letter to his beloved compatriots, showing his grit for life and his passion for his country.

For those of us that live in the shadow of cancer daily, every death from a cancer recurrence is a direct attack against our own survival odds.  Jack’s humble and selfless personalization and reflection to this fear in his letter moved me to tears.  He has known my fear.

“Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped.  So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.  To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.”

In his closing, Jack shared a truth.  A truth that underlines the basis of his personal victories—and can no longer be considered political agenda hoopla.

“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.  All my very best, Jack Layton”

Good night smilin’ Jack.  Sweet dreams.


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Photography Exhibit Postponed

A great big Thank YOU to everyone who has been involved with the Understanding Meets Hope Photography Project!  It has taken considerable courage for the subjects to come forward, welcome me into their homes, and have conversations with me regarding their disease, treatment and their emotional health along the way.  Some moments of the conversations have been harder than others, and at those moments these people have selflessly allowed me to photograph their feelings in order to capture some “truths” about what a diagnosis with cancer (or any life threatening disease) can mean when not covered up with humour and bravery.  To Mike, Mark, Peggyanne and Beth… words don’t seem adequate enough to express what my heart holds for you.  I came to your homes to take your photograph …and left with far more. 

I believe in this project and sometimes underestimate its importance… even if just to me.  I may have also underestimated the amount of time that should be invested and given to people considering this project for themselves.  Since there is no rush, l have recently decided to postpone the exhibit date in order to find a few more subjects for the final display.  In the end I want to be comfortable knowing that I did everything I could to get the word out and offer the opportunity to everyone.

Keep checking back for a new Exhibit date! …and thanks for being along for the ride. 



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Muse Photography on Cable14 Coffee Break TODAY!

coffeebreakThe interview with Mike Fortune from Cable14 will be airing today at about 25 minutes after most hours and again on the 9th at about 5 minutes before most hours.   The producer will be dubbing me a copy and I hope to have that feed onto the website for those of you without basic cable services.  Special thank you to the Associate Producer, Kathleen Foster, for all her sincerity and warmth.

This weekend I’ll be taping a feature segment with Cable14 for their LINKED show!  Stay tuned for airing details.

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Filed under Interviews, muse photography, projects & events, Television

A Statement of Need is a Statement indeed!

insanity1I have spent a considerable amount of time exploring the link between physical healthcare (the body) and psychological healthcare (the mind) as it pertains to the Canadian government healthcare system.  All of the mandates from the Minister of Health right on down is about protecting the health and safety of all Canadians.  I may need to check the Minister’s handbook for their definition of health to be sure, but I think I’ve managed to establish a gap. 

Amidst a sea of body do-gooders, there is one organization or unit that promotes mental health, aiming to maintain and improve positive mental health and well being for all of the population.   You just have to be mad dog crazy in order to use these resources.  I mean eyeball rolling and frothing at the mouth crazy.  If you are only confused, frustrated, and slightly twitchy.. well.. you likely won’t get the referral. 

It seems to me that we’ve spent decades and decades socially engineering ourselves with unhelpful help.   Fast forward to the year 2009, where the conditions of life and moral hazards are shadowed only by imminent economic and ecological disasters of global proportions.  Us worry?  Pishaw!  I can only imagine that the eyeball rolling might be on the rise, and then we will see a bottle-necked system struggling to put out the insanity fire.  Good news for all the “ologists” out there. 

I’m disappointed with the policymakers and their reactive care.  What good is their PhD in textbook knowledge when there is no understanding that the body dies without the mind?   I bet Mr. PhD sees the dentist every six months for some preventative maintenance and attention.  Where’s my mind maintenance?  Just a little cleaning is all… loosen up the guk and keep me on the straight and narrow.   Stop me from this inexorable spread into the common pool of lunacy.   Well… at least I will have shiny teeth…

With this project and my plight to expose just a small aspect of emotional wellness (in relation to a cancer diagnosis) I have comfortably fallen into the role of emotional educator and resilience scientist.  Through my discussions and interviews with people struggling with this disease the best cocktail I found to offer them was to approach them with consolation and encouragement and leave them with confidence and inspiration.   We should treat everyone we encounter with the same ingredients.  A very human philosophy aimed to help people help themselves.  To heal their minds and dig deep for their own resilience.  We must become a race of doers and not just helpers.

Imagine for a moment what it would be like to live in a society where most folks were emotionally well-adjusted.   Where well-being had human value,  putting the health of our minds and emotions on the same level as our bodies.  Less crime, less hate, less self-pity and loathing.  That’s just to start.  One might even be able to hear choruses of Kumbaya coming from under street bridges and that stranger that passes you on the sidewalk might just say hello and look you in the eye.  Spend real time with real people talking about real things.  Needs, wishes, desires and even fears. 

What could be more important than validating someone’s existence?  Try it.

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got Cancer? be a-Muse-d!

tvcogecoThis morning we taped an interview segment for the news on Cogeco!  (It will air on channel 23 for Cogeco cable customers next week.)  I was beyond nervous.  I trembled and perspired like a mad dog in heat.  Once or twice I feared I might be electrocuted by the microphone battery pack they had nestled down into my back forty.  And …I sat alone on a stool with football stadium sized lights all around me revealing every unflattering nook and cranny that I try so hard daily to disguise.   

I put myself out there today, outside my comfort zone – WAY outside – and I showed bravery in myself that I haven’t seen in a long time.  I’m staying consistent to my purpose and true to myself.  Today I reached out to people who are suffering.  Hopefully someone will show their own bravery …and reach back to me. 


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Filed under Interviews, muse photography, Television

Understanding meets Hope: A photography Exhibit

understanding meets hopeImages contribute to how we see ourselves, how we define and relate to the world, and what we perceive as significant or differentI decided to document the emotional cancer journey of strangers in order to capture the naked truth of it and then display it out in the open in an April 2009 exhibit for all to see.  Still images overcome boundaries of language, skin colour, age, religious beliefs, education and socio-economic levels.  It is simply put… people looking at people.


The importance of revealing the impact of the emotional cancer is to remove some long associated assumptions with this disease as well as help those that have not been afflicted to no longer fear its mystery and become dilligent in their early detection.   Early detection is our most powerful weapon against this disease.


I have enlisted the media’s help in order to help me find willing subjects.  Those who are suffering and even those who are dying.  I would also like to include folks that are getting better and some who have come through it but still carry it’s weight from time to time.  I need these same people afflicted with the disease or those suffering its effects to allow me to capture their deepest and sometimes darkest moments and be willing to share those moments captured with others in order to teach truth and hope.  It will not be an easy task to persuade people to come forward, but hopefully in appealing to them and their families, they will allow me (with my unique perspective and understanding) to include them as part of an incredible journey of hope.


I have 3 TV interviews coming up in the next few weeks to aid in my plight for volunteers.  (I hope to stream in some video should it be recorded.)  If you know of anyone who would be willing to participate in this project, please give me a call or send me a note.  Thanks.



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Cancer chasing cancer (An excerpt from my journals)

In 2006 I was dying.  I was diagnosed with a voracious and debilitating disease that ate away at my mind, body and spirit.  I was diagnosed with cancer.  Upon hearing my diagnosis, I knew myself to be dead within 24 hours.  I had been forever linked to a new race of people, a casualty of a physical war upon my body with a stigma of epic proportions.  In a matter of moments my identity of strength, health and confidence was wiped clean only to be replaced by weakness, pity and fear.  Total strangers would sigh their pity as I passed them and even my friends and family would avert their eyes from mine as my last eyelash came floating down before them.  I was alone… alone with death.


A diagnosis of cancer brings together a combination of two unfortunate diseases in one – a double whammy of stress and strain.  Physical cancer eats away at your cells with the sole intention of your eventual death and emotional cancer attacks your mind and your spirit but is as equally dangerous and unforgiving. 


Not all cancers are the same, nor are all emotional impacts, but what I have determined to be true is that if left unchecked and ignored the emotional cancer can be your death… even if your body lives on.  Physical cancer affects you individually; emotional cancer is contagious and can infect those around you.  I have found this cancer, the emotional cancer, to be the most debilitating, the one that caused me the most suffering, and the most widely misunderstood and untreated cancer of them all.


We’ve been conditioned to fear cancer, and we do so dutifully.  We fear – we fear what cancer does, we fear the mystery of it, we fear loss of life, incapacitation and loss of control.  We avoid the discussion, we encourage those afflicted to think positive and we turn our loved ones into warriors insisting that they are not trying hard enough should treatment be failing.  Cancer causes suffering, not just for some, but for all who are touched by it.  There may be varying degrees but it’s not just some who struggle with fear and self-pity while others show courage and strength, everyone afflicted will have moments of each; its only the moments that you see them that you may pass judgement and decide for them.  The emotional cancer is a culmination of all the dark feelings as well as the courageous and hopeful feelings all rolling around together competing to come out on top.  Who wins one day is a coin toss really, and each day (or hour for that matter) can be different.  These dark feelings are where our fears are; this is the mystery of cancer. It’s important to know that the cancer itself is not the monster, it’s our perceptions of it that makes it our reality.  Recognizing our feelings and accepting that we will be engulfed in varying emotions from time to time is the first step in understanding the truth about cancer.  Emotions are raw and honest and there is no shame in being human and allowing yourself to feel.  When you understand this truth, then you can begin to teach hope. 






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