Peggy Cumming

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Peggy_newPeggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete, currently in training for major surgery

 

The quiet “little deaths”
of everyday existence
are mourned as much as those
of resounding magnitude,
for grief makes no comparisons nor judgements
and has no understanding
of degree.

These words are the foreword to a small book called To Heal Again: towards serenity and the resolution of grief, by poet and family counselor, Rusty Berkus. The paperback cover, mystical pictures and vivid colours would lead you, perhaps, to think it is a child’s picture book, but it is not. It is a book to help adults along the road to emotional healing.

I don’t remember when I first got this book, but I remember well that I have used it many times. I have cried at each page as I grieved over my parents’ gentle deaths, both age appropriate in their nineties, and over the untimely deaths of cherished friends in their fifties.

In my life, I find that grief is not restricted to the death of loved ones. ...continue reading

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Peggy_newPeggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete, currently in training for major surgery
 

“Hi. How are ya?”

“I’m great, thanks! How ’bout you?”

This typical Canadian greeting is repeated millions of times daily across our country, part of our polite character, and our culture. There may be acceptable variations on the reply, depending on how well the two people know each other.

“I feel a cold coming on, but I’m fine.”

“I didn’t sleep well last night, so I’m tired.”

It would be totally unacceptable to say, “I have a touch of lung cancer, but, other wise, I’m fine!” Simply. Not. Polite.

It is interesting that we ask each other this question so frequently, but we do not actually expect to listen to an honest answer. It is just the culturally accepted standard greeting. For me, when my honest answer was, “I’ve just been diagnosed with lung cancer, thanks,” I could not break cultural expectations and say that!

When I initially learned of my diagnosis, and people asked, ‘How are ya?’ I felt like a deer-in-the-headlights; ...continue reading

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Peggy_newPeggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete, currently in training for major surgery
 

I’m Pissed Off!
I’m really, really Pissed Off! It isn’t Fair!
Shall I tell you how I really feel???
I’M PISSED OFF!!! IT ISN’T FAIR!

There, I’ve said it out loud, and in black and white!

Here’s the story of how these two urchins finally penetrated my stability barricade.

Recently, I had my ‘Pre-op’ appointment at the General Hospital. This was a day where ten soon-to-be lung surgery patients were being prepared. First, we had an excellent two hour presentation by a nurse, called ‘Lung Surgery Education’, giving all the details of preparation for the surgery, what to expect during the surgery day, and recovery both in the hospital and at home. Then, individually, we met with a pharmacist, a nurse and an anaesthetist. The purpose was to exchange clinical information and also possibly provide an opportunity for the staff to assess our level of craziness! Would each of us be a compliant patient, or a difficult one?

At my final meeting with the anaesthetist, she did a thorough clinical question-and-answer session, again asking for my previous experience under anaesthetic, and telling me what to expect.

She ended with, “Do you have any questions?”

My burning concern about all of my upcoming treatment has been, “What will my lung capacity and lung function be after 25% is removed?” ...continue reading

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Peggy_newPeggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete, currently in training for major surgery

 

I am not a political animal, by any means, but I always admired Jack Layton. He was down-to-earth, authentic, passionate, energetic, devoted to his wife, and a cyclist. Days before he died, he wrote a ‘Letter to Canadians’, and ended by saying,

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair.”

He also spoke directly to other Canadians on their own cancer journey, and recognized that,

My own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope.”

I try to apply these words to my life, but I could never have written them so clearly. Even before having cancer, but especially since the first time, I have tried to keep focused on Hope, in all walks of my life. In this current cancer situation, I find that friends have asked me how I could be positive and how did I keep a hopeful attitude. Initially, I didn't know the answer, and I shrugged off the question. But after thinking about, I knew my answer, and replied with my own question: What are my choices? ...continue reading

Peggy_newPeggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete.

 

As a member of the Busting Out dragon boat team for nine years, I made many breast cancer ‘thrivor’, friends. Most of our paddlers were living healthy ‘after cancer’ lives, but there was always the ongoing anxiety of recurrences, and too many of the women did have them.

Ten years after her original diagnosis and treatment, my very close friend, 50 year old Chris, had some symptoms, and was put through a battery of tests. Chris asked me to go with her for the follow up appointment with her Oncologist, to receive test results. With extreme gentleness and kindness, her oncologist explained some medical terms, but we both knew he meant that her breast cancer had metastasized and spread to several parts of her body. Chris wanted to be told the truth, and reluctantly the doctor said, “The rest of your life will be counted in years, not in decades,” and the three of us cried together. After living life to the fullest for two more years, Chris died at age 52, and I gave the eulogy at her funeral ...continue reading

Peggy_newPeggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete.
 

I soon discovered that, "You have highly suspicious nodules”, also means, “You will have many appointments!”

"Don’t make any travel plans for the next 3 – 6 months," said my GP as he put my name into The System. The phone began to ring - MRI, PET scan, Nuclear Medicine, biopsy - to a total of ten schedules for scans, biopsies and doctors. My calendar became peppered with appointments.

One appointment was to see a Respiratory Specialist at the Cancer Assessment Centre at the General Campus of the Ottawa Hospital. I often walk or bike past the hospital, and have visited patients from time-to-time. But it has been nearly 22 years since I was a patient there, with a broken leg. Since then, I have grown to have confidence in my health. But, there I was, on the elevator, approaching the Cancer Assessment Centre.

I was trying to be very casual and nonchalant, pretending that I was going for a coffee at Bridgehead. After all, I didn’t really have cancer; I only had a ‘suspicion’, and Denial was a very comfortable place to be! But when I exited the elevator and saw the Big Lettering, CANCER ASSESSMENT CENTRE, some confidence slipped and my nonchalant attitude wobbled. ...continue reading

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Peggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete.
 

In 1985, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, the disease was private and hushed. Other than a campaign for SBE (Self Breast Exam) there was no publicity or awareness. Feeling ashamed and embarrassed, and thinking that I had somehow caused this, I kept my diagnosis secret and silent from all but a very few close friends. After my treatment, my fears and feelings were repressed and locked, and I got on with my life, my family, my career and my health.

Twelve years later, I was one of the founding members of the Busting Out dragon boat program, and suddenly I was surrounded by other survivors and the steadily growing ‘Pink Ribbon Culture’! I found kindred sisters in these women, and my deeply secreted feelings found an outlet and an expression. My silence was broken, and relief came flooding in.

This year, when I finally accepted the ‘highly suspicious for Lung Cancer' report, I realized that I would not, and could not, be secret and silent about my disease. Learning from experience, I was concerned for my mental health as much as for my physical health ...continue reading

Guest blogger, Peggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete.
 

So, the CT report found nodules that are ‘highly suspicious for lung cancer”. Now what am I supposed to do with that news? How am I supposed to react? How am I supposed to feel? There is no rehearsal for this, I thought. No class to take, no website to consult. I realized that I was alone in figuring out how to deal with this.

I needed several days to digest this information, to accept it, to find the courage to make it real by saying it out loud. Eventually, I was able to speak the dreaded words, to tell my two adult children. Because we are a very pragmatic family, and not given to drama, they were very calm, and declared their support. I also think, because they had been through Breast Cancer with me 29 years ago as children, there was a certain familiarity for them, and they had faith in a positive outcome.

I realized that I had to learn from them, and that the best way to handle this was to carry on with my normal life and my daily routine. In my daily life, I am a Swimmer. ...continue reading

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Guest blogger, Peggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete.
 

I enjoy a healthy, active life style and activities with my family and friends. In my fourteen years of retirement, I have climbed Kilimanjaro, hiked the Inca Trail and the West Coast Trail, cycled in many countries, and won medals at Provincial and National Masters’ swimming championships.

I have survived Breast Cancer, (age 41), a broken leg (age 49) and Melanoma (age 52).

On June 8, 2014, I celebrated my 70th birthday with a swim across Meech Lake in Gatineau Park, Quebec, with my daughter and friends. Five days later, June 13, I woke up with a sore throat and laryngitis. My third cancer story begins there. ...continue reading