Picture of Peggy CummingPeggy 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?

Actually, I did have several choices. I could choose to lock my door, shut my computer and take the phone off the hook, become a hermit and live in loneliness. I could rage with anger until I drive myself crazy and make my body even worse. I could shut myself in a dark room and cry in despair. I could wallow in depression. I could choose to be bitter and resentful and whine to my friends until I no longer had friends. And I admit that I have dipped my toe in all of these waters, for a short time. But really, in the long run, none of them is appealing, and none of them stands as a beacon to help me get through this journey.

What good does it do to live in fear, loneliness, anger or despair? Momentarily it accomplishes a much needed emotional release but, for the long run, I need something more solid, more of a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel. I choose Hope.

I am learning that the cancer journey is a very long and slow trek. Like trekking in the Himalayas, it has peaks and valleys, celebrations and slog, new cultures and familiar challenges. From my first inkling of ‘possibly cancer’, on June 22, to a complete diagnosis of ‘a new primary lung cancer with clear lymph nodes’ on October 7, took 106 days. And after that, there will be another 36 days until my surgery on Nov. 12. That is a great number of days to wake up, seeking the energy, and strength to face my uncertain world. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to say, ‘Good Morning World,’ to a world without hope. Hope is my beacon, my light, my encouragement.

Perhaps I am not being realistic, or pragmatic, or practical, but that is not my style. I have to do what works for me. I have to heed Jack Leyton and not lose hope. I need to hope for a quality of life after my cancer, to hope that I will enjoy many more years with my family and friends, to hope that I will play with my grandchildren, and to hope that I will swim Meech Lake again.


Peggy has her own photoblog, the F-stops here, where she posts a photograph every day.