On Oct 28th it was my first time returning to Harrison Hot Springs since 2008 when I went with Michael. (The trip was at the invitation of a dear new friend who did not know about the significance of Harrison or this weekend.) Two months after that last trip he died. A year ago today I had a successful four hour heart surgery after 8 months of procedures and another surgery.
I scattered some of Michael's ashes in Steveston, BC on the anniversary of his death in 2014 and then more in Hawaii in 2015. I had considered saving some of his ashes and having them mixed with mine one day and then scattered.
But today, on October 30th it felt like the right time to scatter the last of Michael's ashes in a place that was special to us. Before my dear friend was able to say a prayer, two things happened. Something blew down from above and hit me. It wasn't hard but it wasn't a light tap either. Then a moment later I felt like my left shoulder was gently slapped and the string on my hoodie flew up. It startled me and I believe it was Michael.
Then my friend and I held hands with the container of Michael's ashes. She said a lovely prayer and then I scattered the balance of his ashes. After doing this my stomach felt hollow. It was a funny feeling but it was a good one. It was time for me.
Anna Swabey, a life well lived
I happened to read the story of Anna Swabey, an amazing young woman who was given a devastating diagnosis. Instead of crawling into bed and accepting her fate, she chose to live life to the fullest and helped to raise so much money that she will undoubtedly save many lives.
As I read her story, I was so happy that she took a leap of faith and found her forever love with Andy Bell. My Michael did the same with me. He put himself on PlentyOfFish when he was stage 4 terminal cancer. He told me on our first telephone call, before we ever met so I could back out if I wanted. I didn't. We met and fell in love. I knew the risk getting involved and I have never regretted taking that chance. He was the love of my life and one of the smartest choices I ever made. I am so grateful he took that leap of faith. If he hadn't, I would have never met an amazing, brave, courageous and loving man. That would have been a tragedy.
I wrote a book as it is so important to share our story. For Michael, Love Cynda was published earlier this year. 11% of sale proceeds goes to the BC Cancer Foundation.
I hope you read it. The world would be a better place if we followed our hearts and didn't judge. We cannot know how it feels unless we are in the same circumstances.
As a first time author I really had no idea what to expect. Before I even did my first author event all I did was visualise me with a stack of books and signing them as people lined up. I never thought I would have amazing, heartfelt conversations that would come to mean so much.
At my first author event, a woman came up to me and said "I have cancer, I am having one of my good days and I am currently going through chemo." I should have hugged her, I didn't expect to hear this and yet I should have. Michael looked so well for months, you couldn't tell he was stage 4 terminal cancer.
An older woman came up to me to say she lost her husband to cancer and kudos to me to be able to write about it. She couldn't, it has been two years and it is hard. She just doesn't know.
Another woman came up to tell me that she just lost her husband to cancer and they were married for over 25 years. She said "no one wants to talk about it." I hope she calls or writes me as I will talk to her and I told her that. I am no expert, I only know how I feel.
I was asked questions such as, have I dated since Michael died? How did he deal with the terminal diagnosis, did he accept that he was going to die? How did my sons feel about my dating someone who was dying?
Someone else's sister had gone through something similar to my story. The difference is that the man she dated was very sick but he chose not to reveal this to her until later.
A man came up to me and told me his wife was dealing with a major health issue, not cancer and she was going to be okay. He was so grateful, he just wanted to share his story.
As hard as it is to see people in pain, I am glad they trust me so much that they share their stories. I really do care and it is important to everyone who is grieving to know someone will just listen to them. The words I really came to hate at times were "Everything happens for a reason" or "God never gives you more than you can handle". Neither of these help when your heart has shattered into a million pieces.
I met another woman a few days ago. She told me she was reading my book and the page that she was on. She told me she was reading it every night. Her eyes welled up as she told me this. She said she was enjoying it so much. I am glad it is bringing her comfort when she is either remembering or dealing with something now.
If my book wasn't about cancer, loss and grief I wouldn't be the recipient of these very personal and touching stories.
Although I have been fortunate to sell many copies of my book, I have been more fortunate that so many strangers have shared their stories with me. For this, I am truly honoured. Thank you.
The BC Ride to Conquer Cancer
On August 28, 2016 The BC Ride to Conquer Cancer wrapped up another successful year. 1,687 riders participated and $7.1 million dollars was raised for cancer research.
In 2012 and 2013, I volunteered with the BC Cancer Agency. Unexpected health issues and commitments have kept me from volunteering since.
It was definitely more than just being a volunteer; it was a life altering experience. The Ride is a coming together of people from all walks of life who have one thing in common, "cancer".
Cancer may have taken away someone they loved or their loved one is currently battling cancer or they are a survivor or know a survivor.
I lost my fiancé Michael to cancer and after eight years, it still is hard to think about all the pain and suffering he had to endure. On the other side I am grateful that I know so many cancer survivors.
On the first day of the ride I remember waking up very early and getting a ride down to our pit stop. We set up the various stations, water, Gatorade, protein bars, granola bars, fruit and the infamous and coveted waffles. My job was humbling and I was grateful that I was healthy and able to help out. I filled water bottle after water bottle, handed off snacks and wished riders a good and safe ride as I waved them off.
The end of the first day of the ride is one of the highlights. Riders are emotionally drained but feel a sense of accomplishment as they completed their first day. For many it is their first time and others a yearly event. In the evening, in the dining area, up on the stage, some riders shared their stories as to why they participate. All are very personal and emotional. It was interesting how we reacted to the stories, we were deeply moved and it just strengthened our resolve to fight harder and raise more money.
My first volunteer year was extra special as I knew several of the riders and it was a special joy as I watched them cross the finish line.
Participating in the Ride either as a rider or a volunteer makes you feel less helpless. You are doing something to make a difference. Research saves lives.
After Michael died, I felt powerless. Our love wasn't enough to save him, I felt like if I loved him enough he would be here. It is my hope that in 5 years or less that those with the same type of cancer that took Michael from us will be able to beat cancer because of the inroads made with research.