Archive of ‘cancer’ category

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)

I’ve been trying to find the right words all week. I’ve looked under stones and between onion-skin pages, daffodils and piano keys, and realized they could not exist. There will never be words tailor-made for this experience. Language, my favorite art form, has it’s limitations.
My father passed away in the quiet blue hours of Tuesday morning. It still feels impossible, a thing that could not be. How can you go from speaking in the vibrant, immediate, present tense to speaking about such a human in the past tenses, in all their complexity? In a way though, the hardest part was the last 10 days of my fathers life, when his body was waiting to follow his soul. The last time he spoke to me, felt like the day he left the Earth. I feel that Mum and I are at peace, comforted in the knowledge that he is no longer suffering, something he was very clear he did not want.
Dave lived an extraordinary live filled with joy in the ordinary moments, something I aspire to always.  His passion for wine and good food took him to many corners of the world. My father was passionate, eccentric, adventuresome and always game (particularly if that game was Scrabble!) for anything. He never treated me as a child, but always as my own person, and wondered at this strange, tiny person that was connected to him. He loved me deeply, unconditionally, and made sure to take every opportunity to tell me.

We’d be in the middle of a cutthroat game of canasta, or I’d be caramelizing onions in his vintage copper-bottom pan, knitting or reading on the couch, and he’d suddenly look at me intensely.

“Nicole”, he’d say, “Nicole, I have something very important I need to tell you”. His tone would suggest he had just discovered the secret to multi-dimensional travel or the final numbers of Pi.
I’d respond with a querying, “Yes…?”.
He’d make sure I’d stopped whatever I was doing, burning onions be damned, and look me in the eye, eyebrows arched in that impressive yet ridiculous way only Dad could pull off. He’d say, “I love you.”, as if it was the most important thing in the universe.
I’d quirk my own brow – not quite as sharply, but still, I have inherited that skill. I’d say “I love you, too”, letting out only a tiny hint of the required teenage exasperation at familial affection come into my voice (Yay! I’m 23 now and have [almost-totally] outgrown that!), and ask “Was that all?”.
And he’d reply with a simple “yes”, and a simple, knowing smile. <3

My father spent 69 incredible years on this planet. I only wish that I had known him for longer than my 23. But it wasn’t only 23 years, was it?, because Dad and I measured in some other unit of time; moments.

At the end of Whiffen Spit in Sooke where we’d taken many a walk, was a bench. After the long walk to the end of the point, we’d sit for moments and take in the sights. Rocks hurled up the strand, kelp strewn on the beach, the lighthouse, seagulls, undulating currents, the lush evergreens of East Sooke, which several years later would become our home. The bench was placed there in memory of someone elses loved ones, and bore the quote, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” Both of my parents loved that quote, and the sentiment. My parents taught me to seek out those breath-taking moments, to trust in my heart and passions and to treat others with compassion [unless they are telemarketers ;), I’m sort of joking. ]. I am so grateful.

Let’s raise a glass to my Dad, Dave Bottles. A man who’s last night quite literally hinted at his destiny <3. My father drank deeply of this world. And encouraged me to do the same.

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
~ e.e. cummings

The hands holding my heart.

It was a beautiful day here. The kind of day that makes the East Coast jealous 😉. Blue sky. A freshness in the air, a hint of spring at the corners of flower beds. Summer is a sweet far thing.

Looking forward while reflecting back.

As the sun sets, I’m sitting on Willows beach. I’m mildly freezing but it’s worth it to see the sky fade from brightest blue to faint pastels, a hint of pink and orange touching the edges of the clouds that cling close to the land. I’m grateful it’s such a beautiful day. It makes everything better.We spent the afternoon at the hospital. My dad sleeps almost all the time. He isn’t in pain. That’s exactly what he wanted. We asked he be taken off the medications they were giving him, to turn off his pacemaker, and let him be. No subject has ever been taboo, and I’m grateful to have been able to discuss birth, death and miracles in between with my family, and mum and I are deeply respectful of those  wishes.  I want him to be at peace, with just his breath and heartbeat, and feeling the love, us at his side until the end of this wild journey that we had the privilege of sharing.
I feel like there are tight hands around my heart. A tight fist of panic and grief. It feels as though I can scarcely breathe. I worry what it will mean when the hands release, with a final sigh of breathe. The sound and smell of the ocean calmed me. Steady waves gently rolling in to cover the bare beach. I can control them no more than my fathers breaths, but I can observe and cherish each. Footprints track through the rocky beach, but the birds seem few, and the last dogs and people turn in. A part of me wants to lean closer to the waves, to listen to what they whisper, for them to wash over me and wash away this feeling. But this feeling is a reflection of a life lived with love. It is a beautiful reminder of how deeply we as humans are able to feel.


I love the ocean.

I brought my dad a bouquet of flowers from the home garden. It’s a wild space, and beautiful for it. Lavender, Rosemary flowers, dandelions, heather, delicate weeds I have no name for. Dad loves to see my face light up when he gives me flowers, and it brought my heart solace to do the same for him, even if he sees them only in dreams, or catches a whif of Rosemary.

Thank you all so much for your beautiful words. It means the world to my mum and I. I’m so blessed to have been born to the parents I have, and feel such gratitude that they know my love, and see the joy they bring to my infinite moments. 💜

I love you, Dad.

Life begins with a promise. It is promised, when you are born, that one day you will die. You might spend 20 minutes on Earth, or revolve around the sun 60 years, or tomorrow, or 3 weeks from now. I guess in order to keep living, we pretend this isn’t true, like when you’re rereading a great book and try not to think about the ending you know is coming, so it won’t spoil the journey. There feels like there is always another tomorrow, and one after that, and the one after that…on and on unto the end of your imagination.

I became aware I was a mortal at a very young age. I was diagnosed with a genetic condition which predisposes me to tumors when I was 3 (that’s when I first remember it being explained to me). I became aware that tomorrow wasn’t promised. That there was only one promise the planet had yet to keep; that I would die. That we would all die. The first promise, my birth, had been fulfilled, and every moment was a gift. I lived every day after that with the intention of filling every second of existence with an infinite infinity of moments, memories, love.

It was easy. It was impossible. I failed. I succeed. I tried, though, and that’s the most important part. I try.

I tell my parents I love them, and hug and kiss them every night. I say goodnight, as though this might be the end of the Earth’s promise. That the tomorrow which is just dreams away might not be waiting for me. That tomorrow might move on without one of us. I’ve never told them that when I said “goodnight” and “je t’aime”, I was really whispering in my heart “goodbye”. I never wished to say a last goodbye.

So I am not wishing my father goodnight. Or goodbye. I am whispering to him with every breath we breathe together in our existence that I love him. And those are the words that have always meant everything and encompassed all.

I can’t even bring myself to type the word. That word. The word that is so final, so absolute, that once I type it, I won’t be able to see from the tears that roll down my chin. I’m not ready for a salt-stained keyboard. So I won’t. My father is taking a journey, a journey to a somewhere, a somewhere neither of us understands. He has stage 4 lymphoma. 2 weeks ago he was flummoxing me at Scrabble with his funny made-up words, eating dinner together, teasing me about how much onions I put in everything, walking, buying groceries, reading, snuggling with me. He was doing the ordinary things that make every moment extraordinary, and make up our infinity. He also went profoundly deaf, a side effect of the chemo. So we were also playing like the worst, most hysterical version of “Telephone” the planet has ever seen. So much was lost in translation, in deafness, but the love was not. Last week, we think he blacked out or his heart stopped, causing him to have a car crash (no one was hurt. not even him.). He went to ER, where he seemed alright, if a little confused and “odd”. But something as “off”. They admitted him, and he went downhill so quickly. He got a pacemaker, to combat the effects of the chemo, which were finally rearing their ugly head. After the surgery, he was very tired. A kind of tired which frightened me. Dad would wake up for a few minutes, maybe eat a little something, smile at me or say a little something, and then sleep again. Today he did that less. He is slowly walking away from me and I cannot catch up.

I’ve spent the past few days bawling at inopportune times, and wetting my dad’s pillow with tears (sorry-not-sorry). I need to make these moments even more infinitely infinite than they always have been. Because I need to store them in my heart.

I do not know how much time he has left with us. I never have. It is an unknowable thing, and we are blessed with this ignorance. Because the knowing would break us. It is breaking me. Cancer is terrifying because it makes you see the final promise looming ever-nearer.

He once told me he never imagined having children, but that he couldn’t imagine his life without me. <3

There is never enough time to be with the ones you love. A thousand lifetimes and the last “I love you’s” would still break my soul. I am so grateful for being a part of my Dad’s incredible journey on Earth.

And feel deep gratitude and love for all possible moments we’ve shared together, past, present and future <3.


Oh Hai.

Hi guys. I know, long time no talk. I feel a little awkward writing this, like when you run for the first time after taking a long break. It takes a little while to warm up, to remember the way words sound coming out of your mind with a click of keys. I keep hitting the backspace button…which is something I abhor. As you can probably tell. I’m a ‘stream of consciousness’ kind of girl. I don’t really know how to fill you in on all the things that have been happening in my life, or to explain why I stopped writing for awhile.

You know how when you’re reading a book, and you get an inkling as to where the story is heading. Foreshadowing. Or maybe you’re a hopeless romantic and you hope the girl ends up with the guy in the end, and the run off into the sunset, even though this is a post-apocalyptic zombie novel, and it’s looking like 90% likely that the said boy is possibly undergoing zombification, and you know in your heart it might not end that way. But you keep reading anyway. Hoping the ending would be satisfying, even if it turned out differently?

Writing about things that happen to you is kind of like that. But there are less zombies in my life, which I’m not sure is helping ;). I started this blog in 2008, when I needed something to keep me moving forward. That thing was words, that thing was things I didn’t remember doing, that thing was sharing all the myriad of wonders and pains and progress and fashioning all of that into hope. I wanted to be able to keep writing, and one day, I’d have a happy ending. I know how that ending will look. I see it so clearly. It ends with me quite literally walking off into the sunset, with health, with hope, and a future full of possibilities. So far I’m looking at 2/4, so not too shabby. But to be honest, this past year, which shall henceforth be known as the “year of the loud silence”, I was so ready for this chapter of my life to be over. I wanted to write a new story, a story about a girl going to university, and seeing the world, and taking up fucking jogging or whatever the kool kids are doing these days (okay, I know it’s not jogging…but I digress).

I wanted to be better the day I got sick. And the day after that. And every day for the past *8* years (oh, fuck. I haven’t written that out before. that’s scary).

When life throws you a curve ball, sometimes you have to shout “PLOT TWIST” and keep moving on. In an entirely new direction

So that’s why I’m writing again. Because I’m getting better, my body is taking it’s sweet time. It’s time for a change in perspective.

To stand on my shoulders, and look backwards, and stare through walls, and shake jars filled with wishes.

And now I have exactly 0 clues as to how I’m going to explain what has been happening. Sometimes a long intro of rambling helps but, nope. Okay, deep breath.

My dad has cancer.


I hate typing that. I hate the way those words go in the same sentence. They don’t belong. The way the present tense links my father to another terrible disease. On top of Lyme disease and other fun things like that. And because my father doesn’t do things by halves, he has two kinds of cancer that don’t really go together, like orange stripes and teal polka dots on the same bow tie [although, come to think of it, my quirky father just might think those patterns go swimmingly. you can see where I get my aesthetic from ;)]. I hate watching him suffer. The man has never taken a sick day from work in his life before this. I didn’t understand how terrible it is for my parents to watch me be so sick. I know now.

As usual, it took forever for him to be diagnosed. This seems to be a theme that’s developing. He was in hospital for 2 months, where amazing oncology nurses cared for him, and almost magically brought down the swelling in his leg, removed water from on his lungs, and removed part (all?) of the tumour on his calf. He’s home now, doing a better, and going in for round 4 of chemo later this week. There is wonderful supports in place for people who have cancer, so thankfully he’s being taken care of pretty well. Like the witch in Hansel and Gretel, I’m trying to fatten him up by cooking all sorts of yummy things – although we’re still working on the candy house. We’ve tried many gingerbread recipes, and none have yet been a satisfactory replacement for drywall ;).

I have 13% battery life here, and I know you all are going to think this is a total cop-out, but I think I’m going to need to explain about what I’ve done and where I’ve been in another post. I set out with the best of intentions to squeeze much amazingness into one post. I didn’t quite manage. Wasn’t from lack of trying. Zombies and gingerbread men and plot twists kept getting in the way…you see what I have to deal with!? C’est dans la lune!

The highlights? Singing in an amazing Young Adult choir. Going to the Hansa clinic (in Kansas!) for treatment. Doing my part to help Elizabeth May’s Lyme disease bill pass. Joining in the 25,000 Tuques project for refugees coming to Canada. Progressing to floor yoga! Cracking the perfect gluten-free vegan bread. Starting a shop for my hand-carded batts on Etsy. Knitting socks. Many socks. Visiting Finnerty Gardens in every season. Reading so many books, and trying to check out all the material at the library (I’m doing pretty well so far.). Preparing for my grade 9 piano exam, in which I will slay some Mozart, Bach and Debussy music. Connecting with amazing humans. [Whoa. This list is making me feel so grateful right now <3.]

I’ve been very exhausted lately. I know, shocking, right, but this is different. The kind of tired where breathing sometimes feels like quite enough to be doing for one day. Where your migraine-addled mind slows, and thoughts come in puffs of clouds, that vanish when you try to hard. And sometimes you say “Fuck it” and do everything even though your arms feel like they are going to fall off and you need to rest during the remains day. I cut back on some more strong pain meds, and surprise, wouldn’t you know, I’m in more pain now which is also exhausting, but the pain is lessening, for which I am so grateful.

But I’ve learned this year that I am stronger.  Stronger than the things that try to weaken me. Stronger than I knew. I learned I can take a punch; a victory; a set back; courage, and get back up and do it all again.

Get knocked down 7 times, get up 8.

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