Bob & Arlene

Bob & Arlene

In September 2012 I received a diagnosis of Non Hodgkins Lymphoma and my working career abruptly ended. 

I began chemotherapy on December 6th, 2012 and finished Chemo April 3rd, 2016. There was a 6 month stretch from May to November 2015 where the treatment stopped as I was reassessed and went through the testing to ensure I was a candidate for a stem cell transplant. When a scan showed the tumours had not shrunk enough to allow a successful transplant, the regimen was intensified to 10 days of in-patient chemotherapy treatments each day. The transplant took place April 4th 2016 followed six weeks later by 6 weeks of radiation therapy.

Oddly enough, no matter how desperate my physical deterioration had become, I never really believed I would die.

I lived with a constant fear of recurrence and, in early 2017, a senior resident at the cancer centre told me to “Just live your life.” That was one of the many tone-deaf things people said during those years. It is a natural human tendency and I do it too. Although, I like try to remember what Parker Palmer says, “don’t speak unless you can improve the silence.”

In July 2019 my wife Arlene and I participated in a 4-day retreat at the Abbey Retreat Centre. We were introduced to a community of welcome, caring, deep listening and warmth. 

Hearing the experiences of others is both heartbreaking and inspiring. It is an insight into the power of the human spirit. And it transformed my journey from feeling essentially alone to being in community in the company of others. Most importantly, for the first time, I heard how difficult the experience was for Arlene.

The stories of others and the invitation to volunteer keep us connected to this unique service and unique group of people. 

The heavy fatigue from my years of treatment persisted until the spring of 2020 when I got involved in the Haliburton Highlands Challenge (HHC) to raise money for cancer support at the Abbey Retreat Centre. 

Challenging myself to take on a physical activity for the HHC restored my confidence in my physicality. Each year since, I have taken on an activity that I no longer felt confident to perform and have been disabused of that belief.

Recently, we have just been placed on a 12 month recall at the cancer centre. I don’t obsess about recurrence, but it doesn’t leave my mind completely.

I also reconnected with the Managing Director of my former workplace. He told me, “You’re a fighter.”  I would say I’ve been blessed with a positive attitude and simply showed up for treatment buoyed by my loving wife and caring community of friends. And I’m lucky. I read that the husband of the Executive Director of Lymphoma Canada had the same procedure at the same age and the same time as me and he died 8 months later.

At the Abbey Retreat Centre for cancer support, I was invited to join a dedicated and committed group and I stayed involved out of a sense of mission and purpose for the sake of others.

I am really grateful for the extra years I have been given.

In this journey, I have discovered that something new is always being born within me.

The death of my career led to a deeper spirituality and love.

And now I am happy to share my hope, joy, and fears with others. 

I am learning to be open to speaking about my death and others’ because I know that Love never dies.

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After 4 months of listening, creativity, small group conversations and A LOT OF COMMUNITY SUPPORT, the decision has been made. Within the next few months, Abbey Retreat Centre (ARC) will officially change our name to Brooksong Retreat and Cancer Support Centre.

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