The first time she wrote to me was when she heard I was diagnosed with cancer. We worked for the same company, but I had never met her personally. She was in Laval. I was in Toronto. She had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, beat it and had returned to work. She wrote to me and asked me to be strong and to have faith. She vowed to pray for me every day until I got better. I believed her. And that began the story of Pascale and Munira.
Over the past two years, we wrote to each other often. She would often leave a comment on my blog posts – funny, thoughtful and insightful comments. We became friends. And then one day she wrote to me to tell me that her cancer had come back.
I am still reading the beautiful messages that you and your family are writing in the “I will Survive” blog. It is always inspiring.
The day I received the one about “Set back or speed bump”, I had the news that my ovarian cancer was back and I needed to go again through chemo. It was very difficult to accept at the beginning but now we are back in a good spirit…and seeing it as a speed bump. Of course statistics can be depressing but my father prognostic was 2 to 5 years and he lived 29 years after that.
I had my first treatment on Wednesday. I do hope I will handle the side effects better. For now, as a day 3 (cycle of 21 days) it is not bad at all.
This morning I was reading again this statement that your husband put in an email :
“I am thrilled with the care I am receiving and am confident that I will get through this. I continue to be in VERY HIGH spirits. I know that there is a master plan for why I got this and am very open to the learning, the journey and how I can use this to make a difference in the world.”
Still, I do know we are closely linked through this same experience, similar souls.
With all my affection,
In spite of going through this difficult time, my friend Pascale kept a wonderful, positive spirit. When she did not hear from me for a period of time, she would write and ask how I was doing. And she would share with me her personal strategies on how to deal with this adversity. At one point I teased her that I had no idea what she looked like, and she sent me a picture of herself. She is incredibly beautiful – both inside and out.
“My dear Munira, I was very happy to read your last blog. In a way, I have a kind of dependency to know how things are going for you J. Your recent silence, your pause was a speed bump as you said few months ago. I was hoping for you that you will avoid the after treatment uncertainty period, I went through…twice. Surrounded by many specialists and focusing on the medical activities, we are suddenly pushed in an area where we think it will be fabulous to put the treatment behind us…but how come it is stress and anxiety that are taking place? Well, I guess we are facing the fact that the next steps are based on the capacity of our body to do the right things. It is human to have doubt and to be scared. The challenge is to define how much time do we want to spend in that mood and what are the best strategies to avoid them. Here I share some of the things I put in place:
– Just acknowledge that it is a moment of stress, of anxiety…that it is part of the process and normal…that it will go.
– Asking myself if there is a new element or news that put me suddenly in jeopardy…most of the time my thoughts are hypothetical.
– Sharing my thoughts with someone I love… it is a big part of the solution to feel relieved.
– Listening to Kelly Howell “Healing meditation” CD…such a positive, powerful wording and very strong body, mind and spirit harmony.
– Keeping myself in activities, in action.
– Keep a psychological specialist around to have strategies and solutions…we are so good for advising others and so bad for ourselves some time.
We continued to write to each other. With Pascale I felt a kindred spirit, someone who could understand what I was going through. Earlier in my journey, I shared with Pascale the horrible effects of chemo and the effect of dexamethasone on me. My dearest Pascale used her words to comfort me and bring some levity to the situation. She also promised me that this was a temporary situation and that a “new and improved Munira” would emerge, with full faculties intact. I believed her.
“Hello Munira, How are you feeling? I read your post this morning about Dexa and chemo brain and smile all along. You know what I did few days ago? I put the salt and pepper in the microwave L…very bad concentration…my husband and I were searching everywhere to found them only because we used the microwave. We definitely need to laugh about that kind of events. But I was not laughing after my first round of chemo as I thought that my cognitive capacity and concentration were pretty bad….It was then that I took full conscience that chemo was destroying bad and good cells even in my brain. I thought at the time that I will have difficulty to become as sharp as I was (and I needed to be) at the office. My Onco called it “deconditioning” and the great news is that all will come back. It is true. I was back to the office in March 2012, I found out that not much has changed since I left. I had develop kind of distance or change my definition of what was a real urgency or catastrophes concerning business elements that created more calm and of course make me wiser. I was listening to people hearing what was the real issues (not always what they were saying), reading between the lines so much better, and capable to handle the human factors with more sensitivity. I was really a better version of me. As I was focusing on the real target, I was surprised to accomplish more in a 30 hour-week than spreading out my time doing the double, triple without the same results. All of this to tell you that part of your concentration is related to the fact that chemo brings a lot of fatigue and that you will get rid of it in the following months. As for Dexa, I do have an injection on the day of the chemo treatment (I thought it was only to prevent side effects and boost the body). Then I take 8 mg during day 2 and 3, 4 mg on day 4 and 2 mg on day 5. It was not the medication at the time (only 8 mg the 2 first days) but the Onco decided it was better to have a slow landing. I do have difficulty to sleep during these days and of course my energy is a little bit better but no other major changes. It is true that I feel sad on the following days without it, very tired. The cycle will come back but in my case only on every 21 days. Anyway, Dexa and concentration are temporary situations. The real new and improved Munira will raise after the medication will be over and all your capacity will be back and even better. Big kiss my friend. Love Pascale”
Pascale shared with me her hopes and her fears. Her family was her entire life. She spoke of the deep bond she shared with her husband, Ron, who she said was “by her side” throughout her life. She told me about her children, Karl and Jessica, who she loved with all her heart. She spoke about her wonderful sisters. Above all, she wished to be a grandmother. I wanted this for her.“Dear Munira, I had a beautiful Christmas time with my children Jessica and Karl. I offered them a scarf done by their mommy. I wanted them to always feel I am there surrounding them with love, keeping them in a warm embrace. I also had a great night with my sisters (I have 3 wonderful ones) and their husbands. Now I am preparing for the coming days that are always toughest but with a better mindset than the last time and, of course, my extraordinary husband is always there by my side. As I was wondering why me and complaining about my situation last time I wrote you, the sad event in USA with 20 young children that died just happened and overwhelmed me. How can I complain when parents who lost their children are so in a great pain and …why them? It gives me more compassion and strength to go through my own situation. And what about you? Are you feeling good? What are the next steps for you? I am really anxious to receive more details. I pray for you every night. Kiss and hug With love pascale Ps. As I do, feel free to answer late or not if the energy is not good enough”
“Hello my dear Munira, As usual, my head would like to express so much and my English capacity is frustrating me. What a great victory that you are back home. I am so happy and grateful that the dark days are behind you. I felt from the distance that it was difficult. You were on my mind so much. Even my husband was asking if I have received some news. You became part of the family. Someone closer who understand the meaning of all of this journey. As I was reading your blog, my heart was so sad knowing just a little bit what you’ve been through as our situation are similar in some ways but not exactly the same. There is time it is so much to endure that we would like the pain to just stop, the fear to just go away. I know for myself that I kept a lot inside of me these last months and I promised myself also I will allow to let go the sadness, the fear, the pain to start it clean and all over. What a ride it is. When we just get a little bit better, then the sun is shining, hope is rising up, everything is possible. Yes, Munira, you are now cancer free. Enjoy and believe. All is well and all is possible. Like you, I am hoping for many years of health and a cure that will make us old grand-ma. Let’s focus on the present moment as it is so precious. I received my last chemo on February 27th. Last scan was cancer free. Another one is planned in a month. Yesterday was my last day on Dexa so I had an emotional day. As usual, Ron my wonderful husband was just great. I cried for 30 minutes and then was back to happy time. I went to acupuncture last week and today and it helps me to go back to energy. Fabulous to boost my blood result and balance the system. I am now looking in a week or two to have energy to go out for breakfast, see friends, make dinner to my family, enjoy the sun and the weather that will be on our side, just go back to life. My daughter Jessica (25) announced that she and her lover Bruno are trying to have a baby. That would be such a wonderful news and a blessing to hold in my hands a little miracle. I guess in a way the fact that I was sick created an urgency in her life to live fully and to please me. My son Karl (21) is back to school. Both are just great kids. I guess you are missing Sabrina a lot but I know you are always surrounded by love. Take good care of yourself. Each week you will see more and more energy. Big kiss and hug my dear Munira. You are in my prayers. Will keep in touch. Pascale”
There were times when I was too sick to write. And my friend Pascale continued to keep in touch with me, acutely aware of what was going on with me.
“My dearest Munira, I was reading your blog to found out that you were at the hospital beginning of the year. I hope you are back home now and feeling better. As usual, your messages are full of important elements to meditate about life and love. It is part of the privilege to have time out of the normal crazy racing tempo and think about our priorities, what is meaningful for us, how we are meaningful for others. Into the very long list of learnings, gifts and amazing people that are on our road because we are facing cancer, here you are. I feel grateful for it. I hope this message will find you in good spirit. Big hug Keep you in my prayers and love À bientôt
“My dearest Munira, I am thinking a lot about you these last days. I am trying to picture you shopping and enjoying meals with friends. Without any recent blog, I am wondering if all is well for you. Kisses and hugs. bientt Pascale”
When I was preparing for my stem cell transplant, Pascale was right there with me, encouraging and supporting me from afar. She knew when I would have my Hickman Line removed and inquired about it. In spite of her own difficulties, her compassion and love were evident with every word she wrote.
“My Dear Munira Just a quick hello hoping that you have totally recovered from the surgery. I am exciting as you are getting closer to the cells transplant. Sometimes it is a mixt feeling getting closer to the end of the process as our lives have been organized around multiple medical appointments and health focus. As we are wishing so hard this is going to be over and we will get back to normal life again, it is a usual reaction to feel a little bit lost not to be surrounded by a medical team and on our own. Anyway, I am anticipating your next step and I started to visualize beautiful, strong and healthy cells jumping and energizing your body. Have a wonderful day. À bientôt Pascale”
“Hello dear friend, I am wondering how you are feeling both physically and spiritually. Your Hickman Line was supposed to be removed 2 days ago. I hope it went well and that you are taking the best of every day. Like you I am in the after treatment period where, most of the time, I am between sadness and high appreciation, depending on the level of fatigue. I promise you that you will see the energy comes back slowly but surely, and you will get back to normal life…which is for us a beautiful target. Kiss and hug bientt Pascale”
“Just thinking of you 🙂 Kiss and hug bientt Pascale”
And when she was going through difficult times, she didn’t let it get to her. She was true to herself – loving, positive and hopeful.
“Hello Munira, So happy to hear from you. You are also really present in my thoughts and my prayers. I am wondering everyday how you are feeling. Not sure if I told you I was hospitalized for a night because of fever and vomiting 2 weeks ago. I received 2 great news. First, a scan showed that all the cancer has disappeared. Now the goal on the medicine point of view is not a total remission but pushing back another episode. I am hoping for a miracle. Even if I was sick, my blood results was very nice and good enough to receive my chemo on Wednesday. Now just one to go. I am now in the middle of the days so so because of the side effects. We are becoming tough with all we go through. I was full of compassion reading your stats on your blog. You went through so much. May the road to go back to a life full of health be just in our next steps and the months to come a beautiful time to recover and getting back to energy, love, projects and so much more. Love and hugs. À bientôt Pascale”
And when she was happy, she would share her happiness with me.
“Dearest Munira, I am full of joy, close to tears reading your last blog. I am sooooooooo happy. Big big hug. bientt Pascale”
We talked about our hope to be around for a long time, enjoying life and helping others. And I believed her.
“My dear friend Munira, I felt overwhelmed reading your message. How wonderful, sensitive, generous and touching it is of you. I hope you felt surrounded by the love and energy of this beautiful circle. I believe it is making all the difference. I wish all your prayers will be answered and so, we will be here for a long time making the best of our lives helping others. With love Pascale Xx”
One of my favourite emails from Pascale was this one where she expressed a desire for us to meet in person. Alas, that was not to happen. Pascale got sicker as the cancer ravaged her body. She stopped communicating with me. And each time I went to Laval, I asked if we could meet – but she was too weak for a visit.
“Dearest Munira, Your message was received as a gift as yesterday was a difficult day and I was far away from my regular positive thinking. I also think of you every day, wondering what are the steps you are facing, how well you are doing, what is the great thinking and spiritual mindset that keep you going. I felt surrounded by love. I felt lucky. Most of the time, I am strong about what will come whatever it is. Yesterday, I was in the doubt. A complaining day…why me? What is the things I need to understand that I have not yet? Why imposing this sadness and pain to my family? Sometimes I feel that I have cross a door and see a new vision that only few people can see, using the same words that only few people can understand. Now that I know, part of me envy the rest of the people on the other side who are living like life is guaranteed for another 30 years. Part of me is so thankful now to understand I need to leave fully, that life is so beautiful and that I am bless in so many ways. I have doubts but it is part of the journey making me a more courageous and strong person. I received my second chemo on December 5th. Same taxol and carboplatin as it was for the first treatments and again cycle of 6 treatments every 3 weeks. Now 4 left. Now that it is a second cycle, they do need to test me for allergie for each treatment. It is strange thinking that I am holding my breath each time to make sure there will be no reaction and then I will be ok for another treatment. Days 3 to 6 are the toughest. Fatigue, stomach sickness, constipation…etc. I manage and balance medication in a better way and try to keep busy doing some reading, painting etc. during the though days. My husband is by my side at every minute. I am his mission. We are preparing for a quiet Christmas knowing the third treatment is scheduled for the 26th and the New Year will be difficult to celebrate. I have lost my hair again, not a big issue, but no hair during summer time and winter time…what a difference! But enough about me, how are you feeling? How is your treatment going? What are you doing these days? Big big hug and kisses my dear Munira. I add in my wish list to meet you in person in the coming months. Love Pascale”
Today I found out that my dearest friend, my companion in the journey of cancer, my soul sister, my anchor, has passed away. The world has lost someone beautiful and I feel this loss deeply. A little bit of me has died with Pascale. And as I grieve, I pray that God receive my friend with mercy and love. That He give her eternal rest and shine His light on her. That He take special care of her and keep her in His heart.
Pascale believed in miracles and she was granted one when she fulfilled her dream of being a grandmother in her lifetime. I like to believe that when we lose someone we love, they continue to be with us in memories and in words. Pascale will live on in her husband, her children and in her granddaughter, Rachel. She left behind a legacy of compassion, of love, of spirit, of positive energy, of strength and grace, and especially of joy.
I miss you, my friend and my heart is filled with happiness that I knew you and sadness to see you go. I know you will be waiting for me on the other side.
“Perhaps they are not the stars, but rather openings in Heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know that they are happy.”
- Inuit Legend