Strange how I feel the same age as my parents. Not in birth years, but physically, mentally and emotionally. Since my cancer diagnosis, I relate to my husband in a new way I never could before and for the same reason I can relate to my parents .

All four of us have death looming. It’s not immediate, but is not too far in the distance either. The pendulum is more in favor of death in our cases. I myself have watched my own timeline shift from stage 4 cancer as we adapt and change our expectations with each new scan or appointment. My parents, who are in their early eighties, are at the stage where they are now part of the club where every day feels like less of a guarantee and more of a lucky gift. My husband is only five years younger than my dad and is 24 years older than me, making him 75 this past February. It seems that life has found a way to always keep us in pace with each other no matter what. 

I really hope they each pass away without pain in their sleep and their souls drift up to Never Neverland. How they show it in the disney movie of Soul. That movie made me feel better and even enlightened me. Can a Disney movie be enlightening? My son told me it could, as it is from Pixar Studios, which is simply owned by Disney. And yes, their movies are deeper and more meaningful.

This realistically will not be how I leave this world. Cancer doesn’t really allow for a very peaceful transition without pain or awareness of when your time is approaching. Cancer and I are both MMA fighters , thrown into a battle to the death. We spar, we refuel and we continue to throw punches. It attacks me where I am vulnerable and I do the same. We are relentless with one another. This analogy came to me while watching Mortal Kombat. (Which, by the way, was better than I expected for someone who is a non-gamer and just learned about MMA fighting.)

While not thinking about my battle with cancer I, like my parents and husband, spend time reflecting on life and worrying about the family members we will eventually leave behind. We have our son and my husband has two sons from a previous marriage.

Are they safe? Happy? Healthy? Resilient? Are they ready for anything that may come at them? Will they be financially responsible and secure? We are constantly worrying and thinking of what more we can do as parents to make their lives secure for when we go.

Then you start asking yourself bigger questions: Is the world a better place because of me? Did I give more than I took? I am certain my parents and husband gave way more than they took. I feel like they gave about 80% and took 20%. (I think it is the entrepreneur and business person in me who wants to put numbers on it.) As for me, I am striving for 65% given and 45% taken. This is just how I see it anyways.

I do not want to speak on behalf of my parents and husband as that would be unfair, especially because they are better writers, but I can say they think about their kids the majority of the time. All three are selfless and have never burdened their kids with their issues or insecurities, or at the very least with worries they have. 

My parents rely on one another for this and have always been a united front. Like my parents, my husband keeps his aging burden to himself and takes care of his children whenever he can. He never asks for recognition or anything in return. Is this generational?

Or am extra …selfish with my son? Many days I see him carry my burden. He asks multiple times a day, how I am feeling or do I need anything. And when I start to cry without answering, he gives me a Kleenex and wipes my tears and hugs me. Should Zach know so much about my situation and my fears that go with it? Have I made him more empathetic or just more scared?

If my generation is more selfish than the last one, how selfish will our great grandchildren be? How will they respond to this parenting style? How will their children respond to theirs? Or is my idea of selfish messed up?

Do I really believe self care is selfless or selfish? We still very much live in a world where it is believed that money brings happiness and can solve many problems. And money can help with many things. As someone who has been given and has worked towards financial security, I can say I have privileges that allow me to cross some worries off my list. But does that just give our minds space to fill with other concerns? Is it harder to live in the moment when you have more choice with how to spend your time?

These are the kinds of thoughts that rattle around in my head when I should be sleeping. Cancer loves my exhaustion. I should probably get some sleep if I want to keep up the fight.

Karla Stephens-Tolstoy has stage 4 chronic cancer, diagnosed in 2018. She is Her2 negative, IDC.  She takes 50 pills daily, including Ibrance and letrozole, her cancer fighting pills.  Karla is the co-owner of the online store StandUpSpeakUp.ca with her son, Zach.  Through this venture, they are proud donors to various charities. All proceeds of their limited edition Healing and Empowerment Scarves are donated to Wellspring Cancer Support Centre. 

Check out her blog,  and her podcast Stand Up Speak Up which ranks in the top 10% for most listened to podcast.

You can find her at @standupspeakup, LinkedInKarla’s Korner Facebook group.

The Empowerment Scarf
You are most powerful when you believe in yourself, let this scarf give you an extra boost of confidence and comfort.

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1 comment

  1. This is so real and raw. Thank you for sharing, Karla.

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