My Forced March

candle-about-to-blow-out(Editor’s Note: Today we welcome a new blogger, Don (@dkridingshotgun).)

Greetings. It was via a posting on facing where I write a blog under the name Riding Shotgun that I learned of this group. And what welcome news it was. I thought the best way to introduce myself was by sharing the very first posting on Facing Cancer Together. I have agreed with this site’s hostess to contribute to this blog and will do so by sharing my Riding Shotgun entries. If you feel like catching up with the journey we’ve undertaken you are most welcome to visit via the link.

Thanks for being here.

On October 28, 2011 I received a phone call from my wife’s GP advising that she had breast cancer. The ensuing months have brought bewilderment, fear and anger. I agreed with the very fine people at Facing to embark on this blog with a couple of objectives. The first is selfishly cathartic. I am a storyteller. I manage my emotion with the written word and writing my own blog has been helpful to me.

The second is hopeful. For all of the kind words offered, caregivers have a tough row to hoe. Riding Shotgun on the cancer carriage, while certainly preferable to sitting in the driver’s seat, is no easy feat for any sentient being. Perhaps sharing my experiences will help someone else. Already, other bloggers on have hauled me back to the surface a couple of times. Maybe I can pay that forward. Rather than recreate everything from the get go, I’m going to post a few pieces that already appeared either on my personal blog ( or were sent as email to my wife’s extended support team, a.k.a., Katie’s Karma Corps. Then, I shall commence to contribute new material as I think it relevant and helpful. (Originally posted on on December 15, 2011)

The following is a slightly more expanded version of my last update to Katie’s Karma Corps.

Can you recall a time when to escape and re-create yourself for a moment that you lit a few candles, turned out the lights and just listened to the sounds of silence? I am sure you can. You may also recall that the candles would suddenly gutter and almost extinguish themselves from some sourceless zephyr of breeze.

That is rather what December 15 was like for Katie and our family. With the power of our angels supporting us, we approached the post-surgery consult with Dr. Reedijk with hope and a belief that the worst was surely behind us. We expected that our movement forward might not be as swift and without obstacle as we would wish, but that the road would be relatively smooth.

Regardless, you’re probably tired of this preamble and wondering what the hell happened. In a nutshell here it is: The appointment was not quite what we were expecting, cancer found in one lymph node, and we did not get 1cm clear margins around breast tissue (0.3mm clearance). So now Katie will undergo CT scans and bone scans on December 23 at Mt. Sinai and PMH then meet with chemo and radiation teams probably at Credit Valley Hospital.

I have written to you before that, as you experience this, you become familiar with an entirely new and previously foreign vocabulary. One of the most frequent terms encountered is that this is all just a journey. Well, I am here to tell you that this journey makes the rape of Nanking look like a slightly raucous Sadie Hawkins dance. It makes Masada appear as a somewhat difficult to access picnic spot. This is no journey folks. A journey is something with romantic overtones that you pursue voluntarily. This, my friends, is a forced march to an uncertain future where shock and anger become daily realities. Where the candle flame of hope does indeed gutter relentlessly. Where the will to persist is challenged on almost every front.

I noted with sadness the passing last week of Christopher Hitchens. Whether you agree with some, all or none of his stupendously contrarian views, no one can deny the brilliance of his writing. I came upon the following quote and it seemed more apt than anything for this period of our life.

“Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.” ~ Christopher Hitchens

With your help and continued support we will live intensely. We will cling to the belief that the collective power you provide and the super feisty attitude of Katie will some day lead us to a point where the flames never gutter. Where the light shines brightly and we feel the warmth of the sun.

Thank you from Katie, Gabriel, Samuel and one very tired old man. We appreciate you and continue to honour you. We send you great blessings for Christmas and whatever else you choose to celebrate.

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1 Comment on "My Forced March"

Profile photo of Denise
Mar 24, 2013

Hi Don–I’m glad you’re here–although that really doesn’t mean I’m glad you’re here. It would be nice if we all met under different circumstances.

Except I’m better for knowing everyone now.

I think you’ve coined a term that everyone will immediately relate to–the forced march. I hope our company along the way helps.

I’m looking forward to reading your next post. :)