A myriad of challenges show up in our lives and we have choices: we can respond in a way that grows and expands us while lighting up our way or we can let these challenges lead us down – down into darkness. So, what do we choose? The light of course. We choose illumination.

On December 5, 2022, we were informed by the radiologist who was performing the biopsy that “this is pretty serious” i.e., my tumour was the bad kind although this of course had to be confirmed by the lab.  I wondered what the point of sharing this alarming ‘news’ with me at that point. Yet, I wanted to be optimistic and since I’ve always been healthy I still thought that this is probably just a matter of taking out the tumour and being done with it. 

One step at a time became the silent mantra. Live in the moment.  Projecting into a dark future scenario won’t present any possible upside at the moment. So we focused on breathing and living normally. Still, the unsettling thought lingered and settled in the middle of my chest.  What if? 

On December 22, the pathology report was sent to our family doctor a full week delayed and an urgent meeting was called, two days before our planned Arizona desert trip. We were informed that the cancer was indeed aggressive, spreading fast and requiring urgent medical appointments.  With that news, we were advised to cancel our imminent travel. Now the dreadful reality sets in; “I cannot avoid chemo – 4 months of hell”, but maybe from there recovery?   Still, the ever-so-healthy and optimistic me continues the mantra – “One step at a time. Breathe”.  

On January 4 in the new year, we met the breast surgeon. Bless her heart, she is supposedly a very good surgeon but perhaps could use some empathy training.  She promptly told us that the surgery would happen after the chemotherapy and implied that this specific cancer is worse than most and that it would be a long fight.  All that without a word of reassurance. With this news, we are finally confronting the worst-case scenario.  I began to wonder about wrapping up my life.  

Strangely and not so surprising perhaps, I felt at ease thinking of my life’s end. Impermanence is the essence of nature – everything is born, changes and dies.  Death moved from an abstract notion to a firm reality for me that day. Naturally, I reflected and asked THE question. “Do I have any regrets?” “How will I live the rest of my time differently with this finality in mind? I discovered I have no big regrets – I lived my recent years by design, not by default. Of course, there’s always room for improvement.  Maybe I can be more generous and kinder to others from here on out. I will be! 

I can go now if it comes to that. But what about Håkan? That is where a lot of sadness showed up. A big-sized sorrow and sad feeling lodged in my chest ever since the biopsy.  And it would sit there as if it were its permanent home. And any small thing would trigger this sadness – an ever so slight wind change, the blue sky, someone’s sympathetic words, his favourite food, well anything, you name it.  We seem to have our own moments of sorrow trying to hide it from each other.  Sure, he may have other, new exciting opportunities after I’m gone that he would experience. Yet, the thought of him alone, however long it might be, was unbearable.

On January 6, we met our oncologist. During the marathon meeting of 2 hours and some, he and his team laid out the plan to eliminate what appears to be Stage 2 aggressive Her2 cancer. Her2 is fast-cell-diving cancer, bad news, but because the fast nature allows for an easier target, sort of good news. 5 months of chemo (2 chemo agents and 2 anti-Her2), followed by surgery and radiation/drug therapy to make it a year-long treatment. Our oncologist (who is great by the way, kind, clear and empathetic) also informed us that the prognosis is in “our favour”. This was significant for us because it was the first sign of light for the whole month of progressively worse news.

Yes, he also confirmed that I’d have side effects including hair loss, all of it within week 2 and 3 with certainty and gave us his wig prescription in a thick envelope with information more than we care to know.

Knowing the devil is definitely a good start. I’m still grappling with the language around cancer resembling ‘war’….. fight cancer, kill cancer cells attacking the body. I haven’t quite landed on the right language yet but surely what is indicated in terms of what my body has to go through, the war with cancer might be apt.

Yes, today is Chemo Day 1. We have been getting ourselves ready for this “assault”: preparing food for Håkan as I may not be able to cook his favourites for a while, chopping off some hair twice anticipating the hair loss and making it slightly less traumatic losing it all over a week’s time, getting nutrition-packed food that might be easier to swallow and nausea-supportive, picking up all the drugs that are supposed to help ease the side effects along with placing a bucket next to my bedside.

Along the way, Håkan has been navigating the extended healthcare channels to cover some of the expensive drug costs. Not always great news, but we focus on the positive – what IS covered and approved.

Through this experience, I’ve also decided that I’d need to swap out some of my core values and modus operandi. I would swap out efficiency and self-reliance (freedom in my vocabulary) for acceptance, gratitude and courage.

Acceptance: I could start with “why me?” but I’d rather go with “why not me?” If one in eight women has to go through breast cancer, it better be me. I am relatively young, healthy in both body and spirit, having practiced meditation for over 4 years now I have a far better relationship with my mind than ever, living in a gorgeous place with a sound health care system just to name a few.

I will need to accept things as they are, instead of what they should or could be. If I need to slow down, I shall. I will rely on others. I’ll say yes a lot. I have a feeling that I will grow the most in this area.

I don’t know how my body will respond to the treatments or what kind of side effects will taunt me. I will have to accept them as they come. One step at a time! I’m used to taking multiple steps at a time. So there is another acceptance.

Gratitude: Be grateful and positive whenever possible. It’s always possible! We’re grateful that we have each other. I know that I have the best partner to walk this journey together in every possible way. We are grateful to live in a comfortable home with nature embracing and soothing us. We will have our health in general, hopefully, to support this journey (yes it sounds a bit oxymoron ). A friend told us that cancer doesn’t discriminate between healthy and unhealthy lifestyles or bodies. Still, healthy bodies are better able to handle these assaults, I hope. We’ve felt some amazing heartfelt friendship and support so far and it has been already enriching! Does this kind of challenge like cancer bring loved ones closer? I bet it does!

Courage: to let go of my long-established self-image – a healthy person, with vitality and high energy and yes all my hair in place abundantly. From hating pain to embracing pain, and making friends with symptoms while all the body parts are protesting. Now just a couple of hours remaining before our chemo appointment, I wonder how I will be on the other side. We will see……

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  1. Michelle Beauclair says:

    Dear Linda:
    What an amazing tribute to your mother on your 52nd birthday! René and I know how well you cared for her while she was on this side of eternity. How proud she must’ve been and surely is, watching over you now. I can see you as the 5 year-old entertainer 🙂 and comforter, too. How fortunate she was, too, to have a daughter like you. What lovely pictures of the two of you; it brought tears to my eyes.
    Wishing you a restful night,

  2. Linda Bong says:

    Yes, breathe… I am sorry to hear the news, Linda…
    Your strength and courage are amazingly powerful in this journey.
    I am sending my prayers and love for a smooth recovery.
    May you be healed completely.

    Love and Light,

    1. Linda Chung says:

      How kind of you, Linda to write such encouraging words. Yes I feel the love and supportive heart all the way across the Pacific ocean. Stay healthy

  3. sven clarke says:

    Linda, you are beautiful, and strong, just like your husband. You 2 are inseparable, yin and yang, halves of each other. You are both going to get through this, I know it, I feel it. I have witnessed over the years your strength Linda, and I know fine well the beauty and strength of your other half – and that is understated. Even through this hell, you are thinking about others. You are beautiful. courageous.

    You have my complete and unwaivering love Linda. I send you all my strength, every day. Sveni

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