Living in the End.

We have landed in September, the start of a new school year.  This year is special as both kids will be in the same school.  Our daughter will be in Junior Kindergarten and our son in Grade Two.   For my wife Anna this was a big deal.  When she was diagnosed with triple negative metastatic breast cancer in July 2012, one of the goals she had was to see her daughter start kindergarten. Throughout the ups and downs of surgeries, chemotherapies, and various radiation treatments; at times this goal seemed out of reach.

Last week Anna got to see our daugher walk into her classroom, the timing of which has caught me in a strange set of emotions. The very same day we got the results from her brain MRI.  Tumours are growing again.  They are smaller in size, but anytime you read the word “progression” a sick feeling takes over.  This time was different.  She doesn’t have any options left.  Radiation is off the table, location of the tumours will likely prevent any possible surgical intervention.  This time it’s different.  

We have always been very aware of what the probable end game was with Anna’s cancer.  But we have never lost hope for longer stability.  Getting results like this is never easy.  We do our best at refocusing our energy on the good moments while leaving a little space for the hard truths and sadness of what lies ahead.

We have been spending more time with our family, specifically our parents.  We are blessed to have all four of them involved in this process; supporting us as we cope.  Each parent brings their own set of skills and compassion.  Each of them are feeling the pain and torment of slowly watching as the cancer grips on tighter and pulls Anna away.  I am loosing my spouse they are losing a daughter.

The best way I can explain how I feel about getting news like this would be comparing it to being in a bright room and suddenly in complete darkness. Initially, you can’t see anything, you feel lost and lose the sense of spatial awareness.  Over time your eyes adjust and you can see again.  It doesn’t look the same but you can carry on.  It was only nine months ago when one doctor suggested that it could be 3-5 months left (she said this with a caveat; the only sure thing when predicting how much time is left, you’re always wrong).  So we will continue to hope for more time with minimal pain and high quality of life.  

Although Anna hasn’t been able to express herself with the written word, she has shifted to drawing and painting.  Her force in creating while tolerating the side effects has been nothing short of heroic.  Bellow is a very small sample of what she has been up to lately, I hope you like them as much as I do.


12 replies »

  1. As another young husband whose wife has dealt with brain mets (although the liver has been more troublesome), the posts you two leave here has meant a lot to me. Just wanted to let you know.

  2. Our stories are very similar. I was diagnosed in August of 2012. My prayer was to see my then 3 year old go to Kindergarten (he started 2nd grade this year!). I too ran out of options and started hospice 9 months ago after being told I wouldn’t make it to Christmas last year. I am doing fairly well on hospice and my quality of life has been so much better.

    Best of luck to you and your wife!

  3. I’m grateful that Anna has you and complete support from her family. My heart is breaking as I read this and Anna’s art is so compelling to me…Those monsters are in my head as well…sending hugs to Anna, you and your family Ian. Thank you for sharing this heartbreaking news…Holding you close to my heart Anna every day Xoxoxox

  4. I love Anna’s drawings! Thank you for sharing your light and darkness so beautifully. Peace and light being sent your way on the wind, open the window so you get them.

  5. I met Anna as a CBC listener a couple of years ago (me, not Anna -but maybe she is too). She had a presence and strength in the interview that resonated with me long after the interview aired. In my 50s I am, perhaps, too old to use the expression ‘rocks’ in reference to anything other than a beverage with ice, but I have long held the opinion that Anna does, indeed, rock. Thank you, Anna (and Ian), for sharing your difficult journey. Hopefully it serves as some small consolation that the name Anna will, forever, for me bring to mind a beautiful, brave mom, daughter and wife – who, with every blog, poem, photo & painting – told an unforgettable story…the story of Anna.

  6. Anna, Ian, i wish you and your family great strength. You have been fighting this battle in ways that show character and will and that is the way we should all live.

    May you be loved in the mirror of each other,


  7. Your writing really resonated with me. I was diagnosed with TNBC last November. I finished radiation the end of June.

    At the beginning of August, my husband of 47+ years died of a massive heart attack in the chair next to me.

    Your paragraph describing what your feelings during the progression diagnosis described my last month very well, much better than I have managed. Thank you, Alex, very much for that gift. It will help me explain my process, and I will think of you, Anna and your children each time.

    I will keep your whole family in my thoughts and prayers.


  8. Hi Ian,
    You don’t know me but I am a retired RN and am now the Director of an Art Gallery. First I want to say I Love Anna’s art! She has talent! Second, western medicine, while helping many is not the whole story! It is my strong belief , after 25 years of Nursing, that Eastern medicine has a strong part to play! To that end art can be very healing…it gets a lot out emotionally. It provides focus away from illness and stimulates different areas of the brain. Also, I have seen many patients defy the statistics again and again…Anna has already accomplished this.l do not know if you and Anna are spiritual but it does not matter. I am going to share your story and ask everyone to pray for her everyday.


  9. Beautiful, unique and provocative art! I’m currently surviving triple neg also..after chemo and double mastectomy, just over a year out from original diagnosis. I feel so deeply for your story and wish you both strength and peace ❤

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