Bruce Cooke: Swimming in a Murky Sea

September 13, 2022

I have always been proactive about my health. I exercise regularly, run marathons, and keep regular appointments with my medical teams. I have a family history of prostate cancer, so kept a close watch on my PSA scores. When my doctor felt they were getting too high he suggested a biopsy. Unexpectedly, while sitting with my wife in the parking lot of a Food Basics, I got the news that I had cancer.

I am a true believer that the best lessons in life happen during our hardest and most challenging times. My cancer journey has been difficult and surreal, and I have learned a great deal about myself. What I have gained through my experience is an overwhelming reassurance of the kindness of humanity. Around every corner there are people who are share in a common bond surrounding their cancer illness, and are doing so with courage, strength and dignity. Wellspring has been a great example of this kindness and I appreciate everyone being so respectful and sharing their experiences to give me a better understanding of the challenges I face.

Not surprisingly, I had no wish to have any cancer in my body, so I opted to have it removed surgically. Then, about a month into what I thought was a successful recovery, I began to feel unwell. I was put back in the hospital to deal with an infection and while there had a precautionary colonoscopy. I wasn’t concerned. I had no signs or symptoms and had done a home test a few months earlier that was deemed normal. You can imagine my shock to be then told that I had stage 3 colon cancer with an 80% blockage as well as celiac disease.

I was suddenly thrown into a crazy new reality. My whole life had been focused on being the best I could be, checking off all the life boxes as I went along. It was unsettling to now learn that my health wasn’t what I thought it was, and I now faced more surgery followed by many months of difficult chemotherapy treatments.

In my career as a funeral director, I’ve obviously seen many whose outcomes were very different from mine. I couldn’t help but think of where they are now and would I be in that same position. I’ve always been able to help others get through difficult times, so I put my focus instead into staying positive, keeping physically active and always moving forward.

The chemotherapy caused ongoing complications. The neuropathy threatened my balance and I found at times I was struggling to remember my name. An occupational therapist at a Toronto Hospital mentioned Wellspring to me, and I enrolled in the Brain Fog program which I could take online from my home in Sault Ste Marie. It was helpful to be able to be with others going through the same thing – even though we were all so far apart physically.

The program helped normalize what I was going through. I came to understand that I was not the only person swimming in this murky sea, and I learned ways to help improve my cognitive abilities, so much so, that I believe I will soon be ready to take the Returning to Work program in the very near future.

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