This year has marked three HUGE milestones: my 5 year survivor anniversary last October, my 40th birthday this past November, and mine and Ryan’s 20th wedding anniversary today (photos from our anniversary trip to Victoria, BC)!!! Insert cheering and waving arms. To celebrate with all you readers I’m sharing another memoir sneak peak (below). Thanks for joining the party!



I’ve been asked how I’ve been doing lately, so I thought I’d give you a little update. My next MRI is next week. I hardly think about them anymore, they come up on the calendar so quickly (while I’m busy living life!)

I’ve been enjoying reading a lot lately. I love non-fiction and am currently fascinated by books discussing personality and others that dive into the mystery of love. And of course, I’m fervently working on my memoir when the kids are at school.

The kids are great these days (of course when they aren’t hitting or scratching or name-calling one another!) I’m so grateful to be alive to be their mom for this stage of life, playing games together (chess, card games, soccer, tennis etc. and having them beat me fair and square!), seeing their creativity develop.

With the loss of my friend, Rebekah (who was just barely in her 40s), at the beginning of the year, and recently the passing of Ryan’s cousin, CoraLee (who was just barely in her 50s), I’ve been pressing in to the Japanese concept: Wabi-sabi. Wabi sabi is all about seeing the beauty in the imperfection, impermanence, and incompletion of life. I could write a whole post about this. Suffice it to say, that grieving these beloved women I have had to embrace the incompletion of life and seek to find beauty there. It brings me to a bittersweet place, but since reading Bittersweet by Susan Cain I am understanding that the sweetness of life is so much more satisfying when contrasted with the bitterness. A gratitude practice of sorts.


Memoir excerpt

Without further ado, please enjoy this anniversary-inspired memoir excerpt (deep breath, switch gears to five years ago…):

…Since my terminal diagnosis, intimacy with my husband, Ryan, was a lifeline, an inexplicably sacred connection to the most important person in my world. As my flesh melted into Ryan, restorative, full-bodied, gutsy love sunk into the spaces and synapses of my body. Pleasure and sorrow, love and grief, swirled in our passionate embraces; mature love turned feverish. My prognosis had cracked my heart open exposing the vulnerability of my humanity. And I wanted more of Ryan, to be saturated with his love and he with mine. A love that though resolute, had become so fragile; It was slipping away like grains of sand slowly creeping through the neck of my one year hourglass. By falling deeper in love, we both had more at stake.

I can’t lose this man, I thought.
Though of course, he’d be losing me, left to move on alone.   

It had been fifteen years since we had vowed to stay by one anothers’ sides in sickness or in health; ‘til death do us part. It felt like lifetimes ago and just yesterday that we had fallen in love.

We had met through a mutual friend in 1999 when we were both in our first years of University. My sights were on becoming a physician and Ryan was studying Engineering. 

Ryan had dark blonde hair that was too long for my liking. 

“It’s surfer hair.” My roommate, Kelly, said, immediately forming a crush. I laughed at her. She could have him, or whatever other boy she wanted. I wasn’t in University to find a dating partner, I didn’t have time for that. Besides, I had just ended an unhealthy relationship with my high school boyfriend. 

Instead, I preferred the company of my roommates. We frequently met to eat lunch together in the dimly lit basement level of our University’s Student Commons area, lower Place Riel. Since the tables were usually filled with other students, we’d squeeze onto the turquoise vinyl couches across from Treats and the University of Saskatchewan Store selling snacks and campus apparel. As we opened our paper bags and ate homemade sandwiches, Kelly carried the conversation, centering around inconsequential topics like boys or hair or clothes. 

However, by October, Ryan began “stumbling” into our lunch gatherings, just happening to be there at the right time, even though all his classes were in the Engineering building clear across campus beyond even the perimeter of the “bowl”. He’d wedge into a spot right beside Kelly and me. After a couple weeks Ryan began slipping me friendly notes or bringing me red licorice, my favorite candy. By the end of that month, Ryan invited me to take the bus home with him from University and go running together along the river trail.

“Sounds great!” I’d beamed, growing to enjoy Ryan’s company, despite myself. Though nervous I wouldn’t be able to keep up with him, I was grateful for a running companion.        

The afternoons that we both didn’t have labs, Ryan joined me to study in the library. In the evenings, Ryan spontaneously popped by the house to drop off treats for me while I studied, or picked me up to hang out with our friends. I found myself saying to my roommates, “isn’t Ryan amazing?!” and “do you think if we got together it could last?” 

My last day in Saskatoon before heading home for Christmas break, Ryan came to pick me up (in his ‘83 Toyota Tercel which he had painted himself, to cover up the rust) to take me out for dinner. I eyed the guitar case in his hands. 

“What’re doing with that?” I cocked my head.

“I have a present for you.” He grinned, taking his shoes and jacket off. He retrieved his guitar from its case and sang me a song that he had written for me. 

Following dinner Ryan parked the car by the University. Big, heavy snowflakes turned the City of Bridges into a magical snowglobe as we walked the river trail mittened-hand in mittened-hand.

“Cheryl,” Ryan paused his steps to look in my eyes, “Will you be my girlfriend?”.

I smiled. Finally. “Of course.”  


Month after month we spent increasing amounts of time together. Ryan was wise, always seemed to have an answer for the questions I was asking about the big decisions I was making that would, I thought, affect the rest of my life.

“How can I know I’m making the right choice?” I asked him when I decided I no longer wanted to become a geriatric physician and surveyed my other options. People said that my generation would have multiple professions in their lifetimes; but, I wanted to pick the right one – believing there was such a thing.

“At some point,” Ryan replied confidently, “You just have to make a choice and go with it.” He is unafraid of shifting gears and thrives on variety.           

I loved his confidence, his inhibition and his kisses. We made out on the soccer field on quiet Sunday afternoons, after kicking some balls around; in the snow fort we built out of the mound of snow on the parking lot of the gym; and during study breaks in his parents’ basement, where he was living while going to university.

In spring, Ryan turned to me one day as we were lounging on his bed, “Cheryl, I love you.”

My heart fluttered and my smile broadened, “I love you too.”

I was head over heels. If I hadn’t been so giddy, I would’ve been surprised that I had let Ryan steal my heart so quickly. How had I let Ryan steal my heart so easily?

Final exams were coming soon. “Don’t fall in or out of love during exams.” My friend Amy had cautioned me. Now I knew why. I found myself uncharacteristically staying up until 5 AM the night before my Statistics 101 final, letting studying morph into making out.

After exams I returned to my hometown, to work a summer job, and live rent free with my parents to save up for tuition. Three hours away from Ryan with space to contemplate. I wondered if maybe having an amazing career wasn’t everything; that scared me. I needed to decide if my relationship with Ryan was serious. I carefully scrutinized how this relationship was wasting my energy that I needed to pursue my career. Was Ryan worth it? Did I actually want to marry this guy? Because if I didn’t, he needed to go. Now.

 My gut (and my mom) told me he was worth it. This was the guy I wanted to spend my life with. 

The next summer of 2001, Ryan and I attended Camp Oshkidee together. One afternoon, I hopped on a dirt bike with Ryan and looped my arms around his waist as we bumped along the trail until we reached a private clearing overlooking the lake. Ryan propped up the bike with the kickstand and we ambled to the edge of the embankment, gazing at the serene aquamarine waters.

“Ahh.” I exhaled under my breath. “I love this place.”

Ryan shifted his gaze towards me. He had a goofy grin on his face.

“What?” I asked.

“I think we should get married.”

“Me too.” I replied without hesitation. Surprised only by the simple ease with which these words had slipped from both our mouths; months prior I had assured my girlfriend that even though I was in love with Ryan it would be years until we got married.

 But, the following June, in 2002, we tied the knot, not realizing the weight that our vows “in sickness and in health, ‘til death do us part” would hold in years to come.    

 Now, the urgency of “‘til death do us part” was ever on my mind; when Ryan’s flesh touched mine and we made love, tears streamed down my face, dripping onto my husband’s chest.

“I don’t know why I’m crying.” I sobbed. “I’m not sad. I just, I just love you so much. I don’t want to lose you.”

“It’s okay, Cheryl. It’s okay.” Ryan wiped tears from my face. We laid together. Silent.

What we couldn’t put into words our bodies had communicated: passion, fear, courage, sorrow, hope and our undying love for one another. We were unified in it all.


Life is short. Having reached these three milestones this year I don’t sit back and wait for brain cancer’s return, I aim for new milestones (turning 50, watching my kids graduate, publishing my memoir…). Perhaps these aims will be left behind, incomplete when I leave this earth. But in wabi sabi fashion that will (have to) be okay. Because all I have (all you have) is this moment, and in it I plan to LIVE.

Sending lots of love and grace to you all