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Letter: Update Sindy Hawkins

To the editor:

Dear Friends,

Here's how my past week has been:

On the afternoon of March 23rd I got the call I'd been hoping and waiting to
get for a week. I was told a bed was now available for me in the Bone Marrow
Transplant/ Leukemia Unit at Vancouver General Hospital. As you can imagine, I felt immediate relief, a lot of joy, but I also felt a strange new kind of anxiety as it struck home that the next important part of my journey with cancer was a mere few hours away. All I could think of as I was packing the final few things to take to the hospital was, "I'm now in God's hands".

I would like to clear up any confusion I may have caused regarding the delay in my bone marrow transplant. During the past week, I had further tests done to determine whether my liver was healthy enough to be subjected to high dose chemotherapy. In addition, my doctor informed me they've experienced a sharp rise in leukemia cases in the past couple of weeks, which has kept their 17-bed specialty unit very busy.

Although anxious to get in and get on with it, I was confident that all efforts were being made to get me in as soon as possible.

In my mind, there is absolutely no blame to attribute to anyone or anywhere for my not getting in earlier. As I've always said, I am so very proud of our cancer programs in BC. We have the best cancer outcomes in Canada and the people caring for me, I believe, are second to none.

On March 24th, the first bottle of chemotherapy is hung and I watch it dripping slowly into me. I'll have six days of chemo, a day of rest and then get my bone marrow transplant - simple as a blood transfusion in my arm - next Wednesday.

My younger sister, Seema, is my donor - my lifesaver as I affectionately call her. She gets the hard part in the actual transplant. She'll be taken to the operating room, prepared for surgery, and under general anesthetic, a large portion of her bone marrow will be "harvested" from her hip bones. I know, from previous experience as a cancer nurse, that she'll be sore and tired for up to three or four weeks, but I have to say that the generosity of her gift to me and the joy with which she gives me my new lease on life -asking for nothing more in return but to see her little boy's auntie healthy again - leaves me with a huge lump in my throat, speechless.

As I've said before, this is such a humbling experience for me. One where family, friends I'm very close to - and people I've never even met! - step up unselfishly to offer help, and to show me the wonderful side of humanity we sometimes ignore, pretend doesn't exist or believe we don't deserve.

I was struck by something one of my fellow patients said to me the other day. She told me how surprised she was that her cancer experience brought some friends, who were much closer to her alone than to each other, much closer together within the group. I had one of those "Aha!" moments just then because that's exactly what I'm experiencing. The good that comes out of sharing our cancer experiences is that people talk to others, share with each other and show care for each other. It's almost infectious! My close friends are always telling me how they get stopped, all the time, by different people asking how I'm doing. They've met some wonderful people and have made new friends, as have I.

The biggest and best surprise came for me on Wednesday. My Mom came in from Calgary to care for me. I hadn't seen her for three weeks...and I hadn't eaten as well since she left. The home cooking starts tomorrow! The rest of my sisters and family start arriving Saturday. (Keep tuned - I will share family humor as appropriate!).

In closing, I want to dedicate a few words to the people I work with. Since I was diagnosed with leukemia in late January I've felt my colleagues and staff 'circle the wagon', so to speak, around me to keep me in their
thoughts, love and prayers. I feel very privileged to work with all these wonderful, hard-working, caring and committed people. Every day I get phone calls, cards, emails and messages from MLAs inspiring me to get better.

Believe me, I know how busy their lives are and how much they pack into every single day. So when that unexpected call or email comes from the Premier or an MLA or from one of our staff, it means the world to me because I know I'm still connected with them in some small way even though I'm not there for now. I know many who have pitched in and picked up for me, and for that I want to say thank you so much.

It was personally very important for me to see you all at the Legislature and to speak out on the need for more blood donors and the desperate need for more unrelated bone marrow donors from ethnic communities. I found the hardest part of the whole day was leaving. My legislative work has been my life for the last eight years. I struggle every day to find ways to fill my days now that they're mostly packed with medical terms and invasive procedures relating to me! No matter how uncomfortable or painful I might have thought it was before, I can't wait to return to "Legislature normal"!

Another huge thanks must go to all my colleagues in the Okanagan who check in with my office and are helping my exceptional staff, Del and Shirly, cope during this very difficult time.

Again, I would like to see our golf tournament for cancer care be the biggest and best this year. I'm going to do everything I can from my hospital bed to make that happen. I'm asking you to join me on August 27th to honour Tom Capozzi's memory and give back to the community. You can get details at my office.

So I will say goodbye for now my friends. I feel God's arms around me as I go forward. Please keep me in your prayers.

Sindi Hawkins
Kelowna-Mission MLA

Posted:
Story# 469 / 


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