Today’s post is dedicated to my friends, GR8family.
Hello from Sugarloaf! Travellargefamily is here in the beautiful Carrabassett Valley in Maine for our annual ski holiday. We’ve been coming here for years and have had some memorable happenings. You can read about our family vomiting road trip https://travellargefamily.com/2015/04/05/sugarloaf-disaster-1/ and about the time we hit a moose with our van and lived to tell the tale https://travellargefamily.com/2015/04/07/sugarloaf-disaster-2/.
In Fall 2011, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer that had spread to my lymph nodes. I honestly did not believe that I would be around in two years. That was the time frame I became convinced it would take me to get progressively sicker and finally die. Lastborn had just turned two and the other kids were still young.
Despite my oncologist’s objections, I was determined not to miss our annual Sugarloaf ski holiday. Even if my first round of chemo was to take place a couple of days before. I am not sure if you have ever done chemo but I don’t think we can over-emphasize how toxic it is. Oncowitch worried that I might have a reaction after my first round (not knowing yet how I would tolerate the “cocktail”) and was thinking that the U.S. of A. with its not-free medicare would not be an ideal place to be.
Despite my distaste for this woman, I do have to admit that she did everything she could to make my ski holiday happen, including starting my chemo immediately so that I could have my danger reaction, if any, in my hometown. Oh ya, and she probably saved my life with her Voodoo formulas because here I still am, years later. The dangerous reaction was nil but having had more rounds of chemo with various scary reactions and hospital visits, I have to own up and admit that if I had known then what I know now, I don’t think I would have gone to Sugarloaf. It is just too remote. But then again, maybe I would have. When you have cancer and are doing chemo, you are scared gormless and yet you become convinced that you are immune to all other dangers. It’s quite liberating. I was instructed to stay off the slopes as skiing was just too risky. Well, I skied everyday anyways as an act of defiance and out of desperation for some form of normalcy.
Anyways, Oncowitch rigged the system so that I could start chemo early and go to Sugarloaf. The only thing concession I had to make was to leave Sugarloaf on Thursday, instead of Friday. I had Round Two of chemo on Friday morning, back in the True North Strong and Free. I wanted my family to enjoy Sugarloaf as they normally did – until the bitter end: 4 pm on Friday. Fortuitously, friends of ours were also going to Sugarloaf for Kids’ Week and they were leaving on Thursday to come back home. It was a big ask, but I wondered if I could come back in their van.
GR8family held a meeting and agreed to bring me home in their gigantic 11 passenger van. Enough to hold two parents, six children, tons of gear and me. We set out in a massive snow storm that lasted over 24 hours. It took us over 10 hours to drive the 500 km/310 miles home. The highway hadn’t been cleared and the visibility was close to nil. Cars were getting stuck all over the place. We stopped at McDonald’s in Montreal to allow GR8dad to calm his frazzled nerves and for a much needed bathroom break. The weather was so bad that GR8family would have found a hotel and stayed the night except they had a commitment to return me home in time for chemo. And so we set out again. The children were good as gold. I could not believe how patient and calm they were. They stayed quiet and let their dad concentrate on steering us home through the dark, snowy night.
There are many horrible things about having cancer but the kindness and self-sacrifice that you encounter from family, friends, acquaintances and complete strangers is not one of them. Thank-you.
Will Stiles as quoted in Maine magazine, December 2015 – The Sugarloaf Issue:
The thing I love about Sugarloaf is, it’s not about what you do for a living. Aside from friends who work on the mountain, there are some people I’ve known for years, and don’t even know what they do for a living. Sugarloaf is not a place where people come to see and be seen. People come here to ski and to have a good time.