Tag Archives: Brain Cancer

Only Child’s thoughts on cancer

Only Child  thinking about cancer and its causes and consequence.

Only Child thinking about cancer and its causes and consequence.

Cancer was the big concern yesterday. I was back in Aurora, Ontario to visit an old friend and read from my book Beyond the Tripping Point at the local library. The old friend and one of the other authors reading both have cancer. Which got me thinking.
It’s been almost 50 years since my dad died of brain cancer and we’re still trying to get the cure? Except for the long long time and some of the concoctions for treatment that come up, I do have respect for the researchers for at least keeping on digging for the cure.
My worry here is the treatments that are being used. In Dad’s time it was either slice or burn or both. (He had the latter only; it helped the first time, but the cancer just spread to another area of the brain, they couldn’t do anything, so he had what we now call palliative care).
One of the two people I saw yesterday had outlined her treatment plan for breast cancer in an email. It made me feel ill just to read it – that she would have to go through all that to maybe get better.
The other one has terminal cancer from what I can gather. She is on chemo – and has been for the past couple of years. Originally the high-dosed chemo made her so sick she was considering just dropping it and spending the rest of her days as is with her family. But the dosage was changed and the side effects aren’t so bad. Eventually the chemo will not help.
It seems like the “cure” is worse than the disease. And it is not always a cure. Who gets through the cancer into remission and who doesn’t seems to be a crap game. Sure, some of the chemo, surgery and radiation works. Some people who choose no medical intervention of the “regular kind” get through it. Same for some who choose modified treatment despite being told they should be more radical. Some try alternative treatment (either on its own or with regular medical). Some who are hopeful about getting better, do; some don’t.  Some who aren’t hopeful don’t make it and some do. Ditto those who are spiritual and those who aren’t. Attitude doesn’t seem to matter.
Then there is the question – with all those odds should they go through the treatment that will drag them through hell physically and emotionally, for a bit more time with their family and friends? Or should they just let it be and spend their time with their families and friends?
One exception here – some surgeries can cure some cancers (but not all). If the prognosis for surgery as a cure is very high, then maybe go with it.
It’s the chemo and/or radiation afterwards that I question.
Like my book’s title, we seem to be beyond the tripping point with cancer. I don’t know what the answer is but I have a few suggestions (besides the obvious – find a cure NOW).

  • Focus more on treatment that isn’t so drastic, so painful, and so debilitating. Did you know if you get radiation treatment you can’t go out in the hot summer sun without covering up? I know, I know – we should be more careful here because of the UV rays and skin cancer potential. But those who get “burned” don’t get radiation just for skin cancer.
  • Focus on more natural treatment.
  • Try to work more at the prevention end (research, getting the word out, and the rest of us – individuals, corporations and government – doing more about the environmental “polluters”).
  • The so-called average person can also do more about improving their lives using information already available. We’ve come some way with banning pesticides, the cfc elimination from refrigerators, etc., and the publicity on smoking causing cancer.
  • Something has to be done about too many cars spewing out toxins – they don’t just cause asthma attacks, but they cause cancer. See the Studies section in this Wikipedia article on Motor Vehicle Emissions http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motor_vehicle_emissions#Health_Studies From there link to the studies. And Google for more studies.These are just the tip of the smogberg.
  • More responsibility in automobile ads. Instead of just focusing on the car’s features and “low” price, how about some caveats? This is done with alcohol in relation to drunk driving.
  • Smokers need to quit and the younger generation shouldn’t start smoking. However, I don’t think they are getting the message and that might be because it isn’t coming at them as relevant.
  • Pay more attention to our diet. There is a lot of media attention to obesity and diet and diabetes and diet. All very well. How about some big publicity about cancer and diet? And the food manufacturers have to get in the act here, too, to help.

Maybe I’m being naive but when the treatment is worse than the cure; when cure as a result is a crap shoot, and when even the cancer instigators aren’t consistent (i.e., some who eat or inhale something cancerous don’t get cancer; and some who live healthy lives do get cancer, well…
Something is sure screwed up here.
It’s nearly 50 years since my dad died of brain cancer. Have we really come a long way since then?
Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes

And I have no clue why my spacing disappeared when I save the draft of this post.

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Filed under cancer, Cancer Treatment

Only Child honours Dad on his anniversary

Only child's Dad when he worked for the railway

Only child’s Dad when he worked for the railway

Losing a parent can be devastating, but particularly if you are a child. My dad, Albert Langevin,  died from brain cancer at 66 on November 15, 1965. That is a double whammy as I was only 16 at the time. But if truth be told, Mom and I had lost Dad years before that to cancer, starting with the first cancer hit in his lungs a few months before my 10th birthday. Surgery of half a lung removed got rid of it there, but cancer being cancer, it spread to his brain two and a half years later. Mom and I thought he would die. And we had the talk.

One day Mom corrals me in the kitchen.

“Sharon, I have something to tell you,” she begins, as we stand, facing each other. This isn’t sit-down business. “Your father has cancer of the brain.”

“Is he going to live?”

“I don’t know.”

Our hug does not reassure. (excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford)

So Mom called in the “troops” in the form of one of her older sisters to help out at the house so she could spend more time with Dad and often I joined her.

Aunt Gretchen now joins the litany of worriers hovering around Dad as he continues to vomit and endure the headaches. She brings her dumpy flowered housedresses, straight black hair, black oxfords, and bricks of blue cheese that stink up our fridge and would probably kill Dad if he were home and could keep anything down. I don’t remember Gretchen ever setting foot in the hospital, but she rules the home front. She commandeers the cooking and washing up after dinner, supposedly a blessing for mother and me…


Gretchen’s answer is to pray. I still hold onto religion then, so our impromptu female trinity prays rosaries, as if strumming the circle of beads and muttering praises and pleas will make my father whole and keep him alive.


St. Michael’s Hospital radiatesa friendlier air than Western, maybe because the chief guardian angel resides there. And St. Mike must have listened to our prayers, because one day when mother and I walk into his room, Dad smiles at us.


“I ate a cheese sandwich, and it stayed down,” he says. [Author Note: not blue cheese]


Soon after Dad returns to our house and Aunt Gretchen returns to hers. (excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford)

That wasn’t the end of the cancer but four years later would be Dad’s end.

I like to remember Dad for more than just his cancer. He taught me to ride my bicycle, leading me along our street and the dead end crescent adjoining it. I was nine and a half, maybe a bit old to be just learning to ride a bike as my best friend The Bully told me. Looking back I realize that Dad holding the bike bars and leading me around along our street helped neutralize this Bully’s remarks. True, Dad was overprotective, as elderly parents often are, but he tried to protect me from The Bully.

Dad gave me the gift of being a railway/train-riding enthusiast. Dad worked as a timekeeper for the old CNR (when CN was CNR and had passenger service) so Mom and I got free passes. Our annual holidays to Grandpa’s and my godmother’s farms near Walkerton, Ontario, trips to visit the Detroit, Michigan relatives, and tourist trips to Buffalo, Rochester and New York City were all courtesy of Dad.

Dad’s railway job (an office one at the CNR office when it was in Toronto) may have induced his obsession with all things (including the kitchen wall clock and his watch) being on time. We had to arrive at Toronto’s Union Station very early so he could be first in line to get on the train. Once we were allowed on, Dad cased the joint by walking up and down the coach aisles until he found the perfect seat. Then he would grab the top of the seat back and slide the seat backwards, creating two double seats facing each. I know, this dates me, but it was a great answer to keep families travelling together.

One of our trips to Detroit, when I was five was memorable because when the train arrived at Windsor, Ontario, a boat took us, train and all across the Detroit River.


Enter the Landsdowne Ferry in 1891, at 312 feet, the longest ferry on the Great Lakes. That summer of 1954, Mom, Dad and I were fortunate to take one of its last runs because in September 1955 or 1956, depending on your source, the CNR pulled the plug on passenger railway/ferry service. Once again passengers had to disembark from a train at Windsor and board an American train at Detroit. This time a bus carried them through the Detroit-Windsor tunnel.


But to a five-year old, the river run is a big sea adventure filled with rollicking train coaches and the screech of metal wheels on steel rails as the train jerks and jolts onto the long open freighter. Instead of the train whistle, we get the foghorn call of the boat and the floor seems to zig and zag. I hang onto the seat, but I also look out the window. The train appears to be moving on water, as if its wheels are kicking through the river…


We head to the back of the train and I gasp. The doorway is wide open and an expansion gate blocks our exit out onto the boat. On the other side of the gate the top of the boat sits level with the tracks, and beyond is the city of Windsor, fast disappearing as the boat-train sloshes and kicks its way through the dark green Detroit River. (excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford.

Sometimes in November I can feel Dad’s spirit here in my house. In 2005, on the 40th anniversary of his death, I heard his spirit rush through the house, through the back hallway.

I don’t know if he will re-appear so dramatically this year, but I know he is here.

Love you and miss you Dad.


Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Dad's last picture

Dad’s last picture

Only Child at 13 and Dad on veranda of house where she grew up

Only Child at 13 and Dad on veranda of house where she grew up

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Albert Langevin, Canadian National Railway, Death and Dying, Elderly parents, Family, Mom and Dad, Only child memoir, Railways, Sharon A. Crawford, Vacations