Raising Hope for Emma Lee Stewart

The Reason For Hope Compilation CD's can be ordered via email to TheReasonForHopeCD@Gmail.com payment can be made via Interact Email Money Transfer. Mail orders with payment by cash or cheque can be made to :
The Reason For Hope
170 Temperance Street New Glasgow, NS B2H3B1 ($20.00 Includes shipping)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Treatment this coming Friday.

Blood work tomorrow; treatment on Friday. Can't see it not happening, although I am desperately tired. I am going to sink into me for the next couple of days to prepare. I will watch the Royal Wedding from the chemo chair.

Nature is bursting. Birds are happy. Music festival is in full swing. The senior piano class yesterday afternoon was amazing.

Have a great next few days. I'll check in the first of next week.

Time for rest.


Emma Lee

Monday, April 25, 2011

Being Present

Over the past week, I have had many opportunities for quiet, for reflection, and for challenging myself to "be present" in the various moments and activities leading to Easter Sunday. I attended almost all of the Reflections At The Foot of the Cross series, which were inter-denominational. On Thursday evening Holy Potion (without Aileen, but with David and Murray) gathered to lead the music at the evening service, led by the contemporary team of Charleen and Owen, who did a fabulous job. Love One Another was the theme. On Friday morning, Trinity and St. George's gathered together to witness the Good Friday story. Our buildings are footsteps away; our congregations have gathered to witness to our community in outreach, and so worship together is a natural progression. St. George's choir loft is small and we were tightly connected as we sang a Mummer's Carol as our gift of music. Saturday of course was the first Jesus Jam, Lloyd is calling it, which saw us try to sing the score, with abandon, of Jesus Christ Superstar in another small, but lovely church in Alma. Their new set-up is great. And then yesterday morning, we gathered at 8 at the Gazebo at the Riverfront, in nature - a wild and windy day - and we welcomed Easter Sunday. Then worship at 10 and surprise there is a full church!

At all of these times and places, my inner voice, my heart has been urging me to be present, to be in the moment, to take in those moments so that I can recall them during the days ahead when words of spirit and hope are needed. I am profoundly affected by the story that has unfolded over the past days and each time I receive communion my heart just aches. I then call upon my angels to be with me, to be present with me and calm my heart into knowing that God still knows the way.

And, my children both called me and I was present with them during our long distance telephone chats. I also had the chance to have some excellent communications with other folks who are important to me over the past few days and for that I am eternally grateful.

Peace today. It looks like a lovely day. Honey and I will enjoy our walks and I have band practice later on. I will enjoy that and will urge myself to be present - of course I have to be as I count the notes and bars that complete the composition.

Emma Lee

Saturday, April 23, 2011

We Did It!

I am telling you my impression - it was a success - the first singalong Jesus Christ Superstar. Musicians were Lloyd on keys, Gwen on bass and David on drums. We had a jimbay (spelling is wrong) and some other small percussion instruments and there was a good number of folks and friends there. It was fun. And they were singing. We were all singing - with abandon! The singing in I Don't Know How to Love Him was beautiful and inspiring. It all was. Thank you everyone for being there. Thank you Greenhill-Alma. I may have a picture to post in a bit! Another tick on the bucket list!

Peace today. Tomorrow will be coming early!

Emma Lee

Off to Alma-Greenhill United for 3:00 p.m.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mother's Day, May 8th, 2011 - 3:00 p.m. Trinity United Church

Musical Mother's Day Afternoon - Mark 3:00 p.m. on May 8th, 2011, at Trinity United Church, New Glasgow, on your calendars as the Pictou County Community Orchestra and The Carillon Singers, along with St. James Brass Quintet, will join forces to present "Dames with Strings Attached". Sweets & other Treats will be offered. This is the first joint effort of the groups, who will present a varied repertoire. A great way to spend time with Mom and treat yourselves to an enjoyable afternoon. Tickets are $10.00 and available at H&R Music, at the door or by calling 752-3480. For more information, contact me at emmalee@eastlink.ca

We Meditated on a Robin's Song

Yesterday morning, the birds seemed to be particularly alive. Very early, before I heard Honey, I was woken by what sounded like an alarm clock. I can tell you it has been a very long time since an alarm clock was used in this house. The noise startled me and I thought, is it the smoke detector? It continued a few more times, and then suddenly added another sharp, clear note, and I realized it was a bird sitting in the spruce tree outside my bedroom window. Thanks ducky. It was a bit later that Honey started to whimper - well 5:29 to be exact. Later, when Honey and I left the house, the sound of a robin singing lured us to take a different path on our mid-morning. We found her (I'm calling it her) and we gravitated to that part of our neighbourhood, even stopping to stand near the tree, but not so close as to interrupt, for a while. It was so enjoyable.

When I returned home, I took a call from a lady who has been keeping in touch with me since she read the article in the Pictou Advocate. She was concerned that she had read the word "meditation" in the article. I can tell you that she continues to be very concerned about my soul, and the fact that I may not have, in her terms and by her definition, accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. Listening to her talk, I found myself standing close to that robin's tree again. How could a God that created so many marvelous creatures have only one way? When I posed that question to this lady, she was quite adamant that she was right, that her religion was right, and that she hoped I didn't wait too long, that would be a shame. I had to ask her to stop at that point. My reality is fighting with enough right now. So, I returned to thinking of that robin, and then thinking of all the people in this whole wide world who don't have an inkling of faith: I proposed her attempts at conversion would be better spent elsewhere. Let me meditate on that robin. It was disturbing but forced me to think about where in my life I wear blinders. What beliefs do I have that are so entrenched as to have a negative influence on others?

Anyway, with God-sent grace (yes, grace), my mind went back to that robin.

Today, we have a Holy Potion rehearsal (for tomorrow night's service), and then a funeral. The weather sounds interesting for later on. My prayer is that Mr. Stewart makes it home this evening! Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday. We are worshiping with St. George's on Friday morning. We shall be gathering at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday morning for worship at the Gazebo on the Riverfront. Pray my fingers don't freeze - I am going to attempt to play the guitar!!

Peace today, go out and find a robin, don't disturb her, and have a listen to a most marvelous sound of God.

Emma Lee

Addendum: I have to add an addendum. My original breast cancer adventure took place between diagnosis Dec 21/06 and completion of chemo and radiation by May 31st/07, but covered both Christmas and Easter. I found Easter of 2007 became very significant to me. I cannot believe that I am sitting here expressing myself this way during Easter of 2011. When I start to count the years I have been dealing with this disease it becomes quite profound. Cancer would have been growing for sometime prior to Dec 2006. Thank you for continuing to support me - we all need hope and I offer it to you as it comes so freely to me. "M"

Monday, April 18, 2011

When Ordinary Become Extraordinary

Submitted by Emma Lee Stewart
February 7th, 2011

I’m fortunate to have a little dog that needs my daily care and attention. Honey keeps me active. We are up early each morning and by early, I mean between 5:00 and 6:00. Just about the same time I used to rise to ready for work. Getting dressed takes probably 5 minutes, because it’s cold out there, and layers are needed, including long johns. Here in Atlantic Canada we are in the midst of a normal cold, snowy winter. But to my point – these early morning walks have turned into a time of quiet introspection for me. Honey enjoys the walks more than I, but little does she know that these jaunts through sleepy town Nova Scotia have allowed me to turn my attention inward in an attempt to make sense of, and put into its proper perspective, my metastatic breast cancer diagnosis.

I was initially diagnosed with breast cancer (ER/PR+) on December 21st 2006 and went through surgery (right mastectomy, ALND), 4 rounds AC chemotherapy, 16 radiation treatments and a 5 year prescript for Tamoxifen. I was then set free to rejoin the employed. I bathed in pink as I was adopted into the survivor ranks. I joined the dragon boat team, created The Reason for Hope Society (which to date has raised $16,000.00 for cancer related initiatives), took over team recruitment for the Pictou County Dragon Boat Society, became an advocate with Breast Cancer Network Nova Scotia and yes, wore pink. I shouted and cheered and walked as a proud survivor. It really wasn’t too long however before the feelings of unwellness that accompanied my original diagnosis began to subtly reappear. My doctor was not too alarmed. I had regular blood work and a CT scan, but nothing showed. Pain became more pronounced in my upper right side and I continued to protest. I was told that my doctor saw hundreds of people every week with that pain. Blood work in early ’10 showed vit D was completely deficient. My doctor then closed shop, leaving me doctor-less. Luckily, my original surgeon took over my care. I had an abdominal ultrasound late April and on May 17th it was confirmed that my original breast cancer had metastasized in my liver: “seeded”. Since then, mets have been found in my thoracic spine. I continue to experience brutal left sided headaches but so far nothing has been found. I will continue to protest.

Back to my early morning walks. One morning it was particularly quiet. A light dusting of snow had fallen over night, leaving the world beautiful and clean. I allowed Honey to romp and investigate the snow as she wished, as I contemplated my reason for being. I suddenly noticed her completely still, head cocked slightly to the right, ears alert. I looked up and there in front of us was a beautiful young deer, probably two years old. Now I described my town as sleepy town, and it is, but there are more than 9000 people living here and it is a “town”. This wonderful creature was in the middle of our town, just as scared as we were. Honey doesn’t stand a foot tall, but man was she ready. The chase was on. You can guess the outcome. Honey didn’t give up, and I allowed her to follow the deer tracks through the snow along MacKay Street, up the path by the junior high, past the soccer field, right onto Albert Street, and then left, starting up MacLean Street before I stopped her. That was far enough and my ice grippers had failed by that time. The deer escaped. But Honey’s actions solidified something in my mind. When my oncologist told me I would be receiving palliative treatment for an incurable disease I must have looked at him the way Honey faced that deer: at first terrified, but eventually resolved to fight the good fight.

So, here I am: 53 years young, stripped of career, on a fixed income, fighting for as much quality/quantity of life doctors and their prescriptions can give me, having been diagnosed with a disease that currently has no cure. I am feeling very fortunate to live in Canada, but I am not exactly living the dream I had as a little girl. Explaining this disease to family and friends is difficult. It’s a tough sell even to survivors. This organization (CBCN) can give you the Canadian stats on numbers of women who go on to develop the dastardly metastasis. Friends I have met in the US tell me that 25% of women there diagnosed with early stage breast cancer go on to join me and 150,000 are estimated to be living with it. I am told that treatments have come a long way, this disease is becoming known as a chronic disease and that “stable” is good, “ned” (no evidence of disease) even better and to be wished for. I am taking in all of these things and trying to be patient, listening and understanding with my heart of hearts. Truth is I spent a lot of time healthy never listening with my heart of hearts: I now find her a constant and reliable companion. I think I’m too young for this, but obviously this disease doesn’t care what I think. I still have dreams. I’m still curious. I’m still creative. I still want to contribute.

That morning with Honey was beautiful. It was cold, but the sky was clear and the sunrise was just offering a hint of itself. The star in the east was the most brilliant I think I have ever seen. The air was fresh and delicious and, despite everything else, I have to admit I felt pretty good out there sharing the experience with my faithful little gal. I pray for all who have received this diagnosis that you are able to put it in its place; that you suffer little; that you are surrounded by love and beautiful things. Selfishly I pray that my son and daughter are spared this; that I am able to write and sing for as long as I can; and that early morning walks continue to allow me to see and feel beauty in the ordinary, appreciating the extraordinary goodness that is in my life.

Emma Lee Stewart of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer on May 17th, 2010. She has been receiving palliative chemotherapy since July of 2010. A blog of her journey can be found at www.raisinghopeforemmalee.blogspot.com.

Green Hill-Alma United Church, Alma, NS

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011 - 3:00p.m. Come one come all. Sing-along Jesus Christ Superstar. Sorry to be causing confusion with the location. But the above is the absolute correct location.

I have a way of getting things mixed up like addresses, names. I am not going to humiliate myself by listing these things, but there are many. Sometimes, I really don't know what is going to come out of my mouth. Like Stompin' Thom = Tompin' Stom. Like: let us bow our hairs. Okay that's enough.

I received the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation's newsletter today. My post "When Ordinary Becomes Extraordinary" appears. The entire issue is dedicated to Metastatic Breast Cancer. I can't believe it. I am SO happy about that. We have felt left out, in this world of pink, no longer survivors.

I am going to re-post my submission.

Peace today. Band at 5. 20 minutes at the foot of the cross today was worthwhile. Very friendly church.

Emma Lee

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Jesus Christ Superstar Sing-Along

Saturday, April 23 at 3:00pm
Location: Green Hill-Alma United Church, Alma, NS

Live music, all are welcome, bring your instrument and join in on our seasonal Jesus Jam!

Okay those are the details, including time, place and music details.

Should be a blast!

Don't be shy. Hope to see you then.

Peace today - Palm Sunday, marching into Jerusalem.

Emma Lee

Friday, April 15, 2011

JC Superstar Sing-a-long Re-scheduled for April 23rd, 2011

Note from Lloyd:

"We want to re-schedule the JCSuperstar Sing-along until next Saturday, the
23, for a couple of reasons.

1) It will be fun to do.
2) Our new flat-screen TV has been installed in the sanctuary for lyrics
presentation! (just saw it last night)"

So, we're on for Saturday, the 23rd! Can't wait. Greenhill United Church in Saltsprings, 3:00 p.m.

Questions? Just ask away!!!!

Peace - off to Quarry Island for the burning of the brush and stuff removed from our yard!

Emma Lee

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Developing an Understanding of Kindness

I have been thinking about the days and years when I had "health" in my life. I realize now that I took those days and years very much for granted, traveling along my busy way, caring for my family and trying to do my best. Back then, our family relied upon ourselves to get by and lent a helping hand when and where it might be needed, not thinking about it really. Today I sit on the other side of that fence. Now I witness examples of kindness that are filling my heart. Gratitude has become a big part of my life. I am praying that those who offer acts of kindness "without thinking" understand what a gift they are to my world and to the world in general. In my former days, I did not take these matters to heart, thinking "Oh, it's nothing". Indeed and in fact it is not just "something", it is "everything".

I shall continue to attempt to put into words exactly what kindness means to the new me. My life is being touched, my gratitude is being nurtured and I feel the need to be able to communicate my thanks properly.

It is grey out there today, but the music festival is on and I think I will take in some of it. My body is still trying to warm-up from yesterday morning, and I have oodles of music to read and think about. And Jim is home.

I wish you moments of peace and appreciation today.


Emma Lee

(P.S. We are going to hold JC Superstar for another time. I will keep you apprised. Godspell pieces this Sunday at Trinity - 10:00 a.m. worship time.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Miracle Contines

Yesterday a miracle unfolded. Seven friends came to my backyard: Bruce, Bruce, Janet, Jim, Mary, Nathaniel and Sue. In the span of a little over 3 hours a transformation took place. When Honey and I walked outside this morning it was like moving into some place new. They're not done yet and I can't wait to see what is accomplished. I am indeed thankful to the bottom of my heart. I can't wait to find the annuals for the beds they created, and to plant the lettuce that will be enjoyed!!

And another miracle, I am able to rejoin the Band for their next five rehearsals leading to their spring concert on May 18th at the DeCoste! Yay. I have all of the music and will be well rehearsed before next Monday's rehearsal.

Peace to you all, the temperature is rising to the double digits today.

Emma Lee

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Music and Friendship

I can't find my glasses, but have tried my best to review this blog. I apologize for spelling and grammatical errors in advance.

Well, the past days have been full of musical excitement for me. On Tuesday evening as I arrived for Carrilon practice, Leah Haggerman was practising her saxophone piece for the music festival that is approaching. I have never heard anything so incredibly beautiful. Can't wait to hear her at the festival. Then on Wednesday evening I attended, with the Carrilons, a choral workshop in Antigonish led by Stephen Hatfield. Wow. Energy personified. What a wonderful evening it was. There were two other choirs: one of which Stephen affectionately dubbed "Smokey", a brand new intergenerational choir from Cape Breton, and the St. FX Jazz Choir, who absolutely blew me away. After individual work, we joined together and Stephen taught us a Native Canadian piece and an African piece, complete with "moves". It was wonderful. I am so glad that I attended.

On Friday evening, I attended a Soiree at Donna's house, featuring her adult students. Another beautiful experience. The sun was setting and the music became a soundtrack for a wonderful night. Flute, vocal and piano rounded it out and Jane and Lori ended their section with a stunning version of Evening Prayer, of which I have lately become enamoured.

Last night I got to hear Laura Smith and Ryan McGrath at the Celtic Circle. Laura has some pretty darned amazing songs, which I had forgotten about to be truthful and Ryan can sing for octaves. His songwriting is also mature and he is being recognized as an up and comer in the East Coast Music industry. We had supper with them and it was just a lovely night.

On the friendship front, I received two beautiful hats this week to add to my wardrobe. I think I mentioned that I will soon be retiring my wool hats. Karen has shown yet another talent and made me two GREAT hats. One is a soft pink hat, with a matching scarf and the other is a Newsboy design, in a wonderful blue. They are needed and a great addition to my head covering inventory.

Today the choir is singing and Jane and Lori will share another of their duets. It is an absolutely beautiful day out there. Have a great one. Stop. Be present. Feel your feet connect with the earth. Breathe deeply. Look up and around you. Look down and see the growth sprouting. It is a magical time of year indeed.

(By the way, we are thinking of having a Jesus Christ Superstar Sing-a-long next Saturday afternoon at Greenhill United at 3. More to follow. All are welcome if you love JC Superstar and feel like just letting it go in advance of Holy Week!)


Emma Lee

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Sunny South

Lee and Tessa are off to Mexico. They are so excited. Funny. I kept asking things like do you have your passport, do you have things for tummy upsets, water shoes, bathing suits, a coupon for Park & Fly, etc. Never occurred to ask, do you have your pesos? Ha. But that's what happened. They were out the door, in the car, car moving forward, I was on the phone, they were back in, hunting down the pesos, and then back out! Anyway, it was wonderful to be a part of their positive excitement. I hope you have some positive excitement too.

Have a great day and enjoy this sunshine!


Emma Lee

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mid-Week Ramble

Our ramble this morning was lovely. Still a bit of a bite in the air, but the singing going on out there is remarkable. Pre-dawn singing. We should have a festival. The parade would just be people quietly walking through the streets with lanterns in the early morning air, trying not to interrupt or disrupt the sound. (Dogs would be walked earlier or later.) Traffic would be re-routed for 45 minutes. I wish I knew the names of all of the types of birds, their particular song and what the different pitches meant. There is such a variety among these song birds. I don't know if Honey cares too much about the singing, but it sure puts the pack leader in a calm state.

If I could have a wish, it would be to have a full-on session with Cesar Milan. I am reading his book and finding it so informative. (Or another wish - sorry - would be a Mediterranean Cruise! Are we promised 3 wishes? lol (me with my arms up apparently)).

I mentioned a friend waiting for test results recently. Good news. All is clear, all is well, I think I hear Kris Kringle . . . sorry, but it is a great present. I am so happy for her and her family. One of the Mac family had a life-threatening medical issue recently. I found out this week when I made contact with a friend at the firm, who filled me in. A brush with death. We all face it every single moment, in every single breath, but it takes a shock to really think about it. And of course we don't want to think of our friends and loved ones in peril or experiencing pain. That is simply heartbreaking. So, I am thanking God for good news in the Mac family too. Thanking God.

I am slowly climbing out of the last treatments.

Lee and Tessa are arriving tonight. They are on their way to Mexico via New Glasgow. They will spend the night with us, and tomorrow morning and then will head to the airport. The pesos I ordered are in and I will walk down to the Bank, alone today, another odyssey into downtown New Glasgow, to pick them up. I am praying they have a great, safe trip. A wish: to enjoy the journey, cause that is what it is, a journey, it is not the destination. I have sometimes found one of the best things about a vacation is the anticipation leading up to it. That doesn't occur to me much now. Now, being present in the moments you are together is really what is the most important, not thinking about what you will wear, where you still stay, how much you will spend, where you will eat, who you will see, you might see you. Those are lovely details, but what's most lovely is being together and sharing the experience - the good and the bad of it - all of it. These are our treasures.

Singing continues - inside my house and out. Singing is allowing me to recover and is giving me pleasure. Holy Week is coming. My treatment will be moved to the following week so that I can take part in a full Holy Week.

Peace today,

Emma Lee

Monday, April 4, 2011

Why Harper must not have his majority

Why Harper must not have his majority

Put Your Glasses On

So, yesterday I replied to an email from a friend, without my glasses on. She was inquiring as to how things went at my last treatment. I provided a lengthy narrative, somewhat along the following lines, didn't proof it, well, couldn't actually see it, and hit send. Later in the day my friend replied, and I had the opportunity to re-read what I had sent. Well, the typos. Too funny. It really made me laugh. Belly laughs. Roars and those of you who know me, know that I can roar, sometimes evilly I am told. Anyway, did that ever make me feel good, at least for a little while.

Friday - When I arrived at 9, I was feeling down, cause I wasn't looking forward to the session. Registered. Then upstairs and it seemed quiet until I walked into the chemo room. There was a crowd. A TV was on - loud! Very unusual. Normally it is conversation, which can be enjoyable. I sat in my normal seat, but detected a bad smell, and between the noise and the smell I knew there was no way I could tolerate it. Luckily for me, there was an empty bed in one of the patient rooms, and the nurses were comfortable putting me there. I joined an older gal who was also receiving some kind of treatment. So, I drew the curtain and had a window view from 4 floors up. What a beautiful view from the 4th Floor. I had my book (The Girl Who Played With Fire) and sudoku (with which I am becoming obsessed) snacks (almonds, crackers and an apple) and I was pretty happy. We had an uneventful hook-up, aredia drip over 2 hours, visits from the fabulous volunteer who took my lunch order and provided water. The other gal left well before I did, and I had the entire place to myself. I was comfie. Meds were flowing. Abraxane started around 11:30, Jim arrived just before lunch and I was home by 1:00 p.m., after my port was flushed. It was much later that the fun started. What's up with this fever? I was ill Friday night, Saturday and Sunday a.m. Jim kept the cold compresses happening, even an alcohol back rub.

It's just dreadful. I left a message for the gals at chemo today. They are having clinic but I am not scheduled to see the doctor. I will await their directions, but I am supposed to have my next treatment on Good Friday - moved to Maundy Thursday, which would mean that I would be miserable for Easter this year. I have asked that my treatment be pushed to the following week so that I can be involved in Holy Week.

My sleep last night was terrible, being kept awake by random pain. It's hard for me to describe, but this pain roams around my body, hitting several different places at once, and it has a pulse, a rhythm. Another rhythm. It is very intense.

That's the reality. I'm up and about; Jim is off to Halifax; I am wondering why I am here alone (well not alone - Honey is here, yay! Oh yes, Boobadee and Puff as well.) Why am I here alone and why is Jim in Halifax alone? I am hoping I can have a nap this afternoon and that this pain will subside.

The sun is shining. I haven't heard a forecast, but am praying the sun will stay out and that the temperature is seasonal on this 4th day of April, the year of our Lord 2011. It seems to me that my brother John is having a special day today. Must investigate and send greetings! He is lucky and fortunate to have found a loving life partner, so that would make it a special day every day, anyway.

A confession: on the way to the Hospital on Friday, we were listening to election discussion on the radio. I told Jim I wasn't going to vote. "What's the point?", I asked. He scolded me, reminding me that my apathy would only allow someone else to win. So, I will vote. I am going to post Ralph Surette's column from Saturday's Chronicle Herald. We have to vote. Look at the rest of the world. We have to protect our freedom - our democracy. My Dad fought for it.

Take care one and all. Get out and breathe some fresh air and enjoy the sunshine. Don't sweat the small stuff

Peace to you all.

Emma Lee