Celebrating Adversity

Celebrating Adversity Episode 1: Embracing Yang and its Shadow

June 10, 2020 Clark & Jules Season 1 Episode 1
Celebrating Adversity
Celebrating Adversity Episode 1: Embracing Yang and its Shadow
Chapters
00:00:51
The Unexpected Impact of Cancer: Denial and Depression
00:03:19
Finding Strength in the Sports that they Loved (rock climbing & working out)
00:06:36
Caregiving that Enables and Empowers
00:11:19
Embracing Vulnerability
00:13:58
Embracing Yang and Its Shadow (an original poem)
Celebrating Adversity
Celebrating Adversity Episode 1: Embracing Yang and its Shadow
Jun 10, 2020 Season 1 Episode 1
Clark & Jules

A conversation between 2 friends diagnosed with stage 4 cancer -- overcoming the  unforeseen, finding the strength in caring and embracing vulnerability.

Produced by Clark Soriano and Julian Noursi
Post-Production by Cozmic Cat
Original music by Cozmic Cat
Artwork and Poems by Clark Soriano
Intro inspired by Cancer Chat. 12 Things Never to Say to Someone Who Has Cancer.

Thank you Michelle Fanzo (for mentoring) and my wife
Help us reach out and expand. Contribute to our GoFundMe campaign

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

A conversation between 2 friends diagnosed with stage 4 cancer -- overcoming the  unforeseen, finding the strength in caring and embracing vulnerability.

Produced by Clark Soriano and Julian Noursi
Post-Production by Cozmic Cat
Original music by Cozmic Cat
Artwork and Poems by Clark Soriano
Intro inspired by Cancer Chat. 12 Things Never to Say to Someone Who Has Cancer.

Thank you Michelle Fanzo (for mentoring) and my wife
Help us reach out and expand. Contribute to our GoFundMe campaign

Clark (00:00):

There's so much advice on what to say to persons living with cancer. “Don’t worry, everything will be fine. Look on the bright side. Things will be better, tomorrow. It’s ok, that’s a good cancer to have. Cancer isn’t as hard as it used to be. If anyone can beat this, you can. Remember that there is someone who is worse off. I know how you feel. At least, you have loads of free time. Congratulations, you're done.”

Julian (00:16):

Yes. Instead of thinking about what we should say, perhaps we should start listening. 

Welcome to the first episode of celebrating adversity, a podcast for people living with cancer. This is Julian and I'll be hosting a two-part series, an intimate conversation between Joseph and Clark — a phone call between Toronto and Manila with two college friends who were both diagnosed with stage four cancer. 

Joseph who loves sports was found to have stage four Adeno Carcinoma that fractured his spine, when he fell one-day walking. Clark, a a rock climber and career coach was trying to have a second child. Tests showed stage four, prostate cancer that had spread. A year later, an unforeseen lump on his leg turned out to be stage two sarcoma. I was surprised about the way stage four cancer affected Joseph and Clark. There were no signs, no advanced warnings. Everything was so sudden. 

Clark, how have you adjusted to living with cancer?

Clark (01:26):

I was in denial, that I had really cancer and I was trying to do the same things that I was doing before I had cancer. I tried to sneak in a couple of UN missions. I continued to do a lot of the climbing that I used to do before, but I realized that I was getting more tired and when I was in mission, the bleeding associated with radiation was really unmanageable.

Julian (01:54):

Joseph, can you tell us about the cancer you have?

Joseph  (01:58):

All of a sudden, I had to slow down my life. When I fractured my back, I was bedridden and that was hard for me because I've always been an active person. It was a big sudden change for me — not being active, being sedentary, lying down the whole day. I was not used to it. It was very depressing for me. I felt that my body had betrayed me. Being so active, I thought I was taking care of my body for so long. And then all of a sudden the cancer hit me that way. I could not work I could not do anything for myself. That was the most depressing part, not being able to do the most basic things for yourself and being very heavily reliant on people. I fell into depression. 

The first thing that always comes to mind is why me? Why, why is this happening? My first reaction or thought was – okay, if this is going to happen, I don't want to go through treatment wherein I'll just suffer, make everybody miserable and then just waste a lot of money. And then eventually just die. I heard a lot of stories about people being diagnosed with cancer and going through chemo, and then they seem to just get worse and then eventually they passed on. So I thought, okay, I'm not going to fight it.

Julian (03:19):

Clark had surgery, radiation, chemo, and now he's going through hormone treatment. What I found unexpected was what Clark and Joseph did in parallel. They use the sports that they loved to help them heal. Let's first listen to Clark tell us how rock climbing became part of his therapy.

Clark (03:37):

The cancer did not affect my ability to exercise and to climb. And I felt that if there is one thing that I could continue doing and do well was to climb. The kind of cancer that I had, had an impact on your sense of masculinity. Because this is prostate cancer -- it attacks your ability to reproduce, it affects your sexual drive. So for me, climbing was all about trying to do things that other people living without cancer could not do. And when I checked with the doctor, the doctors encouraged me to continue climbing as part of my own therapy. So I was climbing almost every week. I was climbing every rock 

At a certain point, it started shifting.  Instead of looking at climbing as a way to prove to others, it became part of my healing. It became part of my coping mechanism because every time I climbed, there was this natural high that I got that helped me through the moments where I was depressed or that helped me through my different kinds of therapy.

Joseph  (04:50):

The good thing is, as the months progressed, I started to feel better. My back started to feel better. I was able to move and do things. It started off last March because my going through this immunotherapy meant that my oncologist, my doctor, was able to focus more on trying to get my back better. What I'm undergoing right now is bone therapy. They give me a mixture of medicines that is supposed to promote bone growth and strengthen my bones. Which I do this monthly.

So starting in March, I started walking again. I use a back brace, of course. It starts off with using a walker, then I transition to using two walking canes. And now I actually, since the end of March, have been walking on my own with no support. If I feel tired, I (just) use the back brace.

Joseph  (05:50):

I can't move too much or sit too long without the back brace. But I've also started doing weights again. I'm showing the muscles again. I’m very happy. I'm able to walk. I'm able to do things again for myself. I'm happy. People that don't do sports really don't understand. They think, “why do you do that? You're already tired. And you still go out and exercise and get yourself more tired.”

But actually your body misses it. That kind of exertion where you sweat it out. For me, it's detoxifying. It gets out a lot of poison. If I'm not exercising, I'm doing things around the house trying to fix things. I do try to do my own “do-it-yourself” projects. Yeah, I like doing that.

Julian (06:36):

Family, friends, doctors, and trainers were an important part of their journey. Traditionally, caregivers are expected to hover around telling them what to do and what not to do. In their story, I noticed that their caregivers manage a delicate balance of stepping back and stepping forward to support Joseph and Clark and navigating their own path.

Julian  (06:57):

Clark, what was the impact of cancer on the people who cared about you?

Clark (07:02):

What I love most about my yoga teachers (I had several), my personal trainers, my climbing buddies, my wife -- they accepted me the way I am. They didn't judge me. So when I climbed, they treated me as any other climber. When I do yoga, they treated me as any other yoga practitioner. And for me, that respect and that love was very, very important. What I found so helpful is that respect and the way they push me to be a better climber, to be a better husband, to be a better father, to be a better brother, to be a better son. 

Of course there is tenderness in it. There is tenderness that comes with the knowledge that I'm hurting inside, emotionally. I'm hurting inside, mentally and the physical pain that I am going through, even though it's not readily evident, is very real. So I know that they are sensitive to it and I catch them being sensitive to it. But they've never treated me less as a person because of my cancer.

Julian: (08:16):

Joseph, what about you? What was the impact of cancer on the people who cared about you?

Joseph  (08:16):

Initially, when I first got sick and was hospitalized, the burden of taking care of me fell on my two children. My two young children are still in senior high school and also on my sister-in-law, my wife's sister. 

My wife was working overseas. So she was not around to take care of me, yet. And then also on my nephew and his girlfriend. So they were very young, all of them. Of course, it was very hard. They had to take turns, looking after me in the hospital and doing everything for. So it was a bit depressing for them, especially for my nephew, because my brother's wife also passed because of cervical cancer, a few years back. So it was just very depressing for my nephew. 

So they tried to be very cheerful whenever I was there. Whenever they were in the hospital room, they were playing games. They were playing games with me, trying to entice me to play cards and everything.

Joseph  (09:21):

Although I couldn't move, they tries to cheer me up because they could see that I was a bit depressed. I was not very talkative and everything. But when all of them were in the room – well you know how young people are -- they were very chatty and everything. So they drew me out bit by bit. 

I think it was a bit harder for my wife, because initially when it first learned I was sick, she wanted to come home immediately. But I said, just wait, first.  I was hospitalized in the latter part of November and she wanted to come home already, immediately. But I told her, “just wait a bit. Let’s hear the verdict out or at least find out what the biopsy results will be before you come home. With me in the hospital, you would be the only one working right now and we're going to need the income.”

Joseph  (10:12):

But when the prognosis came out at that it was stage four cancer, we decided that she had to come home already because we couldn’t rely on the kids to be the ones to take care of me; or my sister in law being the one to take care of me. She had a life of her own, as well. So she had to come home and stop working. 

My family was very supportive. They could see from the start that I was a bit depressed and they tried to cheer me up and talk to me as if everything was normal. They told me that they would take care of me until they I got better and I believed them. So that's why I decided myself that, okay, with all of their support -- then yeah, let's, let's take on the goal of trying to get better, try to beat the cancer. 

My family rallied around me and I'm very grateful for that. And they took that upon themselves to cheer me up, goad me on and encouraged me to fight. And that is what I'm doing. And like I said, my first goal was to mobilize again, to be able to walk and move again.

Clark (11:19):

Joseph raises a very important point for a lot of cancer survivors or people living with cancer. Your first reaction is to fight for your independence and to say that “I'm not a dependent person and that I'm still like anyone else.” 

So that's the first, uh, my first reaction. And then later it evolves and you begin to accept it and things and say to yourself, “you know what -- my father died bedridden. And when he was bedridden, I saw his nobility. You know, I saw his wisdom and I stopped part of him that I never saw when he was still strong.” 

And I think that what happens with people living with cancer is that everything is compressed. Whereas for a lot of people, you have to wait until you go to get to an old age to become more dependent. 

You're suddenly in a situation where you're vulnerable, where you're forced to rely on the people you care about, who care about you.

Clark (12:28):

And it's a humbling moment. But once you let go of this part of you that wants to be independent, you make space for other beautiful things in your life. 

So for me, letting go of my ego, letting go of that part of me that wanted to be invulnerable and strong, enabled me to find the space to be kind, to be generous, to love myself, to love others. 

So the people who we love, who are growing old are like that. My father who died last year and my mother who was in her old age -- you see the change in her and how she becomes more gentle and kind with other people. 

The blessing that I have with my cancer is the blessing that comes with letting go of your past life and giving space to that new you -- that is more compassionate, is kinder, is more gentle and is more aware of the more important things in life and living.

Julian (13:41):

Yes, we will hear more about life and living from Clark and Joseph. In episode two, we will also hear their thoughts about death decline COVID-19 and facing one’s inner demons. Let's end the session with an original poem written by Clark

Clark (13:58):

Dark. A part of me dying, perhaps so. 
Watching golden flow through veins. 

Strong, a part of me, indefatigably fierce. 
A beast, my friends say.

Treasuring clichés, embracing yang and it's shadow; 
Sweet sweat, hide my thoughts. 

Strong, a part of me, indefatigably fierce. 
A beast, my friends say.

Julian (14:42):

I hope you enjoyed this episode, share it with your friends, support our GoFundMe campaign and tune in for part two.

 

The Unexpected Impact of Cancer: Denial and Depression
Finding Strength in the Sports that they Loved (rock climbing & working out)
Caregiving that Enables and Empowers
Embracing Vulnerability
Embracing Yang and Its Shadow (an original poem)