PCSBV October 2021 Newsletter



FACING OUR OWN MORTALITY Earl Grollman wrote a book years ago about what to say when your loved one is dying. Even though I read the book and have since read other such books and sat with families and individuals dealing with life-limiting illness, I still fumbled this past weekend to find the words to say to my 29-year-old nephew, diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer.

What he knows is that the horizon of his life has just shifted. What he wants is peace, calm and care. He knows what is coming, even as hope has been fighting its greatest battle. But when the medical discussions are done a silence hangs over the home. There is so much to be said and no one seems to know where to begin. He came to visit us in Canmore; to be with his aunt and uncle for a few days under the shadow of the mountains. He came to laugh, to sit by Lake Louise, to work on a puzzle, but he also came to talk about the end of his life. When faced with a diagnosis of a life-limiting illness, it seems natural, at some point, to wade into the pool of our mortality and swim around its waters with thoughts such as,

He has survived for seven years. It’s remarkable. The best in the medical

profession have thrown everything at him and wonderfully, much has worked well. But, two weeks ago another MRI showed the cancer has snaked into deep brain tissue and there is little now that can be done. Of course, there is still ‘another’ medical intervention that can be given. But it seems to be more experimental in nature. I think he just choked on the debate that has once again overtaken his home with talk about more medical interventions and the weighing of various risks. It can be exhausting.

Well, I guess I know what’s going to get me now. I know how this will likely end.

I wonder what the meaning of my life has been? What was this all about?

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The important conversation with my nephew happened a few days ago after dinner. We were lounging on comfortable couches. The sun had set. The lighting in the room was low. Many other conversations had already taken place opening room for the conversation my nephew seems to have really hoped us to have. He was telling us about his medical options when my wife gently asked, “Are you frightened?” (I was surprised by her question, thinking, are we ready to go here?) But his answer came easily, “No, I’ve come to terms with it. I don’t feel scared.” We allowed him to proceed, permitting silence. He continued. “I didn’t always feel this way. I’ve been angry, really angry sometimes, but that happened earlier.” With as much care as I could muster, knowing we were on sacred ground, I asked, “How are you feeling now? Can you share that with us?” (You take the risk.) Maybe he’d respond, “I’d rather not say.” Fine. But the time was right. The conversation opened as he spoke about what he will miss. He spoke about his family. He spoke of his life. There were tears. He spoke with a maturity and wisdom about death and life, and not knowing what comes next and hoping. He spoke about things as far as he was able to go and then this precious moment of honesty and beauty closed with hugs and moist eyes. There were lots of things we did over those four days before we took him back to the airport, but that conversation might have been the most important moment. He wanted to tell somebody, talk it through, speak the unspoken, hear from those he trusted. There is a place for elders, for trusted companions, for friends, even as hard as it may be for any of us to enter the realm of speaking about our own mortality and death and what we hope. The point is, life teaches us we must not put off the things that matter most – even the hard conversations. There are important conversations we need to have with ourselves and there are ones that are important to have with others.


What have I accomplished? What will I leave behind? How might I be remembered?

Are there things I can still change? make better?

What things can I do while there is still time?

What about the things I cannot change?

What are “the nevers” I’m never going to do, never going to see, that have to be let go.

Family and loved ones can be helpful here. It is true that the moment of receiving a diagnosis of a life-limiting disease may at first stir a natural determination to survive, to prove the diagnosis otherwise. Ronald Rolheizer says we are “built for the stars.” We possess an innate fire that drives toward limitless life. Who has time to dwell on mortality? Right? Until one is presented with life-limits. Then, when the horizon of life suddenly comes nearer, a natural inclination can arise to review one’s life, take stock, put things in order and determine how to make the most of the time that remains. What also seems true is that an encounter with one’s mortality can open reflection around the fundamental question of our essence; Who am I, really? What will happen to me when I die? Am I really no more than an assembly of atoms that like a flame, when it goes out, is simply gone. The flame goes nowhere. Or is there a deeper human mystery here? Is there a “me” that has always been more than just physicality? An essence? Something soulful, beautiful, eternal, beyond my knowing, still to be revealed?

Teilhard de Chardin once wrote;

" We are not so much human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on the human journey."

The Rev. Canon Dr. Richard LeSueur

RESOURCES FOR LEARNING... This month's selection is a 2018 documentary (available on Netflix), called "End Game". This award-winning 40-minute film explores the relationship between terminally ill patients and medical practitioners in San Francisco as they aim to change the discussion about life-limiting illness and death.

To read more about the film and a review from its release in 2018, visit https://www.1800hospice.com/grief/ end-game-netfilx-review/

October is

Mental Health



When coping with a life threatening illness, or being the loved one of someone in palliative care, mental health supports can be vital. It's important to get help if you or someone you know is going through a crisis, and help is available from a wide variety of sources. Everyone's mental health is important, a crucial part of our own wellness and the wellbeing of those around us. Mental health is something that needs to be actively cared for of in order to make sure you stay healthy overall and can cope with the difficulties life can bring. We all need to make sure we take care of our mental health in the same way we would take care of physical health. This is something that takes practice, patience, support, and time. It is also important to remember that while mental health and mental illness are often used interchangeably, they are not the same thing.

You can maintain and improve your mental health in a number of ways. From the Government of Canada Mental Health Resources:

Know and accept that life can be challenging.

Know and accept your strengths and weaknesses.

Set realistic goals for yourself.

Accept yourself and others. This is the basis of self-esteem.

Learn to recognize and understand that you and others have both positive and negative feelings. Create a sense of meaning in your life by learning and trying new activities, like starting a hobby. Create healthy, trusting relationships with people who accept and support you. Building a supportive community is also an important way to improve mental health, and allows you to increase coping skills, resiliency, and find strength in important interpersonal relationships.

From the Canadian Mental Health Association:

“Mental health” is a concept similar to “physical health”: it refers to a state of well-being. Mental health includes our emotions, feelings of connection to others, our thoughts and feelings, and being able to manage life’s highs and lows. The presence or absence of a mental illness is not a predictor of mental health; someone without a mental illness could have poor mental health, just as a person with a mental illness could have excellent mental health.

Mental Health Awareness Month

The Government of Canada How to Cope With Stressful Life Events

When learning to cope with a life altering diagnosis or the palliative care state of a loved one, loss can be one of life’s most triggering events. It takes time to heal, and every person handles loss and grief differently. Grief is by its very nature complex, and deeply personal. There is no one way to grieve, and the feelings, thoughts, reactions, and challenges related to grief are different within each individual and can change rapidly within different circumstances you yourself may experience over time. Often, these may seem counterintuitive or even at odds with each other. Experiencing the complexities of grief and loss can add a level of uncertainty, guilt, or confusion as to how you may be coping with the situations you find yourself in. When dealing with the complexities of grief or life- threatening illness, there is no right or wrong way to respond – we are all different. Remember that it is not necessarily helpful to tell yourself what you should be thinking, feeling, or doing after a diagnosis or serious health event – what matters most is how you process and act upon your own inner experiences and emotions. It is important to remember that when you are experiencing mental health struggles related to grief or loss, you must still be kind to yourself. Grief is part of being human, but that does not mean we have to go through the journey alone or without external support. It can be important and helpful to access resources and support during times of personal strife. The following supports are available, in addition to local resources that may be found in your own community. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Check In on Your Mental Health has a variety of ways in which you can assess your own mental health and wellbeing. Additionally, there are CMHA Toolkits that will provide resources for you and for your community.

Visit Crisis Services Canada for the crisis centres nearest you.

Canada Suicide Prevention Service If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566 (24/7). Kids Help Phone Call 1-800-668-6868 (toll-free) or text CONNECT to 686868. Available 24 hours a day to Canadians aged 5 to 29 who want confidential and anonymous care from trained responders. To access support through Facebook Messenger see the Kids Help Phone website. Hope for Wellness Help Line Call 1-855-242-3310 (toll-free) or connect to the online Hope for Wellness chat. Available to all Indigenous peoples across Canada who need immediate crisis intervention. Experienced and culturally sensitive help line counsellors can help if you want to talk or are distressed. Telephone and online counselling are available in English and French. On request, telephone counselling is also available in Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut. Additional Resources: Canadian Mental Health Association Indigenous Mental Health Promotion: Recommended Resources Coping with a Life Threatening Illness Mental Health Awareness - Community Mental Health Action Plan

PCSBV Resource Guide

The Palliative Care Society of the Bow Valley has an extensive resource guide available to all.

Diagnosis of a life-limiting illness can often cause patients and families to feel isolated and alone from their friends and communities. Upon receiving a diagnosis some patients feel a sense of hopelessness. We believe you are never alone: we are here for you. Your community resources are also here to assist you. In the Bow Valley we have a strong community and support organizations to help during this difficult time. This Resource Guide identifies community resources available in the Bow Valley and Calgary area that may benefit you and your family through this journey. This guide is for those who want to plan their health care in advance and those who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, as well as the loved ones, family members, and support networks of those who are experiencing terminal illness. If you, or someone you love of any age, have a terminal illness, you may find yourself navigating an entirely new world of specialists, referrals, test results, treatments, medications and difficult decisions. Being ill is hard enough, without having to learn the ins and outs of the health care system at the same time. The purpose of this guide is to help you plan in advance of a terminal illness, and to navigate the unsettled waters of hospice palliative care in a complex heath care system. We want you to know what help is available to you and that you are not alone. We recognize that many people in our rural Bow Valley Communities need information on hospice palliative care and how to access community and regional resources. This guide is an “inventory” of such resources in the Bow Valley. It has been prepared especially for you, your family and other loved ones using what we have learned from regular folks in our Bow Valley communities, health professionals and volunteers of the Palliative Care Society of the Bow Valley. There is a lot of information in this Guide. When accessing the supports from PCSBV, start with the Section that best meets your needs at this time, in any order you please.

Focus on the Sections that are relevant to you, rather than reading all the Sections, one after the other.

The Resource Guide covers the following information:

- Disease Management -

- Administration of Dying - Inventory of Hospice Palliative Resources, First Nations - Helpful Links - Book and Music List - Interprofessional Education and Learning - Calgary Hospices and Resources

Physical Care and Support Social Services and Support Spiritual Care and Support

- - - - -

End of Life Care and Death Management

Loss and Grief

Community Services and Support

If you need any additional information or assistance, do not hesitate to connect with someone who can help. Contact our Palliative & Grief Support Navigator by emailing us at info@pcsbv.ca.

The full resource guide may be found at Community Services and Support – Palliative Care Society of the Bow Valley (pcsbv.ca)


OCTOBER 3-9 is Mental Illness Awareness Week – Oct. 3-9 A public education campaign to raise awareness of the realities of mental illness Mental Illness Awareness Week | CAMIMH

OCTOBER 9 is World Hospice and Palliative Care Day (WHPCD) The Resource Toolkit is LIVE! Download a wealth of resources, including the toolkit here.

OCTOBER 10 is World Mental Health Day - 2021 Campaign - Mental Health Care for All: Let's Make it a Realty



Join Anna Harder and Rev. Cannon Dr. Richard LeSueur as they discuss those hours, days, and months following diagnosis, and how to "live with death" and manage what that means in your day-to-day life.

REGISTER HERE TO JOIN THIS IMPORTANT SESSION OR VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT https://pcsbv.ca/speaker-series-2021-november-8th-noon-to-1pm/

Help today for support tomorrow !

You can donate online or you can mail a cheque to us directly to:

Palliative Care Society of the Bow Valley, PO Box 40113, Canmore Crossing, Canmore, AB, T1W 3H9. Specify if you want to contribute to our projects: General or Building. Donations of $25 or more will receive a charitable receipt. Your donation will contribute to the amazing work done by our volunteer teams, including the efforts towards building our future rural residential hospice right here in the Bow Valley.

Contact Kristin Fry at (403) 707-7633 if you would like to help.

We appreciate your support !

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