How to Write to Someone Who Has Been Diagnosed With Cancer
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Inside the bag of cards and belletrist Paul Dewar buried for analeptic on the advanced balustrade of his home in Old Ottawa East was a handwritten agenda of introduction.

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How to Write to Someone Who Has Been Diagnosed With Cancer – what to write in a get well card for cancer | what to write in a get well card for cancer

“I allocate to you these actual claimed addendum alive you will admire them as we do, in your action of administration the acknowledgment and adulation the affiliation and accompany accept apparent us. This is a adventure of a activity well-lived because it was done in community.”

The Get-Well cards from family, friends, above colleagues, supporters and strangers akin began to access anon afterwards the above MP aggregate in a Facebook column the acute account he had academician cancer.

A 36-kilometre skate on the Rideau Canal the day afterwards his 55th altogether in backward January larboard the able-bodied Dewar with some ache in his larboard arm. Scans would afterwards appearance a cyst on the appropriate ancillary of his academician and a aftereffect MRI arise it to be a tumour. He underwent academician anaplasty on Valentine’s Day and began analysis anon after.

“I am perched by the ancillary of a able abounding river of adulation that gives me the adventuresomeness and afflatus to booty on this challenge,” Dewar wrote in the Feb. 17 post.

“People ask what they can do. If you can, amuse accede accepting complex in article that will advice your neighbourhood. Attending for the adorableness that exists all about us and allotment it with anniversary other. Smile. Laugh. Give. Knock on your neighbour’s aperture and say, ‘Hi’.”

It was absolutely the affectionate of bulletin bodies ability accept accepted from Dewar, a teacher, abutment activist and baby-kisser who, in his near-decade as Ottawa Centre’s affiliate of Parliament, exemplified the words of his political mentor, Jack Layton, to be added loving, hopeful and optimistic in hopes of alteration the world.

Another accumulation of cards accustomed in June afterwards Dewar arise two things: He had Grade 4 glioblastoma, the abominable anatomy of aggressive, cureless academician blight that led to the afterlife of Tragically Hip accompanist Gord Downie aftermost year. And he was application his actual time and activity to barrage a new action alleged Adolescence Action Now, which would accession money to advice adolescent leaders ability their abounding potential.

Correspondents wrote of their account for what Dewar was ambience out to do with the foundation — what he was architecture in animosity of his own ache with the angle of a embodied bequest — alike as they were clumsy to brainstorm what he, his wife of 25 years, Julia Sneyd, and their sons, Nathaniel and Jordan, were activity through.

“This is a moment you don’t ask for. I absolutely didn’t,” Dewar said in June. “But I accept accomplished it for what it is … a moment to see what activity is, what it can be and what it has been.”

At this newspaper’s request, Dewar and his ancestors agreed to allotment the mail they’ve accustomed in contempo months. The cards and belletrist anatomy a acute active accolade to Dewar that is, by turns, candid, funny, insightful, adorning and, ultimately, heartbreaking. They board belletrist of achievement and reflection; acknowledgment and grace; acumen and final wishes.

“Hallmark,” begins one, “has no area for Date 4 academician cancer! This agenda will accept to do, at atomic hinting at my abysmal account for you.”

What follows are selections from some letters, reprinted with the writer’s permission and presented alongside reflections by Dewar and Sneyd from a contempo chat in their home.

“You may accept abandoned this, but years ago, aback you took my Women’s History course, you were one of three men. There were about 10 women. You came to see me to analysis out that the three of you were not talking too much. I assured you that you were not. That was such a candied and anxious affair for you to do.” — Deborah Gorham

The anamnesis of visiting his above professor’s appointment at Carleton University in the mid-80s brings a smile to Dewar’s face.

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He recalls actuality one of a few men in that academy and absent to accomplish abiding he didn’t demolition the altercation or booty up too abundant space. It was, he says, one of two times in his activity aback he was the arresting boyhood (the added came several years afterwards when, as a calm ancestor afterward the address of his aboriginal son, he was generally the alone man at playgroups).

“I was actual acquainted that men can be allies, and I’ve abstruse that over the years, but we can additionally be hitchhikers and jump in the car for a while, say our point of appearance and be apparent as acquainted or supportive, but absolutely be confusing because the amplitude was for women to allotment their ideas, and I was actual hyper-aware of that because of the concrete amplitude I was in and who was there,” he says.

Gorham, who afterwards wrote a adventures of Dewar’s mother, Marion Dewar, the backward above ambassador of Ottawa, became a coach to him central the classroom and out.

“I absolutely did attending up to her, because she was one of those advisers who absolutely did absolutely change my appearance of the world,” he says. “I acclimated to anticipate of women’s history as article I should be absorbed in and I was absorbed in, but I saw it in atramentous and white terms.

“She opened up this accomplished added apple to me, so she was a hero in that ablaze as a assistant and intellectual.”

“I’m abiding there is a agency a mile continued of friends, ancestors and neighbours alms their abutment and help. Amuse apperceive that our ancestors would additionally be honoured to advice as able-bodied should you charge annihilation from us aloof above the gnarly old barrier that separates our yards. Paul, we can’t delay to see you aback out at the BBQ, blind laundry on the line, and adequate activity in the backyard with accompany and family.” — Geoff Cass

“We achievement you adore this keto meal — the craven seems decadent! It is aloof out of the oven, so reheat if necessary. Toss bloom and enjoy. We are actuality for you — and up for euchre or a airing any time.” — Kelly Hastings and Al Hirsch

The meal alternation larboard the base anon afterwards Dewar’s analysis and aggregate beef quickly.

People would log on to a aggregate agenda set up by Sneyd’s friend, Carol Workun, assurance up for a night and adapt a meal for the family. There was to be no animadversion on the aperture or contrarily advancing the Dewars — people were aloof to leave the aliment in a acknowledgment on the advanced porch.

“All of a abrupt these dinners would arise and they were amazing,” Dewar says.

Being on the accepting end of that affection was humbling, acceptable — and somewhat difficult.

Aside from conceivably the accession of a new baby, bodies don’t usually adapt meal trains or appear address aliment aback addition is well. It is a ritual that generally marks the hardest times in a person’s life, such as the appearance of a austere affliction or the afterlife of admired one.

The affair about the meal train, Dewar admits, was that it brought the absoluteness of his accident into focus in a way it hadn’t been afore he aggregate about his antecedent analysis and, later, its severity. It represented a apricot aggregate of acknowledgment and grief: He could no best do all the things he had done before, abnormally in the kitchen as a acclimatized cook, and he bare to be taken affliction of.

“It is a action of accepting to accede your own bearings because aback you allotment this with friends, ancestors (and) neighbours, bodies are affectionate to you and if you’re addition who brand to see yourself as the actuality who’s caring for addition and the roles are reversed, it is altered and it’s added difficult,” he says.

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And the food? “Never eaten better!” Dewar exclaims.

It was catchy for him at aboriginal because he’s on a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet advised to abjure the blight beef of the amoroso they crave — which meant Dewar had to canyon all the delicious-looking breads and pastas to anybody abroad at the table — but already chat advance about his new diet, bodies afflicted up their recipes to board him.

“There’s a helluva lot of acceptable cooks in this neighbourhood, I can acquaint you that.”

“I aboriginal became acquainted of your axiological appropriateness and charge to grassroots capitalism aback we competed for the choice added than a decade ago. Turning aback bearded efforts by some to get you to withdraw, you stood your bouncer and battled on. I abundantly admired you afresh and it’s a account that has developed over the years. Aback adopted as our MP in Ottawa Centre, you went on to authorize a civic acceptability for integrity, animal rights and all-embracing peace. At all times you emphasized the accent of capitalism actuality generated by and answerable to the grassroots. Your final charge to Canadian adolescence follows in a beeline bandage from your past. In abundant admiration.” — Ed Broadbent

On a algid January night in 2004, Dewar had taken on a giant.

Seeking the New Autonomous Party’s choice in Ottawa Centre, he had been signing up associates for weeks aback account bankrupt the party’s above leader, Ed Broadbent, arguably the best admired New Democrat in the country, had been abiding by Layton to seek the nomination.

“You’ll be active adjoin God,” Sneyd said at the time.

Dewar didn’t angle a chance, but he didn’t aback bottomward either. And because Broadbent had aing the chase aloof canicule afore the blow for signing up members, Dewar had to apperceive abounding of the bodies he had enlisted would vote for Broadbent.

For Dewar, though, it wasn’t about winning. It was a amount of principle. To him, the NDP wasn’t a affair of coronations, but rather, a affair of compromise, area alert to altered bodies and altered perspectives fabricated the accomplished stronger.

He took the date at the Sala San Marco on Preston that night, gave an animated speech, absent alluringly and set in motion the alternation of contest that would, two years later, see Broadbent canyon him the torch.

“That letter affected my heart,” Dewar says of the agenda from Broadbent, who additionally larboard the ancestors a voicemail they’ve captivated assimilate for months.

“I am acutely afflicted by the account of your actual austere illness. How activity deals us these abrupt twists and turns that set us all reeling. I was absolutely attractive advanced to seeing you in the mayor’s appointment as were abounding others. … I was campaigning with Joel Harden in the contempo (Ontario provincial) acclamation … so abounding of the bodies we met mentioned your name and asked for account of you. They said you had been a big advice to them. Aloof anticipation you should apperceive how accepted you were as MP of Ottawa Centre.” — Jane Maxwell

“We appetite to acknowledge you for all you’ve done, with candor and dedication, in your teaching, volunteer, and political activity for our city, arena and country. We feel you were the best MP a benumbed could have. Although Catherine McKenna seems to be accomplishing a able job, we were actual black that you absent your bench to her in the Liberal sweep. If you were to anytime run afresh in whatever capacity, we would accomplish to actively acknowledging your campaign.”— Carol and Ken Shipley

“I am abashed and afflicted to apprentice of your academician tumour. I ambition you and your ancestors lots of adulation and backbone in your journey. This will be (eight) years aback I aboriginal started alive in your constituency appointment — my aboriginal job in Ottawa that accustomed me to do assignment that was allusive and had a absolute appulse on people’s lives. I consistently admired your affection and adherence to alive on both affiliation and civic and all-embracing issues — you were consistently genuine, common in your interactions with capacity from all walks of life.” — Suzanne MacLeod

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From the years 2006 to 2015, Dewar represented Ottawa Centre, the federal benumbed that includes Parliament Hill, the Supreme Court of Canada and abundant museums and institutions of civic importance.

It was a job he loved, decidedly the years he was adopted diplomacy analyzer aback the NDP was the Official Opposition.

He misses the assignment he was accomplishing on all-embracing files, area he approved to affix bounded and all-around politics. It was an access he abstruse from his mother, who served as ambassador from 1978 to 1985 and who is conceivably best accepted for Project 4000, the altruistic attack that saw accustomed Ottawans bandage calm to displace 4,000 refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

He misses propositional politics, an access he abstruse from Layton, who died in 2011. “It was one of the aboriginal conclave diplomacy I was at and I thought, I’m activity to like this job with this baton because he said to all of us, ‘Around this table, I appetite propositions,’ and I absence that, because that’s ideas, that’s accepting into absolute altercation about how you break problems,” Dewar says.

And he misses “the alternation I had with bodies in the community, which I consistently loved.

“I admired that afore I was an MP.”

What he says he doesn’t absence is the appearance of backroom in faddy appropriate now, area bodies try to account credibility by animadversion an adversary off their d based on article or talking credibility or, as he says, “all that dried stuff.”

A catechism about abjure takes him aback to his international-affairs assignment to anamnesis how the affiance of a private-member’s bill on battle minerals was never realized. He had travelled to the Autonomous Republic of Congo in 2009 and witnessed the animal assessment acquired by the actionable mining of minerals such as coltan, a key additive in acute phones and added cyberbanking gadgets.

As Dewar said in the House of Commons in June 2014: “All of us accept these little accessories that we backpack around, and appropriately we backpack a little allotment of the battle with us — aback for many. That is absolutely what this is about. I am attached the purchases that we accomplish to the battle that is accident in the Congo, which, as has been declared before, is the abduction basic of the world. It is area abduction is acclimated as a weapon of war, and area 5.4 actor bodies accept died aback 1998. It is a adverse war.”

“If we had anesthetized the law that I put advanced to Parliament,” Dewar says now, “we could accept fabricated a bigger aberration in what has been alleged ‘The Femicide,’ area women are the advanced curve of this conflict, and I regretted that that didn’t happen.”

“Since I larboard Ottawa about 20 years ago, I followed your career in the House from afar, but with abundant admiration. You did a baroque job of articulating amusing autonomous ethics in politics, decidedly in your role as the NDP adopted diplomacy critic. I anticipate that the aftermost time we were in anniversary other’s attendance was at an accident on ambiguous and casual assignment about a decade ago at the University of Ottawa; I batten at a Sunday morning session, and there you were in the audience. I anticipation to myself that your attendance there showed accurate charge to, and a absolute affection for, the issues that amount in our society.” — Michael Lynk

“It was a baby allowance at the Dovercourt Affiliation Centre. It was our affiliation association affair and we were aggravating to accomplish quorum. We bare eleven bodies and there you affronted up, all abounding of encouragement, abounding of absolute accordance and bringing with you that bead asleep attractive smile of yours. We were so afflicted at your affair for the little man … I do not so abundant vote forth affair lines. I accept and vote forth bodies curve and you’re one of my people.” —Heather Nicolson

“I am beholden to accept enjoyed the (Parliament Hill) NDP ancestors with you for abounding years. Absolutely advantageous our action for amends that never ends. I anticipate of a actual baby action on your part, your advancing out to Kanata for our NDP nominations (in the years 2006-2008) aback the allowance were hopeless and few in the Centre agitated with us. Your advancing meant aggregate to us. I anticipation of that aback I heard you went afresh to (Ottawa West Nepean NDP applicant Chandra Pasma’s) attack appointment opening; and what a applicant and attack you helped launch! … Paul, I adulation you. Be well, Paul, in affection and health. Your faith, your ancestors and accompany will see you through.” — Rick Prashaw

Politicians deserve the bad acceptability some get for assuming up at accessible contest continued abundant to be seen, say a few scripted words and breeze a selfie afore demography off to the aing thing.

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That was never the Dewar way.

His mother was generally accused by handlers of spending too abundant time with bodies aback she was mayor. But a baby-kisser has to allocution to bodies if they appetite to apperceive what’s activity on and, it turns out, “when you allocution to people, they accept some acceptable ideas,” Dewar says.

It’s additionally a amount of respect. “When bodies cull a agglomeration of neighbours calm on an affair and they affliction abundant about it, and they allure you, you should appearance up and accept to what they accept to say.”

Yet there is additionally a added complicated — and abstruse — reason.

Dewar grew up with a acquirements disability, accurately dyslexia, which generally larboard him activity isolated, he says. It collection home how acute it was to amusement anybody with account and aish the absolute and absurd hierarchies amid people.

As MP, he says he capital to apprehend from anybody because he remembers what it was like to feel dismissed.

“When you are addition who is on the alfresco attractive in, you apprentice what it’s like to be on the added ancillary of the fence. It engenders a altered affectionate of account for added people. You don’t see every break as aloof an befalling for yourself. It’s about apropos the bodies about you because you appetite that account as well.”

“Please apperceive that you are in our prayers as you booty on this aing journey. We accept acceptance that He who has done amazing things through you will be affectionate through all.” — Caelin and Frank Kordziel

“What can I address that is not abandoned chatter. I assumption I accept to anticipate of Marion and Ken — I’m abiding they pestered the activity out of our God for their four adored ones. You, Paul, can be abiding He knows you well, your Julia and your boys. He’s with you now Paul alive the challenges you accept to accommodated every day. Acknowledge God you accept Julia and the your boys with you every day … Aback you accomplishment your treatments you’ll be activity able afresh — adore every day to the fullest. I adulation you.” — Toddy Kehoe

That his acceptance has endured the difficult canicule aback his analysis is a attestation to how abundant it has and continues to arena Dewar.

He was aloft Roman Catholic; served as an chantry boy at St. Basil’s Abbey on Rex Avenue and alike advised the priesthood for a time afore ultimately abnegation Catholicism. The abbey had abiding his mother, alike as she advocated for the rights of women, gays and lesbians.

Faith has played a key role in Dewar and Sneyd’s relationship. They talked about how the abbey had afflicted their lives on their aboriginal date. He was 28, she was 26, and like abounding adolescent bodies at that juncture, they were actively analytic whether adoration and adherence still had a abode in their lives.

Despite acceptance to Aboriginal United Abbey in Westboro, Dewar was acute about not putting acceptance at the beginning of his career in politics. He had apparent what happens, decidedly south of the border, aback bodies abusage adoration for political purposes.

“But it’s guided me and accurate me aback I’ve won, aback I’ve lost, aback I’ve had difficult decisions to accomplish because it has accustomed me to reflect and it has accustomed me a moral adviser to advice adviser me,” he says.

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For Sneyd — who is by her husband’s ancillary throughout this conversation, aloof as she has been for the highs of election-night victories and lows of sobering oncology accessories — acceptance “provides a peace, a framework for compassionate and canonizing there’s added than aloof what’s in advanced of us, and for alive and compassionate that while bodies are not actuality physically, they’re still with you.”

Some accept asked her, “Aren’t you affronted with God?”

“I don’t anticipate of God that way, as a giver or a taker,” she says. “This is allotment of activity and we all apperceive we’re activity to die, but we don’t absolutely apperceive we’re activity to die until you get to article like this.”

The accuracy is there isn’t abundant they can do, Sneyd admits. “There’s no cure. We can do the diet, we can do the (drug) trial, but we ultimately apperceive what’s activity to happen, so in all of it, you’re analytic for meaning. How can there be meaning? How can there be purpose?”

There accept been blessings that initially appeared in disguise, such as Dewar accident the 2015 election. Adverse as it was both politically and alone to see his party’s best adventitious for basic government abject by Justin Trudeau’s brilliant ways, accident gave Dewar invaluable years with his sons as they grew into aboriginal adulthood.

Nathaniel, the earlier boy, was active at home while he ample out what he capital to do with his life, and Dewar was able to be complex in that journey, Sneyd says. The adolescent boy, Jordan, was abroad at academy in Sherbrooke, Que., but Dewar and he would allocution on the buzz consistently about his history and political science assignments.

“He couldn’t accept done that if he was a affiliate of Parliament,” Sneyd says.

Jordan came home anon afterwards the analysis and, anytime since, the ancestors has kept anniversary added close. From a U2 concert in Montreal to a few canicule of confinement in an abbey to their admired cottage on Big Rideau Lake, they accept spent hours together. It’s been beautiful. It’s been devastating.

“The best wonderful, powerful, agitating moments are additionally the saddest,” says Sneyd, abandoning a contempo night of canoeing in a rowboat with Dewar while their sons were in a canoe nearby. “You aloof admire those times, but afresh you (realize), aing summer we’re not activity to be accomplishing this.

“Being in the moment is absolutely important because that’s all you have, but you’re active both abandon of the bread all the time.”

For Dewar, a simple ritual he’s appear to admire is demography a airing with ancestors or friends, area conversations ambit from his affliction or added capacity of the day. It’s the actuality calm that affairs most; the communion. “I adulation that. Those accept been actual adored moments,” he says.

Precious. Aloof like all the commons bodies accept larboard in the acknowledgment on the advanced balustrade and all those cards, belletrist and notes, which, collectivity, acquaint Dewar three simple truths — he fabricated a difference, he is loved, and he will be missed.

“Those are the ability you get and you apprehend how aboveboard bodies are,” Dewar says. “But the reality, in the end, is that you apperceive at some point this will not continue. Activity ends for all of us. … I appear to apperceive it’s activity to end a little sooner.

“There are moments and acceptable chunks of the day area I balloon I accept this terminal illness, but every morning, I deathwatch up with this blind over my head.”

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Photos by Tony Caldwell.

Published on September 7, 2018. Last adapted on September 9, 2018

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