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Meet Cynthia Mac

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As we step into the holiday season, please take a minute to read Cynthia Mac's story of cancer in her family and being a caregiver for her dad through his lung cancer

Hi, I’m Cynthia, a former caregiver and avid knitter and stitcher from Central Ontario.

When I was growing up, cancer was only mentioned in whispers — literally: if someone was diagnosed, the word was actually whispered! As a young adult, I would see the ads on TV that would say “1 in 8 women” or “1 in 5 Canadians” will be diagnosed in their life. I had my own brush with cancer about that time, when I was diagnosed with HPV.

Between them, my parents had 5 bouts of cancer: both had melanoma, Mom had a section of bowel removed at the pre-cancerous stage, and Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer just days after he retired. Mom and Dad handled them all with aplomb, and they became my example for being diligent, knowing your body, and early detection! Even Dad's prostate cancer was caught somewhere in the parameters of stage 1! 

I wasn’t really involved with cancer until Dad’s doctor found a spot on his right lung just months after Mom had passed away. Already thrown for one loop, this news threw us for another.

Having just been assigned some of the administrative responsibilities Mom did, I became even more involved in Dad’s life — and in the world of cancer. My background in office administration gave me the skills I needed to keep track of all the tests and appointments, and handle difficult conversations with a relatively calm mind.

Dad and me in Washago: here we are on the deck of the place I used to live

I did find caregiving to be quite a lonely experience, even though I had one sibling who filled in for me a few times when I was away. I think the best advice I got from Cancer Connection was to make time for yourself. That was fairly easy for me to do: Dad was independent, and we didn’t live together. 

Dad and me: Dad was a HUGE help to me and I was one of his best gophers! In this photo, we were pressure washing the walkways around my house.

I joined Cancer Connection after I submitted a tip for organizing Dad’s medications to the CCS. I poked around the site a bit, and saw some of what other people were going through and stayed to offer support. At the time, Dad had had surgery and was doing a “clean up” round of chemo. 15 months after those treatments ended, Dad’s cancer returned — and it had spread to his liver. Even though we knew the possibility of recurrence was high, we weren’t expecting it: I had gone to a conference, thinking all would be well. Dad went back into treatment and I went back into active caregiver mode. Dad passed away almost a year later, but not from his cancer. 

I didn’t cope well after that, and this is when the friends I made here on Cancer Connection provided me with the help and support I really needed. I’m eternally grateful to them! 

Being a part of Cancer Connection has been a real eye-opener, not only for the number of varieties of this disease, but also the varieties of treatments, and the way people are hitting it head-on. 

I was shocked to see people in the treatment centre conducting business on their cell phones and tablets as if it was just another day at the office. I am relieved to see the way advances in treatment are helping people live their lives with less interruption than I would have expected. It is hope-inspiring to see so many people living with cancer when just a few decades before they might not have made it. 

Losing Dad meant the end of my caregiving career, and in many ways, it felt like I'd lost a job in addition to losing my remaining parent. Again, with the help and support of the good people in my life, including my friends at Cancer Connection, I was able to find my way back to retirement, and spark my creative joy again. I'm actively stitching and knitting, and creating new designs in both arts.

Everywhere shawl - The shawl I'm wearing in this photo went half way around the world! I didn't design it, but I did knit it, and Dad made the shawl pin.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from these past 4 years, it’s “don’t try and predict.”  One would have thought Dad’s cancer would have taken him, but it didn’t. I thought Dad’s treatments would have been harder on him than they were. My reactions to the loss of each parent was completely the opposite to what I would have predicted. It turns out that, even when there is cancer in your life, you don’t necessarily know the future.

Thank you Cynthia for not only sharing yours and your dad's story, but in the way you support our members on the site, especially the caregivers.. Oh and of course all your lovely creative creations.


Cynthia Mac

Your story is a beautiful one of love, hope, and inspiration. Your dad was blessed to have you. Your heart and soul shine through your posts.
Thank you for always showing kindness and beaming positivity.
You are a very special person and I'm lucky to have met you.
Much love
Karen ❤
  • Posted Thu 09 Dec 2021 04:14 PM EST
Cynthia Mac‍ - So great to read your story here. Wonderful photos of you your dad, especially the one where you are both covered in mud. When I first saw it I thought you had gone on an open Jeep ride through the mud!

Such a beautiful shawl with your dads pin. A beautiful photo of you too. Did you get any offers of marriage from around the world?😉 Thanks for sharing a glimpse into your world that was affected by cancer and so glad that you are enjoying your life now and have peace with your losses.
  • Posted Thu 09 Dec 2021 01:17 AM EST
No, Trillium‍ , no marriage proposals, really... I’m kind of “born again single,” although, The Laddie treats me well, and I’ve learned better than to say never again... after all, I’m living in a split entry dwelling in a town I said I would never move to, so...

If I’m not careful, I’ll end up with a Chrysler some day!
  • Posted Thu 09 Dec 2021 04:01 PM EST
Reading your personal story and others makes me feel part of a group, but not totally different from those who have missed these “adventures” in their lives.
  • Posted Tue 07 Dec 2021 07:01 PM EST
@Cynthia Mac‍ Thank you. Your story is such an inspiration. Going through this journey is tough as it is. There are times that I feel so alone. Thankful I found Cancer Connection.
I got diagnosed with high grade serous carcinoma on October 20, 2021. I had a total hysterectomy on February 2021 due to FIGO grade 1. I just finished my second cycle of chemo treatment less than a week ago. I still have four more to go. I am a single parent to two great kids, both are still in the university. I have a positive outlook, but there are times I feel so scared. I still work from home, except on days when i feel the side effects of chemo the most. It's challenging being the sole breadwinner and being sick at the same time.
Thanking and praising God everytime.

  • Posted Tue 07 Dec 2021 07:38 AM EST
Hi, nel‍ I hope you are managing your treatments and their symptoms well. Keep that positive outlook going.

Years ago I read a Louise Hay book, and I kind of latched on to her philosophy that, no matter where I am, or how I feel, I am safe. There’ve been a few days where I lost that message, that knowing that now matter what is happening, or whatever happens, I am safe, helps a lot of the time.
  • Posted Tue 07 Dec 2021 06:29 PM EST
Cynthia Mac‍ …To me, you are more than a neighbor …more of a soul sister. You have helped me with my own journey through cancer, your wit and humour shine through, as well as your humanity and presence. You helped so many when you shared your caregiving role with your Dad - thank you for being here for all of the caregivers . Kim

PS - great photos!
  • Posted Sat 04 Dec 2021 02:59 AM EST
Hi Cynthia Mac‍ ,
Your 'single lifestyle' comments were LOL to me...I admire your vision, strength, caregiving skills and 'never say never!'
  • Posted Thu 09 Dec 2021 08:16 PM EST

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