My name is Randy Thompson and I live in Calgary, Alberta. My wife’s name is Heather Thompson and we’ve been married for 24 years. We have three children, whom I love dearly.
I am a huge sports fan and played a few growing up. I love the NFL and was a fan of the great running back, Eric Dickerson. Been a Rams fan ever since! My true “sports’ love are the Boston Bruins. Although from Ontario, Canada, I grew up watching the Big Bad Bruins! I loved their toughness and were always the underdog against the mighty Montreal Canadiens. Playing sports was important for me growing up and I made sure our kids had the same opportunities. As a means to stay involved, I coached t-ball and basketball for a few years, while the kids grew up.
I am currently employed with LivingWorks Education Inc. for the past three years and have been in mental health for 32 years. I am also a proud Trustee with the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention for the past two years. CIASP felt it was important to have a representative from a suicide prevention training organization and I was honored to be accepted.
Diagnosis of a Critical Illness
On March 25, 2019, I was diagnosed with stage 4 liver and rectal cancer. My initial reaction was shock. I have always been healthy and in good condition and there was little to no indication physically, that I was sick. My first thought was, “I don’t care about the prognosis; I will do everything I can do to get well”. After a year and a half of chemotherapy, multiple side effects, surgeries, etc., I was blessed “cancer free” on July 16, 2021!
Strength Through Resilience
While I learned many things about myself throughout my journey, one key learning was the importance of managing stress and anxiety. Of not getting too high or too low. The journey can be a long one and filled with uncertainty. Being able to cope mentally throughout that time and experience is critical. And it’s ok to have bad days mentally. Let it happen, but don’t let it consume you. Your resiliency will also be stretched to the limit. Listen to your body.
Support from Friends and Co-Workers
I have received amazing support from my family and friends, many whom I had not communicated with in a long time. Received great emotional support from many of my co-workers. There is also, what I call, a “cancer community” of people who have been affected by this insidious disease, who are happy to provide support and who truly understand what you’re going through. I feel truly blessed by all who have reached out.
Power of Family Support
My family and my wife in particular have been my rock and with me all the way. I have been open and honest with them throughout my illness and recovery. Heather has recorded our journey from the beginning and ensures I adhere to my treatment plan. She looked up alternative treatments, if we felt it was needed and attends all clinic appts to ensure we are on track. She has taken care of our home and family while I’ve been sick and continued working. She continues to check and monitor my health even in recovery. The amazing support I received from those around me is one of the main reasons I am cancer free! The strength I felt from their support is what got me through the difficult days and helped motivate me to get well.
Sharing Hope With Others
I have made it my mission to support the cancer foundation in community and always look for ways to give back. I have learned to not stress over the little things and find what’s truly important in my life. I want to be the person people think of when they need a sense of hope and to reach out when they don’t.
In many cases, a critical illness is a long journey, filled with ups and downs. It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself and some days, that’s ok. Try to not let the negative consume you. If you are unsure, try to figure out what is truly important to you; what sustains you. Set small, achievable goals throughout your journey and have a plan to reward yourself for accomplishing them.
The toughest thing for me was accepting help. I have always been independent and focused on getting things done. A critical diagnosis will have a significant impact on you mentally and physically and you are going to need help. The amazing support I have received throughout my journey has now focused on me giving back. You may be surprised by the support you can get from others and can further motivate you to get well.
Acknowledgement: CFMA thanks Cal Beyer for serving as a volunteer “peer editor” for this monthly column focused on the impact of lived experience on mental and physical wellbeing.