Big, Hairy, Audacious Cancer Dream – guest post

Here is another outward-focused cancer blog.  This one has the courage to look outside national boundaries.  Cancer affects everyone everywhere.  I have seen and talked with its victims in many areas of the world – Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.  Terri Wingham has written a book.  She also writes her blog, A Fresh Chapter

It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting, he thought, as he looked again at the position of the sun and hurried his pace.” – One of my favourite quotes from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

This morning I woke up after an incredibly vivid dream. So vivid, I could swear that right now, sitting at my laptop in my sweatpants is a dream and last night, meeting Oprah for the first time and telling her about my new Big Hairy Audacious Dream was real….

For those of you who have followed A Fresh Chapter for awhile, you know cancer turned me from a pragmatic realist into a dreamer. In my old life, I wrapped my fingers, like the sucking tentacles of an octopus, around anything I thought could control. I thought if I could work 60-80 hours a week, juggle my schedule to try to make other people happy, and earn a six figure salary by the time I turned 30, someone would give me the key to a mystical place where my worries would disappear and I could finally relax.

Then, October 27, 2009 arrived and as I sat on a scratchy purple couch outside the doors of one of the cavernous conference rooms at the Vancouver Convention Center, a doctor’s voicemail pried the fingers of control open and I watched life as I knew it, slip right through.

Some of you know the rest of the story…18 months of treatment including 3 surgeries, 4 round of chemotherapy, baldness, a flat chest, hot flashes, depression, and disillusionment….what a ride. But, then…on New Years Day of this year, the heavy fog surrounding my heart lifted and for the first time ever, I listened to the Hell Yes in my gut and came up with a crazy dream to go to Africa.

With your support, I raised the money to participate in a six week volunteer program in the Townships of Cape Town. Some of you came along as I crashed into love with a group of mischievous 1-3 year olds, met women my age who had lost entire families to AIDS, and saw more joy on the faces of people who struggled to provide their families with the basic necessities of life, then I ever felt when I earned my six figure income.

Now, it’s time to share my next dream with you, but before I do, I want to ask you what your dream is? It doesn’t have to be a massive, change the world kind of dream. It could be anything…maybe it’s a dream of running your first 10km, or going to a yoga retreat in Thailand, or saving to buy your first home. What would happen if you started to tell people about your dream?

If you have visited the My Story page on this site, you have read my (still unanswered) email to Oprah and know about the book I am sweating through writing. But, today, I want to tell you about a different dream, a MUCH bigger dream that might involve you or someone you know. If I can just get past the anxiety building in my chest and string letters into sentences so I can share it with you, I know I will get one step closer to making it a reality.

I can hear you saying, as you think of all of the other things you need to do today, “C’mon already….what’s the dream?”

So, here it is.

I want to start a not for profit organization to help other cancer survivors volunteer internationally. If you have a few moments, please come visit my new page entitled My Big Dream where I tell you more about why I think this experience might heal other survivors in the way it healed me.

I would love to hear your thoughts, positive or negative, about this idea because I don’t pretend to know what will work for everyone. Each of us who have faced cancer have handled the experience in our own way and come through it with a different perspective about what we need to move forward. This idea is still a red faced, naked, newborn baby and I know your input will help shape it through the sleepless nights and dirty diapers of its infancy…

In order to start making this dream a reality, I am officially giving up my apartment in Vancouver on September 30th, lending or giving away almost all of my worldly possessions and packing my bags for a trip around the world. As I write these words, the old me wants to drop-kick the new me and wrap my arms around everything I own and refuse to let go.

But,  every time I feel the old tightness of fear clamp down on my chest, I look at Mark Twain’s quote, written on a card, and stuck to my fridge: Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines! Sail away from the safe harbour! Catch the trade winds in your sails! Explore! Dream! Discover!

I’m not suggesting that all of us should quit our jobs and travel the world in the hopes of starting a not for profit. But, I would love to bring you with me as I figure out a way to partner with a volunteer organization and then raise awareness for this new venture by traveling the world, volunteering in Asia, Africa, and maybe even South America and then putting the structure in place to help other people dream big, post-cancer, reinvent your life kind of dreams.

So, what do you think? I know as soon as I press publish, my mind will want to jump on the hamster wheel of my Hell Yes post. So, if you’re feeling ballsy and want to join me on my limb, I dare you to share one of your dreams in the comments section of this post. Or, send me an email to share some of your fears about a change you are about to make in your life. Perhaps together, we can support each other to sail away from the safe harbour! Besides, last night in my dream, Oprah told me how fantastic the idea was and how much she would like to support it…so I am telling myself to C.T.F.O. because you never know where your dreams might lead.

If you want to get involved or have any ideas around shaping this not for profit, please email me. I would LOVE your support and to hear your feedback. I have no idea how to make this happen, but recent events in my life have taught me that Courage is Not the Absence of Fear and if I dream a big dream, anything is possible.

~ from A Fresh Chapter


About Dennis Pyritz

Dennis W. Pyritz, RN, BA, BSN, has been a cancer nurse since 1987 and a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor since 2004. In December 2001 he was diagnosed with t-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL), a rare aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dennis was treated with the then new monoclonal antibody, alemtuzumab (Campath) as this disease has a median survival of 7.5 months. He achieved a 26 month remission but relapsed in February 2004. He was retreated with Campath and went into a second remission. In August 2004 he underwent an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant with his brother, Mark, as donor. Dennis has remained in remission since - a near miracle. Throughout his career as cancer nurse and patient, Dennis has had the opportunity to speal to both lay and professional groups. Dennis has spoken on cancer topics and survival issues across the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Cyrpus, Israel, and India.


Big, Hairy, Audacious Cancer Dream – guest post — 1 Comment

  1. Thank you so much for sharing my Big Hairy Audacious Cancer Dream with your audience. I will happily link back to this post when I blog later today and am honoured to feature Being Cancer Network on my blogroll. I look forward to connecting again soon! Thanks again.

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