November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month!

Why is death such a hard thing to talk about?

With the first anniversary of my mother’s death approaching I am publishing a post written several months ago of my experience of this great loss. I will write a happy memoir to follow.
Mom: A life force that lives on within and around me.

Mom: A life force that lives on within and around me.


There is something in our society that makes death one of the most difficult topics of conversation. < I recently listened to a radio interview on Q with mortician, Caitlin Doughty about just such topic > We pretend it’s never going to happen and then when it does happen we pretend it away. I have had the unfortunate reality of losing two very special women, too early in life. My grandmother and my mother both died at the age of 59. They both experienced liver-disease symptoms. They both died within eight weeks of becoming ill. It was twenty-five years after her mother’s death that my mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.

Losing a loved one is never easy. A sudden death gives no one time to take care of unfinished business, no time to say goodbyes… a long term terminal illness can present new opportunities to right wrongs, take care of business, say goodbye… it also often comes with suffering and pain. My mother’s experience was somewhere in the middle. She knew she would die. She thought she had more time than she had. She began the work of settling her affairs. She said goodbye to most of her closest family and friends.

My mother had no regrets. She lived life just as she wished to, taking opportunities as they came. She became sick too rapidly to follow-through with everything she wished to take care of, unable to return many of the calls of those who loved her and had wanted one last talk and laugh with her and her exuberant spirit. Mom suffered. And we were all thankful that the suffering did not last longer. In her final days she was ready for the suffering to end.

I am still unable to talk about the event of her death much. My father was her main caregiver after she became ill. I provided him, and then mom as well in the end, with all of the support that I could. It was difficult seeing the changes that she was experiencing and the independence she had to gradually, but eventually entirely give up.

I have experienced a great deal of pain in my life, both emotional and physical. But you don’t know pain until you watch a loved one suffer. Until they are no longer able to tell you what they need… Until you are absolutely uncertain that she/he aren’t in a terrible pain that you might have the means to alleviate… if only you knew.

I could never have imagined the helpless feeling I had when I no longer knew. Would one more injection of morphine be enough? Or was this even pain? Perhaps she was trying to tell me something? Maybe it was involuntary and not a sign of anything?

The night we lost mom, we’d already discussed amongst us that – after seeing how the night went – we may need to bring mom to the palliative care room at the hospital. We simply couldn’t make her endure our uncertainty if someone else would know what to do and when.

Mom was a very private woman and while she was comfortable with the care my father, my sister and I provided her with, she was also indignant. She was both discouraged and angry that she had to allow us to step inside of her very private personal space. And she was sorry that she needed to put us through it. All I could do was ask mom to allow me to return the gift of care she had always provided me throughout my life.

On my 37th birthday mom was not doing well. She was confused and mixing things up, forgetful and unable to process what we were saying to her. She was also very aware of this. She was frustrated. And she was apologetic for saying and doing things that were unlike her, and for forgetting things she has never once forgotten. Mom forgot my birthday that day. Dad reminded her, and the moment that she saw me and registered who I was she wished me a very heartfelt happy birthday and apology for forgetting. She had no idea what time of day it was or how long she’d gone without wishing her first born a special day.

The rest of the day was very difficult.

The next day became even more so.

She died one year ago on the night after my birthday, before I had headed to bed to leave her in dad’s care. (I had made a practise of giving dad a couple of hours sleep and taking care of mom’s late night needs, as the night was far from restful for either of them.) The memories of mom’s struggles have now faded a little. I know the visions of her suffering will eventually be gone from my mind. However the experience of not being able to decipher mom’s needs in those final hours and minutes is etched in my mind for the rest of my days. I cannot imagine ever forgetting that feeling of despair, just as I cannot imagine ever forgetting the joy or wholeness of holding my children for the first time.

Drop me a note in the comments below, or connect with me on Twitter @ceilidhontherun, email me at trish at ceilidhontherun dot com, or use my contact form!

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Life is short

Well, my writing keeps getting stalled and then something else comes along to write about. I’m going nowhere fast and the motivation for today’s post is about exactly that. Living life to the fullest – now. Making sure that I take my life where I want it to go.


I can’t believe the number of reminders I’ve received in recent months and days of just how short life can be. While still reeling from the loss of my mother six months ago tomorrow. At just 59, after a short illness with cancer, her life was too short. I have been trying to do what I need to to make my life count. To be able to say confidently at any given time that if today is to be the day that the book of my life comes to an End I did all that I could to live the life that I wish to. Will I be happy with what I have done with my life to date?


Yesterday, after having the opportunity to give back to an event that has brought me a lot of great memories, I reflected on the new memories made, and the tragic loss of a participant. For the first time in the history of the Cabot Trail Relay, on the final km of the final leg of the 25th anniversary running, we lost a runner. He was an experienced runner who had raced the Cabot Trail almost as many years as it has been running.


The crew and organizing committee as well as the running community are all mourning with his family. Remembering that he was a runner, but also a man, husband, father, brother, son, friend…


Later today I was delivered more news. This time a life has not been lost, but changed in the blink of an eye, with those oh so dreadful words “you have Cancer”. 27 years old, with cancer that has metastasized to her back, causing a fracture of the sacrum. 27 years old.


It’s news like that of my friend’s; like the loss of Steve Dunn, a 58 year old living a healthy active life; like losing my mom far too early that have caused me to pause and really reflect on life, my dreams and aspirations, and the impact I have had.


Do you take the time to do this? I don’t do it often enough. Nor have I taken it seriously enough until the last few months. Big changes are ahead, and it’s a stormy, rough sea I’ll be sailing for a while. In the end I will be certain I have pursued the life I truly wish to be living. Ultimately, that is what really matters.




Payten’s Cuts for Cancer

You would be so proud of Payten, mom.

We had such a wonderful day and she is so excited to be raising funds to support the Look Good Feel Better campaign. We’re going to work on thank you notes for donors next week.

Payten exceeded her goal and well ahead of time, so we headed to the salon for a spa day. I worried a little that she’d be upset when her pony tail was gone, but she was so brave and excited! We arrived at the salon and Payten was anxious to tell everyone there that her plan was, to get a “pixie cut” like our cousin Brittany and donate her hair to Tamara Wig in her Nanny’s honour.

Payten told Ian Marc, the owner of the salon, (and our hairdresser Rachel’s dad) what she planned. It turned out that his client was also cutting off a long ponytail with the intention of donating it, but hadn’t decided where to. She gave her ponytail to Payten to include with her own donation. Payten loved that.

Mom you should have seen her beaming when that ponytail came off and as her new style took shape. She couldn’t wipe the grin off of her face and loves her new “do” so much!

She brought a photograph (the one of all of us at Disney) to show people who her Nanny was. Payten had Rachel and another hairdresser near tears seeing how sincerely happy this little eight year old was to do something to help, in her Nanny’s honour.

Payten asked me photograph the event step by step. I’ll include the series here. She also gave me permission to include a copy of her letter that she is including with her hair donation. Her funds raised are up over $600 in just several weeks.

Your sweet girl has done us all proud mom!

From PaytensCutForCancer

14 March 2012

Hi my name is Payten Muise and I just donated my hair, for Tamara Wig and when I was getting it cut, someone was also donating there hair. So instead of sending it herself she gave it to me to send to you. I am 8 years old and I live in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. I have one sister, my beautiful mom, my handsome dad, my step dad and my step mom. And the reason I am donating my hair is because when my Nanny was sick my mom gave me the idea of helping people with cancer like my Nanny. So if you can accept the extra ponytail that is great! Thank you!


Payten Muise

Before                                                                  After


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Raising funds & donating hair in loving memory of Nanny – my 8 yr old

*Please visit her Giving Page to make a donation

At eight and ten years my children are extraordinarily compassionate for their ages.

Our household has supported a lot of campaigns at their wish. When the fundraising info is distributed at school they take the issues at heart very seriously. We have and continue to participate in raising funds for Terry Fox Foundation, UNICEF, and the food banks. They have completely jumped on my bandwagon with Team Diabetes in their Auntie’s honor. And now, my youngest has another campaign that she is very passionate about.

For more than two years she has been growing her hair to donate for a wig for someone who has cancer. When her Nanny passed away two months ago she became all the more determined that she do so. Her hair is long enough for the donation and so she has decided to use this opportunity to raise funds for an organization that helps women with cancer.

Her Nanny did not live long enough after her diagnosis to benefit from such a great organization, but Payten believes they do wonderful things for those going through such difficult times. She has arranged with the Look Good Feel Better campaign (CCTFA Foundation) to fundraise on their behalf in my mom Dawn McCourt‘s memory. You can learn more about them at their webpage.

Payten’s hair will be donated to Tamara Wig, another campaign of the CCTFA Foundation, after she meets her minimum goal of $500.

I think she is capable of raising much more, and I hope you’ll help me show her!

Please visit her Giving Page to make a donation, and please share this message with as many people as you can. Help my 8-year-old fulfill her dream in her Nanny’s memory!


Drop me a note in the comments below, or connect with me on Twitter @ceilidhontherun, email me at ceilidho at ceilidhontherun dot com, or use my contact form!

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12 in 12 – Month 1 – Day 2

30 minute walk complete.

Weather was really awful, and I had no idea what time to expect my children to be dropped off by their dad, so I opted to use the treadmill to get my walk in anyway in the morning. After reading more from Steve Kamb about barefoot running on Nerd Fitness I decided to try barefoot walking. I could definitely feel a difference in my stride, etc. Otherwise, I came off unscathed. Perhaps I’ll try again sometime.

People ask when I have a regular fitness routine how I fit it all in. Having a treadmill certainly helps. I actually don’t mind walking on the treadmill … because I can read! Try doing that safely outdoors! (I’ll admit to listening to audiobooks when walking/running sometimes though). I’m reading a light read right now: “Knit the Season” by Kate Jacobs. It’s book three of a series I quite enjoy about a bunch of women with intertwined lives and friendships.

Somehow every escape story I have turned to since mom’s passing has had something in it about a mother (or other parent) dieing, and frequently of cancer. This is no exception, which I’d forgotten, however that actually happened in a previous book. Now people are getting on with things. Hopefully that’s me/us too.

So that helped to get the walk done, thanks to a little prodding from my hubby.

The rest of the day was spent finishing putting Christmas away, researching online, and shopping with my girlies.

Tomorrow? Who knows, but there will be a 30 min. walk in there somewhere!

How are your new year’s resolutions or 2012 commitments coming?

Drop me a note in the comments below, or connect with me on Twitter @ceilidhontherun, email me at ceilidho at ceilidhontherun dot com, or use my contact form!

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Finding our new normal

The grieving process has so many aspects to it. We grieve the loss of our loved one. We grieve the loss of our future as we envisioned it. We grieve the loss of our daily normal life as we knew it.

For those of us directly effected by that normal daily life it can be the most challenging, emotional, exhausting part of grief.

When my ex-husband and I split up 6 years ago this was most definitely true for me and our girlies.

When we lost my 59 year old grandmother suddenly to liver disease 25 years ago, this was certainly true for my grandfather.

Since losing my 59 year old mother after a short illness with cancer 4 weeks ago, this is absolutely true for my father.

Nothing prepares us for the grief or loss in such circumstances. It is raw. It is ever present. It comes in waves. And it overcomes us.

There are no tried and true answers. There is no remedy for grief. Time is the ultimate healer. Yet, I do try to assist this process along.

Holidays and special occasions bring with them added intensity to feelings. Some of our traditions and rituals bring great comfort with the wash of happy memories that come with them. Others bring an unanticipated painful flood of raw grief.

It’s not possible to stop the hurting, nor is it healthy to try to do so. However, I have found that creating new memories and traditions that will be associated with them have brought comfort. The things that I have found most challenging to face, I tried to change in some way. Letting someone new take it on, or doing it in a new way, and creating a joyful association with the new rituals that will continue with our new normal.

The firsts are always the toughest. This will be our first Christmas without my mom. We will all be gathered in my home, which became the new tradition after my girlies and I moved back to Nova Scotia. Every Christmas that I have them home with me, we host and the girls get to sleep in their own beds before waking up to the spoils of Santa’s mid-night visit. Christmases without my children are very different, and intentionally so.

This year I will prepare mom’s Christmas brunch on the eve. We’ve asked my grandfather to provide a soup for Christmas Eve that he hasn’t cooked for us since he remarried. Mom won’t be here to overfill the stockings with her little extras that could fill a stocking each on their own. I decided to take care of everyone’s stockings myself rather than try to recruit help when no one is in the spirit. And this year my sister, dad & I will prepare the feast without mom’s singing to keep us inspired.

There are gifts under the tree from mom. These will be emotional and special in her all-to-obvious absence. It’s also far too reminiscent of a Christmas long ago, when the three of us kids unwrapped some very special knits that mom’s mom had completed, right down to the wrappings before she became ill herself.

Yet, it will be the first Christmas in six years that dad will have all of his children under the same roof as he. The first ever that all of his children and grandchildren will be. It will be the first that we are all together with my grandfather (mom’s dad) and wife, and my uncle (mom’s brother), just like the many Christmases after we lost Nanny.

Family drawing together to guide one another through a difficult and bittersweet time. Drawing upon the children for the joyful spirit that most of us aren’t naturally inclined to this year, we’ll make it so for the girlies.

Yesterday I buried my mom. She was just 59 years young.

From MomsSlideshow

She was not nearly old enough to be taken by such a ruthless disease. But death does not discriminate. And cancer takes its share of the young.

We did not have enough time together. My mother did not have enough time on this earth. She had so much living left to do. I have so much life left that will require her support. To whom will I turn for those things only mom could ever comfort and guide me through?

How long will it be before I can’t picture that look in her eye when she greeted me after any length of time apart? When will I no longer be able to hear her voice in my mind saying “Hi, sweet girl”?

Why did two of the most wonderful women in my life have to be taken from me at such a premature age?

Yesterday we bade a final farewell with a beautiful send off celebrating the life of a woman who needed little and asked for even less. She had a real appreciation for all she’d been provided with and gave so much of herself to everyone lucky enough to know her.

All day I was very pre-occupied with giving mom a proper send off. While I had my moments of sadness, the day was more about celebrating her life with loved ones and helping my dad through the day. Today felt as I expected it to, as if a giant curtain had fallen. My mother is gone forever and my heart is aching.

My ten-year-old daughter cried for the first time since mom’s passing 12 days ago, today.

I was married last Saturday. Mom was supposed to be there. It was a quiet intimate ceremony planned around her needs in her final days in mom and dad’s home. We stood in front of my mother’s urn, with her watching over us with approval. A friend told me that she pictured my mother, with her mother by her side smiling down on us. Mom would have been telling Nanny all about the people present. I hope she is right. I want to believe mom is happily reunited with her own mother, also taken from us at 59 and far too abruptly.

For me today is a day of reflection, one during which I have allowed myself time with no other responsibilities. Time to nourish a body and mind drained of all energy. Time to just be, with the absence of my mom.

Obituary Notice for the late Dawn McCourt

From Drop Box

After a very short illness with cancer, Dawn Edna McCourt, age 59 of Beaver Harbour, Nova Scotia passed away Tuesday, 29 November 2011 at home with her husband and daughters at her side.

Dawn was born 14 August 1952 in Clinton, Ontario, the daughter of Donothan Shirley Smith who survives her and Thelma Ruth Smith who predeceased her.

Always living up to her name, Dawn was a life force filled with a vibrant energy and a sunny smile. She will be remembered in every new dawn by her husband Brian Denis McCourt, her daughters Patricia Dawn McCourt and Dana Elizabeth McCourt, and her son Kristofer Brian McCourt. Dawn’s granddaughters Breanna Emilienne Muise and Payten Elizabeth Muise, knew her as Nanny. Nanny always had time for them, providing her ever-flowing encouragement, just as she did for everyone she came to know.

Dawn and her siblings Alan Smith, Rick Smith and Susan MacGregor grew up as airforce kids, living throughout Canada from Whitehorse and Vancouver to Clinton, Ontario. She became a “mountie’s wife” when she married her childhood crush, after he joined the R.C.M.P. Moving from Antigonish, to Truro, Regina, Inuvik, Yarmouth, to Tantallon, Maple Ridge and Vancouver, finally to their retirement home in Beaver Harbour, and recently becoming snowbirds with a winter home in Palmetto, Florida…

Every where Dawn went she made fast friends and instantly became involved in her community. She made and kept connections everywhere, believing that the bonds of friendship would outlast any distance between friends, sisters, fellow artists and family. While often apart from those she cherished, at every reunion with Dawn it was as if no time or distance had ever come in between.

Even as cancer overcame Dawn’s body her beautiful, radiant spirit shone through. She was someone who found the good in every person and situation. She lived with no regrets, and appreciated everything her life had provided her.

Dawn loved to laugh, was at times silly, and often funny – bringing the healing of laughter to those around her. She has been described by many as warm, sweet and loyal. She was a talented artisan, with a vast number of mediums that had become her craft. She was a seamstress, a painter, a decorator, a flower arranger, and more.

Ever the diplomat, Dawn chose her words carefully, yet wished to always express her thoughts, feelings and opinions to those around her. Her determination to live and love life shone through during her final days as she found joy in the simple things of companionship, love, laughter, sunrises and sunsets, and the incredible surroundings of the home she and Brian created on MacLeod’s Cove, just as she had in good health.

Dawn always put her family first, making time for long goodnight rituals with her grand-daughters, to send countless supportive emails and phone calls to her children and siblings, and putting aside her personal comfort to provide for the needs of everyone she cared about.

She loved to travel, often with family and friends joining her. She could name the highlights of every family vacation, journey with her soulmate, and trip with friends as if each and every one were her absolute favourite place to be.

Dawn had such a love for people and was known to be the most honest, down to earth, genuine and caring person you could meet.

On behalf of Dawn her family wishes to thank the community of Port Dufferin and Sheet Harbour who have provided countless meals, words of support and encouragement and more during a very difficult period. The depth with which Dawn has touched so many lives is evident in the sheer number of cards, emails and supportive gestures offered by so many. She was loved and respected by so many more than could have ever been imagined.

The church memorial funeral service will be held on Saturday, Dec. 10th – 11am at St. James Anglican Church, Port Dufferin, with Rev’d Kay Knott officiating. Reception to follow at noon at the Sheet Harbour Lions Centre, Sheet Harbour.

A private family internment will follow at Memorial Gardens, Dartmouth, 3:30pm. Reception to follow at Atlantic Funeral Homes, Dartmouth.

Donations may be made to: Canadian Cancer Society, Liver Foundation of Canada, or Canadian Diabetes Association.

Online condolences may be made at:

Losing control & finding your balance

In the face of uncontrollable challenges balance comes in managing that which can be.

Until recently life was very demanding but manageable. It has since reached my limit with another uncontrollable and emotionally charged journey. My balance came first in recognizing my limits and taking steps to prevent breaching them. A leave from work has allowed me the time I had previously struggled to find to take care of me.

I assured my doctor that the time would be spent wisely, making it a priority to nurture myself while working through all of life’s obligations and desires as a mother, spouse, sister, daughter, homemaker and friend.

When a loved one has a chronic illness and becomes a closer integral part of your immediate nucleus things can and do change drastically. When living arrangements accommodate that there is additional change. Add that to life’s everyday challenges and then another loved one becomes suddenly and seriously ill. It can seem impossible to cope.

We recently faced our loved one’s diagnosis of cancer. Our lives have turned upside down in so many ways, while we grasp at every sense of normalcy that we can. It is too easy to become consumed with the illness, too easy to forget that we are still here together … we must make this our time, now.

Those of you who have been there know how truly it does change your perspective. Life becomes precious. Life becomes finite. Life becomes its meaning. We must experience life with our eyes wide open, with all of our senses receiving and our minds fully aware.

How do you balance life when it creeps out of your control?

From Drop Box

I don’t have the answers. I can only do what feels right for me.

In an attempt to prevent chronic pain from escalating too severely I am pursuing a better daily routine of activity. Each day I try to include something physical, from yoga to fitness classes, to walking (perhaps even a swim or a bike ride). Each day I make time to read and/or write. I have some other projects that I try to fit in once in a while like photography/editing and scrapbooking. It is never enough. But I do my best.

I am watching what I eat, talking with family and friends, and trying to keep my family focused on a healthy balance of living while also trying to fight the devastating effects of this awful disease.

It’s a natural tendency to fall back into the despair, the fear, and the pain… Back into the unfairness of it all. We have to consciously choose to take cancer off the table at times and simply live.

For the benefit of all we must make it a priority to live life.

Drop me a note in the comments below, or connect with me on Twitter @ceilidhontherun, email me at ceilidho at ceilidhontherun dot com, or use my contact form!

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