Transcript: The Realities of Cancer and Loss | Jul 20, 2021An animated slate reads "The Agenda in the Summer."
A female announcer says THE AGENDA IN THE SUMMER WITH NAM KIWANUKA IS MADE POSSIBLE THROUGH GENEROUS PHILANTHROPIC CONTRIBUTIONS FROM VIEWERS LIKE YOU. THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING TVO'S JOURNALISM.
Nam stands in the studio. She's in her early forties, with shoulder length straight brown hair. She's wearing glasses and a black blazer over a floral print blouse.
A wall screen behind her reads "The Agenda in the Summer."
Nam says IN LIFE, AND DEATH, VISUAL ARTIST AND WRITER TEVA HARRISON TRANSFORMED DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS INTO OPPORTUNITIES FOR CLEAR-EYED REFLECTION. I'M NAM KIWANUKA. IT'S BEEN MONTHS OF WHAT HAVE BEEN DIFFICULT TIMES FOR MANY. TONIGHT, WE RECALL OUR 2016 CONVERSATION WITH TEVA HARRISON, AND AFTER HER PASSING, WITH HER HUSBAND DAVID LEONARD, ON LIVING WITH PURPOSE AND HEALING FROM GRIEF.
Music plays as an animated slate reads "The Agenda in the Summer."
Nam says TEVA HARRISON LOST HER FIVE-AND-A-HALF YEAR BATTLE TO META-STATIC BREAST CANCER TWO YEARS AGO, AT THE AGE OF 42. OUR CONVERSATION WITH HER FROM 2016 TOOK PLACE JUST AFTER HER MEMOIR IN-BETWEEN DAYS WAS PUBLISHED. ALSO, TONIGHT, OUR 2020 INTERVIEW WITH HER HUSBAND... DAVID LEONARD. LAST YEAR, HE STARTED THE TEVA HARRISON FOUNDATION TO SUPPORT THE CAUSES SHE CARED ABOUT. SINCE TEVA'S DEATH, HE TELLS US HE'S SPENT A LOT OF TIME, "FOCUSING ON LIVING MEANINGFULLY AND DELIBERATELY, JUST LIKE TEVA." LAST DECEMBER, HE WROTE AN ARTICLE FOR THE QUARANTINE REVIEW, REFLECTING ON GRIEF AND RESILIENCE AMID COVID-19. IT'S REMINDED HIM THAT, QUOTE, "THERE IS BEAUTY AND THERE IS LIFE AND NOW WE'RE ALL MOVING SLOWLY ENOUGH TO SEE IT."
An animated slate reads "The Agenda in the Summer."
In a clip, Steve sits in the studio. He's in his fifties, clean-shaven, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, blue shirt and spotted blue tie.
Steve says I'M NOT SURE I'VE EVER MET ANYONE LIKE TEVA HARRISON. SHE IS A TALENTED, HAPPY, OPTIMISTIC AMERICAN, WHO FELL IN LOVE WITH A CANADIAN, MARRIED HIM AND NOW LIVES HERE. SHE ALSO, AT AGE 37, RECEIVED JUST ABOUT THE WORST NEWS YOU CAN GET AND IS NOW ENGAGED IN THE FIGHT OF HER LIFE. SHE CHRONICLES IT ALL IN A NEW BOOK CALLED IN BETWEEN DAYS: A MEMOIR ABOUT LIVING WITH CANCER. AND WE'RE DELIGHTED TO WELCOME TEVA HARRISON TO TVO.
A picture of Teva's book appears briefly on screen. The cover features a drawing of a mermaid swimming in deep water. Then, Teva sits in the studio. She's in her forties, with auburn hair to her shoulders and bangs. She's wearing an aqua cardigan over a deep-blue blouse, and a green pendant necklace.
Steve continues IT'S GREAT TO SEE YOU HERE AGAIN.
Teva says THANK YOU SO MUCH.
The caption changes to "Teva's story."
Steve says I WANT TO START BY JUST READING THE VERY FIRST PARAGRAPH IN YOUR BOOK, WHICH REALLY DOES LAY IT OUT.
A quote appears on screen, under the title "Swallowing the diagnosis." The quote reads "AT THE AGE OF 37, I was diagnosed with advanced metastatic breast cancer. My disease is currently incurable, but the wonderful people in my medical team are doing everything they can to turn it into a chronic illness." Quoted from Teva Harrison, "In-between days: A memoir about living with cancer" (2016).
Steve says I HATE LIKE HELL FOR MY FIRST QUESTION TO BE SO CLICHÉD, BUT I'M SORRY, IT IS THE RIGHT QUESTION, I THINK TO START WITH, WHICH IS WHAT DOES ONE THINK WHEN ONE GETS THAT KIND OF NEWS?
The caption changes to "Teva Harrison. Author 'In-between days.'" Then, it changes again to "Originally aired May 5, 2016."
Teva says I DON'T THINK ONE KNOWS WHAT TO THINK. LIKE, THE INITIAL RESPONSE WAS REALLY ONE OF BLANKNESS. LIKE, I-I... I FELT COMPLETELY LOST, COMPLETELY ADRIFT. I FOUND THAT MY THOUGHTS CIRCLED IN A SORT OF RUMINATING MANNER INTO A PRETTY DARK PLACE. IT FELT LIKE A DEATH SENTENCE, LIKE IMMEDIATE, AN IMMEDIATE DEATH SENTENCE. SO, IT TOOK ME A LITTLE WHILE TO START HAVING THOUGHTS ABOUT HOW TO MOVE FORWARD.
Steve says IT TAKES A WHILE TO PROCESS THAT KIND OF INFORMATION, I GUESS. YES?
Teva says YEAH. A FEW YEARS IN, I'M NOT SURE I'M DONE PROCESSING.
Steve says HUH. ANYBODY WITH YOU WHEN YOU GOT THAT INFORMATION?
Teva says MY HUSBAND.
Steve says HE WAS WITH YOU?
Teva says MM-HMM.
Steve says WHO TOOK IT HARDER?
Teva says I DON'T KNOW. I DON'T KNOW.
Steve says BECAUSE I KNOW YOUR HUSBAND, AND I KNOW HOW MUCH HE LOVES YOU, AND IT WOULDN'T SHOCK ME IF HE ACTUALLY TOOK IT HARDER THAN YOU DID.
Teva says IT'S BEEN... DON'T KNOW. YEAH, IT'S BEEN REALLY ROUGH FOR HIM. IT'S... IT'S A GOOD QUESTION.
Steve says YOU DESCRIBE IN YOUR BOOK THAT THE CANCER IS A BIT LIKE A WHACK-A-MOLE. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
Teva says IT MEANS THAT WE CAN TREAT IT LOCALLY, BUT IT WILL POP UP SOMEWHERE ELSE. IT'S METASTATIC CANCER IS UNPREDICTABLE AND IT'S WILY, SO EVEN WHEN IT'S WELL MANAGED, THE EXISTING TUMOURS, IT COULD POP UP IN A NEW ORGAN, IT COULD POP UP IN A NEW LOCATION WITH AN EXISTING AFFECTED ORGAN. IN MY FIRST 11 MONTHS, I ONLY HAD BONE METS, AND NOW, WHEN THE DRUG FAILED, IT DIDN'T FAIL BY ADVANCING WITHIN AN EXISTING METASTASIS OR LOCALIZED TUMOUR; IT ADVANCED BY POPPING UP IN MY LIVER.
Steve says GIVE US A SENSE ABOUT WHAT KIND OF TREATMENT YOU'VE UNDERGONE SO FAR.
The caption changes to "Fighting back."
Teva says I'VE BEEN IN... HORMONE OR ENDOCRINE THERAPY. SO, BECAUSE MY CANCER WAS ALREADY STAGE FOUR WHEN I WAS DIAGNOSED, THE APPROACH IT'S DIFFERENT. WHEN THEY THINK IT'S CURABLE, THEY HIT YOU WITH CHEMO, SURGERY, RADIATION ALL AT ONCE. MY RADIATION HAS BEEN PALLIATIVE. SO, AS OPPOSED TO CURATIVE, IT'S BEEN TO MINIMIZE THE PAIN IN MY BONES. AND I'VE BEEN ON THE HORMONE HORMONE OR ENDOCRINE THERAPY. I'VE ALSO HAD AN OVARIECTOMY TO REMOVE MY OVARIES AND FALLOPIAN TUBES.
Steve says HOW COME?
Teva says IT'S TREATMENT BECAUSE MY CANCER IS ENDOCRINE, IT'S HORMONE-POSITIVE, IT'S OESTROGEN POSITIVE. SO, BY REDUCING THE OESTROGEN PRODUCED IN MY BODY, WE'RE TRYING TO STARVE THE CANCER. EVENTUALLY, I'LL RUN OUT OF THESE HORMONE THERAPIES AND THE ONLY THING AVAILABLE WILL BE CHEMO. HOW OLD ARE YOU NOW?
Teva says I'M 39.
Steve says YOU'RE 39 WITH STAGE FOUR, METASTATIC CANCER?
Teva says YES.
Steve says HERE'S A REALLY WEIRD QUESTION... WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR HEAD WHEN YOU HEAR PEOPLE COMPLAIN ABOUT THE WEATHER?
She says I COMPLAIN ABOUT THE WEATHER. (LAUGHING) I'M GOING TO BE HONEST, I ACTUALLY APPRECIATE PEOPLE WHO COMPLAIN ABOUT NORMAL THINGS. SO OFTEN, IF I'M HAVING A CONVERSATION WITH SOMEBODY I'M CLOSE TO, SOMEONE I CARE ABOUT. THEY'LL START TO COMPLAIN ABOUT SOMETHING, THEN THEY'LL SAY, "OH, OH, OH, BUT WITH EVERYTHING YOU'RE GOING THROUGH, YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT THAT," BUT I DO BECAUSE THAT'S HAVING A REAL RELATIONSHIP WITH PEOPLE. THEIR COMPLAINTS AREN'T LESS VALID JUST BECAUSE I HAVE THIS ONE REALLY, REALLY, REALLY AWFUL THING IN MY LIFE.
Steve says OKAY, I'M PUSHING BACK A LITTLE BIT ON THIS. I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU DON'T HAVE A MOMENT WHERE YOU SAY, "SHUT UP. I'M DEALING WITH CANCER HERE AND YOU'RE COMPLAINING ABOUT THE FACT THAT THE SUN WENT BEHIND THE CLOUDS FOR 10 MINUTES." AM I RIGHT?
Teva says THERE ARE MOMENTS.
Steve says THERE ARE MOMENTS, OKAY. LET'S GO BEYOND THAT. HERE'S A QUOTE FROM YOUR BOOK... "FOR ME, LIVING WITH METASTATIC BREAST CANCER IS LIVING IN FEAR." FEAR OF WHAT, IN PARTICULAR?
Teva says FEAR OF DYING, YOU KNOW? FEAR OF MORE PAIN, FEAR OF THE NEXT TREATMENT. I WAS TOLD EARLY ON THAT THE WAY WE TREAT THIS DISEASE, WE START WITH THE GENTLEST, THE LEAST SIDE-EFFECT TREATMENT, AND EVERY ADDITIONAL TREATMENT WILL BE LESS PLEASANT, IT WILL HAVE MORE AND MORE DIFFICULT SIDE EFFECTS, MORE PAIN, MORE SUFFERING, MORE... JUST MORE TO MANAGE. BUT, REALLY, FEAR OF DYING, FEAR OF... FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN. THERE'S THE FEAR OF UNCERTAINTY IS A CONSTANT WITH THIS DISEASE BECAUSE I LIVE SCAN TO SCAN, AND I HAVE REGULAR SCANS EVERY THREE MONTHS, BUT THEN SOMETIMES I HAVE SPECIAL SCANS IN-BETWEEN, IF WE NOTICE SOMETHING, SOME SORT OF ANOMALY THAT WE NEED INFORMATION FOR THAT MIGHT BE INDICATIVE OF A NEED FOR CHANGE IN TREATMENT. SO, THERE'S THAT SORT OF EVER-PRESENT ANXIETY AND UNCERTAINTY OF WHAT'S HAPPENING TODAY OR TOMORROW, AND THEN THERE'S BIG PICTURE OF FEAR BECAUSE, REGARDLESS OF WHAT THE OUTCOME IS, I'M NOT GOING TO LIVE THE LENGTH OF A LIFE I EXPECTED TO.
Steve says I MIGHT NOT EITHER, THOUGH.
Teva says YOU KNOW, PEOPLE SAY THAT. THERE THERE'S THE "WE COULD GET HIT BY A BUS," BUT IT'S DIFFERENT BECAUSE I KNOW WHAT THE BUS IS AND I CAN SEE IT COMING.
Steve says HERE'S A QUOTE FROM THE BOOK, AND THEN WE'LL SHOW SOME OF YOUR ARTWORK, AS WELL. HERE'S TEVA HARRISON IN THE BOOK IN-BETWEEN DAYS...
Another quote from the book appears on screen, under the title "Thinking positive." The quote reads "Rather than focus on what cancer takes away, I try to focus on what it doesn't. Because as much as I've lost, my life is really rich and full. I have a remarkable love (truly everybody remarks on it), a space to write and draw when I have energy, a warm and intelligent family, inspiring friends. There is so much beauty in the world."
Steve says AND SHELDON, IF YOU WOULD, LET'S PUT UP THE IMAGE, THEN.
A black and white pencil drawing pops up. It depicts a woman lying on a hospital bed surrounded with her thoughts. The title reads "Cancer gratitudes."
Steve says HERE ARE... THIS IS JUST ONE OF MANY, MANY PICTURES WHICH YOU HAVE DRAWN, WHICH ARE IN THE BOOK. HOW DO YOU STILL SEE SO MUCH BEAUTY IN THE WORLD, GIVEN WHAT YOU'RE GOING THROUGH RIGHT NOW?
The caption changes to "Hope."
Teva says I THINK... I THINK I CAN ANSWER THAT IN TWO WAYS. ONE, I'M STILL MYSELF AND I AM A PERSON WHO... SEES BEAUTY IN THE WORLD. RIGHT? THAT I THINK... I THINK, IN A WAY, BEING SICK AND KNOWING THAT I HAVE A TERMINAL ILLNESS HAS AMPLIFIED THAT BECAUSE IT'S... IT'S... IT'S SOMETHING I DON'T WANT TO GIVE UP. RIGHT? SO, I'M... IT'S ALMOST BRIGHTER AND SHARPER, AND IT'S BITTERSWEET, BUT IT'S PRECIOUS. I FIND THAT... AS I KNOW THAT I MAY NOT HAVE AS MUCH OF IT AS I HOPED FOR, I'M HUNGRIER, I'M MORE, LIKE, VORACIOUS FOR DEVOURING ART AND CULTURE AND LIFE, AND IT FEELS REALLY PRECIOUS.
Steve says WITH ALL THE MRIS, AND ALL THE NEEDLES, AND ALL THE CHEMO, AND ALL THE RADIATION, AND ALL OF THE EVERYTHING THAT YOU ARE GOING THROUGH... YOU TALK IN THE BOOK ABOUT, THERE'S DAYS WHEN YOU'RE THROWING UP ALL THE TIME AND YOU'RE FEELING NAUSEOUS ALL THE TIME, LIMITATIONS ON WHAT YOU CAN DO. I MEAN, SURELY THERE ARE DAYS WHEN YOU WAKE UP AND YOU JUST SAY, "TO HELL WITH IT, I WISH IT WERE ALL OVER."
Teva says NOT IT ALL OVER. LIKE, I'M NOT AT THAT POINT YET. I MEAN, I WISH IT WAS ALL OVER, I WISH THE TREATMENT WAS ALL OVER, I WISH THE CANCER WAS ALL OVER, BUT VERY MUCH WOULD LIKE TO STICK AROUND.
Steve says BUT YOU NEVER HAVE A DAY WHERE YOU SAY, "YOU KNOW WHAT? "I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE. BRING ON DEATH."
Teva says NOT YET.
Steve says HASN'T HAPPENED?
Teva says NOT YET. I, UM... NO. YOU KNOW, UM... MY FATHER COMMITTED SUICIDE. I DON'T... I DON'T... I DON'T THINK I MENTIONED THAT IN THE BOOK.
Steve says I DON'T THINK YOU DID, NO.
Teva says AND SO, I'VE GROWN UP IN THE SHADOW OF SUICIDE. I WAS TWO WHEN HE DIED. AND SO, I'VE HAD A LOT OF TIME TO THINK ABOUT WHAT IT MEANS TO MAKE THAT CHOICE, WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE PEOPLE YOU LEAVE BEHIND. AND I THINK IT WOULD TAKE A LOT, LIKE AN EXCEPTIONAL LOT TO GET ME TO THAT POINT. I-I ADVOCATE FOR THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE. I'M REALLY THRILLED THAT CANADA'S MAKING SOME CHANGES IN TERMS OF LEGISLATION THERE BECAUSE I THINK IT'S VERY SAD WHEN SOMEONE GETS TO THE END AND MAKES THAT CHOICE AND ISN'T ABLE TO HAVE THEIR FAMILY BE AROUND THEM FOR FEAR OF IMPLICATING THEM. I THINK IT'S A CRUCIAL THING TO HAVE IN THE TOOLKIT, AND IT'S QUITE POSSIBLE THAT I'LL GET TO A POINT WHERE THE PAIN IS TOO MUCH AND I MAKE A CHOICE TO EXPEDITE THE END. BUT I'M... I'M NOT ANYWHERE NEAR THERE.
Steve says HAVE YOU HAD THAT CONVERSATION WITH... THIS IS TERRIBLE. I'M ASKING VERY PERSONAL QUESTIONS HERE, BUT...
Teva says THEY'RE RELEVANT.
Steve says THEY'RE IN THE BOOK. I MEAN, YOU HAVE YOU HAD THAT CONVERSATION WITH DAVID YET?
Teva says NO, NO, AND... I FEEL THAT I WILL PROBABLY BE READY TO HAVE THE CONVERSATION BEFORE HE'S READY TO HAVE THE CONVERSATION.
Steve says I THINK YOU'RE RIGHT. YEAH. HERE'S ANOTHER EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK.
A quote appears on screen, under the title "Coming to terms." The quote reads "My heart is breaking every day in the most selfish way. All the things I want. The excruciating act of scaling back my dreams. Paring down my hopes for this life into three-month bites. Living the enormity of hope and the gut-churning fear that accompany every single scan."
Steve says WHEN YOU'RE IN THE SHOES THAT YOU ARE IN, HOW MUCH HOPE DO YOU ALLOW YOURSELF TO HAVE ABOUT THE FUTURE?
Teva says IT'S GUARDED. I CATCH MYSELF. BECAUSE EVERY TIME SOMETHING LOVELY HAPPENS, THERE'S THIS SORT OF IMPULSE TOWARD EXPANSIVE HOPE, AND I HAVE TO REIN MYSELF IN. UM...
Steve says WHY?
Teva says BECAUSE IF I ALLOW MYSELF... TO BE UP HERE...
She raises a hand and continues THE DISTANCE IS GREATER WHEN I'M PULLED BACK DOWN. AND... AT ANY SCAN, I COULD HAVE PROGRESSION. I'VE ALREADY... I'VE ALREADY BEEN ON MY CURRENT TREATMENT LONGER THAN I EXPECTED. SO, NOW, EVERY TIME I HAVE A SCAN, I'M READY; IN MY HEAD, NOT IN MY HEART, BUT IN MY HEAD, I'M READY FOR-FOR... A DISAPPOINTMENT. RIGHT? AND BY "DISAPPOINTMENT," I MEAN, LIKE, DEVASTATION. (LAUGHING) SO, I ALLOW MYSELF TO HAVE HOPE, BECAUSE I HAVE TO, BECAUSE HOW DO YOU PERSIST WITHOUT HOPE? HOW DO YOU KEEP GOING ON? AND TO ME, THAT HOPE HAS TO INCLUDE SCIENCE CATCHING UP? OR... JUST GETTING LUCKY.
Steve says I GUESS YOU THINK THAT, "I GOT TO HANG IN THERE LONG ENOUGH, SO THAT THIS PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANY COULD COME UP WITH THIS DRUG, WHICH IS GOING TO SAVE MY LIFE."
Teva says WHICH IS WHY I PARTICIPATE IN CLINICAL TRIALS, BECAUSE I THINK, "WELL... "A, IF WE DON'T WHO WILL? AND B, WHAT IF THIS IS THE ONE THAT'S GOING TO GIVE ME A REPRIEVE?"
Steve says DO DOCTORS EVER TELL YOU HOW LONG YOU HAVE?
Teva says NO, THEY CAN'T. IT'S... I THINK WHEN I GET CLOSER TO THE END, THEY'LL HAVE A AN IDEA. BUT WITH THIS DISEASE, ALTHOUGH THE MEDIAN SURVIVAL IS TWO TO THREE YEARS, THERE ARE SOME WOMEN WHO LIVE FOR DECADES.
Steve says WITH TERMINAL CANCER?
Teva says WITH TERMINAL CANCER. SO, I HAVE TO HOPE THAT I'M GOING TO BE ONE OF THEM, WHILE PREPARING MYSELF BY DOING THINGS LIKE SORTING OUT ADVANCED DIRECTIVES AND TRYING TO GET RID OF SOME OF MY THINGS TO MAKE IT A LITTLE BIT MORE MANAGEABLE IF I'M NOT ONE OF THE LUCKY ONES.
Steve says I THINK YOU JUST ANSWERED WHAT WAS GOING TO BE MY FINAL QUESTION, WHICH IS, WHEN YOU HAVE TERMINAL CANCER, WHAT DO YOU WISH FOR?
Teva says I WISH... I WISH... I WISH FOR SCIENCE TO... CHOP-CHOP, BRING ON... BRING ON SOMETHING...
Steve says GET TO IT, EH?
Teva says BECAUSE I KNOW I CAN'T WISH FOR A CURE. I MEAN, I CAN WISH FOR ONE, BUT I CAN'T EXPECT IT. BUT I HOPE THAT THEY'LL COME UP WITH BETTER TOOLS TO RENDER THE DISEASE CHRONIC, KEEP IT STABLE, KEEP ME AROUND.
The caption changes to "Producer: Steve Paikin, @spaikin"
Steve says I THINK THE WORLD WOULD APPRECIATE THAT.
Teva says ME, TOO.
Steve says THANKS, TEVA.
Teva says THANK YOU.
The clip ends and another plays in which Steve sits in the studio. A caption reads "Coping with cancer's aftermath."
Steve says WHEN AUTHOR AND VISUAL ARTIST TEVA HARRISON DIED OF CANCER AT THE AGE OF 42, IT LEFT A HOLE IN THE HEARTS OF FRIENDS AND LOVED ONES. HER FINAL BOOK... NOT ONE OF THESE POEMS IS ABOUT YOU... CHRONICLES LIVING WITH METASTATIC BREAST CANCER, AS SHE PREPARED TO LEAVE THOSE LOVED ONES BEHIND.
A picture of the book appears briefly on screen. The cover is pale pink, with the title in yellow lettering and red, blue and green drawings of two birds and a nest.
Steve continues HER HUSBAND, DAVID LEONARD, LIVED THAT STORY AT HER SIDE, AND NOW HE IS NOT ONLY TENDING TO THE LEGACY THAT SHE LEFT, BUT ALSO CONTENDING WITH WHAT THAT LOSS MEANS FOR HIM.
David is in his forties, clean-shaven and bald. He's wearing a black suit and a gray shirt.
Steve continues IT'S SO GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN.
David says THANKS FOR HAVING ME.
Steve says THERE'S AN OLD EXPRESSION IN YIDDISH, WHICH IS, "OH, SIMCHAS," WHICH MEANS "I WISH IT WERE ON HAPPIER OCCASIONS." BUT YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?
David says YES, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THAT.
Steve says IF YOU DIDN'T KNOW, TEVA, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE HER?
The caption changes to "David Leonard. 6 Degrees." Then, it changes again to "Making art out of tragedy."
David says SHE WAS A LIGHT, SHE WAS A FORCE. YOU KNOW, THIS... THIS WOMAN ATTRACTED EVERYONE WHO MET HER INTO HER ORBIT, YOU KNOW? AND I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE, AFTER THEY'RE GONE, PEOPLE SAY THE SAME SORT OF CLICHÉD THINGS ABOUT THEM... "THEY WERE A LIGHT, THEY ATTRACTED PEOPLE AROUND THEM"... BUT SHE HAD THIS EXTRA GEAR OF EMPATHY, I THINK, THAT PEOPLE WERE REALLY ATTRACTED TO. SO, I FOUND MYSELF, WHEN I FIRST MET HER, JUST DRAWN INTO HER ORBIT, AND I THINK EVERYONE THAT MET HER FELT THE SAME THING. SHE LIVED WITH HOPE, AND WITH ENERGY, AND WITH OPTIMISM, SHE LAUGHED A LOT, SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL, YOUTHFUL, AND REALLY EMBRACED A KIND OF LUST FOR LIFE THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE DON'T HAVE.
The caption changes to "Originally aired April 28, 2020."
Steve says NOW, SHE WAS FROM THE STATES. SO, HOW DID YOU TWO MEET.
David says SO, SHE'S AMERICAN. SHE WAS A FILM PROGRAMMER, AND SHE WAS VISITING TORONTO AND TIFF, SEARCHING FOR FILMS IN 2001. AND 9-11 HAPPENED, AND SO, SHE ENDED UP BEING STRANDED IN TORONTO BECAUSE OF 9-11. AND SHE WAS SUPPOSED TO GO TO NEW YORK ON THE 13TH OF SEPTEMBER, BUT OF COURSE, TRAVEL WAS ALL BLOCKED OUT. SO, SHE WAS STAYING WITH A FRIEND, AND WE MET THAT WEEKEND AND IMMEDIATELY FELT A CONNECTION, AND WE GOT MARRIED SEVEN MONTHS LATER.
Steve says ISN'T THAT CRAZY? THAT IS MAYBE ONE... WELL, ONE OF THE VERY FEW GOOD THINGS THAT HAPPENED AS A RESULT OF 9-11.
David says IT'S A REMARKABLE STORY. I MEAN, SUCH A TRAGEDY, YOU KNOW, AND THEN... BUT FOR US, I THINK IT WAS A TIME WHEN SO MUCH WAS... SO MUCH WAS AVAILABLE, YOU KNOW? I THINK THINGS FELT UNSTABLE, THINK THINGS FELT UNSTEADY, THERE WAS NO COMMUNICATIONS, EVERYTHING WAS REALLY FRAUGHT. AND SO, WE FOUND OURSELVES THRUST TOGETHER IN THIS TIME, IN THIS REALLY MEANINGFUL WAY. AND I THINK WE BOTH SORT OF THOUGHT, "WELL, HERE'S THIS PERSON WHO LIGHTS ME UP; LET'S GO FOR IT."
Steve says HOW MANY YEARS WERE YOU TWO TOGETHER BEFORE SHE DISCOVERED SHE HAD CANCER?
David says SO, SHE WAS DIAGNOSED IN DECEMBER OF 2013, SO, AT THAT POINT, IT WOULD BE ABOUT 12, LITTLE OVER 12 YEARS, AND IT HAD BEEN 12 GOOD YEARS AND 12 HEALTHY YEARS AND NO SIGN OF ANY ISSUE COMING AT ALL.
The caption changes to "David Leonard, @davidpleonard."
Steve says AND IT WASN'T IN THE FAMILY.
David says IT WAS IN THE FAMILY. I MEAN, SHE HAD A FAMILY HISTORY OF CERTAIN TYPES OF CANCER, BUT ACCORDING TO THE MEDICAL ESTABLISHMENT, YOU KNOW, SHE DIDN'T MEET THE THRESHOLD FOR RISK, BUT SHE WAS OBVIOUSLY VERY CONCERNED ABOUT IT, SO SHE WAS GETTING TESTS ALL THE TIME.
Steve says HOW DID SHE DISCOVER IT?
David says SHE FOUND A LUMP. WELL, ACTUALLY, SHE HAD BACK PAIN FIRST AND SHE HAD A LOT OF BACK PAIN, AND SHE WENT TO EMERG A FEW TIMES AND ASKED THEM ABOUT HER BACK PAIN AND THEY WOULD SEND HER AWAY WITH "NOT CANCER." YOU KNOW, "MAYBE YOU'VE LIFTED SOMETHING FUNNY, MAYBE YOU SAT A FUNNY WAY, MAYBE THERE'S AN ISSUE WITH HOW YOU'RE SLEEPING." AND THEN, IT JUST GOT WORSE AND WORSE AND WORSE. AND THEN, SHE FOUND A LUMP IN HER BREAST AND THEN WENT BACK IN AND IMMEDIATELY GOT FAST-TRACKED THROUGH THE SYSTEM, AND THEY FOUND THAT NOT ONLY WAS IT BREAST CANCER, BUT IT WAS... SHE WAS DIAGNOSED WITH STAGE FOUR METASTATIC BREAST CANCER. SO, IT WAS IN HER BREAST, IN HER LYMPH NODES, AND ALSO IN HER SPINE, WHICH IS WHY SHE HAD THE BACK PAIN.
Steve says YOU KNOW, WHENEVER WE HAVE AUTHORS ON THIS PROGRAM, WE USUALLY READ AN EXCERPT OF THEIR WORK. YOU GOING TO MIND IF I READ A LITTLE? THAT'S OKAY?
David says GO AHEAD.
Steve says "A POCKETFUL OF STONES." IS ONE OF THE POEMS I'D LIKE TO READ AN EXCERPT FROM. IT'S A LOVELY METAPHOR - A POCKET FULL OF STONES... AND HERE WE GO.
A quote appears on screen, under the title "A pocketful of stones." The quote reads "When she dies, A blissful moment when I feel nothing. Then it rolls up from the pit of my stomach, a wave of kneeing whales.
I'm left behind, moving along the living. Alive.
It's raining, but we're still climbing the Table Mountain. I stop at the trailhead -retie my shoes. 'Wait!' I kneel down, palms flat against the ground.
You watch as I fill my pockets with stones.
One for you. One for me. One, each, for my mother and three sisters. More, still, for my friends who didn't survive." Quoted from Teva Harrison, "Not one of these poems is about you." 2020.
Steve says WHY DOES THAT POEM SPEAK TO YOU?
David says I MEAN, THIS IS OBVIOUSLY A TRUE STORY. YOU KNOW, WE CLIMBED TABLE MOUNTAIN TOGETHER.
Steve says WHERE'S THAT?
David says IT'S IN CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA. YOU KNOW, ONE OF HER DREAMS WAS TO SEE GIRAFFES IN THE WILD. SO, SHORTLY AFTER SHE WAS DIAGNOSED, WE FOUND OUR WAY TO AFRICA AND DID SOME... DID A SAFARI. AND ON THAT TRIP, WE WENT TO CAPE TOWN. AND SO, SHE WAS REALLY... LIVED IN NATURE, AND SHE LIVED IN MARQUEE MOMENTS. AND SO, FOR TEVA, A HUGE PART OF THE WAY SHE WANTED TO LIVE IS TO RECOGNIZE THE PEOPLE WHO ARE STRUGGLING, TO RECOGNIZE THE THINGS THAT SHE CAN DO TO PUT THEM IN HER MIND, TO MARK THE OCCASION SOMEHOW IN NATURE. SO, WE CLIMBED TABLE MOUNTAIN AND SHE HAD POCKETS FULL OF STONES, AND SHE LAID THEM DOWN ON THE TOP OF THAT MOUNTAIN, AND SHE SPOKE THE NAMES OF THE PEOPLE OF HER FRIENDS WHO HAD DIED AND SHE SPOKE THE NAMES OF THE PEOPLE OF HER FRIENDS WHO ARE STILL HERE. AND TO HER, THIS WAS... SHE BELIEVED IN MAGIC, AND MAGIC OF NOT CASTING SPELLS AND WAVING A MAGIC WAND, BUT THE MAGIC THAT'S EVIDENT IN EVERY SINGLE DAY. SO, THE BEAUTY OF A SUNRISE OR THE MOMENT WHEN YOU TAKE A BREATH OF FRESH AIR, YOU KNOW, SHE BELIEVED THAT THOSE MOMENTS WERE SPECIAL AND THOSE MOMENTS WERE WORTH CELEBRATING. SO, FOR HER, STANDING ON THE TOP OF THIS MOUNTAIN, AFTER THE EXERTION OF CLIMBING THIS RIDICULOUS PATH... YOU KNOW, IT WAS MISTY AND RAINY... AND TO PUT STONES ON THE GROUND AND SAY THE NAMES OF PEOPLE SHE LOVED WAS A MOMENT IN NATURE FOR HER. AND SO, I THINK, FOR ME, IT SHOWS THAT SHE WAS ALWAYS PART OF A COMMUNITY, BUT ALSO THAT SHE WAS ALWAYS PART OF THE WORLD.
Steve says WHEN SHE GOT HER DIAGNOSIS, DID SHE HAVE ANY SENSE ABOUT HOW LONG SHE WOULD LAST?
David says THEY... IT'S ALWAYS A TOUGH QUESTION. THEY... THEY DON'T REALLY TELL YOU BECAUSE THEY DON'T REALLY KNOW. SO, THE MEDIAN SURVIVAL RATE FOR HER CANCER WAS TWO TO TWO-AND-A-HALF YEARS.
Steve says AND SHE GOT DOUBLE THAT.
David says AND SHE GOT FIVE-AND-A-HALF YEARS. SO, I THINK SHE WAS ALREADY ON THE LONG TAIL OF WHAT WAS EXPECTED. I THINK SHE REALLY BEAT A LOT OF THE ODDS AND EXPECTATIONS FOR THAT DIAGNOSIS, AND A LOT OF THAT, I THINK, IS BECAUSE SHE LIVED THE WAY SHE LIVED, YOU KNOW, WITH JOY, WITH OPTIMISM, AND WITH HOPE.
Steve says YOU WROTE A REALLY GREAT PIECE IN THE GLOBE AND MAIL A COUPLE OF MONTHS AGO, AND I WANT TO JUST READ A LITTLE EXCERPT FROM THAT.
A quote appears on screen, under the title "Looking for guidance." The quote reads "Because she discovered a way to live with hope and beauty despite the challenges of cancer, Teva is supporting me as I navigate my grief. She tapped into some universal truths about what makes a life, and what is important, and it is invaluable to me." Quoted from David Leonard, The Globe and Mail. January 24, 2020.
Steve says HELP US OUT WITH THAT, WHAT TRUTHS OF LIFE DID SHE TAP INTO THAT HAVE BEEN HELPFUL TO YOU?
The caption changes to "Navigating through grief."
David says YOU KNOW, IT'S SUCH A UNIQUE POSITION TO BE IN A DIALOGUE, YOU KNOW, WITH SOMEONE WHO'S GONE. AND I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE IN MY SITUATION, YOU KNOW, WHEN SOMEONE IS GONE, YOU WISH, "IF ONLY I HAD ONE MORE CONVERSATION." OR, YOU KNOW, WHEN YOU PLAYED THE VIDEO EARLIER, "IF ONLY I COULD SEE THEM OR HEAR THEIR VOICE," YOU KNOW? AND SO, TEVA, BECAUSE SHE DID SO MUCH WORK IN THE PUBLIC SPHERE, WHETHER IT WAS LECTURES, OR INTERVIEWS, OR WRITING, YOU KNOW, I HAVE HER VOICE THERE. AND SO, IN HAVING CANCER, SHE HAD TO NAVIGATE A LOT OF REALLY CHALLENGING SOCIAL SITUATIONS, CHALLENGING SITUATIONS AT WORK, ALL THESE ISSUES WHERE INVISIBILITY, ESPECIALLY FOR THE FIRST FEW YEARS OF HER CANCER... I MEAN, SHE LOOKS HEALTHY, AND SHE LOOKED STRONG, AND YOU'D NEVER KNOW IF YOU SAW HER... AND THAT CREATES A SORT OF DISSONANCE SOMETIMES. WHEN SHE'S HAVING A HORRIBLE DAY, FEELING TERRIBLE FROM CANCER AND NO ONE CAN TELL, IT SORT OF CREATES A STRANGE DISSONANCE. AND SO, I FIND MYSELF, GRIEF, THERE ARE PARALLELS, AND, YOU KNOW, PARALLELS OF GRIEF ARE, I'M ALSO SOMETIMES HAVING A HORRIBLE DAY AND YOU'D NEVER KNOW, AND NO ONE EXPECTS THAT I'M GOING TO BE HAVING... YOU KNOW, THAT I'LL BE DEALING WITH SOMETHING IN A DIFFERENT WAY. AND SO, THESE TRUTHS ARE THINGS LIKE LETTING HERSELF OFF THE HOOK WHEN SHE JUST WASN'T UP TO IT, OR UNDERSTANDING THAT FATIGUE IS OKAY, OR UNDERSTANDING THAT THE PEOPLE WHO ARE AROUND YOU TO SUPPORT YOU, SOMETIMES ARE THE PEOPLE YOU THINK THEY ARE AND SOMETIMES THEY'RE NOT, YOU KNOW, AND SO YOU HAVE TO FIND YOURSELF GRAVITATING TOWARDS WHERE THE SUPPORT IS, BUT ALSO LOOKING INSIDE YOURSELF, AND THESE... THESE THINGS ARE ABSOLUTELY PARALLEL BETWEEN OUR EXPERIENCES. BUT THE BIGGEST ONE IS KINDNESS. YOU KNOW, SHE LIVED HER LIFE WITH KINDNESS. AND I THINK THAT IT'S EASIER TO BE KIND THAN IT IS TO BE CRUEL, AND SHE LIVED HER LIFE THAT WAY, AND IT OPENED UP FOR HER. YOU KNOW, AND BY SAYING YES TO LIFE AND BY SAYING YES TO PEOPLE, SHE FOUND HERSELF WITH A LOT OF OPPORTUNITY. AND I FIND MYSELF IN THE SAME SITUATION, WHERE IT'S EASY TO FEEL CLOSED, AND IT'S EASY TO FEEL NEGATIVE, BUT, YOU KNOW, SHE'S SORT OF GUIDING ME TO CHOOSE KINDNESS AND TO BE POSITIVE AND TO SORT OF EMBRACE THE HELP THAT'S AROUND ME AND EMBRACE WHAT THE WORLD HAS TO OFFER.
The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, firstname.lastname@example.org, Instagram."
Steve says HOW RELEVANT A MESSAGE IS THAT FOR TODAY, IN PARTICULAR?
David says OH, MY GOODNESS. IT FEELS VERY TIMELY. I MEAN, I THINK THE THING ABOUT THE WAY SHE LIVED HER LIFE IS... AND THIS IS WHY I THINK THESE BOOKS GO BEYOND A CANCER EXPERIENCE OR ILLNESS EXPERIENCE. I MEAN, THESE BOOKS ARE ABOUT, YOU KNOW, HOW DO YOU, IN A DIFFICULT TIME, IN A DIFFICULT WORLD, FIND A WAY TO LIVE HOPEFULLY, AND JOYFULLY, DESPITE EVERYTHING THAT'S GOING ON, ALL THE DIVISIONS, ALL OF THE PROBLEMS IN SOCIETY, ALL OF THE NASTY RHETORIC. HOW DO YOU CHOOSE TO BE KIND? AND SHE FOUND A WAY.
Steve says AT WHAT POINT DO YOU STOP THINKING OF HER EVERY DAY?
David says IT'S HARD TO SAY.
Steve says HASN'T HAPPENED YET? REALLY? YOU STILL THINK OF HER EVERY DAY?
David says EVERY DAY. EVERY DAY. YEAH. I MEAN GRIEF IS STRANGE. I MEAN, THERE'S NO PLAYBOOK, RIGHT? AND SO, I THINK, FOR SOME PEOPLE IN MY SITUATION, THEY'LL... THERE'S A TIMELINE AND A PLAYBOOK AND YOU UNDERSTAND THAT BY DOING X, Y, AND Z, YOU'LL BE ABLE TO ACHIEVE THESE MILESTONES OF GRIEF. IT DOESN'T MANIFEST THAT WAY, AT LEAST HASN'T FOR ME. IT'S THIS SLIPPERY... IT'S A SLIPPERY FLOOR, YOU KNOW, WHERE, SOME DAYS, EVERYTHING'S FINE, AND THEN ONE THING WILL HAPPEN AND YOUR BACK IN IT AGAIN. YOU KNOW? I DON'T FEEL LIKE IT'S BEEN A... INCREMENTAL IMPROVEMENT. I FEEL LIKE IT'S... IT COMES... IT SORT OF WASHES OVER YOU OR DOESN'T, YOU KNOW? SO, EVERY DAY, I THINK OF HER, AND SOME DAYS, IT'S AWFUL, AND SOME DAYS, IT'S WONDERFUL. BUT IT'S A PROCESS, YOU KNOW? AND I THINK I ALL I HAVE TO DO IS WALK THE ROAD OF GRIEF AND SEE WHERE IT TAKES ME.
Steve says THERE IS A LINE IN THE... I GUESS THIS IS THE INSCRIPTION HERE, AND I'M NOT SURE I CAN ACTUALLY PRONOUNCE IT. SO, YOU MIGHT NEED TO HELP ME. "ESPWA FE VIV."
David says YEAH. YEAH.
Steve says "HOPE MAKES LIFE."
David says "HOPE MAKES LIFE."
Steve says WHAT LANGUAGE IS THAT?
David says IT'S A HAITIAN PROVERB.
Steve says IT IS?
David says YEAH. SO, IT'S CREOLE, YEAH.
Steve says OKAY. AND DO YOU KNOW WHY IT'S THERE?
David says I MEAN, IT'S THERE BECAUSE SHE, I THINK, I MEAN, I... YOU KNOW, SHE HAD NO PARTICULAR CONNECTION TO HAITI. I THINK SHE PROBABLY... SHE DID A LOT OF READING ABOUT HOPE AND A LOT OF READING ABOUT WHAT MAKES A LIFE, AND I THINK SHE PROBABLY FOUND THAT ALONG THE WAY AND IT SPOKE TO HER. AND I THINK FOR HER, THE ACT... THE ACT OF CREATING ANYTHING IN A DARK TIME IS AN ACT OF HOPE. SO, THE ACT OF WRITING A POETRY BOOK AND DOING DRAWINGS, LIKE NOT ONE OF THESE POEMS IS ABOUT YOU, IS AN ACT OF HOPE AND AN ACT OF OPTIMISM. AND SO, FOR HER, THE ONLY WAY TO RECONCILE THE FACT THAT SHE HAD A TERMINAL ILLNESS WAS TO LIVE IN HOPE AND OPTIMISM THAT MAYBE SCIENCE WOULD CATCH UP, OR MAYBE SHE'D HAVE A MIRACLE, OR MAYBE THERE'D BE SOME SORT OF SOMETHING THAT WOULD COME AND TAKE HER OUT OF THE SITUATION. IT'S EASY TO GIVE UP, I THINK. IT'S EASY TO SAY, "WELL, THIS IS MY LOT, SO BE IT." THAT WASN'T IN HER CHARACTER, YOU KNOW? SHE LIVED... SHE LIVED WITH HOPE. AND THAT, TO HER, WAS THE ABSOLUTE CORE OF IT... THAT, WITHOUT HOPE, WHAT'S THE POINT?
Steve says CAN I ASK A BIT OF AN AWKWARD QUESTION TO FINISH THIS OFF?
David says SURE.
Steve says YOU KNOW, YOU'RE PRETTY YOUNG GUY STILL, RIGHT?
David says YEAH.
Steve says HOW OLD ARE YOU NOW?
David says 44.
Steve says 44, OKAY. NOW, DO YOU EVER WORRY THAT, YOU KNOW, EVEN AT THIS VERY YOUNG STAGE OF LIFE, YOU'VE EXPERIENCED THE GREAT LOVE OF YOUR LIFE AND YOU MAY NOT EVER AGAIN?
David says YEAH, I DO WORRY ABOUT THAT. NOW, IT'S... YEAH, I MEAN, OF COURSE, IT'S A CONCERN. I MEAN, I THINK... I THINK... I'M NOT AT A STAGE WHERE I'M THINKING ABOUT WHAT COMES IN THE FUTURE. I THINK... I THINK WHAT I'VE LEARNED, AND THIS IS WHAT I'VE LEARNED FROM TEVA, IS THAT WITH... WITH HER CANCER DIAGNOSIS, WE LIVED IN VERY SHORT INCREMENTS OF DECISION MAKING BECAUSE FROM SCAN TO SCAN, EVERYTHING CAN CHANGE. AND SO, WHAT WE FOUND OURSELVES DOING IS LIVING IN THIS VERY... I GUESS, NOW, WE CALL IT "A MINDFUL STATE." OF TAKING THE WORLD AS IT COMES AND NOT PUTTING TOO MUCH PRESSURE ON THE PAST OR THE FUTURE. AND SO, I FIND MYSELF NOW DOING THE SAME THING. SO, I'M 44 YEARS OLD. I HAD A VERY BEAUTIFUL 18-YEAR RELATIONSHIP WITH A WOMAN WHO I LOVE. AND THE FUTURE HOLDS WHO KNOWS WHAT, AND I'LL TAKE IT AS IT COMES.
The clips end and Nam stands in the studio alone.
She says AND THAT'S IT FOR TONIGHT'S AGENDA IN THE SUMMER. THE OLYMPICS BEGIN THIS WEEK, AND SO, TOMORROW, WE LOOK BACK AT A CONVERSATION ABOUT WHAT COMES AFTER A CAREER FOCUSED ON BEING AN OLYMPIAN. I'M NAM KIWANUKA. THANKS FOR WATCHING TVO AND FOR JOINING US ONLINE AT TVO.ORG, AND WE'LL SEE YOU AGAIN TOMORROW.
The announcer says THE AGENDA IN THE SUMMER WITH NAM KIWANUKA IS MADE POSSIBLE THROUGH GENEROUS PHILANTHROPIC CONTRIBUTIONS FROM VIEWERS LIKE YOU. THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING TVO'S JOURNALISM.
Music plays as the end credits roll.
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