Gill Deacon on cancer's tough lessons


Photo: Oleg Jiliba

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"Cancer doesn't care about my good attitude, recycled toilet paper, refillable coffee mugs and carpooling schedule."

That was the hard lesson Gill Deacon learned when she was diagnosed with breast cancer several years ago. Deacon, the award-winning broadcaster (and currently the host of CBC Radio's Here and Now), writer and environmentalist is the kind of person who does everything right. She runs and does yoga. She eats local, organic vegetables. She has a happy marriage and is busy raising three young boys. All this made her cancer diagnosis that much harder to handle.

"Nothing makes sense," when it comes to cancer, Deacon told Homerun host Sue Smith. (You can listen to their entire conversation in the audio player above.) Deacon struggled with reconciling her cancer diagnosis with her eco-friendly life. "Didn't you check all the things I was doing, cancer? Don't you care? I was eating this and cleaning my house with that and taking the steps I had thought I had take to live right, capital R right."

Once Deacon moved past being angry, she tackled it the way she tackled everything else in her life: full-out and head-on. "Okay, fine, I have cancer," Deacon recalled thinking. "I'm going to be really good at it." She dove into alternative therapies and eating right and taking a strict regimen of vitamins and green smoothies.

Eventually, the question for perfection, for rightness, became too much. There is no one right way to have cancer. There is only so much a single person can control. There is no right way to live. Things can always, always be better. These lessons were tough for Deacon to learn. But she did.

"There's always something that could be better about any given moment, but there's also always something wonderful and peaceful and great," Deacon said. "I found I had to, going through cancer. And I still enjoy, appreciating the naked imperfection of right now."

Deacon has now been cancer-free for five years and this is a philosophy she still tries to live by. "Today, I feel really good and I'm happy. I don't know what tomorrow holds."

And for Deacon, that's finally okay.