I started this blogsite with the intention of honoring the people in my circle for the ways in which my world was a better place because of them. And, for the most part, I have acknowledged friends, family and colleagues. The person I have chosen to honor today was an acquaintance of mine for many years. We weren’t ‘friends’ … but we had a few mutual friends and our paths intersected occasionally because we both lived in a very small town.
I recall one of the first times we rubbed shoulders was several decades ago when a group of us went out carolling around our tiny town at Christmas time. I was belting out my best rendition of “Jingle Bells” or “Joy to the World” or whatever the song happened to be when she turned around to identify the ‘songstress’ behind her. I could see by the slightly quizzical look on her beautiful face that her finely tuned ears were detecting the err in my tone and pitch! Ha ha. It didn’t even hurt my feelings … because although I am good at a fair number of things … singing is certainly not one of them. 🙄
That said … she had an exceptional ear for music … and singing is certainly one of her gifts. Just one of her MANY gifts! Whether she be the lead singer in a band … acting on stage … directing a play … strumming on a guitar … mothering her three cherubs … teaching music to preschoolers … or … becoming the queen of selfies … Leah Meier always lights up the space around her with her ready laugh and lighthearted spirit! And, over the years, I am grateful to say I have had the opportunity to become more and more acquainted with the luminous light that is Leah! There are rare individuals that you want in your circle and Leah is definitely one of them. I am so glad that, now, I get to call her my ‘friend’.
And, it’s been a gift to invited deeper into her inner circle. It has been nothing short of magnificent to watch this tribe of women who continue to inspire me with the ways in which they show up for each other … and … in the world. They have been through so much together, but very recently, something unthinkable happened.
On June 19th, 2018, Leah was diagnosed with colorectal cancer with metastasis to her liver and possibly her lungs. Yes. Cancer. Stage IV. And, while many of us would fold inward with such a devastating diagnosis, that is not how Leah chose to respond. No. As she shared:
Being an active, otherwise healthy individual, my team of doctors and family opted for an aggressive treatment plan. I was to start six rounds of three different chemotherapy medications immediately. Thankfully I was able to receive my treatments at the Jack Ady Cancer Center in Lethbridge.
After the fifth round of chemotherapy I had another MRI. Great News! The spots on my lungs were cysts and the remaining four suspected metastases had shrunk considerably and one was likely just a cyst. I was able to undergo just one surgery on November 9, 2018, for both my colon and liver! I recovered from surgery with no complications and started my next round of chemotherapy just four and a half weeks after surgery. Everything that needed to happen has happened and it appears that I have had a complete radiological response to treatment in my liver and the colon tumour was removed with incredibly good margins!
Now … most folks would simply be grateful for an encouraging outcome. No. Not Leah. She rallied her tribe and decided that once she was well enough, she was going to use this tragic situation as a way to serve the greatest good. And that is exactly what she did! She signed up to participate in the Ride to Conquer Cancer. And, as she shared in her public bio:
I was told that as recently as five years ago, my prognosis and treatment options would have been very different and a path for cure would not have been likely. My life has been impacted, likely saved, due to very recent cancer therapy advancements! I’m able to receive treatments at the Jack Ady Care Facility in Lethbridge instead of having to drive three hours to Calgary. I’ve sat in comfy chemo chairs, been covered in warm blankets and received incredible care from an outstanding team of doctors, nurses and staff in both Lethbridge and Calgary.
The Ride To Conquer Cancer helps fund all of the above and so much more! The money raised stays in our province and truly makes a difference to those of us having to face this horrible disease.
I had my last chemotherapy on February 20, 2019, and am so excited to be starting on my journey toward renewed health, strength and experiences that await me in my life!
THANK YOU for considering a donation, whatever the size. Every dollar you donate means a dollar more towards conquering cancer!
The tag line for this annual event is:
“BE EPIC. Two days. Over 200kms. Conquer Cancer”
And, as if training for the 200km ride was was not enough for her to shoulder … not long after Leah finished her chemo treatments … she decided to create an additional Fundraiser! Within no time at all, she had sold out the tickets for this fabulous dinner, dance and a silent auction! She was committed to raising as much money as she possibly could for cancer research. And, true to form, she marked the evening with one of her trademark selfies!
Just look at all the people who turned out to support this amazing soul! And, the retired band in which she had been a lead singer, offered to come together again and play the music so we could dance up a storm! And … Leah graced us with her sensational songbird skills! It was such a remarkable evening!!
And, I know that training for this ride … after all the cancer treatments she had been through … was grueling! But … she not only trained hard herself, but she invited others to join “Team Leah”. And, she rallied together a most fabulous team!
And her efforts were an enormous success … nothing short of EPIC indeed! She has always been known for inspiring so many with her bright light ..and … this was no different. As her best friend Angie shared on Facebook on August 18th:
What a weekend…..what a ride….. Feeling so blessed! Leah you are and always have been my HERO!! There is nothing you can’t and won’t do once your mind is made up. This was a huge undertaking and my friend you know very well that I thought you were nuts🤪But you kept reassuring me that you could and would do this and you did. 12 rounds of very aggressive chemo, a major surgery and recovery…. No wait….straight to training for a 200 km Ride To Conquer Cancer. I will never doubt you again ever😜 You are a force to be reckoned with …and I am so blessed to call you my best friend, soul sista and my Rock! So very very proud of my Husband…. Maria, Sydney, Nicki, Shelah, Ryan, Jill, Chris you guys slayed this ride!! #Enbridge Ride To Conquer Cancer #rideab #dontstopbelieving🧡💛💚♥️🚴🚴♀️🚴♂️
And, it was really something to behold. As Leah, herself, shared in a Facebook post on August 20, 2019:
WE DID IT!!! From start to finish this has been the most amazing experience!!! ❤️🚴♀️🙏 A HUGE Thank you to everyone who donated to our ride!!! Together we raised $51,333.68 which put Team Leah 18th out of 167 teams for most money raised and this year’s ride totalled $5.9 MILLION!!! HOW COOL IS THAT!?!?! 🚴♀️😃 Crossing the finish line with so many family and friends there to cheer us on was honestly one of the most joyous moments of my life!! I am beyond grateful to all of you who have embraced me my family and my team and supported us through it all!! ❤️🚴
EPIC! Absolutely epic. And so … through it all, I was left entirely amazed, awed and inspired by the force of light that is Leah! Her lively, light-hearted luminosity goes way beyond description. I also want to take this moment to thank Leah for her endless gifts of courage and compassion and caring! Her efforts already have and will continue to benefit so many others who are diagnosed with cancer.
As I shared with her in a private Facebook Message:
Good Morning Leah!
I hope this little note finds you basking in the after glow of your tremendously successful achievements! I can’t even begin to put into words how I aspired I am by your infinite capacity to take a personal challenge and create a movement of benevolence that benefits all of mankind. You are an exceptional soul and I am so grateful to call you my friend! Sending you biggest hugs of deepest admiration, respect and love for the miracle of YOU!
I wish I could tell you that Leah’s story ended on that positive note … but … it did not. I had learned from a mutual friend that Leah’s husband had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. I was so troubled to hear the news that I sent off another message on January 17th over Facebook to let her know that I was thinking of her. I was shocked to learn that things had taken even more unexpected turns when she responded to my invitation to get together for coffee or wine by saying:
Just wondering if you know I’m in Calgary this weekend? Had lung surgery on Thursday.
Good grief! No. I was not aware of that! I knew that the doctors had detected some dark spots on her liver and on her lungs when they initially discovered her cancer, but I was not aware that she had already undergone surgery on one of her lungs. She updated us on a few days later with some good news:
Hi!! Surgery went well!!He was able to get all three spots with wedge resections and Thoroscopic. Loss of only about 10% vs 25-30% with the lobectomy he might have had to do. I’m already home and now anxiously await pathology. I should hear in next 7-10 days. I’m able to manage pain with very small dose of morphine combined with alternating Tylenol and Advil. First hurdle. I hope we get to see each other soon my friend!! …
And sadly, the pathology report confirmed that she would require surgery on the other lung as well. Not the news she wanted to hear. We were finally able to have a much awaited visit and a glass of wine on March 3 at 3:00pm. It was then that I learned the extent of all that she had been enduring … her step brother had died as well. And, if that wasn’t enough, Covid-19 was added to the mix and all elective surgeries were postponed because hospitals were preparing for the influx of people who might need medical supports to survive coronavirus.
And then Leah learned that her surgeon was in mandatory isolation because he had been travelling. As a result, she had a big decision to make. She opted to put her faith in her surgeon’s colleague and have him perform the operation instead. She said she was nervous, but felt it was the right decision.
I was, once again, left in awe of Leah’s capacity to resiliently roll with whatever life tossed in her path. And, it was incredible to watch her courageously lean into all the uncertainties with courage and hope and faith. I knew that the risks she was facing included the potential for compromised capacity for mobility and singing and living a full life because some of her lung needed to be removed. She pushed forward. Her surgery was on March 23rd and she came home on March 26th because they wanted to get her out of the hospital to reduce her risk of contracting Covid-19. On March 30th, I received this exciting message from her saying:
Good Morning!! One week cancer free!!!! Could it be!?!?
I could feel the joy and healing and well-being in her spirit! I could not even fathom the liberation she must be feeling … because for the first time in a couple of years … she might get to abide in that bliss-filled space of being ‘cancer free’.
We also had a long conversation on another morning. It was beautiful to connect and hear how she was finding her way through her own healing journey … with the full knowledge that she was also preparing for another journey with her husband. Her hubby’s surgery was scheduled for May 14th, and because of Covid-19, it was determined that he would not be allowed to have anyone with him. Seriously! This was their truth …
I tried to imagine what it would be like to be going through such a tentative time with no one by your side. I tried to imagine what it would be like to have your loved one going through such adversity and not to be able to lay your eyes upon them to reassure yourself of their well being. I wished I could reach out with some supportive sentiments, but I found no words. Nothing seemed like the right thing to utter. It’s so hard to know what on earth to say when people are going through hellish times. All I could do was send love and light through the ethers … and … hope that they could feel it. Her hubby found his way home shortly after his surgery. There were some bumpy patches, but slowly they found their way through it all together.
And then guess what happened?? Leah decided it was time to ride again in 2020!! Once again … I was in complete awe of her capacity to pick herself up and move forward with a firm resolve. One morning when Leah and I were chatting over the phone while having our morning coffee, I was sharing how inspired I was by her willingness to ride again … and … lamenting that I would not be able to support her by joining Team Leah because … as I emphatically indicated to her … I absolutely detest bike riding. Although, I love, love, love to walk … and … while I make it a regular practice to log oodles of kilometers with my Bestie (Marie) … for countless reasons, not even this noble cause could get my head in a helmet and my buttocks onto one of those hard seats for 200kms. Nope. Nada. Not this girl.
My resistance did not deter Leah in the least. I could hear her voice light right up when she said, “Well, you could walk it then. You and Marie could join the team and walk 100 kms.” Well now … she had a point.
This option seemed absolutely thrilling to me!! My Bestie and I had actually committed to walking the Road to Santiago (aka the ‘Camino’ trail) in Spain in September of 2020. It is a highly travelled route that is almost 1000kms in it’s entirety for spiritual seekers who venture out on these remarkable ‘pilgrimages’. Anyway, my Bestie and I were booked to complete the final 100km leg of the pilgrimage. Our flights and accommodations had been reserved. I had purchased a special day pack and new walking shoes. We were so excited! And then …. Covid-19 dashed all those plans.
And so, when Leah suggested that we walk 100kms for Cancer … it felt absolutely right. So guess who jumped at the chance to join Team Leah? Yep!! Me and my Bestie!! With this decision, we still had an opportunity to complete our 100km pilgrimage. We just altered the locale to suit this particular moment in our collective history … and … our personal intention to support Leah’s personal journey. We affectionately called it our “Covid Camino for Cancer.” We already walked regularly so we wanted to stretch ourselves a bit to make sure that our efforts on behalf of the Ride to Conquer Cancer were challenging us enough. To that end, we committed to walk at least 20kms per day over five days.
And that is exactly what we did! It was such an honor to join Team Leah 2020 and raise some funds for cancer research. We logged just over 100 kilometers along a variety of different routes … and … felt incredibly humbled by the whole experience.
Yes. It was an absolute honor to join Team Leah. It remains an absolute honor to be connected to the EPIC energy of Leah … she is such a lively, lovely and laudable lightworker! I actually started writing this blog in honor of Leah a couple of years ago. I wanted to honor her journey and express to her (and all those who might read this tribute) how I continue to be inspired not just by what she does and by how she does it, but also by who she is! Her being-ness is so rare and exceptional.
Did I mention that she is now planning to bring her team together to bring the musical Chicago to life at a local theater in 2022? I could hear all her enthusiasm and excitement as she described it:
“Roaring 20’s show in this decades post virus roaring 20’s”
Yes. Her presence on the planet is such a rare gift. Our collective human existence is infinitely better because Leah has consciously chosen to ensure that it is. So many people have and will continue to benefit from the fruits of her labors. I worried as I penned this blog that I couldn’t possibly honor all the brightness of Leah sufficiently, but I wanted to offer this reflection of my experience to really celebrate her … and … to publicly acknowledge and recognize all that she is and all that she does.
I wish I could say that the challenges for Leah ended with this tribute here … in complete celebration of her and her victorious win in the battle with cancer. I wish we could wrap things up on such a high note. But, unfortunately, we cannot do that just yet. There is more to Leah’s story.
After almost three years, and just when Leah thought she might finally be able to focus her gaze beyond fighting for the cure … she got some more dark and unwelcome news. In one of her check-ups, they detected another spot on one of her lungs. It is deep in her lung so she’ll need to have a lobectomy instead of the wedge resection like she had last time. Gah. They might not be able to do it laparoscopically … which means a much longer recovery. They first had to biopsy a lymph node that showed up on her pet scan. Fortunately … it appears to be no cause for concern. Whew.
And while we breathe a sigh of relief with that news … it is sobering to consider that losing half of her lung in the next surgery is the good news! Can you imagine finding yourself in that frame of reference? And yet, one of the things that has always amazed me about Leah is her ability to keep her wits about her despite the circumstances. While I know that she is deeply impacted by all the things that continue to challenge her path, I am reminded of an exchange we had way back on April 15, 2020. I received this private message from her:
This morning as I’m hanging laundry and struggling to catch my breath and thinking about strategies to continue to move towards healing, etc.
I asked God “How many times do I need to pick myself up off the ground!!?? ”
I instantly heard loud and clear… “As many times as it takes”
Pretty simple really…
Simple … and yet … certainly not easy. I just recently had another conversation with Leah. We were chatting about this long arduous journey that had befallen her. In the middle of it … she offhandedly said “Maybe I should take my own advice?” She had been expressing some frustration with having to deal with something “again” … and that is when she reminded herself that she would just needed to address it “as many times as it takes”.
Leah’s next surgery is scheduled for Monday … March 8th. She will be ‘checking in’ at 5:00am and the surgery is scheduled to start at 7:30am. I am hoping all of you reading this will join us as we hold her close in heart … and … help flood the ethers by sending much good juju and healing energy in her direction. Please join us in offering a prayer for a swift and successful surgery. May we also collectively invite the Universe to afford her a speedy and miraculously comfortable recovery. She has done so much for the benefit of others … and … I would like her to know that we are all holding her energetically in optimal health, effortless healing and complete recovery.
May we join her in spirit as she once again rises above the situation that has darkened her path … and … may we collectively reify her tenacity to triumph and thrive, once again, despite this unwelcome twist. Due to Covid-19 she may need to face this surgery all alone in the hospital. I am hoping that we can send so much love and support through the ethers that even if she isn’t allowed to have anyone by her side in the flesh … she will not feel alone … because she will be palpably wrapped up in our energetic presence!!
And with this surgery, Leah … I know if anyone can glow through all of this … it is YOU! And, I just want to remind you that each and every one of us reading this here is fanning the flames of your well-being … and … waiting to celebrate your swift recovery with you!!
Wrapping you with so much love and looking so very forward to our next chat … 🧡 Karen 🧡