What to do when you only have so much time to live. For my friend, Jim.

What to do when you only have so much time to live. For my friend, Jim.

Jim Ducharme, my courageous friend, recently joined me on my weekly podcast.

Jim has been diagnosed with a brain tumour. He isn’t sure how much time he has left, so he asked me to help him share his message about life, hope, purpose and love.

We always said we would do a podcast together. I’m so sad that this is it. As a lot of us face the great ‘unknown’ with Covid, Jim KNOWS what his fate it. The interview is part of his message.

Jim is also an accomplished writer. I share one of his stories below.

Please send love, good vibes and prayers Jim’s way.

Judy: Hi  there, I’m Judy Croon. Welcome to another episode of Laugh Long and Prosper.

This is going to be a different episode.

Some difficult situations (for example, Covid, our recent city shutdown, unemployment, etc.)  really test our strengths and our touchstones, like humour and gratitude. I think this show will explain itself.

My guest today is my good friend, Jim Ducharme. Jim and I go way back -back to radio days on the Mix when I was co-hosting the morning show and Jim was the mastermind producer behind the scenes. Jim seemed like a grouchy individual but he actually has a great sense of humour.

Jim has that self-deprecating humour that I love so much in other people, especially when times are stressful. Especially when times are low.

If you were going to make a joke about Jim, Jim would make it about himself first.

When I was at the Mix, Jim not only helped me build my website but he showed me how to run it myself probably so I wouldn’t bother him every two minutes. However, he knew how important it was to learn how to handle your own social media and he wanted to share that knowledge with me.  I will forever be grateful to Jim for that.

While at the station, I created a fundraiser called Laughlines for breast cancer research.

Jim was the first person to volunteer. He said he would handle the social media for the event.

Over six years and with the help of many individuals, including Jim, we raised over $650,000 for breast cancer research.

Throughout the years, Jim’s knowledge and friendship have been invaluable.

Jim: Please don’t give me too much credit. Learning is great but teaching is better. Certainly, the situation that I’m in could be a lot better but do you want me to talk about this now?

Judy: Absolutely. It’s your show my friend. We always wanted to do a podcast together. I’m only sorry that this is the reason that we are doing it today. For people out there who are saying, “I can’t handle Covid. I can’t handle not being able to pay my bills! “I say, please listen to Jim’s story. This will give you strength. This will give you perspective.

Jim: Well, I will keep it short then. I hope that everyone had a great Christmas. My biggest concern is that you remember it because I don’t. I remember very little of it. Thanks to my ex-wife, the police came by the house and realized that there was a problem and took me to the hospital. I spent nearly a month in there over Christmas- missing Christmas day with my daughter. I have a brain tumour.

It is probably the worst kind of cancer that is out there and it decided to make a home in my head. I wouldn’t have minded if it had decided to take a basement room but it didn’t. It decided to move into the penthouse and that’s the worse damn place that it can go.

Time is irrelevant. When you’re sick like I am right now, time is extremely irrelevant and so is your ground. The worst part of this disease up until now, aside from the hammering that goes on in my head, is that I feel like I’m walking on very mushy sand. It’s unbalanced on either side of me.

Yesterday, I took a tumble down the stairs. There are literally claw marks in the paint from where I grabbed the ledge, so I was obviously under the impression at the time that it was a bad, bad thing.

This morning, I needed to walk my daughter back to her mother’s house and I had my walker. I could only get her so far so I stood on the top of the street and made sure that she got into her mother’s house okay. But it was another moment where I wanted to punch something.

It’s funny- maybe because someone said to me yesterday, “You made this investment Jim, (without knowing it) by being a decent human being. Now it’s coming back to pay off and it’s wonderful. “(I think what Jim’s friend meant here was that because Jim is a good guy- many people are rallying to help him.)

My father did a lot of good for the community. There were hundreds and hundreds of people at his funeral but he didn’t see them.

I don’t plan on having any big kind of funeral or anything. My friend and I have discussed what my final wishes are and she’s prepared to take care of them.

I don’t want to freak anybody else out but my actual plan is to have my ashes scattered in small bits in sugar containers in restaurants so that I can always be with you.

Judy: (laugh)

Jim: Look, I’ve had my moments. I knew that there were going to be hard moments.

Yesterday was a hard day but having said that, I’m almost sixty years-old. Am I going to complain about ten to twenty years? Do I want to sit here and feel sorry for myself?

Am I going to feel worse for myself than a friend who has known me for 30-40 years, who’s literally losing it because what is happening to me?  How can I feel worse about it? They will have time when they have to deal with it. Me? I’m going to have a few bad weeks and then everything is going to go mushy dark.

Then I have that wonderful option if I want to haunt the crap out of people who have been jerks to me and I’m perfectly capable if I have to.

The most important thing in this situation is the conversation that we are having right here. Your friends are everything. My uncle was not a very nice man. He was a very stingy man and he was a rich man and he didn’t have a very good end because of that.

Judy: First of all, we don’t have a crystal ball. I know that we wish for a miracle. Do you know approximately how much time you have and what do you want to do with that time?

Jim: I have an idea what my time is. When doctors give you averages about stuff like that -they give you statistics. But it’s not about the time. Time is a bag and it matters what you stuff into it.

Sure, I could have but if I had spent my entire life saying I’ll never get cancer, I’ll never get cancer and certainly not in the brain, that wouldn’t have protected me from this.

We were in a darkened hospital room and the nurse looked me in the eye and said, “You didn’t do this. You didn’t put this there. Nothing you did, did this.”

By the way, God bless nurses and nurse practitioners. If you don’t think that they are saving our asses every damn day and putting their own at risk, then you are completely out of it.

They don’t have enough doctors to be in there to talk to you about this stuff.

It was the nurses that stepped up when they could for the most part.

If you would like to listen to the rest of Jim’s interview, again you can click on the following Jim’s interview

During the interview, I shared one of Jim’s stories. I think it’s beautiful.

Two Chapters

A great blue heron swoops in a slow arc just above the water and then silently lands on the dock in front of me. The bird pays little attention and goes straight to work fishing. Just hours earlier, as I floated with my daughter on the lake, a family of ducks swam right by us with nary a worry. For years I’ve been coming to my best friend’s cottage in Quebec with the hope of renewal, and this is the first year I’ve come here happy and allowed myself to relax — it’s beautiful. Most writers dream of a secluded lakefront cottage to create their masterpiece, and most of us end up writing it in a Starbucks. Yes, I know I’m lucky.

In this setting, just an hour north of Ottawa, my daily waypoints consist of swims in clean lake water, relaxing conversation, and a lot of summer fun with my ten-year-old daughter. Bird calls instead of traffic sounds and a sky full of stars instead of street lights. When you consider the kind of monotony most of us deal with day in day out, you can understand why people go to the trouble and expense to purchase and maintain a cottage. I’m blessed to have a friend who welcomes myself and my daughter here one week each summer.

A beautiful relaxed existence, the kind of therapeutic oasis that should be able to set anyone back on the tracks, and yet, this is the first time I’ve really and truly relaxed and enjoyed myself here in years. The very first day here, my ten-year-old child’s joyful laughter echoed around the gentle hills as we floated and played in the lake. She had a raft, and at one point, she suggested we recreate the iconic final scene from the movie Titanic.

“Oh, how do we do that?” I asked.

“You lift me on the raft, and then you sink to the bottom of the lake,” she replied.

I only managed to sink halfway, but it was a pretty epic romantic scene — a moment I couldn’t have shared with her just a year ago. I couldn’t have had that special moment, that perfect moment, because I felt like a cat tossed into a black sack – panicking, alone, terrified of what might happen next.

As I sit here by a glacial surrounded by pine covered granite hills, it’s a little like reaching an emotional higher ground, where you have a better perspective on your journey and the experiences, good and bad that have been a part of that journey.

I know depression, and I know trauma. Both have been a part of my adventure and at times, my only companions on long nights.

When the 13-year marriage to the only love of my life ended, my world crumbled. The ensuing custody battle over my young daughter almost destroyed me and sent me into three years of dark, desperate depression and anxiety. The only reason I found for going on was my ten-year-old warrior princess — she never lost faith in her daddy — even when he had.

Jim doesn’t have a lot of wishes right now. He is obviously concerned the most about his daughter.  One of his internet friends was kind enough to set up a GoFundMe page.  As stated on the page, ‘Unfortunately, Jim’s expenses are piling up and worrying about bills at a time like this is something nobody should have to go through. So for that reason, we’re putting together this GoFundMe to help ease the burden and give Jim as much quality time with his family and friends as possible.’

Aside from Jim’s daughter, he is very concerned about getting a message out to the nurses at Princess Margaret Hospital and Toronto Western Hospital. I know he has purchased coffee and donuts for them multiple times but he is at a loss how to thank each and every one of them for what they have done. Understandably, Jim’s brain isn’t as sharp as it used to be so he doesn’t remember names. He’s sad that he can’t thank them enough. Aside from his daughter, they are his warrior princesses and princes right now. If you see a nurse or frontline worker, please thank them on Jim’s behalf.

Thank you, Jim, for reminding us what is truly important in life; friends, family, love and laughter and NOW.

Laugh Long and Prosper my dear friend.

Judy-Croon-laugh-long-pro$per-sig

 

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