Embracing Winter

My first "Disabled Placard"

My first “Disabled Placard”

Embracing Winter

Friday morning I was given a “Disabled Placard”….sigh….

My ego has fought this day for a long time – I think deep in my psyche it is a symbol of things I do not wish to accept.  However, as I sat in my oncologist’s office – I knew it was time.   The stack of scans & doctor reports in front of me documented the rapid progression of my disease and quickly put everything in check.

The situation…My lung cancer – the primary invader, is quite stable…good news!  However, the metastatic bone cancer is now in my spine, ribs & sacrum. Very large tumors on my spinal column are creating sharp nerve pain in both my shoulder & hip.  And now a new 8X6X8 cm tumor on my ovary creates a whole new set of potential issues.

As my kind & pragmatic oncologist laid the facts before me, it is clear that I am in the winter season of my life.  A tough metaphor for me as I’ve always despised winter – in Canada it’s mostly cold, dreary & often bleak.

As I sat in my SUV after the appointment allowing this news to sink in, I cried…

-       It just didn’t seem real to me on so many levels

-       I feel so full of life – vibrant, passionate.

-       I have so much to give.  So much I want to do.

-       And my God….my precious children…

But I learned long ago that “denial is not a coping mechanism”.

So I took in a breath.  Just because I don’t like winter, it doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen.

Instead, I choose to focus on what I can do to embrace winter.

  • I will look for gratitude vs grievance.  Right now I am able to do most things and stay relatively comfortable a lot of the time….I truly savor this.  I take nothing for granted and each morning that I am able to get out of bed on my own, I smile and say a quick prayer of gratitude.
  • I will strive to make every moment count.  I chose Carpe Diem as my way of being 14 years ago with Cancer#1…I will now simply amp it up a notch.
  • I will deepen my commitment to authenticity & connection.  I don’t want to leave my loved ones behind, especially my precious munchkins.  This is such challenging news to bring to your children … they are obviously very sad and trying to process what this means to their lives – both now & in the future.
    I can also say that the paradox & gift of all this, is how beautifully connected we are.  Our talks are so rich and we are planning many wonderful things together.
    There is so much pain that comes with such news & yet I also see so much power in being truly authentic & intentional with whatever time we have left.  Why is death such a taboo topic in our society – we all know it’s going to happen yet people are so afraid to talk about it?  … but that’s another blog.

I am quietly working on what the future will look like for me and how to integrate everyone’s love & support into this plan.  There will be many tough days ahead and I am so very, very grateful for the incredible community that surrounds me … so many of you have been integral to my journey.


First….A Plan

1) This week I will start radiation to tumors on my L2 (lower spinal tumor) & 4th left rib which should help mitigate the deep nerve pain that I’m experiencing in my hip & shoulder areas.

2) Next Friday a biopsy to determine the new pelvic tumor source (from the lung cancer or a new ovarian cancer?)

3) Look at a new IV chemo option – Pemetrexed.  My oncologist worked very hard to make a compelling case for going the IV chemo route & surprisingly, there are points I am considering.  To chemo or not to chemo….that is the question….

Second….A Trip

I’m going on a kick-ass trip with my sis & her hubby (Diane & Bill), my love (Barry) & my munchkins Feb 28 – Mar 15.  A fabulous cruise travelling through Italy, Spain, Morocco, the Canary & Madeira Islands.  We decided a cruise would be awesome so if I need to rest, I can simply go back to the cabin and there are still lots of things for everyone else to do.
Can you believe that in all our travels we haven’t done the Cruise Thing?…. seems like the perfect time.   SO excited!…and it’s another check on my ole Bucket List :)


Friday afternoon my munchkins & I pulled into the Alberta Children’s Hospital where were we to speak in support of their annual Radiothon.  At the parkade was a big sign – FULL.

I sighed…with the pain in my hip, walking long distances on ice can be a challenge…and its -24!  Then I remembered my new ‘Placard’.  I popped it on the mirror and pulled into a front row, heated, underground spot.  I smiled, “What a gift”.  Hey, I was sure singing a different tune than when I picked that handicap sticker up just a few hours before.  Oh that slight shift in perspective can change everything.

I understand the reality of my situation but my perspective will be to look for the gifts in my winter season.  I am not fearful of ‘the end’ but there are points between now and then that I worry about.  I work hard to stay away from future-surfing and for the most part do pretty well.  Thank you for continuing to journey with me on the icy paths ahead.

Your love & support bring such warmth to my family & I on those chilly days.  Please don’t stop contacting me. It means everything to receive your loving emails/texts/notes & love offerings – they are like cozy, hot blankets in the bitter cold.  Please also understand that I am unable to reciprocate most correspondence at this time. My energy is so limited and I am being very intentional about conserving it.

I’m not giving up.  I am committed to living … right to the end.  There is lots of room for Carpe Diem moments in each of my days.    I am at peace.

Carpe Diem! ❤

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the SNOW :).  Carpe Diem!

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the SNOW :). Carpe Diem!

About Shannon Duke

I'm Shannon Duke and I’ve combined my business skills with the wisdom that literally saved my life and have built a system that redefines success. Today I am passionate about helping you achieve life-fulfilling and life-enhancing success in both your business & personal life. Read My Story


  1. Thank you dear Shannon for your inspiring openness, courage, love, and wisdom. Thank you for including us all on your journey. You pave the way for us all as we confront our own daily struggles. And you are only just a few steps ahead of us on the path. I send you my open heart full of love and hugs, to you and your family. I wish you a wonderful time on your cruise!!

    love xo Stephanie

    • Gaylene Sitler says:

      Shannon… what to say, other than that you are an amazing, courageous and inspiring woman! You are in the prayers of so many, and we continue to pray for healing, courage, strength, peace, comfort, joy, quiet, trust and faith as you face the days ahead. You are an incredible example of courage and hope and joyful living. God’s peace and comfort be with you! Have a wonderful vacation with your loved ones!!!

  2. Shannon, I cannot tell you how profoundly moved I am by your message here. If courage and inner strength alone could fight this disease you would have vanquished it many times over. I grieve for,you but I am in awe of your wisdom. I will keep your example close as I fight my own battle with ovarian cancer. And I pray the trip is phenomenal. Laurie

  3. I love you, Shannon. You express yourself beautifully and I’m sure your words are bringing comfort to someone else who is going through the same thing either with themself or a loved one.

  4. Shannon, my friend, my heart feels for you and my spirit embraces you. As winter comes, you dance. If there was one thing I could reach to you for or for Tyler, what is it? with love, Dave

  5. I count you as a precious gift in my life. You are loved.

  6. Mary Everts says:

    Dearest Shannon,
    It has been a long time since I have actually contacted you, but you and your family have been in my prayers regularly and as I read your blog I am blessed to know you. Your continued strength in the winter is inspiring and a lesson to all you touch to always see the “snowbows” when it seems the cold will bnever let up for the rest us. Your courage and love will always remain with your kiddos, it will bring them smiles all their life long and teaches them to see the joys of life in spite of it all. Rest when you need to, enjoy your trip and I will be praying that this new tumor is a non issue and will cease to grow. If there is anything I can do I am here for you. Much love and prayers. Mary

  7. Gaileen Willick says:

    Hi Shannon,

    Yes, the “winter” of life affects us all one way or another, and my heart aches for you, Kayla & Tyler as I read your most recent post. I have a story to share with you …

    I am the manager for the Saskatoon Children’s Choir – our concert choir has one awards around the world. Our Artistic Director Phoebe Voigts is an incredible woman (like yourself) and is the heart and soul of the organization. We have very high standards for our singers and they always rise to the occasion. Phoebe has often said “ the choir could perform without her if they had to”. We always say “we could NEVER do it without you”

    A week ago Phoebe’s Mom passed away 3 days before we were to attend a two day music festival in Regina. She needed to stay with her family and we had to find someone else to fill her HUGE shoes and conduct the choir. We managed to find just the right person and went to the festival as planned. The singers were amazing and the weekend went better than we could ever have imagined. We did it! Sure there were a few bumps but we asked ourselves “how would Phoebe handle this – what would she do?” and figured it out.

    Now a choir without a conductor is not nearly as difficult as children without a mother, but you see where I am going. The reason our choir did OK without our beloved Phoebe is because of everything she taught us. We knew she had prepared not only the management team but the singers so well that in fact we COULD do it without her.

    Shannon this is the kind of groundwork you have laid for your children. You have taught them more in the short time you’ve had together than many people will teach in a lifetime. You have given Kayla and Tyler the tools they need to continue without you. Do they want to – should they have to? Heck no. Can they? Of course they can, and they will with the support of all the people who have surrounded you to this point.

    In his book “The Seasons of Life” Jim Rohn talks about the winters of life and how difficult they can be. He also says that after winter spring, always comes. Even the coldest, darkest winter is followed by spring – every time. Spring will come for your family. You may not get to experience it side by side, but I have a feeling you will never be far from Kayla and Tyler even if they can’t see you.

    Many blessing as you journey and hugs all around,

  8. Sharon Rees says:

    Shannon, you are the most amazing WOMAN and MOTHER I know! I remember the first day we meet exchanging stories about the Butterfly cards and the Cooks for the Cure books. You inspired me and you continue to do so. You have touched so many lives and remind us to enjoy every minute of the day with family, friends and life. Thank You! Enjoy your trip. :)

  9. Dear Dear Shannon. You are an amazing woman of grace, joy, courage and love. I listened to Kayla and you speak at the radiothon. Tears ran down my face. You are both so focussed on the positives, light and joy-that darkness will not overwhelm. If only everyone could approach life from this perspective…how wonderful our world would be! I have and will continue to send prayers for you and your family. Praying also for your physicians/oncologists…that they can find treatments for you that will help improve your comfort without causing more harm and also will help with healing. And praying that your upcoming trip together as a family is filled with happiness, joy and safe travels. XXOO

  10. My god, Shannon, you are amazing, and you just get more so as reality, in its wisdom, strips away all that doesn’t matter, and shines a bright, radiant light on what truly does. You are a conduit for a that light, you always have been; I cannot express here how grateful I am for your life. I love you deeply and fully. Blossoms forever :)

  11. Dear Shannon,
    Like a true pioneer you are preparing for the winter. And like a pioneer you are paving the way for others. You are teaching us all how to live vibrantly and how to celebrate this one life we have been given. And just like every good pioneer woman before you, you are teaching your children how to prepare for the cold, dark days they (as we all do) will face in life. You are a blessing.
    Have a wonderful time on your cruise – every mile a memory!
    Love Diana et al. xx

  12. Wow Shannon you are so BRAVE. You don’t know me..Aly Pain sent me your story.
    I will put you and your family on my prayer list.
    God Bless you during this precious time you have with your family and friends.
    P.s I`m stealing your phrase..never heard it before..love it.
    “Carpe Diem”
    Big hugs to you.
    Lisa Goodwin

  13. Andrea Palmer says:

    Dear Shannon,

    Once again, your words and your ability to transcend our ordinary human clinging and wanting are profoundly moving to me. I pray that you can be comfortable as long as possible, that you get the best possible care, and that you and your family are given as much precious time together as possible. I know you will continue to pack more life into your moments and more love into your relationships as many of us. We are so apt to think we are entitled to a full life span, and so, we so often miss our moments. You are teaching us, and more importantly, you are teaching your children how to truly live; without counting on tomorrow, without resting on the illusion of certainty, but with gratitude for each breath we take and with the grace to say yes to the whole catastrophe. That is your gift and your legacy to your kids, to your family, and to everyone who you have touched. How blessed Kayla and Tyler are to have you as their mom. Much love xo Andrea

  14. Karen Thorsteinson says:

    Sending prayers of love and healing to surround and enfold you. We pray for protection and happiness for you, and your beautiful kids and Barry!!! Your cruise will be so wonderful!!! We love you and are so proud of you!!!! Karen, Kris and the kids. xoxoxxoxo

  15. Hi, well….I so very much appreciate your delicate yet beautiful honesty even in the winter of your life. I know you will live each breath until breath no longer resides. I also know til then you will be authentic to you……you inspire me. Thank you. Enjoy your adventures, and may they be completely pain free. Happy Trails. XO Janice

  16. Doug Merrill says:

    My dearest Shannon,
    I will be on the deck of your lake house on Carpenter Lake tomorrow at 1:00. This spot has been a sanctuary of peace and friendship for us …and ,like so many others, I am so very honored to be your friend. I will be praying for you and your family ….and for all of us who stand with you and face “the winter”.
    I know that your senses and your heart will be filled with the beauty of this world ..as you travel abroad ..but it will not compare to the beautiful gifts of courage and friendship and love that you have given us all.
    Thank you, my dear and precious friend. I am with you in spirit..now and always.

  17. Still holding you up in prayer half a world away – still conscious that I get the privilege of praying for you as you sleep, and will pray that your sleep is deep and peaceful and painless in these coming days. Delighted to hear that you are cruising with the family and I’m sure you’ll have a blast. What a wonderful world this is! I think of you every time we are on Dartmoor, although it’s cold and stormy up there now. Good memories – you have made so many of those, both for yourself to treasure and for your kids. As so many have said here, you have set an example for us all of how to glory in the life we’ve been given, every day, and you have so many friends and followers here for good reason. Love and blessings Rebecca

  18. I don’t know you but saw this post in my newsfeed. I am at once delighted to read your beautiful and inspiring words and heartbroken at the trials that you are in the midst of. Your strength is absolutely incredible and will continue to influence the lives of those around you for their whole lives. Thank you for your words; they are applicable and needed in every season. You and your family will be in my prayers.

  19. Lova lova love

  20. Kim Johnston says:

    Shannon you are still teaching me how to be brave, face the future honestly, accept change, and change my perspecitive in order to enjoy the now. My heart aches that the world will lose a bright shining light – but it soars that you leave an amazing legacy of living a life Carpe Diem. Across the miles, a warm and loving hug is sent your way,
    Enjoy your cruise, and I hope you are able to check many more items off your bucket list!

  21. My Dearest Shannon:

    You are the most beautiful guiding light to all of us!! I loved Gaileen’s comments and I want to share another story. Recently a friend of mine died in an accident – she too was taken far too early from her family. When her daughters spoke at her celebration of life the first words out of their mouths were, “We are the luckiest kids in the world – we had the most amazing mother in the world!!” They recognized and celebrated what an amazing gift they had in the years that they shared with their gorgeous guiding light. Your children truly are the luckiest kids in the world! They have the most amazing and genuine mother and the most brilliant light I have ever seen who has planted such an abundance of seeds of wisdom, joie de vivre, love and compassion in their hearts that they will blossom into the most luxurious of gardens when winter has passed. They will always be nourished by your light and love and your messages will always be clear and beautiful because you have given them that clarity and honesty. What a truly amazing gift you are to them and to us. When I think of a Shannon winter I see a clear blue sky with the sparkles of light reflecting off the snow and frost, I hear a beautiful, silent peace and feel the glorious comfort of the warm sunlight on my face – reassurance of the spring to come. My dearest Shannon you have planted so many seeds not just in the hearts of your children but in the hearts of all of us that are the luckiest people in the world – because we know you!! When the blustery miserable winter days are upon you I hope that you can seek comfort in those of us that can provide you the shelter that you need and trust that spring time will flourish. In the meanwhile enjoy those beautiful, clear winter days as we know you will! Love and peace.

  22. Lisa Benitz says:

    Dear beautiful Shannon, you are a gift that keeps on giving to me and so many others. I feel blessed each day with the wonders of this universe that you so graciously have pointed out the small miracles we all encounter daily. Thank you for your honesty and for being so open with your journey. It is an honour to know you and for you to be so inclusive to us all with your feelings. Both Kayla and Tyler are blessed to have a Mummy who has been courageous and continue to show that it’s the moments in life that we all embrace. To do so with humour, a sense of fun and a sense of adventure teaches us all to just get on with life today. Thank you sweetie. May you have the best trip that includes many giggles, hugs and adventures for you all.
    Big hugs Lisa xoxox

  23. Michelle Richardson says:

    Shannon, you are absolutely remarkable! Your honesty, intentional living, and ability to move through your emotions to a place that truly serves you, those you love, and the world at large is astounding. Your example is one that raises the bar, and the opportunity, for everyone you touch (directly or indirectly). You are a rare and wonderful person and a treasured friend. I am SO grateful that our paths crossed and then entwined, you are a priceless gift in my life. <3 Your cruise sounds perfect and I imagine it will be, as all of your trips are, filled with magical moments and memories for a lifetime. My heart, my love, and my positive energy are headed in full force to all of you. My love to you always… Michelle oxoxox infinity

  24. Tina Jeffery says:

    What a wonderful post! Your spirit just shines through — definitely like the sudden bright sunny day we see in the middle of winter. The kind that comes with the bluest of skies that make you turn your face towards it. What a sweet feeling when that sun touches you. Memories will rise of childhood days spent playing in crusty snow — falling exhausted to stare up at that sun.

    Your spirit shines like that sun — reminding us of things precious and kind. Of the purity of gratitude.

    Thank and bless you.

  25. The Stepan's says:

    Your journey has been amazing, courageous, role modelling for everyone as well as inspiring. Keep up that positive outlook and know we are all praying, cheering and here for you as well as your munchkins.
    A quote from All in the Family “I hope I brought or provided as much fun and friendship to you as you did for me.” Enjoy that cruise & party on! I’m sure you will rock that ship like it has never done before!
    Carpe Diem!

  26. Dear, Sweet, Beautiful Shannon,
    What gifts you have brought to this world through your very many roles.
    Daughter, sister, wife, friend, survivor, mentor, leader and most importantly mom.
    Each and every person who has had the great fortune to have known you has been touched by your gifts of courage, wisdom and love.
    Your grace and acceptance are inspiring.

  27. Wow, I am inspired!!! My friend sent me your site because she knows I am passionate about living and speaking about dying, walking along side all who invite me. Diagnosed in 1999 with BC, I will never forget the words as they hit my ears, it is cancer! It changed me!!! I have been blessed with clear reports ever since then, and sometimes as I sit with dying friends I wonder why I got so lucky. It changed my direction in life and now at 60 have such passion to companion others. It feeds my soul and gives my life a new purpose, and I certainly ” seize the day” each and every day I am given. Blessings to you in your journey Shannon XO

  28. Cheryl LeClair says:

    Shannon, you are an amazing, courageous woman; an inspiration and a precious gift to all those lives you’ve touched. Your authenticity, spirit, and beautiful heart shine as you share your winter journey. Thank you for sharing your journey, your strength, and optimism, in both your writing and in your living. Much, much love to you and your children. Au revoir.

  29. Barb Myers says:

    Shannon I have never met you but I feel as though I know you better than I know many people I see often. It always amazes me how open and honest you are about your feelings, your “wonderings”, your fears and your strategies for dealing with such incredibly difficult times. Your ability to focus on the positive is remarkable and the “Carpe Diem” philosophy that you pass on to all whom you touch with your life and your words is just amazing. Your family and friends have learned so much from you and are so lucky to have you in their lives. I am so sorry that your news is so bad. It must have been so difficult to share with everyone, especially your kids. Thanks so much though for sharing it here. I think about you and Kayla so often and wonder how you’re both doing. You will just be coming to the end of your cruise. It is wonderful to think about you enjoying it with your family. I hope that it was all you wanted it to be and in spite of all that you are going through I wish you many more great times together.
    Barb Myers
    Butterfly of Hope

  30. Carol Hawkwood says:

    Dear Shannon,
    You know that I have been on a journey of recovery and I am so grateful that you have been here to cheer me on and to support me – incredibly, even while you are facing so many painful challenges. Your gestures of kindnesss have never gone unnoticed and have had a profound effect on me. You show me how to live from a place of love and acceptance, and not from a place of fear. Through out your entire journey you have been an incredible role model for living authentically. Please know that I am praying for you and your family and that you continue to inspire and encourage me.
    Love always, Carol

  31. Hi Shannon,
    I’ve been thinking of you a lot lately and wanted to say hi and that I love you! Today is another winter snowy day although it looks beautiful from inside my cozy home, I am praying for you and your family. xoxo

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