© GUARDIAN PHOTO BY MARY MACKAY
Steven and Sandra Webster of Stratford enjoy each day as it comes.
Steve Webster of Stratford’s book, Nine Lives Plus One, is a riveting and often humorous account of his journeys with cancer
Steve Webster’s life could provide soap opera writers with a script load of serial drama.
There have been medically induced comas, an adult face-to-face meeting with his birth mother, an arduous battle with addictions, a death-defying four-time roller coaster ride with cancer, a child conceived from sperm that was about to be tossed from a holding facility.
“I say it sounds like Days of Our Lives. I’ve had everything (except amnesia), but I did have a coma,” Webster says with his hallmark dry, wry wit.
This Stratford man’s humour comes through in true blue colours in his book, Nine Lives Plus One, which is a no-holds-barred book about his experiences living with cancer.
“It’s kind of dark comedy to a certain extent. But you have to laugh. The only way you have to look at it is it’s really a Monty Python skit. What can go wrong next? I don’t think it’s as funny at the time when you’re going through it, but when you look back at it, it has its own dark little cadence to it,” he adds.
The cancer’s cadence in Webster’s life started at the age of 18 and reared its nasty head three more times until his successful remission a decade ago. Throughout it all, he would write reflections and poems as a way of documenting and dealing with certain events as they happened.
Ghostwriter/editor Jaime Mann of Manely Mann Media helped to put some perspective on the timeline and interviewed Webster’s family and friends to add their voices to the book, which added a whole new dimension.
“There’s a part there where I was in a coma and I woke up, the first thing I said was ‘F**k off.’ My brother said I knew you were going to be OK right there. So that kind of gave me an outside perspective of how bitter (I was). I just didn’t want to be there,” Webster remembers. “Testimonials from my parents and Sandra (showed) that when I was on the drugs I just continued to try to rail against being captured. I had to have handcuffs on me, restraints.”
“Every time he was ventilated he had to be restrained because his first instinct was to pull it out, so it was actually so he wouldn’t cause himself harm,” his wife, Sandra Webster, explains.
Another intriguing aspect of the book is the separate narrative of cancer, which takes on a sinister character of its own as a protagonist of ancient proportion that has stalked mankind through the ages.
“When I look back at it, I’ve spent since the age of 18, for the most part every day, in a battle, whether it’s a physical battle or a mental battle or an emotional battle with cancer. That’s my adversary,” Webster says.
Cancer or C, its adversarial name in the book, at times retreats to the background but comes roaring back with a raging vengeance just when Webster thinks all is well, making readers wish they could take a slug at the vicious villain.
“In the end it helped me a lot to create that character in both literary form and in my real life. I don’t go around talking to cancer all day, but to me this represents the other team or the other player — that gives me something to focus on,” he adds.
The book also explores his adoption and eventual meeting of his biological mother, as well as his post traumatic stress disorder and addiction and anger issues.
“My thing was if you’re going to lay it on the line then lay it in the line, and to thine own self be true, so here’s what happened,” Webster says.
“One of the things that came out is that I’ve been sober for 20 years through all that s**t and never had to take a drink. I felt like it and I had every reason in the world to, but I just knew it wouldn’t make anything better; it was going to make it worse. So it really helped me to live on life’s terms.”
Within all the drama of the trauma of being diagnosed with cancer four times and enduring the treatments, there were also happy moments, such as the birth of his daughter, Kelsey, who is now 20, and another miracle of life that came in the form of his son, Sam, who is now six.
With so many cancer treatments, there would have been no possibility for Webster and his wife, Sandra, to have a biological child but for one wondrous factor.
Even back before his daughter was born, it was thought he wouldn’t be able to father children. So after her birth and with more treatments ahead, his doctors recommended he store some semen for the future.
As the years passed, he forgot to pay the storage fees to the University of Alberta until he and his wife began discussing having a child.
“I called the U of A to see if the sample was still there and if so was it viable. The woman on the other end of the phone told me it was funny that I should call because she had come across my sample recently and wondered if I had ended up making it (through his battle with cancer). She was going to call me to see if she would get rid of the sample. Despite not paying the rental fee, the sample was still there and it was still viable,” Webster wrote in his book.
Sam — aka Simply A Miracle — was born on Aug. 8, 2008.
Although Webster has been in remission for 10 years, he is now dealing with numerous health issues that have arisen as a result of the many chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Throughout the book, his saying of “brain dominates blood, brain dominates blood” is repeated like an uplifting mantra.
“(It means) that I can will myself to do anything,” Webster explains.
“I always say my father has tremendous will and my mother has tremendous faith, so I was born a survivor because those are the two things you need.”