Wednesday, December 5, 2012


I was discharged from the Abbotsford Cancer Clinic today. 

That feels like a milestone to me. I went to my Oncologist appointment knowing this would probably happen and didn't really think much about it. But as the day wore on I realized how great it felt to be done. Follow up is now with my family doctor. 

My Oncologist told me to go and 'Live your Life.' 

Alright then - I will.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fear Again: Part 2

Fear of death and disease are very real, tangible fears. Easy to recognize and therefore fairly easy to acknowledge and deal with. I've stated many times here on this blog and to friends and family that I choose not to let fear dictate my life. I choose to not fear but to trust God, not fear and Live.

So if I'm so adamant about 'no fear' in this area of my life what about how I live with fear in other areas?  It hit me the other day that I am not exercising my 'no fear' muscles when it comes to writing a novel, or  getting a job for instance. Fear is paralyzing me in these areas specifically and I think it's time I did something about it. 

But wow - it feels like this fear is harder to handle and I'm not even sure what to call it. Maybe fear of failing miserably, fear of what others will think of you or fear of being out of touch. It's so easy to just put it off for another day. Procrastination is one of my biggest problems. I'll clean the house rather then write, decide I don't have enough time before the kids come home and I don't like to be interrupted so I'll just wait till tomorrow. And then tomorrow something else happens and soon it's 3 years since I've picked up the proverbial pen and written anything more then a grocery list. Procrastination is just my unhealthy response to fear. 

Interestingly enough I'm not a procrastinator in all area's of my life. I plan meals early in the day, I clean my house regularly, I'm almost done my Christmas shopping, I don't like leaving things undone. Except for when it comes to creating. Maybe it's the fear of being vulnerable. Being creative is often a very vulnerable space. You are stating who you are through what you write, or what picture you choose to put on your wall, or the style of house you like, the kind of music that speaks to you, how you like to spend your free time, and those things are very personal. They speak about what's inside, they reveal what kind of person you are, what you love, what you dream about. 

This maybe goes without saying but often the things we fear the most are related to the things that are our biggest desires and dreams. I first started writing for fun when Zach was a baby. I love him so much but he was a very cranky baby and cried a lot (my mother in law liked to say he had distinct sides  - gloom to glory). And I had Ana who was not even 2 when her brother was born. It was a crazy time as other mothers will attest too. I loved reading and books so I decided I needed to do something for me, for my mind, for my spirit and I started writing a novel. And then I told a few people. In the beginning it wasn't a problem. I worked on it when I had spare moments and it morphed and meandered and changed from something terrible to something a bit more coherent but never quite right. 5 years into it I began to regret that I had ever said a thing to anybody. I dreaded the questions: 'how's the book? are you almost done? what's it about? I began to panic a bit. I was stuck somewhere in the middle of the story and couldn't find my way out and everyone expected me to be published by now! (at least that's how it felt). And that feeling of fear and panic did not help me to keep going. 

I'd go to writer's conferences and become motivated for a while and write every day (for about 6 months I even managed to get up at 5am and write till 7 when the kids woke up) but then it would feel difficult again and I'd start thinking about what would happen if someone actually read it, I'd get discouraged and stop for a while. And then, well, cancer wasn't helpful either. 

So here I am. Back at that place I was 2 years ago. And still wondering what to do about it. What to do with life. How to deal with that fear. Then there's the idea of getting a job. I've thought about it for a few months. My oncologist thinks it would be good for me. But my kids are still home by 3 every day and can't quite stay on their own yet and - oh yeah, I'm terrified. I started a resume a few months ago and even sent it to a friend to look over. It overwhelmed me. I mean, I haven't worked for 11 years. So that resume is gathering dust in my inbox. I haven't even looked at the suggested changes. 

Right now these fears of real life seem so much harder then fears of cancer. So weird, I know. But cancer was something I had to meet head on. I couldn't let it win. It was evil and yucky and not something I wanted. So I dealt and deal with that fear daily. But this? This fear of pursuing a dream? What do I do with this? What if I fail? What if I succeed? What if my writing sucks and is worse then anything anyone could imagine and I'm totally deluded? 

And now I've written a post for others to see that chronicles some of my deepest fears and insecurities. I must be crazy. Pressing Publish will not be easy. But I have this sneaking suspicion that I'm not the only one to feel and fear these things and in the spirit of moving on and dealing with fear...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

What - Fear Again?

I've been struggling with this feeling that I should stop talking about cancer. It must feel so redundant to all of you who have kept up with me over the past year and a half. "What? She's talking about cancer again? Let's move on please!"

But it's sort of on my radar. It clouds the lens that I view the world through and effects how I process life. So yep, here we go again - a well known topic for regular readers of this blog: fear. 

I wrote this in my journal about a week ago and I'll rewrite it word for word unless it's really incoherent so it's sort of 'stream of consciousness' stuff, nothing too polished. 

I have this feeling. It's under the surface of my skin and I think it's fear or panic and if I look too closely at it I feel like it will grow. If I ignore it, maybe it'll go away. 

I'm scared to death of having cancer again. If I let myself, I would think about it always. It manifests in weird ways. In the feeling that I'm not doing enough; eating enough veggies, or juicing, or exercising enough. 

Just the other day I finally decided that I exercise best in the early evening. I walk or do Pilates or another video and by the time the kids go to bed I'm done and can wind down. Also, it helps cut back on the evening snacking. So, I make this decision and the very next day I'm in conversation with a few people and I mention that it's easiest for me to exercise in the evening.

Immediately a number of them tell me why it's totally not good to do so. Disrupts your sleep, your body works best when you exercise first thing in the morning, it's bad for your metabolism. It was a short conversation, very short, and yet it consumed me. I felt almost panicked that I was doing it wrong. All night I would wake up half thinking about it. In the morning I laid in bed willing myself to get up and exercise. I even didn't shower thinking it would help me keep to the plan. But mornings aren't my time. I've tried, believe me. 

Why did that conversation bother me so much? Exercise in the evening is better then none at all right? My conclusion: I think deep down I'm afraid. When I'm supposed to be full of joy in being cancer free - I'm afraid. When I should be moving on with life - I'm afraid. Not always. Not on the surface. Just below, almost hidden.

The other day I was watching a talk show and there was this segment called guys on the couch where the audience gets to ask questions and the guys will try to answer. Usually its relationship stuff but this time it was a mom asking when her 22 year old son would start wanting to spend time with her without feeling obligated. One of the guys on the couch answered her by saying he lost his mom when he was 15. He'd love to hang out with her, he'd do it all the time if he could. And I burst into tears. Sobs. Gut clenching, throat hurting sobs. All I could picture was my own son saying that and I was so afraid it would be true. 

Fear. I choose not to fear. I choose to live in peace but sometimes it's minute by minute. Other times week by week. Jesus - put fear in it's place. Replace it with peace that only comes by trusting in you. 

Since that entry I've had a great couple weeks. Lots of energy and joy and fun with life. But man if that fear doesn't just sneak up on you in the weirdest ways.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

It's Everywhere!

Spoiler Alert .... If you haven't seen Parenthood yet this week and would like to be surprised at what happens then hold off on reading this until you've watched it!


Last year when I was diagnosed with breast cancer I knew nothing about it. Of course I'd heard the stats, knew that screening after 40 was important, seen the commercials, watched the pink campaign roll out every October -- but it was at arms length.

Now it's everywhere - which is what happens when you experience something. When you're pregnant, everyone is pregnant, when you have a baby, you see babies, when a family member is ill or you're ill suddenly the disease is all around you.

I know I've mentioned the show Parenthood before in passing, but I'm going to talk about it again because they've taken on a breast cancer story line. In the first episode this year, one of their main characters (a mom with 3 kids (one a baby)) discovers she has cancer.

What strikes me about this show is how accurate they've been in their portrayal of how it feels to find out you have cancer. I know every cancer story is different but this storyline is so extremely similar to my own that I can't help but be touched by it. I feel like I'm reliving last year and it's very cathartic.

I found it to be true to real life from the very beginning when the bad news is relayed in an understated real life way during an episode about really mundane family things, like coordinating schedules and deciding to buy a dog and oh by the way I just had a mammogram and I have cancer.

And then the wait for surgery and trying to fit that surgery into your normal life. Suddenly you're in this weird space where you're not really sick but you sort of are, so you go on with real life but suddenly it's all different and you cry and have this fear that you've never had before.

Then in this last episode, the good news with the bad news. The cancer is taken out and you're cancer free! But the bad news: it was aggressive and in 1 lymph node and HER2+, so you're not done yet. That confusing space of I technically don't have cancer anymore but oops - I might still have cancer floating around and its not a good kind so we're going to go after it with all we got! This was so accurate to what we went through - along with an almost identical pathology  - 1 node positive, HER2+, chemo indicated.

So if you're interested to see a fairly accurate account of what it's like to be diagnosed with breast cancer - check out Parenthood on Tuesdays on NBC at 10 or if you're in Canada you can watch it on Mondays at 10 on Global (which is how I've already seen this weeks episode).

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hair: In Progress

This was January 2012 - and that's my Grandpa! 
When my hair was starting to grow in, I looked all over for an idea of how long it would take for it to look like a real style. So, I thought I'd post my hair growth progression from the last year. Just a few photos but it gives you the idea. 

I finished chemo in October 2011 (I can't remember the date without looking it up and I'm too lazy for that right now!) At Christmas I was still mostly bald. I had the tiniest amount of fuzzy growth but not really hair. 

Most of the time I still wore my scarves in January.

This was March 2012 - Sam's is still longer on top! 

This is August 9, 2012 - my last Herceptin treatment
And September 2012

And this is today - October 17, 2012 - 1 year after chemo

It took a long time for the front to grow out. For the longest time I looked like I had a really receding hairline - but nope - just slow. I've had haircuts but my hairdresser has not touched the top only the sides and back. 

I'm not loving short hair - whoever said short hair was easy - 'just get up and go' - has never had short hair. I should post a pic of what it looks like in the morning - nothing short of a full shower soaking will make it lay down! And I feel like it's taking a very long time to grow. It's a bit more coarse now compared to before and has a bit of wave. I actually take a straightener to it most mornings. I was hoping for faster growth but it's hair - I'll take it!

(and does anyone else find putting photos on blogger extremely frustrating?)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Unforming Habits

I have a few blog ideas tumbling around my brain. Snippets of thoughts in different degrees of formation. Things I think about on a fairly regular basis: what I should and shouldn't be eating, what I've learned through this experience and what does moving on or forward look like. And something I've been noticing and thinking about for a while - Sick Habits.

I have them. For instance: I watched a lot of tv while I was sick. And I'm a tv junkie - so when I say a lot - it really is a lot. But now that I'm recovered how do I say no to all my favourite shows? That's hard to do - but it's nearly impossible to watch them all and still do...well, anything. So I make rules for myself - only after the kids go to bed and not past 10. That way I'm limited. But if I've had a busy morning and I'm a bit tired I'll justify a show over lunch - I'm sitting down and eating anyway - what's the harm of tv?

And here comes another sick habit - eating while watching tv (or tv shows on my laptop). Yep - I know it's not good for you. You aren't paying attention to what your eating so you eat more, and instead of taking 20 minutes for lunch I end up taking 40 min (the amount of time it takes to watch an hour show without commercials.) And here's the thing - tv isn't all that motivating. It's not like I'm going to jump up from The Good Wife and feel like I'm ready to exercise for an hour or write or clean the house. Nope - it sort of takes my momentum and slams it into a brick wall. Suddenly all my creative ideas are gone and I'm thinking about what I just watched, what will happen next, etc. I'm tired of watching fake people live really exciting lives while I sit on the couch. I don't know if you've noticed but most people on tv shows aren't watching tv - ever.

And yet I love stories - they speak to me. So I know I won't give up all tv, I just need to learn to moderate it a bit.

One way of doing this is by breaking my other "sick" habit. Saying no to absolutely everything. I got really good at this. No to church, no to stuff at the kids school, no to any volunteering things I'd done in the past, no to company or outings with friends. Granted, until the spring I was too out of it to really do much anyway but it's fall now and I'm feeling better then I've felt in 16 months so it's time to start saying yes. And I have done that with a few things that I think I can handle. It's hard though - I love my space and I'm used to having a lot of down time. But it's good because I'm feeling useful again. I'm remembering that there are things I love to do.

And while I'm breaking some bad habits I might as well try to form some good ones. Exercise every day is one I'd love to nail. Eating plant based meals most of the time is another (I'm mostly good at this one). Writing something every day to get into that groove again, and spending time with Jesus every day. Simple things right? So why is it so hard?

What do you do to motivate yourself and form good habits? I'd love to know your tricks and tips.

Better go for now - Parenthood is on in 20 :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ahhhh, School

I had visions of how this day would go - this first day of school.

Everyone would wake up happy, excited and a bit nervous. They would pick out clothes from their "new clothes" stash, no issues with bumps or weird texture or itchy tags and then come and eat whatever breakfast I would put in front of them. There would be no complaints about the new homemade granola bars or the lack of pre-packaged school snacks. And with 5 minutes to spare we'd be in the car and on our way.

Oh reality - hello.

Instead of idyllic bliss I heard comments like (please read with whiny voice for full effect): "not that toast - mine has a weird seed in it - I'm not eating it." and "You know mom - I'm not going to eat these granola bars - their gross - don't even bother giving me one as a snack" and "I have nothing to wear. I hate the feeling of all my pants and nothing matches the shirt I picked!".

As well as: "My bag is too full. No I don't want to bring an extra plastic bag - it all must fit in my back pack - mom you are so frustrating." while my other darling starts crying: "now we're going to be late, Ana you're SO annoying, my stomach hurts." 

I tried for positivity and patience. Really, I did. But as the 10 year old voice started yelling so did mine. And while I'm telling her to just "DEAL WITH IT" I'm thinking - 'no, no. This is not how I wanted today to go.' I wanted to be positive and kind and loving and confident so they would feel those things too.

We did manage to get out the door, everyone fully clothed, apologies issued and accepted, and no tears (those came later). It was the perfect morning for back to school, sunny and warm with just the right amount of nerves.

Zachary did well. He was scared, I knew he would be but I hugged him and left him in his new classroom wiping his eyes while he waved with one hand. He's gonna do great this year. I feel it in my bones.

It feels like a new start for all of us. I'm 4 weeks out of Herceptin. And it was so great to not wait for the chemo room call last week. My port scar is healing nicely, I have energy, an actual hair style and a trip to Toronto coming on Friday. My mom is walking a 60 km walk to end women's cancers and RBC (the hosts of the walk) offered me a free flight so I could be there with her at the finish line. I'm excited to have a weekend away, to hang out with my family and to continue the celebration of being cancer free.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Done and Done

the banner the kids and grandma made for me to celebrate the final Herceptin.
It says - Love U Mom
I am officially port-a-cath free! I'm sitting here with half my chest still orange from the iodine and a bit sore. but I am now free of foreign objects! One of the nurses said today - 'you're back already?' I laughed at that - it's felt like an eternity to me. I've had this thing in since last May.

On August 9th I finished my last injection of Herceptin and as arranged by my Oncologist I went in for the removal of the port less then a week later. I love that she was as excited for me to get it removed as I was. It demonstrates her confidence in my disease-free state and while nothing is ever 'for sure' in this life - for today I'm cancer free.

I've had a great month, full of energy and joy and activity. My mom and dad were out visiting for the final injection and we managed to do a whole bunch of stuff with nary a nap to be seen. I love that I'm feeling more myself. I don't think I realized how tired I actually was these past 12 months, not until I started waking up a bit more, feeling a bit more normal.

We even went up Cascade Falls while they were here - not just the steps to the falls lookout (that's all I could do when we went there in October) but through the woods onto the river, rock jumping and climbing, with a bit of time spent paddling in the frigid water. And afterwards all I felt was the normal amount of tired. The nurses in the chemo room think I'm right on track with how I should be feeling. I'm almost a year out from chemo and things should be uphill from here.

And speaking of the chemo room - have I ever mentioned how great everyone was in there? In some ways I'll miss that place. The nurses were stellar. Never once did I feel like a number - or just another patient. I'm sure it helps that I went in 22 times! There's Jen, the nurse I saw 4 days after my first chemo. She was teaching Sam how to stick me in the stomach for my Nupogen shots. She asked how I was doing and I burst into tears. She was the one who told us to drink milkshakes which was probably the reason I gained 10 lbs in 2 months while hardly being able to eat! We've had a few good laughs over that first meeting. That was my lowest point for sure.

Then there's Janice who always remembered the names of my kids, who always made a point of coming to talk to me even when I wasn't her patient. She hugged me every time - she was very cool. Barb, who had great stories and tears for me on my last day, Eileen who knew all about Herceptin and could answer all my questions, Sue with her bright smile and tender care and all the others who I didn't know quite as well but always stopped by to say hi.

And the last day - after they de-accessed my port for the final time they all came around to hug me and wish me well. We cried a bit and made a little commotion which had the other patients smiling. They mentioned how wonderful it was for them to see a good outcome. So often in their job the news isn't good. My heart ached for all those I left behind in the chairs, bags of drugs dripping into their veins. In some ways its hard being a survivor.

A friend dropped off an 'all done' gift and in the card it said: "Can't wait to see where you go with your regained freedom" and I have to say - I can't wait to see where I go either.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Live Confidently: Living Confident

~Thought tangents from morning coffee time

I was talking to God this morning about stuff. Cancer, life, what now. You know - the usual. But I really wanted to know some things and was asking for some answers - specifically, I'd really like to know why I got cancer in the first place. We all know that God isn't always into answering 'why' questions but I thought I'd give it a whirl.

I'm tired of wondering if the changes I'm making are helping or not. Is it really necessary to not eat cheese and red meat, should I really cut back on the bbq, should I eat no meat at all or is a little okay, and really - no wine?! And now that it's summer I'm rethinking the no antiperspirant thing. There are two schools of thought on whether or not antiperspirant causes cancer (specifically the aluminum in it) so I stopped using it last year and didn't really miss it.

TMI alert: Until now. I'll be honest, I'm sweaty sometimes. And only under 1 armpit. It seems the armpit with the lymph nodes removed no longer sweats, which is cool, but it means I'm lopsided in the perspiration department and it really annoys me. And let's be honest, there are some situations you really want to control the sweat (like at the fundraiser I spoke at for instance!). So I gave in the other day and bought some antiperspirant and have worn it once or twice. But I can't help feeling guilty about it.

That's why I was asking God about this stuff - so I could stop worrying so much about every little thing. And I'd like to say He gave me a list of things I should avoid and things that are okay, but no. What I do feel like he said to me though was this: Don't despair. Keep going. Live Confidently.

That immediately made me think about Living and that quote people often say when talking about this subject. Live like it's your last day on earth. And while I agree with that to a point I think living confidently is so much more than that. It's about pressing through fear, making plans, living for the future. And it's about how you respond to those little things that you maybe would ignore if it really was your last day on earth.

Like I don't think you'd care about that preverbal 10 lbs if you weren't gonna be around anymore. You'd eat whatever you wanted and not care that the big fat bbq'd steak with the sugary marinade goes totally against your anti-cancer diet.

I think to Live Confidently you need to be Living Confident.

To me these are different ideas - 'Live Confidently' is like a thing to aspire to. It speaks to me of big ideas or big moves while 'Living Confident' is the messy, every day small things, type of living. How you respond frustrations, disappointments, or my personal nemesis - negative inner dialogue.

I'm tired of always kicking around the same annoying thoughts, the critical voice that tells me what I should and shouldn't do: You're too quiet, too out of shape, too fat, too tall for heels - You can't do that - it's way beyond you. I hate that voice and yet it often feels like my most constant companion. And that is not Living Confident. That's living scared and I don't want to do that anymore.

I'm going to borrow an example from that really spiritual tv show - What Not To Wear. :) If we're being honest, most people care about how they look. We care about how others perceive us. But often how we perceive ourselves is so so different from what others see. On What Not to Wear Stacy and Clinton work with whats in front of them. They encourage, they find the positives of every person they dress, big or small. They never say - 'you need to lose 20 lbs' or 'if only you were taller'. They pick out the beautiful in the person they are helping. And in doing so usually that person starts to see the beautiful too. I love that. I want to be able to pick out the beautiful in me. I wanna rock myself - don't you?

It's time to recognize those negative thoughts for what they are - LIES. Recognize them, grab them by the throat, shake em down and stomp. Replace with truth.

Ironically enough, shortly after this mini sermon to myself I was overcome by mind gripping, intense, overwhelming fear. I was sure I had more cancer, somewhere, everywhere. One new ache that lasted for about 30 seconds set this off. It wasn't the idea of cancer that was the lie - I could have it and not know - it's happened before! It was the fear that was the lie and I had the opportunity to practice Living Confident, over and over again until I believed the truth.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mysteries of Memory

Peonies from the Farmer's Market. My new favourite!
I can not believe it's almost the end of June. The kids are excited to have only 3 days of school left. One of which will be spent at the watersides, while the other two will be equally non-productive I'm sure. Just what they need to get ready for summer. Not that it's felt like summer here - nope - not in the least. But since I always seem to complain about weather that's all I'm going to say about that!

Except I will say this. Our weather is a lot like last year and it's messing with my mind. I've been experiencing these weird memory triggers lately. I'll walk into my bedroom and smell the damp and feel the cold mugginess and it'll immediately bring me back to last year - complete with nausea and all the feelings attached with how sick I felt on chemo. How my bedroom felt like the sick room and especially how I just wished I could turn off my nose. I also remember always wanting fresh air but then I'd feel so cold I'd want the heat on. Last year I got anything I wanted but this year we're having a crack down on having the fire on and windows open at the same time.

One morning a few weeks ago, in that small space between sleeping and waking I felt the bone numbing weariness I used to feel last year after my chemo injections. I felt shaky, weak, sick and tired. I remember thinking 'what? - not this again.' and then I came fully awake, shook it off and laughed. Memory is a strange thing. Has anyone else experienced this? Sam thinks I'm crazy!

Besides that I'm feeling good. Quite tired but healthy. I have my third last herceptin treatment on Thursday. I'm looking forward to the end. If everything goes well I'll have my port-a-cath out in a month and a half. A very exciting event. My parents will be here for the end of treatment and hopefully the celebration of the port removal as well. Can't wait for that.

I had a first this month: I spoke at a breast cancer fundraising event. I'm not usually a public speaker -- I prefer to spend my time writing in the seclusion of my own home, letting people choose if they want to read it or not -- but it went well. I condensed the past 16 months into 4 pages (10 minutes read aloud) which was no easy feat. I didn't realize how much I had to say before I started writing it down. The feedback was great and I think it helped educate a lot of people on breast cancer, something I didn't set out to do but am so glad happened anyway. It was nerve wracking but I'd do it again in a heart beat.

And that, my friends, is what we'd chat about if you were at our house for coffee.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The joy of the afternoon nap

So it's been a while cause this month has been crazy. My mom came for a visit - which was wonderful and I've been working at a retreat centre run by friends of ours. A bit of office work and room cleaning while the regulars are on holidays. And with doing more stuff comes feeling more tired. I just can't shake it. I sleep well but by 3 or so in the afternoon I'm wasted (I've rediscovered afternoon naps and I'm trying not to feel guilty about them!) It's been good to be busy but I know I need to figure out how to balance work outside our home and the work I have in it! And it's frustrating because I want to feel normal again and it feels like it's taking a long time.

Plus I haven't had enough time to think or write or reflect on life which always makes me feel out of sorts. I've always known that I need time away to feel grounded, but coming out of this year - one of the hardest I've ever experienced - I feel like I need it so much more. Or maybe it just takes longer cause I have more stuff to sort through. Either way - it's a necessity for me.

What I love is that Jesus walks with me through the business. Even though I haven't been able to spend much time with only him he's still tracking with me, sustaining me. I feel his presence in good conversations with Sam, in a much needed nap that leaves me refreshed and not more tired, in lunch out with my mom, and the ability be fully present for my family.

As well as a really positive appointment with my oncologist last week. She was very pleased with my latest scans, how I'm doing in general and my positive attitude. I've had nagging back pain since I started the chemo drug called Paclitaxol way back in August so she checked my last bone scan and it shows the beginning of arthritis in my low back. Annoying, but at least it's not cancer. And she wasn't worried about my fatigue. I'm still in treatment after all, (she reminds me of this every appointment). When I'm done with Herceptin I should start to feel more energy. She also thinks I'm probably doing too much but she'd rather that then the opposite - so I guess I just keep on going.

When I think about what I was heading into last year this time I'm so thankful for where I'm at right now - tiredness and all.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Results and Updates

Was happy to read this today on my MRI report from April 13, 2012:
(breast MRI - not full body)

No new or recurrent disease identified.

Great news!

Also - I had my 12th Herceptin injection today. That means only 5 to go. August 9th should be my last one.

And - it seems that after 5 months on Tamoxifen I'm starting to feel a few side effects (or else I'm just really crabby from all the rain we've been having). These include the grouchies, quick flashes of anger, and some pretty annoying back and leg pain, especially when it's rainy out. Of course it's hard to say that these are all related to the drug but it fits with what everything I've read on the matter. I've noticed that exercise helps with all of the above so I'm trying my hardest to get out every day and move.

That's it for today folks!

Monday, April 16, 2012

On Friday...

I forced myself out the door. I needed to walk, to clear my head, to get the blood flowing. It was grey again but no rain fell. I made myself walk farther then usual, off the street, down into the woods. It was quiet, still. I breathed deeply and let it out slowly - it smelled like fresh greens and damp earth.

And there, tucked away - a trillium. Just one, almost hidden among the profusion of the new bright green growth of spring that carpeted the forest floor. I slowed, searched the ravine, and there, another one. Not a hillside of flowers. Nothing so excessive as that. But a gift all the same, just one I had to work for, to search out. One perfect trillium...then another, and over more.

And then...Ahhh, the sun.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Progress in Peace

In my journal back in January I wrote this: 'Jesus - I’m weary. I’m weary of being strong. I’m weary of being strong enough to handle stuff - physically, emotionally, etc. I’m not strong enough to handle it all. I’m tired. I need peace in my house, in my kids, in Sam. Peace and restfulness. Peace and contentment. Peace and breath. The peace that settles after a good day, when the house is quiet and everyone falls asleep without problems. The kind of peace that I don’t feel right now. Or very often - truth be told - not anymore.' 

It seems with each inch of hair that grows the more peace we experience in this house. The kids are finally starting to trust again. I wanted to say trust me - but I don’t think it was me they didn’t really trust just the me that was sick for a year. The me that had cancer. The me that had to remind them how to call 911 and that they should run to the neighbours if mommy just didn’t seem right or passed out or something (that was quite the anxiety producing conversation!)

Sam's travelled a few times this year already. After a year of him being at home and more often then not the primary care giver for all of us, it was stressful for the kids the first time he went away. But I'm happy to report progress. They are sleeping better, listening better, better able to handle stress. It feels like they trust me to take care of them. I like that. It's been a whole year of anxiety and stress. We've had many many anxious nights plus tears, anger, frustration, fear. So this is a good thing.

Ana saw my port the other day and asked why I still had it in. I forget that they don’t even know that I go for herceptin every 3 weeks - not that we’re keeping it from them, I just don’t want to bother them with all the appointments. Plus I can do it while they’re in school so there’s no reason for them to be anxious about it. They see me as healthy, happy, getting stronger and they see the hair and know that a chapter in our lives, a very hard, yucky chapter is coming to a close. But just like with any book all future chapters will have the taint or knowledge of what came before. This will always be a part of us and in some ways I’m glad. I’m glad they know that people get sick or that some moms or dads could die. There may be friends that could lose a parent or go through a tough time and even if my kids aren’t directly relating to them they get it. They understand grief, heart ache and sadness. And I hope they also understand more about what it is to trust in God. I'm so glad that Jesus has a special place in his heart for children.

Even though I believe the kids are doing better I think I’m having a hard time believing I am going to be okay. Yeah - a lot of people are fine after an early diagnosed breast cancer but there are also many that aren’t. I pray every day I’m in the 80% that doesn’t get cancer again, not the 20%. But only God knows and I think the idea is to live each day as if it could end at any moment while still fully living. No easy feat, that.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

News Flash: I'm an Introvert

We just returned from a sunny and hot vacation. Oooh I loved the sun and the heat and the endless blue skies. It was glorious. We also were able to spend a good week with family. The kids loved hanging out with their cousins - swimming, playing games, laughing and having a grand ole time. Arizona - you were good to us!

Vacations always leave me feeling a bit unsettled, or maybe unbalanced is a good way of putting it. It's like I forget exactly who I am and it puts me off. I've known this for a long time but it sort of dawned on me yesterday that duh - I'm an introvert. When I'm with people all week, visiting, hanging out, etc., I forget (or don't have time) to spend time with me. Alone time, time to remember, to reconnect with what gives me passion and life. Time with Jesus and my own thoughts.

Sam and I had a two day respite during the middle of our week in Arizona and that made all the difference for me. Suddenly - after a few days away I was quiet again inside and could really enjoy the final days spent together with everyone.

What was very interesting to me was watching Ana (who is an extrovert by the way) become more herself with each day spent with her cousins. She relished the activity, the games, the jokes and hanging out with Grandma and Grandpa. We had a bad case of the grumpies around our house after the first 5 really boring, slow days of spring break but by the end of the second week (for the most part) she was calm and happy and her old sweet self. She needed the action, the socializing to get energized and balanced. Totally the opposite of her Mama! And when she got home, by the way, it was immediately friends time - catching up with all the girls in our complex that she hadn't seen in a week. A Whole Week Mom!

I recently read the introduction of a book called Quiet: The power of Introverts in a world that can't stop talking. It was a gift for someone else so I couldn't hang onto it but it resonated with me and I'm planning to get my own copy some day soon. The author gives a great talk about some of the ideas in the book here. It's 20 minutes but very good if you're like me and always feel like you need to work at being more chatty and fun OR if you really don't get what I'm talking about cause time alone sounds like a death sentence - it's for you too!

As for everything else. Feeling great most of the time. I'm planning a 3-5 day juice fast/cleanse in the next week or so. I'll let you know how that goes. I'm easing in slowly - cutting down to 1 coffee a day, green juice for breaky and veggies for lunch, no sugar... you get the idea! I'm also thinking about getting back into the working world. I'm very undecided about this though. It would help us out to have a financial cushion each month and it would help me get back into real life but I don't want to be away from the kids too much and summer's coming too - hmmm what to do what to do. Any words or ideas for me on this would be appreciated!

Until next time...

Friday, March 2, 2012

A 'Healthy' Balance

So much of my time I spend remembering what it was like last year, the days and weeks after I found out I had cancer. Some of it feels like a dream, some of it I can hardly remember but some things are so clear to me it's crazy. Like how I felt when I wrote that very first blog post and how I could hardly comprehend exactly what was happening. It took me a few weeks before I started actually calling it cancer. I just couldn't wrap my head around it. I had no idea what was ahead of me but I felt a weird adrenaline kicking in. Change was happening, a journey was starting.

Today I read a blog post by a blogger I follow regularly. Last year at this time Amy was going through radiation therapy for breast cancer and her words, her weariness, rang so true to me, I wept reading it, remembering those emotions (ones that still take me unawares from time to time.) You can read it here: Amy's blog

In my last post I talked about the circulating tumour cell test that I could take. It tests your blood for cancer cells. Lots is bad, few is good. But Sam and I are leaning towards not taking it. The main reason is -- do I really want to know? And what will I do with the information. Rather lets put our money towards things that will make me as healthy as possible.

Which brings me to another thing I think about daily - being healthy. And frankly its exhausting. This week I was so tired of thinking about vegetables and making salads and what I'm not supposed to eat that I took a break. I ate chips and salsa for lunch almost every day, made meals I knew the kids would love and just let it go. I'm doing my best folks but it's darn hard! If I have a bunch of chocolate (darn those cadbury mini eggs), or pasta with cream sauce or heaven forbid a hamburger I feel like I'm inviting cancer back into my body. A bit irrational - I know, but something I'm having a hard time letting go of. There must be a place of balance in this after cancer life and I need to find it. Any other cancer crushers out there who have felt this?

Health wise I'm doing well. I have a lot of tightness around my surgery sites, I think radiation aggravated all that tissue again so I'm stretching it out and trying to strengthen up all those muscles that have gone unused for the better part of a year. Ouch. And one thing I'm super pumped about: my Oncologist is sending me for an MRI in addition to my annual mammogram. I'm especially thankful after researching and realizing that mammograms have a very small percentage of accuracy for someone my age. MRI's on the other hand are much more accurate. Close to 100% accurate according to my naturopath. That'll be coming up in the next month or two. Tamoxifen so far has absolutely no side effects that I notice and I'm half done with the Herceptin injections.

And if you were at our house for coffee these days we'd be talking about our upcoming trip to Phoenix Arizona to visit Sam's brother and sister-n-law and their 3 kids as well as Grandma and Grandpa who are staying near by. We're all very excited for some sun and warmth and to get away from the incessant rain we've been experiencing for - oh lets say about 6 months. The photo at the top is from Arizona. I dream of the sun and heat a few times every day!

I also want to thank my friend Leanne who mentioned me on her blog because (I think) I can. Your comments meant a lot to me - thank you.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thursday Ramblings and an Anniversary

Lots has been going on since we got back from Ontario. Our bathrooms were finished. I painted them and then had to move on to our bedroom - cause you know - when one room looks stellar all of a sudden all the rooms near by don't look so hot any more. But the painting is done (at least for now - I have some more painting plans for the future) and the bathrooms look a-mazing! And if anyone in the area is planning a reno I have the name of a good contractor who's finishing work is exceptional. Pictures will come eventually - but I have to clean them first!

We've been having some sleep struggles with the kids. Last time I talked about this it was Zach who was having a hard time. An update: He's doing great! He's sleeping well, in his bed, all night - no more floor sleeping! Yippee and Thank you Jesus because it was stressing us out. Unfortunately Ana has taken up the 'I can't sleep' mantra, and it really is like a mantra to her - she starts saying it an hour before bed and makes it true. We've tried a few things over the past weeks but most don't work for more then 1 night.

The other night I decided to get her baby blankie down. This thing is ratty - we burst out laughing when we saw it - it's full of stringy holes, all of which have been lovingly patched and sewn and reknit until it isn't even possible to fix it further. But it's cozy and soft and totally gives her comfort. She's had it 2 nights now and has slept well both nights. We're praying (and begging) that it continues.

A year ago Tuesday (Feb.21) I had my biopsy. The biopsy that confirmed and diagnosed breast cancer. I remember that appointment so vividly and I have to say I was clueless. No one had actually said 'cancer' to me yet but the ultrasound tech was so kind and calm. It was so unlike the brisk efficiency of other routine tests I'd had done. It was slow. And methodically explained. And of course she asked the question that I'd begun to expect. 'You're so young - did you find the lump yourself?'

Looking back I feel like I should have known I had cancer. I even asked to see the biopsy tissue - 2 skinny worms of flesh in some sort of water. Now I know that solid biopsy tissue like that is most likely cancer** but at the time I had no idea. And of course I was told it would be at least a week for the results. So I put it out of my mind, we went away to a funeral and didn't really think about it. Until we came home to 5 messages on the answering machine from my doctor's office asking me to call. The last one from him directly. That's never good.

Now that I'm coming up on my first post cancer mammogram I'm starting to get nervous. I'm starting to think about what if's again and I definitely don't want to do that. I have to go back to what my doc told me last year this time. One step at a time.

One thing that is different then last year is how much I know now about cancer, and the process and I'm realizing ignorance really is bliss! My naturopathic oncologist is suggesting I do a test called the circulating tumour cell test. Not yet done in Canada, this blood test determines if I have cancer cells floating around my blood or not. It would be costly but would give me more information. And should I just get a mammogram or push for an MRI for my yearly screening (also not standard procedure but way more accurate)? Also I have no side effects with Tamoxafen which I'm so glad about but does that mean it's not working? And if not then what?

From everything I've read it's pretty normal to feel uncertain after cancer treatment. You've been focusing on fixing the problem for so long, suddenly you're back at the beginning again - only this time with more knowledge and the hope that the problem really did get fixed (cause lets be honest - chemo is not an exact science). Through all these questions I'm trying to focus on the future, on my family, on feeling healthy and getting back into shape, on not being sick anymore.

And I'm trying to remember all the truth I learned from Jesus this year. His near and never ending presence, his faithfulness, his care and compassion, most of all his supremacy. I'm reminded that we trusted him with the big decisions back in March (surgery), May (chemo) and October (radiation), and we will trust him with these decisions too.

And I have hair! About 2 weeks ago I said 'see ya' to the scarves
hats and wigs. It's short but it's not bald!

**Is this true? I read somewhere that benign tumours are liquid compared to cancerous which are solid but I didn't actually confirm it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ontario and back again

The kids and I just got back from Ontario. We had a great time visiting everyone, hanging out, eating good food and all the fun stuff that comes with family. It was a fun trip. Find some highlights below! 

Today Zach turns 8. His request for dinner was Butter Chicken and Naan bread. I think we can handle that!

I'm doing well. Getting some hair. It's all sticky-uppy now but doesn't look too bad. I still wear a hat out, mostly cause it's so cold on my head without one. 

Keep praying for us. Sleep is still a struggle for the kids (and then for us of course) we're working on it but it's not easy when everyone is extra tired. 

And on a happy note, I'm writing this to the sound of saws and banging cause our bathrooms are getting redone. The tile is going up today and I love it. I can't wait to have a bath in our new deep soaker tub (although we're having a mini fight about who will bet to use it first!). 

Forgive my picture taking abilities. It's almost embarrassing how dim and weird-coloured they are. I should really take a class. Especially since our good friends are fabulous photographers and offer classes fairly regularly!

On our way. The kids did homework on the flight to Ontario but didn't crack a book after that!

Yeah for snow!
Enjoyed a morning at the Marilyn Denis show. We all got a free pasta cooker! My mom is beside me, my sister in the green and my Aunt Pam on the far side! This is the best picture too - could it be the lighting?
The boys getting ready for the big game. My brother has pictures from the game but I don't have them yet so I couldn't share.
Great Wolf Lodge water park was so awesome.
Ana got a mani-pedi for her special treat (since Zac got to go to a Maple Leafs game)
The amazing cakes decorated by Auntie Rochelle.
We got together to celebrate Zach's birthday on Saturday. 
The cake decorator!
Me and Grandpa. Look - I'm getting hair! It's short but it's there.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Thoughts to Action

After my optimism of beginning a new year, my bold declaration of dreams, ideas and hope, and my deep-seated need to really Live this year, I find myself a bit stuck. How does that actually translate into action? The first 10 days of 2012 feel exactly like all the other days and it frustrates me a little bit.

Partly it's that I've come down with the first cold since I've had cancer (what? A cold? Now that my immune system is supposed to be back up in working order?) Not once during chemo did I get sick (outside of the actual "treatment" that is) but now I do. Weird.

But I think it's more then feeling under the weather for the past week. Partly it's that I'm not sure where to go from here. I want to keep moving forward, living well, with purpose, and now that cancer is slowly moving towards the rearview mirror I'm finding a lack of focus. I was talking to Sam about this today and he thought this year should have helped clear up priorities. And it has in the sense that I know what I don't want to spend my time doing but it hasn't really helped me know what I should do instead. And I'm also realizing that I still have to do all the regular stuff. Clean, laundry, figure out what to make for dinner every. darn. night. And that stuff isn't really life giving or fun it's just life. I'm glad to be doing it - but what else?

And then there is writing. After Zach was born I started writing a novel. A fantasy novel about lots of fantastical things. I started writing because I was so immersed in babies that I needed an outlet. Something that used they dying parts of my brain, something that wasn't about diapers, baby puke and incessant crying (I love you Zachy but you did all of those things!). I have over 500,000 words written in a myriad of documents on my hard drive. Some good, most mediocre but it forms a loose book with lots of holes. Do I go back to it? Crack it open, try again? Is this something that I want to spend my time doing. My post-cancer, you never know what's gonna happen time?

Sam thinks I should write about cancer. That's sort of what I've been doing here but I could expand, go back and relive it all. Maybe or maybe not yet.

In my deepest heart I believe that God gives us dreams. Dreams that we're scared to admit to others or even to ourselves. Something we just want to do so badly - yet saying it out loud is terrifying. But when we do it we feel right. At peace, content. Writing is sort of like that for me.

Upon reflection, that sounds an awful lot like an answer. At least to part of the question.

Now the hard part - translating thoughts to action.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Yeah, it's 2012!

I have to say - I'm thankful 2011 is over. It was a pretty hard year for us and for many others in our family. I'm glad the back cover of 2011 is face up on my desk and the book for 2012 has been cracked open. The pages are all blank, clear, white, empty. For the most part we get to choose how it's filled up. And at the end of 2012 I hope there are a few themes that run through our book: hope, joy, health, contentment, close relationships with family and friends, along with a deeper understanding of who Jesus is and who we are together. {and I have other theme ideas too like decorating, writing, DIY projects, family trips, and on and on... :-)}

I'm not really one for resolutions (besides the proverbial lose 20lbs) and I don't have any for this year but I do have dreams and ideas and hope. These 3 things were very obviously lacking for me this year. In the thick of chemo treatment I wondered if I would ever have creative ideas or dreams, if I would ever feel passion or drive for anything again. All I wanted to do was lay on the couch, watch movies or tv and get the day over with. That fog is lifting, thank goodness, and I'm finding my mojo.

A few days ago I started to take down our Christmas stuff. The idea was just the tree, since it was totally dying, but everything else I'd leave up. Well I did the tree, took stock, realized I wasn't near tired enough to stop and plus there were needles everywhere - better keep going. Got Sam to take down the rubber maids and packed it all up, then cleaned the house! At about 4 I realized what I'd just done. I'd spent a whole day doing stuff, not laying on the couch, not my usual 2011 method of cleaning (vacuum one room, then lay down!), but how I used to be. I was excited to see the final result of a clean house (I know what your thinking - this excited about cleaning? But a clean house brings me as close to bliss as a good piece of chocolate).

At the end of that day I jokingly said to Sam, "I'm back!" And I really felt that. And I think my family feels that too which makes me super happy. So it may be obvious but today I feel optimistic. And that is exactly how I want to start this new book.