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 :)