Western education 2013

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

....the waiting game

29th July...
... today started out OK.... I really need to get out now that I am feeling better and want to take advantage of the 'promotional' I purchased for a friend of mine and myself months ago to a local Spa.... it is really not as easy as it sounds.... apparently the Spa does not have a booking available for next week... or the following week - or really any week up to the middle of September. Gee, I wonder if I will be available for an appointment 6 weeks from now? OK, to be fair, let me explain how this all works... The Spa hires the promotional company which produces said promotion "allow us to pamper you". The promotional company then charges the prospective client a $49 charge and tells you that you must do a minimum of 4 visits.... there are only 4 offers contained in the promotion with the option of an upgrade. Here's the catch - according to the Spa, they have every right to determine what appointment they will give you at their convenience because they actually get no money from the promotion but count on you purchasing the upgrade (they do not disclose this until you get testy) which will also get you an appointment closer to the time you actually would like to get one. Apparently I could get an appointment with this Spa in a matter of days (I called later in a different voice - I tried the quiet demure one instead - I know...) as a paying customer. I emailed them with my disappointment approach and I got the nice demure response but when I emailed that I had taken my business elsewhere... well they got a little testy... something about non-paying customers would have to be put into an appointment that would not cause them undue financial strain. I just want my $98 back. Mistake/misunderstanding and now lesson learned - I am now going to a really nice Spa with my friend who's birthday I had originally wanted to celebrate with. It is for Brenda A. who is my unsung hero who always does for everyone else and I thought she could use the break that I know that I could really use myself right now. We are going in 10 days on an afternoon that she has off. Just remember, a gift card to a place you wish to go to is really cash... anything else is a shameful promotion.

My mother and father in-law came this morning to visit and collect Uncle Paul. Lots of warm hugs and kisses and we are gathered out in the gazebo chatting about everything and anything. I love these moments with them and I savour their company. Uncle Paul is pulling together his belongings and making sure that his bedding is in the washer. He gives instructions to Mitchel to complete the task and turns to give me instructions to just take things easy. They need to go and inside, I want them all to stay. Paul will return and stay with us again soon. I walk them out to the car and joke about having to lean over to one side to look like I am even. They smile and call out that they love me... I love you too. See you soon, I wave and smile in an attempt to try to hide the tears that are threatening to fall.

Facebook is usually up and running from the time I get up to the time I go to bed. I tend to spend too much time on the social networking looking to chat with friends I have not seen in so long... I miss spending time with the girls in editing - hello!!! I miss you all and I am sending hugs. I miss my job - weird, I know... but I am used to being busy and being around people that I really like/love. With that not being a distraction... well, only so many dishes to wash and kitty cats to feed. Speaking of my cat - I am now his only servant who caters to him.... notice the word cat in 'caters'. He is tossing around his food dish and glaring into the back of my head. Soon his patience will wear thin and the dish will find itself being propelled across the floor in my general direction.

It's been eight days since the surgery and I am feeling much better - of course if you take into account the boredom that sets in when your energy level picks up. It is the classic waiting game and I am just waiting to hear back about the pathology and now need to fill the time in between. I still can't pick up anything past a few pounds and the pain varies depending on the time of day. I find nights are really tough to get through and the stress of not sleeping is causing my back to spasm. The Melatonin works relatively well and it would actually be my preference when compared to other options but like all sleep aids, you should take them at a reasonable time - twelve hours before you have to be up for action!! Tonight I take something to ease the back pain and the side effect apparently makes you sleepy. Apparently this drug also makes you incredibly giddy at midnight and leaves you cracking jokes as you make your way to the bathroom laughing like a hyena. I get back into bed and Max says 'can't sleep?' 'Are you kidding' I reply, in what sounds like a drunken stupor. I giggle as I get back into bed and attempt to gently rub one of the incisions still covered in steri-strips because it is sooooo itchy and I suddenly realize that the sloshing sound is not coming from my belly but from the breast. I giggle like an idiot and Max now rolls onto his elbow and the concern in his voice is making me laugh harder... ' We need to call the doctor, that can't be right?!' I am now almost hysterical with laughter and make some off the cuff quips which sends him rolling back onto his pillow. He is not amused. 'What do you suppose they would do at, what time is it anyway?' He grumps out the time.... I have no pain, itchy as all get out, laughing like an idiot and sleep deprived... at what is now 1 am. I flip onto my back, tuck the pillow under my arm and just hope for the best. Of course I make 'it' slosh a few more times...

30th July 2009

I have to get up? early this morning to go drop off my car to do the semi-annual maintenance check. I am not giddy but tired as heck and stumble off to the shower. I will not check the fluid level in my breast... I can see it is still swollen and looking like it could use a spa day. I imagine it covered in spa mud - bye bye incisions and bye bye itchiness!! I get to the dealership early and find out that all the work that is called for on my leased vehicle does not in fact need to be done. Thank you to the technician for being up front with me and taking care of me so quickly and I am off to home base. What a spectacular day, the sun is out. My husband calls concerned about - you know - and wants me to call the doctor... I read him the blog I am currently typing and he laughs when we get to the 'not amused' part. I explain to him that the fluid is a normal reaction to an injury and that in time it will go and leave an indent when it does. For now it is healing.

Eileen comes to visit today and we sit casually by the pool with our coffees just soaking in the sun... the only thing I can wear today that does not make me cringe is an old Tankini top that has a small support built in. The anchor on the front is a nice touch and we find ourselves laughing at whatever comes to mind... the sunshine is doing wonders for my attitude and I am able to shake the fatigue away. Lunch is spent as a casual affair under the shade of the Gazebo with the soft breezes keeping it comfortable. Mitchel joins us for some lunch and Eileen plays catch-up with them. She stays for a few hours and readies herself to leave a few minutes after William arrives home from work - good thing I got him out of bed this morning 20 minutes before he had to be there. Time to go, we help her gather her things and it is more hugs and kisses and she is off smiling and waving.

I am tidying up in the mid-afternoon when there is a knock on the door and i am presented with a lovely bouquet of Gerber Daisies... Wow what a beautiful bouquet, I thank the delivery man and bring them into the kitchen to ready them for one of the vases just vacated this morning by the beautiful pink Gerber Daisies given to me from Brenda and Terry. These ones are from my sister-in-law Marleen, Scott and their children Michelle and Iain. How thoughtful - I call and leave a message to call me back when they have a moment. Thank you.

Another knock an hour later brings a wonderful plant arrangement from the dental team at Dr. Spagnuola's office!! Thank you so much for such a lovely gift. You have all been so supportive of me and my family over the years and your hugs and best wishes have meant so much to us. Enjoy your summer and we will see you soon.

I know that my journey is not over... but is made easier by my family and the incredible outpouring from all those around us. We are humbled by the thoughtfulness. Thank you to my Mom and Dad in-law who are always ready to get in the car and travel to spend time with us.. Thank you to Sue for your steadfast support of me and for trying so hard not to tear up with me.

Monday, July 27, 2009

... friends come calling!!

It has been a busy day trying to catch up on light household duties and feeling like a useful part of the family.... I am sore - feel like some parts are falling off and frustrated by the limitations set up by an inability to lift more than 5 pounds.... makes doing laundry interesting. I stand at the top of the stairs and kick all the sorted laundry down the stairs and manage to catch up with it in the laundry room. Then back up I go to repeat at least twice more... whites, colors and darks... and yes I do separate them!!

Annette calls in the mid-morning and we chat for a few minutes. No, the results are not in yet, but soon. I have an appointment with the surgeon for the 6th of August and so now we wait for both!! She rocks!!

Emails and phone calls from friends far away bring such joy and a great break in my day as I lay across my bed and chat with Debbie in Ottawa!! Wow, how long has it been girl... she is cut from the same cloth and I wonder which one of us was adopted - we both laugh. I miss her quick humor and sharp wit... we catch-up and talk about everything - 'how were your holidays?' I ask. We had talked before she left but she was unable to contact me while she was away - you could tell she was worried.... it comes from a lifetime of friendship. She promises to see me as soon as she can get out 'I love you girl' I say before we hang up and she replies with an 'I love you too.... see you'

I make my way over to Brenda M.'s house and she is reading a book on her deck. I quickly remind her that we will drop in to get our nails done. She decides when we are on our way that she would like to try a pedicure and I sit and wait while she gets her feet into the spa chair. She has never had one and we laugh and talk while she enjoys the experience. I can't get my nails done today - not enough time and the shop is busy. I book for tomorrow morning and we leave the shop on our way to purchase movie tickets next door. Uncle Paul has not seen the new 3D movies and so I purchase tickets for Tuesday night for G-Force. I can feel the fatigue start to pull at me and am grateful that Brenda has taken the vehicle... even if we are in walking distance...... *sigh* that will soon go, I think as I sink into the passenger seat. Even wearing the seat belt is uncomfortable and I am consciously aware of the material digging into the wounds and find myself easing my hand to cup under my breast and relieve the ache that has once again kicked up today.

Eryn and I go to pick up Lydia from Day Camp early because we have a dinner engagement with Kelly and her family for 5:30. Lydia dives into the arms of her big brother's girlfriend and gives me gentle hugs, always mindful of my restrictions... she sometimes draws her finger gently across my breast and will quietly say to me 'Oh, this is the one'. She never fails to bring an easy grin on my face. I love her so much and hope that this is the one thing she will never inherit from me. She is complaining that her side hurts.... it's been a few days and despite the fact that I think she is constipated I make the call to her Pediatrician - can never be too careful. She is excited to be home early and runs to see the progress that Uncle Paul, William and Mitchel have made with the construction of the pond. Lydia jumps down to the bottom and we can see that it is better than 4 feet deep.

We are home a few minutes when I see Brenda A.'s van pull up. I have not seen her in quite some time... it is summer, and when she is not working, she is constantly on the run making sure her family is well taken care of. We have been through a lot together and I squeeze her without hurting either of us. She has brought a bowl of blueberries that her and the twins have picked on their way back from camping. We devour them like we have not eaten all day and Lydia is amazed at how good they are.... oh dear, Max will never get to know how good they really were... oh, well... maybe next time. Brenda has the heart of a mountain and rarely offers up how she is doing but I know her well and when asked the right questions she lets me know that her sister's baby is not going to survive when she is born - no skull to cover her brain.... she is picking out a coffin to await the moment when her first child will occupy it for eternity. The saying 'it could always be worse' whispers in my brain and I feel a deep sorrow for them. Brenda's husband is ill and is getting progressively worse. She is the only wage earner and does the best she can. She is one of my unsung heros. She is thoughtful and lovely and always puts others before her. I have a spa day for us .... just need to book it and get her in but I have not felt like it - she needs some TLC but never says anything. I love you Brenda and thank you for dropping in, in your busy schedule.... I will be booking that morning for us as soon as I can get an opening. She is on her way down the driveway and our friend Richard is walking up with a single pink Gerber daisy in his hand.... I let him know that I will be right with him. I see Brenda to her van and hold her close. Thanks for coming girl and yes I will call you soon.

Richard looks great... not really any time I can remember him not looking that way. He looks uncomfortable - so not in keeping with our usual flirtatious banter. I am really tired by now and looking like something that the cat coughed up. I still can't wear my bra and so the ensemble I am wearing hides any obvious view of my breasts... He hesitates to hug me... most people do out of fear of eliciting pain. No worries, I just stepped on the cat behind me and wrenched my arm upwards in response - the pain rips through my arm and deep into my chest and I catch my breath.... without trying to make a sound. Max is worried - he can see the pain etched in my now sweaty brow. I am ordered to sit down. I feel bad and look just as bad - gee, I hope you come back and visit the hag really soon!! The flower was lovely - please know, that I have not changed... still the crazy chick in here and I try to assure him of this but the fatigue and pain are not helping in my bid. The kids are hungry and we are going to be late for dinner. Max walks Richard down the drive and mentions that he has not been golfing at all this summer - I beg him to take Max. My husband needs to get away and do something 'normal' for a change. We wave good bye and we are now on our way....

We have been invited out to Kelly's house for dinner and I am looking forward to some down time with her, Michael and Corbin. The clouds are scurrying fast as she wipes the last of the puddles off the table, chairs and BBQ. Warm hugs and hellos for everyone and an introduction to Uncle Paul. Miss Lydia is anxious to assist in delivering to the table what is obviously a great deal of thought and energy that Kelly has put into this mid-summer feast. We have been friends for more than a decade and with her departure from my work years ago to pursue another career... I miss her dearly, would be an understatement. She is elegant, warm-hearted and can easily find the fun in any situation - we laugh at her quippy comments through our casual conversations. She has a knack for narration that captivates her guests. Dinner goes far too fast and the sun dips beneath the low-lying clouds... time to go.... 'Already?' says Kelly. We get up to leave and the hugs and kisses start as we make our way down the driveway. We are momentarily distracted by the workmanship of the steps and the collective agrees... not so great but hey, it could always be worse... another chuckle, more hugs and kisses all around. Even Uncle Paul got a hug - he did cook the burgers, after all!! See you soon.

Home.... even though I am tired, I am not ready for bed... I had gone to bed far too early last night and spent more energy twisting the sheets than getting sleep after about 2 am. I refused to get up for fear I would not go back down. I had spent a few minutes chatting with Theresa earlier in the afternoon when she dropped Olivia off for a visit with Lydia. Lydia really needed a friend yesterday when I could not play with her because of a constant feeling of nausea throughout the day. Theresa is recovering from breast cancer and is in the tail end of chemo. Her hair has grown in tiny little curls crowning her beautiful round head despite the fact that she is still doing treatments. Her daughters are insightful for such young ladies and well spoken. You can tell that their Mom has lead them through her journey and has done an incredible job. I just wish I was having a better day - some days are like that. Come back another day I say as I take down her information........

I am grateful for all my friends like Ron who has been there texting me on Facebook all these months and supporting me from his home in Ottawa - you make me laugh when I feel like crying. You were one of the first people I told when this journey began. Mark S. is another rare human who has been so supportive and his brand of humor and concern has given me laughter and hugs when my tears threatened to overtake me. He was there from the beginning and spent time letting me hide when the tears did fall. My co-workers who have been there in their constant support - I know you are all there poling for me. Sara who gets me and knows that our friendship grows with each day - I miss you so much and will miss you more in the fall when I will not be working with you. You are always brave and know just how to say the things that need to be said.... you are a rock and you totally rock!!! Elaine - thank you for the fruit basket.... it worked better than the meds :)..... I am looking forward to chatting over tea.... what form do I need to fill out again? Brenda A. - this is not the time to wonder off.... OK when you are finished camping season, by all means be here to help me can my garden!! Brenda B. and Terry - you two are always welcome to drop by... can you believe that the Gerber daisies you gave me are still alive!! At least they still look that way :)...... Wishing Norm and Melissa a long, prosperous and healthy marriage.......... and that my friends is all I have the energy for today. xoxoxoxoxoxox

Sunday, July 26, 2009

... a gathering

.... I am woozy getting up yesterday morning and would feel 'stoned' for most of the day. I want to go out to the party being held by a classmate for the graduating ElecEng class of '92. I am one of the guys and am consciously aware that I not only have aged but now I am only 4 days into recovery from surgery and I cannot wear a bra. My family helps me pull together an outfit that at least looks reasonable and hides the bandages under my arm while allowing me to remain cool in the gathering humidity. Some of my classmates know my journey but most do not as I make my way over to my friend's house.

I am met by a good sized group whose children are swimming in the pool or hanging out by the table and helping themselves to the snacks that have been brought by the guests now lounging in lawn chairs on the deck. Lydia wants her swimsuit on and is thrilled that the pool is heated. Ours is not and although she loves to be in it, she would spend the majority of the afternoon playing in the comfortable waters. William and Mitchel have come along and William manages to get in with his sister but Mitchel declines... not sure if he is not feeling well or is too shy to squeeze himself into his bathing trunks which need to be a size larger. He has grown this summer but has not thinned out yet. My head is spinning and feels like it is stuffed with sawdust - as Sarah would say 'stoned'. Good descriptive. I am not taking any medication but with the weather so damp and ominous today I wish I had. I need to sit and I am quickly offered a chair which I gratefully sink into. How am I going to get through today? My words come out thick and unorganized and I feel stupid... what did I just say? I am able to meander over and chat with our gracious host Jeff whom I have spent time chatting with on the phone a few hours before coming out. He is a wonderful, intelligent and an insightful friend as we talk about my journey, one he is all too familiar with. Suzanne was his wife, an inspiration to all she came in contact with - a strong, independent woman whose impact on her student's lives and their education will continue on even though she could not. She passed away two years ago in May of breast cancer and so I will dedicate these blogs in her memory. Bless you Jeff for your wonderful warm heart and thank you for sharing your memories with me and offering your help.

I get a chance to talk to all of the guys and besides the fact that we are all older (me being the oldest) I know them all by name and hug each one as we meet making sure I am not squeezing too hard.... has it really been 16 or so years? We talk about what we are doing and I am amazed that I am one of few who still has the same 'first' job out of college... but then, there has been so many changes in our working world since we graduated. My head starts to clog up and I need to sit down again.... Stacey joins me on the deck box and we get an opportunity to chat. The personalities are what I remember and I feel comfortable being there.... if only my head would cooperate. Shelley is getting the BBQ ready and Jeff is taking orders while the kids are pulling themselves out of the pool. We can all see that the thickening clouds are darkening quickly and we can hear the boom of thunder in the distance. I get William to help me grab out stuff to take out to the car and I can see everyone else has the same idea. The hamburgers are cooked and just in time for the heavens to open once again today to drench the city. We are now all indoors helping ourselves to the burgers, salads and treats brought by the guests. The food has a magical quality to it and i feel my strength pick up... the cloudy head is starting to dissipate along with the clouds outside.

Jeff has an amazing movie theatre that he built downstairs and the children gather there to watch 'holes' until the power goes out. No worries, the neighbor has a generator and in no time the guys have the generator going and the kids are back to watching the movie. I am chatting with some ladies up in the kitchen and feel out of sorts but find a conversation with Steve's wife interesting. I know that my journey will involve times where I wish I wasn't thinking about where I am at in my life.... I am distracted by my thoughts and my fuzzy brain and know that I need to leave. We finish our conversation when Steve pops into the kitchen and I head downstairs to retrieve my children. Lydia is upset - she is liking the movie but I am feeling really bad at this point and need to leave. She understands and the kids get themselves ready to go.... others are in the process of leaving and I weave myself around and give hugs and goodbyes. Jeff walks us down the driveway and I turn to hug him and pat the tiny dog he is holding with great affection. Thank you for being a wonderful host and a tremendous human being.... I am honored that you invited me out to your home and shared with me your deep insights. I can see what Suzanne saw in you.

William is perturbed and begins to kick up a fuss in the back seat and is now yelling at me - I tell him firmly that I will not put up with it and tell him to be quiet. He obeys, I think he realizes that I am not well and sits sulking quietly. The sky is still dark and ominous over our house as we pull in. Max and Paul have spent the afternoon watching TV or napping and the kids join them on the couch. William is upset now that he is unable to get on the internet and comes downstairs to reset the modem I am on the internet with. He gets a quick 'don't touch' and he heads upstairs in a foul mood. His usb wireless is not detecting the modem downstairs but I am too tired to bother.... he will have to wait until tomorrow. I check my mail and then head up to bed... I am exhausted and Lydia is already getting in to my bed and cozying in. I give her a hug and try to find a comfy spot to nestle in to.... tomorrow is another day....

Saturday, July 25, 2009

.... rough start, great finish

.... the rough start amounted to another sleepless night with hopes of an expected delivery of sleeping pills that were ordered the previous afternoon by Annette and were supposed to have arrived by the drug store's free delivery service then, but were not..... I am feeling grumpy

After a few emails and phone calls in the morning, we discover that the individual who had taken the call the day before had inadvertently not passed it on to the pharmacist - an honest mistake and the woman apologizes profusely and accepts responsibility. No worries, when can we pick up the script? Max will get it at lunch when he brings Will in for his job interview later this morning. The phone rings and I move back into the house from the deck where Max and Uncle Paul have begun clearing the flower bed out to make room for a Koi pond.

It is the secretary for my 'old' GP and she is asking what surgeon was I going to be seeing and I stare blankly into the receiver.... this is the third phone call in as many weeks from this doctor's office and I am perplexed with the question considering they were told weeks ago to not bother booking any appointments but to forward all my medical records straight to my new GP. She sounds nervous on the other end as she asks again who I am going to be seeing and I respond by letting her know how deeply disappointed I am in the fact that not only did they not ask me in for a consultation to discuss my diagnosis but that I am now into day 3 of my surgical recovery. She sucks in a soft breath and replies with 'Ohhhhh' but leaves it at that as I excuse myself with yet another 'Please forward all questions to Annette.....' I am not angry when I hang up the phone but as I make my way outdoors into the sunshine, I realize that I could have easily been a statistic - one who has fallen into the cracks and has been left to their own demise....

I call Eileen and chat with her for almost 40 minutes... we talk about what is bugging me and I find myself venting.... no sense in wasting any more time discussing yesterday's issues and so the two of us find more fun and interesting things to laugh about... she suggests a few ways of getting me to fall asleep and then we laugh until my belly aches. I can always count on her to drive me into hysterical laughter!!

I am bone tired and try to lie down but I am back up in a few minutes looking for something to keep my head less busy with.... no, no such luck. Max is off again getting supplies and now I sit in the Gazebo watching the darkening clouds approach... damn, looks like rain again. I have not had to water my garden and have been in no hurry to even turn our in ground sprinkler system on - why bother, the grass is green enough and growing fast as it is with all the moisture of the past weeks and months. Our new air-conditioner has been turned on a sum total of less than the digits in one hand. I make lunch and watch as the heavens open up again - I am sitting and having lunch with Uncle Paul who is covered in dirt, sweat and now rain. They have made little progress with the hole and I note that the pile of roots beside it would be one of the reasons why. Max and Will arrive back home and Will is excited that his first day on the job will be on Monday... I can only imagine that he has already spent the money before he has earned it.

My afternoon guest arrives just as the last ominous cloud has spent its supply of rain drops and I can see behind his head as we sit in the Gazebo, with the coffees he has brought, a few branches of lightening as the clouds reform and move into the north end of the city.... We chat about anything and everything and laugh infectiously - it feels so good to have Thomas with me today and I realize how much healing power his laughter and company brings. He stays as long as he can but before he goes, he promises to bring me some Melatonin later on in the evening. It will help me to relax and go to sleep without that druggy feeling and it is what he figures will help. This is the second time in a week that this has been mentioned to me and knowing how incredibly intelligent and well read Thomas is... I willingly accept his generous offer and look forward to seeing him later. I punch his cell phone number into my 'crackberry' and walk him to his car.... 'you know, you don't need any reason to pop in and sit with me', I say as I hug him. I love Thomas for so many reasons and I realize how much I have missed him in the years between..... life is good.

It is now late afternoon with Max and Uncle Paul having made some progress with the pond, they now have to pack it up and go pick Lydia up. I find a tarp for Paul in the garage and suddenly thoughts of Mandi pop into my head and I make a mental note to call her before she leaves work in a little while. I can hear the phone ringing as I maneuver my way back into the house from the deck and am giddy when I realize that it's Mandi on the phone. We chat for a few minutes and she asks what the family might want to eat for dinner.... less than an hour later she is at my door with Jet and Ava and an armful of KFC. I am grateful for her generous offer and place the items on the counter... 'are you staying for a bite?' 'No,' she replies, ' have to get the kids ready for vacation!' It is Friday night and she needs to get going. Hugs, laughter and more hugs, she pulls down the driveway with her signature grin and Jet calls out something to Lydia.... he won't repeat it but you know he likes his gal pal as he waves from the back seat. Two friends that have brought me so much happiness and joy today - thanks. My well is filling quickly today and the woozy head from having had no sleep jerks me back into the reality of getting the family fed.

I call Sarah before dinner, it has been 12 hours since I have heard from her and I am anxious to find out about baby Gabrielle. Tina has given birth to her at 2:40 p.m and although she is tired - her and Brock are besides themselves with joy.... we are too and I ooh and awe as Sarah retells the events of the birth she has just witnessed. I tell her I love her and send Tina, Brock, Treena, Pierce and baby Gabrielle my love and best wishes. I will visit with them when they are up for company.

Max is on the diving board getting ready for a quick jump into the pool before our evening guests arrive but doesn't make it in as we have early guests who have popped in from our last neighborhood. Huge smiles, hugs and kisses we sit down by the pit to catch up. Barry and Terry have arrived in their Saturn Spider and it sits outside on the street with the roof off almost daring the weather to kick up again. The mosquitos are coming out in full force and so are our neighbor friends. We sit around the fire laughing and chatting after all the introductions while the hose filled copper tube produces flames of green and purple in the pit. It is fascinating as it dances amongst the wood.... the neighbor is cutting up a hotdog and preparing to make a 'spider' dog. I am not familiar with this new ritual but it becomes clear when the horizontal cut lines of the hotdog begin to peel back forming 8 spider like legs!! I am filled with such joy surrounded by such warm loving people and it is invigorating... I am still bone tired but am so grateful that it comes from being physically tired.

I am ready for bed - I have had some red wine this evening and so opt for the Melatonin that Thomas brought this evening on his way by... no, he can't stay as he has other things to do but he will see me early next week. When I open the bottle, I realize that he has purchased a new one and not brought a few from his own personal stash. How thoughtful my friends are. I am lucky. I take my pill and it dissolves quickly as I prepare for bed..... I am up 6 hours later blogging this after having my first real sleep this week...

Thank you to Sue, John, Mitch, Brenda, Kevin, Uncle Paul, Max, Barry, Terry and all the children for being a part of a wonderful evening.... and looking forward to many more. :)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day 2 after surgery - fall-out

like every good thing must come to an end.... my energy zapped and the inability to recharge my batteries left me with a deep exhaustion that settled within my bones and the pit of my stomach still upset from the visit of the day before. I creep back into bed for what seemed the umpteenth time and still could not grasp any relief and back up I get.....

.... some would say it was the crash and burn that was to be expected from my upsetting guest of the day before and others might think that the anesthetic was the bad guy.... I am thinking that it was a good blend of both.... my stomach was upset and my eyes just wouldn't cooperate. I have been up since 3 am the morning before and I turn to see that now 24 hours has elapsed with no sleep and no relief in sight.... I blog what I am thinking and then wrote a letter... now what?! At 6 am I am talking to Max and he stirs and cracks open one eye... 'not sleeping eh?' No, not really and I turn onto my back and stare at the ceiling. He falls back asleep and I am up wondering around. It is day 2 after surgery and I just want to cry but don't because it wouldn't be worth the painful chest heaving sobs that would come with the anger and frustration I am feeling. Max gets up an hour later and I catch him reading my blog and the letter I have already sent.... he likes what he reads but has concern etched deep into his face. The warrior has arrived. He is now steadfast in his stance that today is the day that he is in charge and there is no convincing him that I will be fine today despite the fact that I look worse than what the cat has been recently pulling up to the door with. He sends me up to bed with a look that means business and I quickly obey - I rarely see my husband angry or stern and like the children... never really like seeing that side when it does present itself. I can hear him on the phone and I can just make out his end of the conversation and I quickly realize that he has called Annette and is making arrangements for her to come and visit.

Max announces that she will be here over the next few hours and that I have strict orders to remain in bed and there will be no negotiating. He cannot stay stern for long as his face softens and he comes over to cup my face in his hands and plants a big gentle kiss on my upturned face. I beam... so proud of him. He is dressed in his work clothes and announces that he and Paul will be working on the deck as he removes the bedside phone. There, see if you can get some rest now. He leaves and I am left with a decision to make.... be stubborn or stay put... I stay put and busy myself with crossword puzzles until I hear Annette in the driveway. She is talking with Max and I can hear the banter between the two of them and I smile but then find that I am embarrassed that she had to come back for a second visit because I was not brave enough to tell my friend of the previous day to leave. Annette and Joanne arrive in my bedroom with their warm smiles and cheery hellos with their hands full of boxes containing bandages and gloves and I am so relieved to see them. I apologize profusely for the day before and admit my embarrassment. No worries and we discuss what I should have done and the disappointment that some people do not understand what it is to be a friend.... lesson learned and noted for a next time, should there be one.

The plastic see through bandage is being removed and it is sticking pretty good. The skin beneath is sensitive and is showing a very angry red welt and I am concerned that I may have an infection. 'No, it looks good, you just have a real sensitivity to this type of adhesive' Annette says as she very gently removes it with Joanne's assistance using a pair of gloves she has brought with her traveling kit. What a remarkable team! The adhesive is off and the stained bandages. She inspects the steri-strips and explains that they will come off in the shower now that 48 hours have elapsed. Just cut off the stuff that peels off but by no means am I to remove anything else - it will all come off in good time. Apparently I have no stitches and that the steri-strips will hold until the wounds heal. I am assured that everything looks great and that although I have a few incisions, they should disappear in time. Yes I am a little lop-sided now.....

Annette writes out a prescription for sleeping pills and a stool softener *blush* , hugs me, and her and Joanne are off once again. I really admire those two and understand how very lucky I am. I appreciate that I will not allow anyone to waste their time again.

It has been a quiet day and my boys are out again doing what teens do. Mitchel meanders in and lays down with me...... although he is only 12, he is thoughtful and mature beyond his years. This has been a really tough month for him and he shows it in the concern on his face. 'How are you doing?' I ask him? He assures me that he is OK and we start our chat with a hug. I know each of my children very well and appreciate that they all bring something to the table but that they always take my lead. I have chosen to be positive and to lead them. They know everything that is going on, everything except my emotional reactions... those I share with my husband deep into the night. They don't need to know I am scared with tears but they do need to know I am clearly aware of my situation. We rarely talk about my cancer... it does not define our life but a mere passenger in our journey. Mitchel and I do a crossword puzzle together later in the evening and he is inspired to stay long enough to finish it... tomorrow we will continue to read the Eoin Colfer book 'Airman'.

My eldest son is the social butterfly with a quick grin and an easy going nature. He has many friends and a wonderful girlfriend. As young as they are, they are good together and have found a pace that they are both comfortable with. He is starting his first job tomorrow and we both beam from ear to ear - him because he will finally be making some cash and me because I am so proud of him!! These are the moments worth holding on to!!

Lydia has arrived from Daycamp in tow with Uncle Paul whom she adores and the feeling is mutual with them. I couldn't make it to pick her up today but Paul is a great stand-in. She wanted to show me the life-size mural she has made of herself that is still at daycamp and Max has obliged by taking a picture of it on his iPhone. I gush as I see she has emphasized all the features that make her so special to me. We hug as best as we can and chat a while longer before dinner. It is wonderful to see that she has some of that animated joy that is so ingrained in who I am.

I go to bed this evening feeling exhausted but happy for the moments that the people in my life have given me. Thank you to Sue for popping by for some gut-wrenching laughter which I am eternally grateful for these days - we are so silly and hysterical!! To Mitch and Brenda for their hugs and hellos this evening and relieved that they didn't say anything about how crappy I look :) Thank you again for all the lovely notes ...... but no thank you for the nasty letter from the 'friend' of the day before. My response was a short 'Good-bye' nothing more, nothing less. Our 'friendship' is over and I am relieved. I have cancer and one thing I have learned in this journey so far is that my time is valuable and I am only willing to give it to those that live a positive life and who are supportive. I wish you well and I can only hope that you will find your happy place as I am discovering mine. As I put this blog to rest, my facebook in the background notifies me and I click to find Sarah is texting me.... our wonderful Tina is in labour and they are all on their way to the hospital... part of me is on the way too - oh Sarah, to witness the birth of your friend's baby is such an honor and privilege. I wish for a speedy delivery, a healthy baby girl (Gabriella is her name) and a lifetime of happy memories. I love you all.

.... good intentions....

I am restless tonight and I find myself unable to fall asleep... a lot on my mind I guess. Yesterday was incredible with such an outpouring of good wishes, gifts, messages, phone calls and a visit with my Doctor. Dr. Annette Richard is an incredible woman whose capacity to care is remarkable. She ambles up the walkway with her nurse Joanne and peeks around the corner where I am sitting and eating fruit from a gift basket with my children and a neighbor friend. The smiles are infectious and hugs all around, I offer my guests a cup of tea and then realize that they probably have not eaten yet so I offer sandwiches which they reluctantly but gratefully accept.... they do not want to put me out. I prepare one of my favorites - toasted tomato and cheese sandwiches for all the ladies now gathered in my kitchen. Annette wants to know how I am and expresses her surprise and delight that I am so cheerful and out and about. I am not one to sit for very long (unless of course I am blogging) and can easily busy myself with things to do... I have already cleaned my kitchen and have tidied up while Max and his brother worked outside in the morning. They are not at the house but have gone for another trip to the hardware store and my sons have found playmates or other activities to do. Lydia is on her way to the movies with the Day camp. I talk to my doctor about some of the procedures and she wants to know what she can do for me - for now, I am content with just being at home and feeling pretty good. We make arrangements for an appointment early next week so that she can take my bandages off.... there are a few dissolvable stitches holding the multiple incisions together and a series of steri-strips that will help mend the wounds together. It looks like I got hit by a few paint balls filled with blue dye and blood and is a little off-setting to Lydia when she insists on climbing into the bath with me later that day.

I am sleepless mostly because my well intentioned friend turned the conversation I was having with my doctor into another opportunity to discuss her own ongoing medical issues..... I find myself at a loss and try to steer the conversation back to what Annette was here for in the first place... never one to want to hurt anyone's feelings, I did not say anything then but it bothered me... I can usually listen patiently as she discusses these things with me but today was not a good time and not the right moment. Usually Max interferes and is able to steer her onto a different conversation but finds it frustrating when he has to constantly remind her to keep it upbeat and positive and something other than her medical problems. I am concerned for her because I want to help re-direct her energy into something that brings her happiness but right now I am exhausted and can only find enough energy to keep my own and my family's spirits up. I wish you well my friend and I can only hope that the letter I sent you lets you know how much I love you and that I am here for you when you are only up for some light laughter, positive thoughts and a cup of tea for right now.

My cat is purring contently on my lap as he usually does when I sit at the computer in the wee hours of the morning pounding out my thoughts on the keyboard... it is so peaceful in the house and my ideas and thoughts pour out easily.... I don't focus on what is going on with me medically but more so with what is important to me and the moments I hang on to everyday. My children bring me endless joy in the things they say and the affection they show to family and friends. One of my dearest friends, who has been in my life for more than 20 years is also the Godmother to my daughter who lovingly placed a wet one just under her oxygen tube and said hello the day before my surgery when she was visiting with us... my girlfriend never complains but I know she is in agony and is fearful of the moments she cannot get enough oxygen and needs to sit... she has always been my role-model, a true no-nonsense gal who always finds the upside in every situation. Most of us found out quite by accident how serious her condition really is and we are all just there for her. She is beautiful to me and I hug her and sometimes the tank she carts around with her but I don't care - it has now become a part of her and as she gets in her car to leave.... i simply help her to turn it on so she can be comfortable on her drive home.... more giggles, kisses and hugs.... she is off and I am left standing in the road waving to her.... I'll crack you later I say under my breath as I hold my Blackberry close to me... it has become our lifeline in between all the medical appointments we have. She will always be in my soul and always loved.

It is a stark contrast between a woman who can only focus on what is wrong in her world and someone who finds nothing but good in her own despite the desperate position she is in. I am inclined to think that life is better lived in a positive note and to find the joy in all that life has to offer. We all have crosses to bear, it is how you carry it that will make the difference. I do not mind discussing medical stuff - find it rather stimulating and interesting but like everything else... it gets old with repetition. My Dad used to say - 'there is a time and a place for everything'.

I wish to thank my friends for all the wonderful gifts that came to the door and all the well-wishes, cards, emails and letters.... my family is eternally grateful for the tremendous outpouring and love we have all been shown. I have tried to message everyone back and thanked those who posted things on my Facebook profile - what a wonderful communication tool!! I send back to all of you love, best wishes and a grateful heart that you all have helped to make this journey easier for all of us here.

Marita xoxox

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

... one less lump - Surgery

It is now 3 am the morning after surgery and I have had enough 'down' time and my back is sore. I stumble out of bed and make my way to the washroom. No bother turning on the lights... the blue pee is no longer a novelty....

The day of surgery started quite early after a restless sleep and soon after getting dressed, the kids all got up to wish me good luck. William and Mitchel went back to bed and now it was Uncle Paul and Lydia getting ready for their day. Lydia was very excited to have Mandi take her to daycamp!! After much hugging and kissing, we were on our way. It's amazing how fast you can go anywhere in this city at 7:30 in the morning... just a wee bit before the day's rush begins, it is a casual experience and we talk about everything. Max parks and we both walk into the hospital hand-in-hand and now begins the journey we have been anticipating and dreading.

We are guided into surgical daycare by a nurse who has taken me to the counter to place my ID band on my wrist and to check for any allergies then leads us to bed 24 which I discover is straight across from the doors leading to the surgical suites. It would be a source of distraction as I wait my turn. I ask Sue, my nurse if I can bring the little bear I have brought with me from Sue my friend into the surgical room - it's for good luck, I say with a grin! No problem she says and takes him off to be tagged with my ID bracelet. The bear is wearing a sweater, long pants and a toque - my friend Sue thought he was a little overdressed considering that it is summer but in the hospital he would have needed an additional coat so I tucked him into my hospital gown. This way he could stay warm and my breasts would be hidden. It is now 8:30 and Sue is applying the numbing cream to my nipple and surrounding areola in prep for the needle that will be inserted under this sensitive tissue up in Nuclear Medicine.

My first procedure today would be a Sentinal node biopsy and would be done up in Nuclear medicine and so Luke, our orderly walked us up to the 5th floor where the receptionist immediately recognized me... I come here once per year for the testing of my kidneys. She was all smiles and chatted with me while checking my records and then whispered asking if I would prefer to sit in the hall and wait - I am just wearing two hospital gowns in what looks like a poorly put together ensemble and I gratefully accept the offer. The ceilings are all down and I can see the cat5 cable strung haphazardly and carelessly through the network of pipes above. Of course I critiqued this arrangement to Max who just shrugged. We sat waiting in the hall for a few minutes and couldn't believe that it was just a few weeks ago that we were here waiting for the MRI that would establish the extent and size of the tumor. We are holding hands and Max leans in for a kiss and offers his shoulder and I gladly take it. Minutes later, it is back to reality and our technologist is telling us about the sentinel biopsy and imaging that will take place in the room we are sitting outside of. He tells us that the needle will hurt and that the numbing cream will have done nothing to abate the procedure pain wise. Max squeezes my hand as I peer into the eyes of the tech and let him know that if anything it helps emotionally.... he didn't get the hint and repeated it as if to let me know that he knew better. I wipe the bad feeling I have for him away... what would he know!? Paul comes down the hall, I usually get him as the imaging technologist every year, and he stops to talk. He is shuffling his feet and acknowledges that when he saw us a few weeks ago, he thought that I was in MRI for my kidneys but he now knows why I am here and he is sorry for what I am going through. I smile and tell him it is fine and ask him how he is doing? We have a minute to chat and then Karen pops her head out of the imaging room we are booked for and smiles "I know you", she says,"but from where?" After a minute of discussing the possibilities, it turns out that our children went to the same daycare years ago. While we chat, she has removed the Saran Wrap that has been taped over the nipple to prevent it from getting all over my gown and has begun to wipe it off - she is startled as she comes across the lump in one of the passes the cotton pad makes. I just nod. It is time for the Doctor to come in and Karen introduces me to Dr. 'Bobby' who will be performing the procedure and yes, she is right, he is very young. He has a very quiet demeanor and is very gentle. The needle is inserted into the areola much like a TB test just under the skin with a radioactive isotope. I did not feel the needle going in - the numbing cream really did work - I will be mentioning this to Sue when I go downstairs. The stinging sensation is the isotope working its way into the first lymph node (hence the term Sentinel) and then to consequent lymph nodes in order of connection. These then are picked up via imaging which takes about 30 minutes. Great time to catch up with Karen and now Paul who has joined us for a minute. What a great way to start the day!! Thanks so much. Dr. 'Bobby' then takes a sharpie marker and using a geiger wand and the imaging unit he marks each node with an 'X' - they call this tattooing - that's not a tattoo and I should know *grin*!! Testing is over and I hug Karen a couple of times and call out to Paul our goodbyes as Luke escorts us past his room and back to Surgical Daycare.

Luke manages to grab us both a few hot blankets which are gratefully accepted and quickly wrapped around us. It is very cold in most parts of the hospital and it seems especially here in Daycare. Max is still sitting by my side reading the rag mags I have bought for the occasion - yes, I read People and Hello Canada when I can!! The nurses love these magazines and flip through the pages while we chat. Time for the IV to be inserted and I warn Max to look away - he's fine he says as he watches her put in the small needle to numb the vein... I warn him again and this time he heeds it as the larger needle is inserted with the IV adapter. I smile at him - OK I giggle too. It is now after 11 am and I know that he is really hungry and I send him off to go forage for food... yes I am fine, now go!! The nurses both appear and again share my magazines and small talk... we giggle and discuss all the sordid details of Jon and Kate's separation and his new gal pal..... better than talking about all the stuff going on around us!!
The IV nurse comes back to flip through 'Hello' and I let her know that she can take the magazines with her and share them with the other nurses... am I sure? Quite!... she thanks me again as she makes her way down the hall clutching the two magazines in one hand and her IV basket in the other. I now have a few more friends to smile at me as they walk by. Max returns and lets me know that he has not read them all - I grin at him and he just leans in to kiss me again... time to sit and do my crossword puzzles while we wait. I look up as the surgical doors open and I know that the nurse headed my way is the one who will take me into the Surgical Suites - it is now 1 pm.

I am rolled a few hundred feet through the doors and my bed is left to wait beside the intake desk. Now my nerves start to feel jangled and the smile fades as I feel alone again. There is another bed in front of me and I can just see over it and down the hall... I see my Urologist - a young good looking man who has an incredible reputation for his robotic surgery techniques and one really great guy. Smiles galore as he recognizes me and comes over! "Marita!! What are you doing here?" he exclaims. I tell him briefly and he puts his hand on my shoulder and tells me how sorry he is but that I am in a great place and that I am a lucky girl and will be well taken care of. He knows my surgeon well. We talk for a few minutes and then I find out that his wife had a mastectomy 2 weeks prior and I am very sad. She is only 41 years old. He agrees that there is way too much of this going on. He wishes me well and moves on to the patient who has been rolled in after me.

I am now in the lead bed, next to go and I am approached by a friendly, smiling nurse named Dave. He instantly sets me at ease with his gentle demeanor and friendly smile. He is assisting with an OR nurse Anna (who is in her second day of training). You can tell Dave knows the personalities of each of the doctors as he tells Anna which one will want to see what papers. She is really nice and is not afraid to ask Dave questions - good for her!! First Doctor I meet is the Anesthesiologist and he asks me how I know the Urologist I was talking to? Apparently we are both huge admirers and he promises that he will take the very best care of me in his lovely accent as I offer him my hand - we shake, he smiles and off he goes to the OR. I then meet my Surgeon with a handshake and a thank you so much and his intern. They then wheel me into lucky OR number 7!! I get to meet all the staff in the OR and Dave makes sure that my lucky bear has a front row seat!! The oxygen mask goes on and my head whirrs as the sleepy-time drug takes almost immediate effect.... the Anesthesiologist is still talking ......... i can barely make out.....

...... I am stirring, someone is snoring loudly.... I need to puke and begin waving my hands and turning to my side... just in time the nurse has a kidney shaped bowl under my head and away I go. My head is just spinning wildly and a call for Gravol is made. Finally get the spins under control and now I am very sleepy but can't seem to sleep for the woman who is groaning loudly beside me in between really loud snores. I want out of there and the nurse moves me as soon as she is able to - she knows that I am highly irritated by the noise and I can see that it is ruining her day as well. I am moved to recovery away from all the noise and now Max can be with me again. He is so amazingly sweet as he cups my face and kisses me. I love you so much you know!! We have to wait now because I am too groggy from all the Gravol I have had and it will be past 6 pm before we can go home. Good timing for us as the traffic seems to have thinned out considerably. I catch a glimpse in the side mirror and can't believe how bad I look - the nurse did say that I would look a slate grey due to the blue dye that was injected into my system to locate the lymph nodes in the breast and under-arm. Oh, and the blue/green pee that I would have for the next 24 hours as a result of the body ridding itself of it.

My journey is on its way... still waiting to hear back from Pathology to see what kind of cancer I have and if any or all of the lymph nodes harvested for biopsy are positive... if they are, there will be more surgery to remove more of them. I do have about half my breast remaining with an intact nipple YEAH!!! Soon I will meet with an Oncologist and from there.... who knows.

I am so fortunate for so many reasons.... my family, friends and an ability to stay positive. I trust in my journey for it is the only one I have and I rejoice in the opportunities that it presents either good or bad. I wish to thank everyone for their love, laughter, kind words and company through my journey. Often people do not know what to say or what to do in a situation like this - be brave and do what you think is best and know that when it comes from the heart... you can never go wrong. xoxoxoxoxo

Monday, July 20, 2009

one more sleep to surgery....

I actually slept last night but thinking that tonight might be a struggle. I am going to have my cancer surgery tomorrow and I am nervous...

It's almost akin to planning a big event.... you know the event is coming and the date but its the small details and the wait time in between that make you nuts. Thursday was the pre-admission date where the nurse goes over the details of the surgery and other pre-surgical tests and gives you a rundown of care when you get home. She indicates to me that I am to have a lumpectomy - there's a snappy word which means - lump comes out - and that is all that has been annotated by the surgeon who will be performing the procedure. He is confident, at the very least that he can remove the mass which is just under the nipple and save most of the breast's exterior including the nipple based on mammograms that are now weeks old. I am relieved for his optimism but weeks later I know the mass is growing and am anxious to see if this will be the case. I am already prepared mentally for what is to come... I have had the time to digest all of this but the reality will present itself after the 'reveal'. I must be at the hospital early on the date of surgery because I am having a Sentinel biopsy in nuclear medicine. A needle is inserted above the nipple with a radioactive isotope and an image is taken. The lymph nodes are the cleaners of our system and they are looking for any cancerous cells that have been picked up by the incredible number of lymphatic nodes in the breast and under-pits. These will be noted and any of these that contain wayward cells will be removed before they can be dispersed anywhere throughout the body - that is bad. She hands me a few sheathes of paper and tells me that it is day surgery and I will be home for dinner. The sheets describe the sentinel biopsy, care of the wound etc. She wishes me luck and I head over to the lab a hundred paces away to have a blood test to see if there is any creatine present (kidney function). I recognize the technician and chat away happily. She smiles and chats amicably - it is after all very early in the morning and I wish her a great day as I dismount from the raised chair. She calls to me as I walk away and says 'with that attitude, you will do just great, take care now' as she begins to close the file she has of me on her table.

My husband has been with me the whole morning and we walk hand in hand out the doors, this time my head up and no swollen eyes.... my old self who is positive and generally quite happy with the world is leaving today to return on Tuesday for the surgery...

This is the part where I recognize the incredible people in my journey... If I have missed anyone - it is only because I really do have a lot on my mind and I apologize in advance... I must admit that during the first week after the diagnosis I was very withdrawn and not myself, so for those friends who kept their distance - I am truly sorry. I should be available to you sometime in the next week, so call and check in!!!

Mom & Dad Fielding, Martin, Jeannie, Paul, Marleen, Scott, Debbie, Al, Mom and Dad Stopani-Thomson, Gina, Christian, Patricia, Chelsea and especially my husband Max, William, Mitchel and Lydia who have been here for me all along and continue to laugh and play and carry on with our normal(?) events filled with love. Thank you xoxoxoxo love you always and forever.

Max, who is my soul mate and the one who is going down this path with me - for better or for worse - thank you for holding my hand and kissing away the tears when they come. I love you forever.

Mark, JK, Jim, Bruce, Shahid, Sean, Cal, Scott who I have worked with for over 16 years and who have been my support... thank you for the notes, texts and phone calls ... and the hugs. I adore you guys, thanks. xoxoxo

Lynn, Annarita, Deborah, Keri, Traci, Donna, Mary, Sandra, Nancy, Serena, Melissa J., Julie, Jan, Bryan, Dan, Dean, and everyone really!! thank you for your best wishes, support and sense of humor.... especially the hugs!!

Dr Annette Richard, who is my GP and who is an incredible advocate for women like me who need all the help they can get :D.... thought you might like that. She has a program available to all women facing this disease and it is well worth it. xoxoxo

Sue who is the one who has been an incredible friend and who introduced Annette into my life. You were there when I first got my diagnosis and have been a strong support system with your phenomenal sense of humor and grace. Thank you for lending me your good luck bear for my surgery - I know it gave you luck and yes, you will get him back when I don't need him anymore. I will always need and love you. Thank you to John and Kevin. Hugs xoxoxo

Mandi who was the first person at my work who got the news and cried with me, then made it all better :) Thank you for popping by with goodies for my freezer and offering to take my daughter to daycamp on day of surgery. xoxoxo

Jilly who is my soul friend, whose mother passed within hours of my diagnosis. You continued to support me as you grieved for a mom who was so incredible in her life and passed that on to you and your sisters. I will always remember you taking me to visit the koi pond near your home with your daughters and just loving every minute of it - we will do that again soon. I love you. xoxox

Sarah and Len, who have been so incredible to us with their support and love over the years... Sarah, I have known you most of your life - you are like a daughter and a best friend and your thoughtfulness and kindness are a testament to all that is good in this world. I love you so much and I am the better for having you in our lives. xoxoxoxo

Tina and Brock who are going through so much these days and will go through more with the very soon arrival to be!! Tina, I have known you most of your life and you are so sweet and gentle. Your beautiful voice is just a hint of that soul inside. Take care of you and the little one coming - can't wait to see her. I love you! Brock, you are a good man and a wise choice :)

Brenda, Mitch and Trevor - thank you for being great friends and of course some of the best neighbors anyone could have!! Brenda - keep an eye on the pool :D thanks for your humor and support on the first night of diagnosis and your continued support over the weeks. xoxox

Ameeta, who has been fantastic by keeping Mitchel busy on trips he would not otherwise have taken due to circumstances. I will see you tonight for coffee just before I go to bed.... maybe we should have a non-caffeinated drink... you know how we both are when hopped up on that stuff!! xoxox I will save the sappy stuff for you... to Peter who has been a great friend and assistant to Max's deck projects and to Sanjay who has always been so sweet - from the moment I first held you (20 minutes old) to now, a high school student this fall :D - I love you all. Next trip I get to go on with you and mom!!

Brenda A, Robin, Samantha and Raven, whose friendship continues to grow through the years. We have been through a lot together and you have always been there for me. I have not been able to see you these past few weeks... I know you have your own issues to deal with. You are thought of often and I miss you. I will see you soon, please know you can call anytime. xoxox

Brenda B. & Terry, who dropped by with a wonderful bouquet of Gerber Daisies (my faves) and a hug - I have known you almost your whole life Terry and it was wonderful to see you - it's like you have grown up in just the short summer we have had so far since June. I wish I had been able to make it to your Graduation Ceremony and party - such an incredible honor to be asked. I adore and love you!! Brenda - I always look back to the day we met at the Western Fair those years ago and instantly liked you!!! Thank you for your friendship. xoxox

Tom, who has been a dear friend for many years and who dropped what he was doing after he read my blog to have coffee with me the other day... you know, you don't need an excuse to come out to see me!! I am glad you did, I miss you sooooo much!! love you!! xoxoxo

Kelly and Mike, who are adorable together... and who came to see me as soon as they heard... you always knew what to say - it always comes from the heart. Thank you Kelly for chillin with me after your holidays. We had fun - thanks for your hugs and your fantastic sense of humor. I miss you so much and I love you. See you soon!! xoxox

Jeff, whose wife passed two years ago from this disease - you were incredibly supportive of your soul mate and have extended your help our way... thank you so much and we do hope to make your party on Saturday. xoxox

Sandra, Jeff, Daniel and Amber, who are good neighbors and supportive friends.... hope to see you out soon. xoxox

Shelly and Paul, whose apple/rhubarb cake and the books were so appreciated... Max keeps bugging me to make one - bwa ha ha ha ha .... he will just have to wait!! xoxox

Today, Max's brother Paul is helping him to finish the pergola and back deck - a great distraction as Max mentally prepares himself for tomorrow and the weeks to follow. I can see it in his face and he tries not to be near me right now... we were both somewhat cranky yesterday and managed to keep away... sometimes it is better that way - far less emotional and easier to deal with.

It is finally sunny out and so today, I will do some gardening and then have coffee with a friend this evening and go to bed.... one more sleep to surgery....

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

... behind every strong woman

.... are women that are just as strong!! When I was growing up, most kids would have told you I was weird and yes, I suppose I was now that I look back....

I was an awkward child and not very co-ordinated - my mother used to say I had two left feet. My two left feet always came into play when there were plates to be carried to the table laden with goodies which almost always ended up on the floor. Mitchel (my second child) is a lot like that and meals can be interesting when we have to regroup and find a substitute for the rice bowl that has landed upside down on the carpet. I am a middle child too with a syndrome I am sure is in keeping with his. My legs were too long, my hair was stringy, my freckles clouded my features and my teeth were bucked. I was teased a lot in those days and after my teeth were somewhat straightened by a well meaning orthodontist in the mid 70's, I still felt awkward and out of place. Somehow I was different from the other girls and the constant reminder of that played out time and again through high school. I wasn't interested in coiffing my hair, doing my nails or putting on a front. I was a tomboy who had spent most of her childhood climbing trees and playing in the forest with the guys. I could hold my own pretty good - after all - when you are misunderstood and bullied, you can withdraw or fight back. I always stuck up for myself and spoke out when I thought something was not right - I would defend my friends despite receiving the sucker punch meant for them and I held fast.... some people were scared by that... after all, girls were supposed to be petite and demure and any deviation from that was greatly frowned upon and punished. Some even thought that I was tough which meant I had no feelings and could take whatever they threw at me..... those crushing blows would stay with me a long time but would eventually form that inner strength which has been tempered with time and matured with experience. So here I am strong and resilient and a basket case when I first heard the diagnosis. I must have spent hours mulling it over, putting into perspective and then making the decision to just keep going.... that is my lifelong mantra when life feels like it is falling apart. I have stayed the course in my life and held fast in my beliefs - I am true to myself, candid, honest and open with others. I care deeply for the people around me and am genuine in my bid to help whomever I can, when I can. I choose to take the positives in the things that happen to me and taking the high road is really the only option. I don't like it when I find myself on occasion being catty and I detest pettiness of all kinds... life is too short.

My husband wants me to write about the other side of me... the one that is the soft woman whom only those very close to me know and even then only catch glimpses. He brings out that side of me easily in the quiet hours when we are alone. I am sure that in our early days together, he caught a glimpse and knew that the exterior was just a paint job. He has taken it upon himself to lovingly scrape the paint away over the years with patience, understanding and of course lots and lots of laughter. He can make me giggle like an idiot with his facial manipulations and Mr Bean like mannerisms. He is my soul mate and my dearest friend. He is the one who holds my hand at night when the tears start, kisses my cheeks and holds me close.
We are together and committed to each other no matter what... we took our vows to heart. We knew soon into our relationship that we were soul mates and have been constant companions ever since. I am a private person when it comes to expressing my deepest feelings and so this blog has become an outlet on a very public forum with the backing from someone who knows me best.

I moved around a lot as a child - my Dad was in the service and so making friends was easy - the hard part was keeping them. After so many moves in so short a time, I have vague memories of people whom I was a friend to and who were my friends. I still have some of them on my Facebook and can't believe that I was not a part of their weddings, children's births or really any of their biggest moments..... those would be my regrets. Being close somehow meant that we had to say goodbye soon and somehow the pain of that became too much for me and so I distracted myself with school and work. I have learned to take the time to acknowledge people and to ask how they are and to show a genuine interest in what they are doing and to not be afraid to be left out. I talk to the people I want to and are kind to those that I do not care as much for... I always tell my children - you are not going to like everybody and not everybody will like you.... that stings a little but it keeps it real. I tell them to always be respectful and kind to others and to try to do a random act of kindness every day... you never know where it will take that person's day and how they will affect others. We are all here to learn and better ourselves through ours and other's actions.

I wish to thank everyone who has offered friendship, support and of course the hugs!! When a conversation starts with 'what can I do for you?' I will always answer that hugs are always the best - it is what creates bonds between people!!

I will know more about my surgery and the extent of treatment in the next few weeks and will continue to share that with all of you.

Marita xoxo

Monday, July 13, 2009

We meet the surgeon

It was really hard to sleep last night as I tossed and turned trying to keep my thoughts under control... about as easy as curbing an active 2 year old. Part of me dreaded visiting with the surgeon and the other part just wants this over with. The part that wants it over with is the part that drags me into the car and drives me to University Hospital where I find parking and walk in a daze to the outpatient admitting. There is an older gentleman behind me that is being jovial and pleasant with me - a nice distraction in my 'busy' day. Bless him for his merry laughter as we engage in conversation... my turn.. back to answering in a soft voice not wanting to draw any attention. I am 45 minutes early and the Tim's is strategically placed near the elevators going up and I buy a coffee, sit down and commence another conversation with an elderly woman going to get her knee checked after surgery... another pleasant distraction as the time ticks by. I make it up to the 8th floor surgical ward and get help from staff to find the office I am looking for... the waiting room is eerily empty and remains that way until I get called in.

The nurse does the weighing and height and leaves me in an exam room waiting to see the Surgeon. I gaze out the window and have a great view of the east end of the city and the main doors to the hospital. From my vantage point, the day is beautiful with the sun shining and people out on benches soaking in the rays while a man in an overly large truck finds parallel parking difficult even with help from the guy whose van he is coming painfully close to. The decorative grasses are swaying in a breeze that makes even the flowers dance in their beds... Alone but distracted by the casual going ons in the world. People leaving with crutches, wheelchairs and cups of Tim's clutched in their hands... It could always be worse... the door opens...
'You don't look 45! exclaims the Surgeon as he eyes me close up and offers me a seat. I leave the comforting view of the window and return to the seat opposite him. He reads through the paperwork and then attempts to make a call to mammography... they keep mis-directing and then putting him on hold. He is not a man to bother with people who waste his time. He is talking to me now of procedures and is concerned about my young children. After a thorough examination he looks me in the eyes and says he would like to do the surgery as soon as possible and it will likely be a few weeks. He turns as he goes to leave and quickly closes the door then turns to tell me that he will do everything he can and as soon as possible. He has a few words with the receptionist who gathers up paperwork and stamps it with my new hospital card. She directs me to the Surgeon's secretary ....
I meet with the secretary, fill out paperwork as she begins the arduous task of shuffling people in an attempt to get me the closest date.. she looks up briefly and says - you are going to have your surgery on the 21st with a number of appointments in between to get you prepared. No chance of a cancellation, she says. She looks up briefly again and catches my eyes.. you will receive phone calls booking appointments, smiles for a second and continues to do her work as I show myself out... bye she calls out, good luck. I smile... it has been a day of kindness.

I make my way through traffic to Eileen's house.... we chat while I text out messages to all the people who need to know right away including my wonderful GP Annette... she texts back asking how I am dealing with all this... I am fine.... and strangely I am... and so it begins. I have a date and a week to prepare my family, my house and myself. xoxo

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The day I stepped into someone else's shoes

This past month has been a whirl sending my head spinning...... it all began a few days before my 45th birthday with the discovery of a breast lump while showering during just a regular day. It was fairly large and not surprising that I have lumpy breasts as do most women but this one was just under the skin above the nipple and was painful to the touch. I was stunned and took a minute to regain myself... maybe it was just a cyst - just had one removed from my neck last year... or maybe it was something else. I gave it a few days to see if it would reduce in size, after all, my period had just finished and somehow the breasts were still a little swollen. Got through my birthday weekend but by Monday May 18th I just knew I had to have it looked into.

Call my doctor or call the women's clinic? Last year I had a diagnosis from a procedure I did that my family doctor did not report to me so I called the women's clinic and they had a cancellation in an hour's time. Could I get there within the hour? No problem I said and promptly informed my supervisor that I had a last minute appointment and I would be back as soon as possible. The Doctor stood back against the counter in the examining room and said she thought it might be a cyst and that it was an obvious lump from her vantage point. I was positive that she was right and let her make an appointment with mammography and ultrasound for the following week.

I had heard that mammography could be uncomfortable... when you have a lump and you squish the lump with a small paddle to a hard surface... that would not be the word I would use to describe the sensation.... as the technologist would share with me later... i looked like a 'severe swedish super model' as i gripped the handles like they were my lifeline and i was dangling from a gazillion story building. Ultra sound was daunting when the first technician could not figure out what she was seeing and promptly called in a second one who looked just as perplexed. I had a real sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I was sent to mammography for more pictures.... maybe this wasn't the cyst I was now praying it would be.

The results came in within a week and on June 12th I was on my way to St. Joseph's breast clinic for a deep core biopsy.. whatever that was it sounded... well not so great. Max came with me this time and sat away from me in a pseudo waiting room put there out of eyeshot of all the women who were waiting their turn in the hallway chairs. I met a number of women and chatted about whatever came to mind.. something about shoes... and then it was my turn. I lay down while Martha the ultrasound technologist did a preliminary scan and then began to explain what a deep core biopsy was and how it would be performed. The young russian doctor stepped in gracefully and with a thick accent went over what she would be doing... her accent reminded me so much of a dear friend Victoria who used to live down the street.. and i mentioned this to the doctor. Her face softened. The first incision was made in my now numb breast and the 18 gauge needle was inserted to take the first of three samples.... and then the same procedure was repeated for the lymph node in the arm pit.... reality hit and hard. The tears flowed and I fought them off with a brave face and a smile but then the sobs started.... Martha looked down and suggested that I not look at the ultrasound screen... was i looking? I can't remember and I mumbled something. The doctor was concerned that she had hurt me but was relieved that I was only scared so she tried humor to offset the situation - bless her soul for informing me that ' fridays were freezing day and I was lucky it wasn't monday'. I wanted to hug her and the poor intern that was subsequently left alone with the sobbing lady after the doctor and the technologist left.... she looked at me with teary eyes, apologized then quickly exited the room. Alone. The mammogram technologist came in and guided me gently by hand offering me a tissue for my tear soaked face while informing me that I would be once again pressed in a machine..... no worries I say with a half-hearted lop-sided grin - my breast is still frozen... won't feel a thing. Numb. Finally done I go out to meet my better half who has put on a brave face and quietly takes my hand and leads me out the doors into the hallway... I have forgotten my sunglasses to hide my swollen face and peer down at my feet... I can't find the words and so I am silent.... surprised even me. It would be 20 minutes before I can talk... and when I do, I can't stop crying. Max is comforting, a kind soul who always makes it better, no matter what. I love him so much.

June 19th is the morning I find out the news and I brace myself as I sit in the examining room at the new Women's Clinic on Westminister Drive. The minutes tick by and I occupy the space buy responding to emails from my son's teacher - something about trying to improve marks to obtain a pass... oh yes, high school exam today. The doctor breezes in, I do not know her but I know what she is going to say and I brace myself.... she doesn't look at me as she informs me that I have a ductile carcinoma and that I am to see a surgeon whose name and number she writes on a card and gives it to me. 'Have a good weekend and don't worry'. She hurries out and that's it!! I get out to the parking lot trying to remember to code to get out of the parking lot and then my mouth gets dry and I realize that my limbs aren't working well or even at all as I slump into the front seat of my car.... did anyone see that freight train that just smashed into my world. I called Max on my cell phone and he started asking too many questions... got to go I say and I hang up unceremoniously and then toss the blackberry into the passenger seat. What do I do now.... I will go to work, that's what I will do - life carries on. After fielding a call from my son who now knows the truth I hang up again and fight the tears that are ready to roll.

I walk into work and hesitate outside of Mandi's office - I love Mandi, she has been such an awesome friend and one of few people who knows where I was coming back from. She just looked and then starting saying 'shut up' and 'nooooo' the tears were falling as she came around her desk and then the hugs. I sat in her office for 20 minutes and she made it all better. I can face this.... then came my co-workers..... so hard.

My husband was not coping well and went home for the afternoon (i did not know this at the time) and called his Mom and Dad. They then took it upon themselves to call all the family and whoever else to spread the news... a part of me will always find this act one that leaves a bad taste... I couldn't get my feet under me and now everyone knew and they were all coming the following saturday to party and celebrate Canada Day.....

Here is the letter I wrote to them...

I wanted to touch base within the only format I feel comfortable in right now....

Yesterday’s phone call was not meant to go in the direction it did.... It got out of control at about the same speed that my life did. I was not prepared to let the family know what was going on with me/us and I told you in confidence what I was going through because I trusted you. You are my family and my world and there is nothing that I would not do for you and you for me – I get that. I would have appreciated you asking me if it was OK to let the rest of the family know and although you believe in your heart that they have the right to know, I would have told them in my own time when I was ready. It has nothing to do with being a part of a close family but more in keeping with the simple basic notion that everyone has the right to their own privacy. I was not aware that Max had called you, as I was not aware that he went home for the afternoon while I was at work. I already have removed myself from closest friends in a bid to find some still waters and to not feel so angry at what I feel is an injustice.

Here is what I need right now and I will continue to be candid and open with you......
Please do not repeat what I say to others... If I wanted them to know, I would have told them myself and I have the right to reserve what I say and to whom
Please understand that I am not myself and there will be bouts of anger, frustration and tears.
Please do not say you know ‘exactly’ what I am going through because you really don’t – it is dismissive and will only provoke anger and not what was intended.
Please just sit there when I need a listener.
Please do not recount anyone else’s medical run-down or tell me that it’s no big deal... Betty did this and so could you – I don’t know Betty and couldn’t care a less right now.
Please understand that when I withdraw or get angry – it is not personal. Be patient and let me lead the way.
Please understand that ‘well-intentioned’ is a catch-all phrase to excuse bad behavior and to justify things that are said or done.

To find a phrase that encompasses all that I feel for you would fill this page today and years from now – I LOVE YOU and right now it’s really what I need. It is really soon into my diagnosis and I really need the time to find my feet and I will let you know when I need you to help find them with me, because I will. I wanted to tell the family but at a time that would not compete with our gathering this coming weekend.

I have a new GP – she called me yesterday and is very knowledgeable and will advocate and educate me and my family... She came to me through my good friend Sue who is a survivor of colon cancer. She is coming to the house with a nurse on Monday night and will talk to the children and us and come up with a game plan as to how we are going to deal with what is coming our way. She will know the extent of the cancer as she will have all the results including the MRI that I will have done in the morning. She will guide and take care of me and ensure I get the help we need when we need it. It is her job to inform us and keep us moving forward medically and emotionally. I will continue to let you know what is going on through phone calls if I am up to it and emails when I am not. Either way, you are always welcome to drop by and just be with me as I will be taken out of work in the very near future for what could be a few years if need be........ I will be at a loss but will find what I need to do.

I love you now and more each day,

As it was, we got through Lydia's party and Father's day and on to the family weekend which turns out went very well. My attitude going in was - if anything goes wrong - I could always deek out... as it was, everyone else had a contingency plan. I opted to be open, positive and candid about my illness... I believe this to be the best way but on my terms. Work has been amazing and everyone has been incredible. My love and hugs to you all for being wonderful and respectful of my journey. Please feel free to approach me... I don't bite, at least not yet.

My new GP is awesome and to say I adore her would be an understatement!! She acknowledges my journey and has shown tremendous compassion and love. Thankyou!!

I will be seeing a surgeon on Monday July 13th..... and the story will continue....