Western education 2013

Monday, September 28, 2009

..... generous souls in a humbling journey

.... today started as slowly as most have these days and go faster than a super train to Osaka for morning rush after breakfast....

I occupy my days by getting up after restless nights feeling slower than molasses in January. My feet feel like blocks of concrete and I know that there is a depression tugging at me which I refuse to give into no matter what!! I have a routine starting to take shape and look forward to seeing the children off to school so that I can tidy up, get the pets looked after and make plans to do the simple tasks - too many restrictions to even start a painting project... I have a gallon that needs to migrate from the can to my bedroom walls. I am winded most days and recovering from a urinary tract infection and of course my second finger infection. Even a hang nail on the side that has no lymph nodes can cause a trip to the hospital if I am not on it right away. Amazing what you take for granted!! I can manage to move my arm most of the way up but find that it catches when I try to reach behind.... stubbornness has won me more mobility than they thought possible in the time since surgery - some never get their full mobility back ever. Remember to always move, move, move. Reading and crosswords occupy me during the waiting times in between the medical appointments and the appointments I now have with Wellspring.....

Wellspring is a wonderful break in a crazy cancer life. Thanks to the generosity of others with donations and fundraising in the form of a walk. Thanks to Cheryl Weedmark for your involvement and your personal support of me as a friend, and the kindness of the volunteers that provide company and tea that I am able to attend a Yoga class once a week. I had my first session on Thursday and found the ladies and the Yoga instructor open and welcoming. I was able to feel like I was in touch with myself and honestly I could feel that depression flit away with the clouds. Getting out is very important for mental and physical health!! Today, my two youngest children were able to get together with an Art Therapist at the center while I tucked myself into a wing back chair in the hallway. I was doing crossword puzzles while listening to my very animated 7 year old and a barely perceptible older brother. The therapist seemed quite entertained with Miss Lydia and took her time getting to know them while making 'shrinkie-dink' hearts for mommy. The children also made something less sappy for Daddy.... this evening we are wearing the beautiful necklaces they integrated their artwork into. I now have three to showcase from my children and like my wedding rings - I keep them on me. It is so important to take care of my children and my loving husband.

My husband works for a graphics and signage business owned by a couple whose love of life and laughter show their love and appreciation through their kind and often generous gestures.... it is hard not to tear up when talking to Glen on the phone this evening - he and Kathi are humble people who are not looking for recognition but honestly when you donate a sign to the Breast Screening Unit on Talbot St. in my husband and mine's honor.... well, it's hard to not want to let my friends know how deeply and sincerely touched we are. So, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for thinking of us through our journey and thank you to the talent at Signature Graphics on Exeter Rd for your effort and look forward to seeing the new sign soon!!

The rest of this week will be filled with trips to the library, Yoga and a lymphatic massage with Sue. I am not thinking of next week when I will walk through the doors for the first time at the Cancer Center on Commissioners Rd. I will take one day at a time and enjoy the moments I have shared with friends like Sandra and Joel who came for dinner on Saturday and shared wine and laughter and hugs. Thank you for always being there for us - Super Max is truly in awe of your ability to laugh and make others do so as well. I wrote Joel's mother who was thoughtful in sending the lovely roses in a brandy snifter that she grew in her garden. So many people who have shown me their generous souls have humbled me. I will have coffee with a breast cancer survivor on Thursday who I met at a photo shoot and whose gentle blue eyes, sweet smile and kind words have started a friendship. Thanks to Brenda for joining me at my house for coffee this afternoon and your wonderful words of wisdom!!

Thank you all so much for this incredible week and the one that is just starting. xoxox

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

... LympheDivas!

.... I do not have a collection of shoes or an incredible OMG check out my wardrobe... I am easy going and casual in my dress and not overly particular about make-up or dresses. I have a wonderful 'half-sleeve' of tattoos on the very arm that is now covered up by a very dowdy and very medical looking compression sleeve with a gauntlet (this covers half the hand and thumb) and I am sure gives people around me the impression that something serious is being covered up .... only my tattoos are peeking out at the top near the shoulder. This makes me self conscious and I take the advice of the woman who has fitted me with this device to check out LympheDivas.

I go online and check out the different sleeves that are available and carefully select the Red Dragon with the band - I have adhesive sensitivities and have chosen their specially designed band that will hold the sleeve up. I am happy with the price ($90) but the cost of shipping from the States is hugely expensive ($57) but I look back down at the beige colored sleeve whose gauntlet is causing my thumb a constant ache and order it anyway.... I am actually excited about this purchase - it is in keeping with my outward personality and at least in keeping with the tattoos which will lie hidden beneath it. I am hoping that this is not a lifelong appliance but at the very least, I know I will enjoy wearing it!! I have an appointment with WellSpring this morning and I get ready to head out and meet with Mandi who will be taking me there on her way to another appointment.

WellSpring is tucked amongst the old Victorian houses on Hyman St. just off of Richmond. It is a free membership to those of us with cancer, support caregivers and of course my children. They are a non-profit organization that treats its members emotionally and spiritually through Yoga, art therapy, group therapy, Raki, Tai Chi, lending libraries etc. I take a quick tour and sign up for Yoga and a much needed Art Therapy class for me and one for my two youngest children. I am feeling a little out of sorts... I rarely ask for help and have always been self-reliant so I am not wanting to sign up for any group therapy - I had taken part in one years ago when I was pregnant with Mitchel just after my first marriage fell apart and the mediator was quite nasty with myself and a few of the other women in the group and the deep humiliation I felt left a bad feeling for many years after... it took a lot of guts for me to actually speak to her about her treatment of me instead of avoiding her or the group but looking around the meeting room with less than half of the original group remaining should have been a clear enough indicator... once bitten, twice shy. Perhaps I will benefit from the personal relationships I have developed with other women going through this journey.

My cell phone is ringing but I refuse to let it interrupt as one of the facilitators walks me through a quick tour of the place and remind myself to look at the messages when I arrive home 30 minutes later. I do not recognize the long distance number but listen to the message.... one of the ladies at LympheDiva is calling to ask me about the expensive shipping costs and that she can ship it to me for $10 instead. She also reviews my order and lets me ask questions. She corrects a mistake I have made and is relieved that I have returned her call. I am impressed with her and the care and time she has taken with me before shipping my order.... and I am curious. Later in the evening I go back on the website and see a link to another blogspot blog for the founder of the company who passed away from an invasive breast cancer at the age of 37...... one of the more recent blogs has her recounting her stay at a hospice and a quick promise that she will blog soon..... her husband finished her promise for her a few days later in the way of a funeral announcement. I just sat here at my computer, quietly reflecting on my own thoughts of mortality. She started her business for the same reasons that I called to order one of her company's sleeves - we already feel like we have been in a car accident we just don't want to look like it. Thanks to you and your family who have carried on the business.
I wish to thank Mandi for understanding my reservations and for sitting with me while I became more comfortable in surroundings she knows well from having worked there. She knows that although you feel strong.... there are seriously some days when the walls you are trying to hold up wouldn't take more than a gentle summer breeze to take down. I found myself feeling very emotional walking with my guide - her words were comforting to me - she is a survivor and knows all too well what I am going through... tomorrow I will go to my first Yoga class...
xoxo sending out my best to everyone

Monday, September 21, 2009

.... learning about limitations

..... I am not one that knows the word 'limitations' and although I am not one to subscribe to the whole notion of taking it easy or slowing down.... I am learning to listen closely to cues from my body to stop, drop and sleep....

I find myself heading out today to go to a specialized lymphatic masseuse - I have no lymph nodes in my chest and arm on one side in a bid to catch any wayward cancer cells.... the fluid is sitting in the arm and a feeling of tightness is a cause for concern and with no way of it draining I now must seek out a specific kind of massage. Sue is a few years older than me and friendly... we are chatty and hit it off immediately. Her hands are warm and comforting as she begins the hour long process to show the fluid which path it now must go in order to drain.... the journey will take it out of the arm, across the chest and over to the grouping of lymph nodes in the armpit of the other arm. She is telling me that I now must be extraordinarily cautious about injury and lifting weights. Injuries to the arm will take a long time to heal and can get infected easily if not careful... my physician has already given me a prescription for antibiotics and has instructed me to fill them and immediately find myself in the emerge department should I show any early signs of infection... I nicked my pinkie the other day and it is not healing well and I have been very careful to put on an antibiotic cream and surgical bandages - I would not have given it a second thought weeks ago..... She continues to inform me that even lifting groceries can cause a build up of fluid. I will go and get fitted for a compression sleeve which I must wear when doing any gardening or really any lifting, pushing or pulling. I love to garden and you can generally find me in one when I am feeling better but now I must wear the sleeve and heavy duty gardening gloves - I picture myself wearing chain mail and a shield to tackle the weeds and am not overly amused by the visual... I am letting that sink in when the conversation turns to Chemo. Great thing about support workers and doctors that specialize - they are a wealth of information and can pass on the experience of others... saving you a lot of grief if you are willing to take the advice. Sue admires my beautiful nails and then lets me know that this will likely be the last time I will get to wear them... not only do I want to avoid the infections that can come from an unintentional nick, but the chemo will take care of them for me when they fall out. I look at them again at the end of my long fingers and can't explain the sudden emotional response.... I have quite a few moments as of late that are causing reactions that take me by surprise.

Earlier in the day, I was making lunch for Will as he chatted to me about his morning and the new video game that he desperately wants... I listened patiently to him as he talks about the finer details of yet another 'gun' game. He is animated and excited and I see that although he is a teen, he is still a little boy in some ways. He smiles back at me when I tell him I am excited for him and that yes he can get the game when it comes in. He changes subjects quickly and tells me quietly that they were asked in one of their classes to answer the question ' who is the one who would support your career goals and why'.... he looked at me at said that he chose me because I have always supported him and that I was army strong and am battling cancer'. I am his hero today and I catch the tears that are welling up. 'Thanks Will, that really means a lot' I say as I look down at my plate. He kisses my cheek gently and is on his way out the door...'thanks for lunch Mom, I love you'. He is having a difficult time with my cancer and is seeking counseling at school. He lets me know that he did not want to worry me and I realize that he is growing quickly....

I have finished my first massage and have made an appointment for another one just before my oncology appointment. She lets me know that it is difficult on the system and that she will not be doing anything while I have treatments. There will be plenty of time for some after that. She likes my artwork and it truly is a small world - she went to school with Anthony who has inked all but one of my tattoos and knows him well.... we both agree that not only is he a great artist but a truly wonderful guy. He does tattoo nipples after mastectomy/reconstruction surgery and she tucks that information away for her other patients. One thing I have discovered is how small my world is becoming. I chat a few minutes more with Sue and then I am off to do a few errands before heading home.

I am at Giant Tiger getting rubber gloves (can't do dishes without them now) when my cell phone rings... it is the school principle and he tells me that Mitchel has punched another boy in his class because of the teasing he is receiving. He is telling me that the boys will be dealing with their issues under the guiding watch of himself over their breaks... he feels that a suspension in this case would not solve the issue and I agree. I also inform him that Mitchel is very sensitive and is not taking the news of my cancer well and I quickly apologize for the oversight of not having informed the school of this. I assure him that I am OK but that it is no excuse for what has transpired between the two boys and that I will back him up. I will talk to him when he gets home in an hour...

Mitchel drags himself through the door and I let him know that he can meet me upstairs. I chat with him for a few minutes about the incident and I look at his slumped form on the bed beside me and I let him know that I am not angry at him... just disappointed sweetie. He is my emotional child who wears his heart on his sleeve and I look at the overly large tears trailing over his cheeks and cascading off his chin. His nose is running and I grab a kleenex and gently wipe his downturned face. I hold him close and let him know that I am sorry for his sadness and that I love him always and forever. It is sometimes hard to remember that he is still a child... he is the one who has always been so wise and mature... We hold each other for a few more minutes and he is off to do what kids do best... play.

I did not see the sudden wave of fatigue coming that has hit me so hard. I can barely sit up and find that I must crawl into bed and lay there as I help Lydia with her curriculum book - I look at the time and am shocked that I did not make it to 8 o'clock before my eyes shut and the sleep begins.... yes, the immune system is kicking in.... it has been a busy day. Tomorrow I will get fitted for a sleeve, pick up more prescriptions and see if I have an infection starting.... time to go back to bed.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

..... stir crazy

..... when you are an A-type personality - being told to lay low and heal is like asking a two year old to sit still when the Wiggles come on the Family network after they have ingested a bowl of sugar soaked Fruit Loops.......

The pain is slowly subsiding although the nerve is still protruding out the armpit and of course the healing incisions are still an angry purple color..... so when do I get to return to the life I know and miss so well? Apparently not for a while!! It is taking longer to heal from the second surgery and I am not bouncing back as quickly as I had initially expected... that would explain the time it took to wax my car with one hand and the extreme exhaustion that ensued. Good thing it was a sub compact!! Uncle Paul just went about sanding, priming and painting our Adirondack chairs in the garage while keeping an eye out - he didn't say much, didn't have to - his expression pretty much said it all. He expresses concern later at the dinner table about not pushing myself too hard and stressing the need to just take it easy. Max sits at the table staring at me and quietly asks me if I am OK. He agrees I need to keep busy because he knows I am going stir crazy but he also verbalizes his concern about taking longer to heal. I know they are both right but still.... I am home alone now since the kids have returned to school.

Saturday is FAIR DAY!!! I am not sure how long I will last but agree to attend the long anticipated event. Lydia is ecstatic and runs along the sidewalk to the entrance squealing as the excitement builds. Uncle Paul is smiling, he is looking forward to the family adventure and teases Lydia about the rides. She is up for the adventure and surprises all of us with the streak of fearlessness in her face as she goes from one adult ride to another!! Max goes on some of the tamer rides with them but brave Uncle Paul goes on the more daunting ones. She jumps down and is off running to the next one without so much as a stumble. The day is hot and sunny and I am wearing down fast.... Uncle Paul is not an avid sun worshipper and also seeks the shade along side me. I run into a number of people I know including close friends Tonya and her daughter Anita and a few minutes later with Brenda, Robin and their two daughters. We promise to meet later but I am unable to stay long enough to do so.... we will see each other another day. I run into a good friend later in the afternoon and she beams and waves when she sees me. 'Thank you!' she says. I ask why and it turns out that she was afraid to go to her doctor but when I told her about my journey, she made arrangements to see her doctor and they discovered 3 cysts in her breast... she was terrified she had cancer but resolved to go ahead and bravely face the news. What a relief!! Her smile is infectious and so are the hugs that follow!! More hugs and kisses and it's time to go. I am glad that my girlfriends are so smart - this is the second one to go to the doctor's after my diagnosis. Peace of mind is so important and fear should never stand in the way.... delaying can be devastating!! There are more people I run into on my way to the washrooms. Mitchel is not feeling well and we search the area for the closest ones. We finally find the washrooms and Mitchel makes his way into the men's room. A few minutes later, a young woman pushing a handicap young man guides the stroller to the side. He has blood on his face and out of his nose - it has pooled onto his shirt and has soaked in. She looks around and is met by a group of women who offer some help in the form of napkins. I have assessed the situation and find myself in the women's washroom wetting down one towel and carrying the dry one in the other hand as I make my way over to her. She is grateful that someone has taken control of the situation. She thanks me again as I escort Mitchel out of the building. My parents were always ones to take over in any situation and help out - Mom was a Guide Leader and my Dad an Electrical Engineer - I clearly remember a situation out at Percy Rock in the east coast - the tide was out and an elderly woman had collapsed on the rocky shoal and began to shake violently. My father rushed to her side and put her in the recovery position when the seizure ceased and although her son was beside himself and couldn't speak english my parents managed to calm him down and assist her.... I remember seeing the foam leak out the corner of her mouth. Years later in my grade 8 class, I came to the assistance of a classmate who went into a Grand Mal seizure - I knew exactly what to do and was able to prevent serious physical injury when I moved the desks out of the way - the ear piercing scream emanating from him in the chair behind me made me spin around as his eyes rolled up leaving them an eerie white, his body went rigid and then fell from his chair onto the floor where a second ago was a desk. He finished his seizure without injury.... there was so much panic around us with kids screaming and crying and running from the room. Roy was a young east Indian fellow who was always being picked on from some relentless classmates but I had befriended him months before.... that's when he told me he had epilepsy... just like the lady at Percy Rock. If he had not told me, I would not have quickly recognized the symptoms when they happened. I will always try to help others and am not afraid to take a lead role in assisting when others stand by... thanks to my Mom and Dad for always showing leadership and good examples to us when situations arose. I have passed that on to my children. The sunshine feels good as we step out of the shadows and back to Max, Paul and Lydia who are heading in our direction. I am very tired and after a few games, Max has decided it is time to grab our favorite Fair food on our way out - this has become our tradition and of course Miss Lydia chooses cotton candy, there is a candy apple and caramel corn for Max and myself and unfortunately Mitchel forgoes the treats this year due to his braces. It has been a fun day.

On Sunday Miss Lydia and I attended Tina's baby shower - little Miss Gabriella is now 7 weeks old and growing fast. Tina looks amazing and has already dropped the baby weight and smiles easily from her chair. We are celebrating a new precious life and it brings back wonderful memories of my own pregnancies and all those months of nursing - the cancerous tumor was tucked neatly into a milk duct and probably the one that caused me so much grief with the last baby when it became infected - I wonder if that was a sign or maybe the halter top I wore all last summer by the pool with a pink ribbon pin with a lovely jewel that sat pinned just over where the tumor was discovered nine months later - about the time it takes to make a baby..... I cuddle Gabriella and breathe in her lovely baby fresh smells and my thoughts take me back to times with my own little miracles. Life is wonderful!! I am still so tired and need to sit down often, something foreign in my world.

Sunday comes quickly and we are all not looking forward to Oma and Grand Dad taking Uncle Paul back home. He has been mediator and protector, game player and story teller. He is patient and soft spoken and is a wonderful companion on the days that I just need to sit and watch TV. We laugh and comment on the crazy shows we watch together. I will miss his company when he returns home but know that he will be back. No matter how crazy a household can get with three kids, we know he will miss us just as much. Thank you for everything - our door is always open to you!! My in-laws are spectacular people and I am the better for having them in our lives. Love you all so very much. I miss my parents.... they are getting elderly and are set in their ways - they do not want to leave their farm. I know they are worried about me and I gaze down at the angel pin my mother has sent me - it is pinned next to the pink ribbon (the one from my halter top) - and I think of her. I have not seen them for the better part of two years and now will not see them for a while yet to come. I have not lived at home since I was shy of 17. Life was tumultuous growing up but I am blessed by the lessons and the values they did pass on to us - ones I have chosen to pass on to my own children..... everything else got sorted and some got thrown out. I sometimes reflect back on my early years and am relieved to find that my children are happy and well-adjusted. I am grateful and feel incredibly blessed that they were gifted to us. We make sure that dinners are always spent together - it gives us a time to touch base and to talk about our day. Our lives are so busy but never too busy to have that precious few hours every evening together. I am learning to appreciate the time I now get to spend with them after school - Lydia gets her homework done with Mommy and we have fun before bed doing stickers or reading. The boys find their way in and usually join us in the big bed to laugh or just talk.

Monday was a quiet day....

Tuesday I went in to work with a few things to do..... got sidetracked and never did accomplish all that I set out to do - I call that a brain half-full!! It was great seeing everyone and thanks to Mark for the coffee and chat. It is hard to be there as a visitor and not there to work. Shahid looks great as we shake hands in the hallway - always one to crack a grin!! Thanks Keri for being there for me, it is always appreciated. Mandi and Annarita - thanks for being such wonderful friends and for dropping in at my home to say hello. I can feel the fatigue pick up as I leave to go home. I am there for my kids just as they walk in from school. Lydia has her planner to show me - I have left a note for her teacher informing her of our lives at home and her return note is supportive and kind. It is always best to let those around your children know what is going on - this allows them the insight so critical to raising healthy children. My return note acknowledges her kindness and I look forward to meeting with her on Thursday at 'meet the teacher' night.

Wednesday - Today I am not accomplishing much except to write my blog and do the endless stream of dishes and laundry. Tonya has dropped by and I help her get the paperwork together for her to apply to College in the winter term..... ah the college.... she is terrified that she will lose her way and might not like it - I assure her that within a few weeks, she won't want to leave. I miss everyone there too!! This afternoon I have a doctor's appointment with my wonderful GP and I will talk about the next steps... I have two appointments to see a Medical Oncologist (chemo) in early October and a Radiation Oncologist a few weeks after that..... let the games begin!!

I would like to thank Jeff R. for being such a great and supportive friend through this journey. I know it is difficult for you and I deeply appreciate your kind words and the valuable experiences you share with me - I think of you often. xox We will get together soon.

Everyone you meet has a story and like the woman I had the pleasure of talking to at the nail salon who has had a mastectomy, is still in chemo and knows she will lose another breast soon. Her positive attitude and outlook is a marvel considering her awareness that her cancer is extremely invasive and having to cope also with the debilitating shakes of what looks like Parkinson's - I did not ask about that - but here she was getting her beautiful nails repaired because the chemo caused them to fall out. Another woman sitting near us joined the conversation - her husband had been going through cancer treatments a while back and she had her own scare 20 years ago with breast lumps that turned out benign. Three women having their nails done.... who would have guessed? The lady with the cancer turned to me and thanked me and then offered me her name and number on a sheet of paper that I immediately tucked into my wallet - anytime you need any questions answered, just give me a call. I am humbled once again by someone who can reach outside themselves to help others..... we all smile at each other and kind words are exchanged between three strangers that have now something in common. I wish it was something else... but this journey has shown me that there are more out there than I would have ever thought or imagined - my God, we all need to remember that EVERYONE has a journey of some sort or is going through something with someone else - be kind to each other, you just never know.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

..... and the news is in!!!

... stress, pain and a race to get to University Hospital near lunch hour through one of the busiest places in town and trying to get around traffic jams and construction with Uncle Paul riding shotgun... at one point I thought he might want to use one!!

I am notorious for being early for everything - not one to be late, I can be seen arriving with a lead time of only a few minutes... we no sooner get seated in the busy waiting room, attempt to pick up the cards which have spilled from my wallet when my number is called. The other patients are surprised to see me bounce back up and head through the door to the long hallway of examining rooms. I am escorted into the very first room I found myself in 8 weeks ago but this time I am not left alone as the nurse asks if I have any bandages left on and I reply yes. She quickly gets to work and removes all the steri strips to reveal a scar... looks like a smile from my vantage point but the red line is still healing and the swelling underneath will soon disappear as the fluid gets re-absorbed back into the tissue. I know that although the breast still looks the same size as its twin.... time will challenge how much will remain filled in. Not one of my biggest worries as the surgeon steps into the examining room with his resident just as the nurse is finishing up. She is right - he is as accurate with time as I feel he is with his scalpel. I am impressed but then most A type personalities would be. He has the pathology and informs me that of all the lymph nodes that were removed... the number I think he mentioned was in the 30's - none of them tested positive. He searches my face for a reaction but I am just staring at him trying to digest the news.... he smiles and says that this is a good thing and indicates that his secretary will call me with information on the Oncologist - it will likely be weeks before I will get in for a consultation and more weeks before my first treatment. I ask him about the tendon in my underpit that is bulging and I believe to be the cause of pain. Oh no, not a tendon - it is the nerve he has saved and should it continue to give me pain in the long term he would be more than happy to cut it... that will unfortunately cause permanent numbness. Yah, no... I will work on it till it relaxes or snaps but no more surgery. I thank the surgeon and shake his hand. He is off and running and I stop him before he completely disappears in order to get him to sign off the paperwork from my home nurse. He immediately signs off the sheet and discontinues any home care. Finally free.... at least for now and I walk out to the waiting room. Time to make calls and text out information to my family doctor and nurse. Uncle Paul is following behind and I tell him as we near the elevators - he is excited and hugs me. I am still trying to digest the news but we are not quite there.

Max is ecstatic about the news and laughs when Paul tells him on the cell phone as I am now weaving back through traffic en route to Costco - routine shopping as life goes on no matter what!! That is the whole secret of my life... never one to sit down for long. I am learning though to take more time out when I am tired and to at least understand that I have limitations. I wince when trying to pick things up and attempt to stretch as I walk. This is going to take quite some time to heal this nerve.... but giving up is clearly not an option!!

The rest of the afternoon is spent watching TV with Uncle Paul and pulling together a simple family meal of the buffet variety. This has become a favorite way of eating most days in the summer but has carried on even with the kids recent return to a more regular routine. Max is home now after a busy day and has a dozen roses with him - 11 red and one pink one. He mentions that the pink on this rose is fading.... something he is sure is also true with the cancer. I am hoping so too!! He is anxious to call all family members and I hear his laughter on the phone as he shares the good news with his family. Mom and Dad will be coming to see us on Sunday and will be taking Uncle Paul back with them. He has been incredible and an immense help these past almost 3 weeks!! I am sure he will miss us as much as we will miss him.

..... now to see if I am capable of at least going to work for a little while before the next chapter. The nerve pain and the fatigue of two surgeries will limit how much time spent there and what I am able to do..... I really do need to stop the snacking though....

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

... and more pain...

.... today I am seen by my nurse and she is unsettled by the pain I am experiencing and the slight swelling that has made it into my thumb.... it is excruciating to raise my arm any higher than parallel to the floor and I wince when showing her just how far I can reach.... she is encouraging me to take pain medication and of course I will when it becomes unbearable...

The weekend was filled with friends on Saturday - our annual neighbor party.... four households get together and eat, drink and play horseshoes. I will not be teaming up this year as I shift my weight to find comfort for the arm that has now begun to throb.... if I hold it at a 45 to my hip then it is manageable. Lydia tries to cuddle in but I need to move her over to my lap and away from my side. The feeling I have is sketchy at best under my arm with it ranging from no feeling to something akin to a facial numbing by the Dentist... that near tingly feeling just before the freezing takes. Sometimes it feels like a bug crawling up the back of my shoulder and I find myself scratching skin that feels taught and swollen but with little feeling. I wonder if I have over-extended my arm somehow as I struggle to stretch out the pain in my arm which will progress in its path towards my wrist creating alarm in Maureen today.

It is the first day of school and I have made a breakfast for champs - eggs, bacon, fresh blueberries and cheese bread toast. Will got up in time but unfortunately missed the breakfast I started later than intended.... no matter how early I get up... I seem to lack the energy and drive that would have timed this venue for everyone... sigh!! I am sitting and eating at the table and note the neighbor lady walking her daughter to school early this morning.... I ended our friendship 8 weeks ago and feel some angst as her head bobs past the window and disappears. Our daughters are friends and were in the same class last year.... Lydia misses her friend. I am encouraging her to play and maintain their friendship but for now, mommy needs to do her thing. I feel horrible for ending the friendship but I know that right now, I do not have the energy to listen to her constant recounting of her medical issues - it is negative energy that saps mine and I am exhausted. I wish with all my heart it was different but I need to keep me going and fight off the boredom of now being at home, in pain and feeling completely disconnected from my world.... I go on Facebook but even that is making me crazy. I am resolving myself to get the children's scrapbbooks done this week whether I feel like it or not. Uncle Paul is here and is great company to watch TV with and eat snacks.... I really need to stop the snacks. After sorting out Lydia's class and in what line she needs to stand in, Paul and I turn to leave and note that the neighbor lady is ahead of us and looking back. I mention her daughter's allergic reaction evident as spots on her tiny face and then introduce Paul who is in pace beside me... something about him assisting me since my surgery two weeks ago... she wants to know if I am OK... I assure her that I am but hesitate saying anything else. We bid each other bye and head off in separate directions...... maybe one day we will meet in the middle but first..... I need to focus on healing and to have patience with how slow the progress is after this second surgery.

Max has taught today and we share our day upstairs laying on our bed with the dog, cat and Lydia.... I do not want her to know I am in pain and when she leaves for snack time I get a chance to let him know that I just want my life back..... I miss the busy pace of my career, my students and the daily interactions with friends and co-workers. I can honestly understand how depression can kick in and I find myself making arrangements to go on a daily walk and to occupy my time with things that challenge me beyond sorting laundry and loading a dishwasher....... it would be great if I could only paint my bedroom with the gallon can of Sage sitting in the front hall closet - I bought it a week before my diagnosis. I will drag out a book but know that I will not sit still long enough to read it. Crosswords do keep my head busy - I need to walk to the bookstore and pick up another - hah, a goal for tomorrow!! :)

Sending out best wishes and hugs to all my friends and the little people they have escorted to their first day of school. Butterfly kisses to Miss Claudia who has broken her wee arm on the climbers today and hope she heals fast and hugs to mommy!! Thank you for all the wonderful notes and messages that mean so much to me. I am blessed and humbled by all the love. xox

Saturday, September 5, 2009

.... pain

... amazing how pain is something we quickly forget about until a reminder notification in the form of extreme arm pain in the middle of the night gets you up....

It has been slowing creeping down my arm making even the slightest movement upwards an agonizing event but I persist in stretching the muscles and tendons until it becomes excruciating. I saw the nurse last on the 1st of September and all looked good at that time, so what has happened over the past four days? I have been emptying my own surgical drain for over a week now and my hopes of getting it removed before the weekend look fairly slim as the volume being removed has not reached the goal of 30 cc yet.

I am up after a relatively descent sleep yesterday but the pain kicks in as soon as I attempt to pull my hair up into a bun. I have not taken a shower since the morning of surgery on the 25th of August and I eye the en-suite shower with a sigh. I cannot take one until the drain comes out and the wound has healed. Max attempted to bathe me the other night and we laughed like idiots when i asked him not to step on the pump sitting on the floor at the end of a long see-through tube inserted under my arm - he pretended to stomp on it and with his hands at his chest showed what my breasts would look like after. He is looking forward to the reconstruction end of the deal and has already put in his request. The pain is excessive but I refuse to take anything for it. The phone rings and it is my nurse Maureen. She is expressing concern and wants me to call the surgeon's office to see what they want me to do. She would like me to go to emerge and that sentiment is reflected in Trudy's advice when I call. Go to UH, your surgeon is in surgery and will see you when he is done. I arrive in the ER at UH at 11:15 am carrying my medical docket from my home care - this has all the post operative information and the intake nurses are impressed that I have made their job easier. I am taken to a bed in the ER department an hour later and wait there for 40 minutes until the surgeon's students arrive to evaluate the situation and then report back to him. They are really young and not too sure about what they need to do but I humor them by complying to their requests. They are trying to determine wether the issue is muscular or vascular... at least that is what I surmised by the repetitive muscle push/pull test. The pain is almost at my wrist and is now difficult to extend it. The muscular part of the inner forearm is painful to the touch and this has now extended as well to just above the wrist. There is swelling at the exit wound for the drain and it is difficult to pull my arm in to the chest. The young lad is now looking into the young gal's face and searching for a 'what's next?' and asks her if she has anything she would like to ask - 'no, I'm good' she says and looks down at the paperwork - awkward moment for the both of them, I just smile rather amused by the whole experience and know that this is a learning experience. The surgeon will be able to sort it all out when he comes down later.

I am laying on the gurney trying to close my eyes but the conversation in the curtained off bed beside me has captured my attention. The patient has been in an altercation with her now ex-boyfriend and he has punched her hard enough to bruise and possibly crack her ribs..... I can hear her telling her friend that the old ladies at the trailer park have taken out their lawn chairs at 3 in the morning to watch the police arrest him...... not something I would be proud of for sure. Too many people seem to get themselves in situations that are clearly not in their best interest, yet they stay. Life in my world is precious and although I have had my ups and downs in relationships - when my ex hit me in front of my two year old while pregnant with my second child - it was a no brainer.... the relationship was over and that was that. It took a long time to work through that and raise the boys alone for a few years but it was worth it. I am mentally sending her best wishes that she gets herself to a good place and enjoys the kind of relationship that I have.

My surgeon arrives and is wearing a big smile and his hospital greens. He has just finished his last operation of the day and tells me that I should not apologize for inconveniencing him. The small cubicle is now filled with a nurse and the young female student as the Doctor sits himself down at the end of the gurney. I think the drain is what is antagonizing the nerve that we saved during surgery and it needs to come out now. He gets a pair of scissors from the nurse and cuts away the stitches holding it in place. He offers to have me pull it out and I look at him funny. Go ahead, it won't hurt!! I pull out about 6-8 inches of tubing painlessly and the nurse is amazed at how little was inserted. Apparently if you have breast reconstruction or augmentation, the tube insertion is quite long - oh goody, another tube to look forward to in the ensuing months!! The cubicle next to me is quiet.... it is their turn to listen in to our conversation. The surgeon is now instructing me to keep my breasts up and supported by a bra until all healing is complete.... and then we laugh when I say that my husband has already offered his support while the surgeon is making hand gestures to that effect. The laughter is infectious and even the nurse is finding this amusing. The surgeon flashes me another white grin and lets me know that the pathology is not in yet but he will be seeing me on Thursday. I thank him and think - what a really genuinely great guy and realize that I am so lucky to have people like him in my journey. The nurses are smiling at me and wish me well in my journey... one even looks for me after I have left - with my post surgical care records in her hand she is searching for me and is relieved when I have caught her on my way out of the washroom. Thank you for helping me today and I am off.... it has been 3 1/2 hours at UH.

Although I still have pain in my arm this morning, it is nowhere close to what I have been experiencing over the past few days. I have nerve damage in my back and know that it will be at least a week before the pain dulls but until then, I will continue to stretch and keep my muscles and tendons from stiffening up. Good thing I was not taking those pain pills, I may not have noticed the pain soon enough.... nerves are not so forgiving with constant aggravation. Pain, I explained to my eldest son, is nature's way of warning us that something is wrong. That being said, my sinuses were bothering me last night, so I took a sinus pill - medicine is good when it is used properly.

I am looking forward to our annual neighbor BBQ. I was unable to make the things I wanted to so I had to be satisfied with a trip to Costco. I will have to do something special for my neighbor friends when I am up to it.