Western education 2013

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

.... Marita's supper club

..... I am constantly in awe of the people in my world who are so wonderful that words can barely begin to describe the gratitude I am feeling these days..... and to those individuals that have offered support and kind words that I have never met but who are aware of my plight...

I finally managed to get through almost an entire day without having a nap!!! I am feeling better but nowhere close to being myself yet. The fatigue is still a constant reminder and pulls at me when I push myself off the couch to make a cup of tea. My cold is still hanging in and I can feel the tickle in my throat... I can safely say that it is finally abating but taking its time in doing so. Debbie D. has emailed me through facebook the night before last and would like to bring supper for my family and I am grateful for the offer and jump at the opportunity for a guest. She arrives in the afternoon and expertly finds a spot in the fridge for the Chicken casserole that she has made... she announces that her kids didn't like it and I grin... so like Debbie in her very down-to-earth way!! xoxo We get a chance to chat and then she is off after hugs and best wishes. You are a total sweetheart with a huge heart!! Later in the afternoon, my spidey senses tell me to check my work emails online, which I do anyway every few days to clean it up, but today the feeling was a little more pressing....

.... and there they were, a series of emails naming 8 co-conspirators who have decided to organize a 'Marita's supper club'. Each person has agreed to provide my family with a meal one evening of the week starting with Tuesday 27 October..... I sat in my chair so stunned and did not realize the tears had started and were now spilling down my face in torrents. I am speechless and when Max returns my call, I cannot speak through the emotions and he waits patiently on the other end while I wipe my tears and find the words. He is silent and you can hear his words waver as he quietly says how very fortunate we are. One less thing for Max to have to coordinate and he is deeply grateful.. working two jobs and staying up late to mark a few hundred projects has left him with little time and energy. He never complains. Our first dinner comes by way of Bondi's Pizza from Mandi - the children were ecstatic and it hit all the right spots... thank you my friend.... for everything. oxoxoxoxo

I take bedtimes with Lydia so that Max can mark his projects and get to bed at a reasonable time. Our meetings are always in my bed these days and Lydia finds comfort in snuggling in next to me while I read to her. It is something we have always done - it is a sense of comfort for her. I have more energy tonight and she kisses me often and lets me know how much she loves me. She tells me that she knows I will do my very best to get better and that she knows that I love her no matter what happens - she even likes my hair and makes every attempt to style the 1/2 inch sticking up but no clips will stay in. Oh well, at least she can wash it and makes plans to get me in the bath tomorrow night. I fall asleep before she does and her little voice wakes me up with a jerk a number of times before I tell her to go to sleep...... I am too tired to open my eyes and her little hand finds its way to my cheek and gives me a pat.... I love you mommy, no matter what happens......

Mitchel is getting picked on at school... I think more than anything, he is painfully aware of his emotions and has always worn them on his sleeve... the kids might not know what he is thinking but I am sure they sense that his guard is down. I have written a note to his teacher and her lovely card evoked yet more emotion as she promises to keep an eye out on him and will let me know how he is doing. The staff at the school all know and they are watching over my two youngest children. Mitchel should hopefully feel more confident as the school year progresses and sees that he has the support in place that he needs.... this will be a growing up year for him in many ways.

William is still sick but maintains the mask while outside of his room and around others... he understands that he must be diligent. He comes to talk to me on Monday evening and lets me know that his girlfriend's mother has fallen off the wagon again and that she is taking it out on her and her brother. The brother will be taken in by Dad who lives a few blocks away but she is on her own. No problem Will, she can stay with us as long as she needs. Her father gives permission and her mother calls Will to confirm that she is safe. Poor soul, so young and just needing some stable parents who are mature enough to handle their own lives for a change. She comes to the door crying and I hold her for a few minutes before getting her some leftovers to eat.... we heat her up something from the fridge and get the rest of the family to help make a bed for her and get her settled.... I am heading for bed. No matter what is going on, I am still there for my children.

Thursday 29 October.....

..... going to Yoga class this morning despite the fact that I still feel wiped and my nose is still running. I use the Neti pot and then climb into a hot shower. I look at my face in the mirror and realize that the skin is looking grey around the edges and mottled with spots across the forehead. I have deep rings under my eyes.... I did not sleep well and feel a little edgy. My sense of smell has gone into overdrive and even anything with a slight scent is giving me a headache these days. My hearing too has become as sensitive to sounds as my eyes are to light. The hormones are clearly into overdrive and I feel weepy one minute and angry the next..... this will not bode well later in the day.....

Yoga was wonderful and the girls thought the hair looked great. I was able to feel a sense of normalcy for the first time in a week and stayed to have tea and chat with them after class. Soon it was time to go home and grab a bite. I am hungry a lot these past few days.... voracious more like it. I will eat a portion and find myself getting more food a short while later - apparently this is normal.

I have managed to do light household chores but these tend to tire me easily and just going up the stairs gets me winded and I have to sit down. Not exactly the high energy status I am used to having. Doing laundry yesterday was a day long task along with light cleaning.... I have noticed since I have been unavailable for the past week that things are piling up fast and not much is getting done around the house. I am grateful for the supper club that has come to our rescue because by the time dinner is ready to be made.... I am ready for bed!! So the weepy eyes leaves quickly this evening and the angry eyes show up..... will these mood swings settle soon? I am upset over a few tasks that I had asked Max to do and he has forgotten even after a number of reminders..... instead of a reasonable conversation.... I begin to rant. Somehow, I feel forgotten and not important as I recount the simple items that needed to be addressed while I was incapacitated. It seems ridiculous to Max as he attempts to tell me that I am being unreasonable.... so now I am unreasonable and the point I was trying to make - I really need to know you are there for me and not ignoring me.... fell on deaf ears. Like all arguments that are heated.... there are always two sides. I would have been OK had it not been for the phone call that followed only a few minutes later. I did say that I did not really want to discuss why I was so mad or why my voice was now an octave higher but instead of backing off and calling back - the advice being dispensed on the other end and the immediate need to defend her son pushed every other button I had left inside..... only one thing left to do - I promptly hung up. I just needed support and an apology for not giving the dog her medication for a few days and for not doing the laundry, dishes or cleaning the bathroom that I need to use everyday...... I will be back on line, but right now because I am not, please just help without having to be reminded every day. I guess I am not Super Mom this week and now I know that for one week out of three I will be out of commission so I will devise a handy little chore chart for everyone to look at and note that they are not merely suggestions. For the other two, I will do as much as my limitations will allow for. As for my mother-in-law..... a few days of cooling off will hopefully bring an understanding of maybe the crazy life I am living right now and that I don't need advice.... just your love and support of which you are so good at.

Thank you to the Supper Club for the meals we have been receiving like clock work.... they have helped us tremendously. xoxoxo Pam, I didn't mean to get weepy when you popped in to bring your yummy dinner but I was quite overwhelmed with the love you brought with you as you deposited the dishes on the counter. Thank you to everyone who has offered support and kind words along our journey. This illness has caused stress in our daily lives and affects each one of us in our household just a little differently but we are not alone..... Thank you so much!! xoxox A special thanks to Max for doing the little things for me this morning that I cannot do myself and for understanding that there will be pitfalls along the path and that for better or for worse we will weather the storms that come our way together. xoxo <3

Sunday, October 25, 2009

.... post chemo

..... feeling a little weird these days... the nausea has abated with the help of some really good meds in the form of steroids and anti-nausea. My sinuses have been annoying me for the week with the constant threat of an oncoming infection which I cannot have right now, so desperate times had Max out looking for a Neti Pot....

.... the Neti Pot looks like a tea pot which you put in warm water and dissolve a package of salt - can't read the package so let's assume it is Dead Sea Salt - in keeping with how long this item has been in our human history.... so let's throw in Miss Lydia who giggles hysterically as she watches the water being decanted from the pot into one nostril, only to find it leave just as quickly through the other. Saving the remainder of the sorted details to one's imagination and voila - nasal passages clean and surprisingly I can now breath - weird but wonderful no less!! Lydia would like to try it and we encourage her to sit it the bath - tomorrow. I can now dispense the nasal medication which will now work.... really well.

I have been feeling out of sorts all day - tired, parts of me sore and my stomach in a constant roll as if I was starving.... I feed it crackers and warm tea. I take my temperature twice a day and find that it changes from normal to a slight hint of a fever and note my face is very flushed which goes as quickly as it comes..... something tells me that it has more to do with a shift in hormones than anything else. I have been warned that if I am peri-menopausal... this might just do the trick. I am unusually weepy at the silliest things and then find myself unhappy for no known reason?? Yes, I do believe the hormones are at consequence today. The sinus headache has been a constant companion and refuses to leave but even this is not a normal headache... it seems to encompass the whole head and nothing too specific about where. It is hard to imagine all this chemo cocktail being drunk by every microscopic cell in my body and then washed out by the limitless quantities of warm water I am drinking. It might explain all my symptoms or maybe my constant attention to every little thing I am feeling. The nail beds are still a wee bit pink, having started out as a shade of light purple just after the initial chemo treatment.

I am on fever watch from day 5-14. I am to measure my temperature twice a day or when need be and any hint of a temp over 100.4 is an emergency and I must be seen immediately... this is a critical time in the cycle of chemo because it is the time when the immune system is most depressed.... hence the reason for my neulasta shot. I am able to go out but with a multitude of restrictions. We are now in full swine flu season and apparently in the second wave of it - I know that it has traipsed through my work place and so I have to keep my visitors from work at bay until I get through the danger zone. Max has just taken William to the hospital with a high temperature and I am nervous. We can't keep out all of the germs from our house but have managed to train the kids to use the hand washing station (sanitizer) on the kitchen counter when they go by. We are being as careful as possible but what can you do when you have children who attend school - I am now very aware to not send my children to school when they are not feeling well.... you just never know if they have a classmate who's mother is in the same predicament!! Stay home if you are ill...... the heroics will not be appreciated by those around you when they bring it home to their family.

I have felt like being in some weird dream where you are completely disconnected from everything around you... tired like nothing I have ever experienced and all I can do is lay in bed and watch Miss Lydia flit around talking to me as she displays all her stuffies at the end of it. She has her medical cart beside me and has already made sure that my blood pressure is just right after attempting to hammer the plastic needle into my neck or other inconvenient locations but ones she can access readily!! She is happy as she reads to me and pets my face. She looks into my eyes with her beautiful baby blues and lets me know that she does not want me to die and that she is sorry that I do not feel well.... no sooner said and she is off looking for our favorite book. 'Glad Monster, Sad Monster' is a book I bought for William when he was just really little and my first marriage had fallen apart - he was 2 and terribly confused and I needed a way to get him to share his feelings... albeit a little fellow, he seemed to gravitate to this book after a while, open the page to the feeling he had at the time and make a broad announcement that he was sad, or happy, or loving..... This book now sits in Lydia's hands and we go through the whole book with her giving her own expressions of happy, sad, loving, silly, angry and scared. The book is set into three panels for each with the third one being the monsters face which you place over yours... et voila! Some of the noses on these masks have long since disappeared but not the incredible power it has to provoke some hard feelings and realities. I am slowly teaching Max that yes, Lydia is young but she is also aware that her mother is fighting cancer and we cannot promise her that I will be around for a very long time - he wants to save her from pain but at the cost of losing trust - just not worth it. I tell her that I will do my very best and that I love her.

Max and I take a walk on Sunday to the corner store which is closed... the day is warm and sunny and it feels good to be walking. Lydia has brought her baby stroller with her and runs full tilt ahead of us with her coat tails flapping behind her. I am happy to see that she is not hovering near us - that would be a clear indication of how insecure she might be feeling. Max is walking hand-in-hand with me as we head back home, Lydia now disappointed that the store is not open but with the energy of a Puma, she takes off full tilt down the sidewalk. Max calls her back but she doesn't hear him.... I ask him not to. She is old enough now to know how to stop at the corner and how to cross the road by herself - she is independent and full of life and she is my little girl..... I start to weep and am grateful for the sunglasses I am wearing and the shawl draped over my head to keep it warm. I think fleetingly about her growing up without me and me missing out on all her really great life moments and suddenly find myself overcome with dread. I sweep away the bad thought as quickly as it comes - Max is holding my hand still and says little.... it is a moment in our lives that passes but not without note. The hormones are definitely out of whack - I belong here with my family and I am sure not done living my life by any means.... so the cancer can just shove off!!

Lydia sat in the bath tonight and used the Neti pot.... giggles aside, she got the job done!! Now maybe she won't get the cold going through our house these days. We did homework together and I put her to bed... she wants to cuddle and some nights will sleep with me until Dad comes to bed. Tonight I am not feeling well and need to go to bed early.

It is Monday 26th October....

I am awake and not wanting to be... the fatigue is pulling at every muscle but I am not able to breathe and a cough has started up. My stomach takes another roll and I address its needs first as a wave of nausea hits me. Crackers are down, I am better but still can't breathe that great. It's time to head downstairs to make a cup of tea and leave Max to sleep... I try not to wake him up but he is a light sleeper and rolls over to ask if I am OK - standard response - 'yah, I'm good' as I head down pulling a jean shirt on for comfort. The cat comes to cuddle with me while I wait for the tea to steep.... he has been a constant companion for days along with the dog, who until this morning, refused to leave my side other than to feed or go out. The cat is snuggled in so tight curling between my arms as I type... his purring relaxes me - one of many happy moments through this journey. I appreciate and pay closer attention to things I took for granted not too long ago. I love reading status reports and seeing pictures on facebook which allows me a feeling of still being connected. I put up a pink ribbon on my profile pic last night and really announced to the world that I am fighting a battle. As outward as I may be... it was difficult to finally post it visually..... now everyone knows. It is not something to be shameful of but it is a weakness, a chink in my armor.... I am strong but I am also a woman, a mother and sometimes a little girl and all of these facets of my being are put to the test. I will not be the same person that I was going into this battle... I will be better!!

Thank you to Mary M. who took the time out on a beautiful Sunday afternoon to drop off some yummy banana muffins and to Shelly and Paul for the lovely stew last night. I want to thank all of my friends who have left notes of encouragement and praise on my facebook and who continue to support me through my journey. I am inspired by the kindness and love shown to me and would like to send it back in kind - THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! Thanks to facebook and their creators for a wonderful tool in communication. xoxox

Friday, October 23, 2009

..... chemo day

….. as cool and calm as my exterior may be – my nerves are shot and my anxiety is rising like the temperature on the thermometer in my mouth. It looks like my jaunt near the river with the waving golden rod has erupted into a sinus headache and I can feel the tickle of a possible infection starting – not good timing. I fold the laundry in the two baskets beckoning to me and I delve in grateful for the momentary distraction……

Max pulls into the driveway. He will not be sitting with me through my first Chemo appointment as he is on his way to the college to teach a course. We are all about priorities in our household and you can see the guilt written all over his face, along with a good helping of worry. I have applied some make-up to lift my spirits and take some pictures to photo document my journey – I do this mainly for my children but not to remind them of a terrible disease as much as it is to show that I have accepted my journey and see the positives in the experiences along the way. He smiles at me and gently touches my lips with his. He pulls away to look into my eyes and to ask me how I am? What other answer is there – “yah, we’re good”, I say and smile back at him. He loves the new pink lipstick I got in my Braz swag bag.

I can feel the angst in the pit of my stomach but manage to smile at Max again as he pulls up to the Regional Cancer Unit. We lock eyes and I can sense the worry behind them. I tell him not to worry and step out of the vehicle. I do not look back but breeze through the automatic doors that are now familiar to me. I know that he has waited until he cannot see me anymore before he pulls away. The place is already humming with visitors and patients alike as I make my way over to the Tim Horton’s after picking up my pager at the Chemo kiosk. I am not hungry but choose a bran raisin muffin and a coffee and wander over to a seat near a woman wearing a headscarf. She catches my eye and I smile back…. She quietly asks me if I am there for breast cancer and I nod yes – she opens up and begins to talk about her journey and where in it she is. We are sitting outside of the Radiation suites and that is where she will go when her pager goes off. She wishes me luck when it does but not before complimenting me on my hairdo. I am feeling pretty good and am liking my new temporary look. I head upstairs with my pager neatly tucked into my back pocket and head over to the pharmacy located adjacent to the Chemo suites.

I am submitting my script to the pharmacist and she inquires as to whether or not I have had a predetermination for the cost of the Neulasta injection? This is a critical component in the treatment process that boosts the immune system which ordinarily would take a tremendous hit as all fast growing cells will be destroyed – I have been told that it is a life saver. It is a very expensive injection and I will require one 24 hours after each chemo treatment. I let her know that I have and hand over my employee benefit card. Oh, I just remembered that the insurance company changes benefit structure and that they will only be covering 75% of the medication until I reach an out-of-pocket expense of $1000 dollars and then they will cover 90% after that but for now until then end of the year, it will be covered %100. She understands and indicates that there are avenues of financial support, one of which she will give me their card with contact information that I can call to apply. She then asks if I would like my account to remain open today for any other medications that I may need for treatment at home. Yes. I will return after my therapy to pick up all meds but for now, I make my way over to the waiting room seats. The lady sitting next to me shares the fact that her husband is no longer a cancer patient but is having a pint of blood removed due to too many red blood cells which apparently become sticky and form clumps that do not transfer oxygen when they get to the lungs – it is causing him to have a shortness of breath and creates hardships for the heart and veins. I smile and listen intently until my pager goes off. Good luck dear she says and does a tiny wave as I get up to meet with the nurse waiting in the open doors.

Nurse Hailey smiles and introduces herself with a handshake and asks me which I would prefer to sit in – my choices are bed or lazy boy and I choose the comfy looking lazy boys….well, as comfortable as it could be being vinyl covered. A few of the beds near by are inhabited with some elderly people. I am seated comfortably with a hot blanket across my knees and a pillow behind me for support. I am offered a glass of Ginger ale or juice to swallow the steroid pills (3) and the anti-nausea (1), which I gulp down with the Ginger ale. She cautions me to take all medicines as prescribed and to not miss taking any of them – I remember stories of horrible nausea and vomiting of which I am a fan of neither…. Mental note to self – do as instructed. She goes over some preliminary details of the chemo ward and mentions all the support offered by the unit in the form of social work, financial assistance and even mentions that the children could be offered a tour of the facilities after hours if we wanted to. She explains each of the steps in my treatment of FEC-D. There are 3 components to this treatment as she goes over the finer details of what side effects that I may or may not experience. She expertly inserts the IV as she talks to me about the first injection – a syringe with a unique docking tip that twist locks into its mate on the IV. This is then manually injected into the IV along with the next set of very large syringes – 3 in totally and sporting a brilliant red colour. The E is now manually injected one after another as Hailey once again explains each of the meds and what side effects they may exhibit. The third in the series – C – is an IV drip bag, which has the memorable side effect akin to that of a brain-freeze and I cringe at the thought of the possibility of an instant sharp pain through my already sore sinuses. She can alter the speed of the drip if in the event that that happens so just flag her or any of the umpteen RN’s flitting around from station to station. I have to pee – a consequence of drinking a gallon of water before coming to the unit – excessive fluids help to flush the system of the drugs faster. I am warned that it might look red….. again the dye in the syringe is red but really the pee is orange. I am back to my cozy chair and pull back just in time to witness the young man beside me vomit into the bowl that the nurse seemed to instinctively know was needed. They quickly closed his curtains for his privacy and our comfort and administered a quick shot into his IV….. they are on this so quickly that his nausea subsides almost immediately. Crisis over, they log everything on the computers mere steps away so that this does not happen again.

I am conversing with the newest patient and her daughter – they have seen my edema sleeve and are amazed by it… they are joined into the conversation by others around us. My dragon sleeve is once again a huge hit with both staff and patients. I proudly display it and tell them about the company that makes it. Tracy from LympheDIVAs had sent me an email wishing me luck on my first Chemo. As it was Tracey – all went well with no brain freeze. Thanks for supporting my and my family with your lovely well wishes. Nice to know I have some fans in Philadelphia!!!

As I am leaving the chemo suite I bump into Annie from the class the day before. She has the shakes and is slightly hunched over but smiles as she looks up at me when I call out her name. She is waiting her turn and you can see she is very nervous but fortunately she has brought a friend with her. I give her a gentle hug when we meet and when we part. Good luck and best wishes.

The pharmacist is waiting for me with all my meds, hands me the business card I will need to contact the financial aid and sets about explaining in detail when I need to take my meds. She hands me a special pill that I am to take the morning of my next Chemo and I tuck that into my change purse where it will be safe. She has given me an ice pack to keep the Neulasta cold until my ride comes to pick me up… that will be in a few short hours. I would discover later in filing the scripts that the injection costs $2,638 per one shot syringe and I need 6 of these!!!! Now that IS expensive.

I have a few more conversations with strangers in the waiting area… a woman waiting for her husband who has prostate cancer and a Portuguese woman with her daughter and friend to keep her company while she waits for her first visit. A yellow jacket is moving my way and the beautiful face that greets me with the wonderful hug is from Raye – our receptionist’s wife at the station. She is so lovely and sits to talk with me for a while. She tells me that I can call her anytime – she has found her calling helping out people when she can…. A truly beautiful soul. She lets me know that I can borrow wigs at their volunteer office and goes over some of the services provide besides the cookies and coffee offered while you wait. Hugs again and she is off helping someone else. I wave to the three ladies across from me and they indicate how nice it is to have met me – likewise, I say. Talking too much can have its merits it seems J

Brenda M. picks me up at the front of the Cancer Unit where I have stood in the shadow of the building with my warm pashmina scarf covering my head. She laughs when she sees me – she didn’t have her glasses on when we spoke earlier in the morning on the phones from our back decks and wants me to remove it so she can take in the glory of my shorn scalp. She laughs but recognizes that it was the best thing to do and I agree. She pulls up the driveway and asks if I need any help – just tired but no thanks. I wave as she drives off. The fatigue pulls at me but the steroids I took won’t let me sleep.

Homework with Lydia and private chats with each family members winds the day to a halt as I take my sinus medicine and nose spray that Max has picked up from the drug store. The relief to my sinuses is immediate and sleep soon follows.

Thanks to everyone for their incredible notes, comments, phone calls, text messages and support for my journey today. Even though I was in the chemo suite by myself – I took you all with me!! xoxoxo

Monday, October 19, 2009

.. busy, crazy week!!

..... most of the time we end up waiting for something - I am perpetually waiting for doctors to appear, tests to be done and return calls to come in.... sometimes the wait is short but most often it is lengthened according to the growing numbers in the waiting rooms...

Monday October 19, 2009

Today I am going to do a bone scan at the 'old Vic' campus - which as it turns out, is not where I thought it was and so with Susan H. and our coffees purchased at the Tim Hortons just north of Victoria hospital - we enter through the doors of the old section of the hospital, only to find out that Nuclear Medicine is located in the newer section. There is an abundance of construction and re-construction at all our London hospitals but the sinking feeling in my gut as we progressed into the newly constructed Nuclear Medicine wing was confirmed by the receptionist that we in fact in the wrong hospital - it seems that 'Old Vic' is located in the old hospital on South street........ oh DEAR!! We have 15 minutes to get to where we should be but the receptionist makes a few calls and by luck - they can inject me with the radioactive isotope necessary for the scan which will take place in a little over 3 1/2 hours....

With the injection done and hours to spare, we go over to 'Just Between Friends' and I pick out a cotton knit night cap - it will keep my head warm during my winter sleeps. There are a few other items of interest but I find them a little pricey so we leave with just the one item. I am taking her out to lunch to one of my favorite lunch spots - Ben Than out on York and Ridout. She has never eaten there and takes delight in this new discovery. It is a great opportunity to chat about everything and anything and I enjoy her company tremendously. We have arrived before the lunch crowd and finish before it fills up to capacity. The sunshine and warmer temperatures as we step back out into the street inspires me to suggest that we go for a walk in the small park near the South Street campus. Great, lets go she says. More chatting and fresh air as we make it to the end of the short path and find a few points of interest on the way back in the form of snakes sunning themselves on the asphalt path. The largest of the snakes is a Garter snake and we are amazed at how it holds up its head and looks around aware that we are inches away... when the opportunity comes..... its winding body slithers away. I just finished reading the biography of Teri Irwin "Steve and Me" and I am stunned by how strong and resilient a human being he was and how much energy he had.... almost as if he was in a hurry to finish everything he aspired to completing in the short life he had lived. He was one with nature and especially the snakes and crocodiles he loved so much - I smile at what one human being can accomplish and how he passed on that passion to the family he left behind ...... we should all be warriors in our lives - imparting our wisdom and learning to make the most of every day, love deeply and passionately and learn to always move forward.......

The warrior in me gets called upon in the toughest of situations and going into the bone scan pulled up the reserves. I can manage tight spaces in my job which sometimes requires such but when a buzzing machine closes up mere inches from my nose - I squeeze my eyes shut and try to find my happy place.... I seem to be having a challenge remembering what that is and where I left it. My blood pressure begins to rise and I am feeling what amounts to sheer panic - I can feel every muscle tense and then the little voice deep within calls for back-up in the form of a singular mental call to Betty..... someone who is a gentle soul I think of who brings me instant relief - I can feel my blood pressure drop and I am good to go. The scan in its entirety takes 45 minutes and I am relieved to get back out into the fresh air and in pace with Susan. It has been a long day but a good one. Susan gives me hugs and wishes me well. We will be emailing each other to keep in touch.

Tuesday 20 October

Today I meet my Radiation Oncologist whose schedule is an hour behind and I am grateful that I am one of his first patients of the day.... I wonder about the ones he will see in the afternoon. I run into a few people that I know... Martha from my daughter's old daycare and Sue from my Yoga class... I think about what Max would say....we can't go anywhere without someone coming up to me to say hi!! We catch up for a few minutes before I head in. I am examined using a very large caliper and laugh aloud... the Oncologist appreciates the engineer in me and has a bunch of questions. He is young and quite pleasant as he goes over the details of my cancer and is relieved that my chemo will start in a few days... so am I. He mentions that the breast cells have a pre-disposition to cancer and that the radiation will kill any that have crossed over and have become cancerous. He throws a bunch of numbers at me and I am trying to wrap my head around the possibilities of re-occurrence and how we are going to reduce those chances .... I am thinking that my yoga class had a great suggestion - record any and all meetings with the Oncologists. This way you can listen and scribble everything later and be able to ask questions during the meeting you will have prior to radiation and before the end of chemo. I am asked to partake in a trial and agree that I would like to try the one trial which will commence after the chemo is completed. It is now 2 1/2 hours later and I have time to grab a quick breakfast and head out to my Art Therapy class.

I am ambling up the sidewalk heading towards Wellspring and see a face that I have only seen on my facebook account - a friend of a friend who is also going through her own journey. I turn to hug her and let her know that she can call anytime and when I am feeling up to it, we can go out for coffee. Our Art class is busy today with faces I recognize and some newer ones that have just been diagnosed and one whose husband has just recently passed. I mention to the girls that I am getting my hair cut off the next day which opens the doors to some candid conversations and some great tips for the new girls - I am approached by one of them as she thanks me for being so open and sharing with the tips she will take with her to go shopping for a wig, a notebook she will take with her to her next appointments and to not investigate her cancer on the internet....... I do not do any research surprisingly enough - too much negative stuff put out there by ill-informed people. There are sites listed in the cancer handbooks you get if you really need the gritty details. I know what I have and what I need to combat it - that is good enough for me right now. The details are in my notebooks should I ever need to consult it.

21 October 2009

Today is the day I watch my locks get clipped by Thomas as Sarah stands by with my camera to take the photos which will later be uploaded to friends far away and on facebook. I will also send one to my husband at work.

Sarah is dropped off early this morning and we have a coffee while the kids are running around getting ready for school. We are heading out the door first on our way out to the dealership to get my winter tires on - weird that it is always really warm and snow free when that happens!! We take the opportunity to walk over to McDonalds near by for breakfast and chat about everything and anything..... she has grown up into a beautiful young woman and I am glad for her company today. We finish up and head over to Costco to pick up some fruit, croissants and fruit juice for Thomas knowing that he will not have had breakfast on his way to the salon. Thomas will meet us there at 11 am to remove my hair for me and give me a pixie cut.... I had one as a little girl and remembered all the teasing I got.... then as a soldier in the armed forces. Now I would have one as a chemo patient - I do not want to have to deal with large chunks of hair falling out in my hands as I shower or when I go to brush it - I think that I would find that horrifying more than anything else..... so after Thomas pulls up the first handful of hair to cut and I feel the scissors walk through the clump.... the tears well up and I catch my breath. I suck it up and smile - caught off guard and surprised by my reaction. Bless Sarah for catching that moment and all the rest while Thomas worked steadily to remove each handful carefully. It definitely looked longer on my head than it now does in his hand. Oh, well..... moving on... he washes my hair and towel dries it. He takes a great deal of care to make sure the cut is done well and is tidy in the back. I am handed my hair kept neat and tidy within elastics to possibly save for a time when it might be put back on as extensions.... or not. Thank you so much for being a loving and kind friend.... xoxoxox

It is time for me to drop off Sarah and to make my way up to the hospital to take the chemo course..... filled mostly with people much older than me. I have an opportunity to speak with the primary nurse who will be giving the course which will give us an overview on the important items that we need to be aware of. There are two of us who have cut our hair today for our chemo tomorrow and I have the pictures on my camera to show.... they all want to see them and are amazed at how different I look. The gentleman behind me tells me that he has an advanced bladder cancer - his high blood pressure and diabetes is complicating the issue and the only recourse is chemo - he looks down at his hands and I am at a loss to say anything.... the lady next to me shares with me that her stage IV cancer is in her lungs and breast and tells me that she kept asking her doctor to help her when she felt that something was wrong and he ignored her requests, instead sending her to a phychologist.... you must always advocate for yourself it seems and to make sure that you find a doctor that will listen to you.... I am grateful for my new physician whom I got to see earlier in the day ( I popped in to deliver my insurance papers for her to fill out) and who advocates well for me. I shudder with the thought that I could have ended up like Annie who now will fight for her life. She is scared and physically moves a little closer to me. After class, I walk her out and will see her tomorrow when we are both in chemo together. I watch as she struggles to walk and realize that she is not much older than me but wears the weight of the world on her sagging shoulders. I turn to walk the long walk back to my car which is in the far parking lot on the other side of the campus where the cancer clinic is located. With probably 3000 spots times a conservative nine dollars per day...... the money is staggering and I am glad that I will be getting rides in the future. Time for home.

It is a big Brownie event with a sing-a-long in the mall just down the street. I will be walking with her and Max..... she looks at me and tells me that I absolutely can not go with her. She looks at me and tells me that I have to wear a wig or I am not going. She starts to cry when I tell her that my feelings are hurt. Max tries to jump in and be helpful but now there are two of us with hurt feelings. I ask her to come and see the lovely comments that my loving friends have left for me on my facebook from the morning's photo shoot. I read them out loud and she looks at me again. This time, I am allowed to go with her but next time when I have no hair left I will have to wear the wig or something on my head. I agree and the trip to the mall is painless...... until one of the mom's I have known for years walks up to us. She is always nervous around us and I can't for the life figure out why?! but she stands there staring and for some reason I let her know that next week there will be no hair...... now I am nervous and I kiss my daughter and saunter away with my husband beside me. He is perplexed and all I can tell him is to save his comments for some other time - I know I do not have to explain myself but here again was an awkward moment. I was trying to save my daughter from having to answer questions from her the next week and making her feel singled out. The leader gives me a wave and tells me that she loves my hair. I smirk.... I actually like it too.

I wish to thank Sarah for your wonderful company and the time you took out of your day to be with me, I love you so much!! It was peaceful walking through the neighborhood waiting to see my doctor - not my regular speed by any means but the slower pace lets me take in the beauty of the old Victorian houses. I wish to thank Thomas for his kindness and understanding that it is not just hair. You are a good friend and I love you!!

Tomorrow is my first Chemo session.... the beginning of another chapter!!! xox

Saturday, October 17, 2009

.... Braz

.... the month of pink continues with 'Braz for the Cause' on Friday night - a spectacle to be seen and one that leaves you in awe...

I wasn't really sure what to expect as I appeared at the front entrance to the Canada Building at the Western Fair Grounds with a hundred dollars and a kiss from my husband - absolutely no men allowed at this event as I turn to watch him pull away from the curb and head back home. The front entrance is starting to look crowded with small gatherings of women dressed in their group's unique dress and the telltale signs of their Braz concealed under jackets open to the cool autumn air. I am alone and wondering if I will run into anyone I know - this is such a joke between Max and I when you think about how many people I run into just doing errands.... I step into the makeshift hallway - black cloth covered tall barriers which hide the amazing amount of tables behind and keep the event private and away from any curious eyes. I am stunned by how many tables are arranged within the large room and how intimate it feels with the tablecloths and touches that looks remarkably like a wedding reception. I find my table and note that it is a table just one away from the stage in the front. On my way there I run into two women I have not seen in quite some time and spend a few minutes catching up. I am wearing a black tank top with my decorated bra worn on the outside of the top. At a quick glance, it looks as if I am exposing my girls to the world..... only my one girl no longer quite fits the cups that are decorated with a simple flower where a nipple should be and the cups outlined with a bright pink boa.

I take a walk about and find Sue working the raffle tables and hugs and kisses later I find myself in the bar line and order a wine. I have purchased a ticket for a hot tub draw and select a lovely bracelet attached to it. I look at all the silent auction items but do not put out a bid - the gifts are lovely but I am watching my pennies these days and settle on purchasing a pin that says 'believe' . Last year I was part of a large group of women that raised money for cancer and the bracelet that my soul friend Jilly had made for me - our group was called the Believers.... I smile and pin it to my purse to join the others there including one I received in the mail this morning. That pin is a pink heart which crosses over at the bottom forming the tails of a ribbon ..... its identical one is with the owner that sent it..... Sarah, you are the light in so many people's lives, an old soul that is compassionate and loving in everything you do. I have known you most of your life and we have evolved from me watching you, you watching my children and then growing into a wonderful young woman who is now my peer and my dear friend. We are all the better for having you in our lives and enriching us with your love, laughter and incredible kindness. I will love you always and forever, thank you so much for every thing!! As I look around the crowd that is now amassing in groups around their tables I feel incredibly blessed by these women and the women I know and love. I am joined at the table by women I do not know but converse and laugh with throughout the evening. Annarita, Mandi, Sue and Tara complete the table for the exception of one lone chair. Dinner is great and the conversations flow - the fashion show from the Fashion and Design class of Fanshawe college is fun and the bras they have made are creative and fun - so in keeping with their youth and exuberance. The groups of women that have formed themed 'boob' apparel are eliciting hysterical laughter and clapping as they pose and dance across the stage in hopes of being this year's winner. Our last chair gets filled with the beautiful Julie A. who has come to see me on her dinner hour from the station. I am thrilled and what a wonderful surprise - I am touched that she is there supporting me. Love you girl!! She has fans everywhere she goes and smiles politely when the lady behind us tells her that she falls asleep to her weather report every night. She is a fan and wants to tell Julie how much she likes her. Those of us lucky to know her can't find anything not to like :).

The evening is winding down for me... I am tired and find that my energy is not what it used to be - i look at the dance floor and wish I had it in me to dance. Teresa was sitting a few tables away with Mary M but I cannot see her any longer... she just had a chemo treatment on Tuesday and with just three days since then she is looking tired and probably left sometime during the show. There are some bald ladies in amongst the audience who feel free to walk about - they are not so self-conscious amongst the ladies here. I have gone to check out the displays after hugging Julie who heads back to work and find myself talking to the ladies from the look good, feel good program - I take their business card and know that I will call them in the next week to get in for a make-up and moisturizer lesson. Just Between Friends is there as well.... I was just there the day before looking at wigs..... and speaking of wigs....

I met with Thomas after Yoga on Thursday morning. We met for lunch at Cora's and chatted while we ate. Our mission is to go and look at wigs. I am balking at the whole notion of wearing one at all but he has convinced me that if anything, it couldn't hurt to look around. Thomas knows hair and he knows wigs - really the best person for the job. We check out the first place just south of the hospital on Wellington Rd. - one of the girls in my art therapy group thought it was a great place to start since she had purchased a few there a couple of weeks earlier. I was amazed at how many there were lining the wall well above our heads. I tried on a few wigs but found a long-haired one that kept catching my eye. The color reminded me of the under lights I get for the winter streaks in my blonde hair. Will miracles never cease... I actually liked it and it looked least for now. I will not know what will look good on me when the hair falls out and my skin changes color but for now I am satisfied with what I see. We put it aside and let her know that we are looking at another store as well but will likely be back. 'Just Between Friends' is a store tucked into the strip mall just behind the Staple store and north of the hospital. We enter in to find two lovely older women who are both cheerful and helpful. They have a good selection of well-fitting wigs, hats, pins, pashminas and items for mastectomies... the list goes on. They also offer hair cutting for those of us about to lose our locks - they do this usually before your first chemo because the trauma of losing your hair in clumps is emotional enough but the tender scalp you will have makes it hard to clip without discomfort. It amounts to a brush cut. Thomas will be taking my long blonde locks off on Wednesday - the day before my first chemo. We leave the store with their business card and the model of the wig that looked great but paled in comparison to the long haired one at the other store. We went back and purchased it - great wig at a great price. I might just wear it more than once :). Thomas, you are so thoughtful to spend your time with me and such a fun guy to hang out with - I love you, my friend!! Thank you for your kindness and hugs!!

I am worn out and it is time to leave the 'Braz'. I have had an amazing time, hugged Julie S. for the umpteenth time and wait for Sue to finish up - she is my ride home. We laugh on the way to dropping off her long time friend Sue home and then it is my stop next. She pulls into the driveway and asks who is sitting with me at my first Chemo appointment? When I tell her that it is just me going she asks if I am sure that I don't need anyone with me. 'Aren't you scared?' she looks at me with a quizzical glance. I answer 'no' then ask her 'should I be?'. I have done most of my appointments alone for the exception of the first diagnostic tests with Max in the waiting room.

I am not afraid.... not sure why but perhaps being organized and reading all of the literature that the nurses have given me and asking questions has given me reason not to be afraid. I know that after the treatments begin, I will not be venturing out much as I am not able to get a flu shot and cannot endanger myself in public with the risk of already having a compromised immune system. My one dresser drawer is full of head gear, a wig, a night cap (to keep my head warm at night and to keep the hair loss contained), and a selection of pashminas (scarves). I have stocked up on my toiletries and have gone to the library to get a few more books to keep me going over the next 3 weeks. Our groceries are stocked up and the food certificates from my friends have filled our freezer with quick meals on days that I cannot cope or have enough energy to get through the day. My Wii fit plus is available to work out on everyday away from the public.... I do have a membership to Goodlife which I will go to during quiet times through the week day when I am able. I believe that I am as prepared as I can be.... time will tell how good a job I did. Max works two jobs and is so busy that I do not want him to have to run around for anything more than he needs to.

Thanks to Mom who has driven down with a chili lunch. She stays the afternoon and mentions that she would like some ivy from my plant above the sink. I must have known - weeks ago I cut the plant and the roots are now protruding from the leaf joints. I get some soil from the new bags Max just picked up a few days ago and the two of us gently put the rooted ends into the pot I have found in the garage. The ivy is from our wedding 8 years ago - it is a reminder that our marriage, like the plant, must be cared for. Ivy means vibrancy, it is a symbol of determination and of survival - how appropriate that we are doing this so close to my treatment.... it also means 'to stick with our friends, no matter what'.... I love all kinds of ivy and now I know why!!! I walk her out to the car and with lots of hugs and kisses later, she is off for the drive home. Love you Mom..... we really appreciate all that you and Dad do for us. Max is always grateful when his parents come and watches her from the window as she pulls away.

I wish to thank the staff at Dr. Spagnoulo's dental office for making sure that all of us were seen by the dental hygienists including myself in hopes that I would be taken care of before the chemo sessions. I understand that mouth sores are a real possibility and that they want me to have a great start. Thanks girls!! Sending you all tons of hugs and thanks to you all for looking after us and supporting us.

Thanks to all my lovely friends who are there - no matter what!! xoxoxoxoxo

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

.... a busy week ahead to prepare for

...... its funny how even though you expect things to happen, it always takes you by surprise when you get the date - a finite time that your expectations will meet your reality ......

.... next week has most definitely become booked starting Monday with a bone scan, Tuesday with an appointment for radiation Oncology, Wednesday with a class for patients about to embark on their Chemo therapy and Thursday for the first installment of 6 rounds of Chemo....

Thursday night Brenda A popped in - we were on a mission to find the perfect pattern and materials to make a warm hat to cover what will be a soon-to-be shorn head..... I am assured that my hair will not survive the chemo treatments that I will be having!! We wonder around Fabric Land in search of fall colors and materials that will suit my tastes and of course a few questions for the lady at the cutting table.... we need to know what to line the hats with and will they be appropriate for a sensitive scalp - she looks at me and realizes that she is talking to a fellow breast cancer patient! She knows exactly what we need and marches ahead of us to show us some cuddly material organized on bolts in a display near the rear of the shop. She is chatty and open about her ordeal last year at this time..... if it doesn't get any smaller a world... the lady I take Art Therapy with a few days later... well, knows her!! Kim is a reserved and quiet woman who reveals to me that she would rather not talk about her journey at all if she can help it and is perplexed at my sunny disposition - I tell her that I am being myself and yes, at times I fight with the threat of depression but it doesn't last long.... laughter is so a part of who I am and I pray my journey doesn't turn me away from the joy around me. We are all so different in our perspectives and how this disease affects us. It is not going to steal what I worked so hard to achieve in my life and I trust that it will make me stronger, nicer and more empathetic to others around me and hope that I never lose touch with that part of me that this journey has opened up - the notion that at the end of the day, it is my family and who I am that really counts. The legacy that I want to leave behind one day when it is my time to leave.... is that I taught my children well and gave them the skills and opportunities to make their lives better than mine and to always hold others with respect and courtesy, to love deeply and to forgive those that can't. My journey has allowed me to meet people I would not have met and to seek out those that I want to. This journey puts a sharp focus onto what are clear priorities and what is not. I was not feeling well and needed to return home quickly - last night Brenda A. dropped off a terry head cloth... she wanted me to have one ready for sleeping in when the time comes and tonight we will cut the pieces out for each of the hats - you are a very dear friend. xoxoxox

I booked a meeting at work to tidy up the details necessary to finish off the year of recreational events yesterday.... a room full of women who are also my friends - it is always great to meet with this bunch of incredibly energetic women who are a pleasure to be around and who always jump in to help without issue. We chat about the impending hair loss that I will be faced with and they are all for me getting a wig that is a bit more edgy than my blonde locks!! I am going shopping soon with Thomas to see what is out there in the wig section. He is the perfect companion for the task at hand and I am anticipating the same kind of laughter being shared around the meeting table. Mandi has given me a ticket to Braz for Friday night and although I have my trepidation's... I am looking forward to experiencing the event first hand. My good friend Sue will be volunteering this year and has offered to be my designated driver. I am not sure how much I will be able to drink with this nagging fatigue but I am sure I will do my best. Mary is part of a large group of women participating in the team spirit with a themed bra design... I have seen pictures of her in the last year's event and judging by the smiles they always have a good time. Annarita as well will be at our table and it will be fun just watching the participants with her funny and often twisted sense of humor (said with love *squeeze*)!! Thanks Keri.... as always you have been supportive and super kind.

Thank you to Julie and Wyatt who came to visit this morning!! What a wonderful mom and a super yummy little man bearing scrumptious treats, hugs and kisses!! He brought back so many great memories of my first baby and how his curiosity and sweetness made life so magical for me as did all three of my children. They have taught me so much about myself and what is important in life. When you boil it all down - it is my children who give me the drive to get up on the mornings I just can't and will continue to give me the strength and ambition to get through this journey and to the other side - intact and still smiling!! My husband is always there - steadfast, strong and incredibly affectionate and loving..... I am so lucky. I will see you soon Julie - I love you so much and miss you!! Give the little man a squeeze for me and my best to Rob. :)

In Art Therapy yesterday our new assigned project is about what we are thankful or grateful for. We are to put them into a circle cut into 4 equal parts.... mine would encompass the following items if I can make it to the next class to start it - Every day that I get up and help my children to get ready for school and do the 'mom' things that they have come to appreciate - I am grateful. When my husband loves me for who I am and takes the brave leap to support me in turbulent times without missing a beat - I am grateful. When my friends just love me and let me know that they are there for me - I am grateful. When a perfect stranger extends a hand out, a smile or a simple courtesy to help me - I am grateful. Funny, how I can come up with way more than just four but it breaks down to all the people in my world who have touched my heart in some way or another..... even if they are not aware they are doing it!!

I have a few things remaining to get done this week before my treatments begin - I have no idea how I will be feeling but I do know that with the upcoming flu and cold season, I cannot go to public places or have people visit who are not well. I will essentially be going to a few appointments and to the gym when there are few people in attendance..... yes, no matter how yucky I may feel, I still have to work out daily and drink my berry juices. The immune system needs our bodies to move and to be in shape!! Looking forward to my shopping trip tomorrow. Sending hugs out to everyone!! xoxoxox

Thursday, October 8, 2009

...... cancer unit

...... most things don't really bother me and if they do I rarely notice the symptoms but today my head ached with the changing atmospheric pressure and a sense that my wait time is coming to a close quickly with the Oncology appointment later this afternoon.....

Yoga class was wonderful today and Valerie had selected the final class in this 8 week period to be one of reflection - being good to the temple that holds your soul and to relax the day's stress and worries from it. The timing couldn't be better as I swung my legs up to rest against the wall helping to take out the pain of a knot that had been forming for days.... this would be where the stress of the world sits and becomes painful as the muscles spasm in response. I breathe in and out and try to reduce the headache that is now hammering away at my sinuses and I realize that I have forgotten to take something for it.... oh right - I was up at 3 o'clock administering my third dose of an extra strength sinus tablet to at least quell the sharpness of it so I could go back to bed. That and dealing with yet another heavy and painful period - you know, when it rains.....

Class is over so soon and I wait for Barb to finish her conversation before we head out for a coffee we made plans for the week before. I want to head out to the McDonalds near the hospital so I can squeeze in a quick lunch and purchase some art supplies from the dollar store while I am there. We are following each other when she motions me to turn and then tells me she can't come... she is late for an appointment. No worries, we will catch up another time. In a way I am relieved that I am once again alone - it allows me the freedom to do the little extras before my appointment without having to rush anyone. I keep looking up at the clock as I sit eating my lunch which is tasteless due mostly to a dry mouth - great indicator of stress. I need something to fill my belly considering my head is swimming and I am feeling light-headed. I picked up a few items from the dollar store for the art project I am working on in art therapy - although they provide the supplies... there is a color theme to mine and I have found what I am looking for to complete the project on Tuesday. My first class was on Tuesday at the Wellspring Center. There are four of us sitting at the table with Wanda, our therapist hovering over us and helping us with our projects. One of the ladies has been fighting cancer for 9 years and is on the last ditch effort with chemo - there is no more after this..... sad really. She is quiet and says little after that - its one thing to know you are terminal, it's another to say it out loud. I can see the emotion etched on her face and change the subject to compliment her on her lovely art project. She smiles sideways at me and thanks me. The very pretty woman across from me has had 9 surgeries with the latest being reconstruction and looks about my age. She is talkative but in a quiet mature way while she pays special attention to the details of her project. She has spent a great deal of time making sure the painting is just perfect - the same attention reflected in her dress and well coiffed hair. She has been on her journey for years. The lady who has arrived late is young and by my estimation she hasn't seen her mid thirties yet. She has had a mastectomy and is still shocked by her situation - the one person she could have turned to is dying and she has not had the heart to tell her mother of her own peril. It takes a few minutes to absorb all this and then I let them know that my journey is still somewhere in the middle......

It is now 12:45 and I head over to the hospital. I realize that my pace has slowed considerably in the parking lot and part of me wants to just walk past and keep going. I hang outside texting Eileen - she has offered to come hang out with me if I want but I know she has better things to do and waiting for hours is never a lot of fun. No, its Ok I tell her, I have my book I am reading and really, I will be fine - no really, I am fine. I go through the automatic doors and make my way over to the large reception desk and the wall of plexi glass between us. She is talking really really loudly and repeats my name over and again to make sure she has it right.... I pass her my health card and tell her my name is on it and it would be better than yelling back and forth through the round opening filled with a perforated filter. I look at the waiting room and note a fair number of older patients sitting with a friend or family member. I grab a seat and pull out my BlackBerry to read a book I downloaded the day before in preparation for today's wait. I can feel the man a few chairs down stare at me and then change the course of his eye to a woman wheeling a walker wearing a long head scarf. I go back to my book after looking around at the diminishing numbers. I have filled out the paperwork they gave me with questions about my mental and physical health..... are you depressed? Sitting in this poorly lit waiting room with a monochromatic dull color scheme is depressing enough but seeing the varying age groups that walk by with bald heads is mind boggling. My name is called and I smile at the intake clerk. She thanks me for filling out the paperwork in full and proceeds to check that her information is correct and then walks me to the next section beyond the small waiting room. She is pointing out all the important doorways I need to know like the washrooms and that there is a Tim Horton's downstairs and........... OMG!!!!! Where did all these people come from? There are small seating areas everywhere jammed with people and people standing - If you did not know that this was a cancer clinic, you would swear that people were milling around waiting for a show to start. The nursing desks are encased in box office like structures. The clerk still at my elbow gets me to sit in a chair to wait while she gets me a pager. I have been assigned to Clinic 3 which I am facing but at a distance and looking up is a skylight showing the fall clouds that have begun to darken. The clerk returns a minute later and explains that I must log into the kiosk set up in the two waiting areas and to follow her to the one in the first waiting room as there are fewer people there. The auxillary lady in the yellow coat is helping another new patient in front of me. A very attractive woman with dark hair escorting a tall and very bald young man with the palour of a sickly yellow now stand behind me. They quickly recognize that I am new there and within a minute they have welcomed me and she has explained that her son is 18 and battling his own cancer - we talk about hair and she laughs as she tells me about the day her son's hair starting coming out in patches. His smile is engaging and his eyes twinkle. He is a very handsome young man and you can tell that his mother and him are close. She reaches out to touch my hair and is suprised how soft it is as she tells me that it will become course with Chemo. Are you going to cut your hair before you get chemo? I had thought about it and yes, I will shave it all off when the time comes... just not sure when that will be I say. I wave goodbye as I head back to my seat to wait my turn. My buzzer goes off a few minutes later and the nurse comes to meet me and take me away to be weighed and measured. We walk past the room with the young man and his mother - his face brightens when he sees me and wishes me the best of luck. What a wonderful soul.. best of luck to you too I say. The nurse lets me know that I am a little overweight - bwahahahah - my new Wii fit system tells me I am a wii bit more than just a little overweight. I smile to myself as she paces me around a labyrinth of hallways and rooms to a little exam room with a window facing out to Wellington Rd. The weight has been going on steadily over the past three months which is what finally prompted me to purchase the Wii fit in the first place.

There is a knock on the door and a nurse enters. She is lovely and goes over my information and lets me know that the doctor will be with me soon and that she will be back when he has had a chance to meet with me. The doctor enters a few minutes later and eases himself into a chair... it seems we are both having a long day. He explains my cancer and the course of action that should take place as soon as possible - the only thing we can do for the invasive ductile breast cancer that I have is Chemo. He explains the medications, the proceedures and the chances of reoccurance with the kind of cancer I have. I am scribbling madly in the notebook i had just purchased at the dollar store and hand it to him when he starts describing the schedule that they will be booking for the first visit and the consecutive ones. He draws out the course of events and the special prescription that I will need. I am praying that the insurance company covers most if not all of it. I will look into this tomorrow is a fleeting thought as I intently listen to everything he has to say remembering what my Yoga class told me about taking notes. I had a few questions - yes I will go into menopause which will solve the bad periods I have had since I turned 40 and no I will never be allowed to take anything that has a smackeral of female hormones such as tofu, soya and flaxseed. I will need to bolster myself eating berries, fresh fruit and vegetables - as many as I can and reduce the carb intake...... OK, all doable and duly noted.... I never liked soya anyway!! Yes, I will have a bone scan to determine if the cancer has started its course from the bones... they do not know point of origon and would like to investigate further. He waits to see if I have any more questions... not right now. He will have the nurse return and she will take me to the lab for blood work and have some prescriptions ready for me to submit in advance to see if they are covered. I thank him and off he goes to the next patient. My nurse is back with a ton of paperwork and carefully goes over emergency phone numbers - fever means anything 100 or higher requires an immediate trip to the emerg department, after all, low white cell count can be dangerous and needs to be managed immediately. I will receive my appointments soon via phone call but not to worry they will call soon. Nurse Laura has been assigned to me and has a phone number where I can reach her to ask questions or to get help should something not go so well. Yes, she says I should get my flu shot before my first appointment and will also let me know when the bone scan is booked. She is impressed with my calm and organized manner - frankly, so am I - but to be fair, I have had weeks to mentally prepare and accept my passage and whatever that brings. I collect up my things and she walks me out to show me where I will be having my chemo treatments. The chemo nursing station is one of a number of identical box office type structures that is only differentiated by the smiling faces behind the glass partitions, the little knick knacks adorning the desks and of course the placard above signifying its distinction from the rest. The doorway to the right of the desk is open and I can see a number of lazy boys and beds that are in organized aisles. I will be given a drip every 21 days for a period of two hours each time, Laura lets me know that I should bring a comfortable sweater and some reading material. Our next stop is next door to a pharmacy which I will use to fill the special prescription that I have been issued on one of the scripts that the nurse handed to me before the tour. I smirked when I gazed at the second script for a wig..... not my cup of tea but I will keep my options open. I am then escorted past the chip and drink machines at the far end of the large open waiting room and introduced to the lab technician who will draw blood for a series of tests used as a base for the ones that will be taken when I come in for chemo - this way they can keep track of where I am at in my therapy. The lab technician remarks about the sleeve and mentions seeing a few others similar to mine. There is a carved wooden mouse sitting on top of the computor screen a few feet away and it catches my eye. The detail is intricate and in keeping with a real mouse. Oh, the technician smiles and tells me that one of the patients that comes for treatments carved that and a similar one adorning another computer screen across the room. Amazing what talents we have when we are not rushing through our day to get to our jobs..... I thank her and swing my purse now loaded with pamplets and an assortment of must haves as I move through the doorway. It is quiet now in the cancer clinic with just a few people milling about and a woman smiles at me as I make my way through the exit doors and into the autumn air. So now comes the next chapter of my journey..... still somewhere in the middle.

As I am putting my blog to rest, I have an email from Sue H. She is letting me know that she has signed up for a class at Wellspring..... I am so glad you went to sign up and I hope to see you soon for another cup of coffee. Thank you to all the well wishers today and to the strangers who stopped and smiled at me today - really meant a lot to know that there are those with the capacity to make others happy. Remember to slow down, find an art project of your own, smile at a stranger and hug your loved ones.....xoxoxoxox

Sunday, October 4, 2009

.... Pink October

.... it is raining today and Will wants to go paint-balling with his new gun at an indoor paint ball facility. I take him and Lydia out with a promise to go out for lunch after.....

Saturday 3 October
The floor in the place is incredibly slick from all the vegetable oil that fills these little balls that are used as ammunition. Lydia is invigorated by the action and hovers over Will when he comes out because he has been hit or he needs a refill. She adores him through and through and I smile when I remember having those same reactions to my older brother all those years ago. She wants to play too and is told that she must wait until she is 10. She also wants to know why there are no girls out there playing? I have to laugh - she is so much like me!! I remember times where I would race through the woods which started behind the house we lived in on the base in Kingston as a child and continued to the St. Laurence shoreline a few thousand yards away. I knew that forest by the back of my hand and spent many a day climbing the trees and running along the footpaths playing cowboy and Indians with the neighbor boys. As a soldier in barracks years later... I would wander down and walk through the forest again, breath in the familiar air and walk along the path with the horsetails brushing past my legs - I have been told that the horsetails are as old as time itself..... a piece of our dinosaur past that has survived for all time..... The lady next to me is asking a question....

She is a woman a few years younger than me and you know she has something to say by the look on her face. She wants to know how old Will is and as it turns out, he is the same age as her son, who incidentally has a girlfriend who is having a baby by the end of the month. We chat for a few minutes while the kids are out playing - she is concerned for her son and the unborn child being carried by a young teenage girl. Her worries are reflected in my own face when it comes to my son. You raise them and hope that you have armed them well to combat the troubles they may face off the game field in their own game of life. Will has thanked me a few times in the past weeks saying that he has been taught well... I hope so and am glad that he recognizes how much I love him. Will has come back with an empty gun and with no balls left to fill it, it is time to go for lunch. I shake the woman's hand and we are both happy for the candid conversation - we both wish each other well.

Lydia is hoping to go to a fast food place for lunch but instead I pull into the Angelos off Thompson Road. We enter the door only to be met by a woman wearing a pink shirt and extending a donation box our way 'would you like to donate to the cancer cause?' I suck in a breath, caught off guard I answer 'I already have cancer' and realize that I have said it out loud. I shake my head and herd the kids over to the food counter and I am trying to stop the shaking inside. Will has noticed and asks if I am OK and I quickly respond with a 'sure, fine'. He knows that I am not but leaves it alone and takes the tray from me while I grab us some drinks. The cashier is taking her time with the customer in front of me and so I ask the kids to grab a table and to take the food with them. It's my turn and the cashier is being so sweet, she has given us one of our drinks for free ... something about lunch specials and I thank her. Lydia is hungry and quickly devours her first slice of pizza when one of the lunch counter employees hands her the rest of a smoothie he has made for another customer instead of throwing it out - we thank him too! Out of the corner of my eye I can see a flash of pink. It is the woman from the front entrance and she is looking for the washrooms which are located beyond our table. As she approaches I apologize for being rude and had not meant to make her feel uncomfortable. She walks up to me and looks into my eyes with her big blue ones and asks if I am OK. Yes, I am fine - I guess that I have been pinked out and the reminders are everywhere I tell her and I am surprised by the tears that are quickly forming and threatening to spill over... I see that her eyes are welling up as well as she reaches out and touches my face with a gentle hand and wishes me all the best and wants me to take care. She moves past us and I look down to the table not wanting my children to see that a few tears have escaped and are rolling down my cheeks. I am not as embarrassed as I am shocked that my emotions are so raw. Will is watching me and quietly asks if I am OK - I suck in a deep breath, put the dishes on the tray and looking up at him I say 'Dad wants a pastry, any ideas?' We are off to look around and pick up some Olives, pastries for Dad and some chocolate treats for my children. We are at the cash register and with the change I have received, I hand it over to William to give to the lady collecting. I smile at her and mouth the word thankyou as Lydia and I walk by her. She smiles back and wishes me luck. Will has caught up and quietly puts the handful of little pink ribbons into the cup holders in the console. Ah, more pink. I am pulling out of the lane-way when Will pops a piece of chocolate into my mouth after breaking it off from the bar he has quickly unwrapped. He smiles at me from the passenger seat and I smile back as we pass the clinic where I was first told of my diagnosis three months ago. There are reminders everywhere I go it seems....

Speaking of pink... Friday I made a bra for 'Braz for the Cause' by myself while chatting to the lady I had met at the nail salon. Lenore has posed for some pictures that are being showcased downtown next week. What a brave thing - to show the world what your chest looks like after a mastectomy. She tells me about her two wonderful grown up daughters who have both had their underarms tattooed in their mother's honor with a pink ribbon on the side that the breast is removed. Her girls have been tastefully photographed as part of their mother's photo shoot. I must admit that her girls must adore her - the pain of a tattoo in such a sensitive area is a big deal and as Lenore and I both admit - they will be reminded of their own mother's pain. We end our conversation a few minutes later - it is her last radiation therapy session and she is ecstatic. We promise to call each other soon. I would like to see the photos on display.

Tonight we watched '17 Again'. I thought the movie really had merit and enjoyed it. Would I have changed the path I am now on? Where would I like to 're-start' my life over....... I can't imagine really changing anything, even the cancer thing.... I am an avid believer that every thing happens for a reason, only some of the reasons are not exactly clear until much later. One thing is for sure - it is making me very aware that my emotions are very close to the surface these days. Max and I talk at night while holding hands in the dark and I tell him about the lady at Angelos and I can barely get it out when the tears start to fall.... darn it!! I fight the tears back as I tell him that it is like carrying a glass that is full to the brim and one stumble and the water easily finds its way out and over the edge. Part of me is terrified that I won't be able to stop if I really get going. In Yoga class on Thursday I was telling the Yoga instructor how grateful I am for the break in my week that allows me to be in touch with the spiritual side and I could feel the burn in my eyes begin then.... I know they all understand but I just can't let the floodgates go. I am not feeling sorry for myself, maybe just scared?

I am up of course early and blogging all this in the dark.... in the summer it would be light by now and I would be making a coffee but in October it is pitch black... Thursday after Yoga class I headed out to see Lisa who had fitted me for my first medical compression sleeve - I need to swap it for a new one as this one has the stitching in the Gauntlet coming apart. I have let her know on the phone that I cannot do the gauntlet and would be just happy with a sleeve. I show off my new sleeve and she is blown away by how amazing it looks on my arm. She wants to get some to showcase to other clients. We chat and laugh for a bit. I am now off to do some quick shopping before meeting with Sue for coffee. She is the lady I met at the photo shoot for FaceIt London and I am waiting her arrival at William's coffee shop. We meet, hug and sit down to a green tea latte and begin our chat..... has it already been 2 1/2 hours?! What a great conversation with a woman who has clearly been through so much. With humor and affection she has told me her story and I have told her mine in my typical animated way. We will see each other soon for another coffee. We hug and it is time to part ways. See you soon Sue!!

I would like to thank Sue R. for the wonderful compliment on my writing abilities and for the time you took to read about my journey. I do blog this for my soul, my children and for all the wonderful people in my world who just want to know how I am. Thanks to Jeff R. for giving me his pearls of wisdom along my path!! Thanks to Jeff C. for your support and for the note you left me. In the video clip I clearly got what you wanted me to know - "Life is a path that is lit only by the light of those I've loved." I would be remiss if I did not add to this and say that my path is also lit by those who have shown me support through kind words and gestures. Thank you to Annarita who visited on Friday with a homemade chicken dish, great conversation and of course hugs!! I have a busy week this week with yoga, art therapy and of course my first Chemo consultation.... I should know a schedule by Friday. My best to each of you!! xoxoxo

Thursday, October 1, 2009

..... good day

.... there are some days that just stand out and they are good for so many reasons - most of us are too busy or too disconnected from ourselves to notice.....

Wednesday September 30, 2009
Today started with a cup of joe and standing at the patio doors staring out at the bleak fall sky... as i turned to speak with the kids who had made their way downstairs for breakfast, something caught my eye.... oh Lord, if it isn't a Heron soaring overhead and I quickly changed lanes and stepped through the doors to wave the bird off before he could come any closer. A quick walk over to the pond and I realize that I can see only one fish. The water is so cold and it is visible on the bottom amongst the plants but where were the others? I didn't want to believe that the others could have been eaten. I remember Shelly telling me that we needed to put in a Heron statue to scare off any other Heron's that might find the pond enticing like today.... I promptly grabbed the beautifully carved King Fisher statue from its place beside the hearth and placed it beside the pond..... Max later put down netting in the chill of the evening after removing the lovely pond lettuce and Hyacinth plants. How did it get so cold so fast? Max has found 3 slow moving goldfish..... hope we will have little ones in the spring.

With the kids off to school I putter around. I am anxiously awaiting a package from LympheDivas..... the sleeve I have been wearing is now coming apart at the thumb and a nylon run has made its way to the wrist. What luck!! There is a package, jammed into my mailbox and I can't believe the excitement as I carry it into the house. I finally get it opened and am ecstatic to find that the fit is perfect and it is so me!! It is a red sleeve with gold dragons and medallions on it.... I am born in the year of the Dragon - I realize that one of the ladies I knew years ago who was diagnosed with breast cancer called her cancer a dragon..... to me the dragon has strength and power and when we call upon that within ourselves, it is that power and energy that we need to fight the cancer!! Perspective and attitude are as unique as the treatments that each breast cancer patient goes through. I admire the sleeve and note how it has lifted my spirits... I do not know for how long I must wear a sleeve - for some with a notable lymph-edema they will always have to wear one but my case is mild and we are trying to keep it controlled so that it will stay that way. My excitement spills over with a call to Tracy in the LympheDiva's headquarters in Pennsylvania. She is so happy to hear from me and she is surprised with my enthusiasm - the Dragon Sleeve is the favorite of the manager there. I ask if I can email her with my professional pics that show the tattoos that the sleeve will now be covering and she says 'of course!' After scanning my pics I attach them to an email with a brief thank you note. With my spirits uplifted, and with nothing else on my agenda, I make my way over to the nail salon to get my pretty nails done just one more time.....

My nail lady is an interesting woman.... growing up in a dangerous place in dangerous times during the Vietnam war - she has fled her homeland and found refuge in a country where she has been able to support not only her immediate family but also her extended family still overseas. We have chatted for years and I have become accustomed to her thick accent - we stopped talking about mundane things soon after meeting.... I wanted to know this woman and found interest in her life. She is strong but is gentle, she is a woman with much to say and today she is in a great deal of pain and has been for a long time. She does not take the time away to get it looked after - there are too many people who depend on her but she knows if she doesn't she will be no good for anyone including herself. She shoos her girl away and takes the seat across from me. We talk quietly and I can read her face now and I ask her to make arrangements to get looked after.. she needs the surgery and the time to heal. She will have to find someone to cover for her. I have learned that things generally fall into place when you need them to. I have always seen her as being older than me but as we continue our discussion which has now turned to the sleeve I mention that I am born in the year of the Dragon - it turns out that she is as well - a few months younger in fact. My nails are done and I pay for them - I would hug her as I have often done but I know that it would be excruciating for her if I did. Instead, I let her know that I will be back next week to see her - she will be taking off my pretty nails... we both know that chemo will ravage the natural nails beneath.... I also need to be aware of and be careful to not get any infections in my one hand. I will miss our conversations but we both agree that I will come to visit often anyways.

I head back home, field a phone call from a friend who needs a shoulder and then it is back to finishing one of the library books I took out yesterday.... speed reading has its merits and thank goodness for the library - I am reading fluff books these days... nothing heavy but filled with fun and personal triumph of the head and heart variety - it would be hard to admit to it but yes the romance novels have a healing quality to them. They are usually about strong minded women who stand independently while falling crazy over some guy who is just as stubborn. You know they will end up together but really, in any journey - its not so much the destination as it is about the path it takes to get there. What a great escape from dishes while I continue on my journey!!

The kids are home and dinner is underway. Lydia has brownies tonight and although she sometimes does not want to go I can see her run off to join her new friends the minute we get through the door. I leave carrying two boxes of Guide Cookies and smile to myself that the sleeve I am wearing looks pretty darn good.....

I get home to read my emails and find one back from Tracy..... what a touching note: I have made her cry and as she writes that it is often difficult to put a face to a voice - she wants to see a picture of me wearing my Red Dragon!! So many kind people in my world who have touched me and made me cry .... the comments on the photo shoot pictures I posted to facebook were really touching. Thank you for the wonderful comments and for making me blush!!

Thank you to my husband for the surprise tickets to see KISS in Concert!! As tired as I was when we left - I would not have missed it for the world... xoxoxo Just remember the rules of etiquette - do not stand two feet away from someone and yell out your conversation while Paul Stanley of Kiss is talking...... we paid to hear the band play!!