Western education 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

..... feeling spoiled and beyond grateful....

...... for the outpouring of love and generosity this week that has left me wondering how I can ever thank such wonderful, amazing people?!

23 December 2013
  It started with an envelope in the mailbox early this past week from Sandra Moyer.... hand delivered with chocolates after a lunch and visit from Nancy.  Next came another hand delivered envelope in the mailbox, stuffed lovingly with gift cards from Shelly B..... and a visit from Pat bearing home made cookies complete with a card and gift.  Then yesterday, an afternoon snack presented by Ameeta, Peter, Sanjay and Sarah with her two lovely girls Payton and Rowynn.

We just returned all of Mandi's dishes from all the meals she kept providing us with when I was going through Chemo.  She started a meals for Marita four years ago and had all kinds of volunteers provide nutritious home cooked meals with each chemo treatment.  This time she managed to do it all with the help of her children.

I have no idea how to thank all of these amazing people?!  I say thank you and give hugs and tell them how grateful I am... but what can I do to show them how I feel about what they mean to me? 

29 December 2013

I am at the movie theater with the whole family.  William has bought us a gift certificate for Christmas and we are there to see the second part of the latest run of the Hobbit trilogy 'The Desicration of Smaug'.  Before the movie started, we ran into Tony in the lobby.  He is the father of my childen's childhood friend Terry.  I offer him sympathies on the loss of his partner who died of metastatic breast cancer two years ago.  Apparently I met her within weeks of her passing.  According to Tony, she decided to not continue on the chemo, which was making her sick and extending a poor quality of life.  I understand that all too well.  It is the balance of quality verses quantity of time....and the dilemma of leaving behind those you love.  We call it 'buying time at a high cost'.  

I have considered many times what I would do if my cancer began to grow out of control?  Would I do anything to buy more time?  Would I live on chemo while exhausting all my options?  These are tough questions for someone of my age...if I was 80, it would be easy for me to simply choose nothing and let nature take its course.  I think differently at almost 50 with children at home.  The dilemma is all about the choices you make that effect those around you. 

We have been taught along the way to fear if we could cheat it somehow.  We are horrified and deeply mourn the loss of a child, which seems so unnatural in our century....considering early last century it was far more common.  We celebrate the death of those who are elderly and ill and call it a blessing.  We consider a successful life one that is long and prosperous.  We all know that one day, we will be leaving our earthly confines to go to wherever we believe we go to. It is not the passing that scares us, as is undoubtedly the way in which we pass.  We all hope to go to sleep and never wake up.  We all hope we do that in our sunset years when we have lived a good life, watched our children grow up, marry and have their own children and that we leave being well-loved, appreciated and missed.  

When my father had a near-death experience in June 2012, I was given a rare opportunity to witness his passing within minutes of arriving at the emergency ward at University Hospital.  I was sitting beside him, holding his hand....his eyes rolled up in his head and his face greyed when his breathing ceased.  For that split second I was focused on his face I knew he was at peace.... and a split second later, was trying to revive him.  I witnessed this twice in 20 minutes... according to the nurse, had I not been there, he would have passed away.  I think about this and of his alzheimers and wondered if I had done him any favour by calling him back.  I had no doubt when I brought him back to the nursing home that he had touched the ceiling 12 feet above his head in the emergency room.  He would continue to try to touch the 7 foot ceilings in the home for a few days after with a far off stare.  He was almost joyful and definitely peaceful.  I didn't want to lose him and somehow I thought we needed more time....I think I was being selfish.  A year later, he is alive, but is living his life in an Alzheimer's home and I have been unable to spend time wih him because of a compromised immune system, due to chemo clashing with the constant illnessess in the home and our own home. Just as I am finished another cold, the floor is closed again due to the flu season....

30 December 2013

I will be grateful to see this year end and a new one begin.  While I think 2013 had some amazing, wonderful was filled with uncertainty and bouts of depression.  It's hard for me to admit that there have been some incredibly dark moments and tears....lots of tears this year.  There were many moments where I withdrew from the world to ponder my life and to listen to my soul.  My family is my anchor point and on the days when I could not be strong for them....they were strong for me.  

This year was the affirmation of my career - the pursuit of my life's passion.  I crossed the stage at Western, proudly wearing the scarf of Fanshawe College and Western University.   Despite my illness, I graduated with Distinction, took two online career courses while creating a new course for Fanshawe.  I am deeply grateful for the support of my family and my incredible co-workers John, Sara, Joel, Elaine, Stepanie  and so many others who stopped in to just chill with me at my desk.

This month, I have done a full body cleanse, continued to use the Metformin at what is now 1,000mg of this medication with a few side effects of bloating and some bowel discomfort.  I have a lot of sweets from Christmas which are now decorating my dresser - I have little desire to eat what I know my cancer would love to share with me.  I am sleeping longer than I have in years with the Melatonin (4mg) and am feeling well rested and better able to cope.  

Money is exeedingly tight and with an unknown future, we are holding on to every penny to ensure the bills get paid.

3 January 2014

I welcome the New Year with renewed belief that this will be a better year than its predecessor.  Christmas was truly a wonderful quiet holiday after what seemed like a string of many busy months with little wee breaks in between.  I actually was able to relax, read, spend time with my children and sleep!!!  I am now recharged and ready to return for the winter semester at the college and available a few days a week for the high schools.  I am learning to definitely pace myself and pay attention to my body when it is tired.

I would be remiss if I didn't speak to the bouts of mild depression which sank to an all-time low just days into the holidays.  I would be lying if I didn't have moments of sobbing mixed with guilt for having succumbed to my feelings of desperation.  Even the strongest of us have chinks in our armor and we are allowed to have those moments, as long as they don't last long.  I have been playing iPad games and doing crafts and avoiding having any thoughts as to what this month will bring as far as the doctors and my illness.... and the impending testing to see where we are at.  

Two days ago, the swelling in my neck was up and I wrenched my neck when I went to turn it.  the pain shot up the right side and across the right scapula.  Last night I spent it in agony, trying to find that one position.  It would only last a few minutes before being wracked with a piercing pain.  Today, I went in to get it looked at by Dr. Laura in order to reduce the pain and gain mobility....and to cuddle with her baby Lucy!!  A few hours later and the swelling in the neck has subsided and there is just a remaining dull pain which we will look at next week for another visit.  While I was in the office with her, I asked her about a particular 'Green' product I was using.  I was using the Greens + with multivitamines  and decided to read the label.... low and behold, it specifically states that the product should not be used for those with cancer or other critical illnesses????  A close look at the ingredients list had me shaking my head.... no wonder my intuition was telling me to stop using it just days after opening it.  There is a product line she sells and one in which I had used many years ago when I started to have issues with my bowel.  Not my favorite topic of discussion but one that everyone needs to consider.

We are given many warnings at the beginning of an illness or disease....and we either choose to ignore these subtle (at first) hints or deny what we are experiencing.....because, we are busy and tired anyway... and if we ignore it, it will simply go away.  I remember as a child suffering from terrible constipation from all the iron pills I was put on (don't get me started on this ridiculous and unnecessary and often dangerous additive to our diet).  I would suffer with bouts of constipation and diarrhea and in 2008, I had a colonoscopy.  The symptoms would later prove to be diverticulosis (pouching in the large intestines caused by diet and constipation).  I was only 44 at the time and the doctor was surprised that this was the case.  The voice inside me wasn't convinced that this was the problem which prompted me to seek out the procedure in the first place....I was sure it was cancer but l turned down that nagging internal voice until shortly before I was diagnosed, I could feel a pain in my chest when I reached across the cable trough to pull some cables out and the voice got louder.  Three weeks later I found the lump.  Many of my friends would say that they too let it go out of denial or some other excuse and wished, like me that we hadn't.  

I can't go back and change things for me.  If I had pursued my intuition initially, I am sure that I would not have found myself with the metastasis I am living with.... or not.  It is purely academic at this point. I read the research papers... as close as they say they are getting, logic tells me that I will be long gone before any of the talked-about trials come to fruition.  

      'Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different outcome'..... We are humans and not all the same, and I have learned that what works for one person will often times not work for another.... we are a machine comprised of extremely complex functions which most of us couldn't even fathom.  Our DNA is unique to ourselves... from eons of two people are exactly the same.  So, explain why all the treatment options for my illness are??  In all the research I have looked at, there is very little research done on the benefits of healing the body using the foods we should be eating to assist us in healing?  I work in a field of logical thought and I am seeing scientists building on what the scientist before them did thinking that they will find the key?  I truly believe that our bodies, when given the opportunity to heal themselves would do so with the foods we were meant to eat, the water we were designed to drink and the air we were supposed to breathe.  Our food is a chemistry of GMO, dyes and sugar, our water contains fluoride and bleach and we breathe toxins in our hermetically sealed house, in our cars and in the work we do.  Cancer is a mutation, period.  Cells gone rogue.... and we all have them.  It is not one single defining moment that creates the rapid growth and spread, it is many such moments.

My herbal cleanse is one week away from completion and two nights ago, I am sure the pain in my right side under the rib cage and right scapula (shoulder blade) was as a result of what I believe to be gall stones that passed last night.  The cleanse is doing its job clearing out the organs and the bowel.  I will see if any of this has worked when I go into CT later this month.  I feel better than I have in months and had enough energy to clean the basement, defrost the freezer and want to get more accomplished now that the toxins are leaving.  My mental outlook and positive attitude is coming back and I feel better able to tackle the future.  

I wish each of you a healthy and happy New Year!!!

....... religion is always a bit sticky Phil......

disclaimer - these are my opinions based on what I have read and experienced.  I in no way reflect any opinion but my own and in doing so, because it is my blog, I do so with the intention of showing that all people, regardless of sex, age, culture etc all have the right to be here.           

...... its good to see that A&E, despite the ratings they get for the top rated reality show on TV, has decided to ban Phil Robertson from continuing on the show 'Duck Dynasty'.  Phil has views that are not in keeping with the support this station has for the LGBT community.  

Are we really all that surprised that a man like Phil, living on the outskirts of modern society, quoting from a bible written 2 millenium ago and about 300 years AFTER Christ walked the earth?  The sad reality is that this man chooses to turn his back on a progressive society while partaking in the benefits this new society has to offer him.  He's caught between two worlds but the old world is just too comfortable and well entrenched in this man of the 60's.  

I like that the Robertsons are a close knit family.  I like their quirky family traditions.  I like that they show gratitude for their lives and the days events at a table shared by most family members. I even like their redneck solutions to some challenging problems.  They have taught me quite a bit.  Phil is truly the patriarch of the family, the one the family looks to for guidance and help.  Which is why this latest revelation is so disturbing on so many levels to those looking in from the outside.  I like that Phil takes a stand and tries to show his spoiled grandchildren traditions without the use of their technology.  I like that he is an intelligent man.  I like that he has shown what a true redneck is and has garnered respect from the millions who watch him religiously.  He has a following of somewhere close to 11 million viewers.  I think that he far surpasses the TV evangelists of the 90's in viewership.

I don't like that Phil has expressed his personal opinions while quoting the bible to back up his claims.  I don't like that Phil does not see the impact his personal opinions, as a well known TV personality,  will have on the society he chooses to live on the outskirts of.  I do not respect the lack of insight he has for the people he speaks of but has never met.  Phil, you may not like it but yes, it is up to God and only God to judge others and you as a preacher should remember the cardinal rule of not judging others, at least not publicly.

I had my reservations about watching a redneck show but I chose to take a risk and discovered some truly wonderful moments and people I grew to really like.  I am not alone in my pre-conceived thoughts, it is how we are, we all make snap judgements on people and things we know little or nothing about based on some general opinion..... which is why Phil's opinions are so important.... he has expressed them openly and without reservation or fore thought as to the impact of his words.  Words hurt as we have seen historically with leaders showing their ignorance and hatred of specific groups of people and realizing them in the form of discrimination and in extreme cases, genocide. We are warned of false prophets and idols and yet, when they appear, their charisma and charm has a dulling effect on our sense of right and wrong.  Regardless of whether we like Phil or not, his opinions challenge my beliefs of what a loving God is.

My loving God loves my LGBT friends and Phil.  Phil's opinions have once again made me review and reflect on my own beliefs in a modern age where things move too fast to sit quietly with an ice tea on a wooden step.  He has reminded me that not everyone feels the same way I do about religion.  It has sparked controversy and recently I had a 'back and forth' opinion swap with a Phil fan... it ended well with each of us understanding the right to have our own opinions and to still respect each other by wishing each other a Merry Christmas from the heart.  We both knew that words could anger and cause bad feelings between two strangers.....we were having none of that after realizing that our words were misinterpreted by the one reading them.  Maybe all this controversy will teach Phil that words, whether meant a certain way or not, can cause more trouble than its worth....

Perhaps this is just what Phil needed to teach him that humanity has progressed past the 60's.  Perhaps we will learn to slow down and take the time to spend it with family a little more often and without the technology at the table.  Perhaps, when all is said and done....we will all be more tolerant of each other with respect and love. 
...Just my 2 cents worth....

Saturday, December 21, 2013

......with gritted teeth....

.....I took the high road....

I picked up the phone and invited my mother and her friend Fred for Christmas dinner after talking to my mother in law.  It is the right thing to do despite my deep reservations. 

Each year I am asked (ever since I can remember) what I want for Christmas and the answer has never changed 'nothing'.  I was never asked why I chose to answer this way....I suppose in the beginning it was because I felt that I didn't deserve anything or knew my parents couldn't afford much but then it became a standard answer because I really didn't know what I wanted for myself. I knew what everyone else wanted.  Perhaps I was afraid that Santa wouldn't get me what I wanted because he thought I was bad? So I accepted all the gifts that came my way and was grateful for whatever I got.  Christmas was not my favorite holiday and probably because I couldn't make the connection as to why we were giving gifts on a day that was clearly not our birthday but in fact, someone else's. 

I loved the atmosphere and the window dressings, but the crushing crowds and the obligatory gifts you had to pick up for everyone on your list and for anyone who might pop by through the holidays escaped me.  What if you forgot someone?  What if they knew you forgot them in your busy life?  And then I had children.

The gifts chosen for them were always what they asked for, wrapped with love and tagged with their name.  They would know that I loved them and that they were good and cherished like the child born millenniums ago and whose birth we celebrate today. Yes, Christmas has become commercialized and gaudy in some respects....but it is also a time near the end of a calendar year to reflect back on our year and of the people who made it special. I am blessed to have children, in-laws, siblings and yes, parents (difficult as it may have been growing up with them) and dear friends to celebrate our lives together again under one roof.  

While I may have extended an invitation through gritted teeth, it was done with the spirit of the season and with a good heart.  T'is the season to be gracious and hospitable to all. I wish each of you a wonderful Merry Christmas spent with those you love and grace towards those 'not so much' relatives amongst you.  Christmas should bring out the best in families.  Peace and goodwill to all.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

......I am dragging my feet all the way through the LRCP doors....

......and dreading today's appointment. My reservations revolve around the increasing swelling in the clavicle and lower mandible.  I wait in line at clinic 4 and can't help but think how much these kiosks look like old theater ticket booths.  I look around and note how many people are sitting around waiting for appointments mid-afternoon and know that by the time I leave, the place will be empty.  I find a seat and within a few minutes I am approached by Amy (mom of one of Lydia's early childhood friends) and she sits beside me.  A few words into our conversation and my tears are starting to run, catching me completely by surprise.  I am not embarrassed, I just don't want her to be upset, so I wipe my face and smile at her.  She is there with a friend who is going through chemo. Amy is sorry that she didn't quite understand what I was going through 4 years ago when I was first diagnosed.....I recognize a look of guilt and I immediately tell her that nobody really knows what to say or do until it comes to their world.  Amy is always kind and concerned for others......we could all take a page out of her book!!

I see a familiar face walk by and her name escapes me as did Amy's when I first saw her.... my mind is on other things and not completely as aware as it should be.  I get her attention by pssssst...and get called on it.....I was excited to see Melina.  She looks amazing despite the illness.  She has had her lungs cleared and is now awaiting chemo.  There is seldom, if ever a day that goes by that I do not think about her and pray she is OK.

Amy's friend is ready to go home after a long day at the clinic.  Amy and her friend pass by and I blow her a kiss..... then my attention is caught again and this time by Jame's white hospital coat.  He is my soul friend and as if by magic, he is there talking to a colleague.  James is a dietician in the Cancer Clinic.  I get his attention when he is done and his wide smile greets me as he slips into the seat beside me.  He is concerned when I tell him the lump has made its debut again but like everyone else in my life, he says I am too strong to let this get me down for too long.  My pager goes off and we stand to hug.  I give gentle hugs and a kiss to Melina and wish them all well as I head towards the nurse waiting for me.  We smile at each other and it is off to be weighed before taking me into the examination room.  I have lost 7 pounds so far in the 9 weeks since I was last weighed!!!

It isn't long before Dr. Lock taps on the door and enters.  He is not just a caring doctor but a truly wonderful human being.  He looks at me, smiles and says "its good to see you". He notes the look on my face and I let him know about the lump that has recently arrived once again in my neck.  He is surprised by this news and I let him know that I had called a few weeks prior and left a message for him. "OK. wait right here, I know Dr. Younis has not left yet and I would like to quickly consult with him before he does"..... Luckily, Dr. Locke was able to catch up to and consult with my chemotherapist Dr. Younis while I stayed in the room to wait.  A few minutes later, he returns and smiles at me.  "OK, so, we are not going to do chemo unless it is necessary and you have symptoms that need to be controlled such as what you experienced in July.  Chemo for you will only be used if there is a new or expanding metastasis in your liver, bones, brain but even then, I can go ahead and order radiation in those isolated incidents."  In short.... my chemo is to be used for adjuvant or pallative care.  Adjuvant for reducing inflamation which causes physical breathing difficulties and pallative for end of life symptom management.  

We discuss the Metformin that I am taking and the cleanse I am currently doing.  He indicates that what I am doing has proven to be effective and he encourages me to continue what I am doing.  He wants to book an appointment for a CT scan to see if there is any changes to what they believe may be a lesion on the liver.  They are not sure what exactly it is and will continue to compare it to every CT scan they do.  In the meantime, I am to keep tract of my symptoms/changes if there are any and for sure keep tabs on the liver to make sure that I don't show signs of liver function failure.  Symptoms include: jaundice, pain under the right front ribcage, pain with fat ingestion and belly bloating.  The unknown marking in the middle of my liver is in a location near the gastric duct leading into the Gall Bladder.  Should this create scar tissue or a cancerous lesion, it can block the duct.  A friend of mine's mother had this happen and it had to be operated on to bring back its function..... regrettably, the cancer would take her life months later.  I promise I will continue to be diligent and to contact him should things change.  He examines my breasts and under both underarms looking for any other signs that the cancer might be invading.  When he is done, he turns to leave and says "its  really good seeing you and we will see you soon, enjoy the holidays..... you are looking good!"  I leave in better spirits and make my way out into the snowy afternoon.  How long is anyone's guess but for now I decide that I will make every effort to enjoy the holidays with my family.  The snow is fluffy and covers the windshield as quickly as it gets wiped off with the wipers.  I call Max and we are both grateful.

A few days ago I contacted a woman who owns a very unique furniture business in St. Thomas called 'Diamonds and Toads'.  She specializes in chalk paint and even holds classes to teach others how to bring life back to old and new furniture.  Lydia has been asking for a lady's vanity for the past few weeks and as we get closer to Christmas I know that this is not a passing fancy but a deep desire to realize her 'girliness'.  So I text the owner of this amazing store I have been following on FaceBook and ask if she has a vanity with a 40's vintage look.  Within a few minutes, she is sending pics of a few vanities she currently has and there it was..... a beautiful vanity from an age when they knew how to build furniture and give it character.  It is beyond beautiful with its Art Deco appeal and the feet that look like inverted cupcakes.  The large Oval mirror will be just perfect for Lydia to gaze back into her beautiful face.  We texted back and forth last night and I could tell right away how very special this woman is and the pride and love she has for what she does.  She sends me a picture of the vanity without its handles and mirror.... it is stripped and in its almost raw state, it is stunning.  Soon it will be bright white with the handles changed to a silver..... it will be the most magical gift to such a deserving daughter.  I would love to have the matching pieces but alas, it is not in the budget.  This is what Christmas is to me.... bringing love and joy to a daughter whom I adore endlessly.  I can't wait to see what the finished piece will look like.... I will post photos when it is done!!!

For the first time in years, money is excessively tight with no margin for much other than bills and the mortgage.  I will be handmaking some gifts before Christmas and the rest will have to wait until after.  I am just starting to feel like myself after chemo and have some energy to create.  

18 December 2013 ...... my neighbor Victoria calls this morning and Max hands me the phone.  I am groggy and pull myself up to lean against the headboard...."Hello?"  Her voice quivers as she tells me that her husband Walter is not doing well.... the brain tumour is not responding to the radiation and the cancer has metastasized into his bones.  She tells me that Walter wanted to know how I am feeling and that they are both upset that I am facing this illness. (I met Walter and Victoria when they first moved in across the street.  With no family in the city, this elderly couple left their long time residence in Woodstock to be nearer to her brother and for the medical care that Victoria needed.  I invited them over for breakfast in our home and they graciously joined us.  I was in my 4th round of chemo then!!!)  She says that he is upset that someone as young as myself raising children should have to face this illness.... he is OK with being 82 and ill.  Funny how I always thought 50 was old and through his eyes, I am just a kid!!  Well, I will see 50 in May and have made it a point to be able to party it up!!!  I send my blessings to Walter that he will pass quietly and painlessly in his sleep..... as for Victoria, I will make sure that she comes to our house for Christmas dinner to spend it with people and not alone.  She has spoken of returning to her country of Italy when Walter and her brother pass... I hope she will get to spend her remaining days amongst those that love her and care for her.

I am dedicating my blog to all those who may be struggling during the holidays.  May you all find a magical moment in your days that you will cherish always.  Remember to show love, patience and respect to those you meet by chance, for you never know what joy you will discover or what joy you will bring to lighten their day.  xoxo  Peace and Goodwill to all.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

..... those heartfelt special moments.....

...... when your daughter sits with you in bed all day and watches movies while the snow blows around outside.... and then she makes me cry....

She is so beautiful with her big blue eyes and her animated face.... she is telling me about all the great things coming her way in the last two years of elementary school and the tears begin to fall until I catch myself in a mid sob.  Oh dear God.... I love her so much and all I want to do is watch her grow up.  She reaches across the bed to cuddle with me.  Her tears mingle with mine and we tell each other "I love you more".... she's my mini-me.  I adore her and laugh with her as we turn our tears into smiles.

She has started her own blog and she lets me read it... her first entry is about her 49 year old mom who has cancer and how she is sad.  Like myself, the kids push the bad stuff to the back and let the sun shine in anyway.  I am deeply glad they are wired like this ... it makes life good.  We watch the Nanny... we have made it past the 100th show.  Tonight we watched 'The Help'.  We stayed cuddled in bed all day and had our meals brought up to us.  She reaches out her hand throughout the day to let me know that it will be alright......I just can't seem to shed the dread that has pushed the hopefulness to the side as it makes its way to my every thought.  It's soon time for Lydia's bedtime and I snuggle her and tuck her in to bed.

Max knows that I am hiding from the world and its hard not to......he's made his way upstairs to get ready for bed.  He sits quietly beside me while I start crying.... it feels like I may never be able to stop.  "I really don't know what to do?" I cover my face and rock back and forth.  I feel like swinging between being resigned to whatever lays ahead and then the notion of fighting at all costs.  Max tries to make me feel better by stating that the doctors meant that the chemo would only extend my life but for how long was anyone's guess.... as if this makes me feel better and then of course we both start laughing when Thelma, still wearing her cone, crashes along the wall and stumbles into our room.  Laidee follows right behind and Kajen kitty in tow.  Now this is my life.... comedic relief at the most dramatic moments in life.  Max shoos them all out and heads in to have snuggles with Lydia and say goodnight.  Its bedtime for the three of us while Will, Mitch and Uncle Paul decide to watch a war movie.  Will is wearing his fatigues around the house and looking very gung-ho.  

I make my way upstairs after taking some fiber. Max has moved on to something safe... his Ninja game....sheesh!!!  Tomorrow we will be decorating the Christmas tree.  

Sunday 15th December

Today, I feel more energetic as I move amongst our three bathrooms cleaning them while the men dig out the Christmas decorations in the basement.  I am also doing a great deal of laundry today and grateful for the busyness on another snow blown day.  

It is day three of my cleanse and I am gulping down my breakfast of Greens+ with multivitamin mix.  At least its flavored and I am able to wash it down quickly.  This will soon be followed by half a Metformin tablet.  (I will adjust the dosage in a few days to see how it feels).  A few salmon pills in the morning and at night have stopped the incredibly dry skin I have been dealing with.  The addition of a deep immune tincture has finally handled the chronic nasal congestion.  Sleep is good with the Melatonin I am taking in the evening. I do not remember going to sleep but still wake up at 4 in the morning when Max has hijacked most of the blankets.  I am prepared tonight by adding a spare to the end of the  bed.

What a hugely emotional weekend.... mostly me being emotional... partly the trailing end of the chemo and mostly the fear of the unknown.  My friend Kirsten called earlier today and we talked about my illness, my fears.... and how much I do not want to go on chemo again....there has to be a better way of addressing cancer.   Why haven't we come far enough to test what actually works with each individual cancer diagnosis and cater the chemistry to each specific one?  It would definitely be cheaper in the long run and less return customers for sure.....I have so many questions mulling around in my head..... and each one of them starts with WHY?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

.......and another lump....

......found on the same day my friend Melina is in the hospital draining lungs and getting ready to start chemo again after a short break......

10th December 2013 I didn't think that I would be facing this uncertainty so soon after finishing chemo... and while I know that my condition is chronic, I at least was hoping for a few year's reprieve.  Despite tears and Max's gentle hugs, the darkened room of our bedroom feels strangely empty and I can feel the tears course down my cheeks and off the tip of my chin.  Max grabs a tissue out of his pocket and dabs my eyes.  Yah this is our life now and I apologize to him for the umpteenth time and roll away to be alone.  I receive a response from my amazing Dr. Richard for an afternoon appointment tomorrow.  
Thelma had her surgery to remove a tumour from her leg and we picked her up before dinner.  She looks incredibly ridiculous with the cone on her head but at least she wont be picking on her wound which is nicely bandaged.  We will see the vet tomorrow to pick up her meds and look at the tumour.

11th December 2013  Its early in the morning when I get a text from William.  He is on the flight from Fredericton NB to London.  The cold bitter winds whip at my face as I round the corner of the garage to hop in the car to go pick him up at the London airport.  The light snowflakes whip around the windshield and I have a few minutes to consider what to say to my children..... again.  Do I think this is the cancer growing again... well, what else could it be?  The triage nurse in the cancer clinic this morning asks me if I have a sore do you have a fever.... no.... are you feeling ill.....  I have struggled with a sinus issue and cold since chemo 2 months ago but those symptoms resolved themselves 2 weeks ago.  It is now a wait and see what the doctors will consider as the next move.  I get a call a few minutes from the airport, Will is waiting for me at the front entrance... I let him know that I am almost there.  When I pull up, he moves towards the pick up lane.... wow, its so great seeing him again!!!  He hoists his stuff into the car and we hug tightly.

A few minutes later, we drop in to see Sarah and the baby and to chat for a few minutes before heading over to the Quarter Master.  I am looking for vitamine C, Oregano Oil, Emergen-C and an herbal cleanse.  These next few weeks will be a prep for whatever comes along.  I want to reduce the load on my immune system while feeding my body with high quality nutrition.  Next we head out to the vet to pick up Thelma's meds.  I have known our Vet Julia for about 25 years and she greets William when he pops his head around the corner.  She has sent the technician out to show me the tumour removed from Thelma's leg.  She and I talk about the mass and how it attached itself adjacent to a rich blood supply.  I tell her about the lump in my neck.  Her expert hands find it quickly.  Its located just beside the clavicle. She tells me to follow the doctor's orders to the T.  "No fooling around Marita, get this thing looked after and make sure you do what they tell you".  She doesn't have to tell me twice... she knows the reputation of my GP and notes that I am in good hands.  I agree wholeheartedly.  Julia hugs me tightly and wishes me the best.  I will see her on Saturday to have the dog's leg looked at..... 

In consultation with my GP, I mention a trial I was asked to participate in but chose to do the chemo and not wait.  Metformin is an inexpensive drug used for diabetics and a drug that when used in conjunction with chemo had some surprising side effects... tumours shrunk and in some cases, disappeared all together.  I have been craving high carbohydrates and sugars in the past 3 weeks and now I need to balance the blood sugars that the cancer loves to feast on.... like Thelma's leg tumour and the cancer found in my nodes with the metastasis - they are both located directly within a rich blood source.  Just like having little vampire clumps that rely on this rich supply to survive and thrive.  Tumours have no intention of killing their host....however, that feeling towards the tumours are not mutual.

Noon today began the first step of a full body cleanse.  Flushing the body of stored toxins to reduce the burdon on the immune system using a 30 day natural cleanse.  The metformin will be taken 2 times per day at 250 mg per dose for a week to see how I tolerate it and then up the dose until we are taking  a high enough dose.  High fibre, raw fruit, vegetables and nuts will form the basis of the diet including Quinoa for protein.  The greens mineral mix will provide me with the vitamines and minerals required for repair and then the emergen-C 1,000 mg of vitamin C packaged with Bicarbonate of soda - this creates a PH balance discouraging a cancer friendly environment.  Just before bed, I am taking Melatonin to assist me in promoting restful sleep which also has a cancer fighting ability.  So, will it work?  After a great deal of research and consideration.... heck, its worth a try.  I will also need to find a relaxing time for yoga to help me to focus on the positives in my life.

I will be tracking my progress and consulting with my physicians in a more pro-active way and seeing if there are successful alternatives to the chemo I have been on.  I am not crazy and will consider taking it if there is little else in the way of options.  My mantra is to see my children grow up safe and happy..... they are amazing people.  They know the score with my illness as I have always been candid and honest with them.  They, like me, have hope....   

I wish to humbly thank all the well wishes and calls.....I am deeply grateful.  xoxo

Sunday, December 8, 2013

..... Simple Pick-up donates a larger sum of money to a single mom with cancer.....

...... after the BCRF declined their original $2200 donation upon finding out through complaints that the group 'Simple Pick-up'  had in fact motorboated women's breasts on a public beach using the Charity's name without express permission...... and outside of what anyone would consider 'in good taste'. So they slammed the charity instead of apologizing..... and then came up with yet another scheme to show that Charity and all the 'femi-Nazis' what really stand up guys they are.  Why didn't they advertise on their 'how to pick up women' website and provide a direct link to their group donation site on the BRCP instead of choosing to motorboat women's breasts?  They brag about how many members they have, so why not send out an email with the link?  Because that is not what they are about.... it's Pink October and hey.... why not try a stunt that allows them the opportunity to grope women on a public beach??

They decided to donate a much larger sum of money to a single mom who is going through the journey.  They slam the charity about how they are missing out on this donation which has now gone from helping research to helping out one woman and her family.  So now they are the good guys..... or are they just trying to make themselves look good?  They did help.... even if it is only one woman and her family... so how many others did they say they would have helped with their original fundraising venture?  Most big boys would donate without shoving it in our faces and applauding their effort to help the cause.... which, in their own video statements..... they know very little about Breast Cancer.... they know more about how to push the envelope of good taste to create a client base and to gain them notoriety.... and lately.... sympathy.

Want to do the right thing?  Then do the right thing by raising money like most people..... respectfully within the boundaries of the Charity whose name you are using.  Raise money without banging your own drum..... there are 6 year olds that can raise more money than you without being disrespectful and do it because it is the right thing and not a way to promote your 'values'.  Most charities appreciate your donations when it respects the recipients that the money is intended for.  Yes, every little bit helps.... when all the little bits are pooled together....just my 2 cents.....

Saturday, December 7, 2013

..... she twirls and does a quickstep.....

...... on her way down the street.  It's a school day and my face is pressed against the window watching Lydia blow kisses towards me and dance as she heads down the road.  I watch until she disappears from sight and my heart lurches when I can no longer see her.  I often think these days of how much I will miss her when I leave behind this earthly world and how fleeting her childhood has been up to now.  I see her head pop around a tree and her broad grin exposing her crooked front teeth.  I have memorized every detail of her beautiful face, from her brilliant blue eyes to her scarred chin (an accident when she was three).  She is wonderfully funny, sensitive, confident and intelligent. She inspires me each day.  A few more steps... and she is around the corner and off to start her day.

Minutes later I realize that my face is still pressed against the window as I am abruptly taken out of my reverie... I turn to answer the phone next to my bed.  "hi Mom, I love you!!" she calls merrily through her cell phone.  "Hey baby, I love you too!!"  I sit on the edge of the bed and reflect on how deeply grateful I am for the wonderful children I was gifted with and how much I want to see them grow up.

It has now been 8 weeks post chemo.  Every joint in my body aches.  The fasciitis in my feet threaten to take over and I remind myself to choose footwear carefully.  I am feeling ancient ...... then I catch a glimpse of myself in the bedroom mirror.  My hair is coming in fuzzy and grey.  I look as old as I feel..... especially late morning, this morning as I realize that I am not feeling well.  I have been fighting a cold and now the sinusitis that has finally taken hold.  Every ache, every 'not feeling well' moment scares me.  What if the cancer is growing again?  What if it is travelling and is now in my aching back?  My head hurts...maybe I will have brain cancer next time... when is next time?  Tomorrow, next month?  My hot flashes are back with a vengence.... making it hard to sleep at night despite taking very expensive pills to try and offset the angst of boiling one minute and wrapping myself the next.  Hot, cold, hot, cold..... aaaaaarrrrrrrrrggggggggg!!!!!!  Then after doing way too much this morning.... and feeling waaay too nauseous, I snapped at my daughter.  She wants me to drive her to her friend's house for a sleep over and I need to lay down.... it is rare for me to snap at her.  She is downtrodden and I quietly ask her to get ready.  I will drive her to her friends and then home to lay down.  She says she loves me as she slides into the passenger seat.  She often slides her hand into mine when I am shifting gears and I can feel her eyes studying the side of my face.  "I am sorry you aren't feeling well Mommy and thanks for driving me".  You can sense the worry but her smile when I turn my face lets me know that I am loved no matter what.  I smile back and let her know how much I love her.  

We arrive at our destination and she tries to open the locked door "I know you want to keep me close to you but you have to let me go!!"  She grins, leans in to me for a kiss.  We kiss and I wave to Pat when she opens the front door.  Lydia turns, waves madly and walks through the door.  I love you so much. Max was pulling into the driveway just as we were leaving and I arrive back home a few minutes later.  He orders me back upstairs to lay down and the tears begin abruptly as I mutter something about being tired of feeling this way..... doing too much when I feel good until I wear myself out. 

Will texts me.  He is coming home this week and staying for a month and then returning to Gagetown to complete his career training in Artillery.  Hard to believe how fast the time has come and gone.  Last evening our students celebrated a pizza party with us on the last day of school for this semester.  They too will be enjoying an extended holiday before classes start again in the New Year.  I will be doing a lot of marking this week and putting in the final grades for the students in this semester.  It certainly has been very busy and I expect that next semester will  equally busy.

Max has come upstairs with a cup of tea for me.... he sits and holds my hand while I read this blog entry to him.  I am truly blessed for the love and support he and the children offer me.  My mom sent me an 'In Sympathy' card the other day..... this makes the third card in as many months from her... she travelled half way across the world to see her sister, who has had bone cancer for over 20 years.... for fear that her sister would pass away before they had a chance to see each other one last time..... I live 2  minutes from her and she sends me cards??  Weird but true..... she doesn't want to bother me but leaves phone messages that question MY mental health.... I can thank the eldest for putting those thoughts into the head of my demented mother....this from someone who considers herself a homeopathic healer????   Ah well, I digress and decide to just lay in bed for a little while. 

I had lunch with Reinhart, Megan, Joel and his wife Beth on Thursday.  The hysterical group texts leading up to our group lunch and the follow up texts through Facebook had me in absolute hysterical fits of laughter.  Reinhart is one special guy who has been an avid supporter of Meg and myself as we journeyed through our first cancer diagnosis and I felt that it was time to meet him once and for all.  Well, most of us had lunch except Reinhart who has been suffering with an infection which started in one of his teeth..... and..... it began to travel.  He stated to us at lunch, that although he couldn't eat anything, he would not have missed the lunch for anything.  I think we all felt that way.... so.... it would be more than fair to book another lunch when he can at least enjoy more than just the wafting aroma from the bowls mere inches from him at the table.  xoxoxoxox what a wonderful lunch.  Reinhart went to the dentist after doing a walking tour through the downtown.  He was pretty close to going septic!!!  Take care of yourself and make sure you are getting better!!! xoxoxo

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

...... nearing the end of the semester.....

..... after a busy couple of months deploying a new course.  I am sitting in the lab looking out at a sea of students attempting to complete their projects by the end of the week.  Next week they will be troubleshooting the boards we faulted for them with their own Logic Probe.  It's hard to fathom how much they have learned as Sara and I gaze over the group working intensely at their stations.  Students assisting each other, some tracing their own board faults while others meticulously solder their components into a now familiar perforated board.  They struggled through their last project but now they show confidence.  There is no better feeling in the world in a classroom of students who rejoice in their successes!!!  The fist pumping, broad grins and laughter when they get their project marked off.  Pride shows in their desire to produce a project that looks as good as it works.  Even those whose skill is novice are trying to improve and create a project that they can be proud of.

It has been a wonderful adventure, creating a new course and unveiling it week by week.  It is an immense undertaking that is made easier by having Sara assist along the way and give me valuable feedback.  She plays the devil's advocate and challenges me to always try harder and be better. In the end, I will always have a great course for the students to learn from and of course enjoy those hard-earned moments of euphoria when they power up their project and it works!!!

The next few days will find me creating a number of examples of resumes for the students to use as a guideline for their own portfolios.  This is what we do... prepare them for their future with as many skills as we can give them!!!  I am sure they feel like their heads are so packed full of information that it feels like they are going to burst!!!

Today I had lunch with Carol.  It was a rare moment to sit and talk quietly about my blog and my life...raw and unscripted and at times difficult.  I spoke to a challenging past and the personal growth that has brought me to where I am today, strong and resiliant. I glance out the window at the serene landscape of snow, angled rooftops and gently falling flakes....I like who I have become...I am honest with a deep sense of ethics.  I own what I do and apologize when I am wrong.  I love and adore the blessings of three children and a kind and loving husband.  Carol, you are a wonderful soul and thank you for sharing your time with me.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

...... if you can't say something nice...

..... say nothing.  Those are great words to live by and a reminder to each of us to be mindful of not only what we say but how we say it.  It is enough to say that we have been very tolerant of my mother's deep seated need to create instant drama.  Her dementia has only worsened this and has added a hint of paranoia making it impossible to be alone with her.  Her self-appointed care giver lives too far away and has decided that while she believes herself to be apprised of our mother's mental condition, she has unwittingly created a very difficult and impossible situation for those of us living mere minutes away to offer any support or help.  She has single-handedly created a hostile environment and has effectively isolated the one person she declares to love from my family.....the same person who has declared herself to be a healer????? We are all confused by this and from what I have researched.... this is apparently not a unique situation.  Demented parents can cause a family craziness even if the family did not start out dysfunctional.  It should be clear to anyone looking in that a person who declares themself a caregiver should at least find themselves living in the same city as the one they profess to be caring for.  With all the craziness she has created... it only makes logical sense to simply bow out and allow her to "care" for our mother from 3400 km away.  

Max is quiet and upset today.... he found out that mother has been speaking behind his back and saying the craziest things.... now he knows how I feel.... and she's my mother.   He is hurt.  He is the last person on the planet to speak ill of anyone and has been careful to choose his words carefully.  It seems coincidental when he finally asked the distant care giver to quit texting him after reaching the end of his patience with the constant demands and using him to do their bidding.  When I stepped away a few weeks ago, after it became evident that she was saying terrible things about me, Max stepped in to assist her with whatever she needed.  While he was helping her for the second time in a week, she decided to tell him that I was not well in the head.  He just looked at her and asked her to stop speaking ill of me.  It didn't take her but a few minutes after he left the home to call and complain about him.... only it was an accusation.  It leaves us in a very tenuous situation where neither one of us can be with her without someone in attendance lest we be accused of more sinister acts.  The past two years has taken its toll on us and we are not amused.  

I want to surround myself with the people who respect, value and care about is too short in my journey to entertain anything less.  I teach my children and my students to respect others and to speak well of each other while keeping a positive outlook.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

....... an amazing adventure..... if someone was watching over me.....

I left London early Thursday morning to avoid traffic and to get to my destination at Pearson airport.  I have a thing about crowds....I avoid them when I can. The flight to Montreal leaves at 9 am but I am through security by 6.  I find a cozy seat and play a game on my iPad to pass the time.  A few travel weary passengers lay across the seats but soon the ones around them fill with new ebb and flow of coming and going....I am going to Montreal to see my son graduate from boot camp and to meet up with my sister Patricia. Will has been in St. Jean since August - 14 weeks of hard, soul challenging work.  

I land 44 minutes later after embarking on WestJet. I would have preferred to fly out of London but the costs were out of my budget and driving through the work week would have been just shy of hell. With only hand carry on, I left the airport to pick up a rental car.  The only offerings they could give me were three vans....I don't do vans...I'll wait.....but before I could take a seat in the empty office, a car suddenly appeared. A silver Elantra....perfect!!  With my iPhone in hand, I punch in the destination on Google Maps....wish I had used the iPhone App (used it on my way back - voice instructions rock!!), and headed out into a confusing concrete jungle of overpasses and poor road surfaces.  There is no comparison to Ontario and I will not complain about our well maintained roads again!!  Peering out the window at aging and crumbling structures that have to sustain the constant flow of traffic is scary at best....never mind the drivers trying to pass you from the right when you have already signalled your intentions to merge right well in advance....welcome to Montreal....I veer into the intended lane forcing the other driver to back off.  There is no horn beeping or finger flaying out thing I do not miss about Ontario drivers.

I would finally arrive at my destination after passing the turn off twice....never could find my way out of a wet paper bag...and found a parking spot at the front entrance of the hotel...the clerk smiled up at me and the frazzled, but friendly grin told me she was still playing catch-up with the rush.  It is 10:15 am and there are no rooms ready.....oh wait, one just came up!!  I head up to my room and text Patricia...they are less than an hour away.  I text them my room number and head into the shower where I stay for an extra few minutes to wash the fatigue away.  I change into a pantsuit and have enough time to check emails before a knock on the door.  OMG hugs all around!!!  So good to see Patricia and Alan and so deeply grateful that they have come to celebrate Williams biggest day!!!  Their room isn't ready and thankfully are able to use mine to ready themselves for the ceremony. She has brought me a few gifts....a book written by a woman named Melanie Hayden-Sparks, who had been diagnosed with invasive ductile cancer and who recently published a book based on a group she started 'GradUit Journey' .  Patricia says Melanie's personality reminded her of me when she spoke to Melanie and so she purchased the book and had Melanie sign it. I will read it this weekend. She also gifted me with an earring and necklace set.  I brought her a handmade bag and a thumb drive full of pics!!!

I love practicing my French but the fellow staring at me across the counter at the Burger King next to the hotel has no idea what I have just asked for....his coworker tells him my order...each village, town and city around the world tends to start with all the best of intentions to create a base language that everyone will understand until the local culture gets a hold of it and bastardizes it to no end.  I get fries and a cup of water to quell the hunger pangs and we head out in their car towards base. 

The complex is massive and is literally one giant building - a city of sorts.  We snake around the colossal complex and head towards the drill hall where the ceremony will take place.  We have arrived in time but search for a seat in the bleachers. There is a French one and an English one.  We find ourselves at the top bench in the English speaking side.....which ironically would be right across William when they align themselves in their platoons!!!!  Such a proud moment for each of us.  

The ceremony was long...about 15 minutes too long for the soldier three over from Will who dropped his rifle on the floor a second before his face followed it onto the hard concrete surface.  Out came the stretcher and the graduate would be hauled away to the infirmary to celebrate his least when he finally regains consciousness.  Will says he was up most of the night polishing his shoes....

After a reception and photos, the crowd slowly thinned out and Will was able to introduce us to his new friends. In everyone's life, there comes along a person who changes your life by impacting it in a positive way....that person came in the form of Master Seaman Jenkins whose supportive and kind words showed us how much he cared about my son.  He pushed Will to achieve his goals and let him know that he has what it takes to go far in his chosen career.  I thanked him and expressed my gratitude for his support. He asked Will to keep in touch.

The evening rounded off with a bunch of drinks at the Boston Pizza next door to our hotel.  What do you know, we made it for the two-for-one drink deal!!!  The restaurant was packed with graduates and their families...some recruits had children, were married to other military personnel or were much older and were seeking a more secure career.  We had a lovely dinner with lots of laughs and then, Alan and Patricia presented Will with a gift. A beautiful watch perfect for a graduate going into Artilliary. Will gave hugs and thanks.  He is so pleased we were able to make it to be with the hotel room, we called Max on FaceTime so that Will could speak to the rest of the family!!!  I am so grateful. 

It was hard saying least until Christmas time when we get to see him for a few weeks....until then son - I love you more than there are birds...more than there are bees....I love you for forever and beyond...I am so deeply proud of you.

This morning I am at the is 4:20 am and I am lost!!!  The iPhone got me to the airport but I cannot find the parking garage where I rented the car.  I pull around a corner and there is a security vehicle parked to the side.  I pull around him and park.  "Where am I going?"  He smiles at me and in perfect English asks me if I would like to follow him?  Absolutely!!!!  This angel, sent to help me led me right to the drop-off zone and with a flash of lights and me madly waving thanks out the window, he was off to his next mission.  He would be happy to know that I helped a man with his luggage when I saw him struggling to manage two cases bent on going in opposite directions.  I simply smiled at the trailing male as the rest of the group he was with moved ahead.  I get him to the top deck of the airport just outside of departures and made my way into the security line-up.  I have not taken a shower this morning and my ragged chemo hair is hidden under a hat.  The dark rings and almost invisible eyebrows must have looked off to the clerk now staring into my face.  She grabs at a wand and 'sniffs' my carry on bag and asks me questions about liquids or other items I might need to declare.  The mere mention of the cosmetics in my bag must have sent off alarms in her head.  She inserts the wand into the narcotics machine and looked mildly surprised that it cleared.  She pointed me over to the X-ray machine and caught the attention of security.  Great, I think I should have listened to my inner voice and just put the make-up on anyway!!!  I do not want to get into the X-ray machine for obvious reasons but not wanting to cause a commotion (I have a vivid imagination), I step into the machine and follow the instructions.  The security guard is suspicious of the yellow patch glowing on the X-ray monitor just over my chest.  I look into his eyes and indicate that I have had radiation treatments and that I am a cancer patient.  He raises his eyebrows and waves me onward.  I can hear a quiet apology.  I am perplexed as to why it is showing up almost 4 years after the procedure. I make a mental note to ask my oncologist in a few weeks.......... I have often heard that to save my life with the procedures they use might one day take my life...... good thing I opted out of the last chemo treatment..... I suppose only time will tell.

I am off on my flight back to Toronto.... and the lady sitting next to me is an airline stewardess who is travelling via plane to Esquimault to work.  She tells me that she has been a stewardess for 19 years and is looking to change her career.  She notes that 1 out of 3 women will have cancer in her career.  I look at her and let her know that I have just finished my second round of a continuing journey and perhaps what I am about to tell her about me will inspire her to make the change sooner than later.  We part less than an hour later.... changed by a chance meeting.

I will be teaching today a few hours after getting home. 

Thank you to everyone for making this journey one to remember. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

......Nature verses Nurture....

......what makes us different from the generation before us? Are we hard-wired to be a certain way?  How much of our experiences alter or build on what we already are?  Why are some people bad despite all the good they grew up around and why are some really good despite being born into destitution, neglect and abuse?  Do we choose to live the life we live or is it already pre-ordained?  I can only speak to my own personal experiences.......

I used to think I was adopted while growing up because I somehow could not fathom why a mother would selectively choose to treat her children the way she felt about them.  I think my days of advocacy started at the age of four when I defiantly told her she was not being fair.....and then I wore a mouthful of rings.  There were four of us and right from the beginning of what I can remember, we learned to fight for the window seat in the car to avoid the swinging hand.  She would partner up with her eldest daughter who would grow to be a tyrant with a mean spirited temper and a controlling, over-bearing nature......that apple didn't fall from the branch. As much as I feel I should elaborate on my growing up years, it is suffice to say that it lacked warmth, positive reinforcement, acceptance and a feeling of belonging

My apple fell off the branch, rolled down the hill, dove into the river and travelled far and wide.  Although I would spend portions of my adult life attempting to 'fix' what was broken and to finally be validated by the parents who raised me......disappointingly, it would not come and the decision to part ways from my childhood tormentors was difficult, guilt ridden and took a lifetime to commit to.  The 'if only' and 'what if's' no longer could convince me that anything could or would make a difference.  Someone once told me that the definition of insanity was "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome" ... I would have to agree.  With a second illness arriving at the end of months of harrassment, accusations, lies and outright hostility towards me.... it was time to end it altogether. My eldest sister would get what she was hoping for - to have her mother all to herself, even if it was from a distance of 3600 km.  Two peas in a pod, brought together by nature.  Both hard-wired by similarities seen in twins but a generation apart. 

I would instead find role models who would teach me the ways of being a good mother.  Eileen was one of those down to earth moms who was raising 4 children on her own.  Her firm but fair approach was in keeping with what I would later become.  She would sometimes point out over the years things to help guide me into being more open minded and to reflect on what I was doing and saying.  I learned to forgive myself when I made a mistake, own it and apologize for it. There were other role models and many books I read looking for what I envisioned my household should be.  I learned to choose friends who were positive and supportive and who loved my children.  

Today I have a well established home that lends itself to security for the children, something I could only dream of growing up with. My kids are each other's best friends and know little of the upheaval I and my other siblings endured while growing up.... they wouldn't understand it even if I did explain it.  They were raised to always think of their siblings first.  My husband and I were always the adults when raising them and only gave the kids responsibiities in keeping with their age and maturity.  My children understood early on that they had no business punishing or controlling each other and had consequences if they did.  I learned through my growing years and later into my adult awareness that being an adult meant just took responsibility for your actions, apologized when you made a mistake, understood that your kids were gifts to be appreciated and knew that your children were not your confidants or friends.  My children were raised to be seen and heard!!  I kept what worked and threw away what didn't.  

While there are moments in my growing years that I would like to forget... those are the moments that have continued to challenge and shape  me as an adult, parent and educator.  It has made me reflective in my own life, giving me the opportunity to shape my future and determine what I need to address and what I now need to leave behind.  I would have liked who I was from the beginning before I got sidetracked by a tumultous upbringing.  By nature, I am sensitive, caring, vulnerable, fun-loving, inquisitive and adventurous... all tempered by the Nurture, the experiences of growing up and the years spent as an adult before my children were gifted to me. I believe I am what nature intended me to be despite the set-backs and the side-tracks that growing up offered me.  As a child I would 'fall' down and bounce right back up.... perhaps the nurture forced me to stand up taller to show I could do it regardless of what was said or done to me.  I watch my own children grow into young adults with the self-esteem and confidence I took years to develop after leaving home.  They are all amazing people and I am deeply grateful they were gifted to me to help guide and grow into healthy adults.

Early tomorrow morning, I will travel by plane to see my eldest son graduate.  I will stand beside my youngest sister Patricia, whom I adore, and we will watch as he marches past us in the drill hall tomorrow afternoon. He thinks I am the best Mom ever..... thanks buddy!!  You were there to help me be a good Mom.  Life is what you make it and I have to agree with my sister.... Nature is by far what brings us to what we are today despite being sidetracked in our youth by our 'nurturing', we will always go back to what we by nature were born with.  My son Mitchel was never raised by his paternal father or had much involvement with him but he is still very much like him in many ways..... Nature.....  Nurture should be about recognizing a child's talents and bringing out the very best in their traits while teaching them to manage and be aware of their own behaviours and attitudes.  If I did choose to live this life, I would have to say that I have chosen a good life despite all the challenges that have come my way.... 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

..... please don't hold my hand....

..... and tell me your story of tragedy when I am getting a flu shot!!!  Of all the crazy things last week, when I popped in to an appointment to get my annual flu shot.... I get partnered with a well intentioned but young woman at the local drug store.  She chats non stop and when I indicate that I have finished my chemo a month prior, she immediately delves into the sordid details of her grandfathers death and how they missed seeing his last breath.  He had cancer you know and he was in agony..... why even the pain medication stopped working and we had to look into his contorted face. She grasped my hand and looked deep into my eyes... my mother was a mess.....and by the time we got to the hospital... it was too late.   She squeezes my hand and then taps the back of it.  I nod in an understanding manner and smile weakly.  She has no idea that I just want to flee the now claustrophobic space of her office.  She jambs the needle into my right shoulder, hits a small nerve, smiles and again holds my hand to continue the barrage of the post-death experience.  Great... I am a captive audience for the next 10 minutes until gratefully the next patient arrives.  Note to self.... next year go elsewhere.

I likely should have said something, and looking back, I just figure it wasn't worth the hurt feelings she would sustain if I did say anything.  I have already experienced this a number of times where people have been incredibly insensitive towards me and behave as if I have wounded them when I point out the obvious.  I just pick my battles carefully these days and have decided that it just isn't worth the effort.  I just smiled thinly and left without a word.  I am sure when I was her age I said some pretty dumb things too... and this is my karma - being held hostage in an uncomfortable metal chair, cornered in a suffocating little room and being blocked from the entrance by a sweet, well meaning overly chatty nurse while having my unwilling hand held gently in her grip.  It could always be worse I say to myself as I scurry out to the parking lot.  Karma continued as I found myself in the grips of the worse head cold mere days after the shot was administered.

Life is good and I have just started to teach my daughter how to cross-stitch her first project... it has inspired me to also create my own cross stitch project for Christmas.  She is a good student and is learning through her mistakes to identify and correct them quickly.

Yesterday was our bi-annual open house at Fanshawe.  While we expected a number of students to attend the extra open labs, only a few showed up.  We did however, have a very busy lab filled with interested guests.  We were able to show off our student's projects, which our visitors thought were pretty cool.  I am pleased with this first semester roll-out of a course I developed with the wisdom of Sara as a sounding  board and assistant, John, who believed in my ability, and Fred and Joel who supported us whole-heartedly.  It has been amazing seeing the students immersed in their projects!!!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

..... a reflective moment at the library...

..... of all places!!  I am searching through the True Crime section looking for just any book that catches my eye while Lydia bounds off to the other side of the library looking for anything that catches her eye.  Her teacher has an issue with her reading graphic books and children's books.... I think reading grows and with freedom to choose what you are interested in can evolve into a lifelong passion.  Reading should rarely be a chore.  My fingers run along the spines and catch on a picture book.  Ironically, the crime books and the cancer books are in the same aisle... personally, I always thought cancer was a crime!!  I pull the book out and leaf through pages of women showing their mastectomy scars.  They run the gamut of the very young woman to the post-menopausal woman. Some of the scars are deep and ragged like a gash caused by a sudden rupture in the earth during an earthquake.  My own scars are a reminder of my illness every day but I have the fortune of having most of my left breast and all of my right breast.  I stand there flipping from one page to the next.... and wonder how this barbaric method still exists and why we cannot treat the tissue with a less dramatic approach??  The smiling faces hide the painful journey that they have gone through along with the emotional and mental anguish of being faced with a life threatening illness.  The visible scars hide the ones that even tears could not wash away.  The stories speak of loved ones, who could not cope with their partners illness and loss of breast (s), to journey alone, while others spoke of partners who stayed and supported them.

I put the book back and decide that I have no desire to rent any of the books on the shelf and move off to the fiction racks on the complete opposite side of the library.  I suppose its in keeping with trying to move forward and dedicate my life to living it on my terms and not living the 'pink' life.... a life where your identity ties closely with the cancer journey.   While I don't want to forget the lessons learned along the way, I have the desire to live life a little more consciously and with greater effort to make every minute count.  I don't want to wear the pink bling and advertise that I am still surviving .... I want to make an impact on those around me through being a mentor and showing the positive side of a life well lived. I read the obits every day in the paper and count my blessings that I am still here.  I am still striving and moving forward in my desire to succeed and create the next step in my career and life journey with my family and closest friends.  I am not living in fear these past few weeks.... I am living with hope.  I rejoin my daughter who is excitedly rummaging through the graphic novels after finding one based on her favorite show 'Castle'.  Like mother, like daughter.  I am crazy about her and I love watching her freckles dance on her face as she smiles up at me and squeals excitedly about this new found treasure.  A graphic novel that has brightened her day and given her reason to come to the library. In life as in literature, its not about the destination, but about the journey that gives us joy.

Last night Mitchel arrives late.  He has been acting in a friend's movie and is excited that they have wrapped it up.  I look into his excited eyes and invite him in to talk.  Max has gone to bed in the spare room.  Mitch and I stay up really late and catch up on so many things.... mostly school things.  He is incredibly bright and I give him the caring talk about his smoking and how I hope he does not take drugs now or into the future.  He knows by the tone of voice that I am just being a loving Mom.  I am deeply honored by the children I have been gifted with.  I consider myself the lucky one.  While I see some of my characteristics in them, I see them for the people they are and not the ones I think they should be.  I memorized his face, note the red stain from the gag blood they used on 'set' and mention the long musical fingers that help him to play his guitar.  I do not look forward to seeing my children grow up so fast and will be sad to see them leave the nest when they are ready to go.  

This week is a whirlwind of activity and my Max is concerned that I am doing too much again... but really, I am not.  I am pacing myself and getting things accomplished in a timely fashion.  This afternoon, before I picked up Lydia, I went to get a hearing test.  I have passed with flying colours!!!  This is for my job at the TVDSB along with other paperwork that needs to be filled out and submitted as soon as I get my security clearance.  I have a few more online courses to complete but as soon as I do, I can submit those as well. 

Today I cuddled with little Miss Rowynn.  She is an absolute doll at 2 weeks of age and Mommy Sarah looks much better with colour in her cheeks and sleep from a baby who takes 5 hour naps.  She is a really good mommy and with two babies to take care of while on course, she is also a very busy one.  It has been a really good day with lots of smiles and bright faces on this beautiful sunny day.  The snow is still in patches in the shade but by tomorrow, we should have some warmer temperatures to enjoy some time outside. 

I dedicate this blog to my wonderful family and to my sister, whom I will see really soon!!!!  Love you Patricia!!!  To my son, who should be returning from the field after a week in tents, and getting ready to graduate this coming week - yay!!!!!!!  To everyone else, may you count your blessings and pass along a few to others.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

...... when its time to change lanes.....

..... in a life that was previously filled with family drama.....

It has been 20 months since my mother first arrived in London after a stressful move from her farm north of Kingston.  My father had been moved to London to a long care facility here in London 2 years ago this week and after 2 moves since, has settled into a care facility a few minutes drive from my house.  

I have often pondered how much of their upbringing or the impact the war had on who they would eventually become as our parents.  Mom had a son by a previous relationship before my father arrived on the scene in the early sixties in Germany as a military radar technician for the Canadian Armed forces.  She was attractive and he was awkward and gangly looking.... but he was smitten by her... and still is to this day despite the Alzheimer's that has taken away all his memories except for those of her.

Life with my mother was always over the top drama.... doors slamming, feet stomping, slapping, yelling and generally a highly charged emotional environment.  My scalp still aches sometimes when I feel stress from all the times she would pick me up by the hair and throw me around.  She was a strong woman with a belief in raising children who were quiet and obedient. She put on a good face to the world but things were very different behind closed doors.  I learned not to bring friends over and made it a point to come home at the very last minute.  I babysat and worked as much as I could to gain the peace I so desperately needed growing up.  We moved so often, I stopped trying to make friends..... of course those times were then and this is now.....

The controlling elder sister has been put on notice to not contact us anymore.  Her constant interference from 3800 km away and her accusations has crossed llines that no one should ever cross.  She has effectively created a situation that will see no resolution and so this week, my husband and I are calling it a day with having to deal with this anymore.  We are confused by a mother who decides... to spend Thanksgiving celebrating her new friend Fred's daughter's 50th birthday?  We are perplexed by a mother who never calls us and yet, when she wants something from us, she calls us until we give her what she wants.  If we don't, as what happened this week, she calls her eldest daughter crying and telling whatever story will get the job done...... sigh.  My son and I dropped off her coats to her room before she arrived back from her latest outing. 

Today my mother called and thought I was Max.... I tried to tell her 3 or 4 times that I was her daughter but she was confused and continued to speak to me as if I was him.  My brother in law and I were having coffee when she called and he overheard the conversation through the earpiece and even he was perplexed as to what she was saying.  I still don't know if she wants us to pick up her stuff or if she is coming here to pick up what we have been storing for the past almost two years???  I ask Max when he comes downstairs if we have to give back my mother's dog, whom we have been caring for? He and I are relieved that the drama is coming to an end but feel it is very unfortunate that my sister has authored a great deal of hardship and interference.  

I had suggested to my eldest sister to come and take her mother to live with her and her husband when the initial drama started but she said that Mom drives him crazy and she figured he would leave her if she did??  It's OK though to accuse us of all kinds of things based entirely on my mother's stories???  How convenient for her, always looking for an opportunity to prove her theories that I have completely lost my mind.  My eldest sister tells me she can cure my cancer and tells others how incredibly stupid I am for not seeking out her expertise in erradicating my illness.  The last time she and I had a conversation, it was in the Quarter Master store where she was waving her hands over various bottles like a half-crazed conductor while the owner looked on at a distance... I stood as one would as a captive audience too stunned to flee.   She would peer up at me after her hand steadied over a particular bottle and indicate that in fact this was the tincture I should take....... uh, the cancer came back.  She tells me with a glint in her eye that she has cured her own cancer.... at least her own self-diagnosed cancer.  I wonder if I should call Oprah?  Either way, a quick google search shows no such miracles have been accredited to her.... months later, I threw everything out.  She tried convincing me that she could cure my father's Alzheimer's and tried to get me to give my father a plethora of 'medications' and indicating I should do so without notification to staff or medical doctors caring for him (which I did not do because what if it conflicted with one of the meds he was taking?) ..... yet, she wanted me to not be involved in his medical care and to mind my own business when my mother wanted me to help her get him tested with a walker. After a litany of threats and more mom/elder sister drama,  I chose to not do anything but visit with my parents.... but again was ordered by her to not visit Dad or Mom without permission because somehow, I had become this evil diabolical care giver around the same time i stopped doing her every command.  She was bent on proving our mother had dementia (which she did) and wanting to remove her to a long term facility where it would be covered by the goverment.... instead, she moved her to a bachelor apartment at the retirement home.... for now.  The final straw came in the form of a threatening letter after I sent her a letter asking her to cease all communications with us last December.  That was the day I decided to seek out a lawyer and consequently sent the letter she emailed me to each and every individual she had involved in the letter.  Until last week, it was the last time I heard from her.  There will come a day where the truth will prevail and I hope that Karma is kinder to her than she has been to me.

For us, I can find some resolution in knowing that no matter what or how hard I have tried to make my mother happy, it can never be enough.  Max knows how much I have done to help her and my father while they have been here and the little child within, who could never be good enough or do enough or be loved enough now knows the truth.  While I always strived to make my parents proud of me.... it turns out that it really doesn't matter anymore and that I have nothing left to prove to them.  I will not miss the drama or the stress it has brought into my life.  Emotional and mental stress is truly the cause for the immune system to drop enough to allow the cancer to grow.   I have a bad cold this week but it will soon pass.  Today I am spending the time with my daughter and creating some projects material for my students.  It is quiet and peaceful today.  My children have not had to experience the depths we have felt growing up and I can clearly see how incredibly important nurturing has in a child's sense of self.  I am who I am today because of what my experiences have taught me.... strangely, I would only change a few things.  I would have decided to sever my relationship with my eldest sister when I left home over 30 years ago and not looked back.  I am a believer that all problems have a solution and yet, here, there could never be one that didn't involve me being stepped on or treated in a manner that was so deeply disrespectful.  How could I have been so blind as to believe things would improve by offering to take care of our parents?  It was a peaceful summer despite the struggle to sometimes cope with the realization that my illness was back and that I had to take chemo to survive..... Mom didn't want to disturb me and yet, my own mothering instincts would tell me that if this was my child, I would do everything I could to help out.  She spent her summer tending to the garden I planted for her in the late spring and getting to know someone else's daughter. Not angry, just disappointed.  I am ever grateful that my choices in life did not include using them as role is the day it is time to change lanes.  Max will help to sort out what my mother wants and will quietly say goodbye when the door closes. 

I dedicate this blog to everyone who has family drama and to learn to find what is important to you in your life and to pursue it.  I am sending love to Victoria as she watches her husband slowly pass from a brain tumour.  She tells me that he asks how I am doing..... we always feel bad for those in the journey who are younger than ourselves....  I let her know that my door is always open to her.  She is already planning to sell the house.  She will one day return to her beloved Italy.  

Congratulations to Sarah on the birth of her second daughter, Rowynn was born on Halloween evening.  xoxoxox

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

........ the news is in......

.......... and I am beyond comprehension......

It has been a trying journey and knowing how difficult the last chemo round was made me question whether I should be doing the last round if the CT scan showed significant changes in my lymph nodes.  I had a dream a few days ago and after speaking to a cafeteria worker who found out that she did not have to have her last chemo as a result of a clear CT scan.  She offered to pray for me and I gladly accepted.  As a matter of fact... there were so many family members and friends who were collectively sending best wishes and hope.  So on Wednesday, it was time to get a blood test in the cancer clinic and head in for a meeting with a deep breath and fingers crossed....

Dr. Eisenhower stepped into the exam room and i asked her right away if I absolutely had to do the last chemo treatment.  She looked at me and said "we were hoping you would ask us that".  She smiled and said "not if you don't want to".   Yesssssssss!!!!!  Prayers answered.  Most women would be told to continue through all 6 treatments as per the trials they ran but in this case as in others, there is no reason to continue with the nodes being normal size.  There are a few areas they are watching closely and will continue to watch closely over the months to come to see if they change.  My counts are a little low which explains the fatigue of the past few weeks.  I had a difficult time coping with the last round of chemo and perhaps it is time to see if the immune system can handle the job.  A CT scan in three months will show any changes.... and life as we know it will be forever changed.  

I wouldn't be human if I didn't admit that I have my reservations and my deep seated fears of it coming back.  I know that I am considered very fortunate in now my second journey and I am keenly aware  that deep down inside, it can decide to grow again and stretch farther to places beyond reach.  While I am even more eager to find normalcy and to get on with my life.... part of me has to hold back and consider where my priorities are and how I want to live my life.  

I have been instructed to stay the course of what I have been doing - resting when I need to, eating properly, staying positive and of living my life in a way that allows me to have the time I need to accomplish these goals.  Living a stress free life means - not burning the candle at both ends, doing physical activities that bring me happiness and being emotionally intelligent.  Long gone are the days of wanting to compete on a team.  Instead, I will pursue academic interests and project development.  I have a number of electronic projects waiting to be built, a raspberry Pi processor with an arduino interface..... I have been wanting to play for a while.  I also want to continue with my sewing projects, needlepoint and beading projects.... an expression of who I am and an opportunity to make something that brings joy to others.  I know that I have chosen well in my career and I love teaching.... especially showing the students the tricks and tips of a lifetime of skill building and experiences.  

Speaking of teaching.... I have an interview with the school board next week for just occasional teaching in the high school tech programs.  The experience of a job interview is exciting to me and I am not nervous.... weird but true..  Today, I just signed up for a one day course in Toronto next week. I will be travelling with a colleague.  While I may be considered disabled because of my illness by the medical establishment, I am one of many women who choose to continue to work and educate ourselves.  I love what I do and being involved with work has been very cathartic for my healing.  

Being involved in creating curriculum and teaching something that I really love to do is so important.  I was asked a number of times how it is that I was able to teach while going through chemo..... it was easier to work than it was to stay home.  Staying home in my last journey lent itself to boredom and a sense somehow that I was living on the outside of society.  It is a mental game and is closely tied to emotional well being.  I think for me, cancer is closely tied to the immune system which when it is under long-term stress only needs a catalyst to trigger it to outgrow the pace of the immune system's ability to control it.  The last two years have been stressfull and filled with occassions that need not have happened or better avoided.  Fast forward to today and I work with two amazing women who are incredibly supportive and who are wonderful to hang with and a department filled with some pretty wonderful people who have made my journey better than expected.  To my students, who have been wonderful and fun to teach.  In short, I am lucky for so many reasons and so many people...... 

The next 3 months will go by quickly and I will be on edge the closer we get.... CT scans or an MRI with contrast will light up tumours to indicate a growth.... we hope that day never comes again.  In the meantime, I will rely on my intuition that has been pivotal in letting me know when something is not right.  A number of my friends who have been diagnosed with stage 4 know that they ignored their intuition and symptoms... if you are not sure, put aside your fears and just have it checked out.  Lumps and bumps are not normal..... have them checked out.  Unusual deep fatigue, a change in eating habits (cravings for carbs and sugars), aches with no obvious reasons (neck, shoulder, rib pain),noticeable  shortness of breath, super itchy spot that has no obvious signs of dry skin or rash, a cough that doesn't go away or a cold that lasts way longer than it should.  A general feeling of malaise and a feeling that something is just not right.  Poor sleeping or eating habits can add to your immune stress.  Unusual weight loss. 

Keep a health log that allows you to monitor subtle changes.  My first symptoms started last October but were masked by a busy school schedule.  What I failed to do was recognize that I needed to take better care of myself. Listen to your body, rest and eat well.  Reduce sugar or eliminate it all together and keep the weight off by limiting the carbohydrates.  Learn about ph balance.  Keep only people in your life that bring you joy.  I will continue my blog.... and pray this is my last cancer journey....