Western education 2013

Friday, May 31, 2013

.... waiting for the phone or anything else to ring.....

..... is making me antsy and uncomfortable.  I have decided to stay home today to work on an essay which is due in a couple of days.  I read my email and FB as my eldest child slips into bed beside me.  He has taken to sleeping over now about 2 nights a week.  I do not discourage him....Mitchel seems to need him now more than ever and he has a calming effect on his younger sibling.  He gives me a peck on the cheek and heads off to shower and go downtown to pick up his bus pass.  I get up, grab a coffee and putter around outside.  The neighbor friend is cleaning her pool.... I do not feel like visiting today.  I am tired like crazy and last night's thunderstorm had my mom's dog Laidee going bezerk in the house.  At one point she dove onto my head abruptly awakening me and would continue to climb into the bathtub or our ensuite shower until the storm subsided.... all night.

I feel like that today....except it is my imagination running amock in my head....whose idea was it anyway to have a coffee while researching cancer prognosis on my iPad?  A friend left me a message on FB about her mother dying of cancer within a year of treatment.... she left it twice, probably thinking i must have missed it somehow.  While I know she meant well, it is difficult to read stories that do not have a successful outcome.... especially when you are waiting for more tests to determine if it is the same cancer or if the game has changed. Thoughts of my mortality plagued me this morning..... it is not a thought process I often entertain but it is always there in the back of my mind.  Yes, I am strong but inside of that thin exterior is a mom who loves her children and is already dealing with their anxiety and fear about maybe losing me.....

When my oncologist called on Monday, he wanted to let me know that I would soon be getting a call to book for a biopsy but to let him know just in the event they didn't call by the end of the week.  It's Wednesday today.... is that close enough to the end of the week?

Thursday brings a friendly face for company on the back deck.  Adrienne has brought a few wobbly drinks to imbibe in.  She is incredibly smart, insightful and is so interesting to talk with.  The time passes so quickly and I invite her back to chill by the pool this summer.  Thank you so much for your company and sending a squeeze to your Mom.  Bring puppy next time!!!

The neighbors gather in the evening for a few drinks on the deck of Mitch and Brenda.  More neighbor friends join in to the laughter and good times.  I am tired tonight.... as usually but I want to stay.  William asks to be dropped off to his girlfriend's house, he is not feeling well.... emotionally he, like my other children, is coping but you can see physically he is not doing as well as he says he is.  Mitchel is keeping his friends close and Lydia is attached to my side while we are shopping earlier in the evening.  They touch base with me a few times a day.  Later, my fatigue plays out when I move Max's van in the neigbors driveway and rub the bumper across the rear wheel well of our gracious host's son's car.  I make a note to speak to him in the point ruining everyone's sleep....

It is Friday today.... I called to let my doctor know that I still have not heard the wait continues into another week.... no stress.  I spoke to my neighbor's son and offered to pay the bill to have his car looked at and repaired.  He says he's not worried.... no, but I am and will make it right. My wonderful friend Kelly drops in.  I adore and love her so much..... we have been friends for many years and I can see why... she always tells me, from the heart, what she thinks....she does not hold back and I always love that candid honesty.  She has a hard time understanding why I will always try to offer the first apology in a situation.... or why I have a strong desire to always try to do the right thing when I sometimes get hurt for the effort.  She's not the only one!!!  I am deeply blessed by the people in my life....I just have to learn to not expend my valuable energy on anything else but spending time with those that value it.

I was reading my FB today and noticed a young reporter Scott Miller, whom I worked with for years when I was at CTV has been diagnosed with testicular cancer.  Cancer does not discriminate and for this young man and his young is devastating news.  He has made it a public announcement and knowing him, it is because he is always interested in helping to educate others through his news stories....this time the story is about him.  I will pray for him and his family for a positive and healthy outcome.

Today, I hung out my laundry, did homework, had lunch with Sarah who had an ultrasound today of baby #2.... life goes on.  Sending out my love and hugs to my family and friends....

I dedicate this blog to Scott Miller as he enters a new chapter in his life, to Sarah and her new baby (boy is my guess), Kelly and her adorable Michael.... and of course to my beautiful children and soul mate.

Friday, May 24, 2013

....... dropping in for a visit.....

.... and to volunteer at the high school I was privileged to have my second practicum and T2P at.  I arrived at 7:40 am to report in and speak with the Principal and Vice Principal.  I have a deep respect for the VP's admission of her own recent journey with breast cancer.  It's not hard to see the emotion in her soft amber eyes. She understands my need to return to support the students until I am unable to.  I am happiest in the classroom and I am deeply grateful for the support and kind words as I head downstairs into the classroom.  Mrs. A sees me and the excitement on her face and the welcoming hugs are returned with equal excitement and happiness.  She is deeply concerned when I tell her that I can only be there at the most, a few days a week until the next step in my journey.  I have learned to quickly re-direct and get to the pressing business at hand..... a quick catch-up before heading out with Adam for a breakfast meeting.  It is a way for us to touch base and speak about my diagnosis away from curious ears.

I have such a deep and admiring respect for Adam.  He is an amazing father to his children, a loving and respectful husband and a wonderfully supportive friend and colleague to me.  I am deeply grateful for his support and assistance through my time at this school.  He makes me laugh!!  He is a true pioneering spirit with electronics and computers and has a vast knowledge based on many interests.  He is always thinking.......We head back to the classroom for a meeting after chatting with the VP.  She acknowledges my thankfulness for Adam's assistance.

I was able to sit down and collaborate an outline of the final group projects and the marking/rubric scheme with Mrs. A and Adam.  I was able to extend  deadlines for two students....who thought I would not return.  One quietly returned after lunch with one submission completed and a promise to submit the other two on Monday to me.  It felt genuinely great to come back!!!  I will only be able to work one day a week at the high school and the other time will be spent completing the curriculum for my other teaching position at the college.  I cannot wait until I get my new soldering iron in the mail and begin the building and testing of the project and associated ammendments.  The positive goals will keep my head occupied while my body goes through more tests and proceedures in the weeks to come.

I have enough notes to create a comprehensive project outline while Mrs. A will assist in creating the lesson plans and necessary documentations including a daily diary.  We hug and I let her know I will return on Monday with the paperwork and the two pico-boards I purchased for the students who will be programming. We are both thrilled to be working together.  While I am sitting at the desk, our student who accidentally injured my toes came up behind me, wrapped an arm over my shoulder and leaned in to apologize again for accidentally injuring me.  I looked back, smiled and warmly replied that It was was just an accident.  I have connected with so many of my students and I speak with each of them about how they are doing while we cover what academic expectations they are working on.

I pick up my brother-in-law on the way home.  It is the first time he has seen my since my diagnosis.  We sit in his living room and drink a cup of coffee.  He is deeply concerned.  We have a great friendship based on mutual respect and similar interests.  He has always been in my corner helping whenever he can.  We head back to my house where he will stay for part of the weekend.  Everyone should have an uncle Paul in their family.

I return a phone call to the head of the guidance at Mitch's school.  I am grateful for the support of his councillor as we make arrangements to inform his teachers and my first associate.  Mitchel knows that the guidance councillor will make arrangements to see him on Monday.  They will offer him the support he needs over the last four weeks of school.

Lydia returns from school on her bike.  Weaved in amongst the cables of her brake lines is a bouquet.  I can hear her rushing through the house calling to me.  I peek into the package to find the most beautiful bouquet of yellow Gerber Daisies.  A note tucked in amongst them is from Ms. Leisheid, who is one of the wonderful teachers at the school I had asked to support Lydia.  I am at a loss of words for this soul who cares so deeply for my daughter and myself.  Mrs. Panopolous, Ms. Leisheid and Ms Knight are a few of her teachers who she knows she can go to when she needs a shoulder, a hug or kind words of support. Thank you so much for your love and support in our time of need.

Mitchel's girlfriend's mother pops in to talk about him travelling out west this summer to vacation with them.  He needs a break and has worked so hard this year always supporting his sister and making our lives easier by always helping around the house.  He will be travelling there on his own and with his girlfriend on their way back.  The excitement will give him something to look forward to and take him away from his worry.

Friday night brings friends around for a quick hello and hugs including Will, Haley, Sarah (Mitch's girlfriend and Sarah.  Sarah and Len's baby is growing within Sarah's burgeoning belly. She will have another ultra sound on Friday.  I have volunteered to go with her.  Payton is  her super cuddly 2 year old.   Her laughter, bright eyes and hugs brighten the room with fun.  She loves her 'Auntie' Marita.  It is time for everyone to leave and lots of hugs later.....I am off to bed.

I wish to dedicate this blog entry to those who have shown much love to my children. It takes a village to raise a child.  The more people you surround them with who truly love and appreciate them, the more joy and acceptance they will find in their world..  They will know that even in their darkest moments, the earth has its own angels.  xoxoxoxo  Thank you to Deb Issac and Alphie Meery for their love and support.  To Chelsea, Patricia and Alan..... I love you.  Always, Marita

Thursday, May 23, 2013

...... announcements and meetings.....

..... I spoke with my father-in-law yesterday and asked his advice about announcing the early diagnosis.  He agrees that it would be in all our best interests as before to just get the news out to everyone.  He especially liked that I had reopened the blog again.  We found it to be such a good source of information for those family members and friends to be kept in the loop and to be able to ask questions.  It is a great tool for teaching others and he agrees.  I get a chance to tell him how much I love him and how grateful I am for all his tremendous support.

I posted on FB in the early evening of the 21st of May and fielded a call from the best doctor on the planet... Annette Richard who has been in my corner making things happen when they need to happen.  I am always in awe of how she tirelessly supports women like myself going through the journey.  We are both on the same page.  She has seen some of my darkest moments (which usually do not last long).  She knows I am a deeply emotional being and despite the hard outer layer, she knows how to cut through and get to the heart of any matter.  I am strong because I have to be.... I am a mother whose children need me to be that way.... they need to know that despite what I may be going through that I am still there for them.  They feel safe despite how candid we are with them, our attitudes dictate how they will react to what life throws at us.

Today I am calling the schools my children attend to in order that they may be supported through to the end of the school year by their teachers and councillors should the need arise.  My children are my first priority in getting the attention and support they need.  Leaving messages really bites and I feel a wave of emotion come over me as I leave a message with the head guidance councillor for the high school my middle guy attends.  He is our sensitive emotional child who might not ask for help but he needs to know that it is there anyway.  Miss Lydia's VP is amazing and we agree that all staff in the public school she attends should be notified especially the ones she is close to.  What a wonderful VP to offer assistance and her cell number to let her know on the fly what is going on in order to further facilitate support.  Thank you Ms Lee!!!

I am available this morning to take my eldest child to an appointment he needed at an ultrasound suite as part of his military application. He desperately wants to join the corps and talks about it endlessly.  He knows that I have his back and is grateful for our support.

Yesterday I headed out to the college to speak with my colleagues, to not only discuss the curriculum, but to also inform them of my illness.  What an incredible group of amazing people, whom I dearly love and whose emotions were hard to bear.  I kept calm, dry eyed (for the most part) as I told them what the diagnosis was.  They have my back and its a relief to know that I will be able to do my job without having to worry about keeping it quiet.  They will be prepared for whatever comes down the surprises.  I am deeply grateful for the extension in the curriculum development which I am currently working on as diligently as possible to create the best program possible for the students.

..... the messages of love and support keep coming in with phonecalls, texts, emails and posts on FB.  I am not sure what to say except I am overwhelmed and deeply grateful.  I learned in the last journey when speaking with another patient.... keeping it a secret just compounds the issues and creates emotional issues for the loved ones who are unable to express themselves without feeling a level of burden and guilt.  For the one person who hurt me so badly this year, I had to learn to withdraw and try to move forward.  She couldn't possibly know how deeply her words cut into me or how her behavior affected my personal well-being..... because I was strong..... I walked away and withdrew to gather my strength and resolved to learn from this experience.  I was already sick by this time and it compounded everything else I had been going through with my eldest sister, my parents and the work demands.  I kept it all to myself and withdrew to lesson the burdon to anyone else.  I believe cancer to be a thermometer for stress in a person's life.  As a teacher, we must always try to be mindful that what you see on the outward behavior, attitudes and looks of others is often a mask for what lies just beneathe.  Judging should be reserved for those more qualified and not a perfect stranger.......We must learn to respect and treat each other the way in which we would like to be treated...... being human means we are always learning.

I wish to dedicate this blog entry to my dear friend Melina whose second diagnosis came just months before my second one.  We were both diagnosed 4 years ago with our first round as well.  She is amazing, beautiful and strong. My deepest gratitude to my family and friends. xoxox.... and so begins the next chapter.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

.....yup, its the big C.....again.....

......and the news came on the heels of an afternoon bone scan at Victoria Hospital.  I arrived at 10:30 for the radioactive the same spot as the CT scan IV hole from Friday.  A quick preliminary scan and I am sent back on my way.  The wait is 3 hours, enough time for the bones to produce that eerie glow where tumors which grow quietly can be detected.  Cancer is insidious and creeps into soft organs, tissues, skin, brain, bones.....

The bone scan takes about 45 minutes to complete.  They do the full body scan, head, neck and chest.... and they also scanned my still swollen toes from when a student dropped a desk leg on my foot on the second last day of my T2P as a gift - why not, I was already there!!  While the first test takes 18 minutes and scans the entire body from top to bottom, the next one takes approximately 3 minutes with my head to one side as they image both sides of my head.  Next comes the chest and neck 360 degree scan while holding my arms above my head....part way through, the pain from my neck and arm are distracting but I stay still for the entire 12 minutes.  My toes are last... I wonder if I have broken them??  I thank the staff, wish the pregnant technologist all the best with her new baby due in July and head down the hall to the cancer unit.

It is now 3 pm and Max has texted me that he has arrived at the clinic.  I decide to leave the hospital and walk outside to the front door of the cancer clinic which is in building A next door.  I see the cancer garden and the new pergola that was just being constructed when I finished my cancer journey in 2010.  There are a few people huddled under the roof.  The humidity has risen and the blackened sky threatens rain.  I try not to think of foreshadowing.....

Max's friendly face is seated in the waiting room.  He has insisted on being there when I get the results from Dr. Locke.   I did not involve Max much in my first journey.... I didn't want to inconvenience him with the dozens of appointments.  I didn't want him to worry and be scared sitting amongst so many ill people....I wanted to save him from the worry I knew would be overwhelming.  I do not like to burden people if I do not have to.... everyone has their own worries and their own journey to worry about.

Elenor drops by to give me my data sheets.  I was a part of a radiation study and every six months, I have to fill out this study.  Most questions ask about my mental state and how I feel emotionally about the big dent in my left breast.  I got over having a dent a long time ago....I call it my treasure chest because conveniently any necklaces I wear tend to find their way into the dent!!  Elenor is the clinician for the radiation trials and also a friend I made when we bumped into each other in the long-term care home that both of our alzheimer parents lived in.  We catch up and chat a while and then I let her know that while I likely will not be a graduate of the  study, I will be one from the university.  She is worried and wants me to call her to tell her the outcome of the tests... she will see me in the examination room to take pictures of my breasts.... yup, they are showcased in their medical journal....

Nurse Marg comes out to see me.  Hugs.  She has been an amazing nurse and confidant for almost 4 years now.  She is hopeful that the results are negative.  The doctor has been busy and is still reviewing my tests.  He arrives 20 minutes later, grabs his rolling stool, sits down and gives me that look.  I listen, Max listens when he outlines the test results.  No bone issues, however, the lump and the surrounding nodes have lit up.  Yes, it is cancer, but further testing will tell us what kind and with the team on board again, they will come up with a game plan.  First things first - get a biopsy of the crazy lump that has now popped out of hiding today and is resting comfortably on top of the clavicle. I personally would love to see the lesion excised immediately but I have trust in the team that has done amazing with me over the years.  The triple negative cancer may have evolved to something else and only time and technology will be able to determine both.  I take the news calmly...of course, I knew months ago something was wrong and my intuition has always served me well.  Max asks a few questions but I could tell he really was mulling over the information and wasn't sure what else to say.  I am on board ... let's just do this.

We hold hands as we walk off past the empty waiting room.  Dr Younis is waiting at the is filled with foreshadowing??  He was my chemo oncologist......  I say hello to him just as Dr. Locke stops him.  Max walks me out to the parking lot and I turn to him and apologize.  It is hard enough going back to this place, being diagnosed again and looking into the eyes of my soul mate.  I am deeply sorry for the pain behind the eyes....

I drive off in my car and he leaves in his van for home.  I wait for him in the driveway thinking about what I need to do next and collecting my thoughts on how I will once again tell my children that their mother has cancer..again.  We sat around the dinner table and calmly and positively told the children the news and let them know as much as we knew.  Later I would tell my eldest son and his girlfriend - of course after I took the rest of the family out for ice cream at Cold Stone.... what else do you do??

I called my father-in-law, wrote to my classmates and announced it on FB. the journey can begin.......

I wish you all well.  Please feel free to contact me at

Friday, May 17, 2013

...... here we go again?

...... not sure but I figure since I am beginning a new journey of testing for a lump discovered nestled into the left clavical above my last journey's lump...... I just as well document this one and hope it is a short chapter without too much drama.

On the 8th of May, I headed out to St. Joes for an ultrasound of the annoying lump.  It is so nicely nestled into the clavical and hard to find.  Once you do locate it and pop it above the bone, you notice how round, smooth and easy it is to move it around.  Not entirely sure if it is a lymph node, cyst or golf ball but after a few minutes, the technologist locates another one.  My neck aches as she puts pressure around the neck just above the clavical.  I try not to have that sinking feeling but my gut tells me that this is just the beginning....

May 14 brings a quick call from my Medical Oncologist's nurse to ask when I will be available for tests they want me to have completed before meeting with Dr. Locke on the 21st of May.  I tell them I am available anytime and any day...

On the 15th of May.... 4 years to the day of discovering the first lump in the breast 6 inches below this recent arrival.  The day starts out sunny, warm and beautiful and then the phone rings.  It is the secretary of my Medical Oncologist and she needs to make two appointments for me.  A CT scan and of course that ever precautionary bone scan.  My stomache twists as she indicates that the CT scan is booked for Friday morning, which is only 2 days away and the Bone Scan is booked for Tuesday morning/afternoon.  I will head over to see Dr. Locke right after the scan is completed.  I thought about the appointment I missed in March for Dr. Locke because it just simply escaped me....things always happen for a reason.  I am keeping positive.  After all, four years ago it became all too apparent that my life might not meet with the expectations of retirement and I learned to accept those things that I could not change and appreciate that each of our journeys will come to an end.  I learned to live each day and find the best that each day has to offer.  Later, when waiting for the CT scan, a patient would be pushed past the waiting room declaring that the sun was out and that he had nothing to complain about....yup, he gets it.

I rose at 7:10 this morning, jumped in the shower, checked the lump (hoping it would have disappeared....always hopeful) and dressed in simple casual no zipper jeans and a loose blouse.  I arrived at the emergency CT scan waiting room after booking into University patient admissions.  Oh yum, we are all sitting there and sipping peach juice for an hour before our and now 4 of my best friends.  All joking aside, this stuff could use a little sugar, vodka and an umbrella.  The intake receptionist is kept busy serving one 'customer' after another.  Good thing I showed up at 8:10am instead of 9 am for the appointment time.  It takes 1 hour to drink all of the yummy peach-ade.

The ladies I was speaking with in the waiting room made the wait much more fun with their sense of humour and then later, with their story.....which remarkably sounds a whole lot like my own.  Military family, uprooted every 2 years and feeling a disconnect with childhood - I remarked about my own daughter being popular with her classmates and feeling like she belonged by having the time to create her own close group of friends over the years.  Yes, there were some advantages to growing up in a military home, but it wasn't for my children and I am grateful that they have the roots I did not have.  While my eldest is trying to get in, I know he will always know where home is.

I am asked to return to the waiting room after the technologist inserts an IV tap into the vein.  The gentleman in the gurney a few feet away will be taken ahead of me... he celebrated his 68th birthday on the same day as me.  I wish him happy birthday as I stroll past him to wait a few more minutes in the waiting room.  It gives me more time to speak with the woman who is there with her mother.  We must have covered every major milestone in our lives and amazed at some of the parallels in them.

It is finally my turn and I now have to drink more in the way of water to fill my stomache.  I also have to empty the bladder that the 1L of yummy (ok, you get the point) juice filled.  The technologist is waiting for me at the CT scanner holding what looks like a facial cream container and a spoon.  She wants me to EAT it????  I do not know what facial cream tastes like but if it is anything like this, no thanks!!!  It is supposed to coat the esophogas and make it easier to image.  Well it coated it alright.  Now to lay down and let the machine do its thing....yup, a recorded male voice telling me to breathe in and hold it and then to breathe again.  Next the injection.  Yup I feel the really warm burning sensation through every vein in my body.  Minutes later, the technologist comes in and bids me goodbye.  The next patient has arrived from emerge and I can see them preparing to lift her as I sit back in the waiting area while holding pressure on the huge gap left by the IV.  The doors begin to close as the patient yells out in pain.

I am sitting across from this woman again and she holds out a business card.  She isn't sure how i will react to this kind gesture.  I take it and smile at her.  I will try to keep in touch and let her know what happens next.