Western education 2013

Sunday, June 30, 2013

....... reflections and preparation......

.... for this week that feels like it is moving fast-forward.  I am not able to sleep comfortably some nights with the lump jabbing into my neck.  I have to sleep on my left side with my left arm up and a pillow shoved strategically under my head so that there is a pocket of space to accommodate the lump.  My head has not shut off sufficiently enough to warrant a good night sleep.  So, I get up early, drag myself downstairs for a coffee and read the blog from my first journey.

I make a mental note after reading about the first three rounds to ask for medications that control the acid reflux, create a diet high in fibre with no sugar, keep my iPad close for making notes to reduce the stress of chemo induced brain fog and walk, walk, walk to keep the bowel moving interspersed with the necessary naps.  I am also aware to make sure all household issues are dealt with before the first round of chemo.  I am reminded to continue to keep accurate records and to upkeep the blog which has become a wealth of information to guide me into the next journey.

This particular chemo cocktail affects the fast growing cells in the body such as the epithelial cells in the mouth and in the intestines.  This leaves the digestive tract open to infections and food sensitivities.  The steroids that are administered prior to the chemo are done to reduce any opportunity for an allergic reaction to occur.  Steroids cause a number of unpleasant side effects such as; weight gain due to increased appetite and moodiness.  The chemo itself caused me immeasurable agony in the form of constipation.  It took 3 weeks and multiple doses of intestinal 'draino' to clear the impaction. 

I have been preparing myself for this first round by drinking large quantities of water infused with liquid chlorophyll, Oregano Oil and liquid vitamin D.   The chlorophyll is used to remove toxins from the body and to clear the bowel naturally.  The Oregano Oil, while completely obnoxious, is used to kill bacteria in the mouth and intestines and my sinuses, to reduce any chance of infection when the immune system goes offline for a few days.  The vitamin D is something everyone should be getting and especially in North America.  Most people who slather themselves with head-to-toe sunscreen are not aware that the body, specifically the skin, requires vitamin D to be absorbed from the sun.  Without access to the skin, people do not receive the life supporting vitamin that is so critical to our good health.  Common sense would dictate that you do not burn, so with my children, they have learned to be safe outside by not 'baking' by the pool.  I rarely use sunscreen but I will have to because of the effects of the chemo making skin, eyes etc vulnerable to injury by a bright sunny day.  I am getting my doses now via liquid means.  I am also using a natural healing balm for my neck and shoulders to reduce some of the discomfort and swelling and it seems to be working so far.  I have ordered a natural bug spray and burn balm from the same company.  

I will be on 'Fever Watch' for the duration of chemo. I am given a fever card with emergency contact information and my oncology patient number.  It is a life-threatening complication of a body unable to protect itself and it informs emergency staff to expedite treatments.  Next time you are waiting in ER, you might see someone walk in and be taken into care immediately..... be patient and understand that they might have a pressing emergency which is prioritized.  Victoria Hospital has a specialized cancer unit in tower B specifically for these emergencies but sometimes, there is no bed to be had.  I was in ER being treated via IV for a scratch that got out of control.   It is imperative that wounds or infections be dealt with as you would any emergency - immediately.  It cannot wait even a day and must be attended to without delay.  I have stocked up my first aid kit with an antiseptic spray to be taken with me in my purse everywhere.  I made sure my tetanus shot was updated a week ago.  It feels like I am packing for a trip and in a way I am.  You make sure when you head out to an unknown destination, that you have planned for every situation possible..... plan for the worst and hope for the best!!!   While I bathe every day, it is essential to wash every inch and attending to any scratches using a topical antibiotic cream.  Not cutting the nails during 'down times' in the immune system or shaving (that will not be a problem after the second week- all hair will be gone by then) and keeping the mouth as clean as possible are key to staying on top of things.  Taking good care of yourself and letting others help in their own way is the best approach.

This week I have asked a friend to clean my house.  She has her own cleaning company and has graciously offered to clean my house for free.  I do not normally accept such a generous offer but I need to look after my family.  I will also bring the dogs to get bathed and clipped - the chemo makes the olfactory system kick into high gear and dog smells are unpleasant at the best of times.  Speaking about dogs and my wonderful cat Kajen.... they have not left my side for too long.. they sense something in their world has changed and it seems they know it is me.  

Dr. Annette, sat with me for a few hours on Friday afternoon.  We talked about life.... why I am strong and sometimes misunderstood..... and why I always look out for others..... why I am here for a second time.... so many deep philosophical questions.  She, like myself are always inquisitive about why people are the way they are and how some can go through life content to wear blinders while others take it all in from a distance while some are in the mix and are content to just be what others expect them to be.  Nature vs. Nurture..... we all have a choice in life to continue to perpetuate the life we grew up in and to excuse our behaviors as the fault of others or to honestly own who we are and to take responsibility for what we do and how we are.  This is another opportunity to grow the soul and to reflect on the past 4 years.  I wouldn't change much and what I would change helped me to grow anyway.  I have a tremendous support system in the way of family and friends.... why I let one person ruin some of the joy I felt at attending University was solely because of the bad feelings I had towards myself and why some people are just not worth the effort of trying so hard to be accepted by. Life is too short to not be real with yourself.  I will spend far less time with those who do not deserve the moments I have to share.  We could all take a page out of this experience...... xoxo

Friday, June 28, 2013

..... yesterday continued......

..... with a call from the oncology office.  Could I make it to an appointment with Dr. Younis this afternoon at 2 pm.  "Yes of course I can," I reply, looking up and over to Sara who is working with me at my house.  I hang up and feel the tightening in my belly, I did not expect to hear from his office for a few weeds.  I look at Sara and neither one of us is saying anything.  I text Max to ask if he wants to make it to the appointment and he texts back immediately and says he will come with me.

Sara is a godsend, a dear friend and the best damn partner and assistant a woman could ever hope to have.  We have earned our relationship, been deeply honest with each other and we can almost read each other without saying a word.  She doesn't say it but I know the look.... we are both strong women who face a lot of what life throws at us head on.  Today is no different as we return back to work after the short distraction.  She is my sounding board and diligently questions the material I am presenting her with.  We begin the arduous task of tweaking and re-tweaking to make this the best it can be for the students this fall.

Max arrives and Sara packs up.  She will return in the morning to continue our task.  She wants me to keep her apprised of what the outcome of the meeting will be.  She knows that I do not want to even think about being on chemo at this point.... and the crappy life you live with the side-effects and brain fog.....

The sky is ominous and the air is thick with humidity.  It has been a lousy spring and working its way to being the worst summer in years.  Max and I hold hands and I think I am squeezing a bit too hard as he tugs it away and then reconnects.  I know this routine in my sleep as we book into the main reception in A building - Cancer Clinic in Victoria Hospital.  The receptionist asks me if I have been there before?  Yes.  She then retrieves a 2 inch thick folder and proceeds to write on the top page.  Max wants to know if it is all my information..... yes.  I jokingly tell the receptionist that I have been to visit a few times, she looks up and smiles, hands me the traditional blue pager and wishes me a good day.

It gets quieter in the afternoon as most appointments are in the morning, so it is easier to find a seat.  I know that the doctor has made me the last appointment in the afternoon from the sparse audience in the waiting room.  The radiation gong signals the end of another person's journey with radiation and the room responds with applause as we pick up the print out of 'how are you feeling today?'  Ah yes, the 12 question questionaire that asks you about nausea to mental well-being.  Are you anxious today?  I put a 6 out of 10.... probably the highest mark I have put in so far..... hell yah, I am scared beyond belief but you wouldn't know it as I totally beat Max in a game of Othello on my iPad. The lady across the way asks about the game and then mentions one she loves to play.... Sequence.... I will have to look it up.  I ask her if she has played Mille Bourne?  She has not been able to figure it out and I tell her that I have the iPad version which guides you through play.  Max does not want to play another round of Othello.... he only has 3 white discs on the playing field.  We move on to virtual Yatzee.  What I would have done to have an iPad 4 years ago!!!  I download my newspaper every morning from the Free Press.... $54 per year!!

The pager goes off and a familiar nurse steps forward....'Oh, you know I was hoping you would not come back here', she says when she recognizes me.  She smiles warmly as I put my hand on her back.  We hug.  She guides me over to the weigh scale.... dare I say I am just a few pounds from 200!!!  All that emotional eating through university days really paid off!!!   The intake nurses are amazing and the work they do behind the scenes to support the patients and doctors is tremendous.  She brings in my documentation..... all 2" of it and proceeds to ask me how I am doing?  She has such empathetic eyes and a soft voice.  I am asked to change into a gown and wait for the doctor.  Max and I are left to ourselves.... men always think about sex, no matter what is going on and he points out in the women's fashion magazine he has picked up from the chair, that see through bras are an amazing invention.  We both burst out laughing.  He flips the page, only to find the matching panties.... enough said!!

The door opens, the laughter stops and we watch the stone face of the Chemotherapist as he pulls a chair over to sit down.  Normally he would pull over the 'staff only' rollaway stool, but not today. He is there to talk business first.  He tells us that he has been in a few conversations with my medical Oncologist Dr. Locke and they have spoken in detail about my disease.  I ask him to explain exactly where all the nodes are.  They form a Y which starts at the neck, under both sides of the clavicle and down the center of the chest.  It explains the shortness of breath and choking I have been experiencing over the past few months.  While I am still considered asymptomatic (without symptoms), they will soon present as the disease progresses.  How fast would be anyone's guess and the doctors do not know.  It is the same biological pathology as the first cancer.  Did it lay in waiting until the right circumstances triggered it?  It was a very stressful year and stress is a trigger for many diseases..... it is all just speculation and it matters little now how it came to be, only how we can deal with it.

There are a few moments in the meeting where the tears well up for both Max and I as we are told that it can progress quickly or take its time.  We are looking for solid answers and we will not get any.  The first chemo I was on was only given in three doses, three weeks apart.  There are three components to this chemotherapy..... 5FU (5-Fluorouracil affectionately called 'F$#% You'), Epirubicin (red color known for its effect on the heart of some patients) and Cyclophosophamide I.V.   These make up a combinational approach to reducing the lesions in a number of cancers....   There is no cure, only control of this cancer.  There is no definitive time frame only a short term solution to control a lifetime disease.  (I know quite a few people who live with chronic health issues including lifelong cancer - it is not always an immediate death sentence and has the same chances as any one of us being hit by a bus).  We are told we can think about it.  Max asks a few more questions.  He is concerned about the lesions interfering with my breathing.  They are inoperable, including the one sticking out of my neck.... which if it chooses to..... can work its way out of the neck and be dealt with when or if it does.  This is more than I wanted to know but at some point the discomfort will have me begging for it to leave no matter what the circumstances it takes to exit.  I do not suggest you research this online..... you may come to regret your curiousity.... I know I have. We will try three rounds, three weeks apart and then a CT scan to see what is happening to the lesions.  It will only continue for three more rounds if the lesions are shrinking.  We will discuss any other options should this one not work. 

He wants to start chemo right away if we agree to it or whatever we decide to do.  We both look at each other and decide to give it a try.  We are met again with my intake nurse and she gets me to fill out permission slips.  It reminds me of the slip I signed this week for Lydia's last day of school where she is now sitting in the theatre with her classmates.....not the same form!!  I have all the paperwork afforded to me on the kinds of medications and what we can expect.  The fever card is tucked in neatly with all the contact information should I develp a life-threating infection while on chemo.  If you have not read my previous journey.... a slight scratch brought me to the ER and was given an IV of antibiotics.  I try not to focus on the journey through chemo that will begin next week.... yup, right after the long weekend celebrations.  We have to 'donate' a blood sample before the first chemo and so we make our way over to the lab just through the now empty waiting room and past a ghastly looking man sitting outside the chemo suite and across from the pharmacy.

I peek my head into the lab door and see Heather walking towards me.  She is a lab technologist I was friendly with in my first journey.  She is happy to see me and gives me a great big hug.  We have bumped into each other just about everywhere in the past few months.  I told her about dragonboating and now her grinning face retells the adventures she has had in the recent DragonBoat festival held in London at Fanshawe lake.  i can feel her excitement as she relives her experience in an animated and excited way.  She peeks over at Max and recognizes him from a charitable event .... we have been to so many over the years.  Max is never surprised anymore on how many people I have made positive connections with.  Earlier in the day, I called the VP of the school I had worked in at my last practicum. I had promised to let her know what the outcome of my testing was.  It is her last day of work and she is now off to enjoy a much deserved retirement.  She is a survivor and a truly wonderful woman who I also feel a connection to.  We have promised to keep in touch.... I wish you all the very best in your new adventure Mary.  Hugs.

It is time to head home to meet up with the kids.  I call Sara and let her know the outcome of the meeting. She is surprised we are going to take chemo.....after that whole bit about no chemo talk earlier.... but it is not the one chemo that made me so bloody ill.  We have a lot of work to do and will be doing it all weekend before the chemo journey begins.... chemo fog will rob me of my ability to remember a train of thought... thank goodness for my iPad to help me pull it all together... I love technology.  There is an urgency in getting together all the material in the event that a colleague has to jump in and save the day(s).  Time will tell over the next month if I can handle the pace and the side-effects.  It will not worsen with each treatment, so it will be predictably the same each time.

Lydia has earned her money in getting the best marks ever!!!  she loves her lego and we head out to pick up dinner and her toys.  I think I have memorized every freckle of the hundreds on her face, the bright blue eyes and the larger than life smile.  Mitchel is quiet as we drift through the aisles following Lydia who has already chosen her prize!!  Mitchel is the emotional thermometer in the house.... he has chosen to spend the night at a friends house... he knows the score.  Later I will tell Lydia that I can make her no promises and she turns to face me and says 'yeah I know Mom, its OK, I understand.  Let's just enjoy our time.'  We are having a sleepover together in the spare room after trying on some 'just in case scarves' I bought last week with her.  I do not have to explain to her what the score is because we have always been up front with her.  She trusts us and I would never sell her a bill of goods willingly.  We have decided over the next little while to create some Lydia and Mommy movies so she can have them with her to mark better times.  While she is upstairs getting her stuff together for our sleepover.....

I am sitting with Max and looking at my husband who is my rock.  He has had a few drinks with his close neighbour buddies and has fielded a few tears from our friend Sue.  I am looking at him and I begin to cry.... then  sob.... he comes over to me and we look deep into each other's eyes.... his are the same blue as his beautiful daughter and full of love.  It is raining in my heart today for the hurt I am putting him through and for how much I will miss him if my time comes sooner than planned.  We have such a deep connection to each other born of a deep love and respect.... oh heck, we just started laughing at each other.... and hysterically.  He is sure I will come back to haunt him and I am pretty sure too!!!!  We will live our lives, laugh and love. It's not perfect, but its the best that it gets for us.  Time will tell on our new chapter and we will continue to focus on today and worry about tomorrow another day.  LIVE, LOVE and LAUGH

Thursday, June 27, 2013

........ a private life?

Yesterday was quite a day!!!  The neighborhood bully has expanded their reach across the street to my house on probably the one day I chose to sit quietly and reflect on what life for us will be like in the coming months.... days before my children really start their summer holidays and a day after seeing my Oncologist.  Something tells me that their adjacent neighbors will finally solve the issues that have plagued them for years from these people. I am leaving Karma to deal with them... and saving all my energy for more important things....

A surprise visit with Kirsten was cathartic in so many ways.  She went through this illness with her Mom who would eventually pass of the disease when she was in her early high school years. She needed to tell me all the things a Mom should hear about what the illness will try to take from their children while they are trying to survive.  I know my first instinct is to just withdraw and try to pull in all my energies.... but her words hit home and I will remember to make recordings to my children to let them know how much I truly love them and to be consciously aware of when I try to withdraw.  She also said that I needed to teach them about who I really am... beyond just being their mother.  Its true that we only become truly aware of who our parents are when we ourselves are grown and raising children.  Our perspective becomes richer and our awareness more honest with experience and time. I was never close to my mother even though she lives a few miles down the road from me now.  She has dementia which is worsening as the days go by and a recent phone call to let her know what the diagnosis is starts her talking about poor so-and-so who is 92 and dying of cancer a few doors down.  "Oh, its so hard for me to see this resident going through all this", she says..... I let her know that I have to go and she asks me how I am doing.  I think to myself that at least the 92 year old got to see their children grow up and has lived long enough for my 80 year old Mom to feel sorry for him. She doesn't know his name......  I tell her I am fine.  Later I would sit with Lydia and watch while she expertly built her latest Lego project.  She loves to build these kits and create imaginary villages.  She is so incredibly amazing and I adore every single freckle on her face, her bright blue eyes and her amazing smile.  I hope she lives each and every one of her dreams as I think I have lived most of mine.    

My neighbor friend Brenda made her way across the back yard when she knew my company had left.  She gingerly stepped onto the back deck and made her way over to me.  She says she is sorry as she wraps her arms around me and kisses my head.  She is not a demonstrative woman, usually choosing humour to offset her discomfort, but today is different.  She wants to know what is and what will happen in the months to come.  I myself am not sure, only that it will not be as straightforward as the first journey.  I will know much more in the weeks ahead.  We sit together and watch her tree being chopped down while enjoying a cup of coffee. Keep the humour going Brenda, I know at some point, we'll both need it.

Max is such an amazing husband and I try to remember to keep some of my most private thoughts to myself, as I know he does too.  We both know each other well enough that we can read each other's minds. We both know the score and we talk about what our options might be.  I need to really think about what is best not only for me but for my family.  There is no quality of life at all on chemo..... it has taken me three long years to finally feel like myself - strong and capable of taking on the world.  I remember reading a touching and heart wrenching blog of a woman who started the LympheDIVAS company after a battle with breast cancer and the lymphedema that followed after her surgery. I came across her blog when I ordered a sleeve online.  (  It was well written and spoke to the desperation of a young woman who was trying everything to survive her second diagnosis .... while living her life the best she knew how.  I wore my sleeves and loved them for the creativity and ingenuity but still preferred to show off my 5 Koi fish tattooed on my upper arm which the sleeves hid.  My koi fish has a tiny pink ribbon on its belly which was supposed to be covered up after my journey ended but as luck would have it, I am not able to finish the art work on that arm because of the edema risk.  Ironic how I can not erase that from my arm or from my life journey.  The koi are often seen as 'lucky fish' but really, they are a representative of our life's ambition to achieve the status of Dragon... resilient and powerful.  I am born in the year of the Dragon and even have a little blue eyed dragon tattooed next to my koi.  My husband and children are all represented by their own koi fish permanently inked weeks before my breast cancer surgery four years ago this weekend.

As we talk, I note a 'pink' gift given to me by a friend weeks before my diagnosis.... it was just a weird, 'out of the blue' donation..... I picked it up and walked it to the kitchen counter.  I believe Max found a good home for it in the garbage can.  I like the color pink... just not all the 'pink awareness' garbage found in every store these days.  The money lines the pockets of manufacturers making them wealthy beyond belief.... according to one FB pink company, they are enjoying their newly expanded warehouse.  Comments on their pink site are mostly women gooing about the latest pink ribbon flip flops.  Put your money into something much more valuable, like research.  London Ontario has one of the finest research facilities right in Victoria Hospital and of course Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto.  Believe me, breasts in and of themselves attract attention!!  As a girlfriend of mine often says (who survived colon cancer), "where are all the brown ribbons?  Do they even have brown ribbons?"  There are so many ribbons out there, even I do not know what they all mean.... I have yet to come across a brown ribbon though.  Go figure?!  She says "it's just not sexy enough".... we both laugh at this because really, what is sexy about cancer?  How much money has been raised or spent on breast cancer over the past 30 years?  I am sure the numbers are staggering and yet.... here we are, on a secondary diagnosis wondering what the hell happened?   

Well, its a few days later and the emotions are starting to settle.... tears have fallen, fears felt, love expressed.... let's just keep on going.  I am going to live my life.  All of us living in this mortal world are brave and not because we face our worries and fears but because we have no choice.  We have a life to live and we make choices on how we are going to live it despite the fact that none of us have any control.  Our attitudes and our ability to stand up when we fall down are a testament to the enduring human condition.  We believe ourselves to be immortal despite knowing we are not.  That is how we all make it through the tough times because they are blended in with moments that take our breath away. 

I wish to dedicate this blog to EVERYONE brave enough to live a good life.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

..... another overcast day......

..... its called foreshadowing in the world of literature and in my life.... its called life.  I woke up this morning after a quiet evening.  Thanks Pat for the wonderful bottle of red wine.... it helped ease me into a deep sleep, free from worry.  I had my cup of coffee this morning and then headed out to visit with Sarah a few blocks from Victoria Hospital.  I let Max know that I was fine to go to the hospital by myself.  I forgot how busy the cancer clinic is mid-morning as I stood in line waiting the get the pager.  Everyone who is a patient at the clinic receives one and you can hear them buzz like an angry hive, complete with flashing LED's when it is their turn.  I am feeling dreadfully quiet and even when I hear first the gong from the radiation department downstairs signaling a last treatment, I do not join in to the clapping.  The gong tolls outside chemo a few minutes later....I still don't clap....I do not want to be here.  There is a young fellow with his friend sitting a few seats away.  He is loud and obnoxious as he describes proudly to his friend all the crazy treatments he has received.  I try to tune him out but finally after describing in detail his runny stools I turn to him and ask him to stop.  He is only quiet for a minute then continues to 'entertain' his friend for everyone to hear throughout the large waiting room.  He is being glared at by a number of patients but chooses to ignore them and continue.  I am grateful when my pager finally drones.  My happy place is not where I left it as I follow the nurse to be weighed and seated in the examining room.

The nurse has decided that I do not need to put the examination gown on because Dr. Locke wants to speak with me first.  She asks me how I am doing and I just shrug...  I tell her that I made peace with myself four years ago when I was first diagnosed.  I am mortal and that is how life is.... we all have to go one day but what counts is what you make of all the days in between.  I know in my heart that the biopsy is positive and when Dr. Locke appears and sits down his look says it all.  It is the same pathology as four years ago.  I put on my game face, ask the standard questions and then ask him what the prognosis is.  So far so good that I found the lump despite being asymptomatic...that is the story of my life... having to be intuitive instead of symptomatic.  The lumps will not be removed unless the cancer makes its way out of the skin so there will be no discussion on surgical procedures done today or anytime soon.  So the main lump stays.  I will meet sometime in the next two weeks with the chemotherapist about what our next move is.  Considering we already went with the big guns in the first diagnosis, it might just mean a little more of the same thing over a longer period of time..... we do not know at this point what we will be doing or what is available.  Dr. Locke asks me if I need to see a spiritual councilor.... no, I will just head home and be by myself for a while.

I am not myself this afternoon and after a number of cups of coffee and little to eat.... my coping skills are not great.  A quick call to Max to come home and just sit with me before Lydia comes home  would be best.  I am not sure quite what to say.....the tears fall too easily today.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

...... busy week while waiting for results.....

.... and enjoying my time working on the back deck.... which is where I am right now blogging.  There is a chill in the air and a clear blue sky.  This is day 2 of setting up my office outside.  It is hard to work on days like this in the basement.  Oh look, a squirrel!!!  He is hanging in the branches above the neighbor's roof.  The gardens are in full bloom including the mass of tomato plants.  A Bluejay has come to see what I am doing.... he is inching closer on the eaves while the squirrel makes its way back into the next tree after racing across the neighbors roof.  The Bluejay is now peering at me from the top of the fence.  He is more curious about the clacking of the keyboard as I type.  I can hear a Mourning Dove in the next yard behind me and the trickle of the pond waterfall which Max repaired last night.  There are finches playing in our apple tree and an assortment of others foraging for food in the now empty bird feeder.  Everyone should have such a wonderful office!!

June 14th, my husband organized a truly wonderful surprise dinner at the Palasad after an amazing day of graduation at Alumni Hall.  Max said I had quite the cheering squad.  :) What a gorgeous day filled with hugs, best wishes and loving friends.  Thank you so much Max for pulling together as many of my friends as you could.... I should have guessed you were up to something when you asked me to unlock my phone!!

My father-in-law had his second hip surgery on Monday after being in excruciating pain for some time now.  We affectionately refer to him as the 'Titanium' man now that he has had both knees replaced and both hip joints replaced.  He is such a trooper!!!

I have officially finished my time at Beal this past Tuesday.  Mrs C has been such a wonderful substitute/LTO and after many hugs and promises to keep in touch, she hands me a lovely thank you card.  She writes that I have inspired her to reawaken that excitement for teaching again after a decade of supplying.  Adam comes over for a hug and lets us know how much he enjoyed working with us both.  I will miss working with this team!!  With all the money the government wastes..... it wastes it on themselves instead of putting it into creating collaborative teaching, which I find works so well and the students get the benefit of a unique blend of ideas and approaches to learning.

Yesterday I received a text from a classmate.... apparently my photo did not make it onto the Technical Graduating Class of 2013, along with about 9 others.  The original sign up for the pictures did not have the Technology selection available which is why our pictures did not make it on the class picture. It would be ironic in terms if it shows up in the Drama group with the people I spent the majority of my time with.  I will miss all of these wonderful, young, energetic and fun colleagues!!!  Muah!!!

I am still waiting for results which will likely come at my scheduled appointment next Wednesday the 25th.  Until then, I am busy drawing up the lab sheets for the course I will be instructing in the fall.  The parts are ordered, software is in place and now it is just a matter of pulling all the notes together.  Some major changes that will give the students a more hands-on approach to learning and a series of lectures that support the lab fundamentals.  I am excited to be back in the groove!!   Its fabulous working with Sara, John and Mitch this coming semester. It is a collaborative and supportive team, always tweaking to improve the students experience.  I consider myself very lucky indeed!!!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

..... biopsy Wednesday.....

..... I got up this morning and decided since the instruction sheet called for a fast prior to the biopsy that I would just stay in bed and begin writing my paper for Spec Ed.  Max is busy working on a project and has gone downstairs.  We both just need the time to be alone and to do our own thing.  I have been in great spirits all week working with Sara at Fanshawe and gettting the student projects ready to go for the September intake.  I have been keeping busy to take my mind off the last biopsy I had, which wasn't too bad but now we are dealling with a lump and its involved nodes that are nestled in amongst a very densely rich venous area and major nerve system. 

At 11 am, we decide to head out to the hospital to make it to admitting for 11:30 following the instructions to report in 2 hours prior to the procedure.  When we arived in the new patient admitting area, we were told that we did not have to report to them 2 hours prior to the procedure and that we were to go directly to Ultrasound on the 1st floor in D building.  I began to wonder, what in fact was accurate on this list of instructions as my hungry tummy snarled at me as we stepped off the elevator in D building.  I would soon learn that essentially the only accurate instructions on the appointment sheet were the ones on how to get to the hospital and park.  Since we were already there, we might as well sit it out...... that was noon....

The ultrasound waiting room consists on a small enclave hosting an adult waiting room and a child's waiting room just beyond the main reception desk.  It serves both ultrasound and Xray patients and  judging by the ebb and flow of incoming.... most of them have been recently served in the emergency room.  There are a number of very small children and one little tot whose hands appeared to be awkwardly facing back up along the arm.  He was simpering and trying to suck on the fingers of his right hand through the bandages that encased them.  This hand too was cantered at an odd angle to his arm.  His round eyes rolled in his cute cherubic face and he would begin to simper as he arranged his bandaged fingers to poke away at his eyes.  A mother with 3 young boys in tow and a baby in a stroller has manoevered her way through and into the childrens waiting room.  Its hosts a beautiful tank in the center of the waiting room with tropical fish. One of them looked remarkably like Dori from Finding Nemo..... I prayed she would forget the trauma executed through the hands of the trio of boys slamming the glass repeatedly.   An attractive young woman and her equally attractive mother arrive at the kiosk.  She wants to know how long it will be before she can be seen and touches  the round of her belly.  I see her concerned look and she winces as she takes a seat.  Her hand is tapping on her knee likely trying to distract her from her discomfort.  Her mother has moved to sit in a chair and promptly removes a book and begins reading.  I can hear a small child crying from somewhere withing the back hallways of the xray department.  Max has settled in and is working on a project of his own.  He is tapping out notes on his iPad, much like I am doing now.  There are so many patients moving through this waiting room where I would sit for the better part of 2.5 hours before my number is called.... I wasn't even considering calling bingo..... my humour was waning while my anxiety was increasing.

Tracy will be my ultrasound technologist for this procedure.  She is lovely, with a sense of humour and a gentle voice.  She asks me if I understand what a biopsy is and I nod my head.  I let her know that I have had both needle and core biopsies.  She procedes to ultrasound the left clavicle and searches around until she locates all of the involved lymph nodes.  She focuses on the largest lump which is just above the clavical and begins to document the size of the lesion (medical term for cancerous growth) and then turns on the feature that shows venous involvement.  A cancerous growth needs to feed itself and in so doing, will often draw a blood supply to it.  This test will often help to guide the physician to take samples closest to this supply.  A lump is not full of cancerous cells, it is a body's way of attempting to protect itself and often the cancerous cells are microscopic and often difficult to locate unless the entire lump is removed.  In that case, the lump would be sliced thinly enough to be seen through a microscope. 

The doctor comes in a few minutes after Tracy consults with him about her ultrasound findings.  He decides to go with a core biopsy.  This is done after the area under test is frozen with a local.  The core biopsy is done with an 18 gauge needle and since it is unable to perforate the outer skin layer, a sharp scalpel is used to nick an opening to allow this large gauge needle to enter the tissue to be sampled.  The core biopsy needle requires assistance to remove the tissue and so a retractable plunger is used to draw the sample into the needle.  With a quick push of a button and an audible click, the plunger retracts quickly with its sample safely pocketed in the shaft of this 6 inch needle.  This is then ejected into a sample vial for pathology.  The physician wants to be thorough and he does this procedure 5 times using the ultrasound to guide him to his mark each time.  The procedure is painless for the most part but becomes uncomfortable after the freezing comes out.

It has been a long day and I am beyond tired.... emotionally, I will have a little cry outside of the MacDonald's as my husband runs inside to get me something to eat.  Well, that part is done and now the wait begins again for pathology that will report back in about 10 days.  I am heading off to bed now that I have eaten.  Lydia has arrived from school and bounds up the stairs to say hello.  She got her iPad for a birthday gift and needs me to help her download some games.  She is growing up so fast.  

I want to dedicate this blog to my soul mate who does his best no matter what.  I am proud of how wonderful a husband and father you are.  I love you with all my heart. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

...... change in plans?

We almost had to miss Convocation day!!  Of all the days in June to book an ultrasound guided biopsy and it had to be smack dab in the middle of my Convocation.  I did not want to miss the event I have dreamed about all year, but then, I did not want to delay the biopsy.  I asked my Oncologist to see if booking could change it but if not, I would settle with the original appointment.  Thankfully I only had to wait overnight with a quick early morning call from nurse Marg to let me know that the appointment has changed to the Wednesday....two days before!!!  That gives me one day to recoup for the big day.  I am grateful for the efforts and coordination it takes to shift schedules and to squeeze me in.

The procedure should take approximately 1 hour (I believe with sedation) in the ultrasound room.  With the lump having moved above the clavicle in the past few weeks, this should make it easier for them to work with it.  It has grown in size since I first discovered it months ago.  While I am concerned about the fact the cells are in the nodes around it, I am confident they will find a sample of the cancer and be able to map the next course of events.

I am still volunteering at the high school part-time to assist the substitute teacher.  This week I am teaching soldering techniques to the senior group of students.  There is one girl in the class and she has bragged to me all semester about her soldering ability and that she really doesn't need to take any lessons.  Ah youth!!  As it was, she did poorly when it came to soldering the few components she was asked to do on a perforated board I had supplied to each student.  After a litany of excuses, I sat with her and showed her how to properly solder.  She will continue to practice until she perfects this sometimes difficult skill.  It is the first exercise where I have been able to get an ADHD student to complete the task and he did remarkably well..... with fist pumps and high fives, his smile lit up the room.  Talk about exciting!!!  Even our nervous chatterbox sat quietly engaged and did an amazing job!!!  Mrs. C was just so happy to have me help her in the classroom.  She has done well with the students and is learning how to effectively deal with them and they are learning to descipher what she is saying through her heavy accent.

The Spec Ed online course I am taking is great.  I love being able to do this course when I feel comfortable sitting down to work on it, which is usually before bedtime.  There is so much reading and writing associated with this course along with discussions, which are my favorite aspect of the course.  I will be taking a Green Industry course in July- also online and it is only being offered once!!!  How lucky am I?

I am also busy doing curriculum development for Fanshawe which involves a lot of research and development.  So far I have created the bones of a project build and this week will have a firm plan in place to create the meat of the labs and the lectures to accompany this project.  I am so excited for the fall intake now that I have a greater insight to teaching and the experience of two technical high schools which feed into Fanshawe.

All in all, feeling very positive this week.  I am looking after myself, eating properly and reducing the carbohydrate intake.

I dedicate this blog entry to all the people behind the scenes at the Cancer Clinic who make it happen every day for patients like me.  To my Oncologist Dr. Locke for making sure that things get looked at  right away.  I am deeply grateful to those who have offered support and kind words to myself and my family.  To Lydia's supportive and loving teachers Patti and Niki - you are truly a blessing in our lives and we cannot thank you enough. xox

Saturday, June 1, 2013

.....a reflection while I await a call....

..... one thing is for sure.... waiting can drive you a little crazy, so I have decided to write a reflection piece while taking some down time this afternoon.  Today is my class graduation party... I am not attending this event.  I am not feeling well physically today - queasy from a mix of sinuses and fatigue.  I can see out the window that the wind is picking up and I am grateful that I was able to put in a little gardenting, laundry and clean the bathrooms before heading upstairs to lay in my bed......

I love FB for all the posts that people put up and the connection I felt when I first began my cancer journey 4 years ago.  I was able to meet new people, laugh at their posts, cry at their losses and feel strangely connected in my isolation.  My husband and children were always there to support and love me along with some very dear and close friends.  I lost some 'friends' along the way in that journey and my ex-husband who stopped seeing his own children the minute he heard I was diagnosed.....

I was watching a video from youtube today that someone had posted.  Patrick Stewart had been asked  about what his greatest achievement was besides the obvious ones as an actor.  He spoke of a violent father who raised him.  He discovered a few years ago that his father was experiencing post traumatic (shell shock) from the experiences he had as a soldier in the war.  The violence against his mother at the hand of his father, prompted him to get involved with organizations that support women who suffer with domestic violence.  He also now supports an organization on behalf of his father.  I believe our life experiences shape who we are.

Both my parents are products of privilege who lost everything in the war.  My mother was the eldest of three sisters who was raised in a wealthy German home in Berlin before the war broke out.  She had maids, went on summer vacations with her parents and younger siblings until they had to flee from the bombings.  They lost everything.  I would only know my grandparents for a short time until my mother met my father and moved to Canada in the mid sixties.  My father managed to narrowly escape Hong Kong and his first memory is of his father running with him tucked under his arm towards the boat that his mother and sister would board with him and take them to Australia.  His father would remain, be captured by the invading Japanese forces and be interned in Stanley concentration camp Christmas 1941.  He would be killed by American naval friendly fire 8 months before the war ended and be one of 13 unlucky names on a tomb stone in the civilian side of Stanley cemetery.

My mother was resentful and had difficulties raising 4 children in a strange new world while my father immersed himself in his schooling at Western Engineering.  He had no role models other than the nuns who raised him at boarding school from the time he was 4 until he graduated at 19.  It was not uncommon for British families to send their children away to England to boarding school in those days if you had the money.  My father would go to Canada against his mother's wishes upon graduation and a few years later, would join the military, move to Baden-Baden, meet my mother and marry.  Two parents, dealing with their own disrupted childhoods, resentful of their pasts and trying to create their own family bonds while moving every two years without any help or support from distant or non-existant family members.  We were truly on our own. Mom aligned herself with my oldest sister, gave her an incredible amount of responsibility and leaned on her through some desperate times.  My sister essentially became an overbearing bully.  I would spend years as her punching bag and she would take pleasure in embarrasing me whenever she could.  I could never seem to stay out of her way.  December 2012 was the final straw after patiently putting up with her bullying for 48 years I contacted a lawyer and put in process an order for her  to cease and desist.  I am now just a casual visitor to our parents who live in London within minutes from my home instead of being the caregiver I had been in the preceding year.  My father has alzheimers and my mother has dementia.  I can no longer expend the energy to fix what was broken so long ago.  My brother supports my decision to finally break all ties with my eldest sister who can no longer hurt me anymore from her place 3500 miles away........  I am learning to move forward..... life is all about learning and seeing challenges as opportunities to grow the soul.

I owe a great deal of thanks to my husband who is always there for me and loves me through some of my most challenging times.  He truly is the better half who lets me know, with everything he does, that he is there every step of the way.  He is the strong one in a quiet, steady way.  My parents in-law are the parents everyone should have.  They love you no matter what.......My father in law has been my guide and sounding board for 15 years.  I am deeply indebted to you for your kindness, strength and compassion.  My mother-in-law Eve is a kind and gentle soul whose love for us and our children has created the family roots my children deserve.  I cannot thank you enough for being a part of our lives.  They are proud of me and celebrate each and every milestone.  Thank you so much.

I owe my life mentors a deep gratitude for the love and patience they taught me through raising their own children.  I learned how to be a really good parent to my children through Eileen.  She raised four children on her own using perserverence, faith in her abilities, humour and love.  She came from a tough childhood and marriage and learned to push through all that.  I know how deeply sensitive she really is..... most of us who have survived abuse do.  I love you Eileen, you have always told me the way it is and even when I didn't want to hear it, I was listening and took your advice.... today, I have 3 tremendously fabulous children and I thank you for your guidance.  I am eternally indebted to you.  You have been there from the beginning.... fate brought us together.

I am looking back out the window and feeling the serenity of sitting quietly by myself, listening to my daughter play in her room......a perfect afternoon as the clouds thicken, winds pick up and turn to see my ever faithful pets sitting with me. I am grateful.