Western education 2013

Saturday, March 29, 2014

...... so how am I feeling these days?

I am feeling better than I have in months.  I have been taking good care of myself and making sure I spend some relaxing time doing things that make me feel good.  Planning my urban garden with Max is one of those great activities!! (  Today we mailed Flat Stanley back to the Ohio grade 2 classroom after 12 days of adventuring.  

That grade 2 student Hailey will never really know the positive impact that Stanley's visit had on me near the end of my radiation treatments.  I was able to focus on something other than my illness and in the process, I started to think of where I could take Stanley.  It became a game every day on where I could take him and what we could do when we got there.  Stanley has been to my classroom, the TV station where I worked etc.  Today I took my daughter and her friend to the Maple Bush and we only took a few pictures of Stanley.  I put him into my purse and the rest of the pictures were of the kids.  I am officially out of my funk and all thanks to some flat guy and a daughter who reminded me of the importance of bringing her along....she was actually jealous of Flat spending so much time with her Mom!!  ( )

My Mom had a minor stroke... according to the hospital, it likely happened weeks ago and then her health started to take a decline as she stopped knowing when to take her medications and it snowballed from there. I took care of her last Tuesday and Wednesday evening but unfortunately she had begun to decline over the following days. Her eldest daughter arrived on Wednesday evening to look after her and realized by Friday that things were certainly not right.  She left the hospital today with her eldest daughter after a four day stay until they could balance her chemical levels and work out her medications.  She will no longer be administering any medication to herself but through the nursing staff at her retirement home.  I have spent the past few days being a gracious assistant to the visiting eldest sister to help facilitate Mom's return back home.  My brother would later rib me about this but sometimes, doing the right thing means putting aside, albeit temporarily, your own feelings to benefit someone else in their time of need.  Mom is back home and tomorrow, her eldest will return to her home... far far away.

I visited with my Dad for the first time in months.  I stepped off the elevator onto the third floor of the long-term care home and spotted him almost immediately sitting alone in a corner by the window.  His head turned as if he heard his name and looked in our direction.  I often think that he senses when I am near.... I remember the staff at the last home telling me he would knock on the window just minutes before I would arrive.  I walk up and call out Dad.  He looks up at me and a smile forms slowly as his blue eyes scan over me.  He isn't really focused but knows he is being addressed.  His eldest asks if he knows who I am and when he slowly turns his head no, she asks him what his daughter's names are.... he said my name.....Alzheimer's has taken so much from my father except his sense of humour and his zest for zaniness.  I offered him a maple donut, one of his favorite flavors we picked up on the way to visit and a cup of coffee. We set down his treats and spoke to him.  He loves when you hold his hand or touch his cheek and smiles when you do.  According to the nurses, he was in a funk first thing in the morning and for his efforts, earned him a second dose of his calm pills..... that's why he was sitting by himself in the corner.  We sat and visited with him for an hour and partially entertained a woman who insisted on joining us... fortunately the coloring books that were on the table we dragged over to have our coffee on kept her entertained.  Looks were exchanged between the eldest and myself when the woman pulled a grease stained McDonald's bag out of her purse.  The crushed muffin was ceremoniously removed from its enclosure and she gleefully patted it with the butter that accompanied it.  Once thing you have to admit when it comes to fast stays 'fresh' forever!!  

Our hour was up and it was time to head to my chiropractic appointment.  I turned to Dad and when I got close enough to kiss him, he turned and nuzzled my nose with his.  Something I would always do with him when putting him to bed at night.  I missed you so much Dad and it was good to see you smile.  You look amazingly good.... I will see you soon.  It is always hard to leave him sitting by himself and I often wonder why him??  He worked hard his whole life and here he is retired and living in a locked-down ward wearing a multcoloured bib to protect the plaid shirt beneath.  I grasp his hands that once long ago dwarfed mine.  I never in a million years ever thought I would be the one wiping his face and hands after a donut or reading him a book he might have read me as a child.  How terribly sad to live out your days only remembering the ones that meant the most in your youth and forget the ones that brought you grand-children.  Well, today is today, can't change yesterday or tomorrow.  I have to live knowing that life is very uncertain and nothing other than death and taxes is a given.  My father continues to inspire me to always be my best.  While I may not ever connect with my eldest sister, I am proud of myself for being kind, respectful and accomodating.  

I spent the rest of the day cleaning out part of the garage to make room for our next project.  The over-wintered plants in the garage got pulled out into the sunshine, picked clean of dead leaves and watered for yet another season.  They are all annuals which I have learned to keep for years.  The dull, faded wooden King Fisher sitting in the corner needed a new coat of paint and an outdoor finish... so I sanded the surface, mixed the acrylic paints and put on a new rich coat.  Then I was off to the hardware store for polyethylene satin finish to make it water proof.  This wood carving has saved our pond fish from extinction by a local Heron

I managed to get the colours matched well and I am super pleased by how it turned out.

Well if that wasn't enough, I decided to rake out the front yard garden, edge the curb, plant some asparagus plants in the back garden and cold framed them.  So its no wonder that I am tired....but happy.  Oh... one more thing.... I found some New Mom books in the garage and yes, walked across the street to the 'not so nice' neighbor and placed them on the doorstep... there is a new granchild in their family and I thought that the daughter might appreciate the books.  The youngest arrived home and I mentioned the books were on the doorstep and she thanked me.  Nice deed done.

This evening I happened to find a little rant above a picture posted from some guy about a bad employee for a company I immediately recognized.  FB is not a place to trash someone's business.  If you have a problem with an employee in a company vehicle, please call the company to complain directly to them and not the entire internet!!!  It doesn't make you any better than the one who was rude in the first place.  I just happened to know the owner of the business and emailed the individual who posted it on FB asking them to contact the company instead of posting it.  The two men who started the business had nothing and built it up over the years and have since provided excellent service and created new jobs.  Please always be mindful and think before you ink.

Wednesday..... the neighbor lady promptly placed my books in a cheap plastic bag and sat them on my wet mucky front lawn with a note attached to it.  So my good intentions were a big slap in the face and I was really upset with not only the note but the damage to expensive books I could have given to someone else or they could have without saying a word to me.  So when I did ask her why she put the books on my soaking front lawn.... she simply screamed across at me "wacko, stupid wacko for 2 minutes until my husband pulled into the driveway at which point her and her husband went into their home.  Well, I did try to be nice and now I will just simply ignore them and secretly pray they move away.... far.....far......away.  My friends are worried they will start to harass me about my urban garden.... well, I guess we will wait and see.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

..... radiation into week 2....

..... will only involve the liver this week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  I had three last week on the same days plus the neck radiation every day.  The 'finger pain' has subsided and I can now touch my neck.  The sternum is still sensitive to the touch and until last night, I was unable to find a comfortable postition for sleeping.  

Sunday brings my wonderful sister-in-law Debbie and her lovely children Brooke and Ethan.  She spoils my children!!!  Oma and Grandad are also visiting and while we were all sitting around, William called!!  A regular family reunion!!!  It is so good to see all of them. Debbie, we don't see as often as we want to so we are hoping to head up to visit them in the summer.  I wasn't feeing well but certainly way better when they all arrived!!  Xoxoxoxox. Thank you for always being so loving and sweet. 

Today I saw my medical oncologist after my treatment.  He asks me if I can feel my lump still.  Yes I can.  It has popped above the clavicle and feels like a hard marble.  Apparently it is supposed to feel softened.  Well, this one still feels hard.... and I am pretty sure that it is just slighty smaller.  He tells me that I will have a CT scan in 4 weeks with contrast to see what is going on.  My liver?  Well, it feels full on the right side just under the rib cage.  Dr. Locke explains that the liver can eventually grow new tissue over the lesion completely covering it.  He reminds me that there were only two lesions found in the last CT scan... he is hoping, as am I,  that there are no more lesions.  I know he has to be optimistically careful.  The bottom line here is optimistic, something I have always been.  I am just deeply grateful for this opportunity.

I am in the kitchen talking to Max about my appointment.  He wants to know as well why the lump has not subsided or softened.  All my research and consultation with the doctor would indicate that it might be swollen from the blast it took from the high level of radiation.  This should resolve itself over the next few weeks as the cells continue to die.  The finger like protrusions of the tumor should separate from its anchor point on the carotid artery once this begins to happen.  As I am explaining this to Max I tug gently on the lump and can feel a pop under my fingers.  The feeling is remarkable and frightening at the same time.  OMG what if I just ripped it out of the artery and I start bleeding?????  Max doesn't see anything but I hold my breath anyway and my imagination goes wild.  If the tumour had stayed, that is what it would have eventually done but Geez....what have I done??!!!  Deep breath, deep breath..... touching, touching.... nothing hurting, no swelling.... whew!!!  While there is still finger touch sensitivity to a few spots on the neck and sternum, but I am no longer in pain.  

I check my arm later and note that it is fine.  Lucky me that the Valient machine is programmed to be exact pin point accuracy with the radiation beam, which likely saved me from permanent nerve damage in the left arm.  I still have neuropathy in both hands from chemo but other than that, nothing to report.  While my doctor did not sound enthusiatic yesterday, I think he is just concerned  about what may come.  He and I know that the metastasis could have spread to anywhere in my body but we know that it also may not have.  Time will tell.  There will be a CT scan in 4 weeks with contrast to see what shows up.  They will be looking as well for other areas of metastasis and what is left of the tumours they radiated.  I will know the results a week later.  Then, three months after that one, I will have another one.  This one is the important test - it will definitively tell what, if any disease remains.  We will cross that bridge when we get to it!!

In the meantime..... we have a visitor from my friend Teri in the United States.  She has mailed me a Flat Stanley from a child of a friend of hers.  He arrived yesterday and has already settled in.

DAY 1 - Hailey's Flat Stanley

Copywrite:  Marita DeVries March 21, 2014

Stay tuned for more Flat Stanley Adventures!!  Today is the first day of Spring... and it is snowing!!!  All in keeping with the snow that has stayed since it first arrived in November.  We are all looking forward to spring coming soon... and it can't come fast enough!!!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

...... another sleepless night....

....... I roll over onto my left shoulder and the dull roar turns into a deep pain through the shoulder and radiates across into the chest.  I shift to find a more comfortable position and am met with more pain.  I can only manage to be comfortable sitting upright.  There are so many tender spots it would be difficult to pinpoint which one hurts more when I shift again.  I get up to go to the washroom and decide that there is nothing more I can do but get up and walk around. 

Uncle Paul and Mitchel are up watching a StarTrek movie. It is 3:30 in the morning.  I put on the kettle and settle in to watch the final half hour.  The boys head up when it is done.  I cradle the warm tea and decide to watch the last Die Hard movie.  Its no use trying to get to sleep until after my early morning appointment in radiation.  I will need to get some rest before class this afternoon.  I have come to count on the feeling of deep fatigue within a few hours of treatment.  I have to learn to pace myself and do only what I have to do these next few weeks.  

I contemplate having something to eat but decide against it.  I have been a little queasy for the past few days.... it has been a bit challenging this week and I am tiring quickly. I think this next week, I will keep a low profile.  I have to conserve what little energy I have left in order to cope over the next week.  I have 4 treatments left.  This morning I had a treatment which went better than yesterday but the pain is still there.  The Radiation technician has offered to get a prescription should the pain get worse.  I am trying not to take anything but I will have to take something tonight in order to get comfortable enough to sleep.

Friday 14th March....

Today I am in to have radiation on both the neck and liver lesion.  I get cozied in for the first treatment when we all notice the machine is quiet.... it is offline and has completely shut down.  Up I get while they call the tech to come in and reset a tripped emergency stop.  I would love to watch the tech work as this is right up my alley.  The radiation technologist lets me know that I can ask the tech group if I can be there the next time they pull one apart for maintenance.... I would totally love that!!! I go back out into the waiting room until the machine is up and running.  A few minutes later, the radiation technologist comes back to call me into the suite again. I turn and wish the man in the chair a few over from me the best of luck.... his days are numbered and the yellow pallour of his skin tells me it isn't good.  He is getting radiation to keep the pain in check while the cancer continues to invade his entire body.  He was first diagnosed in his youth and as he says.."it was when I was stronger and able to handle the treatments and the illness".  But we both agree that there is ultimately a price to be paid every time you go through treatments.  He has already lost a kidney.  We have both gained an appreciation for what we do have.  It reminds me of a student the other day complaining and telling me that only bad things happen to him..... I looked at him and let him know that while he feels that way some days... he is talking to the wrong person.  He sheepishly and quietly apologized.

I can feel the heat today in both the shoulder and the liver.  I think about how grateful I am to be in this position and in this city to have this opportunity.  This trial is being monitored carefully by my medical oncologist who will meet with me after today's treatment to touch base with me.

After my treatment, I head down the hallway past the Tim Hortons to the patient examination rooms to meet up with my medical Oncologist.  The nurse steps into the examination room and goes over a few details.  Are you in any pain.  Yes.  I am having a difficulty sleeping because of the pain in the shoulder. Dr. Locke walks in a few minutes after the nurse called up to his office.  The radiation department had inadvertently booked the wrong doctor.  He is dressed in his jeans and a black sleeved cotton shirt.  He smiles at me and begins to ask me some questions based on what the nurse has conveyed to me.  What kind of pain?  Is it finger pain? ..that means that when I touch with my finger in certain spots on my neck, it elicits pain - a sharp nerve pain.  He reaches over and touches my neck and I jump.  Yup, that hurts like hell... but I tell him that it is a small price to pay if this works.  His concern is that the nerve will be permanently damaged and leave me with an arm that doesn't work.  He notes the neck is swollen and this should resolve itself a week after treatments... the lymph might not be able to drain which might expain the puffiness.  

Dr. Locke then gives me instructions on how to check for permanent nerve damage.  Fold the arms like you are doing the chicken dance.  Use your right hand and try to push the left elbow down.  We are looking for weakness.  Stretch out the hands and pull the fingers back on the left hand with the right hand - this while trying to push back with the left hand... again looking for weakness.  The last test is to continue to check the upper arm for any numbness at all.  That would involve just gently scratching the nails over the skin.  He is running through my file when I notice the CT pictures.  He shows me the first series of pics which are the cross section of the lesion in the neck.  The target of colours illustrates the level of radiation that is being applied and the safe margins.  I ask about my liver.  He flips over a few pages and shows me the lesion and the target of where the radiation pattern is.  He lets me know that the radiation specialist that planned out the radiation spent a great deal of time poring over the exact process and level of radiation that would hopefully completely erradicate the lesion.  He points to the artery that enters into the liver and branches off, only you can't see where it branches because of the lesion.  I note this as he traces the path with his finger.  If your lesion crosses this artery, the liver will essentially fail and it will be over.  It is a painful way to die.  He looks up at me and says there are no guarantees that there are no other lesions forming anywhere else and that they are only doing the two lesions that have shown up that the chemo was unable to deal with.  With cancer, you can sometimes knock out the majority of the cells but a few remain, left to grow until there are enough cells to be visible on a CT scan with contrast.

Dr. Locke indicates that a CT scan with contrast four weeks after the procedure will show how well the radiation worked.  Three months after that (one year after this 2nd journey began) another CT scan with contrast will show if there are any other lesions that have formed after chemo (which started in July 2013 and ended in October 2013) and if the current lesions have been erradicated.  If there is no lesion found on the scan, I will be declared...... holding breath.......cured. My doctor looks at me with such a cherubic grin "you know, you are different... and ... we are hoping that you will be done with this journey".  I agree on both and smile back.  I trust him with my life....literally.  I am a pragmatic woman and he knows that I had balanced all the possibilities before this part of the journey began and I am clear about what might happen to me in the short and long term.

I will be diligent in tracking the arm to see if there is any nerve damage on a daily basis.  It takes about 24 hours after treatment to see what that treatment did.  The pain in my side will subside by tomorrow.... at least I hope so.  The pain I have right now is such a small price to pay if this in fact turns out to be a cure.   I will have 2 days in between the last treatment and the next treatment.  There are only three treatments left on the schedule this coming week.

In the meantime, I will be getting ready for the college open house on the 22nd as one of the program presenters and will also be demonstrating surface mount technology in soldering techniques along with our Lab technologist Sara.  I am still working on the projects for our young girls visiting the college in May to be one of a number of women showcasing possible future career choices.  On the home front I am still working on my urban garden.  Max has come up with a design shaped like a flower with above ground boxes that form the part of the petals and a trellis in the center of the flower.  Teri, an American FB friend is sending a flat Stanley my way this week and I am excited to show 'Flat' around some of my favorite places.  This Thursday I am debating on the show 'Toe2Toe' on Rogers to be aired the following week.  I am studying and presenting as the opposition.  This is round 2 and I am hoping to win and go on.  Life for me continues while I have a parallel life as a patient.  I don't let the two cross over.  Life is short enough without having to worry about what may come.  I am living a life in the present moment.  I am enjoying the time gifted to me.  Life is simple.  

I am watching the Avengers tonight and Stark has this electromagnet sunk into his chest to prevent the shrapnel in his chest from perforating his heart.  He is always clearly aware of the imminent danger to his mortal self but yet has an amazing sense of humour, takes risks and lives his life to the fullest..... he is not just a 'superhero' but essentially what I aspire to be in my own life - knowing the danger yet willing to take the risk to gain a life worth living.

You can follow my urban garden blog on:

Please have prayers for my friend Melina as she continues her chemo journey with a new concoction.  I saw her this week entering the clinic as I was leaving... she is ill and fighting as hard as she can.  Please send her positive vibes!!!!

Next friday is the final day of my treatments and a follow up by Dr. Locke.... until then, take care of each other and live your life today and live it happy.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

..... so what's it like to have radiation........

....... on a snowy stormy day in mid March!!!  What a crazy winter... yesterday we were re-potting plants  and folding seed pots on the front porch.  Today I am manoevering through driving snow which is acumulating and sticking to every surface.  I am truly grateful that a lot of people are home through the March break leaving less traffic to get snarled in on the way to work.  Today I will be going to radiation in between classes.  It is Wednesday - I will have the neck and liver done today.  I asked the lovely Radiation technologists to take pictures before each procedure.

Procedure 1 - neck lesion.  In this photo, you can just see the CT scanner as the wings folded back.  The radiation element is the circular module that faces down on the table.  The table is in the 'eject mode with the arm and head positioning arms that were set up just for me.  This ensures that my body is in the proper start position.  The technologists will do the fine tuning using measurement devices and laser guides that co-relate to the tattoos they put into my skin.  This assembly is stored in the room and will be placed on the table prior to the start of my appointment.  The table is adjustable up/down, in/out and side to side.

Here I am positioned on the table and you can see the foam leg holder.  This releases the pressure from the lower back and puts my back flat on the table.  My hand is tucked into my yoga pants to prevent it from falling or moving off the table.  It is actually really comfortable.  You can see the dark faceplate of the radiation module above my head to the left. The techs will now move the table so that the area being treated is directly under the radiation module.  The table will lift until I am just inches below it.   Inside the module through the thick tinted glass is a light with a measurement for the technologists to line up the center targets going down the middle of my chest when the apeture plates are slid all the way into the fully open position.  The techs will trace the lines cast by the laser lights and this measurement shining down to ensure proper targeting.  After the measurements are done, the apeture plates will slide into place with a mechanical sound to the starting position for my lesion.  This apeture will be adjusted a number of times through its travel to ensure it correctly directs the high energy radiation to only the lesion.  The lesion is three dimensional and these changes through rotation make sure that all of the lesion is radiated.

Procedure 2:  Radiation to the liver lesion.  Below is the head and arm form that was adjusted in the first appointment when the tattoos were put in.  It is a rugged plastic bag containing thousands of polymer balls - similar to a bean bag chair.  the valve hanging (with my name tag on it) was hooked up to a vacuum while I was laying in it and the air removed.  With the air removed, the bag is rigid.  This too is stored in the suite with the other unit for use in every appointment.  The white sheet will cushion my head making it more comfortable.  Once I am finished with this unit, the technologist will open the valve and allow the air back in.  Once disinfected, it will be used for the next patient.

I am now nestled into the form in the exact position that I was in when I was originally tattood and charted.  The CT scanner plate is seen to the left of me.  A series of CT pictures are taken before each procedure takes place to ensure that I am in the exact position each time.  Minor adjustments are made from the control room guided by the images on these scans.  The block on top of my diaphragm is monitored by a camera mounted to the ceiling and it will gauge the distance of my belly when i breath in and out.  All organs move when you breath so they will only give the radiation dose when you breath out and stay within the safe margins.  When the element is radiating you can hear a buzzing sound like a busy bee hive while it is moving in an arc above at the same horizon as the lesion.  I can hear the element shut off (quieter buzz in stand-by) and see the module stop and wait until my diaphragm drops within range and then turn on and continue in its path until the next intake of breath. Today I am very relaxed and am breathing in a way that allows the element to move smoothly.  The techs thought that was great.  I can feel heat in the exact position on my liver that the dull ache has been in for months.... weird warming feeling and I picture the bad guys exploding as their moisture turns to steam within their cellular structure.  I can picture their phalanges retracting in horror as they burst into flames.... take that!!!!!  I envision a pile of charcoal like cinders in an extinguished fireplace - inert and harmless.  It makes me feel that we are doing a great job knocking these univited intruders out of my body.  I then imagine the immune system coming to clean up the mess with their dust pans and brooms.

You can see in the picture below how the camera will see the block resting on my diaphram .... almost reminds me of an aircraft altimeter in an aircraft to let you know where you are on the horizon. This method insures that the radiation is administered to the exact position as per the set up appointment.  It takes more time to do the set up to ensure accuracy than it does to complete the radiation.  You can also see both CT elements to the left and right of the machine.  They fold outwards to allow the passage of the radiation element to move in an arc across my body and to just underneath the table I am lying on.

From start to finish, it would be almost 45 minutes.  The time shortened quite a bit now that I have learned to relax and breath... while my brain took a trip to the ocean.  I am in every day this week to do the neck lesion and every other day to do both. 

I am asking for positive vibes and prayers for my dear friend Melina as she continues to battle with her cancer.  She has been through so much and I hope to get a huge collective of positive vibes and well wishes for a successful new chemo regime for her.  I love you Melina.

Monday, March 10, 2014

..... hard not to be nervous walking back into radiation.....

.... and feeling so anxious.  Max has come with me today.  We have left early as usual to make it for the 3:30 pm appointment.  It is quiet when we arrive.  There are only a few people around near the end of the day which is in stark contrast to the mid-morning rush.  We head downstairs to the Radiation reception which is next to the small Tim Hortons. The competition is an auxilliary cart left behind by the volunteers and parked next to the fish tank. I will not be visiting with the fish tthis afternoon as I turn back to speak to the receptionist about changing some of the appointment times.  She is patient and helpful as she checks the schedule and makes the requested changes.  I explain that it is important to be with my students and she looks up and smiles at me. We are finished and I turn to then be greeted by a Radiation Technologist.  Kelly introduces herself and motions in the direction we will be travelling in.  I turn back to call to Max, who rises from the general waiting room chair he has briefly occupied and follows us into a hallway waiting room outside of the Tomotherapy suite.  

Kelly lets us know that she will be back to pick me up once I am changed.  It will only be a few minutes, but one of the radiologist's walks by with a box of dutch honey cookies that  patient has gifted the department with.  I mention that they are Max's favourite cookies and she turns, reaches into the box and grabs a package with one cookie left in it.  We laugh and smile while she moves on down the hallway.  An orderly passes us and heads to the water fountain.  He spills a little out of the cup as he walks past us again.  We joke that at least it wasn't hot coffee and he replies with a cherubic grin "at least its not beer".  He moves on and is replaced with an angry orderly quick to criticize the exiting one "must be nice to have a break... think I 'll just take one myself".... and stomps away.....

Kelly reappears into a now quiet hallway and guides me into a short angled passage past the operation booth explaining what they will be doing.  The hallway opens into a bright room and there is the Tomotherapy machine.  It doesn't look like the donut shaped machine of the pamphlet.  It has two paddles on either side of the table containing the 3D imaging CT.  Hanging over the head end of the table is a round 8" thick disk which holds the specialized radiation port.  Kelly introduces me to another radiation technologist whose name now escapes me because the thumping in my veins is now drowning her out.  The table is in the eject mode a few feet away from the business end of the machine.  The red stirrups are set up to accomodate my arms at the head end.  This unit incorporates a ridge to guide where my rear will rest.  Surprisingly, it is actually comfortable.despite how hard the table is beneath it.  The arm stirrup holds my arms and the head mount cups my head in a specific position to keep my neck stable for the procedure. The girls lift my gown up to expose the targets tattooed on my chest.  They will pull me around gently using the sheet beneath me so that the targets line up exactly.  They use magic markers to outline where the laser target land.  They will do the rest from the control room to precisely set up the machine using the CT to accurately guide the beam.  I tuck my right arm into my yoga pants to keep it stable and prevent it from sliding off the table.

The technologists leave the room and head off to the control room we passed on our way in.  The machine comes to life and the hum is audible above the coursing blood past my ear drums.  I have to find my happy place and I know I ned to just relax and allow my weignt to fall into the table just as I did when the girls were setting me up.  I look up to see the apeture plates inside the radiation module have changed to replicate the shape the beam will take.  It begins to move to make way for the CT paddles that will pull into position from their wing positions at the sides.  The table jogs mere centimeters until I am in the exact location.  A garbled voice stutters out of the speaker announcing that the radiation will begin.  I am in a technologically advanced suite and you would think they could spring for a better intercom?  The wings retract and make way for the radiation element.  It will pan at an angle to give a 3D dose of high radiation.  I am nervous and I can feel my heart hammering in my chest and the thunderous roar of the blood that it is forcing into every capilliary.  My mind decides it is time to relax and have faith.  Happy thoughts, happy thoughts, happy thoughts..... and the blood pressure drops, deep breathing quiets the coursing blood and I envsion a little garden somewhere in Europe.  Colorful and quaint in a time long ago.... I picture traditional ladies doing the MayPole dance to celebrate the coming of spring..... my happiest moments are spent in the garden.  Earlier in the day I started a new blog and the next chapter in my life's adventure.....

The procedure finishes and the radiologists arrive bringing two new ones...."hello, we are the next team on shift... just another radiologist" the blonde quips and then smiles at me.  They ask me to sit in the chair while they prepare the table for the liver scan. This one is a head form made of what material I cannot say exactly.  There are grooves for holding the arms well above the head and out of the way.  The back of my head is terribly uncomfortable so the girls put a pillow case under my head to buffer my head from the rocky form.  My legs are put into a solid foam form for both procedures making it comfortable to lay down on the hard surface.  This time the radiologist places a module on my tummy.  The cameras suspended from the ceiling are aimed and will monitor my breathing.  The liver, as all organs move when you breathe making it difficult to target without this monitoring.  The radiation will only take place when I exhale and the beam will shut off when I begin to inhale. This targeting takes more time to set up.  The girls will use the side tattoos to line up the radiation machine before heading back to the control room where they will jog the table control to get it into exact location.  A quick look up to the radiation module as it swings slowly out of view confirms that the apeture has changed as the wings close on both sides.  The targeting of the beam takes longer on this procedure.  

The voices walking into the room announce that we are done for today.  I will have radiation every day this week on the neck and every other day on the liver.  Next week it will be both every other day.  There will be two more appointments, one on each friday to meet with a patient review physician... whatever that is??  The Radiologist hands me a blood requisition form and bids me goodbye.  Great, another blood test.  Max stands as I reach his chair.  I take the key out of his extended hand and grab my belongings out of the locker they were stashed in when I first arrived in Tomotherapy.  The reflection in the mirror shows a few marker lines that look like prehistoric daisies.  I smirk and head out with Max to the main floor above us and over to the blood lab beside clinic 4.  Heather is the only blood tech on and I haven't seen her in quite some time!!  Hugs and hello's as we catch up.  She will draw two vials and we talk about gardening.  I give her my blog address and continue to chat until the proceedure is over.  More hugs and its time to head out... we have closed the joint again!!  From start to finish, I have been at the radiation clinic for only 1 hour 15 minutes.

My next appointment is tomorrow morning.  I am looking forward to having lunch with Adrienne and doing some crafting in our comfy livingroom.  Its nice to see the sun out today.

Friday, March 7, 2014 exciting project detracts from the pre-radiation jitters....

.......and gives me a much needed positive goal for the next few months.

I am once again looking forward to the future with renewed joy now that my urban garden project is underway with a new partner from a local recycler!!  I have to create my wish list, design and get the manpower to create a front garden in a day.  Looking outside, we still have an incredible amount of snow remaining and although the weather was above freezing and doesn't look like the snow will be truly gone for weeks yet to come.  Normally by now, I would have already begun the task of clearing out debris out of the garden from the winter but alas this will have to wait.  

The timing is great for starting a garden.  According to reports coming in....there has been some significant drought in the states which will significantly reduce the amount of foods which will be available and the prices will rise dramatically.  This garden will need to not only produce a daily food offering but also should help to provide a crop to preserve for the winter.  I have tons of jars downstairs and a large cabinet.  The freezer is cleaned out and ready for the early summer harvest.  

This weekend, I will have to start the next group of seedlings now that the ones that have become hardy in the little greenhouse can be moved out making room for them. The asparagus is now 6" tall and look like fernThey will be ready to harvest in 2 years.....sigh!!  I have the perfect spot in the back garden to grow these as they are an early spring vegetable. 

I spent a wonderful day with Nora on Tuesday.  We had so much catch up to do and so we started with a trip to the grocery store.  We couldn't help but giggle when we continued to be a nuisance to an elderly man who seemed to always need to get around us with his cart, no matter where we were in the grocery store.  Nora and I are two months apart in age, were diagnosed with TNBC around the same time and totally hit it off when we first met a few years ago when we joined a paddling group.  She still attends, me, I moved on.  More hugs through the aisles.  I missed you Nora.  We gather the ingredients for making Leek and Potato soup and a number of other items and head back to my house.  We chat while preparing our lunch. Max pops his head upstairs and seems disappointed that 'picking up lunch' did not include a run through a drive-thru.  He resigns himself back to the basement office while I show Nora my plants and talk about our urban garden plans.  She wants to know if she can come help out with the garden and of course I would love her to help.  The time passes quickly and before we know it.... it is time for her to go.  I know she is afraid her cancer will come back but my senses tell me no.  I love you to pieces and I will see you soon.

Wednesday afternoon I get an email from Elaine letting me know that I had mail in my department mail box.  I found a lovely card and gift certificate from some of the people in my department at work.  I was just so touched by the lovely notes written and all the well wishing for the upcoming radiation treatments.  Thank you all so very much.  I caught up to some of the conspirators in the lunch room and was able to give hugs.  I was glad to sit with Elaine and Heather at the lunch table after and show them each how to make an origami paper pot!! 

Thursday morning had me heading out the door and meeting up with my first teaching practicum Associate.  I did pop my head into the office to drop off a little tomato plant for the principal.  Its my new calling card now that I am qualified to teach in the Green Industries course of studies in the high schools.  I sign out a visitors card and head downstairs to see Brad.  He sees me enter the classroom and stands up to greet me with a big hug.  Wow, it is so great to see him.  I have brought him a few gifts and and speak to him about my latest project in early May with a group of elementary girls visiting our electronic digital lab at Fanshawe.  He asks if I wouldn't mind speaking to his grade 9 students about what I do.  Of course, I would love to.  I let the students know about our open house and to come and explore their future options.  I don't want to keep him long, so its hugs and see you soon!!!   After class, I took Lydia to Lambeth to a store called 'JayDancin' where a sweet employee helped her with all natural make-up and how to apply it....I caved and purchased her first real mineral based make-up.  She is really pretty without it, but she's a girly girl who just wanted to explore her options!!  I purchased some coconut sugar, a beeswax candle, natural deodorant and soap.  

While Lydia was getting her make-up done, I approached a woman shopping nearby and asked where she was in her journey.  It is easy to recognize a woman in the journey if you know what to look for:  Edema medical sleeve, wig and burn marks on her chest.  We talked for a few minutes and she lets me know she is finishing Radiation on the day I am beginning mine.  I wish her all the very best in her journey and she reciprocates the wishes.  She is picking up a natural salve for her burns which, while considerable, are not nearly as bad as we both agree we have seen.  

Saturday.......This weekend I am trying to get as much done before the treatments begin on Monday.... I am really trying to distract myself from thinking about Monday.  So far I have made muffins, toffee for the kids, soup and even baked beans today.  All of these from scratch.  By the time I fall into bed, I am exhausted from the running around all day..... picked up a new modem and HD box from Rogers to replace the older versions and of course to make sure we now get HBO... got to get 'Game of Thrones' when it starts next month.  I also needed to get unlimited internet now that all of us are wired all the time.  Our bills were getting crazy!!!

Sunday..... despite wanting to relax today... I have already planted some pepper seeds that I removed from a pepper a month ago, potted the celery that has grown from the base of the plant I removed when I cut the stalks off 3 weeks ago.  The asperagus has grown to almost 8 inches in the green house and the yard is nowhere ready to accept plants....matter of fact, I had to dig down into the crusty surface of the backyard garden to dump the green waste that has been piling up in bags on the back deck.  I backfilled the hole in the snow to inhibit animals from finding it.  Max is planning out the garden beds on his iPad this morning.  We are looking forward to seeing the snow leave and for work to begin.  A local recycler will be helping with some of our materials and I have a number of interested friends who want to help out this summer with tending to the garden.  I can't wait!!!!!

Tomorrow is Radiation.... the past two weeks have flown by... and while I am really nervous, I am also really looking forward to starting and getting this behind me in a few weeks.  For those interested in my urban garden and the planning process... I will be starting another blog dedicated to just that.  

Saturday, March 1, 2014

..... a wonderful and beautiful arrangement arrives....

..... on a dreary cold, snowy winter's day...

I am sitting here quietly planning my urban garden in the livingroom.  Everyone is out and I am alone to finish my blog and do some creative drawing when the doorbell rings.  I am handed a flower arrangement and I am somewhat perplexed.  It's not my birthday and nor is it any special occassion.  The flowers are absolutely gorgeous and so bright!  I pull out the paper and begin to read.  A very dear and wonderful Tante Maaike and her daughter Nicolette from Holland are the senders of this truly spectacular flower arrangement!!!

I cannot thank you enough for your wonderful gift!!!  It is truly as lovely as you are and just as vibrant.  We have a photo of you in our livingroom Tante Maaike when you visited us last.  We hope Nicolette will one day come with her family to visit as well!!  We thank you for brightening our day today and bless your hearts for thinking of us.

I dedicate this blog entry for you and all those who are kind and thoughtful towards others.  xoxoxo

Beautiful arrangement!!!  This photo does not do it justice... the colours are truly spectacular as are the flowers!!

Thank you for your kind and supportive words!!!  Love always, Marita