Sunday, May 25, 2014
..... and staying busy with our urban garden. It is soothing to the soul when I look out the window in the morning and see the garden. It gives me something to do and a goal to achieve each day....it is my therapy. I have been asked a few times if I would like to speak to a therapist. Its not for me and I just don't see how a therapist can help other than listen to me feel sorry for myself or dredge up old wounds in an effort to locate my spirituality by a perfect stranger? This approach to healing is not helpful to me. I am a doer and someone who constantly seeks out things to keep me occupied. I remember being a student in class as a child who would often find myself staring out the window, or God forbid, standing at the window and risking the wrath of the teacher. My therapy is digging in dirt and watching the plants grow. My passion for teaching and learning inspires me to always do something each day that brings me joy.
I just have to learn not to tackle everything at once.... like today when my side began to hurt when I lifted the laundry basket and realized too late that I would be in pain for a few hours afterwards. Note to self - stop trying to do too much. I suppose there are days when I am in a hurry to get everything done....lest I leave something undone.
I am in the process of writing my own Will, only it seems to be taking forever....just like all the other mundane things I'd rather not think about. I don't want to do laundry but yet take pleasure in hanging it out to dry like today. I don't want to clean my house but it looks better when I do and makes me feel like I am contributing. I don't want to clean my room.....so I don't.... lol. Well, who does???
Today I am feeling the pain of kneeling for days trying to put the small pavers into the pathways through the garden. I noticed some swelling in the knees, fingers and ankles.... and now I really do need to slow down and rest. I am feeling OK most of the time but I get to the point where I exhaust myself puttering around. Max tries to quell my need to keep busy but to no avail. I am stubborn and ridiculously stupid at times.
Today Max and some of the neighbors really tried hard to break down the huge chunk of concrete that is left from the basket ball pole removal. Only this concrete seems to be from Superman's home planet... hours later, only 4 inches has been removed from the top and from what we can see, it is low enough to leave the remaining concrete while the new concrete front walk is poured. I am looking forward to seeing the new walkway and eventually a new railing for the front steps. I get to watch all of this from my little bistro set now sitting in my front lawn.
It is my new oasis in the late afternoon when I can enjoy the garden from a shady spot and wave to the neighbors as they drive by. A number of people have driven by and admired the gardens. Some drive by slowly and gape. I am sure some people think we have lost our minds while others think its about time someone shook things up!!! I must admit that it doesn't matter to us either way, although we like it when people appreciate what we are doing.
May 17th.... it is a regular Saturday and I am heading out in the afternoon to go shopping with Sarah and Lydia. I thought it was odd that we were going out so late in the afternoon but Sarah has the two little ones and naps are always a consideration. At 3, Sarah arrives with baby Rowan and the four of us head out to the local hardware store and Loblaw to look at plants and pots. We end up at Jysk and purchase a pot for Max to grow his herbs. Its getting on past 5 and we head back to the house. Max greets us at the front and I give him the new pot. He tells me he has something for me and covers my eyes as he leads me into the back yard. I am thinking he has bought me another tree but when he turns me about to face the back deck and open my eyes..... my jaw drops as 40 people break out in Surprise!!! Happy Birthday!!!! WOW, I really really did make it to 50 and here were all the people I adore minus a few who couldn't make it. Some changed their schedule to be with me on this occasion. How lucky am I!!!!!
I think of Melina most every day and know how blessed I am to still be here with my family and doing the things I truly love to do. How lucky am I to be teaching and living my life in such a wonderful way. How fortunate for the family I have and for all the love they shower me with every day. I am truly a very fortunate woman. Living life beyond expectation and taking every day as it comes. I am happy and deeply grateful. Today I feel better than yesterday. The pain only worsens when I lift anything heavy or do too much extreme puttering... Max says I should learn to pace myself and I think that I am in a hurry to get things done just in the event my health takes a turn for the worse. I am learning to sip my tea while sitting down and appreciating the painless sleep I get when I finally turn in for bed.
Tonight I had to laugh.... Max is but a few feet from a rabbit in our backyard and we have 3 pets lounging on the deck just watching the rabbit hop around.....no wonder we can't grow things in our backyard without fencing. I am watching her bring bedding to a new location in the mass of perennial geraniums in the far corner of the yard.
Today was a gorgeous day - hot and humid with sunshine.... this evening is lovely and warm. After such a long hard winter, this is truly a blessing. I rarely will complain about the heat again. The pool heater on the roof has heated our pool up to 72 degrees. Warm enough for Lydia to start swimming every day....me I like 80 plus!! The birds are singing in the light evening winds as the clouds form above us. It will surely rain tonight and refill the two 220L rain barrels that I just emptied into the fish pond tonight and the garden this morning. I purchased a little pony pump to bring up the water pressure in order to get the water where I need it. The pool is surrounded by greenery and blooms from the King Bleeding Heat, Hereboras, Columbine, iris, geraniums, Iris, lilac, Solomon's Seal, and soon the peonies, snowball bush, roses and sunflowers.
Monday, May 12, 2014
..... Melina's. It's been a long 6 weeks since she returned to the hospital to ready herself for her final earthly journey surrounded by family and friends. Melina passed just before Mother's Day on a warm beautiful spring day after a harsh long winter. She is at peace now and just in time to be with her departed mother on what should have been a celebration with her own children. Her sweet soft nature and her enduring smile regardless of her illness has had a tremendous impact on all those whose lives she touched...including my own. I will miss you my friend but I know that this is part of your life journey and I send love to wherever you are. You will be dearly missed.
For the past four weeks I have been in extraordinary pain on the right side, just under the ribs. At times it was so painful that sleeping was nearly impossible. Along with pain comes fear.... fear of what is going on and of course since they told me I have a shadow on my liver after my last treatment I was terrified. I went to see my family doctor and she ordered an ultrasound to see if in fact there was anything there of concern.. The results came in that there were a few spots but they could not determine if they were benign or malignant..... I will have this confirmed through my oncologist on Tuesday.
In the meantime, my eldest sister connected with me via phone while I was dropping an item off at Mom's residence and asked if she could suggest a course of homeopathic healing to reduce the pain and begin a healing process. She sent me some natural vitamines and minerals to help my immune system. Along with that, I juice every morning and add to that my Barley Extra. My stomach and gut was now in pain and by the looks of it, I was passing gall stones. That did not explain the gut pain so I pulled out the Prepzymes I purchase from my AIM company and within two meals 90% of the pain was gone. That was last week.
I keep busy.... and funny enough, the stuff I am taking is giving me a mass amount of energy. I sleep and get up early in the morning feeling ready for the day. This morning, I have already cleaned the leaves out of the pool, chased a squirrel out of the garden and sprinkled all the beds with bone meal to hopefully keep them away. Apparently my aim with soil clumps is waaaaay off!!! I will just have to be diligent. They are voracious after the winter we had and they are more than making up for it. I am also pursuing my passion for gardening and it is spreading. One of my neighbors is venturing into veggie gardening and her son couldn't thank me enough for all the digging he has had to do.... albeit, in the end, he is totally proud of what they pulled together, including mulch.
My friend Mary and I took a road trip this past Friday and I was able to help her pick out some herbs for their deck garden and a planter pot for the front stoop... which was just the beginning for her. We then went to Whiffletree Farm and Nursery to pick up an Asian Pear Tree and some raspberry canes. It was a great day to travel with a wonderful companion!!!
Tuesday May 13th
I head through the now all too familiar sliding doors to the LRCP. I can find my way through this building in the dark. The place is full of people milling about waiting for their appointments in various stages of cancer treatments/diagnosis. I head off to Clinic 3 to get the pager and of course the blood test requisition. I thank the clerk and weave around legs to the blood lab next to clinic 4. I affectionately call these lab techs 'vampires'. Heather was there but I ended up sitting for another tech who hurt me on insertion and then pointed out it was likely that my fist was too tight. I would have appreciated an apology since I have been getting IV's and needles steadily for the past 5 years (later it will present as a bruise and a raised bump - a first)... and I am positive that I know a bad insertion when I feel it. I shrug it off and chat for a minute with Heather and give her a quick hug before returning to the seats across from clinic 3. The lady sitting next to me is sweet.... she has been diagnosed with breast cancer just after retiring. He husband has been battling cancer since 1998. He is not doing well and now his caregiver is ill. My pager goes off and we hug wishing each other the very best. I am off to get weighed and sit waiting in the examination room after meeting with the nurse to go over anything I am taking in vitamines and minerals, medications etc. I show her pics of my garden and she admires our ambition and lets me know where to pick up asperagus at a local grower.
A few minutes later, a knock on the door announces the arrival off the intern who politely offers me his hand upon introduction. Neil sits in the chair opposite of me and crosses his legs. He is wearing green socks with black polka dots. It seems so out of character with his more professional attire and I start to laugh. He asks me about symptoms. I tell him that I have had pain in my side and that I am taking enzymes to help to digest my food. He tells me that there is a possible malignant tumour in the IVC - in other words - the hephatic artery that leads into the liver from the heart... a direct route to everywhere else in the body. That is how cancer metastasizes. Once it finds itself into the arterial system or lymphatic system, the cells can travel anywhere in the body. Besides the IVC, there is another shadow presenting nearby. He asks if there is anything else? No? He explains that he will consult with my doctor and they will return together soon.
They enter shortly after. Dr. Younis takes the seat closer to me and Neil slips back into the seat he just vacated minutes ago. Dr Younis discusses only using chemo if absolutely necessary and only when the cancer begins to threaten to block off the artery. I ask him if he is positive that the shadow in the IVC is cancerous? Considering my diagnosis and the radiation administered to the previous suspect lesion, he is very sure. No, there is no need to biopsy the liver at this stage. They ask to see my ankles. They are looking for swelling of any kind..... later I will discover through more research that kidney and liver failure show as leg/ankle edema. I have an appointment in July for a CT scan and another follow-up with the team in the first week of August.... unless something changes in this time. Do I have any questions.... yes, but none I really want to know the answer to. I thank him for helping to give me this past year as I get ready to leave. They head out the door first and I look around the examination room. I make myself a promise that I will be as healthy as possible. I am praying for a miracle and a chance to prove them wrong.
So what do I really think? believe? want?
I think that the doctors only know what they know and only address the physicality of the cancer and its somewhat predictive nature. You get cancer, it often times metastasizes, you go for treatments and if they get it right, you survive. if not, you will maintain the toxic poisons in your body until the cancer takes over critical functions and shuts the body down. Cancer doesn't know that spreading throughout the body will cause its own demise.... perhaps if it did, it would just remain hidden and not leak toxic by-products into the host it is a parasite to or spread and wreck havoc. I think we want to believe that the doctors have all the answers.... even they will admit they don't. I think that there are always more questions than answers. I think that ultimately, the quality of life far exeeds that of longevity. My father has Alzheimers and lives in a lock down ward - he did not commit a crime but yet lives in a barren cell. He has worked his entire life in order to enjoy his retirement years... this is certainly not what he expected to experience...I would hazard a guess that no one considers that end of life journey.
I believe that cancer is a manifestation of stress, pain, viruses, bacteria and all that is negative in our lives. Not knowing our physical limits and pushing through them has left us out of tune and out of touch with our physical bodies. Our bodies have a way of communicating with us ~ it's called intuition. Intuition has kept me alive all these years....even though we have all come to the conclusion that I am living on borrowed time, it is none the less time. My intuition is strong and not just with myself but with others and as I de-clutter my emotions and reduce the stress by pursuing my passions. I am now tuning in to subtle hints and how my body reacts to what I eat and even what I am thinking (anger or negative emotions cause the pain to increase in my liver/pancreas area). I realize too that I hold my breath when I am deep in thought or when I am anxious. I believe that it is OK to be busy and sometimes distracted but it has to be because you are enjoying what you are doing and gain some satisfaction from whatever task you are doing.....only not exhausting yourself and learning to set limits. Having time to enjoy some down time each day is critically important to recharging your batteries. I believe that when you ignore or refuse to listen to the subtle hints... they become louder until you do and for some, it is far too late. You cannot roll back time and have a do-over, so understand that each day, even if you have to create a log book, you must spend the time to check in with yourself.
Personal Check in - Ask yourself - then write it out
Physical how am i feeling today? Notice any lumps, bumps, pain, soreness etc and keep track of these. Have you had a bowel movement and how many? Notice the hints your body gives you.... if you are listening, you will know eventually how you feel after eating something that does not agree with you or note when you are tired and need a rest or are thirsy, hungry or under the weather.
Emotional What makes you happy? sad? angry? jealous? tired? energetic? inspired? Keep track of your thoughts and feelings throughout the day. Look at the positive in everything and ask yourself what you need to learn from a situation or person if things aren't going so well. Are you comfortable with yourself? confident? Do you look to others to validate you or do you realize the value you bring to others? Is it important that everyone likes you or are you OK with accepting that not everyone likes you and that you wont like everyone. Can you let go of your grudges? stop finding fault with others or yourself? Are you defensive or receptive to criticism?
Mental Are you dealing with the demands of your everyday life or do you use avoidance techniques to put off what you need to do? Do you take on too many responsibilities? Can you delegate effectively? Can you decide what your priorities are? Are you prepared or do you just wing it? Are you able to take a 'follower' role instead of being in charge all the time (most people I meet with cancer are A type personailities like myself - the 'I will do it myself and be damned' personalities).
I want to lead an active life with balance between the physical, emotional and mental aspects of who I am. I want to continue to pursue my passions.
All too often I meet with those that are disenchanted with their lives and specifically their working lives. They, like myself at the end of my long-time position, could see no way out because after all, we need to pay the bills. Be miserable, pay your bills, live for the two weeks of vacation where you drag yourself around for the few days left of it dreading the return to work. Then ask yourself why you are not feeling well most of the time?? Money comes and goes and funny enough, the money always seems to appear when we need it the most. Negotiating for a lower mortgage payment and making do with what you have will release some of the stress of loans and trying to keep up with the Jone's. What are your passions? Most happy people pursued their passions no matter what and found a way to earn a living while looking forward to going to work. I cannot sit for long and I have been blessed with careers that require anything but!!! Get to know the you you wanted to be all these years. Waiting until retirement to realize your dreams might end up the nightmare my father found himself in when he understood that Alzheimer's was taking over his life. His life ended and his physical body remains committed to holding the soul on earth for years when he should have been travelling like my in-laws do. That is the payment for working for his retirement and now being unable to enjoy it.
May 15th.... my 50th birthday!!!
My course coordinator John and his wonderful minions created a surprise pot-luck luncheon at work!!!! OMG I was so surprised - I honestly did not see this coming!! I just thought the two of us were going out for lunch. There in the conference room was a wonderful lunch table complete with decorations and a tearful and loving speech from John. He always makes me tear up when he tells me how special he thinks I am. John, you have been so incredibly kind to me and I cannot thank you enough. To everyone who came for lunch and who worked at food prep and decorations. Thank you for the lovely gift card.
Later, my husband took us all out for dinner. Lydia gave me a gift box of feel good products she chose out and paid for herself. Mitchel gave me a lovely card....'best Mom ever' and the card from Max had a large sparkly '50' on it. I made it this far I think as I scramble to hide the card.... it doesn't feel real... 50??? really?????
i am volunteering today at the local high school in the greenhouse and getting prepared for supplying next week. I get a call from the teacher to confirm that I will be coming in for the 4th period class. Of course I will be there!! I had no idea, even when the cake came out and the students began to sing Happy Birthday to me!!! Wow, big hug for the teacher.... thank you Karin for such incredible thoughtfulness. You are truly wonderful with your sense of humour and your thoughtfulness. Later, she brings me a bottle of wine as I am finishing up in the GreenHouse. I have cleaned all the floors and placed the tables where they can get water from the misters for the long weekend.
My life journey continues....