Monday, November 7, 2011

Nothin' to see here

I think I'm ready to close this blog. 

I have many things to say, but not lots to do with cancer. At least, not as much as other stuff. So I have moved blogs a few weeks ago, and started something new. 

After all, this blog was always meant to be a transient blog. Of course, if I do have cancer updates, I will still post them here for you to see. Let's hope there are not many of those.

What I've realized with my new blog though, is that it's not nearly as much fun to write when no one is reading, which is why I'm spilling the beans here.

If you don't know me in 'real life' please email me and I'll re-direct you to the new blog.

Sounds funny, I know, but I want to write about my life (and sometimes the people in it, lol) so I don't feel comfortable sharing the blog with anyone but cyber friends. 

That way, I don't have to censor what I'm bitching writing about.

If we part ways here, thank you for being part of my life for the past 11 months. I am truly thankful for your part in my 'journey'. Your comments and your thoughts lifted me up on bad days and have helped me get through this.  And on good days, your comments and ideas made me laugh and hope.

Thank you for reading "Knock Knock, it's Cancer" - I will post a link here if my book is ever published.

Later Gator.

Friday, October 28, 2011

What do you DO everyday?

I hear this question about once a week. Usually it's from well meaning people, who have no intention to be hurtful. Other times, it's from people who haven't seen me in a while and are just catching up with me now.

Either way, once they hear that I finished treatment, the question becomes "What do you do now?"

I understand the curiosity that comes with that, and I guess the time has come to internalize that and really figure out what it is that I DO everyday.

I suppose I should start with the obvious.
And when I say 'obvious' - I realize this part is only obvious to me, and not everyone else.

But, the obvious answer is I am NOT finished treatment yet.

As happy as I am that I survived this disease, I am not out of the woods quite yet. I am still on chemotherapy and will be for the next 5 years. FIVE YEARS I will be on chemo. This magic little chemo pill helps me keep the cancer from coming back (Hopefully) but in the process it makes me moody, tired, gives me headaches, makes me sick, hurts my joints and bones, keeps me awake at night with insomnia and puts me in menopause (and all the wonderful things that go with that)

Honestly, some days, I just try to make it through the day.
I may look okay, but I am far from feeling okay.

The second thing I want to point out is that I still have a handful of medical appointments each week still - be it for the oncology ward, the physio therapist or the support meetings. I am constantly surrounded by medical personnel.

This makes it kind of hard to 'forget' about cancer.

I still take (many) pills/injections/immune boosters every day so that my body can function the way it's supposed to.

At the appointed time my iPhone rings with my alarm.

Just the other day I was out looking at some jeans, and my 11 am alarm rang "Take Tamoxifen" it says (I just looked at the sales lady and said 'oh, it's just my chemo alarm - do you have these in size 4?')

I am learning to live with it, but that doesn't make it normal.

Before I go to sleep every night, I pray that my cancer will not come back. The first thing I do when I wake up, I pray that my cancer will not come back. Even though to my oncologist I am 'in remission' - to me, it feels like I am always waiting for something bad to happen again.

It's a terrible way to live, and I hope that one day cancer will not be the first and last thing on my mind.

Time will heal that.

I nap during the day most days, because my body is tired. (And this is not the kind of tired that you can sleep and be rested) I feel fatigued, deep inside my bones.
My legs feel heavy, so do my arms.

So I nap.
Once or twice, when people hear this they say 'must be nice to nap during the day' - again, a simple comment, but such a slap in the face. Nothing about this entire experience is 'nice'.
Not even the napping.

I would rather be working and living how I was before than be off on disability.
But that is not my reality and I try to make the best of it.

On good days, I see my BFF who is also off work on maternity leave, we meet for lunch. Or I go have coffee with some other friends who are also 'lucky enough' to be off on disability because they too, have cancer. We meet and talk and understand each other.

The other day, I went to a breast cancer support group with my friend Shonna. She has cancer too. We were there about 2 hours, and as we left she whispered to me ' Are you coming back?' and I responded with a 'HELL NO'. You see, this group - as good as it was, was made up a bunch of older ladies (60s or so) and so their needs/concerns/fears didn't match mine. Breast cancer is supposed to happen to 'older' ladies, but everywhere I look I see women my age who are going through it. Women like me, faced with their own mortality and have babies to raise at home.

It's not supposed to be this way.

So, that night Shonna and I decided that it was time to start our own breast cancer support group. For women who were diagnosed under the age of 40. Sadly, there are more than enough (in my small town) to fill a room. There are 3 of us that are meeting regularly and hopefully as the group takes off, there will be more.

This may seem so un-interesting to anyone else, but it's my entire life line. I may not have cancer anymore, but the 'relationship' I have with cancer is everlasting. It changed who I was.

I feel that I've been given another shot at life. A second chance. So I am bound and determined to make my life exactly what I've always wanted it to be. I want to make it count. I want to make a difference (sounds corny, right?) I want to write a book. I want to see my kids grow up.

So, the next time someone asks me ' What do you DO everyday?' I may just respond with:

I live.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My last 10 months in pictures

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Breaking News

The results are in and I DONT have the breast cancer gene!! Woohoo

I am so excited. I was quite scared when they called me (as I was driving down the freeway at 100 km an hour) 'is this a good time to talk'? Ummm. YES IT IS. I even pulled over. Then I reached for my paper bag and realized it was in the other car. Darn it. "Okay, I'm ready!"

"Bla bla bla... you don't have the BRCA1 and BRCA 2 mutation... bla bla bla" That is all I heard.

Since I have a little girl, this is especially good news for me. And her.

That means, genetically at least, I am not defective.

Friday, September 23, 2011

I have awesome blog friends

Well, here's yet another silver lining to this whole cancer thing.

I got to know some amazing people through this blog - random strangers I met by accident because we are all fighting this life threatening disease.

Through the last 9 months they have shared their stories with me, their lives, pictures, and their fears. And I did the same with them. We have gotten to know each other intimately.

In the middle of the night if I couldn't sleep, I could send off a quick email to my 'cancer buddy' and know that when I woke the next morning, there would be an understanding reply. When I was unsure of treatment side effects, I could rely on the experience of my new found friends to guide me through it.

Just last week, my friend at Darn Good Lemonade finished her treatment!!! Yeay Mandi! So excited for you - and in her post she mentioned she got a 'diploma' from her cancer facility for 'successfully completing the treatment.'

I was overjoyed for her.

Then I sent her a whiny email about how 'my cancer facility didn't give me a diploma'. She must have felt bad for my sob story, because not even a week later this awesome package arrived in the mail.

Brad thought I ordered something online, but NOPE, it was a care package from my friend.

She ordered this for me and then went to the trouble of UPS-ing it!!!

In case you can't read the engraving, it says:
"Michelle (my last name) you are a cancer fighting ninja"

I know you're jealous. I think it's the most thoughtful and funny gift ever.

Now, I need to find a special podium for my trophy.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

2011 - the best year?

I'm not talking about wine.

I am talking about my life.

I've been meaning to write about this for a while, but I always wonder how to start it. Most people will think I've gone crazy. They'll probably phone my doctor.

I am going to go on a limb here and say it out loud:

'2011 may have been one of the best years I've had so far'

'BUT YOU HAD CANCER!' - I hear you shouting at your computer.

And that is true. I did.
(Notice I wrote 'Had' and not 'Have'? That was intentional)

I had one of the worst possible things that could have happened to me, happen.
A life threatening illness.

I had fear, anxiety, pain - oh, so much pain, stiffness of joints, amputation of 2 body parts, weight gain from steroids and chemo, hair loss, lung punctures and scars, and burns.
Not to mention the sickness that comes with chemo.


This pretty much sums up my last 9 months.


it happened early in 2011 - only 2 weeks in, so there was still time for this year to save itself.

And it did.

Along with the above mentioned things I've also had more kindness shown to me in this year, than I had ever had before, people came out of the woodwork to visit, to call and to send flowers. I have never felt so loved, by strangers, and by my family.

I've gained tremendous insight into this disease, more than I could have ever known from standing on the sidelines, and therefor have become a more compassionate person. Because of my experience, I now 'know the right thing to say' when I hear someone else is going through it. In fact, twice this year I have received phone calls from 2 different gals who found a lump in their breast. Because of my experience, they chose me as their contact person.

And because of my experience, I could be there. Really listen. Cry with them.

This type of understanding was foreign to me before.

And even though their journeys ended before they really began, (lump turned out benign) - I felt that for a brief moment, I was helpful to them.

I now understand first hand how it feels to walk down the street and have people look at you with that 'look'. (you know, the 'oh, you poor thing, you have cancer' - look) I've given out that look a few times myself in the past. It's a very humbling experience to be on the other side.

My family has grown so much closer together this year. It's hard to pinpoint exactly when it happened, but over the course of 2011 - I can honestly say we are a tighter bunch.

I was home with my children for the last 9 months. I saw them off to school (almost) every day - except when I was too sick- and I picked them up from school (almost) every day. I went on field trips, I went to school plays and every single concert/rehearsal/award ceremony/assembly.

I felt like the luckiest person in the world - simply because I was given the gift of 'being there'. Just present.

I am also present in the moment. That is a new concept. I used to be 10 steps ahead All.The.Time.

I would be on vacation, and planning the next one in my head. I would be receiving a paycheck and immediately putting in a percentage in my RRSP for later. I would say 'later' when my children would ask me to 'come see this' because I was busy cleaning or making supper.

NOW - I am here. Fully.

I live now.

I listen to my kids now. Not later. I play now. I enjoy the moment I have with whoever I have it with - now.

I still (secretly) plan for 'later' but certainly not with the same intensity.
Later will come, well... later.

Having had my breasts removed was a huge opportunity for talking to the kids about how we view (and judge) others. It provided hours upon hours of discussions, that lead to interesting and meaningful conversations. Conversations that would not have occurred naturally if I didn't have to make the choices that I did.

My hairloss was also bittersweet. I didn't wear wigs often. I didn't wear scarfs that much. I often went bald. Sometimes that brought on looks. Most times it softened people. Strangers would walk up to me and share their stories, their pain. It was amazing. Like I had been given some special powers to attract people to me, only they were no powers.

Just a bald head.

Brad and I have been together a little over a year and a half, and cancer has been our companion for 9 months of that. At our 'honeymoon' phase of our relationship, we were dealing with things that can put strain on the most solid of marriages.

We 'survived' together.

He has been my ongoing support system, day and night. When I needed a cry, he held me. When I needed a laugh, he made me smile. He allowed me to be exactly who I was at any given moment and for that I am so grateful.

I felt beautiful the entire time. Granted, I was on some heavy medication, but I think mostly it's because I have a fantastic partner.

I used to be organized - almost anally so. I called it 'efficient'. Some people thought it was extreme. I was wound real tight. Short fuse. I'm happy to report that the fuse has loosened somewhat, and maybe even lengthened by a foot or two.

I'm still TYPE A - of course, I mean come on now, I can't totally change. But I am more relaxed.

I distinctly remember about 3 situations that happened and me saying 'wow' - 'i would have handled that so differently before'... this type of growth could never have happened in such a profound way - had I not had cancer.

The people I've met in the last 9 months, in the hospitals, in the chemo rooms ... I've made friendships to last a very long time.

One of my closest friends is an employee from the cancer centre. She and I hit it off immediately and managed to evolve into a friendship outside of the 'worker/patient' structure. Another gal I absolutely love is someone I sat beside in the chemo chair. Now, we talk or text every single day. My life has been enriched by people like this.

The last thing that I noticed has improved is my diet. My lifestyle. Because of the research that I had to do - based on my type of cancer - I am now vegan. (Well, the meat part just happened 2 days ago, but the dairy and eggs has been gone for months) I am learning how to use plant based foods to keep my body fed. I am speaking with a dietician, reading books and making a plan that I can stick to so that I can achieve optimal health. I have never been much of a 'granola eating' gal before, but I am now.

I have the opportunity to change my lifestyle and I am grateful.

I know this post is a little hoky, but it's from the bottom of my heart.

I really feel that God/Universe has touched me on the shoulder this year and said:

'Excuse me, I think you may be on the wrong path - you may want to consider taking a new one'

and in every way, I am.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Good News Bad News

What do you want first?

The Good News or the Bad News?

Bad News is that my radiation burn is getting worse by the minute. Literally. Half an hour ago, it hurt less than it does right now.

Here is an updated picture of the skin around there
(compared to a few days ago in the post below)

Point made, right?

Now on to the good news:

My hair is growing like a weed.

I remember about 4 weeks after chemo finished, I was still bald as ever. Everyone was asking me when my hair was gonna come back (As if I'd know!)

Then finally, around week 7 after chemo (took it's time didn't it!) Brad said he could start seeing somewhat of an outline of possible hair growth.

Then a week later, there was definite hair, and now, even more so!

Check it out:

Last week:

This week:

By this time next week, I'll be braiding it for sure.