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.