Western education 2013

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My Wife, My friend, My Soul Mate...

Hello Everyone,
Peacefully at Victoria Hospital on Saturday December 27th in her 51st year beloved wife of Max DeVries and proud mother of William, Mitchel and Lydia. Sister of Christian Stopani-Thomson, Gina Goad, Patricia Williams and daughter of Malcolm and Helga Stopani-Thomson passed away from cancer with her immediate family by her side. 
Marita started her career in the military as a radio technician and soon moved on as an electrical technologist for CTV in London, Ontario. She thrived in her new career and started her family with energy and strength. Along the way, Sarah Brown joined our family circle and held a special place in Marita’s heart. With Marita’s enthusiasm for learning and her expertise, she was offered a position with Fanshawe College to guide the next generation. Within a season she recognized her passion for teaching, which lead her to obtain an Honours degree in teaching from the University of Western Ontario. Prior/during she was diagnosed and began her battle with cancer. As a result she became a strong advocate for cancer research and made it a priority to educate as many people as possible. She did it with humor and compassion, and supported the nurses passionately in their fight for job security. She participated heavily in activities at the college, university and high schools, her goal was always to engage with the students and give them guidance. One of her many accomplishments was the development and teaching of the technologist curriculum at Fanshawe College with Sara Johnson. She always put herself forward and wanted people to learn not just about their path in life, but also about life itself. Her final request was to have her ashes spread throughout her gardens. In lieu of flowers, donations to would be appreciated.
Max DeVries

Friday, October 24, 2014

It took forever to lose a few pounds.... until the cancer began to spread....

..... and now I am being asked to stop losing the weight now that it is falling off.  What do you do when you are not hungry or just nauseated?  Easy..... the medical marijuana has brought back my appetite and taste for eating again.  It has relieved my pain and keeps me comfortable.  After a few months of a waning appetitie.... I am slowly getting it back.

Thelma (family dog)  is our beagle cross girl. She is now 11 years old and unfortunately also has cancer.... neuralblastoma - many of these tumours that are growing along her back, chest, stomach etc.  It makes me sad that she is sick like Mommy.

Pamidronate - the infusion I took at the beginning of the month made me feel nauseated for a few weeks and it looks like my body is easily bruised.  Case in point - I stomped my right foot and then felt a stinging in my right calf.  It turns out that I broke a vein in my calf.  The bruise was massive and quite painful to the touch.  A few days later, the dog jumped onto my lap and caused a long bruise on my upper leg.  Both bruises are still there after 2 weeks.  I made an appointment with my GP to go over some of my questions.  One of those questions will be to discuss the lump on my head... which is likely a cyst.  

My GP is sending me off to a surgeon to remove the 'cyst' on my head.  It looks like a small bud  

Yes the Pamidronate will affect 1-10 people out of 100 with regards to bruising.  Great.... just my luck.  We will see how the Oncologist feels about this one.

Support Groups - I joined a TNBC stage IV group from the States on FB.  There are women from all around the world in this group.  It's amazing how many different kinds of treatment there are.  So many have passed away this week and I am feeling the fear and lonliness that comes with a terminal patient watching her peers go one by one.  You see their posts of hope mere weeks before the silence that announces their departure.... and then the notes left by friends and family on their wall the day of their passing.  I wonder when it will be my turn... those thoughts are pushed out of the way but not before I consider what people might say about how I spent my time on Earth.

Medical marijuana
It has been suggested that I talk about the 'Magical Butter' machine I recently purchased at a  420 store down the street.  The MB2 unit is a microprocessor controlled cooking carafe which can be used to create oils, tinctures and cooking items other than marijuana. Let's face it though - it was specifically designed to produce marijuana oils and butter.  It is likely the simplest way to produce a good quality butter.  I simply use two cups of raw, organic coconut oil and then I throw in 20 grams of bud.  I then select the temperature of 160 degrees for 1 hour.  The blender and heater are all controlled by the microprocessor to keep the materials blended and heated evenly.  I then pour the finished contents (alarm on the unit rings when completed) through the filter bag that is included in the box into a large glass measuring cup.  I then carefully pour the finished and strained oil into 500 ml large mouth mason jars and store in the fridge.  *** the leds around the rim let you know the carafe is working.

I have two types of butter I have made.  A high THC makes it easy to fall asleep at night.  The high CBD provides me with pain relief during the day.  I do not take anything on days I am working so I just tolerate the pain because I refuse to take any of the opiates in my medicine cabinet.  I find I have to increase my intake every few days as my tolerance increases.  It is amazing how well this medicine works to keep me pain free, sleeping and eating.  In just one month, I have improved my quality of life without compromising my ability to focus and work.

Gail Hathaway - passed from metastatic cancer on October 30th at the age of 55.  She was my mentor and friend on the Dragon Boat team I once paddled with.  Gail will be missed for her wide smile and her sweet disposition.  I only wished I knew she was ill, I would have dropped in to see her when she returned from competing in Italy for the Worlds competition.  I understood after emailing a team mate of hers that she had been feeling under the weather when she was in Italy.  Rest in Peace Gail. You will be missed.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

what is it like to face your mortality.....

..... when you are still holding out for a miracle?  

I am having an introspective and sobering week now that my cousin Torsten has passed away nearly a week ago.  He was only 10 months older than me.  My friend Melina was 46 when she passed with cancer on May 10th.  I often ask myself, why am I still here when I have an aggressive cancer and then I remember.... it is spreading.

My cousin's vertibrae were collapsing mere weeks before he passed away while on chemo.... like the worm riddled wood of a termite infested beam.  Melina's cancer had spread unchecked to every far reaching corner... carried by the same bloodstream that brought her life.  Both were on chemo for months before they passed away.  Both did not have a quality left to their life.  I wonder if that will be me?  Of course without the we know, it does little to kill the cancer.  

In May 2013 my bone scan was clear.  In July 2013 I was in emergency chemo because I could not breathe.  While the chemo may have reduced the tumours in and around my heart and lungs to a level of comfort.... the cancer simply relocated to the bones.  I am reminded in the Chemotherapist's office that 'we bought a year'.  And what a year it has been!!!  Phenomenal and full of amazing moments.  I suppose I would not change a thing because I was given that gift of just one more year.  The  illness is rearing its head with a vengence and is spreading to other locations deep within the bone.  Yes, I know exactly where because of the pain in those localities.  Most people would think they bent the wrong way or slept wrong.... until you realize that bruises or strains resolve in weeks and do not persist for months on end.  The pain spots are minor but the fracture in the sternum is major and its amazing how many other parts rely on just that one small bone to do complex to simple motor functions.

This week I have a terrible cold and the coughing racks my body and shakes my ribs with each draw of breath.  I have to watch out for possible complications of pneumonia so watching the mucous means we are looking for blood.  I am thankful the radiation has reduced the enlarging lump in my chest to something more normal.  On either side of the sternum, its hard not to notice the nerves have been affected either too sensitive or not sensitive at all.  While in radiation, I visualized the cancer cells being pulled out of my bones and igniting as soon as they reach a ball of fire I have created in my imagination and blazing just past the tip of my fingers so as  to zap them so they can't return.  The mind is a powerful healing tool and I just hope I got it just right.... my fears would like to tell me otherwise.... go away fears.... just go away already.

Where do you go and what do you do when you are faced with the prospects of living a much shorter life than expected.... you get sad..... angry.....laugh hysterically..... cry..... rant  and then.... you get on with your life.  Do I have a bucket list... NO is the short answer because we rarely think we need to consider that 15 or so years away from retirement.  We are too busy living the life we feel we are obligated to live while saving for the one we wish we had more time for.  When time runs out and you don't make it to retirement, then what??  You begin to choose your priorities rather quickly.  Making memories for my chilldren is the driving force behind the trip we planned in December to a warm climate where we can play and be together.  It's 9 weeks away and I worry that I might fracture the leg keeping me here in London instead.  We simply cannot worry anymore about what might or might not happen, only to cross that bridge if we get to it.  I am grateful for a country that has medicinal marijuana which allows me to sleep and be pain free at night.  I just wish everyone who needed it could  have it available. 

Beautiful flowers....
It is Monday and I am puttering around getting ready for a mid day meeting when there is a knock on the door.  I look around the livingroom wall in time to see a set of eyes staring into the hallway where I am now standing.  I open the door to an older gentleman holding a beautiful bouquet of flowers.  He confirms the recipient, smiles and heads down the step mentioning how nice the sun has popped out of the clouds after admitting to staring through the window at my cat who was standing on the other side of our kitchen sliding doors looking to come in.  I pull out the card and begin to read it... instant tears pop up... its from Nicolette in Holland.  Max heads up the stairs and also reads the card.  He too has tears....

Thank you so very much for your kind words and for brightening our day!!! We are so grateful!!

Finding Support.....
I do not spend a lot of time mulling over things unless it is to solve a problem... I am constantly moving forward and looking for my next goal.... but sometimes, it helps to know that there are others in the same journey and it is essential to learn what treatments they are taking and how they are coping.  I have joined an online TNBC Stage IV group.  Stage IV is the last staging in a cancer journey and these women, like myself, have already been through a few years of one diagnosis after another so they tend to cut to the heart of the matter and are real in their genuine support to others.  They understand what it feels like to be in the journey.... councellors depend on what they have been told or have read... they have their place too... but not for me.

Getting Support.....
Probably the hardest thing to do for a woman who is so used to calling the shots and living life on her terms is to ask for support.  For an A type personality, asking for help is not the same as accepting help.  We don't ask for help but we are quick to offer it.... even if we are too sick, we will always try.  My friends have learned to not ask... they just do.  I am really blessed to have a number of incredibly loving women in my life.  

Treatment Day.... 7 October 2014 - Pamidronate infusion
I head out to the LRCP at Victoria Hospital.  My appointment is for 10 am in the morning.  I am chronically early so I report in with the secretary and then head out into the hallway to wait.  The chemo suites are always busy and here in the back hallway, we see many employees moving in and out of the chemo suites at the end of the hallway to our left.  I don't like chemo and I can still feel and taste the toxins in my mouth... I shudder and feel grateful that I am only here to get an infusion to help fortify the bones that have cancer growing in them.  Technician Lillian makes her way out to me in the hallway... it is my turn to head into the suite.  I turn to the older gentleman in the chair next to me and place my hand on his arm.  I wish him all the very best and he looks over to smile up at me.  He is there to have his pic line removed (an IV line that is fed into an arm vein and threaded into the chest ensuring an easy quick connect for chemo and blood tests) now that the recent chemo treatments have not helped with his cancer. 
Lillian leads me into the OD suite and I sit in a large comfey chair near the windows.  The late summer sky is beautifully blue with wifts of white clouds skirting by, pushed by the morning winds.  I explain to her about the main vein not being a viable one for IV's anymore.  No worries.  She wants to find one that will allow me to move my hand without restrictions as I will be heading home with the IV bottle attached.  It takes about 2-3 hours to completely infuse the medicine into the veins and then I need someone at home to help remove the IV.  Liliian chooses the large wrist vein and has me breathe in deeply as she inserts the needle.  Great job and she earns her first of three hugs!!!!  She goes over exactly what I need to do and how to instruct my friend Brenda to pull out the IV.  
 This is a really ingenious way of infusing the medicine.  A balloon is filled with the medication that is pushed through a tube that runs up the middle of the bottle.  When the infusion is done, the balloon will deflate around the center tube.  It can then be put into the garbage as this unit is non toxic.  Super cool.  I wish to thank my lovely friend and neighbor Brenda for always having a sense of humour when it comes to helping through the most unusual requests!!!  I have my next infusion in four weeks after they test my kidneys to make sure they are functioning well.  I am supposed to do this for the rest of my life... I guess we will wait to see.

Prettying up the Pink
I am outspoken.  I always weigh the importance of filing a complaint before acting to ensure that the complaint is valid.  It is Pink October.... the time of the year when for weeks, we are inundated with pink promotions and sales all in the name of donating to a good cause.  Well..... just about everyone who wants to make a quick dime is also out there selling inexpensive trinkets or using the cause to promote or further their business.  Fund raisers use marketers that they pay to maximize their reach and exposure in order to increase fundraising dollars.  The CIBC Run for the Cure fundraises for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.  I have been an invited spokesperson for the Run a few years ago and participated in the run for a few years.  The issue with their latest marketing has everything to do with what I classify as 'prettying up the pink'

My letter to the CIBC primarily says that the marketing itself is insensitive - 'Sign up to create more amazing family memories'..... as if living with cancer and the consequent metastasis are somehow linked to creating amazing family memories by running for the cure??????  I am assured by the CIBC's response that the woman 'Nalie' in the poster is a breast cancer survivor being supported by her two brothers.  I write back to ask them if anyone looking at the poster of a healthy beautiful young woman being cuddled by two men would even know that?  The poster could have said.... 'Survivor Nalie is supported by her brothers on a day when she can give back to help her 'sisters'......

Here's the thing with marketing - they are there to make it look great.... but the reality is..... cancer is not a pink bola or a 'fun' event.  It is serious business where people are dying. This poster in my estimation is grossly insensitive to those of us in the journey who would like to see the 'entertainment' in our disease to end along with the disease.  This fund-raising has been going on since 1986 and they continue to say 'we can't stop now.... we are getting close to finding a cure'.  In the cancer world as with any other... close only counts in horseshoes and hand-grenades.  I understand and applaud fund raising when it is done with respect and the money raised all goes to research.  I am disappointed that the reality is.... all this money..... all this time and we are still being treated with medicines created and used 40 years ago.  Living longer with an illness is not always quality based and yet statistics that have been tossed back to me say we are living longer.... Melina 'lived' longer.... on almost 15 months of chemo until the cancer took over.  She spent the last 5 weeks of her life slowly dying. 

The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation has not responded to me but prior to this, they were always good about throwing out statistics.  So here's a statistic - 69% of all monies goes to research - The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation chooses which research facility will get granted what money.  Who decides where the money goes and why?   

It is your money and you can donate to whomever you choose to.  I only ask that when you do, do so knowing where your money is being spent.  Researchers will gladly accept your donations directly without going through the middleman.

Thursday October 9th.....
My first day off when I can simply sit, enter course grades and watch daytime tv.... while blogging... I am watching Border Security... and all those people being arrested for Marijuana (which is still classified as a narcotic) despite the fact that some people use it as medicinal marijuana from another state or province.  Knowing how well this medicine works for me.... its hard to believe that it is classified as a narcotic when the real narcotics produced by big Pharma have essentially caused more harm and dependancy and even death.....yet, you can carry it with you in your luggage as long as it has a DIN and prescription on the bottle.  This afternoon I will have a Reiki appointment.  I will just enjoy the day with a lovely cup of tea.....later I will go out for a walk and enjoy the cool late summer breezes.  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

... not the best news....

..... from the Chemotherapist in Tuesday's appointment.....

The bone scan results are in.  Surprise!!  The cancer has found new homes in bones other than the sternum.  The bone scan clearly shows grey shadows in the left and right hip and the left femur where it creates the ball joint that fits into the hip.  There are shadows in vertebrae C7 and L1 which have been determined as minor... although to a cancer patient, whose cancer is spreading quickly... minors turn into majors quickly.  There is a soft bulge next to C7 in my back that I was aware of a month ago and knew that it too would be a clear indicator of cancer.

Dr Younis rarely smiles and his demeanour is very business-like.  He is there to deliver bad news and does it in a matter-of-fact way.  He just states the facts which I clearly appreciate.  He also is frugal when it comes to offering chemo because at this stage in the game, it would be useless to give it to me when I am still living a good quality of life.  He also takes into account that I am not a fan of chemo and am not eager to even entertain another course of toxic sludge that will not stop the cancer but instead hold it temporarily at bay. It will be suggested as a last resort and likely as just a palliative option.  These conversations lack emotion as I receive the news he is delivering.  There is an option available to assist with building the bones to reduce fractures and bone pain.  It is an I.V  infusion called Pamidronate which is given every 4 weeks for the rest of a person's life unless they are unable to continue it due to intestinal issues or compromised Kidney function.  He asks me if I have a drug plan.... yes but only during the months I am teaching partial load.... I begin to wonder just how much this is going to cost.

He lets me know that I need to do a follow up x-ray of my left leg and hip to see if a fracture shows up to indicate the extent of spread.  He parts a few minutes later and the nurse returns with a permission slip for the infusions and lets me know that the hospital will call with an appointment time.  Great!!  More pokes to an already stressed vascular system in the only arm that can have needles.  I lost track a long time ago about how many injections I have had.

I head over to X-ray in the next building.  I try to call Max but he doesn't pick up.  I feel this desperate loneliness all of a sudden as I drift past the windows overlooking the cancer garden and head into the heart of B building.  X-Ray is busy and busier still when the overhead announces a fire exercise and I am told to head around the corner and sit to wait my turn.  I am handed a card with a number.  A gentleman across from me is standing behind a counter and looking every bit as much a Maitre 'd in his pressed pants and shirt.  His job is to coordinate patients into the right X-ray suite.  He tells me that it was quiet yesterday and I respond by letting him know that it isn't going to make a difference as I have become used to waiting for many appointments in my lengthy journey of cancer and its metastasis.  I don't know why I said it but after I heard myself, the shock hit me and I found myself feeling emotional.  He excuses himself only to return a minute later.  He crooks his finger at me and motions for me to follow him.  He extends his hand out and takes the number from my hand while guiding me around the corner.  He places my paperwork in the intake folder outside the door and motions for me to sit on a chair across the way.  I smile and thank him..... he smiles and wishes me luck and then heads back in the direction we came from.

The X-Ray tech peeks her head out and calls my name.  I head in as she asks who I am and my date of birth while pointing at the table under the scanner.  "Please have a seat while I figure out what we need to do" she says as she walks around the corner.  I am alone in a quiet room and the tears are starting to form on the lower lid threatening to burst like a damn to let the flood waters escape.  I hold myself to concentrate on just getting through the exam and head home.  The tech returns and instructs me to lay down...the dam bursts and I can't hold back the tears that endlessly course down the side of my face soaking into the sheet beneath my head.  "Oh dear!  Are you OK?  Can I get you a kleenex?" She grabs me a kleenex and I wipe the tears.  I cross my arms over my face when she returns with another tech to assist in rolling me to my side while trying to slip a wedge behind me to keep me in place.  I laugh when they react to me getting too close to the edge - comedic interval in an otherwise stressful day.  They are both quite sweet and help me to my feet when the procedure is completed.  They wish me luck when I say thank you and head out wearing my sunglasses.  My eyes are notorious for giving away how I am feeling and especially the deep red when I have been crying.

I head home and find myself alone.  Everyone is off to school or work.  Max still isn't answering my calls so I assume he is busy.  I call Sarah.  We both have a little teary moment and then I ask her out for breakfast at a local eatery.  I get there first and ask the waitstaff if Gail is available.  Gail makes her way over to my table a few minutes later and takes one look at me before I start tearing up again.  She quickly sits down and takes my hand.  She is the manager of this busy eatery and one of the kindest people you could meet....(my friends are all this way and I am truly blessed).... she sits with me until Sarah arrives bearing a lovely bouquet and a set of glazed eyes.  Gail stands up to let Sarah in and gives me a hug.  "Breakfast is on me" she says as she walks away to assist with an increasing line-up at the front door.

Sarah has tucked a beautiful hand-made card in amongst the flowers and her touching note springs new tears in a tear-weary face.  She isn't sure what to say to me and even I do not know what to say.... so we discuss what we are having for breakfast while sipping on our coffees.  It is so good to see her and suddenly I do not feel alone any more.  I can't remember everything we chatted about only the feeling of being safe and loved.  We decide to head back to my place after breakfast and another quick conversation with Gail complete with hugs.

When I was in University, I took a Native studies course and learned about smudging.  When we arrive home I ask Sarah if she would like to smudge the house with me.  Sure!!  We find a clay pot in the garage and I pull out the dried Sage leaves from my garden.  I love the pungent aroma of dried sage when you crush it.  Smudging though requires that you burn the Sage and use the smoke to help cleanse your body of thoughts, feelings and spiritual blockages.  We will also smudge the entire house.  I wave my hand over the pot because I do not have a feather to fan the embers.... it distinguishes quickly and I have to keep re-igniting it throughout the ritual.  We head to each room and enter it... I describe out loud what the room is and in the case of the bedrooms, who sleeps there.  I ask the spirits who are benevolent to stay and protect us and invite those who are not to simply leave.  Sarah helps to open the windows as I wave the smoke to help escort unwelcome 'visitors' to our home.  I just go with it and the words begin to flow.... and the confidence mounts as we near the last room and bless it and its regular occupant.  There, I feel better.... until I realize I am running late for an afternoon coordinator's course.  Sarah and I hug and part ways as I head off to my next appointment.....

.... and make it with a minute to spare.  I am deeply grateful that I did not miss the opportunity to meet our amazing instructor who stayed to speak with me after class.... and we discovered how much we have in common.  People will come into your life to challenge and teach you... they will also be put into your path to support you when you need it the most.  I will keep this conversation private but it is suffice to say....there are many soul friends on our Earth and we are blessed for finding them and recognizing them when we do.

Despite the long day, I find myself heading over to Sara J's house for a glass of water and a chat after leaving the College.  Her dog Roxy greets me at the door and then plays with me when I get down on the floor to pat her and give her kisses.  She romps around between Sara and myself through our visit.  I enjoy watching her languish and give cuddles to Sara and then bounce over onto the couch I am reclined in to greet me with a wagging tail.  Such amazing magic that our animals bring to our spirits... its as if they can read our minds.  When I was a young child I would often sit in the woods and animals would come up to me and sit with me... as I grew, the same thing would happen with small children who would just unabashedly climb into my lap to say Hi... often when I was out an about in restaurants or at parks with my own children.  I noticed a few years ago that the stresses in my life had blocked that 'invitation' to children and pets to just come over.  I think they could sense how stressed I really was and that my spirit was closed to connecting with others.  My illness has given me much clarity as to what is really important in life.... to connect, to live, laugh and love.  I am in a good place now according to the little baby a block over and now Sara's dog Roxy.... an open and inviting good place.

It's time to head back home... the rain has started and it feels good.  I am at peace as I head back to my own family.  When I arrive, I see Max in the back yard grilling on the BBQ.  He is deep in thought and turns as I stand at the kitchen sliding doors looking out at him.  He beckons me with a wave to come out.  I step through the door and the tears start the minute he hugs me.... I have been trying to keep from sobbing all day but in his arms it feels safe to let go.  My mantra with him this year is a string of 'sorries'.... sorry for dragging you through this seemingly endless stream of bad news.  He looks weary.... I feel incredibly guilty.  I love you endlessly Max.

My father-in-law Terry is an amazing human being and the one I usually turn to when I need to talk to someone with a level head in the family.  He is a great listener and always has good insight from an observers position.  He assures me on the phone that he and Max's mom will look out for the family if anything happens to me.  I let him know to remind Max to wait at least 2 years before dating again or I will haunt him... add to that the fact that I will haunt the nosy neighbours across the street if they are still living there when my day comes.  We laugh about this and he assures me that Max will take time to heal..... and that the neighbours will get what they deserve.  He also tells me that I now need to blog about my organic pain medication after witnessing how quickly and effectively it works..... so here goes....

Medical Marijuana 
This may certainly come as a great surprise to all who know me.... 40 years of saying 'just say no to drugs' and yet, here I am going against everything I was taught about mj.  I was worried what my friends would say or how they would take the news.  Funny, not one person has been judgemental.  Instead, they have let me know that it is a wise decision.  So, this week so far, I have given his information to a few people......

How does this work?  Well, interestingly enough, no doctor will give you a referral to his services hence the reason why they have a no referral service.  I went to an appointment on a Tuesday in early September with my CT scans in hand to speak to him about obtaining medical marijuana.  I stepped into the examination room and within a few minutes, a handsome young man entered and introduced himself as Dr. Mike Hart.  We had a conversation about my pain after showing him diagnostic evidence of the bone metastasis and then I broke down.  I was at a point of desperation and no sleep making me absolutely exhausted and not eating.  He indicated that there were a number of Canadian Government sanctioned growers.  I chose one and he sent off the request with support documentation to the producers at Tilray   They in turn sent me an email confirming my acceptance and how to login to their site.  I was able to login that day and order the medication that I felt best suited my situation - needing sleep and pain control.  Within 24 hours, a parcel arrived at my front door and voila!!  You are only sent the buds of the plant.  On the secure package is the information on the strain and how much THC and CBD is in your particular order.  That was the easy part.  The hard part was now to try and convert the buds into an oil for consumption.  I do not smoke and understand through research that you do not fully benefit from marijuana medically if you smoke or inhale it.  I looked up sites for RSO oil  from a Canadian who grew and concocted his own MJ oil to cure his cancer.  I also looked up the Stoner's Cookbook online on the suggestion of the doctor's office  to see how I could make edibles that didn't taste gross.

My first order came in with a manual grinding tool which I used to break down the buds into manageable flakes.  I measured how much then I added a 1:1 ratio of organic coconut oil I purchased from Costco.  I then cooked the two together for about 45 minutes on the stovetop.... dear God my house stank horribly of weed... running the kitchen fan simply sent the scent outside.  I prayed no one in the neighbourhood would notice.  There are teens living near by and never mind the one currently living in our house who immediately noticed.  Yes, I am candid and honest with my children and they just accepted the fact that mommy was now a night time pot head.... I am still having a hard time wrapping my head around the old stigmas still swirling in my brain.....  Once the concoction was cooked to the desired time, I then used a special caning cloth to strain out the organic material and then put it in the fridge to harden.  Once hard, the oil has floated to the top and the water and fine organic material are on the bottom.  I removed the hard oil and discarded the water and scraped off any organic material still clinging to the bottom of the block of oil.  I store it in a cool place and well sealed.  At night, I scoop out 1/2 tsp of solid oil into a cup of tea.  In about 45 minutes, I am fast asleep and will only wake up to go to the washroom.

There were a few occasions when, after making the RSO oil... using 99% isopropyl alcohol to denature the oil from the plant.... that I was too stoned to get up.  I learned to use this one sparingly (no taste test while 'cooking' it) as you only require a minute portion approx the size of half a grain of rice.  I detest the taste and promise myself to never do that again.  Next time I will try to locate some Neufie Screech to denature it.  Is it volatile while cooking.... YES!!  While trying to evaporate off the remaining isopropyl on my gas stove, it immediately ignited.  Lucky there was a lid nearby.

I have created my own unique way of cooking my oil and doing it outside without an open flame.  I use a rice cooker and a crucible made by Cuisinart in a double boiler method.  It works exceptionally well without a fire!!!

I have learned to use a small amount and about an hour before bed.  I go to bed really early so that I can get a full 8 hours and wake up a few hours before work begins.  The RSO I will take on a Saturday night when I know I have no where to go - gives me opportunity to figure out how much is too much and what is just right.  I personally hate being stoned and this hasn't changed my attitudes about recreational pot.  I did have to go to the hospital late at night on Tuesday night and I realize the head lolling had more to do with the cannabis than it did my sudden onset of fever.  Thank goodness it is just a cold virus.  By the time we had to leave the hospital.... I was suddenly hungry.... and asked Max to pull into the McDonald's drive through.  The hamburger barely left its container before it was devoured.  As much as I do not like McDonalds... the hamburger was the first thing I had eaten in weeks that I could taste and was actually hungry enough to eat it.  After returning home at 4 am... I slept like a log and awoke a few hours later to teach my classes.  I need to eat more because the weight is steadily falling off... my impossible to wear jeans are now impossibly loose on me.

My cousin Torsten Friedrich from Freiburg Germany passes away.... after his lung cancer metastasized into his vertebrae this past week.  My sister Pat and her husband Alan were wonderful for travelling to visit him before he succumbed to his illness weeks ago.  The morning they saw him, his cervical vertebrae were crumbling like a house filled with termites.  Cancer is just like termites - they start little colonies in 'perfect' spots and then move their expanding numbers in other locations.  They could never imagine the destruction to their natural habitat they exact with each hole they drill so that they will eventually kill their host.  May you rest in peace now Torsten and know that you will be missed by all who love you.  I believe the Reiki master got it right when she said you had visited with us during one of our sessions just a few days before you passed away.

Cancer is a parasite with no eyes, no ears and no comprehension of what it is doing.  We as humans can say the same thing about ourselves as we wreck havoc on the earth that sustains our lives.... until we one day will make it uninhabitable.  I could talk about this all day but the disappointment in man's ever greedy need to control and manipulate the earth to their benefit would upset me too much.

Moving always forward....
My mantra has to remain positive and while I am still on this earth... continue to always do my best and to help whenever I can.  I finally planned out and paid for our trip to Mexico in December.  While it has been advised for me to take it easy... fractures can happen so fast with cancer compromised bones that I will just have to swim and drink pool side while I send the family out to Zip line in the jungle and take day trips out to the ruins... of course if I go, i will be walking only.  William will fly in to meet up with us and then we will all fly out together to our sunny destination.  YAY!!!

I guess that sums up the past couple of days..... radiation treatments are completed tomorrow and next Tuesday, I will be heading to the Chemo suite to get the bone building infusion done.  Live each day by accepting the journey you are on is meant to grow your soul and give you the spirit that keeps you strong on your most trying days.  xoxoxox

Monday, September 15, 2014

.... preparing for radiation....

.... and not being able to gauge how I really feel about this next procedure.  I have been told that the radiation treatments will be painful to the sternum for a short while before the pain I have been experiencing starts to abate after the cancer is hopefully incinerated.  I have been warned that it will affect my skin and possibly do some damage to the structures beneath it.  

The skin between my breasts and along the sternum is very sensitive to the touch... bordering on painful. even if i just gently run my fingers along the bone.  It feels like a bad sunburn - and I haven't even had my first treatment yet.  I pray that we just affect the tumour and not cause any further damage.

The new pain medication is working to relax and give me some much needed rest.  It is an organic prescribed pain killer, which we spent the weekend converting to a medicinal rub and additive to my evening tea.  It is suspended in coconut oil as a base and preserve to prevent it from spoiling.  The rub has been working well on the skin providing much needed relief from the constant ache.  Ingesting a small amount before bed allows me to sleep pain free and wake up in the morning with the energy needed to sail through my day.  Pain free sleep is a blessing - it is the time of night when I am able to recharge the batteries and face the day with a better outlook.  

Last evening I tried to help Max in the garden.  It is no longer possible for me to pull plants without causing the sternum to protest and send pain shooting into the arms only to be followed with numbness and then more pain.  Bending over still causes issues with the Vaga nerve that runs along my neck.  I feel old.... and am just hoping that with the treatments I can begin to feel better...

I just asked a friend of mine to help me to make a video. What kind of video?  A friend of mine reminded me a few nights ago that the one thing that bothers her the most about the passing of her mother when she was 14 years old; was not being able to remember what her mother's voice sounded like or that she never got to know her mother as an adult.  It suddenly occured to me that I needed to undertake this project soon before any more time elapsed.  While I think I still have lots of time left... time has a way of getting away from us.... it passes quickly.  Celine was amazing and wonderfully patient, kind and loving..... her children are so lucky to have her.  She took two hours of her time to 'interview' me so I could tell my children some of the things I wanted them to know and how special they are to me... and my Max.  It was a deeply emotional experience and I am grateful that Celine came in on her weekend off to help me.  She is editing and incorporating pictures we gave her on a thumb drive.

Monday 29th September
 - today will start day 6 of 10 of radiation treatments and I have just realized that the cough I have been developing is not so much radiation related as it is my first cold in over a year.  Despite my best efforts to remain sick-free, alas, it is the school season and its hard to disinfect after helping my students on their computers.  It happens every year and this year will be no exception.  

I can tell the radiation is working because the hump that had formed a few inches below the clavical has reduced in size and is less sensitive to the touch.  It is still radiation and with that comes its own set of risks for more cancers in the future.  With all the vitamins and chlorophyll I take daily..... we are hoping to reduce the total impact to the body by assisting with the healing process.

REIKI is going well.  It allows me to connect with myself on a spiritual level.  On Thursday, Janet was working on me when I felt a few interuptions in the flow of energy..... she would tell me later that I had a'visit' from my cousin who had passed... I couldn't think of any cousin except the one in the hospital in Germany who is dying of cancer.... could it be him??  Either way, it was a comforting message. He basically told her that he was looking out for me.  There are a lot of skeptics out there but I really believe he did come to see me.

School is super busy but really enjoyable in between all the appointmenta and running around to get things done.  So busy that I decided the family needed a much deserved vacation.... so we have booked it for the week after Max and I finish teaching this semester.  The kids are excited and so is Max.  William will be coming with us and is looking forward to chilling with his brother.

Monday, September 8, 2014

.... where there is fear....

..... there are lots of tears and dark nights. 

Friday was a long day... it started early early morning and the last class ended at 9pm.  I am the new coordinator for the weekend program.  My first weekend class runs from 7-9 pm... the pain in my neck was worsening through the entire day but by early evening my head was starting to feel woozy.  By the time I headed out to the parking lot in the  torrential rainfall the nausea was hitting in waves.  I sat back in the drivers seat taking a deep breath.  Pulling out of the driveway I am praying I can make it home in time.  The pounding rain and humidity are making my head spin and I look to pulling over when the nausea becomes overwhelming and I put up my hand just as I throw up.  In true Marita fashion... I roll down the window and fling the partially digested apple onto the empty rain soaked road and continue to drive.  My lap is soaked with another wave of nausea.  I am just minutes from home.

I pull into the driveway and stagger up the steps and through the front door.  Lydia greets me at the door and realizes something is wrong.  She rushes up the steps to run me the requested bath.  Max is at the neighbors and makes his way home when Lydia calls him home.   I am in the bathtub trying to relieve the increasing pressure on the neck.  No amount of shifting can make me comfortable or relieve the pressure.  Stepping out of the tub, the head spins again after the pain increases in the neck and I empty the rest of my stomach contents into the sink.  I am tired and just want to head to bed.  I will have another class early in the morning.

It is now Monday morning after a restless sleep.  I tried taking a new painkiller and it is not working.  I have a number of suspicious symptoms:
1.  Not hungry
2.  Do not know if I am full after eating
3.  Continuous pain in the neck and upper left back
4.  Pressure in the neck
5.  Dull pain in the breastbone... when it used to be sharp

Tuesday morning brings the expected fatigue of yet another restless night of uncomfortable rest... I am visiting with a pain specialist mid morning and I am hopeful that there is something he can do to help me with the chronic pain which always worsens through the night.  I arrive at the clinic and have difficulty sitting in the waiting room chairs so I stand and sway ever so gently back and forth while gripping my left arm into a position making it slightly more comfortable.  I am called in to the room and without warning the tears start to flow.  I catch a sob mid throat.  I am assured that it is OK.  I am fighting the urge to completely break down and I look into his face and quietly apologize while wiping the tears that seem endless as they fall off my chin and onto my shirt.  He writes a script and explains the process necessary to procure the pain aid.  His asssistant comes into the room and explains in further detail the process and to make an appointment in a few months to see how effective the medication is.  The tears start again... more with relief that I am working at making the pain as manageable as possible so I can live a quality life.  That was a promise I made myself this year.

In the mid afternoon, I have another appointment but this time with a Reiki healer.  Her office is inside my chiropractor's new healing center.  I have never tried Reiki and I am curious about this new experience.  The outer office is quiet and the lights are low as I make my way over to Janet and shake her hand.  We begin by me lying on my back and her hands on my forehead.  Her hands are cool to the touch.  I do not know what to expect and at first I feel nothing but the coolness of her hands and can hear her deep intake of breath.  She moves one hand to the base of my neck and then the spot begins to heat up.  The nerves branching out from the neck and shoulders begins to awaken in a low warm buzz and I can visualize in my mind the sensations.  The vision it creates is like that of a large tree with branches reaching the tips of both shoulders and down across the front and back.  It reminds me of the trees on the African plains with the broad expanse and tiny branches budding out everywhere along the hardier ones.  She makes her way down to the chest and she places one hand parallel to the clavical just below it and the other one just above the bottom of the sternum.  The heat radiates between the hands and into the middle of the sternum itself as if the heat is seeking out the tumour.

My mind opens and follows the path the energy takes through the body as she works her way around and I envision the energy as white light bursting into the darkest corners and burning the cancer cells.  With each buzzy feeling coursing throught the nerves I find myself relaxing and allowing the flow to find where it needs to go.  The stress melts with the heat.  Half way through I have to take a quick washroom break and eagerly head back.  Only this time I am to lay on my stomach.  My sternum doesn't feel comfortable and I shuffle around trying to find that sweet spot where it doesn't hurt.  She begins again at the top of my head and again I only feel the cool tips of her fingers.  I am trying to find myself back where we were before the break.  Ah, there it is.  She spends another 30 minutes going along strategic points in my back.  The pain is diminishing from the pain the lower back was in earlier in the day.  I book a number of appointments with Janet over the next few weeks and then head off home.

Lydia walks in the door and announces that her throat felt a little constricted a while after taking the third dose of her antibiotics.  Sunday I had to take her in with a painful bladder and yes, she has a bladder infection.  This was the second antiboiotic prescribed beccause the first one was unavailable.  I decide to take her back to the walk in clinic to get her looked at again.  Yes, the infection is still there and those antibiotics were not working, just working at making her sick.  We get another script and head back to Shoppers for what is now the third time this week.  Fingers crossed that this one works.

Wednesday morning - 1 am.  I am writhing in pain and am having difficulty getting up and taking a breath.  Every breath brings more pain and the left shoulder is agonizing.  I force myself downstairs to get an Alieve to try and dull the pain but by the time I get back upstairs to attempt to lay down the grunts of pain and instant tears start... I am panting and grunting and a total mess by the time Max finds me in the spare room. I struggle to look into his face but the effort rewards me with a sharp pain above the left shoulder blade and a stiffled scream.  He is trying to help but even the pressure of his hand on the top of my shoulder is causing another jolt of agony into the neck, shoulder and back.  So you would think that I would just be swearing and pissed off with the world but no.... out comes the comedic routine... so in keeping when I am in the worst of pain... and likely a form of denial... Max joins in with quippy one liners... sheesh... I get no sympathy!!  LOL  He tries packing me with pillows to relieve the shoulder pain.  I look at him and decide that nothing will work but tell him that its fine and for him to go to bed.  I head downstairs to grab a nerve pill to see if that will take the edge off... it will be over an hour before any comfort comes.  It is now 4 in the morning and I will try to get a few hours in before I have to get up for work.....

Monday, August 25, 2014

.... off to the cottage....

..... with the pain in my sternum now creeping into my left breast.  Lifting my arm elicits pain that deepens into the underpit and swellls the tissue just beneath the skin.  The ache is somewhat akin to a tooth ache and sleeping becomes impossible.  After tossing and turning for the better part of an hour, I drag myself out of bed and make a cup of tea.  

The crickets are chirping in the dark signalling the end of August near the lake.  Lake Huron is a mere hundred meters away from the cottage a dear friend has gifted us with as a family holiday.  We are in the Bruce Penninsula, a gem in the province of Ontario and a few hours drive from where we live.  It is only 5 am and the sun will be up in a few hours.  For now, I will sit in the dark livingroom on a comfy couch and blog.

Over the past few days before heading out, we began the garden clean out signalling the end of the summer growing season.  There are still vegetables such as carrots, brussel sprouts, broccoli, pumpkins and a miniature water melon growing.  The tomato plants have a blight that has damaged a portion of the crop and it was fortunate that I picked most of the tomatoes before that began.  The rains and lack of heat this summer have created a challenging growing season for many gardeners this year.  It was such a cool summer that the potato plants produced berries... which look like tomatoes and contain true seeds.  Most years a potato plant will only produce tubers... which of course we eat.  Max was deeply disappointed considering all the work we put in to making the boxes. We made quite a bit of relish and salsa this year and we were able to freeze some beans for the winter.  Next year, we will have a different layout in the garden and will try other veggies.  As much as I liked the Cosmos in the front garden, they too will not be replanted due to the fact that they cast a shadow deep into the garden. 

While the garden did not pay for itself this year... the boost to my personal health and emotional well being was priceless.  There is nothing better than feeling a sense of accomplishment and looking forward each day to seeing what is new in the garden.  It was a great experiment and I am deeply grateful for each new neighbor I met this summer while puttering in my front garden.  

There were a number of special moments spent with my family.  Miss Lydia is becoming a young woman and I must say that our relationship as mother and daughter is amazing.  When I look at her... I see a lovely, intelligent and amazing human being to whom I am forever grateful for being given the priviledge of raising.  I did not have much of a relationship with my self=absorbed mother.... she could only reserve enough of herself to share with her eldest of three daughters.  i often thought she didn't care much for me with her often times short temper and lack of patience.  When I watch my daughter, I wonder if I would have been like her given the environment she grew up in?  I see a lot of me in her and am aware of how sensitive she is.... how sensitive I am.  I visited my mother just before heading out for vacation and she spent our time complaining about her friend Fred.....she continues to believe the world revolves around her.  I looked at her across the table and wondered how lonely her life must be when all she can do is complain about someone who is always trying to please her?  It might explain why he chose to sit at the other end of the table with his guests.  Her petty jealousy will eventually cost her a friendship with a truly wonderful man.  I simply looked at her and let her know that he could speak to whomever he wanted to. Sad.

Thursday 28th August
Today is filled with meetings at the college.  Its that time again and I am really excited to begin the school year!!  This year will see me working through the week and now on the weekend as the new coordinator for our program.  I have begun the process of organizing the course and working collaboratively with the other faculty members to produce a good flow between courses.  Students often think that each course is a stand-alone with no connection to their other subjects... so we are using our communications course to thread them all together and give some continuity to learning outcomes.  

I am in pain and gratefully taking the Tramacet prescription sent by my doctor to the pharmacy while I was on vacation.  I am to take it every 4 hours but unfortunately when I rose in agony this Friday morning at 4 am, I realized that I had not taken one before falling asleep.  Its a good thing I have Chiro today. Tuesday I will get my results from the CT scan and I am hoping all is well..... fingers crossed.  I have noticed that the stomach issues I was dealing with have stopped as of this past Sunday.  The prescription Tramacet is used for nerve pain and since it works we know that the pain is primarily nerve.  There are 'hot spots' along the left chest and underpit which hurt when touched.  This morning I am struggling with just moving my neck - typical symptom of sleeping in an awkward position to avoid the pain.  Chronic pain is difficult to deal with some days.  I try to move as much as possible to keep the lymphatic fluids moving but this morning.... not so much.  Each movement from the time I got out of bed to now is painful.  My kitty is trying desperately to get into my lap but a quick no and he moves off in search of another comfy spot - it is only 5:30 am.  I would love to go back to bed but I do not want to wake up Max...I will lay down on the couch and close my eyes for a while.

Thank goodness for Dr. Laura Gravelle who has helped me immeasurably today with the pain.  I can now move my neck and i am comfortable too now that the medicine has kicked in.  Her offices are now at 350 Oxford St. West.

Personal health care has to involve mental/emotional, physical and spiritual.  The oncologists just address the physicality of the cancer.  I am a strong woman physically and emotionally - I am pragmatic and have faced every part of my illness head on.  I do my research and am diligent about pursuing what I need while learning to advocate for myself every step of the way.  With the recent call from the hospital fund raising venture to expand the chemotherapy suite.... I am now convinced that cancer is on the rise and with the loss of two friends while on chemo.... I am sure we have not come any further in our approach to cancer treatments.   We are not addressing the causes of cancer and the constant fund raising into the billions has not brought us any closer to finding a cure... only a bandaid approach to this insidious illness.

Proper health has to start with proper eating.  Everything we put into our body has to be used to heal and assist in proper physical maintenance. Our bodies are incredible and with the necessary ingredients, it can heal itself.  Reducing stress every day and maintaining a positive attitude is key in starting the healing process.  Find hobbies and passions to create an excitement for living and a distraction from concentrating our thoughts on our illness.  Make future plans and strive to find goals that bring you personal satisfaction.  Read labels - better yet.... don't buy anything that has a label containing a long list of ingredients that look like a chemistry set.  My rye bread has three ingredients, none of which are preservatives.  Your skin is your largest organ.  Keep it clean and healthy but being aware of what you are putting on it.  Protect your skin from damage and infections.  Make decisions that make sense.
In the news this week:
ALS bucket challenge has hit most of my friends and I am grateful I have as yet, not been challenged...cold water would put me into painful spasms and I cannot afford to donate at this point.  I understand that a majority of the money raised is going to administration fees and wages.  It is getting harder to find charities that are not fundraising for incomes, marketing and administration.

Tim Hortons merger with Burger King - I sold my stock off at an inflated price and made a good return.  I have re-invested my earnings.  Today the stock is dropping.....which makes me feel way better about selling a stock.  Timing is everything.

My blog on Metastatic cancer - I was asked to post a link about the benefit of MRI's on a post I wrote 10 months ago.  I do not subscribe to mammograms or the hype about how many lives they are saving.  It is an x-ray and may actually do more harm than good.  I was told to have them as part of my  radiation trial in 2010.  Within weeks I had more mammograms than the average 65 year old.  When the radiation treatment failed... I was able to decline all future mammograms.  I chose instead to use MRI or ultrasound.  

Today we say goodbye to another of our World Vision Children because the community in which Isaiah lives in Nadowli, Chad, Africa is considered self sufficient.  We have been given another opportunity to support a new child named Demba from Mauritania.  We have a choice to either consider another child or to not support this one.  We have chosen to keep this one and still maintain our other child Diana in South Central America.  It is heartening when we see a community be able to stand on their own!!!