Western education 2013

Saturday, July 31, 2010


.... I read Sylvia Browne's latest book..... she is a psychic.... and a really good one.  I saw the book at the library and picked it up.  I put it back down and walked away.... and then walked back and picked it up again.  Lately, whether you call it instinct or intuition, it's about following that inner voice as it leads you to discover something you wouldn't necessary go consciously looking for.  The book spoke to me and appealed to the positive changes in my life that would not have happened without this crazy cancer journey.

Friday 30th July

Everything happens for a reason, so I have been told and truly what I believe in life to be true.  The word has come down and I realize with resignation that it is time to create some sort of closure in my life this week before moving on to the next step.  I am going to clean out my locker - it is symbolic and accepting of what I have known for a while... I am unable to perform my duties as a technician in my place of work because it requires me to lift heavy equipment, cable pull etc.  I am devastated and the tears come easily - it has been 17 years since I was hired straight out of school.  I was able to support my family as the breadwinner for all these years and took incredible pride in my abilities.  There is no doubt that I was good at my job, it is just an aspect of my new reality that I have limitations.

Mark has been good to me all these years, as a friend and as a boss and I will miss his easy candor and quick smile.  He is not sure what to say.... what can you say when you are sitting across someone who can't seem to get a sentence out without the hitch in a quavering voice and the tears.  Men are always uncomfortable with tears but he sits there quietly and offers encouraging words when I finally turn to face him.  We head out to our offices and I borrow the spare locker key from him.... not sure what happened to mine?  I re-use the cardboard box that is in my locker from when I cleared out my desk a year ago and start to sort out the paperwork, saving the project drawings that I had been working on - I will leave it with Bruce to finish it up.  I have filled a couple of containers with parts and connectors that I have sorted through to be put back into stock or into someone else's tool box.  Mark has made coffee and it seems as if all the cream in the fridge has gone bad as I study the lumps swirling around in the cup.  I decide to have it black and realize that I was likely drinking bad coffee masked by good cream all those years!! :)  Cal comes in and gives me a hug and kiss and hangs out while he considers the task I am undertaking.  He doesn't grill me but after some joking, he pulls out a collection of pocket protectors and offers me one.  I ask him to sign it for me and voila - Mark, Bruce and Cal are signing away with the black sharpie I have just deposited into one of the pencil containers.

I am introduced to my replacement who comes over to shake my hand.  He appears to be quite friendly and comfortable with his new co-workers.  He should be, they are an incredible group of guys whom I will dearly miss working with.  I can see he is listening to our conversation and who wouldn't be when the girl you are covering for all of a sudden shows up!!  Wish you all the best. Bruce and I wander over to the back shop - ah, my work bench is filled with equipment that Bruce is working on..... *sigh*.  It is a private conversation, just one of many we have had over the years.  I trust him implicitly - a good friend and confidant.  I will miss working with you!!  Hugs and best wishes are exchanged and it is time to go.  Mark comes over and picks up the box which is full - you can see the tampon boxes tucked in and Jeff has mentioned to me about Tampon Tuesday earlier when he noticed them and we all got a good laugh when I mentioned that I do attend and always with a huge box of them from Costco.  I carry them in to the events without the guise of a plastic bag.  Mark pops the box into the trunk and we talk for a little bit but I can see he has to leave.  I will miss you.

There are more tears when I get home,  I wipe them off and then decide that tomorrow will be the first day of the rest of my life.  I will go into rehab and work in another position, one that I am looking forward to... see, there is always a silver lining in every storm cloud.  As for the rest of my co-workers that I have been unable to see today.... please know, that I am sending you each  best wishes and hope we bump into each other sooner than later. xox We are heading out on Sunday to the cottage from Cottage Dreams.  Thank you to my close neighbor friends whose laughter and support has been incredulous.  No Sue, there will be no more tears this year or even next.  I love you all.  M xox

Thursday, July 22, 2010

..... trying hard to get back in the groove

..... trying to regain the strength and shape I have lost over the past year and with all the best of intentions - I started at the local gym with a gift membership.  I started with cardio and was doing just fine until the personal trainer came by to see if I was interested in just having a free evaluation.  She also indicated that she was a cancer survivor of 15 years.  I thought that was great, she would understand and realize some of the issues I was faced with.  In short, I stretched per her instructions and have now slept with an amazing amount of pain in the shoulder that according to the massage therapist may have suffered an injury to the rotator cuff.  In the past few weeks, I have come across a number of people who have also been injured under the guise of a well-intentioned personal trainer including a doctor!!!  What irked me the most, besides the injury, which will be confirmed by ultra sound sometime this week, was the fact that she put the sales squeeze on me and pulled the guilt card when I told her I could not afford $500 a month..... of course I told her, my health is important but I also attempted to tell her that feeding my children was just as important.  Why was I trying to explain myself?  Why did I feel obligated to answer her when 'no' should have sufficed?  She felt that it was in my best interest to just forget about my cancer journey and put it behind me and then she questioned why I was not working.......  wrong approach and frankly she just knows nothing about me or my situation.  Every journey is as individual as every woman that goes through it.

13 July 2010

The pain in my hands and wrists has been steadily getting worse which is now being eased with pain medication.  Since I am not good at sitting for any period of time, I have continued to move and try to keep as active as possible.  The pool has been a tremendous help with keeping me moving in a gravity free zone.  My feet are still in pain and every morning I hobble out of bed after spending most of the night stretching out the aches that plague my limbs, feet and hands.  The new medication I am on reduces the swelling and the pain making it easier for me to function.  I am not comfortable taking the muscle relaxants unless I absolutely have to, so instead, I am seeing a massage therapist that specializes in lymphatic massage.  This friday I will be getting a full body massage as well as a lymph massage to try and encourage the muscles to relax.  I keep moving everyday, whether it is in the pool or doing some light gardening to keep myself.

17th July 2010

A wonderful baby shower for a girl whom I have known for most of her life and whom I love like one of my own children.  The years have flown by.  I love you so much and I am looking forward to meeting with your sweet little Payton when she makes her appearance in September.

It is a quick trip to the second venue of the day and I find myself with my classmates from my college days.  Jeff is the host for this second annual event.  He lost his wife to breast cancer and I am deeply saddened for this lovely soul who now spends his free time working.  He has been an invaluable resource and support for me and I am excited to see him.  He recounts memories of his wife re-growing her hair as he admires my thickening mane.  Her cancer returned within a year of treatments.... we are never really sure if it will ever come back but know that worrying about it will not keep it at bay.  I chat with my classmates and note that the children are bigger and we are all a little grayer.  Thank you my friend for your incredible bravery.  You are often in my thoughts and prayers. xoxo

Monday 18 July 2010

A great friend, who has always been like a little sister to me has come to visit with her children.  I can tell she has something on her mind but hours go by before she lets me know that she has found a lump in her groin.  She found it 8 months ago and according to her Doctor..... well, he lost all of her results including two ultra sounds and two blood tests ..... then made it impossible for her to make an appointment when she questioned him.  I made a phone call and had her in for a blood test an hour later!!  No one should ever have to put up with that kind of poor medical care!!!!!  Never mind the fear ripping through her when she relates the early death of her Mother to lymphatic cancer and her Grandmother's death from breast cancer.

Tuesday 19th July 2010

..... sometimes when you follow your instinct.... it will lead you on an unplanned adventure.  After Art Therapy, I went home to pick up Lydia and go to the Library.  Neither one of us had lunch, so I suggested McDonald's.  We had just sat down in a booth looking into the play area.  Lydia wanted to go and sit in there and after a little urging, we changed locations.  The lady sitting in the seat kitty-corner to me recognized Lydia as being a classmate of her son.  They are recent transplants from across the ocean and minutes into the conversation, I realize that England is missing her and the little boys chasing my daughter through the tubes.  We let them know that we were going to the library and since they had no card and had never been to our local literary establishment, I invited them to tag along.  Minutes later, I had two lovely young boys, thick accents and all giggling in the back seat with my daughter as their mother and grandfather followed behind.  By the time she got all of their cards, i had the boys signed up for the reading program and Lydia was showing them around.

I know a lot of people and I am grateful for those who know me and who have offered friendship over the years.  One such graceful and loving soul walked up to me and hugs later and a quick catch-up, she tells me that her Relay for Life team made a dedication candle bag in my honor.  Hard not to tear up and be so deeply touched by such a loving gesture.  As we were talking, the lovely companion I had brought with me interrupted and asked me to help her.... she had already lost her library card and was distressed.  I found it as she opened her wallet inviting me to search :)... she apologized to my friend and I introduced them.... small world.  Looks like I just introduced our recent transplant to a prospective new boss.  She called me an Angel and you could see from her excitement that she had a really great day.

22 July 2010

I am still trying to gain some more energy and strength but am frustrated with my two steps forward... somedays I take 3 steps back.  The pain tugs at me 4 hours after I have taken the pain killer/analgesic but this morning the bile coming back up from the upset it causes makes me withdraw from taking another one and so I am up this morning..... early.  I am not hungry but decide to make a cup of coffee and glance over to the pool which is still cloudy.  Note to self... stop going to that pool and spa place... bad advice - I have donated enough money to the cause.  I putter around, read the paper and finish up a sewing project but I still find myself agitated and frustrated.  I want to return to my life, and I will eventually do just that but for now I know I have to be patient.

I get asked if I am enjoying my summer.... I have to answer yes, it sure makes up for last summer but by no means is it a party till you drop kinda season for me.  I have slowed down considerably - there will be no Ladies by the Pool party this year as it has been traditionally for the past 3 years.  We are looking forward to the Cottage Dreams cottage that a very kind and thoughtful cottage owner has loaned to us fee free for 6 days in August.  I have sewn an outfit for Lydia's dolly in preparation for our visit.  With no money and creeping into debt, we will make the best of it.  I just feel bad that I cannot give my children the vacation I know that we all need but hey, this sure comes really close.  We are grateful for the kindness of strangers and have been so amazed by how many have come to our assistance.

My girlfriend got her blood tests back.... it's not bad, but a CT scan is required to check her chest etc.   I am thinking of her as she begins her testing and I am praying that it is nothing....  she is a brave soul and will take what comes her way good or bad and deal with it.... I will always be there to guide her, like the big sister she has come to see me as.

Well, as I am putting this blog to bed.... I highlighted it and promptly erased it!!!  Thank goodness for the  'undo' command.  Wish it would work for the lottery ticket I won and promptly lost this afternoon.... at least I still have the chocolate bars I bought at the same time.

Monday, June 14, 2010

..... the one year mark

..... the 19th of June will be the 1st anniversary of my diagnosis and the call comes in from a friend asking if I will be doing the cancer walk on the overnight of the 18th of June....

.... my answer was no... not this year.  I did the walk in Belle River two years ago with the gals from the Windsor station and found it to be a very emotional event, one that I am not ready for just yet.  Sarah has dropped off a bag for my children to decorate in honor of my journey and to acknowledge the journey that we all have been on.  Lydia will be turning 8 on the 18th and we will spend the evening celebrating the amazing life that Max and I have created.

I am starting to regain some of my energy, well at least that's what it feels like after struggling to roll out of bed on feet that quickly ignite in pain should I forget to slip on my cushy flip flops..... and even then, I shuffle like an 80 year old before the arthritis meds kick in.  I am relieved, as I pass in front of my dresser mirror slowly, that my hair is beginning to turn shades of black and brown with what looks like frosted tips.  I pass my hand through the thickening mass and smile - almost there.  I have a drawer in that dresser that is dedicated to my head gear and other implements of my journey, including the spare edema sleeve.  The scarves I will likely never wear again but will eventually move them to a corner of my closet to make room for new clothes.  I have gained some weight but have been told that that too will come off as I become more active.  I will garden today or at least put in a good show as I pull myself along on my rear pulling each weed out.  I am determined to accomplish as many tasks as possible but find that I exhaust easily - I rest and attempt to get back out there.  It is the nights that will exact the final punishments as I try to turn every aching muscle into a more comfortable position..... I am usually too tired to care and slip into a slumber that will be hard to stir until the night sweats come.  It is getting better with each waking day and I know that I will get there sooner than later - part of the stubborn streak that has served me well.

Tonight, i cannot sleep and find myself writing out email responses and one with a quiet resignation to my VP and secretary on our recreational committee I have served on for a decade and have become president of over the past three years.  So much has changed with me and what I consider to be important and what needs my attention.  I love my quiet time and the peacefulness that it brings into my life.  I am reading voraciously these days... mostly mysteries - one where the heroin is strong willed, intelligent, motivated and driven by all-important truth and justice. I sometimes find myself looking back at my life and wondering about the choices I made... had they been different, would I still be here?  If I had to do a do-over, what would I do differently?   I know that I always withdraw when I need to gather strength - these past few weeks have me feeling detached and alone while quietly reflecting on what has been and what might possibly be in my future.  I am caught in no-man's land.  I am used to a regimented life filled with decisions that are mostly made with other schedules or agendas in mind.  My only agenda these days is what tasks I choose to do at home and what they will consist of.....most repeat themselves ad-nauseam like dishes and laundry.  The things I choose to do that I enjoy are definitely more a part of my schedule than ever before.  I don't watch TV much anymore but I do sewing projects, reading, gardening and of course writing.  I get to see the people I want to see and miss those whose lives are busier than mine is at the moment.  It is amazing how quickly the time passes at home.  I am beginning the arduous task of spring cleaning - not all of it has to do with the house.

Late last month I was interviewed on a UWO radio talk show with Patricia Kennedy and around the same time as the new edition of City Woman Magazine's interview with me about F.A.C.E.I.T, complete with the picture of me before my journey began last July.  I have been told that the picture is one of strength... at least the eyes show that.   I have autographed a few of these articles for friends but feel really weird about it.  I prefer to be behind the scenes despite my outgoing appearance and cringe when I hear my name spoken out loud these days.  I like my ordinary existence which likely explains the desire to withdraw from the world these days.  I have found the quiet within.... haven't had that peace and quiet since I was a child.  I love the quiet and the solitary moments while I sew or create new projects or do research online for the advocacy I am involved in.  I love the moments that bring friends around for quiet afternoon lunches or for toe-dipping in the pool as the summer progresses.  I love the beautiful plants that are springing to life that I pulled from the depths of our storage room from last fall.  The spring is alive and well at my house and I take pride in the beauty that surrounds the house and envelopes our senses.

Amazing what can happen in a year and like I told Patricia Kennedy... I got what I deserved..... I needed to slow my pace and spend some time living my life and yes, I have learned to live my life to the fullest.  It's not like I don't give my mortality a great deal of thought more than I give myself more opportunities to do the things I want to do above and beyond the mundane chores of our daily lives.  Perhaps I will write that mystery novel I have been meaning to get to or spend a lazy afternoon in the hammock with my soul mate.  We are only here for such a microscopic tick on the timeline of our world and I will try to make every moment count.  I see my husband outside puttering in the garden and my heart bursts as he turns to look at me and our eyes lock.  We are so much in love after all these years and I am deeply grateful for every day we are together.  Who knows what will come... for now, I will take the very best of the last year and head out to sit with my husband.... xox

14 June 2010
Today I spent an amazing afternoon with a woman whom inspires me with her strength of character and her celebration of life.  She accepts who she is and knows where she is going.  Her yard was amazing and her house was filled with high energy - my kind of gal!!  Thank you so much for opening your home to me.

I came home to find an email in my inbox from Cottage Dreams!!  We have been granted a cottage for my family and I to go to in the Muskokas (my choice) to make up for the summer last year that wasn't!!  We are all so excited to be able to celebrate by the water at the end of a dock in a cottage donated for the week to a family who have been through the cancer journey.  I am grateful for all the wonderful things that have happened along the way.

Monday, May 31, 2010


...... the feet still hurt even with a double layer of gel insoles in my new runners.  My feet were in so much pain last night that I was unable to sleep as I kept trying to stretch them.  Max hates feet and yet last night, he helped massage them

The long weekend was spent out in Ottawa re-connecting with classmates I knew 30 years ago.  I started out my travels by driving to Kitchener and parking my car in a car pool lot, meeting up with Roman who drove the rest of the way.  We were able to catch up on the long drive and fill in the missing years.  He used to live a few doors down from the townhouse I was staying in after I left home.  Now it's just his Mom who lives there. We pull into the townhouse complex of my long-time pal Debbie after being on the highway for 7 hours - she and Alfie have fallen asleep on their respective comfy chairs but he wakes first when he hears me call his name.  He gets Deb up and she sleepily drags herself off the couch and grins from ear to ear as the arms come up and engulf me in a huge hug.  We step back and now we are both grinning.... the weekend has begun, at least for me.  Deb has to go to bed as she is going to work in a few short hours.  Roman is off to his Mom's house and we promise to meet the next day to do some touring.

The morning brings the warm sunshine and the smell of fresh coffee - Alfie is in the kitchen making me breakfast and I am totally spoiled.  We spend the morning getting to know each other and I listen to the slight east-coast accent.  His eyes are blue like the sky, he is tall and handsome and well spoken and I can see what a wonderful guy he is and why Deb loves him so much.  Roman arrives in the late morning and he needs to shop for a new bike - his mid-life crisis has him getting into shape in various sports and judging by the conversation he has with the sales guy at the local Sports Chek, he really knows his stuff.  He is methodical and careful about his purchase as he goes over every detail comparing the two top choices.  I am used to being around techies, as I am already one and his choice reflects the esthetics after the mechanicals both pass.  He has ridden the bikes multiple times through the store and still finds the color determines the final choice. We walk around the mall and choose a lebanese place to eat.  Roman finds the choice a good one and digs into his shawarma.  It reminds me of one of my best friends who lives in the area - I have left her a message but will not hear back from her until I have already left the city.  Roman drops me off at Deb's and makes his way home but later calls to let us know that he would like to eat dinner with us since he has no dinner plans.  Roman comes for dinner and drinks and Alfie offers to drive us out to the Byward Market.  It has been a long time since I was last here.  The evening is warm and the population begins to soar as the evening progresses - it is after all, Friday night!!  It is the official location for the 4 bars participating in the reunion.  Our class is between decades, so we start with the 70's crowd at the Honest Lawyers and then later find ourselves in the Velvet Room for the 80's group where we run into many of our classmates.  It was a fun evening but fatigue finally won as we headed back to the Honest Lawyers to meet up with our designated driver.  Stepping inside the bar for a last parting drink for my companions, I bumped into Deb Mac... she was like a second Mom to me - 8 years older and wiser beyond her years.  She would often be a source of comfort when the world was feeling crazy and looking at her I couldn't help but cry!!  Hugs and kisses later, we chat and catch up. The bar fight in the corner, complete with blood bath signal that it is time to go home and a few minutes later, the dynamic trio is on the sidewalk getting picked up by Alfie!!  We giggle all the way home and find our way up to bed.  Debbie has had a few too many and I can hear her throwing up in the bathroom next door - Yikes, sounds like she uncoiled all 32 feet of intestines and she is golfing in the early morning!!!!

The morning comes quickly and I can hear the two of them leave the house just as I am pulling myself free of the sheets.  It looks like it might rain at their golf tournament and I roll out of bed searching out a cup of joe.  I find the almost full coffee pot and the irish creamer on the counter.... ah, life is good.  It will be a few hours until Roman calls, so I shower, eat and cozy in with my book.  We are going to the tulip festival where an old classmate of ours is playing at a park next to Dow's Lake.  We arrive and walk around with many tourists and are dissapointed that the tulips have all flowered the week before and have only brown leaves and empty stalks to photograph.... weird spring in Ontario!!  Rob Letourneau is in the band Black Cherry as the drummer - a truly talented player whose husky voice and constant physical movement reminds me of a kid who would have been diagnosed as ADHD in today's world.  He is pure fun with his quick smile and twinkling brown eyes.  His wife is the centered smart manager who keeps him grounded and eyes us as we approach.  Her guard drops when she recognizes Roman.  Roman and Rob - both musicians, both talented and complimentary of each other shake hands and start to reminisce about days long ago.  Roman is an accomplished guitar player - learned most of his music by ear.  We listen to the tunes they belt out with their newest addition, a young lady whose nervousness shows in the stilted movements and off-tone voice.... it's her first public gig and her father is sitting front row...  Diane G. shows up with her hubby and I am able to chat with her and get her signature in a little book I have purchased for the weekend.  We have a few more hours before I have to get back to the house to get ready for the evening activities at our high school - school tour and dinner.  We drive over to my old neighborhood, to the townhouses that were still under construction when we moved in.  It looks so small when we drive up to my old unit and get out to take pictures.  I was in my mid teens when I moved out - I remember the morning of the last day I lived there and the unceremonious handing over of the house keys and the $30 thrust into my hands.  I had a suitcase and my tape deck with me and I was moving out - June 1981.... still just a kid.  The back yards were just postage stamp size and still are but now the home owners have claimed the territory beyond their little wooden fences for flowers and vegetables.
The green space behind our unit is now filled with scrub bushes and trees.  The owner of our unit and the owners of the end unit next door come out and we chat about the old days - they are younger than I am and the one husband has lived in the neighborhood his whole life - I likely babysat him.  They have roots, I am still developing mine after having been an army brat who moved more times than I care to remember.  We leave the neighborhood and I ponder about what it would have been like to have parents still living in the old neighborhood..... I do not recognize anyone as we slowly drive along the loop and past the swimming pool that is under repair. It is time to go 'home' and get ready for the evening. Roman can walk from where he lives and will meet us there.

What an interesting gathering of students who span the course of 40 years.  The school was only 8 years old when I first attended but looking around now.... you can see the wear and tear.  There are portables on the far side of the school and one in the back making it look rather rag tag.  The trees soar above our heads and block the bank of second story windows in the front.  I remember doing greens keeping when the trees were just barely above the first floor lower windowsills.  The hallway walls are a host to colorful student artistic endeavors - a wonderful take from the once barren and austere look of our time.  The halls are smaller but I remember where all the lockers used to be and are now reclaimed for sitting space or new classrooms.  I could feel the rush of air as fast feet move past when I close my eyes and I envision what it was like and I point out memories to Deb and Peter whom I have accompanied on this journey through time.  We laugh as we stand in front of colorful artwork in the front stairwell and I can't see past the tree blocking the view..... so long ago as we put the camera away and walk on.  No regrets, it was a fun walk into the past and parts of my heart tug when I remember the friends I had and whom I lost touch with and how distant I am from my past..... something to be said about roots.  I will never go back for another reunion but will keep in touch with those I have just spent time with.

I am ready to leave for home early in the evening after a wonderful dinner with Alfie, Deb, Roman and Alfie's son, daughter-in-law and two small girls.  It made me so home sick for my own children.  Roman helps me pack the van and as we pull away and I see Deb standing at the end of her front walk, the tears begin to roll.  Roman rolls down the window and lets Deb know that I am bawling, and I am.  We are going home and the long drive begins to wear on my nerves.... need to get home and we are running out of gas!!  We make it into only one of two gas stations open on the stretch between Ottawa and Kitchener with only 3 KM to spare - we laugh and take pictures for posterity.  I manage to get into my car and head  towards home and feel a deep sense of relief when I finally tuck myself in beside my amazing husband.

The rest of the week has been spent enjoying an unusually hot spring - the pots around the pool are in full bloom and the pool is a balmy 77 degrees taking us into the new month of June.

Monday, May 17, 2010

..... family comes to call

...... my parents, older sister, brother and nephew have come a long way to visit with us and arrive on Mother's Day within minutes of my in-laws.  All these people I love under one roof.... so many people laughing and exchanging stories around the dinner table.  Gina is probably right when she says that it will likely be the last time we are all together under the same roof.

Monday 10th May

Today is my Mother's 77th birthday and Gina and I break out in 'Happy Birthday'.  I have not slept well.... surprise, but am on my best humor as I prepare breakfast for 11 people at 6 am.  The kids are up early and eager to sit around the table and be a part of the energy that swirls around and incorporates everyone.  Gina and her son Ben are only overnight guests after dropping my parents off - they will make their way up to Tobermorey to catch the ferry which will take them up to Manitoulin Island, shortening up their trip out to BC.

Today will be a long day... Dad has the beginnings of Alzheimer's which becomes more apparent as he grabs his dinner plate and makes his way over to the bathroom off the family room and Max takes him by the elbow and guides him over to the dinning room while he  expresses a sense of surprise when he realizes that he has never been to that side of the house..... he had breakfast there hours before.... I react by laughing almost hysterically - not because it is funny but because I would be crying otherwise.  We take him out shopping - he loves going out and ends up wandering off in his own direction but not the one we need him to go in and he is shuffling his feet.  His eyes look distant when I approach him and slip my hand into his which gets his attention and he smiles at me with his beautiful blue eyes.  The ends of his fingers are bent every which way but straight, so I make sure that I do not squeeze them as I lead him through the store while trying to pick up a chicken and some sugar for his coffee.  My Mom just follows along.  Shopping with them is akin to playing psychologist/daughter.  They each bend my ear when they are sure the other is out of earshot and funny enough, probably because they have been together for almost 50 years, they say the same things.  Each of them, despite the complaints they will issue about the other... it would be wise not to say anything other than the positives about each of them, to each other.

I am tired and need to have some down time - I have now set aside quiet time for the two of them in the afternoon and will put on a movie or ask that they read a book.  During the day, I take them for walks in the mall because it is not warm enough outside.  I am reading the Nora Roberts books - J.D Robb series and love the time spent reading these mysteries.

Thursday 13th May 2010

My Dad is staying in bed today.... must be all the activity of the past few days - forced marches through the shopping malls that he loves so much.  The weather is providing most of this depressive mood and I and Mom are downstairs wrapped in blankets and reading magazines or a book... perfect day for just relaxing.  Time goes by fast when you are at home, surprisingly, this afternoon is as well.

I missed yoga this morning - my doctor thinks I may have Plantar fasciitis which is painful.  It is like my heels are walking on a rock.  My hands still are numb at the tips and my left shoulder is causing me some pain and popping noises are abundant when I move the arm..... need to go back to the gym when my parents head out on Monday to go back home.  We managed to book them on a train that will travel straight to their destination without having to transfer trains in Toronto.  They will be traveling first class for the first time and I know that they will be well taken care of and well fed.  Last thing we need to worry about is Dad getting lost in a train station.  I will take them to the train station and will see them board the train and make sure that the person picking them up is going to be at their destination.  Gina and Benjamine have travelled into Saskatchewan as of last night.  They reported that the Chi Cheemaun Ferry was a great idea and cut short their travel time by a few hours.  The country they travelled through to get there is gorgeous.  They anticipate an arrival home by Friday afternoon.  I miss them already.

Saturday 15th May

It is my birthday.... I am now 46 and will celebrate the end of a really long year and a journey that re-routed me from a predictable path to the unknown.  I will celebrate a new birthday today that will hopefully be the start of a very good year.  My parents take us all out to dinner to a chinese restaurant that I always took my children to before we moved four years ago.  The owner steps out to say hello and to fuss over the kids.... she taught Will how to use chop sticks a dozen years ago and her son and mine would sit together and watch TV in the back kitchen while waiting for her husband to cook our meal.  Now her son is serving our table and William towers over her..... where does the time go?

My deepest condolences to John and Sue on the passing of his father today.  Through all the sadness of his passing and her step-mother, who will soon also pass from this world, she has thoughtfully brought over home-made cupcakes and card to celebrate my special day.  I am deeply sorry for the week you are having and I wish I could make it better.  I love you Sue. xo

Sunday 16th May

My parents do not have a lot of money but are quick to pull out their wallets to try and pay for everything.... once a parent, always a parent.  My Dad is starting to show the stress of having Alzheimer's in a strange place.  We found that he had folded his pajamas and house shoes in a neat pile in the livingroom - he keeps telling me that we need to get ready to go to the train station.  No worries, I tell him, the train leaves after you wake up tomorrow morning.  He began the ritual over again when he woke up from his nap.  This morning I found him laying down on the bed with one house shoe on and one off.  He was so thirsty and couldn't find a tap to fill his glass (bathroom is next to his room) so he decided to just take a nap.  I sat with him while he drank from the cup I had filled for him.  I filled it three times while he rambled on about France.  He has repeated the same stories over and again and I can now repeat some of them verbatim.  He sits at the edge of the bed looking forlorn, his eyes are far away and I just hold his hand and rub his back.  He is quick to tear up when I am talking about the wonderful people who have helped me in my journey and rubs his eyes with the back of his large soft hands - the tips of which are cantered in different angles signifying a rheumatism of sorts.  My mother is looking quite worn with fatigue as he has been coughing most of the night and quickly falls asleep on the couch in the afternoon and I just cover her up with a blanket. She begins to snore part way through her nap.  I study her face and see how old she really looks and I am sad.  My parents are in the last years of their lives and circumstances of our modern world have them living farther away than any parent should live from their children.  I have spoken with them about moving but they are set on staying where they are.  We have also discussed finding them a retirement home close to where they live and have said they would consider it later.  Right now my Dad still has most of his wits about him but that will soon go with all the memories of us.  Mom has come down to say goodnight and I am trying not to tear up - I have been tucking them in every night when I can but tonight I am filled with emotions and do not want them to see me lest it upsets them.  I run the furnace fan all night and open my windows near the cold air intake so that my father will not cough because of the stuffy room they are in.

Monday 17th May

Although I have slept well this week, I did not sleep at all last night... worried we would get up late and they would miss their train, but I can hear my Dad up at 5:30 washing his face and hands and getting ready for the day.  Lydia is up just after I rise to take a shower and she informs them that she will be taking them to the train station.  We arrive early to check in their suitcase and get them settled into the first class waiting room.  I get Mom a Cappuccino and Dad gets a paper to take with him to read on the train.  Lydia would like a hot chocolate but I inform her that we will get something later as this is only for the train passengers.  She reads out the breakfast menu for the train ride to Toronto and begs me to let her travel with my parents - what a magical journey they must be going on where they feed them while they are riding the train.  She pouts as she sits with them.  I realize, looking into my father's beautiful soft blue eyes that waiting until the train pulls in will cause him duress - the tears have come so quickly for him these past few days and this would just be too much.  I quickly rise and instruct Lydia to say her good byes to them.... it has all happened so fast as I hug my parents and kiss their cheeks.  I look into their eyes and tell them I love them.... have a safe journey and please enjoy the trip.  I am out the door with Lydia in tow before they realize we are gone.  'No tears' I kept saying to my Mom, 'just smile'.  I will have time for tears later....

I make sure the kids are off to school and head out to the car dealership to once again check the tires for the annoying tire pressure light that has once again come up - this is the third time in as many weeks.  I will wait for them to rectify the situation in the waiting room.  I am only there a few minutes when I look up from my book and see Pat.  It is a small world - I just met her again last weekend at the Breast Show In Town, and now here she is sitting across from me... neither of us have an appointment.  I make my way over to her and begin talking...... I offer her a coffee and our conversation flows like a lazy river on a warm sunny afternoon.  We have a lot in common and a real parallel life story.  She takes down my email and she will get in touch with me.  Many times in my journey, I have found that the little inconveniences seem to be part of the pay attention opportunities that only become opportunities when you recognize them as such.... it is an interesting life.

..... tears do come later but not in torrents and only because I know that I will miss my parents.... I will  miss my Dad and all that he was when his illness robs him of his recent and then past memories.  He speaks of his sister and his mother and is confused why they lost touch..... so long ago, so much has happened in between.... I heard him muttering under his breath many times in a voice so whisper thin, I could barely make out the words but got the impression he was trying to remember things that were important and repeated them in order to keep it in his mind.  It is so hard to see my pal begin to disintegrate before my eyes.  My children love how funny and affectionate he is.  He is mesmerized by Lydia as he describes her to be all knees and elbows as she crawls all over him.  He is patient with her and smiles when she pats his face and looks into his eyes..... his distant far away eyes which sharpen when she gets in close.  He is blind and sees so little at arms length but can see her clearly when she comes in close for hugs.  William laughed at him the other night when Dad walked into his room butt naked - he just took Dad by the hand and walked him to the room next door for my mother to dress him after his bath.  My Dad was always fiercely independent..... a trait he passed on to me..... 
I will miss my Dad as I watch the clock and envision where they are on the train...... the tears fall.... we all have a journey and this is his.... I Love you always and forever.... what I wrote in  the hand-painted birthday card I made for him last night while he sat on the couch sleeping.  

I will miss my Mom too.  She always says life is not easy..... she has said it her whole life, and as we sit at the table while I paint her a card, I tell her that all of us have a journey and easy or not - it is the cards that are dealt to us.  Every event has been a challenge to her and she never seemed to see the opportunities when they presented themselves to her..... and so, she failed to recognize them as such and labelled everything 'wasn't easy'.  She is perplexed at how I view my cancer as an opportunity... an opportunity to learn, grow and meet like-minded people.  She sees the pain but finds the positives elusive..... she is a lonely person, I have seen it many times in her over the years but most often she can hide it quite well.  I learned to be a rock in her world.  She is gentle and soft with eyes that tear up when I look into them and wish her a safe and fun journey.  I promise her that I will call in the evening to make sure that they have arrived home safe and sound.  For days, I have been building up her confidence to travel by train and to enjoy the trip..... she is ready.  I have bid a quick and early good-bye which has taken her by surprise - she has little time to react and I know I have made the right decision as I walk quickly away.  Her tears will fall when the train trip ends..... our visit will be complete.  I Love you always and forever.  xoxo  

I cried a lot this afternoon when there was no one around..... I will miss you both so very much.  

I called my parents just as they were coming in the front door from their trip - they are both tired but really enjoyed the first class ride from Via.  We have promised to keep in touch and to not wait so long in between visits - they are looking forward to another trip back to us for a visit!!!  I will pack up a care package for them with memories of their visit with us and will send them cards every month filled with pictures and notes from Lydia.

Thank you to Emily for her lovely handwritten card to Lydia!!! xo

Tonight, Lydia will go to her first soccer practice..... I used to play on an all-male team when I was in the military and do soccer camps for kids.... now I get to watch from the sidelines and cheer on my own child 25 years later.  The Long week end will find me in Ottawa for my 30th high school reunion - an old classmate of mine will be driving us out and back... still too tired to do any driving much past an hour.  It will be great catching up!!!  Sending out the love to all my family and friends and especially to Sue. xox

Thursday, May 6, 2010

.... friendship

..... the lady down the street's daughter is still hanging out with mine and there have been many sleep-overs and play dates in the past few weeks which necessitate Sandra to enter into my backyard unannounced in order to pick her up from yet another after school get-together.  It wasn't until Sandra's close friend called to give his best regards to Max and neglecting to extend the same to myself that I realized exactly why her and I are not friends..... she talks... not only about herself but she talks... you know, about the private things that people tell others in confidence.  I realize that I know more about the caller's deepest secrets that God forbid should I share with anyone - which I have not - and now I know why she really made me crazy for all those years and why I never told her anything of importance.  Despite the fact that I am outgoing, I am a deeply private person and feel that everyone has the right to their own privacy.  I should never have to spell it out to anyone that when someone talks to you, you keep it to yourself.... and I do.  She would divulge everyone's secrets to me and if any of her friends showed an interest in getting together with me, she would simply pass messages but neglect to invite one or the other to her gatherings. I take it from the caller's cool attitude towards me that she has justified the ends to suit her means.  When you are going through a life changing situation, really, the last thing you want to have to deal with is someone who cares more about the attention they get 'sharing' your personal stuff without your permission.... all she now has to share is her personal opinion.  I just call out as I make my retreat into my haven.... see you tomorrow to the little blonde head that streaks out past me to join her Mom.

The gals after Yoga all understand what this all means to them and they each have a 'name'  in their lives.... or used to.  You gauge your world by your feelings and sense of security and learn to not waste time with those that threaten either one.  The girls get it and know that when the cancer journey is over usually a lot of friendships are as well... one of the gals ended her marriage just before her diagnosis because she knew instinctively that she would never get the kind of support from him that she might need and realized that the marriage had been over a really long time.  Why do we wait so long to 'clean house'?  Is it because we are so busy in our lives, don't want to hurt feelings, perhaps the loneliness factor or just wanting to keep the peace at all costs?  Why are some people just outright mean?  Why are some people so nice to you when you are ill, but lose patience or revert back to their old ways when you are better?  When I left my life to venture into the unknown, I kept in touch with the people who I knew were good friends and who could be there for me... I left behind the ones who talked a good game but when it counted, they were nowhere to be found, the ones who seemed to know when I needed them and those who knew me the best - the ones who knew the facade was just that and respected the sensitive person whom they had befriended.  I wish to thank my extraordinary friends!!  The yoga gals and myself hope that we have been good friends to others in our life's journeys - we may never know but we are all deeply conscious of those around us and aspire to be a friend like the most memorable ones in our hour of deepest need.  I hope that my friends, old and new know that I love and admire who they are  and I do not question why we are friends. xoxoxo

Tomorrow night I will be heading out to network with other women at a sleep-over hosted at a really great hotel an hour away.  I am the guest of a woman that I can barely find the words for - she has touched my soul to the core and I am deeply honored that she considers me a friend.  She is patient, funny and kind and just says what's on her mind.  She is not afraid to tell me when I am being an idiot!!! I am not offended when she does because I know she says it with love and kindness.  I am fortunate that my friends are comfortable telling me what they think of me and know that although it isn't always easy to listen to, it is always said with love. xoxoxo

This journey has brought people into my life who have helped to shape my attitudes about what friendship really is and what I have to offer.  I have been hand-painting thank you cards when I find a few minutes for those who have touched mine and my family's lives..... Hallmark and my Art Therapist would be proud!!!  Art is so incredibly liberating for the soul and my paints make me so happy.  My mother used to say that a home-made anything lets others know how much you care about them.

Thank you for reading my blogs and letting me know in your own personal ways how much you care. In 9 days I will turn 46...... it will be one year to the day that I found my lump and my life as I knew it came to an end.... no regrets - I have become a better person for the experience, my children have matured, my friends are extraordinary, new and incredible people have come into my life and made it better and my marriage, although pretty great before this has become an even deeper bond and continues to deepen as we move forward - he is ultimately my best friend and soul mate and who encouraged me to share the more personal me through my blogs.... I love you now and for always.  xoxo

Monday, May 3, 2010

.... depression

.... I would be remiss if I didn't name what the past month has been like - depression.  I always thought like many people that it was something that happened when you were being weak, but I have since come to understand that it happens when you have been strong for far too long.  That feeling of being lost that comes with the end of one chapter and before the next one begins....

It's not that I expect others to understand, I really don't, but it is a consequence of any trauma that life has to offer and sometimes it is not always well-handled but hey, it's what makes us human.  It felt some days like I would never stop crying and every thing regardless if it was little or not blew itself out of proportion... when the dust settled, there were hands helping me up through phone calls, messages, lunches and thoughtful gestures. There will be days to come  that will inspire tears to fall but I am OK with that... we really don't have a whole lot of control in our lives and trying to gain some after not having any means that I am on the way back to finding my groove sooner than later.  I am disappointed that one person I reached out to and whom has been a friend for so many years and whom I have listened to and helped through their recent issues has turned his back on me and has ignored the few emails I have sent.  This hit me really hard and it's not like he is not aware of what is going on.... he was one of the first people I told.  I have learned that there is a difference between being friends and being friendly.  I have talked to many survivors of varying journeys and they too mention the ones they least expected to turn away and were devastated when they did.  I have made new friends who get where I am at and will listen and support me with kindness and understanding..... I move on.

As my 13 year old son is quick to point out these days - everyone is on a journey of some kind. It makes you appreciate those around you more when you have been there and done that.  I will always look to Kim for her sage advice in our  class.... she only gives me information when asked and listens quietly while I talk to her.  Kim says that there is no point in giving information ahead of time when you are never sure if that is where your journey will take you. She does understand and shares what she went through when it is applicable to the issue at hand.  She knew right away what I was going through when I mentioned the anxiety and tears and confirmed my suspicions that this was all part of the package.  I know her sister is right where I am right now in her journey so she calls her every day to let her just talk.

The past few days have been spent hand painting thank you cards to the Supper Club, Mandi, Sandra and Joelly.... I ran out of paper but when I purchase more, I will be able to complete the rest on my wish list.

I thank those who called like Tracy from LympheDiva's who made me laugh and I was touched by her concern.  I forgot to ask what the weather was like in Philadelphia!!  A big hello goes out to Emily from Lydia... we will send you a note really soon to see how you are doing!!

Thank you to Mandi without whose incredible support, love and friendship, this journey may have been so much more difficult than it has been.  I love you to pieces now and always.  You inspire me.  You are the reason why I went to Wellspring in the first place, where I have met so many wonderful and loving people whom I look forward to seeing every week.  You are the one whom I told all those many months ago and cried with in your office.  I cannot thank you enough for being there through thick and thin and giving me hope on the days that I felt hopeless.  Thank you for looking out for me and helping me up when my world fell apart.... a few times.

Monday 3 May 2010

It has been muggy much of the weekend with threatening clouds which gave up so little of their life giving rains until early this morning.  I am always amazed that the birds start their song so early in the morning - long before the sun rises..... they take advantage of the peace and quiet those hours provide so that they can distinguish their mates and friends without the cluttering of noise from our busy lives.  My life is not busy right now but I am making it so with the perpetual art projects and small household chores. In a few weeks I will note the first year mark - the mark that began this journey and took me off course of my life as I knew it.  I do not know what will come my way but am optimistic that it will hold some new adventures.

This morning I am finishing up a project I started yesterday.  We picked up stuff from Michael's and I am making our traditional pool sign for the front door... a little bit of the original one with some items added and deleted to create a happy welcoming to our pool!!  It will be a hot summer and look forward to family and friends coming out to chill with us.

My parents are coming to stay with us for a week or so starting on Mother's Day Sunday.  We have not seen them in a few years and of course I have not travelled since prior to my illness.  My Mom wanted to see me bald but gratefully my hair has grown in enough to not have to wear my scarves or hat to cover up the dome.  My Dad was diagnosed with Dementia this year and I am hoping that the break away will bring him joy especially since his grandchildren are all waiting to see him.  My Dad is an Electrical Engineer and his friends often joke that I am the son he never had!!  I often get caught between the traditional Mom and the boys by the BBQ.... the BBQ crew usually wins.  I am always the only girl out chillin' and having beers with the boys!!  I have been a tom girl since I could remember.... used to drive my Mom nuts when I climbed trees in my dresses or ran around wearing only pumper pants in the 70's.  I would climb anything from door frames to overly tall fir trees (sap never came out of my favorite t-shirt).  I would feed the squirrels by putting the peanuts in my mouth and let them climb up to get them - my mother was horrified!!  I rescued injured birds and bunnies alike and was able to convince my mother to keep them until they were better.... she released them for me.  I am grateful that they always said to follow your heart and your dreams and I think for the most part I have..... my physical world is now not the same and I will eternally miss not being able to once again pull myself into a tree...I can't feel my left shoulder due to the nerves being injured through surgery and the edema will always threaten to flare up if I should over-extend or injure it.  I now watch my daughter climb the crab apple in the front and coach her from the steps.... never face away from the trunk when climbing down as she discovered when the seat of her pants caught on the way down and she was facing space...

Mitchel is getting his braces removed after 27 months!!!  I finally get to stop paying for them next month!!  Dental with a family of 5 is very expensive and I can't imagine anyone doing so without a little help from insurance.  Two kids down and one left to go with the braces!!  I thought at one time that I would like to get my teeth straightened after a getting them straitened years ago as part of a clinical Orthodontic trial.  I used to be called 'bucky' and 'bugs' when I was a kid.... ah those were the days!!  As my neighbor always says 'you could mow the lawn through the fence' or something to that effect.  I called Max to find out whether he was going to go to work or get his cavity filled and I caught him in the chair - ooh, he is frozen gooder!

Thank you to Janice for the lovely lunch and your wonderful company.  Our paths crossed quite by accident and has been a godsend in my journey.  Your loss runs deep but yet you still have to courage to move ahead and support me with your wisdom and loving spirit... I lost a friend and gained another... how poetic.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

..... getting in the groove

..... trying to work out the pain in my hips and knee joints at the fitness club yesterday on the cross-trainer left me standing in the middle of the room contemplating how I was going to manage not only to get off the equipment but to actually propel myself in any given direction??  Eileen dismounted from her treadmill, organized her breathing tube and began to make her way over and stopped when our eyes connected. "You can't move can you?" she asked when I made no attempt to move towards her.  "No worries, I'll get there", I said as I shuffled over to the hand sanitizer and feeling stupid along the way.  I know it will take time and lots of it to get to where I feel I am physically strong enough to handle the whole day instead of parts.  Once I got going, I was able to get to the change room to dress and ready myself for the rest of the afternoon.

29th April 2010

I am heading out this morning to attend a meeting with Mr. B. Orr, the VP of the Cancer Unit here in London but meeting with Maxine first.  She is a feisty retired school teacher who, like myself would like to present a petition and to discuss the avenues by which the budgeting issue may be headed with regards to the care and support nursing staff at the cancer clinic.  We meet at the local McDonald's to discuss what we will be presenting in addition to the petitions.

We were met in the front lobby by Mr. Orr himself, as he explained that his secretary needed to step out for personal reasons.  I found him to be soft spoken and willing to talk and although he appreciated our input, their mandate is to provide care on a budget.  The trials that patients partake in are free when it comes to the medications used but the gap between the trials and the actual mainstream usage can create expenses that are out of pocket for patients and/or the unit while the government looks into their coverage of these new drugs.  I noted part way through the conversation that he was suffering from a twitch under his right eye and he looked away quite a bit when addressing us.... I am sure it is stress induced. They are funded through Cancer Care Ontario - an arm of the Provincial government of course headed by our illustrious Deb Matthews, who still has not responded to any of my letters to her. Our conversation was quiet and I asked many questions of which I am grateful I wrote in letter form and was able to present it slowly while looking up after each point.  I offered him an excerpt of my own journey and a few others to consider.  I let him know that I would be seeing him for a follow up meeting in the next few months.

Maxine and I walked back to our cars and she turned to me and said that my presentation was powerful. I hope it has enough of an impact to create positive change as I know the initial backlash did.  I am learning as I go and my approach is simple - I want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.  It is a quiet approach with a lot of thought behind what needs to be said.  Next week I have a few more meetings - fact finding missions with people having a great deal more knowledge and experience than I have.

I meet with Megan for lunch after my meeting and we giggle at the sight of the two of us with similar hair do's.... the patrons in the tables around us are slightly curious and the knowing looks are ones of kindness and support.  We gab away like school kids and we ask each other a ton of questions - menopause - yep on both counts and yes, her emotions, although not as outward as mine are showing on the odd occasion and has taken her by surprise.  I have done a bit of research over the past week and found a great site sponsored by Lance Armstrong and I let her know that I wish I had found it a few months ago.... at least I could have saved myself some of the depression I had found myself in.  She promises to look it up when she gets home.  We both talk about the support we have gotten from our friends and co-workers and feel that we are truly fortunate for having such loving family and friends.  Not everyone has that advantage in life.  We are most fortunate for being able to communicate all these months about our journey - no one gets it until they have walked it.  I love you to pieces Megan!! xoxoxox <3  Can't wait to see you again!!

Found this link to be helpful and wish I had seen it a few months ago.  I have paced myself well through the treatments but once they were done, I did not expect the emotional tidal wave I had kept at bay for months.  After weeks of crying, it became clear that I was depressed and decided to do some research and came across this link from the Lance Armstrong site.  The journey does not end because the treatments do.

This morning on the radio, I heard that Larissa, a quadriplegic here in London had the Animal Control knock at her door to inform her that she is not allowed to keep the chickens she has been raising with help from her assistants.  She is devastated at this latest development after she went to City Hall to support the bid to have urban residents be allowed to raise these animals in their back yards.  As with everything in life - it is not always cut and dried.  They have brought her joy and purpose.  I wish you all the best Larissa and send you my best.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

.... slow to mend

..... whoa, I think every joint is protesting these days and I find myself shuffling and in pain - it comes and goes and I figure it will fade in time.  I try to do something physical every day like walking or gardening and soon I will go back to the gym thanks to the kindness of a friend of Max.  This friend keeps in contact with Max and has generously extended my membership as I was unable to go these past 6 months.  I am dedicated to losing the weight and getting back in shape so that I can get back to my routine as soon as possible.

The early and abrupt menopause is likely a culprit adding to the roller coaster emotions, although I am feeling much more grounded today - found some projects to do to keep my head occupied like the garden ornament which had faded in the sun over the past few years - acrylic paints are magical and within an hour, the garden ornament was ready to go out by the pond.  Ah, the pond.... magical in itself with the three surviving fish swimming happily amongst the greenery coming back to life as the sun shines through the now clear water.  Shelly has given us some small fish and they can be seen every once in a while.  We will miss her and Paul now that they have sold their house across the street, especially Lydia who makes her way across carrying a realistic turtle that she adds to the pond.  She looks at us and lets us know that she will miss her friend.

Lydia has grown so much this year and I have enjoyed every evening with her, reading books and teaching her the strategies of playing checkers.  She is not a baby anymore and I see the adult teeth pushing through the front gums.  She has broken another tooth this past week and the Dentist needs to put in another crown - this all because of an accident when she was 4 years old.  We were visiting a local park and the railing of a deck overlooking the Thames River was only just below my knee.  Quick as lightening, she followed her head down the 8 foot drop and impaled her chin on the rocks below breaking a number of molars..... it was that dramatic incident that was the catalyst in selling our house and buying the one we really wanted.  Funny how we sometimes wait for something to happen before we change directions in life.  I feel like that a lot these days and not surprising considering the situation of the past year.  I was reading an article about the people aboard the aircraft that slid into the Hudson River a few years ago... it makes you re- evaluate your life.

Mitchel is becoming more outgoing, however that being said - he still reminds me of the scattered professor.  He is unkempt, leaving wrappers in his wake and being a general slob of sorts.  He is taking a shower regularly without having to be asked now... he is hitting his teen years now - wow, 13 years old!!  He says it doesn't bother him that his Dad no longer calls on them... its been over 8 months now of silence.  It's hard to say what is going on in Mitchel's head but he holds my hand out of the blue and will crawl into bed with me on the mornings that I can barely pull myself upright.  He is an observer and notes the other day that we all are on a journey and some not as obvious as mine.... he too has grown so much this year and stops to talk about whatever is on his mind.  My children can tell me anything and we talk about everything.  We know each other well and despite the odd bad day, we have a close and loving relationship.  Kids are funny, they take each day as it comes.

William has grown to now a little over 6 feet and didn't take long to do it.  He is maturing rapidly in his features and his new job is maturing him towards adult hood.  It's funny how he takes pride in being accountable to his boss and strives to do his best... of course the paycheck is a bonus too!!  I know that I have done a good job raising him - we trust him and know that he has made so many decisions lately that  show he can be.  Today he made a great purchase - the stretcher earrings that he has had his eye on... he struck a deal with the vendor and walked away with a $10 savings!!  He is confident and carries himself well, something I wish I had when I was his age.  He will be 16 at the end of the month.  We have promised to send him next semester to driving lessons.... cannot afford it right now, so we will wait until I go back to work.

Max has read yesterday's blog... of course, he didn't realize that so much was going on with me and he has become very attentive.  I have stopped wearing make-up for now and my hat around the house but I am not brave enough yet to actually traipse around the yard without one.  I look like a little old man with my gray hair (apparently the natural tint will eventually show) which is still sparse in the front but longer and fluffier in the back and sides wearing my straw hat and ambling through the garden with a seat and some tools.  I can barely bend down so I end up sitting on my bottom and shuffling along.  My arms do not quite have the strength back but I have been assured that it should in time....

April 17th 2010

After this incredible month of warmer climates, I have to make my way out of doors to retrieve my plant pots before the ice pellets damage them... it is 6 degrees above but feels like -2....brrrrrrr.  My neighbor and I head out to a pool store to pick up some parts and chemicals - the store is empty of customers but the next one we get out to - a patio store is busier.  We are anxious for a better summer season than what we had last year.

This morning I attempted to weed the front lawn with my fiskars... makes it easier to pull without bending but the task has worn me out and i am leaving piles of weeds laying about for Max to collect.  He comes out to check on me and the tears roll down my cheeks... I am tired and feeling sorry for myself... it has been a really crappy week and the weather and my fatigue have just added to the frustration.  It will get better and in time this will be just a thing of the past.  I will start at the gym on Monday and dedicate a half hour each day to walking or working out - I have been told to just stick with the cross-trainer for now and build up to other equipment when I am not so tired.  My hands and feet still aren't right and walking or standing too long (only a few minutes) causes pain in the joints of my knees and hip joints.  My wrists and hands are sore and feel numb at the tips but I work at these everyday... the swelling in the extremities is still there - not only do I look like I am old with the gray hair but I feel it too.  I get to see my doctor on  Tuesday and hopefully she will have more information.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

.... falling out

I was warned that this might happen and really in most cases it is to be expected.... the fall out - the moment you realize that your emotions have finally caught up with your reality and you feel like you are just lost. That moment culminated from many different incidents over the years and a number of ones over the past few weeks beginning with the emails calling for a replacement tech for me and then the handing over of office keys and cell phone when they found one.....

No, I am not OK.... there, I said it. I will be though, I just need some time to sort it all out... you see, I am done all my treatments but am still not well enough to make it through the day without being in pain or feeling exhausted and not being able to sleep has worn me down. I am caught somewhere in the middle with no direction right now - being an A personality, this makes things more difficult...... missing the routine and the interactions with others face to face. Yesterday was difficult emotionally prompted by a few incidents over the past few weeks that left me feeling isolated and battered. Max is too busy these days and is not interested in listening without trying to fix the problem or offer advice on the few tidbits he does absorb in between supper and marking school projects.... he thinks that I am all better and now life can return to normal. It is frustrating trying to get his attention for any more than a few minutes and I give up and go to bed.... I have been crying most of the afternoon but the make-up hides most of that. I am feeling isolated. I am doing such a good job of putting on my make-up that most people have assumed that I am good to go. I am strong and resilient... just not this week and maybe not for the next few weeks. I will sort it all out though, of this I am sure, I always do.

The rawness of my emotions unsettles me some days... one day I am busy with appointments and the next I am handed a form letter outlining the 'if you notice any of the following symptoms, please contact your care provider' but with no further instructions on how to cope when the door is closed and the other one hasn't opened yet? I am not ready for counseling because part of me won't accept that I need it and the other part knows that it will sort itself out with time and experience. I have not had to go through a period of time where I had no goal other than getting up and enjoying a cup of coffee on the back porch - there's a voice in the back of my head that reminds me to look at the clock and get ready for something? what? I go to yoga and art therapy and the people at Wellspring look at me with knowing glances and add that they understand and offer up that not many, other than people going through this cancer journey do. Even those with relatives or loved ones understand that something is lost to those that survive and to them whose spouse or loved one did not. Life takes on a different dimension and the pettiness of the past few days, although irritating, pale in comparison to what I have already experienced. The anger comes with knowing that I have been kicked when I am already down. This is just part of a journey that has almost come full circle and I have to remember to be patient, kind and understanding with myself. I will take the best of what history has taught me in my life and move forward in my 'new' life with greater awareness of what is important and what is not. Some aspects of my life are worn out and like a favorite sweater, need to be carefully and lovingly disposed of to make room for something better.

I put my HeartWish out there again and hope that it comes to fruition... knowing what you want makes it easier to recognize it when it comes. Life is simple, it's us that complicates it.

I met a lovely lady named Brenda at the Dentist office while reading the news article about Megan who has become a friend of mine through our shared breast cancer journeys and whose paths we crossed while doing chemo. Megan's picture shows her beaming face sporting the fuzzy head so much like my own. She finished chemo the day after me. I love her so much!! Brenda leans over to me and asks what cancer I have and I let her know it is breast cancer.... she proudly states that she is 3 years cancer free from Leukemia and shows me her thick luxurious pony tail.... you know it will all grow back and maybe better too, she says. Brenda tells me that she has had no one to speak of that has travelled with her through her journey for the exception of one lady that she met and who later died.... she wells up and the tears spill down her cheeks while I go in search of the kleenex box for both of us. Her journey was so isolated with a month of chemo in the hospital when she was unable to hold her children because her immune system was off-line and then later to go through a year of healing without much interaction from anyone in the same journey. We have swapped emails and I have told her to keep in touch and let me know how you are doing...... I know some of what she feels but consider myself very fortunate for the family and friends that I do have.

Thank you to the kind and loving friends who braved the storm with me and stuck it out, even when it wasn't easy, and stood behind me anyway!! I am truly blessed and hope that one day, I can be there for them. You know who you are and I love you all so much. Always, Marita xoxo

Monday, April 5, 2010

..... Easter Weekend

The spring is finally here!! My journey has now taken me almost full circle and through 4 seasons. There are permanent scars marking the journey's beginning but it is the ones that lie invisible beneath the surface that know my life will never be the same.....

...... I had a busy life that became derailed the day of my diagnosis. As candid as I have been in my blogs, I did spent an inordinate amount of time convincing myself that little had changed in my world and that I was the same woman that I had always been..... but when I look in the mirror - the reality of two surgeries, months of inactivity due to a cold winter and physical pain, a head now sporting new hair that is gray and the realization that I am now into menopause..... I am clearly not the same woman. I will never be the same...... I will be better!!!

I have a number of childhood friends that I will be seeing soon as my high school reunion is coming up in a little over a month's time. One of the girls, Sandy, has written a number of times to me and said how I used to advocate for others when she knew me way back when... the other day she wrote again and told me how proud she was of me and my bid to save the nurses. I guess some things never change. Thank you Sandy for your really lovely note. Another high school friend has offered to drive me out to Ottawa for the event... he knows how tired I am these days because his wife went through a similar journey 10 years ago - he laughs that we will have a lot of time to play catch-up on the way there. Debbie has invited me to stay with her the whole weekend that I am visiting.. we were friends more than 30 years ago and we lost touch but found each other again. She has stayed with me here in London and it was like we hadn't missed a beat. Just being around her is great.... where did all the time go? I will be seeing so many people whom I will likely have to be discrete about reading name tags or searching for familiar features. I was always considered a bit weird when I was younger... Ok still that way but most people would say unique but in a good way. My guidance councillor said that I was independent and spoke my mind - when you are 16, that is not always the best approach... I have since learned some diplomacy?

April 6th 2010

My brother came to visit us for Easter and as usual brought gifts for the kids and for us... he has just lost his job but is always thinking of us and I can't convince him to not spoil each of us when he comes down. I am feeling horribly guilty but know I cannot afford to help him out without straining our already tight finances. Three kids and they all need new shoes and clothes. Chris and I had time to talk and we chatted for hours about our childhood and the crazy things that happened to us that made us who we are today, but made us outsiders as children growing up. He has never married and at 51, he will likely never make that step and is beyond wanting children. He considers himself the one who although short changed on intelligence and abilities, is still a pretty happy guy. I know he got totally ripped off right from the start and spent his entire childhood avoiding the relentless bullying he received both at school and at home..... my dad never understood why his adopted son couldn't seem to stand up for himself and why he preferred to just walk away or take it rather than hurt anyone else. Me, I was far spunkier and had no qualms about hitting one of the fellows who bullied him with a baseball bat to the shins - I was 6 years old and they had my big brother (5 years older) pinned by a bunch of fellows while one threw a penknife at his legs. I remember almost outrunning the bully until we got to my front lawn and I yelled at the top of my lungs - my mother who is nearly 6 feet tall, a good german build appeared at the door wielding a rolling pin.... he would never know that we had interrupted a pie dough rolling moment and he didn't stop to find out either!!! I always felt bad for my brother and didn't know him that well as he would spend his teen years in foster care and half-way homes.... he would never live at home again. Even though he was treated badly, he would never strike back and to this day, my brother really is someone who might have an IQ that some would say is below average and the testers would confirm it, but he will always be one of my heros. He could have turned out to be mean and vengeful but his nature just wouldn't allow for it. I love you so much and I miss you more. He just got his first computer and calls me to help him.... he is excited that he is in the now generation!! Secretly, I know he enjoys the interaction... I just tell him to play and read his books and learn all you can. By all accounts, he is still just a big kid with a huge heart... Andre the Giant was his idol. My idols were people like Rosa Parks who stood her ground against incredible odds and lived to be a ripe old age to witness the results of her actions in a positive way and of course anyone who could advocate for someone unable to do so for themselves. When I was 16, I worked with high needs children who were either institutionalized or kept at home because their disabilities did not allow them to attend schools and by age 18, I was a security supervisor at a large Ottawa hospital and spent a fair bit of time working in the psychiatric ward sitting on suicide watch... lots of great stories came out of that year and I was honored to be invited as a special guest to their monthly dinner and despite the ribbing I received from my colleagues, they figured it was pretty cool. My father often was quite perplexed that I did not pursue a career in social work and asks me every chance he gets..... but these days he doesn't remember much of anything and as his dementia worsens, he will forget all about me and the great stories we shared about the career I chose - I am (as my family jokes), my father's son - I followed in his shoes partly because I wanted to and mostly due to circumstance.... it is a field I loved from the beginning and one that has brought me incredible pride.

Miss Lydia decided that she should get her hair cut a little shorter so off we went to the hairdresser where Christie braided two 8 inch pony tails and promptly cut them off so that we could donate the hair. She is now sporting a lovely shoulder length cut. I am so proud of my children.

Tomorrow I will be attending a media gathering - MPP Andrea Horwath is in town and I will be there to once again address the media about the heath care dollars and our front-line nursing staff.... my kids are proud of me and I am honored that they realize how important this is to them, to us, to everyone. One day, maybe my children will help to make positive changes in their children's lives.

April 7th 2010

I am hobbling after getting upright in bed.... my feet are killing me and each step brings pain. In a few hours it will sort itself out and I will be more comfortable until I sit too long. I drive over to the McDonald's on Wellington road for breakfast and to leave my car parked in the adjacent lot while I make my way over to Fairview and Baseline for the media event. I am hobbling down the road and can feel the warm air mixed with moist air as the clouds above thicken into a darkening mass. I am praying that the rain holds off as do all the attendees as they begin to arrive a few minutes after I have found a somewhat comfy perch on the parking blocks running along the first of many hospital parking lots. A young man shows up with a portable dais and some sound equipment but never hooks the equipment up as there is no crowd forming to witness the event. /A\ reporter Darryl Newcomb shows up with his equipment and quickly sets up - he is covering a london maternity leave but I know him from the many trips I have made to Windsor as a cover-off tech. Next, a london Free Press reported arrives with still camera in tow and takes a number of pictures .... I get to see the one posted with his story that shows me sporting a wrinkled brow and a mouth that is forming the letter O - yikes!!! Ryan Robinson from Rogers Television is starting to set up while Jill, Linda Stratton, Andrea Horwath and Irene Mathyssen soon arrive and then, we are down to business..... so is the storm that has now produced thunder, lightening and the obligatory opening of the heavens. We arrange to meet at the ONA office just down the street and most of us arrive at the destination completely soaked!! The interviews continue and I am quoted later by Bob Smith as saying :

"The gold stars stop at kindergarten"
Marita DeVries, April 7, 2010, re: Hospital CEO's being paid based on performance

I leave to go to my car which requires I cross a major intersection, bearing in mind that we have just had a major deluge, I experience first-hand a bus driver passing in front of me and a tidal wave soaking the rest of me what I had managed to stay dry... not to mention the refreshing drink as I opened my mouth in surprise!!! You have to laugh though and I did when I realized that just like the invisible item that trips you on the sidewalk, I had to scan my surroundings and noted that a few caught the action!!

And so, I begin to close the cancer chapter as I begin a new one with a daily challenge of not just getting better but trying to better our health system. I have become an advocate for those that feel they have no voice and an activist for those who do. My neighbors have all let me know how proud they are of the work I and my colleagues are doing and say its about time that someone stood up for what was right. We all need to stand up for what is right - it makes us stronger and builds a better society....

I am grateful for all the wonderful people who have come into my life and shared with me their incredible stories and offered help when I was at my lowest. I wish to thank the supper club for their wonderful meals when I was unable to help my family. My friends who were there despite my 'not so great days' who sat and listened to me sometimes carry on.... yes, I talk a lot... still and although that has always been a sore spot with me (and others).... it is part of who I am and if that is the worst attribute I have... I will take it!! Thanks to Mandi for being a really and truly wonderful friend who wears her heart on her sleeve. I want to thank Keri for always knowing what to say and for being a tremendous support who has guided through some rough waters. Thanks to Sue, whose support, kindness and tremendous sense of humor and fun really took the edge off the first tenuous months following my diagnosis. Thanks to Tracy and her daughter Emily who have such kind and loving hearts and thank you for teaching my daughter that there are some really special people out there. To my children who took our lead and shared with us their honest feelings and became compassionate towards others in their recognition for the journeys that all of us have. To my husband, who used to be a quiet man..... who has stood by my side regardless of how the journey challenged him and to his incredible patience.... a true partner and best friend. I am grateful for all the new friends I have made and who inspire me with their humor, candidness and affection. To Wellspring who has given me inspiration in my artwork and with people whom I share my deepest thoughts and who share right back. I have been truly given a gift, an opportunity to see beyond the daily grind and to put out a new HeartWish... a wish the heart makes when it knows what it wants.

I will continue to blog my adventures because I can!! For now, I wish each of you the very best that life has to offer...... make your own HeartWish. xoxoxoxoxoxo Always, Marita

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

.... going to Queen's Park

.... this journey has taken me to places I never imagined both emotionally and physically - I just never thought in my wildest dreams it would take me to Queen's Park in the role of activist ....

Sunday 21st March

Today I will find myself heading out to the Lamplighter Inn on Wellington Road in the afternoon for a rally sponsored by ONA (ontario nursing association) in response to the firing of the front-line nurses. I meet up with Megan and Janice outside the Renaissance room accompanied by my wonderful husband. This is a letter writing petition signing event open to the public with our most honorable Mpp's invited to speak. Deb Matthews does not show up and we are clearly disappointed by her absence..... I am not surprised, but still disappointed. It really amounts to no accountability at all when you ignore the people you were elected to represent. The stories are amazing and heartening from nurses, a Dr. Sexton and patients. There are those that have produced petitions that have been signed in their areas and there are form letters signed by attendees and labelled for the various MPP's. Chris Bentley and Khalil Ramal are present and give their responses to the gathering as most expected - we will look into this...... and we will wait.

Tuesday 23rd March

I present the Wellspring staff with the barbie I have made a headscarf for and gown which will be auctioned off for one of their fund raisers. They are ecstatic and with the help of Wanda, our facilitator, she paints shoes on the Barbie and we attached mini jewels :) It is the least I can do for everything that they have been doing for us.

My legs, knees and hips still hurt and walking is an effort. I am out of breath most days if I am moving too fast. The swelling is ridiculous.... I have had to put my edema sleeve on this week and pray this too goes down. My underarm hurts when I raise my arm and the water in the shower felt like it was burning the skin that had been radiated. Funny how it is only slightly pinker than the skin around it. I must be careful.

I spoke on the phone with Andrea Horwath's office yesterday afternoon and indicated to them that I would go to Queen's Park in order to get our issues heard about heath care cuts if that's what it would take to be heard and was surprised and excited to find an email inviting me out to Queen's Park for Wednesday while she brought up the subject in the legislature. I was about to go on an adventure but had no clue as to how I would get there and if anyone would want to join me. When I called around, Diane offered to accompany me and I was simply thrilled!!

Our train trip began in the evening and we managed to arrive in Toronto around 10:15 p.m tired but Ok. After a nightcap at the bar downstairs, we headed up to our shared quarters. The tall buildings and the lights brought back memories of a time when I worked for the CBC in Toronto in the early 90's after my 4th semester in the Technology program at Fanshawe. I am not sleeping well these days, but then who does when their legs pain them so much and the hot flashes come and go. Diane is intelligent and her baby blue eyes sparkle with glee as we are getting ready to head downstairs to breakfast after getting ready. She smiles when she sees me without my headscarf on and lets me know that her hair actually looks better than mine. Grinning, we both leave for breakfast after making arrangements to meet with Jill and her daughter Megan.

It is time to head out to Queen's Park and we are within walking distance from our hotel. I do not want to take a cab and insist on stretching the legs which will take three blocks to work the stiffness out of the calves and knees - I have given up on the hips. It is the most spectacular day with not a cloud in the sky and a slight breeze as we try to figure out the best way to get to the front walk of Queen's Park which hosts an odd inverted Y sidewalk with both ends terminating at the curbs but with no crosswalk. We find this a very unfriendly and unwelcome layout to a public building. Besides the safety factor of having to negotiate across three lanes of traffic without the assistance of traffic lights, there are the fancy sports cars kicking it up on the clear and bright morning. The tulips and daffodils planted in the beds on either side of the walkway are sending up their green spikes to catch the warm spring rays and the grass is showing some green as we gather at a bench waiting for others to meet with us. Introductions are made and the names escape me as we stand on the steps and have our pictures taken for posterity. My spirits are up and hopeful that this lovely beginning is an omen of good fortune. We make our way in and up to security for our passes which are printed out. We are not allowed to take any items with us so Jesse meets us and collects our coats and our purses to be locked up while we are guests in the building. We are to be in the gallery on the lower floor but these are all taken up and we can hear the legislature starting the session after about 5 minutes of tolling bells. It starts at 10:30 but the time slips by as we all have to make our way to the basement to receive new passes for the general public gallery. It is set up with the steepest stairs and the head begins to swim as the ache in my knees suggest the descent is greater than comfort will allow. I am about to witness for the first time a seat overlooking the Liberal caucus and right dead ahead of me is Deb Matthews. There was a moment when she looked up after Andrea Howarth began her question and passed her hand upward when mentioning my name and our eyes locked. At that distance, you are aware of each other but expressions are hard to read. The behaviors of the MPP's during the question period is unreal - fully grown, apparently well healed and educated people behaving like insolent children... some were clearly turning their backs to the opposition member speaking and others heckled and became so noisy that Mr. Speaker had to silence them a number of times. I am assured that this is normal and that it can get worse and usually does. Well, there are the ones who are leafing randomly through paperwork, talking on their bluetooth and leaving midway through this performance to go out or to the other side of the room. Young pages run around delivering ice water on silver trays and paper notes from one member to another or from regions unknown....... enough to just really piss you off!!!! To think, this takes place every morning from 10:30 to 11:30 and afternoon four days a weeks as they have their constituency offices located all over Ontario. As one member put it 'no wonder this is question period, no one ever gives an answer'. After all this ruckus in the caucus, they depart only to take part in a media scrum.... what could they possibly say after paying such rapt attention to the matters at hand??

I am waiting at the top of the stairs behind Andrea as she answers media question about the healthcare issues she has brought up. Her interviewer begins to move away and then returns quickly when I wave at Paul Bliss from CP24 - he used to work at my work and he doesn't recognize me but starts the interview which went well until he asked me what the nurses meant to me in my journey.... then the tears started. Diane and Jill took each one of my arms and steadied me when I swayed. Then the media all came over and question after question, I finally got to leave when Diane and Andrea walked me down the stairs. I apologized for crying - embarrassed for the emotions that took on a life of their own. I was met downstairs by a photographer for a local Toronto paper who wanted to take pictures outside which we did and then a call from Julie at /A\ Toronto to meet in front of the building for yet another interview. Andrea and her staff wished us well and thanked us for our participation as we headed out the door to wait in the spring air for Julie to come and do her story. Julie and camera man Simon showed up - really terrific duo whose kindness was evident in the way they spoke to us. Tired and needing to walk out the stiffness, Julie, Laurence (not sure exactly his position) and myself made our way out to lunch to meet up with Diane. One more interview request as we made our way back to the hotel. Andrea Piunno met up with us just outside our hotel for CP24. Nice gal, used to work with /A\ at one time. Diane, Jill and I head out to the train station in a cab... I have run out of energy and am feeling the fatigue pulling at every muscle.

The train ride back was wonderful... time to wind down and relax and a chance to get to know each other. I am inspired and feel a connection to this charismatic and down to earth gal. I look forward to future meetings....... we laugh and chat. This journey has brought me many wonderful moments and this is definitely one of the best.

I had taken the time on the way to the hotel earlier to purchase t-shirts for the kids and a hand-written Toronto post card telling them of my visit. Each one was as different as my children and written with love. They were thrilled with the small tokens. Max got a shot glass.... he's not a spoon collector kind of guy.

Thursday 24th March

Fielding phone calls and emails today.... interviewed by AM980, Cp24 and Rogers. Today is the budget day and was not surprised by the typical platform of look how great we are and here are the things that are more important to us.... and not necessarily reflect that of the people. Healthcare received an increase of 1.5% which is no raging hell but it is still better than the anticipated and feared 0%. Now let's see what they do about the layoff notices and hope to see them revoked in favor of the administration taking a pay cut/freeze in following the nurses pay freeze. Accountability and responsibility is what needs to happen here.

I am exhausted and my legs are impossibly swollen. My nurse has come and checked me out and has indicated that I need to keep my feet up.... no worries, got that one covered as I am fielding phones while at home today.

I went out to meet William's welding teacher later this afternoon and was impressed with William's abilities to MIG weld. Great job! His instructor commends him on his work ethic and personality but like me, does not like his lateness... after all, he now has a part time job at a local pizza place. He indicates to me that he is proud of my activism and offered his help anytime I need it. I am getting that quite a bit today and am proud of the people who are helping out.

With that, it is time for bed. Night night....

I am finally getting some much needed sleep and though my bones ache in my legs and the muscles burn when I stretch them, I am still low energy but trying every day to walk - after all, the weight will just continue to go on me without getting up and going. I tried to get some work done this weekend but the fatigue still pulls at me.... one day at a time.