Happiness Is…

A Fresh Start.

Just days before that lump jumped to centre stage, Mark presented me with this birthday card.

Its message so maddeningly trite but true.

Since then, life has seemed a series of countdowns. To surgeries, celebrations and ends of various treatments.

Escaping to the I Can Do It! Conference this weekend reminded me of the importance of choosing :

  • flexibility
  • happiness
  • openness to new perspectives and new possibilities
  • self care
  • healthy thoughts and habits

Above all, it reminded me that every breath can be a chance to start fresh.

I think I’ll take a few.

And that’s just off the top of your head

We’ve learned the hard way there are people who have no idea that what they say to cancer patients and their support systems is inappropriate. Andrea published a brilliant post about this, I See Dread, People, and I’d like to offer a refresher with five helpful hints of my own.

AT TIME OF DIAGNOSIS: Upon learning about the diagnosis, be supportive and keep your own horror stories about the disease (or any other less than positive stories) to yourself.

HELP: If you offer help, be specific — for example, ask when you can have the kids over for a play date or offer to send a meal over on a specific day (bonus: ask about any food alergies, nutritional needs and dietary restrictions).

DURING TREATMENT: Check in during the treatment process and renew (or offer new) specific offers of help. Make it known you’re thinking about the person and their family.

AT MILESTONES: When a milestone has been achieved, be a part of the moment by celebrating with the person and their family. Something like, “Congratulations!” is a very good start. You can freestyle that by acknowledging the difficult journey it’s been for the person to get to that point and how thrilled you are for the person that they’ve made it to this milestone. “Be there.”

SHOW GENUINE INTEREST: If you know the person has a blog, follow it. It’s a great place to stay up to date and even leave messages of support and positive thoughts at regular intervals. It’s also a great tool to know when help is needed the most. If you know the person has a blog, catch up before you contact them. It shows you care and their health and journey is important to you.

Happiness Is…

Long lost family …

Found!

Born just one month before me, my cousin Kelly was my very first friend.

From toddlerhood through tweendom, we spent countless weekends and vacations playing, chatting, imagining and growing up.

I was painfully shy, socially inept and my family life was rocky. Kelly’s constant, generous friendship likely kept me sane.

Somewhere in our teens, though, our paths diverged. We did school, got jobs, found partners, and raised our own children to tweendom — without ever crossing paths.

Then, almost by accident and just days before I found that lump, we reconnected.

Luckily for me.

Kelly’s warmth, wit, wisdom, exuberance, understanding and support throughout this journey have been absolutely astounding. She has become the loving aunt we always craved for our girls — her beautiful children the spunky, loving cousins we thought Luba’d never have. And her super-hero husband rocks too.

We’re going to enjoy getting our grandkids to tweendom together. And lots of happy family memories until — and after — that.

Embolden Opportunities

Let me ask you something.

If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient?

If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous?

If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?

— “God”. Evan Almighty

Silence

Chemo-hangover and steroid withdrawal, like icy prods, seek deep sadnesses and chase them to my surface.

Robbed of my fortitude by these chemicals, I writhe.

But I’ve learned, these months, that this darkness will fade.

‘Til then, apt words from Phyllis McGinley…

Sticks and stones are hard on bones
Aimed with angry art,
Words can sting like anything
But silence breaks the heart.

Phyllis McGinley, “Ballade of Lost Objects,” 1954

At Long, Long Last…
and well worth the wait

All winter long, I’ve looked forward to being on this side of chemo.

And now, unbelievably, here we are!

It may be tedious, but I’m so thrilled to have reached what seemed for so long like an unattainable mirage, that I just must document this fabulous, fabulous day.

A Play by Play of this Beautiful, Long-Awaited Day:

9:06 a.m.

The morning drop off.

We’re pretty excited.

10:15 a.m.

Enroute to blood work.

Hope, hope, hoping that my counts are all fabulous and we go ahead with the infusion.

10:30 a.m.

Last pre-chemo bloodwork done. Yay!

A bit abrupt and shocking, but no problem at all.

11:30 a.m.

Waiting for bloodwork results and — hopefully! — chemo — and making friends in the lovely hospital lounge.

12:30 – 2:50

Blood counts are fine! On with the last infusion!

Thanks to a 70 year old firecracker named Helen, our chemo pod was full of laughter and good cheer. A fabulous final chemo experience.

2:55 p.m.

Ringing that bell!

Klunking, actually, but absolutely awesome!

3:23 p.m.

All done. Heading home.

Happy.

3:40 p.m.

Look who was waiting for us at home. A protective critter from our friend Caroline. Thank you!

I adore armadillos and this cheeky, cheery, luck-dispensing chum makes me giddy with joy each time I pass by him.

5:30 p.m.

A happy, happy trek to the Gratitude Statue.

Spring celebrated this exciting day in all its glory. As I made my way to and from the Gratitude Statue each day throughout this challenge, in deep snow or icy wind, I thought of the sleeping bulbs that lay in wait along the trail. And I dreamed forward to today.

It was well worth the wait.

9:00 p.m.

A massive celebratory basket of joy arrives from Aunt Barb, Uncle Wilf, Kelly, Ian, Luke and Jade. Thank you!

And a fabulous excuse to have a nice long telephone chat with each to dream of the big celebrations to come.