Pondering Patterns to Peace

Prior to this journey, I had a long-standing, comfortable, mutually supportive, fun, close relationship with exactly one member of my family.

My sister, Linda.
In Boulder, Colorado.
Three thousand kilometres away.

That’s one out of 78++ family members:

  • 4 direct family members of mine
  • 4 direct family members of Mark’s
  • 18 maternal first cousins of mine (a hint of one promising relationship)
  • 52 paternal first cousins of mine (one friendly but distant relationship)
  • my 35+ aunts and uncles
  • not to mention Mark’s cousins, aunts and uncles.

During the first five months of this journey, long lost cousins Tracy, Kathi, Betti and Stephanie have found and chosen to follow this blog and have offered hints at new beginnings and good vibes.

One very special cousin, Kelly, has become a pillar of emotional support, providing frequent and dependable doses of cheerleading, wisdom, humour and good company. She has become a huge part of our little family.

And without a single physical meeting or even a phone call, my long lost Aunt Barbara has become as much an aunt to my own girls as they have ever known.

This burgeoning renewal of faded childhood connections has been nurturing, healing, educational and warm. And I am immensely grateful.

Yet even the failures at reconnection have been educational.

Some of the most intriguing and thought-provoking phenomenon have been the reverberations — both positive and negative — of my diagnosis on the most painful, ever-present histories, lurking hurts, disconnections, uncommunicated expectations and disappointments of the relationships with 7 of our direct family members.

This morning, as Mark joined me for my morning Gratitude trek, we tossed around our impressions, observations and feelings about the dances that have grown out of my diagnosis and the five distinct Patterns to Peace which have naturally emerged:

  1. Instantly Committed — Hands On
  2. Instantly Connected — Hands Off
  3. Unchanged — Innocuous
  4. Cautious
  5. Unchanged — Destructive

Perhaps you’ve seen similar patterns in your own experiences?

It’s a long conversation but it’s important for us to share it. We hope you will give it a listen and that you’ll grant us the privilege of your thoughts, below.

Thank you for listening.

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Wearing Memories … in a good way

Mark’s parents paid me a lovely lunchtime visit last week. In honour of the occasion, I had changed out of my everyday recovery-wear into my Company’s Coming recovery-wear.

At the end of the visit, Mark’s mom motioned to my T-shirt and asked “Who went to Nepal?” and I responded, “My friend Bill. Twenty-some years ago.”

Old T-shirt.

I realized afterward that not only do I recall the source and story (however banal) behind each item in my recovery wardrobe but the memories flit through my mind each and every time I put the clothes on. Which, for one outfit or the other, is at some point of every single day.

So, for the record and without the full details which flit at lightning speed through my mind each time, here they are.

Dress recovery-wear:
  • medium weight lycra tights – part of a fabulous chemo-survival gift parcel from my sister Linda, January 2010, in preparation for more stylish winter jogging.
  • purple “Trek Nepal” T-shirt – a souvenir from my friend Bill Flanagan following his trek through the Himalayan mountains, circa 1989.
  • CCKMA T-shirt (alternate T choice) – a gift from fellow breast cancer Survivor and neighbour Laurie Kingston, December 2009, on the occasion of our head-shaving party.
  • peach Lululemon hoody – a pre-surgery gift from Mark’s mom and dad, October 2009, in preparation for not being able to lift my right arm.
Everyday recovery-wear:
  • winter-weight wooly tights – my very first MEC catalog order, circa 1992 long before MEC came to Ottawa, in preparation for our bike trip across Newfoundland (2 identical pairs).
  • red fleece undershirt – Phase 2, The Glebe, autumn 1999, on the recommendation of my friend and fellow strollercizer, Caroline Coady, in preparation for winter strollercizing (3 identical shirts).

And my daily hat choice is a selection from the stash provided by my generous and talented friends Whitney, Katherine and Debbie.

And guess what, all those good clothing vibes seem to be working.
Thank you!

For Better or For Worse#3 HIP-HIP-HORAY!!!!!

Mom has had two surgerys, one portocath surgery, four chemo treatments, two radio active scans: one heart scan, one bone scan, MRIs, a mamagram, ultra sounds and a biopsy. Dad has dealt with the insurance company, he has taken mom to all of her appiontments, scheduled playdates etc. for Bayla and me and done a special project for his work as well as going to Calgary. In my opinion, my parents are as courageous as they come.

So three cheers for Mom and Dad!!!

HIP- HIP-HORAY!!!!!!

♫ Mr. F

The last six to eight years have been some of the best of my life — so far.

I’ve been a mom to two fabulous toddlers, preschoolers, school-agers and then awesome eight and ten year old girls.

I’ve made, maintained and enjoyed great friendships, hosted and participated in terrifically silly get-togethers, contributed generously to the world of children’s literature and literacy, thoroughly enjoyed four PABs, two PCTOs, one KidLitCon and the online and offline social media scene, and revelled in a whole slew of creative projects.

I’ve taken risks. I’ve grown. I’ve been more truly me than my crazy twenty-something years allowed.

And all the while, that cancer grew.

So, as the end of chemo inches into sight and I nervously ponder my re-integration, I remind myself that I’m not actually an alien among the healthy.

In fact, aside from the effects of the treatments themselves, I’m physically healthier now than I’ve been in six to eight years.

Ignorance was bliss.

But booting cancer and moving on is bound to be better.

Time to forgive me

It was February, 1998. I was healthy, happy, fit and in love. I was having exciting adventures. I had good friends, a great relationship and a satisfying job. Life was fine.

There was just one tiny, huge problem: I was getting dangerously close to thirty-five, my biological clock was thrashing wildly and my twenty-something live-in sweetheart was firmly rooted in Funville. Kids and commitment could wait. And for him, they really could.

I made myself miserable. Sure, our daily life was fun but when my youth had fled, he’d gallop off for kids and commitment elsewhere.

It hurt.

And my young beau didn’t get it. For “christmas” that year, he’d flippantly dug the dagger deeper, presenting me with what was obviously a gift-wrapped ring box. But wasn’t. And very much enjoyed the joke.

Back to February, 1998. My young partner becomes an uncle, again. He’s thrilled and proposes we drop in and meet the new baby.

I thought I could do it.

But I couldn’t.

I couldn’t face the beautiful new baby. I couldn’t face the joyful mother. I just sat in their kitchen. And waited. And felt wretched for doing that. And felt wretched for the envy and hurt and despair that made me.

And all these years I’ve hung onto that shame; cringed at my inability to suck it up and at least fake some happiness for the mother and child.

I’ve forgiven Mark for the engagement-ring gag. I’ve forgiven him for carting me over there.

It’s time I forgave myself.

Perhaps you remember Neuterfest?

Andrea and I were married on February 6, 1999.

We had a small wedding in one of our favourite restaurants at the time, Le Panaché, with close friends and family who could show up at our door or us at theirs and not have it be a big deal. Include the minister and the two of us and you have an intimate setting with 25 people.

For some reason we’ve generally had a hard time remembering the exact date we got married. That is, we know it was around February 5, 6 or 7. So, our anniversary hasn’t been celebrated on each of those days over the years.

There have been years we were caught off guard by phone calls from family wishing us a happy anniversary. There was the year we celebrated by having Kraft Dinner with one of our daughter’s friends and his mother during a play date.

We celebrated our tenth anniversary in style, though. We had a fantastic dinner at Le Café in the National Arts Centre.

While it may sound like a cop out, I truly believe that if you don’t make your relationship count on a daily basis, there’s no reason to make it count one day each year. We’ve always made our relationship count everyday — this year in particular.

Okay… this year Andrea and her best friend remembered the date and I didn’t. It was two days ago that we all had a good laugh about.

This year we’ll celebrate with Andrea’s brother, David, who is en route right now from Montreal to spend the day with us. Like his other visits, we’ll chat and laugh A LOT and play games with Lucy and Bayla. You could say we’ll be celebrating in style, again. And, we’ll be doing it on the right day.

From the Mouth of Bayla #7: BULLIES

When you’re in the gym getting ready for the walk over* and one of your WORST enemies is bullying you, you don’t really want to go tell your principal because you are kind of too tired to go from the third floor to the gym to the first floor so you just yell to a counselor that he is being mean to you…again. Your mom has cancer and you are putting up with: being hit in the back, being kicked, being laughed at and when you finally get an appoligy this is what it sounds like: “I am not sorry.” WHAT? I don’t think so!

*walk over is a walk to after-care and until everybody is there, you stay in the gym of your school and you wait in line with your friends  (bullies are there in line too so they always start to bullie me Lucy and two other friends.)

From the Mouth of Bayla #7: My Family

To me,  my family is the best most AMAZING part of my life,  sometimes most of the time I fight with Lucy, but she’s my sister, doesn’t everybody fight with their siblings? Sure, mom and dad get mad at me and Lucy , but that’s normal. Don’t normal familys have their problems too? One of our problems is that mom has cancer. These are my thoughts; mom should connect with the ground pretend she is growing roots on her feet and they are growing deep in the darkness  of the deep dense soil, that should make her feel really good.

We Interrupt This Program

Ok. Maybe I’m getting bored of chemo or forgetting how absolutely lucky I am that I’m not throwing up or laying in bed moaning — but this round seems very different.

Digestive distress or no, the chemo cravings (for pizza, chinese food, big sloppy burgers) are just out of the park. Nauseating images of the chemo-pod (bleh!), the styrofoam cup of ice-chips (bleh!), the food I eat on chemo-days (bleh!) are just absolutely haunting me. And, though I’m continuing my daily walks, jog/skate and excercise, I’m feeling weak and dizzy.

Right now I seriously feel so loopy I shouldn’t even be allowed to blog.

But the sun is shining and the canal is open, so I’m heading out for a skate.

This might not be the best idea…

p.s. Dear reader in Don Mills, ON: Sorry you haven’t had a lot of luck searching here for “Josie”, “Josephine Ross”, “Keith”, “In-laws”, “Keith Ross”,”grandparents”, “Andrea’s father”, “my father”, “my mother”, “parents” etc.  This p.s. will give you some search results though!

Happiness Is…

Almost three weeks between hospital visits.

During the early months of this journey, Mark and I disrupted several workdays each week for medical tests, consultations and related appointments. With my complete paperwork neatly organized and in hand, Mark navigated the hospital labrynths. I followed blindly behind — sipping tea and, often, chuckling.

Mark and I have almost always made the most of our gadget-free time trapped in waiting rooms — giggling just as much in oncology as we did in obstetrics.

I am truly grateful that chemo is going smoothly. I love the almost-three-week gaps between hospital visits.

Now I just need to book Mark for some gadget-free waiting room time at home.