Happiness Is…

Good Friends and, as it turns out,
Hooping.

When those lumps came to light on Friday, I spun into a vortex of terror.
I wandered like a distracted zombie for the better part of four days.

Sharing my worries here and in real-life has lightened my load but the real sand-blasting of my buzzing brain was thanks to an introductory hooping class.

My spatial ineptitude and lack of co-ordination meant my entire mind was focused on a festooned hoop.

No stabbing cancer scenarios for one solid hour.

And I’ve felt fairly human since.
A drained, dull and distracted human. But a human.

Thank you to Andree for your friendship and for the class.
And thanks to the many friends whose kind words and deeds are helping us through this scary limbo.

Hoping to be shouting happy, happy news on Tuesday.

What have we always said is the most important thing?

This week, I spent two luxurious days in my first hometown — gabbing and gobbling with my lost and found cousin, Kelly.

During our wonderfully relaxing and restorative weekend, we wandered through pockets of memories from my childhood, my adolescence, my wild university days, my young adulthood and my pre-me extended family.

It felt odd to cross paths with the many versions of me. With my lost and found cousin. In my lost and found life.

Scary stats and niggling twinges of mortality can make me antsy about the quantity of time ahead.

Drifting in and out of these memory-packed spaces reminded me that life is short at the best of times. But, more importantly, that even short personal eras can pack huge whacks of life.

Here’s to great memory-making ahead.

A Long-Overdue Apology

It hit me during Bif Naked’s un-freakin-believably honest, poignant and entertaining address at the conference last weekend.
And it hit me hard (thanks to you).

With a dramatic roll of her eyes, Bif described how breast cancer had saddled her with the pieces-picking-upping of her inconsolable family and friends. And the survivor crowd gave a massive been-there roar.

With all the whining that I did about inappropriate reactions, complete collapse (well, even the slightest tearing up) was a possible reaction that had never crossed my mind.

I blasted the world with my news as soon as I got it. By email, SMS, twitter, blogs, newsletter, gchat and in person, I shot my message out with faith that the returning vibes would get me through it.

Not a single adult cried. Not even Mark.

And, no matter how scary things got, my close friends and family always shrugged my worries off. And I guess I followed suit.

I realize now, it was not because they didn’t care. It was because they did.

So thank you, my beautiful friends and family, for shielding me from concern.
And please accept my sincere apology for not appreciating it sooner.

Mystery Loves Company

I’m just back from Body, Mind, Spirit: The Canadian Breast Cancer Network’s National Conference for Young Women Living with Breast Canceralmost 48 hours solid of education and encouragement with 340 breast cancer survivors from every province and territory across Canada.

What a gift.

I left the conference with 14 pages of handwritten notes, a stack of books and brochures, and my brain abuzz.

The speakers and workshops were first class, the food was free, the facilities fitting.

And above all of this were the women.

340 women on journeys just like mine.
The lump-finding. The bad news. The pokes, prods and zaps.
The baldness. The isolation. The decisions.
The uncertainty. The losses, the triumphs and lingering impacts.
The crazy mood swings. The shockingly thoughtless comments.

Young families side swiped. With meals to be made and dishes to be done.

I’m back home. But I’m not alone.

Here’s a tiny sampling of my learnings:

  • Newfoundlanders rock. Thanks to Yvonne Jones for reminding me.
  • Cancer cultivates compassion. Thanks to Joy Smith.
  • I need to start each day with lemon water, add ginger to my daily matcha, and remember to eat 2 brazil nuts, 2-4 tablespoons of flax meal, some rosemary and 1 teaspoon of tumeric each day. Thanks to Dr. Natasha Zajmalowski.
  • Love heals. Death and recurrence do not equate to failure. Thanks to Dr. Rob Rutledge.
  • I won’t rule survivor advocacy out of my distant future. Thanks to Ryan Clarke.
  • It’s about time I explored Venus Envy. Thanks to Dr. Sally Kydd.
  • I can do my own lymphatic massage. Thanks to Anna Kennedy and Pamela Hammond.
  • Even a sexy, hilarious, intelligent, compassionate, super down-to-earth rock star feels stupid and isolated when she gets hit by breast cancer. Thanks to Bif Naked.
  • Sleep’s much more important than supplements and therapies. Thanks to Christine Maria Gross.
  • Your honesty reflects your intelligence. Thanks to Carol Anne Cole.

Massive thank yous to 340 strong young women from coast to coast to coast and to the inspiring survivors who put the conference together and shared their wisdom. And thank you to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation for the scholarship that made this enriching experience mine.

I can’t wait for next year!

Don’t take my word for it….Conference talk around the web:

Relief

A good portion of the last three weeks I’ve spent fending off terror. Battling my brain away from fabricated scenes of brutally big, bad news.

Thanks to two marble-sized lymph nodes and a slew of spin-off concerns.

This morning was my three-month oncology appointment. My oncologist poked in all the scary places and pronounced All is well.

What relief.

Rising from the imaginary-dead every couple of months sure makes it easy to keep appreciating my beautiful, beautiful life.

Now to start trusting my body again. It’s got me this far, and done a fine job of it. It’ll fare even better when my worry-war is won.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.
It’s a beautiful life.

Picking A Productive Perspective

When your happiness depends on what somebody else does or does not do, you’re trapped, because you cannot control what they think or what they do.

You will discover a true liberation, a freedom beyond your wildest drams, when you discover that your joy does not depend on anyone else. Your joy only depends on what you choose to give your attention to.

Sarah, Book 1, Esther and Jerry Hicks, 1995. Hay House Inc.

All is well

I’m just back from my first post-treatment mammogram and ultrasound.

And all is well. Woooohooooo!!

I learned a lot today:

  • That I have two staples in my right breast (!).
  • That my enlarged right breast may be a delayed reaction of radiation (?).
  • That the constant snapping of photos during the ultrasound is not necessarily a bad sign.
  • That no matter how unbelievably terrified I am during the tests, all the terror can be wiped away in an instant by a happy, happy result.

Happy, happy day!

Thank you to everyone whose good wishes got me through this week and to this happy, happy result.

Woooooohooooooo!!!

TMI

This time last year, my right breast was huge.

I didn’t think much of it, as the imbalance first occurred during my five years of constant breast-feeding (including 8 months of breastfeeding both of our little ones).

As this CT scan image makes obvious, my right breast became the smaller of the two following my surgeries last fall.

I was told that radiation would make it even smaller — and I’m pretty sure it did.

In the past few of weeks, though, that right breast has ballooned right up to its pre-surgery size. Despite my chemo-induced menopause and my estrogen-gobbling tamoxifen.

And I’m scared. Scared enough to have cancer-dreams (of which I’d had almost none). Scared enough to bump my mammogram and ultrasound up to Tuesday and beg my oncologist for speedy viewing and reporting of my results.

Tuesday, September 7, will be Luba’s first day back to school and I’m certainly hoping to enjoy these last few free-range days.

Still, Tuesday (and the day I get my happy, happy results!) can’t get here fast enough.

Order Some Joy

“What do you want?” Sarah asks me.

What do I want?

I want more. I want to crash out of this invisible armor I’m trapped in – to tear away the shackles and freefall, delirious and wild. I want to plummet naked into a velvet ocean at midnight and roll in the ecstasy of the waves. I want to peel back my layers and hold my raw wounds up to the sun for healing.

I want to slice through these suffocating wrappings and grab onto CORE ME – whoever that is – and never let her go; make her into the real me, the only me, for some to love and some not to love .. . and I want to not so painfully care who does and who doesn’t.

I want to feel, taste, devour it all – no filters, no censors, no gatekeeper telling me what is rightfully mine to take and what isn’t. I want rapture at the top of a mountain under a full moon. I want to absorb me, embrace me, the light and the dark, the glorious and the hideous, and cherish it all and laugh at it all forever.

Sarah’s back. “So what do you want?” she asks.

What do I want? “Caprese salad and a cup of pasta fagioul.”

We close our menus and clink our chiantis…


Juicy Joy – 7 Simple Steps to Your Glorious, Gutsy Self. Lisa McCourt. (This book is not yet published. You can snag a sneak peek by signing up for Lisa’s newsletter, here.)



Happiness Is…

A Successful Shopping Spree.

I had dreamed last year, while planning our Quebec City getaway, of discovering some funky new hand-made winter clothes.

My diagnosis hit just days before our trip.

As I wandered that gorgeous city, barely daring to notice its inspiring art and creatively concocted clothing, I was pretty sure my shopping days were done.

But they weren’t!

I’m happy to report that, yesterday, Lucy and I spent the entire day in the Byward Market — and boy did we have fun.

We shopped like there was no a tomorrow.

And even though I’ll never look like this gorgeous gal, I decided it was now or never for those funky arm thingies I adore.

Incredible. I’m Having an Incredible Year

On August 24, 2009, I turned 44.

Twin digit years being lucky, I slipped into this one with humble hopes for undefined improvements.

Within a week, I’d found that lump.

It’s tough to fathom the changes that followed.

And the improvements.

I could have done without the terror, the discomfort and the physical and financial diminishments. But the net gain this year has truly been incredible.

This year I learned that life is short. That I am strong. That people are good. That my supporters are many.

And the importance of practicing joy.

This twin digit year leaves me a better, stronger, happier me.

I am immensely grateful to Mark, to Lucy, to Bayla and to everyone whose words, smiles, meals, notes, playdates, care and thoughtful actions helped create this incredible year.

And I am thrilled that I will have a chance to say some thank yous in person this Saturday as we celebrate life, good health and good, good friends. I can’t wait.

p.s. Does anyone other than Mark, Mary, Jay, Caroline and myself laugh out loud at these Arrested Development titles, I wonder?

Tossing Timid

“Fish eating’s like anything else in life, Elijah. If you go at it ‘specting something bad to happen, all you gunn do is draw that bad thing to you. You caint be timid ’bout nothing you do, you got to go at it like you ‘specting good things to come out of it. If I’s to worry bout bones choking me, it’d happen every time I et fish. Ain’t nothing further from my mind”

Elijah of Buxton. Christopher Paul Curtis. Scholastic Press. 2007.

Digging Up Me

Lucy is turning eleven and craves her own bedroom.

Long gone is my era of sewing for hours each day.

The result is our family’s summer project: transforming my personal haven into Lucy’s own room.

Digging through my much loved creative space, tightly packed with hastily stashed pockets of my personal, family and professional history, has drenched me with memories. And with tears.

Artwork, receipts, cards, letters and scrawls. Job offers, lab notes, smiling babies I barely recall. Relics from my roaring twenties. Glimpses of eleven years of juggling parenting, career, creativity and me.

Loads of it purged.

I’m thrilled for Lucy. She’ll love her new room.

I just need to remember that this personal archeology is not about wrapping up me.

It’s about eliminating clutter. Clearing out cobwebs. Letting go. And celebrating the beautiful young ladies our girls are becoming.

It’s about life. And there’s lots more to come.