Okay, Is There A Carbon Monoxide Leak In this House?

I continued to work through the diagnosis, the surgeries and the corresponding recoveries.

I put my head down and powered through the chemo.

Maybe it’s catching up to me now. Or maybe it’s all my recent celebrating, real-life and staying up way past eight.

Whatever the reason, I’m spent.

Procrastination now drags my daily exercise to almost the full day and, due in part to my hole-falling-into experience on Sunday, I’ve had to replace my daily jog with a second leisurely stroll.

But I’m alive.
And healthy.
And happy.

And grateful.

Stride

I’ve had a recurring dream throughout this journey.

I’m biking on a remote, rural highway, alone. It’s almost dark. I’m without lights, panier, or even a lock. And I can’t believe I’d set out for some destination more than 200km away without any preparation.

In last night’s version, I was on foot. Still alone, on a darkening, remote, rural highway with no supplies and miles from anywhere.

But this time, I made the scary decision to leave the road for a wooded path.

The path morphed into a university library and the librarian held up a line of complaining clients while drawing me a little map.

He told me the path was frustrating but it should only take me 30-45 minutes.

I’m not making this up.

Happiness Is…

Resolute resilience.

Squished into a Starbucks stuffed with newborns and Nikes, I was first treated to the boisterous laugh and generous smile of my friend, Caroline.

It was 1999. We were beginner moms. Bandying blunders. Trading tips. Loving our new lives.

Life soon got busy and our paths untwined.

Almost ten years later, we happened to reconnect. Just in time for Caroline’s cancer diagnosis, three months of us helping as best we could, and then mine.

During these unexpected detours of ours, Caroline’s determination to defeat this disease, her astounding achievements of mind over matter and her generous wisdom and support have filled me with admiration, inspiration, gratitude and hope.

Despite ominous odds, Caroline is completely cancer free.

Today, I had the honour of celebrating the beginning of her new life.

Her new, improved life.

Lucky me.

Please stand and hum “The Final Countdown”.

Up From The Ashes

Emergency, turbo-powered spirit-lifting:

Every bursted bubble has a glory.
Each abysmal failure makes a point.
Every glowing path that goes astray,
Shows you how to find a better way.

So every time you stumble never grumble.
Next time you’ll bumble even less.
For up from the ashes, up from the ashes, grow the roses of success!

For every big mistake you make be grateful.
That mistake you’ll never make again.
Every shiny dream that fades and dies,
Generates the steam for two more tries.

There’s magic in the wake of a fiasco.
It gives you that chance to second guess.
Then up from the ashes, up from the ashes, grow the roses of success.

Disaster didn’t stymie Louis Pasteur.
Edison took years to see the light.
Alexander Graham knew failure well;
He took a lot of knocks to ring that bell.

So when it gets distressing it’s a blessing.
Onward and upward you must press!
Yes, Yes!
Till up from the ashes, up from the ashes, grow the roses of success.

Up From the Ashes. Robert B. Sherman & Richard M. Sherman. Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang. 1968.

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.

I See Dread, People
10 Small Talk Tips for Cringe-Proofing One’s Future

I’ve had more than my fair share of fabulous reactions to my diagnosis. Tonnes of people have been wonderfully real with me — and wonderfully supportive.

These people have turned what could have been pure nightmare into a long-lasting lesson in generosity and friendship.

I am truly grateful.

That being said, OMG, I’ve had some hilariously inappropriate reactions.

I’m far from a guru of social graces, but I just have to chuckle at some people’s obvious dread of interactions with me — and their fumbling attempts to hide that dread.

I know I’ve made big mistakes in the past and I cringe just thinking about them.
So, I’ve compiled the following handy list of Ten Small-Talk Tips for Cringe-proofing One’s Future. And it’s free!**

  • If you don’t know what to say, simply say so — and save us both from whatever you’d blurt out otherwise.
  • If my diagnosis scares you for your own health or that of a loved one, share that fear with someone other than me.
  • If you’re imagining terrifying possibilities for me, keep them to yourself.
  • If you know of survivors and therefore think my situation is a walk in the park, put yourself in my shoes for two seconds before you decide to treat me as such.
  • If you’re afraid I may keel over dead during our conversation, maybe it would be better just to smile, wave hello and keep walking.
  • If you follow my blog because you care, but just not enough to send the occasional comment or email to respond to my story, don’t mention my blog when we meet in person.
  • If you follow my blog out of morbid curiosity, and therefore don’t send the occasional comment or email to respond to my story, don’t mention my blog when we meet in person.
  • If you’d rather not know how I’m doing, don’t ask.
  • If you have no idea what I’m going through, don’t assume otherwise.
  • If you think that not acknowledging my situation is a brilliant social tactic, think again.
  • Bonus Tip #11: When in doubt, try genuine good wishes, a smile and a heartfelt hug.

Or, ignore all of the above — and provide me with hours of comic relief.
I’m happy either way.

** Although I am charging big bucks for the names associated with each tip.

Related Posts:

Happiness is…

Healing.

Eleven days after my First Surgery

This gruesome* photo was taken 11 days after my first surgery (Oct. 26, 2009, lumpectomy and sentinel lymph node removal).

* don’t click if you’re squeamish

Four months after my Second Surgery

This much less gruesome* photo was taken exactly 4 months after my second surgery (Nov. 13, 2009, complete auxilliary lymph node removal).

* don’t click if you’re squeamish

Unbelievable. I am so grateful to the magic of the human body.

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.

Related Posts:

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!

♫ 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.