Beaming happy healing vibes for a caring, capable team, a smooth and successful operation and Mark’s swift, smooth, permanent recovery.
I love you, sweet. Looking forward to the beginning of your new pain-free chapter.
In October 2009, I was desperate to have both breasts removed.
Thanks to my insistent surgeon, I didn’t.
They’re small. They’re lopsided.
There are scars on both.
But they’re here. And so am I.
Hooping, it turns out, is perfect post-breast-cancer-treatment therapy. Almost.
It challenges my co-ordination, balance and spatial awareness.
It entirely occupies my mind.
Its frantic, erratic arm movements sneak my damaged limb into places I thought I’d left behind.
It allows me to flail and fail without drawing the attention of the likewise intensely occupied others.
And gives me ample opportunity to tame my uber frustration reflex.
It’s brand new, so there’s no kicking myself for lost progress.
It’s great exercise.
But last night I discovered the Almost.
Chemo’d chicks don’t spin.
Or at least they shouldn’t.
It’s easy to forget how disgusting chemo was.
Last night’s hoop-induced nausea was a vivid reminder.
Of how lucky I am to be healthy.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
A year ago today was my second cancer surgery (complete axillary lymph node removal).
I wish I’d known, going into those surgeries, that my right arm and upper body would be permanently damaged. And I sure wish I’d known to try breaking that scar tissue up right away.
But something else I didn’t know, back then, was whether I’d be here today.
I’m grateful that I am.
And for my resilient family, our working limbs, our healthy bodies and our joy.
One year ago today, was my first cancer surgery.
Today, that’s all a distant blur.
I’m strong. I’m healthy. I’m happy.
And I plan to stay that way for a good long time.
Lucky, lucky me.
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?
|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.
Scary news or no, I still plan to survive and thrive.
Maybe not long enough to grow my own 105 year old skin, but for a long — healthy, happy — time.
Two months ago today was my most recent lymph node and breast surgery… and look what I can do now.
It’s been more than three months since my most recent yoga class, so my whole body is less stretchy than ever.
But two months ago today I couldn’t lift that limb one bit.
So, I’m glad.
Aside from the obvious feats for the squeamish (injections, surgeries, claustrophobic scans and implanted heart vein stuff), the past 3 months have provided me with opportunities to perform the following impressive stunts (please hum “The Final Countdown” while reading this list):
Ta da! (AD)
Being decisive is hard, especially when new information causes you to constantly revisit, rethink and even reverse your decisions. That’s par for the course when you’re dealing with something like cancer-related surgery.
We’ve had our audio recorders running during a good chunk of our journey. This includes conversations and telephone calls as we considered which of either a lumpectomy or bilateral mastectomy was the best course of action.
It was interesting distilling three hours of recorded conversations to this 10 minute story, and particularly surprising to think this process dates back three months already (this audio was recorded leading up to Andrea’s first surgery, October 26, 2009).
Don’t Panic. Those are the insightful words that grace the cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the fictitious guide in the earthly book by Douglas Adams. I’ve tried to live by those words for most of my adult life. When our home was broken into in September 2006; don’t panic. When United Airlines lost our luggage last Christmas; don’t panic. When I discovered I didn’t have my wallet with me when I was at the grocery checkout a couple of months ago; don’t panic.
As the loved one and primary support of someone diagnosed with cancer, don’t panic is a golden rule. Throughout the process you will hear a variety of cancer experiences from people all too willing to share whether you want them to or not, whether they understand the impacts of their stories or not. Surgeons, oncologists, nurses and anaesthetists will use words you’ve never hear before and will talk about side effects and will likely allude to long term impacts from treatments.
You may even have an experience like we had a week after Andrea’s breast cancer diagnosis. Andrea’s dentist found a cyst in her mouth and suggested it be biopsied. Thankfully it turned out to be nothing (Andrea must have bitten the inside of her cheek). However, for four stressful hours, we dealt with the possibility that the cancer wasn’t confined to Andrea’s breast.
Being the primary support means you need to be rational and calm. New language, information and ideas need to considered as part of the whole and you need to remain coherent when throwing in the towel seems the logical thing to do. It’s completely okay to be emotional so long as you don’t let your emotions interfere with being an advocate for your partner, communicating with your medical team and making sound decisions.
I’ll talk more about emotions as I share more of my supporter experience.
Mark mumbled early this morning some plans involving scotch and the ringing out of “this horrid year”.
But doctors believe breast cancer takes six to eight years to develop to a detectable size and this was the year we caught it, cut it out, clubbed it and commenced construction of kick-ass “KEEP OUT” mechanisms.
So I say, “Thank You, 2009.”
… and good riddance!
Other happenings that rocked our 2009:
Nortel (my employer at the time) seeks Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States and Canada.
Not a huge surprise but it definitely rocked our world.
We adopt our pooch, Phaedra.
After 6 years of daily pleading, coercing, negotiating and plotting, we caved in. Little did we know she would become my very own Dr. White.
I leap from Nortel, and 22 years of software development, to a 12-month term position as a Technical Writer at EDC.
It was my first time without health benefits in my entire adult life, but it was walking distance from home and a chance to swap the stress of software development for the creative bliss of writing.
My “father”, Keith Ross, attempts to break into our home, spends who knows how long smashing on our front door, screaming through our mail slot and tearing out our mail slot and curtain.
As traumatic as this was for our entire family, it marked a clean endpoint of what has been an extremely painful, life long dysfunctional relationship.
Lucy attends her very first sleep-away camp.
It was a week at Time Travellers at Upper Canada Village where she and 40 other youngsters dressed in period costume and lived the role of an 1860s child. Lucy LOVED every minute of it!
I’m reunited with my long lost cousin, Kelly Clavette.
Kelly was my favourite cousin and a constant holiday companion throughout my childhood. We lost touch in our tweens. Thirty years later, Kelly and I “almost accidentally” reconnected and our renewed friendship with Kelly and her family brings our whole family true joy daily.
My diagnosis bridges the gap between myself and Mark’s parents, Rhoda and Bert Blevis.
Religious differences, unclear expecations and my own social anxiety had made my relationship with Mark’s parents a rocky one but the minute they received news of my diagnosis, Rhoda and Bert let bygones be bygones and promptly made themselves available to support our little family in any and every way. We couldn’t have made it this far (this sane) without their unbelievable support.
My diagnosis reunites me with my long lost brother, David Ross.
I’ve missed my little bro terribly and, regardless of the circumstances, I’m thrilled that we’re in each others’ lives again.
Mark abandons his own media endeavours and takes an exciting new position as a digital public affairs strategist with Fleishman-Hillard.
Health benefits and insurance and security, Oh My!
Our friend Caroline Coady announces she is cured of Stage 4 Colon Cancer.
Mark’s long time friend David O’Farrell loses his battle with cancer.
I revel in 14 years of Mark Blevis.
On December 22, 1995, while on a date with someone else and thanks to a huge number of coincidences, I met Mark Blevis. Lucky me! We’ve doubled the seven year itch and I’m still itching to be with this fabulous guy.
|Thank you, 2009… Bring On 2010!!|
Whether or not we believe this disease has intentionally presented itself to do so, it’s definitely encouraging me to learn and grow in ways that my stubborn adherence to justice, fear and inertia has always prevented.
So, while the medical gurus cut, stitch, poke, scan, radiate and infuse me, it seems my role in building a new, improved, bionic me is to grasp the many opportunities for learning and then to choose and use new beliefs, patterns and perspectives that will build a stronger, happier, healthier me.
I’ll track them here, one at a time, in no particular order. Let’s start with a big, small one:
Journey Learning #1: I can survive without coffee, sugar and red wine.