Happiness Is…

Surviving and thriving.

That’s us, to the right. Two years ago today.
Moments after sharing the bad news with Luba.

So early in a surreal journey.

Behind that smile, a big part of me thought life was over. All of me hoped it was just beginning.

We headed to Quebec City that week. As planned.  I tossed and turned in the hotel bed, hoping I’d somehow fall asleep before Lucy, Bayla and Mark finished watching “The Corpse Bride”, “Beetlejuice”, “Edward Scissorhands” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas”.

I was awoken, one of those nights, by a ringing thought: This was the beginning of “The Spicy Me”.

Before this ordeal, my aim was to get through life. To make it to some far off end without losing any of the fabulousness I’d stumbled into. New territories and aspirations were reserved for Luba. As a matter of course.

Two years ago today, I opened my eyes.
I became alert. Aware. Present.
Grateful plus.

I started examining. And choosing. And imagining more.

The two years since then have brought trauma and mourning, recovery and joy. I’ve made friends. I’ve taken chances. I’ve explored new territories. I’ve become the Spicy Me.

I’d never choose cancer. I never want it again. For any one.

And I’m supremely grateful for the efflorescing goodness I’ve been treated to since that mind-boggling beginning. Two years ago today.

I’m aspiring to many, many more good years.
By the way.

Talk for Walking

I’m always pleased to hear that my blog has reached people. Especially those on their own versions of this journey.

Today, I heard from Alex in London, England. She asked if I had any advice for post-treatment life. I thought I’d share my response here…

Hi Alex,

Congratulations on completion of your treatment and thanks for your very kind message.

Hmmm. Advice for life after treatment? I guess my advice would be: lower your standards, enjoy each day, face your fears, exude gratitude and try not to stress about prevention.

It seems easy to find tonnes of advice on how to try to prevent recurrence and I made a tonne of lifestyle, food, habit changes during my treatment. But the best advice I have for myself (or you) is probably to be good to myself: and that can mean to remember to be moderate about the anti-cancer stuff. Not to beat myself up because I go weeks or months without eating brazil nuts or almonds or ginger or green tea or flax meal. To accept that I drink coffee and red wine etc. That I have the occasional run of late nights.

Oh, and unsubscribe from all cancer blogs! (I do check in on my cancer-friends from time to time, and catch up on their stories, but getting a steady stream of daily cancer-news was not having healthy results for the post-treatment me)

And here‘s a great bunch of advice.

Wishing you many years of great health and happiness.

Related Links:

I have dreams, Lindsay. Dreams…

Well, then, Tobias… follow those dreams. Make those dreams happen.

— Tobias Funke, Visiting Ours

Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all.

The Princess Diaries?

Everyone’s laughing and riding and cornholing except Buster.

Well, it’s Groundhog Day… again… and that must mean I’m up here in the frozen north, tip-tapping my keyboard and listening, obliviously, to the intermittent vacation plans and reports of family and friends.

I’m typically teflon to travel tales. But this morning – they’re touching something.

Janice rebuilding in New Orleans. Natalie and Mike asanaing in the Costa Rican jungle. Betti, Kathi and countless co-workers counting down sleeps to the sunny south.

I popped back, this morning, to glimpse my 2010 wood-chuck-chucking self and realized: Hey, I’ve escaped  Punxatawney. And I am the woman I wanted.

Now, I’ve got places to go and people to be.

You Have High Self-Esteem, Right?

My weaknesses, my wrinkles, my weight, waste and wussiness.

My inner-critic’s bounced right back to full-time abuse.

It’s powerful. It’s persistent.
But it’s no match for my gratitude.

Those bullying thoughts bombard me.
As they always have.
But I bash each one. Because I’m glad to be here.

I’m alive. I’m healthy.
And, bit by bit, that inner-critic’s going down.

Bellyflop… On Ice

Me, zipping home from work on the perfectly groomed canal.

One skate-sized hollow.

Me, on my belly wondering if my knees still work.

It’s been 20+ years, and thousands of kilometres, since I’ve been blades-up on the canal.

And, though my knees are swelling as we speak and I’m bound to be achy tomorrow, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d imagined all this time.

Fear of a curious crowd got me right back up, despite the pain and shock. And I skated another 6km.

I’m stronger — and luckier — than I thought.

Thank you, skate gods.

Posts I Didn’t Write

My new-found respect for sleep means my waking hours are (unevenly) divided between parenting and working.

And that writing and reading and sewing and building and lots of other projects are put off to another day. A cancer-free day, thanks to all that sleep.

So, here are the blog posts I didn’t write this week. Thoughts that have been swirling in the crevices between earning cash and being mom:

  • On Doing-For and Doing-With
  • The Canal is My Small Town
  • Sometimes I Just Like to Think Ma Thoughts
  • Just Like Nothing Happened

And here are some thought-provoking posts, thankfully, someone else did write:

Thank you, 2010

I absolutely adored 2010.
We were healthy, happy and together.
We had loads to celebrate. And we celebrated often.

Yet, reflecting on the year, this morning, I was shocked at its rockiness.

Where reactions and reconnections reigned 2009, 2010 was a year of overcoming obstacles. Of attempted relationship resuscitations. Of some painful — yet freeing — realizations. And relief.

It was a year of adjusting to the new me.
And of testing out the me that has been there all along.

As I reflected on 2009 and looked hopefully toward 2010, I never dreamed of the treat I had in store.

And I have high hopes for 2011.

Thank you, 2010. Welcome, 2011.

Some Zigs and Zags of our 2010:

February 6 (our 11 year wedding anniversary)

Our insurer refuses to honour my critical life and disability insurance claim.

This was a cruel and devastating blow. Not only because they robbed us but after stringing us along for 4 months but because I’d been over-insured for the twenty some years leading up to my leap from Nortel six months before my diagnosis.

April 1

Chemo ends!

And life begins afresh.

April 22

We are spared the pain of the long-awaited trial and Keith Ross accepts a Section 810 Peace Bond which prohibits him from having any contact with us for a period of 12 months..

Our world has been peaceful since.

May 20 (Mark’s 40th birthday)

The perfect storm of physical, financial, parenting and family challenges bring me to my knees.

Yet we survived.

June 15

Radiation ends.

We did it.

June 21

I take a first bite at my fear of public speaking.

I’m so glad I did. (Photo thanks to Alexa Clark.)

June 16-Sept 13

My first summer with my lovelies since Bayla was a newborn.

The most fabulous summer of relaxing, reading, biking and being with my lovelies.

August 28

Our long, long, long awaited victory celebration.

Wine, munchies and good, good people.
Pure bliss.

September 14

Back to work.

Two more days a week than I had hoped but simply grand to have an income again.

November 25

Port-a-cath gone.

Scary and thrilling.

December 22

We celebrate fifteen fabulous years of Mark Blevis.

Lucky, lucky me.

Thank you, 2010… Let’s all enjoy a happy, healthy 2011.

Happy anniversary, WeCanRebuildHer.com

This past October marked the beginning of catalogue of anniversaries in our journey through Andrea’s cancer treatment program. At one point I’d worried the anniversaries would be hard and emotional. It turns out they’re rewarding and invigorating because of Andrea’s resilience and good health. It’s like we have a second chance at life.

Today is a particularly significant anniversary. WeCanRebuildHer was launched one year ago, today, following Andrea’s head-shaving party the night before. The party was such an important milestone in our journey that I’ve kept some of Andrea’s hair from that night as a souvenir.

To play with the text in the first post, we invite you to follow our journey through life as a family that has survived the cancer treatment process. We’ll continue to blog our experiences and thoughts and share audio, video and photographs of the process of enjoying life together.

And just in case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s a video we put together from the head-shaving party. As noted at one point in the video, our then-8-year-old was the videographer.

Thanksgiving – One Year of Survival

Last week — as part of my new risky living — I joined Toastmasters. I was scheduled to present a “thought-for-the-day” at today’s Thanksgiving week meeting. But it was canceled so I’m sharing it here…

A year ago today, as I left a meeting of the EDC Charitable Campaign, I got a call.

It was my doctor telling me “I’m afraid I don’t have good news. It’s cancer.”

I listened. I texted Mark. I scrawled a few notes.
Then I excused myself from the office and walked home.

I thought that was the end. The end of me.

But it wasn’t.
I’m still here. And I’m stronger, happier and more grateful than ever.

None of us knows what tomorrow will bring.
But we do know what we have right now. Our families. Our friends. Our working limbs. Our pain-free, healthy bodies. Our peace. Our freedom. Our homes. Our incomes.

Our hair.

Marrianne Williamson said “Joy is what happens when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things are.”

We can call it gratitude or we can call it joy. Whatever we call it, all our moments are better lived when we focus on all the good we have right now.

So let’s.

Wishing you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving.