Sunday, December 23, 2012

HOW CAN I TELL YOU?


Now that we had the diagnosis that I indeed had breast cancer, the next big concern was before us.  How the heck were we going to tell people?  Especially our beautiful, sweet, innocent children.  We decided that we wouldn’t say anything to the kids until after we saw the surgeon.  We hoped to have some more answers after speaking with him at the Women’s Breast Health Center a few days later.

My Dad & Sheila with my babies - Gore Bay 2006

The day after getting the results was a typical August day in the summer of 2006.  Except everything was different now.  At one point the kids were off playing with friends and I was doing some tidying up in the house and I started to cry again.  Just out of nowhere.  How could I possibly be physically feeling exactly the same as I did when I was tidying up in the house yesterday doing the very same activities except that now today I knew that I had cancer?  How could this happen?  Yesterday I was me and today I am still me but this me has breast cancer.  I stood in my house yesterday and was fine and today I stand in my house and I’m cancer-woman.  Yesterday was the last day of my life “before cancer”.  Today is the first day of my life with cancer.

Thankfully Mike totally got what I was saying and took me in his arms and we both just stood there holding each other and it all seemed so very surreal.  We both knew that we had to start telling people.  Mike called his mother to tell her but I couldn’t bring myself to listen to their conversation.  I wanted him to have that time alone with her.  I knew that this must be killing him and that he needed someone to talk to.

I had to call my Dad and Sheila (his wonderful wife, my kids’ Grandma, my sweet step­mother).  I also had to call my Grandma.  Those were the hardest two phone calls that I had to make.  I couldn’t put it off any longer but I just didn’t want to do it.  I kept looking at the phone like if I touched it my hands would be badly burned and scarred but at the same time I really wanted to just grab the phone and get it over with.

My Grandma & I - Gore Bay 2006
(obviously after a day at the beach for me)
It ripped my heart out to have to tell my family.  We had all suffered such an incredible loss when my Mom died that to have to tell them that I had breast cancer was extremely difficult for me to do.  I knew that my Dad and my Grandma would try to be brave in front of me but that they would both worry terribly.  I hated to do that to them.  As a parent I couldn’t imagine how difficult it would be for me if something happened to one of my children.  Now I had to do that to my Dad.  I wished so bad that I could talk to my Mom about what to do.


I had to make the phone calls.  So I did something that I was getting good at.  I took a few deep breaths, swallowed back the lump in my throat, and made some decisions.  I finally picked up the phone and called my Dad.  That conversation and the next one with my Grandma are now a bit of a blur.  I did it though and somehow I got through it.  I’ll never know how.

How Can I Tell You? - Cat Stevens


Well it has taken me awhile to get this latest post out.  With Christmas preparations and lots of hockey, I found that the days have just slipped by.  I hope to have more time during the holidays to prepare some more posts.  I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, good health and lots of happiness!
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Thursday, December 13, 2012

I NEED TO KNOW


Now that we had the diagnosis and had some time to talk about it over dinner, I still was not ready yet to go home.  We headed to the nearest bookstore because I wanted to get a book so that I could start educating myself on the subject of breast cancer.  This was a whole new world for me.  For us.  We didn’t know much of anything about cancer generally or breast cancer specifically.  It wasn’t something that had touched our lives too much in a direct way up to this point but we had known others that it had. 

My Mommy & I - 1967
Cancer was this horrible word that we heard all the time on the news and in conversations with friends and family but maybe we didn’t really pay that much attention because it wasn’t something that would ever happen to us.  Wrong.  It seemed like one of those things where you’d hear someone say, “So and so has (fill in the blank) cancer.  Isn’t that sad.”  Then they would go on about them as if they had a death sentence or already had one foot in the grave.  There were always news reports about different studies and research relating to various types of cancer but again, I only partly paid attention to that.  I knew that I had no choice now but to dig right in and learn as much as I could.  This was now affecting my life in a very big way.

When I found the Health section at the bookstore I was completely overwhelmed at how many books there were on the subject of cancer!  There were rows and rows of them.  I had no idea what type of book to get or where to start or why I was even in a position that I had to be looking at books like this.  Before I knew it, I was crying again.  I stood there in the cancer section of the bookstore and I was lost.  I wanted my Mommy.  I wanted her to come by and sweep me up in her arms and tell me she loved me and that everything was going to be okay and that we were going to go home where we’d be safe and happy forever.  Just like the time I got lost in Woolworth’s when I was a little girl.
   

I ended up choosing the only book on breast cancer that I could find that was published in Canada.  I would end up with several books in the coming weeks from various sources and made sure to try to read only what applied to my situation.  There is also a lot of research material online.  However, you can over-read I think.  It is something that would be different for everyone so I just did what seemed best for me.  Mike too had a book that was geared to spouses and perhaps that helped him a bit.  I know it made me feel better that he had something to refer to when he had no idea what to do.  We were in this together.

I started reading that book right away but I made sure to hide it from the kids until we had a chance to talk to them.  The first thing I learned was that cancer is the uncontrolled and abnormal growth of cells.  Little cells that grow rapidly.  These cells can invade and destroy surrounding tissues.  They can also break away from the tumour and go into the blood system.  This means that the cells could spread to other parts of the body (metastasize).  These cells are tiny but a force to be reckoned with.

I was determined to stop them.

I Need to Know - Marc Anthony


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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I FALL TO PIECES


So now we had the results.  A diagnosis.  And we fell to pieces.  When we left the doctor’s office after getting the news and recovering from our initial meltdown, we made our way outside to the car and then we just sat there and didn’t know what to do.  All of a sudden our lives had changed without us asking for it and we had no idea where to go or what to say or what to think.  So, we decided to eat.  Food helps in times of crisis right?  We went to a restaurant and the waitress must have thought we were completely bonkers because we cried all throughout our meal.  We managed to laugh once or twice but mostly I cried.

Mike & I & Food - Barry's Bay 2004
It was a bit of a relief that we now had an answer and that the waiting part was over.  It wasn’t the answer we wanted but it was an answer.  They had found cancer cells.  Wasn’t that a kick in the ass!  They had found cancer cells.  Are you kidding me?  Nope they had found cancer cells.  Seriously?  In my body.  In my healthy, young and not-too-bad-in-a-bikini-for-a-forty-year-old body.

Mike & I - Providence Bay 2005
Now we had the worst case scenario answer.  No more “what ifs and maybes”.  We now knew and we would have to take the next steps to do whatever it was going to take to get rid of this cancer.  Of course we had no idea what to expect next or what those steps would be but we would take them together regardless.  It was going to take some time to digest this news and have the reality of it sink in.  Only briefly did the thought cross my mind that this was a disease that could be fatal.

I really didn’t even know exactly what cancer was anyway.  All I knew about cancer was that it was a horrible disease that got inside people’s bodies and could kill them.  People of all ages and from all walks of life get cancer.  It didn’t matter who you were or where you lived or how much money you had in the bank.  Cancer was something that could attack anyone.  Now it was attacking me.  It made me feel yucky and I just wanted to get it out of my body as quickly as possible.  I was healthy.  I hardly even ever got a cold.  I ate fairly well.  I exercised.  I was positive and young and healthy and happy and on top of the world with my life, my husband, my kids, my friends.  What did I do to deserve this?  Why me?  So many questions.  No answers.  

I Fall to Pieces - Patsy Cline



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Sunday, December 9, 2012

DOCTOR DOCTOR GIMME THE NEWS


I was going to get the results today.  The waiting would be over.  It was August 2, 2006.

Mike and I headed into the city to meet with our family doctor.  (I will refer to her as Dr. Family.)  She took us into her office right away and the three of us sat down.  The first thing she said was that she was glad that we were both there.  It was like moving in slow motion into a bad dream.  Dr. Family has been our family doctor since we moved to Ottawa in the early 90s.  I had such a bad feeling.  I just knew something was wrong.  I was looking at Dr. Family’s face and trying to read what was there.  Finally she moved away from the small talk and proceeded to give us the news.

Me at a Crossroads - Whistler, BC 2006
She took a deep breath and said that she wished she could give us better news but that unfortunately cancer cells were found with the biopsy.  Obviously this was not the diagnosis we were hoping for.  I couldn’t breathe.  Or talk.  Or think straight.  My doctor had just told that me that I had breast cancer.  Breast cancer!  The “C” word.  This was not really sinking in but at the same time it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I wanted to scream, “I knew it”!  But I also wanted to scream, “Are you kidding me?  You must be talking about someone else!!”.  This was the same doctor that had confirmed both my pregnancies.  She was usually full of good news.  What on earth could she be talking about?  I was reeling from the news and it was almost like I was outside myself watching this scene play out.  It was all so very surreal.  I can’t imagine what was going through Mike’s mind.

Dr. Family was very supportive and so very human about the whole thing.  When she had received the results she made the decision that she wanted to be the one to tell us.  She didn’t want us to see the surgeon, and find out from him.  I will always be grateful to her for her delivery of this message.  It must be a horrible thing for a doctor to have to do.  She reassured us that we could see her at anytime if there was anything that we needed throughout this process.  She told us that we would now be turned over to other doctors.  Specialists.  I would see a surgeon in three days.  She reminded us that this was going to change our lives.  We were at a crossroads.

Then that was it.  The news was delivered and her job was done.  We left the office.  As soon as we got into the stairwell outside the office we both fell apart.  We cried and held each other and promised to fight this with everything we had.  Mike vowed to be my rock and swore that he would be by my side throughout.  He said that he wished that it was he that had the cancer and not me.  That’s the way you think when you love someone so much.  He loves me and no matter what, we were in this together. That is something I knew I could count on.

Doctor Doctor Gimme the News - Robert Palmer

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

(GOING) CRAZY

My Dad & I Being Silly - Summer 2006
Well there I was just waiting.  Waiting for results.  And going a tad bit crazy.  It was the end of July 2006.

On the first day of August I got a phone call at work.  It was my doctor’s office calling to see if I could come in to see her about the biopsy results the next evening at 6:00 pm.  6:00 pm?  What the hell was that about?  How many doctors schedule appointments at this time of day?  It wasn’t even day anymore by 6:00 pm it was evening for gawd’s sake!  I didn’t feel too good about this.  Plus, I wasn’t expecting any news until the end of the week.  This was too soon.  I wasn’t prepared.

That did it for me at work.  I really could not concentrate but didn’t know what to do since my boss was away.  It was pretty quiet around the office.  I had to talk to someone because I couldn’t just leave.  I didn’t know what to do or who to go to so I decided to go speak with our Human Resources Director.  I was thankful that the Director was a woman and I told her my situation.  I explained that if a got a poor result I probably wouldn’t feel like coming in for the rest of the week.  If I got a good result, I still probably wouldn’t feel like coming in for the rest of the week since I was going a bit crazy.

Manitoulin Island - Summer 2006
She told me not to worry and to take the rest of the week off either way.  In fact she sent me home right there and then in the middle of the afternoon.  She looked after informing the appropriate people that I would be away for “health issues”.  I was so thankful that I spoke with her.  When I left the office I felt comfortable knowing that she would take care of things.  It was one less thing to worry about because the next 24 hours were going to be torture.  And, like I said, I was going a bit crazy.

At this point we hadn’t really told many people about what was going on.   I really didn’t see the point in alarming people on “what ifs and maybes” and without any conclusive results it seemed to me that it would be better to just wait.  So only a handful of people knew that I had the biopsy. We had told a few friends and family simply because I think we needed to have someone know.  Maybe we thought they might add us to their prayers.  I don’t know.

The results were coming the very next day.  I had a few more hours to keep it together and not go totally crazy.

Crazy - Gnarls Barkley


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Monday, December 3, 2012

THE WAITING IS THE HARDEST PART

Now that I had the biopsy over with.  I was waiting.  Just waiting.


Over the next few days after the biopsy, the affected area on my left breast turned into a big ugly, yellow, black and blue bruise.  It was the first time that I could actually see something that made this all seem more real.  I mean with the mammogram and ultrasound you don’t see anything different on your body afterwards.  I also couldn’t see the lump but just feel it.  The biopsy bruise was a visual element that was adding to the experience by leaving a mark.  I could see it and that made it all more real.  More upsetting.


Carefree Days - Carter Bay 2006
The reality of what I was now waiting for started to hit me.  This waiting part was the hardest thing I’d had to do so far.  It was the hardest thing for Mike too.  In fact it really, really sucked.  I found myself going online and looking things up and then I would freak myself out and think that there was no reason for me to be doing this because everything was going to be fine.  Then I would second-guess that and I would go back online and look up some more stuff.  My emotions were all over the place and I was having a hard time focusing on the everyday things going on around me.  They didn’t seem so important but at the same time they were everything.  Those little things kept me going. 

Guardian Angel- My Father's
Garden 2006
Although I’d had a mammogram, an ultrasound, and a biopsy so far, I had received no real results back from any of it.  I couldn’t think past the next few days.  Friday, August 4 was the day that had been booked for me to see a surgeon (remember “should that be necessary”?!?) and I assumed that this was when I would get the results back from the biopsy.  It was agony waiting.  I couldn’t concentrate at work and I couldn’t focus on anything at home and I felt like I was walking on egg shells.  I found myself constantly going back online and looking up information on biopsy results, mammogram results, and gasp – breast cancer.  I kept thinking, “why I am looking up stuff on breast cancer?”.  It’s not that.  Maybe it is that.  It probably is.  That’s why I had to have the biopsy.  No it couldn’t be that.  I’m perfectly healthy and I’m only 40 years old for gawd’s sake.  It was all very confusing and I felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster and I just couldn’t get off.


Waiting for the answer just couldn’t come soon enough but at the same time I didn’t want the answer at all.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers



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Sunday, December 2, 2012

THE NEEDLE & THE DAMAGE DONE


Our return home from Disney was a return from fantasy to reality and my reality was that I had to go for a biopsy.  Sure I know people get these all the time but when it is happening to you it is downright scary.  Especially when you have never had this type of thing before.  Regular check ups with my family doctor and the birth of my two kids were pretty much the extent of my experience with medical appointments up to this point in my life.

Summer home - Manitoulin Island 2006
We had to leave the kids with a friend so that Mike could go with me to the biopsy appointment.  He refused to let me go alone.  Love that guy.  At this point our daughter, Tasza, who was only eight years old at the time, had no idea what was going on.  Alex was 11 and he knew something was up.  He had overheard Mike on the phone when I had called to tell him the news that the mammogram results indicated the need for the biopsy.  We had told him the truth because we couldn't very well lie to him now and say everything was hunky dory and then if later on down the road we got some bad news we would have to tell him something different.  That would totally blow away Alex’s trust.

Mike drove me to the biopsy appointment and waited for me.  I didn't feel nervous or scared or anything once I got there.  The medical staff were really nice and made me feel quite comfortable.  If you have a fear of needles then you might find the procedure a bit daunting.  The procedure involved local anesthesia and then a biopsy needle was placed into my left breast and tissue samples were removed.  The samples would be sent to a pathology lab for examination.

The procedure didn't take too long and there really was no pain or anything.  Afterwards, when the freezing started to disappear, I was a bit sore and a bit tender but not really too bad at all.  Mike and I spent some time together afterwards and decided not to rush home right away. 

Retail therapy seemed to be what was in order.   It occurred to me that I had also gone shopping after my mammogram and after the initial appointment with my family doctor too.  Hmmm...perhaps there was a pattern developing?  I think shopping just took my mind off of things for awhile.  Anyway, it made me feel better.  This was not good for our bottom line but I suppose at the time I didn't really care about that.  I guess I was being a bit selfish and thinking that I deserved something new for what I was dealing with at each step.

The next step was going to be huge.  Waiting for biopsy results.

The Needle & The Damage Done - Neil Young


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Thursday, November 29, 2012

A WHOLE NEW WORLD



Goofy & I - Disney 2006
The week after I found out I that I had to have a biopsy we had a trip planned to Disneyworld in Florida.  We left on July 18, 2006.  I think this was probably the best thing that could have happened at the time.  An escape to a whole new world.  There was so much excitement about the trip and we were all busy with getting the laundry done and packing and making arrangements for the house and Bailey (our dog) while we were away.

This was our first time going to Disneyworld.  I had been once as a child but Mike and the kids had never been.  We had saved up for this trip for a long time and had surprised the kids with the announcement at Christmas.  So, they had been looking forward to it for over six months.  I had planned our itinerary according to what everyone wanted to do the most so that we could fit in everyone’s “must sees”.  This was probably going to be a once in a lifetime thing so I wanted to be sure we saw everything at Disney, Epcot, MGM and the Animal Kingdom.  We also put in some time to just relax at the resort and enjoy the pool and other activities.

Tarnowskis 3D - Disney 2006
My kids were beside themselves about the whole transportation element to the trip.  They had never been on an airplane before.   Alex flew with me from Ottawa to Toronto once but he was only two years old and couldn’t really remember much about it.  They were actually really excited about the fact that we would be taking a taxi from the airport to the hotel.  A taxi!  Wow they had never been in a taxi before.  (Yeah I know, we don’t get out much.)  It was so amazing to me to see everything through their eyes for the first time just like they were experiencing.  I let myself just forget about the whole wide world and everything in it except for my beautiful kids and my wonderful husband.  I was secretly hoping that he was going to stay wonderful for the whole week because he really hates crowds and heat so Disney in July was going to be somewhat of a challenge for him to say the least.

Sleepy & Happy
(just like the dwarfs) - Disney 2006
For anyone that has been to Disney you will know that you sort of get consumed by all things Disney while you are there.  I was able to totally escape and relax and really have fun with my family.  I felt like I was 10 years old and I just loved every minute of the trip!  I found that I didn’t give much thought to the upcoming biopsy or anything else outside of Disneyworld.  I let myself be consumed.  We were busy from early morning until late at night and we all fell asleep exhausted but happy every night.

That all changed when we got home and we were snapped back to reality.

 A Whole New World (Alladin & Jasmine)


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Sunday, November 25, 2012

KEEP HOLDING ON

Mike & I - Summer 2006

I hung up the phone after getting the news that I had to go in for a biopsy.  At that point I think, deep down, I knew.  I got outside as quickly as I could.  I didn’t care that I was at a work event and that I had a ton of things to do urgently.  I just had to get away and when I got outside I just started to cry.  I was shaking.  I was trying not to break down because I was at work and I didn’t want anyone to see me like that but I couldn’t help it.  Meltdown.  I kept hearing my doctor’s voice, “They don’t like the looks of it”.  WTF did that mean?!?  It kept repeating over and over in my head as I tried to wrap my brain around what was happening.  I called Mike right away.  I had a hard time speaking due to the huge lump in my throat but I managed to relay the conversation that I’d just had with my doctor.  Mike, as always, was very reassuring and vowed to be with me every step of the way no matter what direction we ended up going.  I felt better after we spoke and promised to call him later that night.  As always, we ended our conversation with the words “I love you” and “I love you too”.

So, I wiped my eyes, took a deep breath and went back into the convention centre.  It was all very surreal and I don’t know how I got through the rest of the day but I did.  I suppose it was a good thing that I was so busy because it kept my mind focussed on other things.  A bit later on in the afternoon I got another call from my doctor.  This time it was one of the administrative staff calling to give me my appointment times for the biopsy and an appointment with a surgeon “should that be necessary”.

This phone call disturbed me further.  I actually had no idea what a biopsy was.  I had heard this word of course and knew of other people that had gone for a biopsy but I really didn’t know what it was all about.  It also bothered me that I was given a time to see a surgeon “should that be necessary”.  What did that mean?  I had a million questions running through my head.  Why would I maybe need to see a surgeon?  I was reeling from all the unknowns and what-ifs so I just had to stop that.  I looked up “breast biopsy” on the internet and found out what it was all about.  That was a start.  I learned that the mammogram and ultrasound were not enough to establish a diagnosis of anything conclusive.  There would need to be an extraction of tissue from the lump in my breast so that the cells from this area could be analyzed under a microscope.  They would be looking for cancer cells.  Cancer cells?  How did I get to this point?  Could I really be on a website reading about this stuff?  Why did I need to know about this?  This can’t be happening can it?  Of course I kept reading and googling.

Kagawong - Summer 2006
The biopsy itself is a very small operation that can be done in a few different ways including an extraction of tissue with needles or with an incision.  They might even decide to remove the entire lump in some cases.  For me, I was going to be having a stereotactic core biopsy.  That means that they would take out several pieces of the lump with a needle and then examine the tissue for cancer.  I was encouraged to read that the statistics for biopsies show that in 80% of the cases there turns out to be no cancer found.  That sounded like pretty good odds.  I still didn’t feel all that convinced about it though.

I was busy for the rest of my stay in Vancouver and spent lots of time hanging out with Vicky.  It was great that I was with such a close friend like her so that I had someone to talk to about how I was feeling.  It helped to make the time go faster until I could get home and talk to Mike about it some more.  I finally went home at the end of the week.  It seemed like I’d been gone forever.


Keep Holding On - Avril Lavigne

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

SITTING, WAITING, WISHING

Manitoulin Island - Summer 2006
On July 4, 2006, my wedding anniversary, I went to the medical imaging centre and had the mammogram and the  ultrasound.  (Now wasn’t that a fun thing to do on my anniversary?!?)  This was the first mammogram in my life.  The mammogram didn’t hurt but it was uncomfortable and awkward.  If you’ve ever had one you know what I’m talking about.  It really makes you feel like your breasts are just a piece of meat getting squished around on a slab of cold metal by a stranger.  It is like the rest of your body doesn’t exist.  I wasn’t crazy about the whole experience but I knew it was worth it to get some clarification on the lump.   After it was over I felt like I had to shake off the yucky feeling it gave me.  Kind of like when you’re a kid and you are trying to shake off the “cooties” that someone might have passed on to you.  Having said all of that, never forget that breast cancer screening can result in early detection to ensure more positive health outcomes, more treatment options, less likelihood of spreading and could save your life.  So go have an awkward moment ladies!

The whole mammogram process didn’t take all that long but then I had to wait for the ultrasound.  The waiting part was kind of awkward since I was sitting in a very tiny little space the chairs placed very close together.  I was wearing the bottom half of my clothes but had just a paper robe kind of thing on the top.  It was the same outfit that all the other women in that waiting area had on.  Nobody really spoke to each other but we did manage to smile the most comforting smiles we could muster even though we didn’t know why each was there.  I guess we all figured it was all for the same thing.  Mammogram, ultrasound, and wondering what the results will tell us.  We were like lost children just waiting for someone to come and find us and tell us that everything was going to be okay.
Me near Whistler - Summer 2006

The following weekend I flew to Vancouver for a work event.  I chose to go a couple of days early to spend some time with one of my oldest friends, Vicky.  (I must clarify that Vicky is not old but rather an old friend.)  She met me at the airport and whisked me away to Whistler for the weekend.  We had so much fun that I was able to put the mammogram and pending results out of my head for a while.  We’ve been friends since we were 15 years old so it’s easy to be together.  It’s like being “home” when you’re with an old friend like that.  I eventually told her about the lump that I’d found because it was starting to take up more time in my thoughts and it felt good to tell someone.  I was glad to get it out and talk about it a bit more.

On the second day of my work event, my cell phone started to ring and I froze when I saw that it was my doctor’s office calling.  It was my doctor herself on the line.  That was my first alert.  My heart was beating really fast.  My doctor wanted to tell me that she had received the mammogram and ultrasound results.  “They don’t like the looks of it” was what she said.  My heart just about jumped out of my chest!  She said that she couldn’t really tell me much more than that at this point.  She explained that the mammogram couldn’t conclude anything so that is why she wanted me to come in for a biopsy.  What on earth is a biopsy I remember thinking.  I asked her if I should be worried and she said that was not an easy question to answer until we got some more information.

She didn’t know where to tell me to set my “worry meter”.  My “worry meter” had just skyrocketed through the roof!

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing - Jack Johnson



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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I NEED A DOCTOR

In June of 2006 cancer claimed the life of a wonderful man named Louis.  He was the father-in-law of my brother.  My brother called me to give me the sad news.  When I answered the phone that night I had picked it up with my left hand.  Then I sat down at the desk.  I put my left elbow on the desk and I was kind of leaning on the phone and slouching with my right hand sort of in my armpit between my arm and the outside of my left breast.  I felt a lump.  It felt like a marble but bigger more like a gumball.  What the heck was that?  I’d never felt it before.  My heart dropped into my shoes.  It was Saturday, June 3rd, 2006.  As soon as I got off the phone I checked out the situation more closely.  I bent my body in every way I could and the lump was still there.  I did not have a good feeling about it.  The lump was still there the next day.  And the day after that.
My Garden - Spring 2006
My husband, Mike, was out of town so I had to make the road trip to the funeral alone with our kids.  I kept thinking about the lump.  I didn’t want to tell anyone about it but at the same time I really wanted to talk to someone.  That was hard because I was going to be seeing my Dad and other family and friends when I arrived.  One night I spent the evening with my dear friend Trish and after a few glasses of wine I almost mentioned it to her.  But I didn’t.  Even though we have been friends since ninth grade and she was my Maid of Honour, I kept it to myself.  I wanted to wait and find out more before I talked to anyone about it, even Mike.  I also wanted him to be the first one that I talked to.

When the kids and I got home from the funeral Mike was home too.  So I told him.  I just couldn’t keep it in anymore.  He was very calm about the whole thing and was convinced that I should see my doctor but that it was probably nothing to worry about.  That’s , cystpretty cliché but everyone always says it anyway right?  I think he truly figured this would amount to nothing.  I called my family doctor and made an appointment to see her the following week.  In the meantime I kept thinking that the lump might just go away.  It didn’t.  I spent hours trying to think of all the possibilities to explain the lump.

My kids at the beach on
Manitoulin Island-June 2006
When I went to see my doctor on June 14, she too could feel the lump.  She ordered a mammogram and an ultrasound to be done as soon as she could get me an appointment.  I’d never had a mammogram before and the thought of it was a bit scary.  Wasn’t that something that older women had to get done?  I had just turned 40 for goodness sakes.  I didn’t really know what a mammogram was anyway.  The learning curve was beginning.

I learned that a mammogram is basically an x-ray of the breast that looks inside the breast and takes pictures of the tissue inside.  Mammograms will show if there is anything unusual or suspicious that might need further investigation.  The ultrasound won’t find anything in detail but it can detect other elements in a certain area where you already know there is a lump.  Ultrasound waves are sent into the area and will travel through the lump if it is filled with fluid but will bounce back if the lump is solid.  Cysts are fluid-filled and cancerous lumps are solid.

Since we had already planned to spend the last week of June on Manitoulin Island, my appointment for the mammogram was scheduled for July 4.  I had no idea what to expect.




I Need a Doctor - Dr.Dre / Eminem / Skylar Grey





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Monday, November 19, 2012

NO SUGAR TONIGHT


I guess I have had a pretty normal life for the average person.  I’ve had ups and downs like most people, I’ve had experiences with family and friends both happy and sad, I’ve lived in different places and traveled here and there, and I have tried to be the best person I can be.  However, I’m not perfect and I have my flaws just like most people do.

Kayaking with Vicky - Vancouver 2011
I have always been a very healthy person but I was a smoker for a few years when I was younger.  I eat fairly well and I have always been involved in sports and exercising.  I actually enjoy it!  Especially outdoor activities, running, swimming and playing hockey.  I really suck at hockey but it is fun!  I don’t think I’ve ever been overweight in my life except for post-pregnancy for a few months.  I have never really been ill either except for the odd cold or flu once in a while.


The reason I mention this is because I get tired of seeing news stories and various research reports that talk about breast cancer specifically or cancer generally and how it could be related to obesity or environmental issues or smoking or whatever other things that could influence a person to believe that getting cancer was their own fault and could have been prevented.  That is a terrible way to feel.  Granted there are things that most of us know are not good for us and we should avoid doing but sometimes we do those things anyway.  We are told eat this or don’t eat that.  Drink this and not that.  Breathe here and not there.  I think most people now know that if you smoke on a regular basis you will no doubt have some negative health fall-out because of it.  It might be cancer or emphysema or bronchitis but you take your chances.  We also know that if you are extremely over or under weight that there are health issues that can come up due to that as well.  There are several risk factors for breast cancer but there is not a known, single cause of breast cancer at this point. 

Eating pie with my sister-in-law
& mother-in-law - 2010
I don’t believe for a second that having breast cancer was my own fault.  I will never let any studies or news stories influence my feeling on that.  Neither should you if you are ever touched by this horrible disease and you have been doing all the right things.  Sometimes you can do everything right and still end up with cancer.  That is what really sucks.  There are many women that develop breast cancer without having any risk factors or any family history of this wretched disease.


Nobody asks for cancer.  It is an unwelcome intruder that sneaks in to our lives and for most of us we will never know how it got in or why it chose our body to settle in.  It really doesn’t do any good to ask yourself “why me?” because that answer is beyond our grasp in most cases.  You are not being punished for something you did or didn’t do.  I remember when I had my miscarriage in 1997 there was a kind nurse that said to me, “Don’t worry sweetie.  This is not your fault.  It is not because you did or didn’t do something.  This just happens sometimes.”  She told me that I had no reason to feel guilty or to feel that I could have changed the outcome by having done something different somewhere along the way.  I just had to deal with it and move on with my life.  Seems relatively simple.  Sometimes really crappy things happen to good and healthy people.

So I guess sometimes shit just happens.  For me it started happening in June 2006.



No Sugar Tonight - The Guess Who



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START ME UP


Well here I am.  Just little old me writing my very first blog.  This is a whole new world for me and I find it fascinating.  Who am I and why am I doing this and who really cares?  Well I am a cancer graduate.  (I used to say “cancer survivor” but I recently heard the term “cancer graduate” and I like it.) 


Bailey & Me - Thanksgiving 2012
So yep I had breast cancer.  I wrote stuff down.  It started out as a journal for me.  Then I started writing email updates for family and friends to keep them informed and give them an “out” when they didn’t quite know what to say or what to ask.  Then it turned into a story for my family.  It grew into a manuscript for a book.  I even found a literary agent!  I have since discovered that life is too short to wait for a publisher to take an interest in my book.  So now my story has morphed into a blog for sharing.  That is really all I wanted to do was to share my memoir and hopefully inspire and encourage anyone with a personal connection to cancer.

You see (according to the book publishing industry) I am a “nobody”.  But that is exactly the point.  I am not a superstar athlete, a celebrity, a doctor or an established writer, but just an ordinary woman.  I am someone that people can look to and find something of themselves.  I am a woman, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, an aunt, a godmother and a friend.  I could be the lady who lives down the street, or the woman who works in your office, or the Mom cheering on her kids at the hockey arena, or the wife walking the dog with her husband.  I could be the sister-in-law of your best friend or I could be your neighbour’s daughter or your classmate’s Mom.  Or I could be you.

Back in August 2006 I was going about my life minding my own business and then all of a sudden I was slammed with a breast cancer diagnosis.  I thought that only happened to other people.  Boy was I wrong!  Not sure why I got it and if we are honest with ourselves I would say that most people would ask that question, “Why me?”  No great epiphany has struck me yet.  I will most likely never know.  However, if I can share my story with others and it helps somebody somewhere along the way then that would be a great answer to the question. 

It’s Not Forever, It’s Just For Now was what I kept telling myself when I was in the thick of cancer treatments and surgeries and medications.  It kept me going, kept me positive and kept me looking to a future with no cancer.

I know that there are thousands of people out there with a personal connection to cancer.  I also know that there are thousands of bloggers sharing their stories.  Today I am adding my story to the mix.  I am somebody.  Somebody with a story to tell.



Start Me Up - The Rolling Stones




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