Thursday, July 25, 2013

MIRRORS


Mike & I - Manitoulin Island 2011
Things were healing.  I still had some pain and was not supposed to lift anything, drive my car, or stretch too much.  I was feeling a bit more human again though and was thankful for that.

One day I finally took some time to just look at myself in the mirror.  The scars were not so bad.  Well not as bad as I thought they would be.  My chest was completely flat.  In fact almost concave with two large scars where my breasts used to be.  The skin had healed and was very soft to the touch.  Several times I had the experience of “phantom pain” and that was very strange and uncomfortable.  Sometimes people that have had limbs amputated have this but it is also true in the case of women who have had mastectomies.

Relaxing in the Rockies - Summer 1986
The body I had in my twenties is long gone and the concept of “body” has changed in my mind as well.  It used to be about looks in a very vain sort of way and feeling great and sexy and attractive to others.  It used to be about running around in a bikini with the confidence of youth and no worries that it would not always be like that.  The meaning of the word “body” changes as you get older both physically and by your own personal definition.  Mine had now shifted from vanity to survival.  This same body that has carried me through life was a bit broken down right now but with strength and determination and a prayer or too it should carry me through several more years.  However, the outward appearance did not matter as much as it used to.  For now anyway.

Right now it was the health of the inward part of my body that was paramount and the vanity part had to step aside for the time being.  Focus was now on moving forward and learning to live and accept that this was the body I now had.  So it might not be so pretty on the outside but I was here and alive and on my way to the post-cancer body.  I did the post-baby body too.  Women are pretty amazing that way.  The things our bodies go through in a lifetime is quite fantastic when you really think about it.  Plus all the emotional changes that go along with that.  My husband and my kids and my family and my friends were going to continue to love me no matter what I looked like.  I knew that now of course but when you are in your twenties running around the beach in your bikini you might not know that.  Or even think about it at all.  It would be the last thing on your mind.  So enjoy that and look after yourself and if you can wear short shorts or a teeny tiny bikini than I say go for it!
Tasza & I -Providence Bay 2003

Looking at myself right now in the mirror I realized how lucky I was to have access to the amazing surgeons and medical teams that took the cancer out of my body.  Rather than think about the fact that I had no breasts I had to turn that around and think that I had no cancer.  Definitely a positive.  Plus I kept coming up with the positive things about not having boobs.  I had to.  It made me feel better and helped with the adjustment and mental and emotional shift to the post-surgery body I was looking at in the mirror.

I came up with my own David Letterman Top Ten list on why it was good to not have to worry about boobs:

  1. You can save money on bras.
  2. You can use the bra drawer for something else now.
  3. No worries when running about getting a black eye.
  4. No under-boob sweat marks in hot weather.
  5. You can shop in the kids department for shirts.
  6. Men now look you in the eyes.
  7. So much more comfortable lying on your stomach.
  8. You can get closer to the ground while doing push ups.
  9. No worries about “high beams” when you are cold.
  10. Less weight to carry around.

Sometimes when we look in the mirror we need to see more than what is right in front of us.  We are all so much more than that.

Mirrors - Justin Timberlake


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Monday, July 22, 2013

QUIET YOUR MIND


Mike & I - Bridal Veil Falls, Summer 2007
 It was March 2007, post-surgery.  I was heading to see Dr. Surgeon for a follow-up appointment and hopefully he would have the pathology report results.  I was anxious to find out if I was healing the way I was supposed to and I really wanted to get rid of those drains.  More than anything I wanted to know what the pathology report said.  I remember that day I was feeling bitchy and cranky because of my nerves.  In fact I just about lost it when we went to get coffee for the drive and there was a huge line-up.   Mike must have thought I was losing it.  I needed to quiet my mind.

When we arrived we got to see Dr. Surgeon right away. He removed the drains and the dressings and was really pleased with the way things were healing.  That made me feel good to know since everything hurt so much I couldn’t tell if that was normal or not.  Also, having those drains removed was like having my freedom back.

Norway Bay, Ontario - Summer 2008
Afterwards, Mike and I met Dr. Surgeon in the conference room and he went over the pathology report with us.  It’s quite a long report and all very technical.  Basically, they examined the tissue of both breasts and the seven nodes removed from the left side and one from the right side.  There was no cancer to be found on the right or in the node.  On the left side, there was only one teeny tiny trace of cells and everything else was gone!!!  The node that was taken from higher up was also completely clear.  Dr. Surgeon said I couldn’t ask for anything better.  What a relief!  We were so elated and even the surgeon seemed impressed with the results that I had from the particular combination of chemo treatment drugs.  It was incredible that they seemed to be able to nearly eradicate the cancer cells.

Mike and I drove home in a comfortable silence and then I just lost it and started to cry.  I think it’s because I just felt this huge weight that was lifted from me.  Without me saying anything, Mike just looked at me and said, “I feel the same way.”  This had consumed us for so long and now all of a sudden someone was telling us that we were going to be okay.  I explained to Mike that not once did I ever talk about the fact that this cancer could kill me.  I had tried to never even let myself think about that.  I suppose I thought that if I did that it would make it seem more possible and I just couldn’t let that happen.  I always had it in the deep recesses of my mind or subconscious but never, ever did I ever consider it could be a reality.

Providence Bay Beach, Ontario - Summer 2007
I just tried to be positive and always looked forward with visions of myself running, playing outside with the kids, kicking around a soccer ball, riding my bike, playing tennis, or dancing around to music with friends.  I have just always felt so young, healthy and alive that I continued to try to feel this way throughout – this cancer was just a glitch on the screen for me.  A pause.  The rest of the movie would continue after the pause button was released.  Of course when we got home and told my Dad and Sheila and Tasza the good news there was much relief and a few tears.  I was sorry Alex wasn’t home because I really wanted to tell him right away too.  I called my Grandma first and then I spoke with my brother and some friends.

My mind was quiet.  My heart was full.  The cancer was basically gone.

Quiet Your Mind - Zac Brown Band


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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

PINK HOUSES

Tasza & Me - December 2006
After I got home from the hospital and settled into recovery mode I started getting all kinds of messages, good wishes, flowers and phone calls.  It was wonderful to know that folks were thinking about me and my family.

I also found out that something amazing had happened while I was in surgery.   I mean this is something really incredible and has to do with hockey of course!  We are a hockey family and involved in the local hockey community.  Most of our friends are people we have met through our kid’s hockey teams.  It is a huge part of our lives and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Best Goalie Ever - Winter 2007
During the winter of 2007, there were three hockey teams in Alex’s age group in our community.  One of these Embrun Panthers teams happened to be playing in a tournament that started the same day as my surgery.  The team was made up of many of my son’s friends, classmates and former team mates.  The goalie on this team took it upon himself to tape his entire hockey stick pink and then put my initials “T T” in white tape on top of the pink so that it would stand out.  I have no idea why he made this decision or what made him even think about it in the first place.  His Mom told me that he wanted to do it in support of what was happening to me and to Alex and to our whole family.


Embrun Panthers - Winter 2007
The rest of the team decided to join in too!  They all wanted to do the same thing with their hockey sticks so they rounded up as much pink tape as possible and they all did their sticks pink for the tournament.  When I was told about this and looked up the photo on the hockey website, I just sat and cried, and cried and cried some more.  It was very moving.  How wonderful that they did this.  It gave me so much strength and inspiration that this group of 11 year old boys would do such an amazing thing.  It also really showed how much they were supporting Alex.  It occurred to me that maybe these boys were a bit scared too.  I mean this could have happened to any one of their Moms.  Maybe they had that in the back of their minds.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that I will never forget what they did for as long as I live.  I will always be grateful for the friendship these boys showed my son and the comfort it gave us all.
Alex's last season of minor hockey - Winter 2013
League Season Champions
Playoff Champions
Most Valuable Player 

This act of kindness and support really hit home for me how much this effing cancer was not just affecting me and my family but the entire community was affected too.  If it happened to me then it could happen to anyone.

I can’t imagine what these boys were thinking about but I guess they wanted to let all their Hockey Moms know how important they are.  Even though these boys try to act like rough and tough hockey players on the ice, it was clear that they all still need and love their Moms, no matter what.  At least that is what I like to think.

So to all of those boys and their families, I thank you again from the bottom of my heart.






John Mellencamp - Pink Houses


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Sunday, July 14, 2013

HANDLE WITH CARE

Botanical Gardens - Montreal 2013
It was March 2007 and I was going to get to go home from the hospital!  I didn’t feel as bad as I thought I would after having a bilateral mastectomy but I did feel a bit apprehensive about leaving the hospital.  As much as I wanted to go home there is something comforting about being at the hospital and knowing that there are professionals checking on you periodically.  It would now be my responsibility to empty the drains attached to me and ensure that I took my pills when necessary.  I also needed to do the exercises recommended by my doctor and do them twice daily.  After arriving back home, I was able to visit for a little while with my family, I took my pills, and then I crashed for the rest of the afternoon.  I had some dinner and visited with my Dad before watching a bit of the hockey game.  It was a sad day because the Ottawa Senators lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime.

I suppose I put in a somewhat restful night and only woke up a few times.  It just happened that when I woke up it coincided with the times I was scheduled to take pain relief pills so that worked out quite well.  My incisions hurt quite a bit during the night when I would try to roll over in my sleep and then I would be pulled awake by the pain.  It didn’t take long to fall back into sleep though.  I woke up craving healthy foods.  My body was trying to heal itself so this was a good sign.  I pretty much ate salad and fruits those first few days home.  I was also trying to remember to do my exercises that were recommended and I was finally able to have a “bath” and take off those horrible support stockings for circulation that they put on me at the hospital!  I must say that my legs felt great after removing the support hose.  It was really quite liberating!
Bailey at Home - Summer 2012

I was also finally able to get dressed in something other than pjs.  Afterwards, Mike, Bailey and I went for a walk around the block.  Man did that feel good!  It was such a gorgeous day with plenty of sun and temperatures above zero for the first time in a long time.  You could feel that spring fever hitting you.  We took it slow and did one circle around the block before coming back home to take some pills and rest for the afternoon.  I expected to feel so much worse than what I did.  I thought that I would be in extreme pain and flat on my back for several days.  So this was much better than I had anticipated and I prayed that things were healing as they should be.

Sheila, Dad & Me - Fall 2008
The week after my surgery was a somewhat restful time and having my Dad and Sheila at home was a blessing.  They took the kids to the Museum of Civilization, to the library, for walks, to the store, to the movies, and generally kept them busy.  Since it was March Break it was nice to have someone that was able to entertain the kids so they wouldn’t get bored out of their minds.  I was not much fun during those days and Mike had to go to work.  Also, since Alex still had his broken arm he was pretty limited as far as activities go.  The kids were both also able to have some time with friends and video games, DVD rentals, hockey card trading and lots of books were the order of the day.

As for me, I continued to sleep fairly well at night and took my pills regularly.  The drains were a pain and were pretty gross to look at.  I spent my time hiding under long sweatshirts as best as I could and I really did not feel overly comfortable to leave the house.  However, one day I ventured out on a big outing with my Dad and the kids for a coffee and a muffin.  I dressed in a way that would hide the drains because they were just incredibly gross.

I did manage to go for a short walk nearly every day and I really focussed on resting and healing.  I am not sure what I would have done without my Dad and Sheila there to look after us all.  I am forever thankful for these two amazing caregivers.

Handle With Care - The Traveling Wilburys

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

ALONE AGAIN


Alex & Me - March 2007
The next day I was woken up around 7:30 am.  I didn't feel as bad as I thought I would.  I was able to get up and have some breakfast.  I was really hungry so I ate what I could from the hospital breakfast which as you might expect, was not that exciting.  I called home right afterwards to remind everyone that it was my Dad’s/Grandpa’s birthday that day.  I got to speak with Tasza and Alex before they headed off to school and then while I was speaking with Mike, Dr. Surgeon came in to my room.

Dr. Surgeon thought I looked pretty good for having been on the operating table for 5 hours less than 24 hours prior to that.  He explained that everything went well but that it was a difficult surgery because with young people like me the tissues are much more dense and harder to work with.  (I loved that he considered me “young people” by the way.)  Dr. Surgeon asked that I see him the following Friday so that he could remove the drains, change the dressing, etc…and hopefully he would have the pathology report by then as well.  Dr. Surgeon recommended that I stay one more night at the hospital and that when I got home I was to relax and listen to my body.  Eat healthy, take it easy, walk if I felt like it but not alone and not too far.  He left me feeling good about things.
Trevor & Me - Summer 2007

The nurses (all of whom were wonderful) were in and out checking periodically.  My brother called to check on me and said that he was taking his lunch break and was going to come by for a visit.  He said he was going to bring himself something from McDonald's for his lunch so I ordered a shake and some fries and he would smuggle this contraband in for me!  Living on the edge as always!  We had a nice visit and he stayed for a couple of hours.

Mike then came by and he stayed for the remainder of the day.  He took me for a walk around the floor and then I had a sleep for most of the afternoon and when I woke up the kids were there with my Dad and Sheila.  A friend also stopped by.  Everyone left at around the same time and I walked them out to the elevator.  My friend was meeting her husband for dinner and my family were all going out for dinner as well to celebrate my Dad’s birthday.  I felt so sad when they all left and had a big lump in my throat for quite some time.

Dad & Sheila - Winter 2007

I decided to go to the TV room to sit for awhile and get my mind off of the fact that I was stuck at the hospital missing out on celebrating with my Dad.  Ok yeah I was sulking just a bit.  Then I went back to my room, got ready for bed, read my book and eventually I finally fell asleep.  I had a pretty good night of sleeping except for the standard wake-ups for vital sign checks, pills, etc…Every time I woke up it took me a minute to realize where I was and then I always felt kind of alone and sad.  But I knew it was not forever, but just for now.



Alone Again - Alyssa Reid



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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

BLURRED LINES

Summer Garden 2013
I could hear noises and knew that I was slowly starting to wake up from the bilateral mastectomy surgery.  Everything was blurry.  I looked up and saw a clock on the wall but it was out of focus.  What the heck happened?  I was so thirsty and asked for water but a voice said I couldn’t have any yet.  I asked for ice chips.  Those too were denied by the voice.  I decided that she was not my friend and I wanted to punch her in the face.  I looked around and closed my eyes again.

Then all of a sudden I was so hot that I couldn’t stand it.  I told the voice and then she did respond with a cool, wet cloth that she wiped my face, head and body with.  Maybe she wasn’t so bad after all.  I remember her saying that it was weird because most people who came out of this were freezing and needed the warm blankets that they keep in the ovens.  Finally she brought me some water and it was sooooo good.  I slowly started to wake up and realize where I was and what had happened.  My legs felt weird and when I looked down I had these ugly stocking things on that the nurse explained were to help with circulation.  I was to keep them on for the duration of my stay at the hospital.  I also had these drains on either side.  There was a tube coming from each side of my chest/armpit area with a grenade shaped plastic suction container on the end of each one.   These would fill up with blood and have to be emptied periodically for a number of days.  Very gross but all part of the master plan.
Deidra & Me - Summer 2011

I really wasn’t in the recovery room for very long when they told me the porter would be taking me to my hospital room.  I think it was around 3:00 pm.  I remember travelling on an elevator and through hallways with this big wet towel on my head and finally I looked up and saw the three men in my life, Mike, my Dad and my brother Trevor.  They were all waiting outside my room.  Once I got moved around and into my room I realized that Deidra, my sister-in-law, was there too and I was touched.  The nurses told them all that I would need to get settled into my bed and cleaned up before they came in.  I must have looked like a complete bag of crap!  I had an IV, I had a towel on my head, I had some tubes in my nose and gawd knows what else there was.  I think there was blood all over the sheets too.  The nurses cleaned me up and then everyone came in.

Trevor, Grif & Me - Summer 2013
I visited a bit with them but I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open.  When Trevor left he leaned over and hugged me and kissed me on the forehead.  That meant so much to me because he doesn’t normally do stuff like that.  Deidra had watery eyes so I know I must have looked pretty bad and I know it was probably hard for her to be there since it must have brought back memories of the year before when she watched her Mom go through this.  Also, having lost her Dad the previous summer, I know how hard it must have been for her to just be in the hospital.  Those kinds of memories can come flooding back and rip your heart out.  I will be forever grateful that they both came to support me that day.  I was so relieved that my Dad was there too when I came out of the surgery.  Just seeing my Dad’s face always makes me feel so much better.  He has been my hero since I was a little girl and knowing he was there made me feel that everything was going to be okay.  He has always been there and he has never let me down.  Mike, as always, was also there and has been by my side since day one.  He has been my pillar of strength and my rock.  Just seeing him there I know that I’m safe.
Me & My Dad - 1968


Shortly after Trevor and Deidra left, my Dad went home to be with the kids and Sheila.  We decided it was better not to bring the kids up that night because I was so drugged and tired that it wouldn’t be good for any of us to see each other.  It was comforting to know that our kids would be looked after with Dad and Sheila and have an enjoyable evening together.  Mike helped me to sit up and when my dinner came, I didn’t feel much like eating but he did feed me the orange jello.  How romantic is that?!  He stayed with me until visiting hours were over at 8:00 pm but I slept through the whole evening while he was there.  A lot of fun I am!  Apparently his uncle stopped by with some lovely carnations and a card.  I don’t recall that at all.  I was pretty out of it and slept all night except for the times that they woke me up to check on me, take my vitals, give me pills, etc…I have no idea what pills they were giving me but I certainly was not going to refuse any of them!



Blurred Lines - Robin Thicke ft. T.I. Pharrell



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