Thursday, August 6, 2015

Shavasana


In my yoga practice, I have learned to appreciate and embrace the beginning and the ending pose of "Shavasana" - it is the allowing of your body to regroup and reset itself. Lying in stillness is one of the most challenging poses. I read in a yoga magazine that it is recommended to practice life shavasanas, an opportunity for you to retreat and look within yourself to restore light, energy, perspective.



Every day take off 1 hour for yourself.
 No cell phones, emails or messages. Just you with yourself.

Every week, take 1 day to spend in nature, off grid

Every month take off 1 weekend to go someplace new and spend

Every quarter to half a year, take a long weekend 
or 1 whole week to travel and clear your mind completely from the daily clutter.

Every year, take 1 month to deepen understandings 
and practice or experience a different culture.

Every decade, take 1 year off, a sabbatical, 
to rethink your direction in life, your priorities,
goals and purpose.

This past year has been a forced "shavasana" for me, a necessary time for my body to reset and restore. Chemotherapy has cleansed my systems, I have brand new hair growth - it's like starting over from scratch. It has resulted in my having this chance to live a quieter pace of life, to spend a great deal of time within myself, alone in my home. I remember when our children were very young and Jason was working shift work. I would have paid to have a day alone in my house, to do nothing or to be able to enjoy time doing what I want to do. I have been given this gift during the past year. Yes - just like yoga, I have faced challenging poses, I have been poked, prodded, twisted, turned, with some pain - but I have had the opportunity to return to Shavasana on many days and stillness has healed me.

Shavasana is very much like returning home to me. I often can't wait for this posture at the end of yoga practice. I use this analogy to describe this past month. July was a wonderful, busy month in our household. Jordan and I travelled to our dear friends the Somers-Crisp family in Calgary for a few weeks. Jordan is like sisters with M and R. Jenn and I went on an amazing road trip to Jasper and Field BC. It felt so great to be able to hike Johnston Canyon, bike in the mountains, lounge at the Jasper Park Lodge, attend the Stampede, dance at Nashville North and Stoli Lounge, laugh in the field of dreams at the Palisades Centre - so many amazing memories.

But, despite my heart-warming "check one off the - I'm done with cancer bucket list", flying into Breslau airport and walking down the stairs off the plane and seeing the faces of people waiting for their loved ones to return HOME brought tears to my eyes. There waiting for me was Jason. HOME to me. My shavasana, There is no better feeling than returning to one's mat at the end of practice and there is no feeling like returning HOME from being away to the arms of your loved ones.

My year long Shavasana is fast approaching an end, a new beginning. A new role in my career to look forward to. I am anxious to get started. I continue to enjoy good health and do not have any lasting side effects from treatment. Aside from some mild neuropathy in my fingers and toes. Last month,  I had a productive appointment with my family doctor. Being proactive, I requested bloodwork to check all the levels that the Oncologist doesn't include. I am happy to report that my thyroid levels are all normal, cholestrol, glucose, everything completely normal. A great feeling. I have my next three month checkup with Dr Stevens next week and fully believe that I will continue to have normal blood readings i.e. white blood cell, ERS etc. and no cancer markers. I know that I am not considered CURED for 5 long years but 13 months in remission is a wonderful feeling and I will take it!!

I am grateful for a mini-shavasana with Jason to the cottage where we enjoyed blazing sunshine, much reading, dinners and dock sitting. Thank you to Jason for the purchase of a hot tub for our family to enjoy some quiet times together, free of social media and distractions. I congratulate Cam on his successful four weeks as an LIT at Camp Kintail. Warms my heart to see him enjoy and love camp life so much, making such great friendships and life-changing experiences. A quiet month of August awaits us before the craziness of school and work schedules greet us.

Stay tuned for a hilarious update on the highs and lows of my hair re-growth. What an experience!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

LUCK?

LUCK "a purposeless, unpredictable and uncontrollable force that shapes events favorably or unfavorably for an individual, group or cause" Another author has described LUCK  as "events that influence one's life and are seemingly beyond one's control".

I have caught myself saying many times, "I feel so lucky." Lucky that I have been in remission for one year. Lucky that I was able to get through twelve chemotherapy treatments without major complications. Lucky that our kids are such amazing teenagers. Lucky to have such wonderful friends and family in our lives to support us, celebrate our happiness and care for us in times of need. Lucky to be able to have the time away from the pressures of work, to have solid benefits and long-term disability,  to travel with highschool friends, go away to an island with Jason, spend time with my mother, visit my best friend in Calgary. I question whether it is really truly about luck or whether it is more making decisions, a mind-set we have. A decision to choose happiness, to choose to make things happen. To live in the moment. Another quote about luck is "where preparation meets opportunity." How do we use the times of struggles in our lives to turn them around to be hidden blessings? Opportunities for us?

I was able to have a small celebration last night with a group of friends who have surrounded me with laughter, love and support in many ways. Some a constant fixture in our lives, others we met as aquaintances and now they have become friends. As I looked around the table, I am amazed at the connections and six degrees of separation between the friends in our life. Seemingly random friendships at first, yet soon we realize the commonalities between groups of people.  A shared history of memories.  I feel lucky. I feel fortunate and blessed to celebrate one year in remission. To celebrate the power of friendship. We can create our own luck. We can choose happiness.

Thank you to everyone who came out to the Huether to raise a glass to pause for a moment and make a realization that we are incredibly fortunate, and pretty darn LUCKY.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

525 600 minutes

RENT - Seasons of Love


Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty five thousand moments, oh dear
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, a year in the life?

How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love
Seasons of love

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty five thousand journeys to plan
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?

In truths that she learned
Or in times that he cried
In bridges he burned or the way that she died
It's time now, to sing out
Though the story never ends

Let's celebrate
Remember a year in the life of friends

What an amazing feeling to be able to look back and realize that I am soon able to measure my remission from Hodgkins Lymphoma in years. As I approach July 2015, it will be one year that I arrived back in Wiarton with K and K - bottle of champagne in hand to celebrate a PET scan that showed I was in remission 3 months into chemotherapy.  This past week there were many reasons to celebrate. I received a letter from Long Term Disability confirming that my official return to work date is September 1, 2015. I enjoyed a very full week orientating myself to my new position for next year, participating in several meetings, signing for my laptop/cell phone. A tour of my new office. A very emotional send-off party with my staff at Lackner. I felt like a young girl in university who was leaving home for the first time. While I would be in new surroundings, I still do feel like I will be able to call Lackner Woods home and return for support and solitude in my new position. Our extended yurting family enjoyed our traditional celebration of the End of Year Foo Fah Party.  A celebration of our children's successes. And the ever favourite tradition of burning their notes from the previous year. A symbol of the amount of work and pressure our kids today in the classroom. How amazing is it to learn how many of our children were recognized for Citizenship awards, Art awards, Honours distinction,  Valedictorian, Athletic and Music awards. A testament to the wonderful adults our kids are supported by. We are so very blessed for our extended chosen family. As I reflect on the past year and the challenges our family has so humbly and successfully met, I am in wonder of what we are able to rise above. We have much to look forward to this summer. A quick trip to Grand Bend, Tragically Hip concert, Huether patio remission celebration, a month of leadership camp for Cam, a long-awaited trip to Calgary for Jordan and I, the Stampede, girls horse camp, road trip to Jasper, massage/spa day, cottage weekends, Darien Lake, Southampton family weekend. Before we know it, 8 weeks will have passed and we will be ready to embark on new adventures of Itinerant DST role and Grade 10-11. How quickly the days, months and years pass. Those 525 600 minutes fly by, thankfully bringing me minutes, days and weeks closer to what the medical profession considers a cure.

I had a good appointment with my family doctor this week. Thyroid testing comes next. As well, I do continue to have complications of mild Lymphedema from the lymph node surgery I had on my right arm. I have swelling and tightness in my hand/wrist from lymph node fluid not properly draining. A very common side effect from that surgery. Unfortunately, according to my doctor there isn't much that can be done outside of elevation, Ibuprofen, exercise. I will see what Dr Stevens recommends in August when I have my next appointment. Word of caution for those with a similar diagnosis to myself reading this, I have found that having bloodwork done or blood pressure taken from that arm to be a trigger for increased swelling, I have been told to avoid this to assist with minimizing the swelling. Something I wasn't immediately told.  

Aside from that mild annoyance. I feel absolutely great. We enjoy much joy and gratefulness in our life. Thank you to everyone from my Lackner staff to my new Developmental Ed team. I appreciate the varied caring, friendship, wisdom, guidance and support you bring to our lives.

Monday, June 8, 2015

3 More Months

Here's my advice, "Have a little faith and if that doesn't work, have alot of mimosas."

I had my follow up appointment with Dr Stevens last week, I continue to see him every 3 months for bloodwork and a check in. I find these appointments both comforting and a tiny bit anxiety provoking. The days leading up to the appointment, I find myself beginning to imagine all the negative things that could happen, not wanting to let myself believe that I will continue to have good health and increasing energy. Life really is so much back to normal that entering those wooden doors at the Cancer Centre bring so many emotions back for me of those long months of treatment that a nauseous feeling truly overcomes me just walking towards the doors.

I am thrilled to share that all of my bloodwork tests are now within the normal range. It has taken 8 months since my last chemotherapy treatment for every test to return to normal. We have been watching the ALT and AST liver counts that were a bit elevated but those are now well within normal levels. My white blood cell count is healthy and perfect!!! All aspects of my bloodwork and the absence of any physical symptoms point to nothing but continued remission - in fact I would say a great improvement in overall energy and emotional and physical well-being! I feel a turning point from my last visit in February. I have another appointment in August before I return to school.

Dr. Stevens has written a letter indicating that a full time return to work will happen in September 2015, I am so beyond excited to get back to my career!!! The last piece of the puzzle will fall into place. How appropriate that yesterday June 7, 2015 was National Cancer Survivor's Day. I am certainly a SURVIVOR. What an amazing feeling celebrating with a group of cherished girlfriends at our cottage in Wiarton this past weekend. Life is good. Cancer can be overcome. Thank you to all of our friends and acquaintances who continue to devote their own time to supporting research and fundraising for many causes, including the Canadian Cancer Society. Our family looks forward to taking part in a Light the Night Walk in October 2015 to support the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society of Ontario. Stay tuned on how you can help Light the Night.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Resilience

"Hardships often prepare ordinary people for extraordinary destiny."

Resilience is a word that I have began using more at home after our staff began studying and learning about growth mindset and its importance in preparing our children how to view themselves as learners. When I learned that I had been diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, I will never forget walking in my administrator's office and after the initial emotional response Dayle looked at me and said with a strong voice, holding my hands RESILIENCE. That word has helped me on a daily basis through my treatment. I have learned to be accepting of change, that is part of life. To see this journey as an opportunity for self-discovery, the connections I have made have been strengthened because of the difficulties I have faced.

Putting things into perspective and nurturing resilience in our kids has been something I believe we have always done, but recently it is with more purpose and awareness. Jordan competed last week in the OFSAA Regional Track and Field Meet in high jump and pole vault. She placed 8th in the pole vault and I have so happy to see her smiling face and a text from her that she had achieved a personal best of 2.05 m with a pole across rather than a bungee (which is what they do at some meets for midget girls) - so after attempting 2.20 m three times and failing, she saw the positive and was already looking to next year and setting a goal to beat the GRCI Junior girl record of 2.3m. Then came her premier event of high jump. Out of the 15 girls, Jordan had jumped 1.48 m at WCSSA which was the highest jump of all competitors, so she knew she had an equal chance of placing. After a very long two hours in the sun, Jordan completed 1.45 m on her third and final attempt. There were 6 girls left to jump 1.50 m. On her last attempt, Jordan narrowly missed the jump, the bar falling off when she landed on the mat. There were three girls tied at 1.45 m. Because Jordan took three attempts at 1.45 m and the other girls required two, they moved on to OFSSA Championships and Jordan placed fifth. She turned and looked at us and shook her head, tears coming to her eyes. She slumped over to her coaches. Clearly disappointed. Jason and I put smiles on our faces ready to support our athlete. One of her coaches came over and helped put things in perspective for Jordan. Out of 150 schools of midget girls, 2 previous track meets where she placed 1st and 2nd place. Jordan was 5th place out of all those high jumpers. This is an opportunity for Jordan. To look forward and realize all the positive things that have come from her participation in track and field.

It is really the first extra-curricular activity that Jordan has become involved in with her commitment to gymnastics. She has met some really great friends, made connections with several amazing coaches and teachers at her highschool that will last the next few years, she will attend the Athletic Banquet. It gave her a taste of highschool life and she applied for Student Council Executive which I am not sure she would have had the courage to do without the track connection. She is very motivated to continue forward with track and field and began
training this week with Dermott Smith of First Jumps Academy and is going to try some other track and field events as part of her training.

Despite our attempts to show our kids how to remain positive in the face of adversity, after a particular unlucky week - our van was hit in a parking lot by another driver, Cam got a flat tire driving to his hockey party and most of our computer files were lost by a hard drive malfunction - Jordan exclaimed, "we have a black cloud over us, how come everything bad only happens to us!"

We continue to be challenged as does everyone in life. Our attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure. I send love to some close friends who continue to be tested by life's struggles. We often don't know the battles that others are facing. Help those you love keep a hopeful outlook, lift them up and continue to learn from the adversity you and others face. xoxo

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The short and curly of it

"Beauty is being the best possible version of yourself on the inside and out." My whole life I have had straight hair, lots of thick, shiny, straight hair. Back in the 80's, I had a lovely bob, it swung to my chin and curled under nicely. Then I had the perm of the 90's, a spiral perm. I paid for curls. I needed body, in the humid summer air, my hair would go flat and I would do whatever I could to "poof" it up. Turn my head upside down to blow dry it, use various sizes of curling irons. I got so good with a curling iron that most people assumed I had natural body or wave to it. Joe at Frenzi's knows the secret, the truth, I had straight straight, heavy hair, that needed thinning out and layers to create the illusion of body. This served me well when I was losing my hair, as I ended up rocking a shorter cut and gradual hair loss for longer than most going through the type of chemotherapy (ABVD) that I did. 

Eventually there came a time when I needed to shave the rest off, eyebrows, eyelashes fell out with it. I felt like a stranger in the mirror, but we soon adjust and I once again came to know and love this new version of myself, bald. Losing my hair was much less upsetting to me than I envisioned that it would be. It was a relief when it was gone. I feel like it gave me strength. I think because I was ready on the inside and embraced it, I continued to see the beauty in starting over. 

Fast forward almost 8 months since my last chemotherapy treatment and voila!! I am now blessed with the curly hair and body that I always wanted! I have a full head of very curly, thick, volumous hair. It is actually pretty crazy, the volume that I have. Thick, soft, untouched by products hair. I have a short little pixie cut and when tamed, I actually love it. Thick eyelashes that seem much longer as well. I want these curls to stay!!! Unfortunately, all good things come to an end and I have been told that my hair will soon revert back to the texture of what it was prior to treatment. Maybe I will be able to ride the curly hair wave a bit longer if I am lucky!! So for those in treatment, yes there was definitely more grey when my hair grew back, but we can easily take care of that. I am embracing this new look. A hair-cut that I would have never had the courage to have years ago. Another silver lining I have found with cancer. Courage. A spirit in me to try new things, take those leaps of faith. 


Here are a few hilarious pictures that my kids took of me when I came home from hot yoga. Can you say wild curls???

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

JUMP!


"Change requires taking a leap of faith." - As Jordan prepares to compete in high jump and pole vault at the WCSSAA track meet tomorrow, I am excited to accept a new position as an Itinerant Developmental Education Resource Teacher for September 2015. Leaving the supportive, talented staff at my current school will be difficult, particularly looking back at the caring and thoughtfulness that lit my way through illness and injury. Being apart of a school staff will definitely be a part of my role that I will most likely miss the most, but I look forward to creating collaborative relationships with new colleagues and broadening my horizons to acquire new skills, ideas, strategies and ways to support our neediest students.

Jordan takes a leap of faith everytime she run towards the high jump measuring stick or runs with a pole to launch herself up and over, it takes courage and trust. I have trust that this is the right decision and move for me and felt the courage I needed to press that button when I sent my resume and application package off into cyberspace last week. It was a true leap of faith.

I am so proud of the resilience, courage and strength our kids show every day. Cam learned a very valuable skill of having what I like to call a "courageous conversation" when he had to ask his employer for the month of July off work to attend leadership camp. All went smoothly and I am sure it wasn't a problem because of the work ethic and dependability he has already shown at work in his first few months.

And so recovery continues. Where has that sunshine gone? Yoga fills my mornings. Organization, gardening, driving kids to sports/work fills my afternoons and cooking dinner, deck sitting and restfulness fills my evenings. Love fills my heart. Life is good. xoxo