Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The short and curly of it

Summer of 2013

"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


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Healing from the Outside In

I began attending a Yoga Thrive class at Hopesprings Cancer Centre in January. This is a 7 week program that is a research based therapeutic yoga program designed to benefit cancer patients and post treatment survivors. It benefits those with stiffness, pain, stress or fatigue. It incorporates (from the website): 
- relaxation techniques - decrease stress and help insomnia 
- breath work - diffuse anxiety and use to help in the healing process 
- yoga poses - improve or restore strength, flexibility and balance 
- core/pelvic floor - another important aspect of recover is good pelvic floor health and these gentle exercises help you properly use your core   

I highly recommend this program or the Gentle Yoga classes for anyone currently in treatment or recovering from treatment. It has been highly therapuetic for me not only to begin to improve my strength and flexibility but to engage in healing my inner soul and address the emotional/mental aspect of recovering from cancer treatment. I always leave there feeling grounded and feel surrounded by others who are successfully making the transition back to normalcy.

Last month a good friend introduced me to Hot Yoga at Moksha Yoga. I fully believe that I have found a practice that speaks to me. I didn't realize how much I needed to learn to heal and take care of myself from the inside. I have noticed a major reduction in the anxiety and worry that I have been feeling. I believe that I am sleeping much better and have learned that an anxiety trigger for me is lack of sleep. I have made a commitment and goal to myself that I will practice 2-3 times a week until I return to work. Already I can see a physical difference in my strength, flexibility and weight. I have never made the time in my life to look inward and discover myself. This is another gift I hope to take away from this experience. I really do feel that six months now after my last chemotherapy treatment that I have truly rounded a corner and reached the top of a very long hill. I am feeling great!

I continue to be reminded of how blessed I am to have such wonderful people in my life. In the spirit of my ongoing bucket list, Cailin found a precious little book that reminds us all to take joy in the small simple things in life. Thank you for your friendship Cailin, you are "one of my people." I hope to embrace the next few months to enjoy life around me and get myself ready to return to work and move forward and leave cancer behind me. Many excellent plans to look forward to: Luke Bryan with Jordan - bucket list - check!, Girls Getaway weekend in Point Clark, Mother's Day brunch, May long weekend neighbour fireworks, Yurting ladies weekend at the cottage, camping at McGregor Point and many relaxing days in the backyard with my family. Take care of yourself inside and out. Tell someone you love them. Remember you never know the battle someone else is facing. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Re-Bloom

It was one year ago this week that I began my first chemotherapy treatment. I also received many gifts of kindness from our friends and family. I was given two orchid plants by our friends and the blooms lasted well into my six months of treatment. We found the perfect window for them where they could get the light they needed and we could still enjoy their simple beauty. Slowly the blooms fell off, I sought out advice on how best to care for the dormant plants. I kept them in the same window, watered them sparingly each week and watched over them. Now a year later, both orchid plants have grown new shoots with blooms getting ready to open up. A year later, they have come back to life. I use this analogy to compare myself to the orchid plants. This week I have felt rejuvenated and better than I can remember. I actually lived life this week not feeling like I was recovering from cancer but I was a busy mom, enjoying friends and celebrating a dear mentor's retirement. We saw a fun concert and I danced well into the night. My feet were tired but my heart was full. I feel hope. I feel hope that I have reached the other side of the mountain I was given to climb. I can't wait to watch my orchids come into bloom again and I look forward to continued sunshine and all the newness that Spring brings us. The backyard is a sanctuary for me. Long mornings on the deck were spent recovering from each chemotherapy treatment in my comfortable chair, covered with blankets, warm drinks and birds flying around us. Our deck and spring will always bring memories of what I went through last year, it helped me cope and recover. This year, it is going to help me overcome and move forward. Thank you Spring.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Remembering to Swim

I have reached the 6 month mark since my last chemotherapy treatment. This was the magic point where I was supposed to be all healed and ready to return to work and life would be back to normal. A year ago on April 17, 2014 when I first sat in Dr Steven's office and he told me to look at my treatment plan as a maternity leave and that I would be off work for at least a year, I remember thinking.... "yeah right, I would be back after Christmas or after March Break at the latest."

Fast forward now to April 2015, while I continue to remain in remission, and physically the effects of my treatment have begun to fade, I have been shocked at the mental and emotional struggle that has come along with being a survivor. Worrying and anxiety can be exhausting and while my inner mind tells me that many of the physical symptoms I believe I am feeling are "all in my head", the mind is a powerful force. There have definitely been days where I have taken on too many tasks and have been fatigued and tired by the time my family has returned home from work and school, it is more the emotional toll that having cancer that has weighted me down. I have taken steps to meet this challenge; attending yoga classes at both Hopespring Cancer Centre and Moksha Hot Yoga as well as seeking a referral for therapy to help me better deal with how my mind can take over and cause me to worry. I realize there is no perfect solution and that it is very normal for patients to have difficulties with anxiety, worry and physical symptoms of this. But it is clear to me that I need some assistance with this. I need some help steering this ship.

At my last appointment with Dr Stevens, he wholeheartedly encouraged me to remain off work until September and use the next few months to build my strength physically and emotionally. To stop trying to tread water so quickly and remember what it's like to swim. I thank my medical team for validating this need and taking this very tough decision off my plate. And so I look forward to the opportunity to "love to swim" and enjoy life as a mother and wife, have the time to be a great friend, cheerleader and support system to so many who stepped up for me.

My next appointment with my oncologist is at the end of May. Between now and then, I am looking to check into my thyroid functioning (as I have been diagnosed with hypthyroidism), pursuing an allergy referral as there have been some reactions that need to be checked out. Staying on top of advocating for my medical concerns is important and will hopefully also help with the anxiety of feeling like "something is wrong".

I enjoyed a wonderful get-away with Jason to Punta Cana for our own celebration of my cancer remission and an opportunity for us to re-connect as a couple rather than care-giver and patient as it has been for really the last two years. Our family continues to check off our "bucket list items" of what we look forward to doing when Mom's cancer treatment is over. It feels like such a great accomplishment to be able to meet those goals. Love you all and I am grateful for the warmer days and sunshine that shines on us.




Saturday, March 28, 2015

We'll Be Singing...

I Get Knocked Down - Chumbawamba


 We'll be singing
When we're winning
We'll be singing
I get knocked down
But I get up again
You're never going to keep me down
Pissing the night away
Pissing the night away
He drinks a whiskey drink
He drinks a vodka drink
He drinks a lager drink
He drinks a cider drink
He sings the songs that remind him
Of the good times
He sings the songs that remind him
Of the better times
Oh, Danny boy, Danny boy, Danny boy
I get knocked down
But I get up again
You're never going to keep me down
Don't cry for me
Next door neighbor
I get knocked down
But I get up again
You're never going to keep me down
We'll be singing
When we're winning
We'll be singing

My mentor and friend Paul Chambers passed away one year ago today after a brave, determined, kick ass fight against ALS. There have been so many moments, so many times this past year where I have asked myself, "What would Paul do?" or "What would Paul say to me?" I would get the thumbs up or thumbs down, the stare and shake of his head. The fatherly advice that he so loved to bestow on the group of ladies who came to visit him each month. I have taken so much of watching his fight with me in my own journey, I thank him for never letting ALS get him down, for continuing every day to get up again and keep going. Never asking for pity, as the song says, "don't cry for me." Despite what he faced, he always seemed to find the good in every day. A poker game with his buddies, tea party with his grand-daughter, reliving Courtland days and behaviour logs with me, NHL pool drafts, Netflix tv show marathons, Bridge with his afternoon group, hilarious golf tournament speeches, rigged up drink glasses and jokes on the i-pad. Calling ML - his beloved Millilitre. He always managed to make us laugh even when we watched him, wanting to cry. Thank you so much Paul for showing me how to see the good in even the darkest days. He told me one day how much he loved this song and that back when he could still drive, he would go out on a Sunday afternoon with the windows down and drive on the back country roads to this song. I also remember a conversation I had with him where he wondered aloud whether after he died whether people would remember him. I recently came across a letter I wrote to him in 2011 after he said that to me where I listed all the memories I had of the 14+ years I knew him, I am so grateful that I shared that with him, of course we will remember you. How can we forget? 

I will be singing today Paul, when I get knocked down, I will keep getting back up. Thank you for watching over us on the other side. I believe that you found heaven. We miss you dearly.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What is Friendship?, One Year Later

356 days later...March 18, 2014 was the day that it was confirmed that I had lymphoma. One year ago today.  Today I went to the mailbox and found a card in the mail. Out of nowhere, a dear friend wanted me to know she was thinking of me. In our age of technology and texting, bbming, facebook, tweets and emails, I still value and appreciate the time it takes to send a card in the mail. There were many days where I was feeling lonely or struggling that Jordan came in with the mail and there was a card for me. A simple, "I am thinking about you card". The card I received today was the 100th card that has come for me. 100 times someone thought of me and wanted me to know. How grateful I am. This simple act of kindness means so much. Something that I have strived to do more of. Let the people in my life know I care.

I started to read through the cards, tears in my eyes, looking back and realizing the strength I received from the prayers and thoughts coming my way. One in particular was sent by my wonderful friends Kristen and Karsten, it pretty much sums it up.

What is Friendship?

It's sharing your greatest joys
and deepest hurts.
It's revealing your
wildest dreams and secrets of the soul.

It's expressing yourself with heartfelt words
and understood silences.
It's counting on each other when
times are tough and decisions are difficult.

It's sharing the stories of your past
and your hopes for tomorrow.
It's experiencing the tears, the laughter,
and the craziness of life with
someone who understands 
and it means so much to share it with someone like you.

"How do I tell you in this little space how much it means to me everyday that you are in my life. You bring joy, comfort, balance, laughter and love to my world. We are here for you. 
Love K and K.
 
In the past 365 days, I have walked a road I never dreamed I would. And I would not have been able to do it without the support of our friends and family. Thank you for your words of encouragement and being my cheerleader. I am enjoying renewed strength now that I have recovered from the chest infection. I am enjoying Yoga Thrive at Hopesprings and looking forward to continued healing - both physically and emotionally. I recently treated myself to a spa day with my friend Penny and had my growing hair colored and cut. Feeling great!!! xoxo