Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The bells are ringing!

And the Grinch with his Grinch feet, ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled, till his puzzler was sore, Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. 

"What if Christmas, he thought doesn't come from a store?, What if Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more?"
 The tree is sparkling, the gifts are wrapped, lists are made, we enjoy lazy mornings of sleeping in and running last minute errands. It is the end of 2015, my year of recovery. My year of returning to work, my year of putting my journey with cancer farther and farther behind me. I have enjoyed incredibly good health this fall, a minor cold which I was able to withstand better than my family members. 15 months from my last chemotherapy treatment, my energy levels are good, my spirits are high - there have been some difficult times for people in our lives who have lost loved ones and I struggle at times to keep my anxiety levels manageable. The smallest of worries can still affect me quite strongly as I fear "something bad" happening. I know that this is normal for those who have gone through a cancer diagnosis and thankfully it passes fairly quickly. We have such a full busy life that I am able to jump back into my hectic new role as Developmental Support Teacher, juggling a large caseload, driving the kids to work, friends, gymnastics training, hockey games. Our world is back to the way we knew it and the worries take a back seat to our front view of LIFE!

Today I return to the Grand River Cancer Centre, it is my regular 4 month check-up time. In retrospect, scheduling it on December 23, was to avoid missing work but in my heart, I know it will be the best early Christmas present for me, I fully believe that I will be in continued remission. But there is a tiny tiny part of me that wonders, now that my guard is down, will they find something in my bloodwork that is cause for concern? Will it change our Christmas? I also know that returning to the Cancer Centre is a reminder of all the patients who are facing Christmas while in treatment, I see the faces lined up to register at the front desk, every chair taken waiting for bloodwork, the uncertainty about where they are headed. For those people, I pray for healing and respite from treatment for them. I wonder if they could see the smile on my face and know that I am at the end of this long path. They certainly knew when that gong rang out in the foyer. I was pleased to hear those bells three times while I waited to see Dr. Stevens.

I am so excited to share that my blood counts continue to be perfect! My ESR rate is 4, which means the level of inflammation in my body is low. A soft predictor for a return of lymphoma. What does this mean for me? This was my last visit with Dr. Stevens, I will now see an oncology nurse practitioner every 6 months. What a huge milestone for me! It really has to be the best Christmas present ever!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Appreciating Life

This past month has been a mix of relief that our lives have returned back to a sense of normalcy. Homework, our careers, kids jobs, sports, learning to drive, boyfriends and girlfriends, friendships and new colleagues. I am feeling absolutely wonderful and strong. My new role has come at the perfect time and I am feeling such a sense of accomplishment and being right where I should be. Cancer has fast become a distant memory, only to be brought forward when faced with loss and the fragility of life. Life returning back to normal also means putting my own family's past struggles aside to support and recognize that for unknown, unfair reasons, life can end far soon. This realization causes me to pause and really acknowledge that I have been given a gift, the gift of life. Why God did choose me to face a battle and come out victorious while others are chosen to be called to Heaven? In a two week span, our Lackner hearts were broken by the loss of two young men, really they are boys. Two special boys who both crossed my path and touched my heart. One facing a cancer diagnosis with such bravery and courage that he became a teacher to his classmates, teachers and family as they watched him fulfill his dreams, facing a battle that sadly he wasn't meant to win. His short life taught us so much. The other dear boy was a student who touched me in ways that few have. I wrote a tribute to him that I posted to the funeral website that really sums up my feelings.
"To say the words heartbroken is an understatement. There are no words I can say to you to provide comfort or make sense of this tragic loss. You are well aware of the impact that your son left on my heart during the three years I supported his learning at Lackner Woods. Without a doubt, he knew he had found his way into my heart, and played that to his advantage many times. Even when I wanted to be firm with him, I could hardly keep a straight face when he would say “Sorry Mrs Low” in his little voice, ready to take off out the door to play with his many friends. You could say I had a soft spot for him. Your son persevered, never gave up, accepted help and as a result made astounding gains as a young boy. This carried him far and he was destined for continued greatness in his field where he had found passion. I take comfort that when we ran into each other recently, I got that hug from him and he could see several years later that the look in my eye was still there. He knew “this teacher is still cheering me on”. May you gather strength to endure from all the people who have been touched in some way by Cameron and allow them to shoulder some of your grief and lift you up with the many stories and memories that they will want to share with you."
To see their parents mourning the loss of their boys broke my heart. Another parent burying their son, the third time we have supported our friends in one month. How precious life is. How often we take it for granted. A gift given to me that I will never find myself taking anything for granted again, because how quickly can things change. To E.G and C.B rest in peace. Thank you for what you both brought to my career as teacher. Another month past, another month closer to what will be considered a cure. So incredibly blessed.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

It Takes a Village....

I was ready to write a post on my first month back at work but then life happened and my focus shifted. We received the sad news of our neighbour Andrew's death this past weekend. We lived for just over 10 years on Misty Street with 4 sets of neighbours whom we share so many memories with. Backyard parties, garage hanging out, standing outside watching the kids play, walks around the block, baseball on the path, birthdays, lobster dinners, New Year's, theme dinners and kids running back and forth on the sidewalk. Andrew was a brother to Spencer and the two of them were inseparable. It was Andrew and Spencer, a package deal to Cam and Matthew, they were road hockey buddies, babysitters and the older boys going off to highschool, with their first cars, loud music and new friends. To Andrew and Spencer, we were the crazy neighbours who had their Mom calling in sick to work on Monday mornings and the reason for never having ice in the freezer from the margarita afternoons. I said today, it takes a village to raise a child. Our kids realize now how special those memories are. Watching Cody and Spencer and their friends mourning the loss of their protector and partner in crime was heartbreaking to us. It is hard to fathom losing a child, a husband, a daddy to his princess. It was a beautiful service today, just the right amount of humour, sadness, memories and exactly what Andrew would have wanted. It made us smile and made us cry. Even though many years have gone by, no one can replace those ten years. The first ten years of my kids lives. I'm not sure we will have an experience of having neighbours like that again. My most recent memory of Andrew is two years ago when I ran into him at Concordia Club. He was so excited to see me. He ran and got shooters for us to toast each other. I kept saying "you're all grown up, you're a man! How did that happen?" In the blink of an eye. We shared a few drinks and many memories. The pride he was telling his friends about his neighbours and how crazy we were when we lived on Misty Street, didn't mean much back then but now I look at that moment and feel great happiness knowing that he saw us in that light. That we were important people in his life and for that I am grateful. We raise a glass to Andrew tonight. Catch you on the flip side....

Jason showing Andrew the tricks to garage parties.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

A Return

I have been thinking and reflecting on the day I return to work for many months. To me it symbolizes so much for me. I have said to my friends, returning to work means "everything is back to normal". Unfortunately for me, normal means something very different because being a cancer survivor has greatly changed me. I am embarking on a new position, a challenging, rewarding, difficult, exciting role. Tuesday morning when I turn out of the driveway, I will have a smile on my face because getting back to work really does mean that I am strong, healthy and ready for full-time work. There were many times over the past nineteen months where I truly questioned whether it would ever happen. My new normal will reflect a different Mrs Low. I am much more aware of the importance of taking care of myself. It is so easy for me to fall into the routine of putting myself last, working long hours, coming home after my family has had dinner. I made a promise to myself that I would be kinder to me. Continue to make time for yoga and my family. Worry less about the small stuff. Eat healthy, not skip lunch. Stay off work if I am sick instead of pushing through and making myself go in when I really should be in bed. Remember that colleagues, children and parents often have hidden challenges in their personal lives that we should not make assumptions or speculations about. Life is hard. And my role is to help make it a bit easier for students, teachers, parents and professionals. But I will not solve all problems. I won't be able to fix everything. I will try my best.

Returning to work now in September rather than earlier in April was one of the best decisions I have made. Having this extra time means I am really ready. Without a doubt, completely ready. After this past week, I realized that I would not have been able to have the stamina in the Spring to be able to be on the go, make quick decisions, read, communicate, organize, multi-task - wouldn't have happened. To those who are currently in treatment or in recovery who are reading this, please take the time your body needs. Do not rush back to your "new normal life", it will always be there. I really did think that I was going to be ready to return to work six months after I completed treatment, I was nowhere close. That was a surprise, I know everyone is different but emotionally I wasn't ready and physically I would have been able to manage it for a short time but not for the long haul. With these extra months, I was able to continue to grow stronger not just physically but mentally. That is where I seemed to struggle the most. I have read and been told that it is very normal to experience anxiety and survivor worries, I didn't expect it to be on the level that it was. I have made great gains overcoming the worry of the cancer returning, I have learned what my triggers are and continue to get better at pushing the worry aside and focusing on how great I feel.

The last weekend before Labour Day, our family was able to get away to Darien Lake for a mini-vacation. When I was in the middle of treatment, I asked the kids, "what's your bucket list item that you would like to do when Mom is all better?" Jordan wanted to go to a Luke Bryan concert, Check! Cam wanted to go to Darien Lake. So off to Darien Lake we went. Jason and I quickly realized that our 40 something year old bodies cannot tolerate rollercoasters like we used to. We had an amazing time and some hilarious laughs with the kids. Not many people can say that they have lied on a hotel bed with their two teenagers, the four of us laughing so hard that we are wiping away tears. We have amazing kids. Truly amazing.  I also had a wonderful night with my forever friends, the 4 women who know me when I made terrible decisions, some of our best nights, marriages and children. I love them. Thank you for taking the time so that we could all be together. It means more to me than you know. I also hosted a party to celebrate my dear friend Penny, who will soon be marrying the love of her life. Our Lackner friends all came together to buy some amazing pieces of jewellery from Silpada with the hostess rewards all going to Penny. More importantly, we realized that although some of us are no longer colleagues, we are definitely friends. Lackner Woods is truly a very special place to work and learn. It is not easy to describe what it is like to have been apart of that community. I can only say that I think moving to an Itinerant position will save me from comparing life at Lackner to another school environment, because truly there is no comparison.

and so.... here we go. School starts. Both kids are working. Cam will play volleyball in highschool (hopefully), Jordan is training for track and field, math and science homework for hours will begin. And the kids will have the pressures of success on their shoulders again. Dad will have to adjust to Mom not having quite the same amount of time to make this household run smoothly like clockwork. Mom will also have the pressure of success on her shoulders. I know the learning curve is steep, but I am up for the CLIMB.

Thursday, August 6, 2015


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 "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


"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


"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


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 hypothyroidism), 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

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Winning is All About Perspective Part 2

"Mistakes are proof that you are trying." This weekend we travelled to Niagara Falls for our daughter Jordan's first gymnastics competition of the season. Most likely this will be her last year competing before she begins taking her coaching qualifications. Once again, I am using the term "winning" to describe how gymnastics has changed Jordan's life. This sport has not only pushed her physically and given her wonderful friendships, it has taught her so much about resilience and learning that it's ok to make mistakes.

Jordan had a strong bars routine, she scored a 9.3 and won the gold medal, she followed that with a equally strong beam performance, sticking her back walk-over and full turn and won the bronze medal. She was off to a very strong start. Opening with bars, gives her confidence because it is her strongest event. Beam is always nerve-wracking because one tiny wrong move can result in a fall and will affect the score drastically. Jordan has fallen off the beam in competition a few times and it is with such pride that I watch her hop right back on, no sign of disappointment at all on her face. Falling is part of the sport. Falling and making mistakes is also part of life.

Next came the floor event which is also a strong event for Jordan. She has a dance background and loves the floor. Unfortunately, this time, the bounce in the floor did not work in her favour and she fell on her front tuck, it happened so quickly and she got back up so fast that you hardly even notice the fall - but she did. But the important thing is that she kept right on going. To me, that ability to bounce back means far more than any gold medal. We are so proud of the young lady Jordan is becoming. There are going to be many disappointments and struggles in life. How we view them and meet those challenges is what we are trying to prepare our kids for. Having resiliency is a major determining factor in success and I fully believe is also very closely connected to my experience with a cancer diagnosis. Another gift our family has been given... the realization for Cam and Jordan that Mom can have cancer and have the worst of days and still be able to find reasons to smile and get back up again. Jordan can fall on the floor and still smile from ear to ear and say "Mom maybe I'm not ready to stop competing next year" or Cam can walk out of a hockey game, missing a pass or a shot on goal and know that he played 100% and stayed positive.

Sports is so much more than winning. We are grateful for the lessons that it has taught our kids and know it will prepare them for meeting all the challenges life will bring them down the road.

Winning is all about Perspective

"What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" Not in this case. I am bringing so much more home with me. Recently, my mom and I set out on our first mother/daughter trip together to the bright lights, big city of Las Vegas. It was a trip we planned to celebrate my finishing cancer treatment and getting ready to return to "a new normal". As I explained in an earlier post, my bucket list has taken on a whole new meaning. Adventures that I have spoken or dreamed of doing for many years are becoming reality for me. Cancer can do that to a person. As we are reminded everyday, life is short, things can change in an instant.

It was my second time ever in a casino, I have never been a gambler, and don't expect that I will be. However for four days, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, the thrill of the penny slots, being up a few dollars and taking a chance to win the jackpot. I need to take more chances, take more risks, maybe not play things so safe. Cancer will do that for you. Mom and I had a blast, laughing at the free drinks, people watching, winning big, losing some, hitting the Triple 7's, getting lost in the casino and not finding our way to our room,
laughing in elevators, meeting new friends, adventures to Treasure Island and finding our way back to our favourite machines by the Stack restaurant. We ate amazing dinners and drank free wine and expensive coffee. We searched out the highlights of Vegas, walked way more than my sore feet could manage. Browsed in expensive, "out of our league" shopping malls. And we checked some items off on the bucket list.

Mom treated us to a Cirque de Soleil show called Michael Jackson "One". What an amazing show. Loved the music, danced in our seats and marvelled at the acrobatics. We also went on a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. Quite amazing. Three for one bucket list items, check check, check!

And above all I realized how much fun my Mom and I can have together. It really should not have taken a cancer diagnosis to plan this trip. But it did and for that I am thankful. I continue to find so many silver linings to the darkness of the past two years. I have won far more than I have lost. I have been given the gift of time and the gift of the realization that we should not let so many years and things we dream of doing take a back seat to the rush of our busy lives. Life is not all about work, "to-do lists, cleaning, organizing, filling our home with items. Life should also be about experiences and spending time with those who love us. Money can't always buy that.

Cancer has given me the gift of realizing how loved our family is. Cancer has reminded me how important it is to make the time. Cancer has revealed just how much we have to be grateful for. I have won far more than I have lost.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Best Things We Forget To Thank Our Highschool Friends For

It all started with an email via Facebook. Who's up for a girls weekend getaway? I had recently learned the great news that my cancer was in remission, a getaway certainly seemed like exactly what I needed. I called a BFF from highschool whom I have kept in constant touch with, had babies together, camped at Macgregor Point and Grundy, travelled to Mexico with our husbands, Michelle #1 are you in? Quickly our plans fell into place and four of us would meet up in Miami. Four women who share common memories, friendships that came and went with the tides of university, marriage, distance and work. A common bond remained, we spent five years at Grand River together, lived in close proximity to one another growing up, know all of the same people, come back most years for Oktoberfest, and shared some hilarious memories of our formative years together. Years that have shaped the strong, successful, amazing women we have become today.

 I have been reflecting on our weekend and have
caught myself smiling. Cab rides with Jeff Bridges, underground bars with skating rinks and bowling alleys, Young Presidents, lush spa massages, Coronas beachside, discovering Mojitos, expensive Clevelander drinks, fresh meat, cheesy girl bands, 7th floor pools, amazing dinners, perfect patio tables with a view. A weekend of reacquaintance, catching up, laughter of memories past, sharing tears of heartache of loved ones and friends whom we have lost. I realized that despite our distance and time, some things haven't changed. I realized that highschool friends hold a special place in our hearts. We share something that our new mom friends, sports team acquaintances and neighbours don't have. We were apart of the best and worst decisions of our lives, learning about failure, resilience and having goals. Realizing that our parents did something right with all of us, and that we can learn from our highschool years and become better parents for our own children.

Thank you Michelle, Kate and Heather. Thank for a great weekend, supporting me and celebrating with me. Raising our glasses to us. Thank you for reminding me about how lucky we were to have the memories of highschool that we do. Thank you for memories of prom dresses and big hair, mixed cassette tapes, driving in Jettas and Pickup trucks, curling irons and getting ready at each other's houses, playing violas, driver's ed, first boyfriends, boyfriends from other schools, wing-mans, air bands drunk, the V, sneaking behind our parent's backs, tanning on the roof, drinking swamp water, 16th birthday parties, moving out to attend university, our "bad boys", Forest Heights trips at lunch, pool synchro routines, chasing boys on the playground, coke can comparisons, Mr. Hughes and English papers, skipping class, convenience store mishaps, the cafe, french fries and gravy and chocolate chip cookies, homeroom in music, coming late, playing asshole, Daytona Beach, writing notes in class, New Order, Depeche Mode, ACDC, long skirts and tight jeans, St Mary's dances, the Spoons, orchestra, student council, hockey games and hockey players and Renegade blue and gold. I look forward to continued friendship, upcoming highschool reunions and more Oktoberfests to come.