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.