Friday, January 28, 2011
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
(If you're having problems viewing the videos here, just click on the YouTube icon on the bottom righthand corner of each frame.)
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Yesterday around noon, I brought my love to the hospital by ambulance. After some tests by the ER doctors, Daria asked for medication to control pain. It’s difficult for her to speak right now but she still knows what’s going on.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
A week after we told the kids that they were getting a new sibling, Chloe asked, "Is the baby still alive?" Her innocence and concern tugged at my heart. She's thought of Veo, the brother she and Mylo lost inexplicably. And now she's worried about her baby sister. I told her that yes, the baby is alive. She and Mylo smile, ask questions, make up stories for and about their baby sister. And yes, Chloe, the baby is alive. We are all alive.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Soon after Anton and I got engaged in Maui in August, we found out that we were pregnant once again. We faced this new blessing with a lot of fear, as we had been devastated by the loss of Veo in April. But as soon as we saw all my doctors, we were reassured that we would be well taken care of. The genetics department at Women's Hospital took charge of extra screenings and tests, to see if this baby would have the same defects that Veo had. We also had more appointments with my family doctor, obstetrician, and plastic surgeon, all of whom have been keeping a close eye on me.
We kept the pregnancy mum, especially from Chloe and Mylo, because Veo's death was so hard on everyone. We wanted to make sure we would spare the kids those horrible feelings and confusion they experienced with the loss of their baby brother. And with each test that I took, each ultrasound that we waited for, we held our breath. Luckily, everything has turned out okay, and we have now just been able to share the miraculous news with all our friends and family!
Baby Girl (yes, we found out!) is kicking me full force now, and I savour each movement I can feel. But it has been a difficult challenge on my body, and today when I had a check-up with my Ob/Gyn, she said, "Yes, it's going to be a long pregnancy." There is, of course, still the issue with my TRAM-flap. If you look at me, you probably wouldn't recognize that I am over five months pregnant. I just look like I went on a carb binge. The metal mesh is not budging, and I'm not sure how or where baby is growing, but she is. It does make walking and moving and turning in bed a less than comfortable experience. But I just have to take it slow. And it seems, for whatever reason, that the epilepsy I had as a child has returned somewhat, and I've had three seizures since November. I've seen a neurologist and had two EEG's, but there's not much we can do at the moment but be careful. And then there was a kidney infection which left me hospitalized in Los Angeles for five days. Whatever. I can take it!
The doc wants me to come in every two weeks instead of once a month. She and my surgeon are closely watching my growth, to see when it will be the best time to do the surgery to take baby out. It's going to be a complicated C-section, as they will have to cut through my mesh. At the same time, I will likely get a hysterectomy because of my increased risk of getting other reproductive cancers. Am I sure I want to do this? Absolutely. I've got two beautiful children and a baby on the way, and I feel that after all that, my family will be complete. I want to be around for a long time to see them all grow up.
Yesterday, I had my six-month oncology check-up, and I am happy to say that I am still in remission. I am half-way to the five-year mark, when we can all breathe a huge sigh of relief, because at the five-year mark, my changes of recurrence go way down!
I'm finding that almost three years after having had my mastectomy, I'm finally at a point where I can move forward with more confidence, with less fear. I have to remember: I have survived so much, and I am a better person in the end. I have learned so much in the past three years that I can teach my children, and other cancer patients and survivors who feel so alone. In November, Anton and I have the privilege of attending a young adult cancer survivor conference in St. John's, Newfoundland (see my links to the right for info on Young Adult Cancer Canada). To say that the weekend was amazing and inspirational is an understatement. So many of us came together as a family, remembered those who were lost this past year to cancer, and motivated each other to be there for and to reach out to other young adults with cancer. One of the main issues for young people with cancer is the feeling of isolation: you have cancer but you're young--you're not supposed to have cancer. You're supposed to be starting a career, having kids, getting married. Now what? At this conference, we learned how to cope and thrive, and to help others do the same. It gave me and Anton a lot of hope and comfort.
Now we find ourselves in this new year, with new promise for positive energy and happiness. We have survived, we will survive, and we will be here to help others do the same. Cancer is always a curse, but it can be broken. When the curse breaks--when the patient breaks the curse--the only thing left to receive are the blessings.
One day, I was reflecting on all that has gone on over the past three years. It all seems like too much. But when I ask myself if I would do it all over again--if it meant that I had to do it all in order to get to where I am today, with my kids, with Anton, with this new baby that will complete our family--without hesitation, I say, "Absolutely. Yes."
Monday, January 17, 2011
Please share your ways of living with cancer.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Friday, January 14, 2011
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Monday, January 10, 2011
Sunday, January 9, 2011
How to cope with fear of breast cancer recurrence
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Friday, January 7, 2011
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Launched in 1992 by a charitable foundation of the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CCTFA), Look Good Feel Better is Canada’s only cancer charity dedicated to empowering women to manage the effects that cancer and its treatment have on their appearance, and often on their morale. Over 100,000 women have been helped through our workshop and services.
At the heart of Look Good Feel Better is a free, two-hour hands-on workshop in which women whose appearance has been affected by cancer and cancer treatment learn how to look and feel a little more like themselves again. Guided by experts through our Signature Steps, they master simple cosmetic techniques, explore hair alternatives, and learn about cosmetic hygiene, nail and skin care. Participants take home a complimentary kit of cosmetics and personal care products that are generously donated by the member companies of the CCTFA.
The Look Good Feel Better workshop brings together women with cancer in a safe and supportive environment where they can share stories, insights, laughter and, yes, sometimes tears.
Explore their website to learn more about Look Good Feel Better. If you’d like more information, please call 1 800 914 5665.
For workshop dates in Edmonton ... please click here for the locator.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Monday, January 3, 2011
Sunday, January 2, 2011
With practice, your reservoir of loving kindness fills. When full, you can direct it to others, friends and foes, known and unknown - like waves ripple out when a stone is tossed into calm waters. You can only give it away easily if you harbour no ill-will and have no personal motive; but if not full, e.g. as a caregiver, your energetic battery drains and leads to ‘burn out’.
Wonderful words craft Mettā, but can you reveal meditative concepts with limits like words? Not really. It is better to feel them; but that said, here is an attempt:
1. Safe - Everyone needs to be safe. Harmful things in a world outside can range from a corrupt political system to street hooligans to fierce weather. It can be worse if you hear harmful voices in your mind ranging from bad habits to unresolved conflicts. Whatever it is, Mettā offers a way to train your mind to get to an inner safe place free from perceptions of danger. It gets front-row-seats to see an amazing person – you!
1. Happy - Everyone dreams to be happy. Imagine the exquisite nature of wanting to be happy “… just as I am …”. This is not the happiness of a new car or a hug which are great; rather, it is a deeper, profoundly simple being-ness of “who you are”. While some say happiness is a choice; others say it’s elusive often realized only by a receptive heart giving this great gift away. This is accepting things observer non judgmentally, as an observer i.e., as they are. It is not complacency. You want to make the world better - as Gandhi once said: “… be the change you want the world to be…”.
2. Healthy – Everyone wants to be healthy! Why would you not want your body(s) to be in fine shape so there is no pain? The good news is that we are human but that often comes with foibles of doing many thing(s) that are destructive to the body e.g. smoking, food excesses, etc. It is paradoxical to want good health but not work toward it. Health is aided when you are aligned with your authentic self – it’s less stress; for, it is you. At a different level, consider what is your body? Is it only physical or are there emotional, intellectual or spiritual fields?
3. Peaceful – We all wish for peacefulness, Mettā’s 4th request. Being at one with whom you really ‘are’, i.e. your Authentic Self, is the nucleus of ease. It is the opposite of dis-ease. It starts with you and builds to home, country and world from your mind and heart. Only here can a powerful alignment transform you into being at one with yourself and the cosmos. This oneness with others or numinosity is one element in enlightenment (the 2 others are openness and curiosity). It’s in you to discover - you are the only one who can find your peace and how you are connected to others.Over time, practicing Mettā improves my capabilities, ability to understand my mental and emotional states and deal more effectively with stressors. (Scientifically this meant changing activity in some areas of my brain i.e. temporal parietal juncture and insula - but let’s get back to Mettā.) Meditation soon became a sanctuary, as it reinforces that I must acknowledge the truth of who I am so I feel good about it. Clearly, sometimes facing my ‘self’ is not easy; but by doing it, I feel healthier at all levels. Consider: if I do not heal at all levels, then some form of dis-ease could be still in me. Hence, if I want aspects of Mettā, part of my quest must be to create peace-fullness in all levels of the physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions.
I can easily remind myself of travelling to a beautiful spot and that I can be there virtually any time in my mind’s eye. How comforting! It is similar (but different) to how I felt just before cancer surgery when I felt a surreal sense that all would be fine. A most remarkable comfort showered me. It was a “peace that passed all understanding” the likes of which I have not felt before or since; a feeling so powerful and unique it will be remembered forever.
I had heard that phrase before many times but that was when I experienced it. While that amazing moment cannot be explained scientifically, it launched me on a road to recovery with a feeling this was the place to be - my ‘dharma’ or Path, so to speak.
As my experiences evolve, I re-discover that my journey is more about finding various forms of peace and truth within me. I find the practice of Mettā meditation is one way to grow, cultivate and train my ‘self’ to find ‘me’.
The awareness triggered is that meditation channels a trust, a type of freedom as I contact my ‘self’. This encourages wholeness, (read: health) as I enjoy profound senses of my ‘self’ and my world while being connected with others. Metta is a channel to connectedness that leads to wholeness and happiness. It is the essence of gentlelovingkindness.
Looking back, why had I not done this meditation before? I guess I hadn’t had to. There was no urgency then; but now there is. So I do it regularly now to feel safe, happy, healthy and peaceful during walks in the forest, just sitting in my chair and being with others. Maybe others will enjoy it too.