Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Education isn't just a right it's survival

I must say the lack of education behind some sentences that I've been reading and hearing lately is quite astounding.  I know I have been guilty of voicing opinions and discovering that I did not have all the facts, but there's some matters that until I understood the ins and outs I never thought to open my mouth (or set my fingers on the keyboard).

When it comes to your health, do not be uneducated.  Know what the recorded/possible side effects are for any treatment.  Talk to your doctor about your goals and desires.  Find a regiment that suits not only your affliction but your wants and desires as best as possible.  You'll find you heal much better when you are fully confident in not only your treatment but your relationship with your doctor.

Look outside the box for safe ways to boost your treatments both naturally and through new methods.  There's a lot of things out there that can help you.  I am glad to have found one that is not only safe but 100% effective in assisting me through my treatments.

My recent decision to "not go gentle into that good night" of waiting several years for reconstruction has brought a lot of people thinking they know everything to the plate.  There are people saying:
1. we should be happy to be alive.
2. there are people that are worse off.
3. reconstruction is offered at time of mastectomy.
4. we should stop throwing a "pity party".
5. there's only TWO doctors in all of Nova Scotia that can do the reconstruction.

Well, guess what, there's answers to all these statements that are found through actually being in the system and educating one's self on the dynamics of this cause.

1. "we should be happy to be alive."
Not once have we ever stated we were not happy and/or grateful to be alive.  We are very much enjoying being able to see our family, play with our children (grandchildren where applicable), hug our loved ones, enjoy our friends, continue our hobbies, and even simply breathe.  Do not assume we take our lives for granted.  We saw the possibility of death and we looked in the eye and said "NO!"

2. "there are people that are worse off."
 Why, yes!  There are!  There are those that did not make it through their journey and did die of cancer.  There are people out there with other diseases and ailments.  But guess what, if they were offered a way to feel somewhat normal, I bet they'd fight their butts off to be more normal now and not in 5 years.

3. "reconstruction is offered at time of mastectomy."
I assure you it is!  It's also denied to most that ask for it.  And some can pressure the doctors into it, but not all.  I demanded it.  I begged for it.  I did NOT get it, like many, many others.

4. "we should stop throwing a 'pity party'."
This is not a "pity party".  We want what we were promised, what we have a right to.  And we are not going to stand idly by while someone tells us that since we are now "cancer free" we "can wait".  I'm sorry but being told that the only way I can get my breast reconstructed within a matter of months is to go to the next province over is ludicrous.

5. "there's only TWO doctors in all of Nova Scotia that can do the reconstruction."
 Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but no, there's more than two surgeons in our province that can do reconstructions.  I personally haven't counted all of them but I assure you there's well over half a dozen in Nova Scotia alone.

For anyone that has not looked into this already, please pop over to Facebook and join our group in fighting for the right to have Reconstruction Sooner for Cancer Survivors!  Thank you

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Mutant Ninja Cancer

A lot of people are discussing the issue of "battling cancer" and "losing the battle with cancer".  There's a great article from the Globe and Mail that you can read by clicking here.  This brought me back to something that I have mentioned before: what cancer truly is.

Cancer is what happens when a mutation occurs in cells.  Your cells that are supposed to become wall lining for your stomach mutate into thinking they're supposed to be something else, or are missing some markers so they won't replicate proper and after several cell dividing and duplicating later, you have stomach cancer.  The cells in your mammaries starts creating a mutation that is rock hard and multiplies and multiplies.  Now in this case instead of being deadly because of it's placement, it is deadly because it has access to other vital areas of your body.  If it was a mutation in your hair, there's not a big chance it's going to make you have issues with your vital organs, but the risk of it spreading to skin cells over time would be a possibility.  You could have mutated cells now, but they are not spreading and multiplying, they're being kept at bay by your body's defenses.  But as you age and your defenses slow, the mutation can become cancerous.

Cancer itself isn't a foe that you can vanquish or lose to, it's your body not doing what it is supposed to in order for you to live in perfect harmony.  It's a wrench thrown into the gears of your body's mechanics.  The mutations can seem to have a personality of their own, just because of irony in the person's life, but it's not a predator looking for a kill.

I labeled this blog post "Mutant Ninja Cancer" because it is a mutant, it's silent like a ninja, can cause you to die like a ninja, and, well, it's cancer!  And like with the deadly assassins from Japan, they can be in any cells of your body and you may not know it until it's too late.

The person that decides to fight their cancer with treatments, surgeries, nutritional aids is a great person indeed!  And if they pass away, they fought hard and deserve to be remembered for trying their best.  They did not lose, they fought for a longer life and got every second they could after the news of having the disease.  Praise them for their bravery, applaud them for their stubbornness, but do not say they lost a single thing.  They lost nothing, they simply could not be awarded more time for their efforts, and I'm sure they were grateful for every moment they were given.

Mutant Ninja Cancer

Monday, 22 August 2011

A message from a great man

The words of Jack Layton may he rest in peace
"To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer."
"My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world."
-Jack Layton

Sunday, 21 August 2011

What Makes You Happy?

It seems like an easy question.  What makes you happy?  Hearing a child laugh wholeheartedly, finding that extra $20 in your jeans pocket when doing laundry, coming across those photos of you and your friends from "happier times".  And there's simple things, seeing a full arc rainbow in all its glory, a warm fire with a cup of hot chocolate on a snowy winter night, snuggling with your partner after making love and hearing them sigh with full love and admiration.

Happiness is something fleeting lately, I find.  Pure and total "I'm completely content and happy" moments are so few and far between it grates at the soul.  And it wasn't until I was talking with an old friend from ages ago last week that I did discover something.  I do know one thing that always makes me happy.  I had left it behind.  I would bring it to the light once in a blue moon and in those moments I would be happy.  My heart would purr like a newborn kitten drinking it's mother's milk.  But I had left it for so many tiny, tiny reasons.

My art was something I did everyday.  And not just everyday, but all day.  During school (and I did get honours on more than one occasion while doings so, thank you!), after school, in the evening, late nights, while watching TV, while talking on the phone...  I always had my books of papers, sketch books, sketch pads, binders, and whatnot on me, along with enough pens and pencils to fuel the fire.

Over time, you need a job, and you cannot always draw on the job.  Then you want to see friends, and conversations cannot always be carried while doodling with a pen and paper.  You get your own place, there's more cleaning and responsibilities.  Work.. need more work to make the bills.  Relationships.  Family.  Health.  Accidents.  Life...

But I let it happen.  I have no one to blame but myself.  And it took someone saying to me "Well, it always did make you happy, your art." to realize that in fact, it did.

I have so many pieces of art that are stored away, and not just on paper, in my computers and in my head.  I really wish I knew how to work flash or some simple animation tool.. I have so many ideas.  But I think I will do this for now: I will find one of my old comics that was mine and mine alone (some had friends' contributions and ideas, don't want to take from them), and I will reinvent it to be a webcomic.  Now, can I find them, and can I find the time, my old ability, and audience?  Time will tell.  But I know it will do one thing.  It will make me happy.

"With all due ignorance"

I cannot understand some people.  They have no idea what a person is going through and they feel the need to express their own opinion, so what does the second person say to the first person (the one going through the situation)?  That the first person doesn't understand?  "With all due respect".  If they had respect for the person or their situation they would make more of an effort to understand the person's issues and not belittle their plight.  They would make sure that the opinion they are offering is valid to the plight the person is enduring.

Because of a "With all due respect" statement, I think I need to reiterate something.  I am fighting for the timely respect that Breast Cancer survivors deserve in completing their reconstruction, and thus their treatment.  Waiting 4+ years is torturous.  And if you think that is far fetched, you'd need to have something missing off your body that you would see every day to understand.  Have your ears missing, have your nose gone, no lips, four missing fingers, or both your thumbs.  See if you like being told you have only a two year wait and after 7-8 months be told it'll be another 2-3 years before you can even meet the doctor, not have the surgery that you were told would be completed in another 16-17 months, just meet the doctor.  We haven't finished our treatments until we have fully healed from all surgeries and treatments.

Now the term "ignorance" is not used in it's proper context any longer, either.  To be ignorant does not mean the person is stupid, it means they are uninformed/unknowable of a situation or feeling or experience.  It is not meant or intended to claim the person is a dolt, it is to express that they have no understanding of the matter at hand.  Telling us to just be happy we're here is not part of our fight.  We are happy we are here, we are so happy we'll fight for our rights.

A great example is the single woman/man looking at the parent with a screaming kid in tow and saying that that is bad parenting skills and they should not let the child scream like that in public, it's disturbing.  They may not realize that child has an illness, that child is overtired because they are teething and cannot sleep, the child tried to do something it shouldn't and is having a fit because it was reprimanded.  The point being the single person, unless they care for children, themselves, would rarely have any idea what is going on in the situation of the screaming child.  But they will march right over, if they are so bold, or post online "With all due respect, you shouldn't bring a screaming baby to the restaurant/theatres/mall/<insert public place here>".

Please be sure when you use the phrase "With all due respect" it is followed with respect and an educated opinion.  And remember, it is your opinion.  Opinions should be expressed but also understand when they are not valid to a situation.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Like Cancer and Other Hiccups on Facebook

Like this page on Facebook and get updates on new posts, request topics, or ask questions!

Just CLICK HERE to be directed to it.

Quote for August

"A sense of humor can help you overlook the unattractive, tolerate the unpleasant, cope with the unexpected, and smile through the unbearable."--Moshe Waldoks

Friday, 19 August 2011

Poetry in Her Heart

I was once a woman, at least that's what I'm told
I was once a woman, in days not long ago
That was before the treatments, ones like bloody chemo
Mastectomy, radiation, but to hormones I say no
But the creature in the mirror, that every day I see
That is not a woman, the creature is not me
It has a breast missing, hair is oddly growing back
It may have survived the battle but its image has been cracked
I am not whole and I am lost, I cannot find the way
I want to be a woman but the creature is condemned to stay
My heart is broken, my looks are gone so far away
I cannot understand why I'm tortured to stay this way
My sentence is clear now that the disease is gone
I won the battle but the sun has not yet shone
Be a creature now, a woman you cannot be
You are resigned to torture, the end you will not see
                                             -Julie Michaud 2011

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Pink Panthers, we're out there

My breast cancer support group is called the Pink Panthers.  Because of being a member to it I felt the need to draw up this picture:

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

A Breast of Value

I want to ask of all of you a question.  Women: what are your breasts worth to you?  Men (so you can put it a little better into context): what is your penis worth to you?  Yes, it's not quite the same but the value of our sexual organs comes rather high when you have to think about not having them, especially when you are still young or young at heart.

A breast for a woman is more than a lump of flesh and nerves.  It's more than something to help with pleasure with her partner.  It's not just a method of feeding her young.  And I assure you it is a part of how she sees herself when she walks passed a mirror.

Losing my hair to chemo was a physical blow to my self esteem.  Yes, it's just hair, but I had long hair since I was in elementary.  It was part of my identifiers.  Julie was that girl with the really long hair that had the natural silver streak down the front.  Then it was gone.  Looking in the mirror was a reminder, day in and day out that I had cancer.  I was sick.  I had something trying to kill me inside my body.  "Death by boob" was not going to be on my tombstone so I fought it.  I opted for a mastectomy, to be honest, it turned out to be the best decision after the surgeon saw what the tumour was like.  But they wouldn't let me have reconstruction right away and would not take the other breast at the same time.  Apparently when your tumour is over 5 cm big (that's close to 2" for those that don't know), you are automatically signed up for a lot of radiation, and they don't want to radiate the reconstruction.  Fine...  They tell me to sign up for reconstruction now because it's a 2 year wait.  (OMG? really? well.. okay, that'll give me time to recover).  What they don't tell you is that's a bald-faced lie!  I was put on the waiting list and finally got a hold of the plastic surgeon's secretary 7 months later and she tells me it's going to 2-3 years, from that day, AT LEAST to even have a call for my consultation.  Not surgery, JUST a consultation.

Do you know what I see in the mirror?  Me.  Me minus one breast.  Me minus one breast.  Me... Me minus one breast.  Yes, I'm still there, but not all of me.  The deadly mammary has been sliced off, but there's this reminder that I had to go through that.  A reminder that I am still not back to my image.  Hair is growing back, and that looks weird enough to me, but being lopsided is more soul wrenching than the sight of me with short, short hair.

I am only 30.  If I just stand by and say "oh, okay, I'll wait" I could be 34 or 35 easily before I get a consultation with my plastic surgeon!!  I want you to envision yourself without a breast (if your a woman) or your penis (if you're a man) for 3-4 years.  How would you see yourself in the mirror?  How would you feel every time you had that ghost feeling that it was still there and look down to see it gone?  Be honest.  What would that do to your emotional well being?

I can put up the brave front.  I can wear the bloody prostheses so people feel normal around me.  I don't care for them, they're not comforting in the freaking least!  And I don't care if you feel uncomfortable around me because I've been disfigured by my cancer.  You have to deal with it when you see me.  I have to deal with it 24/7...  No breaks from it but in my dreams...  And when you wake up it shatters your soul.  But do not tell me that because the cancer is gone I'm not a priority to be made whole again.

That's right.  Because my cancer seems to be completely vanquished I am considered "delayed".  To the plastic surgeon I'm not important.

What's sad is if I was willing to go to New Brunswick, the next province over, I could most likely get reconstruction done within months.  But I'd have to go there from here on to get all check ups done.  I'd have to make that 3 hour (one way!) journey to get all procedures completed.  (Did I mention I have a back injury and find it hard to drive distances, too..?).  In New Brunswick, cancer survivors come first.  In Nova Scotia, we don't.

I'd love to be proven wrong here.  Please!  By all means, someone find proof that cancer survivors are cared about in the world of plastic surgery.  Show me that when the cancer is out of our bodies that our healing process is important to them!

Then maybe you can explain why people that had their mastectomies in 2007 are just getting their consultations in 2011. >=(

Please join this Facebook group so we can try to make a change!  Thank you  
Vive La Boob-a-lution!!

I can wait? HA! I think not!

Apparently if your cancer is out of your body, even though your body is now disfigured, you are told you can wait for reconstruction with the way the health care system is set up in Nova Scotia.  Does Julie approve??  ROFL!  HA!  No, I do not want to wait two, three, or four years to find out IF I can have surgery and wait even longer after that...  This is a call to arms!  Please join the Facebook group I have created! Reconstruction Sooner For Cancer Survivors in Nova Scotia!!

Thank you for your support!!

A Colourful Promise

Ever been part of one of those gloomy, dreary rainy days when everything has seemed to dull.  The clouds, the landscape, the water, the buildings have all started to blend into each other, mocking the idea of a bright, sunny day.  And just as you think they could never look the way they did the day before, the clouds part ever so slightly in one area, not a lot, but just enough that a few of the sun's rays poke through.  And as you say to yourself, "Oh, wow! The sun is till out", you follow the sun beam to the opposite side of the clouded sky and something unthought of happens.  The beam fires through droplet of water and rain, splitting their light spectrum and colours appear in the sky.  Softly at first and very soon a bold, brilliant, and awesome rainbow arcs the sky.  And as you look at its wonder your mouth even opens for a moment with pure awe of it's beauty amongst the muted tones in the sky.

So am I going to reference the tired cliche that every cloud has a silver lining?  Or that there's always good in a bad situation?  Yes and no.

I'm not going to say cancer is a blessing to anyone.  But it has helped lives as well and destroy them.  Cancer help lives?  She's off her rocker, one might say, but it's true.  Ask a cancer patient (after they're out of the hot spot of newly diagnosed and treatment finalized), and I'm sure they'll start talking about all the friends they've made through support groups like Pink Panthers through BCANS and Retreat through YACC.  They'll start talking about how they started doing things they had put off until after they went through the trials of having cancer and said, no more waiting!

It's not that cancer hasn't taken anyone too soon in their life, either.  There's lots of loss when dealing with it.  Some lose pieces of themselves, mentally, spiritually, and physically.  And some lose their life all together.  For them, we mourn their passing so quickly and tragically, but we honour their life with remembering them for their personality, strength, and vulnerability, not their cancer. 

We will shed tears at the loss.  That is our rain.  The darkness.  That is the clouds.  Our world is more drab and dulled with them gone.  We come to feel surrounded in the despair of the "evil cancer" and as we get lost in it's "evil cloud" we can easily forget that there is still good out there.  At least until a little ray of light comes through.

The light can be the smile on your child's face.  The laughter filling your heart when you're with friends.  The embrace of your spouse or loved one.  The realization that you just accomplished something you never thought you could.  You then step back and see your rainbow.  Your promise that life does go on.  Your promise that you are not alone.

If you know your Bible stories, you know how they say the rainbow came to Noah as a message.  It was God's promise that he would never flood the Earth again they way he had then.  And whether you are spiritual or not, the rainbow has always been seen as a sign of good and hope.  The storm is over.  The light has returned.  The world is at peace once more.  I look at it and see a promise that we are not alone.  We never were.  We have our rays of light in our life, and whether we have a small rainbow from it or a full circle that encompasses the sky, it is our reminder of our love and accomplishments. 

We can do it.  We can survive.  We will survive!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Refresh My Soul

Had the pleasure of enjoying my anniversary present from my husband today.  Before he had to leave to join the Navy ship in the Mediterranean, he booked me a day at the spa.  *insert girlie giggle of glee here*  Being able to relax for hours on end was nice for a change, and having the thought that it was a gift from my husband that is so far away made me feel a little closer to him.

But it wasn't just the pampering and care put into my body, it was the reinforcement that it did to my tired soul.  Only after I had that moment to just be Julie, no one else, did I realize how shredded my soul had become.  I've endured such evils, so many heartaches, and just like being in a bad relationship, it's not until you step away from it do you realize what it truly is.  I've had enough experience in bad relationships and would still not see them for what they were unless I stepped back.  One good thing is, I know now a lot of relationships that are good, even a source of strength.  One that is a source of strength and peace is the one my husband and I have.  We are our bestfriends.  We could be stuck with each other 24/7 and be completely content, and when we are apart from each other we both feel beyond lost.  I can only pray my son one day has this type of relationship with his wife.

But it's not just pain and suffering that we endure from someone's malice, it's the hardships that we all deal with in life.  Sicknesses, losses, heartbreak, and emptiness.

I thought I had recovered enough from everything when I visited the Retreat back in April.  I had healed some, but there's still a lot that has not been patched up.  I realize that now.  I'm hoping to find the rest of the answers.  I'm hoping to feel the pure relief of a non-tortured soul.  There's things I must do, things I must come to terms with, and things I must find a way to forgive or at least start the process if possible.

And if nothing else, I have hope.

Friday, 12 August 2011

YACC Survivor Conference 2011 full!

I can't believe it but they're already full! YACC Survivor Conference has been filled!

Can't wait to see everyone, I'm hoping to be the karaoke lady again ;)

There is a waiting list if you can get your application in.  You never know, you may be able to still make it in!!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Tell their stories - success

They have reached their required total, but anyone that's ever scheduled a vacation knows there's always hidden costs.  Please keep donating whatever you can to help make this project the best it can be!!

Go to this link:
Thanks for all your help in making this project a reality!  We need to spread the word of our individual experiences with cancer so we can learn from each other and know we are not alone :)

Monday, 8 August 2011

Clear the Air

So apparently someone thinks I said my husband isn't taking care of us bc we're having some financial issues, well let me set this straight:

My husband is a GREAT person and thinks the world of our son and I.  He serves his country and that takes him away from us not because he wants to but because his job requires it.  As to our financial issues, there was a mistake made by the company and it's been taken care of and we should have the hundreds of dollars that was not sent to us soon.  Bad things happen, and they cause people to be upset, and I used this blog as an outlet.  If you have any issues or concerns, comment and I'll get back to you.  I never want to hear someone is putting words in my mouth again!

I will defend my husband any time, any where, he's the best thing that ever happened to me and the greatest father our son could ask for!


Sunday, 7 August 2011

The reality of it

I want to first say that I do appreciate having someone say, "If you need anything call me" and "If there's anything I can do, honestly, let me know".  But the reality of it is do you really think I'm ever going to?

Everyone has rough times and I don't know if it's just me but I don't call around when times get that way for me.  Maybe I should, maybe I'm just too stubborn for words.  But the bills and the cash flow don't match up so I'll have only one or two meals that day to make sure Archer has three and doesn't go without.  The car is low on gas so I'll avoid leaving the house.  My nights become so restless it's barely called sleep because my heart is off protecting/serving our country, but I'll still get up every day and take care of Archer.  My injuries cause so much pain it feels like death every time I move but I'm still going to make sure Archer gets cared for.  I feel lost because part of me is so painfully evident that it's not me anymore, but I'll still be seen in public.  It's hard to see because the tears in my eyes mask the irises too often.  The thought of going to the house in Sackville causes me to have a tightness in my chest and headaches from the thought of having to deal one more second with those neighbours but I'll still go.

So that's my life.  That's the pain of having to deal with the consequences of bad health and my husband needing to be away.  But the moment he comes home I'll not think once of the times without him.  Hearing Archer laugh as I tickle him will brighten my day for that moment.  Seeing his eyes light up when I ask if he wants to go on the slide will always bring me cheer.  Maybe one day the pain in my back will be gone.  And perhaps I'll look fully like a woman again, some day.  But till then, I guess you're safe from expecting a call from me.  But I do like the gesture.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Tell their stories - need your help

Some great people need your help!  Go to Inspire Cancer Survivors to Tell Their Stories and help in any way you can!  They need to raise $705 in 9 days.  Every dollar helps!!!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Friend or Fiend?

Have you ever noticed how easily some people that claim to be friends can turn on you?  And after they're out of your life you'll start to realize just how much they were not really what would classify as a friend to start?  Well today's topic is about just that.  And I think I finally figured it all out.

First you need to ask "what is a friend?"  Quick answer is someone that is there for you and cares for you.  But we all know it's more than a simple answer.  A true friend doesn't get pissed off at you if you are apart for any length of time, they can pick off right from where you last ended the conversation, granted they also want to be able to have a conversation with you.  A friend will do something to help when they know it's needed, even if it's not convenient for them.  Friends don't lie, bend or twist the truth, they don't talk behind your back, they don't bad mouth you.  Friends stand up for you when someone says something mean about you.  They cheer you up when you're down, they share the laughter when you're happy.  Friends warm your soul.

So what is my epiphany?  Friends are real, they are never fake to you.  When a "friend" isn't real to you, when they are fake (they lie, cheat, hurt, maim, deceive you, etc), they show their true colours, they are fiends. *for anyone that doesn't know what a fiend is, as per : A diabolically evil or wicked person.

Honestly, look at it this way:

There's so many fake people out there.  They lie about themselves sometimes and get so used to it that you cannot see them for anything but their lies until it's too late.  They leave you when you need them most, they turn on you, they start spreading lies, they become hurtful.  And unfortunately this happens mostly when you are going through the roughest times in your life.

For me the times that I found out who my friends were was when my grandfather died, my exhusband left, and when I got diagnosed with cancer.  Yes, it was hard, I lost a lot of friendships that I discovered were only friendships on my side of the relationship.  And there's been a few that have made me very bitter.  But I'm trying to move on.  I'm trying to be a respectful and true friend and never hurt anyone that is my friend.  I hope they do the same for me.

And for all those that turned on me.. I rediscovered one of my favourite songs that perfectly describes my feelings about you :)  Because I see fiends like I saw my cancer, and I don't need their poison in my body or my soul!