Monday, 31 October 2011

Mixed Feelings

I'll be leaving Wednesday to head to YACC's Survivor Conference in Ottawa.  I can't wait to see some of the people I connected with last spring, meet some that I only know online, and make new friends.  But at the same time, I haven't had a lot of time with my husband and son lately, and saying being away will tug at the heart strings is putting it beyond lightly.  I try to think of this as an experience that will help with the tremendous feeling of being singled out here at home.  I hope to meet someone that has gone through breast cancer close to my age, perhaps even had close to the same type/experience.

I'll leave my comfort zone, I'll not have any of my family with me, and I'll try to not let me missing them interfere with the fun that will be offered at Conference.

I thank those that have helped me with trying to not have to pay the full costs of traveling to this event.  I only wish my goal for The Climb had been met.  There's still time if you can find that extra $10, $25, $50 to donate to help me get to it.  All donations over $10 get a tax receipt!  Help me and get a break come tax-time!!

I'll be posting about the Conference afterwards.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Another Quote for October

“This life is yours. Take the power to choose what you want to do and do it well. Take the power to love what you want in life and love it honestly. Take the power to walk in the forest and be a part of nature. Take the power to control your own life. No one else can do it for you. Take the power to make your life happy.” -  Susan Polis Schutz

Friday, 28 October 2011

The story behind The Climb

Many people are wondering about "The Climb" that I am trying to raise funds to go to Conference with.  Here's the story from none other than the executive director of YACC, Geoff Eaton.

"Climb 2011

It started 12 years ago. The first Climb wasn’t really a climb at all. In fact it was a walk from my hospital bed where I stayed to the couch, in the temporary bedroom that was my mom’s family room. It was five steps—and they were giant.

After my first transplant (from my dad) in April 1999, I stayed in Toronto for three months. Finally in early July I returned home to Newfoundland to continue my recovery. The idea to create YACC (formerly RealTime Cancer) was born many months prior to this but as I came home from Toronto I really started to think about my well documented, but private goal, to start YACC by June 2000.

I woke up late night one Saturday night—July 25, 1999 to be exact—with the rygers and a temp. I went straight to the ER where my temp continued to rise. After five hours of the worst pain I’d had in my life, I got three hits of morphine. That is the last thing I remember for a month.

I went to the ICU later that day where I continued to lose ground. My Hickman catheter, my best friend for nine months saving so many needles, had developed an infection. Unknowingly I flushed that infection into my central line earlier that Saturday night when cleaning my Hickman before bed.

It was a week before I was put on life-support and placed in a drug-induced coma. That week, I shared my plans for my funeral with my parents, which I had planned privately earlier in my journey (and yes, Sinatra’s “My Way” was on the playlist). I gave my last wishes to my parents for the few precious possessions I had in my life to that point.

My docs explained to my family that “transplant patients don’t do well on life-support but at this point it’s Geoff’s best chance to battle this infection.” Under I went.

I was on life-support for three and a half weeks, I went into septic shock, had dozens of blood transfusions, my family was called in several times as my docs confirmed “it could be any hour now.” Ultimately my chances were less than 2 per cent. Good thing for me, 1 per cent is not 0 per cent. On August 23, 1999, my docs started to wake me from my coma.

Confused and simple, I had no idea what had happened. It took over a month for me to begin to get the slightest grasp what I had experienced. I was forced to rebuild in a manner I had never imagined, and while the physical rebuild was massive it was compounded by the fact that for the first time in my journey my mind wasn’t strong. I was unsure and scared.

I did manage to get a handle on next challenge: learning to walk again. When I woke, I couldn’t do anything for myself, except breathe—a major accomplish, I realize. My body was wasted from its efforts to fight the infections.

I wanted to get back on my feet and so my simple mind focused on a not-so-simple task. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to walk, it was that I had no strength. My mom’s family room became my gym. On September 20, 1999, after two and half weeks of “work-outs,” I took those massive tiny first steps—five of them—from my hospital bed to my couch. The Climb was born that day.

The next year, after nailing my goal of starting YACC in June 2000, I wanted to mark the first anniversary of my first steps after ICU. There was no better place than to climb Signal Hill, a place I have frequented my whole life to hike, hang-out, and often reflect, especially during times of trial and throughout my journey.

It was a family/friend affair the first year; 170 of us went up the hill. We’ve done it every year since, but the event has evolved as the years have come and gone. There have been Climbs all over the world, literally: across Canada, Ireland, and Japan. For the past two years, we have brought it into the Survivor Conference. That is where it will stay for the foreseeable future.

The evolution of The Climb hasn’t just been in numbers and locations, but in purpose. It is now much less about my personal milestone and much more about beating the odds—something I know all of you know all about.

This year’s Climb will see us tackle a 5 km walk that will end on Parliament Hill as a part of the program on Saturday November 6.

In addition to the celebration of beating the odds, The Climb serves as a fundraiser to help pay for your travel to the Conference.

Raising money is totally up to you, but any money you fundraise will help offset the cost of your personal travel or that of other survivors to get the conference. The money is great, don’t get me wrong, but The Climb was always more about the message than the money. It’s just another option we provide for anyone who requires travel assistance.

Can’t wait to bring The Climb to Ottawa; hope you are up for it.

Live life. Love life.


Wednesday, 26 October 2011

That much closer

After meeting with my plastic surgeon, I am happy to say he agreed to the type of surgery I wanted.  I want to avoid scars elsewhere on my body so getting expanders and implants was my preferred method.  My preference is also to have the other side done and overwith at the same time so this brings one complication into the works: scheduling.  My surgeon and plastic surgeon need to co-ordinate the time that they can both work on me.  I'm hoping that it's sooner than later.  The faerytale ending is in sight, but there's still a lot of ground to cover before I can finally say I'm there.  Wish me luck!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Waiting on a Faerytale...

Cinderella got away from trudging around for her evil step-family, Rapunzel got out of her tower and found her future, Sleeping Beauty woke up to her happily-ever-after, Snow White never had to hide again, Beauty got to find her soul mate through all the lies...  I'm waiting to wake up to the final chapter of my horror story so I can start my forever-after-faerytale.

I get a lot of support and a lot of grief for wanting my reconstruction now, not later.  What people don't seem to realize is I am not able to emotionally put my ordeal with cancer behind me until I can finally say to people, "I'm done with treatment."  Like it or not, reconstruction is a treatment.  It helps to restore the woman bereft of her figure to something close to her once hour glass body.  Face it, the basis for a woman's body is hair, boobs, hips, and legs by most person's perceptions.  Don't try to give me that "it's just a breast" crap.  I want you to have something lopped off and be told, it's just a body part.  See how badly you want to rip that person's eyes out... then say "they're just eyes"...

The faerytale ending doesn't have to be perfect.  It doesn't need to be the signifier that no troubles shall ever again this way come.  It just needs to close the book on the terror that slipped into my life through my body and betrayed my being to the hands of the medical teams in town, requiring me to sacrifice my hair, my body, my independence, and, at times, my sanity.

Give me my chapter's last sentence:  With her new body, both beaten and renewed, but her soul not broken, Julie looked to the horizon; the sun was rising and with its light her future looked all the more bright.

Not the body of a model, but it was Me

Friday, 21 October 2011

Quote for October

"The mind has exactly the same power as the hands; not merely to grasp the world, but to change it." -Colin Wilson

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Skirting the issue

I attended the BRA (Breast Reconstruction Awareness) seminar in Halifax, yesterday.  It was well done, but the time it was held was horrible, and having to go find parking in Halifax is always fun.  It was good to put faces to some of the plastic surgeons in the QEII, but there wasn't enough of something that they seem to trying to improve: communication.

It was a flood-the-room-with-information session.  They even had to speed things along so that anyone that was trying to take notes was pressed to write things down and would miss the next sentence trying to scribble down the last topic the surgeon/presenter last said.  They also started talking about mastectomy vs lumpectomy and treatment.  Newsflash! This is supposed to be about reconstruction not the choice we made about our surgery.  That's a different (all be it integrated) topic altogether.  We were there to talk about new/repaired breasts, not the options that come with removing the cancer.

One thing they brushed but did not go in detail is the wait times.  I wanted to know (and got to ask) what is being done to help decrease the wait times for consultations.  Not the surgeries, the consultations.  (Aim low but dream big).  The answer is they are looking into it, they were having trouble with lack-of-staff... yehyehyeh, but what NOW?

We need to get it out in the public? FINE, tell us that, we'll get it in the public.  There's news, papers, radio, billboards, the web - it'll get out there!  What next?  We need funding?  Have you seen what a bunch of determined women can do if they really, really want something?  No?  Well watch us!!

We want answers, and if you don't have them, we'll go for what you have and go from there.  Next pls!  This isn't something we need to ask a question and then say "oh, well if that's just the way it is, that's all we can do" about it.  Hardly!  We're going to find out what's realistic and then go for what we really need.  Quiet women are not the ones that are remembered, and we're not going to let the health care system forget about us!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011


When life gives you lemons...

A. Make Lemonade
B. Ask for a refund
C. What's a lemon?
D. Draw a happy face on them so when you throw them in life's face the bitch learns to smile for once.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


Since I got to see the movie 50/50 (thanks to YACC), the word "Isolation" has been stuck in my head on repeat.  Kind of like when you're in a bad relationship and someone on the outside just mentioned that you don't look like you're feeling well.  Even though they didn't bring up the relationship, you start thinking about why you don't feel good.  Your mind starts evaluating everything, and if you're lucky, you'll notice that your relationship isn't a co-dependent love based one.  But that's a different story.

My jogger was when someone mentioned I looked tired.  I realized today that I am tired.  I'm tired of trying to be strong all the time, I'm tired of looking at the piles of boxes that need to be dealt with, I'm tired of getting frustrated, and I'm tired of having to justify myself all the time.  But worse than that, I'm tired of feeling alone.

Now, I'm not truly alone, I have a great husband that I love and he loves me just as much, we have our wonderful son, I have family close by, that's more than a lot of people have.  I'm lonely because I feel set apart from my friends.  I've had several situations drive wedges between us and cancer was a biggie.

My good friends are few and far between, as it is with most people.  And because of life changing constantly I rarely see them.  And if I do there's one thing that we cannot relate about, there's an elephant always reading the paper behind me.  That elephant has "The One That Had Cancer" tattooed on it's forehead and sides, always visible.  And it's not like it's easy for people to forget right now.  I am missing a breast (and the one that's left isn't the smallest breast one could have), my hair is short and wild, and I'm still scheduling around appointments.

People think I'm selfish for wanting reconstruction now, not years later, because I'm "healthy" now, and should just be grateful for that.  Well guess what.  I am selfish.  I want to look at myself and feel like the elephant behind me is starting to fade away.  I want to close the book and feel I can relate more to my friends, especially since I'm having a hard time finding other young adults in my area that have had cancer, especially my type...

I want to restart my life and I'm stuck on hold with Michael Bolton instrumental elevator music on the other end, repeating the same freaking song every time! >_<  I need tech support, not taunting!!

I guess I've slightly digressed from my point, but what I'm trying to say is my loneliness is making me tired.  I'm trying to be tough but I'm losing that battle right now.  I want to be strong but my weakness is getting in the way.  Right now I just need a hug.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Displaced anger

I need to start this rant off with first saying, I am very happy for those that have been able to get pregnant and carry their beautiful baby to term.

That being said...

I find myself very, very upset at the abundance of pregnancy photos, fetus talk, and baby growth updates that keep popping up on my facebook newsfeed.  Yes, as I said, I am happy for my friends and their loved ones, but it's a kick in the face when I get reminded that there's a good chance that I will not be able to have any more children.  I might have gotten my periods back, but there's still a chance that my eggs did get hurt or destroyed in chemo treatments.  And if I am lucky enough to get pregnant I will always, always wonder if the chemo could have injured the egg somehow that will effect the child later in life.

I have friends that cannot get pregnant, cannot carry a child, and some that are just finding out that they need their ovaries removed.  I can only imagine the pain they hold in their hearts every time they see pictures of children or the "pregnancy log" photos that are splattered on the web these days.  And, again, I don't want those that are going through this cherished time to think I'm attacking them, this is a vent session.  This is something that cancer may have taken from me, and as a young woman, it hurts my heart a lot.  I love having my son and always intended to have at least one more child.  But now with the length of time I need to wait to try again, and after all the horror stories of how cancer treatments can affect your reproductive parts/cycles, it just so disheartening.

Hopefully, I will be able to have at least one more baby.  And, hopefully they will be completely healthy and happy.  But until then, don't be surprised if you do not see me posting on many of your weekly/daily updates on your fetus' progress.  It's not that I don't support you, it's that my heart hurts too much to try to be the support you need to hear.  I'm angry at the cancer, not you or your baby.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Thankful on Turkey Day

This is Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.  We will be roasting turkeys, cooking up veggies, baking up desserts, and enjoying the company of family and friends, if we are of the lucky ones that can.

I am thankful to be here, with my son and husband.  Thankful Mike is not sailing or duty this weekend, thankful our families are close, thankful we have warm shelter, food, and clothes.  Things never work out exactly how you expect them to, but God has a way of giving you exactly what you need when you need it.

A shout out to those who are not so fortunate at this time: their families are split to keep our country and other countries safe (be supportive of them and their families!), they have no money or food and need help (donate to the Food Bank and local charities if you can!!), and those with no shelter or warm clothes (donate your used items to help them year round!).  We are all in this together.  There's only one Earth, she's all we have.  Share her with each other and every living creature blessed to be on her.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


Going to see 50/50 I didn't know what to expect.  Would they "hollywood" the cancer experience?  Would they make it a traumatic experience?  There was a lot of old emotions and thoughts stirred with watching the character "Adam" experiencing the life of cancer as a young adult.  One thing I got really picky on was that he kept his eyebrows through out his treatment.  I know we don't all loose our hair, but it seemed to be that they were conveying that he did.. but kept his eyebrows magically.

The feelings of not knowing how to express what you're feeling inside and the frustration that engulfs you is completely true.  One sentence in the movie is the one sentence you will repeat over and over and over again, I just want it to be finished.  You want to be able to continue with your life.  You want to be independent like before, you want to be free of appointments, treatments, checkups, medications...  You want to be a regular young adult for one more day at least.

One thing that I could not relate with was the rapidity that Adam seemed to gain his self image after surgery.  My hair is still short and wild, my chest is vacant one breast, and my calendar keeps filling with doctor appointments.  I look in the mirror and I don't see Julie, I still see some lion-esk monster with a very lopsided chest.  I'm there somewhere, I think... well I am as long as I do not look in the mirror...

Scene that I most related to was when Adam was waiting for his girlfriend to pick him up after chemo.  You have the camera pan out after he assures his new "chemo buddies" he'll be fine and all you see is Adam, alone, hiding everything inside him.  You feel the need to be strong and don't want to show "weakness" aka emotions like sadness and anger.  I was him, standing there looking at the people that you reassure as you feel like you are the only person around for miles.  As Adam later battles the steering wheel and the moment in the hospital before the surgery are other relatable moments, as well.

It was a good movie.  I don't know if someone that has not been touched by the decease can fully appreciate it but they can get a glimpse into their friends/families experience.  If you have someone that went through this, it'd be a good one to take them to see.  But be prepared for them to cry, show frustration, and even hold their breath at moments that they have trigger their past.  And not everyone is up to reliving those experiences right away.  Don't pressure anyone to see it, it is very hard to take at moments, being a survivor.

Overall not a bad movie, good acting, I just think they could have delved a bit more into what it's like to be the only young person going to treatment and oncologist appointments, and the question of fertility after treatment.  It hints at isolation, but it's like a car driving by at night, you get the flash of their headlights for a moment, but just as quick as it fills the room with its presence it's gone.  Unfortunately, with being a young adult going through cancer, isolation is not that fleeting.

How true, how true

"Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain." - Author Unknown

Monday, 3 October 2011

Quote for October

A beautiful quote from a wonderful woman:

"I'm selfish, impatient, and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control, and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best." - Marilyn Monroe

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Climb continues

Thank you so much to those of you that have donated towards me going to Young Adult Cancer Canada's Survivor Conference!  I am at 30% of what I need to be able to pay for my travel expenses to attend.  If you can help, all donations over $10 are given a tax receipt!  You get to help me meet other young adults that can relate to what I'm going through and you get something to write off come tax time, win-win! :D

CLICK HERE to get to the secure page to donate safely.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Taboo to say out loud

When did we become a society that thinks it's horrible to have beliefs?  We "can" talk about having opinions on heavy weighted subjects like religion, sexuality, and human rights.  Try saying or writing down in public that you have a religion though, and watch the fur fly!

As you may or may not know, I am Christian.  If you get into specifics, I'm Baptist.  No additions to it, just Baptist.  I have always tried to be open to learning about other religions and beliefs.  I voice my opinion, I listen to theirs.  Sometimes you have to agree to disagree.  I believe in the Bible, I believe in Jesus Christ (hence being Christian), I believe in God, and I believe in the teachings of the Bible, like the "Golden Rule" and the 10 Commandments.  Let's continue with my rant...

Some people seem to love to attack anyone the says they are Christian.  For some reason they immediately start thinking you're going to claim supremacy, demanding they convert to your religion or they will attack you in their crusade.  Because all Christians love a good crusade!..  Yes, some people in the past decided to go to war and had their sword in one hand and their other sword, the Bible (it is referred to as a sword), in their other hand and suddenly all people with beliefs in Jesus Christ are crazed lunatics.  Forget the fact that the wars that were created for reasons other than what is written in the Bible.  Someone mistook something or twisted it to suit their needs and cried out for retribution that was not even required.  I'm sorry, I forgot which Commandment said, go forth and kill all that do not think the same as you.

The Commandments are most of our justice system.  Things like do not steal, do not commit adultery, and do not lie/say false testimony.  And there's common sense things, don't lust over what someone else has, honour your parents, and have a day of rest.  Such backwards thinking, suggesting that we should be good to each other!  Yes, we Christians sure are a crazy bunch!

So when did it become taboo to say out loud that we believe in a deity that calls himself Lord, the Alpha and Omega?  I cannot say, but for me, I remember all through growing up people bashing religion.  If you do not believe, fine.  That's your right.  And it is my right to believe.  As long as I don't go around trying to say you need to convert to my religion or I'll hurt you, what is so wrong with wanting to say out loud: "I am Christian."  Technically nothing.  But having to defend myself every time I say it lessens my hope for society on a whole.  We claim that our society is a learning culture, a loving and accepting one, but because somewhere someone did some crime in the name of the Bible that had nothing to do with the Lord's teachings, we are now ostracized.

I remember people talking of Dungeons and Dragons in hushed tones because some kids claimed they had to go out and commit crimes because D&D "made" them do it.  Well guess what people, it's called a cop-out.  And I assure you, it's not a new concept.  Do you really think the kings and nobles didn't think that the best way to get support of their subjects would be to aim at something they cherished, like their beliefs.  No, of course not, no higher political power would ever try to use their people's hearts to steer them in the wrong direction.. ever...

Well, I guess this is a full on rant now.  Basically, I'm asking for people to stop attacking each other for desire to follow a religion.  Now for an image that seems to be circulating like wildfire, perhaps because it's so true...
Some of my personal beliefs:
God has many names.
God teaches love, humans figured out hate all on their own.
Just because you don't believe in Him, doesn't mean He doesn't believe in you.