Sunday, 12 October 2014

Thankful 2014

I'm thankful for naps.
I'm thankful for family, both by blood and by friendship.
I'm thankful for a husband that understands me. He knows I try my best and even though I'm not capable of the things I was when we first married, he loves me no matter what.
I'm thankful for my kids, they drive me nuts sometimes but they also bring a lot of joy.
I'm thankful for a day in age where we can communicate across cities, countries, oceans, with relative ease, and we can communicate with people we admire, remembering they are human, too.
I'm thankful for my artistic abilities.
I'm thankful that I had intelligent doctors that knew the best way to save me from my cancer.
I'm thankful that I have met people that understand both cancer and getting disabilities from an MVA.
I'm thankful for Lolcats, I Can Has Cheezburger has brought me so much joy!
I'm thankful for cats.
I'm thankful that YACC exists and helps me to this day.
I'm thankful for books, written on paper, taking me away whenever possible.
I'm thankful for a house with heat in the winter and cooling in the summer.
I'm thankful for people like R A Salvatore, Tarol Hunt, Lar and Sohmer, and many more filling the world with beautiful stories.

I'm thankful I am here to write this, and that you are here to read it.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Being Thankful

I am thankful:

  • For the fact my daughter napped long enough for me to have a bath.
  • That my son says "I love you, too" back every time I say it to him.
  • Despite money issues, we still have a heated roof over our head and food in the fridge.
  • That I have friends that love animals as much as me, and they always try to help them.
  • That I have people I could call in the middle of the night and they'd do their best to help me.
  • That I live in Canada and the majority of my cancer treatments were covered by our public health care.
  • For YACC helping me make friends that understand having cancer and still trying to live a "normal" life.
  • That my husband comes home and is happier to be here than at work (even with children wrapped around his ankles).
  • That my Dad helps where he can with the house and kids.
  • For having my family close by, because there are a lot of people who do not.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Boobs v2.0

I'm anxiously awaiting my next surgery.  This one will be a much "simpler" procedure, they will remove the temporary expander and older implant, replacing them with what will hopefully be my permanent implants.  Of course, I say permanent, but they will be replaced ever few decades to ensure all measures of safety.

I'm finally nearing an end.  After this I may have very little, if any touch ups for the breasts.  I am not getting nipple reconstruction, so that is one less worry.  I am giddy that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!  I have to say this, breast cancer was not fun by any means but it has given me things to look forward to: end of chemo, end of radiation, and end of surgeries.  Unlike this issue with my back and shoulder from the car accident, with cancer I can feel accomplished, I can feel like there is a finality to this issue.

I am saving my pennies, well, dimes as we no longer have pennies... ugh.., to have a tattoo done to cover my chest after the breasts are complete and my tattoo artist is confident that the scars can be covered.  My hope is to have that completed some time in the next year.  Again, something to try to look forward to.  You have to try to find the happiness in things, otherwise you drown in despair pretty quickly.  This will sound weird, but thank you cancer, for helping me see the good in things, and helping me feel progress in something!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Are You Ballsy?

I want to give a shout out to Thomas Cantley.  He is pushing around a giant 6' inflatable testicle to bring awareness to testicular cancer and men's health.  Many of you know Thomas from his fabulous movement of "I Am Ballsy".  It can be found on Facebook *CLICKY HERE* or on his website *WEB CLICKY HERE*.

Thomas Cantley and the 6' inflatable ball. Photo from I Am Ballsy Facebook page

Thomas already crossed Canada, coast to coast, with this 6' companion.  The newest journey is taking place in the United States of America.  It will be 4000 miles across the country.  Check Ballsy's website or Facebook (links are above) for more information on locations and times.  Come on out and cheer him on!

Here's a video of Thomas speaking with Huffington Post:


Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Weight It Out

Of course one of the big hiccups in my life, even more so than cancer, has been the injuries from the MVA years ago.  One thing that has been a big factor in is weight management.  During my pregnancy with my daughter I had hoped I'd somehow find that niche that would allow me to maintain my weight and not gain a significant amount.  Some mothers can do this, even without turning to unhealthy habits like smoking.  Just keeping active and eating as well as you can is what everyone recommends.  That'd be fine for anyone without my injuries, but still I did my best.

Unfortunately, my best turned out to be the same as when I was pregnant with my son, I gained a lot of weight.  Some would say to not sweat it, that with time it will come off, but with me, extra weight seems to mean my back is carrying more, therefore hurts more.  So I stick with what exercises I have been given from physio, do what low impact ones I know do not bother my back, and so forth.  This does make it a slow process.

I try to remind myself that it took me almost two and a half years to lose the weight after my son.  I had finally been reaching a healthy weight for myself when I found out I was pregnant.  That is my goal, a healthy weight.  I'm not aiming for unrealistic or sickly sizes.  I would be a stick figure if I was able to wear a size 2 pair of jeans.  Honestly, if I could even get within a size or two of what I wore when I was fit, I'd be content.

Many may say it is a quest for vanity, to be society's idea of pretty.  I'm not looking at that, however, I'm looking at my health.  Less weight and stronger muscles means potential less pain for me.  It means potential increases in play time with my kids.  It means possible health risks for the overweight may be avoided.  Don't get me wrong, with new, perky breasts on the way, a fit body would be fun and I will enjoy it, but it is not the sole reason by far.

I guess I'm trying to say that if you have extra weight, do what you and your body can.  If you cannot run, walk.  If you cannot walk, try biking.  If you cannot bike, try something new.  Getting up and walking around the couch will not get you far, but you are lapping everyone still sitting down.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Reconstruction update

I've met with my plastic surgeon and I am now greedily awaiting my date for the *hopefully* final surgery.  After this trip to the OR, the plan is to have two permanent implants, fully touched up skin, and begin the healing process.

I must say something that may surprise a few people.  Getting to deal with cancer has given me something to look forward to.  After the accident, losing some of my mobility/abilities, things were feeling very bleak.  Being able to have something to fight, something to see an end to, has helped me.  Yes, having cancer is horrible, it's something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, but I've been able to use it to my advantage.

I will not be getting nipples added to my new breasts, I have been very adamant on this from the start.  I will be designing a tattoo to cover my chest.  It holds more meaning to me, and is more my personality than to go through the process to have nipples, again.  Most women are constantly trying to hide the fact that they have erect nipples, I cannot see why I would want to get permanently erect nipples added.  The other option for non-pointy breasts is to get 3D tattoos of nipples.  This isn't in my cards, either.  Despite the fact that many tattoo shops in Halifax area will do these tattooed nipples for free, I would rather something more creative.

More updates as they come.  Enjoy the summer!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Admission of Darkness

I honestly cannot remember if I mentioned this earlier or not, but I've been living with something for a while and never found a way to fully admit it. I've had depression, or at least the specialists are calling it "depressive symptoms".

The fact is since the accident I've been trying to come to terms with my limitations. To say it's hard is an understatement. I went from being completely independent to needing help for what I feel are the simplest things. It's humiliating, really. I'm in my early thirties and need help with getting groceries, caring for my kids, taking care of the house, even driving at times. It opened a door to a misty world. In that world I could see the joy that would happen but the chill of the mist always touched me, always enveloped me.

After finally talking openly about it, I started medication. My friends, family, even specialists are seeing a difference in me. I'm lucky that this first medication seems to be helping without any side effects.

I'm posting this because I want people to know you don't normally know you are getting depressed. The only way to even start realizing out is to evaluate your own behavior in the past. I noticed I was "hiding" from social media, I was avoiding friends, my favorite activities were no longer stimulating, I had even been avoiding sex. My hope is that reading this may reveal a mirror so you can reflect on your own past. If you see that you have been regularly avoiding things or people you love that you talk to your doctor, see a specialist, something. I know for me it was hard to make the appointment, that was part of my depressive symptoms, I had a hard time talking about it, it took a lot to say anything.

I think I'm on the mend, mentally, finally, but only time will tell.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Disability Dolour

My initial realization that I would have issues with my physical abilities for the rest of my life coloured my vision bleakly.  I saw all the things I would never be able to do, all the the negative things I could become.  Would I become obese, extravagantly overweight because it is painful to workout?  How could I play with my children if I'm always in pain?  How can I care for the house if even the mildest of activities brings on agonizing pain?  Experts try to tell you to focus on what you can do, but when the list of what you can do pain free has now diminished to something that could fit on a post-it note, your outlook on the future changes.

Something I didn't expect to be so affected was travel.  Driving has been diminished greatly, but I never factored in how flying and travel outside of my province would increase my pain.  One thing I never thought of: what if a hotel has no baths?  Honestly, what hotel does away with a bathtub and only installs showers??  (Save one "accessible" room.  Only ONE in an 8 floor hotel.)  Radisson on Queens Quay in Toronto did.  I got to see how much I rely on the pain management I get from being able to soak in a hot bath.  I was still in pain for days once I returned home.  Now that I have back issues (and when I say back I include my shoulder.  When you "lay on your back" your shoulders are not excluded) I have to start calling up the expected hotel and demand a room with a bathtub.  Really???

Know what I'm extremely tired of, however?  I mean mentally and physically tired of.  Having to "prove" my pain.  I've seen how many specialists, physiotherapists, etc, and all of them tell me I'm stuck like this.  The insurance companies and lawyers see my records and say: "Go see this new impartial specialist that we hired so we can try to find some sliver of hope that you improved and cannot be considered disabled" "Go see another physiotherapist that will say the same thing but maybe will have a new approach that will miraculously heal you" "Why aren't you seeking therapies that cost you hundreds of dollars monthly so you can feel better-ish?"

Well, let's see...  Every time I go to a new "impartial" specialist, I have to plan care for my kids/home for the day or two after the appointment because the pain doesn't stop the second I leave their office, I'm in agony for 24+ hours.  Forgive me for getting frustrated with your concept of "it's only for a couple hours" or that the pain doesn't affect anything after I leave.  NEXT, no specialist/therapist has seen any chance of this repairing itself, no pill/injection has taken away the pain, and surgery is NOT an option.  And, now for my favorite: money.  We're paying our bills, staying afloat.  I cannot work.  I can't just go out and get a job, even a part time job, to help compensate the extra "hundreds of dollars" that I would need to get more therapies that are not covered by MSI.  Behold the catch 22!  If you want to feel better you need money!  If you need money you need to work!  I cannot work because it causes so much pain I cannot do the simplest of activities at home!  I have pain that makes it hard to concentrate, think, process, but to outsiders "it's just nerve pain".

I'm trying to accept what I can do.  I'm trying to not feel like I'm useless since it hurts to do anything basic.  I'm trying to deal with the hateful glares when people see me use a disabled parking spot.  I'm trying.  That doesn't mean it will not make me feel shriveled up inside, a ghost of the person I was once capable of being.  A shadow of the abilities I once possessed.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Hoppy Easter - Renewal

Whether you celebrate Easter in the Christian sense or the magical Peter Rabbit sense, Easter is a time of renewal.  It is a time to shed the past, look to the future, and live in the present.  Spring has come to most of us (even in Canada), and this is, itself, the rebirth of the seasons.

If you are Christian, you see it as the celebration of Jesus Christ exiting his tomb, validating his claims all the more, giving weight to his promise of paradise, and belief to his Father.  He started a new chapter in religions, he created Christianity that day, bringing the well know verses:
15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:15-17)

For those that are in it for the chocolate, that bunny is surrounded by symbols of beginning: eggs, chicks, flowers, nests, and more.  Granted most are carved from candy and devoured like you were starved for a week straight.

Even if you do not celebrate either of these, rebirth and renewal is surrounding you.  The skies deepen their blue, the grass begins to grow and green, trees bud, roots stretch, and babies are prepared for in every corner of the earth.  

Some of us will not be looking at the outdoors and thinking, "It's time to start, again."  Some will be wondering why things must end.  Why must things be taken from us, much the way that winter steals the growth.  But, it is through this way that renewal may come.  Through loss, no matter how tragic and senseless, we find new paths, new friendships, new perspectives that would never be seen if we did not first lose.  I do not want to take away from the fact that the tragedy occurred, but ask for those grieving and questioning fairness or justice to find their time to lament, and let themselves find their renewal, their rebirth.  Be the phoenix rising from the flames.  Be the joy from despair.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

"Just let me know what I can do"

I'm guilty of this, I'll say that first. I want to talk about being on the other side of the fence for the start of this post, being the one that isn't sick, hurt, healing, or what have you. You see someone you care about in a bit of a spot. You want to help, but don't want to overstep any boundaries, and you honestly don't know what they could use. What you say? "Let me know of there's anything you need." Or, "tell me if there is anything I can do". They will say thanks but few ever reply what help they require. I'm guilty of both sides, actually.

Being the injured/healing person, you may be afraid to ask too much of a friend/family member. You may not realize what you need till it is too late to ask. Because of this I want to list a couple things to help fight this cycle.

For the friends/family:

· Make suggestions of ways you are willing to help.
Good examples include:
*offer to make a casserole/dinner dish that can be easily heated in an oven or crock pot so eating well is not difficult at home.
*be a ride to appointments, to get groceries, or to even just get out of the house.
*bring edible food to the hospital.
*watch their children in their home or yours so they can rest.
*take their children to a park or play site so they can play without interrupting the parent resting.
*bring them a tea/coffee and just chat about something other than their ailment. Sometimes people just want to forget about their extraordinary circumstances and just talk about anything else, even the weather!

· Make contact
Sometimes all the person wants is to know they're thought of and loved, so text them, call them, im, tweet, email, or Facebook them. This is when you can open the forum to what you are able/willing to do for them, and maybe it will be just that they want to talk, but just show them they're worth the effort.

· Follow through.
No matter what, if you promise something, do it. No half assing either. If the roles were reversed, you would want to know you can count on people to keep their word.

For the ones healing/sick:

· Be honest.
If someone does ask the ambiguous question of if there is any way they can help, list ideas. You can tell them they are not obligated to do anything, but these are areas you could use some support. They cared enough to ask, respect your position and accept sincere assistance.

· Make some options available.
If you really need help, make it known. If you have Facebook, post a list of ways people can help if they would like to. If anyone frowns on you doing this, they are not worth your time. Society has made people think it is taboo to be need help and to ask for it. The fact is no one can make it through life alone, sometimes we need to lean on someone stronger than our present self. It is okay to admit you need help.

· Be grateful.
If someone does something to help you, thank them. You can do so verbally, electronically, with kind gestures (hugs, thank you cards, or flowers, for example), and/or offering to return the favour in the future. Some people may be going out of their way to help you, no matter how small their assistance, show your gratitude for their support.