The remedy for a terminal diagnosis (a.k.a. life)

The remedy for a terminal diagnosis (a.k.a. life)

I was at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre a few weeks ago for my regular six-month check-in with my CLL specialist. My wait was a little longer than usual, which I don’t mind because I know when the time comes that I need a little extra, it will be there for me. Cancer is hard.

When she finally entered my little examining room, she apologized profusely. Her eyes sad and heavy, “Sometimes I just get a patient that I don’t know what to do with. Even with some time after diagnosis, all they can wrap their heads around is ‘Oh my god, I’m going to die.’”

I get that. I really do. I know that not everyone’s story is the same as mine. Each cancer has its own personality, each patient his or her own reality. It’s a hard pill to swallow.

Ultimately though, the diagnosis is always terminal. That’s the nature of life; it ends in death. (Such a cheery thought, am I right?)

In that light, the “OMG, I’m going to die!” becomes a moot point, doesn’t it? Really, the question should be, how do we respond to the diagnosis while we’re here?

My remedy is simply this: Live.

I don’t mean just live, as in continue breathing, eating, sleeping, working, lather, rinse, repeat daily. I mean REALLY LIVE. Live like you just sat down with your doctor and she told you you’ve got six months to a year.

What would you do differently? What is it that you’re putting off right now that tugs at your heart?

Relationships? Job? Tasks? Travel? Creativity? Hopes and dreams deferred?

  • I’ll do this when the kids are grown
  • I’ll do that after I retire
  • When I have more time
  • When I’ve got more money
  • When I get my act together

Do these resonate with you?

I confess I am guilty of using each and every one of these reasonsexcuses at various times over the course of my life. (Probably a little too frequently.) And, to be clear, they still make their way out of my mouth from time to time. This post does not come from a place of having figured it out or having my act together. Far from it. Rather, it comes from a place of looking long and hard in the mirror and asking myself if I’m truly living the intentional life I long for.

In the forefront of my brain is the knowledge that my time is running out. And when that astonishingly persuasive little voice of practicality or fear whispers all the reasons I shouldn’t/can’t do whatever it is I’m moved to do, I want to scream. If I could grab myself by the shoulders and give me a good shake, I would!

The days will never get longer; 24 hours is 24 hours. And maybe money will never be more abundant than it is right now. And really, do any of us truly have our act together? Some put on a better facade than others, but I think every person has their own battlefront.

Quite frankly, NOW is when you’re here!

Unless you’ve been living off the grid, under a rock in Canada this summer, you’ve likely heard of Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip.

Upon receiving his diagnosis of an inoperable, incurable brain tumour, Gord Downie did not curl up in a corner, and wallow in self-pity. Instead, he proceeded to launch one last Canadian tour of epic proportions.

In one fell swoop, Gord became Canada’s sweetheart and the very picture of bravery and courage in the face of death. Take that Cancer!

Gord Downie represents HOPE. He has single-handedly inspired a generation of people with his resilience and strength and message of hope in response to unimaginable hardship. He gave as much as he had to give and more. He’s choosing to LIVE.


12 year-old Natasha Gould, who passed away on August 4th this year, after receiving the crushing diagnosis of DIPG (an aggressive, incurable form of brain cancer) spent the last year of her life sowing seeds of hope everywhere she went. She saw an opportunity and seized it.

Upon diagnosis in May 2015, the doctor advised her family to have the summer of a lifetime. And, according to her father, that’s exactly what they did. “It turned into having a year of a lifetime. We packed in a lot of things. There were no regrets,” he said in an interview with CBC news.

“She saw that she had a purpose in her life to advocate and spread the message and draw attention to the fact that we need more energy to try to find a cure to childhood cancers,” he added.

And in the midst of it all, she lived! She fulfilled a dream of being a cheerleader, performing onstage with her troupe with OMI, mastermind behind the hit song of the same name. She spoke publicly about her battle with cancer, advocating for research and funding, she even participated in a TEDtalk.

She was 12. While cancer slowly stole her vibrancy and, ultimately, her life, she chose to live every single minute of her last year boldly.


So, I’m writing again.

Actually, I’ve been doing a lot of writing this summer. But now I’m publishing again. For every internal whisper that reinforces all the reasons I shouldn’t/can’t, I’ve got a faith that says:

You should.

You can.

Why are you waiting?

What have you got to lose?

Your time here will not last forever.

We have no idea what tomorrow will bring. Sure, plan for the future, but not at the expense of living today. Today, choose to view your limitations as opportunities instead of endings.

Today, Live.

go do them

 

Monday morning musings: Starting over…

Monday morning musings: Starting over…

It occurred to me not too long ago that I’ve been living in the past.

Reflecting on the past has its uses for sure: developing character, instigating change. But, in general, it’s not a good idea to dwell there as a substitute for actually living in the present.

So, on that note, there’s this little niggly thing that’s been bothering me that I need to deal with once and for all.

Confession: I am no longer fit.

(Crickets)

It’s not even the outward appearance that I struggle with the most; a good outfit can hide a multitude of sins. It’s the fact that, despite my quite obviously unfit body, in my head I still think I’m in the same place I was 15 years ago, fitness-wise.

In my head I’m still a lean, mean running machine. I could sit on my rear end all winter and get up in spring and knock off 5 km like nothing. Heck, I ran a marathon!

But really, how long can you NOT run, and NOT be fit, and cling to these things as though they might still actually be within the realm of possibility?

I think it’s time to let go and face facts. I am no longer a runner.

Several humbling moments over the course of the past few years have hintedsuggested loudly—that this is my new reality. But, as with most things, I’m slow to catch on. Or stubborn in my refusal to accept it.

But I’ve been thinking lately—in part because I’m not liking what I see in the mirror, and in part because it’s spring and the weather in Calgary is gorgeous—there is just so much I miss about running.

So, I’m letting go of my past.

Starting over.

However, I realize that if I’m going to be successful at this, I’m going to need a radical change of both my attitude and my mind. I need to alter the way I think about both me and about running.

I am a beginner.

And running isn’t solely about races and speed and distance.

I need to be gentle on myself, and forgiving of my own shortcomings. And I need to be willing to celebrate even the smallest victories—like successfully running from lamppost to lamppost. And then perhaps, my first full kilometer.

For me, it’s going to be a marathon accomplished only by baby steps full of grace.

Coincidentally—or not, I’m also starting a new session of bible study THIS week, and I’m going to be going through a book called The Rest of God: restoring your soul by restoring the Sabbath.

Because whose soul couldn’t use a bit of restoration these days?

Coincidentally—or not, this book reinforces the same concepts I’m trying to wrap my head around with regards to my running. The author wants to radically change the way we think about Sabbath and Rest and he does it by first helping readers to change their attitudes and then encouraging them to change our actions.

So, I’m “starting over” in a few areas of my life, and I’m hoping that the things I’m learning in both areas will collide and result in great change over the long haul.

It will be a marathon, accomplished by baby steps full of grace.

next chapter

Always moving. Going nowhere.

Always moving. Going nowhere.

I feel like a caged animal.

Always moving.

My calendar is full. My schedule is busy. I have lots of important things to do and places to go and people to see.

You know those animals in the zoo? Not the little guys, or the reptiles. The big ones. Lions. Bears. You know the type.

Their environment dictated by walls and fences.

In the wild, they’d be roaming. Covering hundreds of kilometres in search of food. A mate. Family. Migrant. Moving. Going somewhere with some purpose.

But in the zoo, they are confined. And so they go. But it’s around and around. Wearing a path on the perimeter of the enclosure. Always moving. Going nowhere.

In a rut.

That’s how I feel.

I’ve erected walls and isolated myself in an enclosure. It keeps me safe and spectators firmly at a distance. I don’t let many people in. And I rarely venture out.

It’s generous in size, and yet, it’s more confining than what I was made for. I was made to be in the wild. Created for more than what I am doing. Going around and around. In my self-imposed rut.

Even the fact that I am writing this affirms my cyclical nature. Every September I make New Year’s resolutions. Every January, I refuse to make New Year’s resolutions. Every Spring I lament that my pants don’t fit. Every week, I commit to eating better and exercising more consistently. Regularly I resolve that I will begin writing again.

It’s like an album with a scratch in the vinyl; the same phrase or chord over and over again. I’m so very tired of it.

I half-heartedly try to break patterns. I step to one side of the rut or the other. It’s not that I’m doing nothing. I try. I have good intentions.

But some days, every little obstacle sends me right back onto the familiar and safe path.

I withdraw a little more, determined to shield myself from whatever conflict or upheaval threatens.

Threatens what though? Threatens to make me uncomfortable? What is it exactly that I keep protecting myself from? Since when did discomfort become the enemy?

Carefully, I place my feet, one in front of the other, in the path that is so comfortably worn. It’s easy there. And, it’s evident to me that my rut is so deeply carved that I need a ladder to climb out of it.

I can no longer look out and see the walls of my enclosure. I can only look up and see the sky.

Today though, the sky is blue.

It looks like hope.

Today looks like a good day to walk a different path. To take a flying leap off a cliff even.

set free

Peace… relatively speaking

Peace… relatively speaking

These two.

FullSizeRender (1)

They are two years and six months apart. You would think that would be enough distance to allow each her own space to be the individual she was created to be.

They are as different as night and day both in physical characteristics and in personality and character.

And they bicker.

Oh.my.goodness. There are days when I want to pull my hair out.

Some days, the pettiness and the vitriol that comes spewing out of their mouths causes my blood pressure to spike. I can feel it.

And then, there are days like this one. Where they are best friends. Each other’s number one fan.

I never know which one it’s going to be when the sun rises. And from how it begins to how it ends can be two entirely different things also. Who knows what triggers the swirling, pre-pubescent emotions of a young lady?

But for this day, I’ll take the peace that accompanies the excitement of a new instrument arriving home.

It’s a relative peace, of course, because the sounds of brass and scales have replaced the venom for the time being. There is nothing peaceful about a trumpet and a French horn playing in tandem.

FullSizeRender copy

But it’s music to my ears. And today it fills my heart.

Stupid things you do when you’re diagnosed with cancer. (Episode One: Family photos)

Stupid things you do when you’re diagnosed with cancer. (Episode One: Family photos)

Someday, I desire for this little corner of the Internet to be more than what it is. I have big dreams for this baby.

At the moment, it’s a catch-all for my seemingly random firings. Little stories, anecdotes, things that get me thinking. There’s mostly no rhyme or reason to my entries, except that in my daily battle to write and my own pressure to post, every now and then, it’s crap here. Plain and simple.

I admit it.

But, as with my office—which is perennially disorganized with piles of things that forever need “filing” or “sorting”—or my computer photo storage program, which, quite frankly, is a mess, my blog remains at the bottom of a pile of wishful thinking. For now.

However, when my wishful thinking becomes reality, this entry will be filed under the heading: Stupid things you do when you’re diagnosed with cancer.

November 2014. Three weeks post-diagnosis. Email a photographer, because your out-of-town daughter is coming into town for Christmas and you MUST.HAVE.FAMILY.PHOTOS!

Because why?

Because who knows if this is the last time you’ll have hair?

Or see your whole family together?

Or any other number of equally profound thoughts that race through ones’ brain when you hear the C word.

Never mind that my condition is chronic. I’m on the watch and wait program. The prognosis for the type of Leukemia I have is up to 20 years, give or take.

MUST.HAVE.FAMILY.PHOTOS.NOW!

My poor kids. I guess you can lump patient husband into that lot too.
kirsten

 

awesome rachel

I tell the older ones that they need to bring a black top or sweater along.

hannah2

 

Leah copy

I go out and purchase black tops for my two youngers (because, apparently, we don’t own black).

I purchase colourful scarves for each member of the family.

I have booked and made arrangements with the photographer, asking him to scout locations – including an indoor alternate, if the weather is miserable.

December 29 dawns bright and clear.

And indeed, it is officially the coldest day of the entire year. A bone-chilling -29 degrees Celsius. What is that in Fahrenheit some of you may be scratching your heads wondering? It’s precariously close to the point where Celsius and Fahrenheit meet – something like -21 degrees. Really, it’s too cold.

Yes, I know. You're cold. Too bad. Suck it up. Love, Mom
Yes, I know. You’re cold. Too bad. Suck it up. Love, Mom

The photographer messages and says “Are you sure you want to do this?” and I’m thinking “YES! I HAVE CANCER. MUST HAVE FAMILY PHOTOS!” (Plus, daughter number one hops on a plane and heads back to where she came from sooner rather than later.)

And, in a smaller, slightly less irrational inside voice, I’m also thinking. “We’ll just use the alternate indoor location that the photographer scouted.”

But, he actually didn’t do that.

So I drag my family out into the bitter cold, dressed only in black tops and colourful scarves to endure the most brutally cold photo session of all time.

To be fair, the photographer and his assistant had to be out there as well. And I’m sure it was no picnic for them either (except they were wearing coats and functional scarves.) And, we did jump into our respective cars to thaw from time to time. So there was that.

So, basically, the moral of this story is that my family obviously love me because they went along with this bout of craziness and limited their grumbling to behind my back.

The other moral of the story is that a cancer diagnosis will indeed make you do stupid things.

To be clear, not all of the things I have done in the months since then have left my family to question my sanity. I’m pleased to say that I’ve leveled out and my sense of panic has abated somewhat.

There are definitely more stupid things to share, but these humbling moments need to be doled out sparingly. For my own sake, more than anything.

Thank you so much to Erik McRitchie for enduring my temporary loss of sanity with grace (and gloves).

family
Our very cold family

 

My four. I sure love these girls.
My four. I sure love these girls.

 

In an effort to warm up, Erik suggested the ever popular "coordinated jump."
In an effort to warm up, Erik suggested the ever popular “coordinated jump.”

 

Leah, however, was having a few problems with the whole concept.  The scarves also did not cooperate.
Leah, however, was having a few problems with the whole concept.
The scarves also did not cooperate.

 

ridiculous

 

Page 1 of 365 – Faith. Hope. Love.

Page 1 of 365 – Faith. Hope. Love.

So. Happy New Year.

You’ll have to excuse my lack of enthusiasm and exclamation points. I’m having a hard time these days.

I struggle with the whole Christmas season, so by the time all the festivities have wrapped up, I’m ready to just run for the hills and not come back.

I survived Christmas this year, but I’m not gonna lie, December was hard. The days are short and dark and in Calgary—where I live—it’s cold.

So, now it’s January, typically a time of fresh starts and resolutions.

But, quite honestly, even though I’m generally an optimistic person by nature, I’m not feeling the excitement of the New Year.

Reflecting on 2015, I realize that it was perhaps a more difficult year than I thought as I was battling my way through parts of it.

It began with a brutal head cold. “What started as a tickle in my throat on December 29, has become a nagging sore throat, irritated, coughing and feeling crappy,” I wrote in my journal on January 2.  Happy New Year to me!

My CLL diagnosis was fresh and, despite enjoying relatively good health, the litany of potential symptoms was fresh on my mind.

Night sweats
Compromised immune system
Dramatic weight loss (*hoping for this one!)
Swollen lymph nodes
Fevers
Fatigue
Risk of infection/excessive bleeding
Abdominal discomfort

Every little ache and pain was cause for panic, including fretting over whether my body would manage to fight the cold that reared its ugly head for the new year.

It was all so new. I was stumbling my way through un-navigated territory.

April brought new challenges as Leah came down with a cold following a swim competition that, after a few weeks, had developed into Pneumonia. Hannah caught the same cold, as did I on the heels of a Mother’s Day weekend trip to Saskatoon for a swim competition.

By mid-May the entire household was a cesspool of germs except for Leah, who upon her diagnosis received some awesome anti-biotics. Lucky her.

Hannah and I continued to suffer; being repeatedly assured that our condition was viral and there was nothing medical professionals (yes, plural!) could do for us.

Meanwhile, we were both slated to hop on an airplane on May 30 for her to compete at Nationals in Saint John, New Brunswick. After being sick for almost three full weeks, I didn’t have a lot of hope for either of us to be able to function in Saint John.

In an act of desperation, five days before our trip, I took us to a walk-in clinic and begged for drugs. I stopped short of getting down on my knees, but I confess I may have shed a tear or two. I was that worn down.

The doctor—thankfully recognizing an exhausted mother at her wit’s end—prescribed the same anti-biotic that Leah had taken and within two days we were both back on our feet. Hallelujah! (And, as a bonus, Hannah’s team came FIRST in the routine portion of the competition!) Nationals people!

August brought with it a bout of appendicitis that landed me in a hospital in Cranbrook, BC. Thankfully, the ruptured appendix was removed in a timely manner and the surgeon was skillful and adept and my recovery has been seamless.

December, with its band concerts, special events, Christmas parties and the general stress that accompanies all the holiday preparations, gave me the gift that keeps on giving: Shingles.

That, and an unexpected and very sad funeral just days before Christmas rounded out 2015. In hindsight, it was quite a year.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad. Amid my recollections of these events are a host of really great moments and memories.

My wanderlust kept me a little closer to home this year: camping in Yellowstone Park, Waterton and Jasper National Parks, a soccer tournament in Victoria and a lovely long weekend with my cousin in Parksville, BC. Of course, there was Saint John and many wonderful days spent lazing at Lake Windermere.

I even went to my first concert in more years than I care to remember – taking in an evening with my girls and the indomitable Taylor Swift.

It was an eventful year. Full of ups and downs.

I was reading a devotional the other day that talked about the lenses through which we filter the circumstances of our lives–our ups and downs, as it were. The author put forward that we basically have two options.

The first is that we can view our circumstances through disillusionment and disappointment. She writes, “when something happens in my life that catches me off guard with pain and hurt, it’s hard to see that it could be part of a bigger plan to bring about something good down the road. I want comfort. I want relief. I want the hardship to go away. We have a tendency to walk away when we don’t understand.”

Um. Yes.

The second option is Love. “If we predetermine that no matter what happens, we are going to stand on the truth that God loves us, then we can filter everything through that reality. His love is a fact that doesn’t change, not a feeling that sways with situations. His love is a certainty above every circumstance.”

So, it’s got me thinking about which filter I’m going to use on the past year. And, even more than that, how am I going to approach the new year, given that I’m feeling so flat only a week in.

The author of that same devotional concluded with these words, “Deserting God will not give you any of the comfort or relief you are looking for. Hope is only found in Him. Stay with Jesus. Filter your situation through the reality of His love and whatever you don’t understand, can’t process or feel like you can’t bear one more day, give it to Him.”

Speak His HOPE over your hardships.

He is faithful.

Well, I’m not making any grandiose resolutions. I’m not declaring that this year is going to be different from all the rest. I’m putting my HOPE in the ability to view my life through the filter of Love in all my circumstances. And I’m going to see where that gets me in the short term of this journey.

Gratitude.

Trust.

Faith.

Hope.

And Love. One foot in front of the other…

Happy New Year! (exclamation point!)

bd6732a71f524bc34ead86acc5837dd8

Hold the bacon…

Hold the bacon…

I felt my world shift a little bit the other day.

Of course, it wasn’t a literal earthquake, but no less unsettling. Well, maybe slightly less unsettling.

A friend casually interjected this piece of information into a conversation. “Oh, haven’t you heard? Some new research out of the WHO (World Health Organization) has basically concluded that bacon causes cancer. “

There.

Did you feel that?

I’m sure the earth just moved.

And sure enough, within days of that earth-shifting revelation, this was the cover of Time Magazine.

timemag

Unfortunately for this meat-loving gal, the war on delicious doesn’t actually begin and end with bacon. It encompasses an entire food group!

MEAT! (With the exception of chicken, which somehow has remained unscathed in all of this.)

“The categories of meat in the new study are broad and inclusive. Red meat is defined as “all types of mammalian muscle meat, such as beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse and goat.” At least I can safely say I’ve never eaten horse or mutton (to my knowledge.)

“In a sweeping review released on Oct. 26, the WHO officially identified processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning the quality of the evidence firmly links it to cancer.”

Wait, it gets worse.

“Red meats fare little better, falling into Group 2A—foods or substances that probably cause cancer—a category that includes the toxic pesticide DDT, the chemical weapon mustard gas and the insecticide malathion.”

So, in a nutshell, DDT, mustard gas, commercial insecticides and steak all have this in common.

Just pause here for a moment if you just need to spend a bit of time grieving.
I understand.

So, what does all this mean for a girl with a penchant for fatty Italian salami, who, by the way, already HAS cancer? The article’s author poses the tongue-in-cheek question, “So, are we really talking about life without hot dogs and T-bones?”

I don’t know. I have no answers. The reality is that lots of things are bad for us. There is no way I can trace my cancer back to the one thing that may have been the cause of the first genetic cell mutation.

I live beside a park, where dandelion spraying occurred for many years before our city council banned it.

I grew up in the 70s, which meant that my diet was made up all the helpful food creations of that generation designed to make the lives of mothers everywhere easier. Kraft dinner, Hamburger Helper, boil-in-bag vegetables, processed cheese slices and canned pasta. Yum.

I am of European heritage, which means that meat and potatoes, gravy and butter were my staples. These are the very comfort foods that I still crave today.

And bacon.

And, although I have altered my diet significantly as an adult, and more so since being diagnosed with Leukemia—choosing organic products, all fresh fruits and vegetables, grain fed, hormone free meats, preservative-free breads, and homemade baking over store-bought varieties—I still love the mouth-watering, salty, smoky taste of bacon. I am a carnivore through and through.

The author writes, “There’s a cruel irony to the fact that meat should be as dangerous as health experts warn, because we are hard-wired to love every little thing about it. Predation is not just a nasty indulgence we picked up on our way through the state of nature; it’s a nutritional must-do, or at least it was in our ancestors’ times. Animal muscle is dense with proteins and other nutrients and the fat from a cow or pig will serve the same purpose in our body as it did in its original owner’s: as a repository for calories in the event of food shortage or famine. To make sure we come when the dinner bell clangs, our brains recognize the smell of sizzling meat as singularly irresistible. “

So, basically, this article drags me firmly out of the “ignorance is bliss” category to “can’t hide my head in the sand any longer” category.

I hate that.

But in the spirit of pulling my head out of the sand, I have made some positive changes toward a healthier, non-carcinogenic diet.

A few months ago, a friend gifted me with a new cookbook called Cooking with Foods that Fight Cancer. Written by a pair of doctors (Ph.Ds, not MDs), the first half is chock full of interesting information about cancer cells and how they form and lifestyle factors that have also been linked to cancer. It also breaks down several superfood categories and explains how each does its part to battle the development and maturation of cancer cells. It’s an excellent read!

And because a diet rich in foods with these antioxidant qualities is beneficial to everyone, the second half is full of recipes that use the superfoods listed in the first part of the book. Here’s where I run into problems. Seaweed. Mushrooms. Flaxseed. Cabbage. Garlic. Soy. Probiotics. Nary a slice of bacon to be found anywhere within its pages.

Actually, despite my lament, the complete selection isn’t all bad: tomatoes, berries, citrus fruits, green tea, red wine and dark chocolate round out the list. These I can handle, embrace even.

I use the cookbook and love it. Unfortunately, my children don’t feel the same way and my first effort at hiding lentils in Shepherd’s pie was unsuccessful.

They also refuse to try my smoothies, which are chock full of berries, greek yogurt, kale and ground flax and hemp seed, for no other reason than they know what’s in it.

In light off all this newly acquired knowledge, I confess I have wondered what seaweed would taste like fried in bacon fat? Would that be a good compromise to ease the transition?

Oh, there is just so much here that I don’t know what to do with yet. I’m really not a fan of seaweed.

I’m moving slowly, but not backwards. Just putting one foot in front of the other…

Monday Morning Musings… Anniversaries

Monday Morning Musings… Anniversaries

When you’re young, they’re something to anticipate. At 16, there’s such a thrill in marking one month with your first boyfriend, then two. If you’re lucky, one year.

“Until death do us part…” promises many.

But as we get older, some will lose their flavor. Become bitter.

A mis-carriage. A child given up for adoption. A divorce. The loss of a parent, or a grandparent. Or, unthinkably, a child.

Anniversaries etch a moment in time indelibly into our hearts and minds.

I’m generally not one who is tied religiously to dates; I put much more stock in the moment or the experience than the number on a calendar.

I have a divorce anniversary, but for the life of me I can’t remember the specific day the decree was issued. That paper is tucked away somewhere in a file drawer in my office. But memories of it are intertwined in years of going through it and doing hard things and coming out the other side a better and stronger person.

Although bitter, it is also sweet, as I recognize the fruit in my life that has come from those experiences. I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.

The divorce is probably one of the reasons I hold dates loosely. I didn’t always have my children on December 25. Or Easter Sunday. For many years, celebratory events were a negotiation and the reality was that sometimes Christmas happened on the 26th. Or Easter dinner, the following weekend.

Though, as I get older, I’m starting to accumulate dates.

The 18th of June will never be the same for me. The day my sister-in-law died. Memories of that day flood back, sometimes with unexpected force, washing away the present, taking my breath away. On the anniversary of that day my recollections, thoughts and feelings are as fresh as they were two years ago when it all happened.

October 28th 2014. The day I got “the call.” The day my doctor told me I had leukemia.

I still recall the heart-pounding, sick-to-my-stomach drive to her office. A million thoughts racing through my head. Praying the whole way. I clearly remember telling my husband on the phone, meeting him at the door, melting into his arms. Just being held.

Making follow up appointments.

Telling our children.

The first time I walked through the doors of the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary and thought to myself, “this is real…”

Anniversaries are part of our journeys. They can mark a beginning. They can signify an end. They are a marker of a defining moment in time. But they don’t tell the whole story. Life goes on despite the anniversaries.

And yet, it’s a life that’s forever changed.

A new normal eventually emerges. And it takes some time to navigate it all. Unexpected things, little things sometimes throw the biggest wrench in your seeming progress. Memory is a funny thing that way. It triggers when you least expect it.

For me, this new anniversary—October 28—is an interesting one. One year on, I still have no symptoms. I am still healthy. Grateful for white blood cells that still do what they’re supposed to do.

I’ve learned a lot in a year. I’m eating somewhat healthier. I am moving my body somewhat more. I am moderately better at prioritizing my time and focusing on the things that are important to me.

I’m still working on saying NO, with limited success. (The pace at which I implement change in my life could be considered glacial.)

I realize that I still have a long way to go.

But I’m choosing to celebrate this “one year” anniversary. And I hope to embrace many more to come!

in the end...

Monday Morning Musings… O.M.G!

Monday Morning Musings… O.M.G!

My children were banned from electronics today. No iPods, no iPads, no computers, no Youtube.

They are the most miserable, pathetic creatures you have ever seen in your life. Seriously.

I can’t even.

On a warm and sunny day, they would be down at the water, splashing and keeping cool. But it’s kind of chilly today. Not water weather in any case. The lake is quiet.

Their dad is puttering away at some outside stuff and I’m still recuperating from a recent surgery, so taking it a little easier than I normally would be. (Hard to believe that there is an “easier” mode than the one I live on in the summer, isn’t it?)

I knew it would be a hard day for them. But I had no idea how bad things had become.

When I came home from the hospital on Thursday, it was pretty quiet here. I was feeling poorly and still in recovery mode trying to regain my strength. There was a friend here also, which helped to diminish the boredom.

But on Friday the friend went home and the rain fell. So, electronic entertainment was on order for the day.

And Saturday.

And Sunday.

And then, I was feeling better. But try getting the attention of kids who have been glued to screens for the better part of the past 48 hours. Yikes!

So, after too many battles to count yesterday, we declared today to be an electronic-free day.

I created a list of some household chores that were overdue and determined to spend the day constructively beginning right after breakfast.

Oh. My. Goodness. You would think that we had asked these girls to chop off their own limbs.

Every expected task was met with complaint or opposition.

What on earth has happened here?

I think we need an intervention.
After the last “I’m bored. There’s nothing to do” I finally suggested that perhaps tomorrow should also be electronic-free and they could work at becoming a little more resourceful on their own.

That suggestion was not well-received, but I’m thinking maybe it’s what’s needed.

So, I guess all of this is to say.

Pray for me.

 These are not my children. My children would not allow their bored selves to be photographed. But this is a fairly accurate representation of what my children look like today, now that all the chores are done. These children came from here.

These are not my children. My children would not allow their bored selves to be photographed. But this is a fairly accurate representation of what my children look like today, now that all the chores are done. These children came from here.
Misery loves company… the positive side of the comparison trap

Misery loves company… the positive side of the comparison trap

It’s no secret that I’m a reader. In addition to the pile of books on my nightstand, the daily newspaper and various online publications, I subscribe to a number of blogs, so with regular frequency—like every.single.day—I enjoy the writing of others. (It’s a wonder I get anything done!)

My favourite bloggers are the ones who are honest about themselves, their lives, their bodies, their marriages, their parenting. You know, all the hard things. I especially love it if the author can offer some perspective through a lens of humour.

But, I confess, as much as I love reading the work of others, it takes a toll on my aspirations as a writer.

It’s so easy to fall into the comparison trap. To entertain the thought that I have nothing new or unique to offer. It’s all been said before, and much more eloquently or humorously than I could dream of saying it. So why bother?

Facebook can be a slippery slope too. Carefully cultivated personas and best faces forward, it’s not always a truthful representation of who we are or where we’re at in our lives. The comparison trap is alive and well on Facebook.

My profile picture is usually me looking good after a hair appointment or on some special occasion where I actually had to clean up a bit. (And, strategically, most often from the shoulders up!)

My Facebook family? They are almost always smiling and doing fun and creative things. Online, you can’t hear the bickering, experience the stubbornness, or see the piercings or tattoos. For all intents and purposes, we are a normal family.

I don’t think that I am intentionally trying to fool people into believing that my life is Facebook perfect. Certainly anyone who really knows my family and me can tell you that this is not the case.

It’s just that when I am running interference between my kids so they don’t maim each other—which happens several times during each and every day—the last thing I’m thinking about is taking a photo or sharing a happy story. Nope. I’m just trying not to kill them.

So, when something good or unique or creative does happen, well, THAT’S noteworthy, is it not?

I think it would be too easy to slip into Facebook becoming my public rant space if I started posting everything I was thinking or feeling throughout the course of a week. Or day. Trust me, you just don’t need to know all that.

Perhaps that’s why it’s so important to spend time immersed in the perspective of others? It helps me to take the spotlight off of my own dysfunction and realize that I am not alone in my various struggles and insecurities. The comparison trap doesn’t have to be a negative one.

And, for some reason, that’s just such a comforting thought isn’t it?

To just know that some other exasperated mom somewhere in the world is feeling the same way about her kids just right about now.

And some other writer out there is staring at a blank screen and a blinking cursor.

If I can lay down society’s notion of success or value on the altar of comparison and instead find comfort in the similarities, there is so much encouragement in that. Maybe we can all just lift each other up a little bit?

In a display of divine, perfect timing, as I was writing this post yesterday morning, I received an email from a friend of mine; a mother with two children roughly the same age as my youngest two.

She said she and her husband were taking the kids hiking today, and confessed that they were seriously considering paying the kids per kilometer hiked in a pre-emptive strike against perpetual grumbling. “Living the dream…” she wrote, tongue in cheek.

Living the dream, indeed. I laughed out loud. I have bribed children to hike! Isn’t this par for the course? Some sort of non-grumbling incentive/pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? How wonderful for me to know that I am not the only parent who has resorted to bribes to get children moving.

Sadly, my friend is now officially out of the running for Mother of the Year this year. But maybe 2016 will be her time. I’m usually disqualified by mid-January.

the only person

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