Saturday, 1 December 2012

" Where the clear wind blows"

 

The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion. 
Albert Einstein 




The past week has been nothing short of amazing with a splash of overwhelmed and a couple of ass kicking days.

I waited last week, like a kid on xmas morning, for the paper to come. I knew the article would be in there.  My expectations for what Sarah would write being muted with the unknown. I dug through the paper  to find the section she said it would be in and there it was. Me!  A lot of me. Now the other half of St. John's would know. I preceded to have a mild panic attack, while my husband looked at me saying " why are you crying?'  The reality of what has happened once again there for me to accept.  Joy, sadness all mixed into one moving article. Malin's pictures startled me at first, like I had never seen them before, as if it was all new to me. Its completely moving to have your life reflected  to you in a well written and photographed manner.  I cried as I read the story moved as if it was someone else's.  I will be forever grateful to Sarah for writing it and for the newspaper deeming it worthy of such coverage.

The emails, phone calls, texts and Facebook messages were amazing. How could one not be moved by such support. One highlight was a phone call later that night from a number and name I did not recognize. I wasn't going to answer it but my husband did the honors. It was for me. The woman addressed herself and told me she had read the article and she had some questions for me. She preceded to ask me some things and then began to tell me a little about herself. She was 89, lived in the Goulds and reads the paper everyday. She told me she was as fit as a fiddle but had family who were not as lucky as her and in the grand tradition of a 89 year old told me a great story about the man who grew walnuts on the west coast of Newfoundland. She shared that she had written him as well, asking him about his endeavor and that he sent her some walnuts. They were a bit dry she said pondering his harvesting methods with me. I thought how lucky I was to get that phone call. A couple of days later an email was forwarded  from a young breast cancer survivor who wanted to tell me that she related to my story, and then preceded to candidly share hers. I was completely moved by the honesty. Her pain and resilience evident in every word. How honored I was to bare witness to her journey through her email.

My journey continues to challenge me as my walking on air moments are compounded with scrap me off the floor days. After 60 new cc's in my ever expanding right side occurred so did the wonderful pain that can accompany it. Felt like I was set back weeks. Well I wasn't but I am so dramatic these days where would I be if I didn't try to reel in the reader. I did my blood for the clinical trial, 9 vials they took, I think they are harbouring some vampires who need human blood.Although if one of the  guys from the Vampire Diaries needs a donation I am your woman. It turns out my liver is ever so slightly off and will have to be retested next week, but only one vial this time thanks be to god. I arose many a day this week feeling like someone had knocked the wind out of my sails. The Tamoxifen doing the dance of the seven veils on my hormones. Crawling in a ball seemed like the best solution. I however, did not. Hardest thing ever not to give into that feeling. As has been the way through this journey my friends reigned supreme. Lunch with amazing women on several days lifted me up where I belong. ( okay roll scene from Officer and a Gentleman). Thanks for carrying me when I was having trouble carrying myself. This week also mean't two more women became part of Malin's and My project. One interviewed and one photographed. How could one not feel lucky.

I am returning to work this week. The thought of returning to routine, daunting but maybe what I need. Not sure what I need anymore, but I know I want everything.

Time goes by, no time to cry, life's you and I, alive today
" Up where you Belong"

Time goes by, no time tTime   cry, life's you and I
A live todTime goes by, no time to cry, life's you and I
A live todayTime goes by, no time to cry, life's you and I
Aay

Thursday, 22 November 2012

" What if?"

 
"Normal"
An adjective used by boring people to make themselves feel better
Urban Dictionary
                  

 


Well my first sign that things are really returning to normal this week happened. I had to pluck a hair off my nipple, I am happy to report. No surgery nor chemo can keep me from being the hair beast that I am.  I was worried that my breast would not return to somewhat normal after a second mastectomy but have no fear.  There is nothing that makes you wanna sing " I feel like a woman" more than standing in front of a mirror plucking hair out of your boob. I would like to thank my parents for the strong propensity to have lots of body hair and especially in places one would rather not such as the above mentioned area. Now I know that some of you are saying to yourselves " yup been there, done that. I will take solace in knowing that I am returning to the fold. 

While some things return to normal, there is one thing that has changed. My  greatest fear is that it will be permanent. I can't believe that something I held so dear could be taken away from me. As I  prepare to say it I get a small lump in the back of my throat. After several attempts I am realising that my ability to drink red wine has diminished.  I feel a tear welling, I love red wine. Always done with moderation but with immense enjoyment. My body has decided I can't really tolerate it at present. My hope is that this is a temporary moment of insanity for my body and that time and healing will reverse such an awful side effect. Please keep me in your prayers.

After many months of little of no activity and walking the length of myself was about all I could do, I knew I needed to get moving. As anybody who knows me knows that exercise and Sondria usually are not in the same sentence. I know after all I have been through that this had to change. I had been asked if I would like to join the Avalon Dragons, dragon boat team in there winter training. I am happy to report that I have gone two whole weeks in a row. A wonderful group of women full of joy and a real sense of community. Once again I realise that I could be sitting at home waiting for life to happen, or I could get out there and make it happen. Through my whole illness I realised that sickness can happen but you still are the captain of you life. You steer the ship. I can have everything or I can have nothing, its up to me. My life is happening, so now I have to live it. I can't wait for others to make me whole or happy.

I also got to attend the book launch for Phil Carpenters book " Breast Stories" featuring women across Canada who had their portraits taken by Phil. There were local women who were featured and were at the launch. It was both moving and empowering. I was grateful to be there.

I officially signed up for a clinical trial at the cancer clinic. Another pill for another five years but if the outcomes from this study does not benefit me maybe someone else will benefit down the road. I figure I got nothing to lose anymore by taking chances. I watched the following video this week and it made me pause. As my armour of the last months begins to melt away I am left with my new reality and this gives me reason to reflect about how I continue from here. I feel vulnerable but in turn maybe that opens me to  knowledge and change. I would like to share it with you as I hope it makes you stop and think about your life if that is what you need.




Tuesday, 13 November 2012

"A Grand Thing"



"I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing."
Agatha Christie 



Recovery is a funny road. You want to be better, you need to be better, but sometimes you just are not. Being honest with yourself now that is the tricky part.

As I get on with daily life and the prospect of returning to work my last 8 months seem like a blur. One diagnosis, two surgeries, four rounds of chemo and now five years of Tamoxifen. Seems daunting doesn't it? Life has a way of continuing, it keeps going. People have to work, or go to school. The dog  and cats needs to fed. The laundry needs to be done and suppers need to be cooked. You gotta buy groceries to do that don't you?
XMAS IS COMING! XMAS IS COMING!( Picture me screaming this like Eddie Murphy in "Delirious" in his sketch about the ice cream man coming) I think I need a concierge. Where to put my energies. Finding balance in an already crazy year.

Emerging from a crisis back to somewhat of a normal life is challenging . Your not who you were a short time ago. I am not even sure at this point I know who I am yet. I had a moment to pause this week as I remembered my dad, a WW2 Veteran. A man who wore his Veterans jacket proudly, but spoke very little about what he saw in action in Europe. His crisis, kept to himself for only him to remember. I certainly did not get that trait from him. I am like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music screaming from the mountains. My anger, frustration and sadness for the whole world to see. That is just me though, the way I am. I always find it easier to process my feelings when they are reflected in the faces and words of others. I have learned though that not everyone is comfortable with my take on my illness and that even with all my education in helping people I still have a lot to learn. I always try to treat everyday as a school day. Learning from those around me.  Happy to be humbled no matter how difficult.

I was once again given perspective this week as I went around Sears looking for nothing in particular and a woman with two children walked by. I could hear the kids talking and turned to look. The toddler in the cart had a medical mask on and had her hair was  gone. There was the mom just pushing along in Sears like any ordinary day. Life needed to continue for them even though its probably the toughest it could be. That gave me what I needed right then and there. My heart sank a little this week as my aunt learned her breast cancer has returned and she must have a mastectomy at the ripe age of 81.  My brother called to tell me that his biological father just died. The world keeps giving and taking.

I did however admire myself in the mirror this week. Happy with my one left boob. A girlish anticipation of having two someday. I look more like the long range mountains right now but hey I will take what I can get.  I eagerly await my next injection of saline. Even if its not a real boob, its mine. Self esteem coming in many forms these days. A pretty dress to be worn this week and problem solving how to even my chest out is in the works. It has to come from inside me, its always been like that. My energy buoyed with self acceptance

I am happy to say we are starting to get some interest in mine and Malin's idea of taking portraits of women with breast cancer. I glad to know that there are more women ready to share their joy and pain. There are women already showing courage through pictures here in Newfoundland,  and we hope we can get more Newfoundland women to do the same. For me it was a sense of acceptance and healing. The gifts can be bountiful when art and emotion come together. A story told, no words spoken. If you know anyone please let me know.

I just want to thank everyone for continuing to read my blog...you have no idea the impact.


And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy.
Kahlil Gibran














Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Remember to recycle


"I enjoy convalescence. It is the part that makes illness worthwhile."
George Benard Shaw




Well three weeks have gone by since I last posted.  I feel a little wiser, a little humbler, a little changed, and completely grateful. I am also a little blonder. Don't ask just tell me I look great. Midlife crisis comes in all forms, at least I didn't buy a car.

The day of my surgery came with less drama than the previous one. No migraine to distract or the feeling of loss of control with my initial diagnosis. I asked for this, I never asked for cancer. Now of course I am scared to death, but it was like choosing to walk through the haunted house and not being pushed. ( I like to be seasonal with my analogies). My fears were lessened with the nothing less than superb care I received from the surgical and recovery team at the Health Science Hospital. Doctors and nurses coming in to see me and get me ready, bringing a sense of calm and trust that was quite remarkable. I can't ever thank them enough for that. I was in good hands and I knew it. I wasn't sure exactly how I would look coming out as the surgeon wasn't completely sure himself if he would be giving me a implant or expander on my new mastectomy side. I was good with whatever at this point. My biggest concern was the fact they wanted me to take my underwear off. I did as instructed but like a completely obsessed person I kept looking at my husband and saying " wish I could wear my underwear" over and over again. A new nurse comes in and I try and see if I can figure out a way to get my drawers back on. Nope they gotta stay off. I know I wore them for my first mastectomy. Geez! Hmmm.... then they put the lovely white compression stockings on me from heel to hip. Well now. No underwear and these long stockings. Somehow it just felt wrong. I had not taken this part into account so no preliminary waxing you know, " down around". You know how they say if you cut the grass it will grow faster, well if your hair falls out and grows back its like a chia pet. Just saying...Anyways I knew I had to let it go. They brought me to the operating room and fussed, poked and talked to me to keep me calm. The mask went over my face, I panicked. I felt like I couldn't breath. The nurse sees this, and lightens her grip. I look up and say through the mask " thank you". She looks down. Good she hears me. She says " your welcome" and its night night Sondria.....I am theirs.....

I awake several hours later to find I have new breast on my left and expander now in my chest on the right. Still lopsided but on my way to getting back to something. I can't say getting back to the old me as that person doesn't exist anymore. The essence of me will always be here, but the new chick with cancer is part of me now as well. I have landed myself the most wonderful recovery nurse. She fusses and checks and asks how I am. The two new formed mounds on my chest are on "FIRE". She gives me doses of this and that, not working really. I am trying to evaluate my pain level and it seems to be maintaining at "OMG this friggin hurts". I find myself crying, and sobbing. Overwhelmed I believed its called. I find out later that this gets me my first ever Ativan. I seemed to be so much more coherent, and with it, last surgery. She works hard to get me settled and calm. I finally get to see my husband around 6 o'clock. I am completely full of painkillers while my husband sits for several hours. I can really only remember reaching over and touching his hand and saying " I love you Patrick" over and over again. I meant every word even if I was high as a kite. He is a man of few words so he sits quietly as I bob and weave out of being awake.
The nurse assures us we will be there in recovery for the night, but at around 10:30 pm beds are found for all three of us who are left there. I am going to cardiology.  I hear someone say as they wheel me on the ward "sure you can eat of the floors on this ward its so clean". My luck is holding out. Again I am placed with a attentive and kind nurse who chats with me and makes me feel completely cared for.  Pillows fixed, water when needed not a bad place at all.

The next day it seems the consensus is to go home.  I was happy to stay and be a sick patient in a hospital bed,  it seemed appealing.  Again the faces of my ever enduring friends are there and ready to transfer me home. The last three weeks have finally brought me to a place where I knew I needed to stop completely. This was partly by choice and mostly due to pain and discomfort. As this journey has gone, with every negative there are more positives. I reconnected with old friends, got food cooked with love, and if after that I don't know that I am loved then I need to get a grip. I am once again humbled at my breast cancer support group as the women talk about their cancer journey's and I am reminded to be grateful. I get out of my own way as I see an old school friend deal with her 17 year olds' diagnosis of cancer and watch as they send out positive energy while their hearts are breaking. I call a dear old friend who is just finished her third round of chemo for breast cancer.  A dedication from a niece for a fundraiser for breast cancer. Sometimes I just have to remind myself to ask people " are you okay today" so that the positive vibes I receive are recycled and given back.

As I am finishing writing this blog, my thoughts that  I am writing down turn into reality. I receive an email from a friend. It contained a poem from a woman  I am getting to know who just thought I might like to read it and that it might mean something to me. It does. Now I am sharing with you. Thank you Joanie.


Love after Love

The time will come
When, with elation,
You will greet yourself arriving
At your own door, in your own mirror,
And each will smile at the others welcome,
And say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
To itself, to the stranger who has loved you
All your life, whom you ignored
For another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
The photographs, the desperate notes,
Peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.



Derek Walcott

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Invisible



“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to."
"I don't much care where –"
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go.” 
― Lewis CarrollAlice in Wonderland



So I went to the beach!


After six months of surgery and treatments it was time to go away from it all. A temporary respite from what can only be explained as a pain in my ass existence at times. Tired of complaining and with my family needing a break from my diagnosis a collective decision was made to head south. I hoped for a place where the breeze from the sea would cool my core and let me forget that I awake as a 90 year old daily. I could forget, for now anyways. All due respect to reality.

I was still awaiting confirmation on my impending surgery. I left with no confirmed date and a resumption of my ongoing cancer medication.

A trip to the beach for a one boob wonder is interesting. Things to consider and think about. I had always wore bikini's and was determined to be in one this trip. With one water prosthesis and some mcgivering of a few swimsuits, I thought I could pull it off. Anything is possible right? Smoke and mirrors had become my speciality these last few months. What really was important for me was to be somewhere that gave my family a chance to just be. Life is constant, good and bad.
I always do well in the heat and sand. Healing to the body and soul for me. No worries about cooking, cleaning, laundry for one whole week. With the surgery in the back of my mind, I let it stay there resigned to just being in the moment.

I think one of the biggest gifts was that no one knew I had cancer.  I felt invisible, but in a good way. My newly filled in scalp went unnoticed. Nobody cared that I only had a fine layer of hair, although to a former bald girl I could of been Farrah Fawcett. Hair is hair when you go bald to get well. Not one eye batted when comparing my current self to my passport photo, although the security guard upon leaving asked if I cut it. I thought I would explain to him what happened and realised he did not speak english and had used hand signals to ask me. What was this need to tell everyone I have cancer. I think if I say it over and over again the reality might actually sink in.

Several days of sleep, eating, and sun begins to put you in a different frame of mind. Then I get the call. A beckon back to my reality. A message from the surgeons office in the middle of my paradise. I was happy to receive the call but the stark contrast to  my beach bubble was very real. I accepted a surgical date for a week after my return home, this would give me time to prepare or run away not sure which one I would chose. I stopped the cancer meds again. I felt relieved to finally know. I could go back to enjoying each second with my family.

I felt I needed to bucket list a little on this trip. So I para-sailed with my daughter, at which time I cried as I floated over the beautiful ocean and beach. Terrified that after everything I did this last six months to live, this would be how I die...my daughter just wanted me to get a grip ( insert eye roll).. I reminded her that I did it and I conquered my fear. I am afraid of everything these days, my challenge seems to be to overcome my fears. I like to give cancer the reverence it deserves and its ability to take away precious time, I am mindful how I spend mine these days. We went on a helicopter ride over the area and although I was scared to death I desperately tried to stay in the moment so that I could appreciate the beauty of where I was. I  got to laugh a great deal on my trip, from having a seaweed fight in the ocean ( parents vs child) to laughing as my daughter had a hand held fan removed from hair by one of the waiters
( dont' ask).


As I sit here writing, I know tomorrow is my surgery. I know I will be changed. My body asked to morph once again so that I may have a sense of taking control of my life. Getting back to where I think I need to be for me. Although I can change my outer person, it is the moments like my trip with my family that make me who I am and fill my soul...




Tuesday, 2 October 2012

" The Doorway"





 The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. 
                                                                Audrey Hepburn


As a woman I am sure you never imagine you will utter the words " I miss my breast", but I do very much. The months following the surgery and cancer treatments you are caught up in the world wind that now is your life. When the treatments stop and you slow down you are left with the reality of what now is your body, your new existence. Words like self acceptance, sexuality, femininity all encompassing as you grapple with moving on and living your life in the wake of your experience.

I remember the day I had my follow-up with the surgeon who performed my mastectomy. He said to me as we finished up " we will be watching that other breast". I left that appointment with an uneasy feeling. My remaining breast had actually been the one to give me all the grief in the past couple of years. Gifting me with mastitis infections and big bouncy cysts, but in the end it was my right side that had the cancer. I always thought that was weird but this gave me an opportunity to think about things.
On my second last appointment with my oncologist I had asked her what she thought about my remaining side. She stated that I had a low chance of reoccurrence but agreed I had a complicated boob. I also had cancer that did not grow in the standard lump and the last bout hid behind and around my cysts. Sneaky bugger.  I don't qualify for yearly MRI's. My cancer could not be seen on mammogram. She referred me to a surgical oncologist.
My thinking going into this whole thing was " I wanted a new boob" that was a given for me. I did however want to discuss whether I should be thinking about my other breast. I knew my chance of reoccurrence was low in my remaining boob, in actual fact I have a higher chance of getting cancer again on the already removed side. I did know that I had an aggressive cancer. I did know I had more than one type of cancer initially. Does that put me at higher risk? My life a matter of percentages and statistics now. The surgeon was open and direct with me and understanding to my fears. In the end it would be my decision to remove my other breast but based on my history and current lumpy conditions the doctor concurred that it was reasonable. He spoke to me about a certain technique they could perform that would help keep my breast looking somewhat like it currently is.
I did not go into the meeting with the surgeon thinking " cut it off ". I really had no choice the first time I lost a part of my body. This time I do. Its not really just about that though. Its about the rest of your life. How you want to live it and worrying about how long that life will be. Whats best for me? In the end, as you sit alone, you need to be okay with your life and decisions you make. This was a big one.
I thought about things for the next couple of days. I think I already knew though what I was going to do. It just seemed like the right decision. I met with the plastic surgeon and discussed moving forward with the surgery to reconstruct and shared with him that I met with the surgical oncologist. He agreed to performing a nipple sparing mastectomy on my left side with the other surgeon as well as beginning the process of rebuilding my right breast. I signed the papers. Now I wait for a date.
I feel pretty good about my decision. Somehow seems exactly right for me. I have no illusions of what I will look like down the road when its all said and done. I don't look like me anymore anyways, my new body powerful at every glance I take.

You adapt and move on but you are forever changed.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small

And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all


The last month has brought me to a complete stop in some ways, especially the ability to sit and write. With my final chemo came the lack of motivation to say anything except " I feel like crap" and I was not sure that is what I wanted to write, but I just did. Yesterday I opened up my blog like an old friend and realised how much I missed thinking about something other than how I was feeling at the moment. My intrinsic negative view has been blocking the light of the great things that I get to do in my life and the places I go and of course the people who surround me.

I attended recently a appointment at the cancer clinic with my oncologist to have the " Tamoxifen talk".
It seems with my type of cancer, which is hormone receptor positive, the next step is a medication for  five years to squash my hormones. The chemo in all its glory has already stopped my monthly cycle and gifted me with what I can only refer to as " inferno flashes". I know people reading this already know about " inferno flashes". You are just sitting there and all of a sudden its like someone flips a switch and you are on fire. A hot burn from your belly to your head. I think someone should invent a mattress with heat sensors that adjust to cool when you feel like you are going to burst into flames at night. Now my understanding of my new little friend ,which I will take for the next 1826 days, has as it's number one side effect, hot flashes. God help me! My recollection of earlier conversations with my doctor is that it will also reduce my chance of cancer recurrence by 40%. I think I will get going on my mattress invention. Although words like stroke, blood clots and endometrial cancer come up and make the hair on the back of my neck rise, I balance the risk and think "how the hell did I get here." The impact of how real this all is finally sinking in. In the cycle of grief I am not sure which stage I am.
I think I have been rolling it all up in one neat package for months. A massive mess at times, letting brave get in the way of sad.

The doctor then announced the fact I would now be discharged from the cancer clinic. I was lymph node negative and therefore policy states I should be followed by my family physician. In my head all I could think was but.. but... but..."I have cancer". I felt a little abandoned right then and there, like when you go in one of those revolving doors and spin really fast coming out confused and dizzy. She did reassure me that she would still be my cancer doctor and be there if I needed her. I still needed her.
I go back in three months to check in around the Tamoxifen and its side effects. Just before I left she brought up about doing a clinical trial. I had heard about some when this all started and she had brought it up when we first met. I was interested. It would mean being followed for several years at the cancer clinic and if the drug was helpful then I would benefit from that. Win win for me. I had stated several years ago and in  recent times, that my goal is to outlive my mom's all who died before the age of 69. I was blessed with a adopted, biological and step mom but cancer took them all.  I don't think the thought of having a long life is a bad one although I have no control in the end.  Cancer is teaching me just to live the best life possible, now I have to figure out what that means.....hmmm
So that was two possible pills in my life for the next many years. I was someone who only took the occasional homoeopathic remedy or vitamin. I did have a little blue friend however that has been helping me sleep for the last few months. Much needed at times and very helpful. I do want to be on as little medication as possible though. I decided a few nights ago to stop taking my blue helper. He was teeny tiny why did he have to go? I had always been a great sleeper, I wanted that back on my own I think.  So for the last two nights, I have laid there half asleep, exhausted beyond words. It reminded me of when you are a kid and you pretend sleep when your parents walked in the room to check. I did however doze occasionally, in between sheets on, sheets off, stick my rear and legs out for air...repeat. The magic of my blue friend is alluring but I am going to try and ride this one out, unless it just does not work.

Today I go to talk to a  cancer surgeon about the future of my left breast and its insistence on being lumpy and dense. Then Friday I see a plastic surgeon about building me one. I am just gonna say I feel another blog coming soon...just saying....


Tuesday, 14 August 2012

"You get what you need"




I saw her today at the reception 
A glass of wine in her hand 

I'm done! I am finished. I should be celebrating yet I could find no reason to celebrate the last day of chemo. "Where is your gratitude girl?" This is what I keep asking myself. As the millions of people will tell you, its not over till its over with chemo. Its like injecting Jason Bourne into your veins and your body spends the next weeks trying to find and destroy him, but he is smarter, stronger and faster and he is destroying you. Now girls remember when your big brother used to chase you for using his stereo stuff and then he would sit on you and pin your arms?  My brother then stuffed his dirty socks in my mouth or made me sing songs about how great he was. Okay so your pinned and your brother is winning the fight but you don't want to scream " Uncle" or " get off me you idiot I can't breathe " which ever comes first. The point is, that is what chemo is feels like.  I have felt buried under the side effects lately and therefore have to reflect on some things and get over myself as I wallow these last few days. Some reflection is desperately needed.

I did not seem to regain my usual bounce with the third round of chemo, much to my dismay. I think I have been so busy trying to be well, that I forgot I am sick. Life has kept going and I  have felt like a salmon in low water, trying to swim up stream ( thanks CBC for the visual). What helped is the love of my family and friends that is unwavering. Regatta day which is always a day for celebration at my house, went ahead with my brother and husband at the helm and we had a fine party full of happiness and laughter. I gotta tell you that for some reason after two beers and a couple of glasses of wine " Stella got her groove back". I would like to thank the brewers of these fine drinks for lifting the fog I had been in for several weeks. I was thankful as I had a high school reunion the next night and a wedding right after chemo the following day and then bringing it home was a birthday party. I was finally feeling okay two days before chemo and my agenda was full.

I dolled my self up for my reunion the next evening and I was determined to wear my wig. Yes the helmet of hair that goes perfectly with warm humid weather. I bought the darn thing and I  had worn it once. I put it on and decided  to wear a hat, which was sort of like wearing a heated blanket on your head. Okay you can all place your bets on how long this lasted. The reunion was a great night, filled with wonderful women. Some you knew right away and some you had to look into their eyes and when you did, there was the same 17 year old girl from thirty years ago. Laughter and joy a great recipe for energy for my next day. Oh yes and two glasses of spanish wine.  I feel a theme starting here... hmmmm. I was grateful to be part of the night.

The next morning was final chemo day. I prayed that it would be easy but hey that would be too easy. A four poker this one turned out to be. The first attempt sent me into a cringe and as it was put,  the tears were popping out of my eyes. The nurse tried again. Nope that needle just wouldn't go in. All I could think was "please, pretty please".  The nurse looked up from my arm at me, I could see the compassion in her eyes. Nurse #1 leaves and sends in nurse #2. Failure on attempt number three. Meantime I have the hand squeezed off my support person, but I am a bit calmer. Number four.......and....... it is in. The rest of the treatment goes quick and I celebrate with a fish and chips and a cold can of Pepsi. Nothing says success like a deep fried treat. Once again I was surrounded by family and friends that offered me strength in their presence and reminded me how fortunate I was. The chemo clinic teaches you many things, learners will inherit the earth. I am hoping for a windfall.

Okay so one regatta day party, one reunion and one chemo. Now a wedding. A coworker of mine was getting married and I was not going to miss it. I knew that the joy in her heart on her wedding day was worth being there. I was tired but nothing a hot bath and some heavy makeup would not cure. I was buoyed by being able to go. I even attempted a few dances during the party portion but it began to feel as though someone put lead in my legs. Alright and I had two glasses of red wine. I stayed as long as I could and then departed like a good cancer patient should to rest. The next day found me moving to a slower pace. The chemo working its magic quicker this time around. I usually get a day and a half before I feel myself slipping. I managed to do some things with family who was here and then rest for the birthday party that night. We went that night but stayed just long enough as I could not stay upright any longer. You know denial is not just a river in Egypt. Although once again I had brought myself somewhere that had laughter and energy so I could steal a little to keep me going.

I find I am continually learning through this process, thank god. I need to remind myself how fortunate I am so that I can wade through when I am feeling that life sucks right now. In the words of Mick Jagger " I can't always get what I want". If that was the case you know what that would be. Instead " I get what I need". I am completely surrounded by people who care and love me. In the case of my family they visit and hold my hand while I cry, assuring me its all going to be okay or  they Skype in and tell me they love me. Friends are always waiting in the wings, wanting to know what I need. My husband takes me to a movie that he really does not want to see.

There are decisions to be made soon and drugs to be taken.

The journey continues.....................

“In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the earth, while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists.”


                                                                                      ― Eric Hoff











Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Birds fly over the rainbow..............

                                                                      Acceptance


                                          Embracing life on its own terms. Acceptance allows
                                              us to bend without breaking in the face of tests




I remember when I was first diagnosed and trying to figure out how I would make sense of all this. How would I cope with my new body? How do others cope with what is happening to them I wondered? What would all this teach me if I beat this and live a very long life? My work life has always revolved around doing something for others, whether that is serving a plate of pasta or helping a kid find his way in this not always easy world. I have shared some of myself through this blog, telling everyone exactly what I felt and thought. With breast cancer as with many other cancers the scars run deep and far beyond what some will ever know or understand. When going through an experience such as this you want to share your story, but I am not quite sure that you can ever  articulate exactly the impact of what has happened, or what is happening.

I have looked around  for inspiration to do this and saw that some incredibly brave women showed exactly what the journey has been like for them through photography. I was moved beyond words as I thought " that is me". Given the opportunity I knew its something I would get involved in . Through the art of photography a picture needs no words to be spoken for understanding. The reality of the photo as honest as it gets. I looked to a friend of mine who is a wonderful photographer and equally wonderful spirit. Malin Enstrom. She runs a business called Enstrom Photography. I found her pictures always captured a moment, artfully frozen in time with her camera. Her pictures encompassed joy and life to me.
I asked her what she thought of the idea of taking pics of me. She loved the idea and agreed to be on board immediately. I thought to myself after asking her  " what am I doing?" Why do you want to do this Sondria?" . I had explained to Malin that I was hoping that if I put my pictures out there we could possibly then encourage other women to do the same. It would put a face to a terrible disease in a different way.  It has been done by others but not locally and not with the courageous woman of Newfoundland.They could share their personal stories of  how breast cancer has impacted their lives through photography. We could then hopefully share it with people through a gallery exhibit of some sort. I pondered that this could be our way of giving back and encouraging everyone to be  proactive about their bodies and their health. It could also be a vechicle for people to understand why after dealing with breast cancer, people meet, go on retreats, paddle in boats, run and many other things to acknowledge the journey.  People could have a better knowledge why we need to reassure each other that although cancer make take a part of us, it cannot take our spirit, the essence of who we are or the gifts we bring to this world. Now I had a partner and a plan, all I needed was the courage and a date.

Malin and I planned and met on a beautiful sunny morning. We talked a little about what we would do, where we should shoot the pictures and then simply just did it. As I got ready to take of my top, I looked at Malin and began to cry. She hugged me and I knew she got it. We spent the next hour or so getting comfortable with each other and finding the right light and positions. I was nervous but Malin's easy tone made it all happen. We laughed and talked while she took pictures. My dog Juno insisted on being part of it all and we happily included her in some of the shots. The whole experience is exactly as I had imagined. I want to thank Malin for doing something with me that was incredibly special and personal. My hope is people take away what ever they need to from these pictures. Some may wonder why the need, but again that is me. Sometimes you just do things that you need to do or want to do. Its certianly not for attention, I am as popular as the queen these days. Lots of friends and lots of loving support. Its an idea I wanted to act on inspired by art and bravery.

In Newfoundland the projected statistics for this year is 330 women will be diagnosed and 90 will die from breast cancer. In canada 19% of of women diagnosed will be under 50. I personally know women diagnosed in recent times and all under 50.

 So now Malin and I are looking for other breast cancer survivors in the area who would like to be part of our special project. We want to represent the incredible women in Newfoundland. The hope is to collect portraits of a number of women. Malin will be taking the photo's and I can always be there for support.

Every scar tells a story and every story has a scar.

If you would like to be involved in this project, please contact
Sondria : sondria.browne@hotmail.com  or (709)-765-1563
Malin at:  malin.enstrom@gmail.comwww.enstrom.ca/   (709) 690-9428















Please do not crop or alter these pictures without the permission of the photographer, Malin Enstrom. And please, always leave her copyright © 2012 Malin Enstrom.

Monday, 23 July 2012

She'll be riding six white horses when she comes



“Sometimes,' said Pooh, 'the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” ― A.A. Milne



Its been a while, I missed writing. I am still "comin round the mountain". Sing it with me people.

This past treatment day I had what felt like a army of friends who had picked me up, dropped me off and came to see me. I don't think I will ever be able to express how much that means.  Always done without hesitation. The big excitement was the arrival of one of my sisters ( she is older but we will just keep that amongst ourselves). Most of my biological family lives in Ontario and Quebec so happy to see her coming. Last two treatment I managed to get the chemo chair that looks straight out the entrance doors in the treatment area. I am like the greeting committee when you come in, the first person you see. This could be a good and bad thing as I cried like I was watching the Notebook ending last treatment. I like the perch as I can see everyone who comes and goes, it always humbles me. Each face that comes through riddled with emotion both happy and sad. I see people who come on their own for chemo with bravery I have yet to attain. My bravery comes from all the people who have been lifting me through this, telling me I can. Maybe we r the same, I don't know. I had also  come fully prepared to tell the nurse how to get my iv in my arm, nice and easy. I had spent two days preparing nice plump veins for them. I drank a lake of water,  had a massage done with love, and shook my arm down to the ground. The nurse comes over and asks " do you have a port?" I say " no". I try to interject all the wonderful, proactive things I did, but she turns and is gone. She comes back and looks at me like " I got this under control"  and pops that needle in like butter. I would like to believe that all my efforts made for a easy iv set up, but her confidence in getting it in wins as well. I thanked her all day long for making what is a stressful thing for me, simple.
My sister arrived and it was wonderful. She got to stay at the hospital for the full 7 hours due to the fact my chemo never came till very late ( shhhh pharmacy never got it, took four hours to figure that out). Before treatment day though, I had messed up my steroids, as in, I did not take enough. To all the people who may ever have to do chemo or knows someone who has to do it, tell them not to screw up their steroids. They gave me  iv steroids to make up for my mistake. In the days to come I was like the Road Runner on Bugs Bunny, I am not sure what my sister thought of it all. She watched me go around like a whirling dervish, for a couple of days, but then as usual I stopped whirling. A gentle reminder from the chemo, of what is actually happening. Simmer down girl, simmer down it tells me.
I got news the next day that my biopsy was scheduled for the following Monday, something I was dreading. All the what if's and maybe's came rushing back. It takes a lot of energy and control to keep those thoughts at bay. I had my sister here with me so I was grateful for that. We went that Monday and I get called in for my appointment. I lay down on the table and I am ready for it, for anything. Truth is I don't want anything. I want it to be okay. The doctor comes in after reviewing my MRI and quickly locates the lymph node that has caused all this flurry. " Its normal she says". She calls out to technician "' cancel the biopsy". I am in shock. I thought she was gonna say something else. I had completely prepared for the worse. She says I can go. I get up and leave. Everything has completely gone over my head. I return to the waiting area quickly and tell my sister the news. She cries and hugs me but I am numb. Hello, good news Sondria!!! I think then somebody has stolen my brain, cause I can't react. Not to worry though I had myself a great little meltdown later because the steroids were wearing off and the crash you feel from them aids in any emotional outbursts that might be needed. I am so blessed lol.
I spent the next couple of days enjoying my sister till she had to leave to go home. I had been noticing while she was here how horrible I was feeling later in the days, which in other treatments was not the case. I had expected to feel pretty much the same as before, but this one was different. I  normally  pushed through feeling like a  bag of smashed marbles, this time is a bit more of a challenge. I can feel the cumulative effect on my body. People say to me " only one more treatment." I keep thinking " don't ever use the word only or just with chemo treatment". The chemo drugs will put you in your place on that. I am grateful to be heading towards the end of this particular part of the plan, but it doesn't end with the last injection of drugs sadly. There are drugs to be taken and boobs to rebuild. 
I managed to squat in a bit of fun because I suffer terribly from a case of FOMO ( fear of missing out). Its a chronic condition and should be treated immediately but there is no cure known. Its mostly a mental condition that can manifest into anxiety around missing out on anything that makes you laugh or happy. Debilitating texting and facebooking behaviours can result. So with the help of a hot bath, a bit of drugs and good makeup I got out. Birthday's and a dinner with great friends, it was wonderful. They always make me laugh, and I feel the love. I am reminded that life keeps going and so must I, especially if I don't want to miss out. lol.  Nothing like a bit of motivation.

I sit here in anticipation of another family member coming to visit. I love being someones little sister.











Tuesday, 10 July 2012

" Excuse me, but could you say that again"

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
Ernest Hemingway


I decided tonight to post something before chemo starts again tomorrow and the gremlins take me away and turn me into one. So for the next week dont' get me wet, feed me after midnight or expose me to bright light. I think my husband has thought about putting me in a microwave and exploding me at times, if the table were turned he would be in there. I have been like living with a loot bag at times just never know what your gonna pull out. You might be hoping for a spearmint leaf but you get a sour patch gummy.
I continue to find wonderful things to celebrate and enjoy, my life is full and I seize all opportunities to live completely when they present themselves or when life just happens. Sometimes moments just appear. As some of you know my baby girl is off the cadet camp for 7 weeks as a staff. They trained for a week and then were awarded ranks some ascending higher than others. She called me nervous and a little worn out from the activities and competition that was created for getting a rank. I knew that the Friday would be the call. I was watching my phone but of course missed two calls from her that day. I tried calling. She didn't answer. So I try a couple of more times to no avail. I think " she will call me later". I head off to the salon as I am still working on the tinkering of that wig ( insert frustrated face). It is a complete work in progress. I arrive and have to wait a little while. No problem I will do what I always do. Look at facebook on my phone. Its kinda become a lifeline when I am on my own during the days, and I am  competely nosey. I look at the feed and there is a picture of my daughter, all 16 years of her being awarded the position of Warrant Officer First Class. Top cadet on staff at Greenwood Air Cadet Camp. I could of busted with pride. She had tears in her eyes, to me it was a sign of humility and gratitude. I don't think I could at this point in my journey received a better gift. So here is my kid who is going through a rough time with her family, killed herself studying( okay she was at MUN library doing god knows what, but I am keeping my fantasies) wrote exams and then packed up and went to camp. She prevailed, kept moving forward and refused to not be defined by what shit life throws at her. She will continue to inspire me while she rises to the challenge in her own life while I must do the same here at home. I raised a great kid. Her launch pad is ready.
I managed to do a few things while in recovery this time. I had a night in the bay where I slept with no sleeping aids,  Lunch and dinner with friends, okay several dinners with lots of wine but who is counting, a concert with John Mellencamp( I was so embarrassed how he kept coming over to sing to me, I kept thinking " spread yourself around John the girls in the back are getting jealous".
What I also got this round were the results of an MRI performed the day after my last chemo. I had thought about them for the last two or so weeks. I have imagined the worst but hoped for the best. I had myself okay with a negative result but secretly I wanted it to be nothing.You have to remember in a process like this, not anticipating some negative results is naive and  will leave you ill prepared for what may come. I knew I had to see the doctor just before my next chemo so I left getting results  till then. I had wanted to call them up ( like the people who call you at dinner time for a survey) and make them tell me but I pulled back.I thought no news is good news. Now I don't know if you read stuff on walls in hospital elevators but the new signs at the hospital say " No news is not good news".
I went to appointment like the good " chemo girl " I am. They always ask a bunch of questions. " Is you mouth sore?" " Are you sleeping?" " How is your poop?" I am sorry they are like Dr. Oz.
She went through how my blood is doing. Sugar is high,  and liver being a little funky ( I wonder if the port I had did that lol). She said I am not going to turn yellow anytime soon. Thank god, can you imagine...bald, boobless and yellow? I already feel like the girl in Minority Report with Tom Cruise.
She finished up and then sighed and then "lets talk about your MRI results". I could feel the tsunami coming, okay it was more like the waves crashing down in Middle Cove beach but I am going for effect here people. " So you are full of cysts" " Mastectomy side is clear" but.................
" There is a lymph node that is suspicous, it has been recommended that you have ultrasound and a biopsy. " Yes, excuse me, could you pick up my skull, I think my brain just exploded" and I think
" I am sorry could you say that again"
It does not matter how hard and how positive you are, the news of something that could lead to anything is a bugger. The what if's and I should of's all start and they take alot of energy. In the end " you don't know what you don't know".
 I could spend the next week carrying a load that would drag me down, or I could process and move on. I got up today and took my steroids, cause there is nothing like taking a drug that makes you crazy when you are already in panic mode. Its time for my husband to put on his helmet me thinks for this round.I had earlier that morning, decided to feel around  my boob before I got up out of bed and managed to locate a nice hard lump in my remaining breast this morning ,bring on the emotional wreck. I then called people, texted them, let them know. I phoned my contact at the cancer clinic, she has been a enduring source of support for me and she manages to turn me around when I need to be turned, anyone going through cancer should be in touch with the cancer navigators there. So I had a couple of cries and talked it out. Then I got on with it. I  I cleaned, washed clothes, saw my dad and sat in the garden with a friend. All better.
My sister is coming to see me tomorrow and I can't wait. She is my focus, she gets my energy not something that is a maybe or a what if's. I think they call that control. Yeah baby!!!!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Wigged out!!!!!!!


My Challenge for the day



I knew when this whole ordeal began that I needed or should have ( so I thought) a wig. As my hair fell I made the call and made sure it was here when I needed it. Since my hair is gone, and I look more like the guy from Hell Raiser, I am thinking I should wear it now. I  had worn it from the salon to home and it sits adorned upon a beautiful fake head. There it has stayed, staring at me from the dresser. If it could talk it would be saying " wear me wear me". I glance quickly and turn away. I know I am avoiding, not sure what it is about the wig, but I can't bring myself to wear it.
I have started with hats, and pretty scarves. I seem to be more comfortable with that. Not sure why as  I find it screams " hello look at me" " got no hair over here". "Ah look at the poor girl, she must have the cancer."
Each time I put on the wig, I think " its not me". I am not quite sure you know who you are through this process. Pumped full of steroids for a period and then bags of chemo drugs you lose site of yourself for a period during each cycle. As the treatment chips away at the outer self, you work harder to keep the self esteem train going and present a united front against the enemy . I wanted to get the wig and rock it, but all I feel is odd, like a girl with a bald head with a wig on.
So I did what any girl would do to figure this dilemma ,  I went shopping. Winners makes everything all better. I thought a nice little something something would do the trick. I had birthday money.. I figured with the right outfit on bottom I could rock the top. After an hour or so I walk out with a snazzy top and some new sexy heels ( don't tell anyone they are from naturalizer hard to say sexy and naturalizer in the same sentence). I  did however try on a dress but quickly realise that life for now has changed as the mastectomy bra I now have to wear is more like a 24 hour cross your heart doesn't come in a demi cup and some outfits just won't work, oh my a little dose of reality. I did get a  bottle of french perfume so I smell great, and people will now be distracted by how fragrant I am when I put on the wig. That is it I am armed to the gills with items to battle the wig phobia I have now seemed to developed.
I had a lunch planned with the girls today at a local restaurant. Time to get dolled up and plant that baby right where it belongs. On my head. It was like I was getting ready for something really big. So a quick pop in the shower, which these days is like Flash Gordon getting in and out. No shaving, no hair washing, soap her up, rinse her off, done!!! I gotta say its a bonus. I get my make-up on and make sure to highlight my eyebrows and eyelashes which have not taken a beating from the drugs yet. Hopefully they are here to stay, although my eyelashes have a few hollow areas, my mascara does the job. I haul on one of my finds from the shopping spree and now I am ready to tackle that sucker and get her on there.
Oh no a moment of doubt!!! My thoughts creep in. "Maybe I should put on the lovely brown scarf that Bassem brought me back from Saudi?" "Nope, its the wig today Sondria!" My commitment returns. That was easy. I grab the sucker and put it on. Now as any woman who reads this and has lost their hair knows the oddest feeling is to put a wig on your newly bald head. " Is the part in the right place?" "Is it too high, is it too low?"" Everyone will know its a wig." I begin to play around with it, fixing loose hairs, adjusting the placement and pinning some stray hairs out of my face. I think I got it. I find you gotta take a minute to let it soak in, let your mind adjust to the new you. You know what, it eventually does.
I put on the last bit of lip gloss and I was ready to go. I met my friends and they were all gracious in their compliments and comments. I sat through lunch and forgot it was on my head, except when it kept  falling in my pasta. " Waiter I need a spoon to twirl my pasta please" its easier to eat through my newly adorned head of hair.
Acceptance, that is the key. Not from those around me, but of myself and who I am now. I am glad I challenged myself to put on my wig today. This " little bit of bad luck" as a elderly gentleman said to me this week, has made me do things I never thought I would or could do, even something as simple as putting on a wig. I knew I had to be  whole on the inside so that everyone could see that on the outside. The wig was just another pretty scarf.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Moment of Silence

This morning started slow. Six days post chemo and very much still in rally mode. I have had a little blue friend help me sleep at night, something I am not used to, and I chose not to invite him over last night. I think he was pissed. He voodoo'd me with odd dreams, constant waking and waking on fire. Rest is crucial, it alluded me last night.  I awoke tired and feeling a little battered. I might have to have a sleepover with him again tonight.  Don't tell my husband.So much for being proactive, maybe in a funny way that is what I am doing.

 The chemo has a way of tricking you into thinking your okay. You look okay. Your friends think you look okay. Inside it feels like there is an unwanted visitor, chipping away at your stamina. Its alright, I gotta a plan for you, I don't know what it is yet, but your out of here.

I have revelled in the support as my hair went short and shorter. The departure of the hair has been a slow process. Almost two weeks since I buzzed it as I felt strands departing their follicles. It seems when you are graced with a fine head full of hair like myself it takes a while. The hair slowly thins or so I thought. The last week its just felt like wire sticks in my head. Just sitting there, dead. They hurt if you rub them the wrong way. " I just want them out". Careful what you wish for. I tried to picture in my mind what it would look like when they came out. I tried to think that I would be okay with it.
I just tried to imagine, to empower myself but....

I decided what I need today is a shower, a nice hot one, make all the boo's boo's go away. It usually works. Perks me up. I washed my hair, whats left of it..keep the scalp all healthy. I had noticed each time I wash my hair I lost some of it with each washing. Well today was the day of the great departure. I kept going over my head with my hand. With each pass a hand full of those little wirey buggers. It was what I wanted since it was so uncomfortable, wasn't it? I kept going and going, but I knew I did not get them all out. I suddenly realised, I now had to deal with what was left. How would I look? Was I ready for this today? Nope! I realised I had taken my big girl pants off before I got in the shower, even they weren't working today anyways. As I turned off the shower, I started to cry, not a sob or weeping type of cry, the one that comes from down deep. I think I needed this cry. Nothing prepared me for the reflection in the mirror, combined with puffy red eyes and a snotty nose from crying. Lovely, just completely lovely. I let er go. A good cry, nothing clears the soul better. I called my husband, sobbed on the phone. I assured him I was fine, but what I wanted was not to be alone right then and there. His voice was enough. I hung up and was just quiet. I felt I needed a moment of silence, for my follicularly challenged head. All the planning, prepping, self esteem building from those I love did not work today, but that is okay. This isn't about keeping me from being sad, mad or angry. I don't like it but I feel all those things. I also get to be happy as well. Humbles one to appreciate the now.
Now time to get the wig ready for sure. I had picked it up but it I found it was to heavy so I asked my friend to drop it off today on the way home to the hair dresser. I really appreciate the help. Shortly after I receive a picture text.
So a girl has no choice but to laugh and be happy when surrounded with people who will do anything to make you feel better. It fixed everything.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Peaks and Valley's

As with anyones life, its full of peaks and valleys. Happiness and sadness. For me its all amplified. I have tried to embrace both. I remember the day I was told I have breast cancer my friend asked my doctor should I get something to help with my coping. The doctor said " she would rather that I feel everything I am going through. Thanks doc! I am glad that I get to feel everything as it is. The happiness comes from the generosity of friends and family. It was my birthday this week. Bald and breast less at 47. What more could a girl ask for. What off sets the reality of my life right now is the joy and laughter they all bring. As many know I am not a huggy type a girl. Although I feel deeply. So if somehow I don't show it, know that I feel it. I had a wonderful party given by a dear friend and it was filled with old and new friends. I am completely blessed. I just ask and someone is there, with many waiting to help at the drop of a hat. Sometimes I wished I knew what it is I need. When you life revolves about doing its difficult to answer that question for yourself. Its a bit of journey to reach the point of receiving. I know there are many reading this who know of what I speak. Remember to fill your cup, put you oxygen mask on first, if you don't, what your putting out, will diminish your spirit and maybe having you writing a blog about having cancer. I firmly believe that the body says no eventually. Geez I am being a little heavy today with my thoughts. Chemo starts today I think that might be might my black cloud. Can you say steroids. They make me a little crazy I gotta say.
I just was making my breakfast and a commercial came on about the Run for the Cure. It was a husband talking about his wife getting breast cancer and why he was running. I cried as I stood in my kitchen with my cap on my head to keep it warm. I thought that is me, I keep forgetting that is me. I always wanted to run for someone else. How did this all happen. What did I do wrong, what did I do right and what is it I have to change? At this point I know I am being as proactive as I can. Could I be doing more? Sure! One step at a time.
This week is full with a massage, ahhhh thanks Sara, missed my acupuncture, sorry Dr. Munden. They took my blood, lets hope its all good for chemo today. Feel pretty good. I have a baseline MRI on my other breast to see whats up with that. Cross your fingers people. Then we will round of the week with a Nuelasta shot in my belly to keep white blood cells up. Bring on the side effects. I am armed this week with more drugs, not something I ever have taken. I have new homeopathic remedies to help so that rounds it off to 13 things to ingest daily. Some twice a day. Girl has gotta do what a girl has gotta do. I am finding the odd glass of red wine helps to take the edge off. Millions can't be wrong.
I had hoped to take my daughter to my chemo session today but she is sick and can't come to the hospital with her cold. I felt that it would be good for her to see the process and to be able to understand what her mother is actually dealing with. We are good at just coping and sometimes hiding. I tend to be more outward than intrinsic as I got to talk everything through multiple times, but with your kid its different. I try to articulate frequently how I am feeling but i am still cooking and driving and doing what I can. She has school and exams, and work and cadets so very busy. My mother had breast cancer and as a young adult I did not even get it or was there at times when I should of been. I did do what I could living away or so my self absorbed self thought. My daughter is leaving for the summer for a job at cadet camp, so she will miss some of the wonderful chemo aftermath days, maybe not a bad thing for everyone involved. I will miss her dearly.
In the time since my last chemo treatment I have managed to squat in some fun. I got to see the opening of the David Blackwood exhibit, a IMAX movie, Alan Doyle concert, two parties, fathers day, birthday dinner and time with friends. Embracing life when I can. I know this next round I need to maybe rest a little more, but when you feel good you want to do things. Pretty normal. I am blessed to have family coming in July and August, they will both be here for chemo and I am eternally grateful.
See for every sad moment I have, there is no choice but to get back to life. Its happening, its wonderful and I believe all the sad moments teach us to embrace the great ones, and usually the great ones are small things that build us up, not some big aha moment. Its opening the door and hearing a bird sing. blasting a song in the car and dancing a little in your seat as you drive, saying thank you and getting a smile for it, eating a favorite food, sitting with a friend in the sun, a text asking how you are. So if you are feeling a bit down, or life has kicked you in the ass today, find something that makes you smile, do something for someone. Get your channels flowing so the positive can push out the negative. Okay I am preaching. I think I am talking to myself, you all get to reap the benefits today lol.
Here is a song that spoke to me today and gave me a little boost...made me cry and smile at the same time..This is for all of you that read this blog, laugh and cry with me and support me by reading and reflecting back. Thank you.


Thursday, 14 June 2012

" Could you leave a little on the sides please"



I made a decision today. A decision many women before me have made to empower themselves. Taking control where so much was taken. I like to always remind myself that I am not the first person to get cancer, I will never be the last.

I have been made quite aware that one of the side effects of the chemo would be hair loss. I don't know how much resolve you can give to this issue its a bugger. I have been growing my lovely locks for the last year and a half after cropping it a while back. I just got it where I wanted it and bam! Freaking breast cancer, with a dash of chemo. I knew I was going to lose it. I talked about it, I thought about it, I bought the tee shirt and ordered the wig. I am prepared! So I thought. I had read the info, knew when it would happen, it seemed the same for everyone. Okay I am ready. Maybe!

So on day 13th  since my first chemo ( not 14-17 like the book says) I am pulling into the hospital parking lot for an appointment. I am currently, like other patients financing a new wing in the hospital somewhere with my parking costs. Alright so I parked in the $2.00 lot the wing may take a while. I went to turn of the car and something drop across my face. I knew in an instance it was my hair.  It was weird because I never thought a strand of hair could have such a presence. I think that can't be my hair, please tell me that is not my hair. No time to ponder I have an appointment with the social worker at the cancer clinic. I arrive and get called in by a very pleasant woman. I am completely preoccupied and as she begins to speak to me, I look at her and say " my hair just started falling out" and then in front of a complete stranger I start to cry. None of my preparation worked. She is completely empathetic, hello social worker what a better stranger to be with. I get through the meeting only bringing up my hair a half dozen times and running my fingers through it constantly as we spoke. I leave and walk through the clinic and look around thinking " don't you know my hair is falling out what is wrong with you people". I go to my car and text my husband and a few friends. Gotta tell someone cause I feel like screaming. Why am I so upset I knew this was coming?
I proceed to buy hats for my self and call the salon for the wig status. We book an appointment for a day and a half later. The next day my fears are not realised as  the hair on my head is departing slowly, but not true for all parts of my body. I realised that when you lose your hair it is not just on your head, its everywhere. Now I never did have a Brazilian but lets just say I won't have to anytime soon. Now talk amongst yourselves on that one. I am hoping it leaves my eyelashes and eyebrows, but one can only hope..
I awoke today, a little slower than others, a little tired and with my head extremely sore and tender. Just like the book says my head would feel. I think my heart was dragging on the ground cause I knew what was coming today. I thought I was ready, I wasn't. I kept putting my fingers through my hair, thinking its not that bad, really. Maybe I will keep my hair a few more days, although I did not want it to get to the point of coming out in patches, that might challenge my self esteem a little too much
I arrived at the salon at noon with my faithful friend waiting. I am lucky to have many of those, willing, ready and able to help me go through what ever it is I need to go through, to get through. I sat in the chair and Robert my hairdresser ran his fingers through my hair, a lovely parcel of it came as he pulled away from my head. He asked me what I wanted to do, his action had been my answer. I knew it had to go. I did not want to go through the hair falling out process since its sad and by the way falling everywhere. I said he could shave it off. He politely left to get his clippers. This was it decision done. I asked him when he returned " will it hurt" he said " no, it might be weird but it won't hurt". I had a little cry to grieve the moment. Perked up and got it started. He was quick and very gentle and soon it was over. He left a small thin layer of hair, enough to make me feel covered somewhat. Nothing a good scarf and a great pair of earrings can't rock. Keep telling myself that and I might believe it.
Turns out I got a nice round head with not too many dents, and a great hair line although there is some evidence of a scar, maybe dropped on my head as a baby not sure. Would explain a few things. He placed the wig on my head and cut it to shape it up..I think the wig feels weirder than the shaved head, its going to take some getting used to. I know soon even the darker layer  that remains will be gone, but I think I can do that now. I understand the attitude of take it before the chemo does more now than when I cut my hair short a few weeks ago.
My illness is a little more evident now, but for some reason I believe so is my strength. I still marvel that  I am on this journey,  its as surreal as it gets. Each event chipping away at my fear. As I lose something, I learn something not only about myself but about everyone and everything around me.
Once again I am grateful.....

Monday, 11 June 2012

one lump or two?


I believe that for every woman who loses her breasts the idea of reconstruction comes into play. As much as I did not want to lose mine, it came down to pure common sense. Lose it and live it. I chose to keep my life going for as long as I can. Cancer makes you chose . It takes away a part of you  and if you let it, it will makes the rest stronger. Sounds a little dramatic for just a boob, but the truth is its more than just that.

I recall when this journey started that I would wake up and literally weep in bed devastated that is wasn't a dream. The stark reality, a shot to the heart, sadness in its purest form. You are grateful for the fact that the cancer has hopefully been removed, but you are forever changed, your sexuality and sense of self challenged. Redefining yourself at 46 can be a good/bad thing. I know I needed a shake up in some area's of my life. I think I could of handled just being stirred a little.

I am lucky to have to a cast iron claw foot tube that soaks my aches and pains away. Its in a lovely bathroom, painted red, and I feel cozy and healed when I get in.  The problem always arises when I stand there naked, in all my glory, and looking back at me, in the lovely LARGE mirror, is my new body. I don't get sad, I just think " nope, not keeping this model". Alright my heart pangs a little, but in the honor of self preservation I tuck that little bit of pain where it belongs. Away.
I knew I wanted to get myself a new boob since before it was gone. People would say " don't worry you can get another one". Do they have a special asile at Walmart for those? Will I regenerate like a starfish or a worm? Why does it sound so easy?
I had tried to talk to my surgeon several times about reconstruction but the smart man that he is, he always said " down the road" and would not really engage me in those conversations. I was a little ticked with this approach, but I understand now that part of a mastectomy is the unknown and many things can come out of the pathology report. As we all know I got myself a grade 3, multifocal type a cancer and we still don't know for sure what that other boob of mine has in store for me yet. Details are scanty. MRI to follow.

I did however take it upon myself to be get referred to the plastic surgeon. I chose a surgeon who I had heard many good things about. The bionic woman had a the best team and so should I. So far I have been very lucky with the team that surrounds me. I had my first appointment with him the other day. I knew it was just an initial consult but you still wanna hear he can do it. I waited with many others in the waiting room. I was feeling really tired and was slouching in my chair but I was still fascinated that every woman there was probably there for the same reason. Your not the only one Sondria!!!! You know this but need to be reminded periodically. I finally got called in. Oh great put on the  blue gown, strip off, waist up and wait. He came in swiftly, I had seen the pace to which he went from room to room. He asked some questions and then said drop the gown. Now as a woman who was pretty shy with my body these days my gown goes down more than the temperature  in St. John's. He put me on the table to look at reconstruction possibilities, one being rebuilding you with your own tissue. This entails taking tissue from the abdomen area. Anyone who knows me knows that is not happening. He says " there is nothing there to take". This I already knew. It would have to be an implant. He explains the process and the months it will take and the multiple surgeries. I ask him about my other breast. He looks and says, not wait for it ladies " there is not much I can do with the other one its pretty much a perfect breast". Sweet jesus in the garden " I love you". Then I blurt out " that is what I thought about both of them, which is why I was sad when I had to lose one". He just looks at me.  I am thinking " did I just say that". I did. I ask him would we maybe just lift it a little and he says "maybe something like that."
He asks me to make sure this is something I really want and to refers me to a website www.breastreconstructioncanada.ca
I explain to him that yes this is something I want. Its not for everyone. I want two lumps. I know I will never look completely matchy matchy but it would make the illusion easier for me. In the end its all about how I feel and what I want. I am gonna park this baby now and focus on staying well and getting through the next couple of months. There are many mountains to climb before the I do booberest. God I crack myself up.