Sunday, 17 March 2013

Circle of the sun

“How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon. December is here before it's June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”
― Dr. Seuss

Its been a year, and quite the year its been. You all know where I have been, and for those of you that have seen me lately you know how far I have come. I would like to say its all a distant memory but the cancer did not blow through without leaving a wake. My boat is still rocking gently but I have my oar in the water. Holy metaphor. I lost a breast but have gained perspective or at least a glimpse of what was missing before the clarity of cancer entered my life. I remember thinking before my diagnosis, how I was not content, that I was not living an awesome life. I was just living. Getting up and getting it done each day. Trying to be a good mother, a good wife, a good daughter, a good friend a good worker but not trying to be a great me. I felt fragmented. The day of my diagnosis, March 13th, 2012, I thought that is it, I am going to die with out being fricken awesome. The words CANCER rang in my ears that day like a fire alarm. I still get a pain in my stomach when I remember that moment. I really thought I would have dodged the cancer bullet. That disease had taken enough from me already.  But then why would the world make it that easy for me? Crisis in the past motivated me to change, to do something to make my life better. What the heck was this going to do for me? If I didn't die. I know thinking about dying  is really negative and dramatic, but that is the first thing you think of when they tell you that you have cancer. People say " sure we are all gonna die" to me. I think " I don't want to die".
Although I have come out this year a changed person, I will opt any day to figure things out in another manner, but hey a good swift kick in the arse comes in many forms I guess. I got and I gave. I was brave and I crumbled. I cried and I laughed. I found strength when I thought I had none left. That people will be there if you tell them what you need. I realise that life needs to continue but it will never be the same. I am not the same. Should I change my name?

I found the need like many others with similar experiences to change my life and make a difference. That has come in the form of the project that I and Malin Enstrom are undertaking. We have photographed 5 women so far and now have three more ready to be photographed. Malin showed me all the images so far that she has taken of these women. We sat together at her computer and as she brought up one picture after another I could feel myself getting overwhelmed.  The images were powerful. Each woman's story told beautifully. Tears began to flow down my face as I witnessed the bravery and courage it took each woman to allow Malin take their picture. The giving nature of each of them to want to be part of something to help others by being the face of Newfoundland women battling the disease. My hope for each woman who takes part in the journey with Malin and I is a sense of healing, acceptance and empowerment to continue moving forward. You all inspire me.

So a year later I am still dealing. The effects of this experience much deeper than a 6 inch scar across my chest. So in the moments when I am alone, when I am completely by myself I reflect and usually I cry. Still trying to believe that this is happened to me. My body still coming back from the effects of the chemo, and learning to cope with the impact of tamoxifen treatment. Although since I stopped the clinical trial I feel so much better these days in some ways. So when I get out of bed in the morning and have trouble walking or moving my hands, I remind myself how lucky I am. How much harder it could of been and that I am doing good. I got this.,

“Don't spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door. ”
― Coco Chanel

Thursday, 7 March 2013

The view from here

"If you want to view paradise, simply look around and

 view it. Anything you want to, do it; want to change the 

world... there's nothing to it."
Willy Wonka

I have had the pleasure in the last year to be approached or messaged by people I don't know. They come with the same message. Support and encouragement. I recently received an email from a man  whose name is Cameron Von St. James who read my blog and wondered if he could guest blog on The Rising. You can read his families story through his blog which I will add below.
 I realized his story is one of hope and most of all a story of love. I remember the day last year when I had my surgery and found out that although my breast was gone, the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes. High on morphine and sitting in my bed at the hospital texting to friends and family, I got a message from a friend that said " love won today", and so it did. So I relate to his story and the message he wants to share about his experience. I have spent time lately looking at a lot of other peoples stories and the one continuous theme is bravery, strength and resilience.
Please enjoy this entry from Cameron

Choosing Love and Life 
It is hard for anyone to imagine taking on the role of a caregiver for their spouse. After my wife's diagnosis of mesothelioma, I was left facing this position. As my wife often notes, it is hard to imagine what facing this disease causes a person to deal with. I rarely share my experiences concerning my struggle. However, my experience is one that leaves me filled with hope. Lily, our only daughter, was born three months prior to the diagnosis. The celebrations for the addition to our family had to be short-lived. Our joy was replaced with trepidation and a future that was unclear. When the words left the doctor's mouth, my eyes quickly met with my wife's tearful expression. Our thoughts seem to echo each other. We were wondering how we would persevere. I could feel myself slipping away from reality as the news overwhelmed me. On the verge of despondency, the voice of the doctor caught my attention. Back in reality, the truth set in. Despite the emotional strain I was feeling, my wife and I were going to face difficult medical decisions together. After the feeling of shock had passed, I felt a bubbling mixture of anxiety, anger, and depression. I was having trouble talking to people without slipping into irrational fits of anger. Even people that were supporting our family became victims of my outbursts. Church members and doctors often had to calm me down. With time, however, I was able to keep my rage in check. The resiliency of our entire family relied on my leadership. Although I still had moments of weakness, I embraced my position as a role model for strength. I did my best to hide my fear from my wife in particular. It was my hope that our confidence and optimistic outlooks could feed off of one another. It sounds wonderful here, but accomplishing these things in reality was much more difficult. Of course, life had to move on as if there were nothing wrong. Groceries had to be bought, and the bills had to be paid. Work did not let up. I had to incorporate all of these aspects of day-to-day living around travel plans and care for our daughter and pets. Prioritizing was the key to staying calm. Organizing around the most important tasks was essential. Accepting help from others was another crucial factor. While I was resistant at first, I quickly realized that helping hands were a blessing. I hate to think of the difficulties should we have had to face the situation alone. Despite the help and my grateful attitude, there were still times that life felt like too much to handle. My wife, Heather, still recalls a period of time that was particularly trying. Heather had just undergone surgery in Boston. She flew to South Dakota to stay with her parents as she recovered. She needed to have plenty of strength, as she was to undergo chemotherapy and radiation for her next round of mesothelioma treatment. While I was at home working, our daughter was with Heather and her grandparents. For two more months our heads were above water, but I was only able to see my daughter and my wife once. Seeing them was no easy task. The weekend began, and I made an 11 hour trip overnight to see them. We were well into the winter, causing me to endure snowstorms for nearly the entire journey. My body was totally exhausted by Saturday morning. However, my heart kept me going. I was able to spend the entire day and a small part of Sunday morning with my family. As the weekend came to a close, I made the return trip for work the following Monday morning. Time away from family is extremely difficult. I never viewed it as a loss, however. It was what had to be done to save my family. Working, supporting Heather, and taking care of Lily at the same time would have been too much. There is no regret that I feel regarding my choices. They were choices that had to made at the time. We were faced with the difficulties because of the cancer diagnosis, but my comfort resides in the fact that we had the ability to actually make choices that could change the situation for the better. From this experience, I learned humility. I also learned the importance of having the ability to make difficult choices that are for the greater good. When faced with an uncertain future, these are the things that give us strength. The kindness of others, and the collective strength of love allows us to face any obstacle.