Thursday, 28 June 2012

Graduation Day!

Tonight is my son's Grade 12 Graduation Ceremony.  I feel so proud of him as he has grown into a caring, considerate and fine young man ready to take on the world.  I am filled with nostalgia as I relive memories from long ago that doesn't seem so long ago.  I am filled with joy for being healthy enough and strong enough to attend his graduation tonight.

Eighteen years ago, I was holding a three month old baby boy.  We lived in our first house which had very little insulation but had room for little children to run indoors as well as outdoors.  We had almost an acre lot.  The summers were very hot as the windows and walls were thin.  We spent most of our days outdoors in order to keep cool.  I had a very large vegetable garden and my son used to like being put in the wheel barrow and wheeled around.  As a baby, I would have him in the old steel baby buggy we had or he would be in the playpen in the shade with the mosquito netting on.  As he grew, he learned to pick the peas and beans from the garden.  He enjoyed eating them raw and would help himself to snacks as he played outside.

The house had a slightly open floor plan.  The kitchen was separated from the dining area by a half counter and the dining area was separated from the living room by a half wall.  The kitchen/dining area had a long wall that created a hallway off of which was the nursery (the small bedroom), a linen closet (we used as a pantry) and a bathroom.  At the end of the hallway was another bedroom and the hallway began in the living room.  The combination of the kitchen/dining room/living room and hallway made for a long oval circle which my son loved to use as a track as he became a toddler and preschooler.  During the Summer Olympics in 1996 (I think?) he ran around the track and pretended to be Donovan Bailey, Canada's premier sprinter at that time.  During the Olympics he also pretended to hurdle boxes that he laid out along the "track".  He would jump off our sturdy coffee table as he pretended to be an Olympic diver.  The "track" in our house was also used as a stock car track.  My son had a plastic racing helmet which he would put on.  I had made him racing flags using the appropriate coloured felt and dowelling.  He would bring out the racing flags and inevitably he would hand them to me, my husband or his grandparents to wave and start the race.  He was always a local driver Bill "Moon" Mullen who was my son's hero.  He would vroom, vroom and then be off as the green flag was waved.  I can't count the number of times my son would race around the "track".  He would even convince his grandmother to race with him! She was always tired after her visits.

We inherited a little house on stilts which we put in the yard for our son to play in.  It had a little window with a swinging door that could be latched shut from the inside.  This building became our son's ice cream hut.  He loved to play in there and then open up for business.  We would come up to the window and receive our make-believe ice cream cones.

As our son was little, he would sit on his father's lap as they cut the grass using the riding lawnmower.  My son thought this was wonderful as he got to help steer the lawn tractor.  Somehow he would again be pretending to drive the race car as they cut the grass.  The yard was where he learned to bat a ball using a plastic bat.  Although he had been "playing baseball" since he started to walk.  In the winter, he would use an empty paper towel tube and a rolled up ball of tinfoil to play baseball indoors.  His grandma would toss the ball to him and he would try to hit the tinfoil ball with the tube.  We were always proud parents when he hit the ball.  When he graduated to swinging the plastic bat and hitting the plastic ball in our yard, we would cheer and he would again pretend to run the bases as if he'd hit a long home run.

One summer, my husband decided to introduce our son to golf.  He took an old driver of his and cut the shaft down so it was a child sized driver.  Our son hit the golf balls around the yard for hours as he tried to get some lift on the ball.  One time, my mother was visiting and we were sitting on the back deck while our son was hitting the golf ball around the yard.  The only rule he had was that he could not go in front of the house to hit the ball.  That was our way of keeping him away from the busy country road and also keeping our cars safe in the driveway.  There was plenty of room for him to hit the ball in other areas of the lot.  Anyway, we were visiting on the deck and we heard a big "BOOM".  Our son was not in sight and I had a sinking feeling that he was out in front of the house.  My husband went down the side walkway towards the driveway.  My son was terrified and had a look of extreme remorse on his young face.  He had hit the golf ball and it hit our car just under the rear passenger window on the driver's side.  There was a perfect hollow on the door panel where a golf ball would fit.  That dent was there even when we traded the car in years later.  I was just revisiting this memory with my son the other day and he admitted that he had been getting "great lift" on the ball and had decided that he could hit it over the car.  At the time, I was glad that it hit our car and not my mother's!

We have spent many years watching our son play baseball throughout the summer.  He loves the game.  He started umpiring and is becoming a very good umpire.  Coaches have approached us, knowing the umpire is our son, and have been effusive in their compliments in regards to his control of the game and patience with the young players in house league games.

I have so many wonderful memories from my son as a baby, toddler, preschooler and all the way to being a young man.  He's graduating tonight and I am so proud of who he has become!

A Tired Day (Wed.)

I struggled today.  I've been fairly active and able to do more around the house lately.  On Sunday I realized that this week was going to be a real test of my ability to get things done and prioritize.  I had a function to attend tonight in support of my husband.  I was looking forward to this event as I do every year.  To me it was not an option to miss the event so it was a priority.  Today I also had some laundry to get done, some grocery shopping to do in preparation for the long weekend and I wanted to clean my bathrooms in preparation for family who are coming to visit and attend our son's graduation.  I don't know if it is the pressure of getting prepared for graduation and the long weekend, but I was already overtired before the day even began.

I was able to get the shopping done with my son's assistance.  My mind and memory were not working well today at all.  Even with writing things down to remind myself, I kept forgetting.  My son helped me keep it all straight and on track.  I got the laundry done and hung outside.  And then I ran out of energy completely.  I felt dizzy and nauseous which still happens when I have done too much.  It was only 12 noon.  I still had the bathrooms that I wanted to clean but I knew I did not have the energy to do it.  I also knew that I still wanted to support my husband at his event tonight.  So I decided to put the bathrooms off until tomorrow and I laid down to rest.  I slept for two hours!

When I awoke, I did not feel refreshed.  I was still really tired.  I got myself ready for the evening and as I brushed my teeth, I struggled with my gag reflex and the memory of struggling to brush my teeth during the days immediately following my chemo.  I sat on the patio and read a book until it was time to head to my husband's event.  I was a little more alert but still feeling dragged out.  I'm assuming it is my body being tired after I've had three consecutive good and busy days.

I went to the "party" but I did not have enough energy to stand and mingle at the beginning.  So I found the table where we were seated and sat down.  People were really understanding and came over to visit.  I enjoyed myself and I also enjoyed the meal.  While the speeches and presentations took place, I was very proud of my husband and glad that I had attended the event.  He has been such a rock for me throughout the last eight months and in the process he still did an amazing job at work and received a promotion.  I'm always happy to see him in his element at these functions as he appreciates and applauds the employees and volunteers.  However, at about 8:45 p.m. I started to tire quickly.  The formal part of the evening finished around 9:45 and I tried to mingle with the others out on the terrace and in the main room.  Unfortunately, I started to feel unwell.  By this I mean, I started feeling dizzy and ill.  I said my farewells and made my way to the van.  The drive home seemed to take a long time as I concentrated on the road.

It was so nice to be out and see people that I haven't seen since this time last year.  Everyone was so supportive and encouraging.  People were complimentary about the blog and how insightful it has been for them and how they were able to walk with me every step of the way.  These comments came at a time when I've been questionning whether to keep the blog going.  When I started the blog, I decided I would write it from the time that I discovered the lymphoma through to the time that I was cured of the lymphoma.  Although I'm in remission, I'm not deemed cured until five to seven years from now when I'll be cancer free for the whole time.  The blog will still meet my need to express how my body continues to get stronger as well as any setbacks.  The blog still helps me keep life in perspective.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

A Fulfilling and Satisfying Life - Part 2

In the first of this series of three posts, I concentrated on the first of the three circles that make up our being.  As a very brief review, the three circles are separate but overlap to create a mutual centre which is our soul or deepest being.  The three circles are Physical, Emotional and Spiritual.  Last time I talked about the Physical.  Today I'm going to focus on the Emotional part of our being.

The word "emotional" can evoke many different meanings and feelings to people.  If someone is emotional, it may mean they are out of control and full of negative emotions such as anger, fear or hurt.  It may also mean a person is very dramatic and emotes their emotions to an extreme.  Emotional may mean that someone is sensitive which in itself can mean different things.  Sensitive may refer to a person's ability to be receptive to the emotions, auras or "vibes" of other people.  Websters Dictionary defines emotional as "pertaining to or characterized by emotion; excitable; easily moved; sensational; as, an emotional nature."  In the lecture, the professor referred to our deep emotional selves where we subconsciously feel emotion but may not or will not acknowledge it.  We need to nurture our emotional selves in order to live a whole and satisfying life.  How do we nurture our emotional selves you ask?  Does this mean we have no control over our emotions and we can just freely express all our emotions without restraint?  No, this is not what the professor was encouraging.  The professor was suggesting that we feel deeply and we acknowledge to ourselves what we are feeling.  This may mean taking action in order to have "right relationships" with people.  This means if someone hurts you deeply, you have the strength to make yourself vulnerable and talk to the person who has hurt you.  This means talking to the person in such a way that the conversation itself is not hurtful to the other person.  Perhaps they did not mean to hurt you.  Nurturing our emotional selves also means recognizing the benefits of loving.  The other day, I was reading The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo.  His quote at the beginning of the daily entry was very profound and, to me, speaks to the importance of our emotional self.  "The Love we show saves the Love we hide, the way a sprig in sun feeds its unseen root."

In our society, we are often so distracted by personal electronic devices, computers, internet and activities that we do not take time to feel deeply.  We don't show "love" (or respect, politeness, courtesy, etc.) and if I refer to Mark Nepo's quote, we then kill and shrivel up the love deep inside just like roots can shrivel up and die.  We can show our love through small acts of kindness such as holding a door open for someone at the shopping mall or asking the lonely widow or widower down the street to come for dinner.  Even just letting a car out into the line up in front of you as you drive, is in itself an act of love.  I know for myself when I show a small act of kindness, I feel warm inside.  That is the deep root of love within my own emotional being.  On the flip side, I also know that if I am grumpy or having a "bad" day, my thoughts are not very loving and I probably will not go out of my way to be kind.  I'll be too busy.   I'll be in too much of a hurry because my day is going poorly and I'll be distracted by that.  On those kinds of days, I know that I feel an emptiness within because my deep emotions of who I am have not been nourished.  I also know that there have been times when I will make a conscious decision to turn my day around and make myself vulnerable by expressing either through actions or words the love or kindness within me.  We really can make ourselves feel better by caring about others more than ourselves.

While I was sick with cancer and too physically weak to "do",  I took the opportunity of sitting still to think about my life.  I thought about what was good, what needed improvement and my chosen career.  Everything about my life went under the microscope.  I realized that teaching private music lessons (piano, flute, voice and theory) nurtured my emotional self by giving encouragement, information, kindness and yes, love to my students.  My review of my existence reinforced the importance of being open and reaching out to give to others.  Again to refer to Mark Nepo, it is like the flower or the blade of grass that grows taller and longer above ground but at the same time the roots reach deeper into the earth for the source of living water.

So how do we nurture our emotional selves?  For me, it's taking quiet time each day to connect with myself.  To centre myself.  It's recognizing and acknowledging to myself that I may feel hurt.  It's trying to be flexible enough with my emotional viewpoint to look at the hurtful situation from the other person's emotional viewpoint.  We can nurture ourselves emotionally just by deciding that the "hurt" may not even need to be acted on or discussed.  That just by acknowledging it is enough.  In order to nurture our emotional selves, we may have to make some hard decisions regarding the kinds of relationships we have.  We may have to act and limit the exposure to some individuals.  This took me over 30 years to figure out.  Once I limited the exposure to a negative individual, my emotional self felt less bruised and more whole.  It is beneficial to take stock and review the influences on our emotional selves.  This may mean scrutinizing relationships, our current employment, our physical diet of what we eat, our sleep patterns and our thought patterns.  This is not an easy exercise but it really does help to keep our emotional selves whole and healthy.

Next time, I'll be talking about the third circle which is our spiritual being.  In the meantime, I'm going to continue to reach out to others in kindness, compassion and love.

Monday, 25 June 2012

A Quiet Day?!

Today was supposed to be my quiet day of the week.  I was supposed to conserve my energy.  I didn't.  I cut the grass and trimmed the front yard with my hand clippers because our weed trimmer is still needing to be fixed.  I cut back some of the plants that have finished blooming.  I took my son to an appointment, dropped off the plant trimmings at the city composting site and then I came home and relaxed by dead heading some of the flowers in my front flowerbed.  This was a relaxing and enjoyable task for me.

Tonight, I went shopping at the local mall with my daughter and my husband.  While in the store, I started to feel weak and dizzy like I used to feel while in the midst of my chemotherapy treatments.  This is always a sure sign that I've done too much and that I'm too tired.  I will be going to bed early tonight.  I still have to learn to pace myself.  I know I shouldn't let myself get as tired as I was tonight.  I guess I'm feeling stronger and better because I'm not noticing that I'm getting overtired.

My hair is another sign that I'm slowly getting better.  I currently look like a "Chia" head.  The hair is starting to thicken up a little but it is still very fine and soft.  At least my head is not mouldy like a "Chia" head.  You can see where the pigment is affected by the chemotherapy.  It isn't white or gray like we thought it would be.  It looks more sandy or strawberry blond on the tips and as the hair grows it is becoming more of a darker red close to the roots.  I wear a hat while I'm outside only because I don't want my scalp to get sunburned.  On a rainy day, you'll see me outside without a hat.  I also don't wear a hat while I'm driving or indoors.

Tonight, I picked my daughter up from a friend's house just before we went to the mall.  Her friend's mother had heard through the grapevine just a couple of days ago that I had cancer.  When she saw me at the door, she was a little uncomfortable and stuttered out that she had heard I have cancer.  I gave her a brief summary of the last 8 months and reassured her that I'm on the mend.  She was obviously relieved to hear I'm in remission.

Tomorrow, I'll try to continue my post of a fulfilling and satisfying life which is based on a lecture I attended over 20 years ago.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Two (too?) Busy Days

Yesterday, I had lots of energy and felt great when I woke up.  I spent the morning grocery shopping with my husband and planned to go to my son's double header baseball games in the afternoon.  The grocery shopping tired me out and I wanted to conserve my energy for going out for dinner with friends.  So I had a nap, saw the second baseball game and then enjoyed a lovely evening out with friends.  We shared so many laughs.  I was tired though when I got home.

This morning I woke up exhausted.  I guess I expended more energy than I thought yesterday.  My son had another double header this afternoon but I didn't think I'd have the energy to go to the games.  I took it easy and about 10:30 this morning I regained my energy.  I ended up doing 2 loads of laundry, doing some house cleaning and going to both baseball games this afternoon.  I had an opportunity to go and watch my husband play a double header tonight but I'm too tired.  In addition, it is raining and cool.  In the past, I would have still gone to the games because I do enjoy watching my husband and son play ball together.  I'm still in the process of learning to recognize when I need to say no to an activity and then not feel guilty for missing it.

I'm a little concerned about my stamina.  I know that it's getting better but I have a very busy upcoming week.  This will be a test this week.  I know that I can handle one really full day which means appointments or activities in the morning, afternoon and evening.  I normally am very tired the next day.  This weekend was the first time that I've had two consecutive very busy days.  I know that tomorrow will be a fairly quiet day but Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will be busy with appointments and activities throughout the days and evenings. I have just caught myself fretting about something that may or may not happen!  I need to keep reminding myself that if I can't change the circumstances, then it doesn't help it to worry.  Worry only drains my energy and emotional self.  Worry leads to a feeling of being stressed which then affects my health.  I used to be able handle being "run off my feet" and still get the family organized and packed for travelling.  This is going to be my challenge this week.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

A Fulfilling and Satisfying Life

Years ago while I was in university, I attended a lecture on humanity and spirituality.  The other day, a sudden and unbidden memory of that lecture popped up out of a dusty, archived file deep within my brain.  I have time to think while I recover and heal from the chemotherapy treatment for my lymphoma.  Being in remission, means my body is slowly gaining strength but it is still does not have the stamina to return to teaching privately or even do all the household activities.  This leaves me with lots of time to think and ponder various subjects.  So while I was enjoying some quiet time, this memory from 20 years ago made itself known.

The premise of the lecture was that every person has three components to their being.  In order for a person to feel fulfilled, all three areas need to be nurtured in a balanced way.  If these components become unbalanced, then life just doesn't seem to feel or go "right".  If the three areas are balanced, then the person seems to succeed better in life.  In the lecture, I remember the professor drawing three circles which overlap each other to creat a centre which would be our soul.  Each circle was labelled "Physical", "Emotional" and "Spiritual".  The "Physical" part of us refers to our physical bodies.  We need to nourish our bodies in a healthy way which would include healthy nutrition, liquid, and exercise to keep our bodies strong.  "The "Emotional" part of us obviously refers to our emotions.  This would mean paying attention to our emotional selves and making sure that our emtional relationships with others are in our best interests.  This could mean attempting to keep good thoughts about others, weeding out friendships or relationships with people that are hurtful on a regular basis, making sure that our thoughts and actions are not hurtful or harmful to others.  The "Spiritual" part  of us refers to the deep and profound part of us that appreciates nature, meditation, prayer, and/or "deep thinking".

Let's start with the Physical circle.  We have to feed ourselves on a daily basis.  Do we always make good food choices?  What we put into our bodies, is it always in our best interests?  I know that I am guilty of making bad choices.  I have been known to go through a phase of craving and junk food which ranges from hamburgers through to cheesies and does not include many vegetables.  My body doesn't work quite as well when it is fed an unbalanced diet.  I know that I feel much better when I have more vegetables than meat.  Sometimes I am known to go "meatless" and get my protein from legumes in a vegetarian meal.  I find my body seems to work at its most optimal level when it gets an abundance of fruits and vegetables, some grains and less meat.  Having said that, I still like my steaks and pork chops.  I just try to eat everything in moderation.

We also need to ingest liquid in order for our bodies to work well.  The type of liquid is important too.  Our liquid choices (beverages) could be water, juices, milk, coffee, tea or alcoholic drinks.  We know that too much alcohol is not good for our bodies.  We know that caffeinated drinks are not good for our bodies as well.  There are studies now that say juice is too full of sugar and therefore not good for us either.  I don't know about you, but I do like to drink water but not only water 100% of the time.  However, I also know people that refuse to drink anything but water.  It has always been recommended that we drink at least 8 glasses of water per day.  A few years ago, a nutritionist on television did say that clear tea, black coffee, fruit juice and milk could count towards those 8 glasses of water.  I know that when I don't drink enough water, I can feel lethargic and have headaches.  While I had my chemotherapy treatments from January to May, I drank mostly water and green tea.  These made me feel a little better.  I believe that drinking all that liquid helped flush the chemicals through my body faster.  I remember I asked my oncologist at one of my first appointments before the chemotherapy started, "Will I be able to enjoy a glass of wine?"  I remember him telling me that maybe towards the end of the 21 day cycle that I could probably have a glass of wine or two.  I was able to enjoy one glass of wine around Day 17 or 18 of the cycle.  I like a glass of wine with my dinner but it wasn't something that I was able to do on a regular basis even on Day 17 or 18.  I would have  glass of wine when we had company for dinner, but otherwise it just didn't "feel" right.  I definitely felt good drinking water and green tea.

The last part of keeping ourselves physically balanced is exercise.  We are in a society now where exercise is often a scheduled visit to the gym.  If it isn't scheduled in a gym, it is definitely scheduled into our day based on the number of people you see running, power walking and walking with weights.  We do need to keep ourselves fit and give our bodies exercise.  Personally, we have one vehicle and I often walk as a mode of transportation.  I use hand shears for trimming my hedge and shrubs.  When I was healthy (before cancer), I would run up and down my stairs when carrying my laundry down to the washer and back up to be hung outside.  I'm not able to run up and down the stairs yet with the laundry but I am trying to run up and down the stairs when I have reasons to go into the basement and back upstairs again. When I cut the grass, I try to walk quickly and get my heart going.  We can all build exercise into our day and it is important that we keep our bodies fit.

We need to be aware that we don't focus just on the physical part of ourselves.  We need to make sure that the other circles, "Emotional" and "Spiritual" get just as much focus and weight as we give our physical selves.  I will continue this topic at another time.  Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

My Altered Mind

Throughout my chemotherapy treatments, my doctor warned me of the reality of "chemo brain".  I had moments in treatment when one word would escape me in the middle of a sentence.  I had other moments where I would be in the middle of a conversation with someone and then go blank and couldn't remember what we were talking about.  I expected "chemo brain" to get better and disappear once the treatments were finished.

Yesterday I was talking with my neighbour and wanted to sat something using the word "railing".  I could not think of the word at all.  All that came into my mind was "handle".  It was embarrassing as I stood there with this silence in the middle of the sentence while my brain was blank and couldn't think of the word I was wanting to use.  I knew that "handle" was not the word I was looking for.  I couldn't think of the word "railing".  Eventually it came to me but it was very frustrating.  Last night, I was speaking with a student's parent regarding giving him a lesson and she asked me how much it would cost for the one lesson.  My mind was absolutely blank.  I couldn't remember what I charge for lessons!  It was very embarrassing to ask the mother what she paid me before.  She told me what she has been paying the teacher that took my student while I've been off.  We agreed on that amount.  I still couldn't remember what I used to charge for lessons!  My husband had to tell me what he thought my rate was.  I still don't remember and I will have to look up my financial records to get the amount.

Tonight, I was out shopping with my husband and I had my list of what I needed to buy.  We picked the items up and came home.  As I was unloading the bag, I realized that I had bought liquid dish soap but I really meant to buy Mr. Clean!  My mind is just not working right at all.  This is very frustrating for me as I've always had a mind for details and could remember everything.

I could understand my mind working this way if I was still in treatment or if I was not getting enough sleep.  But I'm well rested and my treatments have been done for five weeks.  It's not making any sense to me and at times I'm not making any sense to anyone else either.  I hope this gets better because how will I go back to teaching when I'm not making sense!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

My First Check Up

I was becoming anxious yesterday as I felt some new pain, some returning pressure in my neck, and a scratchy, sore throat.  The anxiety continued this morning because I slept in and felt very drained and tired before the day even started.  I was trying not to worry but it was there in the back of my mind.  Was my throat sore because of playing the flute for the first time or was the lymphoma returning?  The pressure at the base of my neck felt very similar to what I felt at the end of November.  Was this a result of my playing the flute or had the lymphoma returned?  Was I feeling really tired and dragged out because of the heat and humidity or am I fatigued due to the lymphoma?

I turned to reading my current novel in an attempt to distract myself from my thoughts and fears.  The reading helped but I couldn't concentrate for very long.  So I vacuumed part of the house until my shoulder started to ache again.  Back to my novel I went.  Then it was time to go to the Cancer Clinic for my appointment.  I put my ball cap on so that my scalp wouldn't get sunburned as my husband and I walked to the appointment.

Thank goodness there was hardly any waiting for the appointment today.  This didn't allow me to dwell on my worries and get worked up even more.  My doctor came in and I shared with him my fears.  I also was honest and told him what activities that I've been doing.  He checked out my neck very thoroughly.  His diagnosis was everything is fine and normal.  The pressure and pain I have been feeling is caused by a major artery that has been irritated by the pressure of blowing air into the flute combined with using my support.  He continued with his examination and determined everything is fine.  I'm still in remission!!  What a relief!!!  I'll see him again in September and at that time he's also wanting me to have a CT Scan to confirm that everything is still clear.

I can now embrace my summer and know that all my plans can go ahead and be carried out.  I'm looking forward to going camping, travelling and visiting with friends and family.  I just have to make sure that I don't do too much and I allow myself some rest time.  I think that I probably was feeling fatigued today because I've had a busy time.  The heat and humidity don't help as they always make me feel very tired anyway.  I'm interested to see how much energy I regain over the summer as I continue to heal and get stronger.  It seems to have been a very long time since I felt "normal".  Let the summer begin! 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Try, Try and Try again

Have you ever given 110 per cent of your efforts to a person or to an activity?  And then when you have given your all, you find out it wasn't enough and you have to go back  and try again?  When is it considered enough?  Today I was wrestling with these questions.

Let me back up to the beginning of the day.  Overall, I had a great day!   I woke up with anticipation and excitement as I was meeting a friend for coffee and a visit.  Three hours went by very quickly (my goodness did we have a lot to talk about and discover about each other!) and we were saying our farewells as we went our separate ways to take on the rest of the day.  What a great way to start the day!

I planned to take the rest of the day and work on catching up on housework as the weather forecast was calling for rain.  I was remembering what my chiropractor told me yesterday about taking it easy and letting my shoulder rest but I thought I could handle vacuuming the house, dusting the house and cleaning the bathrooms.  That wouldn't be too much.  That would rest my shoulder.  At least that was what I was telling myself in an effort to convince myself that I was still listening to my body.  Yeah right!!  I had my lunch and then went downstairs to start tidying up my music studio.

As I walked into my studio, the piano was calling my name.  I went over and reacquainted myself with my piano.  It was soothing to my soul to play some Chopin, Beethoven, Mozart and Handel.  Now I was distracted and yearning to pick up my flute.  I haven't played my flute since the end of November when my throat was first sore and my family doctor hinted that I may have cancer.  I took my flute off the shelf and put it together.  As I brought it to my lip, my comfort levels were contradicting.  My flute settled against my lip fairly comfortably as if I had just played last week.  However, my core muscles which are used for support were weak and uncoordinated as were my fingers.  My throat muscles were also weak and uncoordinated.  I tried to play one short study as an introduction to my first time playing.  When I first started to play, I experienced a coughing attack just like I did on November 20, 2011 which was the first day I realized something was wrong with me.  I stopped playing and waited for the coughing to subside.  Then I tried to play again.  This was good as there was no more coughing.  However, I ran out of breath very quickly.  I persevered in my attempt to practise.  I played slowly in an effort to get my fingers to work together.  My support started to work again but weakly.  I only played for 10 minutes and I was very tired.  My throat was scratchy sore afterwards.  I'm not sure that this is a good sign.  I'll mention this to my oncologist when I see him for a check up tomorrow.  I cleaned my flute up and put it away on the shelf again.  Hopefully, I'll be able to pick it up again soon.  I've missed my flute.  It is discouraging though to have to start from scratch to work myself and my muscles up to the level of playing that I expect from myself.   Two other times in my life,  I've been in this situation of starting anew with my flute.  The first time was just after I graduated and I was not feeling good about my flute.  I deliberately put it away for two years before I felt the motivation to play again.  The second time I had to start over wtih my flute was five years ago when I had surgery on my ulna nerve in my left arm after having broke my wrist and also had some hand surgery done at the same time to remove Dupuytren's Disease from my left hand.  Today as I practised, I realized that I'm a little tired of trying again and again to pick my flute up and start from the beginning.  I'm not giving up yet but I am concerned about the fact that my throat was sore after playing.

I never did get to cleaning my house as the phone rang and I enjoyed a nice long visit with a friend from California.  This is a good thing as my shoulder did need the rest.  It was less sore today and by this evening, I'm not feeling any discomfort with it at all.

Perhaps I'm feeling discouraged with trying again to start from the beginning with my flute because my body is still tired and discouraged from the chemotherapy.  I certainly had to try, try and try again through each cycle of chemo in order to gear myself up for the next round.  Maybe I'm just tired of trying.  Maybe it is too soon to try and play my flute.  It certainly seems to take much more effort than my piano.  I had thought that since I can't sing yet, then maybe I could enjoy playing my flute.  Part of me wants to get back to playing my flute with my chamber music friends.  Oh well.....I'll be trying yet again but when I try again may depend on what my oncologist says about my throat tomorrow.  My fear is that my throat may not come back to normal because of scar tissue and it may interfere with my ability to open my throat enough to play and sing.  Again, I'm at the point of having to hand my worries over to God to take care of.  Otherwise, I'll drive myself into the emotional "blues" as I wait for my body to fully heal.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Aches and Pains....What do they mean?

The last two days (Sunday and today) my right shoulder has been very sore.  It is very uncomfortable to reach forward or downwards with my right arm.  The shoulder "grabs" me and really hurts.  I am a little paranoid about aches and pains now because I always wonder "Is the lymphoma coming back or is there another kind of cancer growing inside of me?"  So as the shoulder was aching, I tried to logically think about it.  I've been doing a lot of hedge trimming last week and I started trimming my shrubs.  I cut the grass and then used the hand clippers to trim along the fences.  I have always had bad knees so if I need to pull weeds by hand or trim the grass, I bend over from the waist and use my long arms to help me reach and pull the weeds or clip the grass.  Maybe this is why my shoulder is sore.

I also had an appointment scheduled with my chiropractor so I decided to let him work on the shoulder.  This morning I finished weeding my flowerbed using my hoe, shovel and hand cultivator.  I was very tired afterwards so I took it easy for the rest of the day until I went to my chiropractor appointment.  As I changed from my gardening clothes to my "going out" clothes, I noticed some swelling near the site of where the tumour was in my neck/collarbone area.  As I felt around the swollen area, I felt a hard lump.  I'm wondering if this is scar tissue or if the lymph node is becoming enlarged again.  Or is it a lump of swollen tissue because of the gardening I've been doing.  As I looked in the mirror and was feeling around, I started to feel scared and anxious.

I remember my oncologist telling me in one of my appointments during the chemotherapy cycles that the physiology (form) of that area of my neck will have changed due to the scar tissue and trauma to the area.  I'm hoping that I'm just feeling the "new" physiology of the area.  I have a check up with my doctor on Wednesday and I'll definitely be mentioning the swelling and lump that I felt earlier today.  I don't want to be a "Nervous Nelly" but if it's going to return, I want to catch it early.  I'm not singing anymore so I won't be able to feel any changes like the last time.  I am glad that I have an appointment on Wednesday. I'm going to rest tomorrow and Wednesday.  Maybe rest will make a difference to the swelling.

I have to remember to give my concerns and worries over to God to carry for me.  I do this by combining some meditation techniques with prayer.  I inhale deeply and slowly.  As my lungs fill with air, I focus on my fears, worries and anxieties.  As I exhale slowly, I visualize exhaling all those worries into God's hands until my lungs are empty.  If I still feel tension within, I repeat the process and name each fear individually as I inhale slowly.  As I exhale, I give God each fear individually.  When I'm relaxed, then I thank God in prayer for His/Her love, support and all-encompassing care.

When I went to the chiropractor this afternoon, he at first thought it sounded like a rotator cuff until he started feeling the shoulder as he manipulated it.  He could feel the knotted muscles.  He worked at it and adjusted the shoulder, neck and back area.  It started to feel looser and better almost immediately.  He has given me some shoulder stretches to help keep it loose.  In his words "all in moderation".  I guess I've been working too hard in an effort to gain my strength and stamina.  I think I even mentioned in Saturday's blog that I need to learn to balance between going "full throttle" and "full stop".  Moderation.  I guess I need to still learn how to do things in moderation.  It seems I may be slow in learning all of this.  You would think, being middle-aged, that I would not still be learning.  But learning does make life interesting.  So bring it on.  I'm willing to learn and try to change and then embrace life fully.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Father's Day and More Energy

Today was Father's Day.  I am so very pleased with myself.  My husband and son were away in Syracuse for baseball and arrived home early this afternoon.  It was a beautiful warm day with a nice breeze.  A perfect day for drying laundry and sitting on the patio.  I did a load of laundry and it dried on the line within two hours.  When my husband arrived home, I settled him on the patio and provided him with a nice cold beer after a long drive home.

This morning I had made a vegetable dip using my husband's favourite hot sauce, Arizona Gunslinger Hot Sauce.  I also incorporated this sauce into the devilled eggs that I made to go with dinner.  Knowing that he likes peanut butter and raisins, I resurrected the children's snack called "Ants On A Log" which is a length of celery filled with peanut butter and topped with raisins.  We snacked on these along with the raw vegetables and dip in the afternoon.

Dinner consisted of barbecued Sweet and Sour Spareribs along with baked potatoes with sour cream and bacon bits as well as Glazed Dill and Cilantro Carrots.  I had planned to have dessert baking on the barbecue while we were eating but decided to wait and see if anyone wanted dessert.  Good thing I waited as we were all too full for dessert.

After dinner, I went to the ball field to watch my husband and son play 3-Pitch softball.  I played on this team for the last three years and felt the urge to play catch before the game started.  A girl on the opposing team suffered a minor injury and I thought to myself, I could play for them if she's unable to continue so they don't have to forfeit the game.  Then the more sane part of myself told me that I am not in any shape yet to play softball.  I might be able to catch.  I might be able to bat although that is questionable.  But I would not be able to handle running the bases or playing the outfield.  I will be helping one of our team members to warm up her throwing arm before the next game.  This will give me a taste of playing again.  But for tonight, I kept score.

I am tired tonight but am very pleased with what energy I had today.  I was afraid that after the yard work that I completed yesterday, I would be very lethargic and tired today.  I did feel tired after I had cleaned up from dinner but I still had enough energy to enjoy watching my old team.  So today was a great day spent with my family.  I was so pleased that I was able to make a special meal for my husband on Father's Day.  He has looked after me so well in the last several months and I'm glad that I am getting strong enough and have enough stamina to return the favour.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

More Improvement & Anxiety

Yesterday, I had a quiet day and as a result, I had energy today. I cut the grass without any breaks and did it in 45 minutes!  Our trimmer wasn't working, so I trimmed by hand with my grass cutting shears the grass that had grown up and weaved itself throughout the chain link fences around our property.  It was a good day.  As I rested on our patio at the end of the day, I saw a robin flying in and out of our grapevines.  She is building a nest!  That will be more developments that I can watch over the next several weeks.

On Thursday, I watched a program on CBC,called Doc Zone, about the prevalence of anxiety in our society.  It left the viewer (me) with the question of why is there so much more anxiety being diagnosed compared to a generation or two ago.  I mulled this question over throughout the last couple of days.  It is appropriate that this subject has come up as it is one that I thought about throughout my diagnostic tests and chemotherapy treatments in the last six months.

Our society is one that believes a person must be busy at all times in order to be productive.  We praise multitaskers.  We believe in competition at the highest levels at all times and in all things.  Society strives for perfection in all things such as perfect looks (you see very few females of any age going outside of their bedrooms with no makeup), perfect jobs, perfect houses perfect yards,  and perfect children with perfect grades.   We have to constantly be "on". On top of all that, we have helicopter parents that hover over their children at all times and at all ages.  The children are not left alone for a moment so that they can learn to go responsibly out into the world and develop their confidence.  As a result, we have teenagers and young adults who arrive at post-secondary education or start a job with no confidence and they are filled with fear of failing and anxiety.  As the program pointed out, people are having panic attacks and anxiety disorders as their bodies go into "fight or flight" mode.

Add to the "fight or flight" mode, the fact that parents allow children to watch explicit violence on television programs, movies and video games and in my mind, it is no wonder that by the time children are teenagers and young adults, their bodies are strung tight like a guitar string.  As for the adults, they are often living beyond their means in an effort to have the perfect, large house which then needs hired cleaning/yard help and all the latest and chic furniture and knick knacks to fill it.  My parents used to call this "keeping up with the Joneses".  I don't know who the Jones were, but I never did keep up with them.  The financial stress that adults are facing is unbearable as they carry high mortgages and credit cards that are filled to the limit in an effort to have everything.  When you add to this mix all the external stimuli which is in our culture, you have worried, tense and overstimulated people.

The CBC program went on to say that doctors are routinely prescribing pills to cure the anxiety rather than encouraging cognitive behavioural therapy which takes longer to cure the anxiety.  Our society is obsessed with instant gratification.  So a pill works faster as the patients want a cure NOW.  I totally understand having anxiety.  We were burglarized when my son was about 1 1/2 years old.  We had gone out for a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon in the Fall of 1995.  When we arrived home, our CD player was gone and CD's were scattered on the floor.  Other items were also stolen.  We did not own a lot of "nice" things at the time but what we did have had sentimental value.  Two small brass rocking horses were stolen and they had been given to me by a dear friend who had died of cancer.  Our son's favourite Disney video was stolen.  We didn't have very many of those at the time.  Our camera was stolen and it had our son's first visit to the beach on it.  Other items of sentimental value were also stolen. After the burglary, I couldn't sleep at night.  I was always listening to hear someone trying to break in.  I was on edge and anxious all the time.  My doctor prescribed an anti-anxiety medication for me but I didn't want to rely on medication forever.  I wanted to learn to handle my thoughts.  I eventually got over my anxiety as I learned to self-talk myself out of my "silliness".   I don't really mean what I thought and felt was silly.  I mean that it helped to talk within about how illogical my thinking was.  I found the anti-anxiety pills made life "gray".  I didn't feel the anxiety as deeply but I also didn't love as deeply or passionately.  I didn't feel sorrow as deeply.  I felt like part of me was missing.

I was definitely dealing with anxiety again in December of 2011 as I went for diagnostic tests to determine what kind of cancer I had.  I'm so glad that I felt deeply and was cognizantly aware.   This helped me to contemplate and think and make changes to relieve the daily stress and pressure that I have lived with for the last several years.

My thoughts regarding anxiety over the last couple of days have led me to sincerely believe that if our society slowed down, there would be less people suffering from anxiety and stress.  We need to realize that it is OK to not be perfect.  We should all schedule quiet time into our day.  For some people this may mean spending time meditating or praying.  For others, it may mean communing with nature or reading a good book.  I think that in addition to daily quiet time, we should all have a full day of rest once a week.  This is hard to do because we can do our banking and shopping seven days a week.  Our day of rest should mean exactly that.  Resting.  The day of rest should not be a day to cram it full of errands, chores and activities.  It should be a complete day of rest to recharge our bodies, minds and souls.  This is really hard to do.  As I'm recovering from my chemotherapy and getting stronger, I have days that I have no energy to do anything.  I'm forced to have a day of rest. When I have my day of rest, I feel lazy and guilty as I think of all the things that I should be doing.  This is when I need the quiet time to stop and contemplate life and how to make it less stressful and less busy.

I am still trying to strike a balance between being non-stop busy and practising one of the seven deadly sins called sloth.  I have to remind myself that a day of rest does not make me idle or lazy.  Of course, our society does not encourage us to have a full day off without "doing" anything.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Enjoying Friends

When I awoke this morning, I was still very tired.  My shoulder, arm and hand muscles were all stiff and sore from working on the hedge yesterday.  I decided I was going to take it easy today so that I could go to my church choir party tonight.  This decision to rest today was based on my body telling me it was tired.

I did do a load of laundry and enjoyed hanging it outside.  It was a sunny day but with a very comfortable, moderate temperature.  By late morning, my energy levels were rebounding and I was motivated to finish trimming my hedge.  It is finally done and it didn't take very long because there wasn't much left to trim.  After having some lunch, I still had excess energy so I decided to start trimming my shrubs at the front of the house.  I did pace myself and trimmed my two forsythia bushes.  I still have my two weigela shrubs, bridal wreath spirea and ivory halo dogwood shrub to prune.  My weigela didn't bloom this year and so I think I will be looking into fertilizing it as well.  But I digress.  As I was pruning my second forsythia, a neighbour arrived home and I haven't talked to her in a very long time.

Her husband died in the Fall of pancreatic cancer and I only found out about it this Spring.  I waved at her and she hollered "hello" across the street.  I still can't project my voice that far so I crossed the street to chat with her.  We started to visit and she invited me to join her in her back yard in the shade to continue our visit.  I was so proud of myself that I just left my gloves and shears laying my yard and I didn't worry about it.  As we sat on her deck, I took my hat off as I was getting hot but sitting in the shade, I could cool my head off and not get sunburned.  This was casually done without me really thinking about it all while we continued to visit.  She was sharing with me her experience with her husband's symptoms and eventual diagnosis.  I was so intent on listening that I didn't think about not having much hair.  Once my hat came off, she stumbled in her narrative and then she stopped talking and just stared at me.  I then realized that I had no hat on and I obviously didn't have much hair.  She asked me "Is there a reason that you cut your hair so short?"  For some reason, I thought she knew about my diagnosis.  Obviously she didn't.  So I said "Yes, my hair fell out when I had chemo this past Winter to treat my lymphoma."  I asked her to continue sharing her story with me.  I would share mine once she was finished because I really wanted to know about her struggle and adjustment.  She is alone and is a very warm, friendly person.

We shared tears and comforted each other in our short visit.  She only had 48 days with her husband after his diagnosis.  She shared with me that her daughter is engaged but is struggling with the fact that her father won't be walking her down the aisle.  I totally understand my friend's pain as well as her daughter's pain.  I lost my father to lung cancer just three months before I was married when I was 27 years old.  I shared with my friend my belief that her husband would be at the wedding in spirit.  I truly believe this.  My friend shared with me that she is now retired and we ended our visit with promises to have impromptu chats.  I'm invited to drop by when I see her truck in the driveway and she is invited to drop by when she sees my van in my driveway.  Although this was an emotionally draining visit, I was glad that I had been spontaneous and gone to her home.

After my visit, I returned to my forsythia bush and finished pruning it.  It was therapeutic as I processed the remnants of emotion from my visit with my neighbour friend.  Good thing because at that point my son returned home from school with our van and I was able to get him to deliver all the plant trimmings from the hedge and the shrubs to the city's composting site.  Although my body was weary, I wasn't as tired as when I had worked on the hedge yesterday.

In fact, I still had enough energy to make supper and then a dessert for the choir party which is a dessert potluck.  In the midst of this, my son needed to be delivered to the local baseball park so that he could umpire tonight.  Just as we left the house to go to the van, my husband returned from his week out of town on business.  What a nice surprise as I didn't expect him to arrive until much later!  So my husband was able to accompany me to the party.

Was it ever nice to arrive at the party and see my friends from the choir!  The evening passed very quickly and I must admit that after a couple of hours, I was getting weary.  My full day was catching up with me.  I'm so glad that I went to the party.  I enjoyed visiting with all my friends and I realized how much I miss singing in the choir.

It's been a tiring day but it's been a fulfilling day.  In sharing with my neighbour friend and listening to her, I was able to see how my struggles really helped me be empathetic and I hope a comfort to her.  It's been a great day.  I had planned to write about a documentary on anxiety that I watched today but I'll leave that for another post.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

A Mother/Daughter Date

While I was undergoing my chemotherapy, my daughter wanted to go out with me for some poutine.  I was not up to eating poutine at that time so I promised her that when I was finished my chemo and feeling better, we would have a mother/daughter night and go out for some poutine.  So tonight was our planned "date".

But first, I'll regale you about my day.  I woke up early this morning nice and refreshed.  I had truly put behind me the negativity of yesterday morning.  The sun was shining brightly and you could see the dampness and freshness of yesterday's rain on the lawns, trees and gardens.  I decided to work on my hedge.  I really do like working on it although it takes a long time to trim.  As I tirm, I listen to the birds and take pleasure in the neatness of the hedge that has been finished.  What makes my hedge saga prolonged is the weakness of my muscles and my stamina.  After I work on the hedge, my hands are very weak and achy.  Today I was able to work for about 45 minutes before I felt tired and hot.  This seemed to be less than what I was able to do last week.  Oh well, I just paced myself today.  I didn't want to overdo it as I had a long awaited evening with my daughter to look forward to.

While I work outdoors, I do still have to wear a hat for two reasons.  I need to make sure that I don't get my face sunburned but I also have to worry about my scalp being sunburned.  I don't have enough hair on my head yet to protect my scalp.  Speaking of my hair, I talked to a breast cancer survivor at the Survivors' Reception at the Relay For Life and she told me that I should shave my head.  Apparently the first growth of hair is still affected by the chemotherapy and is lacking its pigment.  In order to promote the growth of the permanent colour, the first growth of hair should be shaved off.  My husband was talking with another breast cancer survivor last night and she also mentioned that my hair should be shaved off in order to stimulate the new pigment and growth.  I'm not sure about this and I do have an appointment with my oncologist next week.  I'll ask him about it.  My hair is not growing in white but is a reddish bronze colour on the top but strawberry blond on the sides.  The top looks like it is going to be curly and the sides look straight.  I'm still waiting to see how thick it will be.  I don't really want to shave my head and be hairless again.  I'm hoping that my hair is growing in with pigment already in it.  If my oncologist thinks that it is lacking pigment, then I'll go get it shaved.

When my daughter arrived home from school today, she indicated that she had lots of homework.  We agreed to go for our dinner of poutine later in the evening so she could finish her homework.  We ended up going before she was done as she was needing a break.  We had an unhealthy supper of poutine and chocolate milkshakes.  Afterwards, we walked through the mall and did a little bit of shopping.  We had a good time together and it was wonderful!  Unfortunately, we needed to get home so she could finish her homework and I had some mending to do which I had put off as long as I could.  It needed to get done tonight.

Today was a good day and although I'm tired, I feel very satisfied.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Overcoming Adversity

Throughout my lifetime so far, I've had too many times of upheaval and struggle.  As a child, I was bullied and had to learn to keep my head high despite being thoroughly scared and apologetic.  As an adult, I've dealt with many personal issues and as a result have become a better person.  These last several months with lymphoma and chemotherapy is another one of those moments of struggle and upheaval.  I've learned to become more open and vulnerable with those around me which includes family and friends.  While I've gone through my treatments and writing my blog, I've also learned to express my heartfelt opinions even though they may not be popular.  Sometimes, I've had to defend my opinions and this is a new area for me.  I used to just agree with people even though I may not have agreed inside.  I didn't want to open myself up to ridicule or create dissension and conflict around me.  As I've mentioned before, I'm more tearful and my emotions are very close to the surface since I've finished the chemotherapy.

The last few weeks, I've been less introspective and have focused more on blogging about my activities, my strength and my stamina.  Today I had a hard knock to my emotions.  Since finishing my treatment, I've been doing some health maintenance with my family doctor.  Today I went to have some regular blood work done.  Nothing too important, just regular maintenance.  I went to the medical clinic to have my blood taken and tested for the results to be sent to my family doctor.  I decided to go without a hat today as I've got enough hair showing that you can see it now.  I felt very comfortable going without the hat.  I was thinking this is another milestone reached.  When I arrived at the clinic just after 9 a.m., it was pretty busy.  That was fine as I don't have any restrictions on my time.  I took the number and as I was walking to one of two empty chairs to wait, I heard an old lady whisper loudly, "I hate women who shave their heads!".  My hair is growing in and I currently look like a "skin head".  So it looks like I shave my head to a small amount of hair being visible.  Anyway, I heard this woman's comment and I was shocked!  I sat down and I looked over at her to see her staring at me with daggers.  All I could think was how much I wanted to respond to her with "And I hated having cancer!"  It took all my self-control to keep silent.  With a very full waiting room, I didn't want to make a scene and fall to pieces.  So I absorbed the comment and was filled with an unbelievable amount of embarrassment and hurt.  I wished I had worn my hat.  Whenever I glanced up, I felt like people were watching me.  The old woman kept looking over at me.  As I watched her, I thought she really looks unhappy and full of anger.  I wondered why she would be this way.  When my number was called, I felt relief because now I could escape from this horrible situation.  Unfortunately, the number was just to hand in the requisition and register me into the line.  I had to go sit down again.  It has been a long time since I have felt so ashamed and I wanted to cower.  I found myself staring at the floor and refusing to look up at people.  As I waited for my name to be called, I continued to feel hurt but the anger was starting to overtake it.  Unfortunately,  I was a little abrupt with the receptionist when my name was called.  I immediately felt contrite but I didn't apologize for my abruptness.  My blood was taken and I was sent on my way.  The reason I was abrupt with the receptionist was that she informed me I also had to give a urine sample.  I was not prepared for that and had to take the bottle home.

I struggled with a myriad of emotions for the next two hours.  I felt like I'd lost all my self-esteem.  I was hurt, angry and embarrassed.  I couldn't seem to stop crying.  The tears were quietly slipping down my cheeks and I couldn't seem to stop them.  My daughter was home from school because she wasn't feeling well.  She was so supportive and encouraging.  Through the support of some wonderful friends and my family, I worked my way through this quagmire of emotions and I came out the other side with my self-esteem intact.  I agree with some of my friends that say I should have retorted back to the woman in the waiting room.  If nothing else, it would have educated her.  However, I was shocked and couldn't find the voice or strength to confront her.  On the flip side, I think to offer a retort would only have perpetuated the negative attitudes.  I truly felt like a flowerbud about to open in the sunshine and warmth of healing and recovery, only to be trampled on and have the  fragile petals crushed.  Tonight, I'm back to being the flowerbud that is in the process of opening.

Through this whole experience today, I am reminded about how our words and actions are like pebbles dropped into the water with the result of far reaching ripples.  When I returned to the clinic with my sample this afternoon, I was glad to see the same receptionist working the desk.  I handed her the sample and I smiled and apologized for being grumpy and abrupt this morning with her.  Generally, I try to rise above the residue of someone's bad demeanour, mood or personality.  Many times I am not successful and I know that their negativity is contagious.  Today I eventually rose above it through the love and encouragement of my family and friends.

After much thought, I'm glad I didn't respond to the woman in the waiting room.  I know myself too well.  I would have felt immediate satisfaction by putting her in her place but I would also have felt guilt and sadness that I had lowered myself to her standards.  Tonight, I can proudly say that I left with my metal shield of integrity battered and dented, but still strong.  There is only one thing that still echoes within me from today.  I used to have a hard outer shell which protected me from people like that woman today.  I don't necessarily want the hard outer shell anymore but I need to find a way to deflect the negative attitudes of people I'll meet.  This appears to be another "project" for me to work on so that I can improve myself.  As I look at it this way, then meeting the woman today is part of a learning experience and without that interaction (not that I want to relive it), I would not have the opportunity to grow and improve.

I'll finish tonight with my Encircling Prayer which I need to remember to practice each morning.

"The Sacred Three my fortress be
Encircling me.
Come and be round
my hearth and my home."

Sunday, 10 June 2012

A Relaxing Day Outdoors

I managed to get four hours of sleep last night between 5 and 9 a.m.  As a result, I was very tired and lethargic today.  That was all right because I had worked hard for the last few days and deserved a day off.  Yesterday, I mentioned that I had hoped to go to church this morning but my plans had to be changed due to the noise level in the neighbourhood until early this morning combined with my husband's snoring and the singing of the early morning birds.  However, I spent my day on the patio watching the squirrels and the birds.  I find spending time in nature is similar to visiting God's house and I connect spiritually with the world around me just as if I'd attended church.  I know that I dozed in the shade on the lounger as well .

My morning started on the patio with a cup of coffee and the crossword puzzle from Saturday's paper.  As I contemplated the clues and worked on the crossword, I could feel the breeze ruffle the small amount of hair on my head.  The hair appears to be a combination of strawberry blond and brown.  I continued to enjoy my coffee and the crossword puzzle in the shade on my patio.  I would look up and see the robins flying through the yard or the grackles hopping around near the bird feeder.

At one point, I looked up because I heard a gutteral sound that appeared to sound like "MAWm"  "MAWm"!  This reminded me of my daughter when she was younger and would repeatedly call "MOM, MOM" until I showed her attention.  Anyway, when I looked up from my crossword puzzle this morning, I saw two young grackles following their beleaguered mother with their beaks wide open.  Even from a distance, I could see the gaping, glistening red of the inside of their throats.  The poor mother grackle kept hopping away and looking on the ground for leftover seed from the feeder.  The baby grackles did not let up their badgering of their mother.  She finally turned and would feed one of the babies and then would hurriedly hop away.  My husband and I watched this panorama with amusement.  It was like the mother grackle was trying to push the babies away and make them accountable for getting their own food.  This scene was played out many times throughout the day today.  By late afternoon, the mother grackle was ignoring the babies and they started to pick up the leftover seeds off the ground themselves.  As I watched, I realized that even human mothers have to teach their children hard lessons when it comes time to become more independent.  Much as it is hard to ignore our children, we sometimes need to ignore and walk away so our children will learn to figure out a problem on their own or feed themselves.  I don't mean we abandon our children.  We do teach them the skills to survive first but at some point we need to give them the opportunity to succeed without our help.  This might mean making a meal for themselves while they still live with us so they have a safe place to learn.  I just found it interesting today to see the parallels between nature and ourselves.

Later this afternoon, my husband and I were watching the antics of two squirrels at the bird feeder.  One squirrel was very happy to stay on the ground and forage the seeds off the ground.  The other squirrel was a little more courageous and adventuresome.  He figured out that he could run up the trunk of the tree and scamper out onto the limb which is holding the bird feeder.  Our feeder is hooked onto a long, thin metal "S" hook.  One end of the hook hooks over the limb and the other end of the "S" hook holds the cable of the bird feeder.  Anyway, this bold squirrel scampered out onto the limb and then down the thin metal rod of the "S" hook.  The squirrel landed on the top of the feeder and then worked his way down to the very narrow ledge of the feeder.  He balanced precariously using his clawed feet and then took the seeds directly from the bird feeder with his mouth.  As we watched, his front claws slipped and he was hanging upside down from the feeder like a gymnast hanging on by his toenails.  We watched with bated breath as we were fearful that the squirrel might fall.  Lo and behold, he looked like was doing sittups while hanging upside down!  He bent upwards and took more seeds and then hung upside down to eat them with his front feet.  He did this repeatedly.  That was until his back feet slipped and he fell to the ground.  It was funny to watch him run way to a neighbouring tree in our yard and watch his tail twitch with nervous energy.  That was the last time we saw him visit our feeder today.  I imagine he will come back to visit us again sometime when the memory of today is a little more distant.

Just before dinner time, we heard the robins clucking to their baby.  It was very near.  My husband saw the baby robin just around the side of the garage near my asparagus patch.  The baby robin was very young.  It seemed to be just getting used to hopping along the ground.  It reminded me of young calves, foals or fawns that are just learning to get to their feet and take their first tentative steps.  This baby robin did not have great balance.  My husband and I saw it disappear into our hedge behind a patio stone and some plastic tubing of our's.  The poor mother robin was beside herself.  She was making such anxious clucking and chirping sounds as she looked for her wayward baby.  The mother robin had a worm in her mouth with which we believe she was hoping to feed the baby.  We never saw her find her offspring.  It bothered me as the mother robin continued to call her young chick.  Eventually the noise she was making settled down and subsided.  I hope she found her baby and was able to feed it.

I finished off my day with a meal of barbecued ribs, french fries and quinoa salad shared with my family in the shade on the patio.  For being extra tired today, I ended up having a wonderfully, relaxing and rejuvenating day.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

A Full Day

Today was a very busy day.  I didn't sleep that well last night because my hips were aching from all the walking I did yesterday.  My elbows and forearms were also aching through the night because of my working on the hedge.  I know they are aching just because the muscles are all out of shape.  I hope that my hips are aching because of muscles but I'm also a little worried that the hips may be a result of the prednisone that I was on during treatments.  I will be seeing my oncologist for a check up in about 2 weeks and I'll be asking him about the soreness in my hips.

Despite not sleeping well last night, I had good energy and the outdoors were calling my name.  I decided to work on the hedge.  I finally finished trimming the tops off the whole hedge!!  I had started this project back in March or April. Once I finished trimming this morning, I felt a real sense of completion and satisfaction.  I looked up the length of the hedge and....the first half that I had done back in the beginning of April (I think) is overgrown and in need of another trim.   So I started on it again.  As I worked on the trimming it, I realized that this time it is going much quicker.  I also hadn't trimmed the sides of the hedge the first time.  I worked on it for about 1 hour in total today.  My arms and hands were very sore and stiff by the time I finished.  So that was it for the day.  Or so I thought.

My son had a batting practice up at the ball field at noon.  My husband had to umpire at 1:30.  My daughter was at a sleepover.  My husband, son and I loaded up the van with all the trimmings from the hedge.  We dropped my son off for his practice and then my husband I continued on to the city composting site.  We dropped off the compost and then I dropped my husband off for his umpiring duties.  I returned home with the intention of having some lunch and quiet time before picking my son and husband up.

The best laid plans always go awry.  I should have learned over the last several months that plans are not important and to just go with the flow.  I do go with the flow but I still find it a little difficult to let go of my "plans".  I was warming up some leftovers for lunch when the phone rang.  I had a wonderful visit with my in-laws.  While chatting with them, my daughter called to inform me that she was staying at her friend's place for dinner and I was to pick her up at 7.  I called my in-laws back and we continued our visit.  By the time I hung up, it was 3:30.  I still hadn't had my lunch and it was still sitting in the microwave but now it was cold.  I reheated it again and just as I was pulling it out of the microwave, the phone rang.  My husband was ready to be picked up from the ball field.  I just hung the phone up and my son came in from his practice.  They were both ready to have some supper and my husband had to still go back to the ball field for another game this evening.  I picked my husband up and then threw together some supper.

Needless to say the day ended up being filled from the time I got up straight through to tonight.  One of the things I wanted to change in life was the constant running on the treadmill of activities.  I think I will have to make sure that I greedily snatch some quiet time every single day just for me.  I found myself getting grumpy because I felt rushed all day long.  My husband had to be there for 5:15 or so.  I had offered to drive my son to his girlfriend's house for 6:30.  My daughter needed to be picked up at 7.  I wanted to watch my husband umpire his game.  So I had about thirty to forty-five minutes between dropping my husband off and dropping my son off.

I took that time to quietly dead-head my peonies and my cranesbill geraniums.  This time was so peaceful as I felt I was rejuvenating my flowers and at the same time listening to the birds.  The repetitive motion of plucking off the spent flowerheads seemed to calm my inner turmoil and restore me to a peaceful sense of balance.  I really love nature and the peace it gives to my soul.  Today reinforced for me the fact that I really don't like racing through my day from one activity to another in an effort to be supportive to all the members of my family.  I really do like supporting them but I find it very overwhelming and chaotic to go non-stop.  I have to find a way to get off this whirling carousel of life.  It seems to go faster and faster.  I'm going to have to realize that I need some balance and that sometimes I'll have to say no or stop volunteering to drive as often.  I'm very tired tonight as a result of the very busy day I had today.

I know this sounds like I'm complaining but it is more a realization of what needs to change.  I'm still figuring out how I'll manage to implement the changes that I'm wanting.  I did manage to make it to my husband's game that he was umpiring and I really enjoyed watching the game.  I hope tomorrow will be a little less hectic.  I am hoping to go to church in the morning and then that is it for the day.  I am ready to have a full "day of rest" to let my sore muscles and tired body rejuvenate.

Friday, 8 June 2012

I Love Life!

I woke up this morning full of energy!  I thought after working on the hedge yesterday and trimming that I would be stiff and sore this morning.  Nope!!  I'm getting stronger.

I started working on the hedge again.  I worked solid for 2 hours.  The only reason I had to stop was that my storage boxes for the trimmings were full.  I even filled a huge industrial garbage bag with all the dead wood that I pulled out of the hedge.  I also came across 2 good-sized trees that were growing in the hedge.  I took them out as well and cut them down to fit in the garbage bag.  Everything was full when I decided to quit for the day.  My son had the van so I couldn't make the run to the city composting site.  I was very surprised to see that I had been working for 2 hours.

I had my lunch and rested at the same time.  I was tired.  By 1:30, I was ready to do some errands by foot since my son had the van.  I walked to our bank to do some banking and then I walked to a local bulk food store to do some shopping.  Then I walked home.  I was walking very quickly and worked up quite a lather at the same time as my leg muscles started to burn.  I must say that I was walking much slower by the time I was about 2 blocks from home.  When I returned home, I was definitely tired and my hips were very achy.  However, I was also very pleased with myself.  I have always walked long distances as walking has been a mode of transportation since I was a teenager.  This was the first time since I've been sick that I've walked that far and at that fast a pace.  It only took me one hour to do my errands.  I was back home by 2:30.

I was supposed to go grocery shopping with my husband tonight.  I wasn't sure if I would be able to do it because of the activity I had today.  I'm pleased to say that I was able to help with all the shopping tonight.  Two weeks ago, I had to rest in the van while my husband finished the shopping.

I know that these accomplishments may seem trivial to other people.  These are all mundane chores that we, myself included before I was sick, take for granted.  This is what I mean about loving life.  I now take pleasure in all the chores and tasks because I'm here to do them.  While I work outside, I enjoy hearing and watching the birds.  While I'm out doing errands, I enjoy the interactions with strangers and cashiers.  I really like people watching.  It is interesting to see how people act and react to each other and to circumstances.

However, I still find it difficult when people stare at my head because there's not much hair.  Today a cashier looked at my head and then quickly looked away while I was waiting in the line.  When I got to the cashier, she didn't know where to look.  She was obviously uncomfortable with me and would not look at me while she talked to me.  I understand because I used to be uncomfortable around people who had cancer.  I used to be one of those people that would stay away from friends or acquaintances with cancer.  I wouldn't send a card because I didn't know what to say.  I've been like this ever since my dad died from lung cancer in 1991.  When my mother-in-law died of cancer in 2002, it just confirmed for me that I was not comfortable and didn't know what to say to people who have cancer.  My experience in the last 6 months has changed me for the better.  I now can reach out to people and be compassionate.  It wasn't that I couldn't be compassionate before because I really did care.  But too many people I knew had died from this terrible disease.  Perhaps, subconsciously and definitely incorrectly, I felt that anyone who had cancer that I prayed for or cared for all died and therefore I was a "bad luck charm".  It's very hard to open yourself up and genuinely tell people how you feel about them and about their illness.  To open up like that makes us vulnerable.  So I don't take offense when people are uncomfortable around me because I understand.  However it does make me very self-conscious when people stare at my head.

My hair is growing back in.  Because it is fair, it looks like I have less hair than I actually do.  I think it will be red again.  It is still too short to tell if my hair is curly or not.  My hair is very soft like a newborn baby's hair.  It will be interesting to see what my hair does as it grows and fills in.  Life is an adventure and full of unknowns.  I used to be afraid of the unknowns.  Now I look at it as an adventure and eagerly look forward to what's around the corner.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

A Great Day

I thought for sure I would be sore and stiff this morning after cutting the grass yesterday.  My calves were a little tight but other than that I felt good.  It was a gorgeous day.  It was bright and sunny but not too hot.  A perfect day for losing myself in the yard.

I decided to use our electric grass trimmer.  This is normally my husband's job but I've got the time now and I could learn to do this for him.  I tried it out about a week and a half ago when I last cut the grass.  It was very hard for me to hold it then.  My arms were too weak.  Today I was able to trim one third of the backyard.  I only had to stop because the whipper snipper line got jammed.  Being that I didn't know how to fix it and I didn't want to wreck the tool, I put the tool away and pulled out my hedge trimming shears and my lopping shears.  I continued my project of trimming the hedge as my arms weren't tired or achy.

I worked slowly on the hedge until I felt myself getting tired.  I managed to trim about ten feet of the hedge.  There is still a fair amount left to do.  As I looked at the hedge today, it also looks like I'll have to start at the top again and give it another trim.  Hopefully, it will not take as much time and it will be a quick trim.  Anyway, when I stopped trimming the hedge, I went indoors to see what time it was.  I had been working hard for about an hour and a half straight.  This is great news for me as my stamina hasn't been so good.  What an improvement!  It was very enjoyable to hear the birds singing away while I worked.  Unfortunately, they don't come into the yard while I'm working but I can hear them in the trees in my neighbours' yards.

It was also close to lunch time.  I had my lunch and drank lots of water.  Obviously working outdoors had made me thirsty.  After lunch, my body crashed.  I guess I was more tired than I had thought.  My plan for today had been to go watch my son play in the high school all-star game after school.  My body was so tired that I really needed a nap.  So I've adjusted to the "new normal" and am listening to my body.  I informed my husband and my son that I would not be attending the ball game.  I ended up sleeping for 2 hours this afternoon.  It didn't really help as I've been tired all evening too.

Hopefully my body will be rejuvenated with a good night's sleep so that tomorrow I can continue to enjoy my time outdoors.  My husband did fix the grass trimmer so I will hopefully attempt to finish that task tomorrow.  A year ago, who would have thought that I would enjoy mundane chores so much.  I find myself enjoying the small things and the ordinary things in life.  Every moment seems a little more clear and bright.  I also find myself wanting to live my life with a vengeance and not to put anything off until tomorrow.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Seeing Some Improvement

Today I'm very satisfied with how I'm progressing!  Last night I went for a long walk which included a gradual hill.  I was able to walk at my fastest pace and I didn't get out of breath until toward the end of the walk.

I've been consistently tired, stiff and sore for the last 4 days.  My hips have been constantly aching.  I was still tired when I woke up this morning but my muscles weren't aching anymore.  This morning I went for a brief walk when I took my cat, Frodo, to the vet for his check up.  This had been put on hold until I was finished my chemotherapy.  I did find it hard to carry a 10 pound cat for one block.   Before my treatments, this would not have been a problem.

After lunch, I mowed our lawn.  It only took me 30 minutes longer than before I had treatments.  I'm getting stronger and my stamina is getting better!  I am still slower in pushing the mower and it still takes a lot out of me to go up the grade in our backyard.  However, today I only stopped for a 15 minute break whereas two weeks ago, I had to stop twice for 30 minute breaks before I was cooled down and not panting.  So I'm making improvements!  Finally!!  Patience isn't one of my strong points but I think I'll have to be learning more patience in the process of healing and getting back to normal.

Monday, 4 June 2012

A New Normal?

My hips, knees and ankles continue to be stiff and sore after sitting for any length of time.  When I get up in the morning, I look like a very old woman as I try to walk.  I'm hoping this is not the "new normal".  I've been seeing and ignoring the condition of my bathrooms.  Today I decided I would try to clean the main bathroom.  I very quickly realized my limits.  I managed to scrub the shower surround until it was nice and shiny again.  Unfortunately, it took me over an hour and I had to rest afterwards.  I still had the tub to clean.  I returned a phone call to my brother and enjoyed a nice visit with him while I rested.  After an hour, I went back to cleaning the tub.  It exhausted me.  The rest of that bathroom will have to wait for another day to be cleaned.

I was our family taxi this afternoon.  I picked up my children from school, dropped my daughter off at her piano lesson, dropped my son  off at the baseball diamond for his high school game and returned to my daughter's piano lesson to wait for her to be finished.  While waiting for her, I sat in the van and read my current book.  While reading, I fell asleep without any warning.  I woke up when my daughter came out to the van from her lesson.  I dropped her off at home and continued back to the baseball diamond to watch my son's high school semi-final game.  Unfortunately, they lost their game by a score of 2-1.

It doesn't take much to tire me out.  I have so much I want to do!  Not just chores but enjoyable activities.  I want to continue to weed my flowerbeds.  I want to finish the hedge.  This is the same hedge that I've been working on since March or April.  In fact, the front part of the hedge that I started with needs to be trimmed again!  I want and need to trim my shrubs in front of my house.  I want to get my house cleaned.  I want to just sit and enjoy nature some more.  I want to use some rhubarb to make a cake.  I picked the rhubarb yesterday so they wouldn't be interfering with my tomato plants.  I picked the rhubarb and then I was tired.  Today I washed the rhubarb but was too tired to make the cake.  I have enough rhubarb in the garden now that I could make my rhubarb/orange marmalade.  I just don't know if I would have the energy and stamina to complete the task.  This is a little frustrating.  I really hope that this is not my "new normal".

I did go for a short walk with my husband to help relieve my achy, sore hips.  I'm tired tonight and I'll be off to bed early.  I've heard that it takes up to two years to regain your energy and stamina after chemotherapy.  This may be another challenge for me.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Relay For Life Recovery

So the Relay For Life is over.  I anticipated being tired but I didn't anticipate being so stiff and sore that I can hardly move.  My hips, thighs, knees, shins, ankles and feet are so stiff and sore it is hard to move after sitting or sleeping.  Last night after supper, we went for a short walk at the local conservation area on the water.  It was a short and gentle walk just to keep me moving and limber.  It didn't help because this morning when I woke up, I had trouble getting out of bed.

So after breakfast was cleaned up, my husband and I went for a walk.  It was a long walk through the neighbourhood just so I could keep my muscles moving.  It worked until I sat down.  Then I was stiff and sore again.  I'm very tired today.  It's a deep tiredness which is very much like how I felt during my treatments.  After much thought, I think this is not only caused by walking on Friday night but also because I don't have a "project" to work on.  I started putting together the Cathy Conquers Cancer team in April between my fifth and sixth chemotherapy treatments.  Ever since then, I've been occupied and on a mission.  My "project" is finished for now and I think that my mind is now ready to rest.  As a result, my body is also deciding to rest.  Part of what I'm feeling physically and mentally is an anticlimactic feeling.  I'm listening to my body and will give it some well-deserved rest.

Tonight I watched my old mixed 3-pitch team play for a bit.  It was very different to be sitting in the bleachers watching instead of on the field playing.  Last summer when I played, I was so exhausted all the time.  All summer long, I had explained my bone-weary exhaustion as just getting older and perhaps having to recognize that I was getting too old to play ball anymore.  Little did I know that I had lymphoma at the time.  A few of my team members and even the umpire asked if I would return to play this summer.  I was wise and said "no, not this year".  I just can't see myself being able to swing the bat and run the bases.  Certainly, I am not in any shape to play in the outfield or even the infield.  Maybe I could play behind home plate but my answer is still "no, not this year".

As I walked today, I was able to walk farther before I started to pant from exertion.  Any kind of hill or grade still causes me to run out of breath.  My goal is to be able to walk a good distance at a faster pace.  It would be nice to handle some of the hills in the area without running out of breath.

This morning, I had a sad moment.  I realized that it is about one year ago that I started working on "The Prayer" as a duet to sing at my daughter's confirmation service.  As I thought of the performance of that duet, I became weepy.  I remember practising and noticing that my high notes were needing more effort than they used to.  Again, like many of the symptoms of my lymphoma, I put it down to an aging voice.  Over the years, I have never had my musical performances recorded.  This duet was recorded as part of a church service.  The recording device broke down just after "The Prayer" had been recorded.  In September, I managed to get the tape from the church and isolate "The Prayer" and copy it onto another audio cassette tape of my own.  I did this so my daughter could have a lasting memory of my very special and meaningful gift to her.  When I think that this could be the last time I sing, it hurts deeply.  It brings me to tears.  Over the last number of months, I've been exercising a very strong mental restraint to keep me from thinking of my singing.  This morning as I allowed myself to remember, I started to break down into tears.  I decided to prod and poke my misery and I pulled out the cassette and listened to it again.  As I listened to the duet, I had goosebumps and I wept at the beauty of the sound.  I may get my voice back but I'm not sure it will ever get back to the shape that it was in.  I tried to softly sing our national anthem at the Relay For Life Opening Ceremony but I couldn't do it.  I tried to sing "London Bride Is Falling Down" as I watched the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the Thames River this morning.  I wasn't able to sing the children's tune.  This saddens me.

Instead of focusing on my lack of ability to sing, I'm going to spend my summer puttering in the garden.  I still want to try to play my flute again.  I haven't tried it yet.  So my summer will be spent trying to get stronger and trying to play my flute.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Rain, Rain, Didn't Go Away

As usual I came prepared with too much clothing, too much pop and too much food.  This was because the Relay For Life was shortened due to the heavy rain.  We had brought enough food to get us through the whole night.  The Relay For Life ran from 7 to 10 p.m. tonight because of the heavy amounts of rain and teams that chose not to participate due to the weather.  I have to say that Team Cathy Conquers Cancer came out in full force.  We had a team banner and we walked starting in the Survivors' Lap all the way through until 10 p.m.  Personally, I walked four laps which we think adds up to 1 mile!  I'm stiff and sore.

I dressed in layers.  I started with a turtle neck with a hoodie and then my Survivor's t-shirt and my jacket.  I had long johns and my jeans.  I finished off with a pair of socks and my rubber boots.  Was I ever glad for my rubber boots!!  The track was a soupy, muddy puddle.  There were participants who were running in their bare feet.  Their legs were black from mud.  Talk about a natural spa.

I started my night in the Survivors' Reception where I met two wonderful survivors.  One was a breast cancer survivor and has been cancer free for 2 years.  The other survivor was a lymphoma survivor.  It was very interesting to talk to her.  Both ladies have been cancer free for 2 years and they still don't have the same amount of energy they did before cancer.  They both said that for the first year, they would fall asleep in the afternoon.  Again, everyone in the Survivors' Reception couldn't get over how good and healthy I look already.

I think the Relay For Life will be a fantastic time next year!  I'm already intending to put in a team and my team members seem interested in joining me.  We raised over $5,800 this year!  This was in only four weeks.  I'm overwhelmed and amazed by the support of my family, friends and the family and friends of my team mates.  Thank you to everyone to supported us in our Relay For Life 2012.