Sunday, December 23, 2012

365 days later...

Well again time has flown by and it has been nearly a month since my last post (i swear I started my last two posts with nearly the exact same sentence!). Now i remember why it was so hard for me to write for so many years...or maybe it was the ridiculous amounts of white wine I consumed in my 20s! :) Regardless, normal life has again gotten in the way of the creative process. I have been working harder then I ever have in my life or maybe it feels that way because I am so out of practice. But I literally work straight all day with hardly a moment to eat, and forget about updating my facebook status or texting someone back - I was hopeless before but now I am truly a lost cause. Despite the insane schedule, I think things are going generally well, though the fear of failure remains a huge mental barrier that I am work through every day. I literally "feel" my stress when something bad happens - my scalp tingles and my stomach jumps. It is wearing but I just keep plugging away.

Yesterday was my one year anniversary of finishing treatment. I can´t believe 365 days have gone by since my last trip to radiation. It feels like it just happened a few months ago but in other ways it also feels like ages ago. I think back to that girl...I say girl because there was this fragility about me then. I had ridiculously short hair that looked weird and made me feel ugly, my radiation burns were awful and made everything uncomfortable, I felt terrible from hormone therapy, I was terrified for the future and all its uncertainty and I felt like I had been pushed off a cliff. Generally all fairly crap things.  Fast forward a year later and that girl is just a shadow to me. I actually managed to make a little ponytail today which was a huge hair milestone to achieve. I have more confidence in myself and what I am capable of doing. And more important then anything else is that my life is no longer consumed by cancer. At dinner parties I can talk about my job and the challenges that come with it. With friends I can join in and complain about the difficulties of balancing motherhood and work. And everyone is telling me, despite the fact I am shattered from work, that I have never looked better and I have so much more energy. These are absolutely fabulous things and they have allowed me to move on. I still carry these scars, both inside and out, but I have proven to myself that I am more then them.

But of course this blog mainly centers around the cancer question, so I will give you all an update on that front as it never really ends despite the fact i don´t always mention everything. December did not go by without its share of dramas - an odd rash and one punch hole biopsy later - no cancer detected! Yippee!! I actually cant believe how non chalant I am about all of this stuff these days. I actually felt relieved it was just a tiny skin biopsy rather then a gigantic needle piercing my rib cartillage. Amazing what becomes the better option to me! And you know what - I just did it, on my own, and marched straight back to work as if nothing had happened. I did finally manage to ask my doctor the question I had been avoiding or perhaps been to scared to ask - what was my long term outlook? I told him I felt silly asking about it so late in the game. However I needed to for my own sanity as everytime I told them about something, I was immediately marched in for a biopsy, scan or bloodtest. Nothing was nothing in my case. And more worrying was that my other friends in this world did not seem to be on the same high vigilance plan. I just blurted out "Is there something I need to be worried about?" Of course I know there are bad things about my prognosis but I can´t change them and things could most definitely be worse.  I told him I was so grateful for the quick reactions and excellent care I got (and was by no means complaining about it) but I also couldn´t help being anxious about how nothing was nothing. I actually initially thought this rash by my scar was nothing (and it did indeed end up being nothing) but then I realised that everything in the cancer quadrant needed to be checked. But anyways back to my question and his subsequent response - "Well there is the combination of this and that, that is not ideal but  you have a better percentage chance of being okay then not." Hmmm...where do we go with that. Somehow the way those words came out didn´t entirely calm me. But then after i left, I realised that I am nearly 2 years past my initial diagnosis and we have not detected any relapse. That is AMAZE-BALLS! But I still am afraid - afraid of dealing with all this uncertainty for the next 3 more years. Does it get better? Does cancer became smaller and smaller like when you are waving goodbye to someone in the car and you keep waving until they become tiny and tiny and then eventually drift completely out of sight? How long will I be waving out my  window? I have a big month coming up in January - my 33rd birthday and also another PET scan. I am hoping that my belated birthday gift will be a clear scan report. I just dont want to go through everything that happened back in October - it was dreadful, draining and terrifying. So I am thinking positive, although hoping for a negative if you know what I mean. I will be okay - I have to be. There is no other choice. Besides my diary is just too jam packed to make any room for any malignant monkey business.

Happy holidays and have a wonderful New Year everyone!


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dual identities

Again time has escaped me and the weeks have flown by again. I am now 6 weeks into work and I am feeling it. I have been through many different emotions and feelings since i  last wrote - sheer exhaustion, panic, fear, elation, pride, self doubt...The list goes on and on. One thing I have realised is that I have changed since I was last in the working world and there is definitely a period of adjustment occuring right now. Not only is my body and mind adjusting to a full time job in Norwegian, but I am also working for the first time with a little person and husband to look after too. I think she was feeling the stress of our daily schedule this week and called time on Tuesday evening. Being a working mom is tough and I definitely feel those all too familiar pangs of guilt when I show up a few minutes before closing time at daycare and see my little angel playing with the staff as all other kids have gone home. Of course she loves the attention and tells me she wants to stay there but it makes me feel bad too. We mothers have really got feeling guilty down to an artform.

My work continues to be stressful and I am quickly realising that in my role, I wont be winning any popularity contests anytime soon. I really wish I could be one of those people who could just shrug off the stress of the day at the door or not be bothered by something someone says or does. Gosh darnit I still want people to like me and think I am doing a good job! All of this makes for a delicate, if not dangerous balance to juggle and at times I feel like I have dropped all the balls in one go.

There have been of course achievements and milestones over the past few weeks. I have realised that I do in fact still have a functioning brain and hidden reserves of energy to call upon in those bleak moments at 6am in when it is pitch black and -17 out! I feel my identity shifting and the girl with cancer is becoming a weak shadow in the background. I am getting reacquainted with myself again - the parts of me that had lain dormant over the past few years. I am not a lost cause which is good to know. This old dog still has some new tricks in her yet! But with this revival, I am also noting the ways I have changed too in these last few years. I am slightly less self assured and comfortable with myself. I am not the cocky girl in a power suit and killer heels that does not take no for an answer. Instead I am slightly more humble, if not self conscious of what I am doing, saying and how I look. I swear I feel that my altered anatomy is so obvious to everyone or that my freak show hair cut right now must reveal my inner secret? But it seems like I am perhaps my toughest critic. When I started this blog, I created this alter ego to fight cancer and now I think I am actually living as Supergirl has done. By day I am a normal woman with a normal job and a family to look after, but at other times, I put on my cape and mask and jump right back in to the fight against malignancy. I do sometimes forget about that other world which says alot as I never seemed capable of escaping it the last 2 years. I actually have real moments when I forget I have had cancer. Breakthrough I think! But then there are the little not so gentle reminders that pull me back into that fragile world - the pill I take every single night to keep tumours at bay, the pain the throbs incessantly across my chest and the check ups and tests that seem to come up too soon and too often. I actually had one of my many check ups a week or so ago. Sitting in that waiting room surrounded by "cancer", I didnt like it one bit and I struggled when I left to let that other world go and submerse myself back into my other identity as if nothing had happened. Supergirl must have been one hell of an actor concealing emotions and experiences within each of her identities and worlds. I struggle with this daily and still wrestle with the thought of coming clean. Explaining everything but then I risk losing my free pass to Normalville and I just dont think i want to give that up. And for what? Sympathy? An easier road? People doubting my ability to handle it? I think i am tough enough to weather this storm and allow my car to serve as my telephone booth where my two worlds can collide. And in the words of Miss Kelly Clarkson, " What doesn´t kill you makes you stronger"!

In other news, it is nearly one year since I finished my main treatment! Hip hoorah I am still here and as far as I am concerned cancer free! Time has really flown by and I hope as each year passes, the stress and anxiety will diminish each time until I get to that moment when I can think...hey I am cured. How nice would that be? I am hoping for an early retirement from the world of superheroes and perhaps a nice beach bungaloo next door to Superman. :)


Friday, November 9, 2012

Working 9 to 5

Well somehow time has escaped me and it has been 3 weeks since I last managed to tickle the old keyboard and bang out an entry. As I predicted in my last entry, real life has gotten in the way of my creativity and I havent found a moment to think, let alone write about what is happening in my life. So I figured I would let you all know how things have been for me.

I am now 3 weeks into my new job and it has gone well...I think. I am still there aren´t I! It definitely hasn´t been a soft and gently re-entry back into the working world. I think I started sprinting from the start and haven´t really slowed down since. There have been full days with no time for lunch or to write an email to a friend. There have been days when I have came home in the dark and felt dizzy from all the new information buzzing in my head. There have been days when I needed to lie on the couch for a break before managing to make it to the dinner table. But there have been some really amazing moments too. I was so scared of this big leap and leaving behind the security provided by my cancer blanket. I wondered whether I could do it and if my brain could still work. Thankfully much of my worry was unfounded. Being back in the working world feels good. I feel more like myself again - the old me. Though it is thorougly exhausting, this whole work thing has had a hugely normalising effect on. I go actual entire days when I don´t speak or think about cancer at all. And when I walk through those doors every morning, I shrug off the cancer coat because in there no one knows my story. They only know what they see and thankfully my cancer is not visible to the human eye. I often wonder if people notice my chest (though I am very masterful with scarves) but i doubt it. My frame kinda goes with a flat chest so I make it work for me. And my hair, which is going through a horrific growth phase and resembles a mullet with severe frizz, just looks like a girl trying to grow out a bad cut. And we have all been there haven´t we ladies!  I think the fact I can´t bring cancer up or talk about anything pertaining to it at work (not because I can´t but because I choose not to), makes it less of a part of my life now. I feel more like I wont ever have cancer again as it just isn´t possible to imagine and I definitely didnt feel that way a few months ago. I was consumed by cancer and the fear of it. It isn´t to say that I don´t have moments when I want to scream to people throwing work and demands my way from every angle - "Give me a break - I had cancer!" Because I do have those moments but I get over them. I actually need to stand on my own to feet and not rely on the cancer card. The funniest thing was this week when I was on a business trip dragging my luggage around - I got angry because no one was offering to help and my chest was killing me. I was so used to people offering to help do this or carry that because they knew about my fragile condition. But now I am apparently a strong and independent woman who can carry her own crap around! Maybe some things I will miss. :)

So it is all on the up for me. I think this whole working thing is a great thing for me. Sure it is challenging and probably a bit too much too soon, but I am making it work and feeling more like myself with every day and that feels... fantastic.


Friday, October 19, 2012

A Thought Is Just A Thought

So I am back and in a very different place from my last entry. I was feeling lost last week and puzzled by my mixed reactions to the very good news. Cancer is tricky and it can really mess with your head but I have had my AHA moment and finally see things clearly.

I often write about how I have changed as a person through having cancer and I really try to see the good and positive sides to most situations. But if I am being perfectly  honest and for those of you who really know me – I am a natural born worrier. I have mastered the art of hiding my anxieties and worries under the shroud of humor and a smile but it is there and I feel it. This tendency to worrying was essentially given steroids when I got sick.  My worst fear had come true so what did this mean for everything else? Cue catastrophic thinking. What I have realized is that I am a very emotionally reactive person and almost immediately jump to the worst possible case scenario. Maybe I am a drama queen? Maybe I am a born pessimist? Or maybe I am just simply afraid. I don’t know the exact cause but I am giving my thoughts wings to fly on over to anxiety town by this dangerous way of thinking. It is exhausting for me and for the people around me -this constant rollercoaster up and down and round and round. No wonder my husband and I are utterly worn out. What I need to realize is that a thought is just thought but it is up to me whether I let it turn into something else. I am not a cancer expert nor can I predict the future so there is no real basis or validity to my worries. They only became real when I have been told otherwise. I often wrote in earlier entries about how I would never let cancer define me or be my identity but I think I failed in that. By allowing these worries to control and influence my life, I was letting cancer take more of me and I don’t want to give it anything else. I am not cancer. In acknowledging that worry and fear are normal parts of our busy lives, I also need to let these thoughts go. I will not allow the what ifs to control my life anymore. I also need to accept that uncertainty is just a part of my life for the next little while and I cannot do anything to alter that. And really, doesn’t everyone have some degree of uncertainty in their lives? We don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow, or next month or next year. It is just a part of life. I do not have cancer now and that is the only real thing I know so I must not spend any more time on thinking of other possibilities. Time goes by so incredibly fast and I just can't afford to waste any more on this pattern of negative thinking.

So as Monday rolls around, change is on the horizon for me. I am joining the real world again and beginning a new job after three years off. I think I would be scared if I had just been home with my monkey this whole time. Change is scary full stop. But boy can it also be exciting. I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity and I don’t want to waste it. In some ways, losing the safety net or crutch provided by being ill, makes me afraid. I need to stand on my own two feet and prove to myself and others that I can do it. No more excuses, no more waiting on the sidelines while life passes me by. I need to just close my eyes and jump off that cliff and not worry about where I land. I always seem to find a soft landing and I have no doubt I will find it in my next adventure. So seeing as this blog began as a way for me to deal with my cancer, like my time as a patient, it seems like it is also coming to a natural end. It has been so helpful for me to write down everything I felt and experienced but now I see that it is has become counter- productive. I am still hanging onto to being this cancer person and I need to cut the cord.  I am not saying it is over but it will be less of a focus for me. I need to start living like everyone else and not reliving this experience. It just isn’t healthy. I have this amazing new life waiting for me on the other side of the door and all I need to do is turn the handle.

I have so enjoyed and appreciated all of you joining me in this last chapter of my life but now it is time to turn the page and start writing a new one.

I thought I would close with some lyrics from the queen of Rn’B – Miss Mary J Blige. It felt fitting.
Uh, it feel so good
When you let go
Of all the drama in your life
Now you're free from all the pain
Free from all the game
Free from all the stress
So find your happiness
I don't know
Only God knows where the story ends for me
But I know where the story begins
It's up to us to choose
Whether we win or loose
And I choose to win
Mary J.Blige “No More Drama”


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Coast is clear so why do I feel like I am drowning?

"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another. " Anatole France

First of all, I want to thank everyone for the calls, texts, emails, messages and positive thoughts from around the world. It really is amazing to see your circle of “people” in action and how many people you can call friends. I am lucky.

So yesterday good news came a week early and was so unexpected and of course positively wonderful. This is why I am struggling with my later reactions once the shock of it all and the relief had worn off. Many of you might be puzzled by what I am writing here so bear with me – this cancer business is complex.
A few hours later, I started to feel exhausted and this heaviness was pressing down on my chest that I couldn’t explain at first. Then the tears started to flow over dinner and my appetite just wasn’t there. Where was the champagne? Where were the happy giggles and smiles of relief? To be honest I felt depressed and lost and I felt like there was something dreadfully wrong with me for feeling so. I can try and explain it to you and maybe it will become clearer even to me. I compare it to an old man who is finally let out of prison after serving a life sentence. All the life he has known happened in that place and suddenly he is thrust out onto the pavement to face the world again without knowing where to go or what to do. I kind of feel like that old man right now. We had prepared ourselves for the cancer to be back. We had made plans and come to terms with that reality. The evidence was all there weighing heavily in cancer’s favor and I would have had to have some real casino luck to dodge this bullet. But somehow I did much to the surprise of my doctor who even said he had not expected this result. This is something amazing and so great. But in having earlier accepted that my cancer was back and doing enough background research to understand the serious implications of it, I had asked myself the tough questions that would terrify most to contemplate. I came up with plans and strategies to deal with the what ifs – I planned a book that I would prepare for my daughter to remember me by and the letters I would leave behind for my husband to read on special days every year. I imagined losing my hair again and having life put on hold again. I even came up with a blog title for the delivery of the news that the bitch was back. You can say I spent a lot of the last few weeks contemplating all of this. Yes this sounds morbid and even crazy but it wasn’t. The survival curve for a relapse like this dropped off significantly to almost 0%. I wasn’t being dramatic, I was being realistic. I always tell my doctors that I never want to be naïve about my situation and be unprepared for news like I had been the day I first found out. But suddenly the game had shifted and it is an entirely different playing board. So I also need to shift and adapt to the changes as well.  I also maybe need to grieve the past 2 years of my life that were dominated by cancer before starting to build a new one which can be scary too.  Acknowledgement of your feelings is the best way to get past them so I cant just pretend I am not feeling the way I am. I have to own them and then let them go. My life is no longer dominated by this beast and that might feel weird for awhile but it will be great once I get used to the new me.

As I will be rejoining the working world shortly, following this change of events,  I am questioning everything. Will I be successful? Do I still have what it takes? Will my body keep up? It really comes down to fear of the unknown – a different kind of unknown this time round. After being traumatized by life recently and thinking that things hadn’t gone my way for a while, you can be lead to believe that the odds will never be in your favor again. But what my family and I have learnt this week is that they can be beat and that life can be one hell of a rollercoaster. My story is far from over and there will be more tests, more dreadful waiting times and more unknowns over the next few months and then years but I will start slowly rebuilding my life brick by brick with a few good cries here and there.

I want to thank you for coming along on this wild ride with me. My life is so much richer for the friendships that have been tested, the new ones that have been formed and the family bonds that proved they were built of pure steel. I also want to thank my dear husband for being a rock through everything – I couldn’t have come out the other side of this a better person without you by my side. And Captain AC – thank you for listening…to everything and for being strong enough to never let me see that you were ever afraid. Having people believe in you is what makes you believe in yourself even when things seem bleak.  And little monkey – you have grown into a little person before my eyes – into someone who feels my pain, treasures my love and tells me, “Mama, it will be okay.”

Here is to the end of one chapter and the beginning of another...

A very loved OBB

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Oh Joy!!!

Sometimes a phone call can literally change your life. I just experienced one of the sort. I thought I had run out of luck, I thought the battle was lost, I thought I wouldnt get a second chance. But I was wrong. After four agonising weeks of uncertainty and anxiety, fear and pain, I have been told that I am okay. I cannot describe to you the feeling of utter relief that is coursing through my body right now. It is electrifying. I want to scream with joy, I want to laugh in celebration and I want to cry with relief. I seriously dodged a bullet here and I cannot tell you how happy I am. Where do we go from here? No one knows what happens in the long game and destiny is not pre determined for anyone including myself. The road will continue to be filled with twists and turns but I feel like today is the perfect day for starting over again.

An elated OBB

Monday, October 8, 2012

Gwendolyn the Good Fairy

When I was little, my father would tell me a story nearly every night for probably 12 or 13 years.  I felt like every story he told was original and new, though I now think there might have been a few parallel themes or repeats during all those years! He was creative but also human.  Every story centered around the character of Gwendolyn the Good Fairy. She would come to the aid of children from all over the world and help them with whatever problem they had. He was so good at bringing this tiny little fairy to life that I can still imagine her waking up on her little lily pad in the pond with rose petals for wings and covered in a bright shiny light that never seemed to dull. Years on, I could still paint a perfect picture of her, how she looked and remember a number of stories where she helped a child find their lost teddy, or learn to play a sport they were afraid of. I think my dad definitely took inspiration from some of my life issues in these stories and helped me along my way.

I have thought of him a lot this week. Many of you who read this blog often know that I mention him here and there and it is very clear that I miss him dearly. When things are tough or I am struggling with something, I think of him more often. I think of how he would just know what to do. I also know in an instant that he would be on a plane on his way to me if I needed him. I would not have even needed to ask. He would just know. I try to comfort myself with the thought that somehow he knows I need him now and he is helping me in any way he can.

This a pic I took while on my walk yesterday.

I took a walk by myself down by the sea yesterday, as we spent the weekend with the grandparents for a change of scene after the tough week we had. Autumn had made its mark and it was quiet but beautiful. I took that same walk the few days before my first chemo treatment and asked for his help at that time too. I did the same yesterday. I called out into the wind and told him that I was afraid and I wished he were here with me. No one answered back. No bird flew by. No sign. But I didn’t feel alone so I took comfort in that. It was then that I thought of all those stories from long ago. If my dad were here right now to talk to me what would he say? What would Gwendolyn do? This is my version of what I think he would have imagined for me if he could sit by my bed, hold my hand and tell me everything would be okay because Gwendolyn was on the case.

There was a little girl who lived in a land that was cold and dark.  She was very brave and tried not to be afraid of anything. She had a loving family and very good friends around her. She was mostly very happy and lived a good life. But there was something that she just couldn’t get out of her mind. It was something that no one could help her with and she felt like she could not find the right words to make people understand how she was feeling.  She grew very worried about it as each day passed. She became so worried in fact that one night while she was tucked up in bed after her mama and pappa had kissed her goodnight, she wished. She wished for Gwendolyn the good fairy to come help her not to worry. She closed her eyes and called out her name into the night sky. Suddenly a star shined brighter then all the others and came sailing through her open window. The next thing she knew there was a tiny fairy on her night stand. The little girl thought that it was one of the most beautiful things she had ever seen. “I am Gwendolyn the good fairy and I am here to help you little friend.” The little girl explained her problem and how she was worried and afraid. “I will sprinkle a few drops of fairy dust on your eyes and you will fall asleep and all your worries and fears will melt away. In the morning you will feel better – stronger and calmer and you will be able to face all that worries or scares you.” The little girl smiled and closed her eyes, ready for the fairy dust to fall. She drifted off into a delicious sleep and dreamed of only the most wonderful of things.  Gwendolyn then dusted off her hands and saw that her work here was done. And with that she was off in a flash of light leaving behind only the stillness and darkness of the night. In the morning the little girl didn’t remember anything about what had happened but she felt better and lighter. Her worries were gone and she couldn’t quite understand how or why but she knew that she would be okay.

For my big tall angel in the sky who continues to inspire me and help me on my way.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Hi Everyone (again!),
I am so happy that so many of you enjoyed my Ode to Pinktober. I think it is one of the most read entries and it was such a special thing for me to write. 
As tomorrow is the 1st of October and the first day of Pinktober, I felt I wanted to post a few pics of my own cancer journey. It seems everyone is reflecting back on their experience with the Big C and I thought doing a picture story might be nice for all of you and for me to just reflect on the past 18 months.  Many of these have never even graced facebook so I am laying it all out there. Figure there is nothing to be ashamed or embarassed about. I had cancer - no biggie. :)
I also want to thank all of the Pink efforts happening this weekend. My dear friend Charlotte walked through Central London all night to raise money for breast cancer and no it was not a pub crawl!. I love you and hope there was minimal chaffing involved!! I also want to thank my family (mom included) who are walking or running for a Cure today in Canada. You guys rock and I so wish I could be there to run alongside you. 
So a little picture story about a girl called OBB:

A pregnant me hanging by the beach in Gran Canaria before life changed. Oh my god I look so young!!

Motherhood was a blessing and the best thing I have ever done! 

My husband and I on our wonderful wedding day which took place 3 weeks after my diagnosis and was planned in 10 days! Still managed to be the perfect day ever.

Post surgery and 2 days pre my first chemo celebrating the 17th of May. Can you see the fear in my eyes?? But how cute is my little monkey.

The mid way point through chemo. A cup of green tea with the sun coming up and not a hair on my head!

My cake to mark the end of chemo that I gave to the nurses who took such good care of me.

Waiting for some hair. Rocking my wig in the playground! I think i look pretty cool.

On the road to recovery. My Co-captain on this journey - My mom and fellow survivor.

Me today! With my best friend who continues to get me through every challenge regardless of how big or scary it is. His calmness grounds me. His love protects me. His vulnerability reminds me that we are still human at the end of the day. And his humour keeps me afloat when the seas get rough. 
Here's to many more new and exciting chapters. Happy Pinktober everyone! (I know I totally bitched about the whole pink thing earlier this week but wear your pink ribbons people! 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My Ode to Pinktober

Breast cancer is not just a disease that strikes at women. It strikes at the very heart of who we are as women: how others perceive us, how we perceive ourselves, how we live, work and raise our families-or whether we do these things at all. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

This entry was inspired by an article I read in the Daily Mail (yes i know some of you will disown me as a friend with that admission!) this week about an upcoming Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign to mark the month of October. October is of course breast cancer month where pink is literally everywhere. Being a breast cancer survivor myself, I flicked through the glossy heavily airbrushed photos of celebrities posing in scenarios that had literally zero connection to breast cancer. If anything it made me feel worse looking at their perfect bodies and pert breasts and than thinking back to myself and my mangled body. Now I am of course totally up for raising money and awareness of this horrific disease that affects far too many, but sometimes I think we lose sight of what it really means. It isn’t about t-shirts with slogans like “Breast cancer sucks” or putting a pink ribbon on every product around – it is about the people fighting and remembering those who have lost their fight. It is about making women take charge of their health and of increasing funding in the hopes of finding a cure.  I was inspired to write my own ode to Breast Cancer Awareness month and highlight some of my own experiences and some of others that I have been fortunate enough to meet and know through this experience. This is the real face of the disease – the raw, flawed and painful side that somehow has a beauty and grace to it all at the same time.

She is the woman who when faced with those three words thinks immediately not of herself but of her family who need her so.
She is the woman who crinkles up her eyes tight to stop the tears from flowing so she can shelter her child from seeing any of her pain.
She is the woman who puts her unborn baby’s life first over her own.
She is the woman who hides two long red scars, marking her long journey to hell and back, beneath her clothes .
She is the woman who still manages to laugh at your jokes and be herself despite the pain she hides - so much so that you forget that she is even sick.
She is the woman who longs for the gift of a child or even the chance of having another but must chose survival over fulfilling that dream.
She is the woman who acts as if nothing has changed or that nothing is wrong and remains  the person you know and love.
She is the epitomy of grace and style with or without hair.
She stares down her enemy head on and never once puts down her sword to rest.
She is the woman who is still there for you when things go wrong reminding you that no one’s problems are too small to matter.
She seems like a superhero but like all of us she sometimes just wants to roll up in a ball and cry.
She just wants the chance to grow old and have a face filled with laugh lines and a head full of grey hairs.
She is a sister, a wife, a mother, and a friend.
She is a warrior dressed in pink. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Let there be light

I've decided that the stuff falling through the cracks is confetti and I'm having a party!  ~Betsy Cañas Garmon

Hi Everyone,

I know I have been suspiciously quiet since the PET scan happened and that many of you of course worry. I am keeping my cards alittle closer to my chest right now until we know what is really happening. 

First off I want to tell you that I am okay. Strangely calm and feeling overwhelmingly positive about it all. Of course I had my hysterical moments a few days ago when my doctor called asking me to come in the next morning.Who wouldn't freak out about that? Hello alarmist! Things could be worse - I could have light up in my major organs like the liver or lungs! We take comfort where we can right. :) So they have found something that they need to take a closer look at. Super fun times for me next week as it will be biopsy time. Did you know they dont put you to sleep when they dig in your chest for some tissue samples? Crazy I know. There better be a full audience of unicorns with me on that day. But seriously I really think this is a precaution given my type of nasty cancer and that it is most likely the result of months of pain and inflammation post surgery and treatment. 

I feel good about this. I don't look sick. I don't feel sick. A good friend told me that my eyes were too clear, too alive for me to be sick again. I agree as I have got real sparklers these days. I have reminded myself that this was something we expected so we just need to relax and not panic until told otherwise. False positives are par for the course with these types of scans. I think it must come down to the fact I have such a radiant and illuminating personality. Don't you? 

So I am trying to put it all to one side and focus on the good things and boy are there lots of them. So much to be happy about it in life and celebrate. I really don't have room in my life to worry about the Big C right now so it can bugger off- I have far too much living to do. 

Have a great week everyone!!


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Waiting for a sign

So it has been one hell of a week for OBB. Since I last wrote I got a cold, got a PET scan and then got an awful awful flu! Not the greatest week for me but certaintly not my worst either. I know it isnt the most interesting to read about someone´s constant flow of ailments and issues. I am sick of it myself. But being bed ridden and feeling like death on a platter was not what I needed this week. Unable to read or watch TV, I lay there in bed with my thoughts. A dangerous coupling really. And when you are waiting to hear whether you are ok or not, feeling downright lousy doesnt make you feel the most positive. To tell you the truth - feeling as bad as I did, where I could literally not find an ounce of reserve energy even for my little monkey,  it made me so scared. I didnt want my life to end up like that. Lying in a bed with little breaks here and there, watching the world go by while I was stuck. I know I am being super melodramatic but i think most people in my situation would have the same worries and fears. Cancer is a shit way to go people. It is ugly, painful, and relentless. I want to die old and wrinkled curled up in my quilt on a winter´s night with my whole family nearby or even holding my hand. That is the way to go  - the way I want to go. 

So this whole PET business went alright. It was as I expected and I had the same nice technician as before so she knew my vein dealio. We got it on the first attempt - hurrah!! The valium might have helped as well. Can you believe they have unicorns in hospitals now? Hi little pony, you want an apple? Oh maybe that was the sedative talking? :) So now we are just waiting. Everytime my phone rang this week, I jumped before I could see what number it was. Kinda like waiting for the boy to call you like so much and then when he actually does you are too scared to pick up. I know when it does happen and it is inevitable, my chest will tighten and my pulse will quicken. It always happens when I get big news and they will ask me to come in. I will look for any signs I can detect from their tone and choice of words indicating whether it is good or bad. Of course I am sure they are trained to give nothing away but I will do it anyways. I have even analysed the length of time it has taken to hear from them. If it were bad they would called right away right? Or were they taking time to take in all the problem areas? God you could make yourself mad running through every single scenario and of course none of it helps. But we do what we can to feel more in control of a situation that is beyond us.  I am getting shivers just writing it all this down - playing it out in my mind what will happen this week. I cant hide from it or run away. It is happening. It is hard because at the same there are so many great, amazing things happening in my life right now that are overshadowed by this. I want to tell you all about them but I dont want to jinx myself so I will wait. If i am being honest, I am so scared that like the last time when I had finally gotten myself established and found a job, it will be taken from me again. I was in the exact same situation as I am now - just about ready to press the start button on a new life and career. This time I dont want anyone to jump in and press "abort." I want to celebrate my wonderful achievements and start rebuilding what was lost, so cancer please please go away.

So it is shaping up to be a pretty major week for OBB and family. I will also be travelling to Bergen this coming weekend for the Norwegian Young Womens Breast Cancer conference. It is a gathering of women under 40 who have been affected by breast cancer. It is a wonderful place to come together and discuss the issues that affect young women facing this disease. The horror of a diagnosis shocks every women regardless of age but the challenges surrounding it differ dramatically. These women understand how shit it is getting through chemo and radiation with young children to look after, they understand how it can break your heart when you cant pick up your crying baby after surgery and they understand the nightmare of wondering whether you will be given the opportunity to watch your children grow up. This pink sisterhood is sacred and its members are virtual towers of strength and grace.

I hope to write an update when I get "the call" and be able to tell you all that I am 100% okay. Happy happy thoughts...everything is going to be okay. Maybe if I say it enough times, I will believe it.

I will end with a quote from Dr. Seuss. Seriously he had it right! When I re-read his stories now as an adult you see how true and real they actually are. There is alot to be learned from Dr. Seuss!

“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!”
― Dr. Seuss

Happy Weekend,

OBB xxx


Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Moment...

mother's love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.
Agatha Christie

I have been ill with the flu all weekend which has plain old sucked but ensured I was taking it easy which is literally the pre-scan orders. I had a moment today with my daughter that just you know… got me.
I needed to lie down and rest midway through the day and my little monkey wanted to be with her mama. I told her the rules – mama needed to rest so she had to be quiet and play by herself. She assured me she could comply. She then proceeded to march back and forth between my room and hers more than a dozen times – handing me a new cuddly animal with each trip. I loved hearing the sound of her heavy sometimes clumsy bare feet in the hallway – there was something comforting about the sound. Maybe it was the loving care she showed me or maybe it was the look in her eyes when she handed me toy after toy – a look of such utter love. Whichever it was – it hit me straight in the heart and before I knew it there were tears running down my face. Tears of pride for the little girl my husband and I have raised that already knows empathy and can show so much love. Tears of joy for the gift she gave me by saving my life. Tears of pain for the last 2 years she has lived through with me. Tears of fear for what could still happen. I am trying so hard to be positive and just believe that everything is going to be okay but I only have to look into her eyes so see what could be lost. And the thought of that just literally breaks my heart right into two. I want to be there – for everything and anything. For her. For him.
And you know what she said to me when she noticed the tears streaming down that I was trying so desperately to hide? She got up on the bed beside me and rubbed my arm and softly said, “That’s better.” And yes it is when love is all around. 

OBB xx

Monday, September 3, 2012

Just Another Manic Monday

Hi there,

Today I don’t feel like being tough or being positive. Today I just feel plain lousy. I woke up feeling odd and my eyes were reacting weirdly to the daylight. I started sensing the telltale signs of a migraine coming on. Total crap when that happens and it happens often enough. I am lucky I took my magic pill in time but I can’t help but get anxious from migraines or odd feelings these days. Is it just a migraine or is it something else? And then ure mind just starts running in the direction of crazy town and you totally lose the plot. I have been sitting here under my blanket thinking about what each of my cells is doing all over my body. Who is doing its job? Who isn’t? It is so frustrating to not know but rather tell yourself repeatedly that everything will be okay. Like last night I had another freak out when my legs starting to feel swollen and heavy. Why were they doing that? What other sinister cause was behind this odd feeling? Anything odd is just so unbelievably terrifying. This sudden heightened sense of awareness may be coming from my own innate fear over the next few weeks. I am doing the big one next week – the big SCAN that I have been dreading. My doctor called last week to discuss it and told me in the nicest possible way “that you can’t hide your head in the sand forever.” Yeah thanks for that advice darling. I know this is routine for someone like me and I am fortunate to be able to be offered such an expensive and in depth scan like this but how else can you feel when your own physician warns you that the process will be “stressful.”  What I am talking about is the PET scan. Now again if you aren’t intimately acquainted with the cancer world you probably think I am talking about a place to take your dog for an x-ray or something! No not quite.

 A PET scan is (according to Wikipedia): Positron emission tomography (PET) [1] is a nuclear medicine imaging technique that produces a three-dimensional image or picture of functional processes in the body. The system detects pairs of gamma rays emitted indirectly by a positron-emitting radionuclide (tracer), which is introduced into the body on a biologically active molecule. Three-dimensional images of tracer concentration within the body are then constructed by computer analysis. In modern scanners, three dimensional imaging is often accomplished with the aid of a CT X-ray scan performed on the patient during the same session, in the same machine.

In layman’s terms – if there is a hotbed of cellular activity (i.e.: tumor activity) this machine will find it and find it early. The only problem with such a sensitive machine is that it finds things that look suspicious but aren’t – hence the anxiety surrounding it. You could have hot spots in your brain or lungs just because you can’t stop breathing or thinking but then sometimes they need further investigations to rule other things out. That means biopsies and biopsies are just plain shitty. And then there is the waiting involved. Waiting to find out if everything is ok, waiting and imagining the worst…waiting sucks.

So it is back to C-Town for me next week – September 11th to be exact. Nice day eh? One friend reassured me by saying that that day had seen more than enough of its share of drama so I would be fine. J This test is very different from the others as you need to actually refrain from physical activity for a few days prior (hello guilt free couch potatoing) and then on the day of you get injected with radiation then are put in a dark room by yourself (no TV, music or books) and have to try and relax for an hour prior to testing. Okay somehow that just doesn’t sound zen-like to me at all. Being alone with my thoughts…hmmm. So I again need bucket loads of positivity coming my way in the lead up to this big day. I am so focusing on the relief I will feel after the scan when everything comes back great. Then I can really move forward and feel good about it. But sometimes it is perfectly okay to be scared out of your mind. If only for a moment or two…


Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday Ponderings...

Challenges come so we can grow and be prepared for things we are not equipped to handle now. When we face our challenges with faith, prepared to learn, willing to make changes, and if necessary, to let go, we are demanding our power be turned on.
Iyanla Vanzant

Living in the moment one rock at a time.

Friday, August 24, 2012

10 Worthwhile Things I Have Learnt Growing Up

"Growing up is never easy. You hold on to things that were. You wonder what`s to come. But that night, I think we knew it was time to let go of what had been, and look ahead to what would be. Other days. New days. Days to come. The thing is, we didn't have to hate each other for getting older. We just had to forgive ourselves...for growing up." From the Wonder Years.

So I have got some time to kill as I am sitting up in the "break room" while my daughter gets her first solo time at her new daycare. It is rare these days that I am in a room with little disruption and have time to just kill. When I have time that is when the brain starts going and when I reflect on things that have happened, things people have said and just life in general. This reflection time used to be on my walk home from the daycare drop off but it seems that these quiet moments are now few and far between.

I have been watching my daughter more and more these days as she grows bigger seemingly with each moment. I kind of want to hit the pause button and suspend this wonderful time when she still wants cuddles and her mama all the time. It is so true how people tell you your kids will grow up in an instant. I still look at her in bed and see her long legs hanging out from under her duvet and wonder how she went from a tiny baby to a little girl. Of course as they get older things become more interesting and she has more and more to say. I do love hearing what little people have to say and she is starting to develop her own kirky sense of humour. It makes me think about my own childhood and the things I took away from it. What advice do I wish i had taken when I was growing up? What things would have been useful to know beforehand?

10 Worthwhile Things I Learnt Growing Up

10. Wear a bike helmet. I remember when I was younger and basically used my bike as a main mode of transportation every summer. It was my vehicle and so my parents made me get a helmet. Now helmets were bigger and uglier about 20 years ago and I thought I looked totally uncool. I actually hooked it on one of my handle bars which looking back probably made me look even more uncool. However today as I am aware of how dangerous the roads can be and also how fragile our little heads are, helmets are suddenly very very cool so wear one Ida!!!

9. Sports. Okay now I dont want to be a pushy stage mom and force my daughter into doing anything she doesnt want. I so remember when I was a swimmer and seeing parents seated in the bleachers at 530am writing down their kids splits during a bloody practice session! However I do want to point out my opinion on sports and its positive impact on my own growth from a little person to an adult. Swimming taught me more then learning how to stay afloat. It taught me discipline, it taught me time management, it taught me to be fit and healthy, it taught me to be social and develop strong friendships and it taught me to be competitive in a healthy way. I had so little time growing up with my busy schedule that I didnt have time to get into trouble nor did I ahve the time to waste.  It made me excel in the pool and in the classroom. There was no hanging out at the mall after school watching time go by for me. So sports is a great thing on so many levels and definitely helps establish a strong sense of self confidence.

8. School

So this one is pretty obvious and everyone knows how important school is. Or do they? Maybe the fact i grew up with two highly educated parents who would have literally killed me had I not gone to university had an impact on that. University was the bare minimum in our house. But looking back, I am happy my parents valued our education so much and that I learnt to love learning..well some of it. Math just never came easy to me and I stopped taking it as soon I had the option to do so. But it was through school that I discovered my love of wrtiting and reading. I fell in love with Shakespeare, Atwood, and Dickinson and learnt how to express all the things I was feeling onto paper. It was a gift really and I was very lucky to go to a school where the teachers really had your interests at heart. No one slipped through the cracks at my school and there was always someone there to help you. I hope my daughter falls in love with school and learning too and that is leads her to study something thaat fascinates her and leaves her craving more. I hope she inherited some of her grandfather´s inquisitiveness and thirst for knowledge. So I am telling her to go the distance but take her time in deciding what to do. If I could go back to 1998 and choose again what degree I would do and what career path I wanted, I am not sure I would pick the same path. I mean who knows at the age of 18 what they really want to do??

7. Sunscreen

I cannot emphasise this point enough! I wish i would have listened to my mother and slapped on the spf 25 all those years ago and I wish I had never used sunbeds. It is ironic as here I was worrying about skin cancer when I end up getting a totally different unrelated kind. I still worry about it and now sit in the shade and religiously use SPF 50 on myself and my daughter. There is no way I am taking any chances at all after the shit storm I lived through.  I want her to learn young how important it is to care of your skin. And not to mention reducing the wrinkles and skin damage you get from it. So slap it on!!

6. Friends

Okay so lots of info here. You meet lots of people in your life especially if you move around alot and get out and see the world which i totally think is an awesome to do. Some stick and some don´t. Not everyone is going to like you or want to be your best friend and you know what? That is totally okay. I think many of us want to be accepted by everyone and it is easy to get hurt when you feel excluded etc...But you need to take comfort in your real friends. The ones who stick by you, the ones who despite not seeing each other for years go right back to where you were within minutes and the ones who just get you. People will disappoint you and will get hurt and that is just a part of life. Remember we all make mistakes and forgiveness is a means of letting go and moving forward. And dont be a mean girl - they always end up miserable and in crappy marriages!

5. Health

Important one here. Now I think it is important to say that there needs to be a balance between crazy hypochondriac behaviour and complete recklessness. I definitely grew up on the crazy side of things and thought i had every disease known to mankind. There was the meningitis outbreak, the ebola virus, brain tumour (not that crazy anymore), diabetes...It goes on and on. I worried so much about all the things that could kill me that i would sometimes have actual anxiety attacks over it. I remember seeing a doctor in London and walking in out of breath and reeling off my list of complaints from potential stomach cancer to ear infections. She didnt  prescribe any drug to me but rather gently suggested I might need some counselling!! I dont think that is healthy but I do think taking responsibility over your health is a good idea. Eat well (it doesnt ahve to be perfect as cake is necessary to maintaining sanity), exercise, dont drink too much (i seriously didnt pay attention to that one and remember alcohol makes you gain weight), dont smoke (I will seriously pull the cancer card on you here) and relax. I wish I had relaxed more when I was younger. There really arent that many big things to worry about.

4. Taking a chance

Now I believe that every decision we make leads us to our destiny. In my case, deciding to throw my old life away and take the leap to move to london really lead me to where I am today. It was through this chain of events that I met my husband, moved to Norway, had my daughter and saved my life. I constantly think how things might have been different if I were still living in Vancouver and had never followed my dream? Where would I be? Would I be happy? If I hadnt had a baby would I be dead or terminally ill? Crazy things to think about. All I know is that I didnt want to wake up on my 40th birthday and think, "I missed that window and life just passed me by." So take leaps and chances because it is hard to shake the feelings of regret that can come later.

3. Boys

Oh boys...we love em, we hate em, we truly cant live without em. I have been a romantic my whole life and swooned over many a boy. I have fallen in love and fallen into traps too. I have met men who made me into a better person and others who dragged me into the pits of hell. If you think you can change a man by loving him that much more or doing this or that, you are mistaken. It doesnt work and you simply end up drowning alongside him. You need to be with someone who lifts you up and makes you want to fly. But be prepared to meet your Achilles heel. All women do at one point and he will wrattle you and make it impossible to resist him. Dont beat yourself up over it but learn from it. I learned from my own experience that anger is a means of engagement, once the angers goes, the chains are cut and you are free. Free to meet the person you are meant to be with and who makes you feel like the princess you are.

2. Money

Oh this one is important and has not been my strongpoint. Save your money! Make plans and learn how to manage it. This is so important and I wish I had listened more in economics class. What I learned from my own experience is that those "rainy days" do indeed happen and you want to be prepared for them.

1. Family

At the end of the day, when your defences are down and the deal is done, who can you truly truly count on? It is your family. They are the first people you call when crappy stuff happens and also when you have something amazing to say. If you are lucky they love you (most of the time) unconditionally and give you a strong base to grow from. I grew up in such a strong and loving family and it made me want the same for myself when I grew up. Dont take your family for granted and make time for them. Don´t waste time holding onto bitterness or anger. Get it out! If I had known I had so much less time with my father, I would have done things differently so dont wait for a tragedy to recognise what you have. And listen to your mother because she knows best!!!

Thanks guys and have a great weekend!


PS: Bone scan news came back clear which is fantastic. I will take whatever cancer free scans I can get. Onwards and upwards to the next obstacle.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Just the three of us

A mother's happiness is like a beacon, lighting up the future but reflected also on the past in the guise of fond memories.  ~Honoré de Balzac

So today’s post is a slightly controversial one and it is one area I have really tried to not write about as it is so intensely personal and I don’t think everything should be put out there for the wide world to see. But it is weighing on my mind and I am sure other women in my position can echo some of what I will say and maybe it might provide some comfort to them too. I also want to reiterate that this post is also not a means of ostracizes anyone and I want all my friends and family to be just as they have been towards me. I don’t want people to censor their words or actions around me just because I had cancer. Cancer is so prevalent and I am hardly unique in my experience. I also don’t want my experience to cloud anyone else’s happy or joyous moments either. I am happy for the people I care about regardless of what is or has happened in my life because I love you. Nothing will ever change that so anyone who worries after reading this please don’t. You know I love you and want only what is best for all of you.

So when you get cancer young and get the full throttle of treatment, there comes with it some difficult and sometimes permanent side effects. I think this adds to the enormity of the situation when you are a young patient. For example my mother and I – we both faced similar diagnoses and treatment but the impacts were so different given our 35 year age gap. I was 31 years old, a mother to a 1 year old, hoping to have at least another 40 or 50 years of life ahead of me and maybe some other children along the way. Life has just begun for me. My mother,  though still relatively young too, had lived far longer, done so much more, had all the children she had dreamed of and was now watching her grandchildren grow up and could possibly imagine the rest of her life without breasts. But I was facing the prospect of my daughter growing up without me. Of never being able to wear a normal bathing suit, or find the perfect dress or feel completely at ease in front of  a full length mirror without these two giant red scars glaring back at me. It is a lot to take in when we are so young. But then I also think of others…women who are fighting an even harder fight then me right now and it makes me feel silly going on about my own plight. I am not dying right now. No one has told me I have x amount of months to live so in reality I am doing okay. I still have options. But it is the options that have been taken from me that I find the most upsetting. Now that I have a 2.5 year old, all my friends who were pregnant with me now have their second or are in process of it and I feel stuck. It is impossible not to hurt abet when I think of how things would be if none of this had happened. If life had simply evolved naturally. What would be different? I don’t want to seem ungrateful here either as I know many people, dear friends included, who have struggled with fertility problems – I know how lucky I am to have my precious girl and she is literally the world to me. I often sneak in and watch her sleep – her beautiful and peaceful face cuddled up to her monkey and feel so full of a love for her that I never knew existed before. But the thing is – I don’t have any problems in the downstairs department. I have these high functioning organs sitting down there that simply can’t be used and can at any day turn into ticking time bombs. It is frustrating to say the least and makes me sad sometimes. If only deciding to have another child were about timing but now it is about so much more. I want to ensure I am alive to see this child and my own grow up and I don’t want to take any risks that might jeopardize that gift. So we must wait but also know that this may not happen at all for us. It wouldn’t be the end of the world at all and I would give all of that hope up in exchange for a long happy life with my husband and daughter. But I love being a mother so much and for this reason feel slightly robbed of the choice to become one again. Another crap thing cancer can take away from you. My heart goes out to my fellow survivors who perhaps lost the opportunity to even have one child before this beast reared its ugly head. I honestly can’t imagine how I would have felt had I not had my daughter when I was diagnosed so I salute those of you who have weathered that storm and your strength.

 So we will see where the wind takes us – the three of us, maybe one day four? I don’t know and I will never assume to know what is written for me. Life is so unexpected and full of twists and turns – it is important to grab onto the things that are solid and will keep you grounded. For me that is my husband and daughter. Just the three of us.

PS: Bone scan went ok yesterday though it took a few attempts to find a vein. The technician called it an “auto immune response” – apparently like your psyche, your veins can also be traumatised by cancer treatment and actually recoil back in when a needle comes a pricking. Awesome for a person already terrified of needles!! Hope to get results fast as it is pretty much a case of looking at one picture and seeing if anything is remarkable or not. For those not in the know – a bone scan consists of being injected in your vein with radiation which spreads through the bones in your body over a 3 to 4 hour time period after which you lie in a machine which takes a photo from head to toe of your lovely bones. A special camera takes pictures of the tracer in your bones. Areas that absorb little or no amount of tracer appear as dark or "cold" spots. This could show a lack of blood supply to the bone or certain types of cancer.  That is your cancer lesson for the day. I hope none of you ever have to use it for real. J

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!