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.  ~HonorĂ© 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!


Monday, August 13, 2012

A Trip to C-Town

Hi Everyone,

Just a quick update from me today – nothing profound on the agenda. Things have been busy as I have been adapting to my new job – full time mother to my 2.5 year old! It has been a big change for me but of course I cant complain too much about spending time with my little monkey as that time is just a treasure really. But looking after a toddler all day is tough but doing it after cancer is a wee bit challenging for me!

In other news, I took a trip to C-Town last week after having had a break of nearly 4 months since my last visit. In all honesty I was really hoping I was going to make it to my next check up next month without any visits but things didn’t turn out that way.  I always try to look fab when I go there and have done so since the beginning of this journey. I whipped out the Dior gloss, cute outfit and fixed the hair as I wanted everyone to look at me and think – Cancer survivor? No way – she looks like a supermodel! Well it worked as everyone was so happy to see me and remarked on how great I looked. Unfortunately I wasn’t there for social reasons and was meeting the doctor to discuss this pain I have been having for the past 6 or 7 weeks. Pain is so sinister in the world of cancer because it can mean so many different things and the only way to determine what it is requires further investigation. No oncologist will look at me and my past diagnosis and say “Oh don’t worry it is nothing and you can just go about your day.” God what I would do for a doctor to tell me I was going to be ok! No of course as expected they wanted to perform a bone scan as soon as possible to ensure there wasn’t anything else happening. It was frustrating to say the least as I of course hate tests and the difficult waiting periods but what I hate more is needles!!! Another needle in my vein shooting me full of radiation is not my idea of a fun Friday but that is exactly where I will be this week. Send happy thoughts my way and let\s just hope it was a case of being over cautious and nothing turns up.

And I thought as I almost never post any pics on here, I thought I would post my current job description via pics below!!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Great Expectations

“That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.” Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

I had to begin this entry with a lovely quote from Mr. Dickens because  I have been walking around for days now with this idea for a blog I had entitled “Great Expectations” and I simply love literary quotes! Reminds me again why I did my degree in English Literature in the first place. I think this quote really helps describe the whole cancer experience for me. It profoundly changed me – that one day in my life  that started a tsumani of change in perspective and mindset and brought me to where I am today, in this exact moment.  I would have never gotten here without having lived and survived through that day. Dickens really is a wizard of words who simply got it.

So things have been busy in the last month with holidays by the sea in Sweden, torrential rain in Oslo, a big move to the burbs`’ and finding the time in between to live and get stronger. We are now settled in the new house and though it was shaky at first, I am feeling better and more comfortable every day. I think you realize as a parent how your child’s happiness means the most to you because seeing how happy and free my little monkey is here just makes me feel confident in our decision to do this. It also might give me some time to be outside and be more active as the landscape around here lends itself to walking, hiking and skiing. I may become Norwegian yet!

So this idea that has been on my mind focuses around expectations and perhaps my unrealistic ideas about my own following the last year or so. It has been about four weeks since I developed this pretty crappy pain across my chest and arm which made it hard to do many things and obviously freaked me out to no end. Not only was I worrying about the pain and its origins but I was also so angry that this pain was ruining my holiday! How dare it! It had already taken so much of the last 2 years of my life that I couldn’t believe it was back again and demanding more time and headspace. And I am honestly sick of hearing myself complain about this pain and that so I can only imagine what it is like for those nearest and dearest to me. It is boring and I want more interesting things to ponder or discuss. What this pain made me realise was that I still have a way to go before things are back to the even new kind of normal. In May and June, I hit the ground running and tried to do everything I hadn’t been able to do the last year – too many social outings, exercising, aggressive job hunting, demanding parenting, and not enough sleep! What I see now is that is that it is too much too soon. My expectations for what I want my life to be like right now are so far ahead of what is realistic and within my capacity. Shitty to realise? Oh you bet. I am 32 years old! I want to be pushed to the limits of what I can manage in a good way. I can’t tell you how much I wish I had an exciting job to go to every day that made me really think but to find that job or any decent job requires so much energy that I am not always in possession of and my brain seems to function a little slower than it did previously. I feel like I can focus on one thing but the moment there are more balls to juggle, I just want to throw them all up in the air and take a nap! I think Captain AC put it best when she told me that she feels like she is now living life on a 15 degree incline to which I couldn’t agree with more. I would best describe your actual cancer treatment being like climbing the biggest mountain you have ever seen only to realise that when you have finished it, you find yourself at the bottom of another one called “recovery.” I think that might be the one piece of advice I would give to people who have been supporting or known those who have fought and won against cancer. When the battle ends and our hair grows back, the color from our cheeks return, and the visible traces of the disease are gone, we still aren’t the same as we were before. The road to recovery and rehabilitation is often even longer then treatment itself.  I often have people telling me how great I look and how I look even better than before I had cancer. These are wonderful things to hear and I love hearing them so keep em’ coming but it also makes it hard for people to see that I am still walking up that mountain, I am still in pain every day and I am still fighting. Don’t get me wrong as I don’t want sympathy nor do I still want to live like I have cancer but when you have that last treatment, it just doesn’t all end in that moment and you don’t wake up the next morning feeling normal all over again. It takes time – a whole truckload of it and it takes patience. My expectations on myself are not the same as they were 2 months ago - call it youthful idealism or inexperience.  I am not superwoman nor do I want to run myself ragged trying to be like her and hey red isn’t even my color!

So that is a lot of what has been swirling around my mind and I was fortunate enough to wake up early enough to tap this entry out before my little monkey woke up. I hope you all have a wonderful day or evening – wherever you may be. Coffee beckons me…