Embrace your imperfections

This post is inspired by my beautiful friend Sara.  She is following her dreams, inspiring people daily, and it just so happens that she also lives with a disability.   In her recent post on the Power of Imperfection for the Love Infinitely Project, she discusses how her imperfect body has taught her valuable lessons, specifically regarding imperfection.

sara1

“(Imperfection) is universal, shared, and normal, and it is by truly recognizing this, that the negativity we often associate with imperfection is dissolved, and it becomes devoid of its power to keep us small.” – Sara Notenboom

I love that!  Universal, shared, and normal.  Yet we constantly strive for perfection, judging ourselves for not ever getting there.

I have to admit that embracing imperfection is absolutely a work in progress for me.  I have always struggled with self image issues and since my surgeries, this is no different.  It  becomes plainly obvious to me when I am in the change room after hot yoga and all I really want to do is shower and put dry clothes on.  But what do I actually do?  I find a bathroom to change in or I throw a hoodie on and wait until I get home.

I am embarrassed of my scar.  Maybe embarrassed is not the right word.  I am acutely aware of my scar.  I don’t want people to see it.  I don’t want anyone to stare.  I don’t want people to feel sorry for me.

The thing is, I’m not sure that is the response I would get.  When I was at Silverwood this year I saw a woman proudly walk by wearing a bikini.  She had no hair and a huge scar the length of her abdomen.  When I saw her I did not feel sorry for her at all.  After all what was there to be sorry for?  She was proud.  She was happy.  She looked beautiful and strong and healthy.

Our scars do not define us.  Our attitudes do.  Our actions do.  

So I am working on it.  My first step was to get changed the other day after hot yoga.  There was no one in the change room at the time but we’re taking baby steps here!  Sara’s post reminds me that I am who I am, and I am beautiful, strong, and healthy too!

Which of your imperfections do you embrace today? Please let us know in the comments below and then head on over and like the Love Infinitely Project and follow Sara on Twitter!

They broke me

Well I have written a bunch about my diagnosis of cancer and journey through healing.  Through all of it I have managed to stay mostly positive and even grateful.  You have commented on this time and again.  You say I am inspiring and powerful.  You say I make you feel what I feel through my words.  You say you look forward to my next post.  You say I am strong.

All of that was finally feeling true for me too.  I mean everything I have written is true, but for the longest time I didn’t actually believe that I was inspiring anyone.  Every comment I received from you was a pleasant surprise, something to read and re-read, as though I might be convinced.

I truly felt the inspiration that I am for the first time about a week and half ago.  I was sitting in the IV room after a treatment, just chatting with the wife of a new patient.  I wasn’t saying anything in particular, just really listening to her concerns and having a genuine conversation.  Then all of a sudden, I saw myself briefly through her eyes and there I was, inspiration.  It was clear as day.  I got it.

I am inspiration.  I am connection.  I am powerful.

That is until my most recent stint in the hospital.

I thought I was going in for a fairly routine and uncomplicated procedure.  A hysterectomy. No big deal.  I am definitely done having babies.  If removing my uterus and ovaries will decrease any chance of recurrence then why not?  A preventative measure that although somewhat invasive, has come a long way.  The doctor assured me that I would be back on my feet in no time.  It was funny actually, while waiting to be taken to surgery, I joked with Mark that although this surgery is way more invasive, it feels less serious and daunting than the lumpectomies did.  Maybe because the C word was attached to those surgeries…

Honestly though, surgery felt like old hat to me and right up until the operating room I remained calm.  I had one brief moment of, “did I squeeze the kids tight enough this morning?” and then the oxygen mask came to face.   I was so aware this time that I could smell and taste the gas I was breathing in.  I never could before.

And then like hitting snooze in the morning, the slumber was over.  I awoke in the recovery room to a whirlwind of noise and chatter.   I have had more than these 3 surgeries in my life and can tell you the recovery room has never been kind to me.  I have always felt alone and scared upon awakening from surgery and never understood why they don’t let anyone familiar in that room.  Not only can your loved one(s) not be there, but all of the staff are different and unfamiliar too.  This time was no different.

I could hear two nurses talking and could tell they were with me but I couldn’t see them.  They weren’t talking to me, just about me.  They kept behind my head.  I kept waiting for them to come around to the side of stretcher so I could see them, but they didn’t.  And then they were gone.  I was alone.

Turning my head, I could see several nurses surrounding another patient and waited what seemed like ages for someone to come back to me.  I began to breathe faster as anxiety set in.  And then the pain kicked in.  I began to cry and moan, praying that someone would hear me and help.  Finally a nurse came over to me.  Before relief could set in though, she opened her mouth to reprimand me for my state of mind.  She told me that I was making it worse for myself and that she couldn’t read my mind.  I told her that I felt alone and she snapped at me, “there are 15 other patients in the room, you are certainly not alone”.  I tried to explain to her that I could calm down if only she could stay and hold my hand for a minute.  She told me that was not possible and was gone again, just like that.

This is a serious fault in our health care system.  Where is the care?

Thankfully, the porter came very quickly and said it was time to move.  Before I knew it, I was being wheeled into what was to be home for the next night or two (hopefully one, I kept saying).  Mark was already there waiting for me.  Relief.  I cried to him about what I had just endured and he assured me he wouldn’t leave.  I was not alone anymore.  I settled in and visited with him and a couple of dear friends, in and out of stone cold madness for the next few hours, squeezing every last minute (and then some) out of visiting hours.

The night was long, waking every 2 hours to pee (which was an ordeal each time).  Up at 7am, I counted down the minutes until Mark would arrive, after dropping kids off at school.  I knew he would bring me a smoothie to replace the disgrace of a breakfast tray that had been left for me.  Seriously, how black coffee, green jello, and apple juice will help someone heal is beyond me???

grace hug

As the day progressed, I began to feel better.  The doctor thought my drain was too fullthough, and along with not having had a bowel movement yet (TMI?), she advised that I stay in the hospital an extra night (shit-no pun intended).  As against the idea as I was, I settled into it.  My girls came to visit for a while and gave me lots of love.  When they all left I felt like everything would be okay.  One more night and home tomorrow.

But that is precisely when the real nightmare began…

As soon as the door closed behind my family, the nurse came in to do my vitals.  She didn’t even have the blood pressure cuff around my arm yet when she matter-of-factlynotified me that I was going to be moved.  “Where?” I asked.

To the hallway.

“No.  It cant be.  How could you move someone to the hallway?”

“It’s not that bad”, she said.  “There is a curtain.  It’s private.  Will you at least take a look at it?”

“No.  I wont stay here.  I am going home.”

Before I could even text Mark to come back and get me, two nurses had my bags in hand and moved me to the hallway.  They carelessly tossed my things on the new bed.  The bedthat was in a tiny alcove of the hallway with a curtain separating it from a busy thoroughfare of doctors, nurses, and cleaning staff.  The lights on the other side of the curtain were bright and unfriendly, as were the countless conversations that always seemed to take place directly on the other side.

Mark could not believe the news.  He had just arrived home and hadn’t even put the girls to bed yet.  That did not stop him from racing back to my rescue though.  By the time he arrived back at the hospital, the nurses had convinced me to wait  for the resident doctor to come and check me out before leaving.

To my surprise, the resident arrived quite promptly and wasted no time befriending me.  She was concerned about me.  Concerned about the drain and my impending fever.  Fever?  That was news to me.  She explained that although I didn’t have a fever, it might be because I was taking T3’s which would keep a fever down.  She said she would need to see a blood panel on me before she could determine if I was fighting an infection or not and that going home with an infection would be extremely detrimental to my health.  And then she too was gone, with the promise to return once the blood work was back.

The lab tech came to draw blood and the tears started pouring down my face as heaving sobs overtook my body.  I was worried the blood work would reveal an infection or worse.  Once you have gone through the cancer world, the words ‘white blood cells‘ trigger strange reactions.

I’m sure you can imagine that when your insides have just been cut up and removed that a heaving belly does not feel very good.  I couldn’t stop it though.  Every time I thought I was calming down, the heaving would start again.  Mark did his best to help me  but I don’t think there was really any hope.  The sobbing led to unbearable pain even though the pain medication should have taken effect and that was the final straw.  I was convinced I had an infection.  And I needed to mind the doctors.  Besides, they warned (or threatened) me that if I left against medical advise, that they would not send me home with any pain medication.

They broke me.  

Mark left as soon I was settled and told the nurse to ensure that I was woken up at medication time.  He was worried that if I waited too long that I would wake up and panic again.  She promised him that she would do so and he went home to get some rest.

I woke up an hour or so after my medication was due. At this point, I think I had just accepted that nobody working that night actually cared about me so I didn’t panic.  I just slowly got up and shuffled down that hall to the nursing station and requested it.  Without so much of a blink of an eye, let alone an apology, my nurse said she would be right with me.

By the way, I did not have an infection and that resident never came back to see me after the blood work results came back.  It was all a scare tactic to get me to stay.

I am finally telling this story not for your sympathy.  It was months ago now and I am over it. I do think it is important to tell though.  It is a dark example of the care that is (not) being offered in our hospitals.  Since having this experience others have shared similar stories with me.  One of the nurses that night even urged me to write a letter to Alberta Health Services.  So that is what needs to happen.  If I don’t speak out, who will?  What will change?  I plan on sending this story in right away.

Do you have a similar story?  Did you write a letter?  Would you care to share your story here?

Finally a breast cancer predisposition that fits me…

That may seem like an odd statement.  I get it.  Who wants to have a predisposition for breast cancer?

Well given that I already had breast cancer, for me this news is more of an explanation.  Where before I asked, “why did this happen to me?”, I now have perhaps one good reason to add to the mix.

There are several predeterminate factors that are correlated with breast cancer.

Of course there is family history of breast cancer, of which I have none.  I do have one maternal aunt who died from leukaemia long before I was born, but that’s it.

Age is a factor as well, but I think most would agree that at 36 I am too young to be dealing with cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, lifestyle factors such as having children before age 30 and breastfeeding will reduce a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer.  Well I had four children by the age of 31, beginning at age 22.  I nursed all four of them for at least 6 months.

Excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, and low levels of physical activity are all contributors to breast cancer.  Also not a fit for me.

It is frustrating to hear all of these so-called contributing factors and have none of them fit me.  I want things to make sense.  And while I have taken on the philosophy that this happened to me because it needed to happen to me (more on that here), I still always wondered why medically it happened to me.

Well today I have one more piece of the puzzle.  

needle

I just read this article on the birth control injection.  For those of you who don’t know, Depo-Provera was a desirable form of birth control a few years back because it was so low maintenance.  Go in once every three months for an injection.  Painless.  No brainer.  No worries of forgetting to take a pill.  Added bonus, no periods for most women on it.

I took Depo-Provera for years between the birth of my boys in 1999 and the birth of my daughter in 2005 without much of an issue.  I went back on it in 2006 for 1 or 2 shots and had several more negative side effects than before so I stopped.

Anyway, this article points to evidence that “Depo-Provera has been shown to more than double a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer”.

Yikes!  What does this mean for me going forward?  

Obviously, I cant change the past.  I can educate others on the facts though.  I can and will also be much more leery of new medications being offered.  This evidence just adds to countless other studies that have shown approved drugs to have very detrimental side effects after being released to the public too soon.  More testing needs to be done on pharmaceuticals.  Better yet, if at all possible, avoid using them!

Most importantly, it is ultimately up to you and I to take more of an initiative to advocate for ourselves, become educated, and not just take someone’s word for it that a drug or treatment is the way to go.

M.I.A. and getting real

Obviously, it’s been a while.  Not really sure what that’s about but I have a few guesses and I think now is as good a time as any to get real about it.

As I’ve mentioned before, cancer is a busy business.  I have been to so many appointments in the last few weeks that I’ve hardly had time to sit down and write.  Oh that’s a good story.  Of course, I have still had time to sit down and write, I have simply chosen not to.

I’m too tired at the end of the day.  Another good story.  I have been tired, but not too tired to write.

I’ve been too emotional to write.  This has some validity in that I have been emotional.  Apparently it could take a couple months for my body to get used the hormone medication I am taking.  BUT… it’s no reason not to write!

I don’t know what the most important thing to write is.  This is closer to the truth.  I have somehow allowed myself to get caught up in a very active debate in my mind about what the best blog to write is.  Ha.  That is so laughable.  I have so much to write that I write nothing.  Definitely not the first time that has shown up in my life either!

The truth is, last week I got scared.  I let doubt creep in.  

Funny too, because just a few days before that, a friend asked me if doubt ever creeps in.  I said, “never”.  I was so convinced that I was doing the right thing.  I felt it to my core.  I had done a tonne of research and spoken to many people about what I was doing and I truly knew that I was healthy.

So what happened?  While having a conversation with another friend about things, a woman I had never met piped in that I should reconsider.  She said that women under 40 die if they don’t do chemo and radiation.  She reminded me that I have four kids who need a mom.  It honestly wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before.  It’s that fear-based mentality that I have always refused to subscribe to.  For some reason though, it crept in and took up residence in my thoughts, for days.

I cried.  I slept.  I gathered more information.  Initially I was scared to speak to anyone about it for fear that they would try to convince me one way or another.  It seems everyone has a biased opinion about cancer.  I finally opened up to my husband.  I admitted to him that I wasn’t sure anymore, that doubt had crept in.  He of course, remained steadfastly supportive to whatever I chose to do.  He was open to discussing it and supports me no matter what.

I love that!  I love that he didn’t take the weakness as an opportunity to influence my decision either way.  I didn’t want anyone to give me the answer.  I simply needed guidance back to that place of knowing.

I’m there again now.  I see things clearly.  I am healthy.  I continue to make positive choices daily for my perfect health.  

So now that I’m back, I have a lot of catching up to do, beginning with an update.  Forgive the potential influx of posts over the next couple of days but I have a lot to share with you!  Thank you for continuing to follow along my journey.  Writing to you has been so therapeutic.

You won’t believe what the oncologist said…

I started writing this in Vancouver, a couple of weeks ago, right after three days of back-to-back to appointments.

Well, it’s been a very busy week, that’s for sure.  Before I got sick, I thought people on sick leave were taking it easy, as they should.  Turns out cancer is a full-time job!  Between all the doctor’s visits, treatments, support group meetings, and paperwork (there is more than you might think), I may just be busier now than before!

Last Friday, I got a call from the surgeon’s office informing me that the referal to the oncologist had finally been received and as per his request I would require three big appointments this week.

Monday was the bone scan, entailing a radioactive injection at 10am, and then a scan later in the day.  It was nice that they let me go home in between but it still took up most of the day.

Then Tuesday, I had to be in High River for 9am to drink a massive amount of the most disgusting “water” you can imagine, s l o w l y, over an hour and a half.  I would have given nearly anything to be able to just gulp it back and get it over with…  CT scan of my abdomen and chest followed (that’s the big tubular machine you see on TV, not so scary).  The funny thing is they hooked me up to an IV for the scan and injected some kind of dye or something into me for a couple of the scans.  The nurse very kindly warned me that for about 20-30 seconds after the injection, I would feel like I was peeing my pants!

Not to worry, I did not actually wet my pants!

Finally, yesterday, I met with my oncologist (not the one I requested).  G-U-L-P.  He began the meeting by walking in smugly and stating that he had his work cut out for him to sell me on his plan.  He then went on to say all the predictable things.  I MUST have chemotherapy (6 rounds), radiation, and hormone therapy.  Then I will be referred to a geneticist for testing.

Here’s the kicker.  He then pulled out his little prefab diagram and very slowly and patronizingly explained to me the percentages he had laid out for me.  He had ten sticks drawn on the page.  To show me that there was a 70% chance of recurrence, he circled,

wait for it…

7 of the sticks.  What a revelation.  Thank you doctor for the math lesson!

He then went on to explain that by doing the recommended treatments, I will reduce the chance of recurrence.

I declined chemotherapy.  As he handed me a one-inch thick stack of reading material, he implored me to think about it for a week and get back to him.  Okay.  Will do.

Ps. the bone scan was clear.  Still waiting on CT results.

I have said it before and will say it again now.  I am not against anyone doing medical treatments.  I believe people should choose the best thing for themselves.  For me, the best thing right now is to be healthy, and I am.

Do you feel you have a choice when it comes to health care?

Intuition, signs, and meditation

The other day on Facebook, I commented on how some things keep coming into your awareness over and over. It’s the universe’s not-so-subtle way of shouting,

“HEY YOU!!! PAY ATTENTION TO THIS!!!”

Well, it happened again this week. It started with a visit to Amaranth Health and Wellness on 130th Ave SE. last Wednesday. They were having their customer appreciation day and offering all supplements at 20% off. As I may have mentioned before, I am on a lot of supplements and every little bit of savings helps! In addition, a lady named Mary Anne Lema was there offering free 15 minute biofeedback consultations. That I couldn’t resist!

In a little corner of the store, Mary Anne held my hands and swayed them back and forth to get different readings on me. The thing that stood out the most was that I was a 90 out of 100 for intuition. Who knew? Mary Anne explained that although it is a high number, my intuition is actually quite stifled by my type A personality (yes, I am a bit of a control freak). The nature of Type A’s such as myself is that we like to analyze, plan, and execute precisely and efficiently. These attributes directly counteract intuition, which requires a shutting up of the chatter that incessantly goes on in the mind. This reminds me of mindfulness, which as I’ve mentioned, I’m terrible at!

Two days later, out at the serene “cabin” of Little Bow Resort, my good friend Michaelah invited me to an evening with a clairvoyant who would be focusing on fostering intuition. When she mentioned clairvoyant, I was hesitant. When she mentioned intuition, my interest was piqued.  There’s that word again… intuition.

Yell no more universe, I hear you loud and clear!

That workshop was last evening in a little church. It was packed! Kjarlune Rae led us through the evening, opening with some law of attraction and intuition, followed by some readings for a few lucky people, including my friend Tobi and I! Kjarlune Rae was right on for each of us, labelling Tobi as stubborn and me as exhausted (sorry Tobi, honesty abounds here).  With tears in her eyes, Tobi asked her if I was going to be okay.

“Of course she is, because you are too stubborn to let her be anything but!”

It’s true. Tobi’s been one of my biggest supporters throughout this journey, never questioning my ways. Well, that’s not true, she questions, but in an interested way rather than a disapproving way. She’s been a total rock. Thanks Tobi!

When Kjarlune Rae came to me, I asked her if my healing plan is the right way to go (more on that in yesterday‘s post, if you missed it).  I thought I knew already that it is right because I can feel it. I was wondering if the feeling I feel in my heart is the intuition.  I think it is but, like everyone else, I still get those fear-based thoughts going through my head on occasion:

  • What if I’m not doing the right thing?
  • Should I be doing everything possible to fight this?
  • What if I die?

Kjarlune Rae assured me that I am doing the right thing. I’m eating well and taking care of my stress/baggage. “Keep it up,” she said, and I will of course, it’s my way. Even though I already felt this in my heart, it was still good to hear.  I think us four friends left that workshop feeling a little lighter than when we went in.  It was pretty cool.

The third thing that happened was that two ladies in front of us at the workshop turned around at break to tell us about the Chopra 21-Day Meditation Challenge. I’ve heard of this before, in fact, I tried it once. It was likely my first attempt at regular meditation. I think I lasted four days! Because I sucked at it, I soon gave up. The ladies explained that this particular 21 day challenge is all about health and wellness.

What great timing Deepak and Oprah!  How did you know?

When I got home, I immediately checked it out and just as quickly signed up. The first meditation was blissful and I can honestly say that I have never blissed out during meditation. Usually I catch myself wondering, “when is this going to end?” Not this time! It was great and so perfectly fitting for this time in my life.

Every time I fell out awareness (aka. got distracted), I brought myself back to the centering thought of the meditation:

I commit to living perfect health. That feels good.  It feels right.

Today, my call to action for you is to sign up for the 21 day challenge. It’s free after all. What have you got to lose? 15 minutes a day? Come on! Join me!