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?

How to not fall off the wagon… as much

This post is inspired by my cousin Mar, who commented today about having fallen off of her health commitment.  As I began to reply to her, I realized I had way to much to share than to simply reply.

Personally, I’m finding the food thing easy for me right now (probably because for my survival I have little choice in the matter).  The struggle I have is with keeping motivated with my mission here.  I love posting a blog, reading replies, and responding, but I struggle to actually sit down and write daily (which is my goal).  I’m just going to keep going though.

Here are a few key things to keep in mind about falling off, as well as few pointers to help keep you on track!

Falling off is:

  • totally natural, if not expected.  Us humans are not creatures that readily change our ways.  So if you find it difficult to maintain a new lifestyle change then know that you are not alone!
  • not a big deal unless you make it one.  Sometimes one makes a poor decision that is not in line with his or her commitment.  It’s gonna happen!  Don’t let the whole day, week, or month be ruined by it.  Your next decision has just as much power as the last.  In fact it has more power because if the last decision was poor, it has no possibility of being great anymore.  Your next decision has all the possibility in the world to be great, you choose!  

I fall off of my commitments all the time.  I know this is hard to believe because I am just so amazing right?  Why thank you.  Well I do!   Some of the things I have found useful in keeping my commitments in check are:

  • whiteboardI have a white board on my fridge (thanks to Dave).  It’s pretty simple.  A little messy.
  •   The point is it is in a spot that I frequent throughout the day.  So, every time I go to the fridge, I see my possibilities and my commitments, reminding me to stay on!
  • before I go to sleep, I create a schedule for the next day.  Worthy of note, I do not do this when I have fallen off.  It is one of the things that keeps me focused and on track.  When I stop doing this, falling off is usually not far behind.  The benefit of the schedule is two-fold.  First of all I get all that stuff out of my head, making sleep come easier (like I need any help with that).  Secondly, I have a guidebook to look at throughout my day.
  • I put more than just appointments in the calendar.  If I want to walk outside every day, it’s gonna need to be in my calendar.  Besides, doesn’t putting something in there make it more of a commitment for you?  It does for me.  Most things in my
    calendar get done.  Also, all things new to my calendar (in that it is an activity that I am not accustomed to doing already), get an alarm.  This is because I know I will need to be reminded!

Perhaps these pointers are elementary to you, but do you actually do them?  I know I have heard this all before.  Theact of typing it all out has served as a reminder to continue to follow through for myself.  What things do you do to keep committed to yourself?  Please share below as I can use all the pointers I can get!

The power of a blog… the power of you!

This morning, prior to surgery # 2, I finally decided to share this blog that I have been working on since my diagnosis.  It was a difficult decision, accompanied with mixed feelings of excitement and nervousness.

Will people like it?

Why is my story so important?

Is it perfect enough yet?

On Facebook I asked friends to read it and leave comments.  The response was overwhelming.  In just one day, over 250 people visited this site with almost 1000 views of the various posts!  Some of you even left comments (woohoo and thank you).  The greatest thing is that a couple of you shared this blog with your friends.

Now this is where the power lies.  I don’t know some of you and when you share it with even more people that I don’t know, the potential reach of the blog is immeasurable and unpredictable.

The proof of this is already occurring.  This morning my friend Fawna, whom I’ve written about before, shared this blog with her Facebook community.  Several of her friends commented on it.  One of her friends, whom I do not know, posted this:

“Whenever I need a mental check in, I check out Fawna Bews FB page and found this amazing blog. It’s very true, our health is so important. If I look at the onset of my current viral situation I am reminded here that I will heal and need to take my health and wellness into my own hands moving forward too. I really have not been doing this as best as I could be these days, letting career and life’s stresses run me down & choosing quick, unhealthy foods to comfort me at night to turn the day off. So, today I’m very thankful I’ve been able to read these words with my burning eyeballs and start to visualize my recovery and create new living habits! It’s a process but I’m very very hopeful I can do it. Well her words meant alot to me today. I’m bed rested right now but it is not as serious as her. If she can find positives, develop goals and be at peace with the recovery process then I definitely can!”

Has this blog inspired you yet?  Perhaps it will inspire someone you love too.  Please share!

Coming out about cancer on Facebook

I dont want to lose this post of mine from January 27, 2013 in the Facebook archives so I am recreating it here.  Please read and respond with your commitment to yourself!  And spread the word!

Hi Friends,

I’m writing to let you all know that I have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Shocking news I bet! It was to me anyway. Not to worry, I am taking it all quite well and looking at the experience overall as a blessing.

I am going in for surgery on Tuesday to have it removed and will take things from there.

Some of you will not know what to say. Others will want to do everything to help. Both reactions are perfect. I know I’ll pull through this and that you all are supporting me in your own way.

For those of you who really want to help in some way, please do send your
love, thoughts, prayers, and energy my way, especially on Tuesday, but also everyday after that as I build my body and immunity back up over the coming months. I believe it all helps!

What I want most of all, is for this to have happened for a reason. I want the people I love (that’s you!) to be happy and healthy. So, if there is one thing you could commit to in order to be better to yourself and your wellbeing, then I want you to commit to that and message me about it so that I can feel like positive things are coming out of this business!

Jenn