Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Celebrating Life...Wondering...

Four years ago today, I received the diagnosis from my doctor.
"The news is not good," were the few words she uttered. "It's ovarian cancer..."

I felt the air being sucked out of my soul. I can't actually say that my life flashed before me, though, although it does sound dramatic and reasonable. But I remember feeling a sudden need to be held. God, as usual, was on the job for I had opted to go alone to the doctor's, thinking she would be telling me something minor was untoward and I was stepping kicking and screaming into menopause.

Gilles was the first person to know about my cancer. He is always the first to know. Thirty four years later - and he still has my back.

I recall the sick feeling as we prepared to tell Amanda and Trevor. All I could think of was my beautiful family and how I suddenly felt as if I was being ripped away from my babies.

Lest I start revisiting that moment, I will recall with jubilant joy, how God has taught me well through my cancer journey, and over these four years of remission.

I have seen the faces of pure caring. I have received kindness and compassion that I never imagined. I have learned that relationship is so much more than task and the trivial, is just that - unimportant. I help when I can and sometimes when I feel I cannot. Others did it for me. It's the least I can do to pay it forward.

I, admittedly, do struggle with cancer guilt. I don't know if that is an oddity or whether it would be classified in the big psychology tome as a 'normal' response to surviving a terminal disease. Today I learned that a woman who is not so blessed, lucky, fortunate (what do we call it?) is slowly succumbing to cancer. I will be seeing her this weekend as we host our big fundraiser for the Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope. She wants to join us (as she has done for the past four years) and she wants to scrapbook and laugh and relax with 99 other rootin' tootin' cowgals for the cause. We are overjoyed that she is coming but I cannot help battling the guilt of living while she is dying.

But we will show her a wonderful, Wild West good time and we will help her rejoice in the moment - that's another thing I learned on my journey - life is fleeting so now is the time to celebrate.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy4:7

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Day 10 - Dear...

In this challenge, I am supposed to write a letter to myself at 16 years of age. Here we go...

Dear 16 Year Old Me: 

I'm so sorry. I know you had so many plans and dreams and you planned on a very long and healthy life. I didn't mean to disappoint you nor did I intend to create such a time of turmoil in 2008. Often times when things went wrong, I have said 'no one to blame but myself...' I am still trying to get my head around that and am trying to figure out what I did wrong in my life or what bad choices I made that gave me cancer. Guilt is not something I want to savour, but something in my head gnaws occaisionally.

They say that ovarian cancer is hereditary. No one that I know of in my family had it. Do I blame it on those times when I stupidly lay out in the hot son cooking my skin just so I could get a nice tan? Was it the talcum powder I used? I read somewhere that increased talcum use might be a contributor to ovarian cancers.I read the other day, too, that taller people are more susceptible - such a hokey claim if you ask me. I'm 5' 6".  Supposedly those who don't have children and those who did not breast feed are more likely to be an ovarian cancer candidate. I have two children and breast fed them both until they were close to a year old. Was I being punished for being a dumb teenager? I don't believe God works like that...why am I telling you this, anyway?

I guess maybe I want to remind you that if you get a chance, pay a little less attention to the unimportant and put special emphasis on what truly is meaningful:

- love your family no matter what
- show unconditional love at every opportunity
- love God with your mind, heart and soul
- share Jesus
- help when you can
- share your things, your money, your love, your smile (you never know how good your timing just might be!)
- take a moment to reflect on the sunshine
- give thanks
- pray
- tell someone every day that you love them (and mean it)
- go out of your way to help someone (every day, if you can)
- give or find ways to help raise money for something near and dear to you
- keep a journal or a record somewhere, of your thoughts
- laugh
- cry
- laugh again
- forgive
- pursue your dream with passion
- give your life to the Lord
- dedicate your life to making your corner of the world a better place
- read and relax
- listen to music
- share the good things
- learn a new language - the love language...
- give thanks to God for his mercy endures forever
- pray again
- trust God

Wondering - is my advice my regret...? Hmmm...

Monday, April 9, 2012

Day 9 - Poster with concise content!

Today's health challenge was to create a poster using a specific template provided. I am no graphic designer, but here is one based on my mantra as I journeyed along the cobblestones of cancer.

Photo credit: Amanda Newton. (She is also the model here. She sure can move fast with her camera timer!)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Day 8 - Writing Dialogue

The challenge today is to recall an awesome conversation and write it either in script-style (or with dialogue) from this week.

Okay, so now I am in trouble and I am thinking that I am not going to be able to rise to this health-related challenge. Somehow my addled brain has trouble with such recall and to try to create an honest rendition here about a conversation that has to do with health, is not going to happen. I would be forced to confabulate (exaggerate and making things up!) so instead of going that route, I will present a little one way conversation I had with me, myself and I today.

What? It's dialogue, right?

Me: Happy Easter!
Myself:  Happy Resurrection Day
I: What are you talking about?

Me: Lord, why is it so hard for some people to believe in a resurrected Jesus?
Myself: Happy Resurrection Day!
I: But people might think I have a screw loose if I start talking about resurrection and Jesus and stuff.

Me: Weren't you listening to the sermon today? Pastor D was talking about claiming the victory.
Myself: Happy Resurrection Day!
I: I heard it but I was thinking about how I sometimes wonder

Me: It's okay to wonder. But do you believe? Remember what happened in 2008?
Myself: Happy Resurrection Day!
I: Refresh my memory. Oh, hold you mean during the time we were having those 'health issues?'

Me: Yes, that was it. Remember the Tim Horton's Angel? Remember the prayer right out of the blue. And the time that Sue left a message on my machine saying she was praying for us and she had to call us to find out why? (we hadn't seen her in two years!) Then remember when our favourite scripture appeared at the best of times and at the worst of times? Hardly a coincidence.
Myself: Happy Resurrection Day!
I: Yes, I do recall that now that I think about it. many indicators of God's power. I am starting to remember now.

Me: It's Easter today. It's a time for us to (collectively) celebrate the risen Lord. He was set free by the power of God's hand. Remember how when we would watch the incessant drip, drip, dripping of the chemotherapy through the intravenous line, we wondered if we would make it through the week, let alone the year? Well, hello...three Easters later, and here we are. Time to celebrate - would you not say?
Myself: Happy Resurrection Day!
I: Correct! I need to shift focus off us and not make this into something about me (or myself, or I). I think I am going to agree with Myself for the first time in a long time. Don't  mind if I join in!

ME, MYSELF AND I (in one accord):

Day 7 - Free Thinking

Today's challenge had little parameters. The point was whatever I wanted it to be. So I chose a diary entry from August 8th, 2008. I was half way into my chemotherapy and I do believe I was having a bad day.

It was a bit of a madhouse today. I am feeling okay but I am going a little bonkers mentally. I want some time to myself.  Someone is always coming; always calling; always visiting. I just want a few days to myself so I can think. My hubby loves this because obviously his social needs are great. Mine aren't. I want to spend three or four straight days writing and thinking and praying - not necessarily in that order!

Silence, pacific solitude.
I long for a measure
Serve me up to sit in stillness.
Lord, must I force a face?
Help him to understand my needs...
I seek to please
But I get nowhere on this Hamster Wheel;
Accused of callousness
Blessed by the unknown sea of faces
Who encourage and pray
Chiseling away at the statue
They call me strong, heroic, courageous.
I am weak, kittenish, meek, selfish
Because I am thinking of me
Out! Darn spot...
Now I will sleep - deep sleep...


Friday, April 6, 2012

Day 6 - Haiku

An interesting challenge today - write about my health condition or situation using a Haiku format. I am to write more than one...

And I quote: “[A haiku is] a miniature Japanese poem consisting of 17 syllables – five syllables in first line, seven in second, and five in the last. No rhyme or meter scheme is employed when writing haiku. The aim of the haiku is to create something greater than the sum of the parts.

Let's give it the ol' British try:

Sleep, where art thou, friend?
Will the weary lids fall soon?
Brain on overdrive.

Every step I take
Reminding me of cancer
Every move I make...

Mirrors in my house
Sending me into shock mode
Laughing back at me

Tell Mom I love her
Will I be seeing her soon?
Who will care for Dad?

Death is but a gate
"Any volunteers?" God asks
The key clicks open

Nudging, coaxing, I will go
Never mind; bed is warm...

Okay, that was probably some pretty bad chemo Haiku. 5-7-5! Night all...bed beckons...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Day 5 - A Picture is Worth a Thousand...

Look at the image… the color, composition, style, details, location. What feelings does this evoke in you? Are you reminded of anything significant in your life? Can you imagine yourself in the photo? Can you relate the image back to your health topic?

These were the directives for today's writing prompt.

As I look at the face of this winged creature, I see a timidity; perhaps some reluctance; maybe even a measure of trust. The bird, although out of its natural realm, still seems peaceful as it perches atop the wrinkled hand.

I don't know much about style, colour and composition, but I must admit that I love the simplistic hues that emphasize the 'bird in the hand...'

A tranquility pervades my being as I gaze upon this unlikely scene. I start thinking about God and how he cares for even the sparrows [and swallows] and how he cares even for me. Trust is the title I would give this picture if anyone ever asked for my two cents.

I remember how lost and alone I felt at times when I was going through chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. I remember tears and spiraling out of control. But I also remember the Hand of God that lifted me up and brought me through. I remember the well-timed acts of mercy, the words of assurance and the power of prayer. Like the little swallow pictured here, I slowly began to trust...

Matthew 10:29-31                  "Not even a sparrow, worth only half a

penny, can fall to the ground without your

Father knowing it. And the very hairs on

your head are all numbered. So don’t be

afraid; you are more valuable to Him than...

a whole flock of sparrows [or swallows]."

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Day 4 - I Write About My Health Because...

I don't write about having ovarian cancer because I have any desire to keep re-living it. I write about it because I want other women to know what I didn't.

I didn't know it could creep up on a body and invade quietly; the symptoms - insidious and destructive. I didn't know that cancerous cells were multiplying frantically and tumours were forming. Vague symptoms tapping at my organs indicative perhaps of middle age, alarmed me not. As I look back after the fact, those symptoms should have raised a bit of a red flag. But nothing hurt.

Nothing hurt until the demons were released.

Shortly after that, I decided I would write about what was happening to me.

After all I am a writer. It was part of a natural process...

When I first started journalling after my cancer diagnosis, it was purely for therapeutic reasons. I found great release as I poured out my emotions and gut feelings on paper. Even during my cancer journey, I was pretty good at masking feelings and putting on the right face for the right moment. Journalling forced me to rip off the mask and be real. I didn't have to say 'fine' if I wasn't fine. I didn't have to nod when someone told me how good I looked when I felt like I could projectile vomit at any moment. It was sort of an escape for me; a time and place for me to scribble freely about what was going on not only in my body, but also in my mind.

Then someone suggested I start blogging. I didn't know much about the process but with a little more time on my hands and in between bouts of nausea and lethargy, I managing to grasp and learn the ins and outs of this new found method of communicating.

Soon I met other 'sisters' online and on other blogs who were dealing with the same things I was. I discovered friends and family and sometimes even just the curious, liked keeping up with me and finding out how my life was progressing via my blog.

Teal is the colour of ovarian cancer. Teal is my new red. (Red was my favourite colour.) After I got my head around 'having cancer,' my life turned to teal and my mantra was (is) to spend the rest of my days helping raise awareness (and funds for ovarian cancer research and early detection) and finding ways to educate women and turn up the volume on this disease that really does whisper.

That's why I write about ovarian cancer...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Day 3 - Super Powers? Ummm...

The writing prompt for today was to 'write about your superpower and how you use it.'

Once I got up off the floor from laughing at the mere thought of me having super powers, I tried to get a little serious. Super power? I don't think so. But I do serve Someone with super power, and maybe because of Him, I might find the strength to do a few super things now and again.

If I had my own way, I would be slothful and selfish. I would lock myself up and only come out when I felt like it. When I was sick, if it wasn't for the Super Power at work in my life, then I would have probably given up and given in.

Instead, He stuck by me and sent a host of angels to help me through the restorative process. As I look back, there was little time to sit around feeling sorry for myself.

In my journal, I came across a poem I wrote where my Superhero prepared for battle. It happened during one of my chemotherapy treatments:

In enemy territory I tremble
Too near; I feel the foe approach
The poison courses through my veins
And the pain begins.
At first it is slow, almost teasing
Then the burning begins...
Then desolation.
I sit motionless, willing it to cease.
But the battle rages on.
Insidious in motion
Obvious in effect.
Then I hear a trumpet.
Not a brassy pitch; moreso a gentle reminder - sweet sounds -
Jesus is near
Jesus can hear
Jesus is ready for battle
The soul - my soul is no longer in jeopardy
The pain subsides...
I sleep.

My Superhero has done it again!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Day 2 - Sharing Skin

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."
spoken by Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Yesterday a writer friend emailed and wrote, "Just wanted to share with you because I knew you would understand..." She initially had a mammogram but now she has been called back to have a follow-up ultrasound. She emailed again today to tell me that the ultrasound has been bumped up from next week to this Wednesday. Concern is starting to tarnish her usual shimmering, shiny outlook.

Funny how quickly a cloud can move in and block out the sunshine. My friend is one of the most upbeat and delightful people around. She pops in on Facebook with words to cheer and banners to encourage. She is generous with her comments and can lift the spirits of the glum in an instant.

But now she is battling the unknown. I think she is okay, but I totally understand that teetering between fear and trust in God; between accepting what might be or going down kicking and screaming or choosing between being patient while you wait your turn or going into hysterics because you have to know NOW!

I pray that all will be well with my friend and that that silly shadow on the mammogram is not cancer. I pray that yet another life will not be disrupted and thrown into the storm. I pray that my friend will find courage and strength to see the good in the chaos and hope in the hurricane.

I'm glad she talked to me. I am honoured that she trusts me and that she was able to share a little bit of what's going on inside her skin...May four good angels guard her bed; two at the foot and two at the head. And keep her safe and in Your sight, Lord, until she sees the morning light. Sleep well, my friend...

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Day 1 - Amanda

Not sure what I have got myself into here, but last week sometime I signed up for this health blogging challenge where I am supposed to blog about something health related every day for one month. I don't like to look on the downside but blogging every day does not seem realistic to me. However, I am going to give it the old college try. Probably the hardest part about doing it, is not necessarily that I might not have anything to say...I rarely run out of words; it's more likely going to be the old 'I don't have time' whine.
Today, though, I am going to start out talking about my daughter, Amanda. Amanda was here today. I didn't go to church because I was feeling punk. I have a cold and have been feeling generally run down. So a day in was my intention. Amanda and I had made plans for this weekend. We weren't going anywhere but we knew we had to set aside a few hours to go through all our Zeal for Teal 'stuff' and sort things out. As we dug through all the wonderful prizes and items we have accumulated over the past few while, I started to reflect upon what we were doing.

     When I was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2008 it knocked us all back a few blows. I always fancied myself healthy as a horse and I rarely popped a pill for anything. Cancer slapped me in the face back in April 2008 and sent me reeling. I remember when Gilles and I first told our family about this new journey we were about to embark upon. Amanda shed a few tears but it wasn't long after that that she became a great source of strength. She got on the internet and researched ovarian cancer. She found out about Ovarian Cancer Canada and before I knew it, she had me put on my 'big girl panties' and she signed us both up for the Walk of Hope which was to take place in Barrie, Ontario. We loved it and we were hooked. When we head back up to Barrie this year, we will do so with that continued hope and a wagon load of gratitude.

     Then the following year, after my chemo was complete, Amanda had another idea. "Let's do a scrapbooking fundraiser to help raise money to combat ovarian cancer!" I had raised a fighter...

Thank you God for letting me live to enjoy my grandbabies!
      I hardly even knew what scrapbooking was about. But I was soon to learn. On April 28th we will be enjoying our fourth Zeal for Teal scrapbbooking and crafting fundraiser day. The first Zeal for Teal took place at our church and we had 40 people in attendance. Since that time, our numbers have more than doubled (we have almost 100 people registered!) and we had to move to the arena to accomodate our day.

Zeal for Teal 2011
 This year's theme is The Wild West, so we are looking forward to a Yee-Haa! kind of a day. Tomorrow, I might talk about the details of our day. Right now I am heading to bed. I will continue to reflect a little on Amanda and how she didn't let me, for one moment, give up. She blasted a whole lot of hope and that old British fighting spirit into my psyche! I was glad she came today...