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Cancer Daily Dispatches

A personal daily diary of successful cancer treatment.

Welcome to the story of my cancer journey

I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2014 and had chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. I originally wrote these dispatches to help me sort out the impact that cancer diagnosis and treatment had on my feelings of mortality and my sense of myself. Mostly I was just trying to keep it together. Along the way I transformed from a normal middle-aged woman into Furiosa. Not necessarily what I was going for, but I'm okay with it.

Hopefully these stories from my experience will help you feel less alone in yours. 

June 15, Saturday


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  • 15 Jun 2019 5:59 AM | Contact Me (Administrator)

    Four Years Later

     I’m still alive! And active, living my life. As far as we know the cancer is gone and has not come back. If there are cancer cells still lurking somewhere in my body they are not active enough to be detected. 

    I was followed closely for the first few 'dangerous' years when there was a greater chance of the cancer coming back. I went in for tests and appointments every three to six months. That first year was up in the air for me, I grabbed as many personal meaningful moments as I could afford, partly with no thought to the future, but also partly with the idea that I would have a real, new future. As time went by and the one year, two year, and most significant three year milestones passed I got used to being better. Gradually as the routine tests continued without alarming results my various doctors and specialists dumped me. I can tell you that it’s a good feeling when your doctor dumps you, it means they truly believe you don’t need them any more. It means you are out of near and present danger. 

    The radiologist was the first doctor to dump me. I didn’t qualify for the targeted radiation because my lymph nodes had been compromised, but the chemo and the surgery both worked so well that I did just get 'light' radiation. I had sixteen radiation sessions, spread out Monday to Friday for about three weeks, that was it. My only skin symptom was a tan on my collar bone over the area where there is a lymph node beneath it. And while it was tedius to have a mid-day appointment five days a week for three weeks I didn't have any other significant side effects like fatigue either. I continued to get stronger and recover from the chemotherapy right through the radiation treatments. One of the women from the cancer support group had her radiation treatments scheduled each day just before mine so we often got to sit and visit together while we waited. I liked her a lot and having a familiar face and new friend to talk with made the whole process much easier. On my very first visit the technician told me to really relax as they took those first measurements because then each of the radiation sessions afterwards would be much easier, I’d be much more able to find that exact position again and hold it for the duration of the radiation treatment if I was relaxed. I used all my relaxation technics for that first measurement session. And she was right. My treatments did go much faster than most. But I was less pleased about the other thing she told me on that first visit, she advised that I get out and enjoy the lovely sunny summer days while I could. And I answered, was that because once I was in radiation I’d have to be careful of the sun on my freshly radiated skin for the rest of the summer. And she told me that I’d have to be careful of the sun in the radiated area, which was from my collar bone to the middle of my chest, including my back on that side, for the rest of my life. Radiation is like spending a lifetime out on the sun, you can’t take any more sun than that without causing further problems. That was a dark moment for me. But I’ve learned to live with it, I was a bit past the bikini stage of life in any case. My summer wardrobe has changed, it keeps me covered on top and that’s the way I live now. More in the shade than before. But I’m okay with that. 

    The first doctor that I dumped was the plastic surgeon. I loved the idea he had for my surgery, I loved the surgery he did on me. I was so happy with it that I didn’t need any more. He had a plan for two more surgeries that would complete my breast reconstruction by giving me a new nipple. When heard rumours that they take skin from your genitals to create nipples, that was the end of that idea. Forget it! And frankly with my breast generally the correct size and shape so that I don’t have to wear a prosthetic why would I put myself through any additional surgery even if they had another less horrific way of going about it? I’ve since heard too many stories of breast reconstructions gone wrong, sometimes badly wrong, but often just wrong enough that it’s not nice to live with, but also not worth going back in for more surgery to fix it. And what I have learned is that you only have so much skin to work with, and with each surgery to fix the last surgery there is always less skin not more. 

    The first new doctor I got after treatment ended was the ophthalmologist who fixed my eyelids. It took almost a year for me to go through all the stages of getting to the right specialist, the right diagnosis and surgery. And after all that it was just a day surgery, they ‘tightened’ the muscles under both bottom eyelids so that the eyelids didn’t roll inward anymore, taking the eyelashes with them. It was a bit horrific, I was wide awake and wide-eyed while they cut and sewed, and I got to listen to them discussing whether or not they had matched the two eyes to each other, and felt the tugging while they adjusted the muscles. But also, it was instant relief! As soon as she did the surgery I felt that instant relief. No eyelashes in my eyeballs anymore! Finally. I didn’t realize how much of my energy had gone towards simply keeping myself from rubbing my eyes. After that surgery I got an energy boost. Part of my fatigue all along had been fighting this low level, but persistent and real physical problem. I felt better right away. Instantly.

    I signed up for the after cancer weight loss program. They had us exercising together in a group for an hour three times a week, and many of the women in my cancer support group were also in this group so it was a lot of fun for us to all to dance around to music together, and nice to see each other with healthy pink cheeks, and the other two days in the week we had a dietician work with us on personalized diets according to our personal tastes, our family social customs for eating, and our treatment plans. I was encouraged to enjoy dairy, but not go below 2% fat content in order to help my bones. You need the fat in order to digest and absorb the calcium. They discouraged soya products for me, and let me tell you, soya is one of those products like sugar, it's every where in all sorts of things you don't think of as 'vegetable' - like the breading on commercially prepared fish. The program was eight weeks long and I lost a respectable thirteen pounds. 

    My lymphedema specialist was the next specialist to dump me. In the third year I survived an especially hot humid summer with both arms the same size when most of her patients who were at risk for lymphedema got into trouble. So while I’m still in her file and can contact her any time I am worried, basically she thinks she doesn’t need to keep checking up on me every three months, then every six months and then every year.  I’ll be okay without that constant vigilance. I have no future appointments. Whatever I am doing to take care of my arm, and however my body has recovered from the shock of having those lymph nodes removed it seems to be working, and it looks like I’ll be alright. Since the days of my treatment decisions and concerns they discovered that the lymph system has a whole layer of cells just under the skin that they never knew about before. The lymphedema specialist advised me to keep up with the swimming, and also the sauna and cold plunge, water massage nordic spa sessions that I loved. Something about water seemed to be good for preventing lymphedema. Now that we know about that cell layer (they reason they didn’t discover it before is because it is so thin, it dries out quickly, and also collapses immediately when the skin and cells are cut, they just didn’t see it) we know why. Moving water pressing on your skin massages those lymph cells and also improves your entire immune system. I’ve since taken up aqua-fit too. And my life is better for it. It’s more fun and social than swimming endless laps back and forth in the pool. Laughter is also good medicine. 

    The latest doctor to dump me, just this year was the surgeon, Dr. B. My hero, the doctor who took me in when I was feeling lost and alone and took me under his wing and into the care of the whole breast cancer team. With him after active treatment ended it was a mammogram every year, followed by an exam. We had one false alarm the first year when they found something strange that turned out to be a mammary lymph node. I could tell as the technician showed me the image on the ultra sound screen that it was going to be okay, it was all smooth and organized, like a torpedo in it’s cradle - not wild and chaotic the way the cancer had looked. And they saw internal scars healing that first year too. Ever since then all the mammogram reports have said, no change, no change. And after the last one Dr. B told me that I don’t need to see him anymore. He says I am well protected by the daily chemo pill, the aromatase inhibitor, and that we don’t have to be so vigilante anymore. I liked him a lot, but we both smiled happily at each other when he said he was dumping me and I don’t have to schedule any more appointments with him. That part of my life is officially done. Love you Dr. B. Glad to say goodby. This the best outcome. Dr. B. Thank you. We had a happy little eye-contact dance and then just like that he was gone out the door onto the next patient, someone else who needed him. 

    I still see my oncologist, Dr. P every six months. I am on a daily aromatase inhibitor. It’s a ten year plan so I have six more years of this to go.  Dr. P and I have settled into a more long term relationship. This regime has been proven to be very effective, 98% effective, especially with my particular kind of cancer. So, as the surgeon said, I am well protected. But this daily cancer pill has it’s drawbacks. Something about it sucks the life out of you. That is about the best way I can describe it. I felt that effect right away the first month I started taking it, and that has never left me even though my hair has all grown back now and my eyelids are fixed. I am also experiencing a constant soul suck thanks to this chemo pill. This is not listed in the potential side effects but for me it has been very real. The oncologist follows me closely because officially there are actual bad side effects; it’s hard on your bones and your joints. I feel it for sure in my joints. I feel like I’m aging at twice the normal speed. 

    I have kept up with the cancer group, a small portion of us meet every few months at one of local restaurants. Some of us still have active cancers, but most of us are in remission and are on either tamoxifen or one of the aromatase inhibitors, so we compare our ongoing and developing symptoms and it’s been useful. For example, all but one of us has had trigger finger since we started on these hormone therapies. So, when I got trigger finger in my thumb I pretty well knew what was happening right away even though it’s not really on the list of possible side effects, and that was a good short cut for what might have been another long process of diagnosis. And I didn't think it might be the cancer coming back, not even for one moment.

    Some of the other younger women say that their hormone therapy makes them feel like they are 80 or 90 years old. All of us now feel stiffness in our joints as we first stand up after sitting for a while. The stiffness goes away after you’ve taken a few steps but it still makes you feel old. Every time you stand up you are reminded. Some of them have even quit going to movies because it’s too hard to stand up after sitting for two hours straight. They don't like to do it in public. People look at them. I’m not prepared to give up movies yet. It does take me longer to stand up at the end of a movie, but unlike the younger women I have grey hair and the people around me don't react with surprise when they see me stand up so painfully, slowly.  I keep knitting and typing to keep my hands in shape, and I do aqua fit because it really helps the rest of my joints. It helps me keep moving and mobile. Luckily my bones are still good. So far my heart and blood are hanging in there too. I get a blood test every six months. It gives us, Dr P and me, an assessment of my general health and how I’m reacting to this chemo pill and he tests for cancer markers in my blood at the same time, two or three vials of blood get anaylized every six months. So, really I think I feel as secure as you can feel when it comes to being on top of any cancer recurrence. I put up with the side-effects of this daily chemo pill for that very big benefit, and the mental re-assurance that comes with it. 

    "Weakness and ignorance are not barriers to survival, but arrogance is."  Liu Cixin, Death's End, 2010

  • 14 Jun 2019 6:02 AM | Contact Me (Administrator)

    Sometimes you do get a long period where you can be fooled into thinking that your life is not changing. But the change is always happening whether it is building up incrementally like tectonic plates slowly grinding away or whether it is a sudden burst of love, marriage and babies, a sudden burst of accident, tragedy and disease like a full on earthquake. Life is change. Always. 

    Friday morning. My last morning at the cottage. It’s 5:30 am, and I’m getting picked up at 7:00am. It will be a car ride through the country and then a bus ride into the city and then a pick up by my husband and a ride right to my door. That’s what it will take to return me to my old life. I’ll walk up those steps, up to the same apartment and balcony where I spent my winter of cancer treatment. I am lucky that I had this chance to come here to Camp Comfort, to step away from that winter of treatment and gain that from-a-distance perspective on that cancer experience. I am lucky that I had that experience meeting my next animal companion and of falling in love again. It brought new life into my daily existence. My new love and I will be separated for a while as I go through the last of the treatment, but we’ll be back together again after the summer ends and before the cold winds start to blow. Whatever happens next I will have the comfort of a cat purring in my lap to help me get through it. Next winter will not be the same, not for me. Not for Pingu.

    And in the meantime my husband will be waiting for me to come back to him and we will begin our lives together again. We’ll fall into those long time daily routines that comfort the both of us. Hi Honey, I”m home. 

    I’m more ready to go forward now. I could have known my lab results last week, but I’m more ready to know them now that I took control and stepped away from being the mere pawn in their medical schedule. I’m taking control of my life again, but at the same time I’ve given up on my old expectations of getting my exact same life back. It will be different from now on no matter what. But that’s okay. “Life is change.” I always used to say that by definition, life is change. And I’ve been through a lot of change already. And there will be more change coming up after this. Some predictable change. And some unexpected catastrophic change. My friend’s house blew up. “When you least expect it, expect it.” I used to say that too. Nobody expects their house to just blow up. But it can happen. And catastrophe only happens when you least expect it. Sometimes in life you do get a long period where you can be fooled into thinking that your life is not changing, but the change is always there whether it is building up slowly increment by increment like tectonic plates grinding away. Or whether it is a sudden burst of love, marriage and babies. Or a sudden burst of accident, tragedy and disease. A full on earthquake. Life is change. It does not stand still. Even if you can’t see the land actually moving, that land, life, does not stand still. 

    I’ve grown older in the past year. I would have grown older whether or not I got cancer. That’s just life. I’ve been growing older year by year since I was born. I liked being a child. I hated being a school kid and a teenager. I thrived on being an adult even though most people would say I started that stage of life far too young. It suited me, right from the start I was far happier being the young mother than I had ever been being the school kid and teenager. Those school years were the worst years of my life and I was mightily relieved to leave them behind. I shall be glad to leave this cancer treatment year behind too. 

    I would not say that either of those ‘trials and tribulation’ parts of my life made me a better wiser person, or made me happier in any real way. 

    The “bright siders” will tell you that cancer is the best thing that happened to them because after diagnosis and treatment they now have this whole new appreciation for their life. According to them life is better than it ever was before cancer. Personally I think that is a lot to ask of a disease. I am quite sure there are other less random, drastic debilitating ways to gain an appreciation for the wonder of life. 

    Other cancer patients never recover from the experience of diagnosis and the treatment itself even if their cancer doesn’t come back. Nearly half of all cancer patients are never able to return to work even if they stay alive and don’t die of cancer. 

    Some of the women in the cancer group did say that this was the worst thing that has ever happened to them. But they are going ahead and recovering anyway. Although they never mention this in-between option in the cancer support networks I personally think that in fact that is probably the most common experience. Worst thing that every happened to you. Get on with your life anyway. 

    I would not say this is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. But it’s right up there. It’s bad. There was nothing about cancer and cancer treatment that was inherently a good thing in my life. I would have preferred to carry on without having to go through all that I went through this past year. Really my life would have been better without cancer. 

    But, I can take it. I will survive this treatment however it goes from here. I will go forward into whatever the future holds and I will survive that too. I’ll make the best of it. I’ll take what good I can from this bad situation. There was something to be gained from facing death in a more real and upfront way than I had before. I feel more prepared to face it again whenever it rears it’s head in the future. There was something to be gained from stepping outside of my daily responsibilities and seeing how the wheel of my little world was perfectly able to turn without me as the driving force. I will be more able to let go of being in control as I grow older (or sicker) and start to lose that control at a future date. 

    These are small things to set against all the physical destruction that I’ve been through. 

    The biggest gain has been all the new practical and pragmatic things I learned from the medical team around me. Every one one of those moments along the way where I said, ‘this is so good to know, even if you don’t have cancer it is good to know this about how your brain works, how your body works. Everybody should know this, not just cancer patients’. How is it that we get so much health news about odd research break throughs that won’t be available for at least ten years, even if they do work out. And so little news about the everyday discoveries that really can have a positive influence on the way we understand our bodies and our minds, and then go out and live our daily lives in a better way. Catching up basic health information and how it’s developed since I was in the public education system has been a big benefit. But you don’t have to get cancer to get access to that information. Do you? 

    I would not say that I have this big new appreciation for life now. I appreciated life before. I would not say my life glows with more saturated colours now. In fact, I would say that for the moment anyway it is more grey now than it was before. I am still recovering. I also don’t feel like I’ve discovered a whole new world out there just waiting for this new, re-invented me to step up and be part of it. I honestly don’t feel like I have that kind of energy in me. 

    I do feel like it’s okay, okay that the world is a bit grey, and oaky that I’m a bit sluggish. This is new. This deep acceptance of me as a lesser being who doesn’t have to strive for perfection, who only has to “be”. I would have demanded more from my life before. Last year I just expected life to deliver more vibrancy, more challenges, more rewards. Now I know that I was wrong to expect that. Demand that. Assume that. I was lucky to have all energy and ‘life force” when I did, I may have it again. I fell in love again! Love came back in all it’s richness and glory for the sweetness of one little kitty cat. But now that intensity is a treat to be savoured, not an assumption to be taken for granted. I would not say that this “new normal” is necessarily is better than living a full on vibrant life all of the time in all ways. But it’s still a good life. It’s still a life worth living. I can adjust. I’m ready to step up and go forward. I can do this. That’s enough. 

    Dispatched: June 14

    End of Daily Dispatches: Epilogue to Follow June 15

  • 13 Jun 2019 6:01 AM | Contact Me (Administrator)

    I fell in love with them as babies, because they were babies and I was ready to love a baby. Then, as they grew I got to know them as individuals. Now I love them as individuals. I love them and I'm constantly surprised and delighted by the individuals that they are becoming. Yes, it was love at first sight, but that’s not the whole story

    Thursday morning. My last full day at Camp Comfort. It's a lovely, bright sunny morning. Today I'm going to walk down the railway the other way, or down the old road, either one, take a walk in that opposite direction. Out for half an hour and then back. My every other day, one hour walk to get in shape for  - life. And also for radiation. This is me getting my body as strong as I can for that. 

    Yesterday I did the core exercises, and upper body strength building exercises. And I ended it with a nice little bit of meditation. And I began it with dancing wildly around the living room. It felt really good at the time. Now my body feels like I worked it yesterday, muscles a bit stiff and sore. I was right about the diaraha too/though. It's gone now. Completely. Back to normal poohs again. 

    I am just being open as I do the meditation and I found it was not exactly the joy I thought it would be. It is not a return to that childhood light easy joy. I would still say joy. I would still say that there is a layer of joy coming through to me now. But it's layered on top of the love, protection and strength. So it has a different "texture" to it than a childish innocent joy that takes love and protection for granted, that hasn't learned a reason to need strength yet. This is a 'dark' joy that comes through. This is a 'knowing' joy. I'd still call it joy. And maybe there is even more wonder associated with it now. I'll just have to keep practising and see where it takes me, see what it becomes. Looking forward to it. A good reason to keep up with those core exercises and the breathing, relaxing, body check up and meditation finale. 

    Yesterday I got started slowly. I fiddled around longer on Facebook and email. I wrote for longer. I made a good breakfast of bacon, eggs and baguette. It was after noon before I finished my morning meal, showered, exercised and dressed. I was tired. So I had a nap. I didn't get started on my 'day' until 2:30 in the afternoon. Pingu was even worse than me. She stayed upstairs in the bed until nearly 4:00pm. Every time I went up there she started kneading the covers and purred at me. She did not care about bacon cooking downstairs. Cats are not like dogs. She cared about being in a warm comfy bed with covers to knead. She was happy with that. She is a sweetie and I am falling in love. It is fun and surprising to fall in love now. 

    Falling in love. Falling in love with my husband in my forties. Falling in love with the grandchildren, three new babies to fall in love with during my fifties. Falling in love with Moose in my forties and losing him in my fifties. The other side of love. Grief. Mourning. Falling in love with Pingu here in Camp Comfort in my sixties, discovering a new love in the middle of cancer treatment. Love is like that. Unexpected. Not guaranteed. You can't force it. I did not fall in love with Tiger. He's a nice cat, and he's injured, he probably needs to come home with me more than Pingu does right now. But I didn't fall in love with him. He didn't fall in love with me and I didn't fall in love with him. 

    Pingu and I fell in love on trust. I know cats and trust in cat love. She knows humans and trusts in human love. That is what started it. It wasn’t personal yet. I thought she might be a loveable cat, and she thought I might be a loveable human. We were both open to the idea of loving each other. We were both ready to love each other across species like that. And so we started. We started with the pats, and the purrs. We started with the rubbing up on legs, and the feeding. We started sleeping in the same bed. We started being deeply asleep, safe in our 'den' together. And we are starting to get to know each other. Our distinct personalities as a cat and as a human. We fell in love first because we were both looking to fall in love and we saw each other. We gave it a chance. Now, and only now are we getting to know each other as individuals. Does love always work that way? 

    Is that how I fell in love with my husband, we were both ready and looking for love? We fell in love first on a trust in love between a man and a woman, and then we started to get to know each other as individuals after that? For sure this is how I fell in love with my grandchildren. I fell in love with them as babies, because they were babies and I was ready to love a baby. Then, as they grew I got to know them as individuals. Now I love them as individuals. I love them and I'm constantly surprised and delighted by the individuals that they are becoming. I guess the love does come first. 

    And this is interesting because all up until now I thought it went the other way. You fell in love with people because you knew them, as you got to know them, the things that made them individual is what made you fall in love with them as opposed to anybody else. Perhaps it truly is only that you are ready to fall in love, and they are ready to fall in love, and you are both ready to trust it. You are both ready to trust that it will be okay to be in love. And then for that love to grow. Infatuation. Perhaps it always starts with infatuation first. 

    The difference between me and Tiger, and me and Pingu? I saw it yesterday when T came over and Pingu was here. Tiger is already in love. Tiger loves T. Pingu does not care about T one way or the other. T feels responsibility for her, but he doesn't especially love her. That is why I fell in love with Pingu and not Tiger. Even injured Tiger would rather be with T. Those two are bonded. Pingu is not. 

    I will miss Pingu when I leave here. I will dream of her sleeping on the next pillow between me and my husband as I go through the summer and radiation. She will be okay here and I won't be worried about her. But when it starts to get cold I'll come and get her. One way or the other. I won't let her be cold and stuck in that barn for another winter. She will come and live with us then. Our love will continue then. She is twelve years old now. Cats live sixteen to eighteen years. So we could have another four to six years together if all goes well. For both of us. I will be nearly seventy years old when she is an old cat and ready to die. Unless this cancer gets me first that is a reasonable lifetime expectation for both of us. It will be nice to have a cat for these transition years. 

    A new thing has come into my life in the middle of all this cancer trauma. A new love even in this time of loss. I've lost a lot this winter. I need to fight to get my health back. I need to fight to keep what health I have after the chemo and the surgery. It's good to have something new come into my life. Some of it was shopping. The new bedding, the bottle garden, the new clothes. But that was a small bit of new compared to a new love like this little orange cat. Purry little Pingu. What a sweetie. 

    After my nap, I got up and made the rhubarb tarts. I invented the recipe. I made the pies as little galettes. And they weren't perfect, some of the sides fell down, but they were delicious, and the colour was red and inviting and the rhubarb and strawberries were a good combination of flavour, and the richness of the butter pastry was perfect with the tartness of the spring fruit. Next time I would chop the rhubarb even smaller and I would make them in the little tart tins. It would be perfect. 

    And so while I've been here I've perfected two new rhubarb recipes. And I should write them down. The rhubarb juice recipe. And the rhubarb tart recipe. And I've solved the Doukhobour style fruit tarts now too. I've figured out how they do that combination of little cooked fruit and less 'sauce' to make an almost raw fresh fruit tart. It's just coat the fruit in the 'bakers sugar' which is just cornstarch mixed with sugar. Let is sit and 'macerate' so it's not so wet, then scoop out the fruit and put it open face into the tart shell. It works. I can do this with all the fruits as they come in season all summer long. If only I weren’t having radiation every day.  

    Yes, I have felt my Doukhobor roots while I was here. I expect to see some stinging nettles and make a nice early season nettle soup tonic to go with this rhubarb feast. A prairie Doukhobor life. Living on the land, with the land in that way. It's been really satisfying for me to be here and doing this. 

    Once the house was tidy, and the desert was made, the sun came out and I went outside for an hour. A whole hour in the sun. Late in the day, between 4 and 5 pm and sun came and went behind clouds that whole time. I did not get any kind of a burn or tan. I wore my soft shorts, a camisole t-shirt, and I had the green shirt to wear over that. 

    My sister and I had some texts back and forth. And I got up to take pictures of the irises and the butterflies at the lakeshore. She loved them. She asked me to take more pictures because she wanted too paint this scene. So I took a lot of pictures. And I took a couple of videos too, because they show the action better, the business of the butterflies and the irises blowing in the breeze. It was pretty. The light on the flowers and butterflies, and the darkness of the lake water behind them was a painters dream. 

    My husband and I just had a little text back and forth. I sent a picture of my leftover artichoke dip breakfast, and told him about the storm last night, and said how it was fun to watch it from the big comfy bed upstairs and I wished he'd been there to share it. Pingu didn't share my sense of wonder at the storm, at the first big clap of thunder she found a hiding spot under the bed. I enjoyed it by myself in the comfort of the bed, through the skylight. And I fell asleep to the thunder and lightening flashes and periodical torrents of pouring rain. 

    All quiet, mix of sun, cloud and light rain this morning. 

    George is off on a big film production day today. Big hairy day for my replacement at the office job too I'm sure. And I am enjoying another quiet one here at Camp Comfort. I am in the middle of cancer treatments. I did not think I would be in such bad shape at this stage when I started treatments. I thought at the very worse, that treatment would be all over, that I would be fine for a while at least and that I would hop on a plane and go to Saskatoon and partake of the conference like a regular delegate. I thought it would be my 'star' return and everybody would be happy to have me back. That is what I thought. 

    I did not know how sick I would still feel. I did not know that my hair would only be peach fuzz. I did not know that my finger nails would be black and trying to fall off. I did not know the my eyelashes would be turned in and rubbing on my lower eyeballs. I did not know I would gain twenty pounds. All of these things discourage me from going to the conference. I will look like shit, I will feel like shit. I won't be able to maintain a full conference day, even as a mere delegate. I'd have to go lie down for a nap after lunch. And I would have to go to bed early at the end of the social events. It would not be a triumphant return showing how I've recovered and am ready to take over the reins again. It would just prove the opposite if I did try to show up. 

    And I am a bit afraid that in fact I may not be able to ever do this job again after all. I need to be able to start working at it full time this fall at the latest. I can't do it now. I know that. I'm not well enough now. And I still have up to six weeks of possible drastic radiation to go through between now and September. I might not be able to do it. I might have to give up. I might have to quit. It is too much to ask them to wait any longer than that for me to recover. They may not give me the option anyway. 

    In the meantime, I have this last day on my own here at Camp Comfort. Do my range of motion exercises. Have a shower, get dressed and head out for my morning walk. One hour down either the tracks or the old road. There and back for an hour. New things to see. My big fear? Somebody’s pet dog will jump out barking and scare the shit out of me. That's it for that. Fear wise. 

    Then. A bit of writing or a bit of reading. Out in the sun with my bare skin again later on too. And start cleaning up, packing up, making plans to get home. We are nearly at the end here.

    Dispatched: June 13

  • 12 Jun 2019 5:49 AM | Contact Me (Administrator)

    It's like a new romance. You never want this moment to end. You know it's not real life and that it will have to end. Social and professional obligations will start up and somehow you need to fit the new relationship into all that. Compromises will be made, hard things will be decided and done. But for the moment you don't have to do any of that, you can have this time together, apart from all the rest of the world, just being the two of you, bonding emotionally and physically. That is what we are doing now. 

    7:15 in the morning at Camp Comfort. I'm on my second cup of coffee, sitting in my chair by the window, it's overcast but not raining, with bits of sun coming through the sky and patches of blue sky. Every once in a while wave of real sunlight just pours into this room. It feels lovely. I feel great. Miss Pingu, the sweet pussy cat herself is still upstairs luxuriating in the bed. The two of us. Luxuriating in a shared moment of bliss in the midst of hard times. Yes we are enjoying each other, this moment of comfort and relaxation is magnified by sharing it with another being. And yes, we are each independently enjoying the moment, in the moment, for what it is without thought to the past or the future. 

    We both had a hard winter, each in our own way. 

    She was an old cat living out in the barn, unloved through that long, especially cold winter. She was in such bad shape by the end of winter that T doesn't think she will make it through another winter. 

    I was an old woman going through harsh chemo, and there were times when I didn't feel like I would make it either. 

    And neither of us has a guaranteed future. Both of us for sure have some more hard times ahead. This summer I will be going through radiation and Pingu will be back in the barn. It won't be -30, but she'll be without a home and humans to love her and get her purring and content. She will have to survive this summer as a mostly wild animal. And that jealous girlfriend will probably slam the door in her face a bunch of times. And I will get my boob burnt, and maybe, probably my lymph nodes too. Then at the end of it Pingu and I can come together again and heal up and be love buddies through the next winter. 

    But for now we are in this magic moment of just being together and bonding. It's a bit like a new romance. You never want this moment to end. You know it's not real life and that it will have to end. You'll have to talk to other people, you'll each have to go back to your regular lives. Social and professional obligations will start up and somehow you need to fit the new relationship into all that. Compromises will be made, hard things will be decided and done. 

    But for the moment you don't have to do any of that, you can have this night, day, weekend, week together, apart from all the rest of the world, just being the two of you, bonding emotionally and physically. That is really what Pingu and I are doing now. 

    I am ready for a new pet, I am ready to have a cat in my life again. And she is perfect, an older cat that does need a home. And me, an older woman who does need at cat. I have a physical, purring companion for this part of the recovery, and I'll have one for the next part, after the radiation too. That is the plan. T has agreed I can take her home with me before the next winter sets in. 

    Hopefully. I don't know if I will have time. Literally I don't know. I don't know if I will have time. 

    I may be full of cancer right now, that sucker may have spread in small ways, under the radar while the big old, war of the roses cancer was being beaten down by the chemo and we were all happy-dappy about that, the warrior, conquering horde cancer cells were out and about, ignoring the chemo and setting up little invasion camps all through my body. Still too small for me to feel, but there, everywhere. That could've happened too. And who knows they could still be too small to detect. A clean bill of health next Wednesday when we get the surgery/tumour results does not guarantee that it will still be a clean bill of health in three months, six months or a year. 

    But it gets better. After the first year you start to move past the really aggressive dangers, you start to move into the slow moving cancer dangers. But I don't know. I don't know if I have time. I will never really know. Not anymore. Each day will be it's own thing now. From now on that's the way it will be. Day by day.

    I did the full core exercise routine on Monday. And I did feel a bit crummy yesterday. But I did the old railway tracks walk anyway, yesterday, in the drizzle. I am trying to keep up my exercise routine as much as I can. 

    I am getting stronger for sure. But sometimes it does almost feel as if I am, "stirring" up dormant chemo, that there are bits of chemo in me, and when I exercise deeply I 'stir' them up, release them into circulation again and I feel a bit sick. Not full chemo sick, but also more than just sore muscles sick. It's an all over malaise that I feel. 

    It passes as soon as I take a break, get a rest from the exercise. And after that then I feel better, even better, because I feel the additional strength that I'm regaining from doing the exercise. But it's like something extra that I have to go through now, that all over sick body feeling a day after exercise, to build myself back up again. 

    If I don't exercise now, I feel like I will carry this lingering chemo feeling around in my body for a long time, maybe the rest of my life, and I will stay weak. Better to get right in there and deal with it now. Now while I have time to do it for one thing. 

    I have time to do an hour's exercise every day. Plus take a nap for an hour every day too. When I go off of disability and have to start really working again I won't have this time to both work harder physically and to rest up more. Two hours, that's two hours out of every day. 

    This is the time to take care of my body. I feel like it has actually become an important priority. I can't just exercise for health, a bit, when I have time anymore. I can't take it for granted that basically I have a healthy body anymore. I need to take care of myself, not so much like a baby anymore, like when I was in full chemo, but actually like a disabled person who needs daily therapy to stay functional, an injured person who is in rehab. That is the way I'm taking care of myself. 

    So. I don't feel well today. I'm glad I exercised on Monday. I'm glad I had those two days off, Saturday and Sunday. Glad I had my core exercise routine on Monday. Glad I got out of the building and took my railroad walk yesterday. But I did feel a bit sick yesterday and I do feel a bit more sick today. 

    This business of the steroids complicates things for me too. They say it's six months to a year before the steroids leave my system. So they are still affecting me. Now. Right now. Perhaps I'll build really big muscles doing these exercises?! 

    However. I know for sure I will get Friday off exercise. We're driving back to the city on that day. So. So I will try to go ahead and do the core exercises again today, this morning, even if I am feeling a bit crummy. And I will also try to go for the old train tracks walk tomorrow. And then take Friday off of exercise. 

    I am being selfish. These are my priorities these days. Me. I am my priority these days. Because if I can't get me working again, then all else is for naught. I don't mean me working as a job, I mean me working as a physically functioning human being. That is the priority. 

    For the first time in my life that I can remember, except perhaps as a selfish teenager, selfish child, ”me" is the priority. Simply me. Get the old body working again, get the old body through this, and then I can manage all the other priorities again. 

    This is the best thing I can do for all the people who love me, and need me. Get me working again. I'm better than I was, but I'm still not fully functional. And there is more damage to come. The better I am going into it, the better I will be coming out of it. So it's actually an intense, time limited pressure to get myself into better health. Now. 

    But also you can only push it so far before you just start to wear your body down instead of building it up. It's a balance. It's always a balance. Everything about life is about balance. That's the nature of the beast. Change. Change and balance. And of course, on account of the change part, then the balance has to shift too, to accommodate the change. 

    So that is what I'm doing for myself physically, on the health front that way. 

    And food. I am feeding myself. Off the land even. Homemade rhubarb/ginger juice made into spritzers with club soda during the day. Perhaps not enough meat. But that will change tonight. Steaks for supper. I bought steaks for all of us. It was an expensive grocery shop yesterday. But it was also a bit self indulgent. My favourite cheese, steaks, more grapes. That was part of it. But also it's buying groceries in a small rural town, it's not as bad as going up north, but everything still costs more here too. Something to keep in mind for the retired life. Of course, retired old people don't eat that much either. 

    I have mild diarrhoea this morning. It was the undercooked pre-made lasagna that I ate for supper last night. I had my doubts even as I ate it. I thought this is exactly the kind of thing that the dietician warned us against. It would've been fine if I'd actually put it in the oven and cooked it thoroughly, heated it up completely. But I was starving at 7:00pm with no supper.  So I nuked the lasagne, and I kept on eating it even when I got to the cold part. I was hungry. But even at the time I thought, this is how it happens. 

    But I am out of chemo now. My gut has been working normally for a few weeks already. This is not going to send me to the hospital. This is how people normally react. Mild diarrhea. I'll poop it all out. Have to remember to drink plenty of fluids, and then I'll be fine. I'll be fine by tomorrow. No big medical intervention required. A minor setback. My body knows how to do this. Again. My body is back again and handling this stuff in a normal way. No big crisis. 

    But this is why my husband and I could not have come out here this winter, in January while I was deep in chemo land. It would've been a crisis then, and this place is too far from the hospital and their cancer specialists. Not a problem now. Would've been a major medical emergency then. My life has changed since then, for the better. It has changed this far already. 

    Time to feed myself breakfast. Time to start drinking those extra fluids, time to get showered and dressed, time to do the core exercise routine. 

    Then it's putter around the camp. Make a rhubarb dessert. Sit in the sun and soak up a bit of cancer-curing, bone-saving vitamin D. But not too much. Cancer causing melanoma triggered by sun damage is also part of that story. Radiation up next on my cancer cure menu, but let's not think about that just now. Have lunch. Have a nap. Start prepping for supper here. Company for supper. Perhaps we'll have a fire tonight? That could be nice. I love to sit around a camp fire at night. 

    Dispatched: June 12

  • 11 Jun 2019 6:20 AM | Contact Me (Administrator)

    I'm improvising. A beach towel is my floor mat. Two cans of artichokes are my free weights. A broom handle is my stretch bar. The work out is still working out. My shins are sore. My butt cheeks are sore. My whole body does feel worked out and stretched out. It's good. Today is a treat and a break, a one hour walk along the old train tracks. 

    Tuesday morning at Camp Comfort. It's grey but not raining. Yesterday it started off grey and then it rained, hard, for most of the day. I don't mind. I didn't come out here for cottage fun in the sun at the lake. I came out here to decompress, to open up, to have a week off cancer, to give my husband a break from being caregiver. All of this can happen in the rain just as easily as on a sunny summer cottage day. This cottage is winterized. The heat is set, the place is comfortably warm all the time. The cats showed up in the evening just as there was a break in the rain, and they both spent the night inside with me. Tiger does have something wrong with him, he's thin and he has the expression of pain on his face. He doesn't move much, he doesn't eat much. He just climbs up on a comfy chair and sleeps there. I let him. Perhaps a week of relaxed warmth will help his body heal. Pingu on the other hand is a going concern. She follows me around the house, especially if I go near the fridge where the smoked, black forest ham is stored. She climbs all over me and purrs  in my face, she stomps around on her furry fat little feet like she owns the place. She's outside now, she goes in and out. She slept with me on the bed last night. She's a busy little thing. She is quite happy out here in the country for now. I think it is fine to leave her here until winter, October. She is fine. Tiger not so much. But I'll give him this week anyway. And I'll mention it to T, and maybe, if the place is not rented, Tom will let him stay inside next week too. Let the poor cat rest up and health up. Like me. 

    So, what did I do yesterday? T showed up. The sewage truck showed up. Then T came in and we had a visit, and I served him a bowl of the homemade soup I was making (onions, celery, garlic, fresh tomato, white wine, salt, simmered, and then cooked rice added, plus the chopped celery leaves for garnish) sour dough bread and camembert cheese. We chatted a bit. We talked about being a care giver and couples taking care of each other in their old age. He took really good, loving care of his last girlfriend who died of cancer ten years ago. 

    Before that, first thing in the morning I had my two cups of coffee. I read my online papers, I did some writing. I did my range of motion stretches. I did my core exercise routine thoroughly, twice as noted in the exercise sheet. I'm improvising. A beach towel is my floor mat. Two cans of artichokes are my hand weights. A kitchen towel is my towel. A broom handle is my bar. It's working out. My shins are sore. My butt cheeks are sore. My whole body does feel worked out and stretched out. It's good. Today is one hour walk day. In the rain. T recommended walking along the railroad tracks, there are no trains, but there is a bicycle contraption that rides on the rails, two bicycles one on each rail, and two people sit in the middle and peddle them. It's quite a popular summer attraction. No fear of running into that today in the rain, this early in the season though. 

    I set my computer up on the kitchen table I sent an email to my office replacement explaining that my doctors appointment that was going to be June 3 was delayed on account of the lab being slow and is now rescheduled to the middle of the conference. Had a few text messages with my husband, and a FaceTime call in the evening. Had a few text messages with my sister, it's +30 in Calgary and she was dreaming of jumping into my lake. Did some Skype chat with my son in the morning, sent him that blissed out picture of little Pingu with the fat feet. 

    After T left I went upstairs and had a nap. I’m keeping to a good health routine out here. 

    And then I got into my new writing project and discovered that is is a bigger project than I thought it would be, and I’m not so enamoured with my own writing any more either. I’ve been waiting quite a while to have a chance to work on this, and that was a bit discouraging. But new projects often look like that when you actually get a chance to get into them, so all in all, I still feel encouraged. But it will be a lot of work. A week at the cottage by myself is barely enough to get started. Especially because I am doing the health priority homemade spa life too. I am still exercising an hour a day, still napping an hour a day. Socializing with T and my family an hour or two a day. And then I'm tired. I have to stop at the end of the day. My brain is cooked by then. 

    I cooked for myself all day yesterday. No sweets, no compulsive eating. It was a bagel with smoked salmon, onion, capers, tomato, cream cheese for breakfast. That was a big breakfast for an old lady. Homemade tomato vegetable and rice soup, sour dough bread and camembert cheese for lunch. Grapes. Three egg omelet with black forest ham, half an avocado and two radishes for supper. One glass of grape juice spritzer. One glass of white wine spritzer. One banana. 

    Today T is going to take me to buy groceries in the small town. I only need enough for the rest of today, tomorrow, and Thursday. Three days. We leave to go to back to the city on Friday morning. I still have three full days here. The weather is cool and rainy today. I can make something with the rhubarb in the garden after I get a few more ingredients. Mainly flour, perhaps some brown sugar. Strawberries? Make a pie? Or a crisp? 

    So that is today. Range of motion exercises. Shower and dressed for a rainy day. Do my walk along the railroad tracks, I have a good rain hat, hood, and coat, plus a warm sweatshirt hoodie, and sweat pants if necessary too. Then it's work on my writing project until whenever T shows up to take me with him to get groceries. And perhaps a bit of cooking when I get back. Tuesday. 

    And so what about Wednesday? I might take a day off exercise. I might give myself that day off. My muscles are getting stiff again. I am pushing myself. But I also need to remember to let myself heal as well. This is an overall healing time for me. 

    I did not go outside yesterday. Interesting. Here I am at the lake, but even when the rain stopped yesterday evening I did not go outside. Well I was going to go out but then my sister texted me, and my husband called and by the time that social stuff was done it had started to rain again. 

    I am keeping to a fairly normal schedule even if I don't have to. I wake up early, drink my two cups of coffee, shower, have a breakfast, do my exercise, have a lunch at lunch time, have an afternoon nap after lunch, work 'outside' stuff like emails in the morning. Start working on my writing project in the afternoon. Work on that until 5 or 6, make myself supper, curl up on the couch and read my book and play with cats in the evening. Go to bed early, sleep deeply. That's the routine.

    I am remembering that pause at the beginning of cancer. Back when I was in that first pause after all the tests. I was hoping for something benign, then I was hoping for something that could be treated with a targeted therapy. I was afraid it would be the full blown, full body, chemo, surgery, radiation that would take six months or a year out of my life. That was what I was most afraid of. And that is what it turned out to be. But I didn't get it at the time. It took me until November or January to understand that I was in the middle of the big, hard cancer treatment. Mentally I did not accept it. Partly I guess because of the way that Baby Doctor presented it. He didn't know either. Looking back I realize that he was so new that he hadn't seen anybody go through the whole process from start to end before. That's partly why I didn't get the information I needed from him, he didn't know enough to give me a real idea of what would happen himself.

    And watching the young women at the beginning of their treatment in the cancer group I can understand how the medical people don't want to tell you everything up front. It freaks you out. It's unbelievable, and all the bad stuff might not happen.

    I'm like that now. Again. We are in that pause now, again. Waiting for results. This was my originally scheduled day. I might have found out today. But it wasn't set, the pathology was still not done, so, it might have been another day of anticipation and then let down. Once was enough. We were all set for June third. I was all pumped for that. And it didn't happen. Once was enough. Next Wednesday will be soon enough. We'll know for sure then. There will even be time to double check the results. Wait for the pathology. And if the pathology is weird, then wait for a second opinion too. I've learned that. So. I am here, at the cottage. Resting up. Relaxing. 

    Yes, it's in the back of my mind. It could still be bad. There could still be cancer that needs to be treated. The cancer might have mutated. The cancer might have spread. The cancer might still be there in my breast, just not enough of it removed. Microscopic. All that could be happening right now. This week could be all the break that I get this summer. It could even be all the break that I get for the rest of my life. There is a part of my brain that is looking around the cottage and thinking to myself, yes, if this goes really bad and I really start dying then I will try to find a moment where I can bring my family here to be around me, and we spend some time here together. That could be as soon as this fall if it all this cancer business starts to go south. 

    And yes. Realistically, the way things were looking is that the news could be good on Wednesday. The cancer was not that aggressive, it's all dead there is no sign of cancer anywhere anymore. I am cancer free now, and the radiation and pills really be prevention, two different ways to keep the cancer from coming back. I might even be able to qualify for the trial, partial breast radiation and leave the lymph nodes out of it. That would be good, that would be my ideal. But realistically it will be most of the cancer is gone, hopefully radiation will get whatever is left, and I go through the regular, four to six week cycle of radiation. My poor new, mutilated, blind boob will get burned and turn smaller and harder. My lymph nodes in my arm pit, my chest and neck will get burned too. It will be painful and it will cause permanent damage. And maybe even more cancer too. That is what will probably happen. Realistically. 

    But it could still be much worse. Or it could still be somewhat better. 

    It is weird to compare what I was doing in this pause last fall and to see what I'm thinking and doing now, this spring now that I have more experience. And also now that it's a different season. It's early summer. I don't have the same urge to stock up on food, do fall cleaning, hunker down and be prepared for a hard winter. Now I am trying to 'open up' and let the winter fall off of me as much as possible. I'm healing and relaxing. My concern is now for my own body. I don't care about the house work. I care about my health. I care about being strong enough to make it through the next phase with the least amount of further, permanent damage that I can get away with while they do their best to kill the cancer by partly killing me too. I know what it feels like. Mentally as well as physically. I am trying to restore myself as much as possible. Last fall I was already in top physical shape. This spring I need to be restored before I get into it all again. 

    My hair is still growing back, I don't have my hair back yet. The stitches are still healing. The boob and back of my arm are still sore to the touch. My finger nails are still black and dead and only partly grown back. I am still damaged. But I am fighting my way back. I am exercising. I am eating well. I am napping. I am sleeping deeply at night. I meditate. I take care of my mental health. I am staying calm and not freaking out. That is what I am doing now. I am making a point of being out here in the country at Camp Comfort. I made an effort to make this happen. I am having pet/pat therapy. And I will get more when we start babysitting Luna too. I am helping to make that happen too. 

    My meditation practice has grown deeper again in this quiet place. When I meditated in Iqaluit I experienced a sensation of love and protection. It was like I was wrapped in a warm blanket, in a cone of protection. It became routine. When I meditated in the city I experienced a sensation strength, strength coming up from the ground through my butt. The sensation was so strong that I felt like I might become one of those yogis who could levitate right off the ground. That became routine during my first years in the city. Now I am starting to experience the glimmer of a new sensation. It tickles. Joy? Mirth? 

    Dispatched: June 11

  • 10 Jun 2019 5:58 AM | Contact Me (Administrator)

    I have already started the decompression program here at Camp Comfort. No radio. No TV. Nature sounds instead. Don't try to push myself into anything. Just start listening again, that's all. Relax and let go of that mentality of blocking out distracting city sounds all the time. I don't have to now. Out here it is just the gentle sounds of nature. 

    Monday morning at Camp Comfort. I am soaking in the peace and quiet. I am having a break from city noise. I listen to the waves lapping on the shore. I can even hear them from my bed at night. I keep the window open. If I wake up in the middle of the night I hear the lapping of the waves and use them as a sort of meditation to fall asleep again. I don't have to curl up into my own body, push out all those distractions to relax and fall asleep. I can open up, mentally and physically, I can just open up to the world, listen to the lapping of the waves, just listen. It's not even like the following your own breath meditation, I don't even have to concentrate on my breath. I can merely hear, listen to the waves. It soothed me. I fell asleep again. Lovely. 

    Birds, bird song. Robins. Loons calling their mates. Geese. Two Canada Geese murmured between each other last night as I first fell asleep. They reminded me of the sound of my parents talking. It reminded me of being a little kid, going to sleep in my sleeping bag in the tent and listening to my parents talking to each other by the fire as I fell asleep. Not understanding the words, but hearing the paired bond in the sound of their voices agreeing with each other. That's what those two geese sounded like last night.

    It's raining now. I am hearing the sound of rain on the roof and dripping off the eaves. The other side of the lake is disappearing from view. It could be the ocean now, the water seems to stretch out endlessly. I like it. The trees move in a light wind and the rain drips off the leaves. I like that too. The foreground view. This is from my comfy chair, my comfy cottage spot. 

    My husband understands why I want to be here. I understand why he had to go back to the city to work. I miss him, I missed his body beside mine in the bed last night. But I also really loved the geese and the lapping waves, the natural breeze that came through the open windows and stroked my face. Air. Simply fresh air on my face. It felt so good. This is not like a fan blowing at you, it is fundamentally different. I think after this intense time together, after this intense time of my dependancy, and his caregiver role that it is good for us to be apart for a while in this pause between treatments. I think it's good for both of us to get a break and be able to restore our individual inner selves and regroup. 

    I am still weaker than my full strength. I am stronger than I thought. My inner strength has improved even as my physical strength has gone down. I am more than strong enough mentally and emotionally to be out here on my own at the cottage for a few days. I don't have any fears. No stranger fears, no animal fears, no darkness fears. I am deeply centred. And surprisingly strong. Emotionally. This is the first time I've been on my own since the diagnosis. This is the first time I've had that test. And it surprises me to discover that even as my body was tortured and traumatized, even as I lost physical strength, even as my hair fell out, even as my finger nails have died and turned black, as my muscles atrophied from lack of use, as my guts made grey poop, even as all this crap was happening to my body and weakening it, something was happening to my mind and spirit. I was getting stronger. It was a mental weight lifting, heavy duty workout for the mind, spirit, emotions. Getting through this winter, getting through the treatments. Whew. Staying at a cabin on your own is nothing compared to that.

    T’s girlfriend is a licensed psychologist. That's how she makes her living. Her brother died of colon cancer. He died fast. It was three weeks between when they diagnosed him and he died. Her sister died of breast cancer. It took her longer. Two years. She developed lymphedema from the radiation damage to her lymph nodes. T’s girlfriend says that was the most horrible part of the process, her sisters swollen arm, and the pain she went through as they massaged it upward to try to get the fluid out of it. She was appalled when I told her that my mother lived with lymphedema for twenty years. 

    I did not tell T’s girlfriend that hearing that her sister's lymphedema was caused by the radiation disturbed me. I thought that I'd got myself through the worst of the lymphedema precautions by going for the lesser surgery. And getting the physiotherapist right away. Getting right on it with the exercises. There is still another level of danger that awaits me. Burning those lymph glands with radiation. Still another layer of horror. I know that. I know that anyway. That is why I am giving myself this big mental health break before that part starts. 

    My office job replacement sent me a text and asked if I was going to be at the conference this year. I felt a fear for my job. I could lose this job if I don't go to the conference. If I don't show up well and healthy looking, like I could step in and do it for next year, I could lose that job. This frightened me a bit. I could still go. I could even still fly out for the AGM if nothing else. Make that appearance. Bald, fat, looking damaged? Would that be worse than simply saying I have an appointment on that day? Especially if I say it's my sign off appointment? I guess that's the way to frame it. My sign off appointment was delayed from June third to right into the middle of the conference.  don't really want to get in an airplane and fly out there. Not yet. I would need to be strong enough to pick up some leadership role. So that was a fear. Losing my job. That was a spot of fear yesterday when I got her text, losing a job that I love, a job that has really saved me and helped re-define me these last couple of years. Losing the respect that I earned in that job. And then I realized that I'll be able to keep the respect, and the friendships that I've been forming even if I give up the job. I can go to the conference next year as a delegate and have a great time. And I could even be a board member and be involved that way too. I won't lose those friends and colleagues even if I did lose the job. Not to panic. Some things are real. And that is one of them. 

    Turns out that's what's really in it for me. Worth more than money. Respect. Earned respect. That is what I value. Earned respect from people that I respect. Priceless. 

    I have already started the decompression program here at Camp Comfort. No radio. No TV. Nature sounds instead. Don't try to push myself into anything. Just start listening again, that's all. Relax and quit the mentality of blocking out distracting city sounds all the time. I don't have to now. Out here it is just the gentle sounds of nature. 

    Last night I made myself a nice composed salad of Boston lettuce, radishes, tomato, cucumber, blue cheese dressing and cold sliced turkey breast. I shared some of my turkey breast with Pingu the cottage cat. I used it to lure her into the house. And we did have a lovely time on the couch, she is a very affectionate cat. T has been looking for a new home for her, she’s an older cat and has started to have a hard time with the winters. I think that perhaps we will adopt her this fall and spare her another winter in the barn. But I also think I'll leave her here for the summer to enjoy her life in the country. We’ll see how we get along. She had a nice time with me, but then she did go outside, and she was happy to lounge on top of the picnic table licking her butt and snoozing in the sun. Her life in the city would not be like that. She'd pretty much have to stay inside all the time. Okay in the winter when it's -30. But not a better life in the summer. T said we could bring her back if wanted, he thinks she is too wild and shy to be a good pet. Perhaps she can spend her last years like this. Summers at Camp Comfort and winters with us in Montreal. 

    So that's how I spent my first evening to myself. Reading my book, making friends with the cat. Today I’m having a bagel with cream cheese, smoked salmon, onion, capers, and tomato for breakfast. I have all the ingredients right here. I can do that. I learned to like to cooking for myself. I learned that in my years of living alone in Iqaluit. My friend L was right, the first thing you have to learn in your adult life is how to live alone. Once you learn that you will always have a better life, and you will be a better partner too.  

    So this is where I'm at now. Alone. Here at Camp Comfort. Writing in this comfy chair here, looking out this window, listening to the gentle rain. This is just gentle rain and a slight breeze, not a big storm. I'm going to have that lovely bagel breakfast. I'm going to have a shower and get dressed. I'm gonna settle in to work on write for a while today. That is my project for the day. Get some momentum going on this new project that I can maintain when I get back to the city. 

    Today is core exercise day. My legs are still stiff from all that walking around on Friday. It'll be good to exercise again today after a couple of days off and only doing the range of motion exercises. It will be a dancing warm up. Then the core exercises. That's today's exercise routine. And it will be perfect for an indoor, rainy day at the cottage. 

    If T offers to take me into town for groceries I can do that today too. Or if nobody shows up after all, then that's not a problem either. I can just keep on with my writing project, then knitting and reading. And continue this more open, by myself, 'stretched out' relaxed life style. My mental health break. This is how I do it. 

    I'll be missing the coping session of the breast cancer support group, but I think that actually coping by choosing the week at the cottage instead of continued uncertainty and delays over an appointment date is a good excuse. I’m coping putting coping techniques into practise right now.

    Dispatched: June 10 

  • 9 Jun 2019 5:30 AM | Contact Me (Administrator)

     I said I needed the mental health break, that my mental health has to be as important as my physical health otherwise there is really no point to any of this treatment. And I asked the nurse, “Will it make that much of a difference to my physical health if I have that appointment a week later - if it means I get to have this mental health week at the cottage in the meantime?” 

    Sunday morning. We are all here at Camp Comfort together. Me and husband on the main floor. Our friend T and his girlfriend in the loft room upstairs. My husband is leaving today, he has a lot of work in the city. T and his girlfriend will be going back to their house in the little town up the road today.  I’m moving up into the loft bedroom and staying here for the rest of the week until Friday. 

    I could have gone home with my husband, Dr B’s office offered me a chance to have an appointment on Wednesday, probably the pathology would be in by then. I said no. I said I had a chance to stay in a cottage by the lake for a week. I said I needed the mental health break, that my mental health has to be as important as my physical health, otherwise there is really no point to any of this treatment. And I asked his nurse, “will it make that much of a difference to my physical health if I have that appointment a week later, if it means I don’t have to give up this week at the cottage?” 

    She was surprised that I asked for that extension. I could feel it all the way through the phone line. She is the first person on the medical team that I met on my cancer journey.  She is the one who stopped what she was doing at the end of a work day, looked up from her computer, looked at my little form, and booked me an appointment with Dr B for the very next day. She is an earnest young woman, permanently sombre from empathy for her patients, permanently stymied by trying to put all the vagaries of cancer into some sort ‘order’ that she can put into a schedule, a timetable. Organize. I sympathize with her plight. Her job is essentially hopeless. It can’t be done. She is strong anyway. She is one of the kindest women I ever met. I admire her. 

    She said yes. 

    So, I have a firm appointment for the Wednesday after I get back to the city. The pathology will come in sometime this week. It will be in by then for sure. That appointment won’t change. The results will be whatever the results will be. There is nothing that we can do to change them now. The results won’t be any different next Wednesday from this Wednesday. I may as well enjoy my life as much as I can. Yes of course I can choose to spend this week in the country taking care of my mental health. The doctor recommends it in fact. As does his nurse. It’s just that nobody ever asks. Good for you. 

    We had a great day yesterday, my husband and I spent some time out paddling out on the lake. We have no dog this trip and we missed him. Moose always loved going to the cottage and getting in the water, but it was nice for us to get in the water ourselves. We sat in the sun on the deck and simply listened to the water lapping against the shore. Then hot tub in the trees. Can’t beat that. A campfire to sit around. My husband and I would have stayed out longer, half the night if we could, but T’s girlfriend wanted to be inside, eating our appetizers sitting down at the table. We compromised with appetizers inside on the coffee table while sitting on the couches. This was the first time we met T’s new girlfriend, so it was a bit of an adjustment. 

    The two of us had some time to talk alone. T’s girlfriend is a psychologist who told me that her mother and brother had both died of cancer. And then she asked me some more professional than friendly-I-just-met-you questions about my experience of cancer. At the time I thought she was just rude and intrusive. But I realize now as I write this, that she was actually fishing for business. Putting herself into that power position of being able to address my deepest fears and concerns - for a fee. Death. The conversation was death. I turned the tables and asked her how she felt about watching her mother and brother die of cancer. How did she handle that grief. She blinked. And she spoke very carefully (professionally?) about how she was okay with it because she knew that with all the advances of modern medicine they didn’t have to suffer. It was peaceful. And they were in a better place. Phoney - that was my opinion of this woman. 

    I leaned a lot about psychologists during my career making documentaries. I learned that there are some really bad ones out there. Actively bad ones, not just incompetent. You have to really pay attention, they manipulate you, they don’t help you, and they get paid to do it. They manipulate you so that you are dependent on them, so that you never get better, you get worse, and they get paid, for as long as possible. They are not all like that, I also met some of the kindest, wisest people in that profession. You just have to be on your toes. If you need help you have to keep trying different ones until you find one of the good ones. That was always our recommendation whenever anyone asked. Never settle. Always hold out for a good one, someone you can trust. In my opinion this new girlfriend is not one of the good ones. And I feel like I dodged a bullet by not confiding in her when she was inappropriately solicitous about my cancer experience. 

    Luckily she’s going back to her house tonight and I won’t be seeing that much of her while I’m here for this week. 

    Luckily I have a whole week here at the cottage! 

    Dispatched: June 9

  • 8 Jun 2019 6:02 AM | Contact Me (Administrator)

    My husband thinks I'll get bored, he thinks I'll want to come home early, he thinks it might rain. I’m looking forward to some serious writing time. Rain or shine. How could I be bored with that? Plus exercise variations, country walks and if it rains - dancing? I could dance around the cabin uninhibited, all by myself as if no one is watching because no one will be watching. So. Yes, instead of the stationary bike, how about a little dance party. Joy! Oh joy. Yes! 

    A sunny Saturday morning. Not a dark and stormy night, but a sunny Saturday morning. Today we go to Camp Comfort. A weekend at the cottage for my husband. The start of a week at the cottage for me. Yippee!  I am so hungry for this that I can almost taste it. Dark, quiet nights. Just birds, and nature sounds. Wind in the trees. So quiet that you can hear the wind in the trees again. I love that sound. So quiet that you can hear your own thoughts. I am looking forward to that. Sunrises or sunsets, I forget which way the cottage faces, but I know that you can get some great ones over looking the lake. 

    My husband thinks I'll get bored, he thinks I'll want to come home early, he thinks it might rain. I'm looking forward to having some serious writing time. I'm good at scheduling my own day. It'll be some exercise - the core exercises, plus - dancing? I could dance around the cabin uninhibited, all by myself as if no one is watching because no one will be watching. It's a huge dance floor. It won't matter if it's cold or raining out. It'll be fun to dance around without worrying about disturbing the folks trying to work downstairs. That's something I can't do at home. No physical room to dance for starters and the whole staff will hear me making the floor creak. So. Yes, instead of the stationary bike, how about twenty mins of dancing for a warm up. Yes. 

    Do my morning writing as usual. With my two cups of coffee as usual. 

    Give them an hour of light gardening every day in return for my time there. Work on weeds, putter around. Perhaps go buy some bedding plants? 

    And a nap. My daily nap. 

    And then perhaps more work in the evening, or I have three books on the go right now. Two knitting projects. 

    And every other day, a long walk. That'll be nice too. Explore the neighbourhood a bit. Nobody knows me. I can go out in public bald head and all. 

    Last night I had my first ever thought of fear. I'll be all alone at the cottage. I could be ripe for some sort of assault or invasion. A woman alone. Funny. I was never afraid, not for one moment when I stayed at the Christie Ville cottage, alone by myself for at least a week or two every summer, and often times alone with a child too. Hannah as a baby, a couple of times. It was great. I was never afraid. And it's silly to be afraid now too. Way more chance some nut bar will come up the back stairs, or even the front stairs of this downtown city apartment when we leave all the doors wide open to let the cool air in over night. I had that moment. Dismissed it and we move on. I'm not that kind of woman. No fear. Not even in the middle of the night. And if it crops up, that feeling of fear, we know what it really is. Cancer. That is my lurking fear that could pop up in other ways if I keep it too suppressed. And now it's fear of the treatment as much as fear of the disease. I have experienced how terrible the treatment can be. And how long it can last. 

    Yesterday. Yesterday I walked, and I walked some more. And then I walked again. My poor legs, my poor butt, my poor back. But also it was good to push it. And I knew I would get these next two days off exercise, some recovery time built into the schedule. First I did my mountain walk. I found some new side paths, I went higher and longer, it was an hour and a half walk. And I was more in the woods. It was good. Mentally and physically. It was overcast and not too hot, so that was good too. Then I walked up to the post office to check the mail before I take off for the week. And then we walked down to Prince Author St for the choir performance. That was a good twenty minutes or half hour, but fun, St. Laurent is having their street fare so we got to walk through that both ways. That was an extra hour at least, on top of my original hour and a half. And on top of the forty minutes going to post office and back. So that was three hours of walking yesterday. Pretty good. That is really back up to 'normal'. All my mountain walk gradual training, all that forcing myself to walk all winter during chemo, all of that paid off yesterday with a 'normal' walking day. I could do it. My legs were tired, my back was tired, and my butt was tired. But I did it. I am up to that level of activity again. Yippee. Feels good. 

    I did have a good nap. I did go to the grocery store and buy some extra, treat food for my time at the cottage. And I did start packing. It's basically all done, I just have to wait for my husband to pull my suitcase down from the top shelf in the guest room and I can put it all in there. 

    I had a moment. I had a moment where I was going to stop and get a bottle of liqueur. Perhaps some Benedictine and Brandy? Drambuie? I even stopped in at the local liquor store and looked. But they didn't have B&B. I moved on. And I almost stopped at the big liquor store when I went to post office. I even put it on the to do list. But I crossed it off. I thought about it for a moment and I crossed it off. Why? I imagined how crappy you feel when you drink too much, how I would probably do that while I was alone out there with a full bottle beside me, and how much that feeling feels like chemo. When I first started chemo I said that I'd had hangovers that were worse than that. It did remind me of a hangover at first. And then it got worse, and more permanent. That put me off. All in need to do now is bring up that boozed feeling, without even the hangover and I feel ucky. So, that was it. One mouthful feels nice, but after that, not so much. I took it off the list. I crossed it off the list. I'll stick with my usual one bottle of wine for the week, and now I can't even really drink that straight anymore. I mix it with soda water and make a spritzer. Interesting moment. 

    Time to start developing strategies for food too. I really am done with the fat problem. It's turned into the most depressing part of the whole cancer treatment experience, just feeling so awfully fat - again. I can't even blame it totally on the cancer treatments. Let's not kid ourselves. I have been overweight before, without cancer treatments. And in fact it probably contributed to my cancer too. 

    I'm too broke to keep buying new  fat clothes. 

    Dispatched: June 8

  • 7 Jun 2019 6:05 AM | Contact Me (Administrator)

    We are going to Camp Comfort for the weekend. Yippee! A chance to get out of the city and spend some time by the water. And there is a possibility that I might be able to stay out there for a whole week. Depending on the pathology results and whether I can change my appointment with Dr. B or not. I'll find out when I call this morning. Then I will pack. I will take this chance if I can get it. My real life in conflict with  the scheduling of my medical life? Real life wins - no contest. 

    Friday morning. It’s six degrees out now,  going to twenty-four degrees but it's going to rain all day. The rest of the weekend looks pretty good though for a Camp Comfort excursion. In the low twenties with sun and a mixture of sun and clouds. My kind of weather. We are for sure going to Camp Comfort for the weekend. Yippee! A chance to get out of the city and spend some time in nature. And there is a possibility that I might be able to stay out there alone for a whole week. Depending on whether I change my appointment with Dr. B or not. I'll find out when I call this morning. Then I will pack. And then I will buy food accordingly too. I will take this chance if I can get it. For sure. 

    We only realized how restricted my summer holiday options are when we tried to arrange a time to visit the kids in Baltimore. It's really only these couple of weekends, right now, and then I am back into treatment and for me summer holiday time will be over. I should take advantage of every bit of this time as much as I can. My husband thinks we're done now. My hair is growing back, I'm visibly getting better. I'm doing more, taking an interest in things and he's in denial that this is only a pause before the next storm, a bit of relief before the next wave of debilitating treatment. And then after that treatment it will be another six weeks before I'm recovered. Twelve weeks. Three months. That's the whole summer right there. Plus add in whatever time it takes to get started, and the two weeks that come between taking all the measurements to create my virtual boob and lymph system and when the actual treatment starts. 14 weeks. Plus. This will take me through to the end of August at least, and into early September before I will feel this good again. And can have this much time for myself and my own life.  

    And that is if all goes well. That is if they don't find any further cancer. That is if the margins that Dr. B got during the surgery are all clear. That is if there is no further indication of cancer in my lymph nodes. That is if there is no further indication of cancer anywhere else in my body. If any of those things happen then we are on a whole other planet. And me feeling okay and having time to live my own life will be way far away. 

    And there is one somewhat more promising option that I will take if I get it. If my lymph nodes really are clear, then Dr. M might offer me a partial breast radiation instead of a full breast radiation. In that case the radiation would not affect my lymph nodes, only the breast tissue from around where the cancer was removed. And it would be five intense days instead of four to six intense weeks. I would take that option. It's a trial, so the results are not so guaranteed. But I would still take it. I truly think that once the horse is out of the barn the horse is out of the barn. If my cancer has started to spread from that early lymph node, then it is out beyond the lymph nodes around my breast already. No sense shutting the barn door now. And I might need the lymph nodes. So the metaphor would actually be shutting the barn door, and then attacking it with a flame thrower and damaging it's structure. So. Yes I would take this option. And yes, I hope I get the opportunity. 

    But. Right now we don't know anything. 

    Right now I am sitting in this moment of pause. Who knows what is happening. It could be that these occasional pains I've started to feel are not healing pains, but cancer attacking me, it could be that this cancer has done the nightmare thing, and mutated and the warrior cells are already marshalling their army to conquer all. Or it could be that it's all dead, the frontier is quiet, the whole body chemotherapy even killed any baby colon cancer cells and I can go forward with the rest of my life now, not only escaped this cancer, but knocked off a bunch of potential other cancers too. Either way. Who knows. Nobody knows. And even when the pathology report comes in, and the CT scan, it will still only be a best guess. 

    That's the moment I'm living in right now. 

    My husband is not in this moment with me. He is deep into his work, running three projects all at once.  And he is assuming that I get stronger and better all the time in the background and soon I will be well enough to go on long road trips again, and then maybe we'll do a weekend to Baltimore. And then maybe three weeks out west again just like last year. 

    What will freak him out big time is if the news is something bad, and I go for my last time on earth full bore adventure self indulgence before I deal with further treatments, as I'm deciding how to deal with bad news. I won’t just go back into treatment and do as the doctors say at that stage - stage four. I’ve already decided that. He won't be ready for that at all. He just won't be able to get his brain from where it is now to there as fast as me. I will go ahead anyway. 

    Because there is no way that I am going to sleep walk through a stage 4 diagnosis. I will get in front of that right away. 

    In the meantime. We wait. And I may as well wait at Camp Comfort. And I may as well treat myself to a bit of nature break. My husband will be fine without me for a week. He has a lot of work to do in the city. 

    And I won't cry if I do have to see Dr. B next Tuesday. That means that I'll know the pathology and prognosis then. Right then. So, that'll be something, even if I miss out on a week's holiday at Camp Comfort. 

    And here we are. Friday. In the meantime. 

    Yesterday was a good day. I did the core exercises, plus the new one pound weight upper body weight training additions and extra stretches for the upper body too. I wrote them down. I wrote down my whole current exercise plan/routine and I sent it to my physiotherapist. I asked it it was okay the way I had re-ordered the exercises, and I also asked if I could start swimming. She said yes to the re order, and no to the swimming. Darn. But I get it. And then she commended me for taking the exercises so seriously. That was good to hear.

    My husband brings out the comfort food. He is comforting himself. And he's comforting me. So it's hard to refuse him. And I know why he's in denial, he can't face it anymore. He is done. He really needs this pretend it's over, pretend it's all okay and maybe it will, be mental break. This has been as much as he can take. I understand his different position. I don't have to look at me all the time. I can feel good for an afternoon and be my old self completely inside. He always has to see how I have changed. He always has to see that I have no hair and that I'm puffy and gained twenty pounds since treatment started. He always has to see that, every time he looks at me. I'm inside this body. I don't have to look at it from the outside. On a good day I can feel like the old me for a while. I know from being the caregiver myself that sometimes it can be harder to watch someone else suffer than to be the one who is suffering. You forget your own suffering, your body has a buffer for that kind of forgetting. But the caregiver remembers the empathy suffering. So. Yes. I share his comfort food even when I want to lose this weight, because I know it makes him feel better. I do it every night. For now. 

    Next to the big unknown of my cancer that is the most depressing thing that's going down in my life right now. Being this heavy again. Again. After I lost all that weight before cancer. Now I have outgrown all my beautiful new sized for weight loss success clothes. That big pile of clothes that I can't wear anymore. And looking at my body, I think eh gads I have lymphedema every where, my legs, and my arms. But it's fat. Just lot's of plain old fat. It's heavy to drag around. I feel it on my mountain walk. I feel it when I do the floor exercises. It's a drag. Literally. It's a drag. Sigh. 

    My body is stiff from the extra exercise. It feels stiff today. The mountain walk will be good to loosen it up. And then I will have two days off of exercise. That will probably be good for it. Push forward, and also recover. That's the way to progress physically. That's the way to progress for real life, not just for sports or a particular training event but for real life health and strength and mobility. 

    If I spend a week at Camp Comfort I can always do the floor exercises there. And also take the long walk there too, along the trail and side roads near by. 

    Yesterday I had a good Skype talk with the kids. They haven't found their cat Leeloo yet. It's been a week. The family is in mourning, but she might still show up. My son thinks the same as me. He remembers when our cat Spooky went missing that first summer, and showed up again in the fall, and how she started to make that a regular pattern of her life. Gone for the whole summer and back again every fall year after year. But of course that is probably not the case. Leeloo has a chip, so if she shows up at shelter or vets then she will be found. If not it means that she's dead or injured someplace and hiding out, either to die or come home when she gets better. Cats, and dogs and probably all wild animals prefer to die alone, away from home. This instinct makes sense. That way they don't contaminate the den/nest with their corpse. I get it. We love them as if they are family. And they are family. But are different beings and they have different instincts.

    I am thinking more about perhaps renting a cottage for the weekend of my birthday. Someplace close. Someplace so we can introduce my brother to cottage life and also where my son and grandkids can join us. Maybe if I just put the word out and see what happens. Let people know I'm looking to rent a cottage that weekend. We'll see what we get. I have cancer. It's my birthday. How could they resist?

    Dispatched: June 7

  • 6 Jun 2019 6:03 AM | Contact Me (Administrator)

    It was good for me do that tricky path, mentally as well as physically. It took me further out of that 'sick room' mentality. It's not a real forest, but still, it was enough to push me a bit further out of my comfort zone.  I felt more alive for it. My poor body deserves this feeling of being part of nature as well as being medically important. 

    Thursday morning. Bright and sunny, warmer today but still not unbearably hot. Yippee, good for me. 

    Yesterday I did my mountain walk, and I walked a further loop, up one higher, and I came down the "steep" way, where I was on the narrow trail with little streams to ford, loose rocks to watch out for and decisions to be made about which way down. It was good for me. It worked on my agility, and it worked on my fear too. That was a bit of an accidental discovery, I thought there was a better main path down, but there wasn't. But it was a good mistake. It was good for me do that tricky path, mentally as well as physically. It took me further out of that 'sick room' mentality. It's not real forest, but still, it was enough to push me a bit further out of my comfort zone.

    And here is what I noticed that has changed fundamentally about the way I think now. I used to avoid those little side trails. Moose used to find kids smoking dope along them. Once he 'flushed' a homeless guy who ran away from us pulling up his pants. And I feared the 'pervert in the bushes' that mom always warned me about too. She would have said it was asking for rape walking alone on those back trails in a park in the middle of the city. But now I don't care. My poor body has been ‘abused’ and tortured so much this past fall and winter that fear of rape is not really on my mind anymore. I have said this often, our bodies do not understand that our brains agree to these treatments, our brains know it's for our own good, but on a deep unconscious level our bodies do not understand. They think we are being attacked and tortured. On that deep body level all these medical procedures are no different than that. In some ways you have to treat yourself the way you would treat an animal coming home from the vet. Be extra kind, be extra soothing, make them feel loved and not punished, knock yourself out so that they don't feel it as a massive punishment for being 'bad' and only then they will get better. They need that to get better. So do I. 

    I am not going as crazy with self-indulgence as I will if I find out that the cancer is still there, or that it has spread. But I am going a little crazy. I can make this waiting period nicer for me. I can have that mini holiday in the country. Spend it doing a bit of gardening for T, but not too much, writing, knitting and just being in nature. If Tom says it's a go, then I’ll do a bit of cooking ahead, for the weekend trip anyway. We are going to have a weekend trip for sure. And it may be that I'll come back with my husband and then rent a car to go back out later for a week if I can get a break with the doctor appointments. We'll see. I do intend to be nice to me. I deserve it. My poor body deserves this feeling of being loved and part of nature as well as being medically important. 

    Yesterday I went through all my winter clothes and got out the summer clothes. I could do that. My arm could do it. Yippee! The first normal life victory was closing the car door and reaching around behind me to grab my seatbelt and put it on like a normal person, and now I can use my arm for going through my clothes. My sister had to do that for me in a mini basis after the surgery. Now I can it myself. Yippee. But I didn't over do it. I remembered our 'group' leader who activated her lymphedema seventeen years later moving too many boxes on moving day. Gotta be careful not to over do it. Especially this early on in the game while things are still healing and reforming. So I just piled the can't wear it now clothes in a huge pile on the guest room bed. I'll get some boxes, and I'll go through them and put them into boxes for storage before my brother comes on June 24th. That will be work for another day. I won't try to do too much all at once, even if I am feeling much better. 

    In the meantime I have clothes for this warmer weather, they are easy to find, I don't have to did through a depressing pile of don't fit clothes from last summer every time I try to get dressed in the morning. I have this smaller wardrobe of clothes that fit me now. And they are good quality new clothes, and soft, light, nice textures that I can wear in the city. I realized all my hot weather clothes are for the Caribbean. I've really tried to avoid the hot season in the city. Now I will have a basic hot city wardrobe to wear. And that's  probably good. All the clothes I bought, except for the jacket can easily be altered to a smaller size once I lose this weight. 

    A week at the cottage, in nature. I would feel like I've comforted and spoiled myself every minute of the day. Rain or shine. Rain would be nice to be inside knitting and warm and cosy. Sun would be nice to be outside, puttering in the garden. Watching the water on the lake. That would be a good week for me long as I have the time between doctor appointments. In theory the real radiation doesn't start up for another couple of weeks. 

    Then, after that, even if I feel okay for the first while, I'll start running out of time. Half a day for medical stuff. And then my exercise routine, either the walk or the bike, or even swimming if I can, and the core exercise, and a nap. Those weight exercises to keep the radiation from doing too much damage. Realisitically that is the whole day gone. Just taking care of my health. Five days a week, for a month, or a month and a half. And then it will be six weeks recovery after that.   

    In the meantime, I have today. It's a beautiful day, but I'm not doing the mountain walk. I'm doing the stationary bike and the core exercises. I'm getting back into my usual exercise rhythms. I'm starting to do this in the morning before my bath, as I'm starting to exercise more I work up more of a sweat now. I will formalize my new routine and send it to my physiotherapist. That's on my to do list now. That, and clean out this bottle garden, water the regular houseplants. That's as far as I'm going to go with gardening for now. 

    That's the full list. Email T and find out the scope with Camp Comfort for the weekend. It appears to be still available for this weekend. We can have a weekend in the country anyway. Leave Saturday, come back Sunday. George doesn't really want to go. I'll wait and see, if on Friday it looks like the pathology is not in, and my appointment with Dr. B will be postponed again until the following week, then I think more seriously about ways to stay at the cottage for a week. 

    Yesterday I started getting sharp pains in my 'new boob' This is the first time since surgery that has happened. They are sharp stabbing pains that last thirty seconds or so, and maybe there is a little sequence of them but it's never more than a minute altogether. Reminds me of the pains I had when the taxol first started. I had them a couple of times last night, and then again once this morning. This is almost exactly four weeks after surgery that this starts up. What the heck? 

    Perhaps it is the 'blood' whatever that Dr. M noticed when he said that my breast had bled when they did the surgery and he said that would gradually be re-absorbed over the next few weeks. Or it is simply part of the healing process, internal stitches coming undone, stuff like that. So long as it comes and goes like this, that is how I'm going to understand it. Of course, of course now, my first thought is that it's the cancer come back in there and doing harm as it grows fast while the rest of the tissue is still damaged and healing slowly. But I'm not believing that. That is paranoia. 

    Also, my left leg was so sore the night before last that it kept me woke me up, and it was a bit sore all day. Both my shins too, and my butt. I know that this is from exercise. This is muscle soreness. But of course, of course I thought it was a blood clot. Blood clot from the chemotherapy, blood clot from the surgery, waiting to kill me. Of course I thought that. But I am not believing that any more. That is paranoia. 

    Don't go down that paranoia road. Just don't do it. Don't go there. 

    No matter how long you have to go without real information, do not start making shit up just so you know something. That is paranoia. Don’t do that. 

    A beautiful day today. And I have been feeling a lot better lately. I've come back to life again after a bit of a downward spiral where it seemed like I could hardly do anything but wait to find out bad news. Or perhaps it was the set back of realizing how much of a deal the radiation will be. 

    Camp Comfort is officially free for the weekend. Yippee. And my husband is agreeable, says to tell them we'll bring lobsters for Saturday's supper. That is something anyway. And I'll know on Friday if the Tuesday doctor appointment gets postponed and I can try for a week out there on my own. One step at a time for now. 

    Fingers crossed.

    Dispatched: June 6

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