Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Injury and embarassment

Just when I think I'm making progress, I experience a set back. The latest is minor, yet embarassing.

Last Thursday in step class, I was tired. Some days are better than others when it comes to energy levels and exercise. The end of the class was approaching and, despite being tired, I pushed myself towards the finish. But when I get tired, I get clumsy.

Instead of planting my foot flat, I stepped down on the left side of my left foot. Next thing I knew, I was lying flat on the floor to the chorus of collective gasps from other steppers on my side of the gym. When the instructor realized what happened, she rushed over and proceeded to ensure I was okay, insisting I sit against the wall and sending someone for ice - all while her microphone was still active.

I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me then and there.

After the class was complete (I missed five minutes), I had to sit in the gym icing my ankle for 20 minutes while fellow gym rats (many of whom I know) walked by and commented. Yup, I'm the clumsy one. Yes, I hurt myself. No, it's not too bad (I think). How embarassing.

The instructor, for some reason, seemed to feel guilty that I got hurt in her class. Please. It was my own fault and theoretically could have happened to anyone. She even regaled me with a story of how she went flying off the step while she was teaching a class. I guess it can happen to the best of us.

I think I stretched some ligaments. It's still slightly sore, but I can walk. But it's derailed my gym excursions for about a week. Sheesh. But I guess it's better to be on the sidelines for a little while instead of going back to working out too early and injuring myself further.

While a workout injury can happen to anyone, I still feel dumb. Oh well, it's not the first time and it certainly won't be the last.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Welcome spring

With the warmer weather this week, I'm filled with a sense of hope and renewal. That's what spring is all about - especially in Canada.

This eagerly-anticipated season brings the re-emergence of flowers, the colour green and sunshine. Warmth returns, which means we get to banish those heavy coats, woolies and finger-warming gloves to the backs of our closets.

It doesn't hurt that I've also banished my cancer to the back of my mind. As a result, I'm optimistic about the future and making plans, which feels good.

Spring re-awakens nature, but it also affects us emotional humans. I'm noticing a spring in my step, a smile on my face and a cheerier attitude at the prospect of 20C. And it's just in time for Easter.

I eagerly anticipate summer. Last year, with its rainy, cool days and my treatment regime, the summer was terrible. My favourite season was a wash out. So, I look forward to a warmer and brighter summer.

Of course, it still won't be perfect because of my mom's chemo treatments. I lament she has to go through them. But - and I speak from experience here - it's far better to go through all the side effects during the nicer months. I couldn't imagine the pain and depression during a dark, cold month like February.

Bring on the nice weather, Mother Nature. I welcome it and the good feelings it brings.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Keep making memories

It sometimes takes the experiences of others to shine a spotlight on our own lives and our own fortunes.

This week, dear friends, Diane and Pete were suddenly called back to Edmonton because Pete's dad was dying. They made it back just in time, and got to spend a little bit of time with him and say their goodbyes before he drew his last breath.

This reality made me examine my own family situation and realize I'm very, very lucky to have both my parents still in my life. They did a good job raising my sister and me (even if I do say so myself), and are wonderful and involved in the lives of their five grandchildren. Even if my mom is battling cancer, she's here and we still get to enjoy the pleasure of her company.

Michael's parents are also both alive and kicking. We just went on a great holiday with them, they're very helpful and involved in the lives of our kids, and we're lucky to have them.

I have memories of all four of my grandparents. The most faint are those of my Grandma Pauwels (my mom's mom) who died of ovarian cancer when I was seven. Yes, I have her side of the family to thank for the evil BRCA-1 gene. I remember her colouring with me and I think I still have the beautiful picture of a sea shell she worked on in a box in my basement. I also remember her hovering around the stove cooking.

A sudden heart attack took my Grandpa Pauwels when I was in grade 8. He was a bit gruff, often rubbing his rough stubble against my tender cheeks. He loved his homemade beer and boisterously played cards. But he was loving and generous, always slipping a bill between my fingers, or sponsoring my swim-a-thon or other fundraising function. He was also the only person who called me "Tina Marie" with regularity, which I hated. But of course, grandfathers can get away with lots of things.

The loss of my Grandma Thomas just before I graduated from grade 12 was traumatic. She was the grandparent who was most influential in my life. She was always cooking and baking - she made the most amazing chocolate cake and buns in the world!

I remember her babysitting us, braiding our hair and commenting on how soft and shiny it was. (This from a lady whose hair colour changed monthly depending on which box she picked up at the store.) She did ceramics. She hooked rugs. She was always interested in what was happening in my life. She radiated love.

Unfortunately, the nasty habit of smoking caught up to her. Even though she managed to quit, seven years before she died, she developed lung cancer, which spread throughout her body and claimed her life in a few short months.

Grandpa Thomas sorely missed Grandma when she died. But he carried on until he was 90 years old (I was in my early 30s and Noah had just been born.) He was almost as wide as he was tall, had a wicked sense of humour (he claimed to have almost caught Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny every year to wind the kids up) and was grateful for simple things.

He loved visitors and always thanked you for stopping by. The fatty part of the meat was the best and donuts should always be dipped in maple syrup because they aren't quite sweet enough on their own.

I remember him holding baby Noah and marveling at the new life. (This from a man who had countless grandchildren and great grandchildren.) I think he was grateful for every one.

One day, he decided he'd had enough. He'd just moved into a care facility, was experiencing some medical problems and probably realized he wasn't returning to his home. And he just died.

I'm a better person for having all of them in my life and I have wonderful memories of them all. That's the great thing about memories, they can keep those influential people in our lives alive in our hearts.

While death is always hardest on those left behind, Pete and Diane can cherish the good memories they have of Pete's dad.

Keep making good memories with those you love. In the end, that's what will define our lives and keep our spirits alive.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

The hell of chemotherapy

I wouldn't wish chemotherapy and its horrible side effects on my worst enemy. So it was really hard yesterday to learn my mom needs this cancer-killing medicine. While we knew chemo was a possibility, I secretly hoped the surgery would suffice and her ureter cancer would be eradicated.

My mom saw the general oncologist yesterday. Since ureter cancer is so rare, oncologists don't specialize in this field. Dr. P said that while her cancer was still locally contained, it had invaded the muscular wall of the ureter and some cells were found in her blood. So chemotherapy is the next plan of attack.

Her course of treatment will be different than mine. She'll receive two forms of chemotherapy one week, another type the next week and then have a week off. But the first treatment will combine all three types of chemo to shock those nasty cancer cells. She's scheduled to receive six cycles (just like me) so her treatment should end at the end of August.

She'll lose her hair. She'll need to be careful of infections and exposure to germs. She'll probably crave carbs. And while many of her side effects will be the same as mine, her experience will also be different.

Her first treatment is on April 14, my sister's birthday. Poor Angie. She got news of my diagnosis the day before her birthday last year and she's going to head to the chemo suite with my mom on her birthday this year. One year soon, we deserve no bad news and a really good party instead.

While I cry at what my mom will have to go through to get better, I know she's a strong fighter and will get through. I just wish she didn't have to do it at all.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010


It's amazing the amount of baggage we all carry around from our experiences in life. They shape who we are, how we think, our reactions to situations and our internal thoughts about ourselves. Some make us better people, but others create unreasonable or harmful side effects that follow us through life.

My cancer diagnosis, and brush with mortality and death significantly changed me. Every day I try to pull the good out of my experience and make myself a better person. I feel my reprieve from the disease gives me the opportunity to be thankful and make the most of my life. It also makes me different.

My therapist and I discussed this reality yesterday. We were working on a tramatic early teenage memory with eye-movement desensitization process (EMDR), where the left and right sides of the brain work together to logically process emotional situations. I struggled to fit in during junior high, feeling I was too different, alone, struggling and unworthy. EMDR helped me process that memory so it's not tramatic for me any more. I've almost boxed it up and kicked it to the curb, like all the other unwanted trash.

Yet reopening that memory made me realize that feeling of not fitting in I experienced in junior high school can also describe my situation right now. I experienced a life-changing, mind-altering experience. I am still afflicted by fears (rational and irrational) and suffer from post tramautic stress disorder (PTSD). But I also discovered wonderful things about myself and others that I want to keep alive.

In short, I'm a different person. In many ways, I'm a better person. I still have lots to work on (who doesn't), but I'm pretty satisfied with my life and the people with whom I've chosen to share it.

I guess I still struggle a little bit to find a place where this new, albeit better person fits. It can be lonely. It can be rewarding. In the end, I am satisfied with who I am. I guess that's what really matters.

Cancer was a curse and a gift. It's my job to make lemonade from the sour yellow fruit. I welcome anyone along for the ride.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Celebrate life

Every once in a while, I'll remember those months I spent fighting cancer. Small incidents trigger these memories.

I'll need a haircut and remember those months I spent bald. I'll drink water and recall when water tasted skunky and how I shuddered at the thought of drinking from a metal water bottle. I'll do some cleaning or cooking around the house and the memories will emerge of how those simple tasks seemed like too much effort.

Often, I recall the good that emerged from my experience. I'll be reminded of all the help and support shown to me by my friends (and even strangers) during those dark months and marvel at the kindness of others. I still can't believe all the wonderful tasks people did for me and my family during our time of need.

I remember regularly all those meals, prayers, cards, flowers, gifts and good vibes sent my way. I look at the walls of my home and remember those who rolled up their sleeves to paint my house while I underwent cancer-removing surgery. And I'm so thankful for it all. I have good people in my life.

To celebrate the joy of life - and the way you all contributed to helping me fight for mine - I'm hosting a potluck party on June 26 at the London Life recreation grounds. More details will follow at a later date but I wanted to share the invitation now so you could mark it on your calendars.

Life is wonderful, come celebrate it with me.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Back to reality

It's hard returning to reality after vacation. I was so relaxed and enjoyed my time in Florida so much, I didn't want to come back. It didn't help the weather was sunny and going to be 26C on Saturday when we loaded the van and started the trek back to Canada.

Of course, since the weekend marked the end of March Break in Ontario and a few states, the highways heading out of Florida were jam packed on Saturday morning. (Next time, I'm staying until the rush back is over.) The drive took a few hours longer than anticipated, my father-in-law ate an off sandwich and got food poisoining, and we saw a doozy of an accident around midnight in Georgia.

We returned very tired around noon yesterday to a chilly house (11C) and a furnace that didn't work. But my laissez faire attitude I'd recaptured during vacation allowed me to react fairly calmly. Luckily, we found out this morning some strong winds last week went down the chimney and turned off a safety switch. So, it was an easy and fairly inexpensive fix to the furnace.

I have great memories of the trip to Florida. The house was beautiful and we spent at least four hours in the pool and hot tub most days. We sipped our morning coffee while looking at the stars in the morning and quaffed a cold beer in it in the afternoons. It was perfect.

On Thursday, the six of us hit Epcot to experience the joys of the Walt Disney World. It's been one of my mother-in-law's dreams to experience Disney with her grandchildren. We were there early to ensure we got the volunteer certificates converted into tickets and get a good spot in line. Being early certainly paid off for us. The approximately 200 people in line were all selected for a Disney Magic Moment. Around 8 a.m. we were escorted to Soarin', the most popular ride in the park, and rode it twice before the park even opened. It kicked off an awesome day the right way.

We were going to hit the beach on the way out of the sunshine state, but the traffic was crawling bumper to bumper, so we decided to skip that experience and start on the long drive back. It's something to do NEXT time we go.

Even though I went to bed at 8 p.m. last night, I'm still tired today. I'm sure it'll take a few days to catch up on the missed sleep.

But it was worth it! And I seem to have gotten over the fear of planning for the future because now I'm dreaming of my next vacation . . .


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hyper update

I called my family doctor's office this morning to see if we were doing the right thing by stopping Noah's Concerta medication. The answer was a resounding "no." Now luckily, he'd only gone one day without the pill before I came to my senses and realized I should call to make sure I wasn't harming my son.

So we logged onto the computer to find the closest walk in clinic. Michael thought it was in Celebration, the Walt Disney inspired "perfect" community. Michael and Jessie wanted to see this locale anyway, so it was the ideal opportunity to combine a medical trip with some sightseeing.

We got to see a lot of the beautiful town because we couldn't find the walk-in clinic. We even asked directions. We drove around the tree-lined streets with the lovely houses with the wrap around porches with no luck. We finally stopped at the hospital emergency clinic for proper directions.

The medical clinic ended up being just up the street from our house. It was in the plaza at which we killed time before we got the house on Saturday. Of course, we didn't pay attention to the walk in medical clinic because we didn't figure we'd need it.

So we spent about 1-1/2 hours of our Tuesday morning waiting for the doctor who spent approximately 45 seconds with us, asking three or four questions and writing a prescription for the needed five pills.

I mentioned to the doctor that we'd made an expensive mistake to which he replied he'd reduce the visit fee. So we paid only $164 instead of the $250 we were told was the minimum. Argh. And that's before we pay Walgreens for the five Concerta pills. Hopefully our out-of-country health coverage will cover the unexpected cost of the doctor's visit and our drug plan reimburses us for the medication.

Even if it doesn't, Noah's health is worth more than a few hundred dollars.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Hyper sorry

We made a big mistake - and now we're paying for it during our vacation in sunny Florida. Noah has ADHD with impulsivity (in addition to his bipolar disorder) for which he takes medication. Usually the pharmaceutical cocktail the doctors prescribe keep most of the symptoms in check.

But, we're now seeing what Noah is like without his pill to quell his hyperactivity disorder. We forgot to pick up the refill prescription at Shoppers' Drug Mart before we left. That particular task didn't make it to the long, pre-trip to-do list. That's our big mistake.

We had two pills in our possession when we arrived in the sunshine state. No problem, we thought. We'd go to a drug store near our rental house in Kissimmee, explain our delimma to the pharmacist and get the six little, maroon pills we needed to tide us over until we returned to London. I knew it'd be costly, but hey, I figured my drug plan would reimburse most, if not all, of the money.

Little did I know that Concerta is considered a controlled narcotic in the United States. Even the British pharmacist, who completely understood our situation of being far from home without the necessary medication, couldn't help us. She said every single pills is accounted for and monitored. While she would have helped us if she could, her hands were tied.

Our options: 1. Go see a doctor at a clinic here in Florida and get a new prescription. 2. Get an original prescription from our doctor mailed here. 3. Have Noah go without.

We decided for option number three. Now he does take another medication to control the ADHD (of which we have enough), but he's obviously on the Concerta for a reason. This morning, he went without and we noticed a difference. He was sillier. He had more uncontrolled energy. And he kept telling us he felt weird. He couldn't explain it, but he repeated that phrase three or four times.

We're trying to be more patient with him because none of this is his fault. But it's difficult. He can try the patient of a saint. He's like a boy with a stick continuously poking at a bee hive. He tries to provoke reactions with some of his actions and verbal responses.

But we'll continue to try to be patient.

Luckily, we saved the one last pill for the morning of the long drive back to Canada. The trip can be long and tedious enough without the uncontrolled energy.

Regardless, we'll make the best of the situation, be as patient as possible, keep him busy and enjoy ourselves. After all, it's not every day when we're on vacation.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

In the sunshine state

What a way to wake up. First thing this morning, with the stars shining in the sky overhead, I sat in the hot tub at our rental home in Florida with Michael. It was a bubbling 103 degrees and the jets felt good on my muscles. Then we took a little dip in the pool (yes, it has pool heat). All before 7 a.m.

Now I'm on my second cup of coffee at the breakfast bar, contemplating the agenda for today. It's good to be on vacation.

It's 56 F with an expected high of 69 today. (I'm not exactly sure what that means because I'm a celcius girl.) But I do know it's going to be nice if I can hop in the pool right after I crawl out of bed - and it's nicer than in London.

Except for some driving sheets of rain in Kentucky, the 25-hour drive down was relatively uneventful. It took 25 hours because of our stops - especially the 1.5 hour delay at the border around 8 a.m. We must have had the most meticulous border crossing guard on duty. We watched him search the cars, coolers and trunks of several of the cars in front of us.

Lucky for us, he only scrutinized our passports, matching each eager-I'm-on-vacation face to terribly ugly picture, and interrogated our intentions in the United States of America. We got off lucky. Then we were on the road.

The house is beautiful, well equipped and looks exactly like the pictures on the Internet. It's a great place to stay for a week on vacation. Especially if I can get up every morning and hop into the hot tub.

Happy March Break,

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A break in March

Sunshine, palm trees, chirping birds, blooming spring flowers, sand between my toes, swimming, enjoying a few beverages in the hot tub, shopping and Mickey Mouse - those rejeuvenating activities and items will make up my March Break. Yup, we're heading to the sunshine state of Florida.

I think my entire family needs this vacation. We're all tired and at least a little stressed by the everyday routine. We need different - and exciting - surroundings to have some fun and to chill.

Michael's parents have never been to Florida. My mother-in-law, Jessie, says she's always wanted to go and apparently, she's dreamed of visiting to Walt Disney World with her grandchildren. So this past fall, after my treatment was done, she proposed renting a house in Florida as our Christmas present. How could we say no?

Since Noah is in grade 7, we didn't think it'd be good to pull him out of school for vacation, so we decided to go during March Break. Yes, we realize the highways, restaurants and theme parks will all be busier, be we'll deal with it. At Christmas, March Break seemed eons away. Now it's only a few short days until we hit the road.

Michael and I have driven to Florida almost a dozen times. We use the 24-hour-drive-until-we-get-there strategy, which works for us. We've almost got it down to a science with each person driving two-hour stretches and the passenger navigating, doling out food or sleeping, depending on the time of day. I have to admit, my sense of adventure doesn't mind the drive and tooling down the semi-deserted highways at 4 a.m isn't bad.

My in laws said they'd be game for the long drive, and are being incredibly flexible about the time we leave and the 24-hour trip. It'll be a little cramped with six of us in the van, but we've got the roof rack secured to the top for our luggage, and we're all going into this with a sense of adventure, so I think we'll be okay.

A few weeks ago, Jessie, Michael, the kids and I completed a volunteer opportunity at the Tim Horton's Children's Camp as part of the Disney Give a Day, Get a Day program. This promotion provides anyone who completes a previously-approved volunteer job with a ticket to any Disney park. That Saturday, we cleaned bunkhouses (washed bed frames, dressers, window wells, doors, door frames, windows and light fixtures) to earn our tickets. The kids were awesome, never complaining once. They learned the value of volunteering and earned a fun day at Disney, which saves us over $400.

From the pictures on the Internet, the house we rented looks beautiful. It has four bedrooms (two master suites), a games room, its own pool and a separate hot tub. It's situated in a gated community with an Olympic-sized swimming pool, playground, tennis courts, basketball courts, a 58-seat movie theatre that shows free movies several times a day and a community centre. We'll be located only a few miles from Walt Disney World. It sounds ideal.

The weather in Florida seems to be warming up, despite a cool winter. I'm looking forward to temperatures around 20C and some sunshine. I'm anticipating hot coffee pool side and a few cold ones while sitting in the bubbling hot tub. I've packed music, cards and my credit card for some shopping bargains. We've also packed the laptop so expect a blog or two from the sunny south.

We're physically almost packed, mentally, we're ready to go. Only two more sleeps and we'll be on the road.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

To good health

I believe in traditional medicine. I get my flu shot every year, I think medicine (used properly) has been highly researched and proven effective, and I obviously think surgery and chemotherapy can be an effective treatment for cancer. But that's not to say I don't believe other forms of medicine and treatment can't help traditional medicine. That's why I went to see a naturopathic doctor last week.

I have to admit, I was a bit nervous because I knew she was going to comment on my diet, my love of Diet Coke and suggest actions I wasn't sure I could follow. I also thought she'd pooh pooh my belief in traditional medicine. But I also knew listening to her couldn't hurt.

Dr. P was very nice. She took a complete medical history, examined me in very traditional ways (ears, eyes, throat, weight, blood pressure, etc.) and ran about seven different tests on my pee. We talked cancer, medical history, diet, exercise, mental health, bowel movements and general well-being. She was very through, which I appreciate.

She made several suggestions and now I have to determine if they're right for me and if I can live with them. She wants me to give up my beloved coffee and Diet Coke. I'm not sure she understands that a "nice cup of herbal tea" won't provide me with the same satisfaction each morning. I don't eagerly anticipate a cup of tea. Coffee is my friend. Coffee is comfort. Coffee is my jolt of java. I may cut down but I don't think I can (or even want) to cut it out of my life. But perhaps I'll cut down a bit.

She is also suggesting I give up wheat. Argh! I have no digestive issues, but she says they convert to simple sugars (which cancer likes) and they block some organ. My sister, with her PhD in nutrition snorted in disgust when I told her this news and its reasoning. So I'm a bit torn with that recommendation. I think I may try it for a month just to see how I feel.

I've also got some supplements to help detoxify my body and kick start my metabolism for weight loss. While my sister was skeptical about these, she did say they didn't look dangerous and the only thing I'd be out was some money if they didn't work. Again, I'll probably try them for a month and see what happens.

In the end, I did get a positive outcome from the appointment. Dr. P said she was surprised at my health and test results. As a person who's had cancer, she expected me to have many more health issues. Given that 40 per cent of her practice is cancer patients, her experience led her to believe I'd have additional health concerns. But in the end, she came to the same conclusion as my oncologists - besides that pesky cancer, I'm very healthy. I told her I believe I got cancer because of my BRCA-1 gene mutation and not for any other reason. She even hinted that my overall good health may mean the cancer won't come back. Let's hope she's right.

So, in the end, I think I'll try some of Dr. P's suggestions for a month. What can it hurt? But I'm not even starting until later this month, when I get back from a much-needed vacation (more on that tomorrow).

To your good health and mine,

Friday, March 5, 2010

It's his birthday!

It's a celebration of the day the love of my life was born. Yup, today is Michael's 47th birthday. And as usual, he doesn't expect any fanfare or excitement. I think it has to do something with the way he was raised.

Being born at the beginning of March can be tough. When he was growing up, this time of year meant the property taxes were due. As a result of the cash-flow issues that created, Michael says he often got an I.O.U. as a birthday present. But that certainly doesn't mean they weren't special or memorable celebrations.

He recalls heading to the Red Barn (you Londoners may recall this place) to get his free birthday hamburger every year with his friend and fellow birthday buddy, Kevin. Despite the only slightly thawed weather, Michael fondly recalls they'd eat their free celebratory meal outside on the picnic tables. Good times.

I met him just after he turned 30, so I missed throwing him that big birthday bash. But I've since discovered that parties aren't always the best way to go. Over the years, we've celebrated the date of his birth in many different ways.

For several years, we headed to Florida where my parents lived for five months of the year, to spend his birthday in sunshine and warmth. One year, we won tickets off the radio to see the Orlando Magic play basketball. On his 40th, Michael, Noah and I visited Mickey Mouse and his pals at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Since Michael got an "It's my birthday" pin, everyone wished him a happy birthday. It was pretty special.

Another year, we held a surprise retirement bash for his mom at our house. We got her to the party under the guise of celebrating Michael's birthday. Lots of people came in honour of Jessie, and Michael got lots of birthday wishes to boot.

This year, it's going to be a quiet celebration. I'm working. Tara is in school and Noah is (unfortunately) suspended. While Tara has a play date after school, after it's done, I think we're going to dine at one of Michael's favourite restaurants, Mykonos.

I'm glad I'm here to celebrate that Michael turns another year older. My experience with cancer has taught me the number of candles on the cake and the wrinkles that accompany growing older certainly doesn't matter. Living life and celebrating with those you love, does.

Happy birthday to Michael, the man I love with all my heart. I look forward to growing very old with you and celebrating for years to come.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sweet slumber

I love sleep. Sometimes, when I'm tired, I eagerly anticipate crawling between the soft sheets, laying my head on the fluffy pillow and drifing off into dreamland. Sleep rejeuvenates us. It repairs the cells in our bodies and restores mental alertness. As humans, we get crabby or silly or clumsy when we don't get enough shut eye.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, the news came with a prescription for lorazepam to help quell my churning mind to allow me to sleep and heal. I desperately needed it, as my few sleepless nights when my prescription ran out, quickly proved. I would awake and lie alert for hours in the dark, my mind chugging through my thoughts, as my family slept.

Obviously, during that anxious time when I fought cancer, my mind needed to process the experience, my fears, and my past and potential future. At that time, I needed the little white pill to help me get my much-needed rest.

Yet, I knew after my remission was confirmed and my mom's surgery was done, I needed to eliminate the need for lorazepam. I started by cutting the 1 mg tablet (which is quite small) in half.

As of last Friday, I went cold turkey. It's been difficult and easy at the same time. I've been waking a lot more than I did previously. But only twice was I unable to promptly go back to sleep.

During those times, I was conscious of the thoughts tumbling through my mind and used relaxation techniques to silence them and help me return to dreamland. During one noctural episode, I repeatedly sang the Olympic I Believe song in my head. Obviously, I'd overloaded on Olympic coverage that day.

In addition, I'm having more noctural hot flashes/night sweats - or I'm waking up enough to notice them. These pesky surgery-induced menopause side effects are annoying and inconvenient because they disrupt my sleep for a short time as I fling the covers off in an attempt to cool down. Then again, the hot flashes I have during the day, when I'm dressed in business clothes and sitting in a meeting trying to have a professional conversation without anyone knowing I'm radiating heat are inconveient too.

I think my body is getting rid of my addiction for lorazepam though. Last night, I only woke once to experience a hot flash and then I was able to return to sleep. I'm also feeling a bit more alert in the mornings, but that could also be due to the reappeance of the sun this week.

Regardless of the reason, I'm relieved to be more cheery and positive, while elminating my addiction at the same time. Here's hoping it only gets better as I move forward.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Canadian pride

I joined thousands of other Canadians yesterday in a heart-pumping, flag-waving, beer-quaffing afternoon of Olympic hockey. The game against the U.S. for gold was a nail biter. Just as I was preparing to raise a brown bottle in celebration, the Americans scored with only 25 seconds left in the game.

Now I felt more at ease when Canada had a 2-goal cushion. I could relax. But my time in comfort was fairly short lived and I spent the rest of the time perched on the edge of the couch with my stomach rolling and my mind repeating, "We have to win. We HAVE to win."

I feel the Canadian pride that's grown over the past two weeks - and it makes me feel incredible. I've always celebrated with joy that I'm Canadian. I sported a red Canada sweatshirt years ago (when they were hard to find). Now Canadians from sea to sea wear the red and white in support of our athletes and our country. Our pride of being Canadian shone through, despite the shaky start to the games, to swell into the street-closing display after the men's hockey team won gold.

This Canadian pride used to sit quietly in our hearts until these games. The 2010 Olympics almost gave us all an excuse to stand proud and shout out, "I am Canadian." It didn't happen because we were winning medal after medal, because during the first week of the games, the Own the Podium program officials were lamenting our lacklustre performance. Yet, we average Canadians were proud of our athletes and the incredible efforts they put forth, regardless of where they placed (although we enjoyed celebrating when they did stand on the podium). We were proud of our country and our Olympic games.

Everyone was talking about the Olympics. We bowed our heads in sympathy at the death of the Georgian luger. We raised our hands in triumph when Alexandre Bilodeau won Canada's first gold on home soil. We swaggered through the streets along with Jon Montgomery after his golden win, wishing we too could gulp a celebratory pitcher of beer. We looked skyward and said thank you very much at the end of Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue's ice dance performance. And we jumped off the couch with our hands in the air when our Canadian woman and men won Olympic gold in hockey.

Go Canada go!

Today I'm sure I'll suffer Olympic withdrawal. I'll miss flipping on the TV after work every day to catch up on the events and to see how our Canadian athletes are doing. I'll miss the wonderful stories that made me cry (every day!) and made my heart swell with pride. I am proud of our athletes and proud to be Canadian. I hope the pride the game awoke in us lives on.