Friday, December 31, 2010

Grateful new year

On this date last year, I was eagerly anticipating celebrating the arrival of a new year. I was sure 2010 couldn't be worse than than 2009; the year in which I received my cancer diagnosis and battled the dreadful disease. I popped the top on a cold beverage and looked forward to the countdown to midnight.

Little did I know, 2010 would bring a similar set of woes. I once again endured treatment for a reoccurence, which sapped my strength and wreaked havoc with my emotions. This return of the evil beast brought many trips to Hamilton, a new doctor, a clinical trial drug and enhanced side effects. It also forced me to more closely examine my inevitable demise (which we all have to come to terms with sooner or later).

While I'll once again enjoy the new year's eve with close friends, good food, a few beverages and some cards, I will propose a different toast when the clock strikes midnight. Instead of cursing the year that passed (even though I have lots of reasons to do just that), I'm going to be grateful I was blessed with another 365 days on this earth.

I'm not going to try to forget the events of the past year because they enlightened me and made me stronger. Besides, lots of good things happened in 2010 too. I went to Myrtle Beach with my sister, and Florida with my family and in-laws. I enjoyed a few days at a beautiful cottage on a lake. My mom got through her cancer treatment and has a clean bill of health. We got a hot tub. I swam in the lake. I celebrated Easter, Christmas, the last day of school, Halloween and lots of birthdays. And most importantly of all, I had time to spend with those I love.

So goodbye to 2010, with all its ups and downs. Hello 2011. I hope you'll be kinder to me and my village. I hope you bring happiness, health, laughter and peace. Whatever happens, each sunrise brings promise, and I'll take each day one at a time.

Happy 2011 everyone!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Doing cancer wrong

I needed some emotional healing (or food for thought) this morning, so I pulled out Kris Carr's book Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips. When I need to put my feelings into perspective, she nudges me in the right direction.

On my cancer journey, I easily get sucked into a whirlwind of ideas and emotions, with no discernable way out. I sometimes need external forces like a book, a person or action to push me out of the swirling and back on a more grounded path.

The words written by one of the contributors in Carr's book really spoke to me this morning. She said she was fearful those who loved her would be disappointed if she ceased to be the do-it-all survivor. "There was a "right" way of having cancer and I was doing it wrong. No one blamed me, but I blamed myself," she wrote.

Her words reinforced I'm struggling with expectations right now. I feel when I have my big emotional slumps, sluggish days, rages and fearful episodes I'm letting down my village. I worry voicing my fears about my health, my cancer and the road to my death only brings those around me down (and you didn't sign up for this).

I've heard many people say they admire me for the way I'm dealing with this stupid disease, I'm so strong. I'm their hero. I have to admit, the praise makes me feel good. (I guess I'm a bit of a praise junkie.) But, I didn't sign up to be anyone's hero. Now I feel like I'm letting everyone down because I'm weak and scared. I'm doing cancer "wrong." I'm burdening everyone around me by talking about it. I'm scaring people away.

I also feel stuck. I'm scared to move forward because I fear cancer's return; sooner rather than later. I'm reluctant to write, and yet I promised I'd work on my book, so now I've let all those people down. I'm dwelling on getting sicker instead of focusing on getting better - and going out and enjoying life - which also disappoints all those who love me. It also mortifies me. I deserve better than this! (Am I screwed up, or what?)

I even feel guilty for writing this blog. But I'd be a hypocrit if I didn't because I commented on someone else's blog yesterday about being honest in one's writing:

"Blogging removes the privacy wall and, if we're honest, allows us to share insight and delve deeper into thoughts and emotions. Remember, each one of us is complicated and composed of both sunshine and night.

In our blogs, if we aren't honest about our true feelings, whatever they may be, we're dishonest to ourselves and our readers. If people don't want to hear the dips and rants, they can stop reading. But it's all part of the journey - whether it be losing your mom or battling cancer."

I closed my comment by saying I'd continue to read through her ups and downs. I know many of you will too - and for that I'm thankful.

Fighting cancer is a shitty job. Being the support angels beside the cancer survivor is an equally shitty fate. I'm so very thankful for those who prop me up when I'm feeling down. Thanks to all of you who stick with me through the craziness, I couldn't do it without you.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010


We prepare for months and then enjoy it all in a few days. Christmas is a wonderful, exasperating, awe inspiring, tiring, filling, delicious, worrisome and blessed time of year. I had a good holiday and was showered with many nice surprises. I was also able to watch the glee on others' faces as they opened their gifts. I like that part.

My house now looks like a whirlwind went through it, despite being cleaned really well on the Dec. 22, and my body feels the same way. That doesn't bode well for me doing anything about the messy house - at least not right away.

My home and energy levels are kicked, and so is my emotional state. I've decended into a blue funk over the past day or so, and am having trouble coming out of it. (Picture Elvis singing Blue Christmas.) It could be the fear over some pains that reappeared over the holidays. I experienced a sharp, consistent one in my lower, left abdomen that got really bad on Boxing Day. Then my right ribs started to hurt yesterday. Of course, my mind jumps to bad conclusions like tumours and ascities. I know I need to be positive and come up with reasonable explanations to these troublesome owies: scar tissue, doing too much, eating too much, gas.

Yup, I'm once again on the dip portion of the emotional roller coaster. Hopefully, it's one of those speedy ones right before the big, big climb upwards.

Luckily, I have casual new year's eve plans with some wonderful friends to anticipate. It's good to have fun events on the horizon. Now, I'll just have to do something about this house . . .

I hope you're holidays were/are awesome and you're having some fun and making some memories.


Friday, December 24, 2010

It's what you make it

Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts. 
     ~Janice Maeditere

This morning, as I sat in the hot tub, I turned my day around by thinking about all the wonderful things for which I'm thankful. It helped. I've been in a sad and grumpy mood, and I knew it was up to me to change it.

Last night, I was angry and sad after my little baking extravaganza. Even though I greatly reduced the number of treats I made, the experience left me hobbling and with a terrible abdominal pain. I broke down in tears and sobbed in Michael's arms. I was furious at the injustice of this stupid disease.

This morning, I woke lacking Christmas spirit. Quite honestly, I'm still angry, worried and sad. But I didn't want the holiday to simply slip by without joy in my heart, so I stopped and wondered how to improve my mood.

Then I remembered what I've always believed, Christmas is what you make it. It's about opening my heart. It's about recalling the reason for the season: the birth of Jesus. It's about giving, not receiving. It's about being with my family and friends. It's recalling the generosity of others.

So I sat in the swirling warm waters and remembered:

- I'm alive and kicking, here to celebrate.
- I'm an Olaparib girl. I got chosen to receive the potentially life-saving drug.
- My mom's surgery, chemo and treatments went well and she's in remission.
- The hot tub helps Michael's ankle and reduces his stress level, which improves his health. (Even though he admits he's really worried about me).
- Oh, and then there's the hot tub.
- The generous friends and family who are still supporting us. Wow!
- That Noah's now in the mental health medical system and has a social worker to help with his anger management issues.
- Tara is a sweet, giving, 9-year old girl who is turning into an excellent horse rider.
- The next few days are going to be filled with good food, tasty beverages and excellent company.
- Did I mention the hot tub?

When I went grocery shopping this morning, I hummed as I strolled down the aisles. I smiled at others in the store. I wished the cashier a Merry Christmas. I turned the day around in my mind and I am going to do my very best to make it an awesome day.

I hope you have a very merry, blessed and fun-filled Christmas. (Remember, it's what you make it.)

God bless,

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas spirits

My procrastinating ways caught up with me and I'm now feeling the pressure. Don't worry, it's not too bad and if some chores don't get done, they don't get done.

But I'm heading out the doors soon to brave the crowds and pick up a few things. I'll do my last-minute groceries tomorrow morning after I drop Michael off at work. Hopefully the early hour will mean fewer shoppers, but maybe everyone else will have the exact same idea as me. Regardless, it'll be what it'll be.

I've got to hit the LCBO today to get some wine. I'm sure merry individuals will be also be shopping for some Christmas cheer (or maybe they won't be so merry because they haven't started to imbibe). I also need ink for my printer. Of course, when I have an important project to print, I'm out of ink. So it always goes.

My kids are out shopping with their grandmother (Omi). She takes them to the dollar store every year where they pick out "thoughtful" gifts for everyone. It doesn't really matter what I get, the gift is from my kids and chosen with love - and that's what counts.

That's what Christmas is all about - love, family, friends and cheer (yup, I'm talking the wine again).


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tina, the elf

The best way to spread Christmas cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.
          - Elf

I'm shaking off the bah humbugs today and doing what I can to capture Christmas cheer. I started the day by donning my elf hat and making a few toys. Er, okay, I wrapped a few toys. Well, actually I wrapped some chocolate and special electronics for my kids. But let's not get hung up on semantics. I was Tina the Elf.

In a little while, when the entire household is awake, I'm going to slide a Christmas CD into the player at my desk and let the carols wash over me. I'll probably even sing along as I make my lists and check them twice.

Tomorrow my littlest elf and I will pull the flour, sugar and chocolate chips from the cupboard and bake some Christmas treats. Of course, the carols will still be playing in the background. We'll probably sing and dance as delicious smells waft from the oven. My eldest elf will wander upstairs to assume the role of official taste tester of the 2010 Baking Extravaganza.

Then I just have to groceries and make a homemade clendar for my in-laws (shhhh), and I'm ready. I guess I'd better be because it's only three sleeps until Santa comes. Maybe it was a subconscious gesture to leave some of these tasks until the last minute so I could infuse my home with the spirit at the right time.

Enjoy these last few days before Christmas and remember, there's room for everybody on the nice list.

Tina, the Elf

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A day to be sad

The Christmas carol chimes, "It's the hap, happiest season of all . . . " So why do I feel sad and disgruntled today?

I LOVE Christmas, but for some reason, I can't seem to capture the spirit of the festivities this year. I'm trying, for the sake of my kids, I'm trying. The little trek to Toronto was part of the effort. I did enjoy most of it, but by yesterday morning I was ready to come home. The most important part was the kids had a good time and we spent time as a family making memories. I seem a little fixated on that these days.

I do have flashes of Christmas spirit when I feel happy and content, but today isn't one of them. I think I'm tired and worried. I have a nagging sensation in my abdomen that radiates. Sometimes it's slightly painful and other times it's just a presence. Regardless, it worries me.

Oh, I'm sure there are lots of different, benign explanations for it, but until I go for my appointment in mid-January and get the results of my next CT scan, I think I'm going to worry. I may even be nervous after that. Oh, the horrible ramifications of battling cancer.

I can't help myself. Last time I believed I'd beaten this stupid disease and I was wrong. I want to believe it this time, but I can't. I can't help but think it's still lurking. I'm having a hard time with the holidays, planning my return to work and life in general today.

I think the expectations of Christmas and how special the holiday is to me only contributes to my unease. I love the traditions and visiting of this season. I want to sit back and enjoy it, but because of the possibility my Christmases are numbered, I feel incapable to doing just that. How stupidly ironic.

I'm also sad because of the limitations my body now puts on me. I really noticed in Toronto how quickly I got sore and tired from simply walking too much. My muscle tone is diminishing and I don't feel up to all the excursions and activities we'd like to do. Part of me is mad at myself and how much the disease has robbed from me.

As a result of my physical limitations, my roller-coaster emotions and my mental block around planning for the future, I feel I'm letting everyone around me down. I feel like I'm holding Michael back from enjoying activities. I worry I'm a bad employee because I'm mentally and physically not ready to return to work. I fret when I don't have energy for the kids.

I pray these fearful and inadequate feelings are temporary. Hopefully, I'll get caught up in the happiness of the holiday very soon.

Regardless of this sadness, I am truly thankful for every single day. I'm thankful for another Christmas. I'm relieved my cancer seems to have settled down. I'm blessed to have my supportive family and friends. And I'm happy I have a day to just be sad, so maybe tomorrow I can be happy.

One day at a time.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Greetings from Toronto

We managed to do it. Michael and I were able to suprise our kids with our pre-Christmas trip to Toronto.

Noah suspected we were going by train based on the clues, but had no idea we were going VIA 1. They loved it! I think we've spoiled them for travelling by train any other way. They'd better work hard and make good money if they want to continue to purchase seats in first class.

The hotel isn't fancy and its pool is really, quite cold, but it's sufficed as home for the last two nights. We upgraded to a two-bedroom suite once we arrived and it's been worth it. It gave us both a microwave and fridge to prepare food in our room, and provided a little more privacy.

Yesterday, on Tara's insistance, we did a little shopping at the Eaton's Centre, and she spent most of her savings. Then we went to the show Miracle on Mercer Street, which was just okay. It was only an hour long (which makes it quite an expensive experience), but the kids seemed to enjoy it, which is the important thing. It also exposed them to a little live theatre.

This trip, with all its walking, revealed I'm not able to do what I was once able, or what I want. My feet swell and tire VERY easily. Mind you, there's a lot of walking here, but I used to be able to walk for hours. Now, after a few kilometres, my feet burn and I start to limp. I'm trying not to let it stop me, but it's frustrating.

Today, we head back to London on a late afternoon train, where Michael and I will enjoy a few drinks and we'll all experience the wonderful hospitality of VIA 1.

This little escape provided us with some great family time to start Christmas week. It reinforced that Christmas isn't something you find in a store, it's spending time with those you love.

Enjoy this crazy, amazing, wonderful week before Christmas.


Saturday, December 18, 2010


Today, Michael and I are surprising our kids with a trip to Toronto. Yeah, I know, they've been to Toronto lots of times, but this trip is different. We're going on the train (they've never been on a train), staying in a hotel and going to a show.

It's a pre-Christmas, end-of-school, let's hang out as a family celebration.

They know we're going somewhere. I announced earlier this week they should not make plans for the weekend. I've told them to pack clothes for two days, a bathing suit and some goggles. I instructed them to fill only a backpack (that they can carry themselves) with toys to amuse themselves - including chargers for electric games.

As a result, they're curious and have asked questions to which I've answered yes, no or I can't answer that. They've speculated about our destination.

How long are we going to be in the car? We're travelling about 20 minutes in the car. It's true. From our house to the train station it's about 20 minutes.

We're going somewhere with a pool. Or maybe we're going to someone's house and they have a pool.

Are we going to Great Wolf Lodge? No.

We're sleeping there? Yes.

Are we going to be indoors? Like any day, you'll be indoors and outdoors.

And a bunch of other questions.

Their grandmother is here to drive us to the train station. I hope they'll be pleasantly surprised. I'm a little anxious about their reaction.

We're travelling VIA 1 (or first class). It's God-awful expensive, but Michael won a gift certificate at his Christmas party last year and I had points I cashed in to purchase the tickets. I wanted Michael to experience VIA 1, with its nice meals and free alcohol, at least once.

We got a great deal on the hotel and theatre tickets with a Toronto tourism package. The hotel is considered downtown. but it's a little further northeast. We're going to see Miracle on Mercer Street tomorrow afternoon. From what I've read, it's a Muppet-like Christmas-themed performance designed for kids. I think they'll like it.

We'll swim in the pool, check out the Christmas lights at the Eaton's Centre and generally see what trouble we can find. We'll be as active or as laid back as we want. That's the beauty of a vacation like this. I think it's exactly what we need.

So off we go,

Friday, December 17, 2010

A big dose of cheer

When I was off sick last year, I often went back to work to visit with my friends and colleagues. I needed the connection, I craved the sense of normalcy and I think I defined myself by my work a lot more back then. This year, I haven't been back once - until yesterday.

Part of the reason is this time the chemo kicked the crap out of me. I felt far more tired and run down than last time, and I didn't think I was up to visiting.

But yesterday, my communications team planned a Christmas lunch, so I went. It was great fun and the food was good. Then I lucked out, because the department held a baby shower for a women who's due any day - and I got cake. During this festive event, I had the opportunity to chat with many members of the communications department. It was great.

Then I visited the marketing area I support. Luckily a few folks were kicking around and I was able to visit with them. But I'm sorry I missed some people during my visit yesterday. Some were out of the office and I didn't get to visit with others because I ran out of time.

Even though I was tired by the end of the day, seeing many of my friends and colleagues was awesome. To me, the visit was a big dose of Christmas cheer, and exactly what I needed.

While I have to wait until my next doctor's appointment in mid-January to plan my return to work (to make sure my hemoglobin is up and the CT scan doesn't show any suprises), I suspect I'll go back in late January. I'll have to adjust my lifestyle again (it's amazing how I can now fill my days without working), but it'll be good to go back.

I hope you experience something in your day that brings you cheer.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hair update

I laughed at myself when I looked in the mirror this morning. I had bed head. Yes, the hair I now have is long enough to get bent by my pillow and create a weird smushy section. I have to admit, that makes me very happy.

While it's still somewhat sparse, my hair is getting long enough to:

1. See very easily
2. Actually lay down at the sides of my head, over my ears
3. Notice the dark strands outnumber the grey ones (yay!)

And like last time, it's very, very soft.

My eyebrows are back in full force, my eyelashes are slowly growing longer and I'm actually going to have to start shaving my legs one of these days really soon, especially since I go in the hot tub daily.

Unlike last fall when my hair came back, I don't have all the soft, whispy facial hair. I had a little, but the full wolfman look didn't happen. Not that I'm complaining.

My wonderful hubby allowed me to take the clippers to his head again last night and shave him almost bald. Now we're in the same boat. His is shorter; mine is sparser. I suspect his will still grow faster. Oh well, I have company in my follically challenged situation.

But it's coming back, and I'm thrilled.

I've adapted a Christmas song and am singing, "All I want for Christmas is a full head of hair." That doesn't sound like too much to ask.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The true spirit of Christmas

Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!
                                                - The Grinch

Diane's comment on my blog yesterday made me think of this very appropriate quote from one of my favourite Christmas specials. As I'm racing around shopping and wrapping, she gently poked me in the side to remind me of the true meaning of Christmas. Oh, I knew it all along, but I easily got sucked into the commercialism of it with my list making and fretting about shopping.

But I think, despite my minor brain fart, I'm teaching my kids the right reasons for the season: It's better to give than receive, the most precious gifts are family, friends, health and happiness, and Christmas represents the birth of Jesus, God's generous and loving gift to us all.

The other day, my daughter wanted to buy her best friend a small Christmas gift (with her own money). She found some beautiful little braclets, lovingingly wrapped them herself and proudly brought them to school yesterday morning. Last night, we talked about her friend's happy reaction to the gift. I told Tara that's my favourite part of the season - seeing the expression on someone's face when unwrapping a gift I've chosen. She agreed. We talked about how it's nice to get gifts, but it's also very satisfying to give gifts.

Maybe that's why I'm a little frazzled. I want to get the perfect gifts, things I know my loved ones will enjoy. Sometimes that's tough. But then again, I honestly don't care if I get anything for Christmas. That's not what's important to me, personally. So why am I getting so hung up on what I get others?

The physical gift isn't really important because the real joy of Christmas is spending time with those I love. It's sharing laughs and cheer (in whatever form that takes). It's telling people they're important to me. It's hugs and kisses. It's taking time to be with those people who rock my world. I don't know how many Christmases I have (none of us do), so I'd best make sure I live the true meaning of Christmas during the ones I do get to experience.

May your homes be filled with cheer and laughter fill your hearts,

Monday, December 13, 2010

I'm dreamin'

White Christmas
It's pretty much guaranteed I'll get my dream of a white Christmas. Given the amount of snow that's already fallen, the forecast for more over the next few days and the long range prediction of temperatures below or around the freezing mark, I don't think the white stuff will go anywhere before the big day.

I like a little sprinkling of sparkly snow for Christmas; enough to cover the ground, but not to hamper driving to holiday celebrations. It helps put me in the mood. Unfortunately, I don't have the holiday feeling yet. I'm hoping the Christmas spirit will settle on me during the next week.

Of course, once the big day has come and gone, the snow can go. We have way more snow than is necessary for my white Christmas dreams and I'm not a big fan of winter. I don't like the cold and I hate trecherous driving conditions.

Distant, sandy dreams
That's why I'm also dreaming of sun and sand in a tropical locale. I know the hot tub replaced the end-of-chemo trip and I'm really enjoying soaking in the warm water, but a girl can still dream. I know it's a fruitless one for this winter, so I'll just have to plan and save my pennies for a trip NEXT year. (Look at that! I'm making plans in the future. That's a big step for someone who's had cancer twice in two years!)

Until then, I'll plan for Christmas, try to capture the holiday spirit, soak in the hot tub, take up a winter sport and enjoy spending time with family and friends. With all those awesome activities, it may not be a bad winter after all.

Try to remember what makes your holiday special and be sure to include lots of that (or them) over the next few weeks. That's what this season is all about.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Santa Claus is coming

I'm making a list, and checking it twice. I know darn well who's been naughty and nice.

I feel a bit anxious today. I am NOT ready for Christmas and there aren't that many days left before the jolly man in the red suit starts his journey. To be honest, I haven't felt very festive. Nor have I had a lot of extra energy. Many a day, I've sat in my chair and said, "tomorrow." Well, damn, there aren't that many tomorrows left.

That's why I'm making the list. The one that will tell me exactly where I need to go to pick up my last minute gifts. I also need to sit down with Michael and go over the spreadsheet listing the gifts I've already purchased. To be honest, I'm a big fan of this year. With some searching and a few clicks of a mouse, I place an order. A few days later, it shows up at my door.

I hate that I've left so much for the last minute. I never do that. I hate crowds and crazy parking lots. I abhor the folks who stand in the middle of the aisles browsing or worse, chatting. When I do my Chrismas shopping, I'm on a mission and get out of my way. That's why I usually have everything wrapped up by early December.

And speaking of wrapping, I have that to do too. Ack!

I keep hearing this little voice inside my head telling me to calm down. It reminds me there are two full weeks left until Christmas Eve and so much can be accomplished once I set my mind to it.

That's why I'm making the list, checking it twice . . .


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A new perspective on hospitals

It was only a couple of years ago when I thought of hospitals with fondness. It was a place to have a baby or visit a patient who had surgery. In fact, I even worked at a hospital for over six years and my husband's been employed by one for over 20 years.

But early last year, when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, my opinion of hospitals changed.

I know they're necessary, helpful and filled with good, caring people. But I guess I never expected to need so many medical services in my early 40s. I never expected to be young (okay, fairly young) and dependent on these institutions.

Having a baby or a minor procedure is far different than knowing you need to go to hospitals regularly, and will for the rest of your life. Childbirth is generally a happy, albeit painful event, and made up the majority of my hospital experience. On the flip side, cancer surgery, tests and treatments are not happy processes. They're filled with anxiety, fear, uncertainty, pain, anger and tears.

I can't even count the number of times I've visited a doctor or had a procedure at a hospital (which includes cancer centres) during the past 18 months. Sometimes I approach these visits with optimism and determination, while other times I'm sad and resigned.

Sometimes, for a fleeting moment, I think, "Maybe this is all a big mistake. I'm not supposed to have cancer. I'm not supposed to be living this life." But then I pull myself back to reality. Unfortunately, cancer can hit anyone, and health care, needles and hospitals will always play a role in my life.

My family doctor made an interesting comment to Michael a few weeks ago. She said, my patient file is the thickest one in her practice, and she receives reports about my tests and progress about once a week. At least everyone is in the loop.

Regardless of my feelings about hospitals and their employees, they're helping prolong my life. For that, I'm thankful.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bright eyes

When I was in the midst of chemo treatments, I knew I looked sick. There were the obvious signs: no hair, eyelashes and eyebrows, pale skin, lethargic demeanour. But to me it was something more.

People were kind and said I looked good, especially on those days when I had more energy and colour touched my cheeks. But when I looked at myself in the mirror, I couldn't agree with their assessment.

About a month ago, I saw a photo of myself from last fall, a couple of months after I was done treatment. I admired how good I looked. I thought it was the thin layer of hair and the make up I was wearing. But this week, I realized the healthy look didn't come from something external. The key element was my bright eyes.

During treatment and for a month or two afterwards, my eyes are dull. To me, that says, "girl, you're sick." I'm sure it's from the chemicals coursing through my body, attacking the evil cancer cells.

Last week, I got the sparkle back. I look in the mirror and think I look so much better. Trust me, I know how I look isn't nearly as important as how I feel, but I'm also starting to get more energy and experience fewer side effects from the Olaparib. Obviously, the residual chemo is also leaching from my system, which helps my recovery.

Although, I have to admit, it's also nice to see the bright eyes stare back at me when I look in the mirror. To me, it means good health and I'm extremely thankful for it.


Monday, December 6, 2010


London is blanketed in a thick layer of snow and it's STILL coming down. In fact, we're supposed to get 20 to 30 centimetres today, 20 to 30 cms more tonight and then 20 to 30 cms tomorrow. Yikes! That's a lot of snow.

Ironically, I was discussing the snow of my youth with a friend at lunch on Friday. In my memory, there was so much more of the white stuff back in the 70s and 80s. We lived in the country and our neighbours kindly plowed our circular driveway with their tractors. I remember one year when the pile of snow was as high as our ranch-style house. Talk about playing king of the castle.

We also had a creek in our backyard that would freeze each year, allowing us to skate and slide down its icy surface. The snow would pile up on the banks, so my sister and I would dig into the white surface to build little cubby-hole forts and tunnels. Great fun.

I also vividly recall one winter day in high school when I awoke to hear all schools and buses were cancelled for the day. I didn't understand. The grass was green. The sun was shining. But I wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth (what does that saying really mean anyway?) and I crawled back into my warm bed. From my bedroom, with its two exterior walls, I felt the storm hit as I was lying in bed. Visibility was nil and the world was white. Crazy!

I heard on the radio this morning our current environment is creating the perfect atmosphere for this lake-effect snow storm. The Great Lakes are like hot tubs, providing lots of moisture to create the snow, while the cold weather and wind carry it over the region.

The representative from Environment Canada said, Mother Nature must have looked at the calendar as it flipped to December and thought about snow. London's received 100 hours of the white stuff since Dec. 1 - and it's still coming down. If the weather predictions are right, we'll have more snow in the first six days of the month than we received in all of December 2009, and two-thirds of the accumulation for ALL last winter.

The snow now swirling around outside reminds me of the snow of my youth. My children are thrilled because the schools are cancelled and they're outside. They've shoveled the snow (bless then) and are now happily playing. I envision hot chocolate in our not-so-distant future.

Unfortunately, Michael's at work. As for me, I'm hunkering in on this snowy day.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Memory tree

We put up our Christmas decorations today. It's so much work, but everything now looks so beautiful. The tree is in the living room, the lights are on the weeping mulberry outside and evergreen garland (okay, so it's fake) festively hangs on the fence behind the hot tub and on our banister. It all looks especially pretty with the massive amount of fluffy, white snow coming down today.

Over the years, Michael and I have gathered our own special collection of Christmas ornaments and decorations. I love opening each box and bag to rediscover each one. There's memories, not only from our years together, but also from my childhood.

In 1993, when we started dating, we started the tradition of buying a dated ornament. We've gathered quite a collection and many reflect the events of that particular year. In 1995, we bought one with a little bride and groom mouse to commemorate our wedding, in 1997 and 2001 "Baby's first Christmas" ornaments were added to our tree, in 1999 one with "our new house" joined the collection.

When the kids got old enough, they started getting ornaments too. Noah has Hagrid, Buzz Lightyear and Jimmy Neutron. Tara has some little power puff girl or something. They've also got a few ornaments with their names on it.

Our first dog, Diesel, is remembered every Christmas when we hang the snowflake with his photo. Our current dog, Ginger, is represented with an golden lab ornament lounging on a pillow. We've also got special decorations that reflect our lifestyle and beliefs - cycling Santa (because Michael cycles back and forth to work), a camping mouse roasting a marshmallow, the guitar to represent my musical husband, a mouse reading and of course, a nativity scene and peace dove.

Then we have those special ones that come from relatives or childhood. There's the chimney sweep my Aunt Margie bought in Germany when she was stationed there with the armed forces, the little plastic snoopy on skiis, and red velvet reindeer and mouse I vividly remember from when I was very little, the fire trucks that remind me of my dad's profession and the ceramic ornaments my Grandma Thomas made in 1976 (she died of cancer in 1985). I smile each year when I carefully unwrap these to add to our tree.

Yet, my smile dimmed a bit today when I wondered, "Will this be my last Christmas?" Michael admits he thought the same thing when we were at a family Christmas celebration yesterday. When your life's been touched with cancer, I think it's normal to have those fleeting sad and contemplative thoughts.

I guess they're a reminder to enjoy each day and each season; even when the kids argue about where to place the ornaments. Because that's life, and I'm so glad to be living it.


Friday, December 3, 2010


About 8:30 last night, the water was 103C, hot enough for us to try out new hot tub. While it was cold outside, it was toasty warm in the water.

I thought we'd be chilly exiting the spa for the return trip to the house, but our internal body temperatures were so warm, we didn't need to bundle up in robes or towels, but instead walked to the house in our bathing suits. So weird. In fact, I was hot for about 1/2 hour afterwards.

Tara joined us for our inaugural dip last night (Noah was too tired), but Michael and I enjoyed it by ourselves this morning. We looked at the stars and sipped our freshly brewed java. What a great way to start the day.

I'm already eagerly anticipating my next soak later today.


Thursday, December 2, 2010


The day is finally here. It felt like it's been ages coming. Exactly six weeks and two days ago I placed the order. After construction and delays, the hot tub comes today!

It's been so long it doesn't even feel real any more. I was excited when we did the wet test over six weeks ago. That involved taking a long soak in one of the store's demonstrator hot tubs. It seemed like reality when the deposit appeared on my credit card. And when we made the final payment about two weeks ago and made delivery arrangements for last week, I started to get excited.

But, the big snow storm in western Canada delayed the delivery truck from British Columbia, where the tubs are made, by three days and our golden delivery date was postponed. The money was spent (a big dent in my credit card) but I had nothing to show for it (damn snow). Because it'd been so long, I started to lose the excitement and feel like our beloved dream of hot tub ownership would never come true (melodromatic, eh?).

Yet, today is the day. Michael and Noah are outside in the snow, moving all the big objects in the way so the delivery guys can smoothly slip the spa into its landing pad in our backyard. The salesman and owner assured me we'd be able to soak in the warm, bubbly water this evening. God, I hope so!

While the excitement level is racheting up a little, Michael is having a few problems outside moving the frozen tent trailer, which is frustrating and mood dampening. So I don't think I'll really get excited and believe we actually own a our hot tub until it's placed in its new home without incident. Once the icy cold water starts to fill its cavity, ready for the heating action, I'm sure it'll hit me. When I take my first dip in the warm, soothing waters, that's when it'll all be reality - and make this LONG wait worth it.

Medical update
Since I went to my check up in Hamilton yesterday, I should provide an update on the medical stuff. My stubborn hemoglobin remains stuck at 101. No wonder I still get tired and dizzy. I was hoping for a big jump to get closer to the low end of normal, which is 120, but no such luck.

The doc said I'm doing very well two-months post chemo. I'm sure some of the chemicals are still floating around in my cells and contributing to the unwell feelings and slow recovery. But you know inpatient me; I want and think I should feel better NOW.

I did get some good news. My CA-125 dropped from 60 to 47. It's closer to the normal of >35. The doc and nurse both assured me these results are good and this will probably be my new normal. Dropping or a slight up and down is good. A large spike in the number is bad.

My next appointment isn't until mid-January when I'll get my next CT and full physical exam. Hopefully my hemoglobin will rise in the next seven weeks, more of the chemo will exit my system and I'll be (and feel) closer to normal.

Oh, I'm sure the hot tub will help!

With slowly building excitement,

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Born to be, um, mild

Get your motor runnin'
Head out on the highway
Looking for adventure, er, no. Looking for the Juravinski Cancer Centre.
And whatever comes our way, um, again no. Heading to a medical check up, some lunch and maybe some shopping.

I guess Steppenwolf's Born to be Wild lyrics don't really apply to Angie and me today. Considering I'd like this checkup to be uneventful and go as smoothly as possible, I'd have change the title to born to be mild. I'm okay with that.

Besides, the song seems to call for gunning motors and a recreational substance or two (to get through that long, somewhat weird musical interlude in the middle). Since we'll be traveling in a silver Prius hybrid and coffee will be our stimulant of choice, I don't think we fit the target demographic.

But it's a good tune nonetheless and a great one to belt out when alone in the car. Although I have to admit that I substitute humming for some of the lyrics I don't know. I don't think I'm alone.

Today, it's Born to be, um, mild. Catchy.