Monday, January 31, 2011


On the weekend, I learned another friend died from cancer. This makes two women, in the space of one week, who lost their battle with this stupid disease.

I met Carol though the London BRCA gene mutation support group. I felt a special affinity for her because she was the only other person in the group currently fighting cancer. As well, she was a ovarian cancer sister. While my diagnosis was only months old, she'd be living and fighting with the disease for 10 years.

I got an email from her neice on Saturday morning with the news she passed away during the night. My mind immediately jumped to the last time I saw her at the Run for Ovarian Cancer last May. While she herself used a walker for mobility, she was a supportive presence to all the runners. In fact, the BRCA support group formed a team in her honour.

On the weekend, I wondered if Olaparib could have helped her too. It's helping shrink my cancer (and fingers crossed the drug will continue to work magic). Carol, as a woman with the BRCA gene mutation, may have benefitted from Olaparib's PARP inhibitor, cancer-slaying properties. Perhaps her diagosis was 10 years too early.

But whenever I saw her, she exuded a positive attitude. She seemed to be living life to the fullest. As a result, I hope she had no regrets.

Carol is now free from the pain, worry and thief that is cancer. May she rest in peace.


Friday, January 28, 2011


I'm experiencing a lot of changes in my life right now. Change, even the good kind, produces stress. That's why I'm doing my very best to approach each changes and situation with an attitude of gratitude.

Not only am I starting my return to work, the organization itself is experiencing a lot of change right now. My role may not be the same and my department probably will be different too. My work, my colleagues, my day-to-day work life may all change.

It's an exciting time, but it's also a bit scary. It can be difficult to let go of the status quo; especially if you really like it. While I'm sure I won't be happy with all aspects of my new work life, I'm looking at it all as an opportunity to grow and develop.

I sat in the hot tub this morning and went over all the things for which I'm thankful. My job, and especially the people with whom I work, are one of them. Even as things change, it's up to me to make the best of it all.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Run down ovarian cancer

Everyone HATES cancer and wants to help eradicate this horrible disease that steals people away from us way before their time. It's a God-awful afflication, that takes many forms and responds differently to treatment options. While cancer research has come a long way over the years, so much more needs to be done to discover better treatments to kill the cancer and perhaps medication to prevent the disease.

While some cancers get a lot of publicity and fundraising dollars, others aren't as lucky. Maybe fewer people are afflicted with a particular form of the disease, so they aren't in the limelight of public consciousness. Gynaecological cancers, like ovarian, cervical and uterine, are poor second cousins to breast cancer (which gets a lot of publicity). 

I'm not saying any cancer is more important than the other, because they all kill. I believe breathroughs in one area of research may lead to discoveries that may help battle other types of cancers. Research is the key.

That's why I firmly believe in supporting the Translational Ovarian Cancer Research Program team. This amazing group of researchers, based right here in London, Ontario, are working on ways to treat and beat ovarian cancer. One of the key ways they get the money they need to continue their valuable work is through the annual Run for Ovarian Cancer.

Team Tina, with me as their honoured captain, will be there again this year. Since my diagnosis in 2009, this team (comprised of so many of my friends and family) have been top fundraisers for this event. Our team, with their unmistakable yellow shirts and abundance of enthusiasm, had over 50 members each of the past two years. Let's see if we can do it again!

I encourage you to join Team Tina, raise funds and come out on May 15 for the run. Don't worry, you don't have to actually run. You can walk the 5K or even stroll the 1K course. The goal is to be there and support all those women afflicted with this stupid, wasteful disease.

If you can't make it, please sponsor one of the runners. Michael and I are already registered. Team Tina is activitated on the run website and ready to accept new members and donations. I welcome one and all. It's a fun day.

If it weren't for research, I wouldn't be taking a new experimental drug (that seems to be working) and living to run another event. Help support that kind of research and give the researchers the funding they need to beat cancer. Die cancer die!


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hi ho

I'm headed back to work.

My official back-to-work plan starts on Monday, but I'll be heading into the office over the next couple of days for some important meetings. I only learned about them today, so my mind has slipped from slow gear into something a little faster. I'm already thinking: I'll need my badge and some dress shoes. What the heck am I going to wear? What fits?! Ack. (Yes, I've also been thinking somewhat about the actual work I may be doing.)

I'm sure I'll slide right back into the swing of things, but it's going to take a bit of time. But luckily, I've got a slow and steady plan for reintegration. Next week and the week after, I only work three days, three hours a day. Then I'll add time each week until I'm back at work full time.

The organization changed while I was away. It may take me a while to get caught up, but that's okay. Working means I'm healthier. That's the goal and the fact I'm here is awesome.


Monday, January 24, 2011


I don't know if it's Daria's death, the cold weather or a Monday-morning phenomenon, but I feel down today. A pain in my ribs, that shows up periodically, is also plaguing me. Usually, a pain would worry me, but I've experienced it before and I just had a CT scan, so I know there isn't anything there.

So I'll bundle up and make the best of today, even if I am a little blue.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Kick in the gut

My very first blogger friend died yesterday and when I read the news, it felt like I'd been kicked in the gut. She found me through my blog and I started following hers. Every once in a while, we'd post supportive comments to one another. Daria had breast cancer, which spread to other organs.

Daria hadn't been doing well over the past few weeks, and her blog reflected that, but her death still caught me off guard. Her husband posted the news she'd died, which I read it yesterday afternoon. My gasp caught the attention of Michael and he looked shaken when I told him the news.

Neither of us knew Daria personally, although I feel I'd learned a little bit about her through her writing. But I've been thinking about her passing, praying for her family and believing she's gone to a better place where there's no pain or fear.

Her passing is also the first cancer-related death I've experienced since my diagnosis. It makes me angry this stupid disease claims the lives of good people. It makes me scared for what my future may hold.

But for today, I salute Daria. She fought bravely and shared her experience with others. She loved and lived life. And she'll be remembered with fondness.

Good bye Daria. Rest in peace.


Friday, January 21, 2011

The happiness study

While sitting in the hot tub the other morning, I was reading More. (Yes, it gets wet, but it's a magazine and I can recycle it when I'm done). More is a publication dedicated to women over 40. The December 2010/January 2011 issue contained an article about happiness.

So think about it. Are you happy? I am. Despite having cancer and a challenging kid with mental health issues, I am happy. Oh, there are days, situations, people and circumstances that infringe on my happiness, but overall, I'm pretty darn satisfied. I think that makes me extremely lucky.

Or maybe the cancer is what pushed me into evaluting my life, making some changes, coming to some realizations and focussing on the good stuff. I remember a time in my late 30s when I was miserable. I worked way too many hours, Michael was working shift work so I rarely saw him, my kids were little and life was difficult to coordinate, etc.

This article in More reported people in their 40s tend to be the least happy. "People all over the plant report that their happiness levels on average are quite high in early adulthood, slowly fall throughout their thirties and completely bottom out in their fourties." It goes on to report these happiness levels gradually start to rise when people are in their 50s, as long as health and domestic relationships stay relatively stable.

This slump in satisfaction in midlife seems to be caused by feeling "squeezed from all sides by growing kids, aging parents, demanding jobs and myriad financial pressure." The research shows "the happiness dip applies whether you're female or male, employed or unemployed, with children or childless, rich or otherwise."

The best theory of social scientists for this phenomenon is that young adulthood is a time of endless possibilities, while choices narrow as we age (we know what we probably won't accomplish by this time in our lives). Then we realign our expectations with reality, which makes us happier. Of course, in our 50s, more people realize life is short and we're happy to be alive.

Maybe I skipped a few of the middle steps because I've hit the life-is-short realization early. I've had to come to terms with many aspects of my new reality and found I'm content with most of it. Oh sure, I'd love to write a few books and become an acclaimed author, but it's not crucial to the core of my happiness.

My theory was reinforced at the blood clinic in Hamilton the other day. I chatted with the nurse as she drew my blood. I mentioned life is good and even if I only have a few years left, I'd rather be happy than waste them being miserable. She mentioned she noticed a big difference in the attitude of patients in the cancer lab compared to the regular lab. Unless they're really sick, she said the cancer patients are generally happier, more thankful and have a better spirit. It's because we know life is what you make of it.

The More article also listed some happiness factors and I thought I'd mention a few:

- Healthy people are happier, happier people are healthier. It's all interconnected. That's why I exercise and try to eat more fruits and veggies.

- Since humans prefer certainty, we're better at adapting to one-time health shocks like a permanent loss of mobility to unpredictable conditions such as epilepsy or pain. I'm not exactly sure where cancer fits in here.

- People who exercise are much happier than those who don't. (Back to the healthier comment above.)

- Smokers are generally less happy than non-smokers, although it's not clear whether smoking causes unhappiness or unhappy people are more likely to smoke.

- Social people tend to be happier. Humans are social creatures and we value relationships, support and interaction.

- Those who drink alcohol in moderation are happier. Maybe because they're the social people who get together and raise a glass in celebration every once in a while. Of course, those who drink excessively tend to be unhappier.

- Money doesn't buy happiness. Once the basics of life are covered, a greater income doesn't necessarily mean a better life. The article states, "There's a variety of evidence showing that we grossly overestimate the satisfaction we get from material things." It goes on to say that those who spend money on others, generally feel happier.

- You've probably heard this before, married folks report more happiness than singles.

So as a married, non-smoking, social drinking, exercising, social (thank you, my friends) woman who has a comfortable economic situation, I guess I conform to the study and have reasons to be happy, despite the cancer. Or is the realization of my happiness because of the disease?



Thursday, January 20, 2011

Super freak

My emotions over the past two days remind me of the little silver ball inside a pinball machine. They're all over the place and don't make much sense as they bounce from here to there. I got great news, I should be happy, thrilled, relieved and ready to get on with life. And while I do feel that way, I also feel exhausted, stressed, squeezed, nervous and teary.

Humans are complex creatures. We react to information, external stimuli and pressure in a myriad of ways. Some reactions don't even make sense. I'm confused by my reactions and emotions. That's why I think I'm a freak these days.

I got the news of my cancer remission mid-day on Tuesday. Afterwards I smiled and bounced as I walked around the cancer centre because I was so thrilled. I updated my blog and Facebook status so I could share my excitement with the world.

But for some weird reason, I didn't want to talk to anyone because I wasn't sure what to say. I'm happy with the news, but the cancer is still there. Maybe I was afraid others wouldn't feel as thrilled by the percentages and shrinkage. Perhaps I felt I failed to live up to the expection of banishing the dreaded tumours completely. I knew there would probably be some remnants of disease because of the nature of the beast that is ovarian cancer. While I hoped it would all just disappear, the likelihood was extremely slim.

Tuesday night, I completely crashed, and then my emotions went haywire. I think I'd been more worried and stressed than I thought about the appointment and once it was done, I was exhausted. In addition, the drinking of the radioactive dye, blood work and appointments take a lot out of a girl. As a result of my tiredness, I've been overreacting.

We've also been having some teenage trouble with our son lately. He doesn't listen well, hasn't put forth a consistent effort and seems to care less about his school work/projects than I do. I feel like the big, bad ogre forcing him to do more, do better, extend more effort. It stresses me out enormously (when I shouldn't be the one worried about his work). I feel like I constantly have to schedule all his projects and stay on top of him (in addition to the rest of life), which makes me feel a bit squeezed. I guess I just don't understand him because I was such a different student. I guess you would have called me a brown-nosed, studious, focussed kid. But that attitude got me far! I just want the best for my kids.

Of course, because I'm exhausted and stressed, my fuse has also been a bit shorter than normal. Then I feel bad about it - for both my kids.

Today, I'm a big lump. I feel down because I fought with Noah again this morning about his school work, I'm exhausted (emotionally and physically) and I'm sick of the cold. (I also had dreams of a sunny vacation that were dashed.) I think I just need a little time to myself to recharge my batteries.

Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely happy about the status of my health. I'm thrilled I'm in remission. I am tentatively excited about going back to work (nervous too because it'll be one more thing to juggle with my limited energy) and I get to go to the London Knights hockey game tonight. There are many, many good things in my life.

I remember last year when I got news of my remissions, I had a weird emotional experience too. Everyone around me was so excited, and I was tentatively happy. I guess it's normal - or at least normal for me. Maybe I just have a lot of processing to do before I focus on the positive and move forward. But don't worry, I will get there. Just give me a little time.

I also want to say thank you to everyone who sent congratulatory emails, Facebook messages or blog posts. I am extremely grateful to you all. You're here on the journey with me, and I couldn't do it without you. So keep celebrating, I will catch up.

Love you.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

As I understand it

I've had a feeling for a few weeks that my check up was going to be fine. But I was still relieved (because you never really know until the doc utters the words) when my premonition came true.

Part of me doesn't know where to start with all the information. I spent yesterday afternoon bouncing around the cancer centre because I was so happy. I crashed and burned in the evening (but more on that tomorrow), processing everything.

The skinny
No, I'm not skinny, but I'm slowly working towards not quite so plump. This skinny involves the nuts and bolts of all the medical information I got yesterday.

1. I'm doing exceptionally well. I was called a model test-study patient again because I can down all eight pills in a single swallow (sort of like leaping tall buildings in a single bound in the clinical trial world), am responding to treatment and experience minimal side effects. I also think my cheerful demeanour makes me a fairly easy patient.

2. The target lesion has reduced by at least 30 per cent. Now, the tumour being measured is still on my bowel wall, which my doc isn't convince was the original target. He's not even sure whatever is being measured on the bowel wall is cancerous, but just a thickening - and shrinking.But whatever is on the bowel wall decreased from the last CT scan and by 30 per cent or more since I started the study.

I still haven't seen the radiologist report, and won't until my next check up, but his report is the official word. Bottom line, whoo hoo, the chemo and Olaparib has kicked the cancer into submission.

3. A cancerous lymph node (yesterday was the first I heard of it) that was smaller than 1.5 cm, and therefore did not qualify for the study, decreased in size by 75 per cent. That's microscopic! I still don't like the news a cancerous lymph node was involved, but it's responded well.

4. My CA-125 decreased from 47 at my last appointment to 40. That brings me much closer to the top end of normal, which is 35. I've been told my "normal" may now be higher, but I'm encouraged it dropped again. Hopefully, it's the Olaparib that continues to tell my body these mutant cancer cells aren't normal and encourages them to die. Continue to die cancer die!

5. My hemoglobin is still quite low at 105. That means it only increased by four points since my last check up seven weeks ago. Normal for a woman is between 120 and 160. Yikes. My platlets are a little low too. My doc is a little concerned, but not overly so. He told me to take it easy, eat lots of fruits and veggies, and listen to my body. I guess when I hit that wall of tiredness, I can blame my low hemoglobin.

Remission, oh how I love you!
When I asked if I could be considered in remission, the nurse said yes! I'm considered in remission with a partial response. That means there's still cancer in there, but it's dormant. Some cancer survivors live years and years in this state. I hope to be one of them. Sleep, rotten cancer, sleep.

Did I expect all the cancer to be gone? No.

Am I happy with the results I got yesterday? Absolutely.

After a good night's sleep and lots of mental processing, I feel relieved, content and a little tired (I guess I was more worked up than I thought). I'm still a little fearful because I've been down this road before. But I have a new tour guide this journey - my friend, Olaparib - and hopefully her path is longer and a lot less rocky.

So today we celebrate the good news. Each day is a gift and needs to be cherished. Cheer with me, my friends, for I'm in remission.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Weight of the world

I have a spring in my step and a smile on my face because the news from Dr. H was good. He said I'm doing exceptionally well. He didn't have the official report from the radiologist but he doesn't see anything that concerns him.

I feel as though the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders. I'm happy because I can continue to plan and live my life without restraint. (Except, of course, that pesky financial one that prevents all my travel plans).

Thanks for all the good wishes and prayers.


Pivitol appointment

Today is the day we find out if all the treatment over the past seven months worked.

At my appointment in Hamilton, I'll be scanned, poked, probed and prodded. I'll drink a bunch of peach-flavoured radioactive juice. I'll get more radioactive dye injected via I.V. and give a few vials of blood. Then I'll talk to my doc where he'll deliver the verdict.

Although I haven't been consciously nervous over the past few weeks, I'm sure deep in the subconscious of my grey matter, I've been stewing about the results of these tests. As I write this, I feel my anxiety rise. I haven't made a big deal about it (even in my own mind), but this appointment is crucial for it determines how and if I move forward.

I'm 90 per cent confident everything is going to be okay. But I've been wrong before (and the cancer was back) so I can't be absolutely certain. So I'll sit on pins and needles until I get confirmation from Dr. H.

When I get the good news, I'll let you know.

Keep your fingers crossed and, if you're so inclined, say a word or two to the big guy upstairs.

Until later,

Monday, January 17, 2011

Zero to four

Just over a week ago, a dear friend dropped off a treadmill at my house. This machine had been gathering dust in his storage space for a few years and, when I was training for my try triathalon, he thought it'd get far more use at my house than his.

Then I got diagnosed with cancer. Thoughts of using a treadmill faded to the background as I focussed on treatment and then recovery. During the nine months of my remission, I hit the London Life gym and Bob Hayward YMCA. It was a long fitness hill to climb to get my strength and stamina back, but I was progressing nicely. Just when I was considering asking about the treadmill again, I got news of my reoccurence. No treadmill for me.

But a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to get off my couch-potato butt and start moving again. So I asked about the machine and my friend delivered it just over a week ago. Mentally, I was ready to exercise and I knew having the treadmill taunting me in my own house would encourage me to start working out again.

After my kids left for school, I enthusiastically hopped on the treadmill. I started walking and the machine automatically set the incline at five (the highest). I told myself I could do it. My hip flexors started to hurt after a short walk, but I continued until the old internal lubricant started to work again and the muscles stretched out.

I surprised myself when I tried running and was able to do it! I did five sets of three minutes. I was so proud of myself. I felt good and rewarded myself with a soak in the hot tub.

After learning the pace I set for myself for Monday's running segments was seriously slow, I upped my speed. Surprisingly, it went fairly well and I managed to run for a total of 20 minutes. It was hard and I was drenched in sweat, but I did it. I felt good! Again, a hot tub chaser eased the tired muscles.

My bout with the treadmill was way more difficult! My kids had a PD day and were in the room while I ran/walked. At one point, my ragged breath and dripping sweat prompted Noah to say in a concerned voice, "Are you alright, mom?" I could barely manage to nod affirmative. I reduced my total running minutes to 15, but I still did it. And of course, I hit the hot tub afterwards.

After a weekend off, I got up early this morning to answer the call of the treadmill. God, it was so hard to run and the blasted machine had me gasping for air and soaked with sweat. I was only able to run for 13 minutes, although I did go a touch faster. I even did two 30-second intervals really quickly, for me. (I'm afraid to post the pace because people may laugh.)

As I sit here post workout, chilled with the dried sweat on my body, I wonder if I'm being too hard on myself. I went from zero workouts to four semi-strenuous ones, just like that. I think I have to be a little gentler and convince myself that walking at a good clip and a steep incline is good too. I also have to find some other forms of exercise or I'll begin to hate the torturous treadmill.

It's good to have it in my house to encourage me to work out, but I can't make it my main form of exercise because I just don't like running that much. When I learned of my reoccurence, I watched someone running down the street. At that point, I said, I may choose to never run again because I don't like it. Why should I waste my precious time doing something I don't enjoy when there are so many other activities I do like?

But here I am, trying to run again. I'm not really sure why. Perhaps it's because I have a treadmill calling me from the basement and it's convenient. Perhaps in the back of my mind I still want to complete a try triathalon one day. I certainly want to be able to run at least part of the Run for Ovarian Cancer on May 15. Or maybe, just maybe, I think I could learn to like it a little bit. I respect those who run, although I have to admit I think those who complete long distances are just a bit crazy. But that's just me.

Experts always say, unless you do exercise you like, you won't keep it up. I like variety. I know I have to keep moving. It's good for me and it makes me feel satisfied, proud, accomplished and healthy. I need to experience those feelings, especially right now.

But now it's time to head outside to soak in the hot tub. I know my tired muscles will appreciate it.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Sleeping in

I was supposed to sleep in this morning. As my head touched the pillow last night, a ghost of a smile played on my lips since I knew I didn't have to get up early. It's a PD day and the kids don't have school. This morning, I don't have to repeatedly attempt to rouse them from their beds and remind them to eat breakfast, brush their teeth or take a shower. (These required actions don't change, yet I seem to need to repeat instructions to complete them every single day.)

I heard the creek of the hot tub lid as Michael ventured in for his morning soak. But I burrowed deeper under the warm covers. Then I heard the rattle of his breakfast dishes as he placed them in the dishwasher. Still I was determined to go back to sleep because I know my opportunities to sleep in will be curtailed once I return to work. But my mind decided otherwise. It started racing.

Thoughts swirled through my mind: What's it going to be like when I return to work? I need groceries. When am I going to get them today? Noah has two projects to work on this weekend. I'll have to get him to commit to specific times to focus on those. Oh, report cards are coming up. What will the consequences be if marks haven't improved? What's up for the weekend? Oh, I have to coordinate plans around Tara's sleepover. I should run today. Is it going to be easy or hard? I feel muscles I haven't felt in months.

Once I realized I was more awake than asleep, I knew my dream of sleeping in was over.

Ironically enough, not a single thought of my upcoming appointment with Dr. H entered my mind. Am I in denial? I'd like to think I'm confident my cancer is under control - if not shrivelled up and dead - so I'm thinking about other things in life. Of course, if I'm wrong, cancer will become my focus again. But I'm tired of that, and I'm choosing to believe all will be fine.

So for now (and hopefully long term), I'll stick with the wonderfully mundane and normal thoughs that kept me from sleeping in this morning.

Aaahhh, Saturday, now that sounds like a perfect morning to sleep in. I'll try again tomorrow.

Have a wonderful Friday,

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

How ya feeling?

I haven't written about how I'm feeling in a while, yet it's the most common question I'm asked when I run into someone.

People tell me I look good: The sparkle in my eyes is back, my colour is good and I have hair, which dramatically improves my appearance. I'm wearing make-up more often, which helps too.

Overall I feel better too. I have more energy and don't tire as easily. Although, some days, I go about my business and then hit a wall of tiredness. I can't anticipate the timing and there's little I can do when I encounter it except choose less mentally and physically strenuous activities.

I suspect my hemoglobin is up because my tiredness is slowly dissipating. Besides, it's been weeks and weeks now!

I am tolerating the Olaparib well and have even adjusted to the fasting periods before and after the drug. It requires a little more planning, but I'm getting the hang of it. The one side effect that seems to persist is the acid. I often get an upset stomach and then I feel the acid crawl its way up my throat and sit at its base. The acid doesn't attack every day, but I'd say more than half the time.

I'm trying different strategies to see if I can keep the caustic beast from sloshing into my esophagus - less caffeine (I haven't resorted to giving it up entirely), smaller meals, eating more often, tea, ignoring it . . .

I try not to take antacids very often, although they do help. My sister is a bit worried the acid could eat away at something in my throat, which could lead to throat cancer. Great.

I'll mention these symptoms to my doc on the Jan. 18, but I suspect, according to his protocol, I'll be tolerating the drug well. And I am despite this fairly minor inconvenience.

Oh, and I thought I'd mention I blogged too soon about the lack of facial hair during the regrowth this time. Oh, I got the full wolfman peach fuzz. It's a lovely look. At least I know it's not forever.

Happy Wednesday,

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jan. 18 - the turning point

I'm starting to feel antsy. I'm a little anxious for my doctor's appointment in Hamilton on the Jan. 18. Not because I think it'll bring bad news, but because it seems to be the turning point in my life right now. What I do over the next few months (at the very least) hinges on the results of that check-up.

With good results of my CT scan and physical exam, I anticipate I'll develop a plan to start easing back to work toward the end of the month. Thank goodness it'll be a slow process because I'll have to build up my strength and stamina. I know from experience I'll be exuberant and active one minute and then hit the wall of tiredness. So I'll have to be careful.

I've managed to find ways to fill my days, so going back to work will also be an adjustment in what I get done at home. Granted, not all the activities I choose have value, so playtime with games like Zuma could be cut short.

I'm also anxious to start exercising get some of my strength and muscle tone back. Yesterday, I climbed on my new-to-me treadmill, hit the on switch and then put one foot in front of the other. At the beginning, walking at an incline instigated stabs of pains in my hips, but they went away. I felt like the tin man in the Wizard of Oz. I just needed to get my body to lubricate its joints and muscles.

After awhile, I even tried running  and DIDN'T KILL MYSELF. It was actually a bit easier than I expected. Granted I went slow. But I've been a couch sloth for the past six months, so slow is the way to go.

I'm not even going to think about the possibilities of my life if the results on the Jan. 18 are less than stellar. I'm not going down that road unless I'm forced.

For now, I'm thinking positive and planning to move forward. If I don't start thinking about the future, I may just stay stuck here playing Zuma, writing, exercising, going in my hot tub and puttering around my house forever. Not a bad place to be, but I know I need to do more.

So here's planning for good results and moving forward,

Monday, January 10, 2011

Of mice and monsters

When I was growing up, my family lived in the country. Our house was situated on a dead-end, gravel road, near a town of approximately 12,000 people. So we didn't have streetlights nor the glow of a big city to taint the inky hue of the night. Therefore, when we extinguished the lights, it was dark. Really dark. The kind where you can wave your hand in front of your face and not see it.

Like any kid, I believed monsters lived under my bed and in my closet. And because it was so dark, there was no chance I would see them until they clawed at my legs and dragged me under the bed for a late night snack. But the bed, of course, was safety. No monster could get me as long as I was safely under its impenetrable covers. Therefore, the flying leap became a nightly ritual.

As I got older, the rational side of my brain won and I managed to banish those beasts. But I clearly remember experiencing a series of nightmares that scared the hell out of me. A sasquatch-type beast was coming to get us (usually only my sister and I were home). The sun was shining brightly, which typically isn't scary. But the daytime setting allowed me to clearly see as the beast banged on the windows and ran from door to door looking for a way into our house. I remember feeling terrified (although as I think back, he did look a bit like Chewbacca from the Star Wars flicks).

Whenever I had this nightmare, I would wake with a start, my heart pounding and mind racing.

This recurring dream was one of two I experienced regularly as a child. The other involved losing my eyesight or being blinded by such bright light that I could only open my eyes a tiny bit to view whitish images and feel tears run down my face. Of course, I had to accomplish some task in the dream, like drive a car or travel to a destination. I remember feeling frustrated at my virtual blindness.

When I had laser eye surgery a few years ago, I lived that nightmare. I experienced a rare reaction to the procedure where I became hypersensitive to light. This phenomenon lasted about two weeks. It was frustrating, dangerous (when I tried to do something I shouldn't) and tiring - just like the dream.

It was eerie when one of the two recurring nightmares of my childhood came true. Perhaps my Chewie dreams represent the nightmare of living with cancer. It's a scary, evil beast doing anything it can to invade my home. The monster in my dream tried his best to get me any way he could and kept coming back. But he never made it in the house (or the car when we tried to run for it). The monster never got me. He was always locked out, stuck on the other side of the glass.

So I'm telling the beast to stay outside, where it can't reach me. I know it's there (and it knows about my presence), but it can't have me any more. It may limit my movements and scare me with its hideous teeth, horrible roars and scraggly brown hair, but it can't have me.

Thinking about my childhood nightmares also made me recall a time I woke in the middle of the night to the sound of metal hangers clanking together in my closet. I froze, terrified. In a wavering voice, I called for my mom and/or dad several times. They slept soundly through my fearful cries for help. But my sister, Angie, came to my rescue. She fearlessly flipped on the light and slowly opened the closet door to discover a mouse (remember, we lived in the country where mice seek shelter in nice warm houses). No monster lurked behind my closet door.

Angie was my monster-slayer, protector and the person who stood by my side when I was fearful. She still is. She's willing to be available for oncologist appointments, CT scans, chemotherapy sessions, depressed rampages, listless days and fearful mumblings. Her and Michael are my two rocks that I cling to during my journey with cancer.

With such great support, I can (usually) face my fears, whether it be the monsters under my bed, a mouse in my closet or the evil that is cancer. I am not alone.

Your brave friend,

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Glimpse in the looking glass

I've been thinking about and praying for my friend, Patty (aka Pateeta) over the past few weeks, but especially during the last 24 hours. My fellow ovarian-cancer warrior needed surgery yesterday to get her shit in order - literally. As I understand it, she has obstructions in her bowel and, as a result, it's not working properly. Hence the surgery.

I met Patty through blogging, but she's become a dear friend. I don't know the sound of her voice or the ring of her laugh. I'm not familiar with the cadence of her speech or if she swaggers when she walks. But I can empathize with her because we share membership in a club no one wants (or should have) to join. Her life and health affect me deeply. I wish her only the very best.

She's been in and out of the hospital a number of times over the past few weeks, with various cancer complications. I read her blog and Facebook updates with sympathy, think of her often and include her in my prayers.

But to be honest, her situation - and that of some other cancer survivors I read about - also makes me slightly uncomfortable (and then I feel guilty for feeling that way). These warriors currently need to fight harder in their cancer battles, so it makes me feel grateful about where I currently am. I feel little pain, my situation looks relatively positive, the meds seem to be working and I'm planning a "normal" life.

I wouldn't stop reading their blogs for the world. I couldn't stop supporting their struggles or celebrating their victories - no matter how small. And yesterday, I thought of Patty every time I had a BM (I'm almost sure Patty will find that funny.)

But their struggles also instill a bit of fear in my mind, and may be a contributing factor to the depressed days I recently experienced. Patty was diagnosed with stage IIIC ovarian cancer, same as me and now she's experiencing blockages, pain, hospital visits and surgery. I wonder if I'm seeing a brief glimpse into the looking glass of what could be my future. And to be honest, it scares me. I sometimes wonder how this journey is going to end and what my future holds.

I'm fearful for Patty and wish for a miracle, an end to the pain, a cure for the miserable cancer.

I wish for the end of cancer for all of us.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Going to see Suzie!

After almost 16 years of marriage, Michael and I must have some sort of telepathic connection. On Wednesday night, while sitting in the hot tub, I was thinking about activities I'd like to do over the coming year. While I've mentally and verbally committed to going whitewater rafting, I hadn't identified anything else for my Let's rock 2011 list.

But that evening, an idea popped into my head, but I didn't verbalize it. Then out of the blue, Michael made my desire a reality yesterday. How cool is that?

Michael bought tickets for us to see Suzie McNeil in Collingwood in February. He excitedly exclaimed he got second row centre seats. A bubble of glee welled up inside me.

We've been following Suzie's career since she appeared on Rock Star: INXS in the summer of 2005. We fell in love with her versatile voice and contagious laugh. She's one of those artists who can make my skin tingle because her voice is so incredible.

About a year after the show concluded, we were invited to her CD release party (via her fan website) and briefly met her as she signed our copies of her Broken and Beautiful. I've blogged about her song Believe beacause its beautiful words seemed to reflect my feelings and provide inspiration.

Now, everyone who really knows me understands I have a little thing for Bon Jovi, who I've seen in concert a few times (singing along to every song) and lovin' every minute of it. But when you see Jon and the boys, the stadium is huge and due to my cash-flow situation, I need to use binoculars to get up close and personal with Jon Bon.

But I LOVE Suzie too. (Yes, I'd choose her music if I were stuck on a deserted island.) I'm thrilled I'll be sitting close as she performs in February. I'm excited the concert is being held in a small, intimate venue. And I'm grateful her tickets were in our price range.

I expect more than a few tingles to course through my body that night. Good things like that are exactly what life should be about.

And all because I've got this super-duper cosmic connection with my soulmate and husband, Michael. Lucky me!


Thursday, January 6, 2011

I felt the love

Over 60 people wished me happy birthday yesterday. Even when I was out shopping and having lunch with my sister and mom, my Blackberry buzzed, alerting me to the new messages with birthday greetings.

I feel loved, blessed and happy. Thank you.

And yes, I wished for another birthday next year when I blew out the candles on my dark chocolate fudge birthday cake last night. (Mmmmmm.)

To a fabulous year ahead.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

44 and fabulous

Today is my birthday and I'm not ashamed to say I'm 44. (44 in 11, kinda funny.) I'm proud to be another year older.

I have the wrinkles and grey hair to prove the experiences of the time I've walked this earth. But I want more. I want more laugh lines, hard-won strands of silver, and even the inevitable aches and pains that accompany old age. Bring it on. I want to grow old with Michael by my side.

But there's no guarantee, so I rejoice in this year. I thank God I made it to 44. I'm rich with experience, friendships and love. That's what matters.

So as I blow out the candles on my rich, chocolately birthday cake this evening, my wish will be for another birthday next year.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Today is good

Over the past few days, I've caught myself with a little smile on my face. Yup, you read right, I'm unconsciously smiling for no real reason at all. Mostly it happens when I'm in the hot tub in the evening, letting the warm water wash over me and allowing my mind gently meander over my thoughts. The ideas bouncing in my head during my morning hot tub excursion usually consist of what I need to get done during the day. It gears me up. The evening soak calms me down.

The source of these little smiles? I'm not 100 per cent sure, but I think it's because I'm content. I'm happy it's 2011 and I can celebrate another year. I'll get another year older and hopefully a whole lot wiser. I feel optimistic about my health situation. I love my life and all the good things in it. I'm lucky in so many ways and that gives me a little bubbling well of joy. I think the little smile is that joy I feel inside overflowing and escaping.

I also feel pretty good. Sure, I could feel better. I curse the rib, back and foot pains I get when I do too much. I could be stronger, fitter and healthier. But I'm celebrating what I have today, while working on what I can be tomorrow. If I think about it, in 2009 and 2010 (and possibly again in the future), I have felt a whole lot worse. So I'm thankful for how I feel today.

I don't know what tomorrow will bring. But for today, life is good.


Monday, January 3, 2011

363 more days of possibilities

Happy new year! It's 2011 and the year lies before me full of possibilities.

Today I'm optimistic. I'm trying to be more positive about my health and moving forward with making plans. Of course, things could turn on a dime, but I'm not allowing my mind to visit that space today because there are so many things I could do with the 363 days remaining in this year.

New year's is a time of renewal for me; a fresh start. It's a time to take stock of life, remember the events of the past year (and their lessons) and plan for the new one. I've got a few resolutions I'm working on, including eating the required five to 10 servings of fruits and veggies every day and getting back in shape. Both these will make for a better, healthier Tina.

This morning, I proudly hung my Team Tina calendar in my office. It's in a prominent location where I'll look several times a day. It's presence will make me smile and think of the awesome folks who created (and bought) this hilarious calendar to help me. I'm a very lucky woman who has the support of so many fabulous people.

Remember, this is the year I'm going white water rafting. It's on my bucket list. In a future blog, I'll ask for confirmation on who's in on the excursion. I'm thinking June in the Ottawa area. So if you've wanted to experience the thrill of careening down a river on rapids, this is your opportunity to do it with a group of like-minded people.

But first things first. The kids returned to school this year, which means I now have to get to work. Michael and I have the dreaded job of taking down all the Christmas decorations and reclaiming our house. Gotta run, there are things to do.