Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Early Morning

I seem to wake everyday between 3:30 and 4:00 am.

It's the time of day where everything is quiet. 

For the first few minutes I am at peace, and as i begin to wake up and remember my situation my brain starts racing. 

And Breathe. 

It goes from thought to thought.  Some of my thoughts this morning look like this: 

Never in my life did I think that I would have cancer.  
I have been around those with cancer.  I helped my father when he was sick with multiple myeloma.  Been a support for some of my dearest friends.  You see, I am good at taking care of others.  I am not good at being taken care of.  

I think about the language of cancer. Of the battle, of how we are going to kick it in the ass.  And how I feel confused about that language within my own body.  

I think about this slow growing tumour.  Sometimes I feel it, and I wish it was out of my body, not in it.   

I think about my dad a lot.  About how wrecked he would be if he were here.  But also about how much I miss him.  I remember the time i had my wisdom teeth out and how he made me chicken noodle soup.  

And i think about how strong people say that I am.  But none of this feels strong. It feels scary. It feels overwhelming. 

I try to stay positive. I listen to the sounds outside my window.  The birds begin chirping.  At first it's just one bird, and then they all start to chime in, as if it's their daily song to wake up to.  And then they start to quiet, the same way my brain does. 

My thoughts begin to slow down.  

I breathe. 
and I close my eyes. 
And try to find peace from these early morning thoughts. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Breathing Deeply

So, on Friday I had my first appointment with the Juravinski team. 

I was trying to keep myself busy before the appointment but it was proving to be a challenge. I have, in the past, been described as a "totally positive hyperactive over achiever" and in my work as a curator of events, a bookseller and an artist it has served me well. But in these days of waiting, I wish my mile a minute brain would just chill the heck out.  

The past three months prior to this diagnosis I started meditating. And the past few days these new ways of focusing have helped me quite a bit. 

When we walked into the clinic, I could barely breathe. You see, my mile a minute brain had convinced me that I was about to hear the worst diagnosis ever. Thankfully it was quite the opposite.

I have Stage 0 Ductal Carcinoma In Situ. I will have a lumpectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation. Of course after the surgery they do more tests to see that nothing has changed. If it has, we come up with another plan. 

According to my doctor, if you do have breast cancer, this is the best breast cancer to have. 

It's my 11th wedding anniversary today and we are at a cottage in Port Dover. I know that the coming months will be difficult, but for the next few weeks until the treatment begins, I plan to take care of myself emotionally and physically. I plan to see those I love dearly. I am going to eat healthy food. Tonight as I watch the stars above, for the first time in weeks I am breathing deeply.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Living Out Loud

I am a public person.  

I tell people stuff.  Lots of stuff, and even a bunch of stuff that might be pretty personal. 

I find it helpful to tell my stories out loud.  I know that this isn't everyone's way of dealing with serious matters like loss and sickness, but in my experience it is the only way to go.  I have the ability to be a big mouth girl and with that ability I find connections with others and it makes me feel less alone. 

I found out about my diagnosis at 5 pm on Friday.  By 5:30, I had a small army of friends and family texting, calling and sending messages any way they could.  By 6:00 I was reassured by many that I would be taken care of.  That I would not be alone.  That my family would be held up by my community during these difficult times.  

The next morning we decided to go to our favourite spot at the Hamilton Farmer's Market, pokeh.  We saw friends, ate yummy healthy food and picked up groceries from local farmers.  

As we drove towards the house, my phone dinged.  One of my dearest friends,  Dov had driven in from Toronto and was at the house waiting for me.  I was excited to see him and as we pulled up saw that he had brought me a whole bunch of balloons.  I believe there was 18 teal and purple balloons on my front porch.  Balloons! For my cancer diagnosis.  How amazing! I thought he had delivered them.  Nope, he said he wish he had. Turns out that was the brilliant work of Roisin and Ted. 

An hour later Margaret dropped of rhubarb cake. 

And later that afternoon,  Gary and Beth came by with flowers and an invite to dinner. Maybe even a bit of a demand to come for dinner. A gentle demand, of course, and one that I was so grateful for. 

As I went upstairs to change I was overcome with tears.  It wasn't a sadness per se, but more of an overwhelm of kindness and a deep deep gratitude.  Some of the people who showed up I have known for 20 years, others for only a year.  I was struck by how a community rallies when you need it.  

I know that not everyone will be able to deal with this diagnosis, this discussion and with me during this time.  I know that some people feel better saying nothing and not going into unknown uncomfortable territory.  And I don't judge people for it.  But for those willing to reach out and to take action, whether a text, or a facebook message, a balloon, a visit or a piece of cake, I thank you. 

I think that the next chapter of my life is going to be hard.  Very hard.  But with the help and love and support of this amazing community of people, I believe that I will be okay.  

One of my favourite quotes is the of french author Emile Zola, "If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.

Live out loud indeed. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Friday at 5

On Friday June 17, 2016 at 5 pm I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  

Three weeks prior I had found a lump on my right breast while reading In Between Days by Teva Harrison,  a graphic novel about a woman living with cancer.  Lying in bed I asked my husband if he could also feel the lump, and he said he could.  

Now, most of my life I have been a bit psychic-ish.  I have had dreams and thoughts about things that end up happening in real life.  I get deep gut feelings that tend to prove true and that night a little voice inside my head said "I think I have cancer."  

When I went to my doctor, she had informed me that she was 95% sure that it was a cyst but that we would go and have an ultrasound just in case.  A few days later she called me with the unfortunate news that it was in fact a small solid mass and that they were concerned.  

Two weeks later, after a biopsy and a mammogram, and she calls me into her office at 5 pm to give me the results.  

When I walked into the office there were only two other people there, and they were leaving.  One woman was crying, the other comforting her.  Most of the staff had gone and my doctor was waiting for me at the door to her offices.  

She calls my name and begins to walk briskly, about 10 feet ahead of me, almost running, and at that moment I just knew.  

When inside the badly decorated taupe office she delivered the news.  I have breast cancer.  According to her, it's a small growing tumour and perhaps I will just need a lumpectomy and radiation and then it will be done. I really hope this is true.  But remember that this is coming from the same woman who assured me that it was a cyst only weeks before.  I am looking forward to my next appointment on Friday at the Juravinski Hospital in Hamilton to find out more and connect with an oncologist to tell me what the next steps are. 

I am scared. 
I am angry. 
I just want to be with my son and my husband and my dear friends and family.  
I want to move forward and get to back to good health. 

On Friday I became part of a club that no one wants to be a part of but that many are.  

This blog is going to be about my everyday trials and tribulations.  About my life as an artist and mother and woman living with breast cancer.  It might be a bit funny, and sad, a bit up too much and most definitely honest.  It will be about the people i meet along the way, the thoughts and processes, and how I navigate this world of cancer and care.  

I can guarantee you that it won't always be fun, but it will be real.  

Welcome to the world of Pity Face.