I Get it, I Get it!

What we’re trying to control is much better off without us, and what we’re trying to fix can’t be fixed by us anyway.

“Ah crap.”

The words leapt off the page like a 2 x 4 to the noggin and confirmed what the little voice in the back of my head had been attempted to shout at me for the past few days.  It had done cartwheels, loop-de-loops and tried its darndest to get my attention; but it wasn’t until that moment, while attempting to relax on my balcony with the usual cup of tea and reading a book by Marinane Williamson that I had to accept the “let it go and roll with it” message that had been trying so desperately to be heard:

  • The more important it is to us, the more important it is to surrender. 

  • We don’t have to be struggling all the time.

  • Surrender means, by definition, giving up attachment to results.

The paint balls of truth were being shot at an unforgiving speed and I covered my head looking for mercy exclaiming, “I get it I get it.”  Even this stubborn redhead couldn’t miss the truth staring right back at her… I need to breathe, let it go, and like Steve Winwood sings, just roll with it baby.

I had only been back to work for three days and feeling hog tied because the recommended gradual return had me only scheduled for 1/3 days.  To the average person, this sounds reasonable, and wise, but to this all or nothing full speed ahead girl, it felt like a punishment and had popped my internal bouncy castle.

The message of surrender that I had been bucking so hard first made an appearance when without thinking, I climbed the stairs to the second floor at work only to have to stop half way laughing and completely out of breath because my heart was making my head spin and it felt like I had just climbed half way up Everest. Huffing and puffing while holding onto the railing I saw that I was trying to be my pre-cancer self in my post-cancer world.  Returning to work had been like entering another dimension, and it had sucked me through hyper-space landing me right back into my old habits of rushing, trying to force things to happen, and feeling frustrated for frustrations sake.

But standing there on the landing between floors I realized that not only was there a fresh coat of paint on the walls, new computer programs for me to learn, and new faces adorning the hallways, I was different as well.  I’m proud of how I have dealt with my cancer journey, taking things as they happened, not making assumptions, accepting help, rolling with the crazy and just munching on the elephant bite I was on at the time.  Worrying about what could happen wasn’t an option, manipulating a situation because I think I knew best didn’t cross my mind, and the more I just focused on being happy through it all, the more I realized that things always happen exactly as they need to. 

It may sound funny, but surrendering to the cancer journey was easy, after all, I had never done it before, and was truly at the mercy of those who knew what they were doing.  Transitioning back into a familiar life while learning a new body, new reactions, new priorities, and a new job it becomes work to ignore that sinister little voice judging me and continually reminding me, “well that’s not how you used to do it.”   If ever there was a time to be kind to myself and roll with it, it is now.

Me being me, even with the realization I had stranded between the sets of stairs, it took a number of days, a frustrated inner voice and Marianne Williamson’s book to finally have me waving the white flag, admitting that maybe, just maybe I didn’t know what was best, and needed to take it all as it comes. 

So, while I sat with my cooling cup of tea, finally hearing and accepting the message, with gratitude I said good-bye to the person I was, and welcomed the adventure of getting to know who I am now. 

And who I am now not only needs to walk slower, but she needs an elevator!

My First Time...

I couldn’t sit. I was too zippy, so I ignored the stools provided and just leaned on the high counter staring out the window fully alert and holding onto my hot chocolate for dear life.  I’ve never done anything like this before, but here I was at Tim Horton’s after having contacted a perfect stranger, anxiously waiting for them to arrive to complete the transaction.  Looking around the bustling famous franchise, nobody seemed to suspect what I was about to do; I couldn’t believe it myself.  Yet here I was, in Kitchener after driving an hour and a half surviving the wicked 401 traffic flirting with the option of bolting while stress eating a chocolate dip.

Then my cell jumped to life with a text and broke my whirling thoughts, ”I’m pulling up in a gray SUV.” 

My blood went cold and I felt my fight or flight response go into hyper aware and protective mode, after all this was my first time, and I didn’t know what to expect.  Was I crazy for doing this?  I could still just leave, after all, no money had changed hands.  I kept reassuring myself that I picked to meet in a public place that police officers frequent for a reason. I wasn’t going to turn back now. 

I saw the vehicle pull into the Tim Horton’s parking lot that was buzzing with the after work rush hour crowd desperate for a caffeine fix and carrying my first ever purchase from Kijiji. 

It was that time of year again, time for the annual Wasaga Dance for Miracles and I was fully intending on going overkill with my costume.  The theme was Las Vegas, and combined with my secret obsession with vintage wedding dresses, there was no question in my mind that I was going as a bride.  Hours scouring Kijiji, Value Villages, and Facebook Marketplace all brought me to this point.  The dress had only been worn once in 1988 and was perfectly preserved in its original storage box. The delightful woman who was selling it said that it was just taking up space and was happy to off load it. 

As I looked trough the clear window on top of the box I began to get giddy at seeing the explosion of ruffles, protruding pearls, full rosettes and an actual hat veil.  I had already tried on countless dresses that had been fitted for the stick figure starved bride and been disappointed, so there was no questions I would need to try it on.  The owner was happy to let me bust the dress out of its pristine packaging and told me to feel free to take it inside to the bathroom; but there was no way this massive pile of fabric would be able to be manoeuvred around a wee Horton’s bathroom.  Like the good uptight girl scout that I am, I had anticipated this issue and came prepared wearing leggings and tight tank top hidden under my sweater; I was going to try on this tulled delight right there beside the Timmy’s Drive through.  In this moment, the fact that I have no pride and very little shame came in quite handy.

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Once the dress was on, the backed-up drive through began a chorus of honking horns and hanging out of their windows shouting their congratulations. With animated arms I attempted to explain that I wasn’t actually getting married, but it was a loosing battle. Tossing my hands in the air with surrender I began thanking them all like I had just won the lottery. Why pass up on an opportunity to celebrate? Even though it was an illusion, it was putting smiles on all of our faces and was a heap full of fun.

I began the long drive home with a puffy mother of all tulle dress filling my trunk, and the glow of satisfaction on my face.  There was no surprise to me that this woman was a fellow breast cancer survivor, and we spent a great deal of time sharing our experiences while I stood there looking like a pile of swans and the honking continuing around us.  She became another soul to add to my ‘glad we strangers connected’ list.

How was my first time you ask? Wasn’t what I expected, but admit it was successful enough that I would be shopping on Kijiji again… maybe next time Royal Doulton china could be involved.

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One Job!

I stood in my bathing suit, make-up-less, at 11:00 pm at the front desk doing my best to be charming and make the wonderful lady behind the desk feel sorry enough for me to help. My brother had ONE JOB, and that was to be in charge of the tickets to Universal Studios; yet, here I was after accidentally discovering we needed actual printed copies batting my mascara-less eyelashes and crossing my fingers.

Thanks to Disney’s brilliant hospitality, very little bewitching was needed from me before the cast member behind the desk was happily offering to print the tickets for us.  Little did she realize that by offering to help me, she was also going to inherit my lousy luck with technology and what should have taken 30 seconds morphed into a 45 minute comedy of errors.

  • First, her printer stopped working.

  • Then, we emailed it to a manager to print off at another printer… email wouldn’t go though.

  • Then, we emailed it to another manager… email still wouldn’t go through.

  • Then, we tried a printer connected to wifi, and although it looked promising, half way through the print, the printer it ran out of ink.

  • Finally, we made one more email attempt to yet another address…. and voila, tickets!

Oddly enough, no part of me was agitated or annoyed at the circus that was being created, after all, brothers will be brothers and technology will always be my nemesis; instead I truly enjoyed the visit I had with the front desk diva as the manager ran around like a chicken with his head cut off on my behalf.  Our chin wag covered a myriad of topics from family, to how we became the people we are today and included both laughter and tears ending with a supportive, ‘you’ve got this’ hug.

My favorite thing to bring home from any trip are people. I collect selfies with strangers like baseball cards, because they remind me that life really is about connection, kindness and knowing we are all in this together. Just like gems lose their jagged edges by rubbing up against other gems, I believe I become a better person with every individual I share a moment with.

Along with Lacharite, the Queen of the front desk, I brought home a fellow breast cancer survivor who just came up and embraced me like a long lost cousin after reading my ‘celebrating cancer free’ button and Bud, who I believe was the inspiration for the sloth in Zootopia along with being the most endearing of all the Magic Kingdom cast members. Each person I collect may have their own unique story but we share the fact that we all have good days, bizarre days, off the hook ridiculous days and are all just doing the best we can with what we are given.

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The next night when we arrived back to the resort beaten down by the obscene Florida humidity, I was greeted by the fullest, most decadent bouquet of flowers I have ever seen. Although the card said it was magic from the resort staff, I knew that there was one Tinkerbell in particular who was behind it all. Lacharite told me later that she wanted to contribute to my celebratory week and what better way than with a surprise.

Our stories may be different, but connection can always be made when we realize that at our core we are all love.

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Great Intentions...

I had my labour day all mapped out and busting with great intentions.

  • First… I wanted to jump into my work email and get caught up with over a year and a half’s worth of emails, memos and attempt to get my head out of hospital mode and back into some form of work one.

  • Second…I wanted to finish editing my musing so all I had to do Tuesday morning was post it so I could focus on the grand 1/3 return to work.

  • Finally… I wanted to switch on my super binge knitting mode to get a jump start on a baby blanket for a friends baby that is due in October.

It was a day to stay put, get on top of things, and take advantage of my sunny balcony.  But life did what it normally does when I think I’m organised and on top of things, it treats me like a game of Janga and begins pulling away the pieces of my great intentions one by one. 

So what really HAPPENED…

  • was being totally tech blocked by my employer with a new shiny computer program that decided I have to do extra somersaults to get past the firewall.  So, no work email for me!

  • was my computer randomly shutting down mid-edit pulling some bizarre sort of hissy fit refusing to turn back on.  She was on strike and holding my blog captive.

  • was discovering that I had abandoned my cable hook at my moms the night before. But after keeping me away from working and writing no way was I going to allow life to cripple my Lollapalooza of knitting days. I dug deep into the abyss of my knitting bag and found a re-enforcement, pulling it out with a triumphant ‘a-ha’ and feeling like I at least had one victory under my belt.   

Before getting my knit-on, I sat calmly staring at my lifeless computer and laughed. It never matters how good my intentions are or how anxious I am to accomplish something, life always seems to be reading from a different user manual for me than I am. More importantly, I’m okay with that, because no matter how different something looks than I intended, or no matter how many twists and turns are tossed in my direction, in the end, I always end up exactly where I need to be. 

Lessons come from the most paradoxical of places, whether it is the beginning or ending of a relationship, an opportunity presents itself, or disappears, I lose something, or I discover something, there is always something new to learn if I’m open and willing to see it.

Although I’m not sure yet what the lesson is for me with my tech-catastrophe yesterday (except for the fact that I should be using Google docs instead of my desktop), I do know that a day of rest before jumping back into life was exactly what I needed.

Holding on for Dear Life!

I was clutching onto my left breast for dear life cursing an 8:30 am hospital appointment less than 24 hours after my port removal surgery.  I was feeling the full effect of an article I read years ago awarding Hamilton with third place in the ‘who has the worst roads in Canada’ competition, as with every minor bump, bounce and crevasse gravity pulled cruelly at the incision.  I drove like I was in the 80’s game Frogger dodging this way and that desperate to avoid potholes, but the only thing bringing some form of relief was holding onto the surgery sight like it was the last cupcake on earth.

It was only a month earlier that I had sat in front of a confused oncologist who pointed to the port still happily nestled in my chest and asked,

“What is that still doing in you?”

According to her records it was removed a week after my final treatment, but there I was, a permanently bruised lump under my skin waving for all the world to see. 

It was surprising to me how attached I’d become to the bumpy triangle shaped piece of plastic with its un-natural length of tube for a tail.  I remember the colour draining out of my face and a million questions parading through my head back in April when to my dread I was told that it would be removed ASAP after my final warming of the chemo chair.  I tried to cover the ports ears, but the cheer emanating from the oncologists as she explained the removal was undeniable and I felt like my niece when you attempt to take away her favorite worn and dirty blanket, protective and flipped out.

It was strange, because no part of me expects to ever need it again, but this plastic knobby contraption has been my partner in crime through treatments, blood work, inappropriate comments to hospital staff and every surprise turn… and now it’s just being taken? 

Luckily for me miscommunications, lost requisitions, and assumptions all played key roles in the delay of the surgery, giving me two extra months to tote the port around and allowing my head the opportunity to catch up with what my body has been doing over these past 20 months.  No amount of manipulating on my part could have gifted me with this extra time; it was all trust, deep breaths and goin’ with the flow.

Timing continues to be a lesson for me. The truth is, the less energy I waste worrying about things I have no control over, the more I see that things happen exactly as they need to, and often with more ease than I ever could’ve dreamed up.

Now, as I was driving port free, doing all I could to bring relief to the fresh incision and avoiding eye contact with the passers by whose befuddled reactions confirmed how crazy I must have looked, I just smiled because the only thing I was holding onto for dear life for anymore was my chest.

Surgery day happening exactly when it needed to!  …and of course with my beautiful mom who hasn’t missed a treatment.

Surgery day happening exactly when it needed to!

…and of course with my beautiful mom who hasn’t missed a treatment.

Celebrating like always after another step… normally it’s with tea and scones, but this day we needed something MUCH stronger!

Celebrating like always after another step… normally it’s with tea and scones, but this day we needed something MUCH stronger!

Faint of Heart Saves Bank!

“Seriously, be quiet or they’ll kick you off the ride!”

Wise words from my saje brother who was just trying to keep me from being booted off of a ride that I’ve been waiting five years to experience. But I couldn’t help laughing out loud and saying, “but the warning sign is half about me!”

The warnings about this wild Harry Potter ride in Universal Studios were first displayed on a robust sign before entering the hallways of Gringotts, then again read aloud right before committing to the ride by a goblin hologram for those who defiantly ignored the massive entry sign. This ride was taking extra measures to ensure that whomever dare to dawn a foot onto this wizarding extravaganza knew what they were stepping into.  I was mesmerized; never before had I given ride warnings a second glance, and now it read like my resume:

  • Heart Condition… check

  • Abnormal Blood Pressure… check

  • Dizziness… check

  • Physical conditions… grey area

  • Recent Surgery… check (but what’s recent, really?)

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But wait…I’m not an expectant mother, and fog or strobe effects don’t affect me! 

Seeing that it was practically a tie between what I have and don’t have, I walked into the elaborate fictional bank with confidence and fully prepared to take on whatever Gringott’s had to offer.  I was carrying half of the warnings AND going to break the rules by going on the ride anyway… it was a big day for this follow-the-rules-to-the-letter girl.  But as my brother continued to patiently point out, I wouldn’t be able to do either if I continued to boisterously announce to everyone in the lineup that I wasn’t about to let a heart condition hold this muggle back from saving the wizarding bank from a fire eating dragon! 

What ended up amazing me was how alive I felt by doing something in spite of warnings, in spite of what others were telling me, and in spite of that little voice that likes to cut me off mid-adventure with guilt and Pollyanna proper-ness. It wasn’t like I was breaking a rule that was destructive or harmful, rather, I was allowing myself to take their advice into consideration and then making a decision based on what I knew I was capable of doing.

It’s so easy to use other peoples opinions as an excuse to miss out on unfamiliar opportunities, but the truth is, I’m the only one who really knows what is best for me, and life is fuller and more enjoyable when I choose to be curious and brave over scared and safe.

In the end, not only did I survive the ride and save Gingott’s bank from fiery danger… I went back and did it a second time.

Cake-A-Palooza

Friend: My dad’s disappointed that you didn’t show up for karaoke.
You’re in the bad books now. Sucker.

Me: I thought it was THIS Saturday?!
I’ll bake him a cake and all will be forgiven.

Friend: Correcto mundo all will be forgiven with cake.

Me: ON IT!!

It was a friendly, innocent text exchange solving a life blip like I normally do; with something baked and drenched in sugar.  I raced home, ransacked my baking cupboard, and discovered I only had enough ingredients for one chocolate or two vanilla cakes and would have to make a random coloured buttercream icing instead of the fudgy chocolate one I’ve worked so hard to perfect.  No problem, as long as the cake was at least chocolate, I could receive partial absolution. 

I live in a building that enjoys social gatherings such as; euchre, darts, the occasional rowdy BBQ and in this case, I was after forgiveness for missing a karaoke night.  To be honest, I take the sport of singing popular songs over pre-recorded backing tracks a little too seriously.  Having a history in music, I put a bizarre pressure on myself to be the dark horse who performs, like Susan Boyle who caused a wave of shock around the world when she uttered her first notes.  I don’t like to perform unless I’ve practiced at my piano, in the shower, to my dust bunnies and in the grand stage of my car. So honestly, the fact that I mixed up the dates (thank you chemo fog) had me a bit relieved.

The cake baked perfectly and all I needed to do was shave a little off the top to make sure the layers sat even, wait for it to cool, then zip it upstairs to beg forgiveness.  Now, shaving a cake is a little like choosing to cut your own bangs, you need to proceed with much caution and plan for only one precise cut, any more than one always ends in disaster.  To my delight, the cut was another feat of perfection.  As I set the cake on the cooling racks feeling quite proud of myself, I couldn’t help but pop a bit of the shavings into my mouth as a reward… wait… that doesn’t taste right. Where’s the usual mouthwatering chocolaty goodness? What is this?  Double checking that my taste buds weren’t playing a cruel trick on me I inhaled the last bit of shaving and confirmed…all I could taste was baking powder. 

So much for the perfect cake.

Anxiously glancing at the clock, I still had time to bake another and get it up to the karaoke-disappointed-neighbours on the eighth floor without having to wake them up to deliver it. The cake would now have to be vanilla, but I figured by combining copious amounts of sprinkles on top of the cake with my shameless grovelling they would easily be distracted from the lack of chocolate excellence. 

I tossed the pathetic excuse for a chocolate cake into the trash and began whipping out what I needed for cake numero deux.  Chucking all of the ingredients into the silver bowl, I whisked and blended, but as I was heading over to my electric mixer I stopped dead, “well that isn’t right.” Looking at the batter I realized I made a fateful error with the eggs and now my mixture was crazy wet.  I knew I could probably manipulate the recipe and make it work, but after the first cake fiasco, I wasn’t going to take any chances.  I would have to make a third cake.

I put a plastic bag over the mouth of the bowl full of useless cake batter and turned it upside down to speed up the process of emptying it, but of course, the pesky bag decided to jump out of the way and I found myself looking at my counter covered in the thick ruined vanilla batter.  Yup… about right.

After I rescued my kitchen from the free range batter, the measuring, mixing, and planning all started for the third and what would be the last time since I was down to the final bits of my ingredients.  Then with dismay, I realized I was officially out of eggs.  With determination fueling me, I put on a bra, grabbed my wallet and hot-tailed it to the corner store to buy the needed shelled ingredient. I wondered how a day that was going so well could take such a drastic turn, but refused to be bested by a baked good.

The final cake appeared to be fine.  Although one half was thicker than the other, I decided the bright blue icing would easily mask that silliness.  With the ticks of my loud mantel clock filling my condo I feverishly began icing.  I can do this!

Then… there was a knock on my door.

Halting mid-icing swipe, I rushed to the front door while wielding a Tiffany blue icing covered knife to see my neighbours standing there giddy with delight at my insanity.  All evening, I’d been keeping their son abreast of my cake-a-palozza and they seemed to enjoy my foible filled evening more than the anticipation of actually getting the cake.  While I put the final icing touches onto the third cake, I repeated the story of my evenings wacky antics and with a final flair (and much relief), I handed over the cake and crossed my fingers that it was actually cooked properly. My fabulous neighbours left my home, cake and amusement in hand, and I just laughed.

Knowing point A & point B has never been a problem for me, but, the journey between the two points tends to be full of surprises, sidetrack and where the real adventure lies. This is why I will always be a journey girl instead of a destination one, because that’s where all the fun happens.

The Paperwork Hoedown

I stood dumbfounded in the frozen food isle of Costco with my jaw sitting on the less than sanitized floor and my eyes preparing for the Bellagio water show-esque waterworks;  “What do you mean you didn’t receive the paperwork again?” At this point I had lost track of how many times I had been spun around by the paperwork jig;

And a…1….but you need this,

And a…2…but you are missing that,

And a 3… but we didn’t receive this,

And a 4… but we already sent that.

It’s been a confusingly muddled and endless dance to get papers from one person to another and just when I think things are solved and all hunky dory, I find out that once again the head of this beast has no idea what the tail is doing.  This paperwork hoedown has turned out to be a full time job in itself, and the cardio isn’t nearly as rewarding as the hootenanny’s with my line dancing peeps.

I hung up the phone from being told that once again the paperwork I worked so hard to get transferred to them had been misplaced, and I was feeling like a parent pitted between her two children as I listen to one blaming the other for breaking this, and loosing that. All that was left for me to do was stop.

It struck me that all of this anxiety and stress was coming from deadlines that belonged to someone else and other peoples inability to organize all while preying on my type ‘A’ personality to do everything in the right and proper way. Enough. I was officially letting go of pushing, unnecessary problem solving and using deadlines of others to dictate the levels of my panic mode.  To be honest, the more I was attempting to smooth out each and every little bump, the more tangled it all became.  It was time to stop kicking in the quicksand. 

Wanting to fix things and do things ‘right’, is a lifelong habit of mine and it seems to always involve me attempting to stuff very hexagonal pegs in extremely round holes.  It’s exhausting!

It’s exhausting,

  • assuming I always know what is best in a situation.

  • limiting my perspective because I’m fixated on an outcome.

  • fighting with a reality that isn’t changeable because… it’s reality.   

One of my mantras with cancer involves treating the journey like eating an elephant, only focusing on the bite I’m on at any given time. And it amazes me how by approaching it in this ‘staying present kind of way’, that phone calls come at the right time and coincidences happen when they are most needed; it’s like the more I surrender to the reality around me, the smoother it all goes.  Time to take my elephant biting philosophy into everyday life.

I’m done forcing things to happen.  It doesn’t mean that all of a sudden I’m going to become complacent and irresponsible; I will always do what I need to do, and follow up when necessary, I’m just done thinking things should be one way when they are really another.  So the new dance will be more of a fluid foxtrot,

And a 1… no more fighting with reality, and taking life as it comes. Why fight with life when I can dance with it?

And a 2… if I can do something about it, then I do it, and if I can’t do anything, I let it go!

And a 3… always remembering that even if I’m not happy about something, things always seem to work out and I end up being exactly where I need to be.

And a 4… no matter what is going on in my life, I always have only one job… to be happy.

Let’s dance!

Me Too!

“Can I ask you about that?”

I barely had that chance to comprehend the question before the strangers peter pointer was hovering over the protruding port in my chest that had been surgically implanted in order to receive my cancer treatments like a bionic woman.  She eagerly waited for me to reply while standing in my personal space bubble with questions dancing in her eyes. I hadn’t even realized that the dress I was wearing had me ‘showing port’ and flashing my radiation tattoos like a proud biker, but looking down I saw them both waving to the world and now being examined by a keen stranger.

Knowing today was going to be one hot tamale, I decided to hit the street early and walk around the quaint wee village of Jordan before my heart slapped me with fatigue forcing me back indoors to my couch in order to bask in the glories that is air conditioning.  Heat has always made me a bit loopy, but with a heart not firing on all cylinders, my fatigue has a very special ‘100 year old woman needing an asthma inhaler and walker’ quality about it.

Being the open book that I am, I swiftly switched into story teller mode prepared to give a well-practiced speech about the past 20 months of my life, but the moment I said the opening words, “I’ve been in treatment for cancer…” she cut me off with recognition flashing across her face and announced quite gleefully, “me too” like she had just won the lottery and found a kindred spirit.  What followed was a lengthy conversation in an empty store between two cancer patients exchanging battle scars with her adorable 88 year old friend listening with fascination because she herself had never experienced any kind of physical bump during her many years.

As the tennis match of a conversation bounced back and forth, each statement was met with an enthusiastic “me too” discovering our treatments and bodily reactions to the highly drugged circus were twins.  I found this wildly bizarre since one of the very uniquely annoying things about cancer treatment is that it’s as individual as a finger print for everyone who experiences it.  But as it turns out, we shared the type of cancer, how it was treated, how our bodies reacted to each step of the process, heart failure and the same doctors in the cardiology ward. The only real difference, outside of our ages and the fact she’s married with children and I’m flying solo, is that she could keep her faculties about her when talking with Dr. Delicious. I still drool, pray my legs are hairless and “humina humina” my way through our conversations! 

It was our own version of a ME TOO movement and I loved that although I knew nothing about this 65 year old woman, we just ‘got’ each other.  That has been one of the most amazing things about this experience, the strangers I connect with instantly, the random gab sessions in the most obscure of places and the wonderful powerful realization that I am never alone. No matter what I experience in this surprising life, it is comforting knowing there is always a ‘me too’ out there I connect with.

Her 88 year old friend continued listening with amusement claiming that she’d never be able to get herself through such an ordeal.  But that’s the funny thing about the human spirit, we don’t’ know what we are capable of until it is licking us on the nose and we have to deal with it. Strength, support and joy are always there for the taking. The impressively healthy friend then announced that she was tremendously grateful for her life, and now connecting with her, I energetically replied, “ME TOO!”

Ashton Kutcher?

I sat surrounded by members of the Juravinski Cancer Centre at a retreat waiting for someone to pop up, point at me and tell me I was being punked. 

I assumed twenty years in education being on committees, participating in countless professional development days and escapes out of the school to the board of education would have prepared me for a retreat in the healthcare world. But as I sat listening to one of the thoughtful speakers I realized that I had stepped into an alternate universe.

The most obvious difference was that the attendees included an equal number of surgeons, assistants, nurses, family practitioners, patients & specialized doctors and I had no idea who did what.  Our name tags only announced our names, and nobody was asking the cocktail question, “so, what do you do” in order to label each other... well, except for me who was wildly fascinated by it all.  Egos had been left at the door, and the 60 of us were like members of King Arthur’s court sitting at the round table, equal.

Everyone was engaged, we all laughed together, and the space created allowed everyone to feel comfortable being vulnerable with their experiences or questions. Coming from a profession where title is king, people get exercise by rolling their eyes throughout meetings, thrive on negativity and watch the clocks as they text who they are meeting afterwards, this was amazing and I was enamored by my view. 

Then just when I didn’t think the day could get any better, something happened that still has my head spinning.  Although we were scheduled to be there until 3:30, at 3 the grand Poobah stood up, thanked us profusely for our time, recognized the challenge it is to take a day away from whatever job that had been left behind, and announced the day was done.  He recognized that we were saturated, and there was no benefit to pushing though another 30 minutes. I frantically searched the room for Ashton Kutcher to jump out to announce the grand joke, but as I watched people filter out of the room, I realized that this was for real.  We weren’t being held captive, weren’t told that we owed them time, and I wasn’t given what we didn’t cover to take home to do for homework.  We were just done. 

I sat in my car after a powerful day of information, conversation, building relationships and a little kibitzing knowing that this is the kind of job I want; a job that puts equal value on all positions, a job that creates an open and safe space and a job that values my time, energy and contributions.  It felt revolutionary and shattered any assumptions I had about our healthcare system. 

I then realized that it doesn’t matter what job I return to, because I am the one who gets to decide what it feels like.  I’m the one doing the job, I’m the one who decides how I do it, and I’m the one who has to live with me at the end of the day. Joy isn’t something I’m working towards achieving, it’s the biggest asset I bring to the table. So it doesn’t matter what job I do, I will do it with joy, or I won’t do it at all.  And frankly, if I could make happiness a priority during a cancer journey, I sure shooting can bring joy back to education!

Trust Me

It was a simple question; one that I thought was worth dropping to my oncologist because of how many other people had asked it of me:

When I’m done this fourth treatment, how do we test whether I’m cancer free?

I mean, there would be testing right? They must have some super high tech thing-a-ma-bob that does a violating scan of my body to tell me that, “yup, we got the rascals.” After all, at this point I’ve experienced some brilliant wack-a-do machines doing some bizarre things to me in order to help conveyor belt me though this experience, so I was expecting the final machine to be Steven Spielberg impressive. 

But, the answer I received was as simple as the question I posed:

“We just assume we got it all.”

Wait… what?  Assume?  As a kid I was always taught that ‘assuming’ had implications that would make me look as bad as the person I was having them towards; well, that and it gave me the rare accepted opportunity to swear while rhyming off how it made an “ass of you and me.”  So when the Oncologist looked at me and used ‘that’ word, I immediately felt myself morphing into Donkey from Shrek, “is this another one of those onion things” you know, a final cancer puzzle to challenge my chemo addled brain?

My oncologist gave me a highly amused look that she uses with me often and explained their assumption is based on my four months of ugly chemo, two months of radiation, twelve months of Herceptin, remaining in hormone treatment for 5-10 years and their countless years of research.

Although it made perfect sense, it still broke my heart a wee bit to discover that being considered cancer free was being pinned on the fact that she was following a formula from some dusty old textbook from her fourth year in med school. Like Hermione concocting a spell from her Book of Spells; simply follow the steps, add some personal flair, release a dramatic abracadabra and voila, cancer free. 

In order to give myself a chance to process this grand assumption, I sat down in the cancer center atrium and took a mental inventory:

4 Major treatments with all their glamorous side-effects,

Countless pills, needles, and invasive poking,

1 Heart being put into failure

And 10% of a lung now nuked and now useless, shattering any dreams of being the next American Idol,

Trusting that all of the above worked… priceless.

I dropped the word ‘assume’ and replaced it with ‘trust’.  Trust in the experience of my healthcare team, trust in the know-how of the hospital staff and trust that when I said at the beginning of this journey a happy ending was my one non-negotiable during this unpredictable experience, that that is exactly what I am getting. 

It’s natural to desire a guarantees in life, but it’s when I rely on non-existent absolutes that I become inflexible and things tend to go wonky.  Life is fluid, ever changing, and choosing to role with it instead of resisting it, makes the ride so much more enjoyable.

So, looks like you are all stuck with me… because I am cancer free.  Trust me.

 
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My Dust Kickers

I’m surrounded.  Seriously, surrounded. 

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After a night of celebrating being finished with the BIG chair, one of my favorite people said she was reminded about a story she read on Facebook. It’s about female elephants in the wild and how when one is giving birth her female peeps gather around her so she can’t be seen in the middle. The circle of rowdy friends then stomp and kick up dirt to throw off any possible attackers or predators from the scent so she can give birth in peace.  They are a wall of thunderous protective Mama’s and the message is clear, if a threat wants to get at the vulnerable child-bearer they will have to somehow Kool-Aid man through the wall of raging friends first. 

This is how exactly how I’ve felt over the past 19 months; surrounded by people who have been seething on my behalf and fighting for me when I don’t have the energy to do so myself. But unlike the elephants, I don’t have a single posse to kick up the dust, I have multiple herds to protect me. Whether it’s my biological family, my chick crew, my dance family, my chosen family, each one of them have been protecting and supporting me in their own special way. 

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My herds banned together to make that protective circle around me, daring cancer to attempt to break through their fierce protection. And cancer took that dare by becoming aggressive, spreading, and attacking my heart, but in the end, it didn’t stand a chance against the crazy protective tantrum of my dust kickers. These people love me for who I am (crazy shoe fetish and all), support my wacky antics and there was no way they were going to let cancer get the best of me. They’ve kept me safe so I can concentrate on my treatments, protecting me from ignorance, sheltering me from emotions that have no part being on this journey, and always ready and excited to jump in when needed.

I am blessed.

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I can never say enough about the wonderful people that surround me.  These wild wonderful folks have my back, proving over and over again that there is power in community.

Keeping with the ‘shoe’ theme of this journey, I’ve been saying that the people in my life have been my shoehorn throughout; there to support me when I need it, guide me through the crazy, and force me into places I don’t think I fit!  

I am over flowing with gratitude for every hug, message, call, cup of tea, dinner, flower, thoughtful gift, and specifically for each and everyone of my dust kickers.  

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Gratitude Tsunami

I stood and just looked at it, the big beautiful shiny bell, attempting to comprehend its significance before collapsing in half from the weight of the past 19 months and allowing a tsunami of emotions to wash over me. 

There was never a doubt in my mind that the outcome to this journey would a happy one, the tricky part was getting from point A to point B.  And now, here I was at point B and it was a lot to take in.

I remained bent in half attempting to breathe, overcome with gratitude.  Grateful for,

  • being done having my chest continually punctured and sitting in the big, albeit comfortable, chair

  • the nurses that dropped what they were doing to rush out to be part of this moment with me

  • my family and friends who have shared this burden with me

all the while experiencing a movie playing in my head of all the decisions I’d made that were detrimental in keeping me here, alive in this moment and I was gracefully humbled.

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Finally pulling myself together, through tears of absolute relief and joy, I gave that bell all I had. 

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The next morning I stood looking out of my kitchen window feeling an expansive freedom that I could only assume is how a convict feels after they’ve been released from prison.  Total and absolute freedom.  No decisions to be made, no scrambling to be done, no rush to feel better only to be knocked down again, no pushing though or sucking it up, just a feeling of unlimited openness and space.  I felt more ‘me’ than ever before, and it was clear that this is a beautiful fresh beginning.

I felt peacefully aware and saw everything around me for the first time; I marveled at the ease of making a cup of tea, admired the colours in my counter-tops and almost hugged every decorative towel hanging in my bathroom, basking in the newness and just being thankful. 

I was struck with a profound ‘a-ha’ when I realized that how I’ve lived my life through cancer treatments should be how I always live: fully present, only focusing on the elephant bite at hand and making it my one and only job to be happy.  I thought they were survival techniques, but turns out, they are how I want to live my life.  Appreciating the moment I am in, leaving the past behind me, knowing these is nothing I can to about the future until it unfolds, and remember in any situation I have the power to be happy. Toss in a little, don’t take things personally, avoid making assumptions and always do your best, and this is how I always want to live my life.

Smiling to myself I realized, I had cancer, but… I survived.  And if I can survive this, then I’m going to be unstoppable.

Family party at the bell!

Family party at the bell!

Lori’s Angels

Lori’s Angels

Sweet Paradoxical Emotions

In a way, today is a musing-less day.  Not that I didn’t have my fair share of head scratching debacles this past week;

  • Someone pulled the every so cowardly hit and run to my beautiful car.

  • I had a Pheobe Buffay moment as I battled with the non-stop chirping of the fire alarm in my condo.

  • I practically blinded Gracie Rae with sun screen because I felt keeping her skin burn free was worth losing her sight over.

  • My computer decided to go on strike… so today truly almost was musing-less!

Yet, even with life giving me plenty of material to work with, my focus hasn’t been deterred from the fact that… today is my last official sit in the big chemo chair.

I’ve spent the past six weeks writing copious amounts of thank you letters for hospital staff and baking gratitude cupcakes, delivering them all bit by bit because as it turns out, each and every thank you and good-bye has been a powerful healing moment steeped in emotion that is overwhelming.  There’s a unique bond that is formed when you are cared for and I have a profound appreciation for this staff who understands exactly what I’m going through without even having to articulate it; this journey has been far more intimate than I anticipated.  Since this is clearly a mountain I’ve needed to climb, I couldn’t have been given better Sherpa’s than the staff in the chemo suite at the Juravinski Cancer Centre. 

Oncology and Cardiology remain stuck with me for another leg of the journey, but there’ll be no more bags of medication being pumped into my bionic chest, no more kibitzing with the ladies who painstakingly make the schedules, volunteers, orderly’s, or nurses and shoes that never made the cut to visit the chemo suite will be given other adventures to walk me through.  These visits have been my full time job and my life for 19 months. And today it is… done.  

This journey is a paradox of emotions because for every feeling I’ve experience I feel the complete opposite at the same time.  Simultaneously I’ve felt broken and strong, cowardly and brave, grief and delight, dejected and joyous, alone and loved, and now I feel excited and panicked.  Knowing this is celebration worthy on one hand, but on the other, anxious about no longer having the security of lethal medication being pumped into me to keep the cancer at bay, or relishing the sense of community being surrounded by my fellow cancer slayers.

I thought the most challenging life transition I’d been given happened when I received the cancer call, but as it turns out, moving forward past treatment is the most daunting. Even if my life appears to be heading back to some form of normal, I’m a completely different person doing it, and getting to know the new me is a whole new journey.

This has been the most challenging, excruciating, yet rewarding experience of my life and I look forward to discovering the lessons I am sure will pour out of this adventure. I’m overflowing with gratitude. Bring on the final chair sit.

So much for this being musing-less!

 
Chair Sit #4

Chair Sit #4

Chair Sit #10

Chair Sit #10

Chair Sit #19

Chair Sit #19

Litter Bandits

It was a perfect sunny day that was sandwiched between two rainy gray ones and I was cravin’ me some baby love.  Knowing my brother and sister-in-law were anxious to do some work on the outside of their house, I showed up to take Gracie off their hands making it sound like I was doing them a favor and not the other way around. 

With her baby doll in hand, I strapped Gracie into her handy dandy trike and just as we were about to take on the hood by foot, I noticed an envelope in the middle of the road.  I’m sad to admit my first thought was '“wahoo, Gracie has received early admissions to Hogwarts!” Followed by the humbling admission that although I think she is brilliant, it would be a number of years before an owl would be arriving on her doorstep.

Pulling myself out of my wizarding fantasy, a combination of curiosity and distaste for litterbugs had me meandering into the middle of the street to pick it up.  There wasn’t an address on the outside of the envelope, but I found one on the inside between a bold heading yelling “personal and confidential” and the cheerful sentence “congratulations you got the job”. 

The ‘inner mom’ in me automatically began picturing some poor individual missing their first big day at work, losing the job, not being able to pay for their mortgage and having to move back in with their parents all due to this one letter that went undelivered.  This could be a big deal for someone. My over-dramatic concern put me into super mail-woman mode and with my trusty side-kick already strapped into her baby-mobile, we set off to deliver the precious letter feeling good about being the secret saints in the matter. 

Walking away from our good deed and basking in its glory we started down the street.  Moments later a mini-van drove by and tossed some papers out the window and kept on driving.  Although they were obviously tossed out on purpose, there was a little part of me desperate to believe the good in people so I snatched them up and began waving them around hoping they would see me in their rear-view mirror, turn around and be crazy grateful that I flagged them down. But alas, the vehicle stayed its course leaving me dancing around in the middle of the road in a way that even embarrassed the one year old.

The situation continued to get more bizarre when upon closer inspection I noticed these papers had the same address on them as the envelope we had just graciously delivered. Does this neighbourhood have litter bandits? Mail mafia? Or just some really board teenagers skipping school to reek havoc with Canada post?

 Baffled, I did the only rational thing I do… I delivered it to their mailbox. 

Although part of me wanted to get passive aggressive and stick a note on top of the mail that said “thank you for not littering”, another part of me realized that I had no idea what just happened and my assumptions and judgments wouldn’t help anyone. All I could do was ask myself,

what is the kind thing to do?

Not everything in life makes sense, and when I attempt to understand the actions of someone else, I’m left with a futile action of chasing my own tail. I’m grateful that it isn’t my job to understand anyone’s actions but my own.

So, either Gracie and I made someones day or confused the daylights out of them… frankly, I’m good with either.

Ah Namaste

It amazes me how many of my realizations happen on a yoga mat! But here I am again…

Back on my yoga mat at my usual shavasana stomping ground I was breathing my way through a natrajasana twist when to no surprise my head began to wander; this time replaying my arrival to the studio that morning.  I had calmly arrived early, was giddy about getting the perfect parking spot just outside the studio which left my car facing the right direction to make an easy get-away, then slinging my overly colourful yoga bag over my shoulder and skipping across the street anxious to claim ‘my’ coveted spot on the studio floor.  A flawless arrival…except wait, go back, I missed a step… I didn’t put money in the metre?!  I was so drunk with joy over the great parking spot and eager to get ‘my place’ on the floor that I forgot it wasn’t a weekend and meters indeed need to be paid. 

How is this possible?  The first thought I had when I decided to attend a class was yahoo, I actually stock piled change so that I could avoid having to frantically run into a random store, purchase something I really didn’t want in order to make change to avoid a ticket.  Today, my pennies were all set and just waiting to be used.

But the really odd thing about this realization was that, I felt… nothing. 

Wait. Hold on.  I just realized that once again my foggy head has let me down but  it didn’t send me into a total frenzy?  My heart didn’t drop like the Tower of Terror and I wasn’t mentally smacking my forehead with the palm of my hand?  Nope.  Nothing.

The only thing I was feeling was sweat trickling in odd places from staying in a pose too long and total bafflement that I wasn’t over reacting.  I did a mental comparison:

OLD SELF… would have bolted out of the class the second I realized the oversight, running to the change room, desperately fishing in my purse for my keys, having to unlock the front door breaking a cardinal rule of the studio, zipping to my car across the street dodging the traffic like frogger, digging the change out from my cars console, running back to the studio keeping my fingers crossed someone hadn’t locked me out, and tiptoe myself nonchalantly back in back to my mat.  Of course along the way I would have had to stop a few times in the flurry to appease the light headedness my heart likes to create, would have been panting like I’d run a marathon when I got back into warrior one, and all sense of calm would have fled the scene

NEW SELF… I realized that the peace I was feeling, the workout I was getting and the energy I was enjoying from the sense of community was worth the price of any ticket.   I wasn’t going to let a simple blip harsh this yoga buzz.

Could it be I’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff?  Honestly, if getting a ticket was the worst thing to happen to me today, I was still in the running for a great day. 

Feeling blessed doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be snags along the way,
being grateful is most authentic when it’s felt for the unwanted,
and joy is experienced best when it remains the focus during the crazy.

Joy has become what holds the string to my balloon being tossed around in the wind kind of life… because no matter where the wind blows me, as long as joy is my core, I’m a blessed and grateful girl. 

Not only did I relish the rest of the body bending class, I took my time packing up and even stopped to have a wonderful chat with my yogini. I was the last one to leave the studio.  I smiled as I approached my fire engine red car seeing the ticket-less windshield looking back at me and genuinely appreciating the extra proof that someone really is looking out for me.

Mini Musing

Have you ever caught yourself making the same mistake over and over?

I sniffed the air smelling something plasticy burning and wondering why I was being surrounded by a cloud of smoke.  What were my neighbours up to now?  Then it hit me… right, I’m cooking a frozen meat pie.  Normally I like mine fresh and while I’m sitting in a pub in England, but this one’s from a local butcher, chunky and if I close my eyes I can hear the hustle and bustle of London streets; so it’s an acceptable substitute.

I threw open my oven frantically waving my arms about attempting to save my eyes from the billowing smoke all the while wondering what had gone wrong?  I did an instant replay in my head commentator style:

What a perfect day for a hearty meat pie!  With a confident ‘ding’ from the oven indicating that it has reached the perfect temperature, Lori is on it! She skillfully tears off the perfect length of wax paper to cover her bold choice of cookie sheet, unwraps the perfectly frozen pie and with an experienced hand, perfectly centres the pie in the middle of the oven rack.  Oven closed, timer on and the crowd goes wild!

Wait.  Did he just say WAX PAPER?  As the palm of my hand meets my forehead all I can think is, “not again!”  Why is it every time I want parchment paper I end up picking up and using the wax paper?  This is the third time I’ve done this over the past couple of months. I’m not sure how I did it, after all, they serve completely different functions, feel dramatically different and the word wax is in big bold letters on the box! 

Grateful I had a sister to the ruined pie in my freezer, I started over laughing at myself and paying much closer attention to what I was doing.

This is my life… when I don’t pay attention the first time a lesson is bound to repeat itself.  There used to be a time when I would fixate on my mistakes, and focus on my imperfections, but now, instead of being frustrated and beating myself up that sometimes I have to learn the same lesson repeatedly, I count myself lucky that life never has a problem giving me a do-over.   And that is what each morning is, a wonderful new chance to give it all another try.

Warning: Contents Explosive

I stood waiting anxiously for the cashier to get off the phone and ring up my purchase while she gave me an apologizing look accompanied by rolling her eyes indicating that the person on the other end of the phone was wasting both of our time.  Normally waiting is never a problem, I was raised to be polite, courteous and wait my turn with patience, but there was a situation brewing and I just didn’t have the time to give her.   

I’ve never been one for potty humour, and don’t actually like the word fart (it just isn’t lady like), but there was no denying it, very soon people who wanted to shop in this store would need to do so wearing hazmat suits!  Accompanying the cancer medication has been a whole new level of toxicity I never fathomed possible, its to the point that I believe I shouldn’t be allowed leave the house without wearing a shirt flashing WHIMS warning symbols: Hazardous, Compressed Gas, Flammable Material, Bio-hazardous!

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This wasn’t the first flatulent disaster I’d experienced that was medically induced and am mortified to admit the colon blowin’ stories from the past year and a half are endless;

  • from hot boxing my bestie in her car,

  • to having to suppress butt tubas with towels in friend’s bathrooms and emptying cans of air freshener,

  • to getting them trapped in my tights and attempting to walk normally all while discretely shaking my leg in order to work them out of the bottom of my pant leg desperate to escape the evidence.

It just isn’t right!!

Even if I try to suppress them Elena, my niece, likes to announce “Auntie toots” so that we are all clear who the culprit is. Once she announced that “Gracie stinks” which put my sister-in-law into instant ninja diaper change mode, forcing me to have to admit, “no dear, that was just your Auntie.” It’s been one embarrassing sulfur cloud after another.

Because of all the experience I’d already had accosting the noses of those around me, when I felt the thunder down under in that line, I knew the inevitable disgraceful outcome. Then I realized that joy of all joys, I was the only person in the store (besides the poor unsuspecting cashier).  Sensing that pinching and praying were losing their ability to suppress the evil any longer I knew the only option at this point was to ensure that if it was going to be deadly, I needed to make myself a cliché and at least make it silent. I’ve learned that if it’s silent I can pretend I have no idea what it is or where it came from and join those around me as we all desperately cover our noses, wipe tears from our eyes and assume we are just standing over a leaking sewage bed. 

The love puff slowly crept out of me and instantly announced its arrival with an insufferable aroma that took over the store; it was extra special. Normally something this vile would have me quickly, yet nonchalantly, leaving so I can make space for air to move in and escape the torture myself.  But just as I turned to go AWOL abandoning my purchase, I found myself looking into the eyes of a mother standing beside her teenage daughter right behind me.  Where in tarnation did they come from?  I was trapped.

I stood frozen in the haze of my own witches brew knowing full well that it was accosting the ladies behind me as I watched their noses twitch and desperately trying not to retch.  Then the cashier painfully smiled and invited me forward taking what felt like an eternity to ring me through.  I desperately dug through my wallet for cash to make the transaction go faster, but alas, it was the slow dial-up Interac for me.  All of my power went into not gagging as the fragrance danced freely around me and I could see pity on the cashiers face as she wondered if anyone had ever had the grade 9 talk with me about the proper way to bathe. 

With my package in hand I fled the scene of the crime smiling as I remembered a Robert Munch book I was once given in University as a joke from a friend who thought it amazing that the ‘F’ word growing up in my family was ‘fart’.  In Good Families Don’t, a little girl discovers that sometimes, good girls have farts after all.

There was no real lesson for me with this one, but there is a great one for those who are friends of a cancer patient… if we flee in the middle of a conversation, run, don’t walk in the complete opposite direction.

Dr. Seussing Disney

I’m going to Disney World!

Is the way I SHOULD have responded while throwing my hands up over my head hooting and hollering when my brother proposed we go to the happiest place on earth this summer to celebrate cancer treatments behind us and the fact that he and his wife just paid off their mortgage (a fact that kind of makes me want to throat punch him a little). 

How I ACTUALLY responded, was to burst into tears in front of my trusted travel agent and announce to her blank expression, “I just can’t do this!”   

I frantically fixated on the ticker tape of questions flying through my head in a Dr. Seuss like fashion.

Can I, should I on a plane?
Can I, should I with heart under strain?
Will they have to carry me here or there?
Will they have to carry me everywhere?

Seriously, I’m still in heart failure!  What about insurance? What about my medications, my blood clotting issues, my lack of energy, zip and physical strength? Visions of my family members taking turns between pushing my wheelchair and Gracie’s stroller went through my head, to which I gave myself a mental Cher Moonstuck slap to the head and told myself to “snap out of it!”

It was clear that I needed to go on a safari through my feelings in an attempt to explain why the idea of a ‘lovely fun in the sun much needed vacation’ didn’t instantly tickle me to my core.  What surprised me was that the answer wasn’t a grand profound realization accompanied by celebratory fireworks, it was simply the fact that this was the first official plan being made that fell after the last sit in the chemo chair.

Up until this point, my plans have revolved around each chemo-suite visit and deciding what shoes to wear to each appointment (there’s no surprise, that this is no small decision for me!)  Yes, I’m excited about starting a new life, inviting change into my world with a big sloppy wet kiss, but it wasn’t a reality until that moment.

I just needed to let go and write myself some good old fashioned permission slips. I needed to give myself permission to:

  • Let someone else do the planning.

  • To take it as it comes.

  • Look beyond that final chair sitting.

  • To feel how I needed to feel as I was feeling it.

  • To just be.

Although I’m always grateful for the lessons I get from my outlandish experiences, this time I’m thankful for being given a heads up  that the last day in the chair may be an emotional one and for once I can be prepare for it.  Because although I will be glad to be done, I will still experience the loss of the amazing person in that ward who I have grown quite fond of and will be moving forward into yet another unknown. A welcome unknown, but an unfamiliar one none-the-less.

I will have all my permission slips in hand when I ring that bell on June 11 and as the paparazzi shove their microphones in front of me begging the question, “Lori, you’ve beaten cancer, now what?” I will respond with a triumphant , “I’m going to Disney World!”

Energetic at the beginning of the trip in 2014…

Energetic at the beginning of the trip in 2014…

…exhausted at the end of the trip 2014!

…exhausted at the end of the trip 2014!

Commando All The Way

I rooted around the drawer with some desperate vigor, there had to be a hidden pair of underwear lurking that’d escaped my uptight drawer organization in here somewhere.  I purposely own enough underwear to supply an entire cheer-leading team to avoid this kind of situation, yet here I am, not a single undie in sight and a laundry basket bursting with my skivvies. As I boldly hunted through my collection of wild print push-up bras, sensible bandos and other unmentionables I mentally searched through my gym bag, purses, even knitting bags determined to uncover a back-up up pair of at least granny panties somewhere.  Then the gitch fairy smiled down on me and I burst out with a triumphant ‘a-ha’ yanking out a rogue pair hidden amongst my pantyhose and socks.

But my excitement quickly turned into dread as I realized that although the pair was brand new, adorably covered in coral and purple flowers, they had been part of a gift from my Nana over 12 birthday’s ago.  Yup, these puppies were going to take a lot of wiggling, stretching and determination to avoid instantly being converted into a thong.  Dreading the long day ahead wearing my panties of yore, I tried to convince myself that small underwear was better than no underwear at all.

Luckily enough they stayed out of my tushie, but that was only because they were securely lodged in the indents they were creating that I knew would leave red marks for days to follow.  I smiled as I accepted the metaphor, it was official; after cancer there will be no forcing myself into a former life, it just doesn’t fit anymore.

Even if I tired, when my life is no longer consumed with treatments, needles, and appointments I couldn’t go back to ‘normal’.  I can return to the same job, dance on the same floors, wear the same shoes, but I’ve changed therefore so has my life.  Normal is wonderfully no longer.

One of the many blessings for me in all of this is becoming friends with change.  I like that I will get to experience life with fresh perspectives, a different kind of bravery and more light heartedness than I ever have before.  I have a history of kicking and screaming or forcing myself to be a square peg in a round hole just to keep the status quo, which has only ever limited me. And limiting is no longer an option.

Now, all I can see is the freedom and ultimately fun that change will be.  I don’t have to have all the answers all the time, I don’t have to have it all figured out, and the less I try to control the more I see options I never knew were available to me. It was exhausting living my life digging my claws into the familiar when change was going to happen whether I dug in or not. 

For me, trying to find a normal after cancer would be like like trying to shove a 44 year old tushie into the underwear of a 30 year old, they may get up, but they would be confining, hold me back and make life unnecessarily uncomfortable.  I can’t wait to see how different life will be and what new adventures are waiting. Next time I find myself without a single pair of knickers to get in a twist, it will be commando all the way.