My Dust Kickers

I’m surrounded.  Seriously, surrounded. 

IMG_1722.jpg

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. 

June 22 2019 Surprise Celebration! (33).JPG

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.

June 11 2019 (16).JPG

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.  

June 22 2019 Surprise Celebration! (50).JPG

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.

June+11+2019+%2835%29.jpg

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

June+11+2019+%2837%29.jpg
IMG_1643.JPG

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!

WHMIS-28_Certificate_Front_large.png

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.

44 and 28

As we were getting suited up to spend a luxurious day bouncing from hot tub to hot tub, vegging in different saunas, relaxing at fire pits and sitting in lounge chairs in a toasty room overlooking ponds and trees I turned to my friend and said, “see, even in my bathing suit on you can tell the difference!”  She took a step back to get a better angle in which to see my chest, and as her eyes darted back and forth trying to make sense of it all she burst out laughing, “totally!”  It was impossible to stifle our girlish giggles in the calm quiet change room and we were grateful that the in house ‘shh-er’ wasn’t wandering through.

The night before, when stepping out of the shower, I caught a glimpse of myself naked in the mirror and instead of my eyes doing the usual scar, polka dot tattoos, port inspection, I was struck by something I’d never noticed before.  I stood up straighter, squaring my shoulders and tilting my head sideways as I attempted to get a better look.  Interesting…

I raised one hand to cover my left breast so I could just concentrate on the right one, then switched hands to cover my right breast so I could see the left one clearer.  After a number of hand switches inspecting my ladies in isolation I stopped to see them as a pair once again and declared it official; my ladies are different ages. Although the left side looks like its proper 44 year old self having just begun making friends with gravity, the right side, the side that has endured surgery, and direct blasts radiation is looking like a breast of a 28 year old, all firm, perky and ready to take on the world. 

I couldn’t help but laugh out loud as I wondered if my radiologist would mind firing up the old radiation machine for some cosmetic radiation for my left side to make them a matching pair.   Seriously, is that too much to ask?

I would be lying if I said I didn’t wish my thighs wouldn’t rub together, or that my nose wasn’t permanently broken, but the truth is, even with adding lopsided breasts to my list of attributes, I’ve no reason not to just love my body exactly the way it is. Each scar, bump, birthmark, roll and wrinkle I’ve accumulated are uniquely mine, well earned, and I’m proud of each and every one of them.   Beauty has nothing to do with perfection, it’s knowing I’m beautiful because I’m perfectly one of a kind.

 
Arriving at the Scandinave Spa, lopsided breasts and all!

Arriving at the Scandinave Spa, lopsided breasts and all!

 

Exposed!

It might just be the teacher in me that tingles at the mere thought of a committee, but when it was suggested I interview for the Patient and Family Advisory Council at the Juravinski hospital I was all over it. A way to give back and feel supported all at the same time? Sign me up!

Turns out this group is made up of incredible people and with the hospital launching its new website, the Cancer Centre was eager to show off what we do. It was decided that a veteran of the group would be interviewed and then they would film the rest of us during a meeting to splice through the original interview.

Dressed up in polka dots, streetwalker red lipstick and a sparkly headband, I arrived the day of filming feelin’ fancy and good to go. All that was really expected of us, was to be ourselves as we addressed everything on our agenda and ignored the person with a camera roaming around room catching different angles and facial expressions.

Still basking in the after math of another great meeting when I got home, I began to get a feeling that something just wasn’t right. I reached up to the back of my neck in order to undo the little button holding my top together when my heart sunk. It wasn’t done up. Could it have been open the entire day?

The slit of my shirt extends half way down my back and without long hair as a distraction, this was truly alarming. I paused in wonderment, “did I forget to fasten my top closed?” I then laughed, “noooo, it must have come undone on my way home.” If my top was spread eagle wide open, someone one would have told me… right? After all, I’ve stopped strangers in public to tuck in tags, fixed hems caught in coats, picked off wandering lint and pointed out things that I would expect someone to graciously point out to me. So no, there was no way this was undone during the entire meeting. Crisis averted.

The big day finally arrived, time for the grand reveal of hours of interviewing, touching up and editing. We all watched with eager anticipation as the masterpiece was projected on two large screens simultaneously. Smiles were lighting up the room as we showed off our pride for how well they had captured the essence of our mighty little group.

And then I froze. Ice ran through my veins as the screen cut to a shot that showed off my back side; I mean, literally, half of my back was exposed.

If the flaps of the shirt had both folded outwards I could see why someone would think it was the style, as inappropriate as it was for a board meeting, a style none-the-less. But one flap was up, and the other dramatically wide open, showing off my haven’t seen the sun in years skin. Really? A full hour of filming, only minutes used and they chose footage that showed my chemo braininess at its finest?

When regaling this tale of embarrassment to a friend over tea in Starbucks, she laughed heartily as I emphatically emphasized that this video was going to be available for the world to see for many a year to come. I was officially the harlot of the Cancer Centre! Attempting to catch her breath mid-hysterics, she kindly stated that it was my duty to show the world the realities of chemo fog, and applauded me for once again giving 110% to what I do.

Laughing at myself has turned out to be a special kind of medicine over this past year and a half. I’m grateful for every seemingly embarrassing moment, from hairy legs with hot doctors, to wearing two bras to yoga, then the time I showed up for a funeral and the director thought I was there to set up my own funeral instead of attend one for someone else. The awkward, mortifying moments will always be my favorite and I heartily agree with Claire from Letters to Juliet, when she says “life is the messy bits.”

Cancer, you may force me to wear ugly, comfortable shoes because I can’t feel my feet, be the most painful bikini wax I’ve ever received, screw with my taste buds, zap me of all energy and forced me to make special friends with a porcelain bowl, but…you will never get my sense of humour.

T'ome on Auntie!

My first visit to the chemo suite was supposed to be a simple toodle around, get a sense of the vibe and leave feeling informed and raring to go.  What I actually felt like, was a dog being yanked by its owner to the car to go to the vet;  all four legs fiercely digging into the ground, body leaning back in complete panic and fully determined to avoid getting in that car at any cost. 

Now after 22 sittings in the chemo chair, being hooked up to bags of witches brew through a surgically implanted port in my chest with no complaint, and having 4 more visits to go, I’m back to feeling like that stubborn dog again. 

I’m done.

I’m like that marathon runner who has felt focused and optimistic throughout the race, but the second they can see the finish line their body stops making adrenaline and all of a sudden 600 metres feels like a bigger challenge than the 40 some odd kilometres they’ve just covered.

Knowing that stopping isn’t an option, I knew it was time to give myself some form of break.  I tried a day at the spa, laughing with friends, playing the piano, editing my book, indulging in chocolate and binge knitting, but nothing would help me relax against the invisible leash hauling me back to the hospital.

So I pulled out the big guns and asked myself ‘why’ I was doing all of this in the first place? 
What is that ‘thing’ driving my determination and positivity?

It’s never been enough for me to say that I’m doing this insanity because it’s what the doctor said needs to happen and I don’t have a bucket-list as motivation because I’ve always shamelessly said ‘yes’ to adventures no matter how wacky.  Not even the threats made by my family to toss me over their shoulders, shove me in the trunk of their cars, and hook me up personally to the IV drip if I attempted to skip out is enough motivation to get me back in that confounded chair. No, I needed something that truly emotionally motivates me to my core.  And as it turns out, I have three; Elena, Ethan and Gracie Rae.

IMG_1225.jpg
IMG_1210.jpg
IMG_1152.jpg

The reason why I chose to do as many treatments my oncologist is willing to give me, drag myself to the hospital when it’s the last thing I want to do, and endure this wild chemo fog is all because of my babies. No part of my cancer story involves me not being there with them as they grow, graduate schools, go on their first date, learn the joys of travel and become who they’re meant to be. I won’t miss a single piano recital, school dance, or cross-country meet and I fully intend to give them plenty an opportunity to roll their eyes at me. They are the reason for my non-negotiable happy ending to this craziness.

Asking the simple word ‘why’ has always helped me solider on, pepped me up with motivation or helped me realize that yes, it’s time to let something go. I know if I get frustrated there is a reason, and these three letters always seem to have the magical solution for me.

So, I’ve let go of that image of the dog  fighting against her leash and replaced it with a vision of three and a half year old Elena taking my finger as she often does and saying “t’ome on Auntie.”

Yup, I’ve got this.

 
My Birthday Nov 4 2018 (47).JPG
 

Write On!

I did it.

I cashed in on some bravery and read through all the notes, journals and scribbles of paper that I have been writing on ever since the great lump discovery. I had scribbles on the backs of cereal boxes penned while grocery shopping, jottings captured on different restaurant napkins, perspectives scrawled out on a rainbow of various post-it notes, and multiple journals full of stories, observations and frustrations. March became a month saturated in organizing and writing. And what was the result?

I wrote a book.

IMG_4279.jpg

She’s in its fullest roughest form right now, desperate for copious amounts of editing and really can’t be finished until I’m done with the chemo chair, but… I did it.  I’ve emptied my head of all the many wacky stories, and painful experiences, taking the time to be truly honest with myself about this adventure. Writing has acted like a form of therapy for me. 

It’s easy to get caught up in the job of cancer; the appointments, the treatments, the recovering just to get knocked down again, and the emotions hopping up and down like ignored children get shoved aside.  Although it’s natural after a trauma to be desperate to move forward, away from the painful memories, I knew I needed to give every hidden emotion that has been sitting patiently on the sidelines an opportunity to be acknowledged and released. And writing has been the best tool for me to do just that.

If you asked me in high school if I fancied myself a writer, I would have laughed.  After all, I had a sorted history with the written word:

  • in elementary school I received extra phonics help during the ‘hooked on phonics’ push,

  • in high school I kept a spelling calculator in my pencil case hoping to catch my pesky spelling errors before they revealed the truth about my backwards thinking,

  • I suffered through many a grammar lesson with my dad, King Grammarian, while he annihilated my essays with the flaming red pen,

  • I have avoided playing Scrabble my entire life, embarrassed at my creative spelling skills,

  • and I actually did a happy dance at the end of first year University when it was no longer mandatory to take English. I was finally free from the humiliation!

Nope, writing was the last thing I saw myself doing. 

It’s so easy to assume things I’ve always enjoyed or didn’t like at all in my past, remain true today. Hard not to wonder how many other things I claim I’m not good at, are really things I would enjoy exploring now?

Fast forward 21 years and as it turns out, I’m having a real hoot writing. I’m now the person who walks around with a blank journal in her purse and q-cards in her yoga bag to ensure to catch random ideas, whims, unique phrases or wonderings before they leave as quickly as they appear. 

Ultimately, the book is something I am doing for me.  It’s the book I wish existed at the beginning of this journey offering wise tidbits not shared by doctors and heads ups about things I never saw coming until they were right in front of me. 

Reliving this experience that 'I’m still knee deep in’ is allowing me to:

  • celebrate getting through the good, bad, and ugly…. not to mention the uglier.

  • laugh at things that happened that could really only happen to me.

  • forgive hurtful comments and moments I have been treated with ignorance.

  • see and appreciate my own strength.

  • swim in gratitude for the kindnesses that has been shown to me by so many people.

  • begin to see just the tip of mountain of lessons and blessings that are all part of this journey.

I’ve said from the beginning I was going to love cancer out of me, because when it’s finally gone, I would much rather be left with some good old fashioned love than victimized anger or resentment.  It hasn’t been easy to chose love, and I continue to navigate around rabbit holes, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s worth the work.

Getting to this point with my writing I’m certain of one thing, when I tell myself I can’t do something, I’m always right. Time to release old assumptions, and no longer use ‘what has always been’, as a reason to avoid trying something a first or even third time.

So for now, I will write on… to the editing table!

Finger Foibles & Losing My Mind

February 4 2019 (5).JPG

I sat there holding up my sad little index finger to show off its deep blood red colouring and impressive puss bubble that sat on the edge of the nail. The triage nurse at the emergency room looked at me and asked the obvious simple question, “what happened?”

My response? I burst into tears and blubbered out that I had no clue.  I remember jamming it at one point, it involved wicked pain and creative cussing, but I couldn’t tell her when, where, what, why, or how. And now I was sitting there with an oozing finger, and having to face a truth I’ve been trying to avoid admitting to myself; I think I may be losing my mind. 

For awhile now, I’ve found myself forgetting the simplest of words part way through a sentence, stopping mid-sentence to ask, “what am I talking about” and having pockets of complete blanks polka dotted throughout my memory.  It was much more than average absentmindedness I was experiencing. I told myself that if I just left this concern alone, and didn’t voice it out loud, it would take care of itself. A classic from my wheelhouse of denial tactics.  

But here I sat, unable to explain why my finger was growing a poltergeist realizing it was something I no longer could avoid addressing.

The nurse was kind and reassuring as I blubbered out my apologies, blamed cancer meds and admitted how foolish I felt being there puffed up with pus when I was dealing with the bigger issue of cancer. I had worked hard to keep myself out of the emergency ward ever since the beginning of treatment, only to end up being dragged in now by a finger that had developed its own heartbeat!

After reassuring me that I needed to be there because I have no immune system and that my family doctor was wise to send me directly to them, she asked me for a list of the medications I was on. I didn’t miss a beat jumping into my purse to grab the calendar that runs my world and then my heart dropped.  I’m never without my calendar, but this one time I had left it in my car when checking other appointments before arriving there.  My head fell into my hands as I once again had a mini melt down.  Could I do anything right?

I did my best to remember the medication I could, but lets be honest, if I couldn’t remember how I hurt myself I wasn’t going to be able to pick words like Bisoprolol or Candesartan Cilexetil out of the recesses of my mind. I started to play a kind of verbal charades with her telling her what the different meds do, hoping that she could guess the list of drugs from my dramatic portrayal. She cut me off mid-theatrics to tell me they would access all of my medications through my hospital records and once again tried to reassure me that I was normal.  Although I didn’t believe her, it was felt good to at least hear.

It took 4.5 hours,

  • two excruciatingly painful freezing needles into my finger joint,

  • listening to a doctor ‘man-splane’ to me that I didn’t understand my freezing abilities only for my body to confirm the warnings I gave him and contradict his pompous lecture,

  • a scalpel to slice me open so he could clean out all the gunk,

before I left with my finger wrapped up in a fancy bandage and having to forge my way to my car in an unexpected down pour.

Driving home I realized I needed to look at this with a logical lens; my brain is a muscle, and the best way to strengthen any muscle is to use it. And this would allow me to do one of my favorite things… study!

February 4 2019 (6).JPG

First, I began making lists words I read that I loved, were new to me, or were oldies but goodies, being sure to include a definition and synonyms for each.

Next, I’ve become a connoisseur of the crossword puzzle. Not caring if I needed a dictionary, thesaurus or my cell phone to help me find the answers; after all, the point is to strengthen, not judge.

And finally, I’ve returned to my roots, music. I decided to take violin lessons, allowing me to learn something new in an extremely familiar world. It’s freeing learning for the sole purpose of learning and enjoying for enjoyments sake. 

Two weeks later I was back with my oncologist who with a confused partial laugh asked why her notes now included a visit to the emergency room.  I filled her in on the unexpected sidetrack and followed it with the real concerns that lay underneath.   She looked at me amused after I listed all I was doing to try to help myself as she informed me that the concern of having blackouts after chemotherapy has only ever been a concern pointed out by high functioning women.  She paused to let the label of ‘high functioning’ woman attach itself to me, then simply said, “you’re doing great”. 

And that’s all I needed to hear.

Avoid things only causes me stress; when I tackle something head on, no matter the outcome I always have the reassurance I did the best I could, and that is enough for me. 

 

Why Yes, I'll Have Fries With That!

I arrived at my cardiologists overly prepared like usual.  Ever since Dr. Delicious explored my legs for swelling through the great forest of hair, I’ve made sure to take extra care before leaving my house for a heart appointment.  It involves a full body scan for any rogue hair and remaining grateful that I can once again wear an underwire bra.

The door opened to the little waiting room and I lost part of my smile when it was explained to me that I wouldn’t be getting Dr. Delicious that day, or any other of the handsome doctors I’d seen before.  Although the female doctor I worked with was quite lovely, I’d grown fond of my cardiologists dates. They are, after all, the only dates I’m currently experiencing.

Left alone with the doctors assistant, we went through the usual checklist which involves making sure the meds are doing their job and being told to stop pushing myself; I get winded climbing up stairs, so doing laps in the pool to the point of almost drowning wasn’t helping me. She once again told me to simmer down and be kinder to myself.

Then she caught me by surprise by asking, “do you have salt in your diet?”

I was quick to defend my eating habits which have been continually altered because of chemo, then morphing again with radiation, then changing with the never ending surprise side effects and then finally modifying them again with heart failure.  Honestly, I take one look at a shaker of salt and I feel guilty, longing to be the type of girl that believes in cheating.  She was amused by my theatrics and eagerness to get a gold star but interrupted my defensive rambling by telling me she would like me to consciously add a little salt into my diet.  Well I’ll be jitterbugged.

Normally people with heart issues have high blood pressure so yes, they need to set aside the salt and eat more leafy greens.  But my blood pressure’s low, so eating salt would help my body retain some fluid and boost my blood pressure.  I happily quote her exact words, “so once in a while enjoy some chips or French Fries”. 

Finally, a medication and recommendation I could get into.  My ‘follow the rules come hell or high water’ personality was thrilled that for once, I didn’t have to second guess my instructions, or research for clarity, I just wanted to bolt out of that office and get my hands on some Swiss Chalet fries.  After all, it was the doctors orders. 

The moment the doctors assistant left the room I texted a bestie to tell her of my newest mandate.  We both agreed.  This was the best news I’d received since finding that lump of smutz in my chest.  And since she is a fellow connoisseur of the salty delicacy, appreciated my elation.  It was the first time I’ve left that hospital thrilled to follow orders.

Practically skipping away, I reflected back on what a colossal pain in the tuchus figuring out food has been since the very beginning and noticed how much stress I myself was adding to the mix. I was being a warden about food, judging myself if I ordered a donut to go with my green tea, or feeling like a failure if I had a larger than normal slice of cake at Sunday dinner. I was contributing to sucking the fun out of eating and I needed to let it go. So, along with being less less tyrannical over my salt consumption, I gave myself permission to enjoy the food I can actually eat. It doesn’t mean I’ll start having fries and lava cake with every meal (ah, cake for breakfast really does start a day off right), but when I decide to satisfy a craving, I’m removing shame from my plate along with the feeling that I’m destroying all the hard work I’m putting into fighting cancer just because I have a small package of M&M peanuts at a movie.

So with a tin of Pringles in hand and a smile on my face, I took my medicine like a every good patient should.

 
At the pharmacy.

At the pharmacy.

 

Hot Tub Honey's

I have finally answered the age old question, “if one is over 75, where do they go to pick up?” and the answer is, the local community pool!

In an attempt to get some strength back into my overly drugged, beat-up body, I hot tailed my sweet patootie to the local indoor pool with my goggles and racing suit in hand.  I prefer the methodical all body work out of doing mindless laps over being at a gym shamelessly pretending I know how to use the machines and worrying about what bacteria is living on the handles of anything I touch.

It’s been years since I’ve used a public pool and never before during the day, so I wasn’t quite prepared for what I would see the moment I stepped into the pool area… it was hopping.  The hot-tub was elbow to elbow with lounging pensioners, retirees dominated the swimming lanes and the leisure pool looked like a geriatric night club. Even the music playing overhead sounded like it was plucked from an old speakeasy… well, until it changed to Madonna circa 1980’s then onto retro Pearl Jam.

It was like an adult water version of high school where everyone has their chosen hang out spot, the women move around in pairs giggling over the recently heard gossip, not all clothing being worn is appropriate and when this new girl walked in, she got the stank eye.  It’s awesome. 

Because I was so memorized by all that was going on around me, I couldn’t resist lifting my head a little higher between laps to take a gander.  The lanes weren’t exciting to observe, except for the frequent gray hair pile ups that happen in the slow lane when someone stops randomly to chat over the rope to a friend. The ‘slower-than-slow-and-laps-are-optional’ lane was more amusing to observe with smiling women sporting perfectly set hair, men holding up the pool walls as they continually scope the area for I’m not sure what and circles of people hanging out and laughing all the while balancing on pool noodles. I actually even witnessed one sparky lady coyly look at a handsome gentleman, bat her eyelashes and say “fancy meeting you here”. 

At one point I realized that if I didn’t want to drown I needed to take a quick break from the back and forth. At my condos pool, I’m used to having Dad Cairns watching over me making sure if my heart gives out I don’t spontaneously go under, but here I actually have to pay attention myself.  I gladly took to the wall at the end of the lane where I found myself beside a woman who all of a sudden with amusement and in a sing-song tone announced, “uh oh, somebodies going to get in trouble”.  Because I couldn’t resist learning some of the local gossip I asked her what misdemeanor she’d spotted.  She explained that at any given time the hot-tub maximum is 14 people and 2 rogue retirees just attempted to sneak in undetected.  Apparently the hot-tub is the bane of existence for the lifeguards who can’t keep up with the spunky seniors determined to challenge the rules. Moments later, a life guards voice soared over the masses from across the room falling on the ears of suspecting adults who all of a sudden decided they were deaf and continued with their gabbing. Needless to say this did not go over well with the already exasperated lifeguard.

Now, after having observed this criminal act over a few visits, it’s become a game to guess the response the lifeguard is going to receive. It tends to be one of the following:

  • a causal blow off involving a wave of the hand and the phrase, “don’t worry about it, it’s fine”,

  • a blank “you can’t be talking to me” stare followed by making themselves comfortable,

  • or, on the rare occasion, quick compliance from the person who actually didn’t know the rule. 

I found myself oddly inspired by these rebellious teenagers at heart for their tenacity and daring. I’ve been a staunch rule follower my entire life but I admire these free spirits ability to push the limits without apology. I myself apologize to the cashier at Fortinos for drinking my freshly pressed orange juice before reaching the counter, use my cruise control to get used to the new speed limit on the service road and actually took a moment to ask the life guard on my first visit what rules I needed to know before even getting wet.

I’ve always been more like Monica from Friends who believes that “rules make things fun”, but for those times I do play with them a little, I am giving myself permission to be kinder to myself. If I get called out, there’s no need to go over the top apologizing, awkwardly back tracking or punishing myself for being a horrible person; I just need to smile and get out of the hot-tub.

After her explanation about the rebellious hot tub honey’s, I turned to the sweet lady and said “the world thinks it’s teenagers they have to keep their eyes on, but you guys are particularly wily”.  She smiled and replied with a great sense of pride, “you bet we are”.  Love it.

My favorite swimming partner.

My favorite swimming partner.

Love That Gran

Late 2017 I wrote a blog entitled, Gumption Filled Gran that describes the tenacious, fearless account of a woman who may not be a blood relative, but calls me her granddaughter all the same.  I soaked in her wisdom and appreciated her subtle brilliant sense of humour with each visit and always left our tete-a-tetes challenged and inspired. 

I would often find her sitting surrounded by a pile of crocheted squares waiting to become a blanket, multiple genre’s of books and crossword puzzles that were way beyond my skill set. Always the fashion statement, Gran sported brightly coloured scarfs tied perfectly on her head and rocked bold prints, never discriminating between leopard, floral or wild random patterns. Our chats often made her late for dinner but she was bursting with life stories and we would both be reluctant to end our conversation. I love that she knew the importance of fine china for a real cup of tea and could see beauty in the most unsuspecting of places taking nothing for granted.

Passion was a serious subject for Gran, as she began her love affair with watercolour painting at the ripe young age of 62 and inspiration never stopped flowing from her paint brushes.  Every time I think I’m too old for something or simply just don’t have the energy, I can feel her stare me down and I see the number 62 flashing before my eyes. She has stripped me of any excuse I could ever muster up to dodge a challenge, avoid change or sidestep possibility.  The only option as far as this savvy, astute Granny was concerned is to jump when opportunity presents itself and tackle a challenge with guts and guile; and if you have people in your life who don’t support you during your leaps, her solution was simple, get new people.

No matter how hard I tried, I could never suppress a smile when Gran rolled her eyes if the topic of fear came up; she had no patience for it. After all, she felt if she wasn’t uncomfortable she wasn’t growing. She was living proof that everything indeed is figure-out-able. 

My darling Gran has now joined the entourage of angels I’m blessed to have looking out for me. I’m grateful for each heart filled conversation, every nugget of wisdom, and her rich unforgettable stories.  Thank you Gran for sharing your heart and teaching me what is means to live strong.

One of the hundreds of watercolours painted by my brilliant Gran (the photograph doesn’t do it justice). It is aptly titled,  Love That Red.

One of the hundreds of watercolours painted by my brilliant Gran (the photograph doesn’t do it justice). It is aptly titled, Love That Red.

Dudes & Waffles

Once again I’m distracted in a yoga class, but this time it’s not over a rogue wardrobe malfunction, rather a random out of the blue desperate need for a waffle!  My yoga studio is on Ottawa street in Hamilton where people come from far and wide to fabric shop, do some antiquing and indulge in the many unique nibbles offered.  Just a hop skip and a jump up the road from my yoga haven is, The Canon, who in my humble opinion, serves the best waffles in the city. 

Since it was Valentine’s day, I had no choice but to give into my sudden desperate craving. My mouth watered for a perfect golden waffle dusted in icing sugar I could accost with real Canadian maple syrup; the right maple syrup of course, being the key to taking the status of a waffle from great to epic… am I right Doris?

I bolted off my mat the moment the Yoga teacher said ‘namaste’ and scooted down the street to the quaint bistro to discover I wasn’t the only one with a hankering for a waffle that day.  It took some patience, but I eventually secured a table that placed me between two women who were excitedly exchanging gossip and a pair of teenagers who had actually held my attention from the moment I’d arrived.  I didn’t even hide the fact I was staring, I was too preoccupied with trying to figure them out.

They sat opposite each other and between them was a waffle thoughtfully and romantically designed with whip-cream, strawberries, and chocolate sauce. Strangely, there were only a few bites taken from this Valentine delicacy.  The couple were seated there the entire 15 minutes I waited for a seat with no progress being made on the eating of that perfectly crafted piece of mouth-watering art.  Why you ask? Because they both had their heads down and were completely engrossed in their cell phones.  Not once did I see them look at each other or engage in conversation.  The girl eventually did take a few pictures of the waffle which was followed by a couple of quick bites and all the while gripping her phone like her life depended on it.  For a fleeting second I thought she would attempt to join the real world as she awkwardly looked up at the hairline of her preoccupied date. But unlike the groundhog this year, she was quickly pulled back into the hole of cyberspace, no doubt eager to plaster the food pictures all over multiple social media platforms giving the impression she was being romanced and having the time of her life.

I continued to observe in disbelief and then finally while I was inhaling my own simple yet immaculate waffle, the dude looked up and said, “I have 10 minutes to get back” and with that they left.  That was it.  I had shared the space with them for about 25 minutes in total, and if I had to pick them out from a criminal line up I would’ve had to ask them to look down, because all I could identify them by were the random freckles they each had on their foreheads.

Outside of the obvious questions which included, “why bother even going out at all”, and being deeply saddened by the state of the world as we know it, a small part of me wanted to jump in and ask, “hey, if you aren’t going to eat that…”

That waffle was the most alive exciting thing that was happening at that table and it deserved to be enjoyed. Needless to say I refrained, but was still left awestruck at how these two were just going through the motions of life, ignoring the possibilities right in front of them and not relishing the time they had stolen out of their day to give each other.

It made me want to take full advantage of this unexpected outing, to soak in the energy of the hustle and bustle around me, observe the buildings the sun was decorating outside the window and taking my time to enjoy people watching people who were actually engaging with each other.

Instead of focusing on how disheartening it was to watch the erosion of communication and the predictions of the movie WALL-E come to life, I looked at it as a reminder to:

  • always value my time.

  • be present and engaged when spending time with others.

  • treat my ideas and curiosities with a more focused attention than they were giving that desperate little waffle.

I smiled gleefully to myself because I may have been there alone, but I was on a much better date then they were.

 
My Little Piece of Heaven… and the only 2 seconds I had my phone out the entire time.

My Little Piece of Heaven… and the only 2 seconds I had my phone out the entire time.

 

Regrets?

For some reason, I only appreciate the snow when I’m visiting it up North.  It isn’t a hassle to put on layers, it doesn’t get in the way of me having to go somewhere and it’s therapeutic to watch through a window while holding a cup of hot chocolate that is equally heavy on the chocolate as it is the whip cream. And in my well nurtured delusional mind, the whip cream cancels out the calories of the chocolate and visa versa, so both are always necessary. 

 
18-6__91030.1523652702.jpg
 

My brother from another mother and I decided to get bundled up and take a walk through the forest to observe the tree art designed by falling snow the night before.  And like most of our walks, we ended up in a conversation that you can only have with someone who has known you for over 20 years.  It began with an innocent question from him… do you have any regrets? 

Simple enough question if it’s being applied to a single experience, fashion choice or if you are rethinking your food order at a restaurant; but without having to elaborate, I knew that he meant it as a retrospective on my life.   Do I have any regrets? 

I gave the question the pause for consideration it deserved before answering; after all, he knows me well enough to know whether I’m answering honestly or with forced sugar-coated optimism.  And my answer was simply… no. Which was quickly followed by a laugh at my own bluntness.

Do I wish at some points in my life I had said ‘yes’ instead of ‘no’?  Absolutely.

Do I wish at other points I was more courageous, fearless or daring?  You betcha.

Are there situations I’m embarrassed over how I conducted myself?  On going!

But regret?  No. 

I could take the easy cheesy approach and say that all of my decisions up until now have made me into who I am today, and although that’s true, it isn’t the reason for my assured answer. The truth of the matter is,

Regret helps me be brave.

After spending way too much head space examining the past and holding it against myself, I began seeing regret akin to driving a car that only moves in reverse and began recognizing the value in regret. Past actions, responses and replies are simply research into how I want to behave and react in the present. It’s how I’m learning to be ‘me’.

Brene Brown sums it up…

“No regrets” doesn’t mean living with courage, it means living without reflection.  To live without regret is to believe you have nothing to learn, no amends to make, and no opportunity to be braver with your life.

It’s hard not to wonder what my life would look like if I zigged instead of zagged on a number of occasions, but every experience is another opportunity to reflect and grow, challenging me to be braver and more curious with each new adventure. I’ve discovered that often the most uncomfortable learning is the most powerful, and regret challenges me to take it all on with a lot more gusto.

 
IMG_6245.JPG
 

The Bar Wench & Yogini

Just another typical yoga class… or at least that is what I expected when I showed up with my mat in tow ready to treat my body like a bendy straw. From the moment I claimed my space and set up camp on the less than comfortable hardwood floor, I could sense something wasn’t right.  My spidey senses were tingling but I just couldn’t put an immediate finger on it.  Class began and I couldn’t ignore my internal rumblings, so while the rest of the class was focusing on working through their chaturanga to get to their bhujangasana, I was mentally going through my ‘am I appropriate for yoga class’ checklist hoping to figure out what was alluding me before having a possibly embarrassing scene:

  • legs covered, shaved and lotion-ed… so no need to worry about repeating the Dr. Delicious moment.

  • before leaving the house, I shaved the peach fuzz I call armpit hair… radiation turned out to have one bonus, it’s now much easier to maintain the pits!

  • the seams of my pants were intact… so my purple flowered undies remained my secret.

  • I was gas free… so no cliché baby pose yoga farts on my horizon.

Why did I feel like something was completely off?  All I had to go on was my intuition and the fact I was extra toasty and extremely uncomfortable.  Then, I reached up to readjust my shifting tank top and discovered it… I was wearing two bras!  If I wasn’t in a ‘thread the needle’ pose, the palm of my hand would have met my forehead.  Yup, this morning I got up, made myself nice and cozy to do some reading from a poorly written romance novel, then, when it was yoga time, changed out of my clothing, and for some reason put my sports bra over top of my every day bra. 

We moved into puppy dog pose (well, the class moved into downward dog, but it makes my head explode, so I go puppy all the way) and took the opportunity to take a glance at my décolletage and the ladies were being pushed up by my every day ‘appear like my breasts are bigger than they are’ bra and then girdled in by my sports bra that really felt more like a corset at this point.  I had to admit, they looked great (in a bar wench kind of way), but I was sweating beyond a glisten, and it was a challenge to breathe.

Meanwhile, in her overly calm soothing voice the yoga instructor was asking us to relax our shoulders, and raise our hearts to the ceiling; at least that is what I think she was saying because frankly, all I could think about was that yes the girls looked great, but man was I overly anxious to get both of these blessed undergarments off of me. 

Yogini: … and breath, let go of any outside thoughts…

Bar Wench: I wonder if I could at least slip one bra off as I put my coat on after class?

Yogini: … focus on your body and be present with what it needs…

Bar Wench: I could just slip it off now; after all, people’s eyes are closed during our final resting pose of shevasina. It would be like the time while I was teaching and my front clasped bra popped open mid-Romeo & Juliet lesson and I had to ever so discreetly reach for a binder to cover chest and make a lame excuse to go out into the hallway to put the cattle back in the barns.

I finally gave up trying to figure out how to get myself out of this bind (literally) and since I wasn’t listening to the instructions anyway, I figured I might as well see if I could find the metaphor in all of this.

And it was simple… no matter what I’m going through, or how I am feeling, I always have more than enough support to get me through… whether it’s obvious or not.