Saturday, February 25, 2012

I remember...

Lying in bed trying to sleep but my mind is all over the place.  I've reached a milestone this week and find it amusing, amazing and extraordinary.  And I remember...

Not really my childhood years.... for they were not the ideal of times.. but in fact those years were the blueprint of the life I would lead.   And so I remember..

My teenage years.... for they were the years where I encountered so very many people who would influence my life in so may positive ways and remain friends still today.  They were the years I had my first crush that lasted forever, the years I met the couple who were to become my surrogate parents to this day, the years of my rebellion, when I met my true forever friend , the years I thought I was as smart as anyone could be and the years that I somehow knew I would walk my own path.

My 20's version of the roaring 20's where I had a false sense of what was real (and I was't the only one with that thought!), where and when I danced myself silly, drank more than my share of cocktails, fell in and out of love, wrestled with what love really meant, had a million jobs but also when my career advanced because others believed in me more than I believed in myself.  It was a time when I was determined not to live a life of hardship and knew that at the very least I would be the best-dressed bag lady of the neighbourhood.  When I would accept the least offered and expect the best of myself.  When I believed everyone knew me better than I knew myself - which I didn't at all.  When I met so many more people who would become my forever friends

My 30's... thinking I was smart and accomplished and had reached my peak.  The years I knew I wasn't capable of taking care of anyone other than myself and put the thought of having children to rest.  If I was 30-something today I like to think that I would be brave enough to become a single mother or adopt a child - I think I would have been a good mom.  I'm not really sure what what my 30's were about - maybe getting over the agony/anguish of my 20's??

My 40's....  a life-changing decade.  Turning 40 -the best year of my life.  Finally broke a 10-year fantasy of what love should be and wasn't, turned 40, received a cancer diagnosis, lost my job, got back in the real estate game, got mad and without being clear of a path,  started on a path that has led me to the life I live today.  My 40''s were clearly about realizing that living has a definite timeline, maybe sooner, maybe later - but it was also about wondering about how invincible we really are in the grand scheme of life.  My 40's were also about appearing bulletproof in the eyes of everyone I knew and not being honest about my trepidation of the fear of cancer returning.   My 40's were also about opportunity, growth, expansion, encouragement and the fostering of sibling collaboration without which I would not be were I am today.  They were about the question I have learned to ask myself for any situation where I find myself at odds - "What is the worst that could happen?"

My 50's.... when I felt the finally life would settle, when things would come easier, when I was respected for what I knew, not what I did, when laughter when permeate every conversation about how our crazy lives led us to this wonderfully contented time when 'the kids' became the adults and we could bask in the glory of having made it through those times and do all we could to make times easier for our children.  When I was diagnosed at 53 with metastatic breast cancer, when I was told my lifeline was 3-5 years, when I thought about getting 'old' and really wanted to be, when my life become so compressed, when I thought about all I had discounted in my life became paramount, when I learned to trust myself and my feelings, when triviality became trivial, when I learned that unless you know the road someone has walked you have no right to judge, I know for sure that we all have something to offer everyone and that essentially everyone everywhere hungers for the same thing - love, understanding, the physical touch and the human spirit.

My 60's - I have been in my 60's for 2 days now and likely don't know much more than I did in my 50's.  But what I do know is that in the last 48 hours I have had another re-settling of my spirit.  Because when you live with this disease life is about the unknown - about how I will feel tomorrow, about what the next test/report/appointment will reveal, about what lies ahead, about what I'm capable of doing and not doing (be it physical or emotional), about making plans.  And so I am in another retrospective moment -  for as long as I have the mental and physical capacity to do, I will do my best to participate in the life I have and the life I know which is so different than the life I had.  I don't know what's in store for me in the near future - I think I feel healthier than I am - crazy as that sounds  (although I've felt that way before and it was true) but whatever the future holds with all of my family, friends and communities I know I will get through what lies ahead with an awesome amunt of peace, love and acceptance for you are the very essense of my courage.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

February 19

It's been a long time between posts - my tag line should read 'sometimes several months attack me at once'!  Sunday morning with my coffee, Skype-ing with friends  travelling in Arizona & checking in with others.  Another gloomy February day -- I am surely ready for the gray to be gone and trying hard to recall the hot weather of Palm Desert.

I've been deep undercover these last few weeks finding it near impossible to connect with the outside world.  Contrary to what many people think, I am really quite a reclusive person - not in an anti-social, withdrawn or lonely way or an unapproachable way (at least I hope not).  But I'm a homebody and I find the longer I live with cancer the less I can deal with certain things.  A friend asked me recently if I found living with cancer every day a burden.  It seemed to me that 'burden' is the perfect word for how I cope - it is a burden for me.  I would love to be one of those people who has bucket lists, who can live outside their bodies, who can see the 'gift' of cancer (that one is so beyond me).  I would love to want to hang out and go out and stay out past 6-7 pm.  I would love to be physically and mentally energized to meet each day.  Those are among the many the guilt trips I go on each day - that I should be all those things and more, that I should stop indulging myself in this lifestyle and get out there and do something.  Way too many should's.  And I do a number of things - they're just more solitary in nature.  The truth of the matter is after the past 6 1/2 years of metastatic cancer , and nearly 20 years from my first diagnosis, I'm bone weary.  Add to that mix  living with chronic depression for 40+ years.  There are days when I'm not sure what incapacitates me more.  Why I'm disclosing all this I'm not entirely sure - possibly because I've been saying no to so many people in my life lately and thought an explanation might be in order.  I'm thinking that my current anti-depressants are pooping out on me (my technical term!) and am changing over to one I haven't taken before.  That along with a little sunshine and longer days and I'm hoping against hope this combination will straighten me out and I will find my days less challenging and less overwhelming.

On the cancer front things are in limbo again.  Going off my chemo for a month didn't turn out to be such a good idea - huge jump in my tumour markers.  I'm now off the oral chemo and back on a hormone blocker - Exemestane - for awhile until we can figure out where the activity is.  Also off my monthly treatment for the bone mets.  Had a bone scan which looked stable and now awaiting results on a CT scan.  Depending on those results I may have to start IV chemo which I find pretty devastating.  Except of course if the Exemestane brings the markers down substantially.  For now I'll hurry up and wait until March 21st to see what the next installment of my life will bring.  

Even reading my fellow bloggers updates has been overwhelming for me lately and so today I'm going to try and catch up on one or two.  Then directly to my new favorite thing - my recliner! - to watch some more Upstairs Downstairs.  

So while this isn't the most uplifting post I've ever written it is an honest one.

Rest easy Shawna

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas to my world!

I’d like to say that this Christmas message is simply my way of being green but that would be pushing the boundaries of honesty! The simple truth is I just don’t do cards anymore. I am blessed with so many friends, some I see often, some I rarely see, some have been in my life forever, some I have met recently and some I haven’t talked to in years yet remain in my heart with cherished memories. Add to that list my great big ol’ loving family, my Callanish community and my Mets Group community – well I just can’t afford the postage….. makes me one lucky gal I’d say.

Health-wise this year has been a bit of a challenge but as I like to say I’m still in pretty good shape for the shape I’m in. While this old body doesn’t perform as well as I’d like let me assure you that my attitude and sense of humor (dark as it may be) remain intact. I’ve been on this ‘chemo light’ for almost two years now but thinking there’s a change coming soon. This cancer gig has turned into a full-time job! My oncologist however gave me a month off treatment for a Christmas present – best present ever! So on Dec 24th I will head off to Palm Desert for a couple of weeks of mindless R & R.

Living without a roommate wasn’t working for me and so to my/our great fortune Annee II and I found each other. For anyone who has known my other cats you can relax - Annee is so sociable, loves requires attention, loves to be combed and petted – she is the antithesis of both Webbie & Annie!

Yes... I am perfect

Our family had its share of engagements, birthdays, anniversaries and new sweethearts this year. We embraced the arrival of gorgeous little London Brielle who, despite being born with a severe heart defect, is now a thriving 5-month old who keeps proving everyone wrong. Here is a picture of her today waiting for her echocardiogram – she doesn’t look that impressed!

Yes... I am the rock star of Children's Hospital

I got away for two retreats this year – to the first ever Callanish Creative Arts Retreat at the fabulous Brew Creek Center close to Whistler and another retreat with my Metastatic Support Group at the Rockwater Secret Cover Resort on the Sunshine Coast. I could live on retreat! Not being much of a traveler though the furthest I went this year was to Whistler! I’m going to correct that situation by going to California in a couple of days.

So without detailing my entire year let me just say that It’s been busy, it’s been fulfilling, it’s been happy and it’s been sad. I can also add that there’s been many laughs, many visits, many writing classes, many sunny days on the deck, many manicures & pedicures, many glasses of wine, many great conversations and much contentment. It’s been another year of ups, downs and all-arounds!

Christmas is always a wonderful opportunity to connect with those in my life and in my heart all year round even though we may not always see or talk to each other. I wish for you all a wonderful Christmas season full of family, friends, love and great food! For 2012, I wish for all a year of good health, great happiness, much satisfaction and much success in all that you do.

Wishing you all peace, love and contentment,


Sunday, December 11, 2011

And so this is Christmas...

Her wish was simple
Peace in every nation
Joy in every heart
and a Mitten on every hand

That's it folks. All I want. I have everything l need or want. I have a family who loves me & I love them. I have friends that I cherish and that cherish me. I have my communities who give me more than I could have ever imagined and with whom I hope I give back in kind. I have a roof over my home - my sanctuary, my comfort, my safe haven; I have food in my fridge made with love by my 'meals on wheels' friends; I have coats and mittens and hats and boots to keep me warm in the winter; I have money in the bank; I have my little Annie who sits with me, listens to me, loves me unconditionally - well.. as long as I feed her, brush her and pet her; I have books to read and music to soothe my soul.

And while I may not be a picture of health - I have enough health, strength and resolve to get past whatever lies ahead next year.

I have everything I want.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Back from the edge

Despite my best intention to write thru my latest meltdown every time I sat down to write I couldn't get any words to flow. Lack of concentration, lack of motivation, an abundance of apathy and general malaise! Then there's always my anxiety of divulging how life really is for me as I head to the black hole of self-absorption, fear and a scarcity of self-compassion. These times seem to coincide with bouts of bugs that I seem to get thanks to my not-so-immune system - in this case another bout of cold/bronchitis. I was actually sick when I wrote my happy port-a-cath post but was obviously too excited to mention it.

Too many meds & too many trips to the doctor - both my GP and the clinic. I missed Thanksgiving - although I am grateful to my sister-in-law for sending me 2 turkey dinners and the best-I've-ever-had pea soup to pop in the freezer to be enjoyed when my appetite returned. I missed my best friend's 60th birthday party. I missed a very dear friend's Celebration of Life as well as one of my Callanish friends. I missed a writing class. I was grounded. Reading, TV, movies, laundry, naps - is this my life?? Too much thinking time. Not coping very well at all. I did get out of the house to get some radiation on my hip - that was the highlight.

So really is this my life I ask myself? Where is purpose, where is feeling useful, where are the positive thoughts and feeling of contentment that I used to have? See that's the problem when I have too much time - staying in the moment is so hard. Will I ever live a tranquil life? How do people do that anyway? If you know please pass on your info...

Now a week or so of feeling better and realizing - again! - that I'm a gal that needs a project to not only keep my mind occupied but to feel useful. And so I've offered my services to my Mets Support Group for a couple of things. There is a 'quiet room' on the patient floor of the clinic that needs a little TLC in creating a tranquil and peaceful space for patients and/or their families to spend some private time. Anyone who knows me knows this is my kind of endeavor! I should probably check to see if there's a budget.... The other project is pretty substantial but with the help of Sue - who unfortunately has had to join our club - we think we can pull it off. We want to create a website for the Metastatic Support Group - a resource guide of sorts - oh my my we have so many ideas! Now neither Sue or I have ever built a website but we each have our 'peeps' and will be looking for advice/guidance/expertise and whatever you have to offer. Any & all ideas are welcome - from the Mets Group and from my blogger friends. Of course Sue is going away this week and I'm going away for Christmas so don't be looking for it anytime soon!

I'm getting back on track and feeling better. The radiation treatment was no big deal - only one treatment was scheduled. Next is a 'Orthopantomography' to check out the jaw discomfort. Sounds a little unnerving but it's really just a panoramic 2-dimensional x-ray of my jaw.

What always keeps me safe when I sink below my surface is knowing that with the right amount of patience and the support of my network I always surface and the knowledge that there will always be sadness and gladness in my world - it's my responsiblity to keep the balance.

Rest easy Jill W.
Rest easy Jill M.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Yesterday was time for my monthly pamidronate treatment and I think I may have appeared just a little smug when I waltzed into the treatment room. After our good mornings Nurse T. said 'well let's get that arm warmed up' and I, after puffing out my chest a bit replied ' I don't need to today - I got myself a portacath!' - like a child who wants to show off their new toy!! That's wonderful she says (visualize mutual hug) your life will be so much easier! And it was and it will be. With that I sat down in my recliner and watched as she swabbed the area and inserted the special needle needed for ports - with just a mild pricking sensation. That was it - 2 minutes max. It used to be anywhere from 10-20 minutes, 2-3 hot towels and then up to as many as 5 tries to get a vein. After pumping in some saline in to make sure all is well I settle in for my 60-minute treatment.. all the while making sure that I wave my arms about at every possible opportunity - because I could!

Patti Port-a-cath - my new best friend! She sits just under the skin of my left breastbone, seems to be relatively easy to get along with and while she does jut out a bit you'll all just have to learn to appreciate how she looks!! Cuz I'm already attached to her!

Sunday, October 9, 2011


It used to be that Thanksgiving was the one time of the year I would be aware of all that is good in my life. These last few years tho I recognize and acknowledge all that is good in my life on an almost daily basis - gratitude being synonymous with thanksgiving.

I am grateful for my understanding and wholly supportive family. All of them - my sister, 3 brothers, 8 nieces & nephews and 11 great nieces/nephews and all my surrogate children over the years. The essence of who and how I am.

I am grateful for the very many long friendships I have been blessed with - friendships that started in childhood and have stood the test of time thru teenage years, love, marriage, divorce, children and grandchildren, thru illness, sadness & losses, thru silliness, laughter, solidarity and the sheer joy of connection. My girlfriends and my manfriends - the foundation of my life.

I am grateful for all my 'new' friends and the paths that brought us together. I am grateful for all the friends that I have known over the last 6 years who shared their lives with me before passing away. There is a debt of gratitude to each them I cannot repay so I will pay it forward.

I am grateful for my communities without which I would not be able to bear so many things. To my Callanish community who continues to help me live in the now of my life and allows me to be as I am, which allows me to grow in ways I cannot articulate. To my Metastatic Cancer Support Group where we lay down everything, where we laugh and cry and commiserate and educate and compare notes on everything from treatments to side effects to doctors to shoes and travel.

I am grateful for the life I have created for myself over the years by virtue of these relationships - not knowing at the time that what I did, when I did it and the people I chose to keep in my world would lead me to this place of contentment. I am grateful that I was smart enough to banish the ugly, the wrong, the hurtful, the senseless and embrace the good, the moral and the honest.

There has been a question rumbling around in my mind this last while: Why have I been given all this time? I don't know the answer to that but I am grateful that I have been given all this time.

Happy Thanksgiving to my world.

Rest easy Martha.