Updates (but not really)

Hello faithful readers! Jut checking in because it’s been awhile. How are you? I’m just fine and dandy, thanks for asking. The weather has finally warmed up and I am loving it. We Canadians talk about the weather every chance we get. It is so rare for it not to be completely miserable out, that when it’s a nice day, we jump for joy and can’t stop talking about it. Can you believe this weather we’re having? What a gorgeous day! What are you doing on this beautiful day? Get outside… it’s so nice out! I can’t even remember what snow and freezing feels like! We revel in the warmth and sunshine and talk about it until we are blue in the face, ensuring that we have fully demonstrated our gratitude to great Mother Nature.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Now that we’ve sufficiently discussed the weather, we can move on.

What’s new with me? Everything. I went from a very laid-back cancer recovery vacation to juggling about a million different things all at the same time. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t found it a bit overwhelming, going from zero to a hundred practically overnight. My brain and body are tired. But it’s all good stuff. Very good stuff. I feel like I’m having a bit of that cliche post-cancer zest to grab life by the horns and make sure I’m using my time wisely, while I’m still here.

So you’re probably wondering — what is all this exciting stuff I’ve been occupying my time with? Well, unfortunately, I’ll be saving that for a future post or two, so you’ll have to be patient. Mostly because I just don’t have the time right now, and also because some of it is top-secret… which will make sense once I explain. But I’m not explaining now. Sorry. Aren’t you just on the edge of your seat?! You probably shouldn’t be. I’m not going to reveal that I cured cancer or something that major. Although that would be so wonderful, wouldn’t it? Not today, my friends. Not today.

In the meantime, while you await future updates, I will ask a favour of you. I am doing the Weekend to End Women’s Cancer walk yet again. I wasn’t positive if I’d do it this year, but then there were a bunch of promotional materials with my face on it, stating I would be walking again, so I felt I should follow through and not disappoint all two of my fans (Hi, Mom and Dad). But this means I have the difficult challenge once more of raising some major dough.

So if you feel so inclined and haven’t decided which charity you feel like donating to this month, I’d really appreciate if you choose me. The money goes directly to ground-breaking breast cancer research and programs at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre that help benefit people like me. We’re all in this together, right? So whip out your credit cards and show me the love.

If you’d like to donate, you can do so by clicking here. Thanks in advance to anyone who donates! (And for those of you who don’t, don’t expect a Christmas card from me this year.) (Just kidding, I don’t actually send Christmas cards, but it was the most neutral threat I could come up with on the spot.)

Hope everyone is having a lovely start to their summer. Go outside. It’s a beautiful day.

I am now a survivor

First off, a big HELLO to all my new readers. Last week I was “freshly pressed” on WordPress, meaning the WordPress editors featured one of my blog posts on their main page. I received thousands of page views as a result of the posting, and my phone has been going off non-stop since Thursday with everyone’s amazing comments and notifications of new followers of the blog. So thanks for stopping by! I haven’t had a second to respond to comments but I’ve read them all and loved each one. I also seem to have a lot of views in India… so hello, India!

If you’ve been following along, you should know that this weekend my family and I walked in the Weekend To End Women’s Cancers, benefiting the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

Yesterday was Day 1 of the walk and if you live in Toronto, you might recall that it poured rain the entire day. The. Entire. Day. My friends, walking in the rain with puddles in your shoes for 32KM is not fun. We were cold and wet. Very wet. But we powered through and somehow made it to the end. Because of my fatigue and various problems with my hips and knees, I thought I wouldn’t even make it half way, so I am fairly proud of myself that I managed to walk through a monsoon in my current condition. I also paused briefly during the lunch stop to do an interview with the Toronto Star. They published it today and if you don’t subscribe to The Star, you can see it here.

In my protective bubble
In my protective bubble
Husband hugs
Husband hugs
Me and lil sis
Me and lil sis

Today was Day 2, and the weather was much more suited to long-distance walking. Unfortunately, my body was a bit damaged from the previous day. I can’t walk straight without searing pain in my knees and thighs, so I had to do a very unattractive limp/hobble for the rest of the route. The pain in my legs is actually very similar to the pain I felt when I was doing chemo, and reminds me that it was only several months ago that I couldn’t even walk down the street without being in pain. I have come a long way, you might say.

Chillin with some Smart Food. I will never pass up an opportunity for free food, and this weekend, there were many.
Chillin with some Smart Food. I will never pass up an opportunity for free food, and this weekend, there were many.

At the end of the walk, we marched down the finish line, into the Skydome (or the Rogers Centre, if you go by the new name… which, I don’t) and saw our faces up on the jumbotron. It is quite alarming to see your face that large, but since it isn’t something you experience every day, I loved it, and milked it for all it was worth – waving at the cameras, and doing some sort of awkward limp-jig down the aisle.

As the last walkers came marching in, it was time for my speech at the closing ceremonies. Right before it started, I had that feeling of why did I agree to do this, I just want to lie down and fall asleep and never get up. I was also getting paranoid about my nose dripping all down my face, since my drugs seem to have the nice effect of giving me a nasal perma-drip. Luckily, I believe my sniffles were mistaken for tears, so that worked out just fine.

The speech went well, and it was quite a surreal experience, standing up on a stage, in the middle of the baseball field, speaking to a huge crowd of cancer survivors and their supporters – especially in contrast to last year, where I had been a mere onlooker, anxiously awaiting the results of my biopsy.

I managed to keep myself composed until near the end, where I said the words “I am now a survivor.” I had practiced the speech a dozen times before, and never got choked up, and assumed I wouldn’t when I did it in front of others. But I guess it took saying it in that setting for it to really hit me. Those words. I am a cancer survivor. I could see the tears of everyone else looking back at me, and apparently crying is contagious, because I dissolved into a puddle at that moment. Everyone cheered for me and the spotlight was shining in my eyes and the entire thing felt like I was in some sort of dream, or playing a part in a movie. It was an amazing experience, and I’m glad I was able to do it, and hopefully did justice to the other women fighting it out with the big ugly C.

Afterward, I had many women coming up to me and hugging me with tears in their eyes, sharing their stories, and congratulating me on a job well done. Three young girls came over to me and they each hugged me, and told me I was their inspiration and hero, and because of me, they are going to do the walk next year. They had tears in their eyes and seemed genuinely moved. I turned to my sister, and we both, again, burst into tears, in reaction to the sweet sentiment of these girls. It was such a great compliment, to know I had affected them in some small way. I continue to be amazed by the power my words can have upon perfect strangers, and the power that theirs can have right back on me. Amidst all of the crap that I have endured, I feel so lucky for all of the people who have come into my life, however brief, as a result of me having had cancer.

And now I am home, back on the good ol’ couch, full of aches and pains and unable to stand without feeling like my legs are breaking beneath me. But I don’t mind. Because it’s pain from walking. From raising thousands of dollars for cancer research. From using my body. Not pain from cancer. Not pain from cancer drugs. I could get used to this kind of pain. Bring it on.

Scattered thoughts

Some thoughts from my very tired mind:

  • Today I saw multiple incidents where strangers were yelling at each other and saying nasty things in the street. A streetcar rider mad at an automobile driver. A biker mad at a pedestrian. Everyone just mad at the world, at everyone, and everything. And you know what? These days, mad people are what make me… well, mad. Sometimes I wish I could just touch someone and they’d get a quick glimpse into the hell that has been much of the past year for me and my husband. And then maybe they would think, oh geez, this really isn’t worth getting that angry over. If you have your health, and you have at least one person in your life who wants to be around you at least some of the time, then as far as I’m concerned, you have it pretty good. Can we all just stop hating each other and hating the world for one second? Seriously. Stop. Life is good.

  • Yesterday I participated in a video that will be shown during the first night of the Weekend to End Women’s Cancers walk. After we were finished, I was asked if I would be the speaker at the closing ceremonies of the Walk at the Rogers Centre, and represent all the survivors. I was really honoured and said yes, and asked if instead of reading from a script, I could write it myself. I don’t really think reading someone else’s words will sound anything like me, or necessarily be what I would want to say. So now I’ll have to think of what I want to say. I am not worried about writing it. I love writing speeches. The thing I was most excited for about having a wedding was getting to write a speech (besides the whole getting married thing, I liked that too). So I should be okay in that area. I am mostly worried about being a huge sweaty mess and having my eyebrows melt off my face. Or going completely blank and just saying, “Breast cancer sucks!!!” and having everyone throw tomatoes at my head.
  • I’m thinking of writing a book. Just thinking about it. I have a lot of people really pushing me to do it. So I guess I’m in the early planning stages. In other words, I have written nothing. Well, besides this entire blog, which I guess is something. But there is so much more to say, and such a longer story to tell. I just don’t think I have the emotional stamina to deal with it right now, since I’m trying hard to NOT think about cancer as much as I can. So I might leave it alone for a bit, and tackle it when I’m ready. I’ve already imagined it being turned into a screenplay, and I’ve thought about what I would say in my Oscar acceptance speech. I realize this is jumping ahead a bit and I should probably attempt to write a sentence or two before buying a fancy gown. But go big or go home, right? Right.
  • I went back to work this week on a part-time schedule. It was a bit overwhelming as I had to try to absorb a lot of new information in a short amount of time. But I think I’ll get the hang of it again after a bit more time. I refuse to allow myself to get stressed, or to let anyone else’s stress rub off on me. I can’t really afford to be stressed. And I kind of have this new life perspective now, where it isn’t too difficult for me to separate what is truly worth getting in a panic over vs. what is not. Pretty much almost everything falls into the latter category.
  • I’ve been buying some clothes lately, because it felt necessary after wearing pretty much nothing but pajamas and sweatpants for a year. I remember after I was first diagnosed, I couldn’t bring myself to shop and didn’t want to buy any clothing. It felt pointless, like maybe I wouldn’t live long enough to wear the clothes or maybe I’d never have a need for regular clothes again, or never like the way I looked in anything. I didn’t want to be dead, with a bunch of new clothes, and have to leave my family to deal with getting rid of all them. Clearly, my mind was in a pretty dark state. But it ain’t there anymore. I love clothes. I want more. MORE MORE MORE.
  • Today I went to a check-up at the hospital, where three different people looked at and squished my boobs. While I was sitting in the waiting room, I saw so many scared women, clearly only at the beginning of their “journey”. You can usually tell by who has long hair. I remember being that scared girl those first few months, sitting in the waiting room, wanting to cry in the corner and be pretty much anywhere else. And I’d look at other ladies with short hair, who clearly had just finished their treatment, and I was in awe of them, wondering if I’d ever make it to that point. And as I sat there today, with my almost-pixie hair, feeling confident and healthy, I realized I was at that point. I am now the girl that others are staring at, wondering if they’ll make it over to the other side. Wondering how I survived. Truthfully, I don’t know how I did. But somehow I made it. I am part of the short-hair club. I am someone others look to for hope and inspiration. If they only knew that I laugh when people fall down, or when someone farts, then maybe they wouldn’t feel so inspired. But that can be our secret.

Like me? Hate cancer? Read on.

Thanks everyone for all of your excitement over my last post. Indeed, it was happy news and I was glad to share it with all of you. In other happy news, I have just begun my final week of radiation. Now that my burn is progressing and getting more uncomfortable, I am very eager to say farewell to radiation and my daily hospital routine. The next few weeks will be my “recovery” period, which I’m very much looking forward to, since I haven’t really had one of those since all of this began. I am feeling quite exhausted (which has been exacerbated by not having a functional A/C unit during an unfortunate heat wave), so it will be nice to have some time to relax and enjoy, without the familiar looming of a new phase of treatment quickly approaching.

One thing I am looking forward to is the Weekend to End Women’s Cancers 60KM walk in September. This walk benefits research, clinical improvements, and survivorship initiatives at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, which is where I have been receiving my treatment and care. The folks at Princess Margaret do amazing things with the money raised from this walk. As someone who has personally benefited from these amazing things, it is important for me to try to give back.

There are many things that are needed to facilitate cancer research initiatives, but the main thing that’s needed? Money. Lots of money. And maybe you have some money. And maybe you’re angry that young women like me are getting breast cancer. Or maybe you’re angry that 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in their lifetime, meaning you will likely be closely connected to someone who has to deal with this craptastic disease. Maybe you want to play some small part in fighting back and making a difference. Maybe you want to pat yourself on the back, knowing you could be helping to improve or even save the lives of your friends, your sisters, your daughters. Me. You.

Did my guilt trip work there? Excellent. Now it’s time to pay up.

Everyone who participates in the 2-day walk has to raise a minimum of $2000. Obviously I’d like to raise even more than that. I’d like to raise a million. A trillion. A centillion. But we’ll start small. For now.

If you’d like to donate, you can do so on my personal page by clicking this link. Click the “donate online now” button, and follow the instructions. Anything you can give, big or small, is very appreciated. (But obviously bigger is better. Always better.)

(You can also check out my husband’s page and if you are his friend or family member, or a simple admirer, please donate to his page as he needs to raise the funds as well.)

Usually I really don’t like asking people for money. It makes me a bit uncomfortable. But this year, I have no problem with it. We can all play a small part in fighting cancer. I tried fighting it by torturing my body for the good part of a year. You can try fighting it by throwing a bit of cash at the problem.

If you ask me, I’d say you got the better deal.

The beginning of the Weekend walk last year. Waiting to hear my cancer diagnosis, but still managing to smile for the camera.
The beginning of the Weekend walk last year. One of the last photos taken of me pre-cancer diagnosis.