Monday, 30 July 2012

The Scooter Ride

Yesterday was so hot that my three loads of laundry dried within three hours on the line outside.  In fact, some of the lighter materials dried within 30 minutes!  The reason for the big push on laundry is "I've packed my bags and I'm ready to go.  Just standing here outside your door......Leaving on the jet plane. Don't know when I'll be back again."  Sorry, I couldn't resist those lyrics from the song entitled "Jet Plane" from years ago.  So I spent most of my day getting laundry done, clothes organized and started to pack up the suitcases.  I'm getting ready to strike off a major trip on my bucket list although my husband likes to call it my "living list".

I'm going to visit my really close friend in California who is like a sister to me.  Although she lives so far away, she has been right beside me from the time I went to my first appointment with my family doctor, through all the diagnostic testing and the referrals to other doctors and through the whole time I've had chemo.  When I was feeling sorry for myself in my blog as the side effects of the chemo got to me, she would put things in perspective in the right way that I would laugh or come up short with the realization that the awful chemo was going to make me better.  She understood when I could hardly talk and she wasn't offended when I wouldn't call her on the telephone.  We switched to emailing and communicating using the computer.  We're back to calling each other just whenever we feel like it.  I'm going to visit my friend!!!!  I can't wait!!!

So after I'd done what I could do with the packing for now, I watched the Olympics from London, England while my husband was outside barbecuing some ribs for an early dinner.  He had an early evening softball game to play.  While he was cooking the ribs, he was also downloading the pictures off our camera so it will be ready for our trip.  I joined him at the computer and we scrolled through the pictures.  Throughout my treatment, he tried to take a picture each day to document the ordeal.  As we went through the pictures, you could definitely see the toll that the chemo took on me.  I eventually had to leave my husband at the computer because I couldn't handle seeing those awful pictures.  It's still too fresh in my memory and it was making me feel ill.

After supper, as my husband was getting ready to play ball, he invited me to come and watch which meant riding on the back of his scooter.  I've gained too much weight and the ride wouldn't be very far so we thought that the poor scooter could handle both of us without bottoming out as it went over the bumps in the road.  Unfortunately, my husband's team didn't have enough players show up to play the game and they had to forfeit the game.  So we hopped back on the scooter to go home.  As my husband was pulling out of the diamond, he said "Do you want to take the long way home?"  Well, sure!  I have no plans.  It's a beautiful evening.  Why not take the long way home.  I thought it would be a scenic route through the back suburban streets.  Nope. Wrong.  He went down to the water and hooked a left.  The night was warm and you could smell the lake long before we were beside it.  The poor little scooter was whining away as it transported the two of us.  We drove along the lake and then past the grocery store.  I was enjoying watching the scenery go by when I realized that my husband's friend was waving at us from somebody else's front porch.  You see my husband's scooter is bright red with a windscreen.  He, himself, is very distinctive as he sits tall with a white "ping pong" helmet.  He's very easy to recognize on the scooter.  Anyway, we waved as we went by.  We continued along the water and past another subdivision.  This time I could smell steaks, hamburgers, wood smoke (I wonder if someone was smoking their meat or if it was a chimerea?), and in behind those wonderful aromas was the faint smell of the lake.  This really was a very "long way home"!  We followed the lake and went past the hospital where the Cancer Centre is and also where I had my chemo treatments.

As I saw the hospital coming up on my left, I immediately was feeling the phantom effects of nausea and that awful taste that was always in my mouth after treatment.  EWWWWW!!!!!  I remember my oncologist telling me that these phantom effects will eventually pass.  It's been three months since my last treatment and it is still there!

We continued following the lake and I admired the old, colonial homes that still look so stately and well-kept.  As my husband made the different turns to continue following the lakeshore, we ended up in the downtown with all the restaurants and patios.  Oh, the mouth-watering aromas that assaulted my nose!  There were definitely steaks, french fries, hamburgers...oh..oh...!  Definitely riding on the back of the scooter gives you a much different perspective than riding in the car!  My husband continued on past City Hall and the park across the street.  There was a Salvation Army church service happening in the park as we went by.  They were praying and give thanksgiving for the music.  Oh.  My husband made a left and found a small parking spot.  He suggested getting off and stretching our legs.  So we wandered down to the waterfront and just as we were about to cross the street to go watch the boating activity on the water, he suggested "Why don't we go get some ice cream first?".  Well, when am I ever one to refuse ice cream!  So we visited the White Mountain Ice Cream store.  I love their ice cream and all their different flavours.  I had a waffle cone with one scoop of caramel crunch ice cream.  We wandered down to the park and sat on the bench to people watch and also watch the boats coming in after a day on the water as we enjoyed each and every lick of our ice cream.  There were tourists taking pictures by the water fountain.  There were couples with young families who had been at the church service.  It must have just been finishing when we drove by.  There was a very fit, young man with no shirt, carrying a big gas can.  I thought perhaps he worked for the tour boat company or maybe his own boat was moored and he needed to fill the gas can.  That's what I like about people watching.  I like to guess where they've been, where they're going and what they're doing.  There were young children running around and enjoying the warm, summer evening.  All this while we enjoyed our ice cream cones.

After our ice cream was done and we had relaxed for a little bit, we walked back to the scooter and climbed aboard.  I thought "Well now we'll head home."  I was thinking that we would take the quick route home now.  Nope.  We bipassed the restaurants and patios.  We drove down the original main road which then becomes the main street along the water again.  This time as we went by the hospital, I didn't have any reaction.  That was good.  Maybe it's going to be a thing of the past.  As we drove, a few times I thought to myself, "He's going to turn here and take us home".  Nope.  Each time I thought that, he went straight through and continued along beside the water.  At the last interection, I thought for sure he was turning towards home as the scooter slowed down.  But nope.  He turned left instead of right and we were following the water again.  Although we could still smell the lake, we were in an old area of what used to be cottages but are now huge, beautiful homes set down through the trees on the lakeshore.  Most of the houses you can see glimpses of through the trees.  Some houses are fully concealed by the mature trees.  In amongst all these large homes, was one orginal small cottage.  I loved it!!  As we passed by, the trees opened up and there was the lake!  My husband continued on and took me to the little parking area across from the airport.  This is the spot he has taken me to throughout my illness to help get me out of the house.  He would bundle me up and drive me here when I was very weak and ill.  We would just park and watch the water roll in on the shore.  This is the spot where he took my picture at the beginning of January for this blog.  That picture was taken before I started any of the treatments. When my aunt, uncle and cousin visited in March, we took them here to see the sunset and the view.  Now...we climbed off the scooter and all those memories disappeared as wisps into the air.

We took off our helmets and put them on the scooter.  Then we climbed down the steep bank to the rocky, pebble-filled beach.  It was so nice to stand there.  The smell of the lake was not the most pleasant but I think that was because it has been such a very hot, dry summer and a lot of seaweed and vegetation is rotting under all the pebbles and rocks.  My husband took some pictures and then we made the climb back up.  We had been at this spot once before in May just after my last treatment.  I remember I could hardly climb up the steep embankment after having got down to the water's edge.  Yesterday, I was able to climb up the bank fairly easily.  I'm getting stronger.  It is these little comparisons that help me see the differences and notice that I'm still getting stronger.  This time when we climbed on the scooter, we made our way home.  We did go past the large homes and I think I even saw a former piano student walking his dog.  I didn't realize that until we were passed or else I may have waved at him.  Oh well.  When we got home, my daughter wondered how the game went.  I filled her in on our little adventure and then asked it there were any phone calls.  My mother had called, so I called her back and had a very nice visit with her. Then it was off to bed.

What a great day it ended up being!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

The Last Ball Game

Today I travelled to watch my son play baseball again.  What makes this weekend different is that my son is in his last year of Midget Rep baseball and the local organizations have never offered up a Junior level rep team.  I'll be going away on holiday and leaving my son behind.  He'll have one regular season game left and then the playoff weekend in August.  This all takes place while I'll be away.  So as a result, today was the last time I will see my son play rep baseball.

As mentioned in the post entitled "Graduation Day", my son was introduced to baseball at a very young age.  He started playing T-Ball when we lived near Avonmore, Ontario.  He was 3 years old.  He had spent the first three summers of his life watching his father and I play softball.  From the time that he could walk, he would run the bases with his father after every game.  So by the time he was old enough to play t-ball, he already knew many of the rules.  At one of the first games of t-ball, he was playing first base and fielded the ball and then immediately stepped on first base.  He knew the batter should be out and he was very indignant when the coaches stated the batter could stay on first base.  My son argued that the runner was out.  That was the rule after all.  We had to pull him aside and explain that the other children were just learning how to run the bases and everybody was safe in this game.  When we moved to our current home, we didn't know there was a hard ball baseball organization, so we registered him in softball.  He played very well that year and I remember him making some amazing plays.  There was one specifically where he was playing shortstop and caught a hard line drive to make the out.  I remember a parent from the opposing team speaking to my son after the game and complimenting him on his great play.  The following year we signed him up for hardball.  They registered him into the Rookie age group which used a pitching machine. Our son was very bored but we encouraged him to stay with it and help the other children learn the game.  One night, the coach approached our son and asked him if he'd like to play up an age level (Mosquito) and help out another team who didn't have enough players.  My son was very excited to be "called up to the big leagues"!!  He went over to the next diamond and the coaches put him out in right field where there wouldn't be a lot of activity.  The very first pitch and BAM!!!!  The ball left the bat in a hurry and went out into right field.  Our son fielded the ball after it hit the ground and threw the ball accurately from right field to home plate to get a runner out.  I remember hearing "Who's that kid?!  What an arm!!".  The following year, our son was registered up into the "Mosquito" level even though he was still at the Rookie age.  Eventually we registered him into Mosquito Rep ball a couple of years later and then began our many years of travelling to different cities and ball parks.  We have met many different people and families over the years.

"Rep Baseball" means Representative Baseball.  This is where players go through try outs to make the team so that the roster ends up being the best players in the area.  This is all in an effort to improve skills and provide a higher level of competition.  Our son fully embraced this level of baseball from the Mosquito level all the way through to Midget.  He has enjoyed many hours of baseball.  It has challenged his emotions.  It has challenged his integrity.  For me the highlights have been watching him play in the OBA (Ontario Baseball Association) Championship game and winning the championship.  Another highlight was watching him play in the EOBA (Eastern Ontario Baseball Association) All-Star Game.  Last year he made the Cannon Cup team where he pitched and threw off a very good team of Venezuelan players.

So today signified the end of all of these many years of baseball.  It was a double header, meaning that they played two games with only 30 minutes between the end of the first and the beginning of the second game.  In this league, when there is a double header, each game is only seven innings long.  My son was the starting pitcher in the second game.  He pitched the first five innings and the other team only got one hit off of him.  As my son was getting tired, the coach substituted the shortstop in as pitcher and my son finished the game by playing shortstop.  He immediately turned a double play.  That's my boy!!  I was so proud.  They won the second game by a score of 8-0.

As I watched the games today, I had mixed emotions.  I was definitely the proud momma.  I felt sad because it is the end of an era.  I was definitely nostalgic as I recalled all the years of baseball.  My husband and I reviewed the many ball parks that we've visited and came up with our favourite three.  Our three favourite ball parks where our son played over the years are 1) Riverside Park in Peterborough, 2) Kinsmen Park in Oshawa and 3) Iroquois Park in Whitby.  But I digress.  Back to my mixed emotions.  I was happy watching my son today.  But I was also feeling some hope and excitement about what we might do with our weekends next year without baseball.  Maybe we'll go camping.  That would be fun.  Maybe we'll just chill out at home.  Maybe we'll be able to visit some of the local attractions such as the provincial parks, vineyards or whatever peeks our curiosity.  My emotions were swinging through the whole gamut today.  Part of me hopes that this year's team will make it through the playoffs and then we can still catch one more game before the season is finished for good.  If not, it's been a great time and I'm definitely proud of my son.  He has always played with intensity and given 110%.

The game has taught him how to battle through adversity.  He has learned how to be a team player.  He has learned how to work with a range of different personalities.  He has tasted failure and he has tasted victory.  My hope for my son is that he will always enjoy the game of baseball whether he is a spectator, a player, a coach or an umpire. 

Friday, 27 July 2012

A Day Spent Outdoors

Yesterday I ran into my hairdresser.  I knew that she had been diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer back in March so I was really happy to hear "I like your hair!" when I was walking through the grocery store.  It was my hairdresser!!  Her hair is growing back in but my hair is slightly longer at the moment.  I was just so glad to see her.  She isn't totally finished her journey of treatments but I'm keeping her in my prayers as I hope there is a good outcome.

I woke up with energy this morning.  This was great as I need to get myself ready to go on my next vacation.  So today I got a load of laundry done and hung out.  I still had energy!  (As an aside, who knew that I would get excited about doing laundry a year ago!!)  Yesterday, we received some badly needed rain.  It rained all day which was good news as my vegetable plants were wilting.  Today my flowers are looking perkier and my vegetable garden looked happier.  So this morning, I took the opportunity of some cooler air to pull weeds and clean up my gardens.  I've neglected them because I've either been too tired to spend time on them or I've been too busy visiting with friends and family.  As I pulled the weeds, I listened to the cardinal singing away.  She was answered by the blue jay who was squawking at a black squirrel.  I also heard birds singing (squawking) that we have heard for the last few weeks.  My husband and I saw one last week when we went for a walk.  It was a larger bird and when I looked in my bird book, it looked like a sharp-shinned hawk.  Today once I was finished weeding, I looked up the bird call of a sharp-shinned hawk on Google.  I really think we have a family of them in the neighbourhood.  Maybe they nested up the street in the park but there are three young ones that I have seen flying through the neighbourhood.  They're very noisy.

As I weeded my vegetable garden and my flowerbeds this morning, it was very relaxing and peaceful to hear all the birds.  I was just finishing my weeding when I felt the heat starting to get to me.  As I went inside, I realized that I had been outside for about 3 hours!!  Today was certainly a better day for me.  I even got another load of laundry done and hung outside to dry.

An acquaintance of my husband's (who lives far away from us) is fighting for his life with lung cancer.  We discussed him tonight as we sat on the patio waiting for our supper to cook.  My husband seemed to get the feeling that his friend may be giving up.  As I listened, I wondered what I could do or say to help both my husband and his friend (and his wife).  I realized that the iron will to live and fight has to come from within.  How do you motivate someone (kick someone in the butt) to decide to fight for their life even though they are tired, sore, sick and perhaps depressed.  Yesterday, I felt the urge to contact my husband's acquaintance.  I've never met this man.  He doesn't know me.  I sent him a private message in an effort to encourage him.  I mentioned the different foods that helped to boost my immune system during treatments.  I mentioned how ginger green tea helped me feel better and tasted better than water.  I tried to encourage him.

Before my diagnosis of lymphoma, I couldn't speak or write to people who had cancer.  I never knew what to say.  As I talked with my hairdresser and then discussed with my husband his acquaintance, I realized that in some ways I still don't know what to say!  My prognosis was very can I offer hope to those whose prognosis is not as good?  What do I say?  I get the sense that both of these people are not very religious.  How do I help them?  For me, my belief and faith was everything!!  How do I encourage someone who doesn't have that faith?  I don't want to "convert" them.  I just want to offer them some motivation to hope and make their current quality of life better.  I feel compassion for them.

As I think about these things, I realized that I repeated my mantra "one breath at a time, one moment at a time, one step at a time" so many times during the course of my chemotherapy treatments.  So with my husband's acquaintance, maybe he just needs to concentrate on one breath at a time until the nausea and pain passes.  Then while waiting for appointments, maybe he needs to think just one moment at a time....and make each moment worth remembering for himself and all of his family.  A moment can be spent outdoors just sitting and enjoying a loved one's company.  A moment can be sitting in the car while it is parked overlooking the lake or favourite natural spot.  A moment might be writing a letter to your child where you pour out your heart, hopes and dreams for them....just in case you don't make it.  A moment can then lead to a step.  Just like a toddler takes one step before falling down, then another step or two before falling down.  That toddler fixates on where he/she wants to get to.  This is what I did when I didn't feel well.  I fixated on my next reward to myself when I knew I would start to feel a little better.  That reward would be a visit with friends or family.  Or a car ride out and about to just get a different view and scenery.

I'll continue to pray for these two people as well as three other people that I know are struggling with various forms of cancer.  I still don't know what to say to them.  I also feel guilty that I'm in remission and moving forward with vacation plans.  I even see the return to work is on my horizon.  I'll pray for myself for guidance in knowing what to say and also for a release of feeling badly that I'm surviving and getting stronger each day while people around me are still struggling, crawling and fighting this horrible disease.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Anxiety and Moderation

Last week my husband was on vacation.  We enjoyed many activities and visits but perhaps I extended myself too much.  I tend to be a person that doesn't do things in moderation.  I have always liked to be busy and want to visit with everyone at every opportunity.  I have always thought that I will have plenty of time to rest and slow down when I'm very old or dead.  Life is for living to the utmost.  That has always been my way of looking at it.

My current reality is that I don't have the physical energy to keep the hectic pace I once lived.  My hope is that my energy levels will increase to the level I had before I had lymphoma.  I'm stubborn and refuse to accept what other survivors have told me which is "I still haven't gained the energy I had before".  This came from people who have survived 20 years up to a more recent 2 years.

My dilemna is that this is my son's last summer of playing rep baseball and I don't want to miss any of his games.  Early in the season, I did have to miss games just because I really didn't have the energy to sit through a whole game or to travel away.  In the last week, I've pushed myself.  Today I'm paying the price of being exhausted and sore.  In an effort to participate in my husband's holidays and do things that are very enjoyable for both of us, in the last seven days we've gone to Wesport, Cornwall, dinner out with friends, rest day (although that included laundry, shopping, cleaning), a day at the baseball field then dinner out and a movie, a day visiting friends around their pool and a barbecue, then a day of shopping and visiting my sister and her family at their campsite, and finally another day of cleaning, having my sister and her family for dinner and another night at the ball field.  These were all activities (other than the cleaning and laundry) that are lifetime memories and warm family/friend moments.  I really couldn't say no to any of them.  As a result, I was so exhausted travelling from Cornwall that I was seeing double and dizzy.  This happened again while visiting my sister's campsite the other night and my son had to drive me home early.

As you can tell, I've not been doing things in moderation.  So here is my current dilemna.  I can explain away the exhaustion as part of the busy-ness.  I could even explain away the aches and pains as part of the busy-ness.  But I'm also fighting some anxiety.   In addition, I've been burping more after meals again.  My bowels have been a little more loose the last few days.  I can explain all this away as being too busy, tension, etc.  My anxiety comes from the fact that the symptoms for my lymphoma were the same except for the bowels.  Is it back?!  I pray that this is not the case.  However, the exhaustion I've been fighting with the last number of days is very similar to what I felt last Fall before I was diagnosed.  My speaking voice is still weak although not as weak as it was at the end of November.  I still can't sing although that is a foregone side effect of the lymphoma and chemotherapy.

I weigh my decisions on which activities to engage in based on whether they will provide lifetime memories and whether they reconnect and enhance my personal relationships with friends and family.  I also make these decisions after mulling over whether the activity will nurture the physical, emotional and spiritual realms of my being.  Going to Westport, nurtured my physical being (walking), emotional being (spending time with family and friends) and spiritual being (the connections of nature and the uniqueness of some of the stores' stock).  Going to Cornwall nurtured my emotional being by spending time with my husband and some of my old friends who I haven't seen in years.  Going to dinner with friends also nurtured my emotional being as I hadn't seen them socially in years.  Watching my son play baseball, nurtured my emotional being as it helps to strengthen bonds with my husband and son.  Visiting with friends at their home around the pool, nurtured my physical being (swimming), my emotional being (feeling the love and warmth of friends) and my spiritual being (floating in the water and feeling totally relaxed amid the beautiful surroundings).  Visiting with my sister and her family at their campsite was like a balm to the soul as we went swimming in the pool, relaxed and visited at the campsite and enjoyed laughter and food as we created lifetime memories for our children, nieces and nephew and family.  It also gave me an opportunity to spend time with our children's boyfriend and girlfriend.  Last night we again had a great time with my sister and her family.  I really don't get an opportunity to see my nieces and nephew very often.  We normally see them once a year as there is a large extended family get together.  It is not a time of one-on-one with them.  Last night, it was so nice to literally wrap my arms and blanket in warmth around my nieces as we watched our son play baseball.  This was the first time his aunt, uncle and cousins saw him play ball.  I enjoyed the soft conversations I had with my nieces.

So although the last week has been too busy, it has been a week of warm, wonderful memories.  I struggle with wanting to cram everything into this summer.  Maybe it's because I realize what a gift life is and how short-lived that gift can be.  I know that I am thanking God every morning and night for all these marvelous opportunities.  At the same time, I'm living with anxiety as my body is showing either new symptoms or else showing the results of a busy time.  Today I'm resting in the hopes that it will help.  I pray every day that this horrible disease will not return.  I'm now going to sit on my patio and enjoy nature as I try to calm my thoughts.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

"Do I" or "Don't I" and Choices

Life is about choices.  Since finishing the chemotherapy for my lymphoma, I'm getting stronger and more healthy each week and I have more choices of activities that I can choose to do.  This past week, I chose to travel to Westport one day and Cornwall the next day.  These two days of activity tired me out.   On Thursday I had many options of activities to do.  I could have gone grocery shopping for items we need to replenish in the house.  I could cleaned my kitchen.  I could have cleaned my bathrooms.  I could have dusted the house.  I could have vacuumed my floors and washed the kitchen, bathroom(s) and entrance way floors.  That day I was very tired from two days of travelling and I was struggling with "do I or don't I".  I chose to ignore the options and I rested.  I did go out for dinner on Thursday night with friends but even so I was very tired when I returned home.

Friday, I chose to do my laundry with the intention to clean my bathrooms.  I finally chose to finish trimming my shrubs in the front of the house.  Again, I ran out of energy and I chose to rest after finishing the laundry.  I also chose to make a special dinner for my husband and son.  I created a rub for my whole chicken and then cooked it as a "beer can chicken" on the barbecue.  Paired with mashed potatoes and a zucchini dish that was done on the barbecue, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner.  My husband and I then chose to go for a walk after dinner. Again, I was very tired after we returned home.

Saturday I spent the day at the local baseball field watching my son play baseball.  When we returned home and washed off all the infield dirt that was discolouring our skin, my husband and I went out on a "date".  We've been wanting to do this but we've either been too busy or I haven't had enough energy.  In the last 2 months, I feel like I'm constantly weighing my choices and thinking "Do I or Don't I".  Last night, I decided to go out on my date with my husband even though I was tired.  We went to St. Huberts Restaurant for dinner and then we went to a movie.  We got home just after 10 p.m.  I went to bed because I was tired.

Today we went to our friends' house for an afternoon at the pool and then a barbecue.  I had a great time and it was wonderful to see them again.  I noticed that my stamina still isn't quite what it was.  Swimming in the pool tired me out very, very quickly.  I used to be able to swim multiple lengths and I couldn't even do one length.  It was nice to have a pool to jump into though when the hot flashes hit me this afternoon.  The option of "Do I or Don't I" hit me again tonight when we got home.  My son and husband had a softball game to play this evening.  My son's girlfriend was going to the game to watch them play.  I so wanted to go along because I wanted to watch the boys play ball and also spend time with my son's girlfriend.  I was feeling very torn with the "Do I or Don't I" dilemna.  I chose to stay home because I can feel that my body is really tired tonight.  I have another busy day tomorrow so I need to  rest up so that I can enjoy another day to the absolute fullest.

I'm happy that I have all these choices and opportunities.  I really enjoy spending time with my various friends and especially my husband and family.  I still have to learn to pace myself and I begrudgingly make my "don't" decisions.   My heart and mind are willing to go and embrace life to the fullest by participating in everything that comes along.  My body is still telling me it isn't ready to do that quite yet.  So I'll listen to it for now and yearn for the day that I have my full energy back again. 

Friday, 20 July 2012

A Fulfilling and Satisfying Life - Part 3

It's been awhile since I've worked on this series, but I've been busy tending to the garden of my soul by nurturing the physical, emotional and spiritual parts of me.  So today's post is all about the spiritual circle that completes our soul.  I will end the post with a wrap up of how all three circles work in our lives.

The spiritual circle does not just refer to the action of going to church or "having" religion in our lives.  The spiritual circle can comprise of these things but it is more than that.  The spiritual circle also includes our intuition, our instincts and yes our ways of believing in what we believe in.  We can nurture the spiritual side of us by meditating as we walk in nature, through prayer, by sincerely observing religious rites and rituals, through relaxation, and through fellowship which means spending quality time with friends and sharing deep conversations.  Some people find spending study time with the Bible, Koran or other religious reading also helps to nurture and strengthen their spiritual side.  Some people also tend to their spiritual side by doing Yoga, Tai Chi and other exercise programs. While I was going through my chemotherapy treatments, I discovered a new way to connect with my spiritual side.  A friend mailed me "The Book of Awakening" by Mark Nepo.  It is a daily collection of thoughts and meditations with suggestions on ways to meditate on each day's reading.  I had never officially meditated before.  I have nurtured my spiritual self by sincerely attending church (not just going for appearances), by singing praise and worship songs and hymns, by reading scripture passages on my own, by spending time in the beautiful outdoors and amongst nature and by spending quiet visitations with friends.

I now find my day is not quite complete if I don't check in with "The Book of Awakening".  As I age, I am convinced that our spiritual selves are connected with each other (other people) and we are not even aware of it.  I'm going to use a quotation from "The Book of Awakening" which was part of the reading for June 21.  The title of that day's entry was "The Presence of God".  It was discussing how we are all interconnected.  "In the same way, the presence of God powerfully moves between us unseen, only visible in the brief moments we are lighted, in those enlivened moments we know as love."   This is so true!!!  As mentioned way back in the beginning of January in my blog, I spent the last weekend of November 2011 in a state of upheaval as I knew I had cancer but I didn't know if it was lung cancer, thyroid cancer or lymphoma.  I remember the date of that Sunday (Sunday, November 27, 2011) because I was scheduled to do the Coffee Hour after church and do the snack at my daughter's curling club in the afternoon.  As I arrived at church on that Sunday morning, one of my friends and ex-neighbour stopped me to talk to me.  He told me that I was in his dream the night before.  His dream was that he was driving up a hill with his son in the car, when they passed me riding a bicycle up the hill.  In the dream, his son pointed me out but they were passed me before my friend realized it.  As he told me his dream, all I could think was WOW!  At that very moment, I envisioned myself at the bottom of a very steep hill and struggling to make my way up it.  I couldn't tell my friend how eerily connected that dream was to me.  I did tell him when I saw him in February 2012.  I also asked him if I made it to the top of the hill and he couldn't remember.  It is amazing how we are connected.  I truly believe that when an urge to call someone is very strong that it is a spiritual connection and I should act upon it.  More often than not, the person I have called is having a rough time and is in need of friendship and support.  Throughout the last eight months, friends have called or emailed me just exactly when I've needed it.  Again, I truly believe we are spiritually connected.  In my blog, I have called these moments "Godcidences".

As I mentioned in the previous posts in this series, it is really important that all three circles of our being are nurtured and tended equally.  When that happens, life is absolutely wondrous despite what outside afflictions we may be having.  However, when the circles of our being get off balance, then life does not go well and we are ultimately unhappy and dissatisfied.  I remember my professor (who gave this lecture about the "whole" person) telling all of us that when we pay attention and use our whole being then life is truly fulfilled.  I've tried over the years to remember this and to apply it to my own life.  I haven't always succeeded at it.  Sometimes I've spent more time and effort on the physical and emotional side of me and the spiritual aspect of my being has been neglected.  Life goes on and I seem to enjoy it but there is a part of me that starts to shrivel.

I found for myself that teaching private piano, flute, voice and theory lessons allowed me to have a career that met my physical needs, my emotional needs and my spiritual needs.  It meets my physical needs not only in providing money to meet those needs, but also it keeps my embouchure (mouth muscles for playing the flute), my lungs and my abdominal muscles strong for playing flute and singing.  My career also meets my emotional needs as I am in tune with my emotions to help make the music come alive.  It meets my spiritual needs as I sing or play the flute as an act of worship, praise and thanksgiving but also as I teach young minds how to connect with their music.  Lastly, friendships are the cornerstone, in my opinion, of meeting our physical, emotional and spiritual needs.  True friends provide laughter, love and spiritual support.  Without them, I would be lost.  I've been very, very blessed to have numerous true friends throughout my life.

I will close this series of posts by saying I cannot emphasize enough the importance of being in touch and aware of the three circles that make up our beings.  If you can be fully attuned to your physical, emotional and spiritual circles you will have a fulfilling and satisfying life.  You need to use all three aspects in all areas of your life such as your career, activities and frienships.  You can become so attuned that you can rely on all three circles of your being to help you make the right decisions for you.  People have asked me where do I get my strength to deal with the diagnosis, treatment and reality of living with cancer.  I have to say that these circumstances allowed me to take the time to nurture every single aspect of my being.  I'm not going to say I'm happy I had lymphoma because I wouldn't want to go through that again.  But the fact of having lymphoma allowed me to reconnect with my physical self, my emotional self and my spiritual self.  In some ways I had ignored them, as mothers do, so I could look after everybody else.  I'm reconnected with myself and I feel fully healthy in all aspects.  My experience urges me to share with everyone else the importance of nurturing all three aspects and applying them to all areas of their lives.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Cancer As Part of My Identity

Since November 24, 2011, cancer/lymphoma has been a major part of my life and identity.  For the past eight months it has consumed me physically, emotionally and spiritually.  All three of these areas comprise to make a whole person.  Needless to say, it has changed my physical life but also my thoughts on life.  For the last number of days, I've been wanting to go back to being the person I was before cancer.  I want my "old" identity back without the addendum of cancer.  Currently, lymphoma is always at the back of my mind even if it is subconsciously.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to travel with my husband to Cornwall, Ontario.  He was going to spend the day on the golf course with friends so he dropped me off at my friend's house for the day while he went golfing.  I realize that as I'm meeting friends for the first time since being diagnosed and battling my lymphoma, that there are questions about my journey.  I fully understand my friends' needs to reconnect with me and to share, in person, my journey through the last eight months as part of my relationship with my friends. This helps draw us closer together emotionally and it keeps our friendships current.  I also realize that at some point, I'll be able to move beyond the retelling of my journey with lymphoma and get back to "normal" friendships.  As I visited with my friend yesterday, we did move beyond "the cancer" and we enjoyed sharing about other areas of our lives and mutual friends.

I had the special opportunity to meet up with another dear friend who is a 10 year cancer survivor!  My visit with her was extra special in that we talked about being survivors and what that really means.  On the surface it means we beat the beast called cancer but there is so much more to being a survivor than that.  As I mentioned earlier, I've been wanting to move beyond the cancer and transition back to my identity before cancer.  My survivor friend mentioned that the thought of cancer is always there at the back of your thoughts.  This may not be a conscious thought but it is always there.  It's there in the clarity and vibrancy of moments spent with family and friends.  It's there as we create lifetime memories.  It is there as each day is lived to the fullest.  It's there in the urgency of fulfilling all the activities, trips, family visits and visits with friends that you want to do.  This summer that is what I'm living with.  I have an urgency to do everything that I've put off doing as I waited for me to have the money to do it or the time to do it or the energy to do it.  I'm not putting things off anymore.  This summer I'm doing exactly what I want to do.  My survivor friend indicated that this feeling that life is too short will never go away.  That is what cancer does to you.

I know that I'm very aware of the various symptoms of lymphoma.  I also know that if I feel fatigued, I inwardly question "Is it coming back?!"  If I burp or have any kind of indigestion or bloating after a meal, I wonder "Are the lymph nodes around my stomach getting bigger again?"  When these questions start to plague me, I objectively look at the symptoms and what I've been doing or eating and it all makes sense.  I also know that I'll be seeing my oncologist for regular check ups every three months.  We'll catch anything before it gets growing too big, IF there's anything there to catch.

I think this constant thinking, analyzing and questionning may have been what my survivor friend was talking about when she mentioned that cancer is always in your thoughts.  I won't always be talking about cancer and I want to make sure that I'm not "stuck" and my identity engulfed by cancer.  Yesterday was a great mix of friendship, support, laughter and sharing.  The day went by much too quickly (just like the summer is marching on much too quickly) and it was 9:30 p.m. before my husband and I said our goodbyes to our friends and made the two hour trek home.  This morning I'm tired but I'm ready to take on the day!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Getting On With Living

Today my husband and I decided to drive to Westport, Ontario with our daughter and two of our friends.  It was a record-breaking hot day but we set off on our trip at 9:30 a.m. with the hope that we would get there before it was unbearably hot.  Now that I'm starting to feel better, I find that I experience little details throughout the day with more clarity and intensity.

The drive to Westport took us through the south part of the Canadian Shield.  I loved the rolling hills which are covered with a variety of vegetation.  You can see scrub bush, woods, hayfields with the rolled bales of hay sitting in them and corn fields.  It has been a very dry, arid summer so far and the corn is showing signs of stress.  The leaves are furling in on themselves as they try to conserve what little moisture is in them and the corn stalks are shorter than they normally are at this time of the summer.  As we continued driving, the hills would dip down into valleys where there would be surprise sun-speckled lakes filled with water lilies.  Every once in awhile we would come across a public boat ramp which would be busy as people were either putting their boats into the water or pulling them out of the water.  The road was full of twists and turns which would provide us with surprising views of water as we came around a sharp bend in the road.

When we arrived in Westport, we parked down near the waterfront.  We started up Bedford Street and stopped in to browse through various boutiques and shops.  Westport is a very quaint village and I love visiting it for a day.  My daughter found a beautiful sundress at one of the boutiques.  Myself, I have four favourite stores that I always drop by when I'm visiting the village.  I had such fun introducing these stores to my friend and watching her reaction as we came across unique, one of a kind stock in the different stores.  I'm hoping to find a bench to put under my apple trees so we can enjoy the shade of the trees.  I haven't found what I'm looking for just yet but  I was hoping to find something in the stores we visited today.  As we meandered through the village, I recognized that there were more new stores this year.

By the time it was getting close to lunch, we were all very hot and feeling the heat of the noon sun.  So we decided to visit The Cove Pub for lunch.  We thought we might like to eat inside where we would be cooler in the air conditioning.  Because we were a party of five, we were shown to a table in the restaurant side of the establishment.  The air seemed warmer so we decided to move outdoors to the patio where we had a lovely view of the flower gardens and the lake.  The table had an umbrella which provided us with some shade.  That shade and the breeze coming off the water made our lunch very enjoyable.  I had a goat cheese and pecan salad.  In addition to the goat cheese and pecans, it contained mesculin greens, carmelized onions and granny smith apple slices.  It was topped off with a dijon/cider vinaigrette.  It was very light and refreshing.  After our lunch, we wandered down through the garden to the water's edge.  There was an arch and a bench so we took the opporunity to take pictures of our group and the beautiful setting.

Finally we decided to resume our exploration of the village by walking up Church Street.  Just as we were about to leave the back garden of the pub, we saw a miniature bench.  How cute and quaint!!  Needless to say, more pictures had to be taken.  Then we went on our way.  We visited four or five more stores until we were tired and hot.  We made our way back to the van to head home in an air-conditioned vehicle.  We were all tired and wilted.  As we were almost out of the village, my daughter and her friend suggested stopping for ice cream cones.  We wound our way back to almost the same parking spot we had just left.  We climbed out of the van and headed for the ice cream shop.  What a grand idea it was to stop for ice cream!  I love ice cream and the store carried my favourite flavour.  There's nothing like a single scoop of maple walnut ice cream on a plain cone in the midst of a scorcher of a day!!!

After we finished our ice cream, we were back in the van and heading for home.  The drive home was just as beautiful as the drive to Westport.  We were again driving through twists and turns to be surprised by wonderful lake views or pastoral views of the hilly terrain.  I visited with my friend and then realized that the two girls were rather quiet.  They were both sound asleep!

It was a tiring day but what a glorious day it was.  I saw beautiful views, quaint items of jewellry, garden art, one of a kind pieces of clothing and enjoyed the warm company of my friends and family.  I'm so happy to get on with living.  This was the kind of day that makes for lifetime memories.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Baseball Weekend

I'm discovering that it is good to sometimes look back and compare what I'm able to do now compared to what I was able to do 6 to 8 weeks ago.  In making these comparisons, I'm able to see how much stronger I'm getting each week.  Even this last sentence is an example of how my body is recovering from 5 months of chemotherapy earlier this year.  I used to have to compare what I could do each day.  I'm now comparing what I can do each week.  This brings to mind my mantra during the time that I was undergoing chemotherapy.  I had to often repeat to myself "one breath at a time, on moment at a time, one step at a time".  I'm definitely at the "one step at a time" and beyond! Four weeks ago, there is no way I was able to go away for a 2 day trip.  I was too weak and the travelling would have taken too much out of me.  This past weekend, I went away on a whirlwind trip to watch my son play baseball.  As always, we also included some family time which made it extra special.

We left on Saturday morning around 7:30 to drive 2 hours so our son could make it to a baseball field in Toronto.  The sun was shining fully and the air was hot and humid.  With the humidity in the air, the temperature felt like 36 degrees Celcius.  Thank goodness there was a slight breeze to help keep it bearable.  The team played a double header (2 games) that afternoon.  The routine is we set up our lawn chairs or sit on the bleachers.  Out comes the sunscreen and it is slopped on.  I have always had to wear sunscreen as I'm very fair haired and fair skinned.  This year it is especially important as I am even more susceptible to the sun after chemotherapy.  So after slopping on the sunscreen, my wide-brimmed hat goes on too.  One thing about having a brush cut at the moment while my hair grows back, is that it is very cool.  Unfortunately, my wide-brimmed hat traps my body heat in and makes me even hotter.  So out came my extra wide golf umbrella to provide me with shade as there is no shade on the visitor's side of the diamond.  Now I was set to sit back and enjoy the game.

My daughter, who doesn't like baseball but came along with us for the weekend, decided to sit on the opposing team's side of the ballfield where there were lots of trees and shade.  She boldly and confidently walked over and set up her chair in the shade.  Normally, she will just put in her earphones and listen to her Ipod or read a book during the baseball games so I had no concerns of her being in "enemy territory" during the games.  Between the games, she came over to see me and admitted that she actually watched the game!  Not only did she watch the game, she clapped and cheered for her brother's team!  She mentioned that she received many dirty looks from the home team parents who were sitting near and around her.  In the second game, she returned to her spot and continued to watch, cheer and clap for her brother's team.  Myself, I enjoyed watching the game.  I was sitting behind the backstop so that I could get a full view of the field as I watched the game.  Unfortunately, this meant that as plays happened at home plate or a ball got past the catcher, I was caught in the clouds of dust that would drift through the backstop, envelope me and move on past to the swampy, reedy area behind me.  When this happened, I would just close my eyes so I wouldn't get any dust in my eyes.

That was Saturday.  After the games finished, we packed up our lawn chairs, cooler and my umbrella and loaded up the van.  The team lost both games but this was against the first place team and apparently our son's team kept the scores closer than most of the other teams.  We continued on our way to our "hotel".  We have discovered that it is cheaper to stay at a college residence during the summer and still have some of the amenities of a hotel.  These stays always include a continental breakfast and there is often a "common" area that parents and players can congregate in for an enjoyable evening of conversation, cards, games or whatever.  This time we stayed at Centennial College where there was also an indoor pool.  Needless to say, the ball players all hit their individual showers first.  This was followed by family members.  I had forgotten how sunscreen acts like glue for the baseball infield  red dust.  The water in the bottom of the shower just flowed that same colour!

An evening of pizza and conversation with other parents ensued.  I tried to stay up but my mind and body had other ideas and I was sound asleep by 10:30.  We were up and had to be at another ball park in the Toronto area by 10 a.m.  The weather had been forecasting another hot, humid day but also with rain and thunderstorms.  When we checked out of the "hotel", it was sunny, very hot and very humid.  The boys had another double header scheduled for the day.  We also have very close family friends who live in Toronto and it has become an annual event for them to watch a game and then we go for dinner, a visit and sometimes a walk before we would get back on the road and head home.  Yesterday was no different and we had plans to have them meet us at the ballfield for the second game of the double header.

The first game was played under clear blue skies in a temperature that felt close to 40 degrees Celcius due to the humidity.  Players were struggling to keep cool and both players and spectators were drinking lots and lots of water!  We watched our son as a relief pitcher and he had a good outing.  They won the game 10-0.  Between games there is always a short time to allow the players to cool down and eat some lunch.  We rushed out and picked up some subs and brought them back to the field for our lunches.  While we were eating, we could see a very large, dark, ominous cloud to the west of us.  The players, coaches and parents kept a close eye on it as it continued to move slowly towards us.  The umpires arrived for the second game and also joined the rest of us in watching the sky start to darken.  Then the wind picked up which was nice as it was very hot and humid and the wind provided us with some relief.  The cloud was so threatening, that my husband and daughter packed up the cooler and the lawn chairs and returned them to our van.  Our daughter chose to stay in the van.  Just as my husband returned from the parking lot, the first spritz of rain started to fall.  I put up my big umbrella and my husband put up his which he had grabbed from the van.  The wind picked up some more, the temperature plummeted and the rain began in earnest.  The team scrambled to put all their ball bags under the canopy that the coaches had erected and they all stood underneath to stay dry.  Lightning started to shoot from the sky in the distance to the west and the north.  It was still a fair distance away but we were definitely getting the rain.  My husband had been in contact  with our family friends who had forewarned us that the system was coming.  It had hit their area of the city about 30 minutes before reaching us.  As the storm was getting closer, I decided to make my way to the van.  The wind was so strong that my umbrella was used as a shield in front of me to keep the driving rain from soaking me.  As I walked across a soccer field to get to the van, I saw flashes of lightning and thunder close behind it.  I was a little nervous!!  I made it to the van and even managed to keep myself fairly dry!  Not even 5 minutes later, I saw the home team coaches and players running for their vehicles.  The second game was cancelled due to weather and will be rescheduled.  My husband and son arrived in the van and off we went to go to our friends' home.

On route to our friends' home, the rain stopped and the sky brightened.  We got to their condo and parked the van.  As my son got out, I heard him say "We better make a run for it!"  I jumped out of the van and started running for the front door of the condo.  Then I heard "Cathy, stop!!  I need your purse...your car keys!".  Now it was raining in earnest.  I stopped and opened my purse to get my car keys as my husband had locked his keys inside the van.  In just that moment of stopping to get my keys, I was soaked!  My purse was soaked!  My sandals were soaked and then they become very slippery.  So I can't run anymore or else I'll fall.  My husband flies past me and says "Run!!".  I couldn't run and I was already soaked to the skin.  I walked as fast as was safely possible but by the time I made it into the entrance of the condo I was literally soaked, dripping and looking like a drowned rat!  We made our way up to our friends' condo.  As we walked off the elevator, my husband said to me "What's that sound?!"  I stopped walking and replied "What sound?"  It ended up being the squishing of the water in my sandals.  They were so wet that every time I took a step, you could hear and see the water squishing out of the insides of my sandals!  Our friends' welcomed us into their home and provided my husband and me with towels, sweatshirts, t-shirts and trackpants while they dried our clothes in the dryer.  Our children were dry as they had made it into the condo entrance before the deluge of rain had hit.

While we dried out, we enjoyed a wonderful visit and listened to our daughter play the piano.  When our clothes were dry, we got dressed and went out for dinner.  We continued our conversations over dinner and then decided to head back to the condo for more visiting.  Once we were back at the condo, out came more piano music for us to play and also the picture albums appeared containing pictures of my husband and one of our friends as little children.  As we looked through the pictures, you could see my husband and his brother grow up to teenagers and young adults.  Then you saw the addition of myself and my sister-in-law as we became part of the family.  It was so nice to see the pictures and have them bring back memories.  There were even pictures of our children when they were toddlers and preschoolers!  Our daughter was looking at the pictures and commented on liking the dress our friend was wearing in one of them.  Off went our friend and out comes the dress!  My daughter tried it on and it looked fantastic on her!  Out came another dress for her to try on and it, too, looked really good.  So our friend gave my daughter the dresses to keep.

This was the first time that I'd seen these friends since being diagnosed with lymphoma and going through chemotherapy.  These friends are more like family than friends!  I had talked with them on the phone and they had followed along in the blog but it was just so nice to see them in person.  The depth of love and warmth that I feel when I see family and friends for the first time since having lymphoma is overwhelming.  I am filled with a sudden flow of warmth and strong emotions.  This is because life is so unpredictable and the possibility was there that I might never have seen them again.  I'm getting stronger now and I've survived my two days away.

I love when I can combine a normal activity such as baseball with nuclear family time and extended family time.  This weekend I realized that our nuclear family time is also going to be more rare.  This was our last weekend away for baseball ever.  We've been doing this for ten years!!  I'm glad that we were able to finish it off with our full family involved.

Friday, 13 July 2012

A Happy Day

This morning I decided to get out into the vegetable garden early before the forecasted heat built up.  All the plants are so dry that they drink up the water almost immediately.  I watered the plants with the hope that it will help them produce their fruit.  At the same time I did some much needed weeding.  I think I may plant some spinach next week or the following week because I just finished picking the spinach that I planted in May.  While I watered my tomato plants in containers on our patio, I peeked at the three baby robins that are in the nest in our grapevines.  I was concerned that they would find the heat too much for them.  As I looked at them today, they are starting to get feathers and their eyes are finally open.  While I peeked at them, one of them had its mouth wide open waiting for the mother robin to come and feed it.  As I watered the plants near them, the mother robin scolded me from our neighbour's eaves.  Once I was finished watering my plants, it was already very hot and humid.

I had a plan for the rest of my day.  I would enjoy my lunch with my husband and then I would do some housework at home in the air conditioning.  I did enjoy my lunch with my husband and on the way home, I thought "I can always do the housework but I don't always have the van.  I'm going to drop by my friend's house.  If she's home and available, I'll spend my afternoon visiting.  If she's not home, then I'll continue on my way home and do the housework."  So I dropped by my friend's house and she was home!  We had a lovely visit and then it was time for me to go home.  My son was planning to travel downtown by bus and I wanted to surprise him by getting home and driving him downtown.  I missed him.  He had already left.  So then I drove down to pick my husband up from work as he starts his one week vacation.

After supper, my husband and I walked to Dairy Queen for ice cream and then we walked back home.  It was just a little too long a walk for me as I ran out of energy part way home.  It was a struggle to walk the rest of the way home.  It took me over 30 minutes to regain a semblance of normalcy once I was home.

I'm pleased with what I did in my day.  I enjoyed my lunch with my husband, my visit with my friend and my walk to Dairy Queen and home.  I'm grateful that I have the strength to "do" but I'm still struggling to accept that my energy levels are not what they used to be.  Tonight my muscles are very tired and I'm dragging.  I keep hoping that I will get stronger and gain more endurance if only I keep working at it.  I'm looking forward to the weekend.  My son will be playing 4 games of ball over the weekend and I think we'll incorporate a visit with family at the same time.  I just hope that I will have the energy to take it all in.

The single most thing that I've noticed since I was diagnosed with lymphoma is that I live fully in the moment and enjoy each and every moment in my day.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Gift of Music

From the beginning of my journey with lymphoma, music has played a major role.  This is not surprising as I am a musician in multiple disciplines and music has been part of my soul since I was a preschooler.  The first sign that something was not right with me was when I could not sing the high notes during a lesson I was teaching.  It was this along with trouble speaking and trouble breathing as I played my flute that made me stop and take notice.  It was these symptoms that sent me to my family doctor and started me along the journey through lymphoma.

As I went through my chemotherapy treatments, I used my energy to think of positive things, feel the love of family and friends wrap itself around me and commune with God.  However, during this time deep inside, I was mourning the temporary loss of my ability to sing and play my flute.  I would go to the piano occasionally to play when I was strong enough, but I missed singing so much that it was a constant ache in my soul.  I have tried to acknowledge this pain and yearning to myself and then move on and focus on what I can do.

Now that I'm in remission, it still feels like part of me is absent.  That is the musical part of me.  I've been playing the piano and that helps ease the ache.  A few weeks ago, I tried to play my flute.  Unfortunately, it seems to aggravate the larynx nerve which is damaged and is currently healing.  This was a real blow to my inner self.  I had hoped that I could at least play my flute and slowly join my friends in our chamber group on Wednesday evenings.  I haven't played with them since November 23, 2011.  I miss the music, the laughter and the fellowship.  So again, I don't dwell on the fact that I'm not playing my flute or singing, but deep underneath, the sorrow is a constant ache.

Yesterday my friend, who I played flute and oboe duets with (she's the oboist) and we played together with our other friends on Wednesday nights, called me up and wondered if I would like to get together to make music together.  Her suggestion was that I accompany her on the piano.  This was like a rain shower on some very arid and thirsty flowers.  My soul perked right up and was excited to get together today to make music with my very special friend who has been by my side right from the beginning in November.

I could hardly sleep last night because I was so excited to be playing with her even though it was in a new role.  Unfortunately because I didn't sleep well, it was difficult to arise this morning.  As a result, I was running a wee bit late.  Once I arrived at my friend's house, we had a wonderfully enjoyable time of playing music from various genres.  We played some pieces from different musicals as well as some music from the 1930's and 40's.  This lifted my spirits so much and made me realize just how much I was missing my music.  Music is an integral part of who I am.

One of the many different thoughts that I pondered while ill, was my tendency towards performance anxiety.  I have always restricted myself to performing in church where it is generally an accepting audience.  This doesn't mean that I don't strive to play at a high standard, but if I don't quite make it, then people are very forgiving.  In the last seven years, I've let my anxiety get the better of me and I have not played my flute in church very often at all.  I've allowed my fears to rule me.  While I've been fighting the lymphoma and going through treatments, I prayed and thought about my role in my church in regards to my flute playing.  I've always taught my children that the church is God's home.  When we attend church, we are visiting in the home of our closest friend and supporter.  Why should I fear to play for and worship my God in His/Her home?  God doesn't want me to be afraid.  God will be happy with my best effort.  I realized my fears and anxiety actually come from what other people will think of me.  Perhaps my performing in church was becoming more about impressing people rather than worshipping God.

It will be a long time yet before I'm ready to perform in church on my flute or by singing.  My larynx nerve is still healing and I can't be using it until it is fully healed.  Otherwise, I will just be extending the amount of time before I can use it again.  In the meantime, I can play the piano and I can tend to the garden of my soul by enjoying making music with my friend as well as on my own.  It's time to embrace my music in any way I can.  I just have to remember and restrain myself from singing aloud.  My soul will soar with the music and sing for me.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

First Post-Chemo Holiday

I'm back after a 10 day hiatus where I had no internet access.  I left on June 29 to go "camping" with my husband.  Our son was left at home and our daughter was allowed to stay at a friend's house.  We are full of gratitude to her friend's parents.  Their generosity extended to us throughout my battle with lymphoma has been tremendous and we have no way of thanking them enough.  We drove six hours to Carson's Camp at Sauble Beach.  Sauble Beach is located on Lake Huron at the base of the Bruce Peninsula.  We spent our Canada Day weekend there as we had a "Cousins' Weekend".  My parents had a seasonal trailer in this campground for many years and I spent some time here as a teenager and young adult.

One of my favourite memories and activities is to arise early and go for a walk down to the beach and along the beach before anyone else is up and about.  My memory of this always brings me peace and serenity as I remember the early morning dew on the grass, the birds cheerfully singing and rhythmic sound of the waves crashing on the beach.  It is a time where I exist alone amid the cool morning breeze with the sand sifting through my toes as I walk along the beach.  It was this memory that I was hoping to recreate each morning of my stay during the Cousins' Weekend.  Unfortunately, my body and stamina were not up to the walk to the beach, along the beach and back.  I could have walked to the beach from my campsite, but I would have been too tired to make my way back.  I could have wallowed in self-pity as I realized my current limitations but instead I decided to walk briskly throughout our area of the campground in an effort to get stronger.  We were located on the east side of the campground so my walks took me alongside the water's edge of Carson's Lake.  This is a mud bottom lake where people can go canoing but there are not motorized craft allowed on the lake and there is no swimming allowed.  My morning walks, which took place around 6:30 each morning, allowed me to see turtles, assorted birds and a blue heron.  These walks were very enjoyable as I still saw the dewy blades of grass, the quiet peacefulness of the campground before people are awake and the still water of Carson's Lake as it looked like a mirror.  After my walks, I would heat up some water in my electric kettle and enjoy a cup of instant coffee while I read my current book.  In the background, I would hear people in the vicinity waking up.  I would hear movements from other trailers as people climbed out of bed and then there would be the bang of the trailer doors as some people would make their way to the camp's washrooms and showers.  Then there would be various sounds of pots and pans and eventually the smell of eggs or pancakes.  Amidst these waking sounds, I would start to hear children's sleepy voices as they start their days.

Normally we go camping using our tent but this summer my body is not quite ready for the tent experience.  So instead we rented a small portable cabin offered by the campground.  From the outside it looked like a garden shed with wheels and a vinyl awning.  On the inside, there was a double bed on one side and single bunk beds on the other side.  In between the beds was a bar fridge and 2 electrical cooking coils to cook on which sat on a counter on top of the bar fridge.  We are used to tenting and using our coolers and our portable gas hibachi along with our Coleman stove.  We did use the fridge to keep our food cold but we didn't use the cooking coils.  There was one electrical outlet which was enhanced with a muliple plug plug-in.  There was water which was accessible through a hose on the outside of the cabin. I still had the tenting experience of heating my water to wash the dishes in my plastic hand basins.

Each afternoon of our Cousins' Weekend, we would meet up with my cousins and my siblings at one of the campsites.  We would spend our afternoons visiting and snacking.  We shared so many laughs throughout the day as we reminisced being young and meeting up on our grandparents' farm or being teenagers and hanging out at the beach.  We created new memories as we enjoyed each other as adults.  Our afternoons would continue as we all cooked our dinners together and shares meals with each other.  After dinner, we would clean up together and then head over to another cousin's campsite for the evening campfire.  I laughed so much during my Cousins' Weekend that my voice weakened and became scratchy.  I guess I strained my larynx nerve again as my voice continued to be weak throughout the rest of my holiday.  On Canada Day, my siblings left just before dinner.  My husband and I enjoyed our dinner with my cousins and then we all went down to the beach for the municipal fireworks display in Sauble Beach.

We arrived at the beach just in time to see the beautiful orange and red display of the sun setting in the west on the horizon of Lake Huron.  We set up our lawn chairs and shared our blankets as the wind was cool once the sun went down.  We could see people lighting and sending off lanterns.  These lanterns were red in colour and acted like hot air balloons.  They were beautiful to see as they floated high into the air.  As we watched the fireworks put on by Sauble Beach, we enjoyed the unexpected surprise of seeing the fireworks in Southampton and Port Elgin off in the distance.  Those displays were reflected on the waters of Lake Huron.  This was a wonderful finale to a great weekend of spending time with family.  I felt tired but happy to be alive.

The following morning my husband cooked up a full breakfast of eggs, steak, bacon and potato homefries.  We packed up and got on the road.  We stopped at my brother's farm near Desboro for lunch and another beautiful visit.  We continued on our way to Kitchener so my husband could drop me off at my other brother's place for the week.  Unfortunately, along the way to Kitchener we came upon an accident involving a SUV and a motorcycle.  This dampened both our spirits and bothered both of us as we went our separate ways during the week.  My husband continued on his way home after delivering me to my brother's home.

After arriving at my brother's home and after my husband left to continue his journey home, my sister-in-law and I went to my aunt and uncle's home for dinner.  We met up with my cousin and her husband who we had just seen up at Sauble Beach.  They had also come upon the accident with the motorcyclist and apparenty he was alive and conscious when the ambulance took him from the scene of the accident.  We all enjoyed a wondeful meal and visit with my aunt and uncle.  What a fine end to a great weekend!  It was 8:30 p.m. when my sister-in-law and I left to return to my brother's place.  I was exhausted!!!  As soon as we arrived, I fell into bed.  The bed never felt so soft as I immediately drifted off to sleep and slept for 12 hours!

My week at my brother's was wonderfully relaxing.  I slept, read and visited with my brother and his wife.  My body was so tired that I didn't feel "normal" until Thursday which was three days after arriving at their home.  On the Friday evening, my mother, sister-in-law and myself drove to Paris (near Brantford) for a bridal shower for my cousin.  It was another evening of reconnecting with family and was full of laughter as we celebrated and feted my cousin as she prepares for her wedding.  My voice again weakened as I talked and laughed alot with extended family.

My holiday came to an end on Monday when I took the train home.  Once I was on board, I saw my brother and sister-in-law waving at me from the platform.  We continued to smile and wave until the train took me away and I could no longer see them.  It is such a relaxing way to travel and was eventful as we were delayed near Brighton for grass fire.  I arrived home an hour late.  As the train pulled into the station of my destination, I was so excited to see my husband standing waiting for me.  I missed him so much.  But again, I'm tired.  This will take me a couple of days to recover but the whole ten days has been a celebration of life.  It was a mixture of full, busy days and relaxing days.  I met so many people who had prayed for me during my lymphoma diagnosis and subsequent chemotherapy and continue to pray for me as I'm in remission.  LIFE IS AWESOME!!!