Sunday, 31 March 2013

Happy Easter!!!

This is the Sunday after Good Friday.  This is the day of light, renewal, new life and joy.  During Lent, I came across a series of reflections that made use of my Advent Wreath (and candles).  So each Sunday during Lent, one more candle would be extinguished to signify the coming death of Christ.  Each blackened candle also encouraged me to contemplate the ills of our world.  Today, I relit all six candles to symbolize the full light of the world as shown in our resurrected Christ.

As I'm sitting here with my candles full of light, I'm also listening to a radio station from Newfoundland called OZFM.  On Sunday mornings, they play jigs and reels which both my husband and I love to listen to.  I found this station streamed online thanks to a fellow from my highschool days.  He mentioned it on facebook a year ago while I was undergoing my chemotherapy and feeling in the dumps.  The jigs and reels, which I have always loved to listen to since being a child, lifted my spirits at that time.

My earliest memories of jigs and reels I think are from my childhood.  It may have been at dances that we attended with my grandparents at the local community centre.  I know for sure I heard this genre of music as my grandparent's contemporaries "clogged" at various fairs and community events.  Clogging seems to be a dying art/dance form because I certainly haven't seen or heard of any groups that currently perform this style of dance.  For many years, I didn't hear any jigs and reels at all and I forgot about them.  Then my daughter came along and at a young age showed an interest in highland dancing.  The first time I heard the various jigs and reels that she performed to, it was like coming home.  There was the distant memory of similar music and the joy it brought to my heart.  I truly believe that the tug I feel each time I hear this music is the faint echo of my Scottish and Irish ancestory.

I have really digressed here but the music certainly reflects my positive and joyous mood being it is Easter Sunday.  I've been fighting a terrible sinus cold/flu for the last 10 days.  It has really knocked down my energy levels and it has been difficult to meet my teaching responsibilities.  I also had to make a trip to a friend's mother's funeral on Thursday.  It was a day of 4 hours of driving.  So much as I wanted to attend my Good Friday and Easter Sunday services, I've not felt well enough to attend.  However, isn't it amazing that on Easter Sunday I have awakened feeling a little better!  So here's to the celebration of Easter!!

This is the first year that we have not spread chocolate eggs around the house for our teenagers to find.  However, I did set out chocolate for them at their place settings on the table.  Normally, I would have gone to church and then we would spend the afternoon relaxing or walking at the local conservation area.  Today, I'm just relaxing at home as I still don't have the energy to go out and about.  We're going to slow roast a smoked ham with a glaze.  I'm going to make scalloped potatoes and some maple glazed carrots to go with the ham.  For dessert, I made a white cake yesterday and I'll serve some frozen fruit over the top along with a drizzle of maple syrup.

So to all my friends, family and followers of this blog, Happy Easter and may you be blessed with the warmth of family and the renewal of life in our risen Jesus Christ.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Hitting The Wall (Figuratively Of Course)

Life has been going by like a whirlwind for the last number of months.  I'm not complaining because I really believe in reaching out, taking a hold of life in the moment, hanging on with both hands and enjoying the ride.  This doesn't mean that I don't think ahead or plan for the future.  It means that I am fully present in the moment and enjoy whatever is going on.

I happen to live in an area where there are many, many opportunities to enjoy culture, sports, dinners out with friends, etc.  When the opportunity presents itself, I've been jumping at it and enjoying it.  I've had opportunitites to attend OHL hockey games with my husband and friends.  I was very fortunate to enjoy many of the draws at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts due to the generosity of a very good friend.  During that week, we also were able to share a meal with our very good friends, listen to live music at the end of the day and take great pride in watching our son volunteer at the event.   The following weekend, my husband and I enjoyed a day of movies at the local Canadian Film Festival.  Amongst all this enjoyable activity, I've also been busy preparing students for the local music festival, exams and a year-end recital.  I'm very fortunate to be able to enjoy teaching.  So my days are full of satisfying and enjoyable activity and my nights and weekends are also filled to overflowing.  This past week, I was able to enjoy an amazing night out with my husband and two of our very good friends.  We started our evening with a meal out at one of our favourite restaurants which has just reopened after going through some renovations.  We then enjoyed a fantastic concert with the band "Rain" which is a Beatles tribute band.  The performance was very, very good.

The unfortunate part is that my body has decided it can only handle going full throttle for a while before it tells me "Enough is enough!!".  The day after our evening out this week, I "hit the wall" when I came down with a nasty sinus virus that is making its rounds through the city.  I had planned to continue my Spring cleaning which is almost finished but not quite.  Instead, yesterday I finished a great book by Kate Morton entitled "The Forgotten Garden".  I slept and I also started the second sock of a pair of socks that I'm knitting for my sister-in-law.  I'm dosing myself with cold medication to help keep the sinuses flowing so that it doesn't turn into an infection.  I'm also motivated to rest and take care of my body because I have more opportunities to enjoy life this weekend.

I'm hoping to attend a fundraiser tomorrow night which is all about chocolate and tasting chocolate.  Mmmmm....yummy.  I'm also wanting to go to "Maple In The County" which is a maple syrup festival that I attended two years ago for the first time and really was disappointed to miss last year.  I have been looking forward to tasting maple cheddar as well as buying some maple syrup along with an ale that uses maple syrup as it's base.  This ale is brewed by a local microbrewery.  So here's hoping that if I behave myself and look after myself today, I can grab life and go for another good ride.

I just mentioned to my husband that he's in this post today.  His response?  "Oh, context of what?!"  There's my smile for the day.  So I'll sign off, pick up my knitting and maybe another good book as I drink teapots of honey, lemon and tea.  Bring on the day!!

Monday, 18 March 2013

Assorted Good Things

I haven't posted in the last week because it was March Break.  I had very few lessons and used my week to start my major Spring cleaning.  This is a good thing in that 2 years ago I didn't have the energy to do it.  Last year, I wasn't well enough to do it.  I love the smell of a clean, aired out house as well as the knowledge that all the nooks and crannies are cleaned.  Just the knowledge that the dust bunnies have been evicted from their hiding places makes me feel rejuvenated and satisfied.  Order has been restored and my world (inner and outer) feels less chaotic.  This is the one time of year where I can indulge my compulsions and justify my acting on them.  I always feel more at peace with a clean home around me.  So I've started my Spring Cleaning and am slowly and methodically making my way through my home.

A few weeks ago, I received a poem from my mother's cousin.  I had never met her mother (one of my great-aunts) because she had died of breast cancer many years before I was born.  However, I knew the story of my grandmother's sister.  Anyway, my mom's cousin informed me in a letter, that arrived along with the poem, that she remembered this poem hanging as a plaque in the hallway outside her mother's bedroom door.  This plaque gained it's place in the hallway not long after my great-aunt had received the diagnosis of terminal breast cancer while she was pregnant with another child.  My mom's cousin sent me the poem because she had been one of my supporters from a distance and she also had a recent health concern.  She felt that I would received comfort from the poem.  She was so right!  I want to share it on my blog.

God hath not promised
Skies always blue.
Flower-strewn pathways
All our lives thro';
God hath not promised
Sun without rain.
Joy without sorrow,
Peace without pain.
God hath not promised
We shall not know
Toil and temptation,
Trouble and woe:
He hath not told us
We shall not bear
Many a burden,
Many a care.
God hath not promised
Smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel,
Needing no guide;
Never a mountain,
Rocky and steep,
Never a river
Turbid and deep:
But God hath promised
Strength for the day,
Rest after labour.
Light for our way,
Grace for all trials,
Help from above,
Unfailing sympathy,
Undying love. 

I can just imagine my great-aunt reading this daily as she was pregnant and knowing that she was dying of breast cancer.  When I remember back to being pregnant with my own children, I can just imagine the bittersweet feelings my great-aunt must have felt.  The joy of carrying a child and feeling that child move within you but then also knowing that you would not be around to get to know and watch this baby grow.  The sorrow that my great-aunt must have felt as she also had two little girls already and knowing that she wouldn't see them grow and mature.  Myself, I find deep meaning in the last stanza of the poem.  Strength, Rest, Grace, Unfailing sympathy, Undying love and a Light for our way.....these words and phrases give me comfort and a feeling of a constant presence is with me for me to lean on at all times.  I share this not to "force" my own beliefs on anyone but as an attempt to offer comfort and another "tool" to help other people/friends who are currently going through diagnostic testing and/or are newly diagnosed with cancer.
On a happier note, I've been able to sing a little more all the time.  I've been attending my church choir rehearsals.  At first I could only sing alto.  Then I could sing some soprano but drop to alto because my range hadn't developed to the higher notes yet.  My stamina for singing during a full rehearsal has also been increasing.  I'm very tired on Fridays after the evening choir rehearsal on Thursday nights but I'm happy to be back singing again.  Yesterday morning, I sang in the choir for the church service for the first time since November 2011.  What a joy it was!!!  I was asked if my voice was back 100%.  I think it is about 80%.  I don't have my full range back yet and some of the higher notes are not consistently there.  It takes more effort for me to sing than it did before but that is just because I'm out of shape.  I'm so happy that I'm able to participate in the choir again!  I must say that I find myself getting "choked up" as I sing the hymns.  The meanings of the words and phrases in the hymns seem to touch my heart and soul much more deeply than they did before I was sick.  This says a lot because the words and phrases have always meant a great deal to me.  There were numerous times yesterday in the service where my eyes would fill with tears and my heart would be full of emotion.  But again I can't express how much joy I'm getting out of singing again!
Singing helps me to worship, praise and fully feel the presence of God.  Music is a balm to my soul and always has been.  It feels so wonderfully good to be alive and to be reaching new milestones as I continue to heal.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

My First Hair Cut!!

My hair has been getting a little long on top and wasn't curling like it has been since it grew in.  I was getting frustrated with it also starting to hang into my eyes.  So a couple of weeks ago, I booked an appointment for my first post-chemo hair cut.  I was just as excited about the upcoming trim as I was when it was my children's first hair cuts!

So a couple of days ago, I had my first trim since Tuesday, December 13, 2011.  The hair stylist was amazed that my hair had grown in a uniform manner.  She said it looked like I had already had it cut in layers.  She didn't want to trim too much off because my hair is still somewhat short looking.  This is partly due to the hair continuing to be curly.  As it grows longer, the curls just fill out more.  My hair doesn't appear to be getting longer but just gets bushier.  Except on top.  The hair seemed to be going straighter as it got longer up top.  I had expected that my hair would return to being curly on top once the weight of it had been trimmed off.  So far that's not happening.  It seems to be staying straighter than it was.  Oh I have always said since losing my hair last's hair!!

When hair grows in after having been lost due to the chemotherapy, the pigment is not fully revitalized yet.  As a result, often the hair grows in grey or white.  Mine grew in more of a strawberry blond colour and I'm assuming that was due to my hair being red.  Before the chemotherapy, I did have some grey hairs starting to appear due to my age.  As the hair grew in, I had no grey hairs.  As the pigment has revitalized in the past year, I do have a few grey hairs showing up again.  After my hair cut on Tuesday, I looked at the floor and saw all the light strawberry blond ends on the floor.  My hair is still red but I think it is a little darker to what the original colour used to be.

On a different note, the last couple of days have been nice and warm....well warm for our climate.  The snow is melting and rivulets of snowmelt is running down the streets.  As I've been on my way to work and about doing errands, I can smell Spring in the air!  I have seen some robins and I continue to hear their songs throughout the day.  Yesterday I was waiting for my son in a parking lot and I had the car windows down so I could hear the various birds singing.  I heard chickadees, cardinals and then I heard the loud squawky (is that even a word?) call of a blue jay.  I looked around and saw two blue jays frolicking in the fir trees that edged the parking lot!  It is so nice to sit in the warmth of the sun and know that even though we still have snow on the ground and we may even get another snowstorm along the way, the sun will not keep the snow on the ground very long.  There's nothing like the healing warmth of the sun just soaking through your body to make you appreciate the beautiful day.  It reminds me of last year about this time, when my husband helped me get to the patio and sit in the sun.  I remember being dressed in my trackpants with long underwear underneath, a couple layers of fleece with a hoodie on my top, my extra-warm housecoat, 2 pairs of socks, shoes, and a toque on my head as well.  All to keep me warm!  I also remember my husband having to go in and get 3 warm afghans to wrap around me as well.  Meanwhile, everyone else was in jeans and t-shirts!  I don't know if I will ever forget how cold the chemotherapy made me feel. was pure bliss to sit in the sun and feel some warmth!

Amazing what a difference a year makes.  Today is another bright day and I don't have to work today.  So I think, I'll run some errands and get a walk in at one of the local nature trails.  Spring is coming and with it the whole rejuvenation of the gardens and that extra spring to our steps.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

A Warrior and a Survivor

I remember mentioning in a previous post last summer that I have a sense of urgency about living life to the fullest.  I still do.  I thought that maybe some of the urgency would have abated by now.  It hasn't.  I am so thankful that my husband is willing to be patient with my wanting to be living fully and in the present.

I mentioned that we attended as many draws (games) as we could during the  week-long Scotties Tournament of Hearts.  The whirlwind of working and attempting to experience as much of the Scotties as possible took a toll on both my husband and I.  We were both exhausted at the end of last weekend when it finished but I am so glad that I attended as much as I did.

This weekend is the Kingston Canadian Film Festival.  Yesterday my husband and I went downtown, saw two films and attended a Question and Answer session with Mychael Danna, the Academy Award-winning Canadian film composer, who won the Best Original Score for Life of Pi.  We finished with a wonderful dinner out and then visited with some good friends.  It was a great day.  The first film we saw was called "Still Mine".   It was based on a true story about Craig Morrison in New Brunswick who built a home suitable for his wife who was suffering from Alzheimers.  I loved the film which was directed by Canadian director Michael McGowan.  It evoked tears and filled me with emotion as a husband cares so deeply for his ailing wife.  Talk about being a warrior and a survivor!  He was 88 when he started to build this smaller one level home for his wife!  I would definitely recommend it as a "must see".  The second film we saw was "Blood Pressure" which was billed as a psychological thriller.  I enjoyed it but not as much as "Still Mine".

Needless to say, I'm tired today because I also did all my laundry in the early hours yesterday morning so I could go out without any guilt about what needed to be done at home.  I am a survivor!!  I'm living life fully in the present.  I often feel like I'm trying to wring out every drop of enjoyment of every single day.

I was on facebook earlier this morning and I came across a video which I found very inspiring.  There was a young lady with a port who was hooked up for her chemotherapy injections.  She had the nurses and herself dancing along to some music as the chemo was pumped into her.  Whether this actually happened, I don't know, but I do know that the video went onto show people holding signs saying "SURVIVOR" and also sickly looking people holding onto signs saying "WARRIOR".  I really connected with this video.  When I saw the IV poles with the pumps and tubing hooked into people, I felt very disturbed.  I felt sick and could almost taste the chemical taste I used to have when the chemo was going into me.  However, the smiles of the young lady on the video also reminded me of the enjoyable visits I had with the nurses and the volunteers (we used to call them candy-stripers when I was a child) who would come by to visit, ask me if I wanted anything to drink, or take my pulse, blood pressure and temperature.  The video brought back memories of being a "warrior" throughout the treatments and the roller coaster side effects.  I was a "warrior".  I am now a "survivor"!

Life is for enjoying.  Yes we have daily responsibilities but, typically, those responsibilities will always be there for another time.  I'm continuing to learn to put enjoyable adventures ahead of the drudgery.  However, I also recognize that I need to stop sometimes and let my body catch up on its rest.  My husband has been a little concerned that my zest for life is going to run my body down.  I do recognize when I'm tired and then I stop just long enough for the body to catch up to my drive to live.  Surviving does not mean just existing.  In my opinion, surviving means grabbing life with both hands and living in the moment so that there are wonderful memories for when we are unable to live fully.  I can always watch television or play on the computer when I'm not feeling well or when I'm too tired to participate fully in life.  No guilt for not doing laundry or keeping the house spotless and dust free.  I'll get to those chores.  That's why the other day I went outside in the sunshine and enjoyed the warm sun on my back as I rolled up three balls of packed snow and built a snowman!  It brought me great pleasure as I heard the chickadees and robins singing.  The snow was glistening and full of ice crystals as a result of the brief freezing rain we had. I used a couple of shoots of my grape vines for the arms. The eyes were made from leftover debris from my irises.  I rolled the long, brown, limp leaves up into a ball and planted them on the face of the snowman.  I decided to use some humour and make the mouth using a red circular plastic lid.  I put it on the face and now the snowman looks like he has a shocked "O" for a mouth.  I finished decorating him with my daughter's hat and matching scarf from when she was a much younger child. Yes, my hands were stiff afterwards due to the mitts being soaked with melted snow.  Yes, my feet were a little damp and cold because some snow fell down the insides of my boots.  But I enjoyed the fresh air and I was able to put my mitts and socks on the heat vents inside so they could dry.  There's nothing like putting on some dry socks straight off the register.  They were so warm!

I think that some of my urgency is due to the fact that so many people I have known have not survived the terrible cancers that they had.  The other part of it is, you just never know when it might return.  I just want to leave positive footprints on this earth.  I want to get through my "bucket list".  I must admit that I get distracted and experience other things that are not on my "list".  I eventually make my way back to my bucket list.  I'm hoping to cross another couple of items off of it this year.  I'M A SURVIVOR AND LIFE IS GRAND!!

Friday, 1 March 2013

Handling Persistent Fears

I'm very tired today.  The last few days I've been struggling with some recurring fear and anxiety regarding the return of lymphoma and possible long term side effects of having gone through the chemotherapy last year.  I continue to feel God's presence with me at all times but this doesn't always help keep the anxieties and fear at bay.  In the last couple of months, I've started a Worry Journal.  This is a place where I write down my worries.  The intent of the journal is that I write the worries or anxieties down and then forget about them.  This helps but only when I write them down, imagine handing them into God's hands, and then throw them away as I close the book.

The last couple of days, I've been struggling to have energy to complete my day.  My mind then starts to worry that the lymphoma may be returning because fatigue was a symptom that I had in the Fall of 2011.  Logically, though, I may still be recovering from our whirlwind week at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.  I've had a scratchy sore throat off and on for the last month or so.  Again, my mind wonders if this is just a cold or an association with the lymphoma.  I've had a sore shoulder since June 2012 approximately two weeks after the end of my chemotherapy cycles.  At that time, I was afraid that cancer had invaded my bones.  Thank goodness I see my oncologist every 3 months because he was able to relieve that fear.  I've been struggling with my right hand and it's coordination since November 2012.  It's been difficult to turn on lamps, open doors with a key and turn the ignition on in the car.  It has also affected my ability to play the piano at an advanced level.  I'm now starting to worry and wonder if this is the onset of arthritis which can be a long term side effect of chemotherapy.  So these are the persistent anxieties that have been sitting on my shoulder for months.

I've been handling these by writing them down and praying about them.  I saw my oncologist for a check-up in January 2013 and will be seeing him again in April. He assured me then that I was still in remission.  I think it is time to see my family doctor to determine if I am fighting arthritis.  Arthritis has been in my family so it may be just hereditary or the chemotherapy may have brought it on earlier.  Maybe the pain, swollen joints and stiffness is due to some other condition.  So I'll be off to the family doctor.  For someone who rarely used the medical system, I've been a regular visitor to various doctors and facilities for tests.  Getting old is not very fun.  My mind wants to perform at a 20 to 30 year old's level but the body is not cooperating with the mind.

I could dwell on all of this but in my day-to-day existence I refuse to let my fears, fatigue and aches steal the joy of life from me.  As I write this morning, there are a few flakes of snow gently floating down from the sky.  As I look out my living room window, I see them along with a stained glass snowflake that a student gave me a few years ago.  It's a very beautiful and peaceful view.  I can just imagine what it looks like in the country.  We used to live in a rural setting and the snow would be pure white.  You could see the snow on the fields and the beauty of the forest.  Life is for living and not for complaining. 

We had some snow the other day.  Yesterday morning I shovelled the heavy, wet snow off the driveway.  It was causing my shoulder and hands some discomfort but I was enjoying being outdoors.  As I struggled with the weight of the snow, I realized that it was perfect snow for making a snowman.  This helped me finish a difficult task with some enjoyment.  I had the impulse to build a snowman but I didn't follow through with it.  I wish I had.  I didn't build the snowman because I was afraid of what people would think of me.   How often do you see an older adult playing in the snow?  Maybe I'll go out into our backyard today and build one if the snow is still good packing snow.  Being in the backyard, I can do it in secret and nobody would know.  Or I throw my concerns about what other people think and build it in the front yard for all to see.  However, then I would be building the snowman with snow filled with road salt.  I'll keep to the pure snow in the backyard.  That's if I actually build one today.

I much prefer Spring and Summer to the Winter season, but perhaps I need to revert to being childlike a little more in Winter.  Toboganning, building snowmen and making snowballs are all part of enjoying Winter.  I have snowshoes, too, that I like to use but the snow is icy and too slippery for my comfort level.

Now it's time to get on with my day.  I definitely will finish my grocery shopping.  I should also clean my house.  But maybe instead of cleaning, I'll play outside.  That's a much more fun activity.