Sunday, January 29, 2012

An Official End of an Era

I've spent the last few months cleaning out my basement. We have a sizable crawl space (though I can stand upright in it) under the dining room. We use it for storage. One side houses our Christmas stuff and my Mom's stuff. The other side houses all of our stuff, including all of my work toys and resources and the many boxes of clothes waiting for Connor to fit into them (a friend handed down her sons clothes to us - we won't have to buy him clothes again for the next 3 years or so....literally)

I am trying to get the crawl space into a more organized, easy to access what I need area, which includes my files. I had 8 portable file box for my educational resources plus a giant plastic file box for personal files.

Before Christmas I went through all my resources and freecycled anything that wasn't useful for Kindergarten. I had a lot of stuff that was more appropriate for preschoolers as well as for older kids. Task one complete - 8 file boxes downsized to one file cabinet.

Then I went through my personal files. 

When I had my home daycare I had paperwork for everything. I felt keeping a paper trail of everything was good business sense as well as security for both me and the parents. Also, on the chance of being audited - I kept all my financial records for the daycare and will so for 7 years.

But when I was cleaning out the files I thought it was time to purge my daycare files. This meant my handbook. My enrolment package. My schedule. My menu. My brand new, beautifully designed, custom made by Amanda logo.  7 years of hard work, in the recycling bin.

It was a little sad. It really was the end of an era. I'm not saying I miss doing home daycare - I don't but for a while it was nice to have something that was all my doing. I was proud of my daycare and I think it was a good place.

For a nanosecond I debated offering my services as a consultant to those wanting to open a home daycare - just so that I wouldn't have to scrap all that paperwork - the reflection of my hard work but then I thought harder about it. Sure the paperwork reflected what I did but a better reflection is the kids that were here. I'm still in touch with a few of the parents of kids who passed through here and they are great kids. And their parents were happy with the care they had while they were here and with what their kids learned. And I think the simple fact that the parents still keep in touch with me says it all.

Still - I hate to be recycling all that useful paperwork....

Friday, January 27, 2012

What's New With You?

I've officially finished my first week of radiation. That means only 4 more weeks and I am officially done my treatment and move into maintenance.  Yesterday was a busy day, I had to go for my herceptin treatment at Rouge Valley Centenary and then my radiation at Lakeridge Oshawa. For none locals these are two different hospitals in two different cities. Fortunately I'll only have to do that once more.

Part of the possible side effects with herceptin is reduced heart function. It's something they made me aware of during chemo and something they monitor. I had that infamous heart echo in November. It will serve as the baseline and then I'll need to have one every three months for the duration of my herceptin treatment. I was reassured when, at my last chemo I overheard my oncologist talking with another patient who is also having herceptin. She apparently showed reduced heart function in her echo and the Dr decided to cancel her treatment until she could see the cardiologist. I overheard him on the phone with the cardiologist and he'd said while all the literature says it's a possibility it's the first time he's ever seen it happen. And, how do I put this nicely....my Dr is old. He's been at this game for a while. So if you consider how many patients he's had over the years who've been on herceptin and that was the first time he'd seen it....I'm feeling good about my odds.

At any rate, when filling out my ESAS I mentioned shortness of breath (primarily from things like going upstairs, etc). I also mentioned to my nurse that I have a phlegmy cough - left over from my last taxotere treatment.  My oncologist decided he wanted me to do my next heart echo before my next herceptin treatment just to be on the safe side. He listened to both my lungs and heart and said they sounded fine but better safe than dead.

Besides that, I've found a whole new fun craft and have been working hard on them. I've been making scrabble tile pendants.
 Here's a few...







I've made about 20 so far, you can see the rest here. I'll be listing them in my Etsy store when I get a chance but until then you can buy one by messaging me on FB.

I'm also working hard on the Spring Tea Fundraiser.  We've been pounding the pavement drumming up donations for the silent auction. Although, now I'm thinking an auction is not going to be logistically possible. we have two tea sittings so the people from the first sitting would place their bids but then would be outbid by the people in the second sitting and not have a chance to bid again. So, I think we'll take all the items donated to us and use them for a basket raffle. This means people can buy as many tickets as they like (they'll be sold in bulk - so like 10 tickets for $5) and they can then put their tickets in the jar that corresponds to the prize of their choice (so if you want to win the iPod you put your tickets in the iPod jar or if you want to you can split your tickets into multiple jars)
They do this type of raffle at our church bizarre and I love it.

I got my official back to work date. I get to go back on April 2nd. I'm so ridiculously excited! I am nervous - I noticed yesterday that after a day of running around to appointments I was exhausted by 3 pm and I worry about my energy levels when I get back to work but I'm sure I'll manage. And if I have to be an old lady and go to bed right after Connor goes to bed for the first few weeks, I will.

So that's what's new with me. What's new with you?  




Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Is the Suspense Killing You?

***I had to edit this post again because I just realized that this is my 500th post. Yay me!***

Have I kept you in suspense about my first few radiation  treatments long enough?

Well, I'll tell ya, I could have watched the DVD they gave me at the hospital about what would happen so I'd be prepared but I didn't. Truth is, even if I had watched it, nothing prepares you for lying under a giant machine that buzzes and whines and moves around you completely still surrounded by lasers.

I am somewhat normal in the sense that anything new causes me a lot of anxiety. And over the last 6 months there has been a lot of new. I get especially anxious with new things that involve my body - and machines - and medicine. I've been violated in many ways over the past 6 months with surgery, drugs, scans, IV's, contrasts, all sorts of radiations.

Anyhow, I went in knowing what would happen but anxious nonetheless. I lied down in the radiation bed and shifted me and pulled me and pushed me and measured me until my tattoos all lined up with whatever it is they were supposed to line up with.

And then they left (two techs and a student) and I got to lay on the bed with the big machine (I'd post a picture of it but blogger is being a temperamental bitch today) and be ABSOLUTELY STILL.  Thankfully the whole radiation process only takes like 10 minutes.

Booyah! Blogger is cooperating. He's the beastly machine I lay in.


So the first day I kept my eyes closed. I was cold, stressed and anxious so it was better for me to keep my eyes closed. Plus  those lasers freak me out a bit and I didn't want my eyes to get zapped. (I know that won't happen but I still think that way.

Yesterday wasn't as bad. I opened my eyes and watched the machine work a bit. It's actually kind of nifty. It's got a window in it - I'm assuming the part where the radiation comes out. Again, this is all assumption but there are what appear to be lead plates inside of it - lots of them and they all move. The slide open and closed to allow more or less radiation out and to direct it.

So really, there's nothing to it, the most challenging part is being completely still for 10 minutes. I'm getting good at being totally still, after all my CT scans, MRI's and now this.

I'll be seeing my radiation oncologist today for a weekly review. I'll talk to him about my lymphedema (which, ironically, today is not too bad)

I had more interesting things to tell you but until blogger lets me upload pictures there is no point. So I'll try again tonight. For now, I've got to get ready to get zapped.

See ya

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

People I Want to Punch in the Throat

I read a blog with that above title and it's pretty darn funny.
What I'm about to write about though is not funny.

In 2008 a baby girl (she was 8 months old I think) was found abandoned in the stairwell of a parking garage at a mall. It was winter. The search began for the monsters who would just dump their baby like that.

Thankfully, Baby Angelica, as she was called,  survived and was later adopted.

When the police finally found her parents they had the balls to deny that they were her parents - even after the DNA tests proved they were.

So guess what happened to them. Mom got a $300 fine. Dad got time served  (11 months).

People I'd like to punch in the throat - THEM!

But wait, it gets worse.

In 2009 Mom and Dad moved to Jamaica where earlier this week an angry mob of neighbours, concerned because they'd not seen their 2 year son in months, stormed their house and discovered his  remains in a suitcase

If you are so inclined you can read about it here.

Person I'd like to punch in the throat - the judge who gave mom a $300 fine and gave the Dad time served.

Apparently, that's all this little boys life was worth - because had Mom and Dad been thrown in a cage like the animals they are this little boy, while he wouldn't have lived - he wouldn't have died and  had his little body shoved into a suitcase either.

The story is that they think he died from eating a piece of ackee. Who knows if this is true - the police don't seem to suspect foul play however is it also possible that if they'd sought medical help he would be alive? And to stuff his body in a suitcase? What the hell is wrong in your head that you think that's okay??

It makes me wonder about our judicial system. A baby girl is left for dead in a freezing stairwell and they get what equated to nothing more than a slap on the wrist and license to make more babies that they clearly don't give a shit about. Not a bad argument for court ordered sterilization don't ya think?

Well, one can only hope the judicial system in Jamaica works better than it does here and those two sad excuses for parents really get what's coming to them.

Monday, January 23, 2012

What Does Cake and Carmel Corn Have to Do With My Healthy Eating Plan?

Not. One. Thing. But I ate them anyway.
Oh, and half a bag of M&M's. 

Remember that talk we had about cancer feeding on sugar and how I need to cut it out. Yeah, clearly even having cancer doesn't do much to boost my self control.

I had a hankering for cake on the weekend and it just so happened that I had a cake mix and can of icing in the cupboard so I made it. I've only had two small medium sickeningly large pieces. If it's any consolation though I felt really, really guilty after the second piece and had eaters remorse. So I drank another beer to drown that feeling. (yes, I'm aware of the high sugar content in beer.) not to mention the link between alcohol and breast cancer. 

Yesterday we took Connor to Monster Jam. He loves the monster trucks and loves Gravedigger. But no trip to a big arena with loud trucks and, lots of dirt and men with only 4 or 5 teeth in their mouths is complete without junk food. So Connor and I shared a bag (a large bag) of M&M's and then another bag of caramel corn. We would have shared a bag of cotton candy too (yeah baby - spin sugar!) but I didn't have enough money left (it was $15 - but you got a really nifty Gravedigger hat with it!) 

If I were still getting visits from my monthly 'friend' I'd blame it on that but since chemo has thrown me into menopause that's not the case. It's just plain crappy self control.

And let's discuss that menopause. It's not necessarily permanent - I could resume my previously scheduled fertility but for now I get to endure the craptastic symptoms  including the oh so fun hot flashes and emotional chaos. One minute I'm happy, the next I'm in tears and then I'm raging. It's super awesome and I recommend it to everyone. And that feeling that you're so hot - on fire - from the inside and you're sweating profusely. I've honestly come close to stripping down to my skivvies in the mall. I don't know how to dress anymore when I go out places. See, I also suffer from chills. I don't know if it's from the chemo or the lack of hair or what but I get so cold sometimes that I can wear layers upon layers of clothes and still not feel warm - but then 30 seconds later the fire is lit from within and I want to vomit from being so hot. So you can see how this causes some wardrobe issues.

I start radiation today. I'm hoping it's quick. I'm hoping even more that it doesn't aggravate my lymphedema even more. My sausage hand hurts like a bitch.

I'm suffering from insomnia too. Since August my sleep has been enhanced by either percocets or the effects of chemo. Well now I have no more chemo (yay) and no more need for perks so my sleep is au naturale. Except that I'm only able to sleep in 2 hour blocks - so 2 hours after I fall asleep I wake up and am wide awake again for hours. I'm exhausted.

I know, this has been a really whiny, bitchy post. Blame it almost entirely on my lack of sleep. I'm not pleasant when I'm tired.

I'll be nicer tomorrow. I promise.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Bizarre!

I posted my plea for donations of goods and services for our tea on my local freecycle network. Within minutes I was getting replies and offers for things. It made me happy.

One of the replies I got was from a woman offering her photography services - a one hour, outdoor session. I jumped all over it, thanking her and asking for more info. She directed me to her Facebook page.

When I got to her FB page it struck me immediately, she looked so very familiar. Then it occurred to me that her name looked familiar too. It looked like the name of someone I'd seen posting on my cousin's FB page. So I checked back on her FB page and realized she had a link to my cousin's FB photography page on her page. I put two and two together and realized this was the sane girl...but something kept nagging me...she looked so very familiar - she looked like another cousin of mine. One I haven't seen in many years.  So I did some more snooping - into her own FB page and while the profile and wall settings were private her photos weren't. She had albums of pictures and captions that read Aunt Terri and Aunt Dawn. Those are my Aunts too (my mom's step sisters)

Well I'll be - the girl who replied to my ad, offering her photography services IS my cousin. Her Mom is one of my mom's step sisters.

I haven't seen this cousin in many years - since our Aunt passed away and before that I think the last time I saw her was at her Grandmother's house in the mid 90's - Sean and I had only just begun dating. 

When we were young we had some pretty memorable experiences like when I taught her how to shave her legs (her mom was livid! We were only about 11 or so)

But the most memorable experience was when we were 5. She was sleeping over at our house and we woke early. We got it into our heads that we wanted to go swimming. My bedroom had 4 walls, all that was needed to contain water so we proceeded to fill containers and pour it onto the floor in my bedroom with the hopes of making a pool in my room.

The problem with this is that we lived in a duplex - on the top floor. The water seeped down into the bedroom of the family who lived under us. The father (his name was Dick) came upstairs thinking a pipe burst in our bathroom - but no, it was just me and Jenny making a swimming pool.

Now it was my parents turn to be livid. Good times!

I don't have a whole lot of contact with that side of the family, really only 2 cousins (daughters of the Aunt who passed away) but there are lots of cousins on that side. Sometimes it makes me sad that there is a whole branch of family I don't really know but it is what it is.

At any rate, it was nice to reconnect with my cousin. I am so happy for her offer for the tea. And still surprised at what a small world it is.

Moving on.

I've added a weight tracker to the bottom of my blog. I'm going to really make a solid effort at losing this weight. I'm anxious to start exercising again but also apprehensive. Chemo has really taken the good out of my cardiovascular system. I get winded going up and down stairs. And the lymphedema in my hand gets worse when I really work it.
I'm going to start slow I think. I have a DVD called Yoga for Dummies so I think I might start with that. I might also buy myself a Walk Away the Pounds DVD. It's a slow start, low impact and simple. I really want to swim but that's out of the question while I'm doing radiation so it will have to wait.

I'm getting better with my eating though. My portions are smaller and I'm eating way more veggies than carbs. I'm also cutting back on my sugars....not cutting them out completely - I  haven't worked up my nerve yet - but I'm cutting back. It's a start.

I'll get there.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Amazing Mind and a Plea

The human brain is really a remarkable thing. The way our minds help us cope with things is truly amazing.

Take childbirth for instance. For those of us who've had the pleasure, we can tell you the pain is awful. With Emily, they turned my epidural off when it was time to push and being that she was my first child, I spent nearly an hour pushing. With Mary, she came so quickly there was no time for an epidural and so I felt it all. With Connor I had an epidural but because his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck twice the placenta was being pulled away from my uterus and while I didn't feel the pain of his delivery, I felt the pain of that.

And yet any mother will tell you that almost the instant the baby is delivered that pain becomes a memory and while we can tell you it was excruciating, we don't really actually remember the pain. It's that ability to forget the pain that allows us to have more than one child.

The same thing can be said for the memory of the side effects of chemo. I think back now to my 6 treatments and they are but a memory. I feel better, I don't remember the horrible nausea I had with the first three treatments. I don't remember the psychological issues I had with water (I'm managing to drink some again - though ice is still a trouble spot) I don't remember the burning bone pain and exhaustion and mouth sores from the last three treatments. My mind has overcome that. It's really quite amazing.

Though unlike having more children, I truly hope and pray that I never have to endure that again.

I most definitely have lymphedema in my right arm. It's not too bad, though I suspect that with radiation it's going to get worse. I've been calling my right hand my sausage hand. I can't wear my rings anymore, my bracelet is a bit tighter and if I use my hand a lot it swells up horribly and is quite painful. My arm is not as swollen but it is a bit. I'm convinced it's from the tattooing for radiation because there has been nothing else that's happened to my arm or hand on that side. My only hope is that it doesn't get worse.

On to other news now. Big news!!

We've begun planning for our Spring Tea Fundraiser. This is our main fundraising event for our Relay for Life team . We did a tea last year and it was a great success - we raised over $800 for the Canadian Cancer Society and this year we're hoping to raise a whole lot more.

Last year we had all of the Papa's Pride merchandise for sale. We sold a lot of tote bags, some greeting cards, and some photos. We had a raffle - two tickets for Class Act Dinner Theatre and many door prizes!

This year, we're going to do all that again but we'd also like to get enough stuff together to do a silent auction as well. So I'm putting the call out - here in my blog, on FB and anywhere else people might hear me. We're asking for your help! We are looking for donations of items that can be used in a silent auction.  It can be just about anything: gift cards, housewares, home decor, beauty supplies, etc. If you are a business owner - we would be happy to acknowledge your businesses generosity (we will acknowledge everyone's generosity!)
If you are able to donate items for our silent auction or raffle please contact me asap. And thank you!!

And for everyone else, please visit our  Papa's Pride blog and check out the info about the tea. If you're local, we'd love for you to come and enjoy the afternoon with us. If you're not local, you're welcome to buy a ticket anyway (it's still a donation to a very important cause!)

This has, for obvious reasons, become more important to me than ever before. Any donations - both as pledges or for our auction - are greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rejuvenated

I'm started to feel better, mentally and physically.  My aches are gone, my feet still tingle but that will pass eventually. My only complaint now is that my right hand is really swollen. I'm guessing a bit of lymphedema, perhaps from the radiation tattooing? My arm is not swollen, just my hand and it's actually quite painful. I'm hoping it goes down before radiation starts on Monday or I suspect it will only get worse.

Several months ago, in my support group, I learned about an organization called Cleaning for a Reason.  This company partners with maid services around Canada and the US to provide housekeeping services for women undergoing cancer treatment (one cleaning per month for 4 months) When I heard about it I applied but received an email saying that the local maid service was already fully booked. I filed the email away and completely forgot about it.

Yesterday I got an email saying I'd been paired with a housekeeping service and that they'd be contacting me within a week. Today they called and there are two housekeepers coming next Tuesday for an hour and a half. And they'll come three more times in the next 3 months.

I'm excited. I've never had a housekeeper. My bff offered us hers (a couple of times actually) and I would have loved to have taken her up on it but Sean is a little wigged about about a housekeeper (I didn't know that before I applied for this program) He doesn't like the idea of a stranger cleaning our house. Well, now he doesn't have a choice since this is booked. Heehee.

There is an episode of the Simpson's in which they get a housekeeper and Marge goes crazy cleaning the house before the housekeeper comes so that she won't see a messy house. I suspect I might be a bit like that. I wouldn't want them to come to a total pigsty so I'll probably tidy before they come.

I went to work the yesterday to talk about my back to work plan. I really go between being excited and being nervous about working with the new teacher. I think it will be fine though. I've just got to learn to go with the flow a bit. I think going to work yesterday is what made me feel better. Every time I get into the rut feeling, feeling sorry for myself attitude a visit to school picks me up. Another reason why I need to get back there. Soon!

For now though, I'm reminding myself to take it easy and be glad that I've got the luxury of being able to take this time off to recover, heal and take time for me.

It's not so bad.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I've been having a bad week. A bad few weeks really. I'm angry. I'm feeling very sorry for myself and am having the 'why me?' thoughts.

I'm pissed off. We spend our whole lives searching for happiness or fulfillment. We search for joy. I had it. I found it. I was on top of the world and in just a few short months that all got ripped out from under me.

We often say that facing something like this makes you appreciate all that you have and all the little things...and yes it does, but even greater than this, it makes you appreciate what you had because nothing is ever the same afterwards.

I'm certain there is a reason for this because I do truly believe there is a reason for everything but it doesn't make it any easier a pill to swallow.

I would love to have my life back. I'd love to have my hair and my boob back. I'd love to get back to the routine of my life.

I'm tired of doing crafts to keep myself entertained, I'm tired of having a million and one ideas for my classroom and not being able to go to work to do them. I'm tired of stressing about going to work (this is a whole other issue because I'm truly concerned about working with this new teacher) 

I want a do over. I want to take a mulligan. I want my life back.  I'm tired of being positive and chipper and happy and I'm tired of taking this all in stride. 

I'm sure this will all pass and I'll feel better again before long but in the meantime this feeling consumes me and makes me useless. I'm short with the kids, lethargic, disinterested and that's not fair to them.

I'm going to my school tomorrow, in part, to talk to the principal about my coming back to work in April and in the meantime I think I will go in every now and then and get my feet wet. Maybe it will get me excited about something again and get me feeling more normal. Now that chemo is done my immune system will just keep getting stronger so I think it's time.

Something has to get me out of this rut. Something has to help me find my joy again.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Thanks Again Pinterest!

Egads, it's a darn good thing I went and got cancer so that I'd have all this free time not working so that I could spend my days making all the things I've pinned on Pinterest.

I joke, but seriously Pinterest has been a bit of a Godsend the past couple of weeks. Once we wrapped up Christmas I was left with the usual 'now what?' let down except that I didn't have the pleasure of looking forward to going back to work. I only got to look forward to chemo, illness and boredom.  I think we've covered that already.

Anyway, I made the coasters.

I made the casserole carrier.






And now, I've made the family menu plan.

Here it is!



It's not exactly like the one I pinned but it works for me. I'll explain it now.
Obviously each clothes pin represents a day of the week. (duh)
In the purple basket are 35 or so meals (complete meals; main dish plus sides)
Each Tuesday (I do my grocery shopping on Wednesdays) everyone in the family will pick one meal from the basket (not a blind pick, they can go through it) and Sean and I will pick the remaining for the week. On the back of each card is a list of the ingredients I need for each meal (so, for example, the meal for today was 'Jerk Chicken, mashed potato, mixed veggies and salad'  The back of the card says 'Chicken legs/thighs, potatoes, frozen mixed veggies, lettuce, peppers, celery, fruit for salad (I buy seasonal fruit for my salads) and jerk seasoning'

After the weekly menu has been decided upon I just flip the cards over, make my grocery list, adding in the staples and kids lunches (I eat leftovers for lunch) and Bob's your uncle.

Now here's the fun part. After the week is up, those menu cards go back into the purple basket behind the card that says "Already Used" so that we don't pick them again until after we've run through the other cards. This eliminates the rut of "chicken Thursday"

I've also made cards that say 'restaurant', 'take out', 'leftovers', and 'make your own supper' 

And if I find a new meal to add to the rotation I can just print the card and add it in.

I'm loving this!

So, Pinterest might be a time suck but at least it's serving some purpose!

And now, because I've learned how to do this...

Follow Me on Pinterest

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Wanna See My New Tattoo?

I'd love to show them to you but I actually can't see them myself.
I went for my radiation mapping appointment today. This is where they lay you in the CT Scan machine and use laser lines to plot where they will be zapping me with radiation. And to make extra sure they are getting the exact same spot they tattoo you. So I have 4 nice new, blue/black freckles on my chest, armpit area.
Pretty.

Truly though, I can't really even see them, I suppose they know what they are looking for. (I sure hope they do!)

So, the good news is now I know when radiation starts...which more importantly, tells me when I'm done. I start January 23rd so I'm done on February 27th. Ya - frickin - hoo!!

Then I'll take a month to recover from the side effects of this and provided my Doctor has no objections I'll be back to work for April 2nd.

When I was at the radiation clinic the tech was talking to me about what the appointment today would entail. Positioning me, doing the  CT Scan, tattooing and sending me on my way. I listened, nodded, didn't have any questions. She asked me if I'd watched the video they gave me (they gave me a DVD about the whole radiation process) I said no, I'd not had the chance to. She said "Oh, you just seem so informed and understanding about what's happening."

I guess this has been my attitude the whole time. I'm scared, sure, but the simple fact is, A: millions of people do this daily (unfortunately) B: They are experts and I have to trust they know what they are doing and C: If this will cure me of cancer BRING IT ON!!

The blog post that wasn't for yesterday was partially about how I think I'm a lot like my Dad...a realist. I don't really give in to false hopes or pipe dreams...I see the picture for what it is and try to make the best of it. I have cancer. I can wallow and be a suck about it or I can deal with it, fight it and get on with life. I can't let it control me more than it has to.  I think, as terrible as the realist attitude might sound to an optimist, it's really that attitude that keeps me in such good spirits. It's the simple fact that I'm facing the facts that help me get up every morning, put on a smile (and genuinely mean it!) and go about my day.

I think the real challenge will be when I'm done the fight and can get back to real life. I've got a different perspective now - those small things we're not supposed to sweat? Yeah, you wouldn't believe how truly insignificant some of them are...and since I've never been one to hold my tongue I suspect I'll either be telling a lot of people to shut their pie holes and quit their bitchin' or I'll have to practice holding my tongue.

Maybe that's the small stuff I'll have to not sweat...the whiners of the world. That might take some practice.

I should start now.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I had a post all written yesterday but opted to not publish it. In retrospect, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, it's garbled and clearly drug induced.

I'm feeling exponentially better today. (Word of the day toilet paper? No, just have a clearer head)  I'm still drugged but not to the point that I need to be in bed asleep.

This last round was strange. Normally, the side effects kick in on the Sunday and I feel like shit for Sunday, Monday and part of Tuesday. This time around they came in on the Saturday but only very mildly and lingered until Monday when they hit like napalm. So I spent all of Sunday, Monday and Tuesday in bed and hopped up on percocets.

Today, I feel much better, still in a bit of pain but not unmanageable and my biggest complaint is the hot flashes. I went to the grocery store this morning, dressed like it was spring and yet I was sweating buckets. My head, even now, despite my not wearing my wig, is soaked. it feels gross. I suppose this is the drugs coming out of me.

And now that I'm feeling a bit better I can start looking forward to what's to come. Good things. Like my hair growing back!!

Yes, you heard it here first...my hair is going to start growing back! I'm insanely excited!! (Ironically, I just got the check from the insurance company today that covered the cost of my wig) I know it will be a long time before I have anything I can even brush but it's going to grow back! As will my eyebrows (I still have some eyebrows) and my eyelashes!!  I could do without the other body hair but I guess beggars can't be choosers.

I feel like the last several months of my life have been a holding pattern. Chemo, sick, bored. Chemo, sick, bored....  I'm looking forward to, at the very least, a change of routine (I might be singing a different tune after 2 weeks of radiation everyday but for now....)

I think a trip to Michael's is in order this afternoon. And perhaps some chicken wings tonight - to celebrate the end of chemo.

Almost done!!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Good News!

I met with my radiation oncologist today to go over the general plans for radiation. I'm not starting for another 3-4 weeks to give me time to recover from the last chemo but I go next week for my mapping appointment. This is when they do a CT scan and position and tattoo you to mark where the radiation will be done.

You know the common belief that once you get one tattoo you want more and more. Well, I guess I'm getting more...the one(s) on my leg were not enough, now I need pretty blue dots on my chest and armpit. They'll go nicely with the survivor tattoo I'm getting on my left wrist when this is all said and done.

Anyhow, on to the good news.

I was talking with the nurse before the Dr came in and was remarking about my weight gain. I said that between my comfort eating and steroids I've gained 10-15 lbs since the outset of chemo and I swear I must be the only person who gains weight while fighting cancer. She said to me "Well actually, we really like to see weight gain. Often times if someone is losing weight it means the cancer is still there."  HOT DAMN!! Of course my weight gain doesn't necessarily mean the cancer is all gone but it's a damn good sign and I'll take it.

And truth be known, besides the chemo side effects, I really do feel great so I'm encouraged.

Next, I was discussing with my Dr my concerns about developing lymphedema further. My medical oncologist said that it appeared as though I had a small amount of swelling in my right arm. My radiation oncologist thought perhaps I should have another CT scan to exam the lymph nodes in the armpit and neck to make sure there was nothing of concern and to have a baseline. But then, upon further exam he said that I, in fact do not have lymphedema right now, that the swelling is a combination of my weight gain and a side effect of the docetaxel. HOT DAMN!!

Having said that, he did say I'm at high risk to develop it during radiation because I had so many lymph nodes that were infected (17 of 18 removed) I do still have some lymph nodes in there so hopefully they can pick up the slack and as I understand it, the body can 'reprogram' itself to drain the lymphatic fluid through other routes...and those who do not develop lymphedema are the examples of this.  So, fingers crossed that I can avoid that.

I'll take any bit of good news I can get.

The effects of this final treatment seem to have kicked in a bit sooner than I'm used to. My legs and knees are aching and I'm tired, run down. I'm having brunch at my girlfriends' house tomorrow so I'm determined to not feel bad. Plus, I really want to work on a sewing project.

I also finally posted something on my new Kindergarten Blog. It's a bit of a challenge since I'm not in the classroom but I've got all my resources at home so I get a good jumps start and add to those posts again when I get back to work (which now looks like the beginning of April, and only half days for the first two weeks)

I made my strawberry, blueberry and raspberry balsamic vinegars this evening. They are cooling now and my house smells like stinky feet. It was quite easy to make so I'm excited to see how this turns out for the dressing next week. Of course, the vinegar keeps for a month and I have quite but so I'm thinking I might have to make some dressing to give away. Any takers??

Yesterday I made a stop to the pharmacy to pick up the cream recommended to me to use during radiation. It will help protect my skin from the side effects (the burning and peeling)

While I was in the skin care aisle there was a woman with the pharmacy assistant looking at creams as well. She commented that the cream would be going on her breast. I immediately knew she was also undergoing radiation. I didn't want to interject myself into her conversation but the pharmacy assistant was showing her every cream except the one that so many cancer patients have recommended to me. Finally, the women settled on one and the assistant starting to walk away. I stopped  her and asked her the different between two creams (same brand, different package) I said I was undergoing radiation and needed the better one. This caught the other woman's attention and she joined our conversation. I told her that the cream I had had been recommended by all the women at Hearth Place as well as several friends who've undergone radiation as well.

We got to talking in the aisle, sharing our stories and wishing each other luck. It's amazing where you find camaraderie.

Well peeps, I'm off. I'm going to bed early tonight (I think) so I can be ready for brunch tomorrow!

Oooh, and after 27 games I finally beat my computer at a game of chess. Yeah, can we say BIG FAT LOSER.

Nitey nite!

I Know It's Not Tuesday but......Tasty Tueday- Friday edition!

By Tuesday my final (YA BABY - I said FINAL!!!) chemo side effects will be in full force and I'll be in no mood for blogging much less posting recipes but I can't let this one go by - I might forget.

One of the fun things (because you have to find fun in any situation or you loose your perspective) about chemo day is the magazines and the quiet reading time. Once you've spoken with the Dr, got your IV's in place and had the juice and cookies delivered by the (outstanding) volunteers you have lots of time to just sit and read. Sean comes with me for chemo but we barely talk, we both just stick our noses in our books.

But for those who forget books, they have nicely stocked bookshelf (we've borrowed and contributed to this collection) as well as a wide array of magazines.

I love going through magazines for recipes. Often times I'll only find one, or maybe two because most of them are out of my skill level in cooking or are things that a majority of my family won't eat and can't be adapted for them to eat - in which case I become a short order cook making more than one meal for supper and I'm just not into that.

So at chemo yesterday I went through the Canadian Living magazine to see if there was anything that appealed to me. I hit the jackpot. Unfortunately I didn't have time to write the recipes all out and though I hate doing it, I actually ripped some pages out of the magazine. (I hate doing that because so often I've been reading a magazine and found a recipe I want in the recipe index only to find that someone has ripped it out - just like I did.)

I'm sorry world. But I had to have these recipes.

What I wanted to share with you today was actually a few recipes - all for the same thing. Berry Vinaigrette Dressing. I love Raspberry Vinaigrette dressing but it's not going to fit in with my new healthy lifestyle since the second ingredient in my store bought brand is sugar. This means lots of sugar. And some of the other ingredients that I can't even pronounce, much less tell you what they are.

But this....not only can I say all the ingredients, but I can buy them, add them and and best of all, they are healthy. Be forewarned though - there is some real prep in this - the balsamic vinegar must sit for a week before making the dressing. But it will be well worth it, I'm sure!

So here you are - courtesy of Canadian Living Magazine (July 2012)

Basic Berry Vinaigrette.

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.
2 tbsp berry (strawberry, blueberry or raspberry) balsamic vinegar (recipes to follow)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small shallot, minced
pinch each of salt, pepper and sugar.
combine all ingredients and whisk.

Now, the recipe says to store in an airtight container for up to 24 hours. I can't see why you wouldn't be able to store it in the fridge for longer but who knows. Either way, it's a simple mix so making it the night before for your lunch or supper the next day is not really a big deal. Once the berry vinegar is made (and can be stored longer) you're good to go.

Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar

1 1/2 cups white balsamic vinegar
1 cup halved strawberries
1 tsp peppercorns
5 fresh basil leaves
pinch of salt

In saucepan, combine vinegar with strawberries, mashing slightly. Add peppercorns, basil leaves and salt,  bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Discard basil leaves.

Seal in heatproof jar (mason jar would be perfect). Refrigerate for 1 week. Strain through cheesecloth-lined sieve into clean jar. Refrigerate for up to 1 month.
 
 
 
Blueberry Balsamic Vinegar
1 1/2 cups white balsamic vinegar
1 cup blueberries
1 strip of lemon rind
2 sprigs of thyme
pinch of salt



In saucepan, combine vinegar with blueberries, mashing slightly. With the back of a knife scrape off any white pith from the rind and add to pan along with thyme and salt, bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Discard thyme and lemon rind.

Seal in heatproof jar (mason jar would be perfect). Refrigerate for 1 week. Strain through cheesecloth-lined sieve into clean jar. Refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar

1 1/2 cups white balsamic vinegar
1 cup raspberries

1 strip of orange rind
5 large mint leaves
pinch of salt



In saucepan, combine vinegar with raspberries, mashing slightly. With the back of a knife scrape off any white pith from the rind and add to pan along with mint and salt, bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Discard mint and orange rind.

Seal in heatproof jar (mason jar would be perfect). Refrigerate for 1 week. Strain through cheesecloth-lined sieve into clean jar. Refrigerate for up to 1 month.


So there is a little pre-prep required for the dressing - since the balsamic will take a week to be ready but once you've got that done...if you're a regular salad eater it's going to come in really handy.

I'm going to make some today - not sure which flavour, I'm hoping for strawberry but they're harder to find this time of year here so we'll see.

I'll let you know how it turns out.




Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Last One!

Tomorrow is my last chemo. I hope.

I obviously can't speak for what the future holds. I hope and pray I never, ever have to do chemo again.

The last 18 weeks have really gone pretty fast. The last 6 months have really gone fast. You know when you're anxious for something to happen and it seems like forever before it does. I was anxious for this day to come and it didn't drag on, it's here.

I'll admit, I'm scared as hell. Chemo has been like a little safety net. I can tell myself that I'm okay because I'm having chemo so it's killing any cancer that might have been left. But now chemo is over so what happens now.

Well, for starters, I need to change my diet. Completely. And it's going to be hard. I've been so good about not googling but I'm trying to find information on eating to prevent a recurrence, particularly breast cancer. I saw a book at Chapters specifically for that but it's not being released until July.
So when I google I get a lot of conflicting information. Some say coffee is good, some say it's bad. Some say some red meat is okay, others say not at all. Some say one alcoholic drink a day is okay, others say no. The only thing they all agree on is that artificial sweeteners are not okay. So that will be the first to go for me.

Of course, this means s a few important changes in my diet. The biggest one being my double double will be a 2 milk, no sugar. I think my only saving grace on this is that my taste buds have been shot and for the most part I can't really taste sugar (or salt or garlic)   I'm going to start reading labels and avoiding anything with 'ose' in it. Fructose, glucose, sucrose...you know...the dreaded 'oses'.  I suspect there will be a lot of things I won't be eating anymore.

I'm also going manage my portions better. I bought myself two smaller plate so that when I'm dishing out my dinner I'm forced by the size of my plate to take smaller portions and I'm going to stick to the rule - 1/4 of the plate is protein, 1/4 of the plate is carb and 1/2 the plate is vegetables or fruit.
I did great at dinner, I had two small chicken drumsticks (no skin) a small serving of brown rice and a large salad (with green leaf lettuce - I prefer the darker leaves like romaine over iceberg lettuce but the romaine was no good so I got the leaf lettuce instead. I also put in celery, peppers, clementines, grapes, mango and strawberry and then put about 1tbsp of raspberry vinaigrette dressing on it)

The problem is that I took my steroids before dinner and within an hour I noticed the appetite kicking in and craved something sweet. So I had a piece of chocolate caramel cheese cake. BAD BAD BAD. I felt guilty as soon as I ate it but I guess I'm calling it my one last hurrah. I'm not going to deny myself of little treats entirely but I have to really, really, really put my mind to this. Because this is not something I can fail at. I truly, honestly believe my cancer is largely due to lifestyle and I have to do everything I can to prevent it from happening again.

I also need to exercise and loose some all of this extra weight.  I have to be careful with exercise, partly because of the effects of the chemo on my heart and lungs but also because trauma to my arm could case lymphadema and I already have it slightly. I don't want to aggravate it or make it worse.

I'm going to make an appointment with my oncologist to discuss my exercise, nutrition and a back to work plan.

I guess I'll know more tomorrow about what is going to happen next but for now I'm looking forward to my new Step One

I did another craft a la things I found on Pinterest. I love these and have lots and lots of ideas...which is great because I have 5 boxes of these tiles that are not being used.

They are coasters made from ceramic tiles. I've used modge podge (from here on out I'll be calling it podgy because that's what we've always called it and modge podge sounds stupid...even though that's what it's actually called.) I've podgied some scrapbook papers that were cut just slightly smaller than the tiles, onto the tiles. When that dried I covered them with another layer of podgy. When that dried I sprayed them with two coats of acrylic spray but be warned, this stuff has to be done in a well ventilated area and takes a long time to dry (though I suppose it didn't help that I did them on the porch and it was -5 C outside. The one with the words on it - that is velum that was part of a scrapbooking kit I had.   I put foam pads on the bottom of the tiles to prevent scratching the table. What's the point of putting your drink on a coaster to protect the table if the coaster itself is going to scratch the shit out of your table, right?

Anyhow, here's a look-see at what I made.









I think they're pretty darn nice, don't you?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Timesuck

Now that I've discovered Pinterest I've learned the real meaning of the word Timesuck.

Facebook - sure, it takes a bit of time but if you're like me and avoid the games and apps then really all your doing reading some status updates, posting your own and moving on.

The Pumpkin Patch - well this is only applicable to me and the other PP Moms - but no, it's not really a time suck because there are only about 25 or so of us who are there regularly and since we're all FB friends too, really, it's only the private stuff that goes in the PP.

I don't really surf the internet that much. I read the news, I work on my blog (yeah, my kindergarten blog is in a holding pattern while I organize my basement - can't get to my resources) read a few other blogs, check my email and that's it.

Then I discovered Pinterest. Holy crap, what a timesuck. I just keep finding more and more ideas for just about everything....recipes, crafts, party ideas, things for school, things for home....and I'm becoming a junky.

But the thing is, I'm so freakin' bored that I'm actually putting what I'm finding on Pinterest into action.

For example there is this


Yes,  Ziploc bag of food. You see, I found, on Pinterest a blog in which the writer gives recipes for 'freezer to crockpot' meals.  The long and short of it is you put everything for the meal into the freezer bag and then when you want to eat it, you pop it into the crockpot and 6 hours later Bob's your Uncle.
So since today I was making beef and barley soup in the crockpot I decided to double everything (veggie-wise) and put together the fixin's for chicken vegetable soup. It's got carrot, celery, mushroom, onion, peas, corn, zucchini, green beans, lima beans and turnip (rutabaga to anyone who doesn't come from Newfoundland) It's also got diced up chicken breast and the chicken stock cubes so all I have to do is throw it in the crockpot, add water and I'm done.
Inspired by my awesomeness I decided I would continue the preplanning for the week and make a lasagna. And since I went grocery shopping today and my meet had not yet been frozen I decided to make a meatloaf too. So now, with the addition of the leftover beef and barley soup from this evening my freezer is full of meals ready to go. Yay me!

Then there's this


Another thing I found on Pinterest. Someone had posted a way of making your own canvas pictures. I love convas pictures but they are so expensive. So cheapo me decided to give this a  try. Emily's turned out great but Mary and Connor's -  not so much. They had wrinkles. I think my problem was that I used a light, matte finish everyday photo paper rather than a heavier glossy paper. But the long and short of it is that you get a canvas, any size you want (this one is  5x7 that I got at the dollar store.) Take some modge podge and paint the canvas with it. Lay the photo on top and make sure there are no air bubbles or wrinkles. The paint the top and edges of the photo with more modge podge. Make sure you're painting all in one direction The podgy will dry clear but it will still look nicer if all the 'lines' are going to same way. Once it's dry, voila, you have a photo canvas.

I am going to try these again, with thicker photo paper.

And then there's this.


I've always loved silhouettes and when I saw ones like these on Pinterest I said "hot damn, I'm gonna do that!!" So I did. I'm actually quite happy with these. They came out great. Again, done on canvas and I just painted the 'background' and left their silhouettes white. Emily is not impressed and requested they not be hung in a public part of the house so no one can see them. We compromised and I'm hanging them in the playroom since hardly anyone uses that room.

I still have two more things I'm going to try. One is a set of coasters made from ceramic tiles. and the other thing....well I'm not going to tell right now because if it works out then I think they'd make really nice gifts and I don't want to ruin it because some of the people I'd give it to as a gift read the blog....

It might be a timesuck but I'm not complaining. At least I'm not bored now.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year, New Things

Let's begin by saying Happy 2012. I hope and pray that's exactly what it is.

This morning I decided to start a new blog, this one about work and all things kindergarten. I've got so many resources, so many ideas and so many things to share....what better way to do it.

For now, of course, I'm a bit limited on what I can share since I'm not at work, though most of my resources are at home (I didn't leave any of my resources or toys at school, I didn't trust that they'd be there and in good condition when I got back) But as I'm going through my files in the basement and organizing the rest of my resources I can revisit them and share them. And when I get back to work I can share what's happening in the classroom too.

So feel free to check out my new blog and if you know a teacher feel free to pass it along to them.

I'm extremely tired today. We had friends over for cards last night and I didn't get to bed until after 1 am. I haven't been up that late in - well, I'm not sure how long. I even went so far as to put Connor's clock back an hour. He knows he's not allowed to come out of bed until 7 am so before I went to bed I put his clock back in order to buy myself an extra hour sleep. It worked like a charm but I'm still really tired. I don't sleep well these days.

I've found a new fun addiction too. I joined Pinterest and am hooked. I'm getting some amazing ideas for the kids, for the house, the classroom and recipes. It's a bit too much fun.

Wow - I need to get back to work.