Monday, April 30, 2012

I'm one of the lucky ones.

Yesterday, I sat on the bed in a the urgent care clinic waiting for the doctor to come in and look at my 'ross' (a cyst on my lower back that became infected....Sean and I nicknamed it Ross because of an episode of Friends...)  Anyhow, at the beginning of April I went to urgent care to have the infection drained and they've been packing the wound ever since. It was a big hole.

I'm getting off topic here...so as I sit on the bed I'm listening to the receptionist check in another patient. She swipes his health card, confirms his name and then asks his address, phone number and family doctor's name.

He doesn't have a family doctor.

This in itself, is not unusual. Over 1 million people in the province of Ontario don't have a family doctor. Why? Well, there just aren't enough of them. They leave. They  go to other provinces. They go to the US. They go to less populated communities because they'll receive a premium to practice there. I'm one of the lucky ones, I do have a family doctor...but because of the shortage he's got so many patients that getting a same week appointment is impossible. I'm at least two weeks waiting to see him for anything (unless it's urgent...more on that later) It's why I went to the urgent care clinic when my ross became infected. I knew I couldn't wait two weeks to see my own doctor.

Now, in the past, I'd hear that a million Ontarians didn't have a family doctor and I'd think, meh, it's no big deal. There are numerous walk in clinics, urgent care clinics, community health clinics and even the emergency room, so despite not having a family doctor, no one will ever go without health care.

But then I think back. I think to May 27th 2011. When I found The Lump. It was a Friday night. I went to the (same) urgent care clinic because my doctor doesn't do weekends. The doctor found the lump, with guidance, and arranged for me to have a mammogram and see a surgeon. My mammogram was scheduled for just a few days later but the surgeon appointment was scheduled for early August.

Efficient? Not as much as one would hope for.

On the 30th, I called my family doctor and broke down on the phone to the receptionist saying I couldn't wait a two weeks to see him, that I'd found a lump. I was in his office 2 hours later.


He had me in to see my oncologist in a matter of weeks. And from there, a new surgeon. I had a diagnosis roughly 7 weeks later.

7 weeks is not outstanding by any means. I probably could have been done faster. It should have been done faster. Waiting 2 weeks for pathology when it could be back within 3 days is not efficient.

But here's the thing. I got a diagnosis in 7 weeks because I have a family doctor.

Had I not had a family doctor who knew me, knew me well, knew my medical history and all that goes with it I would have waited the 10 weeks just to see the surgeon for a consultation. Then I would have waited for the surgery. Then I would have waited 2 weeks for the pathology. My diagnosis would have come roughly around the time I was being wheeled in for my mastectomy.

The delay in a diagnosis could have been catastrophic. How much would my cancer have grown in that extra 14 or so weeks? It was an aggressive cancer.  It's very possible that had I not had a family doctor who moved me through the system faster that my diagnosis would have been a stage 4 by the time I got it. And that rather than sitting here now and pondering this I'd be pondering my death.

But, as it stands, I'm one of the lucky ones. I have a family doctor.

Our medical system is fantastic. It has it's problem, sure, but every single doctor and nurse I've ever come across has been fantastic, dedicated and professional. I'm by no means knocking the doctor I saw in the urgent care clinic. He did his job. The problem is the system. The problem is the lack of family doctors available for us, the patients, to build that relationship with so that when you go to them with a medical concern they know when it's necessary to fast track you through the system or to push their colleagues to make a space in their schedule to get you in sooner....so that they know when it's life or death.

I'm one of the lucky ones. I have a family doctor.

I fear for those who don't.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Why I Love Working With Kids

Kids are awesome. Plain and simple.

They're funny. They're smart. They're talented. It's exciting to see a child learn something. It's exciting when a kid who is troubled - carrying much more weight than a 5 or 6 year old should - gets excited by something that you or I wouldn't think much of.

We germinated seeds last week. We put seeds in wet paper towels and hung them in Ziploc bags on the windows of our class. Today, one by one I invited the kids to my table to see if their seed had started to grow and to transplant them to pots so they could take them home. Some of them only had small little roots starting and some of them had full on plants started. And every single one of them was excited about what they'd done.

Today while walking in from recess one of my boys said to me, "Mrs. D, George called me stupid Frankie!" 

I called George over and said, "George, did you call Frankie stupid?" 

George said, "Yes."  Quite matter of fact. He's owning his wrong doing.

I said, "Well then what do you think you need to say to Frankie?"

George looked at me. He looked at Frankie. He looked at me again, pointed at Frankie and said (with a totally serious look on his face)  "Stupid?"

Yeah, not the word I was going for. And yet, as much as I need to correct this and let him know that the "S" word he's looking for is Sorry.....inside I was laughing because he was so deadpan about it.

It's little things like that that make my day complete.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

It Ain't Over 'til It's Over

It's a funny feeling to finish cancer treatments.

When this whole thing began I looked forward, always forward to the end of the surgery, to start of chemo, to the end of chemo, to the start of radiation, to the end of radiation. Now I look forward (in a different way) to the end of herceptin.

And each new day was Step One. I didn't like to look back, only forward.

The funny thing is that no matter how hard you try to look forward, the effects of chemo have a way of reminding you that the past is still present.

My nails have finally started falling apart. They are ridged 4 of them that I can see, for the last 4 treatments I had. The nails would stop growing and then start growing again. Now that they've been growing for a couple of months those ridges are near the tip of my nails but are brittle and I've got more than one nail that is torn well below the quick. Because of this, my fingernails hurt much like they did during my taxotere treatments.

My joints ache, in particular my knees and ankles. I feel arthritic, though I know it's not that, the same pain that I had, again, during taxotere. Some days it's bad enough that I need to medicate - something I'm avoiding at all costs.

I'm still exhausted and yet riddled with insomnia so even when I do sleep I'm awake every 2 hours.

My hair is growing back and that's a great thing. I have eyelashes again and eyebrows. I have a solid layer of fuzz on my head. My body hair is back with a vengeance (yuck!)

My mucus membranes are also healthy again. That means a constant runny nose and watery eyes. It's as if they are punishing me for having been dried up for so long.

I know I should be grateful. I'm alive, I'm well and I'm happy. But I think I've earned the right to complain a bit too.

So now I look forward once again to the end of my herceptin treatment, though not because I'll be happy they are done - rather I'll be sad. It's my security blanket. After that, I'm on my own.

And beginning Step One.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Best of Both Worlds

So what was that, 4 days? And in actual fact I stayed unplugged even less than that because Mary wanted to invite her bff over for a sleepover so I had to email her mom.

Having said that, I spent the bulk of the 4 days offline and I've learned a few things. I'd like to share them with you.

I still hate the phone.  Plain and simple. I understand the importance of it but still, I'd rather email or have a face to face conversation. Having said that, I didn't miss my email for the last 4 days

I love my blog.  I told my brother the other day that my blog is one of the few things I do solely for myself. It's for me. It's an outlet. I enjoy it and it relaxes me. And even if none of you read it I'd still write it (that doesn't mean you should stop reading though...I'm full of interesting things to say!)

I love my PP sisters. Most of the people in my life, if they need me, can call me or come over. But my PP sisters can't. Okay, well not entirely true, they can call me or text me but not everyone has the kind of cell plan that will allow them to call or text long distance without a heavy fee.  And let's face it. My PP sisters have been such a huge part of my life and some of my greatest supporters during the last year - why in the world would I want to separate myself from them. I need to be online to communicate with them.

I can live without FB. It's kind of funny really, I thought I loved Facebook but in my 4 days away, I didn't miss it at all. In fact, I only used it once - to arrange the sleepover.

So, being unplugged is taking a new turn. I'm keeping my email on vacation response.  That way, I'm not going to feel obliged to check it - especially because people know I was always on it. That doesn't mean I still won't check it....just not as often.

I'm also not bothering with FB anymore. I'll keep it because our Papa's Pride facebook page is there and for some people it's the only way I have to contact them but for the most part.....I'm done with it.

I think that's something I can live with.  It works. It's the best of both worlds. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Unplugging

I'm taking a break. I'm going on hiatus. From my blog. From Facebook. From email (except for work related)  and the PP.

I'll be back, I just need a break. I'm dealing with a some things right now and need to take some time to refocus myself.

So, dear readers, don't miss me too much. I'll be back....I can't live without my blog...and my FB...and my PP for very long.

See  ya soon.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Out of the Mouths of Babes

This evening when Connor was getting his pajamas on he looked down at his nipples and asked me why he had small boobies.

I told him boys have small boobies and girls have big boobies, like me.

He said, "But you only have one boobie!"

I said, "You're right, but maybe one day Mommy will go to the Dr and he'll give me a new boobie."

Connor said, "Yeah, a blue one, a blue one!!!"





Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ultimate Blog Party 2012



Thought I'd try something new. Several of the blog I already read are participating and I thought it would be a great way to find some new blogs for me to follow. If you've found me through the Ultimate Blog Party 2012, welcome!  If you're one of my regular readers already, you really should check out the Ultimate Blog Party and you can participate too!

So a bit about me.

My name is Jean. I'm the mother of 3 of the most fabulous kids known to man. I might be slightly biased, but only slightly because if you knew them, you'd think they are fabulous too. Really. They are my world.

I'm married too, for 14 years to a wonderful man who's been by my side through thick and thin.

I'm an Early Childhood Educator and have spent the last 18 years working with kids. Currently I am co-teaching in a Full Day Kindergarten with a local Catholic School board. It's my dream job and I hope to do it until I retire.

I am a cancer warrior. Wow, that sounds dramatic. In 2009 I lost my Dad to cancer and it was the first person who was really, really close to me that had it, let alone died from it. From that point on I made it my mission to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society. But life has a way of being ironic (yeah, just like that Alanis Morissette song) and last July I too was diagnosed with cancer. Since that time I've had a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation and will spend the next year in maintenance. I've fought cancer in a nasty hand to hand (boob to boob?) combat and I won! 

And I blog. I started blogging just for shiggles and then used it as communication when my Dad was sick. From there I used it as communication through my battle with cancer and treatment. I went viral for a bit with my post I'm 12 weeks and craving pickles....that was lots of fun. And now, I'm just happy to be here, sharing my experiences and thoughts.

So welcome to my blog!


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Spring Tea Fundraiser

Our tea was an overwhelming success! If you look to the right you'll see out little fundraising thermometer has jumped quite a bit. In fact, we were only $212 away from reaching the $2500 goal which, when my Uncle matches our fundraising efforts will put us at our $5000 goal.

We have a garage sale planned for late May so hopefully that will put us over.

So let me tell you about the tea.

We had 26 fabulous baskets for our basket raffle.



We had donations from family, friends, strangers and local businesses of goods and services to build some amazing baskets, including zoo passes, massage gift certificates, Pampered Chef cookware, Scentsy products, Avon......  Let's just say, there were a lot of baskets I wanted to win myself!

My mom and some friends made some amazing sandwiches like asparagus, cucumber/mango, seafood salad. My sister in a law and I made some yummy desserts; brownies, cake pops, and of course...boob cookies. My sister in law provided us with some gorgeous daffodils for the tables.

And the people came.





In fact, we over sold the event and had to bring in more chairs from the next room. And that was with some of the people who bought tickets unable to attend. Not too shabby I think!

Emily and her friend were in charge of the basket raffle


Mary was in charge of admission tickets and door prizes


She also used her cuteness to procure some pledges for her, Connor and Emily.

It was a fun afternoon. We enjoyed some great company, some good food and most of all we raised, in total, over $1200 for the Canadian Cancer Society. I'm proud of what we accomplished!

But I will always set the bar higher - which means next year we'll work harder to raise even more.

And remember, we haven't met our goal yet so if you have not already, please click here and make a donation today. Even if it's only $5. Every little bit helps.



Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chewy Chewy Bubble Gum!

When Emily was little and started chewing gum she would chew it with her head down so that she didn't swallow it.

When Mary was little and started chewing gum she would chew on piece three or four times and then spit it out so that she didn't swallow it.

Today Connor had gum for the very first time. I gave him half a piece. I sat with him and reminded him to chew the gum but not swallow it.

He chewed. And chewed. And chewed. He sounded like a cow chewing cud but he was grinning from ear to ear. Then he made his 'shy' face.

Then he swallowed his gum.

Well, can't win 'em all. We'll try again in a few months.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Time

I don't go to church as often as I should - I'll admit it. I've gone a few times since my diagnosis but in large part avoided the close confines of mass, especially during chemo. It was too risky to challenge my immune system with sharing peace with my neighbours. And it seems like someone near me always has a nasty, phlegmy, hacking cough.

Excuses, I know. The truth of the matter is, I have a strong faith but when it comes to actually getting to church I tend to be more of a Chr-Easter Catholic.  And yet, I'm not sure why. I love being at church. I love the hymns. I love the quiet reflection. I love how I feel when mass is done. And above all, I love the homilies.

Our Priest is a quiet man. When talking to him he seems shy, unsure, he tends to trip over his words.  I don't know if he writes his own homilies or if there is some Priest homily writing book he gets these things from but he tells the best stories that tie right in with the Gospel reading for the day. Sometimes they are funny, sometimes they're sad, sometimes quite serious.  And 99% of the time I can find a direct link from these stories to my own life.

Yesterday Father told a story about a young man talking to his mom on the phone. The mom tells him that an elderly neighbour died. The mom reminds her son of how he'd spent endless hours at the man's house as a youngster, after his own father had died. The man had taught him carpentry and now this young man owned a carpentry business.

After the funeral the woman and her son went to to the man's house. He'd never married and had no children of his own so it was a small reception. The young man noticed everything in the house was exactly as he remembered it, save for a gold box that used to sit locked on the man's desk. As a boy he would often ask the man what was in this box and the man always replied, "The thing that's most important to me."   Now, he would never know what was in that box.

Several weeks later a packaged arrived for the young man. In it was the gold box and a key. The old man had left instructions to forward it to the young man upon his death. He opened the box to find a gold watch. The watch was engraved "Thank you for your time"

What had been most important to this old man had been the time he'd spent with the young man as a boy.

It really made me think about my own life and the time I spend with my family and friends.

One of the things I had been worried about going back to work was if I had a recurrence of cancer that I'd feel as though I wasted time I could have spent with my family at work.  The truth of the matter is, I'm losing time with Sean because he has to work nights but I think what's more important is the quality of the time we're spending together, not the quantity.  It's all well and good if we spend 16 hours together in a day but if we're ignoring each other in front of the TV for 14 of it.....

well, you get the point.

I see time differently now. I see how important it is - to value, to not waste. I'm 38 years old and while that is but a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things, I already feel like I've had a long life. I'd like to have at least another 38 years but I don't have any idea what He's got planned for me. And because I've got this new perspective I don't want to waste a single minute of it.

Don't get me wrong. This doesn't mean I'm not going to spend an hour or two kegged out in front of the TV or online while my kids play their video games and Sean watches Top Gear. But I'm making more quality time for all of us.

And thank you, for taking the time to visit with me today.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Seriously?!?!

I can't seem to catch a break.

I have a small cyst on my lower back. I've had it for years and for the most part it doesn't bother me.

About 7 years ago it got infected and my Dr had to drain it. Gross, I know.

Well, it's infected again.

I went to the urgent care clinic this morning, thinking they would give me a prescription and defer it to my family Dr.  Instead, the Dr decided to drain it right there.

I was happy about that, don't get me wrong, but she had to make a sizable incision and now I'm left with a gaping hole in my back that has to be packed. And I have to go back every day for 2 weeks to have my dressing changed. Yippee.

And to add insult to injury the only pain killers I have left are expired Tylenol 3's.  Whatever works, this crap hurts like a bitch!

I'm ready to come out of this funk. I really, truly am.

It's Easter weekend. I'm going to relax today, dye some eggs with the kids. Tomorrow I'm going to go to mass and enjoy the day with the kids. Monday is Sean's last day at home before he starts working nights again. I'm going to miss sitting here with him at night.

Next week is the tea. I can't believe, it's almost here. I've got to get the last of the baskets done, make some cake pops, boob cookies and a cake. We've got to plan our menu and make sure we've got enough tea cups.

I have a lot to look forward to so as of right now, this funk....is GONE!!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

It's Funny When It Hits You

The irony of my title is that this is not, even in the slightest way,  a funny post.

I don't like to whine. I really don't. I've prided myself on (at least as far as I'm concerned) handling this whole 'journey' with grace, dignity, strength and even good humour.  I've had my moments of self pity and woe but for the most part, I've chalked this up to something I've had to go through in my life and that's that.

But going back to work this week has shown me something. It's shown my just how different my life is now. And I'm not sure I'm ready to accept it.

Today my class was having their Kindergarten graduation photos done. Super cute, little 5 year olds with caps and gowns and diplomas and flowers. So I brought my class in, 5 kids at a time to have their pictures taken. When all 30 had been done the photographer told me to sit down to have mine done, that the teachers were going to be put onto the composite photo.

Two thoughts immediately ran through my head. My wig. I hate my wig. I think it looks like a wig. I'm not sure if everyone else thinks that too and just doesn't tell me to spare my feelings but I think it. I hate it and I can honestly say that as soon as my hair is long enough to brush, I will not wear it ever again.

My second thought was that I'm an impostor. I shouldn't be on the composite photo. I'll be teaching these kids for the last three months of the school year. The ECE who supplied for me should be in the photo.

That brings me to the next thought. There is a whole bunch of new staff at work. I'm getting to know them but I'm shy, so getting to know the new ones is not easy for me. I feel a bit like I'm on the outside because of that - and it's not anyone's doing - it's just that I've lost 6 months of face time with all these people and feel out of sorts.

I'm incredibly stressed at work. I feel like I feel into an episode of hoarders. It's bad. I long for the days when I could walk around my class when the kids were at centres and sit with them and talk and see their learning and engage with them. Now it's all behaviour management and crowd control. And cleaning. A whole shitload of cleaning.

I'm sore. I'm hurting. I have a cyst on my lower back (I've had it for years) but it's swelling and sore. This happened once many years ago - it was infected and had to be lanced. I fear that's happening again so I'm going to have to go the walk in and get a prescription to hold me over until I can get in to see my Dr (which could take a few weeks)

My back hurts. My feet hurts. My knees hurt.  My brain hurts.

I miss my boob. For the first time ever I actually thought about what 'could have been' had I decided to investigate further and not had the mastectomy.  Of course, the reality is that I'd spend the rest of my life worried that it would show up in that breast again - at least this way it's a bit less of a fear - but it doesn't eliminate the fact that I long to feel normal. Getting my clothes laid out for work includes laying out my wig and prosthetic and I hate that.

I hate what cancer has done to my life.  I hate that my normal, wonderful, happy life was ripped away from me.

I think it's all finally hitting me. The reality of everything that's happened in the last 6 months. I find I'm getting annoyed with people for griping about things that to me, seem so insignificant. I know they aren't - at least not to them - but to me....so many things seem so trivial now.

I suppose when I go to the Dr to see about my cyst I should mention all this. It has all the earmarks of a fine depression.

I just want my life to be normal again.

One Week Down.

As of 3 pm today I will have made it through my first week back at work.

It's getting better.

I still maintain that I should have listened to a co worker and if I had my time back I'd have stayed off until September but hindsight is 20/20 and I'm sure on April 27th when I get my first paycheck I'll be feeling better about this choice.

I'm making progress with the clutter in my class and the kids are calming down. Baby steps.

I've also rediscovered my internal alarm clock. Every night I set the little alarm clock as well as the alarm on my phone for 6 am and 6:05 am respectively and every morning I wake up at 5:50 am. I love not being woken up by an alarm and if it means waking up 10 minutes early, I'm okay with that. It gives me this 10 minutes to blog.

Baby steps.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Did I Make a Mistake?

Sean asked me when I came home from work last night if I felt better about my decision to go back.

Yes and no.

It was nice to get out of the house. It was nice to be around people. It was nice to use my brain for more than blogging.

But not to what I went back to.

Anyone who knows me even remotely well knows I thrive on two things - organization and structure.

I've gone back to the antithesis of this.,

I had to wade through 16 feet of crap find the top of my desk. And guess what I found on it. Mouse poop. Yeah, you read that right. Mouse shit on my desk. That's a pretty solid description of my entire class....clutter, wrapped in chaos with a sprinkling of mouse poop. Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit. There was really only a foot of crap on my desk.

I'm overwhelmed with the sheer amount of stuff that has collected in every nook and cranny of my class and can't function with a clear mind.

And  I can see I'm not alone in the sentiment because the children were loud and chaotic as well.

I'm sure it will get better with time (and a garbage bag) but for now - yes, I have some serious regrets about going back to work now. I'm thinking I should have waited until September.

Too late. I'll just have to suck it up buttercup.