Sunday, March 31, 2013

In the True Spirit of Easter




I've been selling my kindergarten resources on Teachers Pay Teachers and Teacher's Notebook for several months now. I've had some success; I don't have huge shops but any means but I've had consistent sales.

I decided that for the month of April I would donate all of my sales to the Relay for Life since April is daffodil month.

I promoted it on my Kindergarten blog but since I still have only a few followers there I decided to promote it on my shops home pages as well.

So I emailed the administrators of the sites to make sure that was permitted (don't want to break any rules!!)

Both sites offered to promote it in their newsletters - that are sent to literally thousands of teachers world wide!!  One newsletter came out today and already I've had 8 sales. I know that doesn't sound like a lot but I only average 1-2 a day and it's only 11:30 am AND it's Easter Sunday. This bodes well for the rest of the month.

It gets better though.

The owner of Teacher's Notebook emailed this morning to get the full details for the newsletter. He then offered to waive the fees for April (which means more for me to donate!) AND  he and his wife personally made a substantial pledge to my Relay for Life team.

When I get down and feeling like my efforts are futile or that I'm in this alone I look around and see that I am surrounded by good people. Kindness and generosity come not just from those you know - but from the unlikeliest of place - from complete strangers. And it never, ever fails to amaze me. And move me.

Seeing the good in others reminds me that it's out there. And it reminds me that I must try my best to be the good in the world too. I've been given a second chance at life - I can't waste it.




Thursday, March 28, 2013

Carry On

Only 73 more days until the Relay for Life.

This year will bring about the most changes from our past Relay's. 

It's at a different location. We've not done it at this new school before and the tent city is in the middle of the track rather than beside it. I'm told the energy is very different when the tents are inside the track. I can't wait to see how that goes.

We aren't doing a big fundraising event this year. It's a lot of work and while we enjoy it, I don't think neither my Mom nor I have it in us this year.  (ironic since last year when I was actually battling cancer I had the energy to plan a surprise party for her birthday hosting 60 people AND do the Spring Tea Fundraiser and this year when I'm healthy I don't have the energy - go figure)

However, we're still asking friends and family to make pledges. I'm donating all the sales from both of my Teachers Pay Teachers store and my Teachers Notebook store for the month of April to the Relay as well.

And this year our team will be solely me, my mom and the kids.  Everyone else from our past teams have opted out this year.  We'll have to add in 4 'ghost' names to make our team of 10 but that's okay. 

See, here's the thing.

I Relay as a way to remember my Dad. Sure we remember him every single day - there are still days I'll drive up to my house and if the garage door is open I'll expect to see him there. But the Relay in particular makes me remember his battle, albeit a short one, with cancer. I Relay to remember all the other family and friends we've had who have lost their battles -  Aunt Maire,  Aunt Pat,  Aunt Cathy, my sister in law's Mom Olive, my Mom's dearest friend Barb, my husband's brother Dennis, a former coworker Pat ....  sadly the list goes on and on.....

I also Relay to honour the survivors: Amy, Debra, Sherry, Lisa, Francis, Gar, Janice, Harrison....and yes, myself too.

Cancer was the single most difficult thing I have ever faced and it has changed me. Where before I would have taken it personally and been angry that no one joined our team this year I don't feel any of that.

This event isn't as much about the money we raise for me anymore (don't get me wrong - I still strive to raise a truck load of money but let's face it, we'll never be a huge money maker team - we're simple too small - but I'll raise as much as I can)  But the fact is, I Relay for my reasons and my reasons alone.

I Relay because I fought too damned hard to earn the right to wear that yellow shirt and walk the first lap alone with my fellow survivors to let anything get me down. Sure, I'd love to have my family - all of them - there to celebrate that victory with me - that support means more to me than money but if they aren't I will still walk my lap and celebrate my victory. I will still raise my money and on May 31st  I will Remember. I will Fight Back.

Because I am a



Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Me....A Hockey Mom?

 I may well be one of the very few Canadian born people who does not like hockey. No kidding. It's like when God made us and said "Hmm, this one will be Canadian and she shall love hockey!"  With me He just said "This one is Canadian but she'll be weird and have no use for hockey - making her the embarrassment of a nation!" 

Okay, that might be a bit dramatic. Besides, we have Celine Dion - me not liking hockey really pales in comparison.

My first two children are daughters and while it's not unheard of for girls to play hockey - even my tomboy daughter is not interested. 

Then came Connor.

I promise you this was not our doing. I don't watch hockey. Sean likes hockey but he doesn't watch it. He watches Top Gear. And F1 Racing. And frankly, if Connor told me he wanted to be a racecar driver I'd be over the moon. I can watch that. But hockey?

Over the past few months he's talked a lot about hockey. This friend plays hockey. That friend plays hockey.

Alright kid, I get it. You want to play hockey.

So when the time game to sign him up for an activity I gave him a choice..."Connor, do you want to join baseball again??...  or do you want to play hockey? 

HOCKEY!!

Back in the day - BK (before kids) Sean and I used to go down to Nathan Phillips Square in the winter and skate. It was fun.  Then Emily was born and I haven't been on skates since. (Maybe once or twice - and roller skates but that's not really the same as ice skates)

Let's also factor in an extra 40 lbs since Emily was born and 3 kids (any mother will tell you - your feet change drastically after kids) and well - those damned skinny-footed girly figure skates just didn't fit my big ole fat feet very well.  I'd have been more comfortable in 6 inch stilettos

Last night we took Connor to his first 'Learn to Skate' program. It's a parent and child program so Sean or I have to be on the ice with him. My turn was yesterday - Sean will go next week.

He learned to stand up on his own on the ice after falling (which was helpful since I wasn't so steady myself)  He tried skating alone (with minimal success) 

And then they gave him a hockey stick and a puck and it was like Wayne Gretzky was in front of me.

Alright, not really but the stick and puck gave him some incentive to really try to stand up and skate and he LOVED it.

He loved hockey.

.....and God said, "This one shall be Canadian and LOVE hockey...just to stick it to his mom."

Monday, March 25, 2013

Woohoo!!!

A couple of months ago I joined a weigh loss competition with some friends online. The incentive to win this contest? Money.

Now those of you who know me, you know I love money. Really, who doesn't love money? More importantly I hate losing money (and not getting something for it)  So I figured this would be the kick in the ass I needed - I had to pay $20 to join the competition.  The final pot - $560.  And all I have to do to win my share of that $560 is lose 10% of my body weight.

Shouldn't be that hard right?

Wrong.

See, in order to lose weight you need to make an effort - you can't will it off. If you could everyone would be skinny, I'm certain of it. And yet my love affair with food was proving to be stronger than my love affair with money. I wasn't losing weight and in fact, I was starting to gain again.

Until one day I decided I was done being the fat girl.   I want to feel good about myself again.

So I started making better food choices. I started eating smaller portions. I started running.

As part of the competition I am supposed to weigh in every Saturday morning. For the past two Saturday's I've weighed in and my weight has been exactly the same. Can we say discouraged? Yeah, and then some. I felt like shit. I'm eating right, I'm running my ass off (I'm on day three of week three for my C25K) and I'm not losing any weight. AND - the scale at the gym (a balance scale like at the Dr's office) says I weigh 3.5 lbs MORE than the digital scale at home!)

Then I measured myself.

I've lost 2.5 inches on my hips. That means my hips and ass are getting smaller (sorry Grandma - I love you but I don't want to inherit that from you - I'd rather have your long life genes - Grandma was 93 when she died)

I've lost 2 inches on my waist.

I don't know how much I lost on my bust (I forgot to write down the initial measurement and I don't know how well a loss will reflect on that since one of the boobs will never ever get smaller - being fake and all)

This morning I put on a pair of work pants that I've not worn too often in the last little while and not only were they not tight - they were loose.  LOOSE!! 

I've only got 2 months left of my competition. I'm not sure if I'll win my share of the $560 but I'm losing inches....I'm getting smaller.....and that is okay with me!!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Hope and Cancer

A few weeks ago I had a reader email me asking if he could share his story. Cameron's wife is a cancer survivor and he wanted to share the struggles and victories as a caregiver in the fight against cancer.

Here is his story.

Hope and Cancer

My wife Heather and I can agree that November 21, 2005, was the worst day of our lives. It is the day that she learned that she had malignant pleural mesothelioma, and it is the day that I acquired a job that I was not prepared to take - the job of being a cancer caregiver. We had just celebrated the birth of our daughter Lily three months earlier, and had been happily enjoying the challenge of adjusting to new parenthood. Instead of getting ready to enjoy the holidays with our new little daughter as planned, our lives turned into complete chaos as we began a fight for Heather’s life.

When we were at the doctor’s office, I quickly realized the challenges of being my wife’s caregiver. Our doctor gave us a lot of background information about mesothelioma, and he told us what treatment options we could pursue. We could opt to go to the local hospital, a regional hospital, or a mesothelioma specialist. The specialist was located in Boston, and his name was Dr. David Sugarbaker. After giving us these choices, I waited for my wife to reply. As she sat in shock and disbelief, I knew that she needed help, and it would be up to me to be strong for her. I told the doctor that we were going to Boston.  I had to believe that if anyone could save my wife from this disease, it would be this specialist in Boston.

Over the next two months, our lives were really chaotic. All of our routines had been drastically altered. Heather and I had been accustomed to working full-time jobs, but once she received this diagnosis, she did not work at all, and I could only work part-time.  I had the responsibilities of caring for Heather, taking care of Lily, and making all of Heather’s appointments and travel arrangements. With so many responsibilities, I was overwhelmed. I found myself thinking that I would lose Heather to this disease, and I would have to raise Lily all alone. These thoughts and the pressures of my caregiver role often made me break down and cry whenever I was alone. However, I made sure that Heather never saw me with these tears. Heather depended on me, and I knew that I had to be strong for her.

There were so many family, friends, and strangers to offer us comforting words and even monetary assistance. We can never fully thank them for their help. If there is one piece of advice that I can offer other cancer caregivers, that advice would be to use any assistance offered to you. When people offer their help to you, it allows you to realize that you are not alone in this situation, and will lift some of the burden off of you.  Don’t be too proud to accept this help.

Caring for someone with cancer is a hard job, and during this time, you will experience a lot of stress. However, unlike other difficulties in life, you cannot simply walk away from this job. You must work hard to not allow these feelings to overtake you, but most importantly, you must make sure to never give up hope.

Heather went through a lot of treatment procedures over the following months including mesothelioma surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.  Thankfully, despite the odds, she was able to beat this disease. It has been seven years, and she remains cancer free to this day.

This ordeal allowed me to realize that time is extremely precious, and as a result, I decided to go back to school as a full-time student and major in Information Technology.  My time as a caregiver gave me the strength and the courage to pursue this dream of mine.

The stress that I experienced with Heather’s diagnosis truly prepared me for college. I graduated with honors, and I was the student graduation speaker. I clearly remember telling the audience that just a few years before, sitting in a doctor’s office and hearing that my wife had cancer, I never imagined my life would turn out the way it did. My wife taught me to never give up hope, and now I hope that by sharing this story with others, we can help inspire them in their own cancer battles today.

Monday, March 11, 2013

C25K

I smoked my first cigarette at the ripe old age of 10. Yeah, you read that right. My brother stole some cigarettes from my parents and we went behind the convenience store and smoked it. (I didn't inhale - wait...didn't Clinton say that about pot?) 

Anyway - I eventually became a smoker and for 10 years I was a pack a day smoker. It wasn't until Mary was about a year and a half old that I finally decided it was time to really knuckle down and try to quite.

It was hard, I won't lie and I needed a lot of help, both from the patch and my family. But I did it. And 10 years later I feel better. The Canadian Lung Association says that my risk of dying of lung cancer is cut in half. My risk of stroke is the same as a non smoker and in 5 more years my risk of dying of a heart attack is the same as someone who never smoked.

I tried to quit smoking at least 7 times before I was successful and no matter how much Sean pressured me and no matter what graphic images the government put on the cigarette packages - I didn't quit until I was good and ready. I had to want it and I had to want it bad because it wasn't easy. It was hard.

I think the same can be said for weight loss.

How many posts have I written about losing weight, getting healthy, etc. A lot.

Will this be another one of those posts? Maybe - I guess only time will tell -  but I'm hoping it won't be.

I'm tired of being fat. Let's call a spade a spade. I'm could pretty it up and say I'm 'fluffy' or carrying some extra weight or have some love handles or residual weight from chemo.....

the simple fact is I am fat. Maybe in a small part because of the steroids from chemo but mostly because I eat too much of the wrong things. Portion control is an issue for me and while I could do something like Jenny Craig I think that's counter productive. Eventually I'll eat my own food again and if I don't learn to portion my food properly that weight will pile back on again.

This isn't about denying myself of the things I love like chicken wings or cookies. It's about eating a couple of chicken wings instead of a pound or one cookie after dinner instead of 3 after dinner and 2 after work and one before bed. 

I'm tired of saying I'm going to get myself back in shape (I used to be hot - I used to go rollerblading with Sean wearing a bikini top and daisy dukes and I used to look GOOD doing it!) I know I'll never have that body again - I've since had three kids but I can have some 40 year old mom of three version of that body.

Yesterday was day one. I'm going to start tracking what I eat - if I write it down I will be more accountable for what's going in my mouth.

I'm going to start exercising - and that doesn't mean only going to the gym once a week when I'm not too tired after work.

I downloaded a Couch to 5k app and yesterday was day 1. I did it. It kicked my ass but I did it. I'm hurting a bit today but I did it. And I think tomorrow will be a little bit easier.

I still have my gym membership for another couple of months so I'll keep going to do my weights on the days that I'm not doing the running.

I'm going to do it. I'm going to be successful this time. When I quit smoking it was because I was tired of the stress of smoking - it was more trouble than it was worth and I wasn't feeling good about myself.

I don't feel good about myself now. I weigh 25 lbs more than I did when I gave birth to Connor and that is unacceptable.  I want to do something about that. Now.

I can do it....I know I can. I just have to want it bad enough.

Monday, March 4, 2013

So You've Been Diagnosed with Cancer.....

The following is reposted from my friend, my Survival Sista, Amy's CaringBridge journal.

Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer around the same time I was and underwent a double mastectomy and chemo. 

I thought it was worthy of reposting here for anyone who stumbles this way. My stats show that a lot of people find this blog through breast cancer diagnosis searches and we want you to know, you are not alone.  And these are things we wish we'd known in the beginning of our respective journey's.

I felt compelled to write this down because so many have asked me various questions or asked me to speak with newly diagnosed people. Maybe it can help one of you help someone or for your own understanding. So here goes....
It has been over a year since my diagnosis and in that time I have learned so much and come such a long way. I recently thought of signing up to be a peer to peer counselor for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. I have spent some time thinking about all of the things I have experienced and learned in the last year. It is overwhelming to really think about. I guess it really got me thinking that some people reading this may be newly diagnosed and I wanted to share my most key points in case it helps others going through this breast cancer nightmare. (or any other cancer really)
(from another side of it, I also watched my dear, sweet, strong mother fight ovarian cancer for 5 yrs only to lose her battle, but going through my own experience has also helped me understand some of the things she would try to explain even then. Its a full circle perspective!!!)

1. Get second opinion and weigh ALL of your options. I think that even if you think you may get a lumpectomy you should meet with a breast surgeon and a plastic surgeon and just hear what everyone has to say. Get second opinions for both too. I did and found hearing what each of the surgeons had to say helped me make a decision I could live with. (my own personal experience being a double mastectomy & reconstruction)
 

 

2. Consider more medications! I was always the type of person that hated taking medications. Now I embrace medications that will help me. I also welcome xanax at night to help me sleep and lexapro to keep me calm and reduce my anxiety over dealing with breast cancer. Honestly, I would never in a million years think I would take xanax or lexapro, but I am glad I did have them and it has made things a lot better for me, also made me a better patient, calmer. Don't be afraid to talk to your doctor about this, it is normal. Breast cancer is a lot to deal with so there is nothing wrong with a little help.

3. Don't let your anticipation get the best of you, everyone has it Its fear of the unknown. (the medications could help with some of this) Every step of the way I worried and had huge anxiety over what was to come. (even though my Faith was strong & I had plenty of support) I was an emotional wreck and freaked myself out so bad before some procedures or chemo and expected the worst. (I am also a needle-phobic) What I found is that most things were actually easier than I anticipated (don't get me wrong...it was not cakewalk!). I just had extreme fear of the unknown and made it worse in my head that it actually was, once I learned to make it seem more like a mundane task, like doing housework, my anxiety subsided a little bit. Sometimes you have to learn to turn off your mind & stop thinking and just DO!!!

4. Don't think about the "big picture". Take it one step at a time. I think if you look at the entire breast cancer road ahead of you, it is just way too much. I did better just focusing on the next step I had to deal with and not the whole thing all at once. This kept me a little more sane!

5. Attitude matters - A LOT! I told myself I would not be that sick girl going through chemo...and I wasn't. I got up every day and exercised and tried to do everything I normally did before chemo on a daily basis, some days were tougher than others. (but I put on my wig & makeup anyway) The more I kept moving and acting normal, I did not focus on being sick from chemo. Granted some people take chemo harder than I did, but I do believe the more you buy into feeling like crap, you will feel like crap. Just my opinion. You have to stay positive & busy. I even caught up on some scrapbook projects while I was recovering and was well enough to sit up. Anything to stay busy & "normal".

6. Remove bad foods and toxic items from your life. Along with everything i already knew about nutrition, I also read The Anti Cancer book and it helped me understand which foods are bad for cancer patients and that actually fuel cancer. I have been able to adjust my eating to make me healthier and hopefully decrease my odds of recurrence. (even carrying the gene) I have also read a lot on the internet about toxic ingredients and hormones in body care products. I have also changed make up, lotions, deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, hair color, cookware, plastic containers, water bottles and cleaning supplies. The world is full of toxic chemicals so I am avoiding the ones I can avoid. It takes a lot of time to research this stuff, but it is worth it.

7. You don't have to lose your hair during chemo. Penguin Cold Caps can work for some people depending on which chemo you have. I had tax, red devil, & cytoxan and they didn't for me, but I had the really heavy "hitters", so I was happy with my wig. (and I made it fun to go get one & my advice is to you if it is falling out - shave your head when you are ready, don't watch your hair fall out every day, it is just too traumatic for women - make peace with it and shave it - I had my husband shave mine at the first signs) Most doctors will not tell you about cold caps and if you bring it up, they will tell you they don't work. But try it anyway, doctors know a lot, but if he''s a man, he still doesn't understand the way a woman things completely. LOL
. 8. Connect with people that "get it"! I am fortunate that I was referred to a breast cancer counselor and through her connected to groups and get a lot of support online from other women that are going through breast cancer too. I still participate in online message boards and a private facebook chat group of dear friends I met through having breast cancer. I could not have gotten through this without my good friends that surround me and are also living this nightmare along with the message boards where I have gotten great advice and support.

9. People act stupid when the word "cancer" comes up. People just don't know how to act. Many people will let you down while you go through breast cancer treatment and surgeries. Some people that you think really care about you won't even acknowledge your cancer or offer to help. Some don't even call. In time I have grown to realize it does not mean they don't care, they just don't know what to say or how to act, so they do nothing. I won't lie, it hurt me a lot that some people acted like they were ignoring me, but I really think they just didn't know how to process it. And to be honest, my energy had to be spent on surviving, not dwelling!!!
 

 

10. I have always said "Exercise is important" and I still say it. I exercised daily through chemo and treatment on the days I could, except when I was instructed not to exercise. AND even then I asked my Dr every appt if I could yet, he even labeled me his "racehorse patient" because not one of his patients asked that question as much as I did. It helped me physically and emotionally. Exercise not only made my body stronger, but helped reduce my stress levels. I think it also helped me focus on feeling GOOD, not crappy through treatment. You must find a while to distract your mind and stay positive!!!


I am sure there are countless other things I have learned, but these are the things that stand out the most in my mind right now. Breast cancer is a long, complicated, and exhausting process. I am sure I will continue to learn more things as I move forward surviving breast cancer. In fact, I learn something every time I speak to someone else about their experience. Things I never even considered during mine, because that's the thing, we are all going through it, but we are all in a different place. But that's how we help each other. I don't want breast cancer to be what defines me for the rest of my life, but it has been a part of me for so long, I don't know who I was anymore before being a cancer survivor!!! So, if I can help someone then that's what I want to do. So they know they are never alone.
(the loneliness can be the worst part and can be suffocating)
Even now, I still have lingering side effects that frustrate me every day. But I know, from talking to others, these are normal and can be worked through. Maybe one day I will write about those, BUT writing/ thought process/ memory is one of the things affected by my side effects. It takes me much longer to get out a thought and it be read properly, but I keep working through it. That's what you do - You Keep Moving Forward because you never know what lies ahead!!!
 

One more thing I might add....it's okay to be selfish. You are, quite literally, fighting for your life. My Dr. is famous for saying "No one wins a prize for being a hero." What he meant was that you don't need to do it all. There are so many resources available for people dealing with cancer; counselling and support. A good place to start looking is the Canadian Cancer Society or the American Cancer Society.
If you feel sad, cry. If you feel angry, shout. If you feel tired, sleep. If you feel pain, take some medication. But mostly when you feel good, celebrate!  Do what makes you happy - LIVE your life.