I felt it important to provide a little background on me and why travel is so important to me; why trying new things and writing about them is important to me; and why we all need to nest instead of hunt. Tomorrow is not promised to you nor does it come with an guarantee. You enjoy each moment like your last breath is ready to be taken away. When I was little, mom wanted one of her daughters to be a secretary so it ended up being me. But my real desire was to be a missionary and go oversees to help hungry children so I decided to start saving up food to take with me when I was able to go. It's a good thing my mom found the food!! My social justice love has grown more each year of living but it became a dream come true when my union the Public Service Alliance of Canada help fund a trip to Colombia on a Witness for Peace Tour in 2006. We met with Afro-Colombians, Indigenous and Wayuu people. We witnessed their horrible plights with the government, military and the Cerrejon Mine. We made a difference in many lives there and my hope is to return one day. This was three years after my incredible breast cancer journey. I didn't think I'd make all the travelling, but I did and lost 22 lbs! This impressed in me the need to help others, to enjoy life and to truly begin my travel journey. But this is another story.
I was an active, just a little overweight grandmother at 40 who had a very difficult time with a daughter that gave me such grieve; who ran away from home and came back pregnant; I was looking after a father who was dying during this time as well. I was fighting with my employer to get my job upgraded but they came back and took half of my duties and made it an AS-3 position which was significantly higher than my position. I didn't meet the university qualifications because I didn't actually finish my degree so I wrote a psychology test and was so stressed about the situation that I failed the test and therefore couldn't qualify to be considered for the position and to do the duties I had been doing over 15 years! I think I was close to a breakdown as anyone. I thought I lost my mind. My mom who died two years earlier appeared to me in my sleep, after crying myself to sleep, and held me and said everything will be alright. The next morning I felt calmer. That was in 2002 summer. It was on November 21st, 2002 that I went to my doctor to have a check up due to finding some cancer cells (or pre-cancer) on my cervix the previous year and had the loop treatment to get rid of it. She ordered my first mamo, a week later on November 28th. On Dec 2nd she left a message to call her on her cell. She said it was cancer!! I must have pasted the floor for half an hour while she stayed on the phone with me the entire time. I couldn't believe it, it was like a death sentence, doomed before ever having really lived! My doctor wanted me seen immediately but since I was receiving the Queen's Golden Jubilee Commemorative Medal for my service to the public and my employer, I had to get another later appointment. I was also going to Ottawa to present the Prime Minister of Canada 85,000 post cards to protect and improve Canada's publicly delivered and funded Medicare. I was a mess. I saw a surgeon on Dec. 18th, she scheduled me for the surgery on Dec 31st. The waiting and unknown was horrible! My family came to my house and it was like I was at my own wake! We were all so solum and I couldn't stop crying. My little grandson Rialey was only born on Nov 14, 2002 and my precious granddaughter Layla depended on me like a mother, yet my mother was gone.
I received my medal, we presented the 85000 post cards to the PM's office, since he wouldn't appear, and we lobbied MPs to protect and enhance public health care for all then came home and waited in pain for the operation which was almost cancelled due to the bed shortages. Some unfortunate souls were told to go home because they didn't have enough beds to put them in once they had their operation. I fell asleep under the surgeon and woke up in severe pain. Goodness what horrible pain it was.
I won't go into more detail here but the wait for the chemo and lab results were so stressful. It was a 2cm lump and 1 out of 8 lymph nodes were affected so I had to have radiation. I volunteered to enter the clinical trials and I am so glad I did. They take such great care of you for the rest of your life. I was in both clinical trips for chemo and radiation. The chemo that was chosen was for 6 months. To make a very long story short, the day I started chemo was the day that changed my life forever. I went into the change of life and didn't know it because of all the chemo complications. I am in the 1% that can die from chemo and I had every side affect of chemo and then some. I had bleeding from the bowels, clots in both upper lobes of my lungs and a clot (DVT) in my upper right thigh. I ended up with hypo thyroid with all the book symptoms. My blood was so low in early July of 2003 that I was hospitalized and given a transfusion. My portacalth in my chest became infected and swelled so they couldn't put the meds in there and had to go to my feet because my veins were either too small or they couldn't find any. Getting needles in your feet is excruciating I had to get the port-a cath out and a pick line inserted in my arm so they could use this to give me my chemo and other meds but it had to be flushed each day. Chemo tired is understated. It is a tired that can't be described. I could barely make it from the bed to the bathroom and back. I got nausea a great deal and still get it today. I had to eat something to make it go away yet I couldn't do anything to get the weight off.
While in hospital in June/July 2006, I had a fever and infection and they couldn't get it down and the doc said we almost lost you. During my last chemo in August, he reduced the chemo down 25% because as he said, I already had two strikes and we didn't want another one. I was a mess and couldn't stop crying. The doctors and nurses tried to get me to see a cancer psychologist but I refused because I thought they thought I was crazy. Eventually I did see her and it was great. She helped me a lot to deal with the cancer and the affects on my entire life.
The radiation was another 25 painful days, hoping the damage wouldn't be too bad. The people waiting in the waiting room were so silent and sad looking. I would try to get people talking and saying out loud what kind of cancer I had because too many people were afraid of the C word. We had to face that ugly word and take control of it and our own lives so we could take the power of the C word and put the power back unto ourselves. Eventually people would get involved with whomever was knitting, or helping decide what shade to make the next square for the blanket. People would knit squares to make blankets for cancer patients in hospital to make it more homey for them while in hospital.
I ended up with lots of other conditions since. Probably due to accelerating from the cancer. I ended up on thyroid meds, anti-cancer drug, anti-nausea drugs, later more. I put on so much weight from the severe lack of energy and my knees became so painful that the knee specialist said I have an old woman's knees and have to replace them. Dear Lord, how the pressure mounted. I couldn't do housework, my cat died, I was off work sick and didn't know if the cancer would come back. I was a mess. The little girl Layla was with me a great deal and it was a early July night and my temperature was so high, over 40 that she said frightened, "please call the doctor nanny, I'm too young for you to die". That did it, I did call the emergency number for the oncologist on call but they took so long to come to the phone, I hung up and promised her I'd call in the morning. The next day, someone came to take Layla home for me and I just stayed in bed. Jerry Springer was my saviour but second to Oprah who gave me so much hope and inspiration to keep living and not give up. Sometime I wanted to but Layla kept me going. I wrote to Oprah then a few times over the years but I never heard from her. I wish I had, she inspired me so. To this day, I still think of her saying playing it forward so I always give a compliment to a tired looking cashier, or let someone with a few items go before me or some other nice thing.
Before long, the weight and the knees became my enemy. To this day, I struggle with it. They only relieve is the harsh pills for gout. Yes, I got gout now as of last year and wow it hurts. Sometimes it is only part of the foot or all of the foot or the other foot and one time it came on my right index finger. The pills are very hard on your stomach but it is also the pills that keep me walking so I have to keep taking them or it is just too hard to walk. My biggest fear is that the cancer will come back and I don't think I could make it again.
I got custody of my two grandchildren in 2006 while still very weak and recovering. Difficulty with my daughter's life forced me to bring the little darlings into my home and life full time. Yes it was extremely challenging but they say the Lord never gives you what you can't handle. Many times I asked him if perhaps I have enough on my shoulders but he doesn't seem to think so because I keep getting more burdens loaded. My little guy Rialey was diagnosed with severe ADHD, ODD and we are waiting to see if he also is autistic. He does have some learning difficulties but we are working to overcome these. He is my little protector. He went into the Children's Mental Health Day Treatment for 3 months and he is so much better. Now we have the home Intensive Community Care Based Treatment Team working with me and Rialey.
I have been so fortunate. Sometimes the funds are low and the debts are high and I try to smile but I can only cry, and when I feel like I want to quit, I can't because I'm the only one, a single grandmother with two beautiful grandchildren - energy and attitude, 8 & 16years today.
This is the shortest version of my life since cancer. It wasn't fun going through it. The unknowns facing cancer patients are large and wide and that's what brings the terror. It changed everything about me, my face and body. There is so much more but I think I've relived enough for now. Thank you for reading, listening and being there. Please remember to help others, show kindness to others because you don't know what they are going through. Give to those less fortunate and travel. Don't wait for the future when you can afford it, you might not make the future. Live your life and don't forget to love!
Take the time to travel while you still can and if tomorrows are given to you, then travel some more.
I still cannot participate in a lot of breast cancer events because it is to scary for me. I do what I can to support Breast Cancer Awareness and will raise funds to find a cure, but the thought of the cancer returning has me absolutely frightened! It is a cancer patients worst fear, at mine it is.
We can find a cure and eradicate this disease from the face of the earth and that's what I want to see. Thanks to the people who take this challenge and work so hard on behalf of those of use who either live with cancer or have fought it and lost. We appreciate all of you. Thank you.
TITZ N GLITZ GALA BREAST CANCER FUNDRAISER EVENT 2008
|Some of the costumes at the Gala Event|
|My sweet Aunt Cathy's last Tiz N Glitz event with her niece in law. She died the next year in 2009. She became hooked on going to these events since I took her to her first one 3 years earlier. She looked forward to this so much.|
|These are some of the groups that entered the contest for the best "boob" costumes. It's so funny and so entertaining.|
|Here is another group. My goodness you never know just how creative these wonderful women get. That's Cathy Jones from This Hour Has 22 Minutes. She was the MC and what a great C she was.|
|Here is another group. There were so many wonderful ladies dressed up. I loved their imagination. There were prizes for the best costumes.|
|These two are our wonderful women in BLUE. Only women could attend the event. But our women police officers got in the moment by wearing their boas.|
|This is some of our group fooling around. We had a blast!|
|Here we all are. I did the digging for gold & found the gold nugget & won a $600 beautiful breast cancer necklace & Jeannie below me on the right, did it and won a $500 gold bracelet. What a great time we all had.|
|Not sure who these ladies were, but they were great!|