Breast Cancer. Been there, done that and I have the scars to prove it. Now it's my turn.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Thoughts From The Other Side

I'm at the Cancer Center this afternoon. It's not anything important -- hopefully. Just a little something I feel like I need to get checked out.

It's one of those things that never leaves you -- the cancer. You think you are past it and then it sneaks up behind you and taps you on the shoulder to make sure you are never fully comfortable in your own skin again. I will be fine. I'm sure it is nothing. But I am here - just in case.

It's interesting being back. Two and a half years ago I was neck deep in treatment. All the nurses knew who I was. Fellow patients would see me and give me that slight nod that said "Hey Friend. Its okay. I'm in the same boat". I belonged in phlebotomy and the chemo rooms. It's what I was here for and everyone could tell.

Today it's different. I'm still a patient, but no one can tell that from the way I look. Maybe it's the full (but slightly thinned) head of hair I am sporting. The healthy pallor of my skin - no more pale and yellow here. I feel one step removed and on the edge of not belonging.

But every time I hear the "BEEP-beep, BEEP-beep" of the IVs in Chemo or the soft voices discussing meds and treatments, I'm reminded that there is a part of me that will always exist here. The memories of the Me that was sick will always be lurking somewhere in the Cancer Center. It's too real to ever forget what those months in treatment were like.

And I am hoping, for all the people I am sitting with right now, that their futures include remission or cures. I hope for that, so very much.


Tuesday, 2 October 2012

There's Nothing Like Community

I think one of the most important things that emerged from all of the cancer crap I had to deal with was my sense of community -- and my faith in the goodness of people.

I've learned that, despite all the violence and tragedy and hurt that we see, the vast majority of people are still so full of love and generosity.

When I was going through treatment, casseroles and fresh bread and coffee friends always showed up at my door when I needed them most.  My mom and my best friends cleaned my house and kept up with my laundry.  They took Renee and Curtis on sleepover and movie dates to give them a much-needed break from the burden of sickness in our home.  My family came through the year of chemo and radiation almost unscathed, and it was because people cared enough to reach out to us.

Things have changed, but in my new adventure as a breast cancer survivor I am still surrounded by so much love and support that it feels overwhelming at times.

This was yesterday:    (photo courtesy of Sheri Saskatoon)

Aberdeen Composite School had a pep rally to kick off their Think Pink Week -- a full week of fundraising to support the C95 Radio Marathon.  Look at all the pink!

The feeling I get when I look out at all those faces and tell my story is indescribable.  Yesterday I could feel the generosity and hope brewing in the room.  These kids may not understand how much of a difference they are making when they pay admission to the noon hour sock hop or drop their loonie in the bucket to shave their teachers' heads.  But I do.  And that's what I told them.  I asked them to imagine what it might feel like to have the same experience that my kids did on the day I was diagnosed.  And then I asked them to help me help other families who may have moms affected by breast cancer.  And grandmas.  And aunties and teachers and friends.  We are making a difference by researching a cure.  Each one of those loonies they give really is making a difference!

It was my first time attending an event as part of the C95 Radio Marathon team.  Shauna and Rob and Sheri came to the school for the kick off too!  They are such awesome people -- you can feel the passion they have for this cause when they speak.  The kids were excited to have them there and planned a cool game show for them.  I'm still wondering, though, are they really Smarter Than The 6th Graders?  :)

Mr. Vedress was the perfect host for the game show.


I think Shauna, Sheri and Rob enjoyed themselves.  But, no, Sheri -- "Beiber" wasn't the answer!  LOL

It was, in all, a great pep rally.  Mrs. White and her committee worked very hard to put together an awesome week of activities and I can't wait to see what comes of it!  The staff of Aberdeen have already donated $500 and they've challenged the students to raise the same.  I'm sure they can do it!

Tonight, Russ and I and a bunch of friends are going to the Breast Benefit Ever at Lydia's on Broadway.  I am SO looking forward to it!  I've been meaning to go see Vaero perform for a while, but haven't had the chance.  Tonight, she'll be there along with a handful of other talented ladies.  It will be amazing, I am sure.

This ambassador role is pretty awesome so far, I have to admit.  I'm meeting people and getting the word out there.  It truly is feeding my calling  give back to the breast cancer cause in a real, measurable way.

I will, however, have to find a different way to curb hubby's "O Ambassador" jokes.  His ribs are going to get pretty sore with all the elbows I've been giving him.  Russell!  Someone's gonna get a hurtin' reeeeal bad!  LOL!

Monday, 1 October 2012

All You Have To Do is Ask...

I am amazed every day at how willing people are when you ask them for help.

Part of what I am trying to do for the C95 Radio Marathon is find people who are willing to use their time and connections to organize fundraisers in their own communities.  I know everyone is so busy with work and school and their own valuable causes.

That's why it touches my heart when people give of themselves so freely.

I sent some emails and Facebook messages out to friends, asking them to consider doing this kind of thing for the Radio Marathon.  I've had so many positive responses -- I just want to hug each one of those people!  (I guess that is one thing that Facebook cannot do yet...virtual hugs.)

My kids' school jumped right in.  Two of the staff members organized a student committee to plan an entire week of fundraising.  Their Pink Week kick off is today -- and Shauna, Rob and Sheri are coming out to take part.  I don't know much (Renee has been keeping things a secret so that I am somewhat surprised when I get there) but I have heard snippets of a choreographed dance and loud, pumped up music.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Another friend of mine (cousin of ours, actually) jumped in and planned a huge steak night in just a few hours.  Her enthusiasm is so inspiring!

I also mentioned it offhand to Renee's violin teacher, a talented young Saskatoon artist named Veronique Poulin.  She has organized a benefit concert at Lydia's pub, featuring 15 female singer/songwriters from Saskatoon.  They are all donating their time and income for the night to the Radio Marathon.  They are calling it the Breast Benefit Ever -- and I can hardly wait!

You see, I experience situations like this and I think how awesome it is that I am surrounded by people who are so giving and supportive.  All I have to do is ask and there is always someone somewhere saying: "Yes!  I will help you!"  I feel so incredibly blessed.

It inspires me to say yes too.  This week, I asked Vanessa at C95 what kinds of things needed to get done for the Radio Marathon.  My answer?  Shoelaces.


You betcha.  Shoelaces.  C95 is selling them for $3 a pair and all the proceeds go, of course, to the Radio Marathon.  I said...sure!  How many can there be?  My kids can help and I can help.  No problem!

Well, this is what 4000 shoelaces look like...

Everyone helped.  My friend Cari and her kids came to my mom's after school on Friday and helped.  We wrapped and tied and packed and bagged 2000 pairs of shoelaces...

 Even my dad pitched in. :)  (I think he wanted to get the table cleared off so we could play cards!  LOL)

And this is what two goofy boys do when allowed to help...they always make us laugh these two!

But we did it!  I have a trunk FULL of pink shoelaces, ready to be delivered back to C95.   It's $6000 just waiting to be raised.

I was glad Vanessa mentioned it, so that we could help.  I really want to teach my kids that saying yes to things like this should be natural.  We should always look for opportunities to share what we have and what we know to benefit others.

And, isn't it awesome that all you have to do is ask!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

I'm Just Getting Started...

I can't believe it was only three years ago that I was sick.  I know it sounds cliche, but it really does seem like it was yesterday that I went through my treatments.

It seems I'm always looking backwards and marking the time that has passed.

Three years ago I was walking around, doing the Mom Thing, thinking there was absolutely nothing wrong.

Two years ago, my skin was starting to peel from radiation.  Yuck.  Those burns are still so vivid for me.  I do have to admit, though, since it hurt so much to move around and have my clothes chafing the burns, I became very good at video games.  :)

One year ago, I was still giving myself needles every day -- blood thinners -- for the blood clots.  They came from a medication that was supposed to help prevent the cancer from coming back. That was a scary time for us too.

It's hard to live life like that -- always thinking, always worrying, never really letting go of the fact that it was CANCER.  It is a big, bad word that everyone fears.

But a few months ago, I was offered an amazing opportunity to follow in the footsteps of an incredible person -- a hero to many.  Lisa was one of my heroes too, and it is an honour to be helping her dream stay alive.  This is my chance to take all the garbage I've been through and use it to reach people.  To inspire people to give of themselves.  And to remind women that they are not all invincible -- that they have to be aware of changes in their bodies.

If sharing my story makes a difference to even just one person, it is all worth it.

So, this year, I am working with C95 and the team for the Radio Marathon for Breast Cancer Research.  They have asked me to be this year's Ambassador for the Radio Marathon.  It was such an honour to be even considered for such an important role!

It is my first year, but already it has been an awesome few weeks.  I love making connections and sharing my experiences.  Meeting people.  Hearing from so many people how breast cancer has impacted lives and about their desire to help.

I've met the C95 team -- love them! -- they spend months planning and travelling and promoting the Radio Marathon.  I can feel their passion and their commitment.  They inspire me!

I've met the scientists who are the backbone of breast cancer research in Saskatchewan.  (That's an entirely different post completely!)  They are the ones who think and breathe the science of finding the cure to cancer.

I want so much to reach out to the survivors and hear their stories.  And to say thank you to all of the people who are finding time in their lives to raise money for the C95 Radio Marathon.  I have so many stories to tell already -- about the little people who are making a big difference and about the survivors who are sharing their stories with us.

I guess that's what this blog is all about.  Before, I blogged about how I beat cancer.  Now, I'm blogging about how all of us, through the C95 Radio Marathon for Breast Cancer Research, are going to beat breast cancer in a BIG way.

I can't wait to get started!