Sunday, February 24, 2008

Becoming Real

Last night my head was sooo itchy, I thought I was going to scratch it off! Dave broke out the shaving cream and delicately drew the razor in clean lines over my scalp. In my mind I thought, “Oh, this is what the Skin horse meant”.

I had in fact just had my hair loved off.

The Velveteen Rabbit…

The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive.

But the Skin Horse only smiled.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bartering with God

When I was a little girl, my biggest fear was that my Granny Coady was going to die. As a child, my grandmother was my constant source of love, comfort and security. She was in every sense, home, and the thought of losing her terrified me. I remember lying in my bed one night; I was about 10 years old, and praying to God to just let my granny live until I was 16. (I might note that my grandmother was in perfect health and the prayer was coming from a complete place of paranoia. Also, to me at the time, 16 seemed to be an appropriate age where I would consider myself grown up enough to deal with the devastation that would follow the death of my beloved granny). It’s no great surprise that when my 16th birthday arrived I was overwhelmed with the weight of the bargaining chip I had played. This is where it started, my incessant need to haggle with the divine.

Despite the fact that over time my relationship with and notions of God have changed, old habits die hard. Sometimes at night, when I’m rocking Coady back to sleep, that old familiar feeling of panic will rise up in my throat and I find myself silently suggesting, just until he doesn’t need me, or just until he can remember how much I love him. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t entertain the idea of dying as even a possibility, I’m just saying, if I can buy a little time here and there, there’s no point in wasting an opportunity.

It’s been just over a month since my diagnosis. Last week I had Dave shave my head. I cried and he held me.

There is something to be said for having to face one’s mortality. I feel authentic, strong, loved and at peace with even the rebellious cells in my body. On a daily basis, whenever I become aware that my mind is drifting I say to myself:
I am in the process of healing my body.
I reject the disease in my breast.
My tumor is melting away like the snow.
Thank you for this lesson in gratitude.

It’s getting late, tomorrow morning I’ll call my granny and tell her about my day.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Baby, will you love me when I'm bald?

In the past three days I do believe I have run the entire gamut of human emotion. I feel drained, emotionally and physically. I’m walking the fine line between keeping my chin up and crying poor me all the time. Fortunately I have been blessed with the most amazing friends and relatives who have taken the time to make sure that when I stumble someone is there to play catcher. I am blown away by the beautiful sentiments everyone has sent me via facebook and email. Thank you so much. So just to keep everyone updated, here’s a quick overview of the past few days, both the good and the bad.

In the early morning hours of January 29th my beautiful sister-in-law gave birth to a healthy little boy, Cole. He weighed in at just under 7 lbs and I love him. We went to visit him in the hospital that morning which provided a magical reprieve from real life, if only for a short time.

All of the tests and scans I had completed came back clear! This means that the cancer is contained in my breast and has not spread anywhere else in my body. With this news, Coady and I danced.

On Thursday we met with the nurse at the Chemo unit to go over the drug plan and side effects. The list sounded a lot like the Pepto-Bismal commercials, nausea, heartburn, indigestion…sterility. What?! “Sterility” says the nurse, so nonchalantly she could have said hiccups. Once again my head started to swim. There is a high risk that chemotherapy will send you into early menopause. “Early” is a bit of an understatement.


We made frantic calls to the oncologist, my family doctor, the cancer agency in Vancouver. What about egg harvesting? It turns out that egg harvesting is rarely done outside of McGill University and that the success rate for pregnancies with frozen eggs is quite low. They do freeze embryos, however we need a time line of about 6 months, not exactly in the cards right now. My heart sunk. The weight of this news was almost too heavy to bear. Why? Is this really the way things are meant to be? How could my life plan go so far off track that it isn’t even recognizable to me anymore? With this news we resumed the plans to go ahead with my first chemo session on Friday.

Chemo-therapy (a horrible name I’ve decided) is not actually as scary as I thought it would be. The chemo room at the hospital is a bright little space, with comfy chairs and smiling faces. The therapy itself took about 2 hours to administer all the while there was lovely music in the background and my beautiful boys to keep me occupied.

Dave continues to be my rock. “I’ll love you even more when you’re bald” he says. “Do you realize how much money you’ll save me on haircuts, product and color not to mention time getting out the door!” His comic relief is invaluable to me.

While the days continue to place constant hurdles in my path, the nighttime hours replenish my soul, my hope and my heart. I only have to look over my shoulder to see two beautiful faces sleeping calmly beside me to know that all is right with the world. Tomorrow is always another day and it’s worth getting up for.

All my love

Seriously...I have what?!

"Breast Cancer" says the doctor over the phone two Fridays ago. My head started to swim a bit, but I had it checked!, the voice on the phone was becoming a bit farther away, the biopsy was negative, my knees started shaking, the doctor told me it wasn't cancer, I could feel my hand touching my forehead and my skin heating up underneath it, Seriously...I have what? "

I was just saying to the nurse," the doctor continued,"how unfortunate this all is what with you being so young, just having a baby and a career that's ready to start".


I've been here before.

Do not get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I truly believe that the "unfortunate" situations I have had to deal with in the past have been character building. They have allowed me to gain a greater sense of my own self, my strength, my courage, my weaknesses as well as the opportunity to love more deeply than most people would in an entire lifetime. However, how much character does one person need?

So, here I am. 28 years old, new baby, loving husband, career ready to be launched and breast cancer.

We have spent the last 2 weeks running from appointment to appointment looking for someone to say, "don't worry, I can fix you". Doctors, surgeons, chinese medicine herbologists, naturopaths, breast cancer veterens and supporters. Everyone has been amazingly supportive and kind, however it seems as though there is no quick fix.

We went to the cancer society in Victoria yesterday, a very strange and humbling experience. The oncologists I saw were softspoken. One referred to the lump in my breast as "grossly malignant". This little beauty slips into my mind every now and then sending me into tiny tailspins. The plan from here is 6 months of chemotherapy, radiation and a masectomy (possibly on both sides). The doctor reassured me that there was nothing I could have done to prevent this, it's a lottery. A lottery? I think he meant crapshoot. My grandmother, my mother and now me.

Two weeks in and I am doing okay. Dave says, "you weren't dying two weeks ago, and you're not dying now, get on the bike!" Dave has been nothing short of amazing. His support and loyalty to me is unwavering. I love him more than I ever thought possible. Coady is flourishing. He's is totally in love with me right now, if we lock eyes across the room, he just lights up. I love who he has made us.

I am determined to gain more character out of this experience. There is no end to my determination and willpower to beat this. I feel strong and purposeful. I never imagined having so many beautiful and supportive friendships. Thank you to everyone who has sent along messages and support. I continue to ask for your prayers. Pray that my body will be strong, that my mind will be focused and that my spirit will soar. I will continue to keep you all updated as we progress along in this journey.I love you all.