Reflections on New Year’s Eve

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“For 2014 my biggest hope is pretty simple: to regain an identity in a life without breast cancer AND special people to share it with.”

This quote was taken directly from my blog post last New Year’s Eve, the sum of my 2014 New Year’s resolutions.

Such simple and rather sad expectations you may think!

Even I was surprised re-reading this year old post. Seriously, was that it? Where were all the promises of climbing mountains, sky diving, visiting the great Wall of China, the juicing plans, the making each minute count kinda thing??? For goodness sake – where was the humour?

You always imagine that if the life you have known had pretty much ground to a halt and if you had recently come face to face with your own mortality, your expectations of the year ahead would be filled with bucket lists: things to do, places to see….. Surely if you had to take your last breath you never wanted to feel as if you had missed out on the life you always imagined for yourself?

OK, in my defence, at the time I wrote it I wasn’t exactly feeling all that enthusiastic or hopeful about the new year. I was still facing more months of chemo, followed by surgery, radiation, scans and some tough decisions. The life I was leading at that moment was all consuming and thinking about anything beyond that was certainly not good for my mental well-being!

So strangely looking back on those two resolutions with the experience of this past year, it’s kinda brought me back down to earth with a bump! Perhaps it wasn’t written in a negative or defensive frame of mind, or with a dread of the new year, or even in a chemo filled blur.

Perhaps I just finally got it.

Life is simple. It’s us who complicate it with the things we feel are supposed to be of value. The things we tell ourselves we should be like or where we should be in our lives.

It makes me realise how far I had come, and I don’t mean that in the “look how more positive I am about life and my future” kinda way; but in the “look how much I have already forgotten about the lessons this unexpected journey has taught me” way. About priorities, about valuing people over things, about valuing time and not the filling of it with activities and distractions. About looking in the mirror and having to accept what you see beyond the scars.

And it makes me realise just how un-achievable that all must have seemed on the day I actually typed those words…

So this year my resolutions are even more simple…….”ditto”

“Your self-esteem won’t come from body parts. You need to step away from the mirror every once in a while, and look for another reflection, like the one in the eyes of the people who love you and admire you.” Stacy London

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“There are three methods to gaining wisdom. The first is reflection, which is the highest. The second is limitation, which is the easiest. The third is experience, which is the bitterest.” Confucius

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“Your writing voice is the deepest possible reflection of who you are. The job of your voice is not to seduce or flatter or make well-shaped sentences. In your voice, your readers should be able to hear the contents of your mind, your heart, your soul.” Meg Rosoff

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A Normal, Boring Christmas

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So this morning I spent wrapping Pete’s Christmas pressies; and he’s been banned from the house until I’m done cos I can’t trust him not to peek 🙂

But it really got me thinking of just how different things were this time last year…

I had finished my last Red Devil early December and the first of the weekly chemos had been set for Christmas Eve. But despite all the rest I had been doing and the fact that I had just gotten over a cold, those pesky low white blood cells put an end to that! BOY I can remember how upset I was – Chemo was delayed until they showed signs of improvement however long that took!

It meant that Christmas Day was pretty low-key. I was under strict instructions to rest as much as possible, to drink as much fluid as possible to get those suckers up and to avoid anyone who showed any sign of sniffles like the plague. Chemo delays = Delays in the end to Chemo. That was the Maths and only thing I was truly focussed on.

So this morning surrounded by Christmas gift wrap, bows, tags and badly behaved sticky tape, it was almost impossible to reconcile last year’s reality with doing something as mundane and normal as wrapping gifts…

Last year my biggest wish was to finish chemo and return to a life of “normal”, even “boring” would be GREAT, it was something Pete and I almost couldn’t remember and something were really looking forward to experiencing again!

It hit me, as I was trying to untangle my fingers from being wrapped up as part of a gift for the second time, that I hadn’t even realised I had got that wish.

So this Christmas Eve, I am taking time from annoying sticky tape and Christmas wrapping to think of those families who are spending their first Christmas without their fathers, mothers, grandparents, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters – like the families of Bronwyn and Ken. I’m taking time to think of my friend Fynn and his family and those who are right this very moment sitting in lazy boy chairs in Cancer Centres, fighting for future Christmases and wishing for normal and boring lives…

“I didn’t want normal until I didn’t have it anymore” Maggie Stiefvater

“Normal is an ideal. But it’s not reality. Reality is brutal, it’s beautiful, it’s every shade between black and white, and it’s magical. Yes, magical. Because every now and then, it turns nothing into something.” Tara Kelly

“So, this is how it’s become? This is how I’ve become? A walking contradiction? I’m surrounded by people and feel alone. I claim to crave a bit of normalcy but now that I have some, it’s like I don’t know what to do with it, I don’t know how to be a normal person anymore.” Gayle Forman

“My whole life I wanted to be normal. Everybody knows there’s no such thing as normal. There is no black-and-white definition of normal. Normal is subjective. There’s only messy, inconsistent, silly, hopeful version of how we feel most at home in our own lives. But when I think about what I have, what I strived to reach my whole life, it’s not the biggest or best or easiest or prettiest or most anything. It’s not the Manor or the laundry closet. Not the multi-million dollar inheritance or the poorhouse. It’s not superstardom or unemployment. It’s family and love and safety. It’s bravery and hope. It’s work and laughter and imperfection. It’s my normal.” Tori Spelling

Check-ups and catch-ups

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So yesterday saw Pete and I heading back to the Cancer centre for the very first of my 3 monthly check-ups with the Dent Doctor…

This meant that Thursday saw me heading back to the Lab for bloods to be taken for tumour marker testing and the like. BOY I’ve missed those trips ———-NOT!

But I really can’t complain too much, a functioning vein was found in my left arm without much digging around and I was quickly sent on my way. I was even more grateful for that after meeting a fellow breast cancer survivor for lunch the same day.

She had also recently been for her 3 month check-up and after enduring numerous unsuccessful attempts to extract blood from her arm, they had to resort to dreaded Plan B, or rather Plan F, and took blood from her foot. Boy I miss those days ……………again………NOT!

We had a great afternoon catching up and lamenting our lot! I had spent an hour with Gillian that morning with her trying to bring my right boob back in line…….. so to be honest, I was doing most of the lamenting.

Not only had my boob been slowly heading north again, but I had been experiencing some discomfort when bending and straightening my right elbow. I was totally convinced that auxiliary bands were starting to form again, which to use technical terms are horrible, horrible things. Gillian and I had spent months following my mastectomies breaking these down!

FORTUNATELY upon examination, Gillian gleefully informed me that it was in fact only bicep tendonitis. And even though I had no clue of exactly what bicep tendonitis was, I was bizarrely thrilled to hear that – for so many reasons.

It meant that at least that I wasn’t regressing in physio terms. It meant that it was something that NORMAL people get that wouldn’t require cancer codes for medical aid purposes. AND most importantly – it meant that this was indisputable medical confirmation that I indeed HAD biceps!

It was great catching up with Carol and to be able to freely speak to someone who had “been there, done that” and been there and done that recently. I could admit how awful some days could be…without feeling that I was being ungrateful or trying to invoke sympathy. It felt good to be able to verbalise the things we unanimously agreed upon, things that we would have changed in our treatment plans with the benefit of hindsight, experience and the absence of shock and fear.

I mean how could it not have been an awesome afternoon when one of the first things we said to each other was how great our new boobs were looking and then laugh hysterically about that!

It was good to laugh……when I met her last year, we both had very little to laugh about.

So yesterday morning I woke up feeling rather positive and not too concerned about my visit to the Cancer Centre. By the time I showered, got dressed and walked to the kitchen, my emotions had made a 180 degree turn. I felt physically sick. And that annoying whispering voice of doubt started shouting rather loudly in my head…

The Dent Doctor asked me how I was doing. And actually chuckled when I said rather nervously “I don’t know, how am I doing?”

Long story short: bloods are looking good. The tumour markers for my ovaries also are low, which for hormone sensitive breast cancer is really good news.
The constant swelling of my hands and feet is actually quite normal…………for menopausal women. YAY me! *slaps head*.

And other than a spasm in my mid back which he picked up (apparently very easily fixed he said to Pete, with a visit to a SPA – I love this man!), things are looking good!

So we made an appointment to see him in another 3 months and left the Cancer Centre with happy hearts and that shouting voice of doubt hopefully shut up for at least another 90 days!

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“Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one.” Voltaire

“For so many years I lived in constant terror of myself. Doubt had married my fear and moved into my mind, where it built castles and ruled kingdoms and reigned over me, bowing my will to its whispers until I was little more than an acquiescing peon, too terrified to disobey, too terrified to disagree. I had been shackled, a prisoner in my own mind.

But finally, finally, I have learned to break free.” Tahereh Mafi

“We live in a world that is beyond our control, and life is in a constant flux of change. So we have a decision to make: keep trying to control a storm that is not going to go away or start learning how to live within the rain.” Glenn Pemberton

Lessons I learned at Park Run

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So today I completed my 15th Park run…. *as I take a bow* “Thank you, thank you, thank you very much…”

Our local Park Run organisers had asked us to start getting into the Christmas Spirit by wearing red shirts and Christmas hats for the month of December at each of the runs.
Well, no-one can accuse us of not getting into the spirit of things – Shal, Pete and I took off at 8am for our run/walk rather festively attired not only in our red shirts BUT sporting red and white striped long rugby socks too!

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It was perfect walking weather, cool and overcast so I decided that today was the day to really give my elusive Park run PB, set a few months ago, some serious contention.

Well there I was, feeling pretty good and “in the zone” marching along at break neck speed when I began to notice the sound of a new pair of squeaking takkies coming up just behind me. So naturally, being completely non-competitive, I sped up 🙂

Just a smidge mind you and went back to mentally reviewing my walking strategy…. Serious athletes will know exactly what I mean….keeping one foot in front of the other and avoiding stepping in the puddles so I wouldn’t slip and land up a festive mess in the mud!

A few minutes later, the sound of the squeaking takkies returned to the forefront of my consciousness….

Now being a walker in a field of runners, you get used to people overtaking you on a regular basis.  So without slowing down, I moved aside to allow the squeaking takkie wearer to pass me…. two people jogged past. One of them, sporting a pair of brand new running shoes….

HOWEVER, within a few more strides I heard the squeaking takkies once again.

SERIOUSLY???

Now I didn’t really want to turn around and waste any walking time by checking who was breathing down my neck.  So I put my head down, increased the pumping action of my arms and sped up even more with the intention of shaking the annoying tail once and for all. I even caught up with the 2 joggers who had just over taken me and who had stopped to slowly walk up the hill.

I DO have to admit, I may or may not have smiled to myself, there is nothing more satisfying than passing joggers!

But my glee was once again diluted by the owner of those darn squeaking takkies.

Honestly, was the park not big enough for them and their new shoes! Only one thing to do…I once again increased my pace…

By the time I got to the bridge approximately half way through the course, paranoia overtook my annoyance. What if I was being recorded for a You Tube segment on how big boned people spend their Saturday mornings at Park Runs…what if right this very moment there was a smart phone trained on my behind, recording every wobbly step? No, surely not, the organisers wouldn’t allow that……. Would they??

AND then I had visions of how Park Run volunteers really spend their time off after Park Runs…!

I sped up, at least the images would be blurry…

By this stage I passed a few other run/walkers on the course and started getting a stitch in my side from all the exertion. I sucked in my tummy and clenched my bottom, calling on my core muscles to get me through the pain – Allison, my Pilates teacher would be so proud!

And just in case my bottom was to make its TV debut, it would look pretty darn perky!

But no matter how fast I walked the squeaking takkies kept up with me.

So finally I had had enough, physically and mentally!  I threw a glaring look over my left shoulder with the sole aim of stopping my nemesis in their tracks………..

So funny story….

What I neglected to mention and what I had totally forgotten, was that I was wearing a really cute Christmas inspired Elf alice-band with a tiny bell attached…which I only then realised, sounded remarkably like a squeaking takkie * blushing face*

I actually laughed out aloud much to the concern of some other walkers; and then had to keep up my fast pace just to get away from them, I didn’t think they would appreciate the humour of the story as much as I did.

But it did get me thinking, for the duration of the course, what lessons I had learned from that little episode…

1.  I learned that 8 years of Pilate’s lessons do eventually pay off.

2.  I learned that You Tube has no interest in my bottom (unless I was a Kardashian!).

3.  I learned that you REALLY should slow down and look around more.

4.  I learned that even when you think you have given your all, there is ALWAYS some inner strength left to call on.

5.  I learned that perceived threats often turn out to be in (or on) our heads.

AND I learned that you should always laugh at yourself even if it may turn a few heads.

So you may ask, after all those lessons learned, did I actually get my Park Run PB?

You bet your Red Striped Christmas Stockings I DID!

🙂

Lessons

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“Never run from the enemy, tackle them” Victoria Addino

“Challenges are lessons to be learned, then overcome.” Lee Bice-Matheson

“I’ve learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you. The journey is valuable, but believing in your talents, your abilities, and your self-worth can empower you to walk down an even brighter path. Transforming fear into freedom – how great is that?” Soledad O’Brien