The day it all fell down

I woke that Friday morning wearing my Terry Fox shirt and trying to smile. They told me I wouldn’t have the results of my biopsy until the following week and so I was doing my best to stay busy.

As usually my toddler woke up and wanted “boobies!” We snuggled in bed, nursed and took happy smiling pictures.

I took my big kids to school and took K to strong start (a parent/tot drop in) we weren’t there for long when the call came. I knew that number. I asked someone to keep an eye on K and went outside. I paced. I was wearing leggings and a tank top. I should have sat down. If no news is good news then news days early is definitely bad. I can’t remember the exact words. I know she said invasive ductal carcinoma, I know she said aggressive. I sat on the concrete steps- I was trying to breathe and not cry while on the phone but that meant trying to get off the phone as quick as possible. I made phone calls, I cried, I gasped for air. I got K and we went to a friends house who gave me exactly what I needed at that time. She let me sit in her couch, she made me tea, she took care of K and she just let me be. I took phone calls coming in faster than I could process. Appointments with my new oncologist, my new surgeon, appts for scans and blood work. I’ll forever be grateful for a friend that knew the true meaning of holding space.

I don’t remember much about the rest of the day. It’s a blur. I know my brother came over. I know I collapsed into my loves arms as soon as he got home. I know flowers from a friend arrived at my door. I remember finding the words to post to FB and IG knowing I wanted to get it out of the way.

“Apparently this year in order to prepare for Breast Cancer Awareness Month I actually got Breast Cancer.

No this is not a joke. Yes I am serious.

After finding a lump in a breast, an ultrasound, biopsy and mammogram I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer at 33 after 18 years of being cancer free.

I am heartbroken, I am overwhelmed, I am tired, I am frustrated and I am angry. Right now I don’t want to be strong or positive. Today I am crying, feeling, grieving, processing and being human. Today I am feeling the unfairness of it. Today I don’t care about cure rates. Today I wish my biggest concern regarding my boobs was how much they sag.

I don’t know yet what this diagnosis means yet. All I know is that cancer fucking sucks. I also know it’s messed with the wrong person. I am determined. I am loved. I am supported. I am strong.

Love, light, prayers, glitter and sparkles are all welcome and appreciated.”

Most of all I remember being angry. I remember wanted to scream. I remember crying myself to sleep.

It’s been 2 years since that day and so much has happened that it feels like a lifetime but the way I feel about reminds me that 2 years is nothing. In 2 years I lost my breast, my hair and ovaries. I’ve gained truth, resiliency and love. I’ve learned many lessons. I’ve laughed and I’ve cried (sometimes at the same time) I’ve had ups and downs. I had moments I thought I would truly break and moments I felt on top of the world. I’ve continued to learn what I really want from this life. The best part is In 2 years I’ve gotten to watch my kids grow and fallen more in love with my love. Which is all I really need and want. Here’s to each day. To finding something everyday that makes you happy. To being human and real and vulnerable. Here’s to life- because it can change in the blink of an eye.

The days before it all fell down

This week…..

Fuck this week.
Fuck the ptsd.
Fuck the memories.
Fuck the physical way my body is holding onto this trauma.

I’m remembering. 
I’m breathing. 
I’m trying to just be. 

On Sunday I woke up with a blinding migraine. The pain so bad I could barely open my eyes. Telling myself not to vomit. Ice on my head. Repeating to myself “you’re ok” and “you’re safe” over and over. Pushing out the voices that creep in saying “maybe it’s cancer.” 
Through the pain I remembered what day it was….September 15th. 

On September 15, 2017 I woke up alone. No kids and no partner for the first time in years. I tried to work except the nagging in my head wouldn’t stop. “you have no excuses, go to the walk in clinic, go now.

The day before I had finally googled my symptoms. I was going to prove my partner wrong. I was going to put his worries at ease. The lump was breastfeeding related. The lump was nothing. 
Instead one red flag after another. Instead each new website giving the same information.  

Lump is painless- check
Lump is unmovable- check
Lump isn’t smooth- check

Check.

CHECK

CHECK.

It was a Friday morning and the walk in clinic was dead. Almost eerily quiet. I went back right away. The Dr seemed almost surprised how quickly and easily he felt the lump. He did not tell me I was too young for breast cancer and he didn’t put my mind at ease with “it’s probably nothing.” Instead he asked me if I still had an oncologist from my bone cancer.  Gave me a requisition for blood work and an order for a CT scan. 

I walked out of the clinic numb. I left a voicemail for my oncologist, got my blood work done and was surprised with how quickly she called back. Again no reassurances just “breast cancer is very treatable” 

It was then that without knowing I knew. 

I remember the sun. 
I remember my fresh pedicure.
I remember holding in the tears as I went for a spa treatment. 
I remember cancelling my plans for that night.
I remember sobbing to my best friend on the phone. 
I remember sobbing to another friend at her kitchen table.
I remember trying to get work done.
I remember telling myself I was overeacting.
I remember my love racing home from his work conference.
I remember another friend come to be with me with snacks. 

I spent the weekend in a haze of what ifs.

IMG_2513

_______________________________________________________________________
Monday September 18, 2017.

Another sunny day. 
Another day being mom, getting kids ready for school, going to the park, making small talk.
Being distant because I could feel my life was about to change. 
Wanting so badly to connect with the parents around me and yet feeling like I was drowning.
Wondering if they could see the worry on my face.
The call came, a ultrasound and biopsy in 2 days. 

Today looked so much like that Monday in so many ways, in too many ways to count. In so many ways that it was impossible to not remember. It was impossible for my body to not feel exactly the same way it did 2 years ago on the brink of my life changing.

As I get closer to my official diagnosis anniversary I’m trying. I’m trying to process and navigate. I’m trying to honour where I was then and where I am now. I’m trying to let myself feel how I feel without pushing the emotions away. I’m being honest both with myself and those around me. I’m reminding myself that 2 years isn’t that long to heal. I’m giving myself love and kindness.  

Shifting

A couple weeks ago I went to my first therapy session in years. I cried many times. I told my story. I told her my life. I asked for help. We talked about my goals. What I want to get out of my time. One of the things addressed was identity. Who am I? Outside of motherhood, cancer, disability… who am I really. Who am I? It’s been the question on my mind constantly since that session.

Soon after I noticed something on my Instagram account. My engagement had plummeted. I looked into it and found  I had been shadow banned (meaning I can still post but only my current followers can see me, no one can find me under my hashtags) I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions as to why and at the end of the day IG is a business so I tried to play their game so to speak. I changed my hashtags, I never used the same hashtag more than once and yet nothing changed. I started noticing others had been shadow banned  too and were speaking out on it. What’s interesting is it wasn’t my friends posting about food that were affected by this, or the people showing pictures of their kids. It’s the straight or abled bodied people.  It’s people with disability. It’s trans people. It’s queer people. It’s advocates. It’s people who are trying so damn hard to bring awareness. It’s people who are making a difference. It’s people who NEED to be heard. Their voices are being taken away.

I’ve been away from IG for a week. Processing and reflecting on this. Do you know how gross it is to be censored just because you’re different? To be told we don’t want to hear your voice? Want to know what exclusion looks like? This is it. What to know what ableism looks like? This is it. It’s our society telling us again, we are not valuable. Our voices shouldn’t be heard.  No one should hear you. No one should see you. They don’t even tell you it’s happening either. Just one day they make you disappear and you are none the wiser. Was it the mastectomy pictures that were too much? Was it real pictures of my prosthetic and my amputation? Was it my call out of ableism or the use of the word fuck? I don’t know. All I know is how I feel. I feel tired. I’ve worked so hard to be heard and they shut me up. I’ve worked hard to bring awareness and they shut me down. I’m exhausted fighting so damn hard.

When people say that instagram is fake. It’s not just people with their filters and photoshop. It’s not just because people will show you only what they want you to see. It’s because even when you try so hard to be real, to be vulnerable, to be authentic the big forces stop everyone from seeing you. You only see what social media wants you to see and that’s fucking scary.

One thing this has done is helped show me who I am. I am strong. I am an advocate. I am a force. I will not be stopped. For now I am walking away from IG. I will not be a part of a system that continues to shut down and censor the people who are actually trying to make a positive difference in this world. I will still be writing. My voice will still be loud. My passion will not be dimmed.

The good news is this has helped me on my path to find my identity. I invite you to follow along here.

My Story….in pictures

When Kendal first reach out to me a year ago about her idea to start documenting I honestly didnt know why. I was very up front and told her that the story was mostly done. I had had my double mastectomy, chemo was done and while I was still mostly bald hair was definitely making a come back. While I still had a couple surgeries ahead I was already feeling the pressure to get back to normal. The rush to put cancer behind me. I really thought I had nothing to say and she wouldn’t have much to document. These last few months have very much proved otherwise. 16 months since I lost my breast  (has it really been that long?) Over a year since chemo and things are…different. They haven’t gone back to before. In some ways things are much better and in others I still struggle… a lot actually. Cancer will never be in my past but ingrained into the very fabric of who I am and I’m excited to share that and more. The more because I am so much more than cancer, so so much.

Check out the start of Kendals project here

My story through Kendal

 

My VBAC story

My pregnancy and birth with E was far and away a different experience than I had had with L. Overall I felt a lot better, my prosthetic leg fit the whole time, and after a lot of thought I decided to go for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean).

Choosing to go for a VBAC meant finding a provider that would support and encourage me. I found a great midwife who reassured me that my body was capable of birthing my baby. The best thing she did for me was to remind me that it was my body and that I had choices. A couple of weeks before Es guess date I hit the the same point that I had with L, I was done. I was uncomfortable, had lots of Braxton hicks, didn’t want to be around anyone and was scared. The biggest difference this time though, was support. I had people telling me that I could do it, encouraging me and bringing me up.

On a Monday afternoon when I was 39 weeks along I picked up L from daycare. As I was putting  him in the car seat I had an intense sensation that made me stop. I didn’t give it  much thought as it came and went so quickly. That night L and I hung out with some neighbours and had a relaxing night. It wasn’t until I put him to bed that I realized I had been having waves every 45 minutes. I decided to go to bed early and rest while I could just in case things picked up.  Sleep didn’t last long and at 1 in the morning I woke up to more waves. I spent a few hours pacing the apartment, taking a bath and trying hard to go back to sleep. At 5am L woke up for the day. By this point the waves were still sporadic but I needed to breathe to get through them. L was an amazing little doula, kissing my head making sure I was ok and even taking an early morning bath with me. It was after the bath that I decided to call someone to help look after L so I could try to nap. My best friend came over and I got some much-needed sleep. It wasn’t until I woke up a few hours later that I realized it had been awhile since I had had any more waves.I figured it had all just been false labour and decided to go about my day as planned.  I had an acupuncture appointment that afternoon and asked my brother to drive me just in case things started to pick up again. It’s a good thing I did. The moment I got into my appointment my birth really started. Waves were regular and timeable and yet somehow I made it through the entire hour-long appointment. The receptionist even came in and rubbed my belly as my waves came and oh my goodness did that feel good! Once I got home I told my brother to go and pack an overnight bag in anticipation of having him stay with L. Everything has picked up so fast I was having a hard time dealing, I had to stop what I was doing to focus and was making lots of low noises.

I got home and for some reason didn’t call anyone yet. I still wasn’t sure if this was really it, very quickly I knew this was indeed real and  called my midwife. She listened to me have a wave she asked how quickly I could get to the hospital. I called a couple other people, packed our bags and off we went, at exactly the speed limit. Once there I had to keep stopping and making boise while trying to get to maternity. I hated feeling like everyone was watching me. The second we got to my room my midwife was already there waiting for me . She checked me and found out I was 4cm dilated. I really wasn’t handling things well, swearing, screaming and didn’t want any one to touch me at some point during al this I threw my prosthetic leg off. I was being told that I was doing a good job and all I could think of was why were all these people lying to me. I asked for some gas to take the edge off, but I hated it. It made me feel loopy. Plus my instincts were telling me to make noise instead of breathing in which made the gas ineffective. I asked to be checked about an hour later and was at 8cm. At this point I asked for an epidural. The anesthesiologist must have been right out side my door because no sooner had I asked then she came in.  As soon as the epi was placed my midwife checked me again. I was at 10cm and my membranes broke in her hand. Unfortunately, because the epidural had just been placed I had to wait to push.

I really wanted to push on my own as I felt the urge to and about 45 minutes later when the epidural wore off that feeling came. I was in control of my body.  I was doing it. And I was starving. I hadn’t eaten in a day, in between pushes I kept telling anyone that would listen that I wanted a pizza. All I wanted was hot pizza. Soon her head was past my pubic bone. I got into a squatting position and forgot all about pizza I felt E crowning, the intense ring of fire and then got a small break.  Her little body came out soon after. I looked down at my beautiful baby girl and all I could say was “I did it, I did it”.  In that moment I knew I wasn’t a lemon. I knew I could give birth.

The only time she left my arms was to get cleaned up and have her newborn checks. Soon she was right back in my arms where she belonged. I got the birth that I had planned and hoped for for so long.

I never did get my pizza though.

 

 

Why does my knee hurt Pt 2

It’s funny as much as I can recall the day I was diagnosed with bone cancer after the words were out there it’s suddenly a blur.

I mean I can see the sunshine of that day. I can see my mom with my baby sister on her hip. I can remember walking home from school. I can even remember how I felt. So light, carefree and excited.

After my mom told me I had cancer she cried and then I cried. My dad walked in the house and looked at me and said “Sorry Daughter”

I can’t tell you what happened after that though. What did we have for dinner? Did we even have dinner that night? Where was my little brother? What did we talk about? Who else did we tell? The more I try to remember the darker it gets. I do know later that night I felt it was important that I tell my 2 best friends. I felt pretty calm and called one friend, she didn’t answer. Then I called the other. The second I heard her voice I started sobbing.  This wasn’t crying because everyone around me was crying. These were my first real tears over the fact that I had cancer. It hit me hard and I couldn’t get the words out. Thankfully my mom was right there and she took the phone, I have no idea what she said or how the conversation went, all I could do was cry.

The next few days went in the same blurred fashion. We were thrown information at us faster than it could be processed. We met with oncologist and surgeons. I had bloodwork and endless scans and x-rays. We learned words we had never heard before. Plans were made, things went so fast. It was learned that I probably had Osteosarcoma (surgery would confirm that) and that my tumour was big, approximately the size of a softball. I was lucky it hadn’t spread anywhere else and very lucky that with how unstable the tumour had made my bones that I hadn’t broken my leg.  To ensure I didn’t break leg before I started treatment I was either in a wheelchair or on crutches. In the blink of an eye I went from the girl that dances and jumps around to being so careful and cautious. I remember the days being so long and coming home and just sleeping. I wanted to escape so bad.

Escape though would not come. Instead I went to what would end up being my last day of 8th grade. On the one day I didn’t have to be at the hospital I wanted to be at school. I wanted to be the one to tell my peers what was happening. We gathered in the library and I told everyone I had cancer. It was the first time I had said it out loud and I didn’t cry. Everyone asked questions and I answered what I could. As badly as I wanted to spend the rest of the day with my friends, unfortunately  between the rain that day and my crutches I fell and the fear that I would get hurt outweighed me getting one last day as a normal teenager. I went home, I napped and I truly became a cancer patient.

Next would be putting the plans into action. Surgery, chemo, more surgery and more chemo. It would be a long year.

 

 

2018 in Review

I have a friend who does this every year and I love it. I asked her if I could steal her questions. I think what I love most is her honesty, her ability to be real about what the past year has really been like, all the ups and downs.
So now here we go, my 2018 year in review.
1. What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before?
  • Had my ovaries removed
  • Went through surgical menopause
  • Had breast reconstruction completed
  • Went to Great Wold Lodge
  • Drove to Alberta
  • Connected with other young adults with cancer
  • Danced my first burlesque show!
  • Went to Tigh-Na-Mara and did a full spa day
  • Float plane ride
  • Embraced my new body and showed it off
  • Sang Karaoke
  • Started my blog
  • Went to the unicorn bar in seattle
  • Rode in an Uber
2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions and will you make more for next year?
I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. I set different goals for myself throughout the year and I’ll be honest I did try but didn’t do as well with them as I would have liked. I am continuing on with some of my goals and setting new intentions.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
None of my friends or family close to me had babies this year however I did start attending births again in September and got to be a part of the birth stories of 3 beautiful babies. Very excited for a special birth that’s coming up and growing my business more. Have some spring babies to look forward to.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes. My friend Sandra passed away this summer and her death has left a permanent mark. I keep thinking I see her randomly and have to tell myself it’s not her.
5. What countries did you visit?
Only the USA – Washington state and Texas
6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?
Health and Energy
7. What dates from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
January 30 – Finished Chemo for the second time in my life
April 19- ovaries removed and the adventures of early menopause
November 10- burlesque show
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Getting on stage for my burlesque debut. A few months prior I couldn’t even go to a show and watch women who loved their bodies let alone be one of them.
9. What was your biggest failure?
Being on my phone too much.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
2018 was about finishing what I started with my cancer treatments. Every day/month has brought me closer to feeling better.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
Anything that created an experience/memory
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
My Kids. As hard as it can be to be a mom, and as much as they challenge me they also are some of the best people I know. We have been stopped more than once this year to have people comment on how great the kids are. They have big hearts and watching how much they love and help those around them makes my heart happy.
13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
I’ll keep that to myself.
14. Where did most of your money go?
Day to day expenses, family vacations, self care
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Getting rid of my tissue expanders, GWL, Texas Ren Fest, Seattle/Blue Jays trip.
16. What song will always remind you of 2018?
I Put a spell on you- def not a new song, but one that will remind me of this year.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? happier ii. thinner or fatter? thinner iii. richer or poorer? the same
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Played outside
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Screen time
20. How did you spend Christmas?
With my kids my love , my brother and sister and her boyfriend. Opened presents, played and napped.
21. Did you fall in love in 2018?
Over and Over again
22. How many one-night stands?
Zero
23. What was your favourite TV program?
 Survivor, Scandal, RuPauls Drag Race, Outlander
24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
No
25. What was the best book you read?
I don’t think I actually read a whole book this year and that makes me really sad because it’s def a first. My brain fog has been bad and I will pick up books read a bit and can’t focus. Something I hope to change this year.
26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Can’t think of anyone
27. What did you want and get?
Time away with my love and time away with my kids
28. What did you want and not get?
a better co-parenting relationship
29. What was your favourite film of this year?
Small town living and being a busy mom means I didn’t go to the movies this year. I did really like Dumplin on Netflix. Man I need to get out more.
30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was at a birth! I had been there since the day before and made a joke that I was going to have a birthday buddy. Pulled an all nighter and baby boy came earthside in the afternoon. I came home just in time for dinner and mug cake with my family, took a bath and fell into my bed. Was def a birthday to remember!
31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Stressing less. Recognizing that there are just something not worth my time and energy.
32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?
Comfortable Leggings and converse.
33. What kept you sane?
My children (although they helped make me insane so…..) my love, snuggles on the couch, the women who have ket me soul my heart out to them, my small getaways.
34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
None that I can think of
35. What political issue stirred you the most?
Too many to count.
36. Who did you miss?
My New York Family, my mom.
37. Who was the best new person you met?
All my YACC (Young Adult Cancer Canada) people.
38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018.
So many lessons. Be more mindful. Embrace the moments. Be more gentle with everyone, myself included.