2019 in Review

1. What did you do in 2019 that you’d never done before?
– went to Hawaii
– made a 2 tier cake
– Had a biopsy done on my neck
– rescued a bat
– went to the top of the Space Needle
– went to the MET
– Went to the top of One World Observatory
– Saw Wicked

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions and will you make more for next year?
I don’t make resolutions. I’m always making goals for myself with varying degrees of success.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes my longest and best friend had a VBA2C and I got to be her doula. I also attended the births of 5 other families this year.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Lost 2 of my YACC (Young Adult Cancer Canada) friends this year. Tamara and Danika were strong amazing women and my life is better having known them.

5. What countries did you visit?
Just the US

6. What would you like to have in 2020 that you lacked in 2019?
One on One time with my kids and camping.

7. What dates from 2019 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Dec 14- Announcing Diamond Avenue Studios

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Setting boundaries with myself

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not writing as much as I had wanted to

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Noting more than usual. This year was about coming to an acceptance on my limitations and the side effects of cancer treatments and disability. Did have a scare at the start of the year but luckily it was nothing.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My trips and anything I got in NYC.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Liam. I feel like he doesn’t get enough credit for what a great kid he really is. This year he went to a full week of overnight camp. Only a year before he wasn’t close to ready and yet this year he went without fear (that he showed me anyways) he made new friends and had a great time.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Politicians

14. Where did most of your money go?
Day to day expenses. Kids activities. Travel.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
I get really, really, really excited about SO many things. The big ones this year were my trips and my dancing. Every single show I performed in this year was magical.

16. What song will always remind you of 2019?
Lizzo- Good as Hell
Salt N Peppa- Shoop

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
Happier or sadder? Happier
Thinner of Water? Thinner
Richer or poorer? Same

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Getting outside

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Being on my Phone

20. How did you spend Christmas?
On Christmas Eve my dad, his wife and my brother came over. We ate food all day, played games and laughed. Christmas morning we opened gifts and my family left early. The kids, my love and I just relaxed and had tacos for dinner. Was a perfect quiet, low key Christmas.

21. Did you fall in love in 2019?
Over and Over

22. How many one-night stands?
Nope

23. What was your favourite TV program?

Survivor, GoT, The Handmaids Tale
We canceled our cable this year and switched to streaming.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Nope

25. What was the best book you read?
2018 I read no books, I was set to changed that this year and did! Not sure how many I read it wasn’t a lot but I started the Outlander series and LOVE it. Couldn’t put the first book down.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Lizzo

27. What did you want and get?
To Travel. Went to Hawaii, Texas, Seattle, Oregon and NYC!

28. What did you want and not get?
To not have to fight so hard for accessibility and equal rights

29. What was your favourite film of this year?
We finally got to the small town theatre AND to the big city theatre a couple times this year. Lots of movies on Netflix. Frozen 2 was the best I saw in theatres.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Turned 36 this year! My birthday was on a Tuesday this year which is our busy activity day. Felt very special and loved the whole day. Went to brunch with a friend, went swimming with my kids and had pizza at home with my family.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Not having to fight so hard for accessibility.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2019?
Still lots of leggings. Have tried to wear jeans and accessories more often. Converse will always be my shoe staple, I think I need more. This year also saw way more nylons and glitter.

33. What kept you sane?

My Love! He grounds me so much.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Sam Heughan

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
Finding out how many benefits have been cut from people with disabilities.

36. Who did you miss?
My Grandma Brook. I spent part every summer of my childhood with her on Long Island. She’s been gone a long time but going to New York and not going to her house hit me hard.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
This year was less about new people and really strengthening the Amazing relationships I have. I got a lot closer to some of the best people out there.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2019.
Boundaries! This has been a lesson that has been bubbling for awhile but it really came out this year. The biggest boundary I had to set was with myself. Recognizing my limits and not pushing myself so hard. As well as really thinking about what fills my soul. I took a HUGE step back from doula work this year and that was hard for me. It keeps coming back though in so many ways that I made the right decision.

This year was all about healing, learning and growing. Traveling is a big part of my soul even though I haven’t done nearly as much as I wanted to. The whole time I was sick I would day dream about getting away. The ability to learn new things, to immerse yourself in whatever that trip has to offer, to spend quality time with yourself and the your travel companions. I got that this year and feel so very grateful for it but also proud of myself for making it happen.
Dance is also something I did a lot more of. I really immersed myself in burlesque and it has been so good for me.

Photo Credit to Kendal Blacker Photography, Craig Cochrane and Kelly Schuster

The Birth of Ms K

Over Christmas and Boxing day I was miserable. All I wanted to do was hibernate, and it’s pretty much all I did. I was in so much pain from my pelvic disorder, my prosthetic no longer fit and I was so done.

On the 27th I even made a post of how done with being pregnant I was. Later that day though something shifted, I had a boost of energy, took a shower, did my hair and wanted to go out, even though I had been having cramps and back pain on and off all day. As I was debating wether taking a 5 and 3 yr old to a restaurant was a good idea it hit me that labour may be near. I decided to stay home. After dinner I got in a bath so I could do my best to rest and relax. While in the bath my waves were anywhere from 6-10 minutes apart, but were sporadic in length and intensity. I had already planned a phone call to help mentor someone on breastfeeding and my waves weren’t consistent enough to cancel. I started the call telling her that if I paused I wasn’t ignoring her but in early labour. After an hour I ended the call as I was pausing more and more and had to focus getting through them. I said goodnight to my kids and I went to bed myself hoping to sleep a few hours in case this really was it was it ( I still wasn’t totally convinced). I couldn’t find a good position though, my doula suggested more pillows and more pillows didn’t work. I went downstairs after a couple hours to bounce on the birth ball but all I was was annoyed, I moved back to bed. I couldn’t get comfortable no mater what I did and the I was becoming more and more irritable, all I wanted was some sleep. Finally around midnight I gave up, I knew I was in labour but I wasn’t ready to call my birth team. I decided to distract myself my blowing up the birth pool for my planned home birth. My big pregnant belly and I crawled around the dining room, putting down plastic tarps, blew up the pool and was happy for the distraction.

At 2am, after one last attempt at sleep I knew it wasn’t coming and I was ready to call my team. I called my doula, midwife and photographer. Within an hour they were all there. Just before they got there I did my own cervical exam I knew I was around 4cm but I asked to be checked by my midwife when she got there jut to be sure and yup I was at 4cm. I loved being at home and being able to move as I wanted to. I went from the couch, to the cold floor, to sleeping on the stairs in between waves. I was freezing cold and spent a lot of time being wrapped in a blanket a friend had made for me 18 years before. My doula was a god send, making sure I was sipping on water, getting the tens machine hooked up and making sure the bowl was ready when I threw up. Even with that though, all I wanted was to be in my birth pool I think I asked between each wave, it felt like is was taking forever to fill. I spent this time visualizing waves crashing over me and moving out into the ocean, over and over. The wave would start and I wold picture it coming towards me getting taller and bigger, at its peak it was crash over me before moving back out. I kept telling myself I could do this, and then I switched to telling myself I AM doing this.

Finally I was able to get into the birth pool. Crutches were impossible so we pull one of my kitchen barstools up next to the pool for me to sit and swivel into. I felt so relaxed. My waves spread out and became more manageable. Because things had slowed down a bit my midwife mentioned getting out to pick things up. Instinctively though, I knew that I was where I needed to be (I say that nicely but what I was thinking was, there is no fucking way I’m getting out of this pool.) We did try to have me move positions but I just wanted to be sitting. AT this point I’m told every thought my birth might take longer than expected. To the point that my photographer was about to text her husband to make child care arrangements for her children.

Just before 5:30am a wave came over me and all of a sudden felt like I couldn’t do it anymore. I looked at my doula and asked why I was doing this, she knew this was my last baby and said just that “you never have to do this again”. It was what I needed to hear, I just had to do this and then I was done. It wasn’t long after that I let out a moan. That very specific animal noise that let everyone know I was probably in transition. Waves started taking over and coming back to back. It was at this time I went from sitting to wanting to be on my knees leaning against the pool. It was so intense and I felt so overwhelmed that I started saying no. “no, no, no, no” My doula looked at me and said “yes” again she said what I needed to hear. “Yes, yes, yes” I repeated back.Almost immediately it felt like K took an elevator down into my birth canal. Drop. Intensity increased which I didn’t even know was possible. All I could do was swear, scream and go with my body as it took over pushing my baby out. I remember thinking that women were crazy to like pushing because this felt horrible. Once K started crowning my midwife asked if she could rupture my membranes but I didn’t hear her. My doula had to get in my face to make sure I knew what my midwife was asking. My response was that “I don’t care, I just want her the fuck out!”. I felt the ring of fire and then got a small break. My body took control and started pushing the rest of K out, which resulted in a second ring of fire and I remember thinking this was bullshit. It didn’t last long though, my midwife caught her and within seconds she was in my arms and I completely forgot it all.

IMG_1216Michelle Cervo Photography

She was so beautiful and so covered with vernix that I had to wipe some off so she could open her eyes. Emotions took over. I have never felt so powerful. We relaxed in the pool getting to know each other. I birthed her placenta. Her brother and sister came to meet her. The second midwife showed up (everything happened so fast she missed the birth) She was born 17 minutes after that moan and 3 minutes after the fetal ejection reflex took over.

To this day her birth is something I’m incredibly proud of. I knew what I wanted and I put in the work to make it happen. Her birth left me stronger.

Photo Credit : Michelle Cervo Photography

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.