PAIN

As most know, I am a cancer patient. This brings with it various other ailments. But what some don’t know is that I also have pain in my arms (not exactly sure what from, *specialist* appointment is in November) that is sometimes just in my arms, sometimes goes down to my hands and into my hands.  When its really special, the pain will travel from shoulders/back (sometimes even neck) down my arm, through the elbow (where it is usually the worst) down the lower arm (where it feels like my arm has been smashed in a car door) into my hands and even my fingers!

I also suffer from migraine headaches, but I am so used to them, I can often ignore them. When I get a migraine I will have a ‘minor’ headache for 3-4 days, Tylenol and such won’t help it, then it will *blossom* into the migraine.

From my chemotherapy I get random stabbing pains in my arms, legs, sides. Since my first lung surgery I will get an odd pain, that to me feels like a serrated knife running along my one rib, like someone is trying to remove it. that pain is random, lasting only seconds, but can come every few minutes, to every few hours; continuously for hours, all day or once every few months!

Right now, I have the arm/shoulder/hand pain on the left the arm/hand pain on the right, a migraine, my toes hurt for some reason, almost every muscle in my body aches, I also have hot flashes. Oh, and to top it off, I am having dizzy spells.

I have no pain medications right now, don’t know what to do about the dizzy spells, not much can be done about the hot flashes … I just want to dig a hole and crawl into it. I want to hide from the world and tell everyone to leave me alone.

Well, that was my rant. I am going to go to bed now… yes, it is only 9:15 am, and I only got out of bed at 8 am, but what else can I do, when I am in pain like this?

No Dogs Allowed

I walk my dog along a stretch of grass that borders a local factory. There are signs there that say “No Dogs Allowed”.
Similar to this sign:

I do not quite understand this. I understand that they don’t want dog poop on their property, I wouldn’t either. But I do clean up after my dog, so I think the sign should be more like one of these:
   

THESE make sense to me.

While out this morning, I had a security truck pull up honking his horn. This Security Officer does not bother to get out of his air conditioned  truck, he merely points at the sign that I am walking by. So I point to the leash I have in hand (the dog is very obediently walking right at my side, on the edge of their grass, so that he is not walking on the road). He again points to the sign, so I pull out my poop sacs. He again points to the sign, so I just shrug. I am thinking “get your ass out and talk to me”. So he proceeds to shrug and drive off. SO, obviously, he really wasn’t too concerned with my dog on the grass.

I could understand if I was walking away from my dog’s steaming pile of feces OR if my dog was digging their grass OR my dog was in someway damaging their property, but he was just WALKING on the grass. He hadn’t even peed on a pole at this point! I often pull my dog away from the piles of dog feces left by other dog owners, along this patch of grass (that stretches 3 blocks). It  really is an ideal space to walk dogs, but I beg of all other dog owners: BE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR DOG! I am as responsible as I can be,I know I am not perfect. But I clean up after my dog as often as possible (there are times, when he is not feeling well, when I am not able to clean up after him),I stop him from peeing on people’s flowers, I only allow him to pee on poles, trees and fences.

I get so fed up with people telling me that MY dog is misbehaving, when their dog is the one jumping on mine and mine is merely defending himself, or reacting in kind. I have a well behaved dog. He can walk off leash, next to me, only leaving my side to “do his business” and occasionally to check out another dog, an interesting smell or a child that he wants to play with. I have a large dog. This does not mean that he is uncontrollable, this does not mean he is viscous, this does not mean that your small dog is a better behaved creature!

Yesterday, I was walking my dog through the local carnival, when a police officer approached me, to let me know that no dogs were allowed. He was so nice about it. He let me know that he didn’t agree with the rule, but that he was required to “let me know”. I will not say what his exact word were, but needless to say, he thought the rule was ‘garbage’. There were other dogs there, and I am sure he told their owners as well. As he was telling me this, a young lady approached me to ask if she could take a picture of my dog. I am not sure why, but he’s a ham, so he gladly sat for his picture to be taken. While walking around, to get where I was allowed to have him (since I was actually trying to get past the street carnival to the bank on the other side), I had SO many people with small children approach me, asking if they could pet my DOBERMAN! I was so proud of Jake and his laid back demeanor, he was totally loving the attention and was a model dog at this event.
There were other dogs –large and small– that I saw who were pulling and jumping, and here is my “unruly, scary Doberman” strolling at my side with a goofy, panting grin on his face, loving the sun and the activity around him.

There are people in the neighborhood, who are not really dog people, who have gotten to know Jake, who adore him. They marvel at how well behaved he is, how patient he is (I can stop to talk to anyone, and if he gets bored with sniffing while waiting, he’ll lay down until I am ready to continue our walk), and how friendly he is.

I love my big goof ball… wouldn’t trade him for anything. I will continue to remind myself that he is a good boy, he is a reliable friend and that he is NOT what others seem to think he is.

Female does not equal mindless

My landlord (as well as so many other men – and women) seems to think that I have no idea what I am talking about, when I tell him about problems with the apartment I am renting.

I know that a double pane window is NOT supposed to fog or have condensation in between the panes; I know that if it does, that means the seal is broken somewhere and the window needs to be replaced. When I told him of the fog in the window, he proceeds to tell me that it is caused by condensation. WELL! no S#!T Sherlock! This would be WHY I am telling you! Because it needs to be fixed/replaced! But apparently I am way to subtle, or he is too stupid. Either way, I still have a foggy double pane window. The sad thing is that this is the GOOD window! the rest of the windows in this place are the old wooden famed double hung style, with no seal, no insulation, not much better than putting a sheet of plastic over the window in the dead of winter. Here I am in the summer, with screens duct taped into the windows, with the opening between the two window frames also duct taped, to keep the insects out, but unfortunately, with the humidity, it is not sticking everywhere, and I have flies & mosquitos (and other flying insects) making themselves comfortable in my home.
OH! and the quality windows have resulted in mould on every window, which of course, is not ideal for my cancer ridden, asthmatic lungs!

The landlord “fixed” a leaky tub faucet, using tiles that are just a smidge too big for the space needed. These tiles are too big area wise as well as too thick to be placed next to the tiles already present. Therefore, the grout lines are actually just the edges of the tile peering past the current tiles with grout plastered to them. I have a bet with my neighbor as to how long these tiles will remain in place.

While fixing the faucet, I pointed out a spot by the tub where the drywall was bubbling and peeling. I happen to know that this is caused by the leak from the faucet and the shut off valve to the tub (which also needs to be replaced, even though “It was new 27 years ago, and it has only been used 2 or 3 times.”). He proceeded to tell me the bubbling (which was actually present when I moved in) is being cause by my “over sized” shower head. Now, I know I’m not a man. I know I am not a contractor. I know I am not a plumber. I know I am not a physicist…. or anyone/anything else who may know more than he knows… but with my little female brain, I am quite sure that water shoots straight out from a shower head, no matter the shape or size of it, and therefore, I am quite sure that my oversized shower head is NOT the cause of the bubbling located BEHIND the shower head.

No matter what I bring up to him, he feels the need to go into a long explanation of nonsense. I am fed up, I am frustrated, I want to move out. I happen to like the apartment itself. But with the minor problems here and the fact that I have to deal with his inability to speak to me as an equal, I no longer want to be here.

So I am faced with the decision of looking for another apartment/house where I will undoubtedly run into more of the same idiocy from an “all knowing” landlord … or stay here and deal with the known idiocy of the current “all knowing” landlord.

It’s MY journey

Sometimes I feel so bitter about people who show an outpouring of emotion in relation to my cancer journey.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the well wishers and nice thoughts and comments from everyone… but what bothers me is the people who get so distressed, crying any carrying on, because they are so sorry for what I have to go through. BUT these are the people who generally don’t talk to me, don’t know what my daily life is like, and they really have no clue what my cancer life is like.
I don’t understand how they can be so overly emotional about something they don’t know about. I suppose these are the same people who cry over celebrity drama. They have no idea what that person is actually feeling, they don’t even KNOW that person… how can they have such a personally emotional reaction to a stranger’s life?

It also makes me bitter because you don’t see these people very often, you know distant family that you might see once a year. It’s not because they live across the country, its not because they don’t have your email, phone number or are unable to obtain these… its because you are not a part of their daily life, and that’s nothing out of the ordinary.
I am not bitter about not being a part of their lives… its just the way it is. Not that I refuse to be part of their lives, its just how it has happened. (I am sure there are so many reasons that we could pick at, but they don’t really matter, and that’s not what this blog post is about).
Now, these family members, when you see them at a reunion, wedding, funeral, etc see that I am still sick, and gush about how sorry they are, they are so sad for me, they cry whenever they think about how much I have to go through… blah, blah, blah!
Well, excuse me for not believing your sincerity… In my opinion, if you really did care, you might call, you might email, on a regular day… just to say “hi, how are you”… you know what… THAT simple action makes me realize that ‘hey, they do know I exist!’  I really appreciate acknowledgment when I’m not in suffering mode…

Then these people, along with their crying and gushing will almost always say “If there’s anything I can do for you… ” WELL, yea, you know what? Call me! Ask how I’m doing! Send me and email! THAT is what you can do for me! Let me know that you actually care! not that you only care when I’m right in front of you.

I am a fairly independent person, so I do things on my own, even when I’m sick. I walk my dog, even when I feel like shit; I clean the cat litter, even when I feel like shit; I do my laundry & dishes & cook, even when I feel like shit. These are things I could even get a volunteer to come in to help with, because of my health & financial situation, I qualify for these… but I do these things myself. So, I don’t need family to offer to help (they can’t actually come and help anyway — and I’m sure they wouldn’t even if I lived 2 blocks away)… but the offer of an occasional phone call or email to see how I’m doing would be GREATLY appreciated!

I have more online friends who know me and my journey than I have real life friends and family who know what I’m going through… that is sad.
There are people across the USA, who I will NEVER meet, who I only know as a little thumbnail picture, who I feel more support from.

Wrapping up our visit

My daughter arrived in Canada (my kids live with their dad in Kansas) on June 15th. My boyfriend and I picked her up from her grandma’s house. That Friday, we volunteered at the local Relay for Life, we managed to stay on our feet & working for 15 hours!
The following Saturday, we went to the Toronto zoo with my sister, niece & mom. It was a rainy day, but it was a good day. We had a great time, lots of pictures taken.

I have been off work (as some know) for almost 4 years, with my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I am on my 3rd bout of cancer in this time. The first time was in 2001; remission until 2006… and here I am, still fighting.
In this time, I have been doing a lot of crocheting. I have given most of these items away as gifts to friends & family. I have donated a lot to various groups as well; some to raise money for Breast Cancer Research, some to help the less fortunate, some to help abandoned cats.

My daughter loves to do arts & crafts. I have a large plastic bin labeled “Craft Supplies“, which she has kept handy in the living room, and has made various crafts. She has used paint, yarn, paper, pencils, canvas, among so many other mediums. I have some of her work hanging in my apartment, from years past, I have used the small hallway leading to her room (which is the craft room, when she’s not here), to display her work.

She is one of my greatest fans. I appreciate the support she shows me. She is also a great caregiver. When I am going through my treatments — and even when I’m not — she keeps an eye on me. She makes sure I’m taking any medications I need; she gets things for me, when I haven’t got the energy. She is still a teenager, and will moan and groan when I ask her to pick up her clothes or put away the dishes; but that is when I’m feeling OK.

This is the end of our visit. She heads back to Kansas August 4th, and will be spending the prior week with extended family. This is when I usually get rather depressed. But this time, I think it won’t bother me as much, because I will be meeting my daughter down there on the 4th. My son didn’t come up this summer, because he wanted to spend more time with his girlfriend, and he was also taking Diver’s Ed. So I get to go down there to spend a week with them.

My kids are what keep me positive in my life, even though I have been off work for almost 4 years (living on a tight budget), I have been battling this cancer for the past 4 years (not including the initial diagnosis), I live alone in a basement apartment, I only get to see the kids twice a year. Things in my life aren’t ideal, but I have learned to make the best of what I have, and appreciate the little things.

Relay #2 of the year

OK, last night, my daughter (T) and I attended and volunteered at Relay for Life. This was my 2nd Relay event of the year, 1st for T.

We arrived, officially, at 1:15pm. Our first task was to assist in setting up the Food & Beverage tent. We got that completed pretty quickly. We did have to wait on the arrival of a few items to really complete the job, but for what we had on site, the job was completed quickly. Then we (along with about 6 other volunteers) rested, while we waited for the arrival of the remainder of the items to set them up.
T’s next job was from 4pm to 7pm to be taking pictures of the Relay teams and various things… Things seemed to be running behind schedule, so she sat with me for most of that time.
I was off duty from Food tent at 5pm. My next job wasn’t until 8:45pm, but we (a couple of us volunteers) re-arranged schedules and I started around 6pm, was selling food & beverage tickets.
T’s next job was from 7pm to 10pm, helping in the Smart Shop tent. They did not need her right away, so she kept going back to see if they had anything for her to do. They eventually found jobs for her, and she was there until about 9:45pm.

From there, we both went back to the Food Tent, and started on the soup & hot water for tea; same job we did last year… Then we had to add in popping popcorn! We were on a roll and were belting out instructions for other volunteers… At about 3am, we decided that if we were to continue, we needed chocolate; she & I went on a chocolate run. It took a bit to find a store open at 3am… we finally stopped at a gas station, then decided that since we weren’t too far from the 24hr grocery store that we would run over there and buy some hot chocolate, since someone seemed to forget that for this year’s food tent.

I bought 6 boxes of 10 envelopes of hot chocolate, and we went back to Relay and within 10 minutes… there was a swarm of people wanting hot chocolate. Apparently, they could SMELL it, when we made ours. We felt good about providing that for the people who don’t drink tea or coffee…

BUT at that point, T decided she was done for the night… so we signed out, piled ourselves into the car, drove home… shower, fresh jammies and then it was time to fall into the bed to drift off….. BUT the drifting part didn’t seem to want to come so easily. So we talked and laughed about Relay. We eventually drifted off, but that wasn’t until about 5am, after I put a pillow in the window to block the rising run….

Here I am now, at 1pm, and T is still sleeping… My body aches all over, but I feel good about the work we did. Of course, we will do it again, next year.

Can’t wait for the email, telling us how much we raised at last night’s event!

Inspiration? I don’t think so, but what do I know.

I had a conversation the other day with the ex-Volunteer Coordinator at the local Canadian Cancer Society office, she told me that I am an inspiration. I feel awkward when people tell me that, because I don’t see the things that I do as anything special. I am a stubborn person, and I rather smile than frown. To me, this seems logical.
She explained to me that for her, seeing me giving back (through my volunteer work) through being sick & doing my Chemo, she re-evaluates the difficulties in her own life that are so much less, than mine. Again, this makes me feel awkward, because, yes, I have cancer, but it isn’t a difficult cancer (in my opinion). I have met SO many people who have had worse cancers than mine, and I can understand when they are depressed or down, to me, I feel like I’m whining about nothing, in comparison, when I do whine and complain.

I feel like I have something to live up to, when people tell me that I am an inspiration or that I am an “amazing woman”. I don’t think I am, I’m just me. I know so many others who deserve the “title” of Inspirational or Amazing. I feel uncomfortable & awkward when people come to me saying these things, but I have learned to graciously say “Thank you”, because I realized that they sometimes need someone else to look at, to compare their problems to, in order to keep them in perspective.

I think everyone has such varying degrees of difficulty in their lives, and as they say, God does not give us more than we can handle. I am not an overly religious person, but I have my beliefs, and they do me well ☺

A couple years ago, I heard the quote from Joan of Arc: “It was for this that I was born!” I believe that we all have a reason for being born, no matter how small or extravagant our purpose. We may go our entire lives never knowing our “reason for being”… but that doesn’t mean we have no reason. Our reason may only be to slightly assist someone else with their purpose, and that is more important than we’ll ever know. The significance of our being may not be made known until years after we no longer exist, but make no mistake, your existence is important — often in more ways that any single person will ever realize.
So maybe, this is for what I was born

Relay for Life vs My Chemo Life

Sigh

Last night was the 1st Relay for Life event in Mississauga for this year (next one is in 2 weeks).
I accidentally got onto the Committee for Relay for Life, in charge of running the Smart Shop at the Living Arts Centre event (last night); with only a month to prepare. They pretty much start preparing right after the event, for the next year’s event… MOST of the work was done, and it was agreed that since I came in last minute, that I wouldn’t do a silent auction. At the beginning of this week, I get an email, telling that a participant was bringing me a gift certificate for guitar Lessons, for the silent auction!!! Oh MY! I scrambled, and pulled together 2 gifts from stuff my sister had donated for a prize pack, plus three items I had sitting around, that I had crocheted. For a total of 6 items for our “last minute” Silent Auction. OMG! can you believe that the only two items that got bids were two of the items I crocheted! I am so pleased with this. Everyone loved my items, but I resisted the urge to pass out my business cards. I did not want to make it about my products, this is an event to raise money for Cancer Research & Cancer patient programs. I did give two business cards out, but they were to friends. I brought some, so that IF I was asked for one, I could give it.

Now, this past Monday (May 31st), I started chemo — not to battle the cancer, but to control the symptoms, which have been causing more havoc than the cancer itself. Friday morning, I woke at about 4:30am in some major pain. There was shooting/stabbing pain in my hips & upper thighs, as well as (less severe) in my right shoulder. As I moved around, I felt pain in my lower back as well. Laying on either side increased the pain, as well as on my back. Laying on my stomach wasn’t so bad, except that I can’t sleep fully on my belly, I lean to one side or the other, which was still increasing the pain. I would fall back to sleep briefly, but waken shortly in pain. I took some over the counter meds, but they did not help. So around 9:30 am, I took some prescription meds and eventually felt better. Then I was able to take the OTC meds to maintain the pain control.
This morning I woke up in the same way, although much later, as I didn’t get to bed until after 4am (was at Relay from 3pm to 3:30am).

So, I will talk to my doctor on Wednesday, when  I have an appointment scheduled. There’s no sense trying to get in sooner, cause I likely won’t be able to get in, and going to a walk in clinic or Emerg, is just a waste of time and patience.

I feel great about the role I payed in last night’s Relay for Life event. My daughter & I will be volunteering at the next one (in two weeks). And I look forward to (hopefully) being better prepared to run the Smart Shop next year, as I will be able to get an earlier start on the preparation.

[note: even though I indicate that I got on the committee ‘accidentally’, I by no means meant that I didn’t want to, I just hadn’t planned it to happen the way that it did, ha ha… but I loved it, and look forward to continuing]

Who Am I?

I feel as though I am an almost ‘whole’ person. I feel that I know who I am, and I love who I am. I know that there are so many people in this world who can not say either of those things.

People seem to flounder in their own lives, going along day by day, not learning about themselves, not knowing themselves.  I think this is because in this day and age, we are too busy. Things have been invented and created to make things in our lives easier, but instead of using these tools to enhance our lives, we use them to fill our lives with more stress and chaos. Twenty years ago, no one would have thought that we would have to tell people NOT to talk on the phone while they are driving or crossing a street! This convenience has made us more connected with others around us, and possibly taken us further away from ourselves.
People don’t have the time to be deep in thought or to allow their thoughts to wander. Well, at least not the people who (no offense to anyone, really) have enough intelligence to form meaningful thoughts. I mean that the more intelligent people are doing some fascinating work for others, to make money, to improve the lives of the population… this doesn’t leave much time to concentrate on themselves. The little down time they have they often worry about family, work, money, etc.

Over the past 3 years, I have had extensive time on my hands, due to my cancer and being off work. This has given me A LOT of time to think. This has also given me the time to measure my words, to not make so many snap judgments, to thoroughly think about various problems (either mine or those of the people around me). I have also taken this time to get to know myself. I have become more in tune with my own emotions, thoughts, desires, needs.
I also had time many years ago to think about a lot of things in my life, which resulted in the decision to leave my marriage, among other decisions and realizations.
I have learned a lot about myself. I have realized things about myself that should have been obvious to me, but were not, because I didn’t look at myself the way I look at others, or that others look at me. We don’t often judge ourselves. When we meet a new person, we make a judgment about them; intentional or not. This is based upon our first impression of the person; some of us stick with that first impression, some of us delve a little deeper to amend the judgment made based upon that first impression.
This is what I have been doing to myself. I have been trying to delve deeper into my own thoughts, learning why I do things, how I feel about various topics and occurrences, why I react to various stimulus the way I do, how my life has effected who I am. I haven’t been trying to assess how someone else would see me, rather how I would see me, if I met me. (I hope that makes sense to people).

Some things I have learned:

  • while I may not be ‘book smart’ nor have I had the ability to be accepted to a university, I am a rather intelligent person
  • I am a creative and imaginative being
  • I am a very sexually aware person
  • I am a caring, loving, giving person; even if I don’t broadcast it so that everyone thinks of me this way (I don’t do it for the glory)
  • I am not a religious person, that does not mean I do not believe in God
  • I want to be independent and to be able to depend on someone (I like traditional roles, with room to wiggle)
  • I don’t really associate myself with any particular race, I may ‘technically’ be Caucasian, but I don’t know that that description defines me (or anyone else, for that matter)
  • I am annoyed by ignorant people, and I can be rather harsh when having to deal with an ignorant person.
  • I am bothered by people in general, but would do just about anything for people I consider a friend (I will give few people the title of friend)
  • although ignorant, I will tolerate and do my best to deal with my family, after all, they are my family.

These may be things that many people can say about themselves, but I feel they can accurately define me. I am an odd duck, and I like it that way. Yet, I feel I am also a pretty simple person. I like nice things, but that does NOT mean I am materialistic. I basically want to be comfortable, but a little struggling along the way isn’t a bad thing, I think it has made me who I am, and as I said — I like who I am.

Part of me is still confused about myself; but I will put that into another post, because I am sure not everyone will want to read it, or it may cause some tempers to flare. I really hope it does not offend anyone, or cause problems; but I feel it is something I need to talk about.

First Craft Fair

OK, last week I was thinking about preparing for my first craft fair in May… then I got an email telling me I was approved as a vendor for a craft fair this coming Saturday! Meaning I had 10 days to prepare.

So, in the past few days I have been crocheting, planning, testing, brain storming… It’s the busiest I’ve been in so long. It feels good. Having been off work for 3+ years, I have felt so useless and brain dead. Not that my job was overly difficult, but at least I had the chance to be challenged at time and be physically active.

Well, I should get back to crocheting small items, for those who don’t want to spend too much… gotta get everyone’s $$$, ha!