Monthly Archives: October 2011

Baking With Spoons

A friend of mine shared this story the other day, and it’s something I’ve thought of every day since.

If you’ve got a few minutes, I encourage you to go read it. If not, I will fill you in!

It’s something called “The Spoon Theory,” used to describe what’s it’s like living day-to-day with an illness. What it’s really like. I mean, we all know that sick people are tired and weak all the time, but it’s still hard for a healthy person to wrap their brains around that. Trust me, I know, I used to be a healthy person too.

The author of the story explains it as such: each day we wake up with a certain number of spoons. Each activity we do over the course of the day costs us a spoon. So a healthy person can hop out of bed and easily not use up a spoon until they arrive at work. Whereas it requires one spoon for a sick person to get out of bed, one spoon to shower, one spoon to find a pair of pants to wear, etc, etc. Basically, small things that we all do over the course of the day aren’t as easy for some people as they are on the rest.

What really interested me about this story is not how it influences the perception of healthy people, but it gave me something to refer to as I used up my spoons over the course of the day. It put into words something that I hadn’t yet been able to explain.

Each day, I wake up with a certain number of spoons. That number depends on how long ago my last chemotherapy was, how well I slept the night before, or how many spoons I have left over from the day before. I never really know how many spoons I’m waking up to, so how many I have to use up for the day is always a surprise.

On days where I have a lot of spoons, I’ll go for walks, visit with friends and family, go to a restaurant. Some days activities require more spoons than others though. I may wake up with 8 spoons, but walking the dog could take up 5. So I’m left being stingy with my spoons for the rest of the day.

One of my favourite ways to use my spare spoons? Creating in the kitchen.

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My family are always at me for using up my spoons in the kitchen, but it’s how I choose to use them! Maybe they are just annoyed I don’t use my spoons doing dishes…

I’ve been baking exclusively with apples since apple picking last weekend. Here are some recipes to share:

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Apple Crumble Bars using this recipe. Shortbread cookie base and crumble with a just-tart-enough apple filling. My Nana loved these and they are great with a cup of tea!

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Apple Butter, naturally. I based it off this recipe using a dozen apples and half a cup of pure maple syrup. It took about 7 hours of simmering to get it really thick. I ended up with four jars, three of which I gave away. One of which I kept so I could have apple butter on pork.

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Finally, Apple Oatmeal Muffins! Made in a mini muffin pan because I still don’t have a regular sized one. I based my version off of this recipe and subbed the flour for whole wheat, the oil for almond butter, and the buttermilk for almond milk curdled with one tablespoon of lemon juice. If I were to make these again I’d add more cinnamon, more almond butter, and more apple! Otherwise, they’re great slathered in some homemade apple butter.

All enjoyed next to a purring cat…

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My mom and I have traded dogs for a few days. We finally diagnosed why Buster wasn’t feeling well and I can’t care for him until he’s better. Cashew the cat strongly dislikes Buster, but for some reason loves Archie the poodle. Cashew has come out of hiding to rub up against Archie and purr loudly in his presence.

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Archie in turn is scared of other dogs, but seems to be okay with the cat. I think the two of them could actually be great friends.

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It’s all very entertaining to watch go down as I stand in the kitchen using up my spoons in an apron stained in applesauce.

If I were to add my own twist to the spoon theory, it would be to mention that I don’t think it’s exclusive to sick people. Everyone has a certain number of spoons to use up over the course of the day, just not everyone has so many or uses them up so easily. So while I’m recklessly using mine by chopping up a gazillion apples, might I suggest you use some spoons doing something you love today too. Perhaps eating funsize candy bars? After a week of mostly rest, I’ve got a few spoons to spare, so I’m changing out of my peejays and into my spy costume. Happy Halloween!

Moving Forward and Moving On

I almost quit blogging this week.

I know, I know. It makes no sense. Especially when I wax poetic about how amazing blogging is and how much I luuuuurve it.

I do still lurve it, but I’ll admit that blogging comes with a little more baggage these days. For one, even though my days are mostly free to do what I like, I’m still a sick person who needs to spend a lot of time resting in bed. Even doing something like typing at a laptop requires energy I don’t have. When I do have energy, I don’t always want to use it all on my computer.

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There’s also the chemo brain thing. My cognitive function is not what it used to be thanks to a combination of the whole cancer trauma and the heavy drugs I’m on. My family says they can’t tell I’m struggling, but I am. I only retain about half the information I’m told, and relaying my own information feels like a never-ending search for the right words in my mental dictionary. This translates into blogging as well. There are a lot of things I want to say, but feel like I’m not saying them how I want to. I’m not sure if my points are coming across the right way, or if I’m being as entertaining as I’d like to be. It’s frustrating.

Most of all however, blogging is overwhelming. Not always in a good way. Before I had no problem with being so public about my life because there was nothing I felt I really needed to protect. But dealing with an illness under a microscope is hard. I’m handling my situation the best way I know how, but being so vulnerable in front of so many people can be trying. I find I crave a lot more privacy now. Being sick can change a lot things.

After coming to the realization this week that it was time I started moving forward with cancer being a part of my life, I thought it might be a good idea to reevaluate where my blog falls into my new life. I already had a post written out in my head about taking an indefinite break. But I decided to sit on it and wait for the emotions to pass. Sure enough, I’ve come through to the other side and realized I was needlessly panicking about some things. I spent part of the day yesterday talking about my blog and realized how big a part it plays in my life. Even if I’m going through a rough patch, I can’t just give it up.

With that said, if I am expected to continue moving forward, I think it only makes sense to have this blog move forward with me. I can’t tell you what that will or won’t include, but I thought it would be nice to at least address it. It’s always nice to keep others “in the know” about these sorts of things. I haven’t really put a whole lot of deep thought into exactly how the content of my blog will change and I think I’d prefer to keep the door open on this one.

I do know I will be blogging less. I don’t want to put a number on it because I don’t want to set up any expectations or stress on myself. I always loved the once-a-day format as a blog reader, but my life and blogging style just no longer suit it.

I can’t promise I will always reply to e-mails and comments in a timely manner, or at all. I know that sounds awful, but I need to be real about it. I lovelovelove getting feedback, but a big part of being overwhelmed is feeling like I have a duty to respond to feedback when all I want to do is take my pills and take a nap. Blogging is not my job, so I need to stop treating it like it is. The only thing I am responsible for now is healing, and some days that includes stepping away from my inbox!

I love my little space on the internet, the opportunities it has given me, and the people I’ve met through it. I’m not ready to throw it all away yet. But the times are a certainly changin’. And really, it’s probably about time.

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Chemo #8 today. That means only four treatments left after this! Hallelujah!!

Weekend Scenery

This weekend was the first good weekend I’ve had in a long while…

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Somewhere after treatment #6 three and a half weeks ago, I started to run out of steam. The physical, mental, and emotional aspects of the treatments and having cancer started to get to me. Rightfully so I think, as this is a journey with a lot of peaks and valleys. With that said though, I think it’s important to climb my way out of those valleys.

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A lot of my feeling good is just a combination of side effects and coincidences. First and foremost, the weather has been great. We’ve lucked out with a beautiful autumn in this area, and getting outside and moving my body is the best therapy I can think of.

On top of that, my lungs are feeling great. I didn’t realize how miserable I was gasping for air and coughing until I got some relief. At first I was really, really bummed to learn that the chemo poisoned my lungs. But the symptom relief has made me hopeful the damages won’t be forever, and that I won’t have to be on these steroids long enough for any major side effects to take place.

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One thing about feeling crappy all the time is that I’m stuck inside the house all the time. But this weekend I was able to get out of the house and it was so good for the soul! Excursions included an impromptu lunch at the neighbourhood diner, brunch with the fam, a scenic drive through back roads…

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There was apple picking with my sister!

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We gathered quite a bit, most of which I think is destined to become apple butter…

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I took care of the apple crisp right away, obviously.

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Not to mention, a surprise visit with some of my favourite people (my best friend’s mother, who I call my ‘second mom’). She snapped a future Christmas card photo of Buster and I.

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Apart from feeling good physically this weekend, I feel like I turned a corner emotionally. I wrote two posts last week that stimulated discussion and really got me thinking.

This past year has not been a good one for me. Before my cancer diagnosis in June, I had already been out of commission from getting reconstructive surgery on my arm. I haven’t been in good physical health since before 2011. Being unwell for such a prolonged period of time really started to get to me. As I expressed last week, I am ready for this cancer and broken arm thing to be OVER so I can just move on with my life already.

But in writing this out last week, I started to realize that it was not good to compare the life I have now to the one I had before. To compare the body I have now to the one I had before. The comments and e-mails I got from people only helped grow that seed further.

Something clicked with me this weekend, and I realized that I am never going to be the person who I was in 2010, or 2009, etc, etc. Instead it’s time I start coping with the fact that I am a person living with a disease. For so long I was scared of embracing my cancer because 1) I wanted an identity outside of my disease, and 2) I didn’t want to welcome the cancer into my body in any way.

However, I think the idea that I can just ditch my cancer to curb is what makes me feel like I am standing still until it’s gone. Instead, I am a young woman living and loving life with a disease. I do not have to wait until the disease is gone to do those things. The peaks and valleys that come with cancer don’t just exist for the duration of treatment, but will exist for the duration of my life. I realize that I should just embrace and expect it, rather than think things will ever go back to being “normal.”

The person I used to be was pretty rad, but the new me, the future me, will be just as great. Believe it or not, now that I’ve started accepting my illness as part of who I am, I feel more like myself again. Best of all however, this weekend I felt like I started moving forward again. But this time I am not moving towards any finish line, this time I’m just enjoying the scenery of the ride.

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