Monthly Archives: December 2011

Things I Learned In 2011

I am not invincible. Like so many other 25-year-olds, I thought I was immune to all bad things. Injury and illness were far off in my future, I had youth and health on my side. Well, youth won’t keep you out of the hospital. I spent one month of 2011 living in one.

How to ask for help. I’ve always been stubborn and independent. I took a lot of pride in being self-sufficient about certain things. For me, asking for and receiving help quietly are hard to do. But being able to do so makes life so much easier.

I’m stronger than I thought. Not because of the things that have happened to me, but because of how I’ve chosen to deal with them.

When it comes to TV and movies, lighthearted is the way to go. If I’m going to escape into something, I want it to be enjoyable.

Life goes on. No matter how devastating something is, I still have to wake up the next day and go on with my life.

The saying “you can never go home again” is not true. In 2011, I moved back home  after seven years of being away. And I actually love being back. For years, I challenged myself to go outside of my comfort zone because I thought it was good for me, but that doesn’t make me happy. Being comfortable in my environment does.

Shaved poodles are kind of frightening. Poor Archie had a rough year too.

I used to take my fitness for granted. Not everyone can run, strength train, do yoga, or even move their body with ease. I can’t believe I never acknowledged how lucky I was to live pain-free before, and instead spent too much time wanting to be in better shape. Pfft.

Money can’t buy happiness, but it can improve my quality of life. In 2010, I chased my dreams and found work I loved. Work I spent 14 hours a day doing and still struggled to pay my bills with. In 2011, I settled down and accepted an 8-4 desk job with a better paycheck. It doesn’t sound as fancy as chasing my dreams, but it’s a lot more satisfying in completely different ways. I really enjoy having a life outside of work rather than have work be my life.

Pets are good for your health. Getting a dog during treatment was one of the best decisions I ever made. There were concerns in the beginning he might put me at risk of illness because dogs aren’t “clean.” But my family and I work at making sure he’s always sanitized, and I will argue to the death that dogs can do amazing things for your mood and spirit. Buster kept me strong in other ways by putting a smile on my face every single day.

Happiness isn’t something that needs to be chased down or found. Oftentimes it can come to me wherever I am in the world just by opening myself up to it.

Having all the free time in the world is only an advantage when you feel well enough to do something with that time. Being unable to leave bed for days at a time is mind-numbingly boring. For those of you who complain about having too much to do, being stuck doing nothing can be just as bad.

You can, and should, french toast just about anything.

It is so, so important I find ways to feel proud of myself outside of what I am physically capable of doing. Being fit is great, but it shouldn’t be my only source of self worth. I don’t love my legs because of what they do for me, I love my legs because they are mine. I need hobbies that don’t just rely on the abilities of my body, because I can lose those abilities in a second.

I can’t let the opinions of others dictate how I deal with things. Anyone who has been ill, injured, or hell, pregnant, knows that some people feel like they are suddenly allowed to give unsolicited advice. Just because so-and-so went through a similar ordeal does not mean I’m going to go through my own ordeal in the same way. Some days I actually felt guilty for feeling so sick after chemo because I heard of others who didn’t. Or I felt like a wuss when I still couldn’t lift 10lbs months after my arm surgery. In reality, I am the only one who sets the bar with how I deal with my own unique situation.

Memorable Posts From 2011:

And just like that, my life changed…

Why I’m No Longer A ‘Healthy LIving Blogger’

A long, hard road

Three Weeks To A Diagnosis

Numbers

Radically Free

Lemon Cake For Three

The One About The Hair

Why Your Body Can’t (and Shouldn’t) Make You Happy

Time

Baking With Spoons

The Last Word On Body Weight

On Betrayal Of The Body

I started 2011 in January feeling sick. I had a 10-day fever in the first couple weeks. On February 11, I shattered my elbow and had reconstructive surgery. For months I struggled with a slow and frustrating recovery while learning how to live my life now being physically limited. Just as I started a new job and scheduled a follow-up surgery to hopefully fix my arm for good, I was diagnosed with cancer on June 22. I’ve been sick and weak every day since. I had what will hopefully be my last cancer treatment on December 21, and will take what will hopefully be my last cancer related drug on December 31.

2011 has hands down been the hardest, most challenging year of my life. I have grown and learned a lot. A lot of which I can appreciate, none of which I really cared to deal with so early in life.

I would just like to give a big “fuck you” to 2011. I am happy to see this shit year end. I’m not naive enough to believe that it will all be over when the clock strikes midnight. But I’m really fucking happy to shake 2011 off and face 2012 with a renewed sense of optimism and energy.

So here’s to a great New Year!!

Holiday Highlights

Hellohello! I am checking in after a week off from blogging. Hope everyone had a good Christmas! I am finally starting to come through the other side after getting chemo last Wednesday. I also stopped taking Prednisone last Friday, so between the chemo side effects and withdrawals, I’ve been feeling pretty crappy. Here are some of the holiday highlights though!

Finally got my Christmas picture of Buster! He got so spoiled this year. All of my family members bought him gifts (a coat, booties, treats, and toys), not to mention nonstop love and cuddles from all the people in the house.

Archie however, kind of hated this Christmas. I think that cute spaniel ruined it for him. Poor poodle.

We had snow for Christmas! It’s all melted by now, but I hope it comes back soon. As much as I love warmth, I love my seasons. Cold and snowy ones included.

My dad bought the third-last Christmas tree in Moncton on Dec 23rd. It is so ugly. It looks even wider decorated!

My middle sister (I have two older sisters) came home from Quebec! I love having all of us girls together. Until we start drinking at arguing that is (joking!) (mostly!).

My oldest sister who used to live in Ottawa lives at home with me now. I keep her well fed, she keeps the house clean, ha.

We played games on Christmas Eve. I won, thanks to the help of my little teammate. Buster mostly just tried to catch and eat the dice.

For Christmas brunch we had baked French toast with sugared pecans. Usually we do a ham, egg, and cheese casserole thingy, but I can’t eat ham or cheese this year because of the drugs I’m on. Don’t even get me started on how lame it was to have food restrictions over Christmas…

And of course, on Christmas morning we opened gifts! Packed in reused gift bags over the years.

How sweet of Buster to get me something. Ha!

My step-siblings stopped by in their Christmas peejays. I’ve got five teenage step-siblings – three on my mom’s side and two on my dad’s side. It’s kind of ridiculous, but I also love being part of a big family.

Last but not least, my contribution to Christmas dinner, a pumpkin trifle! Recipe found here. I would definitely recommend this as a recipe to try, it was a fun way to change up our usual fruit trifle. Usually I make closer to half of the Christmas dishes, but this year I was just too sick and fatigued. The cooking is my favourite part so I was bummed to miss out on it!

Overall, this Christmas gets a solid “okay.” One of my grandmothers went into the hospital Christmas Eve after falling at home. She is fine, nothing is broken, but she is quite shaken up. I of course was sick from chemo and drug withdrawals. I usually take a lot more photos but didn’t feel inclined to do so this year, as I honestly don’t really care to remember the Christmas I was sick, bald, and had a swollen face.

Most of all, I am looking forward to the New Year. To put 2011 and all of its crappiness behind me. To start fresh chemo-free. The worst of my last chemo is behind me and I’ve got nothing but new days ahead of me to feel better and better. Four weeks until the PET scan to see if there’s any signs of remaining cancer. Please start crossing your fingers now!

Tidbits

1. I finally felt well enough to make holiday cookies!

It feels like a while since I last baked, which is all kinds of wrong seeing as Christmas is so near. I’ve been taking chemo pills every day since last week which really drag me down, but I knew I had to get my hands in some butter before chemo #12 this week.

Donned one of my favourite aprons made by Tanya! It’s to protect me from the icing sugar that was flying around the kitchen as I whipped together some shortbread cookies. If you haven’t made all your cookies yet, you MUST make these. They melt in your mouth.

Recipe comes from the back of a Canada Corn Starch box:

  • 1/2 cup corn starch
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup softened butter

Sift together corn starch, icing sugar, and flour. Blend in the butter with a wooden spoon or mixer until a soft crumbly dough forms. Shape dough into 1 – 1 1/2 inch balls, place on greased pan, and gently flatten with a fork. Place in fridge for 30-60 minutes then bake in a 300F oven for 15 minutes. Makes about 20 cookies.

I topped my cookies with a regular buttercream frosting made thicker with extra icing sugar and half a maraschino cherry.

For real, make these.

2. Archie is going to live!

My mom’s poodle is going to be 15 years old in February. He’s got lumps on his body and has been coughing a lot lately. My mom brought him to the vet yesterday, and he believes the lumps are benign fatty tumours and the coughing is a partially collapsed trachea. Neither of which are currently life threatening. Vet said he could live for another couple years!! Hopefully he learns to like Buster in that time. Archie is the, ahem, jealous type.

3. I’m playing guitar again.

I’ve been playing guitar on and off for 12 years now, but could no longer do it when I broke my elbow last February. The break prevented me from twisting my left wrist so my palm could face the ceiling, or enough to wrap my hand around the neck of a guitar. But over the past several months, I’ve slowly gotten that range of motion back. It still hurts to twist my wrist for long periods of time, so practice sessions are still short. I’m also horribly out of practice. It will give me something new to work on.

5. This is just a really cute picture. 

My Baby Bear sleeping with his bear. I love when he smiles in his sleep <3

6. Hamburgers are the official food of chemo.

My food sensitivity was particularly bad after my last chemo. Even toast and almond butter sounded gross. But hamburgers ALWAYS sound good. I could eat hamburgers for Canada by now. For you Moncton folk, the above comes from Bridges in Riverview. Come to the dark side, come to Albert County for your burgers.

7. TODAY IS MY LAST CHEMO.

Maybe. I still haven’t had a PET scan to see if there’s any active cancer left. It’s just the last chemo on my original treatment plan. But I’m elated to think this may be the last time I have to go through this. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?

8. I’m lucky in some ways. 

Because I kept my eyelashes and eyebrows. Sorry for the creepy eye shot. Both have definitely thinned, but both were thick to begin with. Volume mascara and a little eyebrow pencil make me look normal. It would be so cool if this was my last chemo and I got away with keeping my eyelashes and eyebrows.

The hair on my head is already a goner though.

9. I’m going to get better!

As in, getting better is not such a long term thing any more. If today is indeed my last chemo, then my recovery time will just go on and on until I feel like my “normal” self again. No more chemo sessions to bring me down again. I know that is a simplistic and obvious notion, but at this point it kind of blows my mind.

I foresee more sessions on my recumbent bike, more weight training, outdoor activities, and yoga!

I still won’t ever be able to do downward dog because of my bum arm though. I’ll leave that to Buster.

10. Santa tried to throttle my dog.

Yes, I realize getting my dog to pose with Santa has me edging closer to the crazy dog lady line – but I couldn’t help myself! I thought it would be so cute and not very harmful. Except, somehow my Santa shot looks like Santa is pulling a Homer Simpson on my Bart Simpson. “Why you little…!!”

I tried to take some cute Chrismassy photos of my little bear at home, but he was playing aloof.

And with that, I am off! “The Great Balancing Act” is on official Christmas holidays, to return sometime next week. Besides recovering from what may be my LAST chemo, I’ve got out-of-town family to see, cookies to eat, gifts to wrap and unwrap, and a puppydog to keep out of the poinsettias. Have a great holiday!! xoxo

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