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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

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!

The One About The Hair

Of all the things I expected to get upset over during this whole cancer thing, losing my hair was actually fairly low on the list.

I’ve already declared my excitement to wear cool spy wigs, but I haven’t really talked much about the hair thing since The Shedding began.

First, let me make it clear that losing my hair was a lot more traumatizing than I ever expected it to be. I have never been attached to my hair, having it every cut and colour under the sun. I was more worried about losing my appetite than my hair (as if my appetite would ever go away, ha).

But there are really no words to describe the feelings that come with that first clump of hair in your hands. In some ways I was happy because it showed the chemo was working. In others it was a punch in the face of “Holyhellthisisreallyhappening.”

There are two ways most women deal with losing their hair on chemo. Some will jump the gun and shave it all off before any more has a chance to fall out. It’s a way to avoid having to pull out clumps or find strands all over the place, and a nice little “eff you” to cancer and chemo.

Another way to deal with it is by massaging the hair out. Working the fingers through the scalp to push the hair out, pulling out as much as they can. This is a lot more natural way to do it, but again, still not a good time.

I got all kinds of recommendations on what to do about the hair situation. Some said shave it right away, others said cut it really short. Even though I waited a month to start chemotherapy, I still felt really unprepared when the first day came. I was overwhelmed by all the suggestions, so I ended up doing nothing about it. I cut my long hair to chin length and left it at that.

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Turns out, leaving my hair as is was the best non-decision I’ve made throughout this whole thing.

I was told that my hair could be gone in a matter of days when it first started falling out six weeks ago. I couldn’t bring myself to shave it all off, nor could I let myself pull it all out at once. So I just let my hair do it’s thing, picking strands off my shirts and out of my food the whole way along.

My hair is quite thin now. My bangs are slowly disappearing in the front and I’m always concerned a small breeze will expose the pink skin under the thin layer of hair. But still not bad enough to make people stare. Choosing to just let it be gave me six extra weeks with my hair I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Pulling strands of my own hair out every day is actually really scary. It’s upsetting. It’s annoying as hell. But I think it’s also given me the time to come to terms with what is happening rather than trying to put an end to it. It’s turned into a time where I say goodbye to my old self a little bit each day. And it’s helped me say hellloooo to the new blonde in town.
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Now I just need a trenchcoat to go with my spy wig.

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