Sunday, November 28, 2010

Rider Fans in Nanaimo

Uncle Norman: "We tried".
Dave: "We tried ... twice".
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Woulda Coulda Shoulda

Well, that game was a bit of a bummer! I so wanted our Riders to win, especially after what was an especially heart-breaking defeat last year. Next year. *sigh* We watched the game tonight with Coco, who you see here focussed on the game, and Rex and Erin, of course. We were grateful to be invited to watch the game because our house is in rough shape.

Mostly this weekend we painted. And, no, we're not done yet. Unless you have an old house with old-style trim, you might not appreciate how much work is involved but with trim around 7 doors and 2 windows and 5 paneled doors and stairs, including all the spindles while being careful not to get paint on the wooden steps and banister ... well ... diddly and time consuming. It is looking really good, though, so I'm very happy. Just know we'll be working on this for the next couple of weeks yet. We ran out of trim paint today, otherwise we might have finished painting the trim. We still have about 4 or 5 hours of trim to do, the inside of the closet, and some more carpentry and painting work on the stairs ... some touch up ... and then we can clean up the rest of the house, which is looking rather uninhabitable right now. Christmas is coming on waaayyyy too fast for me!! How I wish I could be more like Lyn who most certainly has all of her gifts not just purchased and/or made but also beautifully wrapped ... and all of her baking done and in the freezer, too. I accept that I will never be so prepared.

Friday night Kevin and I saw both Mikael and Alexa perform in the Sound of Music, the Evan Hardy school musical. It was very well done and, of course, Mikael and Alexa were stars!

With the warmer weather we've had the past few days, the snow in the trees has half-melted in such a way that they look like "snowball trees". Why make snowballs when you can just pick them from snowball trees?

Now I'll go pack my Rider hoodie away until next year.

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Rider FanDom

I told you my Uncle Norm in Nanaimo is a CRAZY Rider Fan ... who must be crying in his green beer right about now ... like the rest of us ... WAHHHHHH!!!

Click on the photo at the bottom to see it larger and read what that "S" is all about. Very cool.

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My Uncle Norm in Nanaimo has been a HUGE Rider fan all his life. My cousin, Dave, sent us this photo that he took of some bald eagles and Uncle Norm prompty dressed one of them.

Oh, the fun we have being Rider fans. You don't even have to like football to enjoy being part of Rider Nation.
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Laugh Break from Painting Trim

This has nothing to do with our Riders but since I laughed out loud more than once during this silly little video, I had to share it. GO RIDERS!!


Thursday, November 25, 2010

It's Me! Cancer-Free!!

Thanks again for the many emails and messages! I feel like a debutante! I think I need a gown! If I could get into one of my bridesmaids dresses from years gone by, I would wear it around the house ... with a tiara!

I know it's silly to feel so elated when really nothing is any different. It's not like I had a new test done that confirmed anything new. It was just hearing ... from an Oncologist ... those words that have been so longed for ... CANCER-FREE! The psychological impact is significant. It was Lesley who reminded me in an email about the title of my blog ... I'm Here. Might As Well Win. For the first time, I feel kind of like I have won! I? WE! We've won! There's no I in team, after all and I've sure needed my faithful team to get this far. Thanks so much, team! Isn't this when we go for a beer after the game? I'll have to get on that.

Here's a ridiculous sign of suddenly feeling more normal. When I got groceries on Tuesday night, I bought deoderant. "Say, WHAT?" you might be thinking! "You mean you haven't been using deoderant?" Well, no I haven't. It's just not done after surgery in that general area, of course. And then there was chemo. And then radiation ... a no deoderant zone. Because the chemo and drug-induced hot flashes have made me so sweaty and, subsequently, stinky (oh, the things I confess - I really have no dignity), at some point I did buy some natural deoderant product but it felt awful. Having lost the "pit" part of my armpit (it's quite filled in on my left side now even though, having lost a couple of nodes from there, you would think I'd have more rather than less "pit"), and with the stickiness of the deoderant, my clothes stuck to it. Very irritating. And then it was too hard to wash off. That was the end of deoderant for me. And then there's another factor. As I understand it, it's not uncommon after a cancer diagnosis to be afraid of all kinds of commercial products ... and rightly so in many cases ... and for that reason, too, I was afraid of deoderant. So on Tuesday ... after being told I was "normal" (HA!! Save the jokes!) ... I sought out real deoderant while I was grocery shopping. I looked for one that might glide on easily. Even though I have to put it on with a very gentle touch and it does hurt a little, it does work and it helps me feel more normal and less odourous! It's a good thing. The people near me will surely agree! I might not feel normal yet but I feel like ... just maybe ... I'm slowly approaching someone more like myself. The next thing is to make a hair appointment and see if Van has any hair magic for me up his sleeve! I'd best not get my hopes up but just maybe he can shape this ball of fuzz a little. Between this psychological lift I've been gifted with and a weekend with naturally gifted in the hair department Carol, I'm feeling somewhat hopeful that perhaps my hair can be made to look slightly less crazy. Of course, I'll report here when that happens.

As you can see, I've been playing with the acorn caps Lisa sent me. Hers is the white one. My photo doesn't do it justice ... it's perfect. Lisa is obviously very skilled. The copper top is very pretty, too. The wool being white, it really reflected the light. I need to take a photo of it in natural light.

Before I can really make woolly acorns, though, we have to finish our hallway project. The floor refinishers didn't come today to do the second coat ... we're not sure why ... but we're hoping they come tomorrow so we can start painting the baseboards and fix the stair risers.

Now me and my cancer-free body are going to bed. ****BIG GRIN****
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wow! Thanks so much, team! I've been a little awed by the emails and messages congratulating me on my "cancer-free" designation! I'm always surprised to know friends and family are still reading the drivel I write here. I have such a great team!!!

Today I'm exhausted. Especially tonight. Crying and feeling all emotional is very tiring. Unfortunately, I can't go to bed yet. Our stairs were sanded this morning and the first coat of Varathane went on this afternoon. We were told not to walk on it until after 11:00. My jammies are up there ... and my cozy bed! I could nap on the couch but that's not my style.

Thanks, everyone, for sharing my joy. High-5's all round! Chest bumps ... well, maybe not ...! Woot! Woot! Yeehawww ... I feel like I should be spraying champagne at all of you!!
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Day Filled With Kindness

A lot of nice things happened to me today. Let me count the ways in no particular order ...

1. My Oncologist.

This is the 2nd time I've met with him. He practiced for several years in the UK before coming here in September. There's something about him that makes you feel that he's "in the moment". He's present. And you are not just another number in the queue. When he looks at me, I feel like he sees me. I'm sure most people have experienced "feeling like a number" so you know what I mean when I say he made me feel like a living, breathing, human being. I'm not at all suggesting that my previous oncologists have been anything less than kind, but this oncologist is exceptional in that department, I think.

I asked him about some of the side effects I'm experiencing ... old ones and some new ones. I happily told him that my joints, while not 100%, have improved greatly. I asked him about the fatigue I still feel. I had expected that I would mostly be over that ... it being a year since my last chemo ... but he says that many people are tired longer and that the Tamoxifen can contribute to feeling wasted, too. I told him that I can't tell anymore what is a lingering side effect of treatment and what is from the Tamoxifen. He paused and looked at me ... really looked at me ... with warmth, kindness, and understanding in his eyes ... and said something like, "You should know that you don't have cancer anymore. You are normal ... like me ... like anybody. You are cancer-free. Everything troublesome that you feel now is just from what you need to do to prevent cancer from recurring, but you are cancer-free and you will feel better". Cancer-free. He said I was CANCER-FREE!! I WILL feel better. I WILL! So what did I do? I wept copiously, of course. When I could finally get some words out, I said to him, "Nobody has ever told me that". The kind and knowing look on his face also sent me a little over the edge, too. Kindness. It's so powerful. I've had so much but it never fails to move me. He either knew from experience or he had an intuitive sense that these were words I needed to hear. I didn't know I needed to hear them until I did and then such a heaviness left me that all I could do was cry.

Previously, when I had asked how I would know if the treatments were working, I was told, "You won't. You'll only know if the cancer doesn't come back". I've been mostly warned to be vigilant. I understand that this remains true but to hear from an oncologist that I am, for now, cancer-free is such a gift. It doesn't really change anything ... on the other hand, it somehow has brought on what feels like a monumental shift in my thinking and feeling. Monumental. I've been feeling the impact of it all day and have been leaking tears off and on all day, too.

2. Lisa of Lil Fish Studios.

I got home to find a package for me on our doorstep. It was the acorns from Lisa of Lil Fish Studios! I had an email from her recently so I knew they would be arriving soon. As you might recall, Lisa had noticed (via technology) that I had posted a link to her Flickr photo stream for her creations and she volunteered to send me some acorns from her woods to play with, which was so very sweet of her! And here they are! See the photo at the top of this post. See how beautifully they're packaged? I was expecting some acorns in a box, which would have been plenty thrilling enough but I was wide-eyed tickled to bits to find her little note ("Have fun! -- Lisa") and the acorn caps packaged in a little handmade drawstring bag and one of her own perfect woolly acorns -- one with a coppered top ... AND one of the little felted mushrooms I've so admired, too! I already fitted some of the little felted balls into the caps and they look very cute! Some of the caps are very tiny and they're going to look adorable with teeny felted acorns in them. I can't wait to get at it! Thanks, Lisa, for your extraordinary kindness.

3. Sylvia.

Also on our doorstep when we got home after work was a meal from Sylvia! A hearty, warming stew and mashed potatoes! It hit the spot and allowed us the time to get some things done. I got groceries tonight ... finally! And Kevin met with Bob Patterson who gave us an estimate for refinishing our stairs and ... ACK!!! ... he's starting tomorrow morning!! It's the only gap in his schedule until the middle of December so we didn't hesitate on giving him the go ahead. So Kevin is doing some baseboard prep tonight. Thanks, Syl, for the nice meal. That was so kind and thoughtful of you. And so helpful.

4. Kevin.

Kevin very kindly drove me to my medical appointment this morning so I wouldn't have to walk the equivalent of 6 blocks from my parking spot to the Cancer Centre, which is the building next door to where I work. And then he picked me up. And when we got home he gave me a great big hug. And I cried.

5. The Nurse Who Poked Me.

I can't attribute this to kindness ... probably just luck combined with skill ... but when she took my blood, she hit a vein the first time. This meant only one poke! It didn't even hurt. Usually when they do hit a vein, it hurts and my blood drips out so slowly that it hurts for quite a while and then leaves a nasty bruise. This time ... one easy, painless poke and no bruise. Very quick and over with.

6. My Colleagues, Friends, and Family

The people I work with are such a pleasure to spend time with. They didn't know how emotional I was feeling all day ... I knew I couldn't say anything without blubbering - a lot. But feeling the way I was and having the security of such a warm and safe environment is very comforting. And, of course, friends and family. I feel them even when I don't hear them. I'm blessed to have so many kind, caring, thoughtful people in my life. Thanks, everyone!

It would have been Dad's birthday on Saturday.

And now ... me and my cancer-free self had better finish putting the groceries away. I had to take a "hot-flash break".
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Monday, November 22, 2010

One Giant Pasanka!

Carol and I went on a shopping adventure this weekend to Edmonton. I hadn't actually shopped at the West Edmonton Mall since we last took the kids to the Water Park there ... and that was a long time ago! I've never gone one a "shopping trip" and shopping is all we did while we were there. That and pretty much falling into bed on Saturday night. It was great! I think I was so overwhelmed with all the shops and all the things to see that I didn't actually buy very much but that's okay ... I was very happy to just see stuff. I did get a few Christmas gifts and a hat for myself. I loved the Anthropolgie store and enjoyed looking in other shops we don't have here. I had forgotten how big that place is! And I was amazed at how packed with people it was.

As you can see, we stopped in Vegreville on the way there for petrol and snacks and, since we were in the neighbourhood, we stopped to marvel at the giant pasanka!!

We listened to the Rider game on the way home yesterday! How exciting!!! Grey cup!! Again!!!

I am bone tired today. All the shopping has caught up with me. My hips are feeling a little seized up and my other joints are a little crunchy, too. I think that's just because I'm so tired. Being tired seems to have an effect on my joints for some reason.

Tomorrow morning I see my oncologist. The main thing I want to ask him about this time is leg cramping. I've never really had problems with leg cramps but it's happening quite often now and usually in the middle of the night. Usually my calves or feet but this last time the cramping was on the side of my leg above my outside ankle but below my knee. Leg cramps is a possible side effect of Tamoxifen, so I just want to find out if I can expect it to get worse or better and whether it can be a pre-cursor to blood clots, which are also a possible side effect of Tamoxifen. I wonder if there's something I can do to prevent them.
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Thursday, November 18, 2010


It took me 50 minutes to get home from work today. It took half an hour just to get off campus. The snow is pretty and I would quite like it if I only didn't have to go out in it. I would prefer that the going out in it part was optional. It's the kind of weather that should be a snow day.

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Colour Correction

Really, the golden yellow was lovely. I really liked it. It just wasn't right for our house and our stuff. So we explored a couple of other "golden" shades. This time, though, we brought home little sample cans and we both preferred the shade that would have been our last choice. And it IS the right colour. It's obvious now that it's on the wall. It suits our house and our stuff. We both really like it.

I'm sorry for the emails I haven't returned and the phone calls I haven't made. We've both started painting as soon as we get home from work for the past couple of days. And that's all there's been time for. I have a busy weekend planned. And if I end up storm-stayed and not able to do the things I've planned, I'll still be busy because with all the focus on painting, the rest of our house is a disaster. And even though the wall painting is done, what will be even more work is all the trim that has yet to be done. I remind you that we have 7 doors and 2 windows (all wood framed), a stair with spindles and lots of edges and angles, not to mention old, wide baseboards. Much yet to be done but it will sure be worth it! It looks SO MUCH better!

I haven't fessed up recently about my weight loss program. It's a "good news bad news" story ... depending on how you look at it. The bad news is that not only have I not lost any more weight, but I've gained 1 pound back making my total loss only 10 pounds so far. The good news is that I've only gained 1 pound back and that I've lost 10 pounds so far! I'm hoping that my fat cells have become complacent and have adapted to their new economy so that I can sneak attack them again next week.

My exercise program is off the rails, too. Before the painting business, I was finding myself just too tired to fit it into my day. Bone tired. I have trouble getting through a day of work and the other things I need to do during a normal day let alone through exercise into the day. That said, all this painting has been a form of exercise. I spent a lot of time getting up and down off the floor, reaching and stretching, running up and down the stairs. I am feeling physically stronger and my shoulders are very slowly gaining a bit more flexibility. That's encouraging. Like I said, though, this focus on painting means our house is a shambles! And I am very, very, VERY tired. I should NOT be planning on getting out of town this weekend but I am. The mess will wait. Fun won't. I hope the weather co-operates.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Paint Trial and Error

How I wish we didn't need to do a second coat! I am not at all comfortable with Kevin being up at the top of ladders that are standing at the top of the stairs. My placing a protective hand on his butt really isn't going to do much good if he ends up falling. Occupational Health and Safety would not approve!!

So we got one coat of yellow paint up. What a lot of cutting! We've decided the yellow gold is too yellow. It does look beautiful and I really do like it but it doesn't coordinate with our other more "old world" style of paint colours. We need to tone it down to a brownier gold. We've now agreed that the second coat will be a different colour. We'll try and start that tonight. Exciting!

So, if anyone out there is interested in a very good deal in a whole gallon of top of the line Benjamin Moore paint in a custom golden yellow colour, please call us asap! If you hurry, you can even come by and see what it looks like on the wall to help you decide if it's really the colour for you. The colour was matched to Martha Stewart's "Cornmeal". Here's a link to that colour, which looks like a sunshiny yellow on our walls - not as pale or gold-toned as the chip would suggest. Nonetheless, very pretty and if it matched better with our other paint colours, I'd be very happy to keep it as is. It's very cheery and that works for me.

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How To Optimize Your Breast Cancer Diet - Food for Breast Cancer

I find this article with links very helpful. I don't know how much there is to all the diet changes one should make to prevent, suppress or manage cancer and cancer treatments but, nonetheless, I think there's something to it and it certainly is good for anyone to eat more nutritiously and to give one's immune system the best possible chance to fight bad cells and other illnesses. This article provides simple lists of food to include and exclude from one's diet tailored to the specific sub-type of breast cancer one's dealing with. While it isn't a cure ... it makes me feel like I'm doing something to help myself. The explanations provided are interesting, too.
How To Optimize Your Breast Cancer Diet - Food for Breast Cancer: "While a diet emphasizing vegetables and fruit and de-emphasizing alcohol, red meat and omega-3 fats may reduce the likelihood of breast cancer or recurrence compared to the typical U.S. diet, simply following these rules will not maximize the chemopreventive potential of your diet. Tailoring your diet to your individual circumstances and breast cancer subtype will increase the diet's potential benefits. This web page is designed to enable you to customize your diet using the information in the Food for Breast Cancer web site. The overall goal is to bathe your normal cells with nutrients that promote healthy growth and cell division. Any new breast cancer cells that do arise are to find themselves in an environment that promotes their death and inhibits their proliferation and migration."


Friday, November 12, 2010

Finally! An Engagement in Our Family!

No ... not Hannah or Luke! JOSH and NOELENE!! Josh is the first of "the cousins" to get engaged. We won't say he's the first to get married because there's still time for someone to scoop him, if they want.

Anyway, this is the news I was hinting at a couple of days ago when I first heard about it! I got the go-ahead from Noelene today to announce it to the world, so here it is world. Listen up!

As I understand it, they got engaged when they were in Japan from whence they've just returned having visited one of Noelene's sisters there. Noelene's family is from South Africa and their family is scattered all over the world. A sister in Japan, one in France, and Noelene in Yellowknife where she's a pilot, like Josh. I look forward to hearing the engagement story and seeing the ring. We are SO happy for Josh and Noelene and SO glad to have Noelene in our family.

The Uncles immediately went into "bachelor party in Vegas" planning mode and you can bet that if they go that route, it won't be just a "bachelor party", it will be an "engagement party" because we are not about to be left behind. And Kevin's already talking about wedding plans ... as if he's involved in all of that. "Hold your horses," I told him, "We don't even know yet if we're invited. Maybe they're going to get married in South Africa or somehere else in the world where we won't be going." Regardless, we look forward to hearing all about the plans!

Congratulations, Josh and Noelene!
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I Love This Tree Photo

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More Pretty November ...

... outside the Education building on campus.
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21 Years Later ...

... we (that would mostly the the "Royal WE") are painting our entry way and hall, including up the stairs and the upstairs hall as well! It hasn't been painted since before we bought this house 21 years ago! It's been a boring off-white the whole time. We had been reluctant to invest time and money into painting it until we did a little structural work. We finally did that and now we can paint. Kevin has spent two days crack-filling, caulking, sanding and TSP-ing. Tomorrow he's going to paint ceilings and then we'll do walls. All the trim ... including the doors upstairs, all the baseboards and the stairs will take a while. The stair rail needs to be refinished and the wood on the stairs needs some work. It's a big project but Kevin is making real progress and I'm excited beyond words. I haven't been very involved in the prep work this time ... and with old lathe and plaster walls, believe me, there's a lot of that to be done ... but I'll be spending most of my weekend with a paint brush in hand.

We've been deliberating over paint colours and have settled on a gold colour that will, we think, complement the red of our dining room and the olive branch green of our living room. There will be lots of white, too, so I'm expecting that it won't look too dark.

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Pretty November

I thought the trees were quite pretty today so I snapped some pictures while walking from the parking lot to my office this morning. With the fog, the sky made a real blank background.

I have to say I feel a little under the weather today. Actually, I haven't been feeling up to snuff for the past week. I found each work day a struggle this past week and really feel like I need some down time. I don't just feel tired ... though I'm that, too ... but I feel "brain tired". And when I feel like this, I really struggle with my mind. It just doesn't work so good. I forget things ... I know, everyone else is forgetting things, too ... but believe me, this is a whole new level of memory issues. Today I had a meeting and I really struggled trying to communicate ... to pull the right words out of my mind to get my point across. I'm afraid I sounded a little "unprofessional". That bothers me. It really bothers me to lose words that used to come to me so easily. I notice it's worse when I'm tired, but I also feel that in general my memory is gradually worsening instead of getting better as I exected it would after chemo was done. I see that Tamoxifen can cause cognitive and memory problems so I wonder if that isn't the source of my brain issues. Maybe it gets worse the longer I'm on Tamoxifen? I don't know. I've read some women reporting that they thought they were sailing through Tamoxifen without any real side effects at all, only to find them developing even after being on the drug two or three years. So maybe it's possible that the Tamoxifen is causing me increasing mental grief. Anyway ... my brain needs a holiday. A holiday from trying to communicate. A holiday from being an embarassment!

Sadly, I missed my splurge club tonight. I just couldn't muster the energy even though I really wanted to see my splurge buddies. I had a feeling that even if I dragged myself there, I would end up sitting there without being able to focus my mind. You know that feeling when you're tired and/or have had perhaps one drink too many and you're in a noisy place and you know it's time to go home because you're unable to filter out all the other conversations going on in the place and can't focus on any one conversation? You just hear a jumble of words ... all those conversations at once? That's how I get when I'm tired and when my brain is tired, too. That would have been me tonight. A little waste of space. Or a little wasted in space. Either way suits.

Time to rest my brain.

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