Peace Campaign

Alex & Ani bracelets:  Embrace the Power of Positivity Lotus Peace Petals (Illumination/Beauty/Resilience + OM (Creation/Oneness/Truth

Alex & Ani bracelets:
Embrace the Power of Positivity
Lotus Peace Petals (Illumination/Beauty/Resilience + OM (Creation/Oneness/Truth

Stress Kills.

Cancer Kills.

No one ever knows what will trigger our bodies to turn against themselves, and when it might happen. Clearly there are a multitude of approaches which could be taken to battle cancer, one of which is: wait and see. Watch and wait for symptoms.

Radiation has been done. Fatigue will definitely be a side effect (wow, has that one caught me by surprise), as we await signs of whether the radiation treatment takes effect. In that, it means that the tumours in my spine which have metastasized start to shrink and allow me to have some mobility back. I AM seeing some movement in my right leg – which has been fun and encouraging to watch!

Regarding the fatigue thing, one minute I will be sitting there eating a meal, visiting or trying to write a blog such as this one, and the next minute my head will lay down slightly on the pillow and I just can’t seem able to open my mouth long enough to say two words and I ‘crash’. I find these moments really overwhelming and scary, as I can’t comprehend how this body could have possibly been playing hard-core beach volleyball in the sands of Panama, directly in front of Bahia Resort where I was living in bliss just one month ago!!

This body that used to work so hard at finding the perfect places for expats such as myself to simply relocate for a more conducive lifestyle which is more suitable  to their dreams, live out their retirement, relocate their families, escape the cold winters, the taxes etc. to which they were growing less and less content with, or to simply try out a ‘different place to live’ than where they grew up, which is no longer wanting to function for them. I truly loved what I did. However, now I lay here, wondering if I will ever walk again, whether I will live to see the next month – or six. Will I see my next birthday or Christmas? My children get married? A grandchild be born?

Never will I blame any of the source or direction of my cancer as having been rooted from any one thing in particular, as one will NEVER know. After all, I thought I was at the peak of optimal physical health physical health just over a year ago: living on the beach, feeding my body only the best nutrients, in top muscular condition, etc.

What I AM saying however, is that there had been mounting stress when there should have been peace. Thus, what I’m pleading for with this blog post is a Peace Campaign. What do I mean by Peace Campaign? An effort to:

  • Embrace the Power of Positivity, as inspired by the charms in the image above;
  • Embody the Grace that the Lotus flower exudes and represents;
  • Stop and take time to tune into your inner self;
  • Spread JOY!

Let it inspire you to spread peace WHEREVER you are :-).

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“It is Time to embrace what is….and let go of what you wanted to happen.”

 Since arriving back in Canada on Sunday, May 17th, 2015, my life has done a complete about- face. After having an array of chest x-rays, full body CT Scans, full body MRIs and Brain MRIs, the conclusion is this: The BIG C is back in FULL FORCE.

On May 20th, a year to the day that I had my double mastectomy, I was informed that my Triple Negative Breast Cancer has returned to my lungs, core lymph nodes and my spinal cord in the form of Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis. This type of Metastases can also be read about further here under Leptomeningeal Metastases. Essentially my ‘life sentence’ is 4 – 7 months, depending on my individual circumstances and how I respond to treatment.

I am currently receiving radiation treatments on my spine, as I have no movement in my legs whatsoever. My current preferred mode of transportation is the Green Stork (as shown above), as it moves me rather painlessly from bed to bed (in the above case it was positioning me for my full body MRI. Their hope with radiation and large amounts of steroids is to restore some movement in my legs and lower body by reducing the size and growth rate of the tumors in my spine. They have offered chemo, but admit it will not do much except to perhaps prolong things, with no change in prognosis.

Of course with this new lifestyle has brought new fashion accessories such as diapers, bedpans, styling pyjamas and other core accessories such as warm socks, new jewellery cuffs bearing my name and date of birth for frequent reference and a further need for simplifying.

This is about all I have the energy remaining to write today, but wanted to let all my friends near and far know why I have suddenly gone so ‘quiet’ on Facebook and why the emotions behind my posts have changed direction somewhat. I will endeavour to describe my upcoming path in more eloquent detail moving forward or when I get my next burst of ‘energy’.

If you want to participate in WhatsApp updates via Cat Mandell, please let her or I know so that we can add you onto the list.

Love to you all and I thank you all for your prayers of support and love. As this news slowly spreads I can already feel the power of prayer, love and support that surrounds me, my husband, children, family and loved ones and we are embracing it with immense gratitude. 🙏🏻 Blessings!

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From a Pinched Sciatica in Panama to Peterborough – A Surprise Journey

2015-05-02 17.33.59After having just returned to Peterborough and receiving a ‘clean bill of health’ from my oncologist since starting my C Journey almost one year ago, to scheduling my reconstruction surgery, to returning to Panama – life seemed like I had extended it’s arm once again to the next chapter. Back to the beaches to welcome in our new Tiki Bar at Bahia – with my 18-year old daughter along to visit for the month, reconnect and get to know and realize what I love so much about Panama.

After only a few days back, I began having all the signs of a pinched sciatica. It was everything I could do to make it down to the inauguration of the long-awaited Tiki Bar, pose for a photo or two, take in the tremendous waves we were experiencing at the time and crawl back up into my bed.

I went to our trusted Dr. Levy, who introduced me to his orthopaedic specialist and nurse who confirmed I had all the classic signs of a pinched sciatica – except it wasn’t going away. They even paid me a house call when they learned I just could not get out of bed to pay them a visit. When I fell trying to get to the bathroom, it was because I had no feeling in either leg. An ambulance was called and they soon discovered that an ambulance gurney would not fit in the elevator of the condo. I was strapped to a flat board , tipped and carried on this down the elevator (practically choking) until reaching the ground floor. I remained on that flat board, strapped to the gurney from that point, until I reached San Fernando Medical Center. There I was x-rayed and it was confirmed I did not break any bones and indeed had a pinched sciatica. I was sent home via wheelchair and a friend’s back seat – with more pain meds.

After a few days too long in bed, the decision became clear that I needed to get my butt back to Canada to my loving and very worried husband, family and medical team. Linda Tabakman stepped in as my Guardian Angel, working with me to stabilize my meds enough to get on a plane. Judi Campagna organized flights to get my daughter and herself on a flight with her – accompanied via wheelchairs, etc. I was literally ‘carried’ back to Canada and greeted by my husband, and escorted to my local hospital and Cancer Care team by the next morning. This is when Stage 2 of this almighty journey took a turn to the worst – one which none of us ever expected.

Read on to Part 2….”It is Time to embrace what is….and let go of what you wanted to happen.”

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Mud Puddle Brain

IMG_2022

It is an interesting combination when you take ‘chemo brain’ and add ‘mental pause’. To me, this results in ‘mud puddle brain‘. This would adequately describe my brain over the past couple of months.

When I first returned to Panama and tried to get back into the swing of things, I found my brain (and myself) ‘spinning’. It was like I was overwhelmed and did not have a clue where to start. I felt like a kid who had to be told each step in a logical fashion – over and over. Very frustrating and exasperating to say the least. The experience reminds me very much of when I used to be a psychometrist and test people’s head injuries and learning disabilities. The clients would often break down in frustration, as they were typically very aware of what they ‘used to be able to do’ better, or of things they find very difficult to do. This is where I find myself.

I ask the same questions, over and over as if they are new questions. Those around me patiently give me the same answer they did the first, second and third time I asked. I constantly worry about forgetting things, so I write as much down in my little red book – which travels with me everywhere I go. Most of the notes in it are legible, but some seem to just blend in with others and seem to disappear. As a result, I’ve begun to highlight and colour code, etc. so that the important ones will stand out. The most challenging at this point is remembering data while I’m showing properties to clients. Rhyming off property sizes, etc. off the top of my head is just not there. I must come fully prepared at all times with my little red book! I thought my memory was weak before, but wowzee, this one has knocked my self-confidence for a loop!

As with each step of this C adventure, mud puddle brain has brought upon self-reflection and the need for me to be more patient with myself. The girl inside me wants and expects everything to be just the way it was before C was realized, but I understand that is just not possible. My promise to myself is to set aside more time for me. Being back in Panama cannot just be about working, it must be about taking the time to relax, work on taking deep breaths and inhaling life. While I miss all the social events I used to attend, I find them very energetically draining now. I love people and love being around others, yet I know it is important to spend quiet time.

Thus, the journey continues, one lesson at a time. Mud puddle brain appears to be clearing, but I clearly have a long way to go towards ‘normality’. My goal is to learn more about yoga and utilize this knowledge to enhance my health as well as my brain. Each day now ends with deep breaths, guided meditation and some time without a screen in front of my face :-).

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I’m Baaaaack :-)!

IMG_4033It is now January 16th and the past month seems like it has been a blur. Between my birthday celebration, preparing for Christmas, children visiting, Christmas itself and then heading back it Panama, it has been a bit of a whirlwind since my chemo treatments ended late September. As I reflect upon the past year, it has been quite a journey.

It has been a very difficult year in many ways, but also a tremendous year of personal growth. The C journey has brought me closer than ever with my family, husband and children. It has taught us all that the little petty things in life are not important – peace and happiness are at the forefront.

As someone who has struggled with depression what seems like my whole life, I found myself having to make a choice. Did I want to continue in this life? Did I want to endure the pain and agony of surgery, chemo, etc. and continue? The answer from my heart and soul was a resounding YES! With this heartfelt decision, I endeavoured to take as much of the negative as I could out of my struggle with breast cancer and tried my best to make it as positive as possible. Was it difficult? YES – it was. As someone who is often described by others as being strong, it is important for others to understand that it is often the ones who appear the strongest who are the ones who bottle everything up inside and only present ‘the best’. I am guilty as charged.

Influenced by a good friend of mine, I created a gratitude journal at the beginning of my ‘journey’, which I diligently wrote in, every day, during my treatment. I also journaled daily. Both of these processes were difficult on many days, as some days there didn’t appear to be a lot to be grateful for. However, it was enlightening to say the least, as I always did find something positive to say – even on my most difficult days.

My husband was my main pillar of strength throughout, helping me ‘put one foot in front of the other’ on the days when I thought I just couldn’t. He encouranged me and promised that each day would get better – even on the days when I found that I was at the ‘end of my tolerance rope’ of pain and suffering. My amazing and loving parents, children and friends were also a tremendous source of strength and inspiration to me, telling me how proud they constantly were of me. The beaches community of Panama (lead by none other than Cat Mandell and Rachel Kern) kept my buoyant as I cried many tears of happiness over how truly loved I felt, even across the thousands of miles which separated us. I was truly overwhelmed by the amount of positive support that surrounded me throughout those difficult months. I have always known I had many friends, but I have finally come to realize just how loved I am by so many people – all over the world.

I am now back in Panama and loving being warm again. I’ve been embraced by everyone I’ve been in contact with so far, with big hugs, love and sentiments admiration that often bring me to tears. My new, short hair ‘style’ has received rave reviews! It is low and easy maintenance, with no comb required – just a little organic coconut oil to help it curl and flip and do its thing. It doesn’t get messy in the summer winds and is wonderfully cool :-).

Low stress, love and happiness are in the forefront as I learn to balance my body’s needs and tolerance levels with the activities I love and cherish here in the land of sunshine. I’m looking forward to my husband’s visit in a few week so that he can be re-introduced to the wonders of Panama.

Blessings to you all! XO

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Popcorn Hormones

IMG_1403I realize that it has been over a month since my last post, so figured I had better update everyone on my progress :-).

Ten and a half weeks post chemo and I now have a layer of hair :-). I have grown weary of wearing my wig, so now just throw a hat on before I go out in order to stay warm in this wonderfully cold country called Canada. I have real eyebrows again and my lashes have almost fully returned – yay! It is amazing how ‘naked’ a person can feel without brows and lashes. As trivial as it sounds after everything I’ve gone through, I really did not like that part.

I’m back to the gym and getting stronger every day, averaging 5-6 km on the treadmill each time I go. I do look forward to getting back to my beach walks in the mornings, rather than bundling up to go to the gym!

corn-popperIt’s like the fog has lifted in the last month or so and my brain has gradually come alive again. I’m beginning to retrieve things from my memory that would have been impossible a couple of months ago – thus progress is being made in wading out of the chemo brain puddle. With the fog lifting however, has come the emotional roller-coaster that goes along with medically induced menopause. My hormones feel like they are in a ‘corn popper’ toy, rising and falling without warning. I just keep reminding myself of the blissfulness of living in the moment, letting things roll off my back so to speak and staying positive.

As far as what lies ahead, my return flight to Panama is booked for December 29th. I look forward to physically getting back to work at My Panama Real Estate, seeing all of my Panama friends and making new ones! I will need to learn how to pace myself in order to protect my health and stay on the path of being cancer-free.

Both of my daughters will be home for Christmas, which makes me very happy indeed! I am looking forward to spending the holidays with family and friends and giving thanks for all of the love and support I have received this year – particularly during my chemo days. It is a year that I will be happy to bring to an end, yet I feel that the personal growth I have achieved over the past few months has brought many things into perspective.

April will bring me back to Canada for a check-in with my oncologist, as well as consultations with a couple of surgeons for breast reconstruction. A surgery date will depend on which surgeon I choose and their OR schedule, so that part is somewhat up in the air. I understand that everything is in ‘divine order’ and I will go with the flow.

As we enter the Christmas season, my wish for you all is that you have peace and happiness within. You have all been such a blessing to me, lifting my spirits during those challenging days of chemo and I will be forever grateful!

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Life After Chemo….

2014-10-30 13.02.01Getting back to ‘life’ in general after chemo does present some challenges. It’s funny, because one might think that after you’ve received your last dose of poison that it is all about getting back to ‘normal’. However, it isn’t quite like that. Life after chemo carries it’s own challenges and lessons.

Almost 4 weeks after my last chemo treatment (which was September 19th, 2014) is when my eyelashes decided they would indeed, depart. It is so disheartening, as you think it’s all behind you, but it’s like this nasty little trick your body plays on you after the fact! Not funny :-(. Now 6 weeks post chemo, I think I have about 5 lashes left in total. YES, I miss my long, thick and abundant eyelashes and eyebrows. It’s like the universe is saying “did you really think that was it – that you would just lose your hair and your boobs?” It’s like rubbing a wound with salt.

Then there is getting back into things like going to the gym. I was looking forward to getting back this week – until I came to a stark realization while trying to fall asleep the other night. My blood stopped pumping and then I went into panic mode as I realized that something that used to be considered a simple thing isn’t that easy anymore. How would I shower at the gym without scarring someone’s retinas for life? (Thanks for that borrowed expression Cat Mandell.) How would a young girl feel if she happens to see two big breast cancer scars in the place of my breasts? Not to mention that one minute I have hair (a wig) and the next I don’t when I go into the shower! Although I was tempted to not go, I shared my woes with my husband, who encouraged me to just keep moving forward. So I put one foot in front of the other and went – fully clothed in gym clothes with no plans to shower there, but rather at in the comfort of my own home. I did wear my hair, but it was too hot :-(. Prepare yourselves Peterborough, as I will be sporting my bald head and a hat!

This little experience is just one of many aspects of breast cancer that I presume most people don’t think of. Other things, like running to put on my boobs and hair when someone is stopping by so that you look less ‘shocking’ and don’t make people uncomfortable. While I know that it’s not about trying to please others, for me it’s about showing consideration.

Two gym visits down now and I feel good. I had a few extra-long looks today as I’m sure some were wondering whether there was ANY hair under that hat. Oh well. I just smiled and carried on. Time to get this body back in shape! I will forge forward with this new me and hold my head proud. Some adjustments are just a little more challenging than others ;-).

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