Friday, January 17, 2014

Five in one blow.

The past couple weeks in Vancouver have been blessed with sunshine, warmer weather, and that revived energy that a glimpse of the summer ahead brings.

Speaking of brighter days, the summer of 2013 brought the most gorgeous, sunscreen slathering weather. My flowers thrived and who cares if the lawn turned from green to crumbly brown. The grass will come always does!

It should have been a summer of celebration on all fronts. But – five of my friends, close friends, were diagnosed with breast cancer. M and I have known each other for over four decades and she has taught me more about life than just about anyone I know. R does my hair and sends me out into the world feeling good about myself. L is a born teacher and recently taught me how to make a quilt. K is a business women and a crafter, someone with many fabulous talents. V is a very successful local business women who many, including myself, often admire. Only one has had a first-degree relative with the disease and, startlingly, she and her mom were diagnosed within a month of each other. Each friend was diagnosed through mammography and even upon being told where the tumors were hiding, two of the women could not feel them. Each has had different treatment programs.

What we have in common is that we are lucky enough to be getting older and to be aware of mammography. And, lucky enough to have friends who appreciate and love them. On top of this, we live in the province that has the best breast cancer survival rate of any province in Canada—91.8%. Despite challenges, we are indeed lucky.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Tiger.

In 1991, information on breast cancer was thin and even though I was a librarian steeped in new health information, I knew sweet all about the disease.

One of my first 'encounters' with it was in high school. One of my friends' mothers was diagnosed with “it” and we were horrified that her chest and arms were disfigured by whatever treatments she had.

Once my cancer was confirmed with a biopsy, my diagnosis hit, and just like that I felt like I had a tiger by the tail. First: FEAR – the events and procedures my immediate future would bring started to appear very real, and they took me back to the experience of my high school friend's mom.

Fortunately, it didn't take long for me to rally. There's nothing like trying to control a breast cancer tiger to focus the mind. I was wading around in my family history searching for clues and reading bits and bobs of breast cancer information at the same time.  Inevitably, the “why me” emerged. There was no family cancer in either my mother or father's families. I exercised. I took the skin off my chicken. I liked eating broccoli. And I hardly ever drank. I whined, “it isn't fair,” - as if breast cancer could be fair! (I have since discovered that one of my first cousins developed it post menopausaly.)

My “why me” whine turned into anger. My daughter and mother were now first-degree relatives and their danger levels were increased because of me.

I agreed with the treatment plan devised by the tumor team at the British Columbia Cancer Agency. My verdict: 16 treatments of radiation followed and that was it (note: treatments have evolved since then). My right breast has a faint 2 ½ inch scar from the surgery.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Bip, bip, bip...

2014. A new year. A new beginning.

There's something so beautiful about a new beginning. It's a reason to celebrate life and past accomplishes, and then plan for what's to come. As I reminisce on the years that have passed, I certainly have reason to celebrate. But last year more than ever, as my daughter gave me the greatest gift of all...

There was so much to do in the early years at CBCF that I wondered if I had the energy to carry on. I had no experience in board work, no salary, no idea how to write grants, no start-up money, no room in the house, no time for family. The phone was ringing at all hours with distressed women on the other end. I hardly had time for a shower.

I knew all the good reasons for never giving up, but when you’re tired, the words come out sounding like “blah, blah, blah.”

A little while ago, I thought the sound of my own words and reasons to push on actually sounded like “bip, bip, bip.” 160 bips a minute. And those bips were related to what looked like a lima bean, pulsing grey and white in a busy little dance, on a black background.

What it meant was that my daughter was smiling, the ultrasound technician was smiling, there were tears brimming in my eyes and my mascara had given up the ghost.

Yes, it was the sound of my first grandchild, that I called “Lima Bean.” Of course, Lima Bean has about a 50-50 chance of being a girl or boy. And for sure the beautiful, excited, slightly nauseous girl (no — not a girl, but a woman) with the cold, ultrasound jelly on her belly is my baby, yes a woman and my beloved daughter (lucky little Bean to have Chelsea. She's going to be such a great mom!).

Lima Bean’s actual birthday is meant to be in October. It’s also the month of my birthday. New beginnings are and will be paired with what’s been a big story in my life, as October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

So every October I also have a reason to celebrate life and new beginnings. I am blessed!