Thursday, December 14, 2006

Actually, It's December 21st when I posted this entry!

Edited to add: This is such a rambling incoherent mess. Not a reflection of my mind or how I feel, I just can't express my thoughts well. I started this entry on the 14th and saved it as a draft but didn't finish until I made myself tonight (21st). Been soooo busy! Fun busy though.

The other day, as I told a story in my cancer support group, I was reminded that I have been meaning to tell this story in my blog for ages, lest I forget, but really, how could I ever forget this, even with my atrocious memory?

In early September 2004 I got out of the shower one morning and found a golfball sized lump in my armpit. The weather was warm and I was shaving the area frequently (unlike in the winter when I become a sasquatch). I didn't think much of it as I had no idea it could be such an ominous sign of serious disease, I attributed it to a "swollen gland" due to a terrible cold. When it didn't go away for a few days, they started me on antibiotics. When that didn't work, a long two weeks of back and forths between my GP and emerge started, trying to figure out what this thing was. No one ever mentioned the C word, I was blissfully unaware, I thought at worst it was a cyst. Anyway, that's not the story, just the background and if you've been reading my blog you already know that.

So one day while I was still in the dark as to what this lump was, I was sitting on the toilet, minding my own business (while doing my business!) when probably the most surreal, unexplicable thing happened. As clear as can possibly be, a voice said to me:

"Hopes and dreams are just an illusion, all we have is the present."

I'm sure it was a male voice, a voice that entranced me. It was in my head, or in my ear, but it wasn't from me, if that makes sense. I knew that someone was speaking to me, I knew that this was a message that I had to remember, but I didn't know what the hell it meant. When I finished my business I wrote the sentence in a notebook which I still have because I knew I wouldn't remember but somehow knew this was something so important, I had to remember.

Soon, it became so clear. And this message is what I have referred back to over and over through this journey with cancer. When I got the final verdict by phone, "The cells are highly suspicious for malignant melanoma. I'm sorry, sometimes bad things happen to good people", and processed what I had been told over the next few days, or maybe weeks, the message made sense to me.

Everything we hope for, every dream or goal, that vision in our heads of how we think and therefore expect our life will be (give or take a few setbacks) is an illusion. Suffering occurs when our dreams for the future are crushed, but these dreams were never real and never guaranteed anyway so mourning their loss and suffering over it is really really...silly.

This is a Buddhist teaching I believe, but at the time, I don't know that I was familiar with any Buddhist material really. Maybe I had read something to that effect and it was bubbling up sub-consciously but I don't think that exact phrasing is from any text. Correct me if I'm wrong. And even if this did bubble up from my unconsious mind, the timing was bizarre, and I didn't even "get" it at the time so what was my unconscious point?

When you get cancer with a bad prognosis, or any disease or life altering tradgedy strikes, the real suffering is in mourning the loss of what you believed your life would be. For me, that was the job and course I was taking, the house I wanted to buy, the kids I wanted to have, the travelling, the gray hair, the grandkids. Typical stuff. But I could see it all so clearly, and even though I knew there would be bumps in the road and life would challenge me and offer up unexpected paths, I just knew that everything would be ok. I've had some terrible things happen in my life and I knew that bad things did happen to good people. But because I so clearly understood that my job was to mother and I could visualize my life through the decades as if they already existed, I was pretty much convinced that I would live a long life, more or less how I thought it would be.

I was also just beginning to realize at the time that I was living for the future. I was somewhat stuck in the "Everything will be good when X happens", but then X would lead to Y and Y would lead to Z and so on. Not that I wasn't happy, but I was always looking towards the future (do! do! do!), when things would be better instead of truly embracing the present and living. And what I've discovered is that living isn't doing, living is being.

I've said many times since this cancer journey began that I've done more living in the past two years than I have in my entire life. This isn't because I've all the sudden had a lifetime of experiences, but because I've experienced and interpreted life in a different way, allowing me to take more of it in. I know, it sounds so cliche. But it is so true. I'm not going to ramble about what life feels like or looks likes now because I wouldn't know how to explain it. It is just richer now, I see and feel things all the time now that I only got glimses of before. I hate gettting all "spiritual", not because I'm not, but because "spirituality" has almost become a cheesy commodity in recent years and I don't want to be perceived as a total flake. My spirituality is deeply personal and I would feel almost violated if I shared that part of myself with strangers.

All I will say is that something spoke to me that day. I don't know who and I don't care who, but it was nice of them. I don't believe I was suppose to "learn a lesson", I believe I was being comforted and reminded that life is now so I better not waste it wallowing in the "if onlys" and "why me's". Sure, I'm human and I do go there now and again, I especially did in the beginning of this disease, but when I go there, I have that phrase to remember, to shake me out of the self-pity. Hopes and dreams are just an illusion. I don't want to DO, I want to BE. That is living in the present. Being ok with being instead of doing doing doing. All we have is the present.

Cancer update: A few days after my last surgery (Dec 5th) I found a pea size lump in my right breast. In October one of the lumps I had removed was from my breast so I knew the melanoma had already spread there but I wasn't planning on finding more so soon. I guess I wasn't as thorough on my lump check pre-surgery as I thought I was, I think I totally ignored the boobs! I see my onc on January 8th for a follow-up and knew there was no way he'called the offid roll me into surgery so soon after my last one to take one sub-q out so I'm just waiting. If it comes out, my bet is is late January to February. I don't think about it besides that in the past couple days I feel a little pressure in the area because it is growing and now probably the size of a large grape. It grows so fast! It's amazing how when I found this lump, I didn't even react. My heart didn't flutter, my stomach didn't jump. It was more just like, ok, been there, done that, whatever. I can't be bothered to get worked up over these tumours all the sudden. They aren't specifically life-threatening and while I would like a break forever, it ain't happening at the moment so I've got to march forward and march through. Life will go on despite these little fuckers in my tissue. I guess because the sky hasn't dropped, my experience with these tumours has been ok, despite their overall significance and ominous meaning.

Thank you to everyone who introduced themselves. It was so nice to "meet" you. Your energy and spirits have and will help me get through this. It is so touching to know that so many people care. Having this place to vent is truly therapeutic. I kind of feel like I am giving away some of my worries, letting others carry some of the weight by sharing myself with virtual others in this way. Kinda cool.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Curious, quite like George

So, you all know about me. I am so curious to "meet" all you cyber lurkers reading this blog. I get about 40-60 hits a day on this site (nothing compared to the 1-2 million gets!) and some of you I know IRL (in real life) and some of you I know from other message boards, and some of you have been sweet and courageous enough to introduce yourselves, but who are the rest of you?

This is your chance to come out of hiding. If you want to remain anonymous, that's cool, but just tell me a wee bit about yourself, like where you're from, if you have a similar story, or if you collect pet rocks. Just click on "comment" at the end of this entry and press "anonymous" if you aren't registered with

I know most of you are from the States, followed closely by my fellow Canadians, then I get hists from the Netherlands (shout out Janette!) and the UK, sometimes Africa and Asia, but that's all I know about you! Can't blame me for being curious. Indulge me. I dare ya!

I'll start by telling you the latest about me. I had surgery on Tuesday to remove that area that they told me was likely a seroma from past surgeries in the same location. WRONG! It was a tooma, small plum size like I said, with a small almond size one beside it. I thought I found something on my shoulder too the day before the surgery so I called the secretary to let the surgeon know, see if he wanted to bring an ultra sound into the OR. That didn't happen so on the OR bed I had to decide if I wanted him to cut into me not knowing if there was anything bad there or not.

The surgeon's comment was that, "You are usually right about these things", which isn't really true. I'm sometimes right, sometimes paranoid. So, I had him cut in, just cuz it doesn't really hurt afterwards, and my shoulder, arm, armpit are so butchered already, what's another scar? Turns out he didn't find anything. Good. I'd rather know NOW then wait and watch and worry, especially over Christmas.

So, I will still be ship shape for Christmas unless shit hits the fan, but lets be optimistic. It's unlikely shit will hit the fan between now and New Years, but I also know the reality from seeing how fast things have changed for some of my online melanoma friends. I know I am not exempt from this. I hope, but I am no more special or deserving then these wonderful people. We are all the same, just trying to get by, just hoping we will be on the good side of the stats. And we hope for each other.

Friday, December 01, 2006

I'm an old pro at this

Disclaimer: Spell check isn't working again and I'm too tired to re-read my post. That's been the case with most of posts actually.

Well, I got a small break from surgeries, if not cancer altogether. My supposed seroma seems to be melanoma. The lump has grown from almond size to, wait, let me feel it....small plum size, in 3 weeks. It grew from nothing (my sugery Oct 3rd cleared out that area) to small plum size in 2 months. My melanoma grows fast. Too fast for my liking, but I have no control over it. There is also a smaller lump, let's call it peanut size since we're on a food theme, right underneath it, hiding beneath my drain scar from one of my Oct surgeries. Derek and I went on a lump hunt--not quite as fun as an Easter egg hunt--last night and found nothing else so I'm happy about that. The other thing to be happy for is that my surgery is this Tuesday! Man, the service just gets faster and faster at the my cancer centre. I was in the right place at the right time, they had a hole to fill in the OR schedule so they stuck me in. I'll be hunky dory for the Christmas party we're hosting at home for friends on the 22nd as well as Christmas and New Years unless something crazy happens so all is well.

Got my path report back from the Nov.2nd surgery. There were 6 lumps taken out. One was not melanoma but plain old fatty tissue. To my surprise, the small lump in my breast was melanoma. Not the most common place for mm (malignant melanoma) to spread, but it does happen. Now I can say I have had the exact same procedures as most early stage breast cancer patients: lumpectomy, lymphnode dissection, radiation with commonly resulting lymphedema, just the procedures aren't in the same order! So, including the 2 masses that will be removed on Tuesday, that is 14 tumours removed in 2 months. Shitacular! Ok, Sarah, focus on the positive. If you were in a third world country you would be dead by now and none of them would have been removed. My body has kept this disease out of my organs for over 11 years. I know it can continue to do it for many many more! I have too much to live for and I love this life too much to move on just yet. UNIVERSE, DO YOU GET THE MESSAGE?!!!!

In non-cancer news: I went back to the school and it was much better. The woman, lets call her Doris, seemed somewhat more together. I haven't decided if that's because she had a cold last week and it made her brain foggy (too many antihistamines?) or if it's because the kids were busy making Christmas cards for some elderly adults in the community so she didn't need to talk much or keep the kids' attention. I wasn't paying much attention either to what she was doing because I was occupied touring around checking on how everybody was coming along and helping out with spelling, so it could be that I just didn't notice if she was still out to lunch.

Anyway, it went well and I really enjoyed the time around all the kiddos, watching them be creative and work as team. It's so funny to watch the personalities come out, the bossy kid, the whiner, the tattle-tale, the peace-maker etc. I wondered on the way home why I didn't become an elementary school teacher.Then I remembered-- I only got a 3 year degree instead of 4 year and I cornered myself by taking a major that I hated (english lit.) and a minor (psychology) that I liked but to turn it into a major and continue on with my 4th year, I would have had to take more science oriented psych classes and Sarah doesn't do science. I sucked at it all through elementary and highschool. I also had a fear that I would have to sing. Yup, like, la la la, sing. Don't all elementary teachers break out into song for class "fun"? At the very least around Christmas they make their classes sing carols. That' s what it was like when I went to school anyway and I used to think that I would be forced to sing with my class if I was a primary teacher. I'm not a great singer. That's why I became a tax auditor.

Well, it's Friday and I have a wild night of making some kind of yummy baked treat and watching What Not To Wear planned so I better get to it! Happy weekend to whoever is reading.