photo: lake geneva, switzerland, october 2017
I’m nearly at the mid-point of my second chemo cycle and I’m starting to turn the corner from death-warmed-over to I-feel-very-crappy. It’s nice to actually feel hungry, rather than eating because you know you need to.
Last cycle I had the excitement of Christmas and all it entails to give me a little boost and to see me through. This time, I have news of an impending second state of emergency in Ontario. A little less fun, I must say. Everyone must live like me now – leave the house only for a daily walk or medical appointments.
Rather than describe yet more side-effects and physical travails in this post, I’d rather write a bit of a mash note. A love letter, if you will, to the people and things that have come together to keep me moving ahead.
I’ve always been fiercely independent and have a good dose of tenacity in my personal DNA. It’s hard for me to accept help, and much harder to ask for it. It causes tears and anxiety when I realize I can’t do something on my own (the curse of independence), and my diagnosis is allowing me to grow in that part of my life. I can ask for help. It’s ok. I can accept help. That’s ok, too. I’m getting there. I’m a work in progress.
In no particular order, here is a list of everyone I’m grateful for. If I have forgotten someone, please don’t feel slighted. It’s just my chemo-brain-fog. As soon as I remember someone, I will add you here. Then again, my audience of eight are all mentioned here – so I think I’m safe! 😉
Audrey. There are not enough words. She’s been my best friend since we met, and bonded over Corey Hart in our Grade 10 drama class. We’ve been through a lot together, and she’s been my most steadfast support, the one who hears my most honest fears, and is also essentially my home care nurse since I learned I had cancer. Honestly, I could not imagine having to go through surgery and treatment during a pandemic without her by my side. Stony girls FTW!
My family. From our first ever family group call, I have felt supported by my parents, my siblings, and their spouses. I know it’s as hard for them to be so far away from me right now, as it is for me to not have them nearby. But I feel them lifting me each and every day, again, and again, and again. I’ll never forget talking through the surgical options on that call, and hearing my own thoughts echoed back to me by each and every one of them. Go hard at this and take the most aggressive treatment plan to beat this thing. I love you all so much.
Natalie. My colleague and friend, who has been in her own fight for a year longer than me. She was the first person I tearfully confessed I’d found a lump to. From that moment forward, she has been a strong and fierce support for me. And one of my main personal Ubers. She also makes the most scrummy applesauce!
Kelly. A dear soul that has been like family since we met in a bookstore in the early 90s. She is family in every way other than blood. I’ve been wearing her crystal and stone necklace wraps to boost my own energy, and she is also a wig maker. So, am sending her my clipped ponytail to make me a new fringe. Not everyone can say that!
Michael. Another dear soulmate, and a deep connection since the 90’s. He is also family. Michael makes me laugh and reminds me not everything is so serious. I can be my silly-self with Michael. Everyone needs that friend, and I’m blessed to have shared so many magical experiences with him.
Bill. My hairdresser extraordinaire. He’s one of the most truthful, kind, and generous souls I’ve ever met. We sort of bonded on sight several years ago. Bill too has been in a cancer fight for a while now, and was a safe space to turn to with my own story, including my hair loss concerns. Bill loaned me his electric razor for my buzzcut yesterday. Much love and respect to this fellow warrior.
Lorraine & Kirsten. Two of my other very special personal Ubers, and pick up and delivery services. Oh, and also two of the most selfless women I’ve ever met. They both live nearby and are my east end supports. Kirsten makes and drops off food, drives me to appointments and picked up the clippers from Bill. Lorraine has been available at a moment’s notice for anything I need ranging from picking up fresh ginger, driving me to and from chemo, and is an endless beam of strength.
Dr. Dragomir. My family doctor who has been a ferocious advocate of mine through this entire experience. When I first was looking for a new family doctor, I picked her from the database based on location, gender, and name, truth be told. Turns out my dodgy requirements were perfect! She diagnosed my cancer accurately, even when the initial biopsy was inconclusive and showed no evidence of invasion. She just knew.
Dr’s Cindy & Kevin. My acupuncturists and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners. Both my physical, and emotional bodies are treated by Cindy and Kevin, and before my surgery their deft needles found every point to re-channel my energies, and set me up for a successful recovery. Cindy emails to give more guidance, and I think of her every time I make my healing vegetarian congee.
Dr’s Adrienne and Naomi. My friend and chiropractor and my naturopath. They are both at Adrienne’s clinic, Pursuit Integrative Health, and have come to my home for treatments, deliveries, and counselling. They are both just a text away, and it is a great comfort as the body goes through a lot of indirect pain, and issues in this battle.
Dr. Fung. My dentist. I had the dumb luck to have a check up and cleaning scheduled days before I started my chemo. Dr Fung and her hygienist gave me great advice, and a great cleaning to set me up for the best possible care of my mouth through chemotherapy. Dr. Fung is even coming by my house tonight to check a complaint of sore gums, and to drop off a night guard. I am blessed.
Princess Margaret Hospital Care Team. I have tears welling as I start this blurb. Each and every one of my doctors (I have 3 of them), and nurse, and coordinator, and technician, and greeter I’ve come into contact with has been amazing. Sincerely, I feel fortunate to have such great care only a 20 minute drive from my house. If I have to deal with cancer, I’m glad I’m here in Toronto.
Tristan. My personal trainer. This summer, around the time I found the lump, I also walked by a neighbourhood gym, and saw outdoor and distanced classes happening in a parking lot. Audrey and I quickly signed up and started private lessons with Tristan. Over summer and early autumn Tristan helped me keep sane, and got my body into better shape for the gruelling battle ahead. He still texts me affirming messages that he saw the fighter in me first hand, and knows I have what it takes to beat cancer. The best cheerleader ever.
Jon & Boat Rocker. My boss and my company. Jon took a risk on hiring a music industry refugee into his new distribution department, and has had my back through a concussion, pneumonia, shingles and now cancer. I feel supported by my employer, and I know that would not be the case at many of my former workplaces.
My colleagues. I lead a few different teams at work, and each and every one of my team has stepped up their work game (in demanding pandemic-WFH circumstances, nonetheless) to allow me to tread water at work somedays. I am so grateful for each and everyone of them, and for the friendships we have beyond work.
Aunts, Uncles & Cousins. Nearly 100% of my family is in Alberta. My Auntie Marilyn and I are the resident Torontonian black sheeps that moved “out East”. I miss my family dearly, but never feel alone or that separated. From the cards, emails, texts, messages, gifts, Zoom chats, and social media posts I have been nourished, and lifted. I am truly blessed to have been born into such a close, and supportive family.
Online Groups. I am in a few groups that have helped me crowdsource information about my DIEP surgery recovery, and my chemotherapy side effects, and body image positivity. Through them, I have met new friends, and invaluable supports that message each other day and night! We’re always on standby for each other; there are many fabulous ladies, but a special shout-out to both Kim and Louise. We’re all in a fight no one asked to be in; our passport has been stamped for cancer, and our lives will never be the same.
Friends from all corners. I have been blessed to have made good connections through my entire life, and even if life has made the bonds a little more distant, those connections are still as strong as they ever were. Friends from various workplaces, and social circles, and shops and restaurants, and school (elementary through university) have come forward with lovely messages of support, and care, and offers to do ‘something’ for me. I’ve learned to accept these offers, as they make both parties feel good. There are simply far too many names to mention here, but I love each and every one of you to the moon and back.
Nan & Luong. My neighbours. This girl got to ride to the local wound care clinic in their new Mercedes – I never felt so fancy! Luong works in live events, so his employment has taken a hit in the pandemic… which sucks, but the benefit for me is that Luong has been my pinch driver when all other rides don’t pan out. Plus, they are both the most amazing bakers…. Yum.
Leigh. A long-time friend of Audrey’s who has become a friend of mine. Just prior to my surgery in October, she rented a car and the three of us day-tripped to Mono Cliffs Provincial Park in Orangeville for a walk in a magical conservation area. I left an offering at a crossroads in those woods, we went to a farmers market, and we talked ghosts and spirits. When I look back, that was truly one of my favourite pandemic days ever. The boost that day out of the city gave me is immeasurable.