Month: January 2018

Saying goodbye to people and photos

I was in Ottawa last week from Wednesday to Sunday for a funeral and a quick mini-family reunion. My sister is the family historian and since she has recently moved to Ottawa she has been searching out all the spots where my mom’s family is from. Both the Cassidy and Corkery sides of the family (mom’s father and mother respectively) were from the Ottawa area – both sides going back to the 1820s I believe. Other than our small 5-person unit growing up I didn’t have any family around. Sometimes my mom’s brother Bernie (one of four brothers she had) would come and visit. He was also my godfather and a truly funny and fun guy. It was his funeral for which I made the trek out east.

Uncle Bunny, as I called him, was a salesman for Catelli pasta and Habitant soup. Habitant pea soup was probably my favourite meal as a kid (but not the kind with pork chunks because even back then that grossed me out). Bunny gave me my first camera. I ruminated on this on Instagram the other day. I hadn’t seen Uncle Bunny in years so I don’t think I ever told him how much that camera meant to me. How much I loved it when I was younger and how much I still love taking photos. My life started to be well documented from fifth grade onwards. I have piles of photos of houses from vacations, piles of photos of ducks from when I thought it would be really cool to have a pet duck when I was little. I also took many photos of the first love of my life.

Dumb Belle the beautiful.

One of my main goals for this year is to organize my photos (seriously – in the top 3 because they are hanging over my head like my own personal Sword of Damocles). When I was young I had no problem keeping them organized. People could only afford to print so many and I was a kid and had nothing better to do than stick them in photo albums with a nice highlighter designed cover page. I could often be seen with my camera in hand doing what I needed to do to catch the photo I wanted.

A very attractive photo of 16-year old me lying on the ground to get a photo of  flower gardens while on a choir tour in Aberdeen Scotland. Photo taken by a good friend who thought I was crazy but stuck around anyway and married me 12 years later – so who’s the crazy one?

As printing got cheaper the amount of photos I had to deal with got bigger and bigger and then things went digital and now I have thousands of photos that haven’t been organized, or (and this is the big one) printed. My mother used to complain that I never to photos of people but I guess I just needed to create my own people to overcome that obstacle. I plan on getting my shit together this year in regards to photos because I just don’t want to leave them for someone else to deal with when I am gone. I know that sounds rather defeatist but I don’t mean it that way. I just want to be organized for when the cancer decides to take a final stand. Dumbledore did say: “After all, to the well-organized mind death is but the next great adventure.”

Yeah, my mind is really not organized so I’m not ready for that step.

Taking photos is still fun and I love posting them online and being able to capture memories that way – but things on the internet have a tendency to get lost in the ether. At this point I’m starting with the photos I don’t want to organize. The other day I threw out a big stack of photos from my trip to Burning Man in 2001 because while I thought they were amazing and artistic at the time now they don’t really mean anything. And I can only remember the name of two of the people I went with anyway. These photos are going to mean nothing to the people I am leaving behind and I don’t want to burden them with them. (Also, some of them are not child-appropriate. It was Burning Man after all.)

Artistic shot of a stop light on the Playa as opposed to a not-so-artistic shot of mummy wearing more makeup than clothes. I will keep those photos though – my daughters will need to see that I had a life once before them.

Re-wiring my brain

In love with the winter sun.

My goal for this month is to post two blogs a week on Monday and Thursday and I have already fallen down on that goal. But my other goal is to tell myself – repeatedly – that my goals don’t have to be all-or-nothing. I am very much an all-or-nothing person and I’m trying to re-wire my brain and teach myself that each day is a day to start again. So even if I don’t know what to write about OR if it is Tuesday instead of Monday I am going to post a blog.

Warning. Today’s blog post is rambley and talks about parking again.

Yesterday I had an appointment with my oncologist for 10:10 in the morning. We arrived at 9:55 and paid for two hours of parking. I saw the doctor at 12:10. This is pretty standard. The oncology department was busy this morning and we knew there would be a delay (there always is). I don’t really blame the oncologist for this either – there are just SO MANY of us with cancer these days. Anyway. I stayed around afterwards for some X-Rays and left shortly after 1pm. One of the things I noticed while I was walking around the waiting room was that the hospital provides all these “free” programs and support groups for people going through cancer but I wonder how many people don’t go to them because they don’t want to pay for parking? I know that is always one of my deciding factors when it comes to any activity.

I did tell my oncologist that I need to be fully fit and healthy by mid-June because we have bought five plane tickets for Ireland for a month starting on the 14th of June and I want to enjoy this trip as much as possible. My oncologist said she often thinks about how terribly sick I was when we first met (I refer to it as “actively dying”) and what a difference she sees in me now. Then she said this: “I can’t cure you but I can try and give you as much quality of life for as long as possible.” Which is exactly what I am trying to do. I’m glad we are on the same page.

Today I was supposed to volunteer for an all-day field trip with Fionnuala’s class. But due to back and hip pain I cancelled. I think I was being overly ambitious by hoping that I could survive a day like that but if I’m not overly ambitious I’ll never get anything accomplished in this life, right? Fionnuala was very disappointed though and that’s just one more thing they are going to remember when I am gone.

I leave tomorrow for a quick trip to Ottawa for the funeral of my godfather whom I affectionately called Uncle Bunny. It’s a bit of a family reunion and I am more excited than I probably have the right to be since it is for a funeral – but I will take adventures where I can get them these days. You know what else I’m excited for? Four hours of uninterrupted reading time on the plane BY MYSELF! I’ve already downloading Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean At The End of the Lane on audio since it is next month’s pick for book club and now I just need to nail down a knitting project I can do on the plane for maximum child-free enjoyment. Plus the two other books I am currently reading. The possibilities are endless.

Trying to get outside every day.

Parking anxiety

I’m in between hospital visits right now – literally. I had an appointment at 7:45 am to get an injection and have to be back at 10:30 for the bone scan and possible X-Rays. This is all related to the back injury I gave myself in June that just won’t go away. Although it has been a lot better lately so I’m feeling hopeful. I don’t really have scanxiety yet because my scans are always clear (this will change someday). What I do have is parking anxiety. Mostly I get mad at how much we have to pay for parking and I am very grateful that I can come home between visits and not have to pay any more than necessary. I’m going to rant a bit here about parking so feel free to close down this window if you aren’t interested.

 

At the hospital/cancer centre I go to they have (what I call) a “predict pay” system of parking. Before they shut down the parking lot right beside the cancer centre you could pay when you were done – but that lot is currently under construction (to make it bigger). All the other lots ask you to pay for how long you need. But here is the thing. YOU NEVER KNOW HOW LONG YOU NEED. I often have oncology appointments around 9am. Sometimes I see the oncologist within the hour. Sometimes I see her at lunch time. If I pay for three or four hours and then am done in an hour that is one free parking spot the hospital gets to charge to someone else while still making money off me. I’m not going to lie, I’m totally incensed by this. I don’t understand why they need to charge so much. It cost me $4.50 this morning for an hours worth of parking. If I stayed for my 10:30 appointment I would need to pay for at least 4 hours of parking. Very few people can leave and come back (and then fight to find a parking spot again but that is a different issue) and I have the luxury of being dropped off later and then either get picked up or walk home. But when I was going through chemotherapy I would consistently be at the hospital for 2 to 4 hours a couple times a week. Nothing says compassion like making money off of patients and their families. It regularly cost us $13 or more to pay for parking on treatment days.

I have a good friend who, when her brother was in the hospital for a month following a serious accident, paid hundreds of dollars for parking to be with him. This is what you do for loved ones. What about the people who travel hundreds of kilometers for tests and treatment and also have to pay for hotels? (I once met a couple who drove 7 hours for tests.) What about low income families? People go into debt to pay for parking. I’m pretty sure there has to be a better option out there.

 

Start as you mean to go on

I mean to get outside as much as possible this year and since it warmed up to -12 degrees Celsius that is exactly what we did.

It’s my 42nd birthday today. My third birthday since being handed a terminal cancer diagnosis just over two years ago (one month shy of my 40th birthday).

I’ve written about this before but it is worth repeating: having your birthday on the first day of the year is stressful.

Don’t get me wrong – I love New Year’s. Or more specifically I love a new year and all the hope and promise it brings. I realize that it doesn’t necessarily need to bring more promise than any other day of the year but I like a fresh start. I like to begin things anew – probably because I’ve been so terrible at completing things since I started having children.

I love making lists and resolutions and dreaming about ways I can become a better person – not because I’m a terrible person but I feel there is always room for improvement. But as the old year comes to an end my list gets longer and longer and it starts to stress me out.

I MUST BEGIN ALL THE THINGS TODAY BECAUSE IT IS THE FIRST OF THE YEAR AND MY BIRTHDAY!

Needless to say I have MANY goals for this year. One of them, of course, is to stay alive but isn’t that everyone’s goal whether they have cancer or not? It isn’t enough for me to just be content with being alive, that seems like a cop-out.

You know how people like to pick one word that is going to represent the coming year for them? I keep thinking about that and what I would pick. This isn’t my word for the year but if I were to make one major goal for myself this year it would be to start feeling things again. I find that with all the emotions unleashed when I was diagnosed with cancer I just shut off my feelings. Obviously not entirely. I still feel things. I still love my children and my husband above all else and show them all the time. But I have avoided writing anything with feelings (or much of anything to be honest), or reading books that were too emotional or watching movies that would make me feel things. Some people love to cry. I hate it. I can’t even remember the last time I had a good cry and I’ve got freaking terminal cancer! I did get a little weepy when we were cutting down the Christmas tree because it was such a beautiful day and I was just so happy to be alive and out there in the woods – but even that I shut down quickly.

So I guess that is one of my words for this year: FEEL all the things. No matter how uncomfortable those feelings may make me.

The other phrase that is kicking around in my mind is NO EXCUSES because I am terrible with creating busy work for myself in order to not get things done. And so much needs to be done. SO MUCH. This could be my last year you know? (I don’t actually believe that but so many women I sort-of knew with cancer died last year that it is, in fact, a possibility.) Although maybe a better word would be FOCUS.

Maybe that will be my mantra for this year: Focus and Feel. (Sounds a bit like a sex manual.)

The rest of my goals I’m keeping to myself for now.

Do you pick a word for the new year? Make resolutions?

 

This is 42. Not quite as glamorous as someone in a bathing suit showing of their amazing body on their birthday but hey, I’m Canadian and it is January. I won’t actually see my body until late spring.

 

(Also I should probably clarify that there has been nothing stressful about my actual birthday – it has been rather wonderful with a lot of love from my little family and amazingly thoughtful presents. All other stress is completely self inflicted.)