Happy Cancer Girl

A Happy Girls Journey with Cancer

Cancer Free Trip

A few months ago a friend of mine called and asked if I would like to go to New York City. I’ve been to NYC and I don’t really like going back to the same place more than once (if I’m going on a vacation), because there are so many places in the world that I would like to see. However, I have travelled with this friend before and we had a lot of fun so I decided to go.

When I arrived at the airport I was really excited, not just the usual excitement I get when going away, but REALLY excited. My friend was a little baffled and said that it’s not the first trip I’ve been on…so what’s the deal? This was the first time since my diagnoses in Dec. ’12, that I was going away and it had nothing to do with cancer. For me, this was a big milestone. I was away from everyone I know, my hair is short, but looks normal, my skin colour doesn’t look grey and I have enough energy to last me for a few days. No one (except Denise) would know that I had been sick.

We did a little shopping, a lot of walking, learned the subway system, saw a couple broadway shows, ate some good food, went to Chinatown and most importantly the American Museum of Natural History. The Museum was amazing, if we had more time I would have wanted to go back. We would be lucky to have seen 1/4 of the exhibits.

The worst part about the trip was that it was really warm and the apartment we rented didn’t have any air-conditioning. Normally that wouldn’t bother me, but because I am still going through menopause and having hot flashes, I found the heat a little unbearable. With that being said, it was calling for rain the whole time I was there and we only got rained on one night after seeing Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Neil Patrick Harris is in this show until sometime in July, if you are in NYC you should check it out), so I tried not to complain about the heat too much.

My time away was wonderful and it was cancer free and I’m really glad that I went. I have had a lot of pent up anger about a lot of different things, and I think I left most of that anger on the streets of NYC. I think with each new experience I am learning how to grow and move along. After the retreat I went to in May (that I wrote about last post), I came home feeling more whole. I was able to work through some of the feelings I had about recurrence and some of the loneliness I have felt. NYC (although cancer free) really helped me relax and just let go of the anger that I’ve held onto. In a couple weeks I am going back to Toronto for a conference with Young Adult Cancer Canada, and I know it will help me along with my healing process.

Todays song is featured on the soundtrack for The Fault in Our Stars called Tee Shirt by Birdy. The movie comes out in June and is based on a book by John Greene. The song is beautiful and makes me think of Owen, enjoy!

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YACC Retreat Yourself 2014

Owen and I went to the Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC) Retreat in Coburg, Ontario on the weekend. It was an amazing weekend, and I am going to try my hardest to share what the weekend was all about.

We flew to Toronto really early on Thursday morning. The best part about the flight was running into my cousin who was on his way back out west to work. Other than that it was your usual early morning Air Canada flight. After landing in Toronto, we grabed a cab downtown and went to The Croissant Tree for breakfast. Ummm, this place was insanely good and the prices were amazing. If you are ever in Toronto I would consider this a must go!

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We met up with some of the other YACC retreaters at Wellspring, which is a cancer support centre. A guy from The Second City came and did some Improv activities with us. At first I was unsure about getting there in time to take part, but I’m so glad I didn’t miss out. It was a great space to start opening up to the people I was going to be spending the next 4 days with.

At 2:00 in the afternoon we boarded a bus to take us to Coburg. We took a school bus, I kid you not. It was AMAZING! I haven’t been on a school bus since Safe Grad ’98. Our final destination was Northumberland Heights. We were assigned our rooms, had time to unpack, freshen up, check out the building (that has the most amazing yoga room) and get ready for dinner.

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This is where things get real. We are a long ways from Toronto without a vehicle. We are stuck there with no way to escape. For me, this was probably the thing that I really needed. No way to leave, because I sometimes like to run when things get tough. We all met in a big room with the chairs set up in a big circle with tissue boxes on the floor around the circle. We introduced ourselves which was easy enough. NOT easy to remember everyone’s names, thankfully we were all wearing name tags! Then we shared our stories and from that moment I will never be the same again. The raw emotion was gut wrenching, everyone was so open and so honest with their diagnosis and their lives and where they are at now. I don’t remember a thing I said that night, I know I said it through tears. I don’t know if I talked for one minute or five or if what I said even made sense. Owen’s turn to share his story was before mine, and he said he didn’t want to over shadow me because it was my story. I was so worried that Owen was going to get in the way of himself. My story isn’t just my story, it’s his story also. He may not have had cancer, nor did he have to go through treatments, but he lost just as much as I did and I really wanted him to go to the retreat and talk with someone.

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The next two days were filled with small group discussions, big group discussions, music therapy, art therapy, food and free time. Owen and I weren’t in any of the small group discussions together, which I was very thankful for. I was sure he would share more without me being with him. During one of my small group discussions there was another husband who was there with his wife. When he talked about his experience and everything they had been through it opened up this whole new way of seeing Owen for me. We talked about relationships, emotional well being and our fear of recurrence. We talked and we talked and we talked some more. We talked to people who wanted to listen, we talked and understood each other, we talked without a filter. We connected on a level that we couldn’t connect with other people.

Saturday night was game’s night, but before the games began we all said one word to describe how we were feeling. My word was “buzz”, because it felt like there were bee’s in my head, a whole lot of white noise. I had talked so much and let so much stuff out on the table for everyone to see. I heard stories of terminal illness, survival, loss, heart ache and although I was feeling ok I think I was having a hard time processing everything. I was so overwhelmed and confused that my head hurt (seriously I had a migraine almost everyday we were there). But, something happened on Saturday night…all of that emotion, the frustration I’ve kept to myself, all of the pain…it came busting out of me in the best way possible, by laughing. A game called Scribblish brought me back to myself. I haven’t laughed so hard and for so long in years. It was so freeing, and a little insane because once that hole opened, the emotion came out in laughter for the whole next day also…it was crazy (seriously by Sunday night my throat hurt from laughing so much..that’s not normal).

Sunday night there was a talent show, which was simply amazing. Owen did a water glass music thing with a couple other retreaters, they called themselves “Talent in Progress”, it was fantastic! There was some really great musical talent and it reminded me of my list for living and how I want to learn to play the piano, there is no time like the present!

Unfortunately we had to leave the bubble we were in. During the last day there someone said “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a YACC Village where we all lived”, and in the moment it was so true. What I would give to be close to the people I had just met. Thankfully we live in the digital age where we can connect very easily. Hopefully I will get to see those beautiful faces again, if not in this life I will for sure in the next.

YACC, thank you so much for this incredible opportunity. I am going to try my hardest to give back over the years, because your support means the world to me. To my YACC retreat family, I love you and I miss you already. When I said I don’t like hugs, it really is true, but I will hug you every single time I see you because you are all very special to me.

I am going to leave this post with a song by U2 – Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of. This was preformed at the talent show and it was truly blissful moment!

 

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1 Year Hysterversary

Warning: This post is a little random and all over the place.

It has been a whole year since my total hysterectomy….a whole year! I think the older you get, the faster time goes. As I was going through treatments it didn’t feel fast, but to look back on the past year so much has happened and here we are again, in February.

To be honest, I don’t know what to do with this blog anymore. I know I want to keep it open so that maybe other women who need information will find it. I had the blog so I could keep everyone updated, and to share real information about what was going on with me. However, once the doctor said my scans were clean I felt like that was it. Who wants to hear from the Happy Cancer Girl who doesn’t have cancer?

I don’t have cancer. Is that really right? I had cancer, but my scans are clean…so that means I don’t have cancer? I’m a cancer survivor, at least that’s what I am today. I go back to see the oncologist in 2 weeks for my quarterly check up, fingers crossed that all is well inside of my body.

I have been having a hard time sleeping the past couple of weeks. I try to forget everything that has happened with me, but being a year ago that I had my surgery makes that hard. I still have nightmares, not blood and gore, but real life nightmares.

One of my sister-in-law’s gave birth to a beautiful baby boy a few weeks ago. She has been so kind to me and has allowed me to spend as much time with Max as I would like. My love for him is deep (likely because he is the first nephew to be born post hysterectomy), and of course he has been automatically added to my list of rent-a-kids. Spending lots of time with the baby has amazing, but it has also been hard on me. Being with him makes me long to have a baby of my own, but that isn’t possible. I know that there is adoption, but with all of the red tape and the fact that I have a type of cancer that has a high recurrence rate doesn’t make me a very good candidate. It makes it hard to not go through the questions, why did this happen to me?, what did I do to deserve this?, why me, why me, why me?? Seriously cancer can make a person really self involved!!

On a bright and non-cancer note, I am tutoring a little boy in Grade 2 reading. It was been an interesting experience for me. I love to read and really wanted to be able to share that with someone. In just a few weeks I already see an improvement in his reading, a couple hours a week can make such a big difference.

My taste in music lately has been more on the folky/mellow side, here’s a couple video’s for you to enjoy!

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Quick Update

I know that I am long overdue for a blog post. I’m not going to lie the past month has been really hard on me. I will write about what has been going on in another post (hopefully soon because I miss writing). The thing is, my fingers are numb and when I type it feels like little pin pricks, so I’m not typing very often, little Facebook updates so people know that I am still around!

Ok, so the reason for today’s quick post. I am having my 3rd blood transfusion today. I’m thankful for the blood that I receive it makes me feel much better. Before I get the transfusion I’m really tired, out of breathe and sore. Once I have the transfusion, I have a bit of energy (not normal energy, but I also don’t feel the need to sleep 16 hours a day), and I can walk up my steps without feel like someone has punched me in the chest.

More exciting than the blood transfusion is this: I AM DONE CHEMO!!!! I was going to have my last treatment today, but they have decided I don’t need it! I will have a scan in a couple weeks, but we’re all confident that I won’t show any evidence of disease! I am a cancer survivor. I am in recovery mode, the road will be long, but will be rewarding. I am so ready to start my new normal.

In true Renee fashion I want to share a video with you. The song is called Wake Me Up by Avicii. I don’t know what it is, but I find this song up lifting. I think a person can find meaning in almost any song, but this one speaks to me. “Wake me up when it’s all over.” I’ve been thinking that a lot lately. I’ve just wanted the treatments to be done. I wanted to sleep through the month. I feel more awake today than I have in a really long time. Once I get my blood I will probably be more awake!

I will try to post again soon!

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My List for Living

When I was first diagnosed with cancer I felt alone because the doctors told me that women my age don’t usually get cancer. I was upset and of course wondered “Why me?”, not that I would wish for this to happen to anyone else. Once I started my blog, I was able to find more women who were also going through their own health journeys, some have cancer, some of had to have hysterectomies and some suffer from endometriosis and many other health issues.

Helen Fawkes has a blog that I follow and one day she posted a List for Living. She had a list of all the things that she would like to do while she is alive. When I read her list, I thought it was genius. I’m not a big fan of the term “Bucket List”. A list of things to do before you die, it seems so negative. Yes we all live and then we die, but we should enjoy whatever time that we have while we are here. Helen’s list for living seemed to be a positive thing. A list of things to live for, a list of things to do while she is living.

I have created my own list for living. Some of the things I want to do will require lots of time, some will require me to save lots of money, and some of the things I may be able to do sooner rather then later. I’m sure I will add to the list as time goes on and I may not be able to do everything I want to do, but it’s a good list of things that I can work on! I would encourage everyone to make a list for living, we all need something positive in our lives to work on and look forward too.

1. Run the Disney Princess Half Marathon – My goal is to run this race in 2015

2. Learn how to play piano

3. Write a book and get it published – I think this is something that a lot of people say that they would like to to. I have received a lot of great feedback on my blog and it has really encouraged me to think more seriously about writing a book.

4. Learn how to knit – Update June 26, 2013 – I have finished some beginners projects. I know how to do the knit stitch and the purl stitch. I will call this done once I know how to knit socks and hats!!

5. Go on a volunteer mission

6. Volunteer for the Canadian Cancer Society

7. Go on a Survive and Thrive Expedition – Survive and Thrive Expeditions are for young adult cancer survivors. When I found out about this company I was overwhelmed at the possibility of being able to go on one of the expeditions and meeting people who are close to my age and have gone through their own cancer journeys. I really hope I can do the Grand Canyon rafting expedition in 2014.

8. Go grape stomping

9. Watch someone give birth – This may seem a little weird, but because I will never be able to experience child birth myself, I have a desire to be able to experience it with someone else. Who knows if this will ever happen, but it would mean a lot to me if it does!

10. Build a house by the bay

11. Go skinny dipping

12. Get a survivor tattoo

13. Ride a jet ski

14. Learn conversational Spanish

15. Learn ASL

16. Find a career that makes me happy – They say people go through many career changes in their lives, and this has been true for me. I have longed over the past couple of years to find something that truly makes me happy and I think I’m actually starting to figure out what that career would be.

17. See the Red Woods with Owen

18. Learn how to ride a motorcycle

19. See Justin Timberlake in concert

20. Go to France and see the Eiffel Tower

21. Go to England and visit Buckingham Palace

22. Go to Amsterdam and cruise the canals

23. Go to Oktoberfest in Germany

24. Drive on the autobahn – I like to drive fast sometimes and think it would be super fun to drive on this highway!

25. Go on a waking tour of castles in Ireland

26. Go to Scotland and tour the Highlands

27. Eat pizza in Italy

28. Have fondu in Switzerland

29. Visit the Greek Islands

30. Swim with dolphins – I hope to be able to do this in Feb. 2014. My trip to Cuba was cancelled this year because of my surgery, so I hope to reschedule for this winter.

31. Travel across Canada in a car/camper van

32. Travel across the USA in a car/camper van

33. Take part in The Color Run

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Happy Valentine’s Day

It’s that time of year again when everyone expresses their love for one another! I haven’t really been a big fan of Valentine’s Day in the past. I don’t think there needs to be a special day to tell someone you love them. But, Owen and I do recognize it as a day to buy each other a card and to have a special meal. Once a year we have cheese fondu, it’s so delicious and decadent that we choose to only have it on Valentine’s Day.

I hope you all have a good day, let your family, friends, spouses and children know that you love them.

Owen, I love you and I’m sure I love you more today then I ever thought possible. You are my rock, the constant in my life, my compass when I’m not sure what is right. With your love and support I know that I can survive this challenge in my life, thank you for being my one true Valentine!

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OMG I Have Cancer!

Although I had a good weekend, I had some moments that had me feeling really down. I think it all started with pre-op. The nurses at the hospital were really great and I felt comfortable there, which was nice. While talking about my surgery and the medications I take the nurse compared having a hysterectomy to having a c-section. I wanted to punch her in the throat, because I will never know what it’s like to have a c-section. Although maybe the incision is the same, I think the surgery’s are different…with a c-section you get a baby, with a hysterectomy you get menopause. Don’t get me wrong, I think recovering from a c-section is likely difficult when you have a new baby to look after also. They say the best way to heal is to move around a lot and to sleep….that also must be hard with a new baby. I just don’t think it’s fair to compare a c-section that takes 30-40 mins (although I’m sure some take longer) to my somewhat complicated hysterectomy that is scheduled to take 3.5 hrs.

I also realized at the hospital that all the paperwork said I was having a hysterectomy (which makes sense because that’s why I was there), but it also said I have ovarian cancer. It was the first time I’ve actually seen it written down on paper…on medical documents. When I read it, it was like “Holy shit, I have cancer!”. I received my diagnoses two months ago, but seeing it on a medical document made it more real.

I don’t know if my dark moods the past few days have to do with pre-op, my upcoming surgery (in 9 days), or just the fact that I have cancer. I’ve been feeling sorry for myself, for what I’m about to lose. I feel sorry for Owen, because there is nothing he can do but sit and watch it happen, and he too is losing a lot. I’m a little angry that this is even happening to me. I made the mistake of looking at all the statistics, as a Canadian woman you have a 0.1% chance of having ovarian cancer right now, in your life time you have a 1.7% chance of getting ovarian cancer. To pull myself out of my dark moods, I had to think about how lucky I really am. Ovarian cancer tends to be a hard cancer to beat because 75% of women get diagnosed in a late stage. I know I am in the early stages (actual stage TBD after my surgery). I have to lose my uterus, but I will survive this and will get to live a happy and full life.

I had someone recently leave a comment on one of my posts and he directed me to a song on youtube that he wrote for his sister-in-law who was diagnosed with breast cancer. I listened to the song and was amazed that this guy was able to write a song that really summed up how I feel some days. Thank you Thomas for sharing this with me, I’m glad I am able to share it with the blog world.

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Crazy Sexy Cancer Book Review

I am a reader, that is a fact. I read a lot of books every year and challenge myself to read more. I like a wide range of books and I always find it helpful to read books when I want to learn something new. So I bought some cancer books. I was shocked that there were so few, but I was thankful to find some really great books written by Kris Carr. I had heard about Kris’s Crazy Sexy Diet but didn’t know her story. I bought a copy of Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips, Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor and of course Crazy Sexy Kitchen because I LOVE cookbooks and wanted to know what types of food Ms. Karr has been eating!

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Kris has been diagnosed with an incurable cancer, but thankfully it is slow moving. Her books are full of tips such as making a cancer posse full of woman who also have cancer or are cancer survivor’s, allow yourself 3 days to have a pity party but then pack it up and get going with your life (yes you can have pity parties again, but only allow 3 days each time), make sure you indulge in some retail therapy (I won’t argue there), journal (or in my case blog) and many other tips. The books are positive and uplighting and exactly what I needed when I found out I had cancer. As great as the books are there is something missing, she talks about surgery and treatments but she hasn’t actually gone through them herself. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, BUT a lot of people who have cancer do have to have surgery and will go through treatments. The other thing that was hard to relate with is the fact that she is/was a actress/model and all of her friends that she has in the book are also in the entertainment industry. However, it is her story and like I said it was exactly what I needed those first few days.

As for the cookbook, it is filled with 150 plant based recipes which is right up my alley. If you are interested in the recipes she has some one her website here: http://kriscarr.com/recipes/

I’m not going to lie, I haven’t actually made any of the recipes from the cookbook yet or her website, but they do look good! If you have made some of her recipes please let me know what your favourites are.

Kris has also done a documentary on her journey of trying to find a cure and how to live with the cancer that she has, I haven’t watched it yet, but here is the trailer:

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