Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Reflections on 2008

2008 began and ended with travel and health challenges. I spent last New Year ’s Eve in a hotel in Calgary with the stomach flu, on my way home from spending Christmas in Palm Desert, California. I was given someone else’s boarding pass and ended up on the wrong flight (long story…). The airline, concerned about the breach of security, put me up in a hotel where I was able to nurse my flu before flying home on New Year’s day.

Travelling to spend Christmas with family was challenging once again this year because of bad weather. I returned home on the 26th to prepare to end the year with a bang – my 6th chemo treatment was today, New Year’s Eve. Jill took me to my appointment and insisted on staying with me. She fed me, entertained me, and even rubbed my feet, so it was a good deal!

It has been a year of major events, some good, some bad, and some devastating. In January I celebrated my Mom’s 70th birthday in Halifax with her. During February and March, I snow shoed and skied several times, and went on an overnight ski trip to an unheated cabin in the Gatineau (complete with outhouse). My sister Nadine visited in May and on the 28th I left for the Netherlands. My friend Jennifer & I spent the first part of June visiting Adam and Tara in Holland, with a side-trip to Spain. I enjoyed several lovely weekends at friends’ cottages in July and August, and participated in the 150 km MS Bike Tour.

In follow-up to a surgery to remove a tumor from my lung last year, I continued to have regular oncology visits at the cancer clinic. Despite knowing that the breast cancer had spread, I had convinced myself that I would be in the 2-3% of people whose metastatic cancer was removed and never returned. Life was good – my son was living the life I wished for him, I had a job I enjoyed, I had a great community of wonderful friends.

When, in August, I found out that the cancer was back in both lungs, I spent some time doing my best to deal with the panic, shock and fear. Adam joined me for a week in Halifax just before my first chemo. It was good to just hang out together and transition between work and the start of my treatments.

I had my first treatment in early September, but still managed to spend time outdoors and do things that I enjoyed. I participated in the Run for a Cure but had to leave soon after for an emotional trip back to Halifax when my Dad died unexpectedly. I continued treatments through October, November and December and spent Christmas with family.

One thing I can say is that I truly lived this past year – the good, the bad and the ugly. I read somewhere that you never live your days as intensely as you do once you’ve look death in the face. Despite the challenges and emotions of dealing with a cancer recurrence, I can truly say that I’m grateful for so many things this past year.

The most important thing that I’m grateful for are the people in my life. My Mom dropped everything to be here for my first chemo treatment and is the one person I know I can turn to come and do anything – from cleaning my house to just holding my hand. Adam has kept connected by phone and email, and travelled twice from Holland to spend time with me since my diagnosis. Friends cooked meals for me in my own kitchen, filled my freezer with soup, listened to the boring details of my medical appointments, read my rambling blog postings, and filled my year with laughter.

My work colleagues formed a Run for the Cure team called Chris’ Jocks, taxied me to chemo appointments, and shouldered the burden when I had to leave work suddenly to start treatments. I’ve enjoyed the company of other breast cancer ‘thrivers’ at our yoga class, group hikes and Saturday walk/runs. I’ve received numerous cards, emails, thoughtful gifts and phone messages (sorry if I didn’t always return phone calls). One of my favorite Christmas gifts was a luxurious fleece nightdress from Mary embroidered with “Our D team”, in reference to a comment I made after my recurrence that I really didn’t want to join her “damn team”. (Who says cancer patients don’t have a sense of humor?)

The list goes on. I considered writing a list of everyone I wanted to thank, but I know I would forget someone, because I’ve had such an army of people show their support and love. I wouldn’t have thought that at the end of a year when I experienced a recurrence of cancer that I could say that I am blessed, but I can’t deny that I am. We all have our challenges and battles to fight, but I continue to be amazed everyday at how fortunate I am to have people in my life willing to walk this journey with me. Thank you to each and every one of you. I wish you a healthy and happy new year.

Stay tuned. I’m putting on my stilettos and plan to kick cancer in the ass in 2009!

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