Special Things

Today is a special day.

It’s the day I went into the office for a small gathering of friends to celebrate my time having worked together at Amnesty International. It’s also the day I get to finally start my new treatment approach.

And it’s very bright outside today, which makes it all the better.

tea-time

Let me start with Amnesty. I do not write about work on this blog too often. I feel it’s something beyond the personal – and would be unprofessional to write about it in this space. But I can write about how lovely it is to belong somewhere, and I have really felt like I belonged in my role this past 1.5 years, and with this amazing organization. Truly it has changed who I am, how I see the world, and my knowledge in what kind of change people working together- grassroots upwards – can make.

But today was about the cheese and tea. Having finished work last week (I made the decision to leave my role as book club coordinator after Dr Canada gave Zsolt that ‘expect the worst’ talk, and things wrapped up last week.)… having finished work last week, some friends at the organization threw me a little tea party this week. I just had to show up and enjoy! There was tea (we tried some plum, some cinnamon, and a hibiscus) and variety of cheeses, as well as crackers and gluten free baked goods from the market, plus most importantly: Good Company.

Sitting around chatting reminds me that it’s just essential to connect. Social media and such is fine and well, but a nice table with some china and chatter – it’s the essential stuff. It’s where the calm and laughter really live. It’s where you realize how much you have in common, and how much you have to learn. I hope as time moves forward, I can continue to seek out meaningful moments like the ladies gave me today.

Today is also a special day because of the new treatment. Oh, stage four and treatments – one comes after the other until the doctor says ‘that’s it!’ and it’s a very hard situation. But sometimes moments of hope appear, and whatever kind of opportunity they offer – another month, another year, another study, another approach – they are meaningful.

With the cancer all over my lungs, liver, bones and in my brain, the picture is not pretty. But at least today I’ve been able to start a new treatment course. The radiation has zapped the spots in my brain, and maybe this medication will help kill any bits remaining in there. If so, maybe then I can get onto a clinical trial and attempt a different approach for battling back the disease. Fingers crossed for a virus study.

But we’ve had to wait about 3 months before I could get this medicine. It’s called Tykerb, and it’s a HER2 drug that apparently can cross the blood brain barrier, whereas other approaches cannot. It’s also about 5000$/month if you are not covered by the province or insurance. Guess who isn’t covered?

However, through a series of fortunate events, persistence and compassion it has become accessible to me. I won’t give details because it’s not my place to do so. But we get to try it, and that is so very good. Like I say, who knows whether it will work, and even if it does, who knows how long it will last – with me, things seem to move on quickly from working to not working, but it’s nevertheless a gift of hope. I get to try.

I get to try. And that matters very much.

I’m also back on chemo. This time it is a pill. This is fine, it’s part of the treatment. Though it’s also a bit hard to swallow in that …I already weigh nothing. My energy is so depleted.  My appetite was never great. Ahhhh.

But who knows? Maybe it will help push back the cancer in my lungs, so I can breath better. And maybe it will reduce the discomfort of the bones. And maybe I’ll be able to rebuild some muscle mass? All these things would be lovely.

In the meanwhile, I had a fun conversation today with the ladies at work about movies that impacted our lives. Some that came up: Garden State (my movie choice), Amelie, Reality Bites, Bridget Jones, Dirty Dancing and more. And in that vein, here is one more: Beauty and the Beast. One of the first characters that I really, really wanted to identify with. Headstrong, smart, beautiful, adventurous, and a reader! Disney is redoing the film with Emma Watson. Here is the trailer.  Tingles!

P.S. I am writing a lot lately. It’s a coping mechanism. I hope I am not overwhelming your news feed or email. Feel most welcome to ignore me. 🙂

P.P.S. Did anyone catch that emergency debate on the USA’s decision regarding refugee travel and how Canada should respond? Very insightful, I thought….very interesting how each MP approached the issue. Much of it disappointing (self-congratulations of a country, avoidance of issue through excessive storytelling, platform pushing), but some of it quite good (acknowledging Canada has failed to support refugees in the past, pushing for some form of commitment on how we can help now, direct language and direct responses, etc.)

P.P.P.S I’ve got nothing to add here – just didn’t want to end on politics.

THE END 😉

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MALL walking!

It’s eleven PM and I’m starting this blog post. Too late for spelling or grammar concerns. Too later, really, to be blogging. But what the heck? Let’s go for it.

Lately I’ve taken up an interesting sport. It is called “mall walking” and it’s quite the event. You see in Canada winter is cold. In Ottawa, where I live, it’s also snowy and icy and creates chaos for a person who lives downtown, doesn’t own a car, and needs to walk on the icy, uneven, potholed sidewalks of the city.

But the weather is beautiful on a crisp winter day, and the mall isn’t too far from my downtown location. So while downtown and not at my parents place, it’s a bit tempting to risk the short outdoor walk (even though my oncologist scared the heck outta me around breakages in bones, etc.) and go to the mall for a little bit of movement.

Yeah, I’m basically behaving like an elderly citizen. But I get it more, you know? Things like chemo and the change in body really make you get it. Mall walking – it just makes sense.

So the other day my brother took me walking in the mall.

First, it was absolutely adorable. He and I walked the precarious sidewalk towards the Rideau Center Mall arm in arm. I mean, come on – when do you walk arm in arm with your brother? NEVER, in my experience. But we did! I was quite excited about the whole trolling the mall thing, and he was happy to humour me.

So we take a walk outside. But by the time we actually reach the mall I’m wheezing like a … well… a person who cannot catch their breath. Unfortunately, my lungs have been giving me trouble. But that’s why it’s good to get outside and push them a little. Push, as my bro says, so that the body knows where to aim and grow towards.

Right, I’m wheezing on the street corner, catching my breath. But we made it – because the entrance is JUST RIGHT THERE. Screw the wheeze! Let’s keep going! I proclaim to him and a few random people passing by.

We continue up an incline. Screw the wheeze, screw the wheeze, screw the wheeze I say as we chug along. Because goodness knows I can’t just shut up and conserve my breath. No, I cope through chatter.

And finally we reach the entrance to the mall food court. Basically, we’re hitting up the most exciting part of the tour first, because there is plenty to see and do in a food court.

Including getting a massage!

We go in, take a seat on some comfy stools and my traditional-Chinese-medicine trained brother gives me an awesome chest and shoulder massage.

So we go from holding arms, to massaging.

Not weird at all.

Ha!

But screw it, I was in 7-heaven. Every walk should pause mid-way for a massage. Plus, it really helped to reinvigorate me for the remainder of the mall walk.

Then we take off (but not before deciding that as a reward for this very productive walking excursion, we’d buy some BUCHIPOP, sold in the food court and made by my brother’s girlfriend – it’s her drink company – on the way out!)

And off we walked into the mall.

I guess the key to a good mall walk is not to actually go into many shops. It’s more walk-by browsing. Otherwise things become rather stagnant. However, of course, if something catches the eye than by all means stop. Of course, I’m doing it wrong, technically. WAYYYYY back when I was 20 and worked for Old Navy,  I’d see proper mall walkers in the morning before anyone actually began shopping in the mall. They were a serious bunch. They didn’t stop to shop because the stores were not even open yet! They would just charge around the mall over and over – really proper and serious mall walkers.

I’m more like… a contemplative walker. I enjoy the sights and sounds. I enjoy the conversation.

JP, my brother, carried my coat. Very gentlemen like. So first there was arm-in-arm strolls, a massage, and then gentlemanly behaviour. WEIRD! But to tell you the truth, his carrying my coat is a great relief, and I can use that energy for explore and gab for a longer period of time.

Eventually the walking felt complete. I bought my rewards BUCHIPOP and we headed back to the apartment.

While I do spend most of my time at my parents, it has been very nice to be downtown too. If for no other reason than the chance to spend more time with my brothers – they both live downtown – and of course, for the occasional visit to the mall.

Arm in arm we walked home together. And it was it such a good time. I’ve decided that I will take the memory of that mall wall with me into my radiation appointment this week.

Targeted radiation – cyber knife. For all the spots in my brain. I have three days worth of sessions. First day 1 hour with the face mask on,locking me to the table. Second two sessions – 1.5 hours and 1 hour back-to-back with the face mask on, locked down. Third session, on the Monday – 1.5 hours and 1 hour back to back with the face mask on, locked down. (VERY good, but psychologically challenging)

The only way I figure I’ll cope with this, is to take in all the stories and moments I’ve been enjoying – from you – to think about as my brain receives laser radioactive surgery.

I will think about the mall walk with my brother. Think about going to the tea house with my oldest friend and the hot chocolate we used to order. Think about Pink Floyd and Christmas lights. Think about dancing with my husband. Think about PWC and eating a gooey pizza with my also-wants-to-be-a-writer-and-we-also-love-to-gossip co-worker. Think about shelving books at Chapters and escaping to the back room. Think about going out west with my Dad. Think about Pride and Prejudice with my mom. Think about car rides with my cousins. Think about kicking some ass in the gym class self-defense module and earning a reputation for being crazy. Think about BOLO. Think about riding bikes in Balaton. Think about brunch with friends. Think about my writing, how you react to it, and what I want to do with it going forward.

Think think think.

Thank you so much for all of your messages. I was nervous to put that post out. SO nervous. But it was good, and I’m glad to have done it.

I’ll take all of you in with me to those radiation sessions. And we’ll get these spots under control.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

PS NO SPELL CHECK TONIGHT> Maybe tomorrow. Maybe. I’m always embarrassed by the errors. But better out then never published. And things can be reviewed later.  Gooood night!

A week of things

This week was a good week. It’s nice to have them occasionally. I honestly didn’t expect it would be all that wonderful. But it was pretty chill, and productive, and somehow visiting with my radiation doctor made me feel less dismal and more . . . just . . . steady.

Boo!

Boo!

Here is what happened. It’s almost so unremarkable that you really needn’t read another word in this post. But I feel like writing it out, so there you go.

This week I saw Margaret Atwood for the second time in my life. I’m editing/recording a mini podcast feature for the Ottawa International Writers Festival and Foment Literary Magazine. It’s a nice thing that gets me out of the house on the rare evening, and lets me talk about events with other literary loving minds. Margaret Atwood wore skeleton gloves for the event, which she picked up at a gas station. Throughout the evening I know everyone in the audience was wondering why she wore those gloves. And I know this because during the Q&A at the end, someone ask her why and everyone clapped. Then when she explained it was a spooky season and she bought them at a gas station, everyone clapped again. Two rounds of applause for the skeleton gloves. And Margaret Atwood. And her new book Hag-Seed, which sounds really entertaining.

Also this week, we have had a bunch of pumpkins populating our home. Tomorrow I’m hosting a small gathering of family and a few friends, and we are carving these pumpkins up. This is really an overly elaborate plan to make other people carve pumpkins so I can enjoy the benefits of roasting pumpkin seeds later. Mmmm, I adore salted roasted pumpkin seeds.

Furthermore, I made a rather excellent cheesecake.

As well! It’s always a satisfying week when I’m able to make progress at work. It seems to me there is always another big project that needs attention. In general, it feels like having this massive piece of ice I’m meant to turn into some lovely sculpture. But the only way to accomplish this gleaming sculpture is to slowly scrape and scrape at the ice till it finally takes forms. The  scraping is emails, phone calls, writing texts, experimenting with ideas, sending newsletters and such. And in the in, you get something wonderful. This week, I could move that sculpture along. But next week, of course, there will always be more to do. This is okay. It helps me. By the by, the Amnesty International Book Club is having a Readers Choice vote – go vote! It closes on the 31st.

Counter that above point: this week I worked mostly from home. I just could not handle it otherwise. Firstly, it’s a post-chemo week. Secondly, I received shitty news about my treatment last week, which got me down down down – and so incubating myself, in a way, helped me cope with all the ice chips I needed to scrape off not only my work sculpture, but my life-in-general sculpture too. And I could cry whenever I wanted. Plus stop to take naps. And watch the end of Star Trek Voyager.

Next: My art class was attended by only two people this past Wednesday. While that sucks for our lovely instructor, it wasn’t at all bad for me. It was useful to have  a little extra input into my impossible-flower-painting-that-is-driving-me-crazy. Oil paint is an interesting medium, but my goodness does it require patience. Patience is not my strongest point. And so, I am reminded to slow down in life.

We cleaned. This is why you invite people over, in additional to harvesting their pumpkin seeds. It forces one to finally clean one’s apartment.

We had sushi. That was fun – it’s this roll-it-yourself sushi that Zsolt and I really enjoy. After finally finding sushi rice at Bulk Barn, we ate our hand-rolled sandwich style sushi. It made us both quite happy.

So you can see, it was an unremarkable week that was nevertheless good.

Last week was terrible. Apparently while other areas in my body are stable’ish’ in regards to the cancer, my liver spots just keep on growing. Fuck buckets. This terrible disease is terrible. However, there are areas in my body that seem mostly stable, and that is good. Dr Canada is working to see what alternative treatments he can find me. I hate cancer. And this is a shitty way to end this happy blog post.

Therefore I will add this! I booked a ticket to go on a trip. I’m excited. Extra excited because I’ll be traveling with my Dad, and we haven’t done anything like this together ever. Not that I can remember, anyhow. It’s gonna be one long plane ride of him saying crazy things, and me taking the bait every time. FUN!

Last thing, it snowed!! Holy moly.

Happy Halloween 🙂

Catherine