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!

The Big Trip

It is Tuesday afternoon. Zsolt and I are knocked out and still in bed. He is working between his sniffles (the man has a cold) and I am blogging between my aches. The timer is set so every 45 minutes we get up and do some movements together. It helps a lot and the pain I felt all weekend is loosening its grip. It’s a pretty nice day together, despite our utter exhaustion. He is sick, and I should probably be 10 meters away from the man at all times, but damn I missed him so much. I cannot bring myself to leave his side.

This past weekend was the Big Trip for my father and I (I wonder how my Dad is doing today? He’s back at work while Zsolt and I get to hang out in bed!). Dad and I headed out west for the weekend to visit with family. It was a very good visit, but a challenging one too. I may as well tell it like a story rather than recounting just takeaways. After all, life in reflection is really about the stories – takeaways have little impact without them.

Thursday evening Dad picked me up 3 hours before our flight was due to leave. Normally I’d oppose this, but he felt it was important and I figured it was easier to not argue. So! We got there early and settled in. The plane left on time, we jammed ourselves like a bunch of sardines onto the flight, and then whoosh! we were off to Edmonton.

Fact: I was worried about flying. Reality: I had reason to be worried about flying. My body is not a fan!

After we arrived in Edmonton all seemed well, but I woke up in the middle of the night with throbbing shoulder pain. It got so bad I had to wake up my father in the other room around 2 AM. Poor guy gave me a treatment in the middle of the night. Thank goodness for being born into a family of health care practitioners. Not everyone can call upon their chiropractor and energy guy at two in the morning. After the treatment, I eventually got back to sleep. And the next morning, we went out and got me a very flat pillow (best for my neck and shoulder), a cute little heater, a hot water bottle and a kettle in which I could boil water for the bottle.

Take Away: My Dad was so kind. And, I’m high maintenance!

The weekend itself was all about getting to know family. I liked the little moments – things like car-ride conversations, getting tea, comparing book lists, doing some painting. The big event was the family reunion on Sunday. My aunt held it at hers, and so many people came. It was quite something. A few I had known in my adulthood years, but many not. It was very meaningful to establish these connections again. There’s just such a difference in perspective in this phase of life. As a kid and teen you want to slip away during family events, but now I want to know who these people are – what makes them them?

And I found the questions arising again and again: how are we the same? What makes us family? What in you do I also see in me? What is being passed on to the next generation of kiddos (there are many kiddos!) that I know is in myself too?

For me this weekend was about friendship, family and legacy. Growing up without sisters, it’s good to connect with my cousins – particularly the ladies. And now not having any kids, I wonder what of myself will ever ripple forward? It’s so self-focused, I know. Don’t get me wrong – I see these people and they are their own bright excited adorable ambitious surprising sparks. They are their own. But to recognize a little this or that of something I also hold is a comfort. It’s a weird comfort.

Dad caught up with his family – saying both significant hellos and goodbyes. (He had his own important journey this past weekend.)

I loved this. Everyone we met with was a keeper of a story. Everyone would recall a ‘remember that time?’ story about everyone else. One bit og history after the other, I think the older generation rebuilt their connections, and the youngsters learned a little something.

Here’s an example. My one uncle (the youngest of many brothers) once shot a pistol bullet through my Dad’s window where they lived (back when they were kids) as retribution after my Dad (one of the middle brothers) got that uncle’s baseball bat chopped into pieces. Why was it chopped into pieces? Because the oldest brother initiated a machete-vs-bat fight with my father. The wooden bat, used by my father, lost the battle.

CRAZY.

That’s the tone of many stories. 🙂

Take away: way too many things for this blog post.

Hmm. And now we are back in Ottawa. Walking off the plane, through the airport, was a struggle. An emotional struggle considering what was to be faced upon our return, and all the emotions and connections we knew we were leaving behind for a very long time.

Today was a day for being in bed. It’s now much later in the day, and I’m finishing this blog post. The doctor called today, Dr Canada. Not only am I not eligible for that study I thought I’d go on, but it turns out there are spots of cancer in my brain tissue now. Before it was just in the skull… not anymore. Turns out the game is changing once again. Turns out life can be pretty hard sometimes.

But you never know. The underdog keeps fighting – and a story much expected to go badly can something surprise you. Hey, if the Ottawa Red Blacks can shock the CFL with their AMAZING win the other night – who knows what other awesome moments are in store?

The most awesome of moments from this past weekend was actually not a moment. It was my Dad. He was awesome. Being with him was lovely, loving and fun. I’ll cherish this weekend not only because I reconnected with far-away family, but even more so because I got to be with my father.

He’s definitely the best takeaway I could ask for.

me-and-dad

Skinny Dipping vs Depression

I went skinny dipping. It’s great. It’s like when I first discovered not wearing a bra was far more comfortable than wearing a bra – and hence ditched my bras almost all together. (Resulting in my true form ‘flat as a pancake’ being rocked daily. The mastectomy certainly helps with this look.)

My parents have a pool, and for a long time I’ve though how lovely it would be to skip the uncomfortable bathing suit and just jump in – but never went for it. Well, as I was in one of those ‘f-k it’ moods lately, and since no one was home at my parents except Zsolt and I, and because the weather has been so crazy warm . . . I just went for a swim a la nude. It was beautiful.

You know that cold dread of getting out of the pool, as you towel off while the suit you are wearing clings and chills your skin? That sticky resistance as you try to pull it off, after having stepping into the air conditioned house where the cold air hits hard against the cloth of your damp suit? Well there’s none of that when you’re butt naked in the backyard, drying off with your towel.

And when you swim through the water, there’s really no resistance. It’s just slip and dip.

So from now on, whenever possible, I’m gonna swim a la natural. It’s just better this way.

This too, is one off my reminders that life isn’t all cancer. It’s hard, because my mind and body seem to be trying to convince me otherwise. I wake up in the morning thinking about scans and appointments and whether anything will every work. I think about slipping through the cracks of a system. I think about mortality and final days and fighting and sleeping. I think about my eyes and their warped sight  . . . and such. I wake up every morning and some nights stuck with these thoughts, and they sink deep into me, making everything heavy. And I have to pull myself out somehow – it’s not always so easy – pull myself out to be here in the moment, here today, living now.

Things like skinny dipping help with that. So does going to the river in Packenham (where Z and I were married seven years ago in the church there) this past weekend, and putting our feet into the flowing water – watching as schools of tiny fish swim up to investigate our toes. (eep!) That helps pull me out too.

Last night we watched our wedding video. The ceremony was lovely, and vows reminded me that not everything has gone wrong. Yes, life is threatened, yes we are frustrated, and yes, I deeply regret not having had children – but in listening to the vows, I remember  we made promises that have been kept and held as precious. We have and hold though good and bad, through sickness and health, through rick and poor – we have been an amazing married couple. And though I sometimes feel as though I’m failing, particularly as the cancer spreads, I must remember that we are in fact blessed.

Every day when we get to find our ‘in the moment’ joys, we really truly succeed. But also, when we hold each other and cry, and when the doctor gives bad news, we still shine through. He’s my husband and my life is a slice of satisfaction thanks to our relationship.

Anyhow, there’s a wandering post where I am sorting out my emotions. Depression vs skinny dipping, love vs expectation, good times and deep pits of sad.

Today we are outside in the backyard, and the pool is waiting. There are no scans this week, or tests, or results. And I will try my best to be Catherine the normal, with her husband Zsolt the loving – and later this day, will jump in that pool buck naked once again.