Finding the zen

In preparation for this posting I’ve tried to enter a relaxed state. Therefore, I’ve just taken a warm shower with a variety of scrubs including goats milk soap and cucumber body wash (sounds like a nice salad), as well as washing my head fluff with some lemongrass shampoo. Following this, I splashed my face with water and patted it down with almond oil (a drop will do you). And now, while sitting beside my dad’s puzzle and typing on this keyboard, there is a hot cup of ‘oh so good’ tea, mixing chamomile lemongrass and peppermint. It’s DavidsTea, so you know it’ll be quality.

All of this in effort to forget about the other night and recapture what I was feeling the days before. What was that feeling? Pretty freaking zenned out (i.e. good).

Last week kicked off with a facial from my mother’s long-time friend, Jane. Ohhh delicious. I’ve never had a facial before, so it was quite something. Hmmm, one word for a facial: refresh.

Chemo leads to exhaustion, and exhaustion means a lack of attention – I stopped washing my face, stopped wearing make-up, stopped trying to look pretty. Heck, I stopped enjoying showers, which was unfortunate for anyone within 2 meters.  The facial Jane gave was a refreshment, it stripped off the past six months through lotions, soaps and scrubs, and helped me find a new face (and neck and chest).  I’ve since been trying to reinvigorate my skin. And just the other day my good friend said I have more colour than before. Awesome.

Two days following the facial (and an afternoon of rest, for some reason I was knackered after the facial, though Jane did warn it would happen) I had a massage from Brian at my parent’s office. It focused on my lymphatic system, targeting areas that were holding stress. Any guess where my stress was held? Ding! You’ve guessed it: my right breast, arm and back area.  Apart from being relaxing, the massage is designed to get things draining. One word for a lymphatic massage: release.

Funny, in England cancer patients have access to free massage therapy, acupuncture, reiki and aromatherapy – but I never managed to use any of these services (except acupuncture, but not free since I wanted TCM). So, why not? Partly because the treatments took place at the hospital, and party because of nerves – I was too nervous to accept this complimentary help. Chemo drugs are tricky, for me they really affected my anxiety. However, now that I’m having complimentary therapies, it is clear that massage would have been really helpful during treatments. But at least I had the acupuncture.

Finally, last Friday, I cashed in my Christmas present: a trip to le Nordik. Going to the Nordik is somewhat like having chocolate fondue – decadent, hot, and oh so amazing. This is a spa set on the outskirts of Gatineau park. Amoungst the trees, rocks and waterfalls, the Nordik visitor goes through a circuit: sauna, cold pool, steam room, cold pool, rest. And repeat as desired. Mom and I love this place.  By the time we hit our third cycle, sweat was pouring down my face. This lack of hair means that sweat can drip unhindered (drip, run, pour, glisten, gush). One word for visiting the spa: escape.

All these treatments are designed to remove toxins from the body – facial, massage and sauna. Whether you push it out, scrub it out, or sweat it out: key word is out.

And last Saturday I was feeling excellent. Woke up singing, put on makeup, went out with a friend, and had a great time. Yes, later in the evening I had a panic attack – but I don’t blame the detox, not to say it wasn’t involved. A rash on the body is the body’s reaction while trying to remove toxins – but it’s also an indicator that the body’s garbage-removal-service isn’t in good order. But let’s not focus on the down moment. There are better things to talk about.

Anyhow, this week I’m back with my brother and the acupressure. Therefore, I’m back to feeling good about feeling good.

It was a lovely week, which might explain why I didn’t write (too stuck into the good vibes). Since this ordeal can be so overwhelming, it’s got to be broken down – helping my body heal is a great first step.

Hmm, now it’s time to stop typing. Computers are wonderful, but they’re totally not zen.  Right now, I choose to relax. That’s another awesome treatment and totally effortless (which is the point).


Tea and a muffin

Well, guess who got in touch? The lady in the red-brick house who had breast cancer, and I am quite glad she did. Yesterday afternoon she stopped by while canvassing and left her number with my parents. So of course,  happy to see this slip of paper as I arrived home, I called her right away.

Fast forward to this morning, walking through the snow back up my favourite street and being greeted at her door. With an invitation for tea, we got together and had a chat (and some lovely gluten-free, lactose-free muffins). Honestly, I never imagined this scenario; it must have been over ten years since I was last in her home to babysit. One time while she and her husband were away (and I was ‘on the job’) her son and I somehow managed to get locked outside of the house. Desperate not to look like an idiot, I asked the neighbours if they had a key – but no luck. Instead  they had a ladder. . .  essentially I broke in through the window and climbed into the kitchen sink (then crawled along the floor to deactivate the alarm).  Yeah, that was a bit embarrassing overall, but also rather resourceful now that I look back.

Anyhow, never in my life would I have imagines a conversation about breast cancer taking place at the home where I once crawled into the kitchen sink. But life is surprising (with breast cancer being a surprise for everyone involved) however, it was real pleasure to sit down and compare experiences (and catch up; funny how it’s so easy to lose track of someone’s life, even if they only live down the road).

Despite some differences in treatment and diagnosis, both systems seem to move quickly. I guess that’s a reassurance to women freshly diagnosed in both Canada and England. You will be attended, and it’ll happen right away. In England my medication was all covered, in Canada a drug plan is very helpful. In Canada they have a nurse designated to help during chemo, in England they have a nurse designated to help with overall breast cancer. I think it’d be ideal to have both types of nurses available. When first diagnosed questions swirl around and it’s useful to easily find answers, and chemotherapy is such a tiring process that having a contact would be reassuring.

Anyhow, we compared notes. Talking was such a pleasure, and talking over tea made it all the better. It’s very nice to connect with someone who has been there and done that. For various reasons I’ve never been to keen to join support groups, but chatting with a neighbour was different.

Overall, I’m quite glad she had guts to start the conversation. I should learn from her example.