Sunday, February 2, 2014

A New Year....

Yes, it is 2014 and already February. Today is my son Steven's 25th birthday and it occurred to me that I may not be around in another quarter century to celebrate his 50th. But I don't see that as a scary thought, but rather as reality. There is often discussion with my breast cancer buddies about recurrence and how we feel about it. I feared it mightily last summer and into the fall. But now I feel more at peace and know that should my cancer recur, I will deal with it then and not worry unnecessarily about it now. I try to live each day with the knowledge that I am lucky to be alive and often the smallest things make me realize how true this is. Snowdrops about to bloom, our chicken Fluffy laying her first eggs this week~~these are all wondrous things. I talked on Skype Friday to my daughter Mary who is living an adventurous life in Turkey. She plans to cross into Iraq this week to return to Turkey with a new passport and this might have in the past, concerned me but now I know I have no need to worry~~she will be fine. It is out of my hands.

It has been a long 18 months since my diagnosis and much has happened in that time. My reconstruction surgery did take place Dec. 6 and though it was seemingly successful, it took a toll on me and it was weeks before I felt semi-normal. Another anesthetic, more recovery, more physiotherapy, adjustment to a "foob" or fake boob as well as to an augment on my "real" breast. The reality that I will never have feeling in that foob nor in much of my right arm and underarm is not all that easy to assimilate. But gradually, the pain and tightness has receded and as always, I will adjust to another new normal.

Christmas Eve, Steven and I flew to Toronto and then on to Barbados to meet my husband Dick and son Andy who had just successfully crossed the Atlantic in our catamaran Van Kedisi. Though it seemed to everyone else that I was lucky to escape winter in Canada and spend time with my family, it was initially super challenging as I felt terrible and movement was not easy, especially climbing in and out of our dinghy and moving around in a constantly swaying space. But gradually I started to feel better and even snorkeled one day from the dinghy on a couple of wrecks in the bay. That day I was able to laugh at myself as it took all 3 guys to haul me back in the boat as I honestly could not pull myself out with the still very sore surgical sites.

We had some very challenging sailing over a week from Barbados to Antigua and I was glad that I was just a "passenger" in high winds, squalls and big seas. I felt vulnerable and at times intimidated by it all but my guys were impressed that I was even there! By the third week I started to feel myself and was able to swim often and enjoy the warmth and newness of the Caribbean.

I  have been back home for 10 days and with a departure for Nepal March 6, my focus is on walking and yoga daily. I had hoped to snowshoe but the west coast has been blessed with little snow so far. My goal for the past several months has been trekking in Nepal and though I suspect I will be slow, I know I can do it. I will do a week long trek on my own with a guide/porter so once my group arrives I should be fit and ready for the Annapurnas. There was so much interest in this Nepal adventure that I ended up with a wait-list and so another trip is planned for October should anyone be interested.

Trekking in Nepal just two months before my diagnosis I am sure was what gave me strength during the worst times in treatment and now that I am going back, I feel that strength returning.

There are always silver linings no matter how desperate things seem. My good friend David Greer, who coincidentally was a crew member on the Atlantic crossing, heard about a scholarship program for breast cancer women. He wrote a very moving essay in support of me receiving one of these 8 scholarships and lo and behold, I was one of those chosen. At the end of May I will join 7 other women who have had breast cancer in a yoga/horse retreat. Truly a silver lining!

I love this family photo even though Mary is missing. Steven and Andy are growing their hair long enough to donate to our cancer agency for use in wigs for women who have also lost their hair due to chemotherapy. The other photo was taken in a bay in Martinique. I had been left alone on board while the guys checked us out NY's day and it was one of the few times I felt afraid~~the winds were very high and the boat was swinging wildly and my fear was that we would drag anchor and I would not remember what to do. Of course nothing happened and it was a beautiful NY's day sailing along the coast of Martinique.

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