~ one year on the good side! ūüéČ

It is almost two years since this health adventure began, which seems long ago and yet feels like yesterday. This year has been filled with memories on anniversary dates of the things that I have experienced. Today being a very important one. Last year on this date my doctor called to give me the results of the PET scan and the news was great, I was in remission!!! So this anniversary is meaningful as the first year is an important one to get through. 

So thankful for sparkle shields!!!  ✨✨✨

I still believe in the power of sparkles! I think I always will. It may be silly to some and seem like I am covering up how I truly feel. To each their own. Since I still have a scar tissue mass in my chest that I feel every day, I continue to visualize it encased in sparkles to keep it contained. Whatever it takes to put my mind at ease. 

Now to get on¬†with life! To find the answer to the nagging question in my head…what do I want to be when I grow up? That is a tough question. Since the socially¬†acceptable norms have never added joy to my life this may be interesting and take Vodka and I to new places. We will see what I¬†discover¬†that appeals to the new normal me. ¬†ūüėČ

Still sparkling…one day at a time ¬† ūüėÉ

~ a life celebrated in style…

Last week I attended a true Celebration of Life for a lovely man named Carl. A man who¬†lived life to the fullest every day. Inspiringly courageous through the most¬†difficult of journeys. From seeing the number of¬†people¬†in¬†attendance to hearing the fond memories and stories from his family¬†and friends, there is no doubt that he touched many people’s lives.

This day was special and spoke volumes about the kind of man Carl was. From the personal stories, photos and the family video footage you could see that he found joy in the little things and injected positive energy into every thing he did. It felt right to enjoy music played by local bands and to share laughs over cocktails on this day. Just the way Carl wanted his life to be celebrated. With pyrotechnics and all. 

I was introduced to his¬†lovely wife, who had heard a lot about me¬†throughout¬†this journey. She looked into my eyes and said ‘I prayed for you everyday.’ My eyes filled with tears and I was¬†speechless. Kindness is¬†beautiful.¬†

These life events tend to make people think. They bring up a mixture of¬†feelings¬†that many¬†don’t want to address. Yet if you look at it¬†this way, it is easier¬†to make decisions¬†when you choose to rather than when you are forced to.¬†Something to think¬†about. You will be glad you did.¬†

It may seem strange to attend the memorial celebration for someone whom I had not met, yet I came away from this day feeling that I knew Carl. I am just sorry I had not taken the opportunity to meet him when I had the chance. 

I sparkle on…one day at a time ¬†¬†

 

~ my distracted mind…

For weeks, even months I have been thinking about writing a post about the things I did during the rest of my stay in Italy. Yet I have not felt like talking. Unusual for me since I am quite a chatty gal. There have been too many distractions in my mind for me to focus. At this moment I have lists all over the table and am starting to get my head straight about life and what to do with myself. I will get around to writing posts about my Italian adventure soon. 

Since¬†returning to Canada a few weeks ago I have had another follow-up, this time¬†with my original hematologist. It’s nice to have her back.¬†I was thrilled the day I had my blood taken, sounds silly, but the nurse was skilled and successful on the first try. I could even hear the blood gush into the tube! Woohoo! Gross but made me very happy! She is my¬†favourite nurse!!! Always a relief¬†to learn that my blood is normal and that the doctor is happy with how I am doing overall. ūüėÉ I am almost at the one year mark and this is important. The first year is the most likely period for¬†recurrence. There is that word, this is part of what has been¬†distracting me for some time.¬†

Recurrence. As time passes and I get closer to a full year beyond¬†treatment I struggle with this word. I¬†chose¬†to keep to myself and not get¬†involved with support groups and such during my¬†treatment period. Yet I did know of a few others at different stages of treatment at the same time and this is what has become difficult for me. Over the last six months or so I¬†have learned of three people¬†who¬†have experienced¬†recurrence. I¬†imagine that it is a cancer¬†survivor’s greatest fear,¬†and for as much as one tries to be positive, live in the moment and move on with life. This word presents a reality that others just cannot understand. To learn that one person had passed away last month, another is in¬†palliative care and one in¬†treatment again is difficult to process. Here I am just back from a few months rest in Europe and trying to decide¬†what to do with my life, while my mind feels numb. Moving forward feels difficult¬†when someone I haven’t met yet feel I know because our stories were shared between us via a¬†mutual friend, we were each others cheerleaders, is near the end of his life. It’s hard to hear¬†that someone who¬†handled their illness and¬†treatment will such grace has had to face it again so soon. I cannot put my feelings into words right¬†now. ūüėĒ

Another distraction is my hand and wrist pain which continues. I have agreed to¬†take the prescription the hematologist has recommended. The first day was comical, I was pretty much stoned from one pill! ha! and I felt nauseated and my face was¬†tingling! Thankfully the yucky feeling only lasted a few days. It’s been almost two weeks and I am not¬†noticing much relief yet, I do remain hopeful. I saw a neurologist last week, he had no answers. My case is odd. So I¬†have¬†been referred to a physiatrist. Now to wait for an appointment with him.¬†Thankfully I have free time and can be on a cancellation list¬†rather¬†than wait 6 months for an¬†appointment.¬†

I am now¬†experiencing the entangled feelings of fear,¬†frustration and what on earth are my transferable skills!?¬†in looking for some way to earn an income and move forward in life. Preparing for a¬†job¬†search is a process¬†that I am sure no one is fond of. It is enough¬†to drive one crazy! I know because I was already half way there! ¬†ūüėú

In the meantime I am trying to replenish my sparkle levels and see the bright side in things and not get too wound up about them. I am still adjusting to the new normal that is my life. My body is stiff and makes weird crackling noises when I move. My hair is a daily adventure that takes way too much of my energy. This new-found fear of certain words is a tough one, trying not to let them get the best of me. After all they are just words. 

I sparkle on…one day at a time. ¬† ūüėä

~ back home in Soriano ūüėÉ

I have to admit that every time I thought about returning to Soriano over the last few weeks I was a little emotional. It has been 15 months since I returned to Canada for treatment. I wasn’t sure how I would react upon returning, since little by little memories were coming back to me. I was returning to see the people who saw me through months of illness. A side of my health issue my family and friends in Saskatoon did not see. In a way I feel as though I have two lives, two home towns and a really big international family.

So nice to have been picked up at the airport in Roma by a dear friend and to catch up on the scenic drive to Soriano. Italy is so green and lush right now, remember I have spent the most time here in the winter months, the greenery and summer heat are new to me.

When I arrived in piazza, I almost felt as though I had never left. I went right back to doing the things I always did here. Starting with standing in the doorway of Ai Tre Scalini, smiling and waving at Roberto. It took a moment as he walked toward me and I could see the recognition come to his eyes. Egisto noticed me walking in piazza and a big smile appeared on his face. On to Caff√® Centrale to see Federico and Emanuele for more happy hugs and prosecco #1. On to Bar Roma where I saw Silvia, my Italian teacher from my first stay, and enjoyed prosecco #2. Walking through piazza again and waved at Claudio which illuminated another happy smile. Saw Carla, Valentina as well as Francesco and Fiorella for a quick hello in piazza. Down the stairs to Rottezzia for dinner, where it was nice to see Emanuele, Valentina, Loredana, Giada and Francesco. Nice dinner and fun conversation. A lovely evening and welcoming, I have never had my cheeks squeezed so much.   ūüėÉ

Back to more of my routine, a morning walk and a coffee in piazza. A quick stop to see the doctor who helped me here last year to say thank you. I think he was quite surprised to see me. Then another surprise to Gabriella, a lovely friend that has skype chats with me in English and Italian. I enjoy seeing the double take and recognition come to friends eyes when they realize I am here again! A little food shopping and saying hello to Fabrizio and Rosana. Even more fun to surprise Carla and Katia in the afternoon, I also got a kiss from cute little Morgana. I ended the day having dinner with Spartaco, he clarified some details of events of my last few days here in May 2015, details of the kindness and compassion of friends that bring tears to my eyes.

Another morning walk makes me smile, some things just stay the same, like the two men that work on the road leading up to Rocca and always walk to the ledge to watch me walk by. I can’t help but smile and chuckle to myself wondering if they recognize me or just watch every woman walk by. Ha! It is entertaining no matter what their reason is. After my walk I enjoyed a nice visit with Rocky and spent the rest of the day relaxing.

I was so happy to see Michele, who was the nurse that came to my apartment daily for two weeks to administer antibiotic injections. We shared many laughs over those two weeks, so it was nice to see him again and have him see me smiling and healthy, and not coughing!

This morning I chatted with Simona, who has a local hardware store and teased me about not needing firewood this visit. Haha!! Thank goodness! Not this trip, instead I need to go shopping for clothing appropriate for hot and sticky summer weather. 

Today was an emotional visit as I had lunch with Sophie. It was wonderful to see her and chat for hours. She and her family are absolute angels for the assistance and support they showed my last year. I have been very concerned about the responsibility Sophie took on in helping me with the last CT scan I had in Italy and picking up the results to communicate them to me. I am eternally grateful for the choices she made that day. I am happy to see that my beautiful friend in doing well and is now happy married.  ūüėÉ ūüíě

I have a few more visits planned over the coming weeks. I am excited about all the friends I will see again.  ūüėÉ  Lots of smiley faces in this post since I feel like I have a permanent smile on my face since I am in Italy again.

I have the same big blue eyes and smile, but my hairstyle is very different, so it’s fantastic to see the light of recognition light up friends faces when they realize it is me, Cinzia!  ūü§ó

Still Sparkling!   ūüėÉ

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~ back to adventures in Europe :)

My European adventure began a few weeks ago with a cancelled flight and being rebooked on a flight through London to Hamburg. So I made the most of it and indulged in a scone with clotted cream and jam as well as sticky toffee pudding for lunch. After a long day of traveling and little sleep all I wanted was sugar and caffeine! This was also the first of being asked if I wanted American or filter coffee. It seems that filter coffee is quite popular, it’s strong so I like it. 

I arrived in Hamburg to weather so cold and grey that my first purchase was a hat, or toque as we Canadians say. My ears were so cold walking around the first evening in early August. I have worn my new hat numerous times during my stay. Although I am happy to say that at the moment as I sit outside typing this at a cafe having a glass of ros√© it is a balmy 31C in the sunshine.    ūüôā

Hamburg is a wonderful city to explore. I have roamed around and taken in everyday life. There is so much history in this city. As I walk along each day amidst buildings old and new I wonder what has happened here, what was life like so many years ago. If these old building could talk, what stories would they tell? So many historical events are marked in little ways. As I walk along the sidewalks and see the ‘stolpersteine’, brass squares which serve as a memorial. My heart sinks to know that these are placed in front of the last residence or workplace of someone who lost their life during the Holocaust.

This is a city with a strong bicycle lifestyle. So much so that there are red brick paths on the sidewalks just for bicycles. It is also important to know the rules of these pathways here since some ride very fast. There is an etiquette to riding here, one must ride in the direction of traffic and if riding the wrong direction give way to those riding the correct direction. Walkers beware, you may be struck if you walk on the bicycle path or irritate the cyclists for sure. I find myself looking both ways before walking across any red path, a habit that was formed by my second day here! Oh ya, as people are whizzing by on their bicycles I realize that I have only seen a handful wearing helmets during my entire stay. Interesting to learn that there are more pedestrian car accidents than bicycle car. Something to think about.

This trip I have explored L√ľneberg, Weisbaden and taken a short cruise down the River Rhine. Had a Thai massage and visited a Hamam. Hamburg is also a very multicultural city, we have been enjoying food from around the world. I’ve been happy to dine in Japanese, Lebanese, Indian, Nepalese, Austrian, Swedish, Pakistani, Italian and Turkish restaurants. I have discovered wonderful foods that I have not had before. Since I am willing to try many local specialties, I can’t forget to mention I tried Apfelwein while near Frankfurt and an Asbach coffee while in R√ľdesheim, of course I enjoyed both  ūüėČ

One thing I love about visiting my friend here in Hamburg and meeting her friends is that I always learn so much about the history of each area we visit from them. There is so much more to see that one or two visits is never enough for me. When we talk about options of things to see and do, I often say ‘next time’ because for me there will always be a next time to visit.

Those who know me know that I do not watch much television. Here we have watched a program called Kitchen Impossible with a chef from Hamburg, Tim M√§lzer. I may not understand most of what they say, but I don’t need to understand the language to catch on to the camaraderie between the chefs and laugh along with them, although I did understand the universal curse words they spoke! haha!!

During this leg of my adventure I have spent time with wonderful friends, met lovely new people, visited beautiful historic places and collected a toque, sweaters, a filter for coffee, marzipan chocolates, products from the Hamam and Austrian coffee. Until next time Germany. 

Now I am onto the next leg of my adventure in Italy. Ciao!

Still Sparkling!   :)

~ walking an emotional tightrope…

For some time now I have been feeling like I am walking an emotional tightrope and am one step away from falling off into emotional darkness. 

Living in constant pain is a struggle. Each day I talk myself into being jolly and moving forward. So I work to keep my balance on the tightrope since the darkness below looks cold and unwelcoming. My preference is to stay on the bright side where the sparkles are yet the darkness keeps pulling at me. 

Today I feel like I slipped on the tightrope and am now tangled up in it. I went for the CT scan of my neck to see if there is a connection to the pain in my wrists and found out it was to be a scan with contrast, which meant another IV needle. Immediately my heart sank even though I tried to be brave. I explained to the nurse what I have been through and how my veins are not happy to be poked and to please not jiggle the needle around if it doesn’t take. He understood and tried his best but the IV didn’t work. I immediately began to cry, which totally surprised me, and said to him ‘please don’t try again, can we do the scan without contrast. Now that I am worked up the IV won’t work.’ So he spoke to the radiologist and we did the scan without contrast. Hopefully the doctors will be able to see what they need to see.¬†

I am still in a pretty sad mood after this and can’t help feeling that I can’t do this anymore. I am so tired of appointments and needles. ¬†¬†ūüė¶

It is definitely time for time away to build up my mental and emotional strength.  I need to build up some sparkle to get me through.

I sparkle on…one day at a time. ¬†¬†ūüôā

~ another follow-up passed and onto an exciting countdown!!

Happy to say that I have passed another follow up with flying sparkles! Well for the most part. I am still¬†having issues with my hands and wrists. To the point that I have stopped¬†working¬†because the pain is with me 24/7 making¬†everything in life quite¬†difficult. The doctor has ordered some additional¬†tests and referral to a neurologist to examine the issue further. Side effects are¬†miserable and these are not the only ones I am experiencing…¬†

Strange as it may seem, there is something called treatment induced menopause. I had been told about this in the beginning of treatment and kinda giggled at the idea. Well now that I am officially in this state I am not giggling so much. Instead I am wondering if this unnatural push into a new physical state is playing a role in the misery of my hands and wrists. With my greater concerns about this being related to bone density loss and increase of heart issues. Time will tell. Just another odd  event in this health adventure that one would never have anticipated. 

Over the last few months my¬†hair has been growing. This is a good thing. Most people ask if I will grow it out and I get¬†caught up in the idea and say yes!! I had thought this was a good idea until my hair reached¬†about 2 inches in length, making it a fluff ball and¬†looking like Blanche from the Golden Girls! The texture of new chemo curl hair is course and somewhat dry with a mind of its own. At this time my hair is super thick, I think even more so than it was before which is¬†seriously thick! So I bought some wide headbands and was convinced I would grow it. After a lot of bitching and complaining¬†about my¬†hair and one day of wearing a headband¬†followed by sincere apologies to my¬†follicles that were cursing me, I booked an appointment to cut my hair super short! After the cut I was once again happy and came to the realization that I am the most miserable I have been¬†through this whole experience because of my hair!! It’s now four¬†weeks later and Blanche is emerging again…cutting it off tomorrow before I start bitching again! Sad but true!¬†

At my follow up appointment yesterday I shared my hair and misery realization with my doctor. She and I had a laugh about this since I have been a pretty relaxed and calm patient overall. I was relieved to learn that my hair is currently in an abnormal growth process, since it all grew in at once and none falls out! Over time the growth pattern will continue to change, perhaps in good and bad ways, and hopefully normalize. Learning this is a tremendous relief. Now I am happy to keep my hair super short and maybe even shave it again over the next few years! After all I have more important concerns with my body and state of health than my hair. 

Only a few sleeps until I depart for a nice long rest period in Europe. I am looking forward to visiting friends and relaxing. A change of scenery in my favourite places to rejuvenate my soul and enhance my healing is just what the doctor ordered.  Adventures here I come!!  

I sparkle on…one day at a time. ¬† ¬† ūüôā

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