~ 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 rosé it is a balmy 31C in the sunshine.    🙂

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 brass squares with names on them my heart sinks to know that someone lost their life in that very spot.

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 Lüneberg, 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 Rüdesheim, of course I enjoyed both  😉

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 Mälzer. 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.   😦

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.   🙂

~ 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.     🙂

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~ I passed my first follow-up with flying Sparkles!

My follow-up appointments were spread over a three week period which had me out of sorts. Until the last appointment I didn’t connect that I was grumpy and tired because of the endless chatter in my head wondering what the results would be. On May 2 I had a PET scan and my veins weren’t cooperating, the nurse was successful on the second attempt with the IV as tears filled my eyes and I said in a quiet and tired voice I don’t want to do this anymore. Since then I have been visualizing sparkles flowing through my veins and healing all the unhappy spots. 

On May 9 I had a follow-up with the radiation oncologist, and learned that the PET scan was clear! YAY! All other things related to the radiotherapy I received are fine so I don’t need to see this doctor again.  🙂

May 13 I had some post lymphoma blood tests done. Thankfully the nurse was skilled and successful on the first try, although I did have a lumpy bruise that lasted a week! Visualizing more sparkles in my veins!! The last appointment in this series was May 17 with the hematologist. I was very happy to hear that my blood levels are good and I am doing well overall. She assured me that my chemo related brain fog will get better! Thank goodness. I feel mentally simple and struggle to remember anything at all, for me this is very humbling. We discussed the ongoing issues with my hands, wrists and thumbs, which she feels may have been intensified by the radiation due to the location of the treatment. I still feel the spot in my chest where the scar tissue remains. This is something I have to get used to and tell myself that all is well. So I visualize the scar tissue wrapped up in sparkles and the sparkles work to keep in contained and shrink it. We also talked about how tired I get, especially when my hands hurt and wrists swell. There is no way to know how long this will take to heal. So I look at it this way, if it takes two years for a body to recover after childbirth, which is a natural process, it will take much longer to heal after being through chemotherapy. The doctor liked my thinking and agreed that it will take some time. She also supports my decision to live a slower paced life to give my body time to heal. 

Now I am into the followup schedule of every three months for two years. Knowing how mentally draining this process is, I will be sure to apply some sparkle thinking to help get me through this each time.  🙂

My hair is crazy curly and growing very fast! I have already had it cut twice and will be keeping it cut in a short pixie cut for some time to come. I cannot imagine trying to grow it out with these crazy tight curls! 

I realized last weekend that it was one year since I returned to Saskatoon. So much has happened in the last 18 months of my life. It was hard  for me to look back and remember those last few weeks in Italy learning that something was seriously wrong with my health. Putting the pieces of the puzzle together and remembering that a dear friend helped me with the results of my second CT scan on her birthday. At the time I was too exhausted to make sense of everything that was happening. I didn’t learn until several months later that some of my friends had a better idea of my state of health before I did. When this puzzle comes together in my mind I turn into a puddle. So thankful for amazing people in my life! I am thrilled that I was able to share good news for her birthday this year. I am so looking forward to returning to Italy in September to celebrate life with my Italian family of friends.  🙂

I sparkle on…one day at a time.     🙂

~ a few more stamps in my passport…

I am back from three fabulous weeks in England and Ireland. For me this trip was very special, it picked up where I left off last May. I had planned a stop in London to visit a friend on the way home  from Italy and had to put that stop on hold. I am thrilled that I was able to make this trip happen. 

I travel to visit friends, meet new people, have great experiences and enjoy good food! My adventures involve friends, food and lots of laughter! 

My visit to England was to see my friend Gina’s London. Over the last three years I have heard so much about her favourite places and seen photos of her adventures. I couldn’t wait to see all the things I had heard so much about. I enjoyed every minute of exploring London, whether it was in the sunshine, grey skies or bizarre little storms with tiny hailstones. I had the best cinnamon bun at a French cafe, it was flaky and had just the right amount of cinnamon sweetness! Borough Market and all it’s wonderful food stalls. Oh my! The cheese shops were dreamy! Afternoon tea at Brown’s Hotel, my introduction to clotted cream and strawberry jam on scones! Yummy! Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap was a great performance, I really did suspect every character at some point throughout the play. A few refreshment stops introduced me to a few new favourite drinks, The French Daisy and Elderflower Spritz. A sunny stroll along the river from Tower Bridge to the London Eye. A tour of the Tower Bridge and a walk across the glass floor, took a video too, since it wasn’t long ago I was terrified of heights. A quick tour of the Tower of London to see the crown jewels, wow, they are sparkly and beautiful! A hop on hop off bus tour in a rainstorm was fun, always a great way to get an overview of a city. I also spent a few days in North London with another lovely friend, Carole. This was so nice because I got to see another aspect of London. Fortunately the days were sunny to enjoy this beautiful area.  

An afternoon train ride to Cornwall to spend a week in Padstow. A little comical since we took a bus from the train and ended up standing on the street in Padstow looking pretty wide-eyed and lost. Thank goodness for Jan, a kind lady who helped us find our cottage. This was our week to relax and Padstow was the perfect choice for a relaxing week. Everything we needed was within walking distance. A foodie town with wonderful restaurants, bakeries, shops and a very helpful lady at the tourist information office. We giggled at how often we were asked where we were from because of our accents. To my delight a lady working in a shop had even been to Saskatoon! We explored walking paths and a beach along the estuary and took the bus to the neighbouring town of Wadebridge for a little shopping and lunch. Hired a driver for a day tour of Cornwall, this was great since he showed us places we would never have otherwise seen. We visited filming locations of Poldark, quaint villages along the coast, and the Minack Theatre, a stunning open-air theatre overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. I continued my love affair with cream tea, clotted cream is a delight and I sure miss it. 

On to Ireland, we made our way to Galway City to visit a friend of mine from high school. This was wonderful, so special to reconnect after 25 years! We experienced a rare snowfall in The Burren and explored the Cliffs of Moher on a beautiful sunny day! Incredible! Then just like a scene in a movie the bus dropped us off to walk down the road into Doolin, ‘just follow the signs’! haha! What signs? We can see the ocean, a round castle and a village in the distance, as we walked down the hill the village disappears and we wonder if we should have made the one right turn instead of following the main road. We kept walking and soon found someone to ask directions. We round the bend in the road and saw the main street of Doolin. Yay! We were meeting friends who had cycled to Doolin for dinner and fun! It was a great evening, lots of fun and laughter. I especially liked the signs in the pubs “Guinness is good for you, gives you strength”.  A Sunday afternoon in a pub in Galway City listening to an Irish trad session was so cool. I am amazed how people know the words to so many songs. A day trip in Connemara was lovely, it was nice to see the beautiful countryside. Especially Lough Nafooey when the sun came out and the lake was completely still with the hills reflecting in the water! Stunning! The last few nights we spent in Dublin. A hop on hop off tour, we hopped off at the Guinness Storehouse. After the tour, learning to pour a perfect pint and lunch we walked to explore Dublin. Funny how we chose to eat at Il Fornaio Enoteca twice, delicious authentic Italian food and great wine. More pubs and great Irish music! Thanks for a great time Ireland! I will return soon. 🙂

I am often asked what the best part of the trip was or the top three things. All three areas I visited were special in their own way and offered something different. London is iconic, mixed with history and international flare. Cornwall is classic and charming with lovely people, gorgeous scenery and delicious food. Ireland is welcoming, friendly and musical with so much natural beauty that photos cannot possibly portray the images captured in my memory. 

Feels good to be back to adventures! 

Still sparkling  😉

 

~ the healing phase…

Wow times passes quickly, a month since my last post. Not much has changed. I am still struggling with numb and weak hands. This is so frustrating! Not often do I think about having someone live with me but having someone in my house to help would sure be nice. It is interesting to observe how things change once a person is done active treatment and receives the remission news. The perception seems to be that life magically returns to normal. Sadly this is not the case. In many ways coping with active treatment was easier, it was somewhat predicable and would pass. The healing phase consists of long term side effects that plague a person 24/7, the end of which remains unknown. While the healing phase is certainly a better phase to be in, it still presents challenges and serves as a reminder that my life is far from the normal I used to know.

It is pretty special to hear from friends who have followed my blog throughout my health adventure and let me know how much they appreciate the updates. It was balancing act, while in treatment being social was the last thing on my mind, so I am happy to know that friends were following my journey and cheering me on. 

I believe that when you are meant to meet your paths with cross. Looking back at the friends I have made over the past fews years affirms this belief. So many wonderful people have come into my life and shown me kindness and support through a difficult time. Most recently a conversation with a friend of a friend that validated my way of thinking, being and knowing! This short conversation was so meaningful to me and has recharged my sparkle to a whole new level. I am so grateful for amazing friends! 🙂

It’s time for me to get back to living a life filled with travel adventures! More to come on that very soon. 😉

I sparkle on…one day at a time.    🙂

 

 

 

~ the new normal…

It has been almost two weeks of living with the new normal. So far I have to say it is not my favourite.  The side effects of radiation were minor, the worst of which was about a week of what I described as having a tennis ball stuck in my chest. This would act up after eating or drinking anything and feel somewhat like a combination of having the internal pressure of a tennis ball in the chest and having the wind knocked out of you at the same time. Ouch!! I managed this discomfort by eating a diet of soup and soft foods. It still acts up now and then, mainly when I make a bad choice of what to eat. 

My bigger issue is with the continuing side effects from chemo, peripheral neuropathy. Living with chronic pain is truly awful. It impacts every aspect of one’s life. Day and night I struggle to function with numb, burning and weak hands. Coupled with my left thumb and right wrist being swollen and sore making every day activities a challenge. Activities that were always taken for granted are now humbling and frustrating. Getting dressed, pulling on pants or socks, doing up buttons, snaps and zippers, tying shoelaces, brushing and flossing your teeth, putting on make up, opening jars or cans, using scissors, cutting food, writing, typing, pressing small buttons, vacuuming, lifting anything whether it is heavy or light…this list grows daily as I become more aware of my new limitations.  All of these things I used to do with ease and never give any of them a second thought. Now that my hands are completely numb for the first few hours after waking up I have to think ahead and open cans of cat food at night because they are too difficult to open in the morning. I used to open the storm door on my house with my thumb, now I use both hands. Now just turning the key in the doorknob is difficult, especially on very cold days. I am somewhat glad I don’t have much hair to deal with as blow-drying and styling hair would be very difficult. Through it all I do my best to carry on, smile and laugh. The next time you do these simple tasks, think about how often you rely on your thumbs, fingers and wrists and remember to be kind to others as you don’t know what the reality is behind their smile. 

Even more concerning was the conversation I had with my doctor about the length of time it takes for nerves to heal. Something along the lines of 1 inch per month. I did the rough calculation in my head and the answer doesn’t work for me. So I am reading a book about the body’s nervous system to understand how the nerves in the arms and hands work and what they look like. With this information I can develop my visualization scenario and apply my sparkle theory to heal my hands, arms and related nerve damage. 

I cannot remember the last time I slept through the night. I will be the happiest woman on the planet when the day comes that I am pain free and sleep through the night!! 

I sparkle on…one day at a time.     🙂