Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Well NO WONDER!

I just dropped a ceramic salt shaker. On the floor. It's very broken.

Fragile things have slipped through my (apparently, undependable) hands more often in the past 30 days than they have in the past 30 years. Don't ask me to hold your Faberge' Egg or carry your grandbaby.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As mentioned in THIS POST, I started weaning myself off Effexor  (an anti-depressant drug used to help breast cancer patients deal with those award-winning hot flashes that are inevitable side effects of that estrogen blocking drug, Tamoxifen) at the end of January. My oncologist, who originally prescribed the drug, told me to see my GP so he could monitor my withdrawal symptoms.

Today was that day.
The day I (finally) could see my regular doctor.

Him: SO! How are you doing!

Me: WAY better now that I'm weaning myself off Effexor...

Him: You were on a low dosage for hot flashes?

Me: Yes. BUT HOLY HELL, it ruined me. I couldn't think. Or focus. Or feel. Or make decisions. Or read. Or stay awake. Or care. Or stop yawning. Or carry things. Or deal with emails. Or make supper. Or remember what day it was. Or...

Him: Whoa. That's an extreme reaction to a low dosage.

I handed him my pill bottle.

Him: WHAT? NO WONDER! She prescribed 150 mg per day? Is that what you were taking?

Me: Yes.

Him: For HOT FLASH MAINTENANCE, you should have only been taking 37.5 mg per day. Or every other day...

He stopped typing and looked at me: You must've felt like you were being poisoned. Why would she prescribe the maximum amount? Were you depressed? Did she think you were depressed?

Me: I guess maybe she interpreted me saying that "I always get the November Blues and December is an exhausting month" as depression?

Him: She must have. How long were you on it?

Me: The longest, darkest month of my life. And then I started cutting back because I was unemployable. And inhuman. And I started watching shows like The Computer Who Wore Tennis Shoes.

Him: Right. OK then. Let's sort this out.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I am being sorted.
New prescription is for 37.5 mg tablets that I can take EVERY OTHER DAY. (This is the very definition of LOW DOSAGE.)

My brain should resume it's usual dependable level of activity by the end of the month and my body should not ignite into flames every 30 minutes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Today was my first day 'back to work' as well.
4 hour shift.
Working from home. (Two hours from my bed. Two hours from the dining room table.)
My (overly ambitious, as it turns out) goal was to read/delete/file/respond to the 2716 emails in my inbox.

After 4 hours I still have 1186 to go.

This may not be my most productive week.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Three things I'm thankful for:

1. DID YOU EVEN SEE THAT BLUE SKY TODAY? AND THE SUN? IT WAS GLORIOUS.

2. Slow 'n easy entry back into my work environment, just like starting Kindergarten.

3. The team at work that so very capably handled everything while I was away for two months. (TWO MONTHS!) Time has just zipped by so very fast.

Shalom,
xo


Fam Day 2020

This has been my favorite day so far in this decade. 































































Clint wasn't able to join us, so we swapped in Dani's sister.



























We played games. 
Skip Bo, Scattegories, Dutch Blitz, Ticket to Ride, NOT MONOPOLY, Scrabble ...


























And measured Austin to see if she'd grown at all in the past 5 years.

















































































































































And while Dani and I finished planning our May trip, the others played Minecraft...


























I wish there was a Family Day once a month. 

Three things I'm thankful for:

1. Days like these. Kids at cabin. Sun in sky. Brain operating at about 75% capacity. Only two small tender areas on chest. Evening at book club. PERFECT WAY TO END MY MEDICAL LEAVE. Back to work tomorrow.

2. Movies. Saw 1917 and Parasite recently. Both were riveting. And watched a lovely old movie on Netflix: Flipped. 

3. Walks, talks, lunches, coffees, dinners with friends everyday last week. So many great days, all in a row, celebrating All The Good Things .

4. Surprise mail. From England. I have a new pen pal, we met on Twitter and she sent me a lovely card to let me know how happy she was that I've finished treatment. The world is filled with kind people. 

Take care,
xo

Monday, February 10, 2020

I Bought Something

Two bits of information:

1. Since we moved onto the farm in Surrey when I was twelve, I have yoyo-ed back and forth between Surrey and Langely as if there's no other place in the world to live:
  • Surrey, on the farm. For ten years. And then I got married and moved to
  • Langley, in a tiny one bedroom apartment over our doctor's office, for 10 months until we moved to
  • Surrey, back to the farm. This time living in a barn loft my dad had just built. We stayed for four years; Clint and Billie's Country were both born there. And then we moved to
  • Langley, Walnut Grove, to a rancher we'd built. Max and Drew were born there, stayed for 8 years then sold it and moved to
  • Surrey, back to the farm, back to the barn loft with three kids while we built our house in
  • Langley, where we lived for 2 years until our marriage ended. Then I moved back to
  • Surrey, back to the farm, this time into the house I grew up in. I was back in my old bedroom, Clint and Max shared Jim's room, Drew was in Julie's old room. We stayed for the summer then moved to
  • Surrey, Fraser Heights, into the brand new house I'd purchased. The kids and I lived there for two years then sold it to move back to
  • Surrey, back to the farm. We stayed for 10 months, in the house with my dad and mom, while we waited for a southern-backyarded house to come onto the market in Murrayville. When it did, we moved back to
  • Langley, into our huge foyer-ed house. And stayed til Clint, Max and Drew moved out. I sold it in 2013 and moved back to
  • Surrey. This time into my mom's basement, temporarily, while I figured out what my life was going to look like as an old, wrinkled, crotchety, divorced empty-nester. It's BEEN SIX YEARS, but in Jan 2022, I'll be moving back to
  • Langley. To a condo right across the street from where I work. 

(Maybe someday I'd add photos of all those ^ houses. This is a very NON-PICTUREY post.)


2. And the second thing to note is my decision making process. Seeing I'm not married/don't have a partner to bounce ideas/express fears/figure out things with - I chat with God about it all. He created me, knows what I like, but also knows what's best for me. I might hate it sometimes, but ultimately I trust His yes's and his no's.

Without going through a long discussion about previous answered prayers, I'll just talk about THIS one. THIS one that has been going on for SIX YEARS. THIS conversation I've been having since forever ago. 

When I packed up my lovely house in Murrayville, broken-hearted that my season of living with my kids was over (WAY too soon, in my eyes. Clint moved out at 19, Max at 18, and Drew had left at 17), I moved my 200 boxes into my mom's garage and told her I'd probably be there for two years. Praying for options, "God, what is my next stage of life going to look like? How will I live? A house? By myself? No husband to share the cost or the upkeep? Or an apartment? Or what? TELL ME. I need to know the plan."

It was handy living there, those first two years, because it was so close to the care home my dad was living in. Visiting him didn't involve a 45 minute drive anymore. So there was a blessing in that. Just as my (self imposed) timeline was coming to an end, my dad died. And knowing what this was like for my friends' parents, I decided to stay another year so that my mom wouldn't have to face a year of 'firsts' (first Christmas without dad, first birthday without dad, etc) alone.

Near the end of THAT year, Drew and Dani got engaged, and I prayed, along with them, about the possibility of us purchasing a home together. SO very excited to think about living in a house/suite with my kids again. It wasn't coming together as we'd hoped. So in the meantime, they got married and moved into my mom's house. With me. And my mom. For a year. 

We all had our own schedules and rarely saw each other. I was on the top floor when I was home. My mom had the main floor and the kids lived in the basement. But there's something about everyone being under the same roof, y'know?

After a year of writing offers that fell through, I said to God, "I'm sensing that us (Drew, Dani and I) living together isn't part of Your plan for our lives. I'm going to, with great aching sadness, say, OK, if there's a fabulous opportunity for the kids to have their own place, I will wait to see what you have in store for me." Drew and Dani bought a townhouse in Abby, and I moved back down to the basement. 

They'd been gone a month and I prayed again, "Uh God? What's the plan? Am I staying here another year? Or should I be looking for a place of my own?" TEN MINUTES LATER my phone rang, it was Max asking if, while he was a student at BCIT, he could live with Nan and I in the suite above the garage. HELL YES.

And "WHOA, thank you God. Yup, I will stay here, in this house, if I get the chance to share driveway space with another son. Thank you, thank you, thank you. This? Is a great plan."

Max graduated in May, and even though (thankfully) he didn't move out immediately, I knew this season of sharing my mom's house with my kids was nearing an end. So when I left work that day, I saw the marketing signs for a new development going in at exactly the location I'd be interested in living someday. "God? Latimer Heights? Will I live here in the future? I like how close to the freeway it is. And super close to work. Do they have any affordable southern-backyarded places for me? I will know this is where I'll land if there's something with a sunny backyard."

I checked the website, didn't notice anything appropriate for ME, nor anything facing in the correct direction. And I found out I had breast cancer. "OK then, God. Looks like now isn't the time and Latimer isn't the place. It's good I'm living with mom and Max while I go through this. It's good that the house is ten minutes away from the cancer clinic. FINE. I personally wouldn't have added cancer as something I'd have to deal with, but sure. You're in charge here. Please can it not hurt? Or be icky? And if having me die from this is part of something amazing You've got hatched, can it be quick? While I'm asleep? And have no bodily fluids do spurty things that'd traumatize my kids? 

In November, I took a day off work to look at few housing options for my mom in Sardis. Julie and Daryl were moving out there (and since I spend my weekends out that way) it seemed like a good place for my mom to consider. (Up until this point she was NOT DOWNSIZING (she loved everything she owned) and she was not moving (SHE LOVED HER HOUSE.) But on THAT day, something shifted and she could envision herself living in a beautiful suite on the penthouse floor. 

So in January she bought it. 
It's being built and should be ready between Aug 2021 and March 2022. 
She is culling her treasures and it turns out? She doesn't love EVERYTHING. She's planning on getting rid of a ton of stuff at a garage sale later this year. 

"Uh, God? Me? What about meeeeee? Any ideas? Got a place in mind? Want to tell me about it?"

And then, three days after I'd started weaning myself off the drug that had ruined my January, Nancy texted me. "Let's meet for coffee. And take a look at the show suite at Latimer Heights." I hadn't seen Nancy in at least a year, so I was looking forward to hanging out at Starbucks with her before my radiation treatment that evening. We met at the Discovery Centre and looked at the table top model of the 75 acre project. Then we wandered through the show suite. 

Willow, the Vesta rep asked what we were interested in. 
Me: Something with southern exposure. But I can see that everything has decks on either the east or west side of the building.
Her: Well actually...
Me, maybe a bit eagerly: Yes?
Her: Come over here. See this building? Building D? We haven't started selling units in it yet, but see this suite here? It has a private wrap around southern deck. It's the only one in the building.
Me, not at all cool about pretending I might be interested: I'll take it. Can we write it up?
Her: We don't even know the price yet. Or what the size and layout will be. 
Me: That's the one I want. Can I give you some money? Can you save it for me? When should I come back? 

Me, turning to Nancy: Jesus loves me and God wants me to live RIGHT THERE. I just know it. 

Ahhh, bless Nancy. She is a pro. THIS IS WHY GOD MADE REALTORS. To handle the negotiations when clients have no cool. 

Long story, short. Willow put my name on THAT suite. And on Saturday, Building D was available to the public for sale. The sales office opened at noon, and by the time we'd written up my offer, 13 units had sold. Apparently there had been much interest in MINE, but they'd saved it for meeeeee. 

So. One week after completing cancer treatment, I bought a condo. It's being built and will be ready January 2022. It's a two bedroom unit, and I can afford it. 

The moral of this very long story? Sometimes God is VERY clear about how much He knows and loves you.

And sometimes it takes six bloody years for things to work out. SO HANG IN THERE if you're only in year 3. Good things are coming. (And actually, good things are already here; enjoy every season you're in.) 



Wanna see some pics?
Gahhhhh. 
I'm so excited ...

Nancy and Willow, making dreams come true since 2020:




This is my corner of the 75 acre project. There are 4 buildings; Building A is on 200th, (not pictured) Buildings B, C and D are below. "My" building is the last one, and the red arrow is pointing to my suite on the corner of 5th floor. (It's a 6 floor building, with the penthouses having 11 foot high ceilings but no decks.)

You'll notice I have a glorious view of the parks, ponds, walkways and unobstructed sunshine!









Yes. It's tiny. 
1000 square feet. 
I will be selling just about everything I own over the next two years. 
Just watch me embrace minimalist living like a boss. I'm going to be so annoying. 


Three things I'm thankful for:

1. Answered prayer. 
2. Southern decks.
3. Peace about my next move. 


xo

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Done. Like Dirt. Or Something.



On Friday morning (last day of week/last day of month) I had my last radiation treatment.

Whoo Hoo.

I wore those two blue gowns for the last time, breathed SO WELL that I was asked to 'let some air out' after I took my big deep breath (!), handed out thank you and Starbuck's gift cards to all the technicians who'd fondled and beamed my boob this month, then celebrated the end of this chapter by getting a manicure and having dinner with Faye.

I got to the cabin late, in the middle of The Rain Storm of the Century, without bothering to stop for groceries (besides what I could get from a gas station store) to discover that the internet was down. In the morning, Melanie messaged me to let me know the lake road (Columbia Hwy) was washed out due to a mud slide at Teapot Hill, and Vedder Road was closed at the bridge.

So. I spent a couple days at the cabin, by myself, using up phone data, eating random bits of food left in the fridge and cupboards while watching DVD's from a mattress on the floor in my bedroom all night with the storm raging on outside. I was trapped in my happy place. And it was a trillion kinds of wonderful.

On Sunday evening, when the road re-opened, Val and I met at Earl's for a five hour dinner, I bought some healthy groceries, and came back to the lake to tend to my aching body. My upper left chest region was (and still is) tender with radiation bumps n blisters, my throat  was (and is) raw, my gums ache and my tongue was (and is) sore. All of which is normal. But irritating. And time will heal it all; not only the owies on my skin but also on my brain.

~~~~

On Dec 23 I met with my oncologist to talk about my recovery from the September surgery (which was easy peasy) as well as any side effects from the estrogen blocking drug, (Tamoxifen), that I might be experiencing (not as easy, nor particularly peasy). As predicted, I DID have award-winning hot flashes, about 12 - 20 a day. They were wild, but not random. I told her I was surprised how they seemed to be linked to an emotion. Any emotion. It didn't have to be a strong emotion, or a negative one. As soon as I felt something, whoosh, my personal internal summer would fire up.

Then she asked me about my moods. I told her I was glad November was over because I always fight the blues during the month that has nothing but winter ahead. I explained that we'd just made it through the longest night of the year, so I was doing OK.

She suggested that maybe I had depression.
And she thought I'd benefit from an anti-depressant, "It'll get rid of your hot flashes."
So I left her office with a prescription for Effexor and took my first capsule on Dec 24.

I have not been the same since.
(Fuzzy brain, nauseas, fatigued, emotionless.)
Max wondered, on Boxing Day, if I was on narcotics.
My family enjoyed my 'meh' attitude about breaking/dropping glass bowls and conversations.
My friends noticed my inability to read game cards correctly when playing Ticket to Ride.
And I was freaked out when I opened my work email account, saw 400 emails and couldn't cope. I went up to the lake for a few days before my treatment began, hoping I could make travel plans for the trip I'm going on in May. Oh my goodness... I became utterly overwhelmed by all the Air BnB options in Paris. I closed my computer and figured I'd deal with it once my brain got used to the med.

All through my treatment, I got worse. Couldn't read a book. Couldn't stay awake for more than 5 hours. I was napping on any horizontal surface a couple times a day.






Couldn't choose a show to watch on Netflix. (When I finally did, I made sure to choose one that had multiple seasons so I wouldn't have to make a decision the next night. Line of Duty, for example: 5 seasons = 5 nights of viewing. I'd watch all 6 episodes a day because I didn't know what else to do. The thought of making decisions JUST DID ME IN. I ate toast and peanutbutter every day for the first two weeks in January because thinking of other options was too much.

Oh the anxiety. It was off the charts on my first day of treatment. I could not breathe. I was sweating non-stop (not from hot flashes) from fear. I AM NOT TYPICALLY A FEARFUL person. No deordorant on earth could mask the odor of fear that was seeping from my armpits. I brought wet-wipes with me so I could wash my pits whenever I left the house.

I didn't think I was depressed when she put me on the drug, but boy howdy, I was a glorious mess after.




Determined to 'fight this thing' (whatever 'this thing' was) I forced myself to do two things every day. Well, actually three:
1. Do my hair and make up EVERYDAY. Show up at my treatment appointments looking cared for.
2. Try to meet with a friend EVERYDAY either before or after my appointment. Talk about things that aren't cancer. Stay interested in other people's lives. Find out how I can pray for them.
3. Go to the gym and ride the exercise bike at least 4 times a week. For an hour. (And then nap.)



On January 31, after my last appointment, I called my oncologist:

Me: I am unemployable. I can't stay on this antidepressant.
Her: How are your hot flashes?
Me: All gone. But so is my brain and my heart. I can't think or feel.
Her: OK then. You've been on them a month?
Me: Yes. It's been a rough month. I don't like who I am.
Her: You're going to have to wean yourself off them slowly. The withdrawal is wicked. And keep in touch with your GP, he should be monitoring you.

SO.
I started cutting back immediately.
Have you ever done this? Get off an anti-depressant?
If not, let me explain. YOUR BRAIN ZAPS AND PULSES. The synapses sizzle and frizzle til you can hear your head saying screaming, WHAT ARE YOU DOING WOMAN? And the hot flashes begin, in earnest, immediately. (Last night, I had three humdingers between 4 and 5 am. I was completely soaked. This is going to be a fun five years.)


I had such grand plans for my medical break from work.
EIGHT WEEKS.
I was going to read books. (Does anyone know where my Kindle is? Can't find it.)
I was going to cull about 100,000 photos from my computer. And back everything else up on the TWO external hard drives the kids got me for Christmas.
I was going to make half a dozen photo books (Groupon is reminding me DAILY that my Photo Book coupons are going to expire this week)
I was going to plan our trip. Get accommodations reserved.
I was going to ....

Yeah, I was also going to fight cancer. But I am a Project Manager. And I had planned on DOING PROJECTS while I had the time to do it.

Pfffft.
All I did?
Was fight cancer while that stupid drug kicked my ass.

I am grateful to my tribe who ignored my "I'm fine" responses by giving me both space and love. So thankful for the (totally unexpected) home-made meals, quick coffee dates, prayers, text messages, offer to come over in the evening and tuck me in (that message makes me cry when I think about it), the movie nights, the 'let's make plans' messages, the Skip The Dishes coupons, the Canuck's game, the cards that came in the mail (looking at YOU, Mary...💗 ) the phone messages (thanks, Auntie Wendy 💖) and the rides to a couple of my final appointments. So glad that I have a sister; we've talked more on the phone this month than we have in the previous 4 years. And as ever, can't imagine going through this, living anywhere else but here, in my mom's basement. (Last May I'd been praying about my housing situation, and believed I got a firm, "Stay where you are child. I hear you. And love you. But now is not the right time to think about moving." Haha. Too right. I live with people who care for me, TEN MINUTES AWAY FROM THE CANCER CLINIC.)
So glad I am where I am.



I did not want my Dance with Cancer to be a burden on anyone. It was just breast cancer and we got it early, so it wasn't the real kind. Just the easy no-big-deal kind. I was hesitant to ask for time off, originally thinking I was making a big commotion about a few radiation appointments. But those folks I met with everyday, after hours, in the darkened, mostly empty basement of the hospital were taking this very seriously and monitored my progress constantly. I was reminded, often, that my body had been through alot. And it would still be experiencing the after-effects of the radiation for a couple weeks into February.

So I feel less guilty about missing work.
And I'm mostly OK about being social/caring for others for only 3 hours a day.

I think, if I hadn't been on that drug, the month of January would have been so very different. And the month of February would likely be different too... Because yikes, those withdrawal brain-pulse-farts are quite something. Even though I've been cutting back on those meds for just a week, it's REMARKABLE how quickly I feel better. And how talkative I've become.

And how I'm ready to make decisions again.

So I bought a condo today.
For me.
To live in.
By myself.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'll post deets tomorrow.



Three things I'm thankful for:

1. THE SUN WAS OUT TODAY. (We've just broken a 50 record for most consecutive days with precipitation.) It seemed like a good day to buy something. :)

2. Clear night skies and a stunning full moon.

3. A daughter-in-law who sacrificed her Friday night to sit beside me to look at ten thousand Air BnB sites. A friend who said, Hey, let's just have a look at the show suite... A brother who says, "I think it's time we went out for a coffee".  A God who says, "Hey, Jane. I got this. And that. And that other thing too."


Peace, friends.
xo



In case you're wondering, these are the common side effects of Tamoxifen. I'll be on this drug for 5 years:
  • increased tumor or bone pain
  • hot flashes
  • nausea
  • fatigue
  • mood swings
  • depression
  • headache
  • hair thinning
"Hot flashes or night sweats from taking tamoxifen can be troubling. But a 2008 British study suggests that women who experienced hot flashes and night sweats while taking hormonal therapy medicine were less likely to have the breast cancer come back (recur). Knowing that this side effect might indicate a reduced risk of the cancer coming back may help some people stick with treatment despite the side effects.

And the side effects of Effexor:


  • drowsiness
  • anxiety
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • dry mouth
  • loss of appetite
  • blurred vision
  • nervousness
  • unusual sweating
  • excessive yawning


(Oh my goodness, that last one! I was yawning 20 - 30 times per hour.)

Later gators.