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My Photo Journal, 2012

As 2012 draws to a close, I would like to share with you some pictures, which show the highs and lows of the past year for me.

new year 1

2012 got off to a great start with a FREE trip to Florida (compliments of my sister, Lynette and hubbie Jeff).  Soaking up the sun for a couple of weeks, while recouping from my chemo, was definitely one of the perks of having cancer!

happy birthday

On January 28th, I celebrated my 45th birthday, just four day after undergoing a mastectomy.

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In February it was off to St. John’s for me for five weeks of Radiation Treatments.  It was nice to spend time with Shawn, but I really missed my kiddies!

new year 2

I finished the last of my cancer treatments on March 30th, almost exactly one year from the time I was diagnosed.  I was home just in time to start my seeds with Ben!

New year 3

In April, Shawn and I traveled to Nova Scotia for my very first Breast Cancer Retreat.  It was a very “healing experience” for me.

new year 4

In May, I went to my second retreat, but this time was a little different:  I was guest speaker to an audience of more than 200 women! (Definitely a perk) I also met some great friends along the way.

New year 5

Shawn and I enjoyed lots of outdoor activities during the summer.  This photo was taken in June in Shoal Harbor.

emerge

In July, I experienced  a “little setback”, a lingering infection which put me in the hospital three times on I.V antibiotics.  (Definitely NOT a perk!)

new year 8

In August it was off to PEI with Shawn and the Williams family for some much needed R and R.

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In September I went back to work as a School Counselor, after a 17 month break away from my work.  It was so great to connect with the kids again.

new year 12

For Halloween, 2012, I dressed as a Blue Butterfly; a symbol which held a lot of meaning for me during my cancer journey.

Me, Donovan and Kaitlyn in Times Square

Me, Donovan and Kaitlyn in Times Square

November found me in New York.  I had promised my kids when I was diagnosed that when I was well enough we would take a trip to the Big Apple….but if you were following my blog, you will know that it turned out to be the “Big Rotten Apple” for me.

CPG_9962In early December, I said good-bye to my beloved Patches, my constant companion through cancer.

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But the year ended on a great note, surrounded by the ones I love.

Happy New Year!  May you be blessed with good health, good friends and a supportive family in 2013. (Those are the REAL perks!)

Free T-Shirts

I pulled out my t-shirt drawer recently and realized that it is practically bursting at the seams.  I am not normally a t-shirt gal, so it took me by surprise that I have accumulated so many of these garments over the past year. As I rifled through the drawer, I came to realize a perk: many of these t-shirts came to me FREE for participating in cancer events such as retreats, the Relay for Life and the Run for the Cure.  In some cases, I got two t-shirts for the same event: the standard white participant one and the coveted survivors t-shirt (okay, maybe “coveted” is a bit strong of a word).

Although there is some controversy in the cancer world about the use of the term “survivor” and what it means, there is no denying the special synergy that exists among the group who gets to wear the “coveted” t-shirt.  Having shared a similar experience, we feel an automatic kinship with other survivors.  (We also get to say: Cancer….been there, done that, got the t-shirt!)

I am pretty sure that as I walk or run the track wearing my survivors t-shirt, spectators are looking at me and thinking: “Wow!  Look at that cool yellow t-shirt.  All I got was a boring old white one.  I wonder what I have to do to get to wear the yellow one?”   Well, probably they are not thinking that.  But I am certain that at least some of the spectators are looking at me and thinking, “Wow!  Look at my mom/sister/daughter/friend/girlfriend.  She is a survivor!”

Champagne Birthdays!

This week, I had the privilege of attending not one, but two champagne birthdays.  In case you are wondering, your champagne birthday happens only once in your lifetime, and it is when your age corresponds to the date of your birth, like turning 10 on the 10th, or 30 on the 30th.

I was in PEI with Shawn and his family when his son Mark turned 15 on the 15th.

Although we were staying in a camper, I managed to bake a cake, with the help of Mark’s cousins, Jonah and Simone.  We decorated the cake with lots of candy, which first had to pass rigorous taste tests by my two helpers.

 

There is nothing like a good old fashioned Griswald family vacation to make you feel like part of the family.  (And nothing like sharing one pair of sunglasses and one toothbrush with Shawn to cement our relationship!)

I left the Williams family in PEI and headed back to The Rock to celebrate my daughter Kaitlyn’s champagne birthday as she turned 17 on the 17th.  We even toasted with real champagne!

I pray that I will be around to toast lots of other occasions with my beautiful daughter: her high school graduation, her University graduation, her marriage and the birth of her children (in that order).  And someday, I hope to drink a champagne toast on the champagne birthday of my future grandchildren!

 

What’s Next?

Over the past year, I have endured: countless tests and procedures; 3 surgeries resulting in the loss of my left breast and associated lymph nodes; 6 grueling rounds of chemotherapy; and 25 radiation treatments.  In many ways, it was the WORST year of my life!  In that same year: I met my soul mate and fell in love; I accomplished a life- long dream of having an article published in an inter-national magazine; I reached my goal of finding 100 perks of having cancer (scroll down to read all 100 perks); and now I have been offered a contract with a publishing company to turn my perks into a book.  In many ways, it has been the BEST year of my life!

Blogging the perks of having cancer has been one of the most therapeutic parts of my healing journey.  Not only did it help me to maintain a positive attitude in the face of cancer, it also connected me to a large network of fellow breast cancer bloggers.  I faithfully follow my favorites, but the one which has resonated most strongly with me is “The Savvy Sister” (www.sisterearthorganics.wordpress.com).  Susan, a Registered Nurse, blogs about healthy living tips.  While I found myself tuning in to Susan’s blog for its entertaining and educational posts on nutrition, diet, exercise and supplements, she would follow mine for its humor and inspiration.

As I neared the end of my perks, I invited Susan to team up with me to write a book:  100 Perks of Having Cancer (Plus 100 Health Tips for Surviving It).  Our mission is to show people that it is possible to live a healthy and happy lifestyle following a cancer diagnosis.  (Yeah, you heard that right, the words “healthy”, “happy” and “cancer” in the same sentence.)  We plan to donate part of the proceeds from our book to fund cancer research.

So, first of all, I want to thank every person who has followed my blog and cheered me on in my challenge to find 100 perks of having cancer.  I will continue to blog, even though I have met my goal, but it will be less frequently.  My next big project is the book, and as soon as my chemo-fog as lifted, I will set to work!   I hope you continue to pop by my blog for a visit.  Namaste!

 

Perk # 99: A New Way To Get A Buzz On

“Hello, my name is Florence and I am a blogger.  I knew it was becoming a problem when I started to steal time away from my kids to blog.  Eventually, I just let myself go.  I found myself checking my blog stats rather than brushing my teeth.  Of course the inevitable happened.  I got a cavity.  God, I’ll never forgive myself for that.  But I just couldn’t resist the buzz.  That’s when I decided to join Bloggers Anonymous.”

O.K, it didn’t actually get to the point of having to join a 12 step program (and the jury is still out on what caused the cavity), but the truth is, I am hooked on blogging!   It gives me a buzz which I can only compare to buying new clothes or finding a great deal on potted perennials.  Blogging for me has certainly been one of the most therapeutic perks of having cancer.

You see, I am the type of person who loves to set concrete, measurable goals for myself, goals like: lose 5 pounds, run 10 kilometers, or find 100 perks of having cancer.  The closer I get to my goal, the more excited I get.  So you can just imagine my anticipation now, as I sit on the cusp of one of the greatest victories of my life!  Hey, I heard that…..some of you are questioning how writing a blog can be considered such a victory.   Not to toot my own horn, but finding 100 good things about having cancer has been no easy task.  Now that I am so close to my goal, I feel like I am nearing the end of a marathon, and I am simply HIGH on my sense of accomplishment.  So stay tuned for the much anticipated (well, much anticipated by me and my mom at least) Perk # 100, coming soon to computers near you.

Tip: Don’t let cancer stop you from setting goals for yourself.

Perk #96: A New Look

From about 1980 to the early nineties, I wore my hair BIG as was the fashion of the day.   I figured that I would never part with my perm, but all of that changed with season one of “Friends”.  Jennifer Aniston’s square, layered style quickly became as popular as Farrah Fawcett’s flip of the seventies, and was copied by women around the world. Hey, if it was good enough for Jennifer Aniston, it was good enough for me.   I can’t help but to notice, however, that Jennifer has changed her hairstyle several times in the past two decades, whereas up until chemo, I was still sporting the “Friends” look.  Yes my friends, it is definitely time for a change, and what a great time to choose a new style since I am starting with a blank slate!  So help me out here, which DO should I do?

Do # 1

Do # 2

Do # 3

Do # 4

Do # 5

Do # 6

Tip: Why not go a little crazy and try out a completely new hair style following your cancer treatments?

Perk # 95: Cancer Made Me The Preferred Sister Wife

Bob with his siter wives: Florence, Juana and Sherry

I am very fortunate to have two of my sisters, Sherry and Juana, living so close by.  They were a tremendous help to me during my cancer treatments.  Myself and Juana are both single, and for a long time,  Sherry’s better half, Bob, was the only man on the scene.  So Bob shared his time equally between our three houses, in terms of doing general repairs and maintenance, putting up Christmas lights, digging snow, and other manly chores.   We fondly came to refer to ourselves as Bob’s sister-wives (I should point out that Sherry is the ONLY sister with conjugal rights.)  Since my diagnosis of cancer, I am happy to say that I get more than my share of sister-wife time with Bob.  As soon as anything needs fixing, a message is dispatched: Code red: Florence’s fridge is leaking . Send Bob STAT…….and the repair is done.

When playing sister wives, we fight over who gets to be Robyn

Tip:  It is ok to use your cancer to get stuff fixed around your house.