Cheryl: A Prayer of Thanksgiving
Two moves in two years! In 2000, we moved across country from Comox, British Columbia to Sarnia, Ontario, and then in 2001 to Burlington, Ontario all for my husband's work. Here I was at age 44 in a new city, with a new home, new schools for the teen-aged children and a new job. I was hired for a Kindergarten position by a school board with the policy that one must have a physical upon employment. The doctor found a lump on my left breast. Following a mammogram and ultrasound I saw a surgeon, expecting a biopsy, and was shocked to be informed that the imaging was enough for her to diagnose an infiltrating ductal carcinoma. Surgery was booked in 11 days. My mother had breast cancer at age 60 and survived slightly more than a year after her initial diagnosis. I'd had an annual mammogram since my early 30's but missed the screening in 2000 due to the big cross-country move.
During the modified radical mastectomy, 13 lymph nodes were harvested and one was positive for metastases. I took a medical leave and sailed through 6 months of chemo with very few side effects. The following September I returned to Kindergarten. I took better care of myself, practiced yoga and changed my eating habits. We travelled more. I discovered that I love to golf. In 2005 I had a DIEP flap breast reconstruction and was thrilled with the outcome.
In September, 2010 I was delighted to start a new position with my school board at a Readiness Centre where moms or caregivers can come with their children (0 - 4 years old). At the Readiness Centre we provide all sorts of activities and supports for these parents of young children to help them understand the importance of learning through play and how to best prepare their children for school. I was incredibly happy in this new position and felt fulfilled every day at work.
I had a pain in my sternum since the spring of 2010 which hadn't responded to anti-inflammatories. And, in the autumn I'd noticed fleeting pains in my ribs and hip which didn't really concern me. After 9 years I'd "graduated" to yearly appointments with my oncologist, and, in December when told of my aches she ordered a bone scan, although she seemed confident the pain was arthritic. This was a few days before Christmas; I was on edge through the holidays anticipating the scan scheduled for early January. The surprising results showed bone metastases to many areas of my skeleton, sounding much like one of my favourite Kindergarten songs: "Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes," but with an additional verse including "Spine and Ribs, Pelvis and Femur."
I continue to practice yoga, with some modifications. I've been journaling, meditating, and using healing imagery. It helps me stay calm and hopeful. I am crocheting baby blankets for grandchildren I hope someday will appear. I'm travelling as much as I can, and have two vacations planned for this winter. I am so grateful I had 9 years symptom-free after my initial diagnosis, and that I had the opportunity to teach at the Readiness Centre, however short my time there. My own children are now adults. I go to sleep every night with a prayer of thanksgiving and live each day with a hopeful, happy attitude.
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