Sunday, June 26, 2011

Music, perceptions and Dennis Green famous quotes and their ties to cancer rehab

When you get cancer, you inevitably hear about how it "changes your perspective," and "shows who your friends really are," and things like that.
My take? Malarkey. Complete malarkey.
I'm the same person I was when I was diagnosed with a Solitary Plasmacytoma tumour in my T-2 vertebrae back in October. No better, no worse. No lights suddenly went on.
As for my family and friends, people have acted the way I expected them to act.
(Famous Dennis Green blow-up about the Bears being "who we thought there were," goes here.)
Carol-Ann has brave and graceful and a steadfast advocate for me. She's been everything she could be, and, considering who she is and how she was brought up, she's been everything I figured she would be.
The majority of the other people who I thought would be around all the time, who would call continually and email frequently, have done exactly that. The people who I figured would handle this at arm's length, due to fears of their own mortality or cancer in general or whatever else, have reacted that way.
Maybe one guy hasn't acted as expected, has been a little absent. No matter. His loss.
Carol-Ann and I have been blessed to receive the support we've received. We have amazing family and friends. And we're well aware that there's no way we'd get to this point without the assistance.
There have been things that have changed. This is going to sound goofy (that could be the subtitle for this blog...lets be honest) but I feel more of a connection to music than before. Certain songs at certain times have become rallying points for me.
(In interest of full disclosure -- which remains one of my favourite phrases -- my good buddy Arnie Sison maintains that I have the musical taste of a 12-year-old girl. I contend I have the musical taste of a really hip 12-year-old girl.)
Michael Buble's Home helped get me focussed during my last days at VGH and the early part of my third and final stint at GF Strong. I know it has nothing do with anything I've gone through, but the chorus, the idea of finally going home, played a role in me getting my head re-set when my thinking went awry.
(The line about feeling, "like I'm living someone else life," did connect for me, for what it's worth.)
Of late, it hasn't be a song as much as it's been a singer, Nicci Martinez, one of the contestants from The Voice. (In interest of full disclosure, I watch a lot of trendy trashy TV. I'd like to play like I'm high falutin, but I'm much more Dog The Bounty Hunter than PBS.)
Martinez, who covered The Dog Days Are Over last show, is this scrappy, little battler. She doesn't sing a song as much as she grabs around the scruff of the neck and takes it where she wants it to go.
I get that. I'm far from little, but I feel like a battler.
(I asked Carol-Ann today if she thought I was a battler and she agreed. I asked her if I was before cancer came around, and she said, "only when you were mad, and it didn't always make sense.")
I had the tunes blaring today when I went for my walk -- I did one kilometre for the first time, albeit with a walker.
Part of me is getting better. Part of me is staying the same.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My little marathon: this afternoon marks my first steps without any sort of device

It was only a few steps, but it was my own little marathon for the time being.
I walked 10 feet today without a walker, in the basement of our home and under the supervision of our physio Paula Peres. It's a terribly short distance, I know -- but it's my first steps solely on my own since October. That was just before I was diagnosed with a Solitary Plasmacytoma tumour in my T-2 vertebrae and long ahead of the eight back surgeries Carol-Ann and I have had to endure.
It's a terribly short distance, I know -- but there's been some suggestion, albeit usually worst-case scenario providing, that I'd never get off a walker.
It's a terribly short distance, I know -- but this is the happiest I've been since one of my dozen or so GF Strong physios, Hilary Cole, sucked me in to standing on my own without holding onto anything the first time in February. Hilary, in midst of my second of three stints at GF, got me engulfed in some serious conversation and all of the sudden I was up and on my feet.
It's the happiest I've been since I could move my left leg for my VGH physio Anne after surgery No. 7 back in February. That operation, which replaced my original four rods and screws in my back with six rods and screws, was a result of my left leg coming to a complete halt in my first go-round at GF. In the days leading up to the operation, my left leg wouldn't fire at all, no matter what I asked it to do. The morning after surgery, Anne came in, asked me to lift my leg off the bed, and I did it, and then I was able to keep it up when she pushed against it.
Maybe the coolest thing of all is that I'm this excited. This rehab thing is a grind, and it's so easy to get disappointed. It can be easier to look at what I've lost rather than what I've regained, and everyone I've talked to says that it's as hard mentally and emotionally as it is physically.
I'm sore and stiff every morning. We've tried to rectify that by going to Canada Games pool and splish splashing for 30 minutes to an hour. That tends to work. I see Paula twice a week, and she might work me harder than anybody I've ever had. (Apologies to various people.) I'm walking around the neighbourhood with my walker, and I'm doing day-to-day stuff like cooking and a laundry, and that takes a toll on me.
I'm also back at work, albeit for four hours a week right now. I had my stories in the paper last Friday. That was a decent milestone for me, but I think Thursday, when I'm slated to attend my first press conference since returning by covering Vancouver Giants' gathering, might be a bigger deal for me emotionally.
Thursday's also my next visit with Paula, so it could be quite a day, especially if this afternoon is any consideration.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Just when you thought it was safe to feel sorry for yourself, something like this comes along

I've never been an overly spiritual person, but I've always believed in fate.
This little squabble with cancer and back surgeries has only reiterated that.
I haven't had a lot of jump the past few days. My energy is low. At first, I tied it to battling a cold. Now, I'm thinking that I'm just worn out from the rehab -- I've made huge gains, but there's still much to go and it can be hard at times to rationalize that.
I had real trouble getting going this morning, but, with the help of cohort Susie Culp, I dragged myself to the pool and did my 45 minutes of walking back and forth, back and forth.
I came home, starting paring down my FOLLOWING list on Twitter like I routinely do and came across this Derek K. Miller guy. I remembered that he had cancer and was blogging about it, but I hadn't checked in on his blog in awhile.
I did, right here.
It quickly made me feel less sorry about my physical condition, although I'm jealous about the writing and the ideals.
Give it read. It certainly will make you think.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Doctor says I can have the write stuff; allows me to go back to work, albeit on a limited basis

Got some good news, and some good news. And, for that matter, some more good news.
Haven't read that here before too often, eh?
Kicking off, our GP, Dr. Jennifer Rogerson, agreed this morning (HOT OFF THE PRESS...HOT OFF THE PRESS...I've always wanted to say up, I'll hop in a random cab and tell the driver to "Follow that car!!!") that I can go back to work a few hours a week starting next Monday.
We're talking four hours a week to start, but that's enough for me to do at least one story, and it'll help keep me sane and focused. And Dr. Rogerson says that it will be a good test of my mental and emotional stamina.
Province sports editor Jonathan McDonald has said all along that he wanted to ease me back into working, when ever that was going to happen, so it makes it easier knowing that he's on board with the medical folk. (Shameless plug for my boss. And, seriously, is there any better shameless plug?)
Also on the plus front, I stood on one foot, without holding onto anything,  several times Tuesday. It may seem tiny, but walking, on some level, is a series of one-footed stands, and I hadn't been anywhere close to standing on one foot in some time. I had, in fact, given up even trying for the final few weeks at GF Strong. I didn't have the strength in my hips or my core then.
And, to wrap up our happiness hat trick, my new at-home physio, Paula Peres is a butt kicker and seems to really get me.
I had my first session with her a week ago, and I so wanted to impress her, so wanted to show her that I was going to be good to work with. She put me through some signature assessment tests, and I struggled.
I was hard on myself about it, and she finally looked at me, and said, "Get over yourself." As she pointed out, if I didn't have things to improve on, she wouldn't have been there, taking my money.
"You know that you're paying me for this?" she said, big, goofy smile on her face.
That's one of the hard things with rehab -- it's just as much mental as it is physical. I don't want to be where I'm at, meandering around with a walker, but I need to remember how far I've gotten and how much time I've spent in a hospital bed. I need to remember my Solitary Plasmacytoma tumour and eight back surgeries.
It's tricky. But it's slowly getting better.