Tuesday, 26 August 2008

"Chasing The Natural"

I recently read a quote in the July edition of Canadian Living that encapsulates this new season of my life. "...If you chase the natural, it will come back full gallop, meaning don't fight who you are or what you look like - just work with it." - Frederic Fekkai (page 33, Style, Canadian Living July 2008)

I now have a full head of hair, meaning my scalp is no longer visible. As my hair has filled in, I have discovered that it is quite curly. My hair has always had a natural wave, but I did not know that it could be this curly as I have never had my hair this short. The back of my head is the waviest and I often like to run my hand over it. I am not yet used to how it feels since it is in layers. So far the maintenance is rather easy; I just wash and towel dry my my hair; then I smooth down the hairs that stick up. I have started to develop "wings" at the sides so I might need to have them trimmed soon.

I am so glad that I "took the plunge" and went wig-free early on; it was liberating. Many people have complimented me on my wig, which helped me to not feel self-conscious about wearing it. Occasionally there were times that I felt uncomfortable when someone insisted that I should wear my hair like my wig when it grew back because it suited me so well. When I had replied that I was not sure if I could, since my hair has a natural wave, they stated that there are hairdressers who can overcome that.

I like how my hair looks, but I am not used to seeing myself looking like that. One evening I mentioned to my husband that I did not think that I looked like "me" and asked if he agreed. He replied, "I hardly recognize you!". I knew he was joking so I asked what he really thought. He said that I have not looked like "me" for a long time and that he has gotten used to it. He said that he thought my hair looked good and that it suited me. My daughter said that it is "the new me".

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Trusting In God

(I am not going to finish telling my journey until I process what I have written thus far. It is not a "quick fix" "get it out there...now that's done" kind of thing.)

I had asked God what He wants me to do; what burden or passion does He want to lay on my heart? It came to mind that I have been asked to be a discussion leader for a new Bible study. I would have to rely on God. I know that I am gifted with the ability to lead such a group; it is the topic, "Walking By Faith: Lessons Learned In The Dark", that causes me to hesitate.

I am still weak from the trauma of having had ovarian cancer; I need to lean on God. I do not want to "hurry" my recovery by suppressing things that need to be healed. Yet God is able to heal me as I walk through this study with Him. I was thinking about why I might be hesitant to lead a discussion group; "fear" came to mind; "loss of control" or "no control" over what might surface. God is in control. I need to surrender my fear to Him and give Him control over what might or might not surface.

When I asked God why I cannot know more- have a 5-year plan say, He asked me if I would have danced in Unionville had known I would be diagnosed with ovarian cancer a month later. No, I would not have. I would have been worried and very concerned. I would not have been able to concentrate on what God wanted me to take part in if I was thinking about what was to come. It is not that God is just shielding me from any unforeseen future trouble, but also that He wants me to occupy myself with what is "at hand". I can only do one thing at a time.

God is directing me to those things that He wants as a part of my life at this time. An example of this took place this past Sunday morning. As our pastor was closing off his message, he reminded the congregation that if anyone desired to have prayer they could come and sit in the front row and someone would come and pray with them. I am a member of the prayer team so I looked to see if anyone had come for prayer that God would want me to pray for. A new lady came forward and sat at the front; I waited a minute to see if one of the other team members was going to pray for her and then I went to her. After talking with her, I was able to lead her in a prayer for salvation. God used me in spite of my weakness.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths." Proverbs 3: 5,6 (NLT)

Thursday, 21 August 2008

The Disease That Whispers

Ovarian cancer has been described as "the disease that whispers". Looking back I heard the whispers, but I did not know what they meant. Last summer I noticed that I had a small "pot" that was hard, but I did not do anything about it. I thought that I would mention it when I had my physical in the fall. I started to notice that I "filled out" my capris, and my shorts were now tight around the waist. I was taking part in a liturgical dance and I needed to buy black dress pants that had an elastic waist; they were one size larger than I usually wore. After I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer my sisters-in-law mentioned that they had noticed my "pot", but at the time had only thought I had gained some weight.

While we were away at a cottage in Muskoka, I started to experience indigestion and bloating. I went to my family doctor when I returned from holidays. She had initially thought that I might have a blocked intestine so she put me on stool softeners and a laxative; and she arranged for me to see a bowel specialist. The earliest appointment was in September. In the meantime my doctor ordered a chest x-ray and two ultrasounds, abdominal and internal. I could just walk-in for a chest x-ray, but I needed to book an appointment for the ultrasounds, which would be the next week. Originally I was going to have the x-ray at the same time as the ultrasounds, but I was becoming more uncomfortable so I decided to have the x-ray later that week.

I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable as my abdomen increased in size. My husband took me to Emergency because we did not feel that I could wait for the appointment with the bowel specialist the following Monday. I thought that the attending doctor was rather "misogynistic" in his approach to dealing with me. He suggested that maybe I was pregnant and did not know it. When it was discovered that I had had ultrasounds earlier in the week, the staff were able to obtain the results, which recommended that I have a CAT scan. I asked if I could have the CAT scan that day, but the doctor said I needed to go through my family doctor. He said that he would only order a CAT scan if my appendix had burst.

On the Monday my husband and I drove to Orillia, which is about an hour north of us. The bowel specialist told us that after looking at my ultrasounds I did not need his care as it was not a blocked intestine. We shared about our experience at Southlake and the recommendation for me to get a CAT scan. The doctor informed us that he was chief of staff at the Orillia hospital and he would personally arrange for me to have a CAT scan that day. He said he would also arrange to have the results immediately so he could personally direct us to the correct specialist. Finally we were getting somewhere!

To be continued...


Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Looking Back

It was traumatic being ill with ovarian cancer. The treatment and subsequent side-effects added further trauma. My family had to cope with this as I was going through it; but now that I am well, they have moved on. I, on the other hand, did not experience the full impact of the trauma as I was going through it. All my energy and focus was on making it through treatment and surgery. As I am in new situations or returning to familiar activities the emotional impact of the trauma is released. Recently I was looking through the plastic container that held my medicine for a small pill holder. I had waves of emotion and memories flood over me.

When I had ovarian cancer and was undergoing treatment I felt as though I was a "prisoner" in my own body. I had no real control over my body or my life at that time. The cancer caused my body to react by producing fluid (ascities) in my abdomen, which I needed to have drained on several occasions. It was rather scary the first time, but I wanted relief: they ended up draining about 7 litres of fluid! I had it drained three more times and it was progressively less fluid each time, as the chemo was destroying the cancer cells. I also had lost a lot of weight - probably between 25 and 30 pounds. Many times right after receiving chemo I did not feel like eating for the first few days, or I was too nauseous to keep anything down. When I eventually did eat, I concentrated on high protein foods and I supplemented my diet with "Ensure". I was trying to regain weight in order to build up my strength to cope with the chemotherapy treatments. These were times I would not want to repeat.

I need to write my story; I need to release all that is inside. It has taken tremendous emotional energy to bring me through to where I am now. I was encouraged to remain positive. That has helped me "find the silver lining in every cloud" I faced.

When I look at the pictures of me without hair or with very little hair, I am shocked at how I looked. I am often smiling in these pictures. I do not recall any negative feedback from my family while I was going through it. They accepted my hair loss and I accepted it; we had no control over it. This is what I had written in my journal on October 30 2007, "Last night I was so full of praise to God. I told Dan [my husband] that I wished that Jesus was right here so that I could hug Him. I right away had the sense that Jesus was hugging me; holding me close to His heart. I looked just how I look now - shorn head with balding spots and yet I was safe in His arms."
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