Friday, May 12, 2017

Get Something Off My Chest...

 Speaking of "Bump in the Road..." I hit another one! Oh, man! This entire blog post may count as WTMI (as in WAY TOO MUCH INFORMATION!) but I've gotten into this peculiar routine of keeping an online diary and sharing my most personal stories with strangers around the globe, so why break a habit?! Besides, writing is therapy. And the irony is that sometimes life's most unpleasant experiences, our lumps and bumps along the road, make some of the best stories. Besides, how could I write about February and March without mentioning the biggest obstacle I went through, facing so many of my fears/phobias?

So here goes...

(It's not pretty.)
(You have been warned...)

Winter is bad enough but February is usually the cruelest month of all (in my experience anyway, I usually refer to it as FebRUEary... By the way "rue" is kind of an old school word for sorrow/regret if I haven't mentioned it before. It just occurred to me that not too many people use the word "rue" in everyday conversation and I keep throwing it out there as if people will get it... Sorry to interrupt one parenthetical statement with another but I've gotta be me!) Seasonal Affective Disorder is a constant battle (but now thanks to May I had a light anyway!) Sleep deprivation is a persistent problem (ongoing sleep deprivation poses risks such as impulsive behaviour, depression, hallucinations etc. It also makes you cranky AF and makes it hard to think straight/function in any capacity...) On top of everything else I'd been suffering from an awful bout of pneumonia since November. FINALLY I had reached the point where I wasn't coughing constantly. I still had green mucus in my nose and throat but I'd only sneeze occasionally or cough once in a while, especially when I was in bed (something about lying down seems to stir up the phlegm in your lungs/throat.)

One night I coughed and put my hand up to my chest (which still hurt. Cracked ribs healing? Not sure.) I felt something strange in my right breast. It felt like a grape. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! WTF? I mean, I had been eating a lot of grapes lately but I was pretty doubtful that one could roll down and get stuck in my breast! "This can't be good," I thought. It was an obvious lump, the size and shape of a grape, that seemed to have come from out of nowhere. (Although if I'm being honest it could have been there for years. The truth is I don't ordinarily fondle myself and I hadn't been doing the monthly breast self-exam you're supposed to do to check for lumps. I never quite knew what to look for anyway. This however was HARD TO MISS!) I remember my doctor explaining to me once how to tell what a lump was as opposed to all the other lumpy stuff that's just naturally in your breast anyway: "Well, if you feel something lumpy but it's long and stringy... that's normal. But if it's like an isolated ball that's a lump on its own, you should get it checked out." For crying out loud, I was trying to get over the stress of being sick and the holidays and changes at work and finances and furnaces and everything bloody else and now I had to make YET ANOTHER trip to the doctor to check out a friggin LUMP in my boob?! Seriously. Enough already! I mean, some people are hypochondriacs and run to the doctor for everything (my Mom was like that -- every little sniffle & she was running us to the doctor) but I try to AVOID trips to the doctor. I don't LIKE going to doctors. (Don't get me wrong. My doctor is a sweetheart but I'd prefer not to see her on a regular basis!) I try not to go unless something goes REALLY wrong and I have no choice. I sighed as I entered my doctor's office. Again. "Ok. So now there's ANOTHER worry to add to the list..." I told her. She felt for the lump. Yup. I wasn't imagining it. My grape was definitely there. She confirmed it and sent me for a mammogram and an ultrasound to have it checked out. Lovely.

I'd heard about mammograms of course (and in my mind I pictured them as "Ma'am-o-grams" since once you were about the age that people called you Ma'am you started going for them...Otherwise they'd be "Miss-o-grams."Yes I know breasts are mammaries but humour me!) Frankly, I wasn't a fan of the idea. Mammograms didn't sound very pleasant -- having your breasts squeezed in a vice? Ummm...No thanks! Some women said they didn't really hurt at all but were merely a bit uncomfortable (of course you never can tell. There are some pretty tough pain-resistant broads out there! They will laugh at you and call you weak for not being able to endure the sort of pain THEY barely wince at. "Oh I've been through that, that's NOTHING!" Some will even tell you labour pains aren't so bad! Ummm...OK. I think you're ALONE on that one, toots!) On the opposite end of the spectrum are the delicate ladies who warn that mammograms are painful/horrible and left them bruised. Like most things, I think it's different for everyone. There's no one size fits all when it comes to body types/pain tolerance etc! Some of us are more sensitive. Some of us bruise more easily. And some are bulletproof/tough AF! So, you can never really be sure how it will be for YOU until you're in it. When I voiced my trepidation to the doctor she assured me that while the procedure can be somewhat painful for small breasted women (because they have to pull enough flesh together to put in the machine and squish to take the x-ray) it is less painful for medium to large breasted women (not as hard to gather enough of a boob to fit in the machine.) The doctor remarked that my breasts were a decent size and shouldn't present a problem. "Thanks!" I chuckled.

So let me take you on a trip down Mammory Lane...The day of my very first mammogram arrived. I tried to use positive visualization and imagine that it wouldn't be so bad. I was kind of chanting positive affirmations in my head "Piece of cake! It will be OK..." as I parked the car and headed into the hospital in a state of utter distress. I was trembling. I reached the radiology department and was shown to a room where I was instructed to disrobe from the waist up and put on a hospital gown BACKWARD (with the ties at the front.) The thing is, they set you up to FAIL! It ties on an angle which wouldn't matter so much on your back but at the front it is quite a wardrobe malfunction -- practically leaving one breast flopping out no matter what you do! I looked in the mirror. "Ummm... OK am I missing something?" I wondered. Being the modest sort, I tied it as tight as it could possibly go and pulled the material over myself to cover the gap on my chest. At least everyone in this closed off section was female. There was a nurse assigned to the room to watch over the ladies waiting for their mammograms. I was the only one there under the age of 60 years. (Including the nurse/volunteer.) "Excuse me...Sorry but..." I said to her, "I was just wondering...Am I stupid or is it virtually IMPOSSIBLE to tie these gowns in a way that you're not half naked?" She smiled. "I know! Sorry. They're supposed to fit EVERYONE instead they fit NO ONE properly! But you don't have to walk down the hall that way. Just stay in here. When you go for the ultrasound down the hall you'll wear another gown over it tied behind you. "Oh OK. Thank you," I said breathing a sigh of relief that at least I wouldn't be forced to sit out in public (in front of strange men and women) with one breast peeking out.

I was shaking like a leaf once I got into the room with "the machine." Luckily the technician was very kind, calming and reassuring. I apologized for sweating profusely, especially since I wasn't even allowed to wear anti-perspirant! (Before a mammogram you are banned from wearing any lotion, perfume or deodorant which I guess makes sense so the area is free of obstacles and can give a clear X-ray.) "Oh don't worry," the lady said, "you see EVERYTHING in here. At least you showered!" Apparently some people don't?! I couldn't. even. imagine!

She put a little triangle sticker on my breast over where the lump was just to keep track of it for the X-ray. She led me to the machine. My breast was placed on a sort of plastic shelf thing (like a xerox machine?) then another large plastic shelf was lowered until my breast was squished between the two plates. Then she told me to take a deep breath and hold it. I was still shaking but it really wasn't as bad as I'd anticipated. It wasn't long before she had X-rays of both breasts and I was done. It was mildly uncomfortable but not what I would consider painful. The sideways squish was my least favourite but it was just for a moment and it was over. Awesome! Woo hoo! No pain. No bruises. I wasn't worried about the ultrasound at all because I'd had a couple while I was pregnant and knew that that would just be some jelly and a wand over my breast. Cakewalk! Also, unlike the pregnancy ultrasound, I wasn't required to drink an inordinate amount of water and hold it in! (That actually WAS painful! I had to pee SO BAD. I was almost in tears.) The relief when it was over and I could run to the bathroom and pee bordered on orgasmic! LOL (I was thrilled that Michelle was a girl and was healthy but I was almost just as happy that it was over and I could finally pee out that 2 litres of water! What a RELIEF!)

Unfortunately, the ultrasound section was off in another area and had a longer wait time, out in a hallway this time, with both men and women. At least I had another gown over me now but I still felt somewhat silly/conspicuous being the only person in a hospital gown. The other people were just there for an ultrasound and had walked in off the street apparently, all dressed in their winter coats etc whereas I'd already had the mammogram and was in a gown. I tried to look nonchalant and texted my sister on my phone. (Because that's what everyone else does and I try to fit in with modern society every once in a while! Look at me! I can text too!) One of the men waiting, a short stout balding man was talking on his cellphone and telling the person that he had a "floating blood clot." That completely freaked me out. After the blood clot in my foot in the summer and with all the time I spend sitting/driving it's always a concern. I was waiting for quite a while and it seemed like everyone else had gone in except me. Even people that arrived after I had. So when a new woman came in to the waiting area and was called right away I had to speak up, albeit somewhat sheepishly. "Hi...I'm sorry but she just got here and I've been waiting quite a while. I just wanted to make sure I haven't been forgotten...?" If looks could kill the daggers from the woman off the street's eyes would have destroyed me right then. I wanted to say "Look chickee...It's nothing personal but I've been waiting A LOT LONGER than you and I'd rather not sit here all day only to find that I missed my turn! So don't be giving me the STINK EYE!" The nurse/technician said "Sorry...I'll check." She came back to tell me that no I was having a different sort of ultrasound and that that particular room wasn't ready yet. So there were different rooms for the baby ultrasounds, the leg ultrasounds, the angry lady in the winter coat shooting me daggers ultrasounds, the man with the floating blood clot ultrasounds and my grape in the boob one...

Finally it was my turn and I went in. I asked the tech if I'd be able to see the screen (sure it's not quite as cute/heartwarming as seeing your baby on an ultrasound but I thought I might as well steal a glimpse at my lump.) And there it was...amidst the floating white stuff and whatever other substances are in there there was a black grape sized hole. "It's like a grape," I commented. "Well you have a bunch of grapes," the girl remarked. There were a series of smaller lumps here and there. I knew she couldn't really tell me results (that had to come from my doctor) but I was curious if it was normal to have lumps like this. I had read that you can have lumps that come and go with your period etc and that they are harmless. She said it was pretty common. She told me she didn't think I needed to worry which was reassuring. I was told I would have the results within 10 days. Five days later I got a call from my doctor. I was hoping it was with good news -- that everything was fine and I could just go about my life, lumps and all. Unfortunately there was a little more to it than that. She said that the cyst was one thing but what they were more concerned about were the "microcalcifications" around it. Micro sounded like something small and I hoped it was nothing to worry about. Unfortunately that wasn't quite the case. The cells were atypical and growing rapidly so they were worrying enough that she wanted me to have a biopsy. That didn't sound fun. A needle in my breast? Ugh. The doctor said that the worst case scenario would be that I might have to have a "small surgery." I asked if this could all be because of Michelle falling on me and digging her elbow into my breast (by accident) when she was jumping on the bed. Could it be an injury? My sister had "calcifications" in her shoulder from an injury once. Also considering it's a breast, calcifications (like calcium?) sounded like something you would find in milk ducts. I Googled it and got myself somewhat freaked out. I tried not to worry too much. I just wanted the biopsy OVER WITH. I tried calling the hospital to book an appointment but they said it doesn't work that way. They pretty much said "Don't call us, we'll call you." I cried. I felt helpless. I didn't know whether I'd be waiting a matter of days, weeks or months for an appointment. And I was going to be stressed out until it was done. I couldn't even bring myself to utter the "other C word...." I just prayed the cyst would be benign and all would be fine. The doctor said that ironically the size of the lump suggested it wasn't "c" word because it was so big and came from out of nowhere whereas malignant tumors tend to start small and grow slowly rather than popping up, grape size, all of a sudden...

A few days later they called me about the biopsy appointment. It was the day after Valentine's Day. Perfect. I managed to escape Cupid's bow on Valentine's Day but I would be pierced in the chest with sharp objects THE NEXT DAY! Fun times. I was trying not to panic too much. Hey, I'd survived childbirth after all, right?! Anything should be a cakewalk after that! But this was different. Yes labour was painful and terrifying but I wasn't alone (I had my mom and sister to comfort me) and I knew that that pain was for a good cause (I got an adorable baby at the end of it!) This was just going to be an awful incident with no reward at the end. And worst of all I was all by myself to go through it. "Keep it in perspective," I tried to tell myself. "It's just a biopsy. People have biopsies all the time."' I spoke to someone else who had been through it a few times years ago (and they survived!) I tried to console myself that everything would be OK. Though I was extremely scared, I tried to do the positive visualization exercise again. I imagined myself going to the hospital for the biopsy and saying "That wasn't nearly as bad as I expected!" Sadly, what would happen was ABSOLUTELY NOTHING LIKE THAT AT ALL. It was far worse than I could have anticipated. Worse than my worst nightmares...

I dropped Michelle off at school in the morning and went off to meet my doom. If I'd had a date with a serial killer I couldn't have been more nervous. No this time I was FAR more scared than I had been for the mammogram because this wasn't just a bit of a squish, this was invasive. This was a needle in my breast (several needles in my breast!) and there was no way to make that pleasant! I was full on TERRIFIED. I was trembling like a leaf when a nurse led me into the room. I told her I have a phobia of needles, that I FAINT every time, that I was petrified etc. She sat me down, gave me some paperwork and asked whether my doctor had explained the procedure to me. I said no not really. She sounded somewhat stern and said "Well they should have!" and proceeded to tell me in minute detail what was going to happen. I interrupted her. "Ummm. Sorry but just so you know. This is NOT making me feel better. This is making me feel much much worse." It was like a deranged killer saying "Now don't worry. I'm just going to inflict as much pain as possible until you scream for mercy then I'll gouge your eyes out. OK puddin? NOW RELAX!" The nurse led me over to "the machine" (which was similar to the mammogram thing but a little different.) I was having an "ultrasound guided biopsy." I was also having a "panic attack!" The nurse drew a line across my breast with purple marker and warned me "Don't move." She'd be able to tell whether I moved because of the line. I couldn't stop shaking. I was afraid that might count as moving and I'd get in trouble. Then I had to cough. My breathing was shallow. She took a few photos/x-rays. I coughed and she said I'd moved, re-positioned me and took the x-rays again. Then she went to find the doctor. I was still trapped with my breast locked in the machine while she went to look. I had a pain in my back. The nurse had put a pillow behind me but said "This is not for your comfort." Clearly not. It was just to push me forward to keep me in the machine. It put a strain on my back. I was feeling pain in my back, neck, arms, shoulders, legs, you name it. It was NOT COMFORTABLE to say the least. I was so tense I could hardly breathe. And I didn't know how long I'd be trapped like that. Breast squished, back hurting, awaiting MORE pain. Good times. The anxiety attack grew worse. I felt claustrophobic, trapped, waiting for a man who was going to come in and hurt me and there was nothing I could do about it. I wanted to run.

There was a little picture on the wall of a faceless woman holding two babies. The machine blocked part of it so you couldn't completely make it out. The nurse suggested I could focus on that to keep my mind off things. I wanted to say "Well can you hang the picture in a BETTER SPOT then?! Because this torture chamber machine thingy is blocking my view!" I wished it was a happier picture. I almost felt sorry for the woman with no face carrying her babies. Why couldn't it be an ocean scene or a soothing pastoral landscape? I wanted to go to my happy place. Close my eyes and pretend I was at the beach. I tried to take deep breaths. Breathe in for a count of four, hold, breathe out for a count of four. It was hard to breathe between the anxiety and the fact that my chest was locked in a vice. Little. shallow. breaths. Almost hyperventilating. The nurse mentioned breathing and yoga. I told her that I do yoga. "YOU do yoga?" she asked in disbelief. "I know, right?!" I said, "I don't seem very ZEN, do I? I find my zen WHILE I'm doing yoga but then it leaves me again & needless to say I'm NOT FEELING IT RIGHT NOW!" There is nothing zen about having your breast trapped in a machine while waiting for the Marquis de Sade to begin torturing you further. Absolutely nothing!

Finally the doctor came in and coldly, clinically explained what he would be doing. My lip quivered. Tears streamed down my face. I went to wipe them away. It was just too much. Fear of the pain, fear of the outcome (possible "C" word), just fear and helplessness and anxiety and being alone going through this with no one who loved me to say "You're going to be OK." I tried not to cry but I couldn't help it. "You moved!" the nurse said and then she had to take her x-rays again. The doctor explained that he would be doing the freezing and that it wouldn't really hurt, it would just be "like a bee sting." I wanted to say "Ummm.... I don't want to tell you how to write your pep talks Doc but NEWS FLASH: BEE STINGS HURT!" The last time I'd been stung was while I was gardening when I was pregnant. It hurt like hell and I was also terrified at the time that the poison could get through to the baby somehow.  And that was just in my leg. This was my breast. I figured a bee stinging my breast would hurt a bit more. I felt like asking "Hey doc, have you ever been stung by a bee? What about in your most sensitive area? Have you ever been stung on your chest/genitals etc?!" But I didn't say a word. Instead I just gritted my teeth and prepared for the worst.

And the worst happened. The needle went in. It stung. Worse than a bee. It hurt like a mo-fo. And then, that awful all-too-familiar sensation came over me -- I felt really hot, everything started to turn yellow and sparkly... "Oh man, here we go," I thought. "I feel faint," I told them, "I'm sorry I always faint at needles." I had warned them. Then I must have blacked out for a second because next thing I knew I was lying down and the nurse had a cold cloth on my head. She seemed much more kind and tender to me at that point. I was hoping that the whole thing was over with. Instead it hadn't even started.
"We'll have to reschedule for another day," the doctor suggested matter-of-factly.

I almost said "OH HELL NO! Are you out of your friggin mind?! Go through all this AGAIN?! No way Jose!" What I did say was: "NO. Absolutely not! I'm not going through this again. EVER. It's NOW or NEVER! Coming back another day is not going to change anything. I'm not going to magically be a person who doesn't faint at needles next time!" "Well we can't do the procedure if you're fainting," the nurse explained. "I'll try not to faint again!" I offered. The nurse went and got me some cranberry juice. She asked if I'd eaten. I had but not much because I was too nervous and my stomach was upset. I'm borderline anemic so on a nearly empty stomach I'm a bit weak too. The cranberry juice helped a LOT. She gave me a cold cloth for my head, back and wrist. That helped enormously because feeling too hot was almost the worst part of it (that and the sparkly yellow sh$%!) and bringing my body temperature down was half the battle. She suggested we could do the procedure lying down. That sounded much more appealing until I realized how uncomfortable it was to have the machine squishing my breast at that angle. The side squish. Bad times. Being crushed from top and bottom was uncomfortable but manageable. Being squeezed from the sides was full on AWFUL. It was painful. Worse than a needle. I told her this was simply horrible. "Can you endure it for 15 minutes?" she asked. "NO!" I said, "I couldn't endure this for 15 seconds! Let's go back to sitting up!  I PROMISE I won't faint again!" She seemed mildly exasperated but we redid everything. Because I had moved they would have to do the freezing again. Luckily I didn't even feel the second needle because most of my breast was already numb from the first freezing. Thank Heaven.

Then the doctor warned me, "I don't want you to panic but..." Again I wanted to tell him: "As pep talks go, you're the WORST! If you start a sentence with 'I don't want you to panic' you can 100% EXPECT ME TO PANIC!!!" He cautioned me that I was going to hear a noise like a staple gun (awesome. Now I will have PTSD every time someone is doing home renovations or reupholstering furniture) which would actually be the machine injecting me with needles apparently. The sound was jarring so it was actually a good thing that he had warned me. He hadn't been exaggerating. It sounded EXACTLY like a staple gun. Thankfully because of the freezing I didn't really feel it except a bit of a jolt/pressure in my breast with each pa-ching! The nurse and doctor spoke back and forth about millimeter depths etc. At one point the doctor said something about going deeper than the machine would allow. That didn't sound ideal but I was just trying to tune them out. "La la la blah blah blah... I'm not listening to you..." I decided that whatever they might be saying about stapling my boobs I for sure didn't want to hear a word of it... In my mind screaming: "LA LA...NOT LISTENING!"

I closed my eyes and tried to go to my happy place -- picturing myself lying on the beach. In a few months it would be summer and I could (hopefully) put all of this nonsense behind me. The nurse didn't like me closing my eyes because she was afraid I could be fainting again. I promised her I wouldn't. I didn't want to look at the doctor or the machine or any of it. I tried to look at the little (half blocked) painting on the wall. Instead I wound up staring at the yellow and black receptacle on the wall. Staring at the words SHARP SMART like I was a victim in a horror movie scene. I just wanted it over. The procedure was only supposed to be 15 minutes but between delays and fainting and whatnot it wound up being over an hour. An hour can fly by quickly when you're having fun (hence the saying). An hour feels like an eternity when you're being tortured (ie having a biopsy apparently.) After they'd shot me with about 8 needles (aka staples) they went to check the samples/slides to make sure they got what they needed. "Please God let it be done!" I thought. Then the doctor came back and said he wanted to be extra sure and took a few more to be safe. Sure. I'm a human pincushion. Do your worst! But get it all now because I am NOT going through this sh%$ again, dude! (This was just the conversation in my head. I didn't say it out loud. Not all of it anyway.) Finally it was done. The nurse seemed concerned about the bleeding. She told me not to look. "Oh there's no danger of that!" I assured her. I was NOT looking toward my chest. Not for anything on earth. Nope. I was not even mildly curious to see the geyser of blood from my chest. NO WAY! She held a cold cloth on it for a very long time with a lot of pressure. Then she had a nurse come in and keep the pressure on my wound. "Don't be nice to her," she told the nurse. Gee thanks! "Make sure you keep a LOT of pressure on it so she doesn't bleed too much." Yikes. Sucks to be me.  After a while when the bleeding stopped she put a bandage on it. She told me not to take Advil (which could make you bleed too much apparently?) but to take Tylenol instead. I wasn't sure if I had any at home so she said she'd get me some. I didn't want to feel ANY pain. She gave me a page of instructions. It said I might want to wear a bra to bed afterward. I had never worn a bra to bed in my life but going to bed that night I understood why I had to. Without a bra, gravity sort of pulls on your breast and hence pulls on the wound. The bra holds everything in place and is comforting.

I went back to the ladies only waiting room. They wanted to keep an eye on me for a while to make sure I didn't faint again. I was suddenly freezing. Whether from the anxiety, the loss of blood or the wet cloth that had dripped all down my back and arms I had a chill so bad my teeth were chattering. And then something beautiful happened. It was the opposite of everything I'd just been through. It was a cozy, happy, warm and fuzzy miracle: They brought me a WARM BLANKET (and when I say warm I mean like hotter than fresh from the dryer -- it had been heated in a microwave or something!) and it was SHEER HEAVEN! That was the best part! That hot blanket wrapped around me was like a comforting hug saying "You have been through Hell but you survived. It will be OK." An older lady in the waiting room asked me if it was my first mammogram. I guess she was waiting for hers. I said no I just had a "BIOPSY." I wondered if she could tell by the grim way I uttered the word biopsy that it had been a trip through hell. Or she could tell from my appearance. I must have looked a fright (when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror later I was like Alice Cooper's sister. My mascara was EVERYWHERE.) I was past caring how awful I looked. I was just SOOOO immensely relieved it was over! I felt really weak and couldn't wait to go get breakfast at Tim's (iced capp and egg and cheese english muffin here I come!) The nurse asked me if I wanted to be wheeled to the door. I said I'd never been in a wheelchair before. I said it might actually be kind of nice (and the thought of walking back through the labyrinthine hallways in my weakened state wasn't appealing.) So I accepted the ride. I passed an old man in a wheelchair going the other way who waved and said "Hi." I said "Hi," back. Then she dropped me off at the door. The cold air was refreshing. I took a deep breath. I felt like I'd just been let out of prison! It was SUCH a relief to be done.

My breast was numb for a while. The freezing even felt like it was moving to my neck and face. I swore that my lip felt a bit swollen like when you go to the dentist but it could have been my imagination. Numb lips or not I couldn't wait to eat! Nothing like sheer terror to work up an appetite! I got my breakfast and went home. Then I called May and my Mom to tell them what I'd been through. In retrospect the hospital should have given me a sedative or anti-anxiety meds ahead of time or something! Hindsight is 20-20. At least it was over. Now I had to wait for the results within 10 days. I really hoped the doctor would say everything was just fine and I never had to go through this again. I expected I would have to keep going for regular mammograms from now on but that wasn't so bad. Just NO MORE BIOPSIES PLEASE!!!

Every day that I was home I jumped when the phone rang thinking it might be the doctor with news. At work I kept checking my cellphone. I figured if I didn't hear anything within 10 days that I would call the office to check. Or maybe no news was good news and I hadn't heard because everything was FINE and they only call you with BAD results?! I wanted to hear either way but I lulled myself into a false sense of security thinking I just wouldn't hear because everything was OK. Nothing to worry about. My test was normal. My lump was just an innocuous lump. The microcalcifications were just tiny little nothing-to-worry-abouts...

Then one day, at work, I got the call on my cell. Dang. Why did it have to be when I'm AT WORK?! It was the secretary at the doctor's office. "Your doctor wants to speak to you, do you have time to talk to her now?" "Well not really. I'm at work and it's kind of busy but of course I want to talk to her! Will it be quick? Is it good news?" "Well...The doctor really needs to speak to you." That didn't sound good. "Hi," the doctor began, "How are you?" "Well that depends...You tell me." Then she dropped the bomb. She told me that they were "recommending surgery." The floor sort of dropped out from under my feet. That sick hollow feeling in my belly. No. No. No. She had told me that the "worst case scenario" would be a small surgery. So this was actually the WORST CASE SCENARIO coming to pass?!

The good news was that the lump/cyst/tumor/grape was BENIGN. And don't get me wrong. That WAS a huge relief. The bad news was that unfortunately I had something called ADH -- Atypical Ductal Hyperplasia which meant that the cells in my milk ducts were running amok, growing fast and could turn into something (pre-C word -- I can't bring myself to say it) so they recommended just taking the lump and the surrounding cells out. I cried. This was not good news. While I was grateful that it wasn't malignant, I was devastated that I had to go through a surgery anyway.

I was terrified. I told her that I fainted at the biopsy and that it was one of the worst experiences of my life. She assured me that at least I'd be knocked out for the surgery. I had to get back to work. I sat at my desk like a zombie. Trying to hold back the tears. I wound up telling my co-workers because I just wasn't going to be able to hide it. I wear my heart on my sleeve. Restraint isn't always (ever?) my strong suit! My supervisor suggested I just go home. But then I'd have to face the panic full on. I didn't want to think about it. Just dive into work and don't think about it. I managed to wipe away the tears and get through the rest of the day. Then I went to my sister's place to talk to her. She always helps to make me feel better. I brought Michelle and my Mom as well because Michelle loves visiting with Reggie and we hadn't been there for a visit in a couple of weeks. May did manage to cheer me up (she always makes me laugh!) and she assured me that she would take me to the surgery so I would not be alone. (I had to have someone take me anyway because apparently you're not allowed to drive after.) My doctor referred me to a surgeon who would apparently be calling me to make a consultation appointment.

One day I went to get out some grapes from the fridge and found that they were covered in milk. One of the bags of milk had leaked into the fruit & veggie drawer. I've bought hundreds of bags of milk and have never had that happen before. Things go wrong all the time of course, random annoyances. Sometimes I'm able to laugh them off, other times (when I'm having a really bad day) I might actually cry over spilled milk (literally and figuratively). On this particular day as I was rinsing milk off the grapes it hit me -- I had a grape sized lump in my milk ducts. And now I had milk on my grapes. I started to laugh. I looked up "Ok. I get it. Good one!" I decided that there are no coincidences in life or rather that coincidences are God's way of winking at you to make sure you're paying attention. Life is weird. Find a way to laugh at it...

WARNING: Graphic content (I've always wanted to say that.)

When the surgeon's office called they asked me to "Bring your slides..." Slides? Like vacation slides? Not quite. They wanted me to bring a CD of my BREASTS. It's not nearly as sexy as it sounds! (Maybe because I was having the surgery in a different city than the hospital where I had the tests done so the files weren't just forwarded on? Or maybe they always ask you to bring your own slides to surgery appointments? Not sure. It's all new to me.) So anyway, I had to call the hospital, get them to make a CD of the greatest hits from my Ma'am-o-gram, Ultrasound and Biopsy From Hell and then go pick it up to bring with me to the surgeon. Just a weird day all around. It was all so surreal and awkward. Walking into the hospital to the radiology department and asking for my "CD." I have to admit curiosity got the better of me and when I got home I couldn't resist a peak at the "slides." I mean how often am I going to get to see my breasts from the inside? (Hopefully never again!) I put the CD in my laptop. Some of it I wasn't really sure what the what I was looking at. But then some of the slides were quite clearly my breasts though they sort of looked like the moon with craters and whatnot. I sort of wished I had a full body x-ray so I could see my own skeleton. I think that would be kind of cool. Then again once I saw my own skeleton it might haunt my dreams for the rest of my life. Yeah, it's probably better if I don't know what I will look like dead. This whole lump and surgery thing got me thinking about my own mortality more than I felt comfortable with as it is. But I can deal with seeing my moon boobs... As you can see, photoholic that I am I snapped little souvenir shots of the slides. (I tried to save/copy the files to my computer and it wouldn't let me because they weren't just JPEGS but part of a weird program thing. So I just snapped pictures of the screen. Awkward I know. I can't believe I'm sharing these but hey, I've gone this far! Somehow with the nipple cropped out it doesn't seem like my breasts anymore anyway. It's just like looking at the moon. A blue moon. And a scary monster face (the lump seen on the ultrasound...)

Handing the CD over to the secretary at the surgeon's office felt kind of bizarre. There's something sort of vulnerable and random about handing over photos of your body parts to a complete stranger, but hey, you never know what each new day will bring! I wasn't entirely sure how just looking at those slides would be enough for the doctor to perform surgery but they'd no doubt take more x-rays and tests at the hospital before the surgery. I went in with a list of questions for the surgeon. I was afraid and was really looking for reassurance that I was overreacting/worrying needlessly and that everything would be OK. In my fantasy he was going to shake his head in a "there, there" fatherly manner and say something like "Don't you worry. There are some risks with anything but it's a routine procedure and you should be just fine." Yeah, I wish that's what he'd said. Not so much. I told him about my fainting and nervousness and general anxiety about the whole thing. He wasn't exactly comforting. He calmly and unemotionally told me about the procedure and answered my questions matter of factly with some of the worst answers possible -- stoking my worst fears and then some. Now, in fairness, I guess I shouldn't ask the question if I don't want to know the answers. The thing is, I just didn't want BAD answers! (It's like when you have the "talk" with your partner, and you know you're having problems but you need to confront them about the relationship, to know where you stand, and you're really hoping that miraculously they'll give you the answers you want to hear instead of the ones that will crush your very soul... Not that I've been through that for scenario a while. I haven't dated in 5 years. But those conversations are SEARED in my brain. They never went well.)

Some of the surgeon's answers were a relief:
1. When would the surgery be? In a couple of weeks (this was good news because I was anxious to get it over with. I didn't want to have to wait for weeks or months) I penned it into my calendar. I would have to see my family doctor for a physical and have a pre-op appointment at the hospital before surgery as well. They really want to be sure you're fit for surgery apparently.
2. How long does the surgery take? About 20 minutes. That didn't seem so bad. You can survive just about anything for 20 minutes. Even a Jillian Michaels' workout! I've done those too.
3. Would I be knocked out? Yes. (Thank God because I definitely didn't want to be awake for it! Give me the works! Send me to the moon. When I had my wisdom teeth out they knocked me out and I had to be carried to the car. Or so they tell me. I was in my 20s then.)
Some answers weren't available:
Why did this happen? What causes ADH? Did I do something wrong? (I tend to think in terms of cause and effect -- Obesity/heart disease, alcohol/liver damage, smoking/cancer. But what causes a grape sized lump to randomly grow in your milk ducts? Was it because I breastfed? (I would still have done it no matter what. As I've said before, Michelle's well-being is more important to me than my own.) Was it my diet? Did I drink too much Coke Zero? If there was something specific that caused it then I could try to prevent it from happening again. Could it be because I had pneumonia for months and coughed so hard I cracked my ribs? Or because Michelle fell on me (elbow into my chest which hurt like a mother?) But the doctor didn't have clear cut answers for me. Sometimes it's your diet or lifestyle or heredity but sometimes sh*% just happens and you really don't know why. I do think however that the common denominator of most diseases and disorders is STRESS and I had just gone through some of the most stressful months of my life. Sleep deprivation (which I'd also been suffering with) doesn't help either. Rest is the way your body restores/repairs itself. If you don't get your sleep then your body can't heal and just breaks down further. Physically and emotionally I was spent. I had been having breakdowns. My cells were having a breakdown too. It was all just too taxing on my system.

Then I got to my scariest questions: What were the risks? Was it safe? I wanted him to tell me this was routine and I would be OK. But I suppose he had to be honest and warn me that there are risks with any procedure. I asked if my breast shape/size could possibly be affected by the procedure (because they were taking out the lump and surrounding cells/tissue.) "Please say NO," I thought. I really wanted him to assure me that my breast would look the same as always except with a bit of a scar. Instead he uttered the words that cut me to the core: There was a chance that I might have some "volume loss" or "depression" on my breast. So I might be caved in/disfigured?! I felt like I was going to be sick.

This is going to sound silly but I'm rather attached to my breasts... I mean, like most women I tend to be self-critical and can find fault with just about everything on my body -- thinning hair (post-partum alopecia apparently. I have half the hair I used to have. Oh well, Michelle was worth it!), wrinkles (there seem to be new ones every day), big nose (never been a fan of my nose), crooked teeth (couldn't afford braces), pooch on my belly, stretch marks, cellulite, big thighs etc. My feet are sort of ugly but then I think feet in general are ugly. I could go on and on but this blog is too long as it is! Anyway, the point is that my breasts were the one thing (two things?! LOL) that I had no complaints about. They were round, relatively symmetrical and perky considering what they'd been through. While some women stress over chest size (too small/augmentation, too big/reduction) I felt like mine were just right! LOL Even when they changed over the years I was happy with each stage. As a skinny 100 lb teen I was a 32A. While my rail-like appearance was mocked by some neanderthals in school (who called me "flat chested" and "ironing board") I was also complimented by strangers saying how graceful/beautiful I was and asking if I was a model/ballerina (I'd dreamed of being a ballerina when I was little so this was the ultimate compliment to me! And I actually did do some modeling in those days.) As I gained weight in my 20s-30s I went up to 125 lbs and a 34B. While my weight fluctuated in my 30s (130-150 lbs) I pretty much stayed the same bra-wise. Then at 42 after working out hard core (Jillian Michaels etc!) I'd just gotten back to my ideal 125 lbs (which I hadn't been since my 20s) when I became pregnant and gained 70 lbs! Before I knew it I was a 36C. It was almost the first thing people noticed when I was pregnant! My cups ranneth over! The breasts expanded even faster than the belly. I didn't get to keep the big boobs of course. They shrunk as my stomach did when I worked out and lost most of the baby weight. (Breasts are mostly fatty tissue after all, so when you lose weight they tend to go. Female body builders often get breast augmentations because as they become more muscular they tend to lose their feminine curves.) But I was happy the girls were pretty much back to their old 34B selves (and not, as some Moms complained about post-partum, like deflated balloons!)

Now the idea that my right breast could be irreparably changed/damaged was sort of heartbreaking. Yes on some level I know that who we really are is not physical -- that we are the spirit inside, not the body. Still it's hard not to associate who you are with your physicality. Having your appearance deteriorate with age is tough enough but it happens gradually. To have something happen to you physically and change you drastically in one day (to enter the hospital intact and come out broken) feels like a loss. I didn't want my breasts to change. I couldn't imagine women who had to go through a mastectomy. I thought about how incredibly brave they would have to be. Even this relatively small procedure scared me to death. Now some people would say I was overreacting. I'm not saying that my reactions are everyone's. We're all different. Hospitals/blood/needles/surgery etc is MY phobia. To some people, it's nothing. Everyone has their own fears. I met a woman once terrified of thunderstorms (I love thunderstorms.) Some people are afraid of heights (I don't mind them) or snakes (I like them). There are even people who have a phobia of birds/puppets/pickles/the most random things (for real. They've even done shows on bizarre phobias.) Yes the fear is usually irrational but it doesn't make it less real to you. We all have the fight/flight mechanism and react with fear to certain stimuli. For whatever reason sometimes we attach fear to things that do not actually pose a threat. In my case (and in my defense) I am afraid of things THAT DO ACTUALLY HURT YOU (therefore, not so irrational!) So please don't send me hate mail saying that I'm overreacting! These are MY fears not anyone else's! Maybe you're afraid of things that don't scare me. I've done stand up comedy, sang about my personal life in front of strangers, been the first one on the dance floor in a crowded bar, rested my head on a tiger and climbed a mountain in a dress, so in some respects I'm pretty freaking brave! LOL (Note: the number 1 most common fear/phobia is PUBLIC SPEAKING. It ranks higher than the fear of death! So people would literally rather DIE than get up on stage! And I've had my share of stage time and lived to tell about it! So back off critics of my phobias! LOL)

The bottom line is, I like to be in control. This all felt way beyond my control. I don't know if the surgeon realized just how upset I was by his answers. He was expressionless. I really needed him to say "There, there. Don't worry." But I guess that wouldn't be professional? Then I mentioned (because my Mom kept going on about it) that a couple of family members on her side had died of a blood clot two weeks after surgery. This was especially scary for me because I had a blood clot in my foot over the summer and had problems with circulation. I also spent extended periods of time sitting for work/commuting etc. Again I was hoping he'd say not to worry instead he jotted it down and said "Good thing you told me! We'll make sure to get you blood thinners after." So there WAS a risk I could have a blood clot?! And then, worst of all, the doctor answered a question I hadn't even asked. Something I hadn't even thought of: He told me "After surgery the pathologist will come back with results and we may have to recommend further treatments." Wait, WHAT?! NO NO NO! This was supposed to be the END of it. That's why I was going through the OPERATION! To get RID OF IT! I wanted to yell "What the HELL do you mean FURTHER TREATMENTS?! No way, Jose! I can't do this again! No more biopsies, surgeries, hospitals! NEVER AGAIN!" Instead I just nodded, mute. I was shaken. I left his office like a zombie. He told me to see the secretary who would have an envelope for me with paperwork to bring with me to my appointments.

Along with the paperwork was a prescription for some harsh chemical cleanser that I was to shower with TWICE before my surgery -- once the night before and once the morning of. I guess they want to make sure you're REALLY sterile before they operate? I started to read the instructions which were confusing/somewhat contradictory. At one point it said not to get the cleanser near any orifice (your mouth/vagina etc) but then it said something about washing your genitals with it last? "Umm excuse me. I don't really understand the instructions." She shot me a look like I was from outer space. She couldn't really explain it to me. I showed her the wording and said it didn't make sense. I almost said "Sooooo...Umm...Do I wash my hoo hoo with it or not?" She wasn't much help. She thought I just wash my privates with regular soap and use the detergent on everything else except my face but she couldn't confirm. She probably wanted to say "How the F would I know? I'm just the secretary!" She told me to go to the pharmacy to buy it. It was ridiculous that even the soap I had to use was stressing me out! I imagined it being this harsh acidic substance that would burn my flesh. (I know, right? Possibly overreacting but I tend toward the dramatic. I have sensitive skin and the fact that they called it "detergent" as opposed to "soap" led me to think it wouldn't be gentle.) I went to the pharmacy in a bit of a daze. The "detergent" (because apparently I was human laundry now) was $6 and wasn't covered by my drug plan because it was over the counter.

Once I got into my car the tears started. I drove back to my Mom's place and bawled. I was already stressed about the surgery. Now I felt FAR WORSE. I was worried that something bad would happen in surgery or I wouldn't be the same afterward or have complications. Or get a blood clot or die... Or that I might just go through the whole ordeal and still not be out of the woods and have more weird cells and have to endure more biopsies, surgeries, God knows what?! Not to mention getting needles, being in the hospital, faced with all my phobias and nothing I could do about it. The whole thing was giving me an anxiety attack. The biopsy had been bad enough. I didn't know how I was going to deal with surgery. It was terrifying to me. And of course stress and lack of sleep made me that much more fragile so I was hanging by a thread. I couldn't stop crying. I wound up calling my sister (because she's always the sweet, soothing, sane voice of reason that can somehow calm me down even when my head is spinning.) She told me what I needed to hear. I would be OK. People have lived through worse. And thankfully she was going to go with me the day of surgery so I wouldn't be alone. I would be staying with my sister overnight and then she'd take me to the hospital and stay with me. She'd also keep an eye on me afterward (apparently you're not allowed to be alone even if you wanted to. They don't let you leave the hospital without someone to watch you for 24 hours post-op. May, my guardian angel would be there for me. And somehow, no matter how bad it got, she would make me laugh.) What I really needed was a good rest (which I never seemed to get. My brain doesn't come with an off switch. I think and worry and compile lists of all the things I need to do and think and worry about and it's endless.)

Part of the instructions in my packet required me to see my doctor and to go to the hospital for a pre-op appointment. There were also several papers that I had to fill out myself about my medical history etc (my only previous surgeries had been a tonsilectomy as a child and having my wisdom teeth out in my 20s.) Luckily the doctor was able to squeeze me in since surgery was in a couple of weeks. Things went well at my family doctor. She's very nice and I always feel comfortable with her. I told her that the visit with the surgeon was somewhat traumatic. She said she thought that he seemed nice enough. I said I found him cold and clinical. "But don't tell him I said that!" I joked, "I don't want him to be mad at me when he's going to be operating on me!" She gave me a check up and found that I was normal and healthy (though I felt anything but normal!) I always feel like I'm hyper/stressed at the doctor and yet my blood pressure is always normal (like 120 over 80.) I think because my blood pressure is actually on the low side generally (which in addition to getting no sleep could be why I often feel weak/tired), so when I'm keyed up it just raises my diastolic/systolic levels up to normal. I showed my doctor the instructions for the detergent. She said this must be a new pre-surgery procedure they do at the new hospital because she'd never even heard of it. She explained that the soap was safe (it's the same one the doctors use) but just not to get it in my eyes or inside my vagina. So, yes, wash your OUTER genitals with it, just don't go too crazy! (Now why didn't the secretary just say that?! LOL) I decided not to stress about it too much. I had enough to worry about. Maybe they just wanted to make sure people came into the hospital clean. I remembered the tech at my mammogram saying that some people don't shower before coming in.

Scared and stressed, I was inspired to write a song, kind of a prayer called "Lord I'm scared." I just wanted to know that I would get through this and be OK. Here is a link to the video:

The following week was my pre-op appointment at the hospital. Generally I'm not a fan of hospitals. I have a phobic dislike of them (along with my phobia of needles/pain/blood etc. They just creep me out. Not my favourite place to be!) The good news was that my surgery was booked at a shiny new hospital which I had heard about and actually been curious to see. It was BEAUTIFUL! It was like an art gallery meets a mall meets an airport. Unfortunately it was HUUUUGE! I heard that there were actually FOUR Tim Hortons inside! (Yes, it's just THAT big. Like a small city!) I only got to see one of the Tim Hortons that day but I did make a mental note to get an iced capp on my way out!

The shiny new hospital was impressive. It made the old ordinary hospital in my town look like a dive. It pretty much blew any other hospital out of the water. I can't even imagine what it must have cost. So as much as I was dreading surgery, at least I was going to be having it in style...

There was some rather interesting artwork around in display cases etc and I had a little time so, photoholic nerd that I am, I couldn't resist snapping some pictures. Even as a patient I'm a tourist! Of course on the day of surgery I wouldn't be in the mood for sight-seeing so I figured I'd enjoy the scenery while I wasn't in full-on terror mode.

When I see something cute/weird/interesting I literally HAVE to take a picture. It's imperative. Like it physically hurts if I don't. And I always have my camera on me in case of emergency photo ops. So there I was. And some people did look at me a bit strangely but come on! It isn't every day that you get to see a Chihuahua Michael Jackson or a Pope Guinea Pig, vines growing out of an antique typewriter, words spelled entirely out of toothpicks "So worth it!" etc.) Or maybe it is, but I don't get out much and I found it strange.

I'm directionaly impaired at the best of times so of course in a massive building like this with seemingly endless wings and labyrinthine hallways, I got lost. Like a rat in a maze I tried to follow signs. I asked for directions and was led on a wild goose chase up and down floors. Each person I asked only knew about their own section and not the others. No one seemed to know where I was supposed to go for my pre-op appointment. The hospital was still too new I guess. Or maybe everyone just stays in their own area and never ventures out into the rest of the airport (I mean hospital.) In the end I found my destination. The surgical outpatient section was under the stairs. (Once I found this out I just had to locate stairs and then go under them. Even I could manage that!)

I finally found where I needed to go and waited in the nicest waiting room ever with glass partitions etched with giant floral photos. I snapped a selfie when no one was looking (yes I'm a total nerd. Don't judge me. This is the Instagram generation! Though I mostly use Twitter myself!) I handed in my paperwork and confirmed all the information about my address etc. I wound up explaining a little about my strange life when the woman commented on the various addresses for home, work, doctor etc. I explained that yes I commute all over hell's half acre because I live in one city, work in another, have my childcare (and doctor and hospital) in another... Some days I drive an hour to drop Michelle off, drive another hour to work, work 12 hours, drive an hour to pick Michelle up, drive another hour back home to take her to school, sleep two hours then pick her up, drive 2 hours, work 12 hours drive 2 hours...Lather, rinse, repeat. Running on less than empty. It's crazy but it's my life for now. All because I'm a control freak and refuse to leave Michelle with a stranger for an entire day an hour away from me. On the plus side at least driving 4 hours a day burns 560 calories! (Yes I'm still counting.) I admit it's far from an ideal situation. I'm managing (or trying to) for now. In the future hopefully I can find a more sustainable option that won't land me in an early grave.

I was then sent for x-rays and a blood test. I didn't faint for the needle but at least they let me lie down which helped. The next waiting room had a FIREPLACE IN IT (?! I know, right?!) which I'd never seen in a hospital waiting room so I grabbed a selfie there too like a complete nerd. I was still nervous about surgery but I was happy that if I had to have it somewhere it might as well be in the nicest hospital I've ever seen!

At the pre-op appointment they gave me a prescription for a freezing gel to put on my breast the morning of surgery. I thought that was a great idea and certainly preferable to a needle! Of course they'd still be using a needle but maybe I wouldn't feel it so much with the gel? (That, it would turn out, was unfortunately just wishful thinking.)

I walked around and took a few more photos of the hospital before leaving. There was something vaguely reassuring about seeing the hospital before going there for surgery. It became a less intimidating place. I felt more at home. And I did stop for an iced cappuccino before I left. Had I known how expensive the parking was going to be I  may not have lingered so long. $17?! What the?! I didn't even think I was there that long but I found out after that that was the daily max which was a relief because if being there 2 hours cost $17 I figured being there all day for surgery would be like $1 million dollars. (And this is why the hospital is so nice. They GOUGE you for parking! LOL)

The pre-op appointment helped to ease my fears somewhat before surgery. At least I was going to be in a beautiful hospital and I was going to have my sister with me for moral support (and as my designated driver since I'd be on drugs and in no condition to drive apparently.) May graciously invited me to stay overnight before surgery and for a day or two afterward. I always love visiting with May. She ALWAYS makes me laugh. It was sort of a nice day so we even sat outside for a bit. Then we watched a movie to take my mind off things, "The Maze Runner." It was really cool and a nice escape from reality for a while. It was the first "grown up" movie I'd seen in a long time. (I pretty much just watch animated films with Michelle.) A sci-fi film with monsters and everything was a nice change.

Being with May makes me feel safe. My Mom is pessimistic and a bit of a catastrophist (spell check is telling me that's not a word but spell check has never met my mother!) so talking to her (especially about anything medical!) always stresses me out further. In contrast, May always manages to calm me down. And she would be my guardian angel. Staying with me the whole time. My appointment was in the afternoon but I had to be there in the morning. I didn't get much sleep the night before. I couldn't stop thinking/worrying. I managed to survive my shower with the "detergent." The morning arrived and we were on our way. I wasn't allowed to wear makeup. At least that saved some time but I felt a little uneasy since I really hadn't left the house without makeup since I was 13 years old. I asked a nurse at the pre-op appointment why they don't let you wear makeup. They weren't operating on my face! She said it was because they had to tape my eyes shut (creepy AF but whatever) for the surgery and didn't want makeup getting all over. I also had to wear loose clothing so I picked a comfy sweatshirt and sweat pants. I was scared but having May with me helped a lot. I had her to talk to while I was waiting. There was a fair bit of waiting.

I'm so glad May was there. I was a nervous wreck. At one point they took me off on my own and May had to stay in the waiting room. She was going to Tim Hortons to get a coffee while she waited. Then they said she could come along and I was moving to mammography. I was worried they wouldn't find her. The place was so massive it was like a maze. What if she got lost and I never saw her again?! (LOL!) I texted her. "May they're moving me and they said you can come! I hope you don't get lost!" Luckily they found her and she was right there with me again.

We waited in the hallway for a while and then they brought me into the mammogram room. Unfortunately it was a lot more than a mammogram I was having. It was almost like another biopsy. I had to get needles & have wires inserted into my breast. That didn't sound fun. This time at least I was a little more prepared. After flashbacks of the biopsy and the blocked faceless single mom painting on the wall, I even had the foresight to bring a "happy place" picture to stare at while the procedure was being done. I thought they might think I'm crazy but I didn't care. They actually taped my picture up on the machine so I could stare at it. It was a photo of a hammock under palm trees on the beach from the cover of a travel brochure. They had me focus on that. I warned them that I'm a fainter.

It was bad. It was almost like the biopsy all over again. They locked me into the machine in a sideways squish (the worst). It was so tight and hurt so bad it was almost worse than a needle. Then came the needles. The freezing gel didn't seem to do a damn thing. I felt EVERYTHING. Tears rolled down my cheeks.

Two very pretty nurses tried to calm me down. They asked me to look at the beautiful beach photo and pretend I was there. They asked if I'd ever been there. No I've never been to Jamaica. I told them about my trip to Samana years ago (the only actual tropical vacation I've ever been on) and how these days I just go to Port Dover because there are palm trees and I can pretend I'm somewhere tropical. Despite the happy place picture and the kind, supportive nurses talking and the attempted mind over matter, I fainted. Everything went sparkly and yellow. I felt so hot. I was sweating. They suggested taking off my boots (I had little short boots on. It was still winter outside after all though we had glimpses of Spring here and there.) Taking my boots and socks off helped more than I can describe. It cooled me down almost instantly. I was so glad when the procedure was done. It was hell. It was almost worse than the biopsy if such a thing is possible. That stupid freezing gel I'd put on my breast that morning didn't do a bloody thing. I felt EVERYTHING all too keenly. At least I survived it. Now I had wires sticking out of my breast. From what I gathered they were marking the spot around the lump that had to be removed? At least the worst was over. I would be asleep for the surgery. So no more of this "being tortured while awake" stuff because frankly it's for the birds!

I was relieved to be back with May again. I told her what I'd been through. She winced. I really didn't know it was going to be that bad. Now I was sitting in the hallway again with my boots in my hands. A nurse told May to take them. Then someone took them instead and added them to my bag of property (there was a room where I got undressed from the waist up and left my coat and sweatshirt in a bag with my name on it. I was wearing a hospital bracelet with a bar code on it. I felt sort of strange having a bar code. Like I was just a product to be scanned at the grocery store.)

And finally it was almost time for surgery. I just wanted it over with. A nurse told me that maybe they could just wait until the surgery to hook up the IV. I said I'd prefer it that way since I'd already fainted and was really over being poked with sharp objects while I was awake. The anaesthetist introduced herself, the surgeon came to say hi and it was almost time to go in. May wished me well and said she'd be waiting for me. When I was wheeled into the operating room it was freezing cold. I was put on a table shaped like a T with my arms spread out beside me like I was a bird or a butterfly being pinned to a board. Far from being too hot now I was FREEZING. I was shivering, my teeth literally chattering but then they put those wonderful hot blankets over my legs and arms! It was so comforting. A nurse came in to put the IV in. "This will be sharp," she said with a trace of a British accent. Somehow it was better for her just to be honest about it. No pep talks. No sugar coating it. No "it doesn't hurt -- it's like a bee sting" BS! And while it was sharp at least it wasn't long and I started to feel OK. I think they were injecting me with drugs too so I was quickly ceasing to care/worry about anything at all. It was so bright in the operating room with the bright lights overhead. I liked the light. Almost like my Happy Light. There were a lot of people in there. All in scrubs, with masks on their faces. Ordinarily I might freak out but somehow I felt safe. (Probably it was the drugs making me relax but the warm/hot blankets were nice too.) Before I knew it I was out...

Next thing I knew I woke up and it was all over!!! What a relief! A nurse asked me if I had any allergies.
"Sulfa, " I said, "and PAIN. I'm allergic to pain." I was sort of kidding. Not.

They must have taken me seriously though because they prescribed me a hard core narcotic (highly addictive opioid) painkiller -- hydromorphone (a form of morphine). I was grateful for a strong painkiller. I definitely didn't want to feel ANY pain! AT ALL!

Even though I looked like a bag of Hell I couldn't resist the photo op so I had May snap a post-op thumbs up shot of me. I'm smiling but you can't really tell. I look sort of dead and I'm stained with that red soap (after me showering twice in it per instructions they still covered me in detergent themselves apparently!) but I'm so happy and grateful it's over and I survived!

I was ABSOLUTELY STARVING! I couldn't wait to get something to eat back at May's. I had gone the whole day (until dinnertime now) without anything. I wasn't allowed to eat past midnight the night before and I wasn't even allowed to drink anything (not even WATER) past 7 am that morning! This was tough for me. Usually I have a drink with me AT ALL TIMES and I need to eat every couple of hours or I feel weak/faint. So I was beyond starving and thirsty by the time I came out of surgery. They gave me apple juice and a cookie which was like the greatest treat ever and I gobbled it up. (Even though I don't even like apple juice it was a treat when I was SOOO thirsty. And the bland cookies were scrumptious!) Shane was going to be barbecuing steaks. I was so psyched. A nurse warned me that I might be nauseous after the anaesthetic and likely wouldn't feel like anything heavy. She thought I'd want to stick to soup or something light for dinner. I almost said "Oh HELL NO! My brother in law is barbecuing steaks and I am ALL OVER IT!" She obviously underestimated me. I wasn't remotely nauseated. I was soooooooooo HUNGRY!!!

My steak, medium well done, baked potato and caesar salad was a thing of beauty and I had to capture the moment! I can't even describe how happy I was at May's after the surgery. It was like winning the lottery! Hanging out with my best friend, laughing and snapping selfies (silly snaps with Shannon's i-phone as you can see some examples above!) and then having a delicious dinner. It was Heaven! I was also on drugs so I was feeling no pain. Nor did I want to so I kept taking the meds every 4 hours whether I felt pain or not. They were tiny little blue pills. It said to take 1 or 2 every 4-6 hours. I just took 1 because they did seem pretty strong. I felt a bit dizzy/wobbly on them. It was probably good that I wasn't allowed to drive for at least 24 hours and had to take it easy for the week. The side effects mentioned a "high feeling." Yup.

I was grateful to May and Shane for their hospitality. Going to Auntie May's is always one of Michelle's favourite places. It's mine too. I hoped Michelle wouldn't be too upset she had to miss out. I called her to let her know I was OK and would see her soon. I told her we'd visit Auntie May together another time. Mama just needed to recuperate right now. I also told her I wouldn't be able to carry her for a while. If she fell asleep in the car I'd have to wake her and make her walk. I couldn't put a strain on my chest for a few weeks.

May agreed to watch Dancing With the Stars with me. I even got her to take a photo of me with Nick Viall on screen. I am a die hard Reality TV junkie. The Bachelor franchise is my favourite but I also love Dancing with the Stars (especially when Bachelor alum dance on it!) Survivor etc. Watching TV with May is a blast. We have the same sense of humour and were in stitches (no pun intended!) laughing at things on the show, even commercials etc. There were a lot of awesome dancers and Nick did pretty well too! I wished I could always watch my shows with May. Normally I just watch and tweet them on Twitter, which is fun too. But hanging with May is the most fun of all. No one makes me laugh like she does!

It was great staying at May's after the surgery. I wound up staying with my Mom for another day as well. It was a good thing because I was pretty loopy on the drugs and driving for an hour back home would not have been good. I still felt a little buzzed when I did finally make my way home. My Mom was concerned I was going to become addicted to opioids. There was no way I'd let that happen. I didn't want to feel pain but I wasn't going to keep taking them longer than I needed. I weaned myself off the pain killers gradually -- from every 4 hours to every 6, 8, 10, then once a day and finally not at all. I didn't have too many withdrawal effects aside from headaches/irritability (but that may just have been my life too.) Luckily I didn't have too much pain -- more of a discomfort and I just took regular Tylenol to help when it got bad.

The first time I showered after surgery (I was supposed to wait until the end of the week) and was allowed to remove the bandage I fainted. It was pretty ghastly. I was feeling a little weak anyway. It just looked awful and discoloured and was bleeding and didn't seem fit to be uncovered so I put a fresh band-aid on it for a while. I kept checking the scar obsessively to see if it had gotten better or worse. I was relieved when it started to heal. I put Bio-Oil on it just in case because I had some from when I was pregnant (though I didn't use it regularly enough to prevent stretch marks unfortunately) and thought it couldn't hurt. The Bio-Oil was almost like magic. My wound was sort of a raised lump, all puffy and sticking up and after one day of the Bio-Oil it seemed to shrink and go flat! It may have just been a coincidence but I was pretty impressed. The bruising was pretty bad but that didn't worry me as much as the actual scar. I tend to bruise easily.

I was supposed to have a follow up appointment with the surgeon in 10 to 14 days. I called his office and booked the appointment. I was a little nervous after the consultation but really hoping everything would come back OK from pathology.

When I walked into his office the surgeon asked "How are you doing?"
"I think I'm OK but you tell me!" I joked.
He smiled. He seemed infinitely friendlier than the first time I had met him and he delivered the news I wanted to hear this time.
"The pathology came back excellent! No cancer. You are cured! No further treatments needed. You just need to have a mammogram in a year."
I was THRILLED. Soooo happy and relieved and grateful. I told him that I was pretty anxious before the surgery but so relieved now. He said it was understandable. He asked if I had any questions. I told him actually I was curious to see if I was healing normally...  So I showed him my scar. He said that it was "lovely" (I thought that was a bit of a stretch!) and healing quite nicely. The bruising almost seemed to get worse instead of better. He said bruises tend to be black and blue then change to purple, green, yellow. It was at the green and yellow stage. I told him I'd been using Bio-Oil and he said to continue to do so for 6 months to reduce the appearance of the scar. I walked out of his office on Cloud 9. I had been so scared, so worried and now I was so relieved it was over with. And I was still me. I just had this scar which was in a spot that would still be covered by a bikini when Summer came (yes I tried a couple on to be sure!)
I couldn't stop smiling. I wanted to hold onto that good feeling of course things kept going wrong and trying to annoy me. I tried to keep my zen. It never seems to last long. It's like when I do yoga -- I feel so balanced and calm while I'm doing it but then life happens to knock me off balance. I get tired, irritated, frustrated. Lack of sleep, daily annoyances (traffic, things going wrong etc. ) Some days I'm able to ward off the negative feelings. I think "No way! Nothing is bringing me down!" but then somehow it does. Being tired most of the time makes everything else more difficult to deal with. And let's face it, life isn't perfect. Something always goes wrong.

Anyway now that all that surgery business is out of the way, here's the rest of what happened in February and March!

I have a few "happy places." One of them is the beach. Of course that's out of reach until the Summer (unless I win the lottery and can fly to Hawaii...) Another one is the Butterfly Conservatory -- and the great thing about it is that it's ALWAYS a tropical paradise, year round. So when I want a taste of Summer we can always go in there. I love everything about it. The warm weather, the beautiful tropical plants, the butterflies of course and most of all THE PHOTO OPS! It is photoholic HEAVEN and I always snap pictures like a fiend. I usually dress Michelle and myself for the occasion (like a total nerd). Yes we were both wearing butterflies. And we wound up wearing real butterflies as well... (PHOTO GOLD! LOL)

The obligatory selfie with butterfly and Michelle! Yes it had to be done. Michelle is pretty good about posing for photos. She does eventually lose patience and sigh a little but she understands that I have no choice. And she loves the Butterfly Conservatory too. She gets that posing for a thousand pictures is just part and parcel of going on a fun outing with Mom! My Mom didn't take a lot of photos when we were kids but she didn't take us on a lot of outings either (mostly just tagging along for shopping trips.)

I can tell that Michelle is losing patience in this photo. I didn't quite get a smile more like a half-hearted smirk but it's still cute and it's not blurry so I'm happy!  I take photos with both cameras -- my Nikon and my i-phone because each has advantages. Neither is perfect. The quality on the i-phone isn't the best. Then again my Nikon lens is scratched so it can be tricky too...

It's always pretty crowded at the Conservatory so it can be tricky to set up the timer without getting photobombed but somehow I managed. Set it up, countdown from 10 and hope for the best! It almost looks like we had the place to ourselves (which was far from the case!)

My Mom thinks that I spoil Michelle and take her on too many outings, to too many movies etc. Well she's my only child and I'm going to spoil her. "She won't even remember all this!" my Mom tried to say.
"Yes she will!" I challenged her, "and I have all this photographic evidence to show her all the places I took her! Look what a lucky girl you were! Look at all the fun things we did!"

Spoiled girl that she is, Michelle pretty much gets whatever she asks for (within reason.) I can't give her a pony or a $300 pink car or a trip to Disney World but I can surely take her to the Butterfly Conservatory or the indoor playground when she wants to go! She always has a ball. I enjoy taking photos of her and I try to relax a little while she's running around but I usually wind up semi-hovering and trying to follow her every move just in case...

It's always insanely crowded in there. Any time you go. Especially if it's a weekend and the weather is crappy outside (so ALL WINTER basically.) They do birthday parties as well so there is usually a huge group of kids running amok for the party, on top of all the regular kids running amok for no special occasion. Still, stubborn bull that I am I manage to set up the timer and snap a photo of Michelle and I without anyone running in front of us. And yes I am the only person left on the planet that does this. EVERYONE else just takes pictures with their phone. I see them doing it and I try with mine but the quality is never good. Michelle was always blurry (I didn't know how to turn the flash on the camera by the way I just learned that a week ago!) And it's a little too close for selfies. I'm old school. I like my old camera with the timer. I gotta be me!
And I managed to get a picture of us with the elephants once the crowd thinned out a bit. Because how can you pass up a photo with an elephant or two?! It's in the toddler area so we don't spend much time there aside from snapping a photo. I remember when Michelle was a baby and I tried taking her there for the first time on the baby slide etc. It was a bit of a catastrophe and she hated it and just cried. When I see a parent with a young child screaming and not having fun at all I look at them sympathetically. If they're nearby I even tell them "They will learn to love it eventually!"

And then there's a gazelle. "Say cheese!" I said and Michelle finally complied. Sometimes she realizes that if she just gives me the perfect shot I won't have to take anymore...

"OK. That's a keeper!"

I do notice more people taking pictures than ever. It's the cellphone generation. Most people wouldn't carry their camera everywhere in the old days (of course I always did!) but everyone has their phone with a camera in it so there's nothing to stop them from recording every moment of their lives! And sites like Instagram encourage them to do so. (I still use Instagram only rarely because I'm not a big cellphone person... Twitter is my favourite site because I can use it on my computer at home. It just seems to be the most user-friendly and it's become such a habit for me.)

Michelle's school was having a "Math Night." Ordinarily that sounds like the opposite of something I'd want to do but then I thought it might be good to find new ways to incorporate learning numbers through games etc. While Michelle excels with letters and reading (because that's her interest and mine.) She hasn't had as much practice with numbers. Math was never my strong suit. I still got 80% in it in high school but I struggled with it (I remember sitting at the kitchen table in tears with 3 hours worth of math problems to do and wanting to tear my hair out.) So as soon as I didn't have to take it anymore (when it became really fancy and branched out into Calculus etc) I stopped taking it. English, Art and Drama were my favourites.

The Math Night was supposed to be divided into kids and adults -- the kids would play math-related games in a classroom while the parents sat and listened to a lecture from a math teacher about how to get your kids to use numbers. Michelle didn't want to leave my side though so she sat with me in the library and listened to the lecture. I did play games with her at home as suggested -- card games like Old Maid, dice games as well as Snakes and Ladders and Trouble -- games that made her count, recognize numbers etc. It's such a cliche that girls don't like math and science. I want Michelle to be well-rounded and encourage her to learn everything but at the same time she does lean toward art and reading/writing (as I did.)

Michelle LOVES art and I adore her artwork. My favourites are always her portraits of us and her notes -- I love you Mama. Though I don't have a man in my life I knew that I could count on Michelle to give me Valentines. She made me this sweet portrait of us with insanely big hair (I'm not sure why we always end up looking like Rapunzel. I wish I had half this much hair!)

Her teacher(s) commented on Michelle's artwork, her reading and writing skills. They also said what a sweet, kind, helpful girl she is with the other kids. Though they don't call it a "report card" in junior kindergarten I did get a progress report on how she's doing and was proud to hear that she's doing very well. Ironically the day I got her report card I got one as well at work! I hadn't had a performance appraisal in years and then all of a sudden I got one the same day as Michelle's. Luckily mine was overwhelmingly positive as well. It was nice to hear, especially since I'd been struggling lately working so many more hours and dealing with my insane commute etc. It's not often that you hear "You're doing a good job," so once in a while reassurance is nice.

Yes Michelle was my Valentine. I spoiled her as usual with chocolates and stuffies and a few toys. I can't resist. She's always so appreciative of everything and it's fun buying things for her. I love to make her happy. I think part of it is also my guilt for all the things I can't give her -- a father, siblings etc. My guilt at having to leave her when I go to work (now much more often with my new schedule...) I think it's a Mom thing to just feel guilty that no matter what you do, it's not enough. Or maybe it's a woman thing. Or maybe it's just my thing. But I want to give Michelle the world and of course I can't. So I do what I can.

I love Michelle so much and I'm glad that she's such a sweet, sensitive girl and so affectionate. She's always saying she loves me, always hugging me. I know that everyone is different. Some people are not affectionate/demonstrative and don't show their kids that much attention. To me, you can't give your child too much love and attention. If they feel safe and loved that is the best gift that you can give them. Some would argue too much attention can make them dependent. I think it's the opposite. A child that is loved feels fulfilled and doesn't worry, therefore feels more self-assured. Michelle is strong and confident. She's becoming more and more independent. Besides, to me, if you're cold and unemotional with your kids you'll raise a cold, unemotional kid and as far as I'm concerned, there are already far too many of those in the world. I think having some of us out there who have a heart and wear it on our sleeves makes the world a better place!

Michelle loves stuffies. I always did as well. Even as an adult I have a thing for Teddy Bears if I'm being honest! Now at least I have an excuse to buy them, for her! She has amassed quite a collection of bears, bunnies, cats (you name it!) Many of them were passed down from me, others she's gotten for birthdays, Christmas and other occasions (or sometimes no occasion at all, just because!) Michelle always brings a stuffed animal with her for car rides etc. She'll pick a favourite and carry it around for a week or so then move on to something else. I remember when she was a baby she had a pink monkey that had to go EVERYWHERE with her and she couldn't sleep without it. I panicked when I couldn't find it. So maybe it's better if she's fickle and doesn't get too attached to any one toy.

As a treat I ordered a heart shaped pizza. I love Pizza! Sure he's a little cheesy but he's hot and delicious and I'm always happy when he shows up at my door! That was my Valentine's gift to myself! LOL

Sh#$ happens. You just never know what/when it will happen. One day I went to check the thermostat because the house seemed a little chillier than I thought it should be. Sure enough it was lower than I had set it. WTF?! I checked in the basement. It sounded like the furnace was trying to go but heat wasn't coming out. I tried turning it off and on again (because as I said before this is the extent of my technical abilities!) Tried flipping the switch. No go. Then I noticed a light flashing on the furnace. Something was wrong. "You have GOT to be kidding me?!" I called the repair place that had JUST FIXED MY FRIGGIN FURNACE in January. They said to check with my gas company. So I called Union Gas. It turns out someone accidentally cut a main gas line (?!) and 500 homes were affected. They would be going door to door to turn the gas back on but understandably that would take some time. I was glad at least it wasn't a REALLY cold day so we weren't freezing (though I did still have the space heater from when the furnace broke (on one of the coldest weekends of the winter). I called my Mom and my sister. They couldn't believe it. This could only happen to me (and 499 other people in my neighbourhood!) When a man showed up at my door I'd been expecting him and gladly let him in to restore heat to my home. He said he'd been called out from out of town to meet the demand. 

Toys R Us often has crafts and activities for kids on Saturday mornings. We usually can't get out of the house early enough on the weekend (it's hard enough getting out in time for school during the week) to make it but sometimes we do. They were having a "Troll" craft day and Michelle was in a real "Trolls" phase (we got the movie and it became her new favourite. She wanted to watch it every single day. Sometimes twice a day. She also wanted to pretend she was Poppy and I had to pretend to be Branch -- role playing is something Michelle loves and she almost CONSTANTLY asks me to act as her favourite movie characters -- usually MALE. For a long time I had to be Dracula from Hotel Transylvania which I hated because she'd call me Daddy (which makes my teeth itch. I finally had to tell her I don't like hearing that. That I'm her Mama & I don't want to be called Daddy.) I also told her sometimes I just want to be myself for a minute! (Though one time I told her that she literally counted to 60 and asked me again "How about now Mama?")

The role playing isn't my favourite game. It's probably my least favourite. When I'm exhausted (basically most of the time!) the last thing I want to do is summon the energy to act out a character (usually male). At least Branch from Trolls was on the grumpier side so I could somewhat relate to him!

I prefer playing games, doing puzzles together, drawing, dressing up, reading together etc. And when the weather is nice I love going to the park. So does Michelle. Luckily once in a while, even in February we got lucky and had a nice day where we could get some fresh air and sunshine for a change. When you've been cooped up for so long over the dark cold bleak winter season, this is quite a treat!

And Michelle loves to ride her bike. I'm not sure at what age she'll feel comfortable (or I'll feel comfortable) removing her training wheels but certainly not yet! It's something every kid has to go through and it's the only way you learn but I'm really dreading her falling off her bike and scraping her legs. I remember learning to ride a bike and at first thinking it seemed impossible but suddenly getting my balance and it was such an amazing feeling of freedom and independence! As much as I want that for Michelle I don't want her to get hurt and I'm going to be a nervous wreck! I really don't know how I'll deal with it (and with many other milestones to come) but then again I didn't know how I'd handle most of the things I had to go through while Michelle was a baby and a toddler. Somehow you just do because you have no choice. When you're a worrier and a control freak, having a child is sort of terrifying because it's like your heart, someone that's more important than your own life, is out there and vulnerable and you have to protect them at the same time that you let them go and explore the world and possibly get hurt in the process. It's tough.

Michelle wanted to see Lego Batman. That made one of us... I have to be honest. It wouldn't have been my first choice (or even my tenth!) I tried to talk her out of it. She wasn't even that keen on the Lego movie never mind a Batman Lego movie but she was determined. She also reminded me of the fact that she had met Batman at a fair once and nearly broke his hand (because he asked for a high five and she was a little overzealous. She was quite proud of the fact that she nearly maimed a superhero!) I decided to go for Michelle's sake and I was actually pleasantly surprised. It was very entertaining and had me laughing a lot. Like most animated films, they throw in enough adult humour to make it interesting. I loved the sarcasm. Also, any movie in 3D is visually stimulating. It really draws you in. Of course after the movie Michelle was obsessed with Batman and wanted me to play Batman (while she was Batgirl.) I tried to make my voice sound as deep as Will Arnett's. She ALWAYS wants me to play the male character. I know part of it is probably because she doesn't have a father figure in her life. But I have a hard enough time trying to be Mama. It's tough to have to be Dad too. And a superhero at that.

Another nice day, another trip to the park...

I thought once Michelle learned to swing on her own that I'd be off the hook but she still wants me to push her. Sometimes my arms and back are aching but I still do it (it must be a workout at least -- I should check how many calories it actually burns.) At least I do get to relax a little when she runs around and goes on the slide. I sit on the bench and watch her. Sitting in the sunshine watching my girl laugh and play is the highlight of my life! It's one of the main reasons I love going to the beach in the Summer. Michelle misses it too. Even in the dead of winter she was asking about going to the beach. I told her not until the weather is warm. Maybe late May if we're lucky? You just never know. In late May they bring the palm trees back to our favourite beach... Something to look forward to on those cold grey winter days.

Family Day has been around (in Ontario) less than a decade. I guess the government invented it so Canadians could have a holiday to coincide with President's Day and also (theoretically) to give people a day off to spend with their family. I had to work this Family Day (as I often have to work holidays) but I did get to spend a little time with Michelle and my Mom and Dad before I had to leave. Michelle said to me recently that the good thing about going to Grandma's is that she gets to visit with Grandma & Grandpa but the bad thing is that I have to go to work and she misses me. It's one of the reasons I go through my insane commute. If I can't be with her then I want someone watching her that loves her almost as much as I do. (Well no one could possibly love her as much as I do but my parents are a close second I guess!)

One day her teacher showed me a drawing Michelle had done of her playing ball with her Grandpa. She even wrote the description herself. It was so adorable! I love her creative spellings (actually pretty good guesses!) I'll get to keep her book at the end of the year but for now the teacher has it. She let me take a picture of it at least. I showed my dad and he laughed. I told the teacher "That actually even looks like my dad! He's bald with a mustache! Perfect likeness!" Michelle has started writing words and sentences and it is THRILLING! Watching her reading skills improve was amazing enough. Now that she can actually write her own words is awesome! I do try to correct her spelling but the English language is confusing and let's face it -- there are a lot of ADULTS who can't spell, let alone a 4 year old! I blame the internet! LOL No one really cares about spelling anymore. When I was in school if you misspelled a word you had to write it out 30 times until it was tattooed on your brain. I don't think they do that anymore.

I love this photo of Michelle and her furry older sister Ali! Michelle loves Ali. Ali loves her too though she does have a bit of a temper. I have to tell Michelle to be careful because Ali still has her claws and when she gets mad, you might get hurt! I'm always snapping photos and trying to get the perfect shot but usually Ali looks away or Michelle isn't smiling or something goes wrong. Then sometimes I just get lucky. I love Michelle's huge grin and Ali's less than enthused expression (you can almost hear her sighing.) It perfectly sums up their relationship. Ali endures Michelle's excited antics and hugs etc but would probably mostly prefer to just take a nap. (Which she does much of the time. But it's a cat thing -- Cats sleep an average of 12-16 hours a day, which sounds pretty sweet! Yes cats have it made. I think of them as the supermodels of the animal kingdom. They just have to sit around and look pretty and people take care of them. Nice work if you can get it!)

Before we knew it, it was March. 
It's all sunshine and rainbows in Michelle's world. I often see the clouds rather than the rainbows but you have to look for the positive even on the darkest days. At least now that I was working more I had benefits. I got some new contacts and a new pair of glasses. I went for a bit of a funkier pair and they became my new favourite glasses (I normally don't wear glasses in photos but I made an exception as you can see above!) I did my taxes and was pleased that I was getting a refund back at least. Every bit helps. While everyone else does their taxes online I'm old school and do them on paper. It's good to use math skills once in a while I figure. It's mental exercise. Plus I'm a dinosaur/creature of habit and that's just what I'm used to. My taxes are fairly simple and I always just use the year before's as a guide.

Michelle had been to a birthday party before but I'd been fortunate enough to be invited to stick around. This time I had to drop her off at the party and leave. I was sort of a nervous wreck even though the kid's parents seemed very nice and I wasn't too far away and they had my number and I had theirs. I talked to a couple of other Moms outside and they were feeling some of the same anxiety so I felt a little better. And in a way it was nice to have a couple of hours to myself. I thought that maybe one day I could feel comfortable leaving Michelle with a babysitter... Of course leaving her for a couple of hours just a few minutes away from me is a MASSIVE LEAP away from leaving her for an ENTIRE DAY, an hour's drive or more away from me. And having someone else wake her, get her ready for school, get her breakfast, take her to school, pick her up, get her dinner... (Umm...Yeah, no. I am NOWHERE NEAR being able to trust a stranger to do all that but...) Baby steps... At least I survived my first time away from her (other than school) and she had a ball at the party.

Sometimes when I'm really lucky I get to snap a selfie with BOTH my girls and everyone's actually looking and smiling...well maybe not Ali but close enough! I love Michelle's smile here! She was actually laughing at Ali. That's the one thing I like about the cellphone camera. You can actually see what you're taking on the screen. My Mom mocks me "Do you HAVE to take a picture EVERY DAY!"
"Yes!" I argue. Though it isn't EVERY day. I have cut back quite a bit. And some days I just don't feel up to it. As far as I'm concerned you can't take too many photos. I never regret the ones I take, only all the ones that I missed. Life goes by so quickly. My girl is growing up so fast. So what if I take a photo every day? Then I can look back and relive all these days with her.

The indoor playground is always a hit though now her new fave thing isn't the slide but the swinging thing. At first she cold barely hold on for a second. Now she can hold on and swing the whole way across like Tarzan, looking quite proud of herself I might add! The problem is there is usually a line up of kids wanting to hang on the rope and a lot of them don't seem to get the concept of taking turns and will just keep going and hog it except when I insist they give Michelle a turn. I even tried it myself at one point. I was able to get across but had a hard time. In my defense I'm carrying a lot more body weight than Michelle is! The rope is on a track sliding thing so it's a little easier than say the monkey bars which I can't do at all! I can barely make it to one bar because you have to carry all your body weight on one hand while you reach for the next bar.

Selfie with Mama and giraffe. Has to be done. Non-negotiable! Michelle doesn't even try to argue with me. I had to wait until it was almost time to go so that the crowd started to dissipate slightly. If I'm being honest photos are almost my favourite part of everything. It's my way of living twice. (Though past boyfriends sometimes tried to argue with me that I couldn't enjoy the moment because I was too busy taking pictures of the moment. I would argue that I actually enjoy the moment even more than they do because I think it's worthy of photographing! And I get to relive it every time I see the picture! At least one of my exes admitted many years later that I was right and he was grateful to have all those photos that I took of his family. So there!) Life is fleeting. Photos are the only way we have of holding on. And I am HOLDING ON!

Michelle was dying to see the animated film "Ballerina." We kept seeing it advertised and she asked if we could go. I said that as soon as it came out and I had a weekend off we would go. Unlike Lego Batman, this was a movie that I was just as excited as she was to see. A red-haired girl in Paris who becomes a ballerina?! Hell, yes! It was my childhood dream (and probably most little girls' dreams) to be a ballerina AND to go to Paris. At least I got to live out my dream of going to Paris when I was in my 20s.

The movie did not disappoint. It was beautiful, touching, cute and funny. It was a perfect example of why I love the movies -- you get swept up into this fantasy world and for a couple of hours escape your own life. We both loved it. And of course it made Michelle want to be a ballerina even more than usual.

Michelle wanted to dress up as a princess/ballerina and dance. She asked me if she could take ballet lessons. I told her that I would try. With my strange schedule it would be tricky (it's different every week so there's no day that works well, she'd inevitably end up missing classes.) I also worry about the cost. I want to encourage Michelle to live out her dreams. I wanted to take ballet (and piano lessons) when I was little but my Mom always said no we couldn't afford it. I want to make Michelle happy no matter what but it will be a challenge for a number of reasons. I will have to research and find out if you can take lessons every other week or take a few lessons just to try it or see how it works. I don't want to invest a huge amount of money only to find that she will miss most of the classes or find she doesn't like it anyway. My Mom thought she was too young for lessons anyway. I told my Mom that when it comes to ballet 4 years is actually the right age. You have to start young while you still have your flexibility.

Michelle wanted to dress up and dance ballet. I have to admit the thought of her in a tutu and in a class would be a treat for me too -- perfect photo op! I would encourage her in whatever she's interested in but I'm not into sports and as hobbies/lessons/extracurricular activities go, it doesn't get much better than ballet. Still, these days life has been so hectic it's hard to manage the schedule just getting her to school and myself to work, let alone trying to get her to dance classes. She has a couple of books on ballet and was trying the different positions (even I knew some of the positions.) A lot of parents push their children to follow in their footsteps or live out their parents' dreams. I would never push Michelle into something she didn't want to do but I would certainly be happy if she got to live out some of the dreams that I never did. As careers go however, I would still love for her to be a doctor (one of the jobs she mentioned in the past but she's changed her mind many times since.)

Michelle loves to be the centre of attention. With her expressiveness and flair for the dramatic I can imagine her in show business -- as an actress, dancer, singer etc. Unfortunately I know it's a tough business. I wouldn't want to discourage her but my practical side wants to at least warn her to have a backup plan. For myself, I made a half-hearted (or half-a$$ed!)  attempt to live out my dreams but I was never willing to risk it all. I always had a back-up plan, always had a regular job. I was too practical to be the true starving artist. I wanted to be an actress but I didn't move to L.A. (I got a local agent and landed a few modeling gigs/TV commercials etc but didn't get my "big break" and gave up after a year.) I wrote and played music, did some local shows, put out a CD (which got a great review in the paper!) helped set a Guinness World Record (and got my photo on the front of the paper) but let that dream go too when life changed. I painted hundreds of canvases, had a few art shows, sold a few paintings but now rarely pick up a brush. I sent poems out to publishers, had a few published (and even had one reviewed in the National Post!) but then stopped sending anything out. I started a children's book and a novel last year but then I got sick and stopped working on it and now it's hard to find the time/energy. The irony of being an artist is that your sensitivity is what impels you to create to begin with but you lack the thick skin required to be in the toughest career there is. You put your soul out there only to risk rejection (which is almost a guarantee -- any writer, artist or actor will tell you they faced countless rejections and tough times before their big break -- if it ever comes.) It's tough to keep pushing yourself. And when life happens you can tell yourself it's just too hard and you need a real job to pay the bills... But I'm rambling and this is supposed to be about Michelle. The point is I want her to go after her dreams but I don't want her to face rejection and heartbreak. I want her to live her life but I don't want her to get hurt (and living life pretty much guarantees getting hurt... That's the tricky part.)

Michelle is an artist. She was drawing even as a baby. She has a need to create. She gets it from me of course and I encourage it. I love her happy pictures filled with love and flowers and rainbows. I want to live in that world. When you're a child the world seems beautiful and magical and full of promise. You grow up and become somewhat jaded. If you're lucky, despite the disappointments along the way, you're able to keep some of that childlike sense of wonder.

Michelle wanted to do a portrait of her unicorn, dragon and ponies. Sometimes she'll ask me for help -- ask me to draw something and then she'll look at my drawing rather than the actual object itself. It's easier to draw from a 2D reference rather than 3D. Usually when Michelle copies my pictures I like hers far better than mine. She worries that she's not as good an artist as I am but I remind her that I am 10 times her age! She's only 4 years old and for her age, her artwork is awesome. I love the way that she interprets things. Every artist has their own style. I love her charming, whimsical version of the world.

Then one day Michelle surprised me by doing a "Math Book." She had a series of math problems (addition) with the answers. I was impressed that she wanted to do that on her own and had the right answers. My attraction was always to words rather than numbers. Though I still got good grades in high school math, I struggled with it. It didn't come naturally to me and I hated it. It's such a stereotype that girls don't like math. I want Michelle to be well-rounded and to excel in everything.

Of course we wore green for St. Patrick's Day! Well I did anyway. Partly because I'm Irish and mostly because I'm just a nerd and dressing according to theme is a must! Especially for photos (and yes, there are always photos!) I didn't have anything green to put on Michelle but she had a green clover beanie bear. We also had a little leprechaun hat for Ali (which she wore for about 30 seconds... long enough to snap these photos!) Michelle instead was wearing a Belle dress for the occasion because we were going to see Beauty and the Beast (the live action version.) We were both psyched for it. It's always been one of my favourite animated Disney movies and I couldn't wait to see how they would reinvent it with real people. From the commercials it looked incredible and pretty faithful to the original but with a little extra. It was also going to be in 3D!

The movie was EXTRAORDINARY! My expectations were high and they were surpassed! It was beautiful, breathtaking, funny, sweet, just amazing. I also loved how they translated the character of Le Fou, Gaston's fawning friend. They made him gay and it made so much sense. Josh Gad was BRILLIANT. I'm used to just hearing his voice in Disney films (most famously as Olaf in Frozen) so it was awesome to see his face and he really stole the show! Everyone brought their character to life so spectacularly. Michelle loved it too. I'm glad that she can appreciate movies with REAL PEOPLE now. When she was younger it had to be animated or she wasn't having it. The first time I took her to the movies was to the live action Cinderella and it didn't go well. She has since watched it at home and loves it. Lately she has watched movies like "Aquamarine" (a couple of teen girls meet a mermaid,) "Mr Popper's Penguins," "Mary Poppins" and "Nine Lives" and thoroughly enjoys them, whereas before it had to be animated or she wouldn't give it a chance.

Michelle LOVES dressing up. It's the Princess in her. So every special occasion I put her in a dress. She always feels like the Belle of the ball. I like dressing up now and then too but I don't go to too many balls... It was my cousin Dan's birthday and we were heading to Auntie May's for a visit (which is ALWAYS a ball for both of us!) Michelle gets so excited when we're going to May's but especially when the whole gang is going to be there!

And we are a BIG GANG! I always insist on getting a group photo. Mike doesn't always make it to family events because he has to come from a lot farther away. Most of us are in the GTA-ish. I love this picture of the group. I manage to sneak in there at the last second after I press the timer and count down from 10. You never know how it will turn out -- if everyone will be looking/smiling etc but this one worked out pretty well I think.

I always have to take a second one too just to be sure (in case the first one didn't turn out.)

I wound up loving the second one too. I love how Michelle is resting her head against my head here. And just about everyone is smiling. (Well my dad doesn't so much smile as look bewildered in most pictures and Chris is a tough one to coax a smile out of...)

Most of the time I feel like I'm on my own with Michelle and somewhat isolated where I live so it's good to get together with the whole family and be reminded that I do have a big support network when I need them. I just wish I lived closer to them. Maybe one day...

May and I had some fun with silly snaps on Shannon's i-phone. May tends to be critical of herself and doesn't like herself in photos. I wanted to get a nice picture of the two of us since she is my guardian angel and was going to be looking after me after my surgery. We decided this was the nicest one with the flowers, though the one with May as a cop and me as a robber is a keeper as well! LOL

May didn't mind the picture of her as a goth. Somehow the goth look suits just about anyone! I used to be a goth but I never had a nose ring. I just wore nothing but black for about 10 years. I still like black though I have branched out to other colours. Even pink now and then...

I love the cat filter! It's so cute! Especially Michelle as a cat! When Shannon first showed me the puppy one I asked why they didn't have a cat one. More people must have complained because then they made one. I'm almost tempted to get a snapchat account myself just to get these silly snap filters but it's already a struggle keeping up with the websites that I'm on without adding any. And I'm not exactly a modern gadget/app type person. I just like the photos. The idea of snapchat with fading videos is actually the OPPOSITE of what I like to do -- you post videos that disappear. That would drive me nuts. I want to hold on to everything! Luckily with these filter things you can take a screenshot and save the photo which of course I make Shannon do and then send them to me. Thank you Shannon for all these fun photos! I guess it's just as well I don't have the app on my phone or I'd be playing with it ALL THE TIME!

And then of course there's the group photo around the cake...  Somehow I always manage to sing Happy Birthday, count to 10, run into the photo (and in this instance) pick up Michelle before the camera clicks. Not bad but then I'm a pro by now. I do this for every birthday. A lot of families don't even celebrate birthdays together, aside from kid's parties with friends or milestones when people get older. Our family has always been close and special events give us a chance to get together as a group.

Because Michelle loves dressing up I thought it would be fun for us to go shopping and try on some dresses together. I didn't wind up getting anything for myself but I couldn't resist getting one for Michelle. She was in her glory trying on dresses with Mama. Yes we are girlie girls! I am SO grateful that I had a girl! Trying on dresses, playing with makeup, going to see butterflies, playing with dolls. Yeah. I mean don't get me wrong I would have loved a little boy too and I would have done my best to feign interest in sports and cars and dinosaurs (incidentally Michelle does like these things too! Her preference just leans toward the more feminine things) but it is so much more fun getting to share things with her that I love as well. It's nice having a buddy to go shopping with, to the movies with, to have tea parties with. And to be a Princess with. Yes I'm a bit of a Princess at heart too!

Michelle even wrote/drew about our shopping excursion and it was the cutest thing ever! I wish we had found matching floral dresses like she sketched here. I would have bought them in a heartbeat! (Yes I am a total nerd and it is my dream to find us matching dresses. I found a few matching t-shirts but that was as far as I got. If I could sew I would make us matching outfits!) Michelle wrote the description entirely on her own and spelled everything correctly except for tried (though trid is a valiant effort -- and truly there are adults, heads of corporations, even the leader of the free world who can't spell to save their lives so at 4 years old, Michelle is doing remarkably well! Of course her Mama was a spelling bee queen back in her day so I'll be helping her along!)

Really you can never have enough sunshine and rainbows. Michelle has had the pleasure of seeing a few actual rainbows so far when we've been out. She was also thrilled to have a rainbow in our kitchen (as the sun shone through our clear kitchen chairs and created a spectrum on the floor.)

I love that the sun, rainbow and flowers are all smiling. I used to draw smiles on everything as a kid too. Back when I was innocent and thought the world was magical. Before I became jaded, disillusioned and heartbroken. Before I discovered the darkness of reality. I still try to see the bright side. Some days it's harder than others. Having Michelle around is a good reminder. If I can see the world through her eyes just a little bit, borrow a fraction of her joy, I'll be doing OK...

Another trip to the indoor playground, because Michelle gets whatever she wants (within reason.) This time I sat in a different spot and discovered there was a wall of funhouse mirrors and things that I didn't even know about. So of course I had to snap a selfie of us there. It even turned out, sort of. I'll have to take Michelle to a funhouse someday, at the Ex or something. I think the Ex might be a bit overwhelming. Maybe when she's a little older. I used to love Canada's Wonderland when I was younger too (I used to get Season's Passes) but it would be a lot tougher with Michelle. She wouldn't have the patience for those lines (you wait for an hour to go on a ride that lasts 1 minute, tops.) Also it's so crowded and so expensive. And she wouldn't be able to go on most of the rides anyway. Certainly not the scary rollercoasters that I used to love. (The Bat was my favourite. The Skyrider was cool too. I haven't been in years. They probably have all sorts of new ones I haven't even heard of.) Again, maybe I'll try it sometime when she's a bit older. For now there are easier/cheaper ways to entertain her.

We still had to pose with our giraffe friend again, because, you know. I'm a creature of habit. Photos are my thing. They always have been. It's my OCD way of holding on to every moment because I know that it's so fleeting. Michelle was a baby not too long ago. Now she's 4 years old. Before I know it she'll be 10, then she'll be a teenager, a woman. It's gone in the blink of an eye. So if I want to take 1000 pictures standing in front of the same giraffe's butt every time we go, I will! Don't judge me! LOL

My Mom mocks me for my photoholic ways but I could mock her for her shopoholic ways (then again I love shopping too.) Everyone has something -- some addiction/obsession. Mine is photography. I could do a lot worse. I don't drink, smoke, do drugs. I don't have sex. I've never committed a crime. I just take too many pictures. Let me have this!

It was Earth Hour. You were supposed to shut the lights out for one hour to save energy. I thought it would be fun to read stories by candlelight. It turned out to be really nice because we were both tired anyway and went to bed super early that night so I kept the power off all night instead of just one hour. It made me think that maybe that's the key to getting more sleep -- shutting everything off. They say that too much screen time (computers, TV etc) can keep you awake. Once in a while it's nice to go old school. To light your way with a candle.

I glanced out the window, curious how many neighbours turned their lights out. Some still had the house all lit up inside and out. Maybe they didn't know. Or maybe they're afraid of the dark...

Michelle's class was having a Career Day/Career Week where they invited parents to come in and talk to the class about their jobs. Ordinarily I wouldn't have considered it but I thought it would be something to look forward to and get my mind off surgery so I agreed. (Also the date was to be after my surgery so it was my superstitious way of guaranteeing my survival! Because I had to live to speak to the class, right?!) I had to talk for half an hour. That sounded like a lot but I wrote a speech and found that I actually had a lot to say. It was cool because even though I've been in my job for more than a decade, writing about it for four year olds made me look at it in a different way. Instead of taking it for granted, finding it stressful etc I started to appreciate it. Seeing the job through fresh eyes (a child's eyes) helped me to realize how lucky I am to have such a cool job, an important job where I get to help people and where every day is different (without saying here what I do because I'm careful never to mention specifics on Twitter or here about where I work etc. I am not an ambassador for the organization. This is my own personal site. Also I reveal too much about myself as it is so I have to keep some measure of anonymity by not giving specifics about where I live, work etc.) Although it can be stressful, it can also be exciting and rewarding. It's certainly not your run of the mill Monday to Friday 9 to 5 job! And if it wasn't for the job I wouldn't have the home and the life that I have. If I'd been somewhere else my path would have been completely different. I would have met different people, been led in different directions. I wouldn't have wound up here, wound up with Michelle. Your life is a tapestry. To pull out any part of it would unravel all of it. And I'm grateful for all of it. Even the rough parts. It wasn't an easy journey but it was a great one and I wouldn't trade any of it.

When the day arrived for me to speak to the class, I was a little nervous but it went REALLY WELL! The kids were great. They were interested, they interacted, asked questions. I sat on the floor with them to be more informal and because it made me feel more comfortable too. Michelle sat next to me and she was so proud. I even made a little booklet for the kids and gave them some stickers, pencils etc that my boss gave me from work. It was a great day! Afterwards an adorable girl came up to thank me for my presentation. The teacher said that particular student is ordinarily very shy and it took a lot of courage for her to come up to me so I was very moved! Sweetest thing ever. So glad I agreed to do Career Day! Sometimes stepping outside your comfort zone pays off! I was also very grateful to have survived surgery. There was one embarassing moment when I first walked into the class however because a boy said "Hey want to see my boo-boo?!" and showed me his scar. I told him I had a scar but wasn't going to show him and then Michelle announced (loud enough for half the class to hear!) "Mama had an operation on her CHEST!" The teacher quietly told Michelle "Umm...that's private." Oh well, they're kids. I'm used to Michelle yelling embarassing things. In the summer she yelled "Mama DO YOU HAVE DIARRHEA?!" while I was in a stall getting changed at the water park. To which I could only reply "No. But thanks for asking at the top of your lungs." That's my girl! She has also asked "Are you on your PERIOD?!" while we're at Walmart. I mostly just hope no one is listening to her.

Michelle loves writing now. She's even started writing songs. I can't believe some of the things she comes up with. It's so cute and funny! I absolutely LOVE her creative spellings! Her phonics are excellent. Mind you I will correct her spelling but I like to encourage her to keep trying. One line blew me away -- "you gave me the paprkut." At 4 years old, the only pain that she has experienced was getting a paper cut once so she uses that as a metaphor for the pain of heartbreak and it's brilliant! She amazes me every day with the things she will say, sing, write, draw. My girl is a character! She says she wants to be a famous songwriter. She might actually do it. I may have written a thousand songs but she has one thing that I never really had -- confidence. My girl believes in herself and she won't give up. I tell her she can do anything that she wants. She just has to decide what that is. The world is her oyster. I was always too afraid to really try...

A nice day for a walk in the park... We take them when we can get them!

I couldn't remember if the groundhog saw his shadow or didn't see his shadow (or which one meant more winter and which one meant less!) I was just hoping Spring was coming sooner than later! March is sort of the start of Spring but you just never know which way it will go. Some days people are in shorts (which is kind of jumping the gun) other days people are in winter jackets. Or sometimes on the same day you can find both because people have no idea what to do. I aim for somewhere in between. But we were grateful for the sunny days that weren't too cold and we made the most of them.

And then it was Uncle Chris' birthday! He didn't want to make much of a fuss so we just went to my Mom's on his actual birthday during the week. Michelle loves her Uncle Chris. He is great with kids even though he doesn't plan on having any. (I didn't exactly plan to either but Michelle turned out to be the best surprise of my life! And everyone was right when they told me that kids change your life for the better in ways you never imagined. You don't fully understand what love is until you have a child.)

It's always tough leaving Michelle when I have to go to work but I'm grateful when it's nice outside and I can spend a bit of time with her in Gramma and Grampa's backyard before I have to leave. Michelle loves playing with her Grampa and running around their huge yard. It's good to have a bit of a breather before my long and hectic night/day. I commute for hours and my shift is 12 hours. So it's a very LONG day. Sometimes I wonder how I'll get through. Taking it one hour at a time helps. And the best part is when I can FINALLY get home to Michelle and home to bed!

"At least you're never bored," my Mom said to me one day when I was complaining about my insanely hectic schedule and how exhausted/drained I felt most of the time. "No. I'm never bored," I agreed. "Boredom is a luxury. I would LOVE to be bored! Never happens. Too much to do!" It's a good thing that I don't have a social life because I don't have the time or the energy for one anyway. Free time is non-existent. I'm either working or taking care of Michelle or doing housework, running errands etc. I watch maybe two TV shows at any period of time (Bachelor franchise, Survivor, Dancing with the Stars...) I go on Twitter to check in with the world. And that's pretty much it. I was working on a children's book and a novel but that pretty much got shelved when I got sick with pneumonia. Then I started working full time 16 hour days and when I actually have a day off, there's so much to do I never seem to find time. And yet, you could argue, I find time to work on this blog. But this is a labour of love and I do a bit at a time here and there when I have a minute. I don't know why I feel compelled to do it, but I do. And it is time consuming putting together all the photos and the text. But it's my way of venting and it (almost) keeps me sane! I do want to finish the children's book I was working on last year (back when I had more free time and before I got sick.) Part of the reason I procrastinate is of course fear of failure -- because if I actually take the time to write and illustrate it and send it to publishers and it's rejected, I'll be devastated. Easier not to try. Easier to tell myself I'm too busy. One of my cousins wrote a novel and put it in a drawer and never sent it anywhere. I have thousands of poems I've never sent anywhere (even after having a few poems published, the fear of rejection looms large. And for the 4 that I've had published, there were 96 that weren't. At the time the guy I was dating said he'd give me a dollar for every rejection letter so I started collecting them. After 50 I got my first acceptance. In retrospect it was very kind of him to push me/light a fire under me. I miss that. Having someone in my corner. Now there's just me and it's easier just not to try...I don't have time is such a good excuse, especially when it's true. But I'm rambling and this blog is too long as it is! I don't have time for this either. But if you're reading this then I eventually did hit Publish! Please excuse the typos if I missed any!)

Over the winter, out of the blue, two old friends from my past contacted me online and wanted to get together. It was so nice to hear from them but the timing never seemed to be right -- I was sick with pneumonia for months then the breast business (surgery etc) happened and this year I've been way more busy working so many more hours and am only home a day or two at a time here and there. It's tough. I would love to get together for lunch sometime and catch up! The thing is, if they don't reach out to me again, it probably won't happen. I tend to shy away from social interaction. Ironically I have over 9000 followers on Twitter but in real life, aside from my immediate family, I don't feel comfortable with too many people. And if I'm honest I'm not usually the one to reach out (out of shyness/fear of rejection/procrastination etc.) So if they don't contact me again, it probably won't happen. But I hope they do because it would be nice to talk to a grown up again face to face (aside from my family!) If you're reading this, guys -- the pneumonia is gone, the lump is out, Spring is here, all is relatively well and I'm available! LOL
So please EMAIL ME or call! Let's do lunch! :)

Many months ago a couple of other Moms from Michelle's school had discussed the possibility of getting together for play dates with the kids but then I got sick and there was never a good time and I pretty much avoided other parents when picking Michelle up from school. They may not have realized being sick was a large part of my being anti-social (though I can be anti-social/solitary by nature...) And now I just feel too awkward to even try to speak to them again so if they don't approach me...

I do occasionally miss having friends/a social life of some sort. And sometimes, admittedly, I do miss having a relationship, having an adult to share things with, a partner to help with things so I don't feel so completely alone/overwhelmed. Maybe someday. Though it seems pretty impossible at this point. Unless Mr. Wonderful just happened to appear out of thin air. Which is doubtful. I've met a lot of Mr. Horribles in my time. And I would be so cautious now. I honestly don't know how I'd trust someone now. It's different than when I used to date. I used to throw caution to the wind when there was just me to worry about but I am VERY protective of Michelle. How could I allow someone into our lives? I couldn't risk it. He'd have to be an extraordinary man. He'd have to be Jesus-Superman to be a father for my little girl. Yeah, so I'm just flying solo for now.

On bad days -- sleep deprived, exhausted, irritable, running on less than empty, working and commuting long hours, taking care of my child, my home and everything on my own without help and without a break -- I wonder how I'll get through! Defeated, depleted, it feels like the weight of the world on my shoulders, that I give all that I have and there's nothing left for me, no time to take a breath. But on good days I think of how truly blessed and grateful I am: I have an amazing little girl who is the light and the love of my life, a wonderful supportive family and the best sister/best friend anyone could have -- she always makes me laugh! I am relatively healthy, relatively secure with a nice home in a safe neighbourhood and a good job where I get to help people and every day is a new adventure. Luckily there are more good days than bad! And the truth is that time flies, even on the bad days! February and March were gone in the blink of an eye, even with all that I went through. Though it's rough going at the time, there is a reward to facing fears and overcoming challenges. You get to look back with relief and gratitude and say "I got through it!" Though I'm not a fan of adversity (if I had my way life would be perfect and nothing would ever go wrong -- but this doesn't seem to be an option!) it can have some rewards: increasing your strength, confidence and sense of gratitude. Yes the cliche is true -- what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and it makes you appreciate what you have. Facing your greatest fears and surviving makes you feel like one tough mother!