and BACK!

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If you’ve been reading my blog recently, you already know that I’m participating in a fundraiser called HOOFING IT Across Canada. We, the Canadian neuroendocrine cancer (NETS) community, are working together in an effort to raise $100,000 for much needed neuroendocrine cancer research. Participants have been racking up as many kilometres as we can by walking, hiking, kayaking, swimming, cycling, roller-blading, or any other forward moving activity that we can think of and tracking our individual distances. Our original goal was to record 5,514 kilometres, the distance from Newfoundland and Labrador to the Yukon, but I am very proud to announce that in less than two weeks, we’ve already surpassed 4000 km! As a result, we have a brand new goal. We’re not just HOOFING IT Across Canada, we’re HOOFING IT Across Canada and BACK! That’s right! Our new goal is 11,028 km.

Personally, I’ve walked over 33 km since July 1st. While that’s a tiny fraction of the distance that’s been covered (it helps that we have some long distance cyclists and runners in the group), I’m one third of the way to reaching my personal goal of 100 km. At this rate, I may have to increase my goal too!

Of course, the main purpose of the HOOFING IT Across Canada campaign is to raise funds for research. Once rare, NETS is now the fastest growing class of cancers worldwide, accounting for approximately 2% of all cancers. We need to know why this is. We need safer and more effective methods to prevent, detect, diagnose, treat, and ultimately cure this disease. Research is the key to transforming and saving lives and research takes money.

HOOFING IT is the easy part. Asking people for money is more difficult, especially in today’s economy when many are facing financial hardship and don’t have extra to give. By last night, however, we had raised over $20,000 and were 20% of the way to meeting our goal. I’m extremely grateful to those who have made donations on my behalf. At $875, I’m almost 60% of the way to meeting my personal goal of $1500. If you would like to add to this amount, please click here to visit my fundraising page. No amount is too small. Every dollar brings us one step closer to finding the answers we’re looking for.

In the meantime, I’m off to the city tomorrow for CT scans to see if there’s been any change to my NETS tumours over the past six months. I won’t be meeting with the doctor and finding out the results until August 6, so I’ll try to provide an update after that.

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Walking in the rain

The past few days have been sunny and warm, just the way summer should be, but today has been mostly cool and cloudy again. I really didn’t feel like putting on my zebra stripes and going for a walk. Cancer’s a bit like that. I don’t only have it on days when I feel like it! I wake up with it every morning and I go to bed with it every night. These days, I’m not just walking because I want to. I’m walking to increase awareness of neuroendocrine cancer (NETS) and to raise funds for research.

As I walked, I thought about how fortunate I am to be able to do this. I don’t live where I’m able to attend support group meetings nor do I really feel that I need them, but I am part of several online groups for patients and caregivers. Every day I hear from people whose NETS stories are so much worse than mine. I walk for them as well as for myself. I walk in memory of those we’ve lost and I walk for those who will be diagnosed with this increasingly common type of cancer in the future. I walk in hope that money for research will eventually result in a cure.

I was walking in the exact opposite corner of our small town when it started to rain! (I think I need to find a zebra striped umbrella.) There was no way that I could suddenly transport myself back to the comfort of my warm, dry house. I had to keep walking. Cancer’s like that too. When you’re diagnosed, you suddenly find yourself a long way outside your comfort zone and there’s no going back. I treat my life with cancer a lot like a walk. I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward. I refuse to stand around in the rain feeling sorry for myself!

When I walk through the corridors of the cancer clinic as I’ll do again later this month, I can’t help feeling like I don’t really belong there. I look and feel so well compared to most of the people around me. It’s called “survivor’s guilt” and it’s common to those of us who have or are surviving cancer. We can’t help asking “why them?” and “why not me?” I only know that when all this started, God promised to take care of me and, while it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, He’s been doing a great job of it ever since. So here I am, feeling strong and able to HOOF IT Across Canada!

Since the campaign started on July 1, I’ve logged 12.96 kilometres. Reaching my goal of 100 km by September 7 should be no problem, but far more important is the money that I raise for NETS cancer research. As a Canada-wide community, we hope to raise $100,000. I set my personal goal at $1500 and at $550, I’m 36% of the way! Thank you so very much to those of you who have already donated. I’ll try not to bore you with too many updates! For those who haven’t donated yet and who would like to, you can find my personal fundraising page here.

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Chinos

LogoI finally went clothes shopping this week! To be more truthful, we were in the city for an appointment and I went into one clothing store. Just one!

After weeding several things out of my closet that should never have made the cut when I did my seasonal closet switch last fall, I identified a couple of significant holes in my summer wardrobe. As I mentioned two Friday’s ago, I have lots to wear when the weather is hot, but where we live I need things that are suitable for cooler summer days like the ones we’ve been having recently. One thing that I clearly needed was a couple of pairs of pants that would be warmer than my shorts and capris, but cooler than jeans.

Though I don’t shop for clothes online, the internet is a great place to do some scouting, especially during these days of Covid-19 when I don’t want to spend a lot of time browsing. I’d much prefer to go into a store, buy what I want, and leave again without lingering. When I knew that we’d be going to the city, I checked out the Mark’s website in advance and decided that their chinos might be just what I was looking for. Chinos are a nice middle ground between dress pants and jeans for both men and women.

The first thing I did when I entered the store was check to see if the fitting rooms were open. If I couldn’t try the pants on, there’d be no point in me even looking at them. Thankfully, a limited number of them were in use and there weren’t a lot of customers in the store so I didn’t even have to wait in line.

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Finding pants that fit well is often a struggle for me, but Mark’s slim-fitting, tapered leg chinos were perfect for my boyish figure. The toughest decision was which of the several colours to choose! I settled on two pairs; one in a light tan called Stone and the other in a dark Olive. Both will be very versatile. I’m showing you the light pair today, but I’m sure that the others will show up on the blog sometime soon. The bottom hem is meant to be rolled to ankle length, but they can also be worn down.

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I didn’t realize until after we’d finished taking the pictures that I’d forgotten to put on any lipstick, so this is my au naturel, at home look! Actually, I’d just got back from having several vials of blood taken at the local hospital, so perhaps I was even a bit paler than usual!

Being a word nerd, I couldn’t help doing a bit of research to find out how chinos got their name and what it actually meant. Apparently, the word was first used to describe khaki coloured military trousers that were worn during the Spanish American war of 1898. They were made from a cotton twill fabric that was sourced from China, so the name came from the fact that Chino is the Spanish word for Chinese. Thankfully, my new pants, which are made of a stretch cotton blend, were not made in China as one of my fashion goals for this year is to avoid buying Chinese products as much as possible. Of course, I have no idea where the fabric came from. As I’ve mentioned before, being a truly ethical shopper is very difficult, but I try.

It’s Canada Day and Day 1 of HOOFING IT Across Canada!

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Today is Canada Day, the 153rd anniversary of our country’s birth as a nation. It’s also Day 1 of the HOOFING IT Across Canada fundraising campaign for neuroendocrine cancer research. Today I begin counting the kilometres that I walk and/or hike between now and September 7th. Joining with participants from the neuroendocrine cancer (NETS) community across the country, we hope to record 5,514 kilometres, the distance from Newfoundland and Labrador to the Yukon! We also hope to raise $100,000!

I’m very grateful to those who made donations following Saturday’s post. Thanks to their generosity, I’ve already raised slightly more than 20% of my goal. There’s still a long way to go though!

If you haven’t already, I hope that you’ll consider going to my fundraising page and making a donation. No amount is too small! Every cent received will go toward neuroendocrine cancer research and hopefully bring us closer to understanding what causes this disease and to ultimately finding a cure.

I’ve been asked several questions regarding making a donation, so I’ll answer those here:

  1. What methods of payment are accepted?  You can make your donation using a credit card (VISA, MasterCard or American Express), PayPal, or a CanadaHelps gift card. 
  2. Can I donate from outside Canada?  Yes! Absolutely! Research conducted in Canada will benefit patients around the world. Many of my readers live in the US or elsewhere and some have already made donations. Your credit card statement will automatically show the value of your donation in your local currency.
  3. Will I receive a tax receipt?  Again, the answer is yes. When you make a donation, you’ll be asked for your email address and a tax receipt will be sent to that address immediately. Only Canadian tax receipts are issued however, so if you’re donating from elsewhere, you might want to check your country’s income tax policies to see whether or not you can use a Canadian tax receipt when you file your tax return.
  4. Can my business make a donation?  Yes. Simply select the “Corporate/Group” option under Donor Type when filling out the Donor and Tax Receipt Information section.

I hope that helps. If you have any other questions, please let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them. In the meantime, I’m off to watch a Canada Day parade later this morning and then it’s time to start walking!

HOOFING IT Across Canada!

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Today I’m super excited to share something that’s very close to my heart and to give you an opportunity to participate!

It’s almost 7 years since I was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer (NETS). Once the shock of learning that I had a cancer that I’d never heard of and that I’d be living with it for the rest of my life wore off, it became important to me to do what I could to help raise awareness of this little known disease and to support fundraising efforts for research, better treatments, and patient support. That’s why I’m going to be HOOFING IT Across Canada with CNETS Canada!

Between July 1st and September 7th, the Canadian neuroendocrine cancer community will be working together in an effort to raise $100,000 for neuroendocrine cancer research! Participants will rack up as many kilometres as they can by walking, hiking, kayaking, swimming, cycling, roller-blading, or any other forward moving activity that they can think of and tracking their individual distances. Together, we aim to record 5,514 kilometres, the distance from Newfoundland and Labrador to the Yukon! In the days of Covid-19, the beauty of this is that we can each participate in our own community while practicing appropriate social distancing.

My goal during this campaign is to walk and/or hike 100 kilometres and to raise a minimum of $1500. That’s where you come in! I’m hoping that I can persuade you to visit my fundraising page here and make a donation. No amount is too small! Every cent that is received by CNETS will be directed to neuroendocrine cancer research. We need to know what causes this disease and we need to find a cure!

If you’re in Sedgewick, you’ll probably see me walking around town or out on the walking path wearing my zebra stripes and from time to time I’ll post updates here on the blog.

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Please make a donation!

Emerging

6b418a7e1c894727282ae55335b6bb1aLike butterflies coming out of cocoons, we’re gradually emerging from the Covid-19 shutdown and figuring out what living in this new world is going to look like. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m finding it a little bit unnerving. My cocoon was comfortable. I knew exactly what to do and what not to do. I wasn’t worried about contracting  the virus because we easily kept our distance from other people and almost never left our county where there hasn’t been a single confirmed case. Thankfully, I was able to fit the local golf course into my cocoon!

Even though Alberta entered the first phase  of a three stage relaunch strategy back on May 14, nothing really changed for us. Now, with the introduction of Stage 2 on Friday, a week ahead of schedule, bigger changes are happening. In addition to those businesses that were deemed essential and never closed, as well as those that reopened in Stage 1, theatres, libraries, places of worship, casinos, bingo halls, arcades, and recreational facilities including gyms and pools, as well as many other similar facilities, can now be open. Personal services, including skin and body treatments, facials, manicures, pedicures, waxing, and tanning are also allowed now.

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Life at this stage is a bit like the newly emerged butterfly; somewhat fragile and facing many unknowns. As we step out of our cocoons, we need to decide which of the many available options we feel comfortable resuming right now and what precautions should be taken when we do.

Though we’re being reminded to remain diligent about social distancing and to wear masks when that’s not possible, I’m concerned that many people seem to think the crisis has passed and are becoming lax about following the recommendations. If that continues to happen, I foresee an upswing in Covid cases and possibly a need to shut things down again. Though my cocoon was comfortable and safe, I don’t want to have to hide away in it for any longer than necessary, so while we spread our wings, please let’s do it with care and caution!

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Celebrating survival!

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Today, the first Sunday of June, is National Cancer Survivors Day, an annual, worldwide celebration of life set aside to honour the millions of people worldwide who are living with and beyond cancer and to raise awareness of the challenges that they face.

Major advances in cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment have resulted in longer survival, but a cancer diagnosis can leave a host of problems in its wake. Physical, financial, and emotional hardships often persist for years after diagnosis and treatment. Depending on where they live, survivors often contend with rapidly rising drug costs, inadequate insurance coverage, difficulty finding or keeping employment, and a lack of understanding from family and friends. Despite these difficulties, cancer survivors can live active, productive, inspiring lives.

So what is a survivor? To many, the term ‘cancer survivor’ suggests a person who has beaten their cancer; perhaps one who has been cancer free for several years, but I like the definition used by the National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation. “A ‘survivor’ is anyone living with a history of cancer – from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life.”

In other words, I am a survivor! In fact, I’m a three times survivor.

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I live with cancer every day. Unless a cure is found for neuroendocrine cancer (NETS) within my lifetime or God performs a miracle on my behalf, I will never be cancer free. People have a hard time grasping the idea of a chronic cancer. The usual assumption is that patients either die of their disease or they are cured, thereby becoming cancer survivors, but I look at my situation differently. I may eventually die of my cancer or I may die with it, but either way, I am a survivor! Fortunately my NETS is stable at this point and it doesn’t significantly impact my day to day life. I’ve had all the PRRT treatments that I can have, but a monthly injection given here in my home by a visiting nurse seems to be keeping things under control. I had my 87th of these “butt darts” just over a week ago.

I’m also a cancer survivor in the more tradition sense, as in one who had the disease, but is now free of it. As many of you know, seven months after my NETS diagnosis, I was diagnosed with a second, completely unrelated cancer that was removed surgically. Six weeks of radiation followed and, since that time, there has been no recurrence.

Cancer number three, most likely caused by the radiation that I received for the other two, was discovered in my thyroid almost exactly a year ago. Though it’s not a particularly aggressive form of cancer, it’s the one that concerns me the most right now. I was supposed to see my specialist two months ago and have an ultrasound to determine whether or not the cancer is growing. Thanks to Covid-19, that didn’t happen and it’s been eight months since my thyroid was last looked at. Though my specialist still isn’t seeing patients except in emergency situations, I decided to do a bit of self-advocating and his office is now in the process of trying to arrange for me to have an ultrasound done in a hospital closer to home in a small city that has only had one Covid-19 patient.

Yes, in spite of all this, I am a survivor! Survivors are people from all walks of life, of all ethnicities and income levels. They’re children, moms, dads, and grandparents. They may be your coworkers, friends, and loved ones. Traditionally, National Cancer Survivors Day celebrations have included parades, carnivals, health fairs, awareness walks, candle-lighting ceremonies, and other community events. This year, due to Covid-19 restrictions, the celebrations may be somewhat more subdued, but life with and after cancer goes on and it ought to be about more than just surviving. It ought to be about living well and that’s always something to celebrate!

 

100 pounds!

I started lifting weights in the early 1990s. It was never my intention to become a body builder, but I had recently entered my 40s and I thought that it might be a good idea to do something to try to keep in shape. We already had the equipment in the basement and hubby, who was a phys ed teacher at the time, had been lifting for several years, so I had him set up a routine for me and my lifting days began. I would never have foreseen that I’d still be lifting all these years later!

Unlike many serious lifters who work out year round, we only lift from mid October until the end of April each year; the months that the golf course is closed. We have a short summer season here in Alberta and we want to spend as much of it as possible engaging in outdoor pursuits, not working out in the basement! Over the almost three decades that I’ve been lifting, I’ve had good seasons, bad seasons, and  even one when I didn’t lift at all. We spent that year teaching English in Japan and rather than seeking out a gym to join, we spent as much time as we could seeing the country and soaking up the culture. There were also a couple of partial seasons including the winter that we headed off to China to spend a semester teaching there.

My best year to date was the winter of 2005-2006. I was 53 years old and many years pre cancer. At the end of that season, I was bench pressing 97.5 pounds. Why I never pushed myself to add just 2.5 more pounds and press 100, I’ll never know! I suspect that the golf course opened and I probably thought that I’d be able to push that little bit further the following year. In ensuing years, however, I never made it past 90 pounds again. That is until this year!

Each of the past few years, I had a midwinter PRRT treatment that set me back strength-wise, but I kept on pushing myself and refused to quit completely. Am I ever glad I did! I guess I didn’t realize how much those treatments were actually taking out of me, but I haven’t had one since last June and I cannot believe how strong I’ve felt this year. Today I did something that I gave up hope of ever doing a long time ago. I bench pressed 100 pounds! That might not seem like a lot to many more serious lifters, but to me, at 67 years old with two cancers, it was huge!

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It was back in February that I first caught a glimpse of potentially reaching a new personal best. It was definitely on a distant horizon, but barring injury or sickness, it might just be possible. It was very shortly after that thought crossed my mind, however, that we got the call telling us that my father was dying. We had to drop everything and head for Vancouver. With that interruption, I thought the possibility was gone, but when we got home, I picked up where I’d left off and soon realized that it might still happen. I’ve continued lifting later into the spring than I normally do partially because, with the Covid-19 shutdown, there wasn’t a lot else to do, but mostly because I was so close to reaching my goal and I simply couldn’t let it slip through my fingers this time.

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Definitely feeling pretty proud of myself!

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Obstacle or opportunity?

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Before the onset of Covid-19, we had planned on leaving on a spring vacation this week. We were going to walk the historic streets of Boston, explore some family history, see the sights of New York City, and visit friends who live in the area. Instead, we continue to shelter at home waiting for our province to gradually begin lifting some of the restrictions that have been put in place to protect us and to keep our health care system from being overwhelmed. There’s absolutely no question that for most people on the planet, the Covid-19 pandemic has been an obstacle to living life as we knew it before the middle of March, but has it also been an opportunity?

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“Even in the darkest experiences we can uncover creative options.” wrote Samuel R. Chand in Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth.

On March 18, the day after Alberta declared a state of emergency and started shutting down non essential services, I wrote that I didn’t want to look back on this as time wasted. That was seven weeks ago. Rather than lamenting over a vacation lost and other obstacles to normal living, I’d rather look at opportunities seized. I truly believe that a positive attitude is vital to maintaining good health and overall well-being. That’s proven to be true throughout my journey with cancer and I think it’s just as true in present circumstances.

So how have I been using the unexpected extra time that I’ve been given by the pandemic shutdown? Here are a few of the ways…

  • Cleaned and reorganized the kitchen cabinets and set aside a number of items to take to our local thrift store when it reopens.
  • When I could no longer find the mixes that I’ve been buying for years on the grocery store shelves, I reverted to making my own pancake mix and baking biscuits from scratch. I doubt that I’ll ever go back.
  • Experimented with adapting a bread recipe until it turned out just the way I wanted.
  • Read several books.
  • Wrote more than usual including 11 blog posts in April as opposed to the 6 or 7 that I usually post.
  • Used Duolingo to study Spanish every day learning more than 1000 words so far.
  • Enjoyed several Zoom chats with family and friends.
  • Walked over 80 km (50 miles) partially on the treadmill, but mostly outdoors.
  • Found 7 geocaches.
  • Played a lot of 7 Wonders Duel.
  • Completed some yard work that wouldn’t have gotten done if I’d been busy planning and packing for a trip.

Does all this mean that I’m happy to have been essentially shut in for the past seven weeks? Does feeling positive about how I’ve been using my time mean that I’m oblivious to the effects that this period of time has had on the economy, on businesses, on the lives of others? Of course not, but neither have I been anxiously straining at the bit for it to come to an end. I’m happy that the health authorities in our province feel that we’ve reached a point where we can cautiously and carefully begin reopening, but I also realize that it will be some time before things are back to “normal”. I sincerely hope that we’ll be able to reschedule our trip someday, but I know that it won’t be for quite awhile.

So, how have you been coping during these most unusual days? Have you been focusing on obstacles or looking for opportunities?

Essential or non-essential?

As the Covid-19 shutdown continues and spring finally comes to Alberta, I’m hearing more and more discussion about essential versus non-essential services particularly amongst my fellow golfers. I have a great deal of respect for Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Deena Hinshaw, but there are many who are taking strong exception to her declaration that golf courses are non-essential and must remain closed. This has been made worse by the fact that courses in our neighbouring province of British Columbia are open.

I love golfing and I eagerly await the opening of our local course each spring, but I would have a difficult time arguing that it’s an essential service. On the other hand, it definitely contributes to physical and mental well-being and it’s an activity that could quite easily be done while still maintaining appropriate social distancing. Adaptations could be put in place to ensure that golfers are not touching surfaces such as flag sticks.

One of the greatest sources of frustration for many people is the inconsistency in what is being deemed essential and what is not. For me, the most obvious example is cannabis shops. How is it that a substance that was illegal less than two years ago is now essential? Grocery stores, yes. Pharmacies, of course. But, cannabis stores? I don’t think so! In fact, I was even a bit surprised to see liquor stores remain open.

I realize that there are those who use cannabis medicinally, but like any other prescribed medication, they were able to access it legally long before it became available to the rest of us in October 2018. There’s no reason why it can’t still be accessible to patients who need it during the pandemic without the shops that cater to recreational use being open.

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There would definitely be a lot less grumbling about following current public health orders if they were consistent. Golf or cannabis? Why one but not the other?