Our Endless Numbered Days

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RIITB_EndlessNumberedDaysThis book is an amazing piece of literature. I will admit that it took me a while to get into but I think that says more about my brain these days than the narrative. Things that are heavy are harder for my brain to lift than things that I know have a happy ending – and maybe a bit of romance. There is a place for happy endings and romance and I enjoy both, but I need my brain to do the heavy lifting sometimes so I know I haven’t lost myself completely.

I spent two weeks reading it in fits and starts – only being able to get so far before I would feel overwhelmed by what was going on and have to put it down. And then I spent one night devouring the second half of it and ignoring everyone around me. As soon as I finished I debated starting it again but I’m not sure I am ready to immerse myself in all the feelings it provokes just yet.

I’m pretty sure I have said this on this blog before but sometimes when a book is so good it is hard to review. I want to tell you all about the book but I don’t want to tell you anything that happens in it. Except I want to tell you EVERYTHING that happens. So I guess what I am really saying is that you need to go and read this book right now.

In 1976 Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children, and listening to her mother’s grand piano. But her life is about to change.

Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions to prepare for the end of the world, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared. She is not see again for another nine years. In 1985, Peggy has returned to the family home. But what happened to her in the forest? And why – and how – has she come back now?

Except Peggy doesn’t just return to the family home – she returns to the world. A world she thought was lost for ever. Peggy is eight when her father takes her and tells her that they are the only two people left on the earth. As her father slowly loses his grip with reality you have to wonder just how and if those two are going to survive. It is a quiet novel with an under current of terror running through out. Not jump out of your seat terror but a terror of the unknown as the narrative jumps from past to present slowly unearthing exactly what happened to Peggy and her father.

Reading Anne of Green Gables with Moira (spoilers)

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It’s a great day for literary birthdays today. Charles Dickens was born on this day in and 1812 and Laura Ingalls Wilder was born on this day in 1867. Two authors who certainly deserve a party for their work and who have had a great literary effect on my life.

MoiraGreenGablesIt isn’t Anne of Green Gables birthday today but Moira and I did finish the last two chapters this morning. I mostly cried my way through the second to last chapter which always makes it hard to read aloud. Moira stared at me with big tear-filled eyes while I read, death always being a little too close to home these days. Still, these aren’t topics we can shy away from and the conversations brought about between my oldest girl and I while reading this book are something I will treasure always.

However, now that the book is done my girl is torn between starting Anne of Avonlea right away (“she is finally friends with Gilbert!”) and continuing with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I understand her pain as I want to read both of them right away too.

My biggest hope is that she reads Anne of Green Gables again and again through her life and finds comfort on how Anne deals with her grief.

It seems like disloyalty to Matthew, somehow, to find pleasure in these things now that he has gone,” she said wistfully to Mrs. Allan one evening when they were together in the manse garden. “I miss him so much – all the time – and yet, Mrs. Allan, the world and life seem very beautiful and interesting to me for all that. Today Diana said something funny and I found myself laughing. I thought when it happened I could never laugh again. And it somehow seems as if I oughtn’t to.”

“When Matthew was here he liked to hear you laugh and he liked to know that you found pleasure in the pleasant things around you,” said Mrs. Allan gently. “He is just away now, and he likes to know it just the same. I am sure we should not shut our hearts against the healing influences that nature offers us. But I understand your feeling. I think we all experience the same thing.

 

Moira was rather horrified that Anne would give up her scholarship to stay with Marilla. When Anne talked about the ‘bend in the road’ all Moira could think of was that there were going to be only bad things around the bend. However that has never been Anne’s attitude (it is an attitude I am trying to break my sweet sensitive girl out of). Of course, it is hard to fathom all of this when you are only seven and don’t have all the weight of experience on your shoulders. This is why a book like this needs to be read again and again. (Later on I found Moira re-reading the last chapter to herself and my heart was filled with hope.)

When I left Queen’s my future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don’t know what lies around the bend, but I am going to believe that the best does. It has a fascination of its own, that bend, Marilla. I wonder how the road beyond it goes – what there is of green glory and soft, checkered light and shadows – what new landscapes – what new beauties – what new curves and hills and valleys further on.

Anne’s words are a lesson for us all – whether we are seven, forty, or seventy. How very lucky am I that I have two more daughters with which to read these books?

Book 19: The Master of the Mill

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RIITB_MasterMillI’m not even out of the teens yet on the New Canadian Library list and we are on another Fredrick Philip Grove book. I wrote about Grove and his life years ago in this post so if you feel you need a refresher go and take a look. His life was more interesting than his writing.

To be honest I really wanted to like this book. The premise as at least somewhat interesting:

A penetrating story of three generations of mill-owners in Canada, The Master of the Mill is one of Frederick Philip Grove’s most powerful novels. To his poetic interpretation of man’s relationship with nature Grove has added a new protagonist – the machine. The result is a strong novel of vast industrial empires and ruthless men, in which the political and social scene in Canada is set forth with the utmost skill.

I wanted to like this book as a big sweeping epic of Canada but it dragged. Oh man, does this book drag. I guess that is why people aren’t still reading it. I think the most interesting thing about this book is that all the main women in Senator Samuel Clark’s life are named Maud (there are three Mauds in the book) and I think that would probably be only of interest to Sara O’Leary, Alexis Kienlen and myself because we keep having conversations about Mauds or Maudes.

Still, even though this book was dragging I was determined to finish it. But then I was diagnosed with cancer and, well, I’m not finishing anything I’m not thoroughly enjoying these days. Life is too short etc. etc. I would much rather have a conversation about how many great Maud/e’s are out there in the world.

Death toll: It goes through many generations. There are many deaths. None of them are particularly interesting because none of the characters are interesting enough to hold our attention or gain our sympathy.

Next book on the list is Sara Jeannette Duncan‘s The Imperialist. Has anyone else read this? Book #20 on the New Canadian Library list and we are only on our fourth woman. It sounds like a Canadian new-world romance. Should be right up my alley.

 

World Cancer Day

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Today is World Cancer Day and I feel like I should say something about it even though I would much rather be in the UK celebrating Harry Potter Book Night.

WorldCancerDayBut now I’m in the exclusive club of women (and some men) who have metastatic breast cancer. So what is Metastatic Breast Cancer? I think most people – myself included – don’t really understand what it means. I certainly didn’t know anything about. I won’t lie, when I first heard I had breast cancer I thought maybe that meant I would get new boobs. Truth: I will not be getting new boobs. Even if I did get my boobs removed, reconstructive surgery is a long and painful process. And honestly, I don’t feel like I have the time for that – no matter how much time I have left.

So here is what Metavivor.Org has to say about all this:

If you know someone who has died from breast cancer, they died from metastatic breast cancer. Metastatic breast cancer, or stage 4 breast cancer, is the spread of breast cancer to non-adjacent parts of the body — most commonly to the bones, liver, lungs and/or brain. Many effective breast cancer treatments exist, but if the cancer metastasizes and spreads outside of the breast, there is no cure.

100% of breast cancer deaths occur because of metastasis, and almost 100% of people whose breast cancer has metastasized will die from it. In the United States alone, this means that more than 40,000 vibrant lives are lost each year.

Despite these stark realities, the popular breast cancer fundraising movements give on average only 2% of their research funds to researching metastasis. Instead, their primary focus is on prevention, which does nothing to help those already diagnosed, and early detection, which does not impact those facing the ultimate death sentence of stage 4 breast cancer. And while only 6% – 10% of initial breast cancer diagnoses are metastatic, 30% of patients diagnosed with earlier stage breast cancer will eventually develop stage 4 breast cancer and die.

This does not need to happen.  Many metastasis researchers believe that metastatic breast cancer could become a chronic, rather than terminal, disease, if only there were more money to do the research necessary to develop effective treatments. As such, METAvivor has launched a nationwide effort to raise awareness about metastatic breast cancer, with a push to dedicate 30% of all breast cancer research funds toward the metastatic breast cancer that 30% of patients will ultimately face.

Do I think you should donate? Well, I wouldn’t say no but this isn’t me asking you to donate. Half of the women I know are spending their time cooking for my family and dropping food off at my house. I don’t want to ask for more than that. No, this isn’t me asking for money. This is me trying to spread awareness of what Metastatic Breast Cancer is, at least as far as I know. Tomorrow will be the two month date since my diagnosis. Two months. That isn’t a long time even though it feels like I have been sick FOREVER and barely remember what it was like to not be sick.

These are the facts as far as I know them: My girls will always have a chronically ill Mum – at least for as long as they get to keep me. Because of the metastases in my bones I will probably never be out running again. Oonagh keeps asking me if I’m better so I can pick her up or give her a piggy back. Will that ever happen? Don’t know. Although at this point I will be happy when I have the energy to walk around the block or pick my daughters up from school.

Today I went to acupuncture and Reiki because I would pretty much drink my kids pee-filled bathwater right now if I thought it would keep me around longer. But sometimes it is hard because all I want to do is take a break from cancer. I would like a couple days off of painful ribs and being careful and thinking about it and the worry and anxiety that comes with such a diagnosis. But I don’t get a break from cancer no matter how much I cry about it.

Another thing I have learned since getting cancer is that people are always curious as to why you got cancer – what did YOU do to GIVE yourself cancer. This is a way people make themselves feel better and to reassure themselves that they won’t get cancer. Well, I can tell you this. There is NOTHING I did to give myself cancer. Why do I have it? I don’t know. I was active, ate a whole-foods, plant-based diet for the last five years without stressing about it. Stopped eating red meat 20-years ago and was mostly vegetarian for years. Never drank coffee. I could count my yearly alcohol consumption on one hand with fingers left over. There is no history of breast cancer in my family.

As my big sister so eloquently put it, “If you have cancer, the rest of us are fucked!” But of course, that isn’t true either.

There is a big push right now putting the focus on prevention and early detection. I think both of these things are great but I do take issue with some of the prevention literature because it makes those of us who have breast cancer feel like we have failed in some respect. I didn’t fail. I didn’t do anything wrong. If you listen to the prevention literature I did everything right. I still have cancer and there will probably never be an answer as to why.

Our biggest hope is that because I was so healthy before, because of being active and our diet of choice that I can fight this disease for as long as possible. I know you aren’t supposed to think of a number when you get a diagnosis like this but an old Chinese fortune teller once told my sister and I that I was going to live to be 93 years old and that has always been my goal. Certainly not the 3-year median prognosis that women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer get. I have too much shit I need to do so I’m ignoring that number and picking my own. I’ve been looking forward to being an old lady since I was little and I’m going to keep looking forward to it.

So that’s my little World Cancer Day rant. Please don’t buy me any pink ribbon crap.

 

A week in the life of this cancer patient

Monday’s are for blood work. We got the good news that I could continue with chemo this week because my white blood cell count was up enough. (I missed going to see MacBeth over the weekend because of a cold and trying to get these white blood cells to multiply – which I don’t have any control over.)

Miss M and I had a devastating conversation about ‘how will you know I love you if I don’t make these things for you’. (She was trying to make me a book in secret but I found out it was for me.)  This is so hard on her. Really. It gave me the idea for what I think could be a great children’s book but I keep having to explain to her that there is nothing she could do to make me love her more because I already love her so much and it doesn’t come with conditions. I appreciate the amount of artwork my children create for me but it isn’t a necessity for my affections. So of course I have to wonder if she thinks I should be making things for her to show her how much I love her? Does she not know? It’s heartbreaking the amount of things she worries about and me having cancer is really not helping right now. I bought her a Taylor Swift CD. (Maybe we should have laid off the Joy Division when she was a baby?) I hope that makes her feel more like a 7-year old and not an adult with the burdens of the world on her shoulders.

I had scheduled my cancer reading into my Passion Planner this week. I had originally bought the planner to plan out writing my novel (that sounds so cliche) but I have been avoiding it because I know what I really need to plan out is my cancer recovery. So I had booked whole sections of time off – since I spend a lot of it alone in my room – to really focus. Reading such-and-such book, chapters 7 & 8 from 9-11 a.m. etc. This was supposed to start on Tuesday morning but instead I spent Tuesday morning at the walk-in clinic with a very sick soon-to-be 3-year-old. Mommying doesn’t stop just because mommy has cancer. (Or even a cold.)

Wednesday was chemo. I wore make-up. It’s been a big week for me. My day post-chemo is pretty much a wash as I am messed up on drugs and can barely carry on a conversation.

ChemoRound2Thursday was spent battling a chemo-induced heat rash so I managed to avoid anything previously scheduled and read The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness which is brilliant by the way – especially if you are familiar with Buffy and other teenage hero type stories. I could really use a friend right now who is three-quarters Jewish and one-quarter god who could heal all that ails me. It was time well-spent and I had been waiting for that book to come in from the library for months so I’m not going to beat myself up over it.

ChemoRashyFaceHowever, somehow while I was resting and icing my burning face yesterday I managed to injure myself again (ribs, again)  and now I have only had 3 hours of sleep in the last 36+ hours. So I’m all hopped up on painkillers again and even that doesn’t seem to be allowing me to sleep. I think part of the problem is that I can never get my brain to turn off. There is so much conflicting information out there about what I should be doing to get better (or at least get well enough to not spend all day in bed) that I find it all overwhelming. This is all so overwhelming – even with the amazing support system that I have. My patience for myself is wearing thin – I seem to have it for other people but trying to be patient with myself and my body is hard.

I really need a nap.

Book 18: Wild Geese

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NCL18_WIldGeeseFI love the description on the back of this book:

Wild Geese caused a sensation when it was first published in 1925… It was unheard of, in a generation bred on sentimental escapist literature, to create a main female character “as wild as a broncho and as vivid as a tigress”; to paint so strong and uncompromising a picture of human passion and human need.

I remember the first time I read this book. I don’t remember why I picked it up (a Canadian Literature class in university maybe?) or how it came into my book orbit but I do remember starting it again as soon as I finished it. That is how good this book is and I will probably never tire of singing it’s praises.

This is probably the fourth or fifth time I have read Wild Geese and I still don’t know how to review it. Mostly I want to tell people to go read it without giving any of the plots away. As the youth these days would say, this book has all the feels. You will want to kill the father, cheer on Judith, hope Martin gets to finally do what needs to be done with the farm and hope that even the bitter sister has a happy ending. Of course, everyone in Caleb Gare’s family is bitter – with a father like that it is all they have known.

So that is really all I’m going to stay about this book: go read it. And then come back here and talk about it with me. We can discuss ways in which this book would be fun to turn into Fan Fiction because there are all sorts of things going on that could be expanded on: More feelings! More smut! An opportunity for Judith to punch Caleb in the face! 😉

Death Toll: One major one. I think Ostenso must have been a little too hopeful in her everyday life. All that worry throughout the book that the wrong people are going to be killed (like in so many Can Lit books) and they aren’t! She moved to the United States after this book was published and lived there for the rest of her life so that probably says something right there.

On the eve of my 40th birthday

I few years ago I started thinking about how I would like to celebrate my 40th birthday. Having small children I didn’t think about planning any elaborate party (that’s not my style) but I did think about how great it would be to be on a beach somewhere. To be more specific I thought about how great it would be to be fit on a beach somewhere – you know, Fit and Forty? Maybe in a bikini if I could whittle down that baby belly.

But every time I would ramp up my exercising I would come down with a six week cold that often resulted in injured and possibly broken ribs. Still, I would heal, eventually, and try to start up again. Do a month of yoga, feel great, and then get sick. Fit and Forty seemed like a good goal for so many reasons – whether I made it to the beach or not. (In fact, I traded in the dream of the beach for a extended family trip to Ireland this summer but that won’t be happening either.)

In none of my imaginings did I dream I would have stage four breast cancer and be going through chemotherapy. Later today I will probably shave my head because all my hair is falling out and tomorrow, on my birthday, I will try to just be happy to be here with my family.

No beach. No bikini. No big deal.

It’s hard sometimes, right now, these early days of my diagnosis where there is still so much I don’t understand about my disease. Christmas day was hard this year as I sat listening to my family members talk and the girls and their cousins run around playing. I wondered: how many more of these do I get? When it’s my grandchildren running around playing on Christmas who will be here? A stepmother perhaps? And what if something happens to the Mister and these girls are left without any parents? No offense world but I can’t think of anyone I want to raise these girls other than me.

ChristmasGirls2015I had to fight hard to keep the panic and anxiety at bay and just try and be in the moment. But sometimes it is hard not to be selfish and want all the moments for myself.

So I guess that is going to be one of my biggest challenges this year: living in the moment. I’ve never been good at it – always looking forward to some intangible “thing” in the future. But now I have so much work to do to heal this body, I have to step back from all the random nothingness that fills my days (internet surfing, reading crap on my phone) and focus on getting stronger and making my time on this earth last as long as possible for myself, my Mister and my girls.

So, as Fionnuala, aged three, once succinctly told her older sister: “shut-up the crying!” Which is going to be one of my new mantras. Not that I can’t cry, but it’s time for the pity party to end and for me to get down to the business of fixing this body the best way I can. And reading and writing and not making every single conversation be about cancer (although many still will be, I process through writing and always have).

Who knows, maybe next year for my birthday I will be on a beach. I’m sure no matter what I will be grateful to just be here, in the moment.

 

Literary Reasons I’m Not Ready to Die

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I’ve always thought the saying “live each day as if it were your last” was kind of stupid if taken in it’s literal context. If this were my last day on earth I would probably spend the day having a panic attack about all the things I’m supposed to do (option paralysis, much?). The other list would be: sex with my husband, eating a whole tray of homemade cinnamon buns, and reading to my girls. A movie and popcorn may be involved as well. Basically how I like to spend my birthday. Of course, no body really knows when their last day is but when your lifespan has become significantly shorter people like to tell throw out the platitudes.

But what about all the books I haven’t read and things I haven’t done? These are the kind of things I think about when it comes to my cancer. I’m not much of a traveler, although we were supposed to go back to Ireland this summer, now I will be happy to just be here for the summer or, at best, feel well enough to go to Ontario and visit family.

So, in no particular order, and off the top of my head, here is a quick list of literary and/or pop culture things I am sticking around for:

Hagrid_Kay

  • Harry Potter World. Seriously. I have to go at least twice because this is #1 on my date list with the Mister and we need to spend a whole day there with just the two of us. Miss M has only begun her Harry Potter journey and the other two are not old enough yet and yes, there are Harry Potter Rules in our house re: books versus movies. I would really like to be around to discuss the entire Harry Potter series with all my girls but as that is probably not possible I hope I can take them all to Harry Potter World someday.
  • Also, is Jim Kay going to illustrate all of the Harry Potter books? I really feel the need to see all of the Harry Potter world illustrated through his superbly talented vision.
  • The third installment of The Name of the Wind series by Patrick Rothfuss. I’m not allowed to die before I get to read it – and Rothfuss is an author who takes his own sweet time about finishing his books (which is as it should be). Plus I will need to re-read the first two before and at roughly 1,000 words a book that’s going to take some time.
  • I have two picture books I’m working on and the outline for a novel that I had planned on starting in September but I’ve been sick. The Mister & I jokingly call it The Great Canadian Novel. Even if it turns out to be The Mediocre Canadian Novel and no one wants to read something set in Calgary anyway, at least it will be mine. I have too much writing to do to die right now.
  • The X-Files are returning to television. I may not have a television but I will somehow find a way to watch it when it comes out. Same thing with Twin Peaks which isn’t coming out until 2017.
  • Even more exciting than a Twin Peaks reunion, Kerry Clare‘s book, Mitzi Bytes, doesn’t come out until 2017. If that isn’t reason enough to kick cancer’s ass then I don’t know what is!

Okay, I’m exhausted now. Nap time.

Edited: 6:52 p.m. to add:

  • I forgot about Anne of Green Gables. I started reading that to Miss M recently too and even though it is slow going, due to a throat that feels like it is on fire, I would love to share the whole series with her. And Miss F someday. And Miss O too. And then take them to Green Gables.
  • Road trip to see Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home and museum. I’m currently re-reading the entire series (for the 4th time) for Miss F’s benefit. Many of our conversations start with “What would Ma (or Pa) do?”

Staying in the picture

Sick mama selfie

I’ve never been much of a selfie taker. But when I continued to be sick and didn’t show any signs of getting better I thought about how something could happen to me and my daughters wouldn’t have any pictures of me. Or with me. Thus far their whole childhood has been heavily documented and there are maybe 30 pictures of me in the thousands I have taken of them.

I remember years ago people posting pictures of themselves with their moms on Facebook for Mother’s Day and I searched high and low for a photo with me and my mom. But my family hates photos – they will almost literally run away from a camera. I didn’t even think to get photos taken with my parents or siblings at my wedding because I know how uncomfortable they are in front of the camera. We, as women, usually have an excuse. I’m too tired, too fat, too old, too *whatever* to have my picture taken right now.

But my excuses have run out. And so has my time.

So I started taking selfies, usually with a child. Usually with Oonagh because we spend all day together, often laying in my bed reading books.

I spend all day with her and if something were to happen to me now she wouldn’t remember me. How much does that suck? Because I can tell you, that thought is one of the reasons I can’t stop crying these days. I almost died bringing that little ray of sunshine into this fucking world and now cancer is trying to take me away from her.

I will gladly give up anything. My boobs. My hair. My ability to walk, if I can just stay around long enough to watch my girls grow up and at this point we don’t even know if that is possible.

From the very little I understand so far, Metastatic Breast Cancer is a life sentence. The best you can hope for is that they can control it enough to turn it into a chronic disease.

So I guess selfies aren’t for beautiful, possibly narcissistic teenagers anymore. They are for scared moms hoping to hold on to each and every moment. To leave something behind so my children will remember me.

And I encourage other moms (or dads, or grandparents or favourite aunties and uncles) to take them too because you never know.

You just never know.

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I was led to this video today, which I’ve heard sums up what I am about to go through quite succinctly if you care to watch. It isn’t an easy watch though, just to warn you.

 

On getting my words back and asking for help

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Too many words. That is how I feel these days. It isn’t a bad feeling to have because I can remember a time when the words left me.

When I got pregnant with Oonagh I had no words. I couldn’t blog anymore. I couldn’t read my books – I think that was one of the scariest things and something that should have clued me into something being really wrong. I knew I wasn’t well but when you are feeling crazy you don’t always have the words for that. I would take books out of the library and they would gather dust (and fines). Books I knew I would like, books that would challenge me. My blogs sat stagnant with the last posted date gathering dust.

Books = comfort. Writing = comfort. That was mostly taken from me.

One place I could find comfort was through reading Fan Fiction which was a really odd place for me to turn (and one I cringe to admitting). And no, I won’t tell you what type, but it wasn’t Harry Potter because everything about Harry Potter is great just the way it is. (As an aside: did you know there is a whole world of Hermione/Snape shippers out there? Snape lives and he and Hermione get thrown together for some ridiculous reason and eventually they fall in love. Usually there are babies involved because in Fan Fiction there are almost always babies involved. So bizarre. This is why I think I should start writing CanLit Fan Fiction because the smut potential is astronomical.)

So I could read that on my phone and hide away in my brain for a while waiting for the happy ending and ignoring the giant elephant in the room which was Postpartum Depression. Everything was locked in tight. All my words and my ability to read anything that did have a formulaic happy ending.

If I had asked for help it would have read something like this: I’m sitting in my living room while the children are playing. On the outside I look very calm but inside I have smashed every fucking thing in this house to pieces. There is nothing left that hasn’t been smashed, torn or destroyed except for these children. Someone please let me out and clean up this place before I burn it to the ground. (The children were never really the problem if that makes any sense. I love them so much the intensity scares me at times.)

Because that is what it felt like – like being locked in a rage cage in ones own head but knowing that feeling could never come out. As long as I kept reading to my children and cooking I would be okay. Picture books and cooking and getting them to school. That was all I could do most days. Well-written snarky captions on Instagram felt like a victory.

Slowly the hold on me loosened. Things got better and the words and ideas started coming back. I kept writing outlines of stories I wanted to write. I’ve written three picture books that I need to complete and get out from under my ass. I found someone who was willing to pay me to write about food and family (dream job). According to Goodreads I’ve read 100 books this year (this tally does not include picture books). I’ve written a very mediocre short story as a writing assignment for myself.

I sat down and seriously started outlining and researching a novel but first I actually had to decide which one I wanted to write.

I never thought I would be a fiction writer. All past attempts had told me it wasn’t going to work – that I should stick to blogging, reviews and more interview-based news-like endeavours. And I was okay with that. I’m usually just happy to be writing.

But now I’ve been hit with another big word: Cancer.

We can’t pinpoint the exact moment I got sick. Was it in the summer when my back went out? When another rib felt broken? Did the rib break from coughing again? Because there were times when it felt like the ribs were snapping on their own. One time I was walking my youngest daughter home from the school drop off and I felt something snap and was in pain for two weeks. It’s a short walk. I can see the school from my house. I can see the school from my bed if I’m sitting up. I spend a lot of time sitting in my bed these days looking at the school yard or reading. It’s so hard to pin down because I haven’t been well since I got pregnant with Oonagh but at some point things started to get better and now they are getting worse.

So I was getting sick and sicker and finally went to the doctor. Finally asked the doctor for help. Finally asked my mom for help (she flew out the next day). I put a note up on Facebook telling people that I’m sick and we are trying to figure it out and maybe my family could use a little help. The ladies in the neighbourhood are gathering en masse to help out my family. People are rallying, the war cry has been answered. It is really remarkable and overwhelming. I’ve never been one to ask for help and am unsure how to respond. The need to write thank you cards is almost paralyzing.

But really, why didn’t I ask for help before? What prevents us as women – who are so willing to help each other – from asking for help for ourselves? Because really, those two years where I was trying to keep my shit together were awful. As sick as I am right now. As terrified as I am of this cancer and the potential it has to take me away from my family and all that that implies – I feel more hope right now than I did during those two years.

All because I have help. I was able to ask for help.

All because I have my words back.

(I have more words. I don’t even feel like talking about cancer right now because I know that will come. We don’t even know the exact diagnosis yet. Mostly I just want to talk about books and writing and take pictures and be happy and love my family – but I guess we deal with the words we are given.)

(Also I appreciate, beyond words, all the help we are receiving, but there are still others who need help too. Keep a close eye on your new mom friends, that’s all I’m asking.)