All posts by KristenKnott

About KristenKnott

Kristen Knott is a proud mother of four kids and wife to her loving husband, who makes her feel beautiful regardless of her scars..

Knott was diagnosed with Breast Cancer at the age of 42 and between losing her hair and boobs, raising her kids and working in the pharmaceutical industry, she has been busy writing her first novel, a memoir entitled My Love Affair With Boobs or alternate title… As Useless as a Tit. (To be continued…)

Hip-Hop Ho

On any given day the stylized, rhythmic sound of hip-hop can be heard blaring from at least one room in our suburban house in sleepy Oakville. My teenage kids lose themselves in the booming base, titillated by the lyrics, nodding their heads oblivious of the privileged lives they live. Be it Fetty Wap’s, Trap Queen, or Fredo Santana’s My Squad, or old school beats by Snoop Dog or Notorious B.I.G., the infectious music is hard not to like, –but as a mother I struggle with the misogynistic language that is inherently woven in.

As someone who despises the word ‘bitch’ I am in a constant state of conflict when it comes to my love, and now my daughter’s infatuation of all things hip-hop. Growing up I listened to Earth Wind and Fire, Michael Jackson and Motown, in part because that is what my parents listened to. I learned from a young age that music can sing to one’s soul, and can capture the essence of who you are.

In the early nineties when rap was becoming increasingly politicized with Public Enemy’s Fight the Power and Ice-T’s Cop Killer, the songs struck a chord with so many, but not with me. What did I know about justified rage and racism? I did however identify with the female empowered and highly sexualized lyrics of Salt-N-Pepa. I couldn’t get enough of them…Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliott, I admired their powerful, raw sound.

Two decades later I have introduced my daughters to these artists, stressing the importance of appreciating female rappers in this male dominated and often anti-female, world of hip-hop. Being bi-racial and light skinned, I want my girls to embrace their blackness and own their femininity, not be labeled a ‘black bitch ho’ by any artist, regardless of how captivating the beat may be.

The importance of rap in music culture can’t be disputed. Biographical movies like Straight Outta of Compton about N.W.A., top box office sales and have introduced the masses to the origins of west coast gangster rap. Yet, it took a social media storm for Dr. Dre, to publicly apologize for his alleged physical mistreatment of women. (The movie conveniently left out this controversial truth about Dre.)

If rap is suppose to represent every day life, I am hopeful that sooner rather than later, the in- your-face misogynistic element of hip-hop will finally be muted. But until that happens, in our not so quiet house, hip-hop will continue to play loud and often, despite my distaste for all references to bitches and ho’s.

 

 

A Childhood Spent in Balm Beach

Nana once told me that Georgian Bay rocks emit a smell that our family members are subconsciously drawn to. The idea of being lured unknowingly to the beach still resonates with me. Nana also claimed that it never rained in Balm Beach, and that we had the best sunsets in the world. If you were smart you didn’t take her on, regardless of how misguided her comments may have been. I have traveled to many beaches around the world, and Georgian Bay with its sandy beach and fresh water, coupled with a lifetime of memories, tops my list. If it isn’t the smell that lures me, then it must be hardwired in my DNA to love Balm Beach.

The summers of my childhood were split between my two grandmothers’ cottages, each a kilometer apart. July was spent with Grandma Knott, at the Knott’s Cottage in Balm Beach, and August at the two beachfront cottages, with Nana and Mim in Cawaja Beach. I always felt sorry for kids stuck in “the city” all summer. I couldn’t figure out what on earth they did without a dozen cousins to play with at the beach.

From Victoria Day long weekend to Labor Day Monday we lived in our bathing suits, barefoot, and unfortunately we rarely wore sunscreen. These were the years of baking our skin with baby oil, frying our hair with Sun-In Spray, aka peroxide, and occasionally donning zinc on a sun-kissed nose. My sister, with her pale complexion, never stood a chance of winning our annual tanning contest. Our motley crew ran loose like a pack of wild dogs, soaking up the sun, swimming in the lake and avoiding our parents.

Canada Day Exhibitionist

I have become a bit of an exhibitionist as of late. Just yesterday I found myself yanking up my top, unclipping my bra and unveiling my chest to a woman I had just met. This display of nudity however seemed natural to me. You show me yours and I’ll show you mine played through my head. Ana Maria (the sister of a colleague) had just revealed her freshly inked areola tattoos. It was our first time meeting one another. We had never spoken nor connected, yet I instantly felt a bond with her.

I studied her carefully as we swapped stories about surgery, medications, hot flashes and weight gain. I noticed everything about her, the fine hair on her head, her eyebrows fully in tact, and the glow of her skin. She was a ball of fire, passionate and full of energy despite her recent flight. I didn’t tell her that I had thought about her many times over the last year wishing her good health, wanting her to come through her treatment unscathed and cancer free. I was her silent cheerleader imagining her fear, worry and pain, thousands of miles from where she was in Miami. It didn’t matter that she was Cuban American and I was Canadian, we were apart of the same sisterhood. Breast cancer after all is global it knows no borders and speaks every language.

Today as I celebrate Canada Day I am grateful that Ana Maria and I are both healthy and I am happy that we had our show and tell session earlier this week.

 

When a Parent Has Cancer

One family’s journey after mom’s diagnosis.

When A Parent Has Cancer

 

In June 2013, Kristen Knott, then 42, attended her daughters’ weekend dance recitals. Fueled with the energy and excitement of the performers, she watched her girls dance beneath the bright lights – embodiments of grace, youth and vitality. Choking back tears, she was overcome with both joy and fear. “They have their whole lives ahead of them,” she thought. “I hope I have mine.”

That Sunday, she called a family meeting. Waiting nervously in her backyard, she watched as her stepchildren, Josh and Natasha, and daughters from a previous marriage, Eden and Zoe, emerged from the house. On hand for moral support were her husband, Jonathan, and her mother and stepfather.

Beneath the hopeful glare of late spring sunshine, Kristen told her kids she had been diagnosed with breast cancer after finding a tumor in her right breast. She discussed details of an upcoming surgery to remove her tumor and explained that pending test results would likely determine that she needed chemotherapy and radiation as well.

Twelve year-old Eden immediately covered her face, erupting in a cloud of tears, while 10-year old Zoe fell into a trance-like state, staring blankly ahead. Together, their parents explained the process the family would witness, but reassured their children that family life would remain as normal as possible. “I’m not going anywhere,” Kristen told them. “I’ll still be yelling at you to pick up your lunch pails. I’ll still be at your weddings,” she finished, attempting to banish any of her children’s fears.

Despite the range of emotions flowing through her family, she felt an overwhelming sense of relief at sharing the diagnosis.

Discussing a cancer diagnosis with the family is an experience mirrored in thousands of Canadian homes each year. According to the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), around 2 in 5 Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetimes and 1 in 4 will die of the disease. In Ontario alone, it’s estimated 73,800 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed this year. With cancer prevalence at its peak, thousands of families across the country face a common burden.

Communication and access to proper resources are critical in helping both the patient and their family cope with a diagnosis. When a parent has cancer, “The most important thing is to be honest with your children, because no matter the age group, kids can sense if there is stress,” says Anita Record, Unit Manager of CCS’s Peterborough & District Community Office. “Be honest, but express it in the appropriate language.”

That means providing fact-based information in a calm and reassuring way, says Wendy Odell, a social worker for the Patient and Family Support Program at R.S. McLaughlin Durham Regional Cancer Centre. “Encourage dialogue and be open to questions. Tell your kids, ‘No questions are off limits. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find out for you.’”

Kristen laughs when she recalls Zoe’s first three questions after learning of the diagnosis. “She said, ‘Mom, how long is this going to last?’ ‘Will it change you?’ and, ‘Do I still get to have my birthday party next weekend?’”

While staying positive and optimistic most of the time, Kristen shared her low-points with her children as well. Weak and exhausted on her first day of chemotherapy she spent the day vomiting, a sight that scared her children. She explained what was happening to her body, and that even though she looked sick, the treatment was helping to make her better. Jonathan provided the kids with scientific explanations of how cancer works and what happens in the body, making the experience an educational one too.

Kristen was also honest with her kids on the days she felt sad, unattractive, and unwell. “It’s okay to be sad in front of your child,” says Anita Record. “It models that being emotional is okay and normalizes that for kids.”

Before telling their kids about the diagnosis, the couple had informed both their parents, and the parents of their children’s closest friends. In doing so, they began building a network of support. “You have to use your village,” says Kristen, reiterating important advice she received from a friend and fellow cancer survivor.

Her “village” included friends, neighbours, colleagues and family who provided help in all sorts of ways. One neighbourhood friend organized a weekly meal schedule over six rounds of chemotherapy, eliminating the stress of having to prepare home-cooked meals and enabling more family time. Jonathan often fed the kids and made arrangements to get them to their activities. And her mom spent quality time with the kids.

A self-proclaimed control freak, Kristen acknowledges that it can be difficult to accept help from others, but the biggest thing she has learned is how much you need other people.

“Reach out for that help and accept it if anyone is offering it,” says Nancy Sinopoli, Community Services Coordinator of the Peterborough branch of the Canadian Cancer Society. “It’s not selfish to accept it. It’s not selfish to put yourself first. You’re putting your family first by putting yourself first.”

Jonathan and the kids also had outside supports. “Every member of our family had somebody to talk with,” says Kristen. “You need somebody outside the family who you can process with, or just be normal with, talk about it or not talk about it.”

Her deepest fears, however, were reserved for her husband. “You need someone you can be completely honest with about your fears. Jon was probably more worried than I ever was, but he did a good job at keeping that to himself.”

Outside support also includes counseling and resource services available from hospitals, clinics, and various community organizations (see sidebar). As a social worker, Wendy Odell helps families deal with the emotional and practical impacts of cancer, connecting them to community supports and resources depending on each family’s needs. Kristen and two of her daughters saw a therapist at the hospital where she received treatment and she also connected with fellow cancer patients, joining a women’s support group.

“Connecting with others who have been through what you have normalizes and validates your experience,” says Odell. “You recognize, ‘It’s okay, there are other parents who are unable to do all the things they used to.’ It’s also a good place to get ideas, and the support you need to talk about it.”

Peer support helped Kristen open up about her experience. “Don’t be quiet about it,” she advises. “I know women who didn’t tell anybody about their diagnosis. You’re entitled to handle it how you want, but I think it would be very sad to be private about it. Use your support group, leverage them, they need to feel needed and you need it.”

Today, Kristen is cancer free. She has resumed her position as Director of Pangaea Consultants, a pharmaceutical company, but is working part-time. Her diagnosis and recovery were a reality check to slow down, smell the roses and enjoy the small things. While the experience brought its series of challenges, she says, ultimately it has brought her family closer.

More than a year after her diagnosis, Kristen and her family travelled to Hawaii, a dream destination symbolizing well-being. On the shores of the North Pacific, she gave thanks for her health, and for the unconditional love and support of her family and friends who helped make it possible.

 

Resources

1. Hospitals. All hospitals across Ontario that treat cancer patients offer counseling and patient support programs that you can ask your doctor about.
2. Support Groups: Meet with adults who have cancer and caregivers for educational and informal group discussions facilitated by trained volunteers who are also living with cancer. Groups are community based. Some are specific to one type of cancer while others may offer general support for people living with cancer. To inquire about support groups in your community, call 1-888-939-3333.
3. Canadian Cancer Society: CCS connects patients with support groups, doctors, and peers in their community. Provides information and links for specific types of cancer. Arranges transportation to and from hospital/clinics for treatment. Has a telephone cancer information service, which provides parents with a list of local community resources, including help communicating with their child. 1-888-939-3333.
4. WellSpring: A network of community-based cancer support centres that collectively offer over 50 different programs. Wellspring provides support, coping skills, and education – at no charge and without medical referral – to individuals, family members and professional caregivers living with cancer. www.wellspring.ca
5. Cancer Chat Canada: Online support groups for people who have cancer and their families. www.cancerchatcanada.ca, 1-800-663-3333 x 4965
6. Hospice Peterborough: Offers a variety of booklets parents can access to help explain to their children what a cancer diagnosis is and means. Hospice also offers a variety of programs and phone support lines to help patients.

Author: Kiera Toffelmire

Kiera Toffelmire is a freelance writer and the community coordinator for Trent Active Minds.

http://www.localparent.ca/local_parent/family/health/parent-cancer/

Weekend to End Women’s Cancers helps Oakville mom fight

Kristen Knott will ‘proudly’ walk in Toronto fundraiser set for Sept. 6-7

Oakville Beaver

When Oakville’s Kristen Knott first participated in the Shoppers Drug Mart Weekend to End Women’s Cancers in 2003, it was for her grandmothers.

This year, on Sept. 6-7, the 43-year-old wife, mother and breast cancer survivor will be doing it for herself.

“I think it’s going to be incredibly emotional. I think I’m going to need some waterproof mascara for sure,” she said, jokingly.

“Even when I talk about it, I get teared up. I’m going to be very proud wearing my survivor T-shirt.”

Knott was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 6, 2013, and says although she was shocked, in the back of her mind, she had sensed something was wrong.

“I already knew I had ‘fibroidy’ breasts. I had been told that a year or two prior during my first mammogram. The doctor told me to keep an eye on that and be diligent in my self-examinations and so I was,” she said.

When she had found what she first thought was a fibroid following Easter last year, she said it felt “a little different.”

After going for a mammogram and ultrasound, Knott was called in the next day. A biopsy would confirm it was breast cancer — it would eventually be discovered she had three tumours in her right breast.

While the news was overwhelming, Knott admits part of her felt more concern for her husband, Jon Lundy, who had lost his first wife to cancer.

“My husband has been my rock, just emotionally and everything,” she said. “I was very cognizant of the fact this is his second round going through this with someone he loves. It was very emotional for him too.”

What would prove especially taxing for Knott was the fact she had volunteered to assist at one of her daughters’ dance recital at the Oakville Centre for Performing Arts the day she was diagnosed.

Knott has two girls from her first marriage, Eden, 14, and Zoe Phillip, 12 — Lundy also has two children, Joshua, 21, and Natasha, 18.

“It was challenging, but maybe it was a blessing in disguise,” Knott said of that day.

“That evening was tough. Here you are in a happy environment, all the energy and the buzz from the kids… I was on door duty, so, basically I could close the door, have a few moments to myself in the hall… I would start to tear up and then have to blot my face.”

She says the support she received from her family has been nothing short of phenomenal with her mother coming over for a week after each of Knott’s chemotherapy rounds to help out around the house and her and Lundy’s children also pitching in.

Knott says there is no history of breast cancer in her family, though both of her grandmothers died of lung cancer.

After undergoing a right mastectomy and sentinel nod biopsy, six rounds of chemo, and opting for the removal her left breast as a precautionary measure, Knott is now in remission and has already begun the reconstructive process.

“I had a full body scan on July 5 and it showed no signs of breast cancer,” she said. “I was speechless; very happy and relieved that it’s not there. My biggest fear was that it would come back and I think that’s the same with anybody with cancer.”

Knott notes it was the Weekend to End Women’s Cancers that helped her in her fight against the devastating disease.

“I knew when I was diagnosed, soon after, that was going to be the thing I would do, once I could,” she said.

In fact, she signed up for the weekend fundraiser in August 2013 in the middle of her chemo treatments.

“It was something I needed — a goal to strive towards,” Knott explained.

The annual Shoppers Drug Mart Weekend to End Women’s Cancers benefits the Campbell Family Cancer Research Institute at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and is the largest women’s cancers fundraiser in Ontario.

Those who participate in the two-day weekend event have the option to sign up for a 60-kilometre walk through Toronto, over two days, followed by one night of camping, or a 30-kilometre walk over one day and evening activities.

The event was also held in Montreal last weekend (Aug. 22-23).

Knott’s team is called Wonder Women and is comprised of 10 participants, each raising a minimum of $2,000 with the overall goal of reaching $25,000 — Knott has already raised more than $3,000 towards the cause.

Anyone wishing to support Knott’s team can visit http://goo.gl/DRdm4Y or visit www.endcancer.ca.

http://www.insidehalton.com/community-story/4800774-weekend-to-end-women-s-cancers-helps-oakville-mom-fight/ via @insidehalton

It Took Cancer for me to get Tattoos

Written May 23, 2015

She begins. I scrunch my eyes and hold my breath, fighting through the first couple of minutes, adjusting to the sensation of the needle piercing my skin. Gradually, I start to let my body relax. The pain is not as intense as I thought it would be. It helps that Kyla moves from my left boob to the right, instead of remaining in one spot, which keeps my mind distracted and spreads the discomfort. I flinch as she injects into a tender area right near my left scar. I close my eyes and concentrate on breathing in order to get through it. She asks me if the pain is too intense. I tell her it hurts a lot but I’m ok.

“Please continue,” I say. So she does.

“There! Go take a look.” Kyla Gutsche instructs. She is the Pied Piper of cosmetic tattooing. We are in her office, which is housed in a traditional medical building in the heart of Peterborough of all places. I sought Kyla’s services booking a year and a half ago to make sure I was in her queue. After my mastectomies I yearned to see the same familiar sight, the one I had seen my entire life, two breasts and a pair of nipples. Kyla I knew had the magical powers to recreate my blank chest.

When I see myself reflected in the mirror on the back of the door, I’m thrilled. Two 3-D looking areolas are strategically placed on each of my reconstructed breasts. Both placed in just the right position anchoring each implant, layered on top of my scars.

“They look amazing! Thank you!” I say to Kyla filled with a rush of emotion.

“Now, it’s very important to remember that due to the oxidation of the blood, the tattoos will look dark for close to a week, then a thin scab will form and then it will naturally exfoliate and peel off. It’ll take a full four weeks before the permanent colour sets in. So remember dark…light…right.”

I nod my head, taking a mental note of Kyla’s instructions. Today is the climax, the big drum roll that I’ve been waiting for, for so long. I feel a tremendous weight lift from my body and marvel in the simple fact that I finally have my tattoos.

Being a Patient Past Present and Future

Written November 21, 2014

A year ago today I received my 6th and final chemo infusion. One breast, hairless head to toe, fatigued, sore and emotionally drained, I was fed up with being a cancer patient. The light at the end of the tunnel seemed almost out of view.

Now a year later, the anniversary has passed uneventfully with the usual mix of entertaining teenagers, both off for a PA day, addressing client emails and meeting a deadline for my Humber creative writing course; yet the entire time I quietly celebrated that I am no longer a patient. I question however, if I will ever stop fully being a patient in my head, as the role has profoundly changed who I am, and how I now approach my life.

As a cancer patient there was a sense of achievement and pride as I met and endured each treatment milestone, although I struggled with the lack of control over the present and future state of my health, it forced me to look hard, at my own mortality, an utterly terrifying notion to me. My body had been hijacked by cancer and I was at the mercy of this invisible enemy that only medical professionals had the intelligence to fight. People whom I barely knew suddenly became the guardians of my future, leveraging the weapons needed to attack my body, which I so desperately wanted to regain control of.

Today I am healthy, which I believe wholeheartedly is because I was a compliant patient, an obedient soldier taking orders and blindly trusting that I would be led to victory. I learned some valuable lessons though along the way: one to BREATHE deeply and to accept that I had little control over anything but my thoughts and desire to get well; and secondly, I learned that I had to SLOW down. Life I have learned is not about getting to the finish line, it is about letting the chapters slowly unfold. I won’t dwell on the future possibility of becoming a patient once again, but I will embrace whatever comes my way, with more strength, wisdom and patience.

Wonder Woman Unite

Written September 8, 2014

I am giddy this morning despite being physically exhausted.

Team Wonder Women comprised of 11 old and new friends walked 60km this past weekend! We raised almost $30,000 for Women’s Cancer research for the Shoppers Drug Mart Weekend to End Women’s Cancer benefiting Princess Margaret Cancer Center.

The week leading up to the walk was filled with emails, phone calls and group chats. Those of us who were at our donation goals were helping others to meet their individual goal. Friends and families, colleagues and even strangers sponsored us. We all reminded sponsors that 100% of their donation would benefit Princess Margaret cancer research. We were all apprehensive and some even doubted our physical ability to walk the 60km. Some of my teammates had trained extensively, and others not at all. Every one of us monitored the weather forecast praying for dry and cool weather. Costumes were coordinated, Wonder Woman attire assembled. Our excitement grew each day. I doubt any of us slept well the night before the walk. I lay in bed listening to the thunder and watched the lightning from my bedroom window. The heavens opened up to unleash a wicked storm. I prayed that it would end before we began our walk Saturday morning.

Arriving at Rogers Center we checked our gear and bags and we listened to the opening ceremonies. I was incredibly emotional as I joined hands with my team and thanked each of them for what we were about to do. Then we began to walk. It had stopped raining!

My eyes teared up every time I read a “in memory of” shirt proudly worn by a fellow walker. T-shirts with pictures of their lost loved ones, their spouse, their mother, their grandmother, their child. Everyone walking had been affected by cancer. Almost 3000 walkers surrounded us day one and over 700 day two. Those of us with a pink lanyard were survivors and walkers wore blue.

As we walked the distinct neighbourhoods of Toronto we were met with Indian dancers on Gerard, Chinese dragon dancers in Chinatown, steel drum players, bands, singers, belly dancers, all cultural representations of our great city. We were welcomed by community lemonade stands, kids handing out treats and water, and a woman sprayed us with sunscreen in High-Park. Then there was the “weekend crew”, who made every traffic light memorable. Paul, in particular, a passionate volunteer would quote Nelson Mandela or other inspirational speeches as we stretched our legs, listening to his words we would feel a surge of pride and emotion as he reminded us that we were indeed making a difference. The light would then turn green and off we walked.

Blisters, rashes, sore joints, chafing, sore feet yet the team kept going. When you are walking to raise money for cancer these minor irritants become insignificant. Helping someone to avoid chemo, radiation and invasive surgery is why we walked.

As Team Wonder Women passed pedestrians we would see smiles on their face. We would hear cheers “Go Super Girls” – “Go Wonder Women” –“great costumes.” It pumped us up and we felt like super heroes for that moment.

I feel loved and I am so lucky and fortunate to be able to have walked with my beautiful friends who shared this weekend with me. Some I have known from the age of 15 and others I met in my 40’s. I love them all. We reminisced as we walked through parts of the city where we had old apartments or houses, where we got married, where we danced and drank too much, where we mended a broken heart, and where we had our babies. I felt like this weekend represented my life, my history, my youth, my young adulthood, motherhood, my marriages, and my diagnosis and treatment. I am so proud of team Wonder Women and all our sponsors and most of all I am happy to be alive.

I Must Increase my Bust

Written July 20, 2014

I have that childhood chant in my head “I must, I must, I must increase my bust”. I have been living that chant since my March 21 bi-lateral reconstruction surgery.

I now have two breasts, or as I refer to them…I have two misshapen balloons under my skin. They are nipple free and have extensive scarring and are much wider than the final boobs will be, but in clothes you would never know. Most people are familiar with an expanding waistline but I am living the expanding bust-line.

I have had 5 injections done at my plastic surgeons office between April and June. Each injection added another 60 cc’s of saline to the tissue expanders that are slowly stretching my scars and skin to accommodate my future final breast inserts. The saline is injected by needle through the skin to the expanders via an invisible magnetic port in each expander. I felt like I was an active participant in a science experiment every time the procedure was done.

Chatting about travel, kids or my final implant surgery my doctor used a magnet to locate the ports, and then drew dots all around the port with a pen. Then using a thin needle attached to a large saline filled syringe (the size of a small pop can) the saline would then be injected into each tissue expander. I could feel the pressure of the additional fluid in the expander immediately. Over the next 24 hours I would feel discomfort, in my chest and back as my skin and muscle slowly stretched and responded to the tissue expander. The discomfort slowly subsided over the next two weeks, and then by the following appointment the skin would have visibly stretched and wouldn’t be as taut.

The ‘balloons’ feel buoyant, and at times I can feel the saline shifting in the expander, especially at night when I am lying down I am very aware of the expander itself, all the folds and the textures below the surface of the skin. I now have 400 cc of saline in the 500cc expanders. I am done, physically and emotionally with this process. I am stretched and I am marginally larger than what my final breasts will be. I am also a lot larger than my original A cups. I now wait with my two balloons until September 19th when I have my final reconstruction surgery. This time allows for my skin, muscle and body to set and be ready for the final surgery for best results. It has also allowed me time to get used to having bigger boobs. I have never felt boobs at the side of my arms! I have had to donate shirts that no longer fit over my expanding bust. I am again tweaking my wardrobe but this time I am enjoying the experience. During the final surgery the tissue expanders come out and the implants are put in. The shape, positioning and feel will be more natural and the science project “Balloons to Boobs” will be complete!

The Testing Waiting Game

Written July 13, 2014

I am not happy. I feel it in my bones, my skin, my breath. I am rattled, unsettled and anxious. My mind races uncontrollably like a toddler taking its first steps. I want to be content and filled with all the joys and wonders of life. I have survived cancer after all and I am alive, yet I am struggling. ‘Cancer free’ does not translate to fist pumps and cheering in my mind – it does however create deep pangs of emotion.  I can’t seem to shake the shadow of cancer. Chemotherapy and surgery attacked the mutated cells, but what attacks the negative thoughts, the worry, the aches and pains?

I try hard to be appreciative and experience life as it is happening but it feels a bit tainted lately. I feel like I am on borrowed time. I want these thoughts and doubts crushed like a bug.

I am playing the ‘ testing waiting game’ again. I had a bone scan of my body and images of my left hip and upper spine on July 5. The aches in my body seem to be getting worse and after sharing this update with my oncology nurse she ordered the tests. It has been a long two weeks. The first week was waiting for the test to occur and thoughts would bubble up and weigh on my mind throughout the week, and I would push them out of my mind. Then the day of the testing arrived, my mind was racing. What if they find something? How could I deal with this again? The thought of having to be strong and fight again seemed daunting. The testing consisted of having isotopes injected into my body and then imaging conducted a few hours after the injection. Jon came with me, I could feel his worry, it was palpable. I couldn’t face his worry it was too much, I had to stay isolated in my own mind to cope.

I called Juravinski prior to the one-week turn around period I was given to receive the bone scan results. I was told my oncologist nurse was on vacation, and I would likely receive a call Monday with my results. Another 4 days of waiting required. I wanted to cry. Get it together, I thought. The results will be clear and I can exhale knowing my entire body is cancer free.

I received a call Tuesday morning July 15. The first thing I heard the nurse say was “You are Clear”. I could breathe again. She explained that the aches and pains were likely arthritic in nature, and mentioned that the aromatase inhibitors can create these side effects, but then she realized I was on Tamoxifen not an aromatase inhibitor. It could be the side effects of menopause or effects of chemotherapy. Although thrilled that my body showed no signs of cancer, I realized that this achiness is my new reality. I will now begin discussions with my physician with respect to arthritis and the physical and emotional impact of menopause. I thankfully am Cancer Free but I am not worry free. I still search for my Shavastna, my quiet mind.