Hey G-d, it’s me Randy

Tonight marks the start of Yom Kippur, considered the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.  It is the Day of Atonement, the day that G-d is supposed to determine what your fate is for the coming year.  It’s the day we are to atone for all our sins of the past year.

So, I can’t help but ask, so what exactly did I do so wrong in the previous year, that I had breast cancer this year? And what is my destiny for this coming year as I wait for my BRCA status that determines my next steps.  Have I not endured enough this year?  You would think that breast cancer and 6 chemo’s would be enough in the atonement department,  that I should get a free pass for this coming year.

Getting cancer and going through chemo does make you question everything, especially at this time of year for me as a Jewish person.  Why did this happen?  and what is the divine plan for the coming year?  I keep trying to tell myself that there is a greater reason as to why this has happened to me, and I guess I will be trying to find out what that is.  

Why did this happen? Will I ever feel “safe” again?  Will I ever stop worrying that it will come back? I am told by other survivors that those are questions I will be asking myself for the rest of my life.  I still have a year of treatment, in fact I had Herceptin #4 of 18 this morning!  

I worry about my girls.  Carly is already convinced she will be getting breast cancer when she gets older.  After all, first my Mom, then me!  So it’s hard for her and Hailey.  I understand.  My response is that because of that, they will be monitored very closely, and if G-d forbid, they follow my path, then it will also be caught early, like mine was.  What else can I say?  It’s a difficult thing for a 17 & 15 year old to process.  Heck…it’s a difficult thing for a 52 year old to process 😦

So G-d if you’re reading this, I like to think, and I’m told I’m a good person, a good Mom, a good wife, I try and do good things,, and will continue to do better this coming year. I really need a break, please let this be a good year for me and my family.  

Shana Tova, G’Mar Chatimah Tova

60km with 3700 friends!

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We did it!!  I did it!!  OK, I didn’t walk all 60km this year, but I think I walked close to 35-40km.  I promised everyone that I would take it easy and not over do it.  Plus I knew my friend Ilene, and our girls wouldn’t let me 🙂  so when I even mentioned I was tired, we looked for a sweep van and off I went to the next pit stop.

The whole weekend was filled with amazing love and warmth.  I was hugged by more people in 2 days than I thought humanly possible.  I truly felt the love of so many.  I don’t really think I realized just how many people were following me these past 6 months, and how many lives I’ve touched over the past 10 years.

I was privileged to be asked to be part of the Survivor’s Circle of 6 that represented all the Survivors at both opening and closing ceremonies.  I thought I would be an emotional mess for that, but I held the hands of the others in our small circle and felt their strength, and it kept me strong (well for the opening, closing was a whole other story!)  Even the rain couldn’t dampen our spirits.

Walking with my daughters was fun, and although we had a little “drama” at the end, it was great to share this walk with them, and for them to be part of something that has been so pivotal in my life for the past 10 years.

For me, meeting people I have been corresponding with but never met, or seeing people I only see once a year is one of the highlights of the walk.  On Saturday, I spent some time at the Trade Secrets pit stop where Richard had a table, selling my Think Pink Direct items as we do every year.  Again, so many came up to me so happy to see that I was still walking even though I had just finished treatment 2 weeks ago.  I think I really willed myself to be well, and I gathered so much strength from everyone’s positive messages.

Having day 1 end at the Rogers Centre was so much better than being outside,  No mud, no rain, no wind, no rocky paths! Walking in they announce your name, and you’re larger than life, literally on the Jumbotron.  That’s twice this year that I was on the Jumbotron, first throwing the pitch out at the baseball game, and now this.  And the crazy part is that I was cheered at both times.  However, on Sat, it was from many that I knew, and that really warmed my heart.  And then when they showed a video highlighting what Princess Margaret has accomplished with the monies that have been raised, I had a part in the video and again, people cheered.  It was a little humbling, but again, made me feel amazing, and took all my “tired” away!

Sunday was a much better day weather wise, and off we went walking again.  I was for sure a little more tired, and basically sweep after lunch from pit stop to pit stop waiting for my family and friends.

Closing ceremonies were where the emotions all started.  I listened to another Survivor tell her story, and I really started to lose it.  I kept thinking, just cry “pretty”, let the tears flow, let me nose drip (a wonderful side effect of Herceptin) Our Survivor circle approached the stage, and as we were walking up, I know all of us felt the strength of so many.  We were representing Survival,  We were giving hope that cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence.  We were life!

I can’t think of who better to share that moment with that with 3700 other friends and my family.

Weekend to End Woman’s Cancers starts TOMORROW!!!!

For the 11th time, I will be walking the 60km Weekend to End Woman’s Cancers!  This year, I will be walking as a Survivor with my girls by my side.

I just came home from the Opening Ceremonies rehearsal where I will be one of 6 walking in the Survivors Circle representing all the Survivors.  I am honored to represent the most incredible, compassionate and resilient group of woman that I have ever met.

I know this weekend is going to be over the top on the emotional scale.  It’s an important weekend for me and my family.  With the Jewish New Year’s today and yesterday and tomorrow the walk, it represents a new beginning, and a victory over the past year.   Perhaps this weekend I will get a little more clarity on this journey I’m on.

I’m going to try and savour all the moments, happy ones and emotional ones.  

I’m going to see people that I’ve only spoken with, or chatted with on Facebook, and people, or people I’ve only seen once through all this, that have been part of my journey.  I’m very excited for that part of this weekend.

There will be lots of hugging and lots of tears.  And all that is good.  Feeling your emotions is such an important part of the healing process.  And that’s where I’m at right now, so the timing for the walk is perfect!

To all the walkers, crew, volunteers and staff, thank you for everything you do to help put an end to woman’s cancers!  I can’t wait to see you all! 

Chemo is DONE!

I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to post.  There have been so many overwhelming emotions rolling around in my head that it’s been difficult to put them into slots, and more difficult to put them into words.  So bear with me, this could be a long post, depending on where my head wonders..LOL…these days….you never know for sure!

 Last Friday was my last Chemo.  Lots of posts were of Facebook, lots of picture, and even a video of ringing the bell, and and interview after with CP24.  It was all kind of a blur, and I really needed some time to process it all,  and I think I still am trying to do that.  One thing for sure….I’m VERY happy to be finished chemo!

Last Friday as my family and I went down to PMCC, we knew it would be a little crazy, but I don’t think any of us were prepared for it all.  It took a long time, longer than usual to get into chemo, and we waited longer than usual.  We had visitors that helped pass the time.  Finally after waiting 2 hours, we got in, and chemo was started.  Getting chemo really is the easy part!  Literally, they access my port, and plug me in and the chemicals that will ultimately kill off any mutant cancer cells go and do their work.  It’s important to remember that chemo is like poison going into your body, kind of a nasty reality, and something that I’ve had to come to terms with when it comes to recovery (which is the hard part)

Since everything was delayed, people were waiting for a long time, including my family.  The one regret I have through the whole process is that things were kind of all crazy, nurses coming in and out, checking the flow, people were coming and going, and then my hands and feet were in ice to help protect my nails from the toxic chemicals.  Through it all, I didn’t even realize that my family couldn’t find a place for themselves in my room, and felt like they couldn’t ask people to leave so that they could come in.  I didn’t think, as there was a lot going on, that there was an issue, but for my kids, it was.  I do regret not thinking of asking everyone for some private time  with my family.  But I only want to move forward, and we are doing that.

The bell ringing is an amazing ritual that symbolizes the end of chemo.  You get to ring the bell in triumph!  At PMCC because of the way the building is constructed, the atrium is open to the 5th floor, so when you ring the bell, literally everyone up to the 5th floor can hear it.  I rang it long and hard!!!  I was fortunate to have my family, many from the Foundation office, and some friends there.  The Foundation filmed it for me, and it is something I know I will treasure.  After the bell, the emotions flowed as I hugged Richard.  I do remember saying, “we did it!, I never could have done this without you”  and my girls.  My amazing girls, they have been so strong, so amazing through all this.  As positive as they have been, I can’t imagine what goes on through their heads as they watch their Mom go through all this.  They have been there through the physical change of losing my hair, my eyelashes, and eyebrows.  They’ve snuggled me when I was in my darkest moments.  They really are my heros!

After the bell ringing, we were taken to CP24 for an interview, then it back home for an very emotional ride.

I didn’t have as many of the physical issues of feeling beat up this time, which I was grateful for.  I have however been having a really tough time dealing with all the emotions that have now come forward.  It’s difficult to put it all into words, and quite honestly, I’m not sure I can, as I’m still working through them.  According to my friends who have been through this, it’s going to take a long while.

Since my diagnosis and surgery and chemo, I have been in Survival mode, literally.  You just try and get through each session, and wait for the next.  I know I was lucky, I escaped death because of early detection.  That might sound harsh, but that is the reality.  People die from breast cancer.  I have been fighting for my life!!  I really didn’t have time to think of it in those terms till I had finished chemo.

I know I’m hard on my self, I always have been.  I’m finished chemo, I want to feel better…who wouldn’t?!  I want things to go back to normal, I want my life back.  Again, the reality is that it’s going to take a long time.  I still have such little energy that I need to decide how to spend it.  My head is foggy, and although Richard says that’s normal….hahaha…I have trouble concentrating and staying focused. I don’t seem to be able to find a place for myself, or find what makes me happy.

I am so lucky to have some amazing friends, some of them survivors, some just so compassionate,Image that I’m beyond words on how important they are in my life.  I’m lucky to have Richard who keeps me even.  I know it’s hard for him.  

As most of you know, I have kept working through all this.  Work has been very accommodating.  But it’s hard, I have projects that need completing, and staying focused is difficult.  Sometimes, I feel like I put out the fires or what needs to get done, and the pile underneath just keeps growing, and I don’t even know what there. Overwhelmed, and disoriented are probably good words to describe how I feel at work.  These are strange emotions for me as I have been there 23 years!  I have always been the “go to” person in my department, so this is hard for me.

Yes, my expectations of myself are probably too high and unrealistic.  I am only 9 days out of my last chemo!!  I keep having to remind myself of that.  I still have a lot of recovery to do from chemo.  And I still have a long year ahead of me, and a few more decisions to be made.

This is a busy week.  I go for my BRCA test this week.  This determines my next steps in terms of radiation, treatment or even more surgery.    This week is also Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.  For my family, this symbolizes a new beginning.  A beginning of health and happiness!  I decided to have family  over on Thursday for lunch to celebrate the New Year.  You see I usually do a formal family sit down dinner, but this year, I didn’t think I would have the energy, so we decided on a buffet lunch instead….part of keeping the normal my family knows.  

This weekend is the Weekend to End Woman’s Cancers.  This will be my 11th year walking, but this year will be different, as I will be wearing a pink lanyard symbolizing my survival!!

I know I’ve touched on many thing in my blog today, and just surfaced many of the emotions rolling around my head.  Sometimes, its hard because I really want to pour my heart out, but some of this in so personal and it’s hard to put into words.  Finishing chemo is just part of the process, it’s the finite part.  The emotions and dealing with the realities of it are far more difficult.  But like I’ve tried to do every step along this is to take it one day at a time.

Thanks for reading.

Thoughts about getting ready for my last chemo

I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the weekend.  And now that the count down to Friday began, the reality that this is the count down to my last chemo!  I can’t say I have mixed emotions or that it’s bitter sweet, which is what you usually think about when it’s the last of something.  This is the last of something that I hope I never have to ever endure again, ever.  Did I mention NEVER EVER!

When I was first diagnosed, had surgery, waiting for results, met with Dr. McCready, met with my Oncologist, that all seems like a lifetime ago.  In someways, it really was a lifetime ago.  as my life before cancer, is very different than my life after cancer.  It will take a long time to find that balance again.  I’ve tried really hard over these past 6 months not to have cancer overtake my life.  But the reality is, that it has.  Not a day goes by where I don’t think about it, how can I not.  My wig and scarf or bald head is a constant reminder that there are some things I have no control over.  My scars, my “badges” of cancer will always be there.

I remember going for my first chemo in April, scared, really not knowing what to expect.   I was prepared with animal crackers, ginger ale, advil, tylenol, Poweraide, and every other thing that people told me I should have.  They are all still sitting on my night table!

I’ve been lucky, I didn’t get many of the side affects from the chemo that I was sure I would get, Don’t get me wrong, what I did get wasn’t fun, but I know it could have been worse, I’m grateful that other than the feeling of being hit by a mack truck and having the life sucked out of me, I was otherwise ok!

I’ve learned a lot about myself, and realized that I am a lot stronger than I ever gave myself credit for.  I learned a lot about the people around me, and felt more love from others than I could ever have imagined I would.  I really am so grateful to so many friends and family.  I have met the most incredible people during the past few months, people I never would have had it not been in for cancer.  I’ve been blessed by such generosity by so many.  So there has been some good through all this.  

I got to throw the baseball out at the Blue Jays game, I was asked to speak at the PMCF news conference at the announcement for Dr. Tak Mak & Dr. Dennis Slamon’s new drug going to clinical trial.  I met Dr. Slamon, the inventor on Herceptin.  I like to think I was able to get other woman to go get their Mammograms by sharing my story.  All these opportunities brought to me because of cancer.

I’ve learned even when I’m having a really crappy day, that the sun always rises the next day.  

Today, my credentials for Weekend to End Woman’s Cancers arrived today, along with my daughters.  My lanyard this year for the first time in the 11 years I’ve been walking, is pink.  Taking it out of the envelope was bitter sweet.  I earned this pink one, yet, it’s not a “stripe” I had wanted to earn.  But I will wear it proudly, as I AM A SURVIVOR, and I will join a unique and incredible group of woman that exemplify such beauty and courage.  Something that I truly didn’t completely understand how special these woman were until I became part of this incredible group.  I only hope that I can inspire and give support to someone in the same situation, and pay it forward, and be there for someone just as so many were there for me.

I know I still have a long road ahead of me.  After Friday, I will have 2 really crappy weeks, but those will be the last of the really crappy weeks, and slowly I will start to feel better.  I still have radiation to go through, and I still have a year of Herceptin,  In October, I’m going to be tested for the BRAC gene,  And of course I will have more CT scans, and monitoring for many years.

But for right now, it’s all about Friday.  One last chemo.  Yay!!  Hard to believe it,  It seemed like it was so long ago that I started, I remember thinking, would this ever end.  And here we are.

I couldn’t have done it without all the amazing support and love that surrounded me and continues to surround me everyday.

Bring it on Friday…let’s get this done, and move on…..

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Silver lining shining through

Wow…I can’t believe it’s been so long since I last posted.  Seems so much has happened, and at the same time, nothing has happened.  I know…doesn’t make a lot of sense…kind of how I feel about the time since I had chemo last.

Throughout all this, I have often found myself questioning why? and of course, there is no answer.  So I try and find a reason, the silver lining, whatever you want to call it.  Sometimes, I think I get glimmers of it, but other times, I just question everything.  I’m guessing that’s “normal” haha!  I’m not sure what normal is anymore either.

On the bright side, there have been some shining moments that have overshadowed some of the really really crappy days I’ve had, so I thought I will concentrate on those right now.

On the day of chemo, a few really nice things happened.  It was great to spend the day with Deanne, although we both agreed that lunch with a glass of wine celebrating would be a lot more fun than spending the day at the hospital!   At chemo we were sitting beside a woman who was having her first treatment, and was on the same treatment plan as me.  It was really nice to be able to “share” my experience with her, and answer so many questions that her and her husband had.  I remembered how scared I was that very first time, and it was nice to be able to pay it forward and make someone else “feel better” with what was going on with them.  We will be on the same 3 week rotation, so I hope to see her again on the 23rd and see how she’s doing.

Getting chemo is no big deal, literally they hook you up, even easier now that I have the port, and let the drugs flow.  You don’t feel anything.  Although I have to have my fingers and toes in ice as Doxetaxol can harm the nails, and the ice inhibits the flow of the chemicals to the cuticles.  I was lucky to have Manny as my nurse again, and he gave me pink gloves to wear!!

After chemo, Deanne and I went for a leisurely lunch at Swiss Chalet, much to our surprise, when we went to pay the bill, the waitress smiled and said, it had been taken care of.  Both of us looked at each other with a really puzzled look, and she said one of the customer wanted to pay it forward.  We have no idea who it was, but if you’re out there….Thank-you!!   So very special!

The next week is kind of a blurr….Doxitaxol is a really strong drug that knocks the stuffing out of you.  It’s a combination between being hit by a mack truck and getting the energy completely sucked out of you to the point where getting off the couch is a real effort.  Not one who is used to not being able to do anything, I kept trying, only to get knocked down again.  I went to work for a few hours each day, but went home completely exhausted.  Unfortunately, the effects of chemo where winning over my desire to try and have my life.

The only relief I actually got was not from all the drugs prescribed by the Doctors, but from a “special cookie” a friend gave to me.  Please don’t judge me for doing this, but not only did it take all the pain away, it put me in a state of feeling wonderful, and that my friends is priceless!  So I will be ready for the next round of chemo with more of these “special cookies”!  I’m doing what I need to do to get through something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy in the world.

Two weeks after my next chemo are the High Holidays.  The start of the Jewish New Year.  I can’t remember if I told you that this year instead of doing a formal sit down dinner that I usually do on the second night, I decided to do a lunch instead.  It will be easier on me, and right now, it’s all about as easy as possible!  Why am I doing this you ask….well…it’s all part of having some normalcy back in my life for my family and myself.  The holidays are so important to us, and the significance of finishing chemo before the New Year celebration is not lost on us.  So I posted something on one of the groups on Facebook that I’m in, asking for easy recipes etc.  And the most wonderful thing happened, people I don’t even know offered to help make stuff for me….!!!! Can you believe it…I was beyond floored.   The silver lining shining through once again.  

That’s about it for now…I’m tired again….going for a nap….I take a lot of them!

Thoughts as I go into Chemo #5

There are so many thought rolling through my head right now, that it’s hard to sleep.  (jet lag also plays a roll in this).  This might be a long post 🙂

I have been going over the past 4 weeks in my head.  A lot has gone on.  Making the decision to get the portocath, getting the port, having the reaction to the tape, throwing my shoulder out, getting chemo #4, feeling like a mack truck hit me, getting my family ready to go to Israel, seeing them all leave without me.  All these were very difficult not just physically, but very much so emotionally.  Then being able to go to Israel wiped out every negative thing that had happened.

I realized that a lot of this battle is emotional, and how I deal with it.  I’m not taking away from the physical part, because the effects of chemo are real, and they are not fun at all.  At times I feel like a walking pharmacy with all the drugs I take to deal with the side effects.  I know I’ve been very lucky not to have too many of the bad side effects, and I know I still have 2 more chemo’s to go, then radiation (still not sure how many) and Herception injections every 3 weeks for about the next year.  My journey is far from over.

As I said being in Israel wiped out all the negatives that happened.  It is a very healing and spiritual place for me.  Although I didn’t get to go to Jerusalem on this visit, my family and friends did.  The Old City is known to the Jewish people (along with many other religions) as the holiest place on earth.  The is a custom in Judaism to pray at the Western Wall, and leave notes in the crevices of the wall.  When you go there, you will see the wall covered with papers of prayers to G-d.  Richard said when he went there he was overwhelmed with emotions, not being there with me, praying for me, and of course leaving a note in the wall for me and our family.  My brother  also went to the Western Wall to leave notes of prayers, and I know this was overwhelming for him as well. The other parents also left notes and included me in their prayers.  My girls did as well.  Even now as I share this, the emotions are very over powering me.  I realize how many people my journey have affected.  I am the one physically going through it, but so many others are going it this with my emotionally. 

Most of our time was spent in Tel Aviv staying at my cousins.  It was relaxing and great to connect again with them, In past visits with them, it was only a dinner here or there.  This time, I had 2 days with Dov and Rachel to myself before Hailey and Richard joined us, and I got to spend some special time with them.

We also spent a lot of time with Wayne (my brother).  I am so happy that I had this time with Wayne, and that we shared some special moments.  Having him take the time from his busy schedule to make sure I went to Israel will always hold a special place in my heart.  When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in Febuary, Wayne called me and told me not to worry about getting to Israel, he would make sure I did, and he would be there with me.  It was great to have him with us to share this happy time in my life, and especially when Carly won Bronze.  I’m sure it’s a time he will always remember as well for many reasons.

We spent a very special Shabbat weekend with friends Nili & Arnie at their Bed in Breakfast in Yavne’el in the northern part of Israel.  Our friends moved to Israel about 2 years ago.  They have a wonderful place and I highly recommend it!  They are close to so many places for day trips, and you’ll be hard pressed to find 2 people more wonderfully caring, friendly and hospitable as Nili & Arnie.  For my family and I, the calmness of being with them was exactly what I needed, and it was there that I truly relaxed.  We also spent a day with going to Rosh Pina and Safet, and while there, Nili and I found a necklace that embraced it all for me with a very special prayer in Hebrew.  The translation means, “Lord, Heal this woman”.  I haven’t taken it off since I bought it, and I tend to hold the part with the prayer in it a lot.

There are so many special moments through this journey.

Yesterday, I was back at the hospital, and my blood work was perfect.  My Doctor actually remarked how I great I looked, and she never would have guessed I was going into chemo #5!  I’m pretty sure she sees a lot of people, so that was really encouraging to hear.

In a few hours, my friend Deanne is picking me up and taking me to Chemo.  Whatever this round brings, I know I will be able to handle it.  It might not be fun, as I’m told chemo #5 is a tough one.  However, after what I went through with #4, that seems hard to fathom.  But as I said, a lot of #4 was also emotional.  Hopefully the physical part of #5 can be dealt with with drugs (as I said I am a walking pharmacy!) 

I have learned through this is that I can’t fight the cancer or the physical part of what is happening.  That is the Doctors job.  What I can do, and try to always remember is I that I can for me emotionally, and try to keep as positive as possible for me and my family.  I can pull from the strength, prayers, and positive messages that so many of you have sent me.  I depend on them during my bad days, and remember that bad days are followed by good days.  So please keep them coming <<<big hug>> .  

As my friend Kathy keeps reminding me, there always will be sunshine, and to take this one day at a time, because that’s what I CAN control.  And not to read everything on the internet!!

The good thing about getting #5, is that #6 is next and that’s my last chemo!!!  And then I get to ring the bell!!  So bring on #5 and let’s get this over with.

Once again, thanks for taking the time to care, it means more than I can possibly put into words.

Hugs, Randy

Home Sweet Home

It’s hard to believe that 10 days have flown by so quickly.  Seems like I just left!  It was an incredible time, highlighted by Carly and her teammates winning the Bronze medal for the team event.  In the individual events, Carly just missed Bronze on the balance beam by .20  I am so proud of her.

I had 10 amazing days in Israel with family and friends.  I felt great, didn’t take 1 single pill while I was there!!  I had lots of energy to do everything I wanted to do.  I didn’t let anything bother me, and just enjoyed every moment.  

My cousin and my brother were in charge of posting pictures on Facebook, and they were having a contest to see who would get more likes!  It was pretty funny.  I didn’t have a smart phone with me, so I was relying on them!  so hopefully you were all able to see the pictures.  In case you are not connected with me on Facebook, here is the link to my personal page  https://www.facebook.com/randy.s.mellon and here is the link to my Think Pink Direct Facebook page  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Think-Pink-Direct/197255126951618

I came home last night and Carly comes home tomorrow, and Richard and Hailey on Thursday.  Then the reality part begins.  Back at the hospital for blood work and meet with my Oncologist on Thursday, and chemo #5 on Friday.  I’m hoping without all the emotional stuff, and the surgery for the port all dealt with, that this round I will only have to deal with fatigue!  Now, as my grandmother would say, phew phew phew, and I am throwing salt over my shoulder, so as not to bring any bad thing!  You have to love old country traditions 🙂

As always….taking it a day at a time!