We’re very pleased that we have been given permission to share this blog post with you, written by a former member who repatriated last summer. Read on to learn all about the importance of family and cherishing every moment together.
Originally posted on 5 September 2018 on Michelle’s blog
How are ya and where in the world are ya? I am writing from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. It has been 9 months since I last posted and a lot has happened. Please indulge my long post. Future ones will be shorter, more concise and hopefully, a lot lighter. 😜😁 The last time I posted, it was the end of November and we were getting ready to celebrate the Christmas season. In early December, I went to China for a week to deal with the stuff we had in storage. I had interviewed and accepted a new position and was scheduled to start on Jan 3. We were settling into life back in St. John’s and were stoked for 2018 to start!
But just before Christmas, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was devastating news in the wake of an especially challenging year. On January 3, instead of starting my new job, I had a right mastectomy and sentinel node biopsy. It is normally a day surgery and I should have been back home in 5 hours but during surgery, I had an anaphylactic allergic reaction to one of the meds and my heart stopped. I ended up in ICU on life support with so many tubes. I also developed double pulmonary embolisms which all led to an extended stay in the hospital. It was a scary time for me and my family.
The OR doctors and nurses took life-saving measures and they saved me when it could have gone the other way. Dr Chris Cox, Dr Jeremy Pridham, Dr Michael Zhou, Dr Brad Evans, Dr Matt and Dr Lisa Kenny.…….you are my real life heroes!! Because of you, my daughters still have their “mama“, which they say in the sweetest voices, and I was able to walk them to the door on their first day of school today. This could have been a very different day for us all. There are no words to describe my gratitude. My medical team is growing as I go through different phases of my health journey and I continue to learn so much. I have the utmost respect for the doctors, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, physiotherapists, massage therapists, x-ray/ultrasound technicians ….everyone that has helped me on my journey. There have been so many caring and intelligent people. It’s a humbling experience.
My family, friends and community played a huge role in my healing because they took care of so much so I could rest and concentrate on healing. The food and soups were incredible and my children were well cared for and loved! Go Team Smantle!!! I have so much love for the people in my life. I healed very quickly and started a new job 5 weeks after my surgery! That was pretty ambitious but it was the best thing I could have done. I was physically well enough and it kept me busy and gave me something positive and productive to do and think about instead of having too much time to worry about what tests, results or appointments were coming up. All I really could (and can) do is live as healthy a life as possible, work hard and manage my stress…..and laugh. Laugh a lot! The waiting was/is a big challenge….waiting for tests…..waiting for results….waiting for more appointments. That is the system but it does test one’s patience.
The best news is that the cancer was caught quite early, contained to the breast they removed and did not spread to my lymph nodes. I do not need chemotherapy or radiation. I am getting a monthly shot to put me in menopause. That’s another story but it is all totally doable and so much better than being dead. 😜😁 I have been meeting with allergy doctors in Halifax and St. John’s to determine what medicine I reacted to so severely and we are getting some answers to those questions. Progress is being made and it is all good! I am feeling great. Finding and using the resources available to me has helped me immensely and I am taking self-care to a whole new level. I am going to be a 90-year-old, one boobed wonder, doing yoga on the beach….just wait for it. 😁😁
There has been so much joy, love and growth in my cancer journey but it has also introduced me to fears and anxiety I did not own before. It’s pretty terrifying to wake up in ICU with a breathing tube down your throat and just knowing I had killer cells multiplying in my body is unnerving, to say the least. While I have learned the tools to help cope with that, I have also learned that it is OK to not be OK all the time, that stress management and overall self-care is imperative to everyone’s well being and also the real importance of pacing myself and listening to my body. And certainly not least, the strength of community and true connections with people. It was a stressful time for our family and friends and definitely difficult for them to see me so sick. But now that I am all good, we can talk about it (mostly) without crying and there is always something to laugh about in there somewhere. I mean, I have one boob….there’s a ton of material right there. 😂😂.
8 months ago I almost died and today I had a normal productive day at my job. Our girls started school and they both went in smiling and never looked back. ❤️❤️ Our baby turns 7 years old on Saturday. Life carries on in the midst of trauma and we are creating and enjoying a beautiful life here. I look forward to sharing snippets of it here on http://www.onlyjoyonlylove.com and posting more regularly. You know I love connecting with my friends and family all around the globe so please keep in touch. I’d love to hear how you and your families are doing.
Life is short, my friends. Don’t forget to breath.
Until next time!
Only joy, only love,
P.S. Here are a couple photos of the girls on their first day of grade 2 and grade 6. I was instructed by my oldest to please not take photos at the school. 😂😂.
I am a Canadian from Newfoundland and Labrador who has done a lot of moving around and has some pretty amazing experiences. I currently live in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada with the love of my life and partner in crime and our two beautiful and incredibly special daughters. (Totally biased but I’m cool with that). I started this blog because I wanted a space to share the people, places and things that bring me joy and give me a good laugh. Enjoy! Only joy, only love.