A Good Day

Today has been a really great day, for which I am incredibly grateful!

I had an appointment with my cardiologist to see whether or not my heart muscle has been affected by the chemotherapy and the Herceptine. And it was thumbs up all around – my heart is really healthy! During the echography I actually got to see and hear my heart; that was pretty awesome. I know it sounds silly, but I was really moved seeing my little heart. I think the experience can only be compared to an expectant mother who hears the heartbeat of her unborn child for the first time. It was just utterly amazing!!! When I got back to the office I did my little happy dance – comparable to the scene in Love Actually when Sarah does the silent dance on the stairs after Karl had told her that he wants to come in after their first date. I was just so happy knowing my heart was healthy!

On top of that I had the thumbs up from my gynecologist last week – she found no other lumps in my breast and the scar from my surgery is healing nicely.  Both of my oncologist and gynecologist also seem very pleased by the fact that I am still having my period while undergoing chemotherapy – this apparently is a sign that my ovaries are still working (I know this is slightly embarrassing, but it seems such a miracle to me that  my body is fully functioning).

Health wise everything looks positive. I am so relieved, grateful and humbled; it is hard to describe it. And I am VERY happy. So I think this really calls for a little celebration – cocktails with friends, a nice meal, anything to toast to my health and my wonderful body which is doing this unbelievable job fighting the illness. I am already booked for sushi with Lulu and drinks with MFC (My First Commander). I am currently also brainstorming ideas for my chemo graduation – any suggestions welcome. Just leave them in the comments below.

Thank you to everyone who has been rejoicing with me today!!!!!!  It means a lot to me knowing that you are as excited about my progress as I am!

Something else happened today as well, which made this ordinary day become a wonderful day. My productivity and enthusiasm seem to have come back from their sabbatical to replace procrastination – at work I not only managed to finish off my proposal (to get funding for my awareness raising project this year from the Ministry) and send it off for peer review, I also did my background reading for a meeting tomorrow, sorted out the financial report for my awareness raising project from last year and drew up a to-do-list for the next few days. What a success! I literally felt like I was back to my old self!!!! YES I CAN!

Getting cancer, holding it together and it being ok not to function

Lunch with a L. on a random January day – I have just given her an update on how the treatment is going. And then the question that completely threw me – “So what is the reason why you got cancer?” Surprised look on my face, please someone just tell me that I misheard. I answer honestly “I don’t know”. “Surely the doctors must know, L. says. They don’t. “Well if it is not genetic, as it does not run in the family, it must be something else, something in the air, in the food” she continues. I don’t know if it is genetic, I haven’t been tested yet.

I am surprised, because this is not something I have ever really been thinking about. Getting cancer is something that I actually have considered as a fact of life, bad luck, coincidence, the lottery of life picking me out randomly, a stupid accident, something I just never had any control over. Research has come a long way to finding cures and treatments for cancer, some forms can be treated better than others, but as for the reasons why you get, that still remains a mystery most of the time. Some of my body cells decided to clump together and developed into a malignant tumor. That is the story for me.

I guess some people find it hard to accept this, and of course it would be so much easier to know the cause as to why it happens so that we could avoid it from happening, but it happens and it can happen to anyone. To babies, children, adolescents, young adults, elderly people, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, professionals, unemployed, women, men, the healthy and the sick, the athletic ones and the couch potatoes, no one is safe from it, and that is what makes cancer so unfair, so unjust. It is a real bloody bastard, a real sucker.

For me personally there has been no point in worrying or questioning as to why I at age 28 was diagnosed with breast cancer; that for me is a complete waste of energy. I got it. I cannot change that fact. Full stop.

But what I can do is everything possible in my power to beat the little sucker. Here is a little list of my tasks:

1.   Following my medical treatment: I endure this bitch of a chemo (6 sessions in total) with its stupid side effects (nausea, tiredness, lack of appetite, unable to taste things, lack of concentration, insomnia) as well as the pain (yep that is the newest addition thanks the whit blood cell booster shot, which makes my bones hurt). Then I will endure 6 weeks (25 – 30 sessions) of radiation therapy that will turn my breast into a roast chicken, and then I will receive 18 sessions of Herceptin (a monoclonal antibody adjuvant therapy to treat my aggressive form of breast cancer known as HER2+) on a drip. On top of that are the regular check-ups with my cardiologist (yep chemo can adversely affect your heart) and my gynecologist.

2.   Getting psychological support: by seeing my psychiatrist once a month and going to art therapy once a week for 6 months

3.   Thinking positive thoughts: I keep telling myself that I will get through this, that I will be cured, that I will be healthy again

4.   Being proud of myself for little things: like getting up in the morning and going to work, for accomplishing little tasks, handling this challenge; being grateful for making it through every single da

5.   Living my life: I am grateful for when I am not feeling sick and can go out and have a social life. I find pleasure in the little things in life, be it the sunshine warming my neck, pampering my body with lovely smelling shower gel and body cream, savoring a delicious meal, listening to some great music at a concert.

These 5 steps are pretty much my job description as a “cancer patient” and I am really proud of how well I have been doing so far. I have been doing my utter best to be holding myself together, to NOT allow myself to curl up in bed and expect the world to feel sorry for me. I am doing the best I can to survive, to enable my body to cure itself with the help of the doctors. It takes up a lot of my time and energy, and no I am not always achieving, I failed on a few occasions and broke down. I am only human after all, and I am NOT functioning at a 100%, but you know what, I think that is perfectly ok. But are you too?  Can you accept me for whom I really am at the moment, with all my flaws and imperfections, and cheer me on in regards to what I am already doing to win this battle?

Cracks in the Wall

Wednesday is the day I fell into a black hole – I got up in the morning, showered, brushed my teeth and ended up crying uncontrollably. That is the moment I abandoned my efforts of trying to go to work that day. I have literally had enough – I did not want to try anymore. All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball in my bed and cry my eyes out. I wanted someone to take me far away to a remote island and only bring me back once I was completely cured of cancer. I was done – done trying to stay positive, done fighting, done facing the real world.  Four months of cancer treatment had just literally taken its toll – my body was exhausted, my soul was empty, my batteries depleted.

I had had an ugly week featuring the longest chemotherapy session since I started treatment, combined with bone ache, followed by the depression hole. I had been home for a week – I had hardly left the house, had hardly seen any daylight, hardly spoken to anyone outside my family. I knew in my head that this situation was pure poison for me, that it was not doing me any good; I knew I had to get out, that I had to do stuff to keep sane, but I just could not get myself to do it. I did not want to function anymore, I did not want to perform anymore; I did not want to put on a show anymore. Looking at myself in the mirror in the bathroom, seeing the 15 cm scar on my breast, seeing me bold, seeing what the illness had done to my body, I hated the cancer so viciously.  I was tired fighting it, I just wanted to give up; I wanted to let it win. At night all I craved for where for someone to wrap his arms around me and let me cry, let me scream out the pain.

This is a side of me most people do not get to see, apart from my mum. She gets to see the ugly side of cancer; she gets to see what it really does to me. But she is also the one that gets me through it, who gets me up in the morning and hugs me tight. She is the one coaching me through those treacherous waters with as much love and kindness as is humanly possible. Thanks to her I forced myself to work today, even if I did so unhappily.

Today I had a new challenge waiting for me – I met a new companion on my journey and he is called FEAR. What made him materialize? My check-up appointment with my gynecologist. I had felt tense all day until I realized that I was scared the doctor might find something. Fear of another invisible yet tiny lump having formed in my breast. But I got the all clear, and only when walking out of the practice did I realize what a weight had been lifted off my shoulder. I then remembered that I had “two more good weeks” ahead of me before my last chemo – two weeks of where I could go out again, drink wine, taste great food and enjoy the company of my friends. I remembered that there was something left inside of me; that the black hole had not eaten me up completely– and this something was called hope. I knew there were things to look forward to – a friend’s birthday meal, a Ben&Jerry double date weekend with Mrs Watson, Mrs MoneyPenny’s party – knowing this made things bearable and acted as a reminder that I can get through this stupid cancer. I know I will come out of this standing and breathing, but I am not sure how whole or broken I will be at the end of this journey.

The cracks in the wall of my fortress have started to show, they are clearly visible to me – and right now I don’t know how to patch them up or whether I can actually repair them….

A Blogger’s Best Friend – Introducing “my” Jasper

I am actually not a Warrior of the Pen in the literate sense of the word – in that I do not write my blogs with an actual pen but with the keyboard of my laptop. However I usually have a pen and a piece of paper with me wherever I go to enable me to jot down notes, thoughts, ideas, reflections and feelings, which I then elaborate on in the evening or the weekend. So when my figurative “pen” (aka laptop) decided to quit a few weeks back, I sent out this little prayer to the IT God that might be:

Dear IT/Computer God, 
I really want to thank you. Yesterday I thought that my beloved laptop, called Gimli II (because he is small and strong) had officially died. But today you allowed him to come to life one last time, which enabled me to back up some of my last files and my pictures from my amazing Canada/USA trip in the summer of 2012. Thank You!!!! As my dad would say I have more luck than common sense.
However I think it is definitely time to put Gimli II to rest – he has been a faithful companion throughout my MA degree and the first 4 years of my professional life. 2013 is a new year for new beginnings, and hence also for a new laptop. Rest in peace Gimli II, I promise to find him a worthy replacement.
Your Steffi

So it was time for Mission: Find New Laptop; even though my credit card kept screaming in agony, trying to argue its case, blackmailing and sweet talking me, all to no avail.  A new laptop was needed, whether I liked it or not. I mean how I am supposed to keep up with my new blog without a decent writer’s kit?

I originally wanted something smaller and handier that I could take with me to my favorite café or bar for a productive writing session after work – yes I have to admit I got caught up in the romantic idea of seeing  myself as a buzzing writer in a cliché setting (sipping a latte macchiato while writing something incredibly witty). I liked the idea  of a power-book that could fit easily into my handbag, so I could write anywhere and everywhere. I actually identified such a species in the shop – but to my dismay it only came with an AZERTY keyboard, and I don’t do AZERTY!  In high school I had learned to type with 10 fingers on a QWERTZ keyboard, hence there was no way I was going to compromise my writing flow for a smaller size laptop. So on to choice No2 – which, as it was the last of its kind in store, only came pre-installed with the Windows package in French. Again a no go, I am used to communicating with my laptop in English, I was not going to let it talk to me in a “foreign” language. I do not want to have to check up words in my online dictionary to understand my friend’s needs. Yes, I know I can be picky and sometimes I do not like change… but I wanted a laptop that fitted into my life, not me fitting into the laptop’s life.

So in the end I went home with a Lenovo notebook, with a QWERTZ keyboard and a Windows 8 package with English language option. It actually turned out to be bigger than my old laptop – cliché of aspiring writer thrown overboard – pragmatism wins. If I recall correctly I do not ever remember the last time Gimli II left the house – so I did not see why my habits with Gimli II replacement would change.

So without any further ado – Ladies and Gentlemen – I am very happy and proud to introduce my partner in crime – Jasper. As you can see I stayed true to my tradition of naming my laptops  after a book character, and to your absolute horror and disapproval I have just come out as a Twilight fan  (I shall hang my head in shame). I promise you though that this blog shall not be used to discuss my fascination with the Twilight saga – it shall suffice to say that it is the only book series that I have read more than once (four times in total me thinks) and I never ever read a book twice. However please allow me to explain as to why I have chosen the name Jasper, in the hope that you will understand and actually forgive me.

Jasper is one of the “minor” Twilight characters, who is a bit underestimated, underrated and easily overlooked – he is the underdog and that is why he is my favorite.  Jasper is a former army major, with a militaristic and strategic mind set, who is called upon when battle tactics need to be discussed and elaborated. He is charismatic and a good person at heart, who possesses the unique “gift” of feeling and “manipulating” other people’s emotions (particularly calming people down when they are angry). Jasper for me is a warrior, who struggles on a daily basis, who finds it hard adapting to his new surroundings and life; who is trying very hard to master the art of self-restraint and control; so what better name to choose for my companion than the one character who “symbolizes” my personal daily struggle?

Here is to Jasper and me – to a long and happy friendship!

Battle T-Shirt

I should have known that spending time on an imaginary baseball field throwing raspberries at my invisible enemy would take its toll. The « little sucker » seriously did not like it and came back with a vengeance. Whereas I had thought that the chemo side effects would pass me by this time, I am now suffering again from bone pain even though I did not have the booster shot. I guess my bone marrow is busy producing white blood cells nevertheless, which is painful but makes me incredibly proud of my body as well. However my body really needed some serious encouragement and love this morning, so I put on my battle T-shirt on and I kept repeating my battle mantra in my head.

I am a smart, fun, cool, loveable, cute, amazing, beautiful, adorable, magnificent, caring, strong, loving, determined, awesome and unique warrior and I am ready for battle.

My Battle T-Shirt

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Raspberry

It has just recently been brought to my attention that (breast) cancer apparently does not take well to raspberry (or red fruit for that matter) – jolly well I thought to myself, because I on the other hand love them. This actually means that I have a new weapon to beat the “little sucker” (the nickname my friends gave to the cancerous tumour). In my dreams I can already see myself on a battlefield throwing tons of raspberries at this stupid cancer, visualising the clogged up malignant cells cringing,  screaming out in agony every time a raspberry hits them, curling into a ball and vanishing with every attack. Whereas I grow stronger with every curveball of raspberry I am throwing at my semi-invisible enemy with such zest and gusto that the crowds just keep cheering on. Just in case anyone wants to bet on this battle, I can assure you that I will so win this encounter, no doubt!

I am thrilled that raspberries are now my new warrior allies – because they are by far my favourite fruit. Roux seemed well surprised by this revelation –“You surely meant to say that strawberries are your favourite fruit, no?” he asked. Nope! I feel that raspberries are completely underestimated and underrated – I love the fact that they are tiny, you can easily pop them into your mouth and I love crushing them open with my tongue instead of chewing them.  I am also fascinated by their texture, with the little bumps and tiny hairs, they are just so unique! In my eyes there is nothing better than vanilla ice-cream with warm raspberry sauce – such a delight. Moreover one of my favourite Ben & Jerry ice-cream flavours is the Bohemian Raspberry (containing vanilla ice-cream, fudge brownies and raspberry swirls). I don’t think I need to present any more arguments to prove my love for raspberries.

So it should come as no surprise that after my last chemo my food cravings changed from avocado to raspberry (strangely enough I am currently contemplating whether avocado and raspberry would go together…. I mean not in form of an ice-cream, but maybe in a salad, containing nuts and blueberries as well, maybe some spinach….. Hmmm I am getting hungry now…). So when Miss MoneyPenny dropped by last Friday for a catch-up she surprised me with two lovely punnets of raspberries. I know it is not raspberry season but I was so thrilled and overjoyed to see the raspberries that I did a little happy dance – Miss MoneyPenny just regretted the fact that she had no camera on hand to record my performance.

Obviously the raspberries have now diligently been devoured and savoured, however I managed to take a picture of one of the punnets.

Aaah the little things in life make me happy at the moment….

My little punnet of joy –

 

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Chemo Diary – Mixed Feelings

Back on Boxing Day 2012 I contemplated how I was feeling about my upcoming 4th chemo, jotting down some  thoughts. I now had time to elaborate a bit more on this and include an update on my fifth chemo as well. I am afraid this does not make for some light reading, but I promise and will try for something more witty, funny and lighter for the next post.

So how am I feeling? Hmmm, that is indeed a good question. Because I feel two things at the same time, and they are actually two feelings that in a way should not go together. I feel fear and I feel love, yeah strange I know.

It is Boxing Day, and tomorrow I am going in for my 4th chemo, and I don’t know why but that this 4th one really scares me. Maybe it is because they are changing medication tomorrow, apparently this one will make me less sick (well apart from the first session I have not felt nauseous at all, so not a great benefit here me thinks) but the two different chemo medications will meet in my blood stream and apparently don’t particularly like each other, so I could feel worse (massive New Year’s Eve celebration is out then). Also the new medication will come at a time where my white blood cell count is at a low, the nurses will need to give me an injection to boost my white blood cells. That is just so bloody scary, as my immune system is already weak, and as soon as someone around me is sick, I get sick too. A cold for me can easily last for up to 3 weeks…  I am so sick and tired of being sick.

I think what makes me anxious is the fact that I have NO clue as to what to expect of this 4th chemo.  If the side effects were the same for all chemo sessions, then at least I would be mentally and physically prepared for what awaits me, but so far my body has reacted very different to each session….

Here a little overview

First chemo (October 24th, 2012) – I felt nauseous (like someone having cleaned out my tummy with bleach), sooooo tired and I craved tubs of guacamole and sour cream. I literally could have consumed avocados in any shape or form in abundance.

Second chemo (November 14th, 2012)  –  nothing (apart from wanting a bit of a nap the day after chemo)

Third chemo (December 6th, 2012)  – I caught a nasty cold and suffered from insomnia (side effect of the  cortisone in my pre-medication, which I receive before my body is poisoned with chemo). However it might well be that the insomnia prior to chemo was related to something else as well. – it seems ironic, but I have a crush on someone, and it seems mutual, and that is wonderful, even if it is weird as we have not yet met in person. At first I kept wondering whether this really is a good time to have a crush on someone, but as Lulu said « It is the perfect time to have a crush  on someone ! » and Miss MoneyPenny added « Having a crush on someone increases your endorphin levels  (happy hormones) my dear, that is good for your immune system ! ». So falling in love is a good way to help me beat cancer and stay healthy, I like that new weapon in my warrior arsenal…. Bring it on!

Fourth Chemo (December 27th, 2012) – chemo itself did not have any direct sides, the side effects came with the white blood cell booster injection. As the white blood cells are produced in my bone marrow, by bones were horribly aching for 4 days – the pelvis bone pain was literally the worst.

Fifth chemo (January 17th, 2013) – Apart from feeling tired, so far no major side effects. However this has been by far the longest chemo session I have had – I arrived at the hospital at 8.30 am and did not leave until 3 pm. The whole thing left me drained, exhausted and also cold. Fortunately the nurse (actually my two favourite nurses were on duty today, so I managed to do a little happy dance) brought me a blanket. Mum, whom I was  honestly so grateful to for being there with me  this time, made sure that I was nicely wrapped and tucked up, held my hand and let me snooze for a bit. In the afternoon she went down to the cafeteria and brought me this lovely piece of chocolate and raspberry cake, it was just pure bliss and heaven. Honestly little things just really make the whole chemo procedure bearable. Chemo Nr. 5 changed my cravings though – it is no longer avocados, but any berry related fruit,  particularly raspberries….I guess there are worse cravings to have.

The reason why the procedure takes so long is that when I first get into hospital I need to have a blood test and  cardiogram  done. My blood samples then get sent to the lab and it takes an hour or so before they are back, then I have to wait for the doctor to give her go ahead before the nurses can put me on the drip. Then  I am getting the pre-medication (Fortecortine and Zofran), which are meant to reduce the side effects of feeling nauseous and sick. Once that is done, I get the chemo medication (Taxotere), followed by Herceptin (a monoclonal antibody medication given to patients diagnosed with HER2+ breast cancer, an aggressive form of breast cancer, to reduce the cancer cells from spreading and growing). A little note on the side here before you get all too scared about me – during surgery my doctor managed to remove the cancerous tumour. Also the the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes (which is extremely good news). The Herceptin and chemotherapy treatment are done to make sure not a single micro cancer cell survives in my body and to avoid the cancer from reoccuring.  Eventually I receive a dose of a common salt solution (solution of sodium chloride), to make sure that all the tubes are rinsed of the medication (so that I do not miss out on a single drop of drugs destined to help me get cured of my cancer).It takes about 3 hours until everything is over but as the chemo medication started to hurt the nurses had to reduce the speed at which it was administered to me, so the whole process was drawn out a bit.

One side effect, which I have had for all chemo sessions, and which I particularly dislike – is that my taste buds get completely messed up- I cannot taste food or drink properly. I mean I am a big coca-cola addict, but after chemo it just tastes flat without any bubbles; the same goes for sparkling wine (or crémant as it is called in Luxembourg). Whereas for food I prefer strongly flavoured food as it means I can taste at least something. Ffor someone who is as big as a foodie as me, this is just really sad… Even mum’s amazing mac and cheese, one of my favourite meals, just did not taste right the night after my 5th chemo. I hate this metallic taste on my mouth after chemo…

I managed to take some pictures of my chemo procedure last Thursday, just to give you an idea of what the treatment looks like.

Chemo Medication

Me on the chemo drip

I wonder what Chemo No.6 will have in store for me… at least I will have my chemo graduation at the end of February to look forward to.

The beauty, pain and hope of falling in love

I never used to be a great believer in love – well technically speaking that is not completely true. I know love exists, I have seen it among and in other people, but after having been single for 9 years – I just felt that romantic love maybe was not meant for me. That there just was not anyone out there for me. I mean I had fallen in love quite a few times over those past 9 years, but that love was never reciprocated – which left me heartbroken more than once. The latest heart break in May 2012 literally left me in pieces; I felt that my heart was completely broken, shattered in so many different parts  and there was no way anyone or me for that matter could really put the pieces back together and make my heart whole again.  I remember sitting in my car and screaming,  letting the tears flow, letting the pain out. I hit rock bottom for good, and I was convinced that should I have to go through the whole process girl meets boy, boy meets girl, girl falls for boy, boy rejects her, that I would be done for good, broken for good. I didn’t think I wanted to fall in love again, because there was no way I would survive that much pain again.

In November I broke down again in tears when the topic of love and relationships  came up when chatting to my mum and a friend of the family. I just told them that when it came to the “love” department I had lost hope, that I did not believe in finding it or it finding me. It was not related to the anxiety that I might not have children one day, that was not something I was as concerned about. What I really wanted, what I really craved was having a partner, someone next to whom I could wake up every morning, having breakfast with (even in complete silence each of us reading the newspaper), someone to come home to and tell how him how my day has been, someone to take me in his arms and just tell me “I love you”.  I mean I had been difficult enough to find someone to date over the last 9 years, but how was this going to be any easier now with me having cancer. Who could possible fall for someone who is bold, has a massive 15 cm scar on her left breast, who regularly has to go into hospital? Was I not completely doomed now, I kept wondering.

But then something completely unexpected happened as if fate decided to send me a little sign of hope – someone walked into my life. Someone I had met on Facebook, a friend of a friend. He made me laugh, literally made me crack up with laughter (here an example – he told me that this year my birthday had been changed to January 4th (instead of January 3rd) in order to honor his “promise” that we would meet on my birthday – the date was made to fit the circumstances.  Needless to say that I fell of my chair and kept rolling on the floor laughing with tears in my eyes).  I do not wish to reveal too much of our conversations, because they are something special. However there is one particular thing I want to share – he  said something to me that I had not heard in years. He told me I was beautiful (and yes that was after he had seen a picture of me with my shaved head). That was a really big thing – especially for someone whose cancer had given her self-esteem, self consciousnesses and body image a massive knock-down.

He made me feel like someone really special, showered me with compliments and just made me very happy. Talking to him was so refreshing, so different. For once my illness was not the focus of the conversation, but I, as a person, was.

Our first attempt at meeting face to face up failed for various reasons I do not wish to go into detail here. However I really hope though that there will be a second attempt 🙂

I just realized that when talking about him I have used the past tense. I have been doing this as he has become really silent lately, over the last couple of weeks most of my FB messages or texts remained unanswered. This would usually lead me to over-analyse the situation, worry myself silly, become upset, anxious and angry. But surprisingly not this time.  I mean I am not particularly thrilled about this situation, and I guess no girl would be.

Completely unexpected again though I had a message from him on Wednesday and today explaining briefly why he is so silent. I do not wish to paraphrase this here as I would like to protect his privacy as well.  I am just really glad he got in touch, it put a smile back on my face.

Roux (that is the name I have given him for this blog) has achieved something, which I did not think anyone even in my wildest dreams, would have been able to achieve. Roux planted a seed of hope in my heart again, he gave me hope that yes love is possible, even for me. I am incredibly grateful to him for that – he has boosted my self-confidence and he has made me feel like a woman again. He reminded me that with love you have to take a risk. I mean it is like how do you expect to win the lottery if you never every buy and fill out a lottery ticket?  Thanks to Roux I started believing again. It came to my mind that having a crush on someone and that some person having a crush on you is worth so much more than the fear and pain of possibly being rejected. And that is why I will buy that the love lottery ticket over and over again, because how else will I really have a shot at love?

And if the heart break happens again – I know I have a friend out there, Miss Goldielocks., who will offer me a bed for the weekend, cook me the most amazing pasta dinner, have a bottle of red ready waiting for me when I arrive, provide me with loads of tissues and a cigar to smoke on the terrace. And  having a friend like that is just priceless as well.

Art Therapy Part I – The Many Different Faces of Steffi

It is the night before my 5th chemo and I am unable to sleep – thanks to the cortisone in the medication I have to take the day prior to the treatment. The sleeping pills did not work either, so I thought I might as well use this “lost” time productively by blogging about my art therapy.

In January I took up an offer from the Fondation Cancer to participate in their new 2 hour Art Therapy “class” as I needed a creative outlet for all the emotions and feelings brought up by illness and as I had an urge to share my experiences with other cancer patients.

Yesterday I had my second session and that day’s task was to draw several self-portraits – with our eyes closed and while touching and exploring our face! What a challenge and scary thought – as it really meant having to let go of the feeling of wanting to control a situation and being open to surprises.

So here is my piece of art entitled The many different faces of Steffi

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There are a total of 9 portraits – the first one was done with a pencil (but I cheated a bit and kept opening my eyes throughout the process), the following 8 were then drawn with wax crayons. After each new portrait I would get up choosing a new color – something bright and eye-catching. I wanted my piece to be really colorful. I could have chosen to paint each portrait on a new piece of paper, but I really liked the idea of the portraits overlapping  and merging into each other on this big piece of paper.

The following 3 of the portraits really stood out for me and I gave each of them a title as well

Curiosity (my favorite self portrait out of all the 9) Image

Serenity (in blue)

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Hiding and Observing (in green)

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When I then contemplated my finished piece – I realized that the mouths in all of the portraits were all very big. I had particularly enjoyed drawing my mouth. Touching my mouth was an interesting experience, I just realized how soft and sensual my lips are – what a revelation really.  My therapist then suggested I should focus more on this particular part of my body, so I did the following two pieces.

My new favorite part of my body? 

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Love 

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For the last two pictures, I drew the outlines while having my eyes closed but filled out the spaces and added the captions with my eyes open.

Overall I am very pleased with the end product.

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I was also very thrilled when my art therapist commented that my paintings really showed my strength,  positive attitude and happiness. What a great experience!

Christmas

The following post is a  revised version of a Facebook status update I wrote on Christmas Eve 2012, which prompted L to suggest I should start writing this blog.

So dear Facebook you want to know what is going on (I always thought you wanted to know what is on my mind – but I guess you changed your mind on that!) – well here we go then: Not much is going on to be honest, I am just trying to get myself into the Christmas mood;  not easy considering it is way too warm outside – 9 degrees Celsius! –  and this Christmas being  different from all the others, you know why.

So I finally wrote my Christmas cards yesterday (hmm, I know dear friends, I am a lazy bone when it comes to those), I have wrapped my pressies (which I enjoyed tremendously), I have tidied and cleaned my room (this also involved sorting out my clothes drawers, including undies and socks drawer, which I am well proud of), I have lit some candles, however none of those things really seemed to work. So while I kept wondering whether or not I should have bought myself an hilariously funny Christmas headscarf, it started dawning on me that what I really needed was some cheesy Christmas tune, so I put  Wham’s Last Christmas on, and you know what, it did the trick!

So now I am well excited for Christmas season, I am looking forward to our Family’s traditional Christmas Eve Fondue, unwrapping my presents, and deciding which of the two new books I bought on Amazon I should read first – Peaches for Monsieur le Curé by Joanne Harris or One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern (which is a special edition signed for by the author). Both books are by two of my favorite authors, so this will be a tough call.

And you know what Facebook, maybe just because it is Christmas I might even put a skirt on and one of my fancier headscarves – just to be pretty. This calls for another replay of Wham’s Last Christmas as well as  Mariah Carey’s All I want for Christmas is You  (which might prompt my youngest sister to literally strangle me), and someone, anyone really, please pass me the Glühwein (mulled wine)!